Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reconstructing The Historical Jesus (Part 2)

Question: What material is out there that we can trust in order to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus? 

Part 1 of this series is available here.

TWH: One thing I always stress is the accuracy and veracity of the biblical texts. Though penned by men, they have as their ultimate source none other than God himself (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). When it comes to the life and ministry of Jesus, we need look no further than the four Gospels found in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I'd call these the primary sources when we are talking about Jesus. Matthew and John, of course, were apostles. And there's a high likelihood that Matthew did not write his account apart from the input of some, if not all, of the other apostles. Matthew was the first Gospel written, despite the modern-day status quo belief that Mark was the first of those four Gospels to be written. Matthew was written very soon after Jesus' death and resurrection, and it was designed to be used as a resource in fulfilling the Great Commission, especially among those of Jewish descent. Luke, in my opinion, wrote second, at the behest of the apostle Paul, who sought a resource that would supplement (not replace) the Gospel of Matthew in that Great Commission work–especially among Gentiles. The Gospel of Mark is linked historically to the apostle Peter and his messages delivered in Rome. And John wrote later in his life, wanting to shed some additional light on some of those teachings and miracles of Jesus that were not recorded in Matthew, Luke, and Mark–and even then, he still didn't cover all that Jesus did and said. So those are the most important resources, and yes, they are trustworthy.

One thing you want would really benefit from is what we call a "harmony" of the Gospels. A "harmony" basically unites these accounts into a single/multi-columned reading so that parallel accounts are side-by-side and material is organized chronologically. The best one that I know of in English is Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry's A Harmony of the Gospels published by HarperCollins in 1978. Besides the "harmony," you get some really excellent appendices that treat some of the issues people encounter when thinking about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in light of all of the Gospels.

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