Historians take note of potentially embarrassing elements found in historical documents. Why? Because those who are writing true history don’t normally include things that might turn their face red. If you are embellishing something, you leave all that stuff out!

This is why the potentially embarrassing elements of the Gospels are a significant part of their historicity. Notice these accounts from the Gospel of Mark taken from Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy in their excellent new book Lord or Legend: Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma. Â

  • Jesus’ own family did not believe him and even questioned his sanity  (Mark 3:21)
  • Jesus was rejected by people in his hometown and couldn’t perform many miracles there (Mark 6:2-5)
  • Some thought Jesus was in collusion with, and even possessed by, the devil (Mark 3:22)
  • At times Jesus seemed to rely on common medicinal techniques (Mark 7:33; Mark 8:23)
  • Jesus’ healings weren’t always instantaneous (Mark 8:22-25)
  • Jesus’ disciples weren’t always able to exorcise demons (Mark 9:18), and  Jesus’ own exorcisms weren’t always instantaneous (Mark 5:8-13)
  • Jesus seemed to suggest he wasn’t good (Mark 10:18)
  • Jesus associated with people of ill-repute and gained a reputation of being a glutton and drunkard (Mark 2:15-16)
  • Jesus sometimes seems to act rudely to people (Mark 7:26-27)
  • Jesus seemed to disregard Jewish laws, customs, and cleanliness codes (Mark 2:23-24)
  • Jesus often spoke and acted in culturally “shameful” ways (Mark 3: 31-35)
  • Jesus cursed a fig tree for not having any figs when he was hungry, despite the fact that it wasn’t the season for figs (Mark 11:12-14)
  • The disciples who were to form the foundation of the new community consistently seem dull, obstinate, and cowardly (Mark 8:32-33; Mark 10:35-37; Mark 14:37-40)
  • Jesus was betrayed by an inner-circle disciple (Mark 14:43-46), and Peter cowardly denied any association with him (Mark 14:66-72)
  • Women were the first to discover Jesus’ tomb was empty—while the men were hiding in fear! (Mark 16:1-8)
  • The primary hero (Jesus) was crucified on a cross bringing a definite curse upon him (cf. Deut. 21:22-23)

If the Gospels served to form the backbone of the emerging Christian community of the first century, why include such details if they were not true? In other words, historic inquiry must ask the question concerning the raising of such stories, What explanation best accounts for their inclusion? Why make up details that are damaging?