With heightened controversy swirling about the Gospels because of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ," a logical consideration of the motivations of the Gospel characters, the timeframe of the Gospels' authorships, and the dissemination of the Gospels is in order. The accuracy of these New Testament books has been questioned, and resultantly, the claims of Christ have been doubted, but the Christian faith is based upon the recorded words of Jesus, therefore, a rigorous defense of the historical accuracy of the Gospels is self-evidently necessary.
Skeptics claim that the Gospels were written and distributed long after the Crucifixion, and thusly, should be considered unreliable. However, Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and no mention of that destruction is made in the Gospels (although around 30 A.D., Jesus did predict said destruction), therefore, the Gospels must have been written before 70 A.D (within a few decades of the Crucifixion in 32 A.D.) The spread of the Gospel message was rapid in the decades after the Crucifixion, no doubt aided by these written Gospels and letters from the Apostles. And translations into other languages were early and often, with no discrepancies of facts showing amongst the various translations, also demonstrating that the Gospels were consistent and written down shortly after Christ's crucifixion.
As the written Gospels were being circulated in the decades after Jesus' incarnation, it is obvious that many people who witnessed the works, words, and crucifixion of Jesus were then still alive, and indicatively, none of them objected to the accuracy of the circulating Gospels. And the Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus confirm the historicity of Christ and the faith that He fostered, as does the Hebrew Talmud which confirms that Jesus did in fact perform miracles.
The Roman historian Thallus recorded that the sun did go dark at mid-day during the time of the Crucifixion in 32 A.D., as the Bible also describes. Thallus said that the darkness was due to a solar eclipse, however, the Passover (when Christ was crucified) always occurred during full moons (when solar eclipses cannot happen). And the Bible describes three hours of mid-day darkness, whereas, solar eclipses last merely a few minutes, therefore, the pagan Thallus accurately recorded the mid-day darkening, but not the mechanism for the darkening. (The mechanism for the sky's darkening at the Crucifixion remains a mystery.)
Bible skeptics say that the Apostles may have conspired to somehow fake the resurrection of Jesus, and thenceforth, deceitfully sought a following of believers who would gullibly embrace a resurrection charade. This notion is illogical, however, because the Apostles would never die for what they knew to be a lie. Eleven of the twelve Apostles suffered violent martyrdoms for their public proclamations about the resurrected Christ, why then would they send themselves to a life of persecution and eventual martyrdom for a contrivance that they could easily have disavowed?
The Jewish officials who wanted the death of Jesus hadn't any motivation to fake Christ's resurrection, for that would have only confirmed the claims of the One that they wanted to dispatch, and the Roman officials also hadn't any motivation for essentially the same reasons. Were the Roman sentries assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus to blame for faked resurrection? No, the sentries faced execution should they have worked with the Apostles in a charade of defiance against Roman hegemony.
The Jews were expecting the Messiah at that time, but most were expecting a military hero who would throw-off the yoke of Rome. Daniel 9 predicted that the "Anointed One" would be cut-off (killed) four hundred and eighty-three years after the command to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (which was decreed by Cyrus of Persia around 450 B.C.), therefore obviously, some Jews saw that Jesus truly is the Messiah. And many Jews also realized that the circumstances of Christ's incarnation fulfilled the centuries-old prophecies about the Messiah in minute detail.
The life and physical death of Jesus Christ are historically well-documented, and there aren't any logical reasons to think that any of the factions involved in the Crucifixion would have been motivated to fake the resurrection, so we can safely say that the resurrection is an historical fact because there were hundreds of eye-witnesses of Jesus' resurrected body recorded in the Gospels (and remember, these Gospels were not considered to be inaccurate by the Apostles' contemporaries in the decades after the Crucifixion).
James I. Nienhuis
James I. Nienhuis is the author of "Old Earth? Why Not!" (www.GenesisVeracity.com)
We are very grateful to James for making this article available to museltof christian ministries UK.