Reading the Gospels as History

Before launching into a series of posts this fall on the gospel of Luke and the Historical Jesus, I thought it might be constructive to ask three important questions about “Jesus studies” in general. I have a high regard for the historicity of the synoptic gospels, although I am more than willing to accept that there are some problem passages. The following questions will set up the tensions we will encounter as we read through Luke.

Can we know anything about Jesus? What is at stake here is the nature of historical knowledge. Can we know anything about ancient historical events? If an ancient writer claims that Apollo came down and had an affair with a human resulting in the birth of a demi-god like hero, modern historians (rightly) discount this as legend. This is how the story of the Virgin Birth is treated in scholarship. Luke (or his tradition) invented the story to make Jesus look like a Greco-Roman hero.

A second historical problem for knowing anything about Jesus is that the synoptic gospels were written some time after the events. How long after the events is important. If Luke can claim to consult eye-witnesses, this would imply a date in the early A.D. 60s. However, for a number of reasons scholars will date Luke in the 80s, written by a second generation Christian who did not know Paul and could not consult eye-witnesses of events now 50 years in the past. There is an assumption that the longer time between event and writing, the more likely legends would develop.

Are the biblical sources about Jesus accurate? The Jesus Seminar dismisses much of the gospels as inaccurate, fanciful, or at best, a reflection of what might have happened to the real Historical Jesus. Much is made of the so-called distinction between the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith. The Jesus of History is virtually unknown, all we really know about is what the faithful believers who wrote the New Testament said about him. One only needs to know the Christ of Faith for salvation or to be a “Christian,” but that does not mean that one must believe in the Jesus of History the way the Bible presents him.

Did the biblical writers pass information accurately, or were they inclined to make things up to present Jesus in a better light? Based on documents that are clearly later “fanciful” creations of Christians (such as the Infancy Gospel), the gospels are sober and historical treatments of the events of Jesus’ life. Luke is a special case since he begins his gospel with the claim that he is writing a Greek-styled history in the tradition of Thucydides.

Is the supernatural possible in ancient and modern times? The Gospels present Jesus as a miracle worker, walking on water, healing and even raising the dead. The modern worldview, based on Enlightenment rationalism, would never accept these stories because the supernatural does not exist, miracles cannot occur. The same rational mind that dispensed with “ghosts and goblins” also got rid of waking on water.

Post-modernism is likely more open to the supernatural, although it would be antagonistic toward Jesus, they would not rule out the possibility of the supernatural occurring. The problem with post-modern approaches to the Gospels is that the text really does not matter much. That the text claims that Jesus healed people is not as important as the encounter one has with God as they read that text.

For the evangelical reader of the Gospels, there should be no problem with the idea that God did miracles in the biblical materials. Theism as a worldview allows for a God that is both transcendent and immanent, who works within history to accomplish his goals, whether through natural, explainable means or through a supernatural event such as a miracle.

The bottom line is not at all surprising.  If you assume the sources are suspect, then there is little int he gospels which can be described as “historical.”  I personally think there is a great deal in the Gospels which can be attributed to Jesus rather than the later theological musings of the second generation church – but perhaps that is an assumption as well.

40 thoughts on “Reading the Gospels as History

  1. I really enjoyed reading this blog. It really makes you think on some issues and on the three questions that were asked. With the question, “can we know anything about Jesus”, how many scholars will date the book of Luke in 80 AD when it “should’ve” been in AD 60’s. That is a huge problem with if we can know anything about Jesus because we don’t know if the eye-witnesses knew Paul and everything could be wrong so thats a problem with dating the book at a later time. Also, the stories about Jesus- did the writers make it up? That’s a very good question because we wouldn’t know if they made it up to make Jesus look better or if it was actually true. It’s a lot to think about and it’s good to question things like that and study deeper into it.

    • I was thinking a lot of the same thoughts that Melissa was while reading this blog. I never really thought about how detailed the Bible is on Jesus’ life and his time on earth. As Christians, we should know Jesus’ life on Earth like the back of our hand because isn’t that the way we need to be living? Everything that Jesus did on Earth needs to be an example of how we should be living now, but with this question of how much of his life was recorded can be somewhat discouraging. As far as knowing the stories about Jesus and if they were “made up” I highly doubt that. I still do believe 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Although not all the details or stories were included in the Bible I know it was for a reason and can only be excited about that parts that are in it.

  2. When reading the first couple of chapers in Blomberg, and even reading this blog, I started to get a little confused as to how this all relates to Jesus and the Gospels. I guess at first when reading Blomberg, I was just confused as to what he was saying, but after continuing on in the book and reading this blog I began to understand the basics of it all. By looking at the other beliefs of the Greco-Romans, it is possible to believe that the historical Jesus is just as much of a myth as the others. As I was reading Chapter 2 in Blomberg I was getting a little aggitated because I know and believe that Jesus was and is real. I believe that Jesus was a real man here on earth a long time ago and that he performed miracles through the Father (God), and then died and rose again. It is not just about believe the “hard evidence,” but about having faith. A faith of theism which, “allows for a God that is both transcendent and immanent, who works within history to accomplish his goals, whether through natural, explainable means or through a supernatural event such as a miracle.” This is how it all makes sense to me. If our God is powerful enough to create our universe, he is big enough to be immanent in it.

