How Do We Know That the Gospels Show Us the Real Jesus? - Grace Skip to content

May 18, 2022

How Do We Know That the Gospels Show Us the Real Jesus?

Written By Grace Theological Seminary

Truth matters. If we are to properly apply the principles given to us in the pages of Scripture, we must be assured of its veracity. There is nothing so central to the Bible as its main character, Jesus. How can we trust that the Gospels have recorded for us the real Jesus?

We live in a culture that loves a good conspiracy theory. Whether it’s in the realms of news, entertainment, or even history, many people are convinced the real truth of a particular matter is always hidden. When it comes to understanding who Jesus really was, some people are convinced that we cannot trust the four gospel accounts in the Bible. In recent years the discovery of various “gospels” not found in the Bible have led some to believe that we must look outside of the Bible to know the real Jesus. So how do we know that the four Gospel accounts found in the Bible show us the real Jesus?

If we want to know the real Jesus, the place to start is with those who knew him best. Each of the four biblical gospels was either written by an apostle or in close conjunction with one. Both Matthew and John were members of the original twelve apostles, firsthand eyewitnesses of what Jesus did and said. As a tax-collector, Matthew was accustomed to keeping detailed records, so it is even conceivable that during Jesus’ earthly ministry he began recording various sayings and events from Jesus’ life. John was the “beloved disciple” who faithfully wrote down his testimony so that people would believe that Jesus truly is the Christ (John 20:31).

According to our earliest evidence, Mark wrote his gospel under the authority of the Apostle Peter to capture the basic content of Peter’s preaching about Jesus. Luke, who was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, begins his Gospel account by stressing the research behind his account (Luke 1:1-4). Each of the Gospel writers gives clear evidence of drawing on eyewitness testimony to construct their accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

From the earliest days of the church these four Gospel accounts were recognized by Jesus’ followers as expressing the truth of who Jesus was, what he did, and its significance. Writing early in the second century, Papias detailed the origins of the four canonical gospels, emphasizing their value as eyewitness accounts. About 30-40 years later, Justin Martyr consistently referred to the four biblical gospels as the “memoirs of the apostles.” Towards the end of the second century Irenaeus argued forcefully for the authority of the fourfold Gospel in such a way that indicates this was the position long held by the church.

So even though other so-called gospel accounts were known by some in the early church, the fact that they were not rooted in eyewitness testimony meant that they could not be trusted to give reliable information about the real Jesus. Those who knew Jesus best ensured that their eyewitness testimony was recorded in the four gospel accounts that were passed down by the earliest followers of Jesus. If you want to know the real Jesus, the place to look is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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Matthew S. Harmon

Matthew S. Harmon

Matthew S. Harmon, Professor of New Testament studies, loves to help people understand the beauty of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, seeing it as the key to life transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18). As a result, the focus of his ministry is teaching and preaching God’s word in various contexts. He has a passion for research and writing, specializing in the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, biblical theology, commentary writing and the Pauline epistles. He is an active member of Christ’s Covenant Church, where he leads a small group, teaches Sunday School, and serves on the preaching team.

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