Tim shares the importance of eyewitness testimony in understanding the reliability of the New Testament.
You see, the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses and close acquaintances with eyewitnesses. Over and over again, the authors of the New Testament communicate that they can be trusted because of the eyewitness testimony. Why do they do that? Why do they repeat over, and over, and over again that they’re eyewitnesses? They want you, the reader, to trust them, to take them at their word.
And so, we could read in 2 Peter—here’s what Peter says: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”—here it is—“but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the majestic glory”—this is God speaking—“‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased’”—here’s what he says, “we ourselves heard this very voice....” They were there. They were eyewitnesses. They heard the voice from Heaven, and it says, “For we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
So Peter goes out of his way to say that he didn’t follow some story that someone made up. That’s not what happened. He says, no, “we were eyewitnesses.” You see, he was there at the Mount of Transfiguration, where he heard a voice from Heaven. If you were to ask Peter, “Why should I trust you? Why should I trust you, Peter?” He would say this: “I was right there on the mountain, and as sure as you can hear my voice right now, I heard a voice from Heaven.” It wasn’t hearsay. It was eyewitness testimony.
How about John—John, another follower of Jesus Christ, a disciple? Now, John, he writes his letters late in life, and I kind of like John because he doesn’t waste time. No special greetings at the beginning of his letters. He just gets right to the point. (He’s kind of like my grandpa. You know, maybe you have a grandpa like that who’s just no nonsense, I’m not wasting time, I’m getting right to the point.)
Here’s what John says: “That which was from the beginning”—now I want you to watch for the five senses coming up here, okay? I got them highlighted on the screen—“that we have heard”—he heard—“that we have seen with our eyes, that we have looked upon”—whoa, hold on a second. Seen with our eyes and looked upon—isn’t that the same thing? See, he’s reiterating this. He’s repeating this. “[That we] have touched with our hands concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it”—there it is again—“and we testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” And he says, “That which we have seen”—there it is again—“and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.” He says, “Seen...heard...looked upon...touched...seen...seen...heard.” What’s he getting at? I’ll tell you. Here’s the translation of these verses. John is telling you, “Trust me,” okay? That’s what he’s saying. “Just trust me; I’m an eyewitness.”
How about Luke? Now, Luke’s a little different because Luke wasn’t a direct eyewitness, but he was close acquaintances with the eyewitnesses. Here’s how Luke starts: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us”—other Gospels—“and just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good for me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
So why does Luke write? Well, he wants him to have certainty of the things that have been taught. But where does the certainty come from? That’s a good question. How can we trust you, Luke? And he tells us. He followed all these things closely, and he was talking with the eyewitnesses.