Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Vision (2/14/13): Criterion of Embarrassment

How do we know that what the four Biblical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) record about Jesus is true?

One standard that faithful interpreters through the years have appealed to when interpreting and defending the Bible is called “the criterion of embarrassment.”  What does this mean?  It means that the Gospels tend to include descriptions of things in their accounts of the life of Jesus that might, on the surface, be considered to be embarrassing either to Jesus or to the disciples.

Here are some examples:

          Matthew 28:17 says that when the eleven disciples saw the risen Jesus they worshipped him.  It then adds:  “But some doubted.”

          Mark 3:21 records that at one point early in his ministry  “the friends” (KJV; NKJV:  “His own people”) of Jesus “went out to lay hold of Jesus for they said, He is beside himself.”

          Mark 8:33 says that Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get thee behind me Satan!”

          Luke 24:11 records that when the women reported the empty tomb to the apostles they were not initially impressed:  “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”

          John 7:5 reports:  “For neither did his brethren believe him.”

The point is that such statements would not have been things that the early church would have been likely to fabricate (make up out of thin air) concerning Jesus or his disciples.  They have a ring of authenticity to them.  The Gospel writers would not have recorded them unless they were true.  The fact that the Gospel writers include such “embarrassing” statements tells us that they had a concern truthfully to report the facts of Jesus’ life.  They were not literarily “air-brushing” or “photoshop-ing” the life of Jesus.  They tell the unvarnished truth, warts and all.  Of course, the Gospels go on to tell how those wavering disciples and unbelieving family members were eventually fully convinced that Jesus is the Christ, and they were willing to abandon all to follow him. Even the reports of their embarrassing weaknesses, in the end, affirm the power of Christ.

The “criterion of embarrassment” is one proof that we can trust the veracity of the Gospels.

Grace and Peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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