In recent months I have seen some amazing GoPro videos that were from participants in extreme sports. Water skiing, snow boarding, sky diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping, mountain biking, etc., to name a few. Some of the clips look like a lot of fun and I would be willing to try; others I think to myself, “No way!” Not only would I not want to try it, but the danger factor was more than I would ever be willing to embrace. Yet, we have first hand documentation, (primary evidence), of what some of these athletes are able to do. No doubt if I was to try it, it would be an epic fail and end up on YouTube, but the temptation was there.
One example is Alexander Polli’s jump through a small hole on the side of a mountain in Spain. An amazing 2 minute video documented not only by his own camera, but others as well.
So what is the difference between primary and secondary evidence in the historical record?
Evidence can be divided into two types of sources: Primary and Secondary.
Primary is first hand information or usually eyewitness testimony. Primary sources can include documents such as laws, speeches, diaries, and letters. It can also include visual evidences, photos, and as I have already pointed out, videos such as GoPro. Primary sources are so valuable because they are usually created at or near the time of the event.
Secondary sources are sources that did not actually witness the event. A history book from any school could be considered a secondary source. The authors gather information from many different sources and then write their interpretation of the events. An exception to this would be someone who has interviewed eyewitnesses to a particular event or events. The HBO TV series Band of Brothers comes to mind. Several of the Easy Company survivors were interviewed for the series. From those interviews, and other sources, they created the 10 part chronicles on the 101st Airborne Division.
When you read history, there are two things to reflect on and evaluate.
Consider the author’s purpose.
It is written to persuade the reader, inform the reader, or instruct the reader. For example, a technical manual on how to put together a new tent, or install a new motherboard processor, would have the purpose of instruction.
But let’s take a look at the Gospel of Mark for a moment. Documents outside the Bible state that Mark was an eyewitness account of the apostle Peter. An early church bishop, Papias, born around 70 A.D., wrote that Mark was an interpreter of Peter and accurately put down what was remembered. Irenaeus, who was a student of Polycarp, who in turn was a student of the apostle John, said, “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”1 Clement of Alexandria, another early church father, said those who heard Peter’s teachings asked Mark to write them down so they could study, share, and pass the instruction from Peter on orally.2
What is even more interesting are the claims that Mark, (agreed by many scholars to be one of, if not the, earliest written gospel) and the other gospels were written not by the apostles, but others hundred of years after the life of Christ. If Mark and the other gospels were written hundreds of years later, then some elements particular to Mark would not be present. Let me explain.
Mark, by all accounts, was close to Peter. He not only acted as a scribe and interpreter at times for Peter; he was a close friend and confidant. Because of their close relationship, the Gospel of Mark has some peculiarities that indicate this close relationship. Had the gospels been written hundred of years later, those peculiarities would not be present.
Mark often paid Peter respect and significant prominence compared to the other gospel writers. For example, Mark referred to Peter 26 times, and Matthew, in his much longer account, 29 times. Keep in mind that Matthew has 28 chapters while Mark had 16, and the total number of verses for Mark is 678, while Matthew had 1,071.3
Do you remember Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water like Jesus was doing? (Matthew 14:22-33) It is interesting that Mark does not even mention Peter’s attempt. (Mark 6:45-52) Another example is when Luke describes the miraculous catch of fish on the sea of Galilee. (Luke 5:1-11) Peter says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (NKJV) In Mark’s version, (Mark 1:16-20) this is omitted.4
There are other examples of this where Mark omits Peter’s name and instead uses ‘the disciples’ for various accounts. This aspect of favoring Peter and attempts to save him some embarrassment would not be present had the Gospel of Mark been written by someone other than a close and personal friend of the Apostle Peter.
Evaluate the credibility of the author.
The Internet is a wealth of information, but not everything on the Internet, Facebook, or Pinterest is true. Someone might question the truth of Alexander Polli’s jump, but after researching his past experiences, interviewing others who have seen his past exploits, and of course the multiple cameras at the scene of the event, you would conclude there was sufficient evidence to consider it a credible claim.
Another example is Michael Jackson being accused of child molestation 2003. The victim’s mother took the stand, but the defense for Jackson showed that she had lied about shop lifting a few years prior. This called into question her credibility, and consequently the jury decided she could not be trusted to tell the truth. Maybe she was just enjoying the notoriety and spotlight, or simply hoping for some financial gain.5
Certainly the late Christopher Hitchens, no fan of religion, believed that Christian religion had roots of selfish gains of power and money. “I do not think it is arrogant of me to claim that I already…noticed the more vulgar and obvious fact that religion is used by those in temporal charge to invest themselves with authority before my boyish voice had broken.”6 Napoleon said that religion is what keep the poor from murdering the rich.
In their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek list ten reasons the New Testament authors told the truth. Number ten on their list is that the New Testament writers abandoned their long held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones, and did not deny their testimony under persecution or the threat of death. For example, they replaced the animal sacrifice system with the sacrifice of Christ, the binding law of Moses with the grace and forgiveness of God, and the conquering Messiah with the sacrificial Christ. Other contrasts could be made, and some would be punishable by death from their Jewish brothers.7
Just a few weeks after the crucifixion, thousands of Jews from all walks of life are following him. Within a few short years, this new Christian religion has greatly impacted not only the Jews, but Gentiles, all the way to Rome and the surrounding Mediterranean. Turek and Geisler wrote, “There’s no reason to doubt, and every reason to believe, the New Testament accounts. While many people will die for a lie they think is the truth, no sane person will die for what they know is a lie. The New Testament writers and the other apostles knew for sure that Jesus had resurrected, and they demonstrated that knowledge with their own blood.”8
Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler pointed out that some Christians think doubt is like a four letter word, and that real Christians should not ever doubt. They wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is the forefather of faith. Doubt does not cancel faith; it should give way to faith. In fact, as in Thomas’ case, doubt can be the impetus that leads us to the truth.”9 Remember that all the other apostles doubted, but once they had seen their resurrected Christ they were willing to die for what they knew was true. Don’t be so hard on doubting Thomas. He had not see his resurrected Lord yet, but after he had seen, his doubt was gone. After presented with the evidence Thomas said, “My Lord, my God.” (John 20:28)
1. Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writing of the Fathers down to A.D.325. Eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Buffalo: Christian Literature, 1885. Print.
2. Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.
3. Just, Felix. “New Testament Statistics” Catholic Resources. Catholic-resources.org, 2 Sept. 2005. Web. 17 June 2015
4. Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.
6. Hitchens, Christopher. god is not GREAT– How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007. Print.
7. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
9. McDowell, Josh. Hostetler, Bob. Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1992, Print.
GoPro and the Gospel of Mark by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.knowingforsure.com.