  3. I would agree that proving the argument that Historical Jesus actually existed is quite difficult. But as we have read through the first few chapters that many lower to mid level citizens during the time of Jesus did not own many possesions. This knowledge and the near impossible task of finding objects that Jesus could have possibly owned would be difficult, (also considering that he didn’t value worldly possesions).

    So we rely on the oral tradition that was past down generation to generations, and the historical documents that we have been able to find, discussing Jesus.

    In a world that will always doubt, and in a world that will always ask for more proof, the thirst will never be quenched.

    • I found it interesting that you considered the physical and material belongings of Jesus and how he would not have left much behind because of how he lived and ministered to others. It made me think of the passage where God tells the apostles to go and reach out to the people and he says, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (ESV). This shows how little Jesus would have cared about even the simple things that seem necessary for living. I can see how your remark makes a lot of sense. It is cool to think that even living this lifestyle Jesus made such a huge impression on the people that he encountered that they spoke of him and the things he had done until it could be written down. There are many things that we do not know, but I once had someone explain to me that if they were able to understand God and how everything worked, then it wouldn’t be God because our minds are too finite to understand God. Your quote at the end about how our “thirst will never be quenched” reminded me of the mystery of God.

  4. In my opinion, I think it is very hard to really know the facts about Jesus and the historical events in the Bible. Obviously as a believer in Christ, I fully believe what is in the Bible. Even though the synoptic gospels were written some time after the events actually took place, I think that the fact they all match up pretty close shows that there is truth to the books. Professor Long has a great example of how the Virgin Birth is treated in scholarship. Some would think that Luke would have invented the story to make Jesus look like a Greco-Roman hero. Jesus came to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and be our Savior. Personally, I think that if Luke and the rest of the disciples invented the stories and miracles of Jesus, Jesus would be portrayed more as a political or military king. John 13:1-6 tells us that Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. Instead of being served, the King was a servant, which points back to Isaiah’s prophecy. We can also find information on Jesus or at least about the surroundings of Jesus in a few different spots besides the Bible. Blomberg says, “The primary ancient source for the political developments in Israel during the centuries leading up to and including the life of Christ is Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities” (8). By studying the literature written around Jesus’ time, one might understand and find out a little more about Jesus as well. Even if we had more books and evidence, I think the only real way to figure out for certain everything about Jesus is to meet him. I guess until that day comes, I will keep just believing the Word of God.

    • I would agree… these questions are incredibly difficult to wrestle with, especially from the Christian community. The thing is, many things that deal in facts from the past of that magnitude cannot truly be identified as truth (I mean accurately 100%). We can have evidence that points one way or another but we cannot know for certain everything. That being said, it goes both ways. For the skeptic, it is nearly impossible to approach the matter at hand in complete unbiased views. There is usually a biased slant that causes one to be skeptical or accepting. To claim that Timothy was making things up just like the other Greco-Roman writers were doing is purely speculation or at best, an educated guess… but that is all it is… a guess. Both parties are going on faith to support their views, be it accepting the stories and life of Jesus as truth or as fictitious.

    • Greg – perhaps you are a bit more “historically skeptical” that I am. I agree that some things are “private information” that could only be known by those who participated (John 13 for example), but the general flow of the synoptic gospels fits well within the world of the first-century Galilee and Judea, enough that the NT documents out to be given the benefit of the doubt historically.

      This is the same way secular historians treat their sources – if they are generally accurate, not fanciful, etc., they get the “benefit of the doubt” unless they are shown to be false. Otherwise, you could never write a history of Greece, Rome, or any other ancient history!

  5. I think that what Crystal said at the end of her post answers all of the questions posed above by professor Long. She said, “If our God is powerful enough to create our universe, he is big enough to be immanent in it.” As I read Crystal’s answer this verse came to my mind, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV) I think that if God was powerful enough back then, then He is just as “powerful” now.
    I believe that verse 21 in 2 Peter 1 is the answer as to weather we can believe biblical accounts of Jesus and if they are accurate. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
    And to respond to the question “Is the supernatural possible?, I would say yes! But it only, truly comes through the One (Jesus). “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV) I have a feeling that these questions and these posits as to weather Jesus is the only way and to weather He actually did the things the Scripture says are nothing new to this world. Blomberg says, “The problem of pluralism and immorality that increasingly afflict our world today are not new…” (Blomberg 56) I think what Blomberg says right after this statement is exactly what Crystal did in coming up with the answer she did, he (Blomberg) says, “…for appropriate responses to them, we need to turn again and again to the New Testament.” (Blomberg 56)

