I am confident the Gospels were written early and were not corrupted or altered over time. As a new investigator of the claims of Christianity, I examined the case for early dating and became convinced the Gospels were written within the generation of the eyewitnesses. But how do we know whether or not the early accounts were corrupted over the years? One way to test the content of the Gospels as they were passed down from generation to generation is to simply compare what was written about the Gospels by those who had direct contact with the eyewitnesses. I’ve written about the New Testament Chain of Custody in Cold-Case Christianity; when testing the validity of a piece of evidence in a particular case, we need to establish who handled the evidence from the time it was first collected to the time it is presented in trial. When it comes to the Gospel eyewitness accounts, we must examine what the students of the Gospel authors said about the text, then what their students said, then what the next generation said, and continue this examination down through history, comparing the statements and quotes to determine if the message of Scripture has changed. Today, I’ll provide an example with the Chain of Custody from the Apostle John (additional “chains” can be found in Cold-Case Christianity).
John (6-100AD) was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of James. While a young man, John witnessed the life of Jesus and saw firsthand many of the amazing miracles Jesus performed. John also witnessed the Resurrection. John wrote his Gospel as an eyewitness account, accurately reflecting the truth related to what he observed as a disciple of Jesus. This Gospel is a critical piece of evidence from the “crime scene” and John taught three important students and passed his Gospel into their trusted hands. These three men (Ignatius, Papias and Polycarp) became important early Church leaders in their own right and wrote about what they learned from John.