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Can we trust in criticism of the Bible?

 

 

Bible criticism and liberal theology are contemporary phenomena. However, critics have a naturalistic preconception that is not based on science and facts

 

 

Foreword

 

In this writing, we are going to study the reliability of the Bible, especially that of the Gospels. This issue may be problematic for many people and they may lose their faith because of it. Often, many researchers who doubt the history of the Bible may say things like: "In the real world, miracles have never occurred." These statements may influence people's minds. They may say that the issues described in the Bible are unreliable.

   However, it is good to note that such statements are nothing new: They have been presented over the course of the past two hundred years. Actually, it is interesting to note that as Darwin's theory of evolution, and the theory of the Ice Age became well-known, criticism of the Bible simultaneously began to gain ground. Researchers began to spring up who questioned the writings about the life of Jesus and other Biblical events. They may have thought that if the Creation and the Flood are not true in light of these theories, we would then have no reason to believe information about Jesus. So it is certainly not by chance that all three issues were raised almost simultaneously.

   In any case, it is good for us to study this. The purpose is, especially, to help those people who want to know more about the reliability of Biblical information, and to show how reasonable it is to trust in the truth of described events. If you struggle with this issue, it is worth your while to read further.

 

 

 

1. The Gospels at test
2. "The disciples wrote it"
3. Has the Bible's text remained unchanged?
4. The dating of the Gospels
5. Way of guessing
6. The current books of the New Testament
 

 

1. The Gospels at test

 

Preconceptions. In the foreword, it was mentioned that some researchers challenge the historical accuracy of the Bible. They may think that its stories are untrue, or that they are only religious descriptions that formed gradually and have been shaped over time.

   It is common for " higher criticism" to have one feature: several researchers have beforehand decided what can happen and what cannot happen. They decide – before beginning their research – that nothing supernatural is acceptable. They do not even allow for the possibility:

 

The liberal theologians who appear in the media nowadays do not even try to find out, in the light of historical evidence, whether the Bible's view about the supernatural Jesus is right or not. They start by assuming that it is wrong. That is why they only try to find out how the (in their opinion) mythical picture of Jesus in the Bible was formed. They must somehow explain how an ordinary man, in the minds of his successors, was transformed into the Son of God, who is said to have claimed to be God and work wonders and even rise from the dead.

   The starting point for these researchers is that the Gospels cannot be true! They start from the idea that things like being born from a virgin, miraculous healing and rising from the dead cannot happen and that is why they have to explain why the early successors of Jesus supposed that these things happened. The simple and reasonable explanation that these matters really have happened is not regarded as a plausible “excuse”. (1)

 

As comes to Jesus, some researchers have presented "with certainty" and omnisciently that the special things that happened in Jesus' life, such as being born from a virgin, the resurrection, and others, cannot be true as they do not suit the current "scientific world view".

  In the preface of his famous book The Life of Jesus, D.F. Strauss addresses this issue well. He is perhaps a typical example of the prevailing attitude among many researchers:

 

In brief, we can reject all miracles, prophesies and accounts about angels and demons and also everything that is simply impossible and in conflict with the well-known and universal laws that guide events.

 

Also well-known theologian Adolf von Harnack comments on the same issue:

 

We are completely convinced that everything happening in time and space take place subject to the laws of nature. Any "miracles" that break the order of nature cannot happen. (Adolf von Harnack, What is Christianity?, p. 28-29, New York, Putnam, 1901)

 

The fact that some researchers may say that no miracles or supernatural events can have happened is, however, a very bold and contradictory claim. It is based on their preconceptions and not on what we can really be sure about. Whenever someone makes such claims, the person presenting the claim should have unlimited knowledge of world history. If someone claims, “I know that miracles cannot happen”, it is the same as if he were saying that he knows all the events that took place in the history of the world. This person would need to know everything that has ever taken place, perfectly.

   But what is the truth? Is it not a fact that each of us knows only a tiny part of all that has happened? Thus, if the circle below describes all the events that have occurred in the history of the world, we see that the portion we know is tiny. It is impossible for us to know what is possible based on this tiny area:

 

 

 

 

 


Therefore, we must understand that the previous view of researchers is based only on their own preconceptions and on nothing sure and real. They are "children of their time," as anybody else and that is why they believe this:

 

Socrates: That is exactly my question, professor – miracles. I believe that it is an even more important question than any of the ones you discussed in your lecture, albeit it was perfect. Do actual miracles ever take place? And how can we know whether they take place or not? How can we find the truth as comes to this question?

Professor: An extremely good question, Socrates. But in my opinion, my lecture already explained it quite perfectly.

Socrates: Then I must have missed it because I thought that it did not give any answers. In my opinion, your lecture only dealt with the history of opinions between science and religion.

Professor: Quite so, both miracles and supernatural issues. I tried to indicate how belief in miracles always rises in pre-scientific times and disappears in scientific times, such as during our own time. The heart of the matter is, in my opinion, quite simple and apparent.

Socrates: My goodness, I am afraid that you have a real numskull on your hands, professor. Because I really do not understand how – as a result of the fact that many people do not believe in miracles nowadays – it logically comes that miracles have never taken place.

Professor: I do not mean that.

Socrates: Well, good then. I was hoping that I had misunderstood you.

Professor: Why is that?

Socrates: Because that argument would assume that everything in which people do not believe anymore has never existed. An extremely odd supposition, which would mean that we can change the world merely by changing our beliefs, and even change the past.

Professor: Change the past?

Socrates: Yes, if you claim that miracles have never taken place in the past because scientific people in the present age do not believe in them.

Tuomas: Socrates, that is