Was Jesus a Guru, a Lama, or Lord? Part 2

Many have claimed the real story of Jesus is different from the records of the New Testament. As early as the second century different cults were claiming to have found new information. All claimed the lost years of Jesus’ childhood as their basis. In Part 1 of this series we discussed the new form this has taken in recent years where Jesus is claimed to have travelled to India to become a Buddhist. The article that focused this point was James Hanson’s “Was Jesus a Buddhist?” He claimed that history and dogma proved this claim. He utilized Jesus’ lost childhood years to show when this supposedly happened. We have already addressed in Part 1 the New Testament does not know of lost years. Through summary statements of the past we saw the Gospels knew exactly where Jesus was – Nazareth. We demonstrated by the reactions of the people of Nazareth that they were not surprised by a supposed reappearance of a forgotten person but by a questioning about the claims about one whom they knew had grown up in their community.

The New Testaments reliability is demonstrated in the small time gap between event and record written down by the eyewitnesses. There is a time gap between the writing of the New Testament and the events it recorded. This is not the question, though. The real question is how long is the gap? The longer the gap the more likely the occurrence of legendary and mythical materials with in the document. Baseline to this is around 250 years1 A legend take time to grow, develop, and gain influence. Without sufficient time to develop, a legend becomes incredibly hard to propagate. Too close to the timeframe, it can be shown to be false. Time is also needed for a document to circulate, but the shorter the timespan the more likely the testimony recorded is reliable.

The key event and conclusion for the gospels is the crucifixion of Jesus. This should then be the baseline to measure the timeframe. Scholars favor 30 AD.2 If it takes a hundred years or better to develop legendary material then there may be issues if the gospels were written in the second century (c.130 AD). Most church fathers were quoting all of the gospels by 100 AD3 In order to quote a text as authoritative it must have been in circulation and recognized as carrying authority by that time. The texts could not have been fresh off the press and counted as authoritative in the theological debate. Most of the gospels, then, must have been written before 100 AD. In fact, many scholars estimate that the latest written gospel is John coming in at around 90 AD.4 For the other three though it gets interesting. The dating of the other three as well as other New Testament writings can be attested to through the Book of Acts as it is the second volume to Luke’s gospel and Don demonstrates in “Interrupting Ehrman: Are There Biblical Contradictions?” Mark would have come before both – if priority is given to his gospel.5 The events recorded in Acts all take place pre-65 AD, and none of the major events (Paul’s martyrdom and the fall of Jerusalem) for the church are recorded. This leads scholars to place the date prior to 65 AD,6 which in turn would place Luke in the early 60’s and Mark earlier still.7 Further Mark, testified by the ancients to be the author of that gospel, died around 61 AD (Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Second Edition. Nottingham: Apollos, 2007, p 25-26). This would force the latest date for Mark’s gospel to be no later than 60 AD and more likely in the 50s AD.

Remember the key events happened in 30 AD. If we take 60 AD to be the recording of the events, we are only looking at a 30 year or less time differential. This leaves no room for legendary material to develop. The facts could have been checked. Further this doesn’t even address what Paul leaves for us in Galatians and 1 Corinthians 15 both of which were probably written around or before 55 AD 8 and as Don pointed out in “Interrupting Ehrman: Are There Biblical Contradictions?,” this creed was developed in the early to mid-30s and Paul received it in the late 30s to mid-40s. The evidence in Galatians and 1 Corinthians 15 is that both oral tradition maintained since the events took place.9 The timeframe then becomes smaller, pressing right up against the actual events. This period is not sufficiently long enough to garner legends. Rather it is sufficiently short to allow for eyewitness evidence.

The gospels are riddled with eyewitness testimony. Luke begins his gospel explaining that he has gathered the eyewitness testimony and source material for the accounts he is about to give (Luke 1:1-4). The gospel is not one of a crafty narrator, but of a historian or lawyer presenting evidence before people for consideration. It is does not appear to be a copy-cat claim either. The gospels consistently get names, dates and places correct in their correspondences10 The documents breathe of accounts of people who were there.11 These are not narratives made up in a faraway country where some nobody was trying to prove a point by fairy tales, but of people testifying to what they saw and heard. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is bold enough to challenge anyone who disbelieves to go ask over 500 eyewitnesses. These documents breathe of their testimony, match each other, and are close enough to the events as to not allow for faulty memory or fiction or corruption. In any court case four agreeing witnesses would be sufficient to close a case.

The eyewitness testimony and short timeframe from the event to recording leaves little room for these documents to be claimed as unreliable. This is a fundamental issue. Reliability begets authority. If in a court case a witness is found unreliable in their facts, they are not credible. If they are not credible, they cannot bring any authoritative information to bear on a trial. It is the same with the New Testament. If it is shown unreliable it loses all authoritative value. Yet the gospels were written too soon after the events to allow for legendary material, and the indication of eyewitness testimony does not leave room for fictitious events. If the gospels are reliable then they are the authority to the life of Jesus. This rules out any question of lost years. As discussed in Part 1 the gospels places Jesus in Nazareth during His childhood not India. But should there be any other question a quick look into archeology should be sufficient. To this we will turn to in the next article.Ω

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  1. Groothuis, Douglas. Revealing the New Age Jesus: Challenges to Orthodox Views of Christ, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990, p 121
  2. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981 , 6
  3. F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988 , pp 125-127 and Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Second Edition. Nottingham: Apollos, 2007, p 205
  4. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, p 7
  5. see Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Second Edition. Nottingham: Apollos, 2007, p 37-47 for full discussion
  6. Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, p 340-343
  7. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, p 7
  8. Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, p 441 and 458, Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Second Edition, Nottingham: Apollos, 2007, p 284
  9. Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, p 441 and 458, Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Second Edition, Nottingham: Apollos, 2007, p 284
  10. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, p 9
  11. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, pp 42-43 and 123
  Cults and Religions, Eastern Mysticism, Hinduism, Jesus a Buddhist, Liberal Left, Liberal Theology, Lost Years of Jesus, mysticism, New Age, Political Correctness, Politically Incorrect Jesus, Relativism, Scripture, Theology

About Aaron Wright

Aaron is a passionate believer in Jesus Christ. He serves at Horizon Christian Fellowship of Golden as an associate pastor and as an intern with Bill Honsberger at Haven Ministries. His desire is to know the Lord, serve His people, and reach those who have no hope or know the truth. He graduated with honors in 2011 earning a dual bachelor of arts degree in theology and psychology. While in college Aaron's faith was severely tested by the disbelief of orthodox Christianity which ravaged the Christian schools he attended. God is faithful and met him by strengthening his faith and giving him a passion to reach those who have either not known or forsaken the Gospel. Aaron strives to know sound doctrine and meet those outside the faith with love and truth. The driving conviction God met him with in college deserves full quotation here, "The prophets (teachers) prophesy falsely, the priest (leaders) lead by their own power, and My people love to have it so, but what will you do in the end?" (Jeremiah 5:31). Lord though none go with us still we will follow (Jesus Paid It All).

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