As followers of Jesus, we often encounter questions regarding the Bible’s reliability. Doubts concerning its accuracy are often a challenge for people when considering Christian beliefs. However, bridging the gaps in our understanding helps us build a solid foundation for spiritual growth and maturity.
For many, the challenge is in trusting that Bible writers and translators present an accurate reflection of what Jesus really said. Author Jonathan Clerke is an experienced Bible teacher, and has recently written a book called Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?
Curiosity About Jesus
Jonathan recently joined us on 20Twenty to discuss the approach he took to writing the book, without presuming that the reader had any prior knowledge of Christianity.
‘If you put yourself into the shoes of someone who doesn’t already love Jesus,’ says Jonathan, ‘you don’t want to read a book that assumes you know an awful lot about Him when you actually don’t. Books that are written for a non-Christian audience need to make sure that they don’t assume too much.’
Jonathan believes that addressing these topics in a way that is accessible to non-Christians means they are less likely to feel threatened. He also says that curiosity about Jesus is often piqued in people as they interact with Christian friends and colleagues.
‘It’s what they understand as being true,’ says Jonathan. ‘People don’t think of these thoughts that they have necessarily even as being questions. They come along with the assertion that the New Testament was not copied accurately over time.’
While some people are skeptical about what Jesus really said, there is another whole dimension of those who question whether the writers were able to copy accurately. When it comes to the credibility of the Bible, there are several things that people continue to question.
‘What I was thinking as I wrote every sentence of my book,’ says Jonathan, ‘is that I wanted people to see the evidence for themselves. These days, everyone knows that you can easily find a professor who comes up with a pithy quote to say whatever you want them to say. But what counts is the reason and the foundation for their opinion.’
Jonathan spent a lot of effort helping people to see the evidence for themselves so they could make their own judgements. The idea of the book is to take people on a journey of discovery. It doesn’t assume they know much about Jesus or a lot about history or the Greek language. But it’s content rich and it is very well referenced for people to see the evidence.
Jesus As Healer
‘The first thing was helping people to see that it was actually part of the culture to take notes while you had a teacher in front of you,’ says Jonathan. ‘They even had shorthand capabilities.’
The second thing Jonathan focuses on is helping people understand that Jesus sent His disciples out on practice missions. When they came back, He would teach them to hone their skills. No doubt he repeated the same lessons over and over again.
‘You had the disciples being specifically chosen and trained by Jesus to be disciples,’ says Jonathan. ‘I find so many people think of Jesus as a healer, but not many people actually realise that He was called a teacher over 40 times.’
We also know about Jesus from other sources apart from the four gospels. These sources were sometimes people with a totally different worldview as well. And that also helps us to understand how we can get an accurate historical picture.
‘What stands out to one will be different to what stands out to another,’ says Jonathan. ‘But with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we have a great revelation of what Jesus said and did that answers all of our questions.’
Listen to Jonathan’s full interview on 20Twenty below: