How Can We Trust the Gospels? Give Me Your Response!

Jason Micheli —  September 9, 2013 — 14 Comments

zealot_reza_aslanThis past weekend we kicked-off the new church year with a sermon series intended to reflect on and respond to Reza Aslan’s bestselling book, Zealot. In it, Aslan makes the familiar argument that the Jesus of faith is different than the ‘real’ Jesus of history and that what we find in the New Testament are accretions and attributions affixed to Jesus much later by the church.

The Gospels, in other words, are not reliable records of who was the ‘real’ Jesus.

Indeed, by Aslan’s logic, the Gospels are not reliable. They’re often at odds with one another in terms of detail and chronology. Did Jesus give his sermon on the mount or on the plain? What day did Jesus die? Did he celebrate the Passover the night he was betrayed or did he just wash his friends’ feet? Was he born of a virgin and, if so, why do only Luke and Matthew tell us so? Why does Mark hardly tell us anything, including anything about people actually seeing the Risen Christ?

That’s the question for worship this coming weekend:

How can we trust the Gospels?

Since I’m the one stuck preaching, I’d like your help. How would you answer the question?

How can we trust that the witness of the Gospels is a reliable testimony to Jesus?

Why do you, personally, trust the Gospels or for that matter not trust them?

Leave a comment here or email me at jamicheli@mac.com.

Better yet, email me audio of you answering the question and I just may use it in the sermon.

Jason Micheli

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14 responses to How Can We Trust the Gospels? Give Me Your Response!

  1. I struggle with the historical nuances of the Gospels. However, I trust the message and the spirit of the Gospels.

  2. Great question, Jason. My answer for what it is worth. Jesus was a teacher without peer. His parables were simple, direct and profound–easy to listen to; hard to do. Jewish law is minutely detailed covering every aspect of life. Other religious writings are similarly voluminous. Jesus was speaking to his contemporaries but he also knew that his words would reach humanity throughout history to today. The more complex the message the less people will understand and benefit from it.

  3. Faith defies logic. I believe the Gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore I trust them. It really is very simple for me.

  4. Jason,
    I would offer two responses. In and of itself, one source can never answer the question about the truthfulness of the Gospels. But, we have others (such as “The Four Witnesses” by Robin Griffith-Jones) that explore the validity of the Gospels. This allows us to understand what was written and why. Second, we have the longevity of the Gospels. It doesn’t matter when they were written (i.e., forty or fifty years afterward) but why they were written – to give us an understanding of what had and is transpiring. And there is the fact that Christianity exists today. The truth of the writings may be judged by the fact that a group of people two thousand years ago saw something that changed their lives and they made a judgement to tell others about what they say and the story has been told continually since then. There must have been something about that story that it remains today.

  5. I think you hit on a key point when you say the gospels are “reliable” which may be different than inerrant or some other more modern way of looking at truth. Reliability (not perfectly proven 100% without any doubt) is helpful for me

  6. It strikes me as pretty meaningful that many of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for their faith… a faith based on the life and death & resurrection of Jesus. There are very few things in life that I would be willing to die for, and a lie is certainly not on that list.

    While there are discrepancies, the Gospels weren’t written until about 50-70 AD. A long time had passed since Jesus’ death. It would be more surprising and suspect if there weren’t discrepancies after all that time.

    But what convinces me more than anything else is the fact that the story is not at all what anyone would expect. If someone was trying to make this up, they certainly would have made up a better story. A savior, God’s son, born to an unwed mother? God comes to his people and they kill him? Not only that, God dies a humiliating shameful death on a cross.. really? It’s all upside down, not what anyone would expect and not a very good story if you want to recruit people to a religion.

    It almost has to be true.

  7. I think it’s interesting that in older Catholic and orthodox Christian churches there is a greater foundation of tradition in worship, and prayer structure than in evangelical churches, allowing them to interpret the bible more liberally. They were created before the gospels were even written down. The bible and the story of the gospels is all we have. Can I still worship God and follow the examples of Jesus without “worshiping” the gospels? I’ll be the first to admit there are parts that leave me scratching my head. Does it matter? I turned to the bible during a low point in my life and essentially found what I was looking for. Something tangible that gave me a new perspective on people, life and our purposes here. I trust the gospels were written in a different time than our own and I trust the message in them because it’s the closest thing we have to physically being with Jesus during his time.

  8. One cannot prove the veracity of the Gospels like one can prove that E=(mc)2 by a physics experiment. One cannot unravel the mystery of God the way scientists unravel the human genome with biological research. From that perspective, the Gospels are nothing but hearsay evidence. We know that.

    I trust the witness of the Gospels because of the peace in my heart after receiving communion, because of experiences on mission trips, because I have known members of the communion of saints in the Christian communities of which I have been a part. I trust in the witness of the Gospels because of how I feel when I read the sermon on the mount; because of what I have experienced in prayer and because of the emptiness, aching and longing in my heart during the times I have drifted away.

  9. The gospels were written as manifestations of faith in the living Christ. They were not intended as history but as testaments to the power of a risen savior who proclaimed the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. Jesus taught with the authority of one who could forgive sins, and he spoke to crowds all over Judea and Galilee in the area we now call the Holy Land. I would expect to hear the same messages proclaimed in different places – on the Mount, on the Plain – with different audiences, each witnessing to what happened and what was said. I do not ascribe infallibility to the writers, but I trust the core message of the gospels: Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself, understanding that the poor and the oppressed are my neighbors. I don’t concern myself with unimportant details masquerading as discrepancies which critics like Aslan love to point out. Aslan is just another writer who has totally dismissed the authority of the Jesus of faith in favor of painting Jesus as an ordinary revolutionary pitting himself against the Roman empire. How boring is that.

    • Perfectly stated! The core message is clear and consistent, and you understand it exactly as I do. Thank you for being so articulate, Juanita~

  10. I believe the gospels are testimonies of Jesus’ life and death and are to be read not singularly, but together. Each gospel was written for a different audience; yet all speak of Jesus’ leadership, death, and resurrection. The power of the Gospels and the transformation of character and community is still just as strong today as it was 2000 years ago. I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the gospels, and they were not written to be completely understood by our rationale, but as a testament to our faith.

  11. Give Boyd and Eddy’s The Jesus Legend a read. Lots of good stuff there, and answers many of the criticisms of those, like the Jesus Seminar, that are skeptical about the Gospels.

  12. It matters not to me the discrepancies in the Gospels. “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” That’s all I need to know and that’s good enough for me!

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