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Do The Gospels Present Jesus’ Actual Words?

28 August, 2017
Q I read the statement below on this web site: "The real revelations of God came to Jesus and no doubt he taught his disciples quoting from them. But we have no evidence to prove that Jesus dictated these word for word to be written down and kept intact." According to this information Jesus had no idea that the Gospels sent to him were to be documented. So he quoted what was revealed to him to his disciples but didn't think about documentation(!?) But the Bible would be extant for the next generations. As you see I am confused. Could you please explain If I misunderstood the statement above.


Salam Dear Plath,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Whatever we know of Jesus as a historical person– i.e. as someone who actually walked the earth–comes from two sources: The Gospels and the Noble Quran.

As a Christian you may not accept the Quran as a source of information about Jesus, we need to consider only the Gospels here. There are claims about “contemporary history” supporting the Christian story of Jesus.

Jesus Himself Left No Records

However, this history–where we can find it is of a later origin–is written under Christian influence. Kindly read this quote from the California Baptist University website:

Jesus left no written records of his own. None of the New Testament books were written during his lifetime. Jesus is mentioned occasionally in non-Christian historical sources, but the majority of references to Jesus’ life come from Christian sources, mainly the four canonical Gospels.

Read the following also from the same source:

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The Gospels themselves say little about how they were written or even who wrote them. All four Gospels are anonymous. None of them ever identify the name of the author in the text. The titles, such as “The Gospel According to Mark,” were added to each document later when the Gospels were collected together. The titles helped distinguish one Gospel over and against the others after they had been collected together. The titles are not so much statements of authorship as they are statements of source according to early Church tradition (in other words, they are the Gospels “according to,” not necessarily “written by”).

In other words, there is no record of Jesus either writing down his Gospel, or asking any of his disciples to write down his Gospel.

What we call Gospel today were written decades after his disappearance from the earth.

No Record of His Early Life

Speaking of the Gospels, the following points also are relevant:

The Four Canonical Gospels speak practically nothing of Jesus’ life during the thirty years from his birth to the time he started preaching in Galilee.

In fact, the whole edifice of Christianity is built on the meager foundation of the available record of Jesus’ words and deeds during the three years (maybe less than three) from his thirtieth year to his disappearance in his thirty-third year.

The whole of the Gospel accounts of Jesus and his actual words, omitting repetitions, can be printed in no more than three newspaper columns.

And as pointed out above, the Gospels were not written during the life-time of Jesus.

No Written Gospel During His Lifetime

We can see that of the four canonical gospels the first to be written was that of Mark, and it was written about thirty seven years after Jesus disappearance from earth.

Read this account given in the New American Bible Introduction to Mark’s Gospel:

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the ancient heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (at Jerusalem) Christians assembled (Acts 12:12). Traditionally, the Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution and when destruction loomed over Jerusalem. Modern research often proposes as the author an unknown Hellenistic Jewish Christian, possibly in Syria, and perhaps shortly after the year 70.

Please read more from another Christian source, where Kathy Boyes writes:

We don’t know much about the persons who wrote the Gospels, but we do know this: Mark’s Gospel was written around the year 70 in the First Century AD. Matthew and Luke were written in the 80’s-90’s of the first century and the Gospel of John was written right around the turn of the Second Century. By the time the Gospels were written Christianity was already a force to be reckoned with.

In other words, The Gospels were written a long time after most Christians had declared their faith.

I hope the above sources will suffice our purpose.

It is only natural for a Christian to feel confused by the statement you quoted; because most Christians are misinformed about the origin not only of the Gospels, but of the Christian religion itself.

Christianity Began as a Jewish Sect

In fact, the very names “Christian” and “Christianity” were never used by Jesus for his religion. Please read the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 11 verse 26:

…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Until this time, the religion of Jesus had been looked upon as a sect of Judaism, like that of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The early believers were Jews. They were circumcised. They lived among other Jews.

They kept the Mosaic feasts, holy days, rituals, and ceremonies, and worshipped in the same synagogues Jews had been using.

But at Antioch, something new and totally different has happened. The new converts there were not Jews, but Gentiles. They had no background in Judaism and no relationship to the Mosaic Law.

They had lived as pagans, idolaters, who engaged in the most godless, vile lifestyles imaginable. Now they became followers of Christ.

And their pagan neighbors invented a new name to describe this strange group of people. They called them “Christians”. 

Saul of Tarsus was the person who converted the Gentiles to make this new sect, whom the pagans named Christians for the first time.

That was how “Christianity” came into existence.

It was not Jesus Christ who founded this religion, but Saul of Tarsus who was later inducted as “the Thirteenth Apostle” and “the Apostle to the Gentiles”. He was canonized as a “saint”-St Paul-by the Church.

I request you to learn more about the truth of your own religion as well as the truths brought to light by the Noble Qur’an and the final Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be on him).

I hope this answers your questions. If you still have any other queries, please do not hesitate to send us again. Thank you and keep in touch.


(Previously published)

Read More…

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About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.