The Historicity of the New Testament
by Job Anbalagan
Some authors of Sikh Spectrum have questioned the authenticity of the Gospels in their website www.sikhspectrum.com.
Rawel Singh in his rebuttal message on the article “Historicity of the New Testament” by Jass Singh has questioned the authenticity of certain incidents in the life of Jesus Christ by raising certain question marks.
First of all, our respected Rawel Singh says that the concept of resurrection has been questioned by the people. When Paul said, “"If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain", Paul laid emphasis on the truth that Christ was risen from the dead. The statement of Paul has never put the doctrine of resurrection to a doubt.
Secondly, Rawel Singh says that after Jesus’ crucifixion none of His relatives – his mother and brothers were mentioned in Mathew 12:46. He wants to know why any of His 12 disciples did not care to claim His body. According to Singh, none of His disciples even cared to see where He had been buried. When Peter was informed by Mary Magdalene about the missing body, none of the other disciples bothered except an odd one. This seems to give credence to the Quran that not Jesus but a look alike was crucified. Even otherwise there are so many variations in the resurrection details in the four gospels that casting doubts is natural.
I respond to the queries raised by Rawel Singh. None of the eleven disciples of Jesus Christ came forward to claim the Body of Jesus Christ. But “there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple; He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus” (Matt.27:57, 58). The disciples of Jesus Christ might have been frightened to come forward to claim the Body of Jesus Christ. There was no need for Mathew to mention about this incident in his gospel. The Mother and the brothers of Jesus Christ might have enquired to know the place where Jesus was buried. But this incident was not recorded by the author. The author was not supposed to record in a sequence all the incidents that took place after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Let us note that the authors did not merely record the biography of Jesus Christ at all.
The four gospels record the eternal being, human ancestry, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man. They record also a selection from the incidents of His life, and from His words and works. Taken together, they set forth, not a biography but a Personality.
These two facts, that we have in the four gospels a complete Personality, but not a complete biography, indicate the spirit and intent in which we should approach them. What is important is that through these narratives we should come to see and know Him whom they reveal. It is of relatively small importance that we should be able to piece together out of these confessedly incomplete records (John 21:25 ) a connected story of His life. For some adequate reason – perhaps lest we should be too much occupied with “Christ after the flesh” – it did not please God to cause to be written a biography of His Son. The twenty nine formative years are passed over in a silence which is broken but once, and that in but twelve brief verses of Luke’s Gospel. It may be well to respect the divine reticencies.
But the four gospels, though designedly incomplete as a story, are divinely perfect as a revelation. We may not through them know everything that He did, but we may know the Doer. In four great characters, each of which completes the other three, we have Jesus Christ Himself. The authors never describe Christ but they set Him forth. They tell us almost nothing of what they thought about Him. They let Him speak and act for Himself.
This is the essential respect in which these narratives differ from mere biography or portraiture. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”. The student in whom dwells an ungrieved Spirit finds here the living Christ.
The Old Testament is a divinely provided introduction to the New; and whoever comes to the study of the four gospels with a mind saturated with the Old Testament foreview of the Christ, His person, work, and kingdom, will find them open books.
For the Gospels are woven of Old Testament quotation, allusion, and type. The very first verse of the New Testament drives the thoughtful reader back to the Old; and the risen Christ sent His disciples to the ancient oracles for an explanation of His sufferings and glory (Luke 24:27, 28, 44, 45). One of His last ministries was the opening of their understandings to understand the Old Testament.
Therefore, in approaching the study of the Gospels the mind should be freed, as far as possible, from mere theological concepts and presuppositions.
Especial emphasis rests upon that to which all four gospels bear a united testimony. That united testimony is seven fold:
In all alike is revealed the one unique Personality. The one Jesus is King in Matthew, Servant in Mark, Man in Luke, and God in John. But not only so; for Matthew’s King is also Servant, man, and God; and Mark’s Servant is also King and Man, and God; Luke’s Man is also King, and Servant, and God; and john’s eternal Son is also King, and Servant, and Man.
The pen is a different pen; the incidents in which He is seen are sometimes different incidents; the distinctive character in which He is presented is a different character; but He is always the same Christ. That fact alone would mark these books as inspired.
- All the four authors record the ministry of John the Baptist.
- All record the feeding of the five thousand.
- All record Christ’s offer of Himself as King, according to Micah.
- All record the betrayal by Judas; the denial by Peter, the trial, crucifixion and literal resurrection of Christ. And this record is so made as to testify that the death of Christ was the supreme business which brought Him into the world; that all which precedes that death is but preparation for it; and that from it flow all the blessings which God ever has or ever will bestow upon man.
- All record the resurrection ministry of Christ; a ministry which reveals Him as unchanged by the tremendous event of his passion, but a ministry keyed to a new note of universality, and of power.
- All point forward to His second coming.