Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out the absurdity of those who doubt the historicity of the New Testament. In a remark biting with sarcasm against modern-day intellectuals, Scalia stated exactly what we’ve been saying regarding the motives of the New Testament writers. Namely, since the New Testament writers had nothing to gain and everything to lose, we ought to believe what they say about the Resurrection. Scalia declared “It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain…The [worldly] wise do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. So everything from Easter morning to the Ascension had to be made up by the groveling enthusiasts as part of their plan to get themselves martyred”
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 293
Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard Law School professor who wrote the standard study on what constitutes legal evidence, credited his own conversion to Christianity as having come from his careful examination, of the Gospel witnesses. If anyone knew the characteristics of genuine eyewitness testimony, it was Greenleaf. He concluded that the four Gospels “would have been received in evidence in any court of justice, without the slightest hesitation.”
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 286
Despite unending frustration with some early believers, the New Testament writers never do that. Instead of pulling rank in this way, the New Testament writers seem to stay true to what Jesus said and didn’t say. Paul, the man who wrote nearly half of the New Testament books (at least 13 of the 27) and dealt with most of the controversial problems of the church, never pulls rank. He quotes Jesus just a few times. And n one of those occasions, he goes out of his way to explicitly distinguish his own words from those of Jesus (I Corinthians 7:10-12).
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 281
While there are reasonable explanations for these difficult sayings, it doesn’t make sense that the New Testament writers would leave them in if they were trying to pass off a lie as the truth. (In fact, it doesn’t make sense that they would make up a character anything life Jesus. A weak and dying Messiah – a sacrificial lamb – is the very antithesis of a man-made hero). Again, the best explanation is that the New Testament writers were not not playing fast and loose with the facts but were extremely accurate in recording exactly what Jesus said and did.
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 279
Now think about this: If you were a New Testament writer, would you include the embarrassing details if you were making up a story? Would you write that one of your primary leaders was called “Satan” by Jesus, denied the Lord three times, hid during the crucifixion, and was later corrected on a theological issue? Would you depict yourselves as uncaring, bumbling cowards, and the women- whose testimony was not even admissible in court – as the brave ones who stood by Jesus and later discovered the empty tomb? Would you admit that some of your (the eleven remaining disciples) doubted the very Son of God after he had proven himself risen to all of you? Of course not.
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 276-277
How do we know we have independent eyewitness testimony? Because 1) each major author includes early and unique material that only eyewitnesses would know, and 2) their accounts describe the same basic events but include divergent details. Why are divergent details important? Because if the accounts were all from one source or a single editor, there would be harmonization, not divergence of details. When early accounts tell the same basic story but include divergent details, historians rightly conclude they have independent eyewitness accounts of actual historical events. The story certainly cannot be made up, because independent sources could never invent the same fictional story.
By these criteria, we know that John and Mark are independent, and we know that Luke and Matthew differ enough from Mark and from one another to be the products of independent attestation as well. So there are at least four independent sources for the basic New Testament story and, adding Paul (I Corinthians 15:8) and Peter (I Peter 1:21) to the mix, there are at least six independent sources for the Resurrection.
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 272-273
Romans historian A.N. Sherwin-White says, “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.
Classical scholar and archaeologist William M. Ramsey began his investigation into Acts with great skepticism, but his discoveries helped change his mind. He wrote:
I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.
– Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, copyright 2004, page 259-160