|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 2|
|Meditation Title: Veracity of the Writers|
Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Today, by way of preparation towards examining the Bible to see why we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we look at the question of the veracity of the Gospel writers. As a sceptic, I think I understand and appreciate the concerns of those who, with little knowledge, put forward the assertion that the writers of the New Testament may have been sincere but they were sincerely deluded. The integrity and sincerity of the Gospel writers are important.
One of the primary attack points from today's crusading atheists is that these are purely human writings and as such are wrong or inaccurate or misguided. Even my Muslim friend who I referred to in the first of these meditations, makes assumptions and says things that carry the implication that you cannot trust what the writers wrote. There are a number of issues that thus arise which we need to consider here before we move on to consider the claims about Jesus as God's unique Son, which is what this series is really all about. Yes, these writers were human beings and their humanity can be seen in the way they write – but we'll put off looking at this in detail until some of the later studies.
Without going into too much detail (which can be found elsewhere by the serious seeker after truth) Luke's Gospel was written by Luke, a physician or doctor, and two points need to be made from the outset. First, today when we want to write, as I am doing now, we simply type away on a keyboard and there we have our end result. In Luke's day it was a long and laborious task. It would have taken much time and much effort. In other words you only did it if you have a really good reason to write. Luke states that to his friend from the outset: “that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” The reason that he is doing this, writing this Gospel, is that he is concerned with truth and integrity and wants his friend to be in no doubt about the veracity of what the early church had been teaching.
The second thing to note is this fact about Luke being a physician. That says he is automatically a scholar, a well taught man of his time. This is not some casual blog-writer with no educational credentials to their name. This guy is a bit of an intellectual and truth is important to him. Now when we research a little further, we come to find that he also travelled with the well-known apostle, Paul – author of many of the New Testament letters – and had witnessed many of the things that had gone on during that man's travels; hence his second book, the so-called ‘Acts of the Apostles'. Now what so many sceptics fail to do is spend money, time and effort going out into the world to witness for themselves the things that happen when the power of God is moving. Research history – old, modern and present – and you find reports of God turning up and doing spectacular things. The Gospels are full of them and Luke's ‘Acts of the Apostles' is full of them. Be a sceptic by all means but only after you have been and seen for yourself. Luke had been there, seen it, examined it and reported it. He knew the reality of God's supernatural power and being a scholar and man of integrity (there is nothing remotely underhand or second rate in his writings) he determined to record what he found.
Ah, but you say after a little bit of personal research, Luke hadn't been a close follower of Jesus, and so his accounts are all second hand, so it's his sources who were the deceived ones and he just passed on their deception. Yes, but that ignores several key things. First the veracity of his own experiences with Paul, his ability to discern truth that others are speaking, his ability to check out the truth (because that is what he is dealing in) and, finally, if you are still unsure about him, check the other Gospel writers in whom the same characteristics are obvious – and they were there as eye-witnesses (remember John's language seen in yesterday's meditation). No, this man is not going to write anything over which he has doubts. He is certain of his facts.
Oh no, the one thing that any open minded and honest person will agree once they have carefully read the Gospels, is that these writers were absolutely sure of what they had seen, heard, and now write. That leaves one possible avenue in this discussion about truth, integrity and veracity of the reports, and that is usually put forward as “Jesus conned them!” As a researcher and studier of the Bible for over forty years, I have to suggest that such an assertion can only be made by those who have never read the Gospels with an open mind. I'm sorry I have to keep on using that phrase “with an open mind” but, as I said yesterday, if you come with a mind that is made up before you start reading, you will only see what you want to see and that, I suggest, says something about your own lack of integrity. Sorry to have to put it like that, but I keep finding this predetermined mind-set that decides before reading what the outcome will be. That does lack intellectual integrity and if you live with that, shame on you!
So why am I sure that the assertion that “Jesus conned them” is false? Well think about what went on. There are twelve men (and a number of women) who accompanied Jesus wherever he went for that three years of his ministry. They watch and see literally thousands of people being healed. There is no way that these can all be frauds. The joy, the natural responses of those being healed, could not be counterfeited. They also hear Jesus' teaching, sometimes the same stuff again and again over those three years. If they had had doubts about it, or they had seen inconsistencies or even contradictions between it and his behaviour, they would not have written as they did. If they had seen any improper behaviour between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, as some ancient heretics suggested, and modern sceptics have picked up, they would have not written as they have, and indeed they would have made reference to any such relationship that he had. They didn't!
Read these Gospel accounts with an open mind, challenge what you are reading with good questions by all means, and see for yourself what I have asserted in this meditation, that you can trust the nature and content of what we find in these Gospels. I have only skimmed over the surface here in this limited study, but you can check it out further yourself – but don't write it off until you have. That simply leaves us to examine the detail of what we find in the Gospels, and that we will start doing in tomorrow's study. This study has simply been to prepare the ground to help us be clearer in our thinking as we approach this topic that Jesus Christ IS the unique Son of God. That's what we are aiming towards, please remember.