“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
As the early church moved further from its inception and spread among cultures foreign to what had unfolded in Jesus’ ministry and mission, church leaders realized that they had to be more intentional with how the gospel message would be carried forward.
Among the Jewish followers of Jesus, there were common accounts of his ministry that had been shared by word of mouth from eyewitnesses and his closest followers. But it was time to put these accounts in writing and frame them in a way that would communicate best to the intended audience. So we have four accounts (gospels) in our Bible from different authors, writing to different audiences, emphasizing different elements of Christ’s ministry but all culminating on the cross.
Because of the efforts of these authors, we can have confidence in the truth we find in their pages. When antagonists ask for scientific proof of Jesus’ life and resurrection, they misunderstand what they’re asking. Scientific proof relies on a controlled environment that allows for the proof to be shown over and over. Historical proof, however, is shown through a different set of qualifiers.
- The amount of time between when something happened and when it was written about
- The number of copies we have of the manuscript and their closeness in similarity
- An agreement with other historical documents and archaeological findings
- The integrity of the author of the account
In each area, the validity of the New Testament’s account of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, is historically reliable and its evidence overwhelming when compared to other ancient events that we have record of. In fact, several of the resources I have listed below were written by people who set out to disprove the claims of Christianity (specifically concerning Jesus’ resurrection) and became believers through their research.
If you’d like to dig into this further, you’ll be excited about what you find!
Use the HEAR method as you spend time with today’s passage:
- Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you?
- Explain – what does the passage mean?
- Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today? Respond – how is God leading you to respond?
Jon Price, Associate Pastor