    • Personally, I really do not care much for history. It is crazy to think about where all these different practices and cults came from. I know that history is important because if we did not have that history then we would have evidence look back on how things came about here and now. I really did not like how Jesus was being portrayed in chapter 2. After all, He is not just some guy that we read about in history. According to 1 Peter 1:3 Jesus Christ is real, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (NIV) However, none of us can see Christ, we can only read about Christ and what He did for us. We have to believe and have faith. Faith is believing in something that you can not see. Sometimes that is one of the hardest things to do in life because everybody wants hard evidence for why things happen. Especially, when the only evidence that you do have is the Bible. However, we do have evidence all around us that there is a God who created everything.

  6. When reading all the other posts many people made very good points, but the post that stood out most to me was Greg’s. As a believer, I also believe that everything written in the Gospels is the unfailable Word of God, and as a result I believe that I can know a lot about Jesus from simply just reading the Bible. However, P. Long presents a pretty good question in, “Can we know anything about Jesus?”, since scholars have determined that Luke may have been written as late as 80 AD, and it would be pretty crazy for a guy to know all the details written in Luke, and have them match up with the other Gospels, all multiple decades after they occured. But hey, in my mind, in the end what is written is exactly what God intended to be written through Luke, about Jesus. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” -2 Peter 1:21. When reading Blomberg and when it talks about cultural values it stated “it mattered immensely if one acquitted himself or herself honorably in all things.” (64) This makes me think about the eye witnesses they talked to, if honor was what mattered most in their society then hopefully most they talked to held that honor. So for us to think about the questions of is what is written in the Bible about Jesus true, or are the sources dependable, and if the supernatural can/ could happen is truly thought provoking. I again like the statement Greg made when he pointed out that if Luke and the desciples made up stories of Jesus to make him seem “better” than what he truly was then why would they put in there something about him washing his servants feet? That can be seen as a degrading thing so why put that in there when trying to make someone seem high and mighty? Overall there is no way to know if everything in the Bible is true, we will just have to wait and see and ask for ourselves when we meet the big guy up stairs!!

    • Katelyn,
      I loved your post and the focus that you put on the faith aspect of trusting God. There is so much that is vastly beyond what we can ever know about Jesus. I do think that learning and seeking to find the knowledge of the history and the way that the oral traditions all came together to make the gospels in God’s word is not intimidating, but exciting! While we will never be able to understand it all, learning the facts of how God used people, events in history, and even language. An example of something from a historical standpoint that stood out to me was how the Hellenization of the land before and during Jesus’ ministry so that people could have a common language and spread the good news (the gospel) are amazing things to learn and appreciate about God’s grand design.

  7. Is the supernatural possible in ancient and modern times?

    I really liked what Blomberg had to say regarding the Meaning of Miracles. Jesus and His followers weren’t the only people in the ancient world who believed they worked or experienced miracles. Blomberg says that “belief in the existence of God or the gods maintained order and stability in times of great change or transience” [67]. Furthermore, he goes on to say that miracles “enacted metaphors of God’s sovereignty” [68]. I absolutely loved this, because the explanation doesn’t require the historical reliability of such reports… but places the concentration on the miracles social function.

    It was interesting that it is easier for us [believers in a postmodern world] to believe in miracles happening during Jesus’ time because of the fact that Theism lends itself to be the answer for whether or not there can be miracles.

    Lastly, I agree with my roommate, Joseph Pedersen.

    • Good point Moses. I would also point out that if a teacher was really spiritual, then he might heal or do some other miracle. Therefore people would have expected Jesus to do miracles if he was really the ultimate spiritual man, and especially if he was claiming to be the Messiah (fulfilling Isaiah 61).

      To me, the strange thing would have been if Jesus did no miracles!

  8. The questions that P Long brought up about the truthfulness of Scripture are questions that many, if not all people who come into contact with the Bible ask. The miracles of Jesus seem very much like the fantasy stories of mythology, and are also something that is very hard to actually prove. There is no doubt that Jesus lived, it’s just his claims of being God that isn’t something that can be proven by historical artifacts.
    I think the most important aspect of looking at the scripture is summed up in 2 Timothy 3:16 where it says, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” When approaching an question like this, my mindset is on the power of God, and my inability to fathom all of who he is. When Scripture says that all Scripture is God breathed, I have to believe that it means just that. It rarely makes complete sense to me, but just like Crystal said, he is big enough to create the universe, and therefore, he is big enough to be imminent in me. Again, this makes more sense to me because of Christ in me, and my faith in his word. It would be a much greater struggle to comprehend, and one that I don’t think you can actually come near to comprehending, if you don’t have Christ in you.

