You can Trust the New Testament

You can Trust the New Testament

Reading Time: 7 minutes

One morning at church my pastor mentioned apologetics multiple times. To me, that topic acts as coffee in my system. He also mentioned some, what he called God questions. One of the questions was if we could trust the New Testament. I went home considering writing a post on the topic since I had not done one in a while.

Later that same day my daughter Beth shared a text with me that a friend of hers was questioning how accurate the bible can be if it was translated so many times, through so many different languages. Beth pointed out to her friend that it is just one language to English. For example, Greek to English or Hebrew to English. So it is not as if we have to translate it from Hebrew, to Greek, to Coptic, to Latin, to English.

Many equate Bible translations to the old ‘telephone’ game where one person at the start of a line whispers a statement which is then shared quietly with the next person in line and so forth down the line. By the time the message reaches the end of the line, it is confusing, convoluted, and nothing like the original message.

The New Testament authors not only support each other, but we have multiple sources outside of scripture that support the life, times, and teaching of Jesus.

Ignatius, (AD 35-117) was a student of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John, and history has preserved at least three letters written by Ignatius. 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.((Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.))

Polycarp, (AD 69-155) was also a student of John, and 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 he had met. The following conclusions can be made from Polycarp’s 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.((Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.))
As I did with Ignatius, I only listed a few.

Paul taught Clement (AD 80-140) of Rome, and Clement wrote a letter about Jesus, His ministry, and His followers. According to Jim Wallace, “Clement quoted or alluded to seven New Testament books (Mark, Matthew 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.1

All of the above men had first-hand eyewitness testimony to the lives and teaching of the New Testament authors, all within the first century, not hundreds of years later as some may claim. History has recorded their correspondence, and this recorded communication confirms the writings and eyewitness testimony of the authors and Jesus.

According to Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, we have nearly 5,700 handwritten Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and more than 9000 in other languages such as Latin and Arabic. Of these practically 15,000 documents (some are complete accounts while others are partial books, pages, or fragments), the message of the New Testament is clear, and we have more copies than any other ancient document.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.))

In history, the closer the copy was penned from the original, the better. In other words, historians expect the copies to be more accurate if they were written within a few years of the original vs. hundreds of years later. Aside from the letters in the New Testament, the earliest surviving copies of original historical documents are poems and stories from the Greek author Homer, with a 500-year gap. All of the New Testament was written within a few decades of the events they recorded.

Historians also look at the number of copies a document may have. The more copies, the better. If you look at the number of copies that support ancient documents, again, it is Homer who has the most with 643 copies compared to nearly 15,000 of the New Testament.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.))

Other researchers have put the total over 25,000. In his book Jesus On Trial, David Limbaugh wrote, “The evidence, however, is changing all the time based on new discoveries. Geisler recounts that when he began writing on this topic in the sixties, there were about 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts…and now there are closer to 5,800. The number of New Testament translations into languages of nearby countries – Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Latin, Coptic, and others – totals about 19,300.”((Limbaugh, David. Jesus On Trial. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2014. Print.)) Add that to the Greek copies, and then we have some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts.

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 and 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.”((Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.)) This is coming from a Jew who became a Roman and had nothing to gain from promoting Jesus and His life.

Pliny the Younger was a Roman senator and lawyer in Rome. He was a prolific letter writer, and we have copies of most of his writings. In one of his letters, he asked for advice on dealing with Christians who refused to deny Christ. He wrote, “They had met regularly before dawn on a determined day, and sung antiphonally a hymn to Christ as if to a god. They also took an oath not for any crime, but to keep from theft, robbery and adultery, not to break any promise, and not to withhold a deposit when recliamed.”((Van Voorst, Robert, Jesus Outside the New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. Print.))

I mention the Pliny example (one of many outside the New Testament) to point out the durability of eyewitness testimony decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans considered Christianity nothing more than a cult, yet it was growing and spreading all over the Mediterranean and into Rome despite dreadful persecution. Pliny the Younger would give Christians three chances to deny Christ, yet time and time again they would refuse and he would have them taken away to be executed.

