One of the more striking features of the gospels is that the writers did not hesitate to record facts that might be used against them.
If you have a witness who is trying to distort the truth, one of the first things they will do is withhold information that might be detrimental to their case, or to their personal credibility. If, as has been suggested, they are actually fabricating evidence to bolster their story it is even less likely that those fabrications would include such material: yet the gospels contain many such items.
In the quotes below I have indicated parallel passages which occur in more than one gospel by citing the duplicates in square brackets.
Material which reflects badly on the disciples themselves
- Their preoccupation with the issue of what was in it for them. Mt 18:1 [Lk 9:46], Mk 9:33, Mk 10:28 [Lk 18:28], Mt 20:21 [Mk 10:37], Lk 22:24
- The occasions when theory failed to translate into practice for them, such as their inability to deal with the demonized boy (Mt 17:14 [Mk 9:14, Lk 9:37]) and Peter’s failure to walk on water, despite Jesus’ command (Mt 14:28).
- Their own failure to understand Jesus’ message and mission:
- concerning what Jesus told them about his death and resurrection (Jn 2:19, Mt 17:22 [Mk 9:31, Lk 9:44], Mt 16:21 [Mk 8:31, Lk 9:22], Mt 20:17 [Mk 10:32, Lk 18:31], Jn 16:16-32, Mt 28:17, Mk 16:8,11,13,14, Lk 24:11,25, Jn 20:2,25).
- Peter being told as a result, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ by Jesus (Mt 16:23 [Mk 8:33])
- suggesting they call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village (Lk 9:54).
- Peter’s inane remark on the mount of transfiguration (Mt 17:4 [Mk 9:5, Lk 9:33]),
- Their failure to even stay awake when Jesus was in Gethsemane (Mt 26:36 [Mk 14:32, Lk 22:40])
- The disciple’s insistence they would never deny Jesus(Mt 26:31 [Mk 14:27, Lk 22:31]), followed by their abandonment of him (Mt 26:56 [Mk 14:50], Mt 26:69 [Mk 14:66, Lk 22:54])
- The assault on the high priest’s servant (Mt 26:51 [Mk 14:47, Lk 22:50])
- The reports that the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11)
Material which opponents could use to criticise Jesus
- His own family’s unbelief (Jn 7:5), even thinking he was insane (Mk 3:21)
- All the insults and allegations made against Jesus (too many to list) some of which were explained at the time, and some not.
- Failure to perform miracles at Nazareth (Mt 13:58 [Mk 6:5, Lk 4:23]
- His exasperation with the disciples (Mt 17:17 [Mk 9:19, Lk 9:41])
- His forcible eviction of the money-changers (Jn 2:14, Mt 21:12 [Mk 11:15, Lk 19:45])
- Allowing the devils to enter the Gadarene swine (Mt 8:38 [Mk 5:11, Lk 8:32])
- His treatment of the Syrophoenician woman (Mt 15:22 [Mk 7:25])
- His admission that he didn’t know the timing of his own return (Mk 13:32 [Mt 24:36])
- His fear and near refusal of the cross in Gethsemane (Mt 26:37 [Mk 14:33, Lk 22:41])
- His cry from the cross, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mt 27:46 [Mk 15:34])
- Telling the disciples to carry swords on the night of his arrest (Lk 22:36)
Material which reflected badly on the church
- Church wrangles over widows (Acts 6:1) and circumcision (Acts 11:2, 15:1).
- Paul’s arguments with Barnabus (Acts 15:37) and Peter (Gal 2:11).
- Their failure to believe in Peter’s deliverance from prison, even when told (Acts 12:12).