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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Which Written Records about Jesus Are Trustworthy?

Don Stewart :: Why Should We Trust the New Testament Account of Jesus' Life? Weren't They Biased?

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Why Should We Trust the New Testament Account of Jesus’ Life? Weren’t They Biased?

Which Written Records about Jesus Are Trustworthy? – Question 6

The story of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament is miraculous. There is no doubt about this. From His birth through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ is portrayed as someone who is from heaven. He is the eternal God who came down to earth and became a human being.

The existence of Jesus Christ is beyond question. However, this is not the issue here. Granted that He did exist, could the New Testament story be only a legend? Is it possible that what we have in the New Testament is a fabrication or exaggeration of what occurred? After all, those who wrote about Him were admittedly biased. They believed He was the promised Messiah and they wrote with the purpose of convincing others. Does this not make their report suspect?

A number of points need to be made about this all-important question of the bias of the New Testament writers with respect to what they wrote about Jesus.

1. They Were Eyewitnesses to the Events of Jesus

There are several problems with the view that the New Testament is an exaggeration of the deeds of Jesus. First, we have the testimony of the disciples of Jesus. They contended that Jesus did these miraculous deeds in their presence. The Apostle John wrote,

He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. (John 19:35 HCSB)

Notice that John is emphasizing the fact that he was there! What he has written is from the perspective of an eyewitness. Nobody told him about these things. Rather he saw them for himself.

Simon Peter, another eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus, made it clear that the disciples knew the difference between myth and reality:

For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes. (2 Peter 1:16 NLT)

Here again we have the emphasis that the events in the life of Jesus were seen by His disciples. With their own eyes they saw the miracles as well as seeing the risen Jesus three days after He was put to death.

Indeed, it is the united testimony of the New Testament that Jesus performed miracles in front of multitudes of people which included His own disciples. These same disciples are the ones who gave us the New Testament record of His life and ministry. The Gospel writers, Matthew and John, were two of the Twelve. Hence they were eyewitnesses to the events. Mark and Luke recorded eyewitness testimonies.

Thus, we have the words of individuals who were with Jesus and witnessed these events firsthand. They are not passing down a story to us that they had been told. They were there! Each of them independently testifies to the truth.2. They Realized the Importance of the Issues

There is something else which we must take into consideration. The disciples of Jesus Christ realized the importance of the issues they were dealing with. The matters in which they were writing about were of eternal importance. Eternal destinies, including their own, would be determined by how a person viewed Jesus. Therefore, we would expect them to take the utmost care to be as accurate and precise as possible.3. They Would Have Been All the More Desirous to Write the Truth

Because of the importance of the issue, and that the eternal destiny of human beings, they would have been all the more desirous to tell the truth. They would have exercised exceptional care to make certain they accurately recorded Jesus’ words and deeds. They would not be careless with the facts.

In fact, Luke in his prologue tells that that his goal was to relate the precise truth about Jesus. He wanted his readers to know exactly what occurred:

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 HCSB)

Note that Luke wanted his readers to know “the exact truth” about what really took place in Jesus’ life and ministry.

In the same manner, the Apostle John emphasized that he wrote what he knew to be true. We read the following words at the end of his gospel:

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24 HCSB)

Consequently, it is the claim of the gospel writers that they are telling the truth.

4. An Eyewitness Is Not Disbelieved Because of Biases

Another point needs to be made. We cannot disregard their testimony merely because they were believers and wanted to convince others to believe in Jesus. If this is the case, then we cannot accept the testimony of any person, on any issue, who is trying to convince others of what they believe to be true.

In every case, when people are writing for an expressed purpose, we have to weigh and evaluate the evidence. We consider the facts and then make a decision based upon these facts. We do not rule the possibility that they are telling the truth before examining the facts.

5. Initially They Were Unbelievers of Jesus’ Resurrection

We need to make one last point on this question. It is the testimony of Jesus’ disciples that they were the first unbelievers of His resurrection! Scripture says that when these men first heard the story of Jesus’ rising from the dead from the women who had gone to His tomb they did not believe them. Luke writes,

But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. (Luke 24:11 HCSB)

It was only after they saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes that they became believers in Him. Therefore, what convinced them was the evidence; it was not some desire to believe what someone else had told them.

Consequently, the often-stated objection, “We cannot accept the disciples report of Jesus because they were biased” is neither the rational thing nor proper thing to do.

Yes, these people were trying to convince others about Jesus. In fact, they tell us that this is their purpose. But this is not the issue. The key question is, “Do they give us a correct report of what He said and did?” We will discover that this is exactly what they have done.

Summary – Question 6
Why Should We Trust the New Testament Account of Jesus’ Life? Weren’t They Biased?

There are those who object to the New Testament portrayal of Jesus as being truthful because of the source of the testimony. Since the writers were believers in Him, their testimony is assumed to be untruthful and untrustworthy. It is claimed that they are not “objective” sources. However, to say the New Testament portrait of Jesus was an invention, or exaggeration, does not fit the evidence. The fact that they were His disciples is not the issue. The real issue is did they tell the truth? This is the question which must be answered. The evidence is as follows.

To begin with, the testimony we have from the New Testament is from firsthand sources. The disciples recorded what they personally heard and saw. They were eyewitnesses, they were there! This is extremely important to understand. What we have are not second-hand accounts from people who heard stories others told about Jesus, these disciples saw Jesus’ miracles with their own eyes and heard His teachings with their own ears. They are not recording what others said took place.

In addition, these writers realized the eternal importance of the matters in which they wrote about. Indeed, the destiny of everyone, including their own, depended upon a correct view of Jesus. Consequently, we would expect them to take the most meticulous care in recording the things He said and the deed which He did. They knew what was at stake.

Furthermore, we find them stressing their desire to tell the truth. Indeed, Luke in his gospel tells us that his purpose is to do exactly this. The fact that this is the stated intention of the author should, at the very least, give them the benefit of the doubt when examining the account.

Finally, the idea that they should not be believed because they were Jesus’ disciples is ridiculous. We do not reject the eyewitness testimony of people merely because of what they believe about something. We let the facts speak for themselves.

Furthermore, we find that it was the appearance of the risen Christ which caused them to believe that He had risen from the dead. Indeed, they were the first people who denied the resurrection took place; they were the first unbelievers of the story! It was only after they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, and then touched Him, that they became believers.

In sum, there is every reason to accept the New Testament account of Jesus’ life and ministry because the sources are reliable. We can trust what they have written about Him.

Why Are There Four Gospels? ← Prior Section
Could the Message of Jesus Have Been Changed by His Own Disciples? Next Section →
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