Will you prove the reliability of the Gospels according to the five requirements outlined by yourself to a previous inquirer?

The Catholic Answers

By all means, although I cannot go very deeply into the matter in the brief time at my disposal. However I shall do my best to give the main elements.Firstly, the authors assigned wrote the books attributed to them. A knowledge of Hebrew shows that the authors were certainly Jews. Historical and political references show that they were Jews of the first century, for Palestine is shown under conditions before and not after the Fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. Also had they been written after that date, the writers would not have omitted to make the point that Christ’s prophecy had been fulfilled. They do not mention it. All the descriptions, also, are so vivid that they could only have been written by eye-witnesses. And in addition to this internal evidence, we have solid external evidence. Thus Papias, who was the disciple of St. John the Apostle, and who certainly lived in the first century, has left it in writing that one named Matthew first wrote in Hebrew, and that one named Mark wrote what he had heard of Peter. Papias could not have written this had not these two Evangelists already written their Gospels. The Muratorian Fragment, dating from at least the year 170, tells us that the third Gospel was written by Luke; the fourth by John. And there is no evidence at all to the contrary. We have not as much evidence for the authorship of many classical books, of which no one doubts. Also the Apostles and immediate disciples would not have allowed forgeries to be palmed off as genuine. Heretics and pagans would have found their strongest argument in showing the basic documents to be falsely attributed to immediate disciples of Christ. And all regions accepted these four Gospels. If they were not genuine, and one region began the fraud, the rest would have risen up in violent protest. No critic of any value denies the fourfold authorship today. Secondly, the Gospels have never been tampered with or substantially altered. The Gospels had been multiplied by copyists and were quite familiar to the early Christians. Not all could be falsified simultaneously, and changes could easily be detected by comparison. And the early Christians were most vigilant, holding the Gospels in great veneration. Marcion the heretic fabricated a Gospel in the year 110 to suit his heresy, and there was a universal protest at once. All existing manuscripts, back as far as the fourth century, quote the Gospels as they are now. No substantial alterations can have occurred since the fourth century, and they were far less likely to occur during the times nearer to the Apostles. Sincere critics today admit the substantial integrity of the Gospels, and those opposed to Christianity concentrate upon other lines of attack. Thirdly, the Evangelists were reliably informed. Rationalists take refuge in the thought that they were sincere, but laboring under some strange delusion or hallucination. They have no evidence to support the contention, but stake all on a preconceived improbability. They practically say, “We do not see how such things could happen, therefore it’s no use telling us that they did happen.” This is prejudice. A few years ago men said, “A man could not speak to Australia from England by telephone, and therefore we do not believe that he ever will.” The fact has disproved them. A man with a theory can see almost anything, provided it supports his theory, and be blind to the most evident facts if they seem to upset his theory. Rationalists do not like the Gospel facts, and therefore deny them. Forced to admit authorship, integrity, and sincerity, they say, “The writers must have been the victims of some hallucination.” But if you wish to deny a man’s right to the property next door, you must prove something, if only that his title-deeds are false. But it is no use saying, “I do not like the man!” Meantime, all the evidence is against the position of these Rationalists. They have to admit exactness as regards geographical, political, and religious conditions of Palestine. Why should they be less accurate when they describe the sayings and doings of Christ? They are perfectly sane in all their other statements. And are all four to have the same hallucination, and all their lives? There is no trace of fanaticism in their sober accounts; Christ had to accuse them of being “slow to believe”; enemies then and there could not deny the miracles, and must have been suffering from the same hallucination; and the Jews never attempted to deny the facts. The Evangelists were quite reliably informed. Fourthly, they were sincere. They not only knew the facts, but they told the truth. They gained martyrdom in this life, and on their own principles, stood to gain only hell in the next, if they were lying in so important a matter. If they intended to lie, they could have painted themselves as heroes, instead of depicting their own faults; and above all should not have described a mocked, humiliated, and crucified Master in order to win the veneration of men. On the Jewish material at their disposal they could not have invented the type represented by Christ at the Messiah, and if they did want to invent, might just as well have painted the portrait of a far more glorious Leader from a worldly point of view. No thinker today brings the old charge that the Evangelists lied. Finally, that the statements were made under oath before God is abundantly clear. The writers call upon God to witness to the truth of what they write. St. John says, “I testify to everyone that heareth these words”; “He that saw it hath given testimony, and his testimony is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that you also may believe.” St. Paul, also: “I speak the truth. I lie not – my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.” No modern law-court would reject evidence as clearly given as that for the events and utterances attributed to Christ.

Radio Replies Volume 1 by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble MSC and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty

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