March 20, 2020
One of the most important questions that Christian apologetics can answer is to the authenticity of the New Testament.
Is the Bible real? How do we know the New Testament documents are authentic?
How do we know they haven't been changed over time? How do we know the Bible is true?
In this blog post, we will give you the reasons for why the Bible is true, or more specifically in this blog post, the New Testament.
People ask all the time, "How true is the Bible?"
Well, the New Testament documents are 27 documents, written on 27 different scrolls, by 9 different authors, over a 20-to-50 year period in the 1st century AD.
These individual writings have since been collected into one book that we call the New Testament.
Here is a Table of Contents of the blog post if you would like to skip ahead:
As we move forward, let me introduce you to two great apologists.
Frank Turek and Norman Geisler are two of the brightest apologists of our generation.
On the Frank Turek YouTube page, there are dozens of videos on all sorts of apologetics content, including New Testament reliability.
The late Dr. Norman Geisler, author of Chosen But Free, has been writing apologetics books for decades.
Frank Turek books AND Norman Geisler books do not disappoint!
Now, as Dr. Frank Turek and Dr. Norman Geisler talk about in their book, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, there are 2 questions that we need to answer concerning the New Testament documents.
First, do we have accurate copies of the original documents written down in the 1st century?
And second, do the original documents speak the truth?
We will seek to address both these questions in this section.
It is important to note that the New Testament writers did not gain some popularity or notoriety with their writings, as many in the world do today.
Instead of gaining power, the New Testament writers got just the opposite: submission, servitude, torture, and even death.
The New Testament writers, with the possible exception of Luke, were all Jews and already believed that they had the one true religion.
This nearly 2000-year-old religion (at the time) asserted that they the Jews were the chosen people of God.
Now why would the Jews, who converted to Christianity, risk persecution, death, and possibly eternal damnation, to start something that wasn't true, and elevated non-Jews into the exclusive relationship that they alone claimed to have with the Creator of the universe?
The New Testament writers had to have witnessed some strong evidence to turn away from the beliefs and practices that had defined them and their forbearers for such a long time.
For a GREAT article on why the Gospels should be dated very early, check out this blog post by Frank Turek:
So who were the writers of the Gospels, and do we have any evidence that these were the actual writers?
Matthew and John were both part of the original 12 disciples. John was actually part of Jesus' inner circle, in addition to Peter and James.
So Matthew and John were actually eyewitnesses of these events.
Mark, the writer of what is thought to be the earliest gospel, traveled with Saint Paul for extended periods of time, but probably received most of his gospel account from Saint Peter.
The oldest, and probably most significant testimony affirming the writers of the gospels comes from Papias of Hierapolis, writing in AD125.
Papias specifically affirms that Mark "carefully and accurately records Peter's eyewitness observations".
In fact, he said Mark made no mistake, and did not include any false statement. And Papias said that Matthew preserved the teachings of Jesus as well.
What about Luke?
Well, Irenaeus of Lyons (pictured on icon below), writing in about AD180, in Adversus Haereses 3.3.4, confirms the traditional authorship of Luke.
St. Irenaeus also affirms Matthew, Mark and John as well.
Another work by Irenaeus Against Heresies, compiled in 180, is a popular work as well, where Irenaeus speaks out against Gnosticism, as well as other schools of Christian thought.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that of ALL the manuscripts we have of the gospels, none of them say that the material in John was written by someone other than John, and the same with the other writers of the gospels as well.
Luke also filled in some more of his information when he meets with Philip and his family in Caesarea, as it is recorded in Acts 21:8 that he stays with him.
After Paul's 2-year detention in Caesarea, Luke went with him to Rome, where we find him in the company, along with Mark, in about the year AD60. This is recorded in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24.
Here is a wonderful video by former Cold Case Detective, J Warner Wallace, who reveals great evidence for the reliability of the gospels.
His full blog post of this video is here:
So what do we have with the New Testament? Do we have the original scrolls written by the original authors?
For the New Testament, we have what are called manuscripts.
What is a manuscript?
Manuscripts are simply copies of the original documents.
However, the dates of some of the New Testament manuscripts that we currently have today go back almost into the 1st century AD, when they were written, and many into the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
Keep in mind, this is before the days of type writers and computer documents.
