The Apostle Paul, under arrest in Caesarea, appeared before King Agrippa II in his own defense against charges brought by the Jewish priests. As he was recounting what he had done to oppose Jesus of Nazareth and of his own encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul indicates that he was certain the king knew what he was talking about regarding Jesus and His followers:
For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. Acts 26:26
This hearing is taking place 20 years after the death and resurrection of Christ – the Gospel has spread like a wildfire making converts of many, not only in Judea, but into Rome itself. This Jesus thing causes a lot of commotion:
- Jesus fame spread throughout Judaea and beyond Jordan as he traveled about. They brought the sick to Him and He healed them of many various diseases. He spoke in all their synagogues and preached on the hills to thousands who followed Him. (30-33AD)
- At the end of His ministry throngs of people followed Jesus into Jerusalem. Thousands were there to cry out praise for their Messiah. (33AD)
- A few days later many of those same people shouted out, “Crucify Him!” The streets were full again, but this time to follow Him to Golgotha to die. Three days after this, He is risen from the dead and seen alive by hundreds for 40 days. (33AD)
- Stephen is stoned to death while preaching in Jerusalem by a mob making him the first Christian martyr. (36AD)
- James, the Apostle and brother of John is martyred by Herod the king. (44AD)
- In Thessalonica, during his second missionary journey, Paul and Silas are accused of being among “[those] that turned the world upside-down”. (50AD)
- Paul, writing to the Corinthian church (57AD), said that Christ was seen, after His resurrection, by more than 500 people and that, while some had died, many were still around. 1 Corinthians 15:6
- Rome burns (64AD) and Nero pins the blame on Christians, “a class hated for their abominations… [observers of] a mischievous superstition…[that] broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.” Tacitus (a first century Roman historian), Annals 15.44
- Just 35 years after the death of Christ (68AD), 3 of the 4 Gospels had been written, as well as Acts, all of Paul’s epistles and 1st and 2nd Peter. All were being widely circulated among more than 40 churches throughout the Roman Empire.
Virtually all historians agree to the dating outlined above and bibliographical tests verify the reliability of the text of the biblical manuscripts.
Much of the New Testament containing an outline of all the events of Jesus’ life was in circulation during the lifetime of thousands who had been present at these events.
This thing was not done in a corner.
That is probably the most apt statement that can be made regarding the reliability of the New Testament. The ministry of Christ, His trial, His death, burial and resurrection and the subsequent spread of the Gospel were done in the open.