Dr. Harold J. Sala
Guidelines For Living
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” John 18:38
A sign carried by a demonstrating student on a university campus read, “JESUS, YES! CHRISTIANITY, NO!” Was the student rejecting the distorted picture of Christianity which is often projected–the image of someone who goes to church yet whose life has been unaffected by the message? Does this mean that the demonstrator related to Jesus as a revolutionary, as someone who stood against the crowd and certainly against the established government and authority of His day? Or does that mean He stood for the real, the authentic, the genuine Christ who spoke the truth and gave His life that those who believe in Him could have everlasting life?
I’m uncertain! But I do know one thing. Those who are sincere, who want the truth, will find it. Jesus gave seekers a promise when He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).
This, of course, raises another issue. Where do I find this certainty and can I be sure that the original message Jesus brought hasn’t been tampered with by some well-meaning but deceived individual who wants to further his own agenda?
Four men–known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–were biographers of Jesus Christ and gave to us a record of His life. These are the principle sources or documents attesting to who Jesus is, what He did, and what He said. True, others wrote of Him, including Tacitus and Sutonius, Roman historians; Josephus, a Jew who threw his lot with the Romans; and a few others whose contributions are minimal.
For those who are sincere, there are four issues which must be considered.
Issue #1: The authenticity of the records including their reliability and purity. Scholars have spent their lives studying this issue, and the deeper they dig, the more convinced they are that the record is trustworthy. Some existing portions of the Gospel of John can be dated to 125 AD, no more than a generation removed from when he wrote his Gospel. More than 40 manuscripts of the Gospels exist that are 1000 years old or older, with the finest that include both the Old and New Testaments dating between 325 AD and 500 AD. Whether you like what Jesus said or dislike it, you can’t make a major case out of the record being corrupted.
Issue #2: The moral character of the eyewitnesses. In any court of law, an issue of prime importance is the credibility of the witnesses. A judge wants to know, “Did they have any motive which would have led to distorting the truth?” Matthew was a tax collector. Mark was a young man, a close friend of Peter, in whose home the early church met. Luke, probably the only Gentile to write some of the New Testament, was a Syrian physician, and the companion of Paul on some of his missionary journeys. Though not an eye-witness to everything he wrote about, he was part of the fabric of the early church and had no reason to distort the truth. John, the fourth biographer, was probably the youngest of the twelve, who were closest to Jesus. On the cross, Jesus asked him to take care of his mother–no flaws in his character.
Issue #3: Changed lives. These four biographers, with the possible exception of John, paid for their faiths in the currency of suffering and a martyr’s death. Following the resurrection, everywhere they went they proclaimed what they had seen.
Issue #4: The testimony of archaeology, which includes documenting the fact that Pontius Pilate was a government official, that the House of Caiaphas existed, and that many of the places referred to in the Gospels existed, just as the writers told us.
Knowing the truth brings assurance that the record is trustworthy and that what Jesus Christ promised is valid. Faith is your response to the truth, and it’s the part no one can do but yourself.