Who is Jesus? A study in the gospel of Luke† ††††††††††††††††† Week 1


I.† Is the New Testament historically reliable? (Luke 1:1-4)

A.† The testimony of the author.

1.† Luke claims to be writing history, not fiction, drawn from older written sources, eyewitness testimony, and personal investigation (Lk. 1:1-4)


B.† The documentary evidence.

1.† Non-Christian historians Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Suetonius (along with a few others) all mention Jesus

2.† These accounts confirm the major events in Jesusí life and several minor details about Jesus and the early church mentioned in the New Testament


C.† The manuscript evidence

1.† We have far more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient writing (NT: 24,000 manuscripts.† Iliad: 600 manuscripts)

2.† The gap between the writing of the NT and the first physical manuscripts is far smaller than for any other ancient writing (NT: 30-100 years.† Iliad: 400 years)

3.† The differences in the manuscripts are mostly minor and the abundance of manuscripts allows us to reconstruct the originals with high confidence


D.† The archeological evidence

1.† No modern archeologist or historian denies that the setting of the New Testament gospels was the real, historic world of the 1st century Roman empire

2.† Archeologists have unearthed numerous artifacts, inscriptions, burial boxes, and buildings which confirm major and minor details of the NT.† For example, a small sample of the evidence includes: the burial box of the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-67), the burial box of Jesusí brother James (Mark 6:3), the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28), Jacobís well (John 4), the pool at Bethesda (John 5:1-14), the pool at Siloam (John 9:1-14), the theater at Ephesus (Acts 19:29), and Herodís palace at Caesarea (Acts 23:33-35). 


E.† The eyewitness evidence

1.† The gospels agree on all the major events of Jesus life, but show diversity in emphasis and content in minor details, consistent with eyewitness testimony

2.† The gospels record events and sayings that would have been embarrassing to the early church and confusing to early Christians.

3.† Several internal features indicate eyewitness testimony, including the fact that the proper names in the NT match the frequency of names used in Judea prior to (but not subsequent to) 70 A.D.







II.† What is Jesusí central message?† (Luke 4:14-19)

††††††††††† A.† Jesus central message is about himself

1.† In this first moment of public ministry recorded in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is giving us his mission statement.

††††††††††††††††††††††† 2.† Jesus deliberately selected the Scripture that he chose to read

††††††††††††††††††††††† 3.† Jesus saw himself as Godís unique representative as predicted by Isaiah

††††††††††† B.† Jesus central message is news, not advice

††††††††††††††††††††††† 1.† Jesus came not primarily to teach, but to heal and rescue (see Luke 19:10)


Suggested discussion questions:


1.† Were there any other reliable writings about Jesus that werenít included in the gospels?

2.† How could the disciples of Jesus remember all of his teaching accurately?

3.† What other evidence do we have that the gospels are eyewitness testimony?

4.† Are the New Testament gospels the earliest source of information we have about Jesus?