  9. It is very hard indeed to answer the questions everyone has. Does Jesus exist or were the miracles he performed legitimate or not. I grew up in a GGF church and have always been taught to believe the teaching and miracles of Jesus Christ. I know it is impossible for anyone to know everything about Jesus especially as Jed puts it.. he did not value any worldly possessions. This whole mess then sparks up other questions such as was the scripture inspired by man or was actually inspired by God? Scripture may have been written by man but 100% of that scripture was inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If us as believers in Christ, take that passage in mind then we can believe the historical accounts of the teachings and miracles of Christ Jesus are legit. I know everyone is always going to have questions and all the answers will never be found and it will leave others thirsting for more answers

    • The debate surrounding Jesus’ existence, let alone his significance in Human history is very much a subjective, faith-based argument. I agree with Ricky in that the Bible is God-breathed, and whether or not we think it is, the Bible IS true. Truly, the questions of miracles, scriptural and cultural accuracy and relevance are ones with several answers and can even raise other questions in their conclusions. Although I strongly believe that our praxis and worldview needs to be based on scripture (easier said than done), our view of Christ is, and always will be, undeniably and inevitably based on faith. John 20:29 says, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” This does not, however, mean that we can write off these questions of Jesus’ existence. As Christians that wish to convey Christ’s love, we must understand that love in its original context and cultural relevance. I work with an atheist and the main reason he doubts Christianity is that he believes the deity of Christ, and even His life in general, could have been made up, and without Christ’s existence, we wouldn’t have arguments of miracles or accurate sources. Can I logically persuade him of his need for a relationship with Christ? No, because it is a heart change made by the Holy Spirit. But I can spur his thinking and open his heart to think rationally. That understanding of the person of Jesus is crucial for our lives as Christians.

  10. I think if the gospels were the only part of the Bible skeptics had to read or believe, there would be fewer skeptics. Jesus’ story is believeable because it is recorded fairly well. We have an idea of locations, dates, and people. We know major details like that Jesus was crucified under Ponchus Pilate and that he was raised by his mother mary. We know Jesus had a band of followers and we know their names and read their personal story in their gospels. The only thing that may become difficult to prove are the miracles. A church service we attended a few months ago discussed this very thing. Pastor John said that read a study about hallucinations. The study was done on military subjects that were subjected to days without sleep and high stress situtions. The study found that even though the subjects were living thru the same thing and experiencing all the same physical and mental stresses, they had completely seperate and different hallucinations. The study proved that “group” or mass-halluncinations just do not occur. Realizing that if mass-hallucinations can’t occur, a skeptic is left thinking, well if that many eye witnessses wrote about the story and the details remain the same, then it must have actually happened. The stories in the old testament are much easier for a skeptic to rip apart. An arch that saved mankind and animals and a garden with a tree that is forbidden are much more “crazy” things to believe. I think if a skeptic could just read the gospels alone there would be less confusion about who God is and a better acceptance that Jesus was who he said he was.

  11. Just reading through some of the post and and some of the questions addressed I thought it might be a bit easier to reply to a question addressed in the book on page 27. The first question asked is, what are the historical sources we have for reconstructing the intertestamental period? How reliable are they? By answering this question, I think it relates a bit to the post and the discussion.

    On pages 7 and 8 Blomgberg gives a few sources that we do have. Here are the sources listed:

    (1) Josephus’s ‘Jewish Antiquities’ and ‘Jewish War’
    – a historian who wrote a brief history of the Jewish people.

    (2)Apocraphya and Pseudepigrapha
    – some works that were accepted by the Roman Catholics as part of the OT cannon. (Blomgberg refers a lot to the book of Maccabees as historical narratives.)

    The questions being addressed in the post almost come across as how can we know the bible is a reliable source? And along with that question comes about the life of Jesus and how can we know what was mentioned about him is accurate? These are some sources that Blomberg gives to answer that. Also a neat resource that I’ve read was Mark Cahill’s book ‘One thing you can’t do in heaven.’

    Cahill would answer that the bible is reliable in 4 ways:
    (1) Historical referrences are accurate
    (2) Arcaheological evidences have been found
    (3) Personal witness and testiomnies
    (4) Fulfilled Prophecy

    In order to answer the three questions in the post about Jesus and miracles, it comes down to these sources listed, however the most important would be faith and the belief that the Word of God is inerrant and true. (2nd tim3:16)

  12. I had never considered the dates of the Gospels being written, and how that would majorly impact the authenticity and reliability of them. Though I do think considering how similar the synoptic gospels are is huge evidence for them being authentic and the three authors truly either witnessing Jesus’ ministry, or finding eyewitnesses (In Luke’s case). P. Long, today in class you mentioned that a widely believed explanation is that Matthew and Luke both wrote their Gospels after reading Marks and inserted more stories and relevant information into where they thought they best fit linearly. In regard to Jesus being a person of history, versus the Messiah, I believe we must allow Old Testament prophecies of the prophets to back up the New Testament reflection of Jesus’ ministry and fulfillment of those prophecies to prove the Gospels value and truthfulness. We now know that the dead sea scrolls found, compared to biblical text today is nearly a word for word translation with no ideas changed from the original text. This means we can put even more faith in the proof that is the inerrancy of our Holy Bible. I believe this helps supports too, the inerrancy of the Gospels.

