As I mentioned before, a long time ago, a Muslim challenged me to provide a forensic defense of the Gospels. He claimed that compared to Islam, the Gospels had no verifiable evidence of even the existence of Jesus. In fact, he, point blank stated that evidence for the truth of the Gospels would be thrown out of court!
So, is it true that the case for the truth of the Gospels would be thrown out of court? I don't think so.
I guess, the first question to ask is, on what grounds would they be thrown out? The rules of court are very orderly and well documented. There are reasons for which evidence is sometimes thrown out of court, but the Gospels pass this criteria.
Types of evidence that are inadmissible in court
1. Hearsay - Evidence given by anyone other than by the person giving the testimony.
2. Copies of maliciously destroyed originals
Are the Gospels examples of either of these types of evidence? No. The Gospels are examples of eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is acceptable in every court of the world.
1. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John are the personal accounts of the eyewitnesses.
2. The Gospel of Luke is the account of an interested party who interviewed the eyewitnesses.
Let's go through the Gospels in order
First of all, Matthew is one of Jesus' Apostles. That means that he is Jesus follower and contemporary who witnessed many of Jesus miracles as well as His Resurrection. So, Matthew is an eyewitness. Eyewitness testimony is permitted in court.
Then there's Mark. Mark is not an Apostle, but a disciple. From Church tradition, we know that Mark is Peter's secretary, also a contemporary of Jesus and one of the disciples who was with the twelve from the beginning. Mark's gospel however, is the penning of Peter's testimony by Mark. So, Mark's Gospel can be considered Peter's eyewitness testimony and substantiation of Matthew's Gospel.
Luke's Gospel is written by a learned man. A physician. Luke however, was not with the twelve from the beginning. He may have witnessed Jesus' resurrection but certainly he witnessed the miracles of the Apostles and of Paul, whose companion he became. These things he wrote about also in his other book, the Acts of the Apostles. So, Luke's Gospel is not eyewitness testimony. It is however, the documentation of eyewitness testimony by an investigator. Luke says so himself:
Luke1: 1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us; 2 According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: 3 It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed.
And that leaves John. John, of course, is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He, therefore, is also a contemporary and an eyewitness. John's Gospel was written after the first three, or synoptic Gospels and corroborates their accounts. But, he also includes in his Gospel many things which the others omitted. Therefore, John's Gospel is eyewitness testimony which substantiates and corroborates the other eyewitnesses.
So, how might the case for the Gospels go had it been brought to court? (It actually did go to court, see Acts 4:1-23 and Acts 5:17-42. But I'm envisioning a more modern setting.)
Mr. Simon bar Jonah to the stand please!
Peter! They're calling for you!
Here I am sir! My name has officially been changed to Peter, if you don't mind.
Who changed your name to Peter?
Jesus Christ sir.
Is Jesus Christ here present?
Yes sir. But in the Spirit. However, my brethren are here and they were witnesses to the event.
Who are these witnesses?
Well, there are many, but would four suffice?
That is more than enough. What are their names?
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Are they the four whose testimonies I have read?
There are some incredible things written in those documents. Do you expect us to believe them?
Yes sir. 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet 1).
Well, compared to that Mohammed fellow, you have plenty of witnesses. Can you imagine he tried to pass off his 40 secretaries as witnesses? All they did was write what he told them to write. Not only that, but some fellow named Uthman came along and burned all their original writings and substituted his copy claiming it was better than the original. I wasn't born yesterday!
I look forward to hearing your case Mr. Peter.
It's St. Peter, sir. Thank you!
So, in my opinion, there is much more evidence for the Gospels than there is for Islam.