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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Amazing Historical Accuracy of the Bible

Don Stewart :: How Does the Apostle Paul Testify to the Accuracy of the Four Gospels

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How Does the Apostle Paul Testify to the Accuracy of the Four Gospels

The Amazing Historical Accuracy of the Bible – Question 11

The evidence shows that the four gospels were written a relatively short time after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what about the letters of the Apostle Paul? When were they composed? How do they help with the reliability of the Four Gospels?

The Writings of the Apostle Paul: Thirteen Letters

Paul wrote thirteen letters that eventually became part of the New Testament. His writings can be divided into three categories: those written before he was in prison, those written while he was in prison and those written after he was released from prison.

Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written to these churches before he was imprisoned. Four letters: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon were written from prison. After he was released from prison, Paul wrote three letters to individuals: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. This makes the total number of Paul’s letters as thirteen.

Paul’s Writings Were Possibly Composed Earlier than the Four Gospels

Some of the letters of the Apostle Paul may actually have been written earlier than the gospels. For example, First Thessalonians was written approximately A.D. 51, while the first letter to the Corinthians was penned about A.D. 56. Obviously, all of his letters were written before A.D. 67, when he died.

Paul Confirmed Some of the Events Recorded in the Gospels

The testimony of the Apostle Paul confirms the evidence presented in the gospel accounts concerning Jesus Christ.

1. Jesus Christ Is the Creator of the Universe

John tells us that Jesus was the Creator of the universe. He wrote the following words:

All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:3 KJV)

The New English Translation says:

All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. (John 1:3 NET)

Paul also testified that Jesus was the Creator of the universe. We read the following in the Book of Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities?all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16 ESV)

The fact that Jesus Himself created the universe is taught by Paul.

2. The Lord Jesus Was Without Sin

Jesus was always obedient to the law of God. He once asked His disciples if anyone had ever seen Him sin. He said:

Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46 NET)

No one could give an example because He did not sin. In the same way, Paul emphasized that Jesus never committed a sin. He wrote to the Corinthians:

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET)

The sinlessness of Jesus was accepted as a fact by the Apostle Paul. Of this, there is no doubt.

3. Jesus Was Betrayed by Judas Iscariot

All four gospels agree that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Paul also spoke of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas. He wrote the following to the church of Corinth:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 TNIV)

The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was accepted as fact by Paul.

4. Jesus Died by Means of Crucifixion

All four gospels are consistent that Jesus died by means of crucifixion. Paul mentions Jesus’ death by crucifixion as the cornerstone of his message. He said:

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe. God’s way seems foolish to the Jews because they want a sign from heaven to prove it is true. And it is foolish to the Greeks because they believe only what agrees with their own wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Corinthians 1:21-23 NLT)

The crucifixion of Christ was taught by the writers of the four gospels as well as by the apostle Paul.

5. Jesus Rose from the Dead on the Third Day

Again, all four gospels testify that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his death. Paul also confirmed that Christ rose from the dead. He put it this way:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 TNIV)

The resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of Christianity, was accepted by Paul.

There Are a Number of Important Points to Remember

Three points must be emphasized concerning the testimony of the Apostle Paul. They include the following:

1. Paul Was a Contemporary of the Disciples

The Apostle Paul, though not an eyewitness to the events of the life of Christ, was living at the same time as the disciples who were eyewitnesses. Therefore, he was their contemporary.

2. He Wrote Within Thirty Years of the Events

Paul’s letters were composed within thirty years of the events of the life and ministry of Jesus. This is far too short a time for him to have radically changed the message of Jesus without receiving criticism from both believing and non-believing eyewitnesses of the events.

For example, First Thessalonians is probably the earliest letter that Paul wrote. It can be dated around the year A.D. 51; about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

3. Paul Challenged His Readers to Investigate the Evidence

Paul challenged his readers to investigate for themselves the evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He wrote to the Corinthians:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6 KJV)

The New Living Translation renders the verses in this manner:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me-- that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6 NLT)

Many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were still alive when Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Anyone doubting the fact of the resurrection could check out their testimony.

Therefore, we find that when all the evidence is in, the Apostle Paul gives a further testimony to the truths about Jesus as written in the four gospels.

Summary – Question 11
How Does the Apostle Paul Testify to the Accuracy of the Four Gospels?

The testimony of the Apostle Paul adds further evidence to the trustworthiness of the gospel’s picture of Jesus. Paul confirmed the gospels testimony of Jesus creating the universe and His total obedience to the Jewish law without ever committing a sin. Paul also confirmed Jesus was betrayed, crucified and had risen from the dead on the third day.

Although he was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ, his testimony is important because he was a contemporary of Jesus. Paul wrote within thirty years of the events recorded in the New Testament. He also challenged his readers to investigate the truth for themselves. He, therefore, is a helpful witness in confirming the reliability of the account of Jesus as found in the gospels.

When Were the Four Gospels Written? ← Prior Section
Are the Four Gospels Historically Accurate? Next Section →
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