The Biography of Jesus Christ: Was He Real?

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Is there a biography of Jesus Christ? Is Jesus’s biography in the Bible proof that Jesus was real?

The biography of Jesus Christ is told mainly in the gospels and the New Testament. Lee Strobel argues that the biography of Jesus Christ is mostly accurate, and serves as proof that Christ was real.

Read more about the biography of Jesus Christ below.

Is The Biography of Jesus Christ Believable?

One important part of the question of whether or not Christ was real is to consider the biography of Jesus Christ. Strobel begins his investigation by interviewing Dr. Craig Blomberg, a renowned biblical scholar and author of the book The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. (The four gospels are, in essence, biographies of Jesus.) Strobel picks Blomberg because, although he’s a man of faith, he can be trusted not to paper over gaps in the historical record: He is known to have grappled with the objections to Christianity and nevertheless maintained his belief. The biography of Jesus Christ is told through the gospels:

The Gospels

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

The Synoptic Gospels

One of the primary points of controversy surrounding the first three gospels (also known as the “Synoptic” gospels) is their authorship: Did Matthew, Mark, and Luke truly write the gospels to which their names are attached? And are the reliable about the biography of Jesus Christ?

The answer is yes. Although scholars don’t know for certain who wrote each gospel, early church testimony is uniform on the subject of the authorship of the first three gospels. According to writings by Papias (125 AD) and Irenaeus (180 AD), Matthew, a tax collector also known as Levi, was the author of the first gospel; John Mark, a disciple of Peter, was the author of the second gospel; and Luke, Paul’s companion and physician, was the author of “The Gospel of Luke” and “Acts.” It is unlikely that commentators like Papias and Irenaeus would lie about the authorship of these texts: As a tax collector, Matthew was probably not much favored during Jesus’s time, and Mark and Luke weren’t even among Jesus’s twelve apostles. When later writers created apocryphal (in other words, fictitious) gospels, they used more famous figures like Philip, Peter, and Mary. 

There is some debate, however, when it comes to the authorship of John’s gospel, the fourth gospel when is comes to Jesus’s biography. An early Christian writer named Papias refers to the author both as John the apostle and John the elder, and it’s unclear whether they’re two different people or the same person; there’s also evidence of an “editor” modifying the very end of John’s gospel. Papias’s writings notwithstanding, the testimony unanimously points to John the apostle as author. So what does this mean for the biography of Christ?

The Incompleteness of the Synoptic Gospels

When we pick up a biography in a bookstore, we expect the story to begin with the subject’s birth—or even before it—and proceed to the subject’s death (if the subject of the biography is already deceased). But this is not true for the biography of Christ. the biographies offer only a partial account of Jesus’s life. 

It’s important to remember that ancient biographies are quite different from the biographies we might buy in our local bookstore. In the ancient world, biographies had a didactic function: that is, they were meant to teach readers lessons rather than depict their subject’s entire life. So Mark, for example, felt no compunction about minimizing Jesus’s early years in favor of the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion.

There’s also a theological reason for the gospels’ selective approach to Jesus’s biography. Jesus’s teachings derive their authority from his divinity—his death and resurrection, which provided atonement for the sins of humanity. Because this event is the most important part of Jesus’s story, it stands to reason his biographers would concentrate on it.

The Question of Q

“Q” is scholars’ shorthand for “Quelle,” German for “source.” This is an important part of the biography of Christ. Analysts of the first three gospels have determined that Mark’s gospel was written prior to Matthew’s and Luke’s, and that Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels not only draw on Mark’s, but also include material from an anonymous text, “Q.” Q comprises a compilation of Jesus’s sayings without any narrative to connect them.

Some skeptics have claimed that the existence of “Q” undermines the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’s life because it doesn’t feature miracles. But, though there’s no narration of miracles in Q, Jesus does speak of miracles he’s performed. Because Q predates the Synoptic Gospels, these references provide strong evidence of Jesus’s divinity.

(Another curiosity is why Matthew and Luke, who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’s works, would rely on Mark’s gospel, which was a second-hand account based on the recollections of Peter. Blomberg responds that Peter was closer to Jesus than Matthew or Luke, and so Mark’s gospel, as a representation of Peter’s account, contained information neither Matthew nor Luke could know.)

The Earliest Account

It’s worth remembering when considering the biography of Jesus Christ that the books of the New Testament don’t appear in the order in which they were written. In fact, the earliest sections of the New Testament to be composed are Paul’s letters (written between 40–50 AD), which themselves feature elements from an oral tradition dating back to within a few years of Jesus’s death. A key example appears in 1 Corinthians 15. This passage finds Paul repeating the creed of Jesus’s death, resurrection, and appearance to his apostles and followers. If Paul was told of these events shortly after his conversion to Christianity—which took place in the mid-30s AD—that means that Jesus’s divinity was accepted fact in the immediate aftermath of his death. In other words, the earliest accounts of Jesus in the New Testament support the theology of the gospels. 

The Biography of Jesus Christ: Was He Real?

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Case for Christ summary:

  • How an atheist lawyer-journalist researched Christ and began believing
  • The key arguments against the existence of Christ, and why they don't hold up
  • How to make up your own mind about whether Christ existed

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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