The New Testament documents, and specifically the four Gospels, have withstood the test of almost 2,000 years of intense scrutiny, criticism, and efforts to discredit them as historical records. And a significant part of this discrediting effort involve questions about their authorship.
In this third lesson in our series we want to spend a little time talking about this issue, and the confidence we can have in their trustworthy nature. Below I have reproduced a short form of Part III – Their Authorship outline. If you want to skip the outline and just listen to the audio of the sermon, you can go directly to the page I have created for The Jesus Documents here.
3. The “Jesus Documents” – Their Authorship
- Critics claim that doubts about the authorship of the four Gospels are a “fatal flaw” of the Christian documents. Here are four objections they raise:
- None of the four Gospels identify their authors. (True, but this does not automatically mean we cannot know who the authors were.)
- Whoever the authors, they were not “objective historians” but passionate promoters of the Christian faith. (Few ancient records were produced by “objective historians” but this does not invalidate their historicity.)
- These “unknown” authors “must have” embellished (added, invented, edited) stories and records beyond those originally attributed to Jesus. (Interesting this assertion is not actually backed up by any historical evidence itself!)
- We don’t have the original autographs, and those who made copies also embellished and added to what was in the original autographs. (Again, an assertion not at all supported by the evidence! Since we don’t have the originals, how can these critics know what has been added or changed in the copies?)
- Let’s try to think soberly together about these issues. Realize that whatever tests are applied to the Christian writings should be applied equally to other ancient documents – documents historians almost universally accept as historical and reliable.
WHAT DO THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS THEMSELVES SAY?
- Some do not name their authors within their pages, like the four Gospels, Acts and Hebrews.
- But others do, particularly the letters of Paul, Peter, and John.
- They claim to be records either written by or collected directly from the eyewitnesses to Jesus: Luke 1:1-4; John 20:30-31; 21:24-25
- They also claim that contemporary unbelievers also knew these things to be true: Acts 2:22; 10:37-39
- They do not bear the marks of “fiction”
- imaginary or unknown places, people, events
- written at a different time and/or place from the people and events they describe. Instead the New Testament documents were written within a generation of the events and people they describe, and written when people plenty of people lived who would label them as false (if they were) since they also knew the historical facts.
- many “undesigned coincidences” are evident between the writings (an excellent scholarly book has recently been published highlighting this evidence entitled Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, by Dr. Lydia McGrew).
CLAIM TO BE FROM FIRST CENTURY DISCIPLES AND BELIEVERS
- Luke – Luke 1:1-4
- John – John 21:24-25
- Paul’s letters: (1) essentially every letter begins with his name. (2) Further, they claim that his signature was attached to the original documents so his readers would know it was from him – 2 Tessalonians 3:17-18; 1 Corinthians 16:21-23; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18
- Peter – first few verses of 1 & 2 Peter
- 1, 2 & 3 John
PURPOSE OF WRITING AND DISTRIBUTION
- Luke 1:1-4
- John 20:30-31
- 1 Peter 1:12-18