Last week the Watergate testimony of former President Richard Nixon was released for public consumption. I caught a story on the radio about it and one line particularly stood out to me. Right about at the 4 minute mark, Director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali says,
“It’s a very healthy thing, when in a society, the government releases materials even when they don’t make presidents and government look good.”
Yes! This is indeed a true statement and one that doesn’t just apply to a society or government. This applies to everything and the four Gospel accounts in the Bible are certainly no exception. One of the strongest arguments for the authenticity of the Gospel accounts of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazereth is the brutal honesty with which they write. Consider the following excerpts from the four Gospels:
“Peter took him aside and started to rebuke him…” – Mark 8:32 (Mark’s gospel was probably written with the account that Peter supplied to John Mark)
“And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted.” – Matthew 28:17
“But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” – Mark 9:34
And there are more. Thomas’ refusal to believe the announcement of the risen Christ without seeing it himself(John 20:24-28). Peter’s thrice flat out denial of even knowing Jesus while he was only yards away being illegally tried (John 18). And what about the disciple that fled so frightened that he left his cloak and ran away in what would have been his underwear (Mark 14:51-52)?
The point? These guys weren’t trying to pull one over on the world. If their intention was to epically fool the masses into following a made up savior, why would they be so transparent with their embarrassing and repetitive failures? Their honesty, even when it reflected poorly upon themselves, is refreshingly authentic. And this is the same everywhere. No matter how bad our politicians are, we would rather have the truth and deal with it, then have it covered up with sugar or hidden altogether. And, when the truth is released and it doesn’t reflect good on ‘the system’ it’s better than the alternative. Namely, hiding the corruption and trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.
I’m refreshed that Naftali recognized the benefit of the painful transparency principle. It’s not always pointed out but at least with this revelation of the Nixon testimony, someone noticed the good behind the ugly. The principle applies to ancient texts as well. The Gospel writers pass the transparency and honest test and add much credibility to their accounts of the Man who turned the world upside down.