Finally, in the first 150 years after the birth of Christ, if we include Josephus, we have ten non-Christian writers who mention Jesus in their works. Looking at what the non-Christian sources say about Jesus, we can piece together the following list:

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder-worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.))

Keep in mind the above list is compiled from non-Christians and even sources hostile to Christianity. This is a list void of anyone who believed in Christianity.

I will add as an endnote if we include the number of Christian authors who mention Christ within 150 years of his birth and add the ten non-Christian sources, the total is forty-three references who mention Jesus. Then if we look at the number of Christian and non-Christian sources that mention Tiberius Caesar in the same 150 year period, the total is ten.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.))

Christopher Hitchens, author of ‘god is not Great’ says the authors of the New Testament cannot agree on anything of importance. However, you can see from the above list even those who were not Christians and hostile to Christianity agreed on elements of great importance, which are verified by the overwhelming number of copies we have of the New Testament.

The New Testament has documentation above and beyond any other ancient manuscript. Not only in sheer numbers of copies that can be cross-examined for accuracy, but also written within a few years of the events that took place, while other historical documents are written centuries later. The New Testament also has evidence from numerous sources outside of scripture and sources hostile to Christianity. So you can trust the New Testament!
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Can you Trust the New Testament by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://christianapologetics.blog/you-can-trust-the-new-testament/.

Sources:

  1. Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print. []

Come-back Kids

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A couple of weeks ago, (before they shut down) I was at the gym (aerobics day) and had half an eye on a basketball game that had started around the time I began. I would venture a guess the game was made up of 4th and 5th graders, white jerseys vs. red jerseys. The white team was losing badly. The score around the end of the 1st quarter was 10 to 2, but then something changed soon after they started the 2nd quarter. I don’t know if it was something their coach said or something about how they positioned themselves (zone vs. man) or something entirely different, but they finally scored again. Then again, and again, and again. By the time they were in the 3rd quarter, the red team was still at 10, and the white team was at 16.

I don’t know how it ended because it was time for me to move to another machine that did not have a view of the game, but it got me thinking of stories I have heard, people I have known who have come back from some pretty impossible odds. Those stories and we have all heard them, often serve as an inspiration to us. We hear those stories and we begin to wish. We wish we could speak out like that, we wish we would never give up, we wish we could get that degree. We wish we could have that job. We wish all day long, but wishing is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but does not get you anywhere. Don’t just wish, do. Take the shot, you have nothing to lose. You only lose if you don’t make the effort and that effort can come in very small steps.

I think of Paul and how he is the author of much of the New Testament. The same Paul, whipped no less than five times, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, suffered from hunger, thirst, and multiple other dangers. 2nd Corinthians 11:24-31

Paul in rags and chains, standing in front of Emperor Nero, who was surrounded by his Roman guards, clothed in royal robes and other high ranking officials. Yet two-thousand years later, we name our children Paul and our dogs Nero. Who would have thought?1

Another example is President Abraham Lincoln who certainly had a host of failures before being elected President. Some items in this list are questionable, but it would be fair to say Lincoln certainly did not have a smooth ride to his presidency. Lincoln lost his job, defeated in his run for the state legislature, failed in business, sweetheart died, nervous breakdown, defeated in a race for Illinois speaker, defeated in a run for Congress, defeated twice in a run for Senate, finally elected President in 1860. 

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant professor of physics and cosmology and author of over 15 books that shaped and enlightened our understanding of the universe, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes the death of neurons that control our voluntary muscles. 

Hawking was diagnosed with this as a young adult and instead of falling into despair (no known cure for this disease), poured himself into his studies and work. In one of his last statements, he said, “I hope to inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet.”2

Cornel Hirisca-Munn was born in Romania without forearms and a deformed leg that was later amputated. He was taken from his birth parents without permission and placed in an orphanage. They eventually found him but were unable to bring him home as they were poor and both worked full time to support themselves. Nevertheless, he survived, and just under the age of one was found by Doreen Munn, an aid worker from England. Two years later, he was adopted by the Munn’s and began his rehabilitation in Birmingham. 

