The Reliability of the Gospels 2 

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • May 10, In the year of our Lord, 2015


  1. Last Lord’s Day evening, I showed you 
    1. that we can rely on the testimony of the Four Gospels, because
      1. the writers wrote their accounts in the first century and
      2. later generations worked to transcribe the manuscripts precisely.
    2. Now let me show you
      1. that the Accounts have endured the centuries,
      2. that they show a Jesus consistent with unfavorable writers, and
      3. that we can verify the Gospel Accounts to discover the truth.
  2. This is important for numerous reasons, but 
    1. consider the issue of faith.
    2. Secularists and most Christians accept an unbiblical definition of faith.
      1. To them, faith means that you do not have the facts and evidence
      2. to back up what you believe, but
        1. you feel in your heart that it is right.
        2. You do not know, but you feel that it is right.
          1. Thus, people call it a leap in the dark.
          2. However, is that biblical?
    3. Since faith is a biblical issue,
      1. should we not let the Bible tell us what it means by faith?
      2. The Bible defines faith different from how most people define it,

        1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11.1).

        1. Faith is the substance,
          1. not just some kind of airy, mystical feeling you get, but
          2. someone, in this case, God, promised you something, and
            1. you have faith in that hope.
            2. He has given you every reason to believe
              1. He will keep that promise, and
              2. so you wait with expectation of receiving it; you have hope.
        2. Faith is the evidence
          1. of things you have not seen.
          2. Faith means you know, not just feel,
            1. that something is true or exists or existed,
            2. although you did not see it.
              1. Can you know,
                1. not merely feel in your heart,
                2. that George Washington was our first president?
              2. If you say yes,
                1. how do you know?
                2. Did you ever see him?
              3. Can a jury know
                1. that a man committed murder,
                2. although they did not see him do it?
              4. If you say yes,
                1. how can they know?
                2. If seeing is the only way to know, how can they know?
          3. You have faith that George Washington was America’s first president, because
            1. enough evidence exists,
            2. historical evidence,
              1. to lead you to the conclusion
              2. that George Washington served as America’s first president.
          4. Juries convict men of murder by faith, because
            1. although they did not witness the murder,
            2. they saw enough evidence to persuade them of his crime.
      3. Faith is knowing something to be true,
        1. although you did not see it, but
        2. sufficient evidence exists to persuade you that it is so.
          1. Some call this the preponderance of evidence.
          2. The preponderance of evidence shows
            1. that there is a God, and
            2. that we have been created.
      4. In 2010, I showed you many arguments for the existence of God,
        1. including one I called, The Ultimate Proof of God’s Existence, and
        2. I have been developing that point more.
          1. The existence and identity of Jesus of Nazareth
          2. is the ultimate proof of God’s existence, because
            1. the Gospel Accounts provide able information to persuade us
            2. that Jesus is the Son of God, and
            3. that therefore, God exists.


  1. The Gospel Accounts Endured the Centuries 
    1. People often say that Church Councils determined what Books went into the New Testament, but
      1. Church Councils only acknowledge what the church and
      2. preachers of that time had already accepted as Scripture.
    2. We have discovered a list of canonical books to the year AD 170.
    3. Interestingly, so-called Church Fathers over a widespread area revealed lists of accepted Books of the New Testament.
      1. In AD 185, Irenaeus of France provided a list of 24 Books.
      2. In AD 220, Hippolytus of Italy also confirmed the existence of 24 Books.
      3. In AD 224, Origen in Egypt wrote of 27 Books.
      4. In AD 324, Eusebius in Palestine spoke of 26 Books.
        1. These men quoted from the New Testament, including the Gospels
        2. in their own writings to the churches,
          1. just as we do today,
          2. showing that the Gospel Accounts have always been accepted
            1. as reliable witnesses of the life of Christ.
            2. We have their writings and we have Greek manuscripts
  2. The Gospel Accounts Show a Jesus Consistent with Unfavorable Writers
    1. These writers could have disputed
      1. what was going on in the early church.
      2. They could have claimed that it was all fraudulent.
    2. They could have denied the testimony of the Gospel Accounts.
      1. Instead, they accept that Jesus lived, and
      2. that He had a following, but
        1. they mocked it or
        2. disagreed with it in some way.
    3. Again, I refer to J. Warner Wallace.
      1. He said that both the Kennedy assassination and the events of 9/11,
      2. were witnessed by countless people, yet,
        1. the interpretations differ and
        2. the conspiracy theories abound.
          1. Nevertheless, everyone accepts that they occurred.
          2. So it is with the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
            1. Interpretations differ, but
            2. they all affirm that He lived.
    4. Thallus wrote in AD 52, and
      1. he recorded some of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ.
      2. We do not have any of the writings of Thallus, but
        1. Julius Africanus in AD 221 quoted Thallus,

          “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1).

    5. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote in AD 116,

      “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

    6. In AD 70, Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher, wrote,

      “What benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgment for their crime. Or, the people of Samos for burning Pythagoras? In one moment their country was covered with sand. Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?…After that their kingdom was abolished. God rightly avenged these men…The wise king…Lived on in the teachings he enacted.”

