Gospel Gems from The Four Gospels

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Articles

  1. Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels
  2. See a Problem?
  3. The Gospel in Brief
  4. Best And Most Detailed Gospel.
  5. Shop by category

A discussion of Downing's influential argument for the two source theory. Is the Gospel of Luke history? Who is Theophilus? Were early Christians poor?

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How did economics influence early Christianity? What is the point of genealogies in the gospels? Are there differences? How many letters did Paul write to Corinth? How many of them are in the New Testament? How did Paul offend the Corinthian church? When did Christians separate from the synagogue? Is John a "two-level drama"? Heed its summons! Some great transi- tion is upon us.

Yes, the morning light is breaking, the day is nigh at hand. I hope to see the time when the ministers of my own church shall be canonically permitted to open their pulpits to their brethren of other denominations. God speed the day! And this paper is the result of an effort, on my own part, to ascertain whether or not, independently of divine revelation, independently of the exer- cise of a devout Christian faith, independ- ently of any appeal to our religious senti- ments, the truth of the story told in the four Gospels could be satisfactorily established by a mere reasoning process, and by apply- ing the same principles and the same tests to the Gospel narratives that we observe in 2 THE FOUR GOSPELS determining the truth or falsity of any other documents, or any other historical accounts.

While we claim no special favors in our investigations because of any alleged impor- tance of the subject, it is only fair to expect that every one will come to this examina- tion with an unbiased and unprejudiced mind, ready and willing to accept the same evidence of truth and honesty as in other inquiries. Moreover, since we decide many important worldly matters upon the mere preponderance of evidence and arguments, why should we not adopt the same princi- ples here? It is not necessary in order to recommend the Gospel story for our adop- tion to insist that it be proved to a mathe- matical demonstration, and beyond the cavils of every doubter, or of every unreasonable skeptic.

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Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

Why not adopt that conclusion which has the higher degree of probability rather than the opposite? If we choose neither, we practically reject both.

It is, you know, not uncommon before deciding some impor- tant worldly matter to arrange the argu- ments pro and con in parallel columns, and thus be guided by their comparative weight to our final conclusion. Let us do so here. I approach this subject, therefore, with a personal reminiscence.


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The writer of that letter, if there ever was one, had long been dead ; all the persons said to have taken part in that meeting were also gone; the printer and publisher who gave the account to the world had likewise vanished from the earth ; there was no person living who could make 4 THE FOUR GOSPELS oath or testify that such an occurrence ever actually took place. But yet I had no hesi- tation in adopting the account as genuine, and using it as an established event in the history of that town.

The mere fact of the existence of such a document under such circumstances was prima facie proof of its genuineness and authenticity, quite suffi- cient to justify the acceptance of it as true until the contrary be proved. What would have been my joy and confi- dence had I found four such letters, in four different papers, written by four different persons, giving an account of the same transaction? And although in a close com- parison of these four accounts some varia- tions should have been found as to the particulars of that event, would that over- throw all belief in the truthfulness of the accounts?

Nay, would it not rather fur- nish stronger proof of their integrity? But substantial uniformity with circumstantial variety is one of the surest tests of truth in all historical narratives. The several accounts of many important battles of the world, and of many other historical events, vary in many particulars, and yet no one thereby has any doubt of their occurrence. The four portraits of the Father of his country, painted by four different artists, viz. The various editions of Gray's Elegy, and of some of Shakespeare's plays, differ as much as do some chapters of Matthew and Luke in their respective accounts of the same transaction.

Indeed, what four of us could go away from this meeting, and give exactly the same account of what transpires here? And yet their testimony is taken as reliable, in cases involving the most important interests, even of life and death. Indeed, judges and juries are apt to dis- credit a cause in which all the witnesses tell a long story in exactly the same words. Let us apply the same principles to the subject matter of this address.

The four Gospels exist ; they purport to contain the history of our Lord Jesus Christ ; the au- thors are not living ; the characters they therein describe are no more. No man liv- ing knows by direct personal knowledge that these things were ever so. But why not apply the same rules of evidence and belief to scriptural narratives as to any other? Being in existence, and a minute account of passing events, they must be either genu- ine and true, or else a gross forgery.

There is no alternative ; for the self-delusion theory is preposterous. They were true when writ- ten, or were then an absolute falsehood. These stories began to be published not long after the alleged crucifixion. Many persons were then living who could have easily refuted the statements of the evangelists had they been untrue.

The enemies of Jesus were still alive and active. The Scribe and the Pharisee, the Priest and the Levite, still smarted under his repeated denunciations. They had the disposition, the opportunity, and the incentive to deny the story of the miraculous birth, the spotless life, the mar- velous works, the sublime death, the as- tounding resurrection, and the glorious ascension of our Lord, had the then pub- lished description of these events been to- tally fabulous.

But so far as we know, no person then living ever uttered a protest against these accounts, and for two thou- sand years they have been received and treated as veritable history. Again, being written, they must have been written by some one. That is a very elementary and simple proposition, but it is the key to the whole situation, one which I ask you to steadily carry with you throughout this investigation.

Remember that every circumstance tending to disprove forgery tends on the other hand to prove truth ; for they must be one or the other. The question then is : Do wicked men write such books as these? Do liars pro- claim that they and all other liars " shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone "? Does the thief denounce dishonesty, or the adulterer pro- claim uncleanness, or Satan rebuke sin?

If, then, these stories were not penned by wicked men, they must owe their origin to honest men ; and if honest and truthful men wrote them, they must be honest and true narratives, and not a tissue of false- hoods. Is not the conclusion irresistible? Need we go farther? But let us look at the subject from four other standpoints.

