The Nature of the Biblical Gospels. Are They Historical Fact? Or Parable?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Martin, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. Martin

    Martin
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    Are The New Testament Gospels Parables? Or Are They Fact?

    Some believe that the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are parables. They would claim that we can know little to nothing about the actually life, and teachings, of the (so-called) historical Jesus. The miracles, the virgin birth, and the resurrection are all said to be parables. Stories about Jesus that have little or no actual historical basis.

    While there are many ways one can respond to this claim, in this post, I will respond by looking at the Gospels themselves. Do the Gospels see themselves as parables? Or as historical facts? How about the Apostle's? Did they view the Gospels as parables or historical facts?

    I will start this examination with the Gospel of Luke. Does Luke believe the events/teachings that he is about to detail literally, and historically, happened? Or does he believe that they are parables? I propose that Luke believed the things he was about to write (in Luke and Acts) are actual historical events. The only parables in the Gospel of Luke are those told by Jesus Himself (see note 1).

    To prove this I want to look at the opening verses of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.

    The Gospel of Luke

    I want to focus on several points from these verses. First note that Luke is writing about "the things accomplished among us", that is actual events. Luke is not writing a nice parable about Jesus rather he is writing about the events of Jesus' life and Jesus' teachings. Secondly note that even though Luke was not an eyewitness himself he carefully studied the things handed down to him by eyewitnesses (see note 2). Luke is not writing a parable rather he is writing an historical account about events he has had to learn about. Thirdly note that, throughout Luke's Gospel, he is concerned with historical people (Caesar, Augustus, Pilate, Annas, etc) and historical events (census, reign of Tiberius, etc). Finally note that Luke is writing to Theophilus so that he would know the "exact truth about the things you have been taught". In other words Luke's opening does not read as if he is about to write a long parable. Rather it reads as if he is about to write an historical account.

    The Book of Acts.

    Please note that in reference to his first writing (the Gospel of Luke) Luke says it is an "account" of "all that Jesus" did and taught. Clearly that shows that Luke himself, the author of the Gospel, believed he was writing factual history (not myth or parable). See Note 3.

    Now that we have seen Luke's view I want to move on to the other New Testament writers (see note 4).

    Unlike Luke, John was an eyewitness to the events. In fact the Gospel of John gives several lines of evidence that it was written by an eyewitness (the same is true for Mark and Matthew). There are two examples in the Gospel of John and one example in the first epistle of John that I want to examine in this post.

    The first two examples from John comes from chapters 20 and 21 of his Gospel.

    These two statements from the Gospel of John show that the Apostle John was writing history (not parable). John writes about: (a) the signs Jesus performed (ie...attesting miracles). These are actual things Jesus Himself did. Thus we have an early historical record from an eyewitness. (b) other things Jesus "DID" that are not in John's Gospel (see note 5). So John is writing an historical document about what Jesus did and taught during His earthly ministry.

    In 1John 1 the Apostle John gives more evidence that his writings are historical/theologial accounts of Jesus' life (ie...history not myth/parable). John states:

    The Apostle John, and indeed all the Apostles (ie..."we") were proclaiming actual historical things they had seen (the life and miracles of Christ), heard (the teachings of Jesus), and touched (the actual physical resurrected Lord). He is not interested in proclaiming a myth or parable. Rather he is proclaiming real history, what actually happened.

    Therefore when people say that the Gospels are myths or parables about Jesus they are contradicting the Gospel's own witness about themselves. If the Gospels are just myth/parable then they cannot be trusted since they give false witness about themselves. However there is no evidence that the Gospels are only myths or parables. Rather there are good reasons to believe that the Gospels record actual historical events and the actual historical teachings (etc) of Jesus Christ. These reasons are both in the text of the Bible itself and outside the text itself. See note 6.

    In conclusion I would like to point to another apostle and his testimony about the nature of the Gospels. At first glance it may seem strange to quote this apostle since many think he did not write any Gospel. However there is good historical reasons to believe that the Apostle Peter is the main source for the Gospel of Mark. Not only that Peter himself is an eyewitness of the events of Jesus' life and the teachings of Jesus. In fact in this passage Peter himself confirms the historical nature of an important Gospel account.

    Peter is, of course, refering to the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-9). Notice that Peter states two very important things:

    1. The message he and the other Apostles were preaching was not myth (ie...cleverly devised tales). Rather they were proclaiming actual historical events.

    2. The events recorded in Matthew 17 were historical and not parable. They really witnessed what they said they witnessed.