    7. Suetonius, writing in the first century,

      “Because the Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (Christ), he (Claudius) expelled them from the city (Rome).” (Life of Claudius, 25:4).

    8. Celsus writing in AD 175, shows his hostility toward Christ,

      “Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god.”

    9. When the enemies of the church, Christ, and the Scriptures
      1. had their chance to deny the testimony of the Gospels,
      2. they did not do it, but
        1. sought to explain them away,
        2. showing that Jesus truly lived.
  3. The Gospel Accounts Are Verifiable 
    1. J. Warner Wallace says that,

      “there are four overarching principles of witness reliability.”

    2. He said further,

      “I used this template [the four overarching principles] to evaluate the Gospels when I was an unbelieving skeptic, and these four principles will help you assess any challenge offered against the Gospel accounts.”

    3. Here are his four principles:
      1. Make Sure the Witnesses Were Present in the First Place
        1. Is the supposed witness looking
          1. to become famous,
          2. to hurt the defendant, or
          3. to help the victim.
        2. Were the Gospel Accounts written early enough to be witnesses?
          1. Here is why this is so important, and
          2. no one in the first century ever doubted the Gospel Accounts,

            “Early authorship allows the accounts to be fact-checked by those who were present and could expose the accounts as a lie.”

      2. Try to Find Some Corroboration for the Claims of the Witnesses
        1. Wallace mentions this important information:
        2. External sources outside the Bible, corroborate the Gospel Accounts:
          1. Archaeology,
          2. non-Christian sources.
        3. Internal sources in the Bible, corroborate the Gospel Accounts:
          1. Harmony between the Accounts,
          2. Referencing of first century names,
          3. Correct description of the structure of Roman government,
          4. Correct references to geography, topography, etc.
      3. Examine the Consistency and Accuracy of the Witnesses
        1. Have the Accounts been altered over time?
        2. No other ancient documents in the world
          1. have as many copies and
          2. have as many quotations in other works.
            1. Remember we have copies of manuscripts
            2. that are close in time to the originals, and
              1. they compare harmoniously with later manuscripts.
              2. There have been no alterations.
      4. Examine the Presence of Bias on the Part of the Witnesses
        1. Do the Gospel Accounts show the disciples of Christ
          1. as ready to believe, or
          2. were they doubtful and slow to believe?
        2. The writers did not have a bias in favor of Jesus at the beginning, but
          1. when they saw who He was,
          2. their doubts turned into strong convictions.
        3. What would the Gospel Writers have gained through bias?
          1. Wealth,
          2. Sex, and
          3. Power.
            1. However, they gained none of those things.
            2. They suffered the loss of everything.

              8 You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! 9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now (1Co 4.8–13).
    4. The Nile Street Church used to have a booth at the Klamath County Fair.
      1. One time a man stopped by to try to get me to allow him to speak to the congregation to sell encyclopedias.
      2. We discussed the Bible, and
        1. he tried to persuade me that we ought to keep the Sabbath.
        2. I had an answer for everything he said.
          1. Finally, out of frustration, he told me that we cannot rely on the New Testament, because
          2. the ancient Greek manuscripts were unreliable,
            1. filled with different readings, and
            2. he threw Matthew 19.9 as an example,
              1. saying that the Greek text had 9 or 11 differing readings.
              2. So, I checked it out later when I got to my office.
      3. I will show you scanned copies
        1. from my Greek New Testament that shows the variant readings, and
        2. I will show you what a particular committee decided on the readings.
          1. [Slides]
          2. That, my friends, constitutes the so-called changes!


  1. Why do skeptics deny the authenticity of the Gospel Accounts? 
    1. We have predictive prophecy, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
      1. Jesus pictured the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple so well
      2. that skeptics figure the Gospel Accounts must have been written
        1. after the fact, that is,
        2. as history and not as prophecy.
          1. What does that tell you the Gospel Accounts?
          2. They spoke the truth.
      3. No one doubts that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
        1. We see the evidence on site.
        2. We read the history in writings such as Josephus.
          1. Since Jesus also spoke of the destruction and said how it would happen,
          2. He either spoke it as history, or
            1. He is the Son of God, hence God, and
            2. can see the future precisely before it happens,

              9 “Behold, the former things have come to pass,
              And new things I declare;
              Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
              (Isa 42.9)
    2. They do not wish to submit to the Lord.
      1. Yet, they find His teachings and the reporting of His works hard to resist.
      2. They seek to get around those by denying the reliability of the Gospel Accounts.
        1. To see that this is so,
        2. just consider that they do not do this with other ancient documents.
  2. Our annual seminars, classes we offer, sermons you hear, and VBS this year, 
    1. all offer help in verifying the veracity of Scripture.
    2. We are sending Reason & Revelation to some of you at your homes.
      1. Pick up copies of other magazines we have in back,
      2. Think, Christian Courier, et al.