  13. Despite having to access to the advantages of the modern world, 20th century Christianity remains just as fractured as it has always been. No matter how far-fetched or heretical the belief may seem, there is likely an individual or group who preaches it with complete seriousness from behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Perhaps one of the larger rifts that wind its way through the Church is over the historical nature of Jesus. There are many different camps, with beliefs ranging from Jesus being completely mythical to stories of Jesus being romantically involved with Mary Magdalene. The best scientific and historical evidence, however, implies that the Jesus described within the canonical Gospels truly existed, died on a cross, and was resurrected three days after. Evidence for this can be found both within the text and in other fields of study (the work of Gary Habermas is highly recommended for continued study of this topic). However, the key unsolvable issue with the accuracy of the Bible is the same problem which prevents absolute certainty of any historical event. Simply put, no human being alive today was there to witness the events of the Bible. There are no longer eyewitness sources that can be directly interviewed, consulted, and hooked up to a lie-detector test. Though plenty of arguments can be brought up which seem to confirm the accuracy of the Scriptures with 99 percent certainty, there is still one percent left. A problem that can only be solved through one of the most central themes of the Bible… faith.

  14. Very interesting read, the three questions you talked about when reading the Gospels as history are great questions that I’ve heard many times by people who really aren’t believers or they aren’t confident and have questions. The first question about can we know anything about Jesus seems to be one that has an easy answer and it’s simply, everything we need and want to know is in the Bible. With that being said that always leads up to your second question are the sources accurate, how do we know that what’s in the Bible is true. I remember having a class discussion like this in my very first class at Grace Christian University in classed called Christian Worldview, my professor, Dr. Sam Vinton, would have us recite a scripture everyday before the start class. That scripture was 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” He wanted to know this so that when ever we came across anybody who might be doubtful or not believe we would have an answer. Because when you think about history people always have some wild theories of what really happened besides what was documented or taught to us but that verse there lets us know that what’s in the Bible is true and credible because it is given by inspiration of God.

  15. The questions presented in P Longs blog post are very interesting and make you think deeply about what we are reading in the Bible. Although I have seen these questions been asked before, it is always good to reflect on them again to know exactly where we stand. The first question of whether we can know anything about God at all is one that really makes you wonder if it is even possible to know God and be truly understanding of Him. I do believe that it is very hard to understand who God is and what He can do, but I believe that we can learn about Him through his creation, through the word that he gave us (the Bible), and through his actions and responses throughout our lives.

    The second question which talks about the biblical sources of Jesus being accurate is another that makes you wonder if you should believe everything you read. Although some of the things written would be seen as hard to believe, the reality is that the Bible is “given by inspiration of god” (2 Tim 3:16) and is unable to have any errors. If God inspired the Bible, not humans, it is impossible for the Bible to be incorrect therefor giving us no reason to lose faith in its words.

    The third question addresses the concerns of a presence of supernatural actions throughout biblical times and even into our current time. Although many people in our current society would never except supernatural events as realistic, I believe that there is still that presence. Even though we do not have people walking on water and healing the blind, there are things happening that we don’t even see. Things like angels and demons, heaven and hell, etc.

  16. I think oftentimes people think the Bible has to be a historical text OR a religious text when in fact it is both. The Gospels may be more of a narrative style historical text, however, from those narratives you can develop and conclude certain historical factors within that gospel based on contextual evidence within the narratives. Strauss put it nicely by stating,

    “Although historical in nature, the Gospels are not merely collections of reports or sayings of the historical Jesus. They are also narratives with features typical of stories, including plot, characters, and setting. While all four Gospels are concerned with the same historical event – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – they present different versions of these events.”

    Each gospel is different based on the author’s cultural environment, current situations, and conflicts within their community. This gives us a unique historical perspective on the narrative of Jesus. Of course these narratives may not be 100% historically accurate, as stories change over time, but the Gospels aren’t necessarily meant to be just a historical story telling, they are meant to impact their cultures and communities in specific and relevant ways. Reading the Bible and the Gospels as a strictly historical text and critiquing its historical accuracy is a mistake. Although it is important to understand history and its role in the story of Jesus, the why behind the Gospels is what is most compelling, and is the deeper meaning behind these narratives.