    The Gospels are not myth or parable. Rather they are accurate historical accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Their accuracy is accounted for by the work of the Holy Spirit Himself (2Tim 3:16-17).


    In Christ,
    Martin

    _________________________________
    Notes:
    1. I take it that Luke 16:19-31 is not a parable. Rather it is Jesus giving us an actual example of two actual/historical men.

    2. I would include in this (a) the Gospel of Mark, (b) the Gospel of Matthew, (c) his personal relationship with the other apostles and Jesus' mother (etc).

    3. I believe there is evidence that people in the pre-enlightenment world knew the difference between factual history and myth/parable.

    4. Due to space limitations this is only a brief examination. More could be said about each point. I will also not examine, in this post, Paul's view of these matters. However I would assert that Paul viewed these events as historical as well (not myth or parable).

    5. Some of the things not recorded in John's Gospel are recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

    6. Due to space limitations I cannot examine these in this post. However I would recomend the following resources:

    "Encountering The New Testament" by Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough

    "A General Introduction to the Bible" by Norman Geisler and William Nix.

    "The Historical Reliability of the Gospels" by Craig Blomberg

    "Making Sense of the New Testament" by Craig Blomberg

    "Jesus and the Gospels" by Craig Blomberg

    "Is The New Testament Reliable" by Paul Barnett

    These books range from very simple to sort of difficult. I have omitted several more difficult/contraversial books on this subject.
     
  2. genesis12

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    Dissertation?
     
  3. Martin

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    No, just a set of ideas I have had bouncing around in my head for several weeks. Of course there is more but what I put in the post represents a fair outline. I hear certain scholars claiming that the Gospels were never meant to be understood as literal history. Rather they claim the Gospel writers meant these documents to be understood as myth or parable. My post briefly attempts to show that the Gospel writers did intend their readers to understand that the material was historical and factual in nature. Therefore the conclusion of these scholars is wrong.

    In Christ,
    Martin.
     
  4. Linda64

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    For anyone to quesion the inerrancy/inspriation of the Scripture is a definite sign that we are in the last days. Prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes.

    Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

    Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

    We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

    If we question the inerrancy/inspiration of the Gospels, then we are free to question the inerrancy/inspiration any other part of the Word of God. The Bible doesn't CONTAIN God's Word, it IS God's Word!!
     
  5. LadyEagle

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    Amen. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools..." comes to mind as a description of these "scholars."
     
  6. Linda64

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    These verses also come to mind. From 1 Cor. 1:18-21:

    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)
     
  7. Martin

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    ==AMEN!
     
  8. Debby in Philly

    Debby in Philly
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    See also "The Case for Christ" by Lee Stroebel.
     
  9. Martin

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    ==Yes that is a very good book.

    Martin.
     
  10. Charles Meadows

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    I don't know that anyone would call the gospels "parables". Liberal scholars would doubt the historicity of most of the gospels (especially John), suggesting that they were manufactured later on to support the Christian movement.

    We do have to realize that the gospels only give us a slice of Jesus' life. He lived for over 30 years - and as John tells us the entire story of His ministry could have filled thousands of books.

    The four evangelists wrote, under inspiration, the record of the parts of Jesus' life and teaching that God wanted us to have. We don't see written accounts about Jesus skipping rocks across the Jordan with apostles!
     
  11. Helen

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    If the Gospels were not historical truth, why would so many early Christians, especially, who would have known if they were not really true, have died for them?

    It's silly to think they are not historical. It is the refuge of a desperate mind which is suppressing the truth.
     
  12. Martin

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    ==John D Crossan refers to them as "parables", others have refered to them as "myths". Certainly neither believe the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They believe they were written later. Their position is that the Gospels were never meant to be taken as literal history.

    Of course I strongly disagree.


    Martin.
     
  13. genesis12

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    One who is born again will not doubt the authenticity / historicity of the gospels. They are nothing short of wonderful. [​IMG]
     
  14. Martin

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    ==Amen. You know I think you have hit on a major point there. The problem that these liberal folks (Crossan, Borg, Funk, etc) are having is not with the historical sources or the Gospels themselves (etc) but rather the problem they are having is that they are not born of God (1Jn 2:19). Since they are not saved they, through their academic study, have turned away from the truth and have thus turned to confusion. They are, in short, apostates.

    However apologetics demands (1Pet 3:15) that we deal with their arugments. This requires theological and historical study.

    In Christ,
    Martin.

    [​IMG]
     

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