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

Don Stewart :: Were the New Testament Writers Qualified as Witnesses to the Events They Recorded?

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Were the New Testament Writers Qualified as Witnesses to the Events They Recorded?

The Amazing Historical Accuracy of the Bible – Question 9

There is every reason to believe that the Old Testament is a reliable historical document. The writers knew things that only those living at that time could have known. This includes local laws, customs and geography.

But what about the reliability of the New Testament? Is there sufficient reason to believe that those who composed the New Testament documents were qualified to write about their subject?

We will find that there is sufficient evidence that the New Testament writers were qualified to give testimony to the events they recorded. The following points should be made:

1. The New Testament Writers Claim They Recorded Eyewitness Testimony

To begin with, it is the claim of the New Testament writers that they were either eyewitnesses to the things they recorded or they recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses.

For example, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd that had gathered that he and the other disciples had seen the risen Christ. He said:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (Acts 2:32 NIV)

Peter, as well as the rest of Jesus’ disciples, was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ.

We also find the gospels filled with details that an eyewitness would remember. For example, we read in the gospel of John:

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NRSV)

The fact that the writer mentioned vividly how the fragrance filled the house is an indication that he was there when this took place. He remembered the scent.

The New Testament is filled with many references such as these. The point is that those who reported the account of the life of Jesus were there when the events happened.

2. As Eyewitnesses, They Were in a Position to Accurately Report the Facts

As eyewitnesses, the New Testament writers were in a position to accurately report the events to which they gave testimony. They knew whether or not the facts were correct.

Peter made this clear when he wrote the following:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18 RSV)

The Message renders these verses as follows:

We weren’t, you know, just wishing on a star when we laid the facts out before you regarding the powerful return of our Master, Jesus Christ. We were there for the preview! We saw it with our own eyes: Jesus resplendent with light from God the Father as the voice of Majestic Glory spoke: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of all my delight.” We were there on the holy mountain with him. We heard the voice out of heaven with our very own ears. (2 Peter 1:16-18 MsgB)

Time and time again we find the disciples of Jesus emphasizing things which they had seen with their own eyes. They were in a position to know what really occurred.

3. They Exhibit an Honest Character

Furthermore, the New Testament writers exhibit an honest character. They do not hesitate to record their own shortcomings. We are told of Peter’s denial of Jesus, as well as arguments among the other disciples on the night of Jesus’ betrayal. There is no attempt to ignore the shortcomings of the New Testament characters. This gives further evidence that their writings were not fraudulent. They do not write like people who were inventing a story.

4. They Had Sufficient Intelligence

The writers of the New Testament were intelligent men. Although the education level varies among the authors, they all possessed the ability to intelligently communicate the truth of God to humanity. The New Testament is a historical document that was intelligently written. This gives further testimony to the reliability of what they wrote.

5. They Realized the Eternal Consequences of Their Claims

The New Testament writers realized that their accounts had eternal consequences. They did not want to risk their own condemnation by being liars or imposters. They had nothing to gain from dishonesty—rather they had everything to lose.

6. Their Narratives Were Not Embellished

The narratives in the New Testament were not embellished with excess details. They are simple, to the point, and believable. We find nothing that would give any hint of a legend. This is in contrast to other non-biblical documents written about the life and ministry of Jesus which contain many things that are unbelievable.

7. They Appealed to What They Saw and Heard

The writers of the New Testament were able to appeal to the senses, what they saw and what they heard, to verify the truth they recorded.

John wrote:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us). (John 1:1-2 KJV)

The New Living Translation renders the verses in this manner:

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us. (John 1:1-2 NLT)

John emphasized that Jesus’ disciples saw, heard and touched Him after His resurrection; He was real. This gives further testimony that they were telling the truth about seeing the risen Christ.

8. They Had the Proper Tools to Write and Record Their Experiences

The New Testament writers obviously had the ability to read and write. They also had the proper tools—tablets, pen, ink, etc.—to record the words and deeds of Christ. There was nothing hindering them to complete their task.

9. They Had a Precedent in the Old Testament

The disciples had a precedent, the Old Testament, for accurately recording sacred truth. They would have used that as an example in their memorizing and passing on the truth about Jesus. As Jews, they regarded the Scripture with the utmost respect.

Therefore, anything which they would have written about the life and ministry of Jesus would have been composed with the utmost care; they wanted to tell the exact truth about Him!

10. They Had Special Reverence for the Person of Jesus

The reverence of the disciples for Jesus as the promised Messiah also encouraged them to memorize carefully and also accurately record His words and deeds.

Luke wrote of his meticulous research in his introduction:

Many have attempted to write about what had taken place among us. They received their information from those who had been eyewitnesses and servants of God’s word from the beginning, and they passed it on to us. I, too, have followed everything closely from the beginning. So I thought it would be a good idea to write an orderly account for Your Excellency, Theophilus. In this way you will know that what you’ve been told is true. (Luke 1:1-4 God’s Word)

Luke says that he was interested in giving the “exact” truth about Jesus. Jesus’ words and deeds would have been accurately recorded in order to pass them on to others.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy about the need to pass on the truth exactly as it was told to him. He wrote:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)

It was important to the writers of the New Testament that they pass on correct information about Jesus to others. They were interested in the exact truth.

11. They Were Historically Accurate

The accounts of the New Testament writers match up, as far as we can tell, with secular history. Their narratives fit well into the history of the times. Because of their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, they would have taken special care to accurately record His words and deeds. Thus, there is every reason to believe that what they wrote about Jesus was correct.

In fact, there are at least thirty people that are named in the New Testament which are also known from other records. Indeed, we know what six of them actually looked like because their faces are on coins or statues. Thus, we are dealing with history, not mythology.

12. They Were Minutely Accurate in What They Wrote

One of the marks of truthfulness is the accuracy in small, insignificant details. We find the gospel writers accurate in areas that had no real significance. Passing references to insignificant details turn out to be historically accurate.

This is another indication of the trustworthiness of their entire account. If they were so meticulous as to record accurately the insignificant details, how much more concerned would they be with the main facts?

Conclusion: the New Testament Writers Were Highly Qualified to Write Authoritatively about Jesus

All of the above facts testify to the trustworthiness of the New Testament writings. The writers were indeed in a position to write about Jesus in an authoritative manner.

Summary – Question 9
Were the New Testament Writers Qualified Witnesses to Write about the Events They Recorded?

As we look at the qualifications of the New Testament writers, we can make the following conclusions. The writers were in a position to accurately judge the events they recorded. Also, they showed themselves to be of honest character. Moreover, the disciples were of sufficient intelligence to communicate the truth.

In addition, they realized the eternal consequences of what they proclaimed. Their narratives were not embellished with excessive details. They had the proper tools to get the job done. Their writings appealed to the senses of their readers.

They also had a precedent for recording divine material – the Old Testament. They exhibited a special reverence for Jesus. Furthermore, they were historically accurate in all that they said. In fact, they were minutely accurate.

All these things add up to demonstrate that the New Testament can be trusted in the things that it reports.

Has Evidence from Archaeology and Other Sources Refuted Accusations Against the Reliability of the Old Testament? ← Prior Section
When Were the Four Gospels Written? Next Section →
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