  17. Overall, “Reading the Gospels as History” was interesting. For the first question, ‘Can we know anything about Jesus?’, I slightly disagree with the first part. Even though Luke portrays Jesus as Greco-Roman hero, we shouldn’t disregard the other disciples; Matthew, Mark, and John on their perspectives of Jesus. With one story retold by many shows countless angles that others might not have seen/heard. For an example, Luke’s perspective was more on the thematic side, while Matthew has structure, Mark was dramatic, and John was theological (Strauss, pg 40).

    As for the second question, it can be difficult as in deciphering of what is true as well as what is more ‘fanciful’ that the author has written. For there is truth as it says “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1). So we can be comforted that this is directly from God as well as the writing is rewritten for thousands of years without changes.

    Lastly for the third question, ‘Is the supernatural possible in ancient and modern times?’ I would say depends on the individual as there is very much miracles that has happened throughout history and still going presently. The problem is is that no matter how many miracles people can see, they can still not believe. As it says in John 12:37 “Even after Jesus performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” For believing isn’t seeing, but the matter of the heart (2 Corinthians 5:7)

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: a Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Zondervan, 2007.

  18. This blog was very intriguing as far as content is concerned. The three questions create critical thinking and ensure a difficulty in solutions. For the first question, as far as modern historians are concerned, it is hard to say whether or not Jesus existed when reading Luke. Modern historians would likely discount it as legend. Considering there was a long time between events and the writings it makes it harder to prove that Jesus is history. While we as Christian’s know that these events were true, to other people it has to be “proven.” “All scripture is God breathed,” (2 Timothy 3:16). This bible verse proves to me and (most) Christian’s that all scripture is factual. With that in mind, it makes it nearly impossible to meet modern historians standards because a lot from which we cite, they consider to be unreliable and made up. They think this because of the large distance between the events and writings along with the fact that there is a lack of eye witnesses. In my opinion that makes it a good question. It should be studied further to help prove its validity; while we know it is true as Christian’s, we must show to them that it is true in order to evangelize.

  19. It is important to understand and study the context of the authors and books of the New Testament. This context sheds light on who the author was by looking at the location or time period they lived in. Specifically, we look at the book of Luke and the context of the author. Although we know the Bible is inspired by God and true (2 Tim. 3:16-17), there are contextual elements that we can work to understand further. One element we look to closely is the time frame the book of Luke took place in. This changes whether Luke was an eye-witness or if time has passed or if it was passed on information to him. This being a domino effect shows who Jesus is and His character. We can look through different perspectives to understand the life of Jesus from Luke. It is important to understand, no matter our perspective, these contextual elements to know and firmly believe who Jesus is and the Bible’s truth.

  20. I believe that this was Very interesting to read, the part where you mentioned three questions about the Gospels really caught my attention because I have personally witnessed this. The first question was interesting the most because what can we know anything about Jesus comes up a lot when I encounter people who kind of tease me about being involved in church. I believe that is what we need to know most about the bible since Jesus really was on earth so it can help us. I believe the second question is how do we know that what’s in the Bible is true? Is a great topic. I remember being asked this question by a peer of mine and I responded by saying that we believe anything else that is so called history so what is wrong with believing in the bible. I also said that every human has said when they are in fear help me Jesus or thank God this isn’t worse or thank God I made it through. The Last question is the supernatural possible in ancient and modern times? I believe that is opinionated and that if you believe you believe and if you don’t how much proof do you need.

  21. Personally, I have a difficult time thinking more deeply about the Bible, especially the gospels. I definitely enjoyed reading this blog because it allowed me to think more intently about the stories of Jesus. The three questions really helped me to think more about my faith in the gospel as a Christian. The second question referring to the accuracy of the written gospels was explained more in Strauss’s textbook, “Four Portraits One Jesus”. The text mentions that the various authors who wrote the gospels wanted to individually illustrate Jesus, emphasizing certain theological themes, as well as addressing certain concerns within the body of Christ (Strauss, pg. 30). It is interesting to think about how each story and portrayal of Jesus addresses His character and power of God. While Christian readers may read the gospels to learn the history, it is most beneficial to better understand the intentions of the author in order for the reader to better understand the message being written. I believe that it is up to the individual Christian to define whether or not he/she believes the various illustration of Christ and the power of God. I believe that the difference in messages given by the gospel authors requires each individual to have faith and trust that the written Word of God is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). After all, Christianity is a religion, but it requires more faith than understanding. God is truly indescribable and unpredictable, and that characteristic is most definitely evident in His Word.

  22. I can see where people can come up with those ideas. But I think because we have a pretty good understanding that some of the gospels come straight from eyewitnesses of Jesus himself and in fact the gospels were written at a much earlier period than some were to suggest, these things we read about Jesus are historically accurate. I would not think that the gospel writers needed to embellish anything considering they were still writing these accounts during the lifetime of other who have seen and interacted with Jesus. The other reason why there is no reason to embellish anything is that the results of Jesus’ life and ministry as well as his death, burial and resurrection speak for themselves! They don’t need to make Jesus out to look and sound like a demi-god or a legend, they know that they need people to relate, identify and see Jesus as a real person through their narratives. It would be counterintuitive to make him out to be otherwise.

