Lawyers are in the evidence business.  Claims are a dime a dozen and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that making a claim isn’t the same as proving a case.  The significance in the fact that so many great lawyers, judges, and legal scholars are Christians, cannot be overlooked (see here, here, and here.)

CourtroomAs pertinent evidence for a Christian worldview, the Gospel testimony to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth must be admitted in the court of public opinion.  Even more importantly, the veracity and historicity of these ancient documents would be admitted as evidence in any common court of law.  These writings assert that they are first-hand accounts of testimony to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1)  or are a product of meticulous research concerning him (Luke 1:1-4.)  Try as they might, skeptics have not been able to impugn the credibility of the Gospels.

Early dating and the criteria of authenticity reinforces the credibility of these documents. Firstly, Jesus was crucified by 30-33 AD, and by the end of the 1st century we have four full independent accounts (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) on Jesus based on early traditions that were circulating in different very early Palestinian Christian communities. Sources that date 40 – 60 years after the described events are very early by historical comparison, on this theme Mike Licona, a prominent New Testament historian, comments:

“A gap of sixty to seventy years between the writing and the events they purport to describe is quite early compared to what historians work with when it comes to other ancient biographies.” (Answering Brian Flemmings “The God Who wasn’t there.”) [1]

Secondly, according to the criteria of authenticity, William Lane Craig argues:

What these “criteria” really amount to are statements about the effect of certain kinds of evidence upon the probability of various sayings or events in Jesus’ life. For some recorded saying or event S, evidence of a certain type E, and our background information B, the “criteria” would state that, all things being equal, Pr (S|E&B) > Pr (S|B). In other words, all else being equal, the probability of some event or saying is greater given, for example, its multiple attestation than it would have been without it.

What are some of the factors that might serve the role of E in increasing the probability of some saying or event S? The following are some of the most important:

(1) Historical congruence: S fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which S is said to have occurred.
(2) Independent, early attestation: S appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which S is alleged to have occurred and which depend neither upon one another nor upon a common source.
(3) Embarrassment: S is awkward or counter-productive for the persons who serve as the source of information for S.
(4) Dissimilarity: S is unlike antecedent Jewish thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent Christian thought-forms.
(5) Semitisms: Traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebraic linguistic forms.
(6) Coherence: S is consistent with already established facts about Jesus. [2]

So, what would the greatest common-law authority on the law of evidence in the nineteenth century say? “All that Christianity asks of men on this subject is [that the testimony of the Gospels] be sifted as it were given in a court of justice….The probability of the veracity of the witnesses and of the reality of the occurrences which they relate will increase, until it acquires, for all practical purposes, the value and force of demonstration.” – Harvard professor Simon Greenleaf [3]

[1] James Bishop, Historical Jesus Studies, 1-24-15, accessed 8-16-15

[2] William Lane Craig, reasonablefaith.org, Gospel Authorship-Who Cares?, accessed 8-16-15

[3]Simon Greenleaf, Testimony of the Evangelists, accessed 8-16-15