Unless you prefer a meaningless fantasy trip, I am forced to keep citing the most ancient, most attested and most historically accurate documents we have about Jesus. There are several criteria one must consider:|
* How soon after Jesus’ death the document was written
* The time gap between the writing of the account and the earliest surviving manuscripts
* The number of surviving ancient manuscripts
* The degree of agreement among the ancient manuscripts
* The extent to which geographical, cultural and historical details in the account agree with facts known from other sources
* The reliance upon eyewitnesses and careful investigation of the facts (a rarity in ancient times).
The documents that stand head and shoulders above any other contenders happen to be the ancient library now known as the New Testament. For an example of the care taken, see Luke 1:1-4. For confirmation that these documents are without rival, see F. F. Bruce The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
To avoid giving an inflated impression of how frequently Jesus did or said various things, I have striven to avoid citing additional accounts of the same event in other Gospels.
Although in authenticity and dependability, no other source of information about Jesus remotely approaches the diverse writings that now form the New Testament, a few skeptics wonder whether all this detailed documentation of Jesus’ life and teaching might have somehow been doctored by Jewish sympathizers to remove all reference to India and to Indian influence on Jesus. We will see later why it is not feasible to suppose such doctoring of multiple accounts (all of which we now know were completed close in time to the events they record and accurately preserved since then). But here’s the clincher: how could those who compiled these records think of themselves as faithful followers of Jesus – as the writers clearly considered themselves to be – while being so ashamed of Jesus as to deliberately mutilate accounts of his teaching?
More disturbing still: it is an insult to God himself to suppose that these ancient accounts of Jesus’ ministry might have prejudicially removed reference to key aspects of Jesus’ life. If Jesus’ staggering claims are true, such as “No one comes to [God] the Father except through me” (John 14:6), for Almighty God to have allowed the record of Jesus’ message to have been lost or distorted for subsequent generations would be a tragedy beyond belief. Moreover, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).
What makes it such an insult to query the accuracy of the records is that Jesus, after devoting considerable prayer, handpicked the twelve apostles to personally train them as the custodians of his message and he commissioned them to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). See Documented Proof. To them he declared, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:8).
If being Jewish created a bias that Jesus objected to, why did he entrust exclusively to them the responsibility of being the earliest, most critically important custodians of his message? In fact, Jesus kept insisting that it was no historical accident that certain people were the original carriers of his message. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you . . .” (John 15:16) he told the select few of whom he said, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you,” ( Matthew 10:18-20). For more documented proof, see Chosen. And at the end of his earthly mission it was to them that he said, “. . . As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. . . . If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven,” (John 20:21,23).
On top of that, Jesus proclaimed that after his death he would always be with them through God’s Spirit and that they would be divinely empowered with special abilities that would supernaturally equip them both to accurately recall Jesus’ message and to understand its spiritual meaning:
John 14:26; 15:15,19,20,26,27; 16:12,13,15 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. . . . I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. . . . If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. . . . When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. . . . the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (Emphasis mine.)
If their Jewish background gave them a bias that Jesus objected to, why did he entrust exclusively to them the responsibility of being the earliest, most critically important, custodians of his message? Furthermore, in one of the only recorded instances of Jesus ever conversing with a non-Jew, he declared, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews,” (John 4:22). Since Jesus opted not to leave behind any of his own writings, almost nothing in the universe was as critical as the responsibility of those he chose to transmit his message to subsequent generations. There is even a sense in which their role was greater than Jesus’ because if they failed it would have rendered Jesus’ life and death a waste. If Jesus got wrong his choice of people to transmit his message, he is not the eternal Son of God but a fallible human who could neither foresee nor influence the future. This would make him unworthy to be followed as a spiritual leader, much less worshipped.
In reality, Jesus always knew exactly what he was doing. He knew, for example, that Judas would betray him and that Peter and the other disciples would deny him but afterward be faithful (Documented Proof).
To zero in on the bare facts of Jesus’ teaching and shun Christian interpretation or bias, I will primarily cite the actual recorded words of Jesus and mostly side-step mentioning comments in the Gospels make by the authors. I will also largely avoid mentioning other significant early Christian writings (the rest of the Christian Bible). This voluntary restriction is despite the fact that:
(1) they reinforce my arguments
(2) besides the Gospels themselves, these are the writings of people who were more familiar with Jesus’ life and message than anyone else from whom we can gain information and the ones to whom Jesus entrusted the transmission of his message.
I should confess my own bias. I am not in any sense a Jew; neither (to my knowledge) by remote ancestry, nor by religion. Neither am I an Indian.