The ring of truth
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIVUK)
When something is said to have the ‘ring of truth’ it indicates that it is genuine; the term alludes to the practice of judging a genuine coin by its ‘ring’ or sound.
The focus of the four Gospels is on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as well as his teachings, yet embedded in these accounts are details that are not essential to the main themes of the gospels. These incidental details, when shown to be correct, reinforce the veracity of the Gospels and add the ‘ring of truth’ to the deeper truths revealed in those accounts.
The Gospel writers display a familiarity with the time and places they write about, including the local architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, and weather. The wealth of information given is too much to encompass in this short study, but a flavour is given below.
Between them the Gospel writers mention 26 towns or villages which include not only famous places like the religious capital Jerusalem, but also small villages such as Bethany, Bethphage, Ephraim, Sychar and the little-known village of Chorizim. They also refer to 13 regions such as the well-known regions of Judea and Galilee and lesser-known areas such as Abilene, Zebulun, and Trachonitis.
The Gospels also refer to several diverse bodies of water. The relatively small pools of Siloam and Bethesda and the much larger Sea of Galilee, also the brook of Kidron and the larger river Jordan. It is interesting to note that Luke, who traditionally came from Antioch on the Orontes not far from the Mediterranean, probably had a broader view of geography and called the Sea of Galilee a lake (Luke 5:1).
Other places mentioned are the field of blood, Gabbatha, Gethsemane, Golgotha, Mount of Olives, Sheep Gate and Solomon’s Colonnade.
Such details indicate that no Gospel writer gained all his knowledge from the other Gospels since each contains unique information. For example, the field of blood and the town of Rama and region of Zebulun occur only in Matthew. The town of Dalmanutha occurs only in Mark, and the towns of Emmaus and Zarephath and the region of Abilene occur only in Luke.
This complex matrix of verifiable minor details given in the Gospels lends support to the case for their trustworthiness and hence the reliability of the deeper spiritual truths that they reveal, including Jesus’ message repeated in all four Gospels: to follow him.
Father, we thank you for the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts concerning our saviour Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Eddie Marsh
Reference: Can We Trust the Gospels? Peter J Williams, Crossway 2018
About the writer:
Eddie Marsh attends the Sheffield congregation of Grace Communion International.
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