The Annual Debunking of Jesus

Can We Rely on the Gospels?

It happens almost every Easter: Some new “discovery” trying to disprove something about Jesus. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

When I was a kid, every Easter, I think it was NBC, played the miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth.” It had a bunch of well-known stars like Anthony Quinn, Anne Bancroft, and my favorite, Ernest Borgnine. Sure, there was some extra storytelling going on, but it was a moving account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And for the most part it was sympathetic to the gospels and to Christian sensitivities.

Well, those days are pretty much gone.

Whether it’s the Discovery Channel’s airing a show on the supposed lost tomb of Jesus (they actually claim to have found His bones), or Newsweek (while it was still in print) featuring a cover photo of a cool-looking Jesus on the streets of New York City, or simply one of the major news networks interviewing a “modern” biblical scholar, Easter has become prime time for reconstructing the historical Jesus.

Gone also are the days when the main argument about Jesus was whether He really was (and is) the Son of God, or just a great moral teacher. No doubt you’ll remember C. S. Lewis’s famous quote that Jesus was either who He said He was, or he was a madman (“on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg”) or a liar or something worse.

But today, the arguments focus more on the reliability of the gospels themselves. It’s hard to use Lewis’s excellent response when someone flings back in your face, “Well, we don’t really know what Jesus said after all”—or if Jesus even existed—because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all just propaganda pieces for a growing social and cultural movement.

But what if the Gospels are indeed what they claim to be? Eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

On “BreakPoint This Week,” my colleague John Stonestreet talked about this very issue with a friend of mine, a pastor and a man for whom I have enormous respect, Dr. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

They discussed Dr. Keller’s excellent book, “Jesus the King: Understanding the life and death of the Son of God.” In it, he focuses on Jesus’ life as told in the gospel of Mark. And as Dr. Keller and John point out, there are many sound arguments for believing that the gospels are indeed eyewitness accounts.

Look for instance, at the portrayal of Peter and the disciples in Mark. If the young church wanted to make up a rosy propaganda piece about its leaders, they would not have painted the picture of Peter as a coward and the other disciples as consistently clueless!

But that’s what the gospel of Mark does. Or take the role of women in the Gospel of Mark. They were the first to discover the empty tomb. But in the Jewish and Roman worlds, women couldn’t serve as witnesses in court! So there’s no way Mark or any of the gospels would rely on their testimony—unless, of course, the women really were eyewitnesses and what they said really happened.

So, as you prepare for Easter, be ready for the conversation with a colleague or neighbor who’s watched or read the latest revisionist history of Jesus. To help you winsomely engage in presenting truth, we’ve got John’s great "BreakPoint This Week" interview with Dr. Keller for you at BreakPoint.org.

Newsletter_Gen_180x180_BAnd at the BreakPoint online bookstore, we have Dr. Keller’s book “Jesus the King,” along with another book that John recommends highly, Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”

Finally, John has produced a great teaching CD on the cosmic, universe-shattering implications of Jesus’ resurrection called “He Has Risen.” It’s great for individual and group study, and a great way to prepare for Resurrection Sunday and the season of Easter.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_31513The Annual Debunking of Jesus: Can We Rely
on the Gospels? - Next Steps

Are you weary of the continual attacks on the historicity of Jesus and the resurrection? Perhaps you have doubts yourself. There are many good, scholarly resources which can help you sift through the evidence and come to a rational conclusion. Often the popular media joins the skeptics, without a serious regard for strong evidence that has convinced millions through the centuries.

Take a look at the resources listed below and then go on a search yourself. Jesus always encouraged those around Him to investigate and ask honest questions. Seek the truth. God honors such a quest.


Jesus The King
Timothy Keller | Penguin Putnam | March 2013

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
Richard Bauckham | Wm. B. Eerdmans | October 2008

Other Resources:

He Has Risen: The Worldview of Easter, DVD and Study Guide
John Stonestreet and T. M. Moore | Colson Center | March 2013

BreakPoint This Week, interview with Tim Keller
John Stonestreet | ColsonCenter.org | March 2013


The Gospels of Mark and Luke
New Testament


41 or 42 people

Whether the number of people on your list is 41 or 42 depends on who wrote Hebrews. Many believe Paul did, which means the number is 41 (I didn't count; I'll take your word -- or the authors' you quote -- for it). That's an in-house debate. Aside from that, "Martyrdom of Polycarp" seems a strange name for a person other than Polycarp himself, but I'll let that pass.

More to the point, you know what the liberals say about this list (especially the secular part)? They shoot it all down with one word: interpolation. For those readers who don't know what that means, it is the claim that the references to Christ in the writings of non-Christians such as Josephus were inserted centuries after the fact in the manuscript copies by the church. Now how do we disprove that??? We don't have the earliest manuscripts.
42 people wrote about Jesus
There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.

9- Traditional New Testament Authors
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
20- Early Christian Writers Outside the New Testament
Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
4- Heretical Writings
Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection.
9- Secular Sources
Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.

From Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004, p. 233.
Celebrating Easter
Thank you for your excellent work and ministry. I have followed Chuck Colson's work for decades and appreciate all that you do. Might I suggest a very interesting and enlightening video concerning Easter? Here is the link from Psalm 119 ministries: http://www.testeverything.net/blog-119/view/24274/new-teaching-from-119----sunburned-

May the Lord bless you!