Why is it then that modern men have such a difficult time with this subject? Why do we insist on making truth elusive? Why do so many seemingly intelligent people outright reject the testimony of the eye-witness reports found in the Gospels in favor of the fiction of the Gnostic writers whose distortions of the truth were written some two or three centuries after the fact? Why, for instance, do some seemingly intelligent people reject outright the investigative journalist Dr. Luke, whom modern Italian scholars believe to be our best source on first century history, in favor of such obviously spurious works as the Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Thomas and other so called "lost documents?"
Let me be blunt. Those who prefer the Gnostic writings over the Gospel reports begin with a heart decision and then construct possibilities of the mind which they then present as truth. The Greek Philosopher Plato, describing his view on Atheism, wrote "Atheism is a disease of the soul before it becomes an error of understanding." Think the same charge can safely be laid at the feet of anyone who prefers speculation and fiction to the facts of history. The Apostle Peter, speaking of such skeptics, observed, "Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires" (2 Peter 3:3, NLT). Peter says essentially the same thing Plato says: their heads are subject to their hearts. They don't want God's truth because they want their own way.
Paul repeats the charge: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness," (Romans 1:18, NIV). Notice the suppression of truth here is a result of a determined moral course, not a studied mental conviction.
A prominent university professor observed that ,"if historians used the same standards they apply to Biblical history on the rest of history, we would have to close up shop and go home, because we could never discover anything about anything." Given the current open mindedness of our modern academic system, such comments if attributed would result in censure, if not loss of tenure and dismissal. In our academic circles it is permissible to dismantle religion, but a statement such as the one above which could be seen as supporting religion is unacceptable.
Watch any of the television specials aimed at discovering the real Jesus, or read any of our national magazines which may devote an issue to the subject and the name John Dominic Crossan is sure to appear. Mr. Crossan, like Martin Buber is convinced that the Jesus of scripture is not the Jesus of history and has made it his goal to demystify Jesus, rendering him a good man but not God in the flesh.
Read much of Mr. Crossan and you discover that one of the pillars of his belief system is based upon evidence found in a document entitled the Secret Gospel of Mark. This "gospel" (which is no gospel) reduces Jesus to a mere mortal and also hints he was a practicing homosexual.
Crossan argues that this document is much more reliable than the gospel of Mark. Why does he believe that? Only because it supports his presuppositions. The facts about this Secret Gospel of Mark reveal that it is a 20th century forgery. Proven. Yet those who seek to deny the claims of scripture will elevate and promote a 20th century forgery and try to early date it to pre-Markian era and then claim it has more validity than the actual Gospel of Mark which was actually written somewhere around 55 AD.
We accept the accuracy of Plato's writings though the earliest copy we have of them is dated 3,000 years after his death. Historians tell us such a time span is negligible and we can be certain that what we have from him is accurate. Yet these same historians tell us that documents that can be dated to mere years after the original writings render them unreliable. I for one am betting my life and my eternity on the evidence for the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.