Reliability of the New Testament

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Historical Argument, Knowing for Sure Blog | 0 comments

Reliability of the New Testament

I came across this picture/poster on the Richard Dawkins Foundation page for Reason and Science.

Last count when I looked earlier this week, it had over sixteen thousand likes and over ten thousand shares on Facebook. The misinformation printed on this picture and its wide acceptance demonstrates not only the gullibility of a culture, but a desire to discredit Christianity that moves beyond skepticism and into a wartime disinformation.












There are so many untrue and unsubstantiated statements within the above poster, I was not sure where to begin, but due to my desire to keep my posts short, I will just focus on the reliability of our New Testament in terms of witnesses, number of copies, and dates of copies.

Ignatius, (AD 35-117), was a student/disciple of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John. Ignatius wrote at least three letters that have been preserved. Jim Wallace, in Cold-Case Christianity, reviewed some of Ignatius’ letters and listed the dozens of conclusions from those letters. Below I list only a few.
-Jesus was in the line of King David.
-He was, (and is), the Son of God.
-He was baptized by John the Baptist.
-He taught and had a ministry on earth.
-He spoke the words of God.
-He died on the cross.
-Jesus was resurrected.
-He had a physical resurrection body.

Polycarp, (AD 69-155), was a student/disciple of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John. Polycarp became the bishop of Smyrna in what we now call Turkey. Polycarp wrote a letter to the church in Phiippi, and history has documented this, in which he talked about Paul and the other apostles who he had met. The following conclusions can be made from his letters.
-Jesus was sinless.
-He taught the Sermon on the Mount.
-He suffered and died on a cross.
-His death on the cross saves us.
-We are saved by grace.
-Jesus was raised from the dead.
-Jesus is Lord.

As I did with Ignatius, I only listed a few.

Clement of Rome was taught by Paul, and he wrote a letter AD 80-140. According to Jim Wallace, “Clement quoted or alluded to seven New Testament books (Mark, Matthew or or John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians) as he penned his work.” From his work, which agrees with Ignatius and Polycarp, you can conclude the following.
-The prophets predicted the life and ministry of Jesus.
-Jesus provided His disciples with important instruction.
-He taught principles as described by Mark and Luke.
-He was humble and unassuming.
-He suffered and died for our salvation.
-He was resurrected from the dead.
-He is alive and reigning with God.

All of the above men had first hand and eyewitness testimony to the lives and teaching of the New Testament authors, all within the first century, not 400 years or later as the above poster suggests. History has recorded their correspondence, and this recorded correspondence confirms the writings and eyewitness testimony of the New Testament authors.

According to Norman Geisler, in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, we have nearly 5,700 hand written Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and more than 9000 in other languages such as Latin and Arabic. Of these nearly 15,000 documents, (some are complete accounts while others are partial books, pages, or fragments), the message of the New Testament is clear. In the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, we have a confirmed segment of John that is dated between AD 117-138. [Jim Merrill  pointed out my transition from New to Old Testament. I removed the mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls since they apply to the Old Testament. Thanks Jim! 🙂 ] In history, the next earliest surviving copies from the original document is Homer, with a 500 year gap. If you look at the number of copies that support ancient documents, again it is Homer with 643 compared to nearly 15,000 of the New Testament.

The statements in the above picture are absolute rubbish, but taken for ‘gospel’ truth by those who prefer to put Christianity in a negative light.

Finally, historical documentation is not limited to believers. Anyone who is familiar with biblical history has heard of Flavius Josephus, (ca. 37- ca. 100). He was a historian for the Roman emperor Domitian. Josephus wrote, “At this time [the time of Pilate] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive, according he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”

Contrary to the statements in the above picture, the events in the New Testament are some of the most documented in history.

If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.
– Jewish Proverb

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.
– Mother Teresa

Feel free to leave a reply. :)

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