Getting To Know Jesus Post #3: Some Basic Facts About The Gospels

This is Post #3 in my series called “Getting To Know Jesus.”

This post is called, “Basic Facts About The Gospels.”

We can trust the information that we have in the New Testament about the life of Jesus. For one to know who Jesus is, they must turn to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, commonly referred to as the four gospels.

I. Some Basic Facts about the Gospels

  1. Let’s first begin with some basic facts about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
    1. These four books provide us with details of the life of Jesus. For example, read Matthew 1:1. Who does Matthew say this book is about?
    2. Four different men wrote these four books. Two of them, Matthew and John, were apostles, Matthew 10:1-2. Luke and Mark could be described as prophets. Like the apostles, they were guided by the Holy Spirit with what they would write, Ephesians 3:3-5.
    3. Luke was a close companion of the apostle Paul. It was Luke who penned the book of Acts.
    4.  Mark was also a close companion of the apostles, Acts 12:12, 15:36-41; 1 Peter 5:13.
    5. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often referred to as the Synoptic Gospels.Their accounts of Jesus are similar or parallel with one another. The book of John does not contradict the other three, but it does present the life of Jesus from a different perspective. All four books were written before the end of the first century. Paul in the first century referenced the writings of Luke, 1 Timothy 5:18.
  2. The ultimate purpose of the gospels is to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
    1. In John 20:30-31, the apostle said, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name.”
    2. In Luke’s gospel he reminds us that what he wrote was so we can know the exact truth concerning Jesus. In Luke 1:1-4 he says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”
    3. They provide us with some of the details of His life and ministry. Not every single fact about His life is given. But what we have recorded is sufficient for us to believe. For example, read the account from Luke regarding the birth of Jesus and His early years.
      1. Luke 2:1-7. We get details of the birth of Jesus.
      2. Luke 2:21. We get details when Jesus was 8 days old.
      3. Luke 2:41-42. We get details when Jesus was 12 years old.
      4. Luke 3:23. We get details when Jesus was 30 years old.
    4. While there are differences in the gospels, there are no contradictions. The scriptures are inspired by God, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. A good rule to remember is when reading an event in one gospel, check the other gospels for more information.

II. Why Are the Gospels in Story Form?

The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets as they wrote about the life of Jesus, John 16:12-13. Story form is a great way for people to remember things. This is how Jesus often taught. Having merely some facts about Jesus would seem to be not enough.

Years ago, when I was in Pharmaceutical sales, I had a conversation with a patient in one of the waiting rooms. We began to discuss Jesus (I can’t remember how the conversation began). He didn’t believe in Jesus. Eventually, I asked him if he had ever read of the gospels. He said no. I encouraged him to read one of them. I would encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already.

Take care and God Bless.


Getting To Know Jesus Post #2 The Certainty Of These Things

Yesterday, I announced I’m beginning a series of posts discussing some details about Jesus of Nazareth. It’s called “Getting To Know Jesus.” You can find the link to that blog post HERE.

Below is the latest post in this series called, “The Certainty Of These Things.” If you have questions, please let me know.

The Certainty Of These Things

As we begin our study concerning the life of Jesus, it’s important to know that we can trust what we read in the Bible. The Bible claims to be “inspired by God,” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. That means that the Scriptures are “God-breathed.” God is the author of Scripture. It was God who gave direction in giving the Scripture. What’s written in the scriptures are from God Himself. These are the very words of God!

In fact, as we begin our study, you will see the great confidence Luke wanted his readers to have the details concerning the life of Jesus. Listen to what he wrote in Luke 1:1-4:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

What can we learn about the certainty of the things recorded for us in the book of Luke concerning Jesus?

What Is Recorded about Jesus Is True

Luke carefully recorded the events detailing the life of Jesus for a man named Theophilus.

  1. Luke received information from those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus, Luke 1:2. Those eyewitnesses were the apostles who were with Jesus in the first century, Luke 24:33-48. Luke’s account of the life of Jesus was written around 60–62 A.D.
  2. Eyewitness testimony is the most powerful kind of testimony. While Luke was not one of the apostles, he was able to learn about Jesus from them. As a result, he could with great confidence write out in consecutive order the details concerning the life of Jesus. He was also guided by the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 3:3-5. Therefore, we can trust his words. This is the exact truth concerning Jesus. What should we conclude from this point? That we can trust what is written for us in scripture. 

The gospel of Luke shows the life of Jesus intertwined in history.

  1. Jesus really did live. There are some who may deny this, but to do so goes against history. Virtually all scholars agree that Jesus lived. What’s written about Him is not fiction. A careful reading of Luke will help you to see that Luke recorded numerous leaders and politicians that lived in the days of Jesus. For example in Luke 2:1-2, Luke said, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”
  2. In Luke 3:1-2, it says, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.”
  3. It could be easy for us to see if Luke was making these names up. We can fact check these places and these people to see if they really did live. What’s the point? The point is that the life of Jesus is a part of history. He walked and lived on earth.

A Jewish historian named Flavius Josephus wrote about Jesus in the first century.

  1. Josephus lived from 37–100; he became the greatest Jewish historian of his time and wrote about Jesus. In one of his works called Antiquities of the Jews, which he finished around 93 A.D., book 18, chapter 3, and section 3 said this about Jesus: At this time (the time of Pilate) there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” Why do we need to know this information?
    1. Others spoke of Jesus outside of the Bible.
    2. Josephus was not a Christian, yet he wouldn’t deny that Jesus really did live.
    3. Just as Josephus spoke of Pilate so did Luke, Luke 23:1-13, 20, 24.
  2. What Luke recorded about Jesus was written in the first century. What Josephus wrote about Jesus was in the first century. Including Josephus and his writings according to Frank Turek in his book, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.”, there are 10 known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. By contrast, over the same 150 years, there are 9 non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus. So, discounting all the Christian sources, Jesus is actually mentioned by one more source than the Roman emperor. We can learn from these sources that:
    1. Jesus lived during time of Tiberius Caesar.
    2. He lived a virtuous life.
    3. He was a wonder-worker.
    4. He had a brother named James.
    5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
    6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
    7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
    8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
    9. His disciples believed He rose from the dead.
    10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
    11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
    12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.

We have accurate copies of what men like Luke and the apostles wrote concerning Jesus.

  1. When we speak of the New Testament documents, we are referring to 27 books. These were written by the end of the first century. In 2 Peter 3:14-16, the apostle Peter referenced Paul’s writing as scripture (divine writings). In 1 Timothy 5:18, the apostle Paul referred to Luke’s writing (from Luke 10:7) as scripture (divine writings).
  2. It is true that none of the original documents remain. We have only copies of the original writings called manuscripts. Yet there are thousands of copies written in Greek (5,800 complete or fragmented), (10,000 in Latin), and (9,000 in various languages like Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Arabic).
    • The earliest manuscript is the John Ryland’s fragment (called this because it is housed in the John Ryland’s Library in Manchester, England). It’s dated between 117–138 A.D.
    • It was found in Egypt—across the Mediterranean from its probable place of composition in Asia Minor—demonstrating that John’s gospel was copied and had spread quite some distance by the early second century.

The New Testament writers were only concerned about writing what was true. 

This is why when you read in the New Testament, you will see the writers discussing embarrassing details about the apostles (like in Matthew 16:21-23). They didn’t try to hide anything. This is why we read some demanding sayings from Jesus (like in Matthew 5:27-32). The apostles were not trying to deceive anyone. They simply wanted people to know the truth.

So what’s the point of all of this? What we have in the New Testament is true. The information we have about Jesus is trustworthy and reliable.