By an unknown author some time in the 20th Century
What is the nature of the portrait of Christ painted by the evangelists? What impression was produced by Him on His contemporaries?
Although one is compelled to admit that the Gospels were written before the end of the first century and that they have definite historic value, someone might object: the witnesses might have embellished the story. Could it be that Jesus Christ was an ordinary man who has been idealized by the authors of the Gospels who added numerous details to the portrait of the Master, because they loved Him? Did their devotion stir their imaginations?
Would the authors of the Gospels be capable of such fiction? Matthew was a publican; we are not acquainted with the profession of Mark; Luke was a medical doctor, and John a simple fisherman. Three of them lacked erudition, and were ordinary men, certainly incapable of creating such a portrait, inventing such sayings, or imagining such a character.
Imaginative False Gospels
If the description of Christ furnished in the Gospels were due to the imagination of men of that generation, it would have an altogether different character. A large collection of apocryphal gospels came into existence during the second, third, and fourth centuries. These portraits of Christ reflect the concepts of these times and are bizarre caricatures of Christ and of the scenes surrounding his life. We are informed that a donkey and a cow knelt before the child in the cradle; lions and leopards worshipped Him on His way to Egypt; roses flourished under His steps; Egyptian idols fell from their throne when he entered the country. In Nazareth He killed a boy who had accidentally collided with Him on the street. Christ gave birth to twelve birds made out of clay; He criticized one of His teachers, saw to it that another one died, terrified an entire village, and finally came out of the tomb a person of gigantic proportions, stretching into the clouds.
The difference between those apocryphal stories, due to the poetic genius of man, and the simplicity of the Gospels, is striking. The portrait of Christ has not been invented, nor embellished by the evangelists. It faithfully reflects reality. These men were witnesses of the things they had seen and heard.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher and author of the eighteenth century, taught the innate goodness of man and preached a “return to nature,” thus directly opposing the message of Christ. However, he penned the following remarkable words: “If the life and death of Socrates are those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus are those of a God. Shall we say that the gospel history is mere invention? My friend, it is not so that men invent; and the facts concerning Socrates, of which no one entertains a doubt, are less attested than those concerning Jesus Christ. In reality, this supposition is only to shift the difficulty a step further back, not to banish it. It would be more inconceivable that several men should have united to fabricate that book, than that a single person should have furnished the subject of it. Jewish authors would never have invented either that style or that morality; and the gospel has marks of truth so great, so striking, so utterly inimitable, that the invention of it would be more astonishing than the hero” (Emile, Book IV)
The Gospels are Eye-witness Accounts
Read this last sentence again. The Gospels are not the result of cerebral activity of men; but the contemporaries of Christ narrated what they had heard and seen concerning the Son of Man.
“We announce to you about the Word of Life; He was from the beginning; we have heard Him; we have seen Him with these eyes; we have looked at Him and our hands have touched Him. Yes, the Life has been revealed and we have seen and are witnessing and are announcing to you the Life Eternal, who existed with the Father and has been revealed to us. We saw Him and we heard Him and are telling you, so you too may enjoy fellowship along with us. And this fellowship of ours is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3 Berkeley Version).
“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, you may have life through His name” (John 20:31, B.V.)