Life of Christ 03 - The Four Gospels

I purposely omit all reference to the manifold external proofs of the authenticity of the Gospels, the number and force of which increase with every new discovery, and I confine myself wholly to inherent and intrinsic evi- dence thereof. Some of these illustrations I am about to give may be found elsewhere, and I lay no claim to originality, for nothing new or original can now be written on this subject.

To present some old truths in a new setting is all I can reasonably expect to accomplish. Take first the Gospel of St. He, and he alone, records the circumstance of Jesus paying tribute to the tax-collector of Capernaum xvii. How do we account for this? Why should Matthew be more likely to mention this particular fact than any other evangelist? When we remember that he was himself a tax-gath- erer, and therefore especially interested in and observant of anything relating to his own profession, the answer is obvious.

So again, Matthew informs us xxvii. Accustomed, therefore, to suspect fraud and evasion, Matthew would naturally be the most likely to notice and record a fact which tended to show that in so impor- tant event deception had been carefully guarded against. Would a man forging the four Gospels remember that he must make Matthew state these facts, and carefully make all the other historians omit them? Naming the Apostles. Again, in giving the names of the twelve apostles, a natural incident occurs which I regard as one of the strongest proofs of simplicity and truth in Matthew.

The apostles are usually named in couples, thus : Simon and Andrew, James and John, etc. Is not this so natural as to be a sign of truth? But some skeptic may say, " This is only accidental ; that don't prove much anyway. Matthew's occupation. Luke v. Is this for- gery? If not, it is honest truth.

Falsehood is pretentious, brazen-faced, crooked. Truth is modest, natural, artless.

See a Problem?

Straws, are they? Do not straws indicate the true course of the wind? Let us turn to St. Mark's Gospel. Here we constantly find explanation of Jewish terms and phrases which are not found in corresponding verses of Matthew about the same event. Thus in chapter vii, verse 2, Mark writes : " When they saw his disci- ples eat bread with defiled hands," they found fault ; and then the writer adds this explanation, " for the Pharisees and all the Jews except they wash their hands oft, eat not.

If we remember that Matthew, himself a Jew, was writing for Jews, who understood such terms already, and Mark, himself a Gentile, was addressing Gentiles, who did not, we have the answer. What a skillful forger must he have been to have contrived all that! Luke also has many indirect proofs of naturalness. Still more : In St.

Luke's descriptions of mirac- ulous cures, the natural and genuine char- acter of his Gospel clearly appears. Thus, while the others simply speak of Christ as "healing a leper " and of curing a man who had "a withered hand," Luke says the first was "full of leprosy," and it was the right hand of the last which was withered. Again, the others say Peter's wife's mo- ther lay "sick of a fever," but Luke writes that she " was taken with a great fever. And Jesus took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.

And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway. What was there in Luke's history or life which qualified and induced him thus to note and describe all kinds of diseases so much more minutely than the others? Turn to Colossians iv. For- gers do not rest content with such round- about confirmations. On the other hand, truth-tellers do not trouble themselves to make their stories corroborate each other. But these are either forgeries or true tales. So much for Luke. Johns Gospel also contains internal proof of honesty and genuineness.

The Gospel in Brief

Thus in chapter vi. And this from a man who was not his enemy, but his first chosen disciple and. Candor might lead a truthful his- torian to make such an admission, but no- thing would induce a fraudulent one to do so. He omits all reference to many events which the other evangelists record in full. Thus, he makes no allusion to the tempta- tion of Jesus by the Devil ; to the first miraculous draft of fishes ; to the healing of Peter's wife's mother, or the recovery of the leper ; to the cure of the paralytic, or of the withered hand, or of the two de- moniacs ; to the parable of the sower ; to the stilling of the tempest, or the feast of Levi to our Lord ; to the prophecy of the destruction of the temple, or the parable of the fig-tree ; to the transfiguration on the mount, or to many other important events, to some of which he was even an eye-witness.

Why is this notable omission by John of so many scenes with which he was perfectly familiar and which the other three evangel- ists record so fully? On the other hand, John alone mentions many interesting and touching incidents in our Saviour's life, about which all the others are entirely silent.

Thus, he alone narrates the story of John the Baptist at the time the Jews sent the Priests and Levites to interrogate him ; he alone describes the calling of Andrew and Simon, Philip and Nathaniel; he alone records the marriage in Cana of Galilee; the driving of the money-changers from the temple ; the visit of Nicodemus by night ; the meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well ; the healing of the nobleman's son ; the scene at the pool of Bethesda ; the parable of the good shepherd; the restoring of sight to the blind in the pool of Siloam ; the raising of Lazarus, etc.

It flows really well and sets forth a fact that many Christian denominations, sadly, do not seem to grasp: that Jesus is the Christ and Son of the living God.

Best And Most Detailed Gospel.

Awesome Possum , Oct 1, Silverbackman , Oct 10, Joined: Sep 16, Messages: 2, Likes Received: 0. Bandit's order would be precisely the reverse of mine. I am more concerned with authenticity: the Markan narrative is the oldest, and where Matthew and Luke depart from Mark I do not trust them; Matthew however contains early recordings of Jesus's teachings. John is worthless. Bandit , Oct 11, Quahom1 , Oct 11, Wow--interesting and worthwhile conversation.

I cannot help but think that you wrote the words "John is worthless" for shock value alone. I find it interesting that no one was shocked. What do you think? InLove , Oct 14, Quahom1 , Oct 14, Bandit , Oct 14, Joined: Jun 30, Messages: 1, Likes Received: 0.

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