When the Bible manuscripts were written, they spread quickly. These documents were copied many times, with copies being sent off to far-away Christians who could also hear the good news.
And when those Christians received this ancient manuscript, or manuscripts, they copied the good news of the documents as well, and sent them off to other churches.
Now how could this dissemination of texts, without any central control, be uniformly controlled?
Yet if you examine how similar the manuscripts are to each other, it is clear that the copyists took great care in copying everything as accurately as possible, because these manuscripts, passed down over hundreds of years, are so similar to each other.
We have these copies of the New Testament commencing within a couple generations from the writing of the originals, whereas in other texts, maybe 5, 8 or 10 generations elapse between the writings of the originals and the earliest surviving copy.
The quantity of New Testament material is almost embarrassing when compared with other works of antiquity.
There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, not to mention another 24,000-plus in other languages.
Next to the New Testament, the oldest amount of manuscript testimony that we have is of Homer's Iliad, which was like the Bible of the ancient Greeks.
Yet there are fewer than 650 Greek manuscripts of the Iliad today. Homer is the author of the Iliad and Odyssey.
Again though, the Iliad book is second to the New Testament.
For Homer Iliad manuscripts became the way to get this Greek story out to the world.
HOWEVER, Homer's Illiad was composed in 800 BC, yet the earliest manuscripts that we have are not until the 2nd century AD.
Compare the 2nd most amount of manuscripts (less than 650) with the most amount of manuscripts (over 5,000 just in Greek), and there is no comparison between the New Testament and other works of antiquity.
Check out this video by Dr. Daniel Wallace for further study on manuscripts (the really GOOD stuff starts at around 2 minutes into the video):
And check out his website at The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts for further detail here:
The most significant manuscript to come to light was the "Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri", discovered about 1930.
Of these Beatty biblical papyri, #1 contains portions of the 4 gospels, as well as Acts and dates to the 3rd century AD. Papyrus #2 contains large portions of the letters of Paul and the book of Hebrews, and dates to about AD200.
And papyrus #3 has a sizable portion of the book of Revelation, and dates to about the 3rd century AD.
For more information, you can again check out Dr. Wallace's site on this find:
Then, in 1934, C.H. Roberts of St. John's college, Oxford, was sorting through the papyri at the John Rylands Library, in Manchester, England.
He immediately recognized this as a preserving portion of John's gospel.
He was able to date it from the style of the script. He concluded that it originated between AD100 and AD150.
Many other prominent paleographers, including Sir Frederich Kenyon, Sir Harold Bill, Adolf Diessman, and others have agreed with this assessment.
Now let's take a look at some of the early Christian writings, outside of the Bible, to see if they confirm what the Bible that we are holding today says.
Interestingly, the early church fathers, men of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, men like Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Polycarp, etc. quoted from the New Testament document that we have today 36,289 times.
Why is this important?
This shuts down the skeptic's assertion that the canon of our New Testament, the books we have today, were just added in hundreds of years later by some religious council.
It also proves that these books that we now have, the New Testament, were written early, if the early Christians who lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries were already quoting them.
St. Clement of Rome (or Pope Clement I) writing from Rome in AD95, quotes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James and 1 Peter.
St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote letters from Smyrna in Asia Minor in AD107.
Ignatius quotes from 24 of the 27 books that we currently have in our New Testament today.
St. Polycarp, the disciple of John, lived from AD69-155.
Polycarp of Smyrna wrote a letter from Smyrna in Asia Minor in AD110, and quotes from 18 of the 27 books that we currently have in our New Testament.
Polycarp and his disciple, Irenaeus, collectively quote from 23 of the 27 books that we currently have in our New Testament today.
I think you get the point.
These church fathers were quoting from these books because these books were first of all already written, and secondly, because they were authoritative.
Since Clement was in Rome, and Ignatius and Polycarp were hundreds of miles away in Smyrna, this shows that the New Testament documents that they were referring to, must have been written much earlier.
Otherwise, they could not have been circulated across the ancient world at that time.
Here is a video we put together that goes over some more information on the reliability of the New Testament.
Now we want to hear from YOU!
Which evidence for the New Testament's accuracy most surprised you? Was it the amount of manuscripts we have, or the evidence from the early church fathers? Let us know in the comments section below.
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