Friday, September 21, 2007

The Gospels Meet the Epistles

an artist depiction of the apostle PaulBy Nathan Busenitz @

This is the next part of our series looking at ten reasons we believe the New Testament gospels are historically reliable. To access the previous posts in this series, click here.

Seventh, the picture of Jesus in the gospels is consistent with the picture of Jesus found in the rest of the New Testament.

Not only are the gospels consistent with each other, they are also consistent with the rest of the New Testament. This is first seen in the book of Acts, where the testimonies of Peter (in Acts 2:22-24; 3:13-20; 4:27-31; 5:29-31; 10:38-43), Philip (in Acts 8:25-40), and Paul (in Acts 17:30-31; 26:22-23) correspond perfectly with the accounts of the gospel writers. But it doesn’t stop there.

The rest of the New Testament also affirms that Jesus was a real Jewish man (cf. 1 John 1:1-4; 4:2), a descendent of Abraham (Rom. 9:5) and David (Rom. 1:3), who was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) and had siblings (1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19; James 1:1; Jude 1). He was poor (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. Rom. 15:3; Php. 2:6-8), meek and gentle (2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Pet. 2:23), selfless (Rom. 15:3; Php 2:5), and righteous (1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Pet. 1:19).

He was transfigured on a mountain with several of His disciples (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Yet, at the end of His ministry, He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23), and on the night He was betrayed instituted a memorial supper (1 Cor. 11:23–25). He then stood trial before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13), suffered (1 Pet. 1:11; 2:21-23), and was crucified (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:8; Gal. 3:1, 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18) through the instigation of the Jewish leaders (1 Thess. 2:14-15). On the third day He was buried and raised and appeared to many (1 Cor. 15:4–8; cf. 1 Pet. 1:3, 21). He then ascended (Eph. 1:20; cf. Rom. 10:6; Eph. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:21; 3:22) and will one day return to this earth for those who are His own (e.g. 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Tim. 6:14; Titus 2:11-14).

Thus, through their letters, Peter, Paul, and John affirm the main tenets of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Many scholars consider the testimony in Paul’s letters to be especially significant because they are usually dated earlier than the gospels (and are therefore considered the earliest biblical testimony to the facts of Jesus life).

In addition to the details of His life, the teachings of Jesus are also echoed in the rest of the New Testament. The apostle Paul emphasizes that Christ died to bring salvation to sinners (Rom. 5:6-8; Luke 19:10; John 15:13); that love fulfills the law (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14; cf. Mark 12:31); that taxes must be paid to whom they are due (Rom. 13:7; cf. Mark 12:16-17); and that Christians should not seek their own revenge (Rom. 12:17; Matt. 5:39), but rather should bless those who persecute them (Rom. 12:14; cf. Luke 6:27-28). Paul even quotes Jesus in 1 Timothy 5:18 (cf. Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7) in asserting that the laborer is worthy of his wages. Paul’s reference to faith moving mountains (1 Cor. 13:2) also seems to correspond to the words of Jesus in Mark 11:23.

Other New Testament writers, such as James and John show a similar familiarity with the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ (e.g. James 1:2 cf. Mt. 5:10-12; 1:22 cf. Mt. 7:24ff; 3:12 cf. Mt. 7:16; 2:5 cf. Mt. 5:3; 4:11-12 cf. Mt. 7:1; 5:2 cf. Mt. 6:19; 5:12 cf. Mt. 5:34-37; 1 John 1:1-3 cf. John 1:1, 14; 1:6 cf. John 8:12, 55; 2:3 cf. John 14:15, 23; 2:6 cf. John 15:4; 2:7 cf. John 13:34; 2:18 cf. Mark 13:22; 2:27 cf. John 14:16-17, 26; 3:1 cf. John 1:10; 3:2 cf. John 1:12).

All of this, of course, corresponds perfectly with the account of Jesus presented in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Jesus of the epistles does not contradict the Jesus of the Gospels. Quite the contrary, the letters of the New Testament affirm the reliability of the Gospel accounts.

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