Since then, Cornel has shown great perseverance and has illustrated musical talent, having entered several drumming competitions. He has also raised money for various charities and continues to do so despite his hardship and disability. At one ceremony, Cornel said, “I am just like everyone else, it is just a visual thing, and it does not affect my attitude to life. I now plan to try and raise money towards a limb center in Romania.”3

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was raised by a strict Muslim family in the war-torn country of Somalia. She suffered beatings, female mutilation, and forced marriage. She escaped to Europe and was under constant threat by her family and other Islamist followers. She was disowned by her father and banned by her family. 

In the Netherlands, she worked in shelters for battered women, learned the Dutch language, and earned a college degree in political science. She was elected to their Parliament and tirelessly raised awareness of the plight of Muslim women in Europe. In 2005 Time Magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world today. All this, despite what her family, religion, and country told her about the value of women. 

Not only did she escape abuse and oppression from her 3rd world country and family, but she has also publicly criticized the ‘tolerant’ left despite being educated and surrounded by it. In her book Infidel, she writes, “When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn’t so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist… I am not afraid to do so.”4

I started with an example from the New Testament and will end it with another. Dr. James Allan Francis authored One Solitary Life, which was part of a sermon he delivered in 1926 concerning the life of Jesus. Francis wrote, “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of those things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying his executors gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth – His coat. When he was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.”5

Then everything changed. Jesus made the greatest comeback the world has ever seen. He did not rise again to over-throw rulers, emperors, kings or countries. He did not command an army to conquer neighboring countries or control continents. Not Genghis Khan, not Alexander the Great, not Caesar, not Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, impacted the world like Jesus Christ. 

Christ conquered sin and death and gave a new meaning to the word hope. Not a hope bound by secular earthly laws, but a promise that extends into a life beyond what we currently experience. Many may claim Christ was a great man. A man full of wisdom, a teacher extraordinaire, but He was not a God. If that is true, then the promise Christ made to everyone was from the tongue of a lunatic. 

C.S. Lewis said it best, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”6

If Paul had just lived in fear we would not have the New Testament as we do today. If President Lincoln had given up slavery may have lasted another 100 years. If Stephen Hawking and Cornel had wallowed in self-pity, if Ayaan Hirsi Al had not found the courage to escape, their world and ours would look very different. Take the small steps, tiny steps even. Be encouraged and look for inspiration. John 16:33

The Bible was not only written to inform us of the person of Christ but to transform us, inspire us. We all fall short of His likeness, and I do on a daily basis, but we can often find some nearby inspiration. Some of us have people in our lives that we can reach out and touch, people who have an inspiring come-back-kid story. Yet the conclusive comeback story will always be the story of Christ, and that story means to mold and transform us into a likeness of the ultimate comeback-kid, Jesus Christ. 

  1. Boa, Kenneth. “Trusting Eternity or Cursing Time.” Rewriting Your Broken Story, Downers Grove, IVP Books, 2016, p. 76 []
  2. Blake, Andrew. “Stephen Hawking thesis crashes Cambridge website.” Washington Times[i] washingtontimes.com, 6 March 2017, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/24/stephen-hawking-thesis-crashes-cambridge-website/ []
  3. “The Cornel Romanian Rehabilitation Centre Trust.” thecorneltrust.wordpress.com, 17 August 2013, https://thecorneltrust.wordpress.com/ []
  4. Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. “The Letter of the Law.” Infidel New York, Free Press, 2007, p. 349 []
  5. “All About Jesus Christ.” Jesus is Lord, allaboutjesuschrist.org, n.d. https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/ []
  6. Lewis, C.S. “The Shocking Alternative.” Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 1952. p. 52 []

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