  23. Interesting read. After reading this article, the author wrote something that caught my attention as he said: “A second historical problem for knowing anything about Jesus is that the synoptic gospels were written some time after the events.” This stuck out to me because people often make movies and write about people that lived long before them. So I ask, is the Bible less or more credible than our current generations? In verse 2 Timothy 3:16 says “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true”. So whether you believe in the Bible or not, Jesus was a real historical figure. Therefore information can’t be discredited simply because it’s information from hundreds of years ago. Though, with all of the skeptical internet scams and fake media news, I can understand the disconnection between people and their trust in Growing up in a world where you are lied to on a daily basis… and on top of the fact that it’s 2020. Seeing is believing

  24. One could suggest the idea that the Gospels are not historical and don’t hold true or accurate information but before they judge the content it is important to judge the intention of the authorship. This will give us an accurate idea of the intention of the authors. One basis that we can start to build an understanding of Biblical authorship is to read what Luke says about his own writing. Luke 1:1-4 outlines the intention for the book to be historical and to “give an account” of events that have happened. Whether or not the content is true is another question but undoubtably Luke claims to be writing historical information that is factual. The next evidence for intention of writing is the use of outside material. It is clear that the gospels are using other sources like the Old Testament, other gospel material, and sources like “Q” to write their work. This points to the idea that they had the intention to be historical through the use of outside sources to credit their work as accurate, similar to a modern historian referencing other texts while someone writing a fictional novel would have no need to make sure their work is factual, rather entertaining. It is clear the gospels are intended to be historical. Arguing the contents accuracy is another discussion but I believe it is important to start with the knowing these were written as accounts and intended to be historical.

  25. I think that personally this is the largest reason for me believing in Christ at all. In my opinion the fact that historically almost all that has happened in the Gospels can be proven with other sources helps to validate the historical piece of them. This is one of the main reasons for me to have such strong faith because of the impact they have been shown to have on history. As well as being some of the only/oldest records of the time. I also have to cling to the fact that Jesus is Lord as well as ALL of scripture is true. No part of scripture is fake or else the validity of scripture as a whole is incorrect and therefore our faith is based upon something with zero concrete ground. “The Gospels are historical in at least three ways. First, they have a history of composition… The authors drew on traditions and sources available to them to compile their works… Second, the Gospels are historical in that they are set in a specific historical context. This setting is first-century Palestine during the period of Roman occupation… “Third, the Gospels are historical in that they are meant to convey accurate historical information. This is implicit in all four gospels and is explicitly stated by John (21:24) and Luke, who leaves no doubt that he intends to write history…” (Strauss 35-36). These quotes from Strauss in total describes the historical validity of the text backing up why I personally choose to believe what I believe. Though some of the events logically do not make sense, it is impossible as a said believer to question as single part and credit another part. ALL scripture is God breathed therefore I must believe that these miracles etc. truly did happen at one point in history.

  26. I find it fascinating to question the nature and integrity in all historical knowledge in response to questioning what we know about the gospel. It’s interesting to see how much worldview and experience goes into how you view history – especially within the gospel. As the blog says, one can accept the supernatural aspects of the Bible with postmodernism, or one can disregard it completely. According to the book “Four Portraits, One Jesus”, there are a few sources outside of the Bible which cite the Historical Jesus. This includes the letters of Paul, Greco – Roman sources, Flavius Josephus, Jewish sources, and later apocryphal gospels. While there is little to know about the historical aspect of Jesus within these writings, they do confirm his existence and his works on Earth. Not only that, but it is important to take a look at the authority of Scripture itself. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God speaks to us through the Scriptures, and the Bible has been given to us through Him in order to connect. In this, we are called to believe in the gospel and take it as truth. While our current worldview in our society may not accept miracles and lean more towards secular beliefs, it is important to consider the authority that scripture has and what that means for the truth of our history.

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels.
    Zondervan Academic, 2020.

  27. I think it is interesting to dive deeper into our knowledge of the Gospels and question where the information comes from. The book we are reading this semester, ‘Four Portraits, One Jesus,” says early on that there are not many sources other than our Bible that talk about this ‘Historical Jesus’, because of that, our knowledge can be questioned and disputed. It was also interesting to read the part where it discusses whether supernatural events are possible in ancient and modern times. For me, it was relatively normal for me to read about Jesus being the miracle worker that He was, but I can also understand that today, it would be hard to fathom a living person being able to do the things He did. In regards to ‘Can we really know Jesus’, I personally think it would be hard to fathom fully knowing who He was and all that he did. Yes we have the Bible, but like many stories, I feel there is much left out. We know what we read and what we have been taught, as believers that is enough and what we choose to dive deeper into to better understand.

