“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty …” (2 Peter 1:16-17)
Many people today consider the events recounted in the gospels about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be no more than “cleverly devised myths” written down centuries after the events themselves. But Peter makes it clear that he was an actual eye-witness of the event of the Transfiguration of Jesus, which is celebrated at this weekend’s Mass.
The gospel writers themselves took great pains to ensure they give us an accurate accounting of Jesus’ words and actions. St Luke, at the beginning of the gospel that bears his name writes: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you.” (Luke 1 : 1-3). Even though Luke does not claim to be an eyewitness of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus himself, he nonetheless, as a faithful historian, checks out the facts he is putting down by making a careful investigation of these facts, talking to people who had been actual eyewitnesses or knew people who had been eyewitnesses. It is clear, for instance, from the events of the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Presentation of Jesus and Finding of Jesus in the Temple recorded only in Luke’s gospel, that Luke must have interviewed Mary, Jesus’ own mother herself.
We know that there were many false accounts of Jesus’ life, written up in the early years of the Church, but because of the presence of eyewitnesses to Jesus still living, they were quickly discredited. Modern investigators like to seize on these spurious writings, such as The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, or The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and claim they are authentic accounts, which the Church has tried to bury. But in fact, the Church knew them to be false from the very beginning, and that is why they find no place in the current canon of Holy Scripture.
The books of Scripture, Old and New Testament, our Bible, have stood the test of time and are held to be the inspired word of God himself (cf The Document on Divine Revelation from Vatican II). God has ensured that we have an unbroken testimony to the facts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection stretching back to the time of Jesus himself. ‘So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (from second reading this Sunday).