Transforming Ordinary People into Extraordinary Followers of Christ

Christianity: The Basics – Historic Legend or Legendary History


Luke 1:1–4; 24:25–32

There’s nothing more foundational for the Christian than what we believe about the Bible. It is fundamental to everything we do as followers of Jesus Christ. So for the next three weeks, we are going to be doing a little mini-series on the Bible. At the very beginning and again at the very end of Luke’s gospel are statements that help us understand what the Bible is all about. 

[1] The Bible is a book about truth (Luke 1:1-4). Luke tells his readers that he’s investigated everything carefully and that what he presents is orderly, truthful, and historical. Today’s culture has a very skeptical view of the Bible. Skeptics claim that: [a] the contents of the Bible were oral legends which were gradually embellished, making it difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct the historical Jesus. They claim that [b] only later were these alleged legends written down. Finally, they claim that [c] three centuries after Christ a group of church leaders got together and threw out most of these accounts, choosing only four gospels because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John fortified their grasp on leadership positions. Luke proves these accusations to be completely false. We’ll consider them one at a time. 

[a’] Rather than embellished records of an ancient, misunderstood figure, Luke claims that his account is the product of eyewitness testimony that has been carefully preserved right from the mouth of living, surviving eyewitnesses. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (by Richard Bauckham), a major work of scholarship, completely refutes this popular, skeptical claim. Eyewitness testimony has been highly valued since ancient times—in fact, especially in ancient times, before the invention of the printing press made it easier to check primary sources. In those days, the best way for a historian to say that he didn’t make this up was to produce eyewitness testimony. That way anyone could fact-check his account. Luke’s grammar in these opening verses adhere to established historiographical language respected by ancient historians. We even know the identity of some of those eyewitnesses; they were real people, known to the original readers. 

[b’] Although skeptics claim that the gospels were written down many, many years later, after memories had dulled; P52 proves all that wrong! What is P52? It is an ancient papyrus, housed in the John Rylands Library (Manchester, UK). It is a fragment of a copy of John’s gospel and has been dated a mere 15 years after the original was written! All four gospels included in your New Testament were written that early; all four are based on eyewitness testimony (none of the so-called “gnostic gospels” which were rejected were written that early). 

[c’] There is no way the gospels helped early Christian leaders consolidate their power—the accounts of the apostles are too unflattering! These accounts clearly are not white-washed, as are the accounts of the founders of other religions, such as Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad. They are presented as dying serene deaths, surrounded by followers who are brave, and confident of their connection to God and ultimate reality. In contrast, the founder of Christianity dies crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” as his followers ran off and hid like cowards! The gospels record these unflattering stories simply because that is how it happened! 

[2] The Bible makes truth claims about a man named Jesus. What good is it to believe that the Bible is historically accurate if you misunderstand what it is actually saying? In fact, it is destructive to believe in the Bible in a general way, and yet not understand its message. In Luke 24:13-35 Jesus said that the entire Bible is all about him! (Genesis 3:15 is a promise to send Jesus, Noah’s Ark is a picture of Jesus’ salvation, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22—it’s all about Jesus! The Sermon on the Mount is not just by Jesus, it’s about him! If you aren’t devastated by the demands of the Sermon on the Mount, then you’re not reading it properly. Jesus is the only one who ever lived the Sermon on the Mount. He met its moral demands. Jesus met the moral demands we fail to meet, and then he went to the cross where he was punished in our place. Joseph, David, Moses, Jonah—they all prefigure Christ. It’s all about him!) 

When you understand God’s moral demands, but fail to see what Jesus has done for you, you will either lower its standards so that you think you’re living up to them (and thus become self-righteous) or you’ll read it carefully, realize you can’t meet this standard, and despair. But the problem is not with the Bible, but with our failure to understand its central message. It is designed to cause us to despair of self-effort and then to trust in a gracious Savior. 

[3] Bible truth is not just for the mind but for the heart. When Jesus showed how the whole Bible is about him (Luke 24:13-35), they still didn’t get it! Jesus said that they—and we—have a heart problem (v. 25), not a head problem (v. 31a)! Arguments and explanations about the Bible are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. Yes, your mind does need to be convinced that the Bible is true, but God has to open your eyes in order for you to really get it. So, if you are not sure whether you’re a Christian, then you should read a good book about the evidence for Christianity (such as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel). But I would encourage you to go beyond books—develop a friendship with a genuine Christian. Watch as they sing, as they hear and respond to Word of God preached from the Bible—see how Christianity actually works in people’s lives. 


  • The Bible is true, and you can trust it.
  • The Bible makes truth claims about Jesus, the great God-man. Embrace him as your Savior and Lord. If you would like to trust Christ as Savior, contact us here. After providing your contact information, scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second  checkbox. You can also email us at: We look forward to helping!
  • Bible truth is not just for the mind—it’s also for the heart.


Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)

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