  28. When one seeks to understand a historical subject matter accurately, more often than not, questioning may arise concerning the validity of historical information. The blog post makes this clearer when Phil Long gives three questions to consider while deciding whether to read the Gospels as historically truthful. The first question is interesting to me — can we know anything about Jesus? From my knowledge there is little to no information on Jesus other than what is claimed biblically, other than that he existed as a person. This also is backed by the fact that most biblical texts about Jesus are dated way later than his actual lifetime. Phil Long explains in the blog that “However, for a number of reasons scholars will date Luke in the 80s, written by a second-generation Christian who did not know Paul and could not consult eye-witnesses of events now 50 years in the past” (Long). Going off the second question Long gives asking if the biblical sources of Jesus accurate, we have to make the conclusion based off our worldview. If we are Christian, we know that “All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) so we must have a faith-based perspective that yes, the Bibles’ accounts of Jesus are accurate – if not, what do we actually believe about how who Jesus is as a person? From a perspective where we are not in the Christian faith, you can say that these statements are too far-fetched and fit in the category of myth and legend. It all focuses on perspective. Addressing the last question is difficult. How are we to know whether something is supernatural or not, especially in times where we are not present in? It also focuses on your worldview like the second question. Fait-based values will know that God is a miraculous God. Job 5:8-9 says, “But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Without faith it can be seen as, again, far fetched to say miracles and supernatural events happen.

  29. As far as the history of Jesus goes, we as Christians will never be able to meet the standards that are brought with the modern historians. It will always be a challenge to prove Jesus because we people are always falling back on “I need to see it to believe it”. This is why it is a struggle for non-Christians to come to Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:16 is the perfect example/reason that we should take the Gospels as truth. There is not need for many historical things or accounts through the Gospels to happen because that is not what was important for us to learn. We are to learn the ministry of Jesus and the good works that He was performing. It is very discouraging not having these historical events or many accounts of Jesus on Earth because are supposed to living like Jesus. These stories about Jesus that are present in the Gospels are not “made up” either. With the scriptures being “God-breathed” there is no reason to discredit the time of Jesus on Earth. These things happened and we must use the events to show non-believers the truth of Jesus.

  30. Growing up I remember my Sunday school teachers drilling into my head that the Bible was History. They were intentional in reminding us that Bible stories weren’t just stories but real life events that occurred. But reading this blog I find myself being reminded and given a reality check that not all people use the Bible as a accurate historical reference. The world thrives on evidence based history. They need to see it to believe it but it is interesting that the world does credit the Bible to being a solid literary source but the information inside it is not taken seriously besides for great examples of metaphors and similes. As a Christian I find myself believing a hundred percent of the Bible because it is God breathed(1 Timothy 3:16). I see why people may be skeptical but I think that they should really consider the points Strauss makes. They all have composition, historical context and accurate historical information. People should actually read and study the Bible before they come to a conclusion that it is not historically accurate. The Bible is beautifully written and does not receive enough attention as it deserves.

  31. There are always going to be people that try and tell us Christians that not all things in the bible were real, or that the stories told about Jesus aren’t true, or even that the whole bible is false, and that their religion is the true one. We have to accept that, and the main thing that we can do to counter that claim is to simply know our stuff. When someone questions us about something in the bible, we should be able to explain whatever it is they want to know more about to them, and we should be able to do this confidently, and with the ability to speak about many different examples in scripture where this was true. And if we have the ability to quote directly from the bible, this can have a great impact. At the end of the day one of our missions here as Christians and followers of Jesus are to tell as many people as we can about his word and try our best to get as many people as we can to accept Jesus into their hearts. It is also super important for us to believe that the entire bible is true, as this is one of the main foundations of Christianity and can really help us in our faith, and our ability to know how to handle certain situations, as we know how God truly wants us to behave in our lives.

  32. I like that you brought up these questions. There is great importance in being able to answer those three questions because the answers shed light on the proof of the tangibility in the gospels as historical documents. When we think about everything else in the history of the world and the documentation that we hold as evidence of what happened throughout time, why should we hold the documents of the gospels as anything different? Just like we can take stories of Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue as facts we teach in school, we have written records of Jesus walking around the earth that were not only written very close to the time of his physical existence, but also checks out from other writers who have extremely similar accounts along with many eye witnesses to the events that took place. I think that aside from all the spiritual principles and lessons that can be derived from the gospels for Christians own lifestyle, we can all look at these texts with the eyes of an almost undeniable certainty that these documents are extremely accurate to real life history and may as well be taught alongside hundreds of other accounts of ancient history that we teach in schools today. Considering the Bible is the most verified and preserved collection of documents that we have, it would seem rather ridiculous to not recognize them for what they are; and that is history that really happened.

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