The Four Gospels can be Trusted
By Jeff Curtis
Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s accounts of the life of Jesus have been considered part of the inspired New Testament since the early days of the church – and only these four accounts have been included.
Except for a few fragmentary statements [found in other books of the New
Testament], the authentic records of [Jesus’] life are contained in the four
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which have been regarded as
canonical by the Christian church from the earliest period of its history.
Although there were numerous other Gospels which purported to recount facts
concerning His life that are not recorded in the famous four, the apocryphal
Gospels, as they are called, are generally of later date and of doubtful reliability.
They contain little information that is not a duplication of what the canonical
Gospels impart and much of what the add is obviously fanciful and legendary.
Furthermore, they often betray the views of some particular sect…”
As we write this article about the Gospels of Christ, it is important for us to realize that we can depend on the four accounts God gave us.
One of the greatest American lawyers of the past was Simon Greenleaf, who
wrote one of the most important works on the law of evidence ever to appear in
the English language. His book, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, was
unsurpassed on the subject for nearly one hundred years. It ran through sixteen
editions. When he was a mature lawyer at the age of sixty-three, just seven years
before his death, Simon Greenleaf published a volume in which he examined the
testimony of the four evangelists to Jesus Christ. He used the same laws of
evidence employed in the courts of justice in the civilized world. He said, “Our
profession leads us to explore the mazes of falsehood, to detect its artifices, to
piece its thickest veils, to follow and expose its sophistries, to compare the
statements of different witnesses with severity, to discover truth and separate it
from error.” In this book, which ran to 543 pages, Simon Greenleaf came to the
conclusion that the Gospels are absolutely trustworthy and that the four
evangelists could not possibly have lied about Jesus Christ, for their testimony
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are exactly what they claim to be: true accounts of the greatest life ever lived! You can trust your life – and your eternity – to these books. Paul put it this way: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Timothy 1:15).
Address Fear with Faith in God
by Joe R. Price
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident (Psalm 27:1-3).
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (John 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Luke 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Is. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 John 5:3-5).
The Differences in the Four Gospel Accounts
By Jeff Curtis
When one begins to fashion the harmony of the Gospel, it soon becomes apparent that variation exist between accounts of the same event. How can the differences be explained? As was noted in an earlier writing, in the book of Acts Luke gave three accounts of the conversion of Saul (Acts 9; 22; 26). John Stott commented on this: “Our study of how a single author (Luke) tells the same story differently will help us understand how three synoptic evangelists (Matthew, Mark and Luke) could also tell their same story differently.”
In most cases, one account simply supplements another account. Consider the story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany. In Matthew’s account (Matt. 26:6-13), Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper when an unnamed woman came with a container of precious perfume and anointed Jesus, which resulted in Jesus’ disciples expressing their disapproval. Mark’s account (Mark 14:3-9) is much the same, but some details are added: The perfume was pure nard, the woman broke the container, and the perfume was worth three hundred denarii. (“Denarii” is the plural form of “denarius.” Which was equivalent to one day’s wages for the common laborer.) John’s account (John 12:1-8) gives other details, including: Jesus was at a banquet held in honor; Martha was serving the meal; Lazarus was also a guest of honor; the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, sister of Martha; and the one who started the criticism was Judas Iscariot. These details are obviously not in contradiction, but rather are supplementary.
It has been noted that when witnesses give supplementary details this does not discredit their testimony but rather establishes their honesty. Dr. Henry Van Dyke said,
If four witnesses should appear before a judge to give an account of a certain
even, and each one tell exactly the same story in the same words, the judge
would probably conclude, not that their testimony was exceptionally valuable,
but that the only event which was certain beyond a doubt was that they had
agreed to tell the same story. But each man had told what he had seen, as he had
seen it, the evidence would be credible. And when we read the four Gospels, is
it not that exactly what we find? The four men tell the same story each in his
In some cases, however, the details are not simply supplemental; instead, they are different. The order of events may not be the same, different personnel may be mentioned, or numbers may vary. For instance, notice the story of Jesus healing one or more blind men near Jericho. In Matthew’s account (Matt. 20:29-34), Jesus was leaving Jericho and two men healed. In Luke’s account (Lk. 18:35-43), Jesus was approaching Jericho and one blind man is mentioned. In Mark’s account (Mk. 10:46-52), only one blind man is healed (Bartemaeus). How do we explain differences such as these? Let’s lists a few possibilities:
- Some differences in details exist because of differences in the writers’ emphases.
- Differences in details may exist because writers were recording similar events, but not the same event.
- Contradictions may seem to exist when we don’t possess all the facts of the case. So, the incident could have taken place as Jesus left one and entered the other. Those who assert that contradictions exist are admitting a lack of knowledge.
- Contradictions may seem to exist because we don’t understand something about the original text. For years, skeptics claimed that a contradiction existed in the OT regarding a payment that was made: One account referred to the payment as a certain amount while another account gave a different figure. Later, archaeologists discovered that two systems of appraising the value of precious metals existed at that time; probably one writer referred to one system of appraisal while the other referred to the second. From time to time, archaeology sheds new light on the text.
As we continue through the story of Jesus, some of the more publicized “differences” between accounts will be noted and possible ways to reconcile the differences can be discussed.