The Character of the Witnesses

This page examines the reliability of the New Testament writers.

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At this point I think it would be worthwhile to look more closely at the integrity of the authors themselves. Were they ‘gilding the lily,’ as has been claimed, or were they honestly reporting what they had seen and heard?

There are a number of very good reasons why we can have confidence in these writers. These are briefly summarised below. Click on the links for a more detailed discussion.

1.  Honesty At Their Own Expense.
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. Yet 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.
2.  Golden Opportunities Passed Up.
There are places where very minor alterations or enhancements might have significantly strengthened their case: yet this is avoided.
3.  Apostolic Accountability.
Another major argument against suggesting that the gospel writers doctored their accounts is that this process would have had to occur during the lifetimes of the apostles. For any significant alteration of Christian doctrine to have occurred without leaving any trace of the controversy that would have resulted is simply not credible.
4.  The Unacceptability of the Gospel.
The ‘gilding the lily’ idea assumes that the teaching of the resurrection made the gospel more acceptable to the Gentiles: it didn’t. The crucifixion and resurrection, as well as the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, were seriously distasteful to the prevailing cultures of the time.
5.  Means That Negate the Ends.
The teaching of both Jesus and the apostles (including Paul) was diametrically opposed to any kind of dishonesty. I won’t bother quoting verses on this, as anyone with any familiarity with the NT should know it. Therefore, to suggest that they sought to promote this teaching by fabricating one of the biggest lies of all time is, frankly, absurd.
6.  Why Die For a Lie?
Finally, add to the above the fact that the early apostles faced agonising deaths rather than deny their testimony. Of the twelve apostles, only John was not martyred. Luke, Mark and Paul are also reported to have died for their faith. So, too did many other of the early Christians, despite being presented in many cases with ample opportunity to either recant or flee. And they are supposed to have done all this in order to promote what they knew to be a lie?

In short, an examination of the content of the gospels indicates that, far from ‘gilding the lily,’ the NT shows every sign that the disciples were honest men who took great care to tell it the way it was, warts and all, even at the expense of their own lives.

To do that, they must have experienced something they found pretty convincing! So what exactly was it? ….

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