Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Details Suggest The Gospels Are Eyewitness Accounts

The empty cross has a prominent place in the Gospels.

Joel Kontinen

Many people think that the Gospels were written several decades after the eyewitnesses of the events described in them had passed away. However, if we look at the details the authors included in their accounts we will soon find a very different story.

First of all, the Gospels are about real people who lived at a particular time in history (ca. AD 30) in a certain geopolitical setting (the Roman Empire) and geographical area (i.e. the land promised to the Hebrew patriarch Abraham and his descendants).

We become familiar with the failures and even the quirks of the early Christian leaders. The chosen apostles were hardly role models. Peter was brave and impetuous. He got his feet wet and once cut off a servant’s ear. James and John, the Sons of Thunder, were no peacemakers either. Once they wanted to "call fire down from heaven" to destroy a Samaritan village that refused to welcome them (Luke 9:51-56).

The authors often included details that might sound superfluous. Mark 14: 51 mentions that when Jesus was arrested, soldiers caught a young man following Him but the man "fled naked, leaving his garment behind". Some scholars have suggested that this man was Mark himself.

And when soldiers forced Simon from Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross, Mark adds that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. The only logical reason for including this detail is that the early believers for whom Mark wrote his Gospel knew who these men were.

When Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples, John mentions that Judas went out "and it was night" (John 13:30). We feel that something ominous will soon happen.

And it did. It marked the beginning of the passion of Christ that led to His death and resurrection and eventually to the birth of the Christian Church.

The disciples were disturbingly slow to learn the lessons Jesus taught them. Time and again Jesus had to rebuke them for their lack of faith. Luke 22:24 records that at the last supper, dispute arose "among them [i.e. the disciples] as to which of them was considered to be greatest."

Once, when Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them bothered to return to thank Him. And the odd one out was a despised Samaritan (Luke 17:11-16).

It is also fascinating that in a very patriarchal society the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection were women.

The role of women is a big challenge to those who think the Gospels were fabrications. Why would anyone choose women for this very important task?

After all, pious Jewish men used to thank God that He had not made them Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews), slaves or women.

Yet the Gospels show clearly that while the leaders Jesus Himself had chosen doubted His resurrection, some women believed.

Author Donald Kraybill wrote a book entitled The Upside-Down Kingdom. We might see the Gospels as an introduction into this Kingdom with values that differ radically from what we would expect: The first will be last, and the last first. The greatest is not the one who is served but the one who serves.

It seems that everything that was written in the Gospels serves a particular purpose. For instance, the details about Christ's mighty signs were "written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31).

So perhaps small details were included in the text to show that it is authentic.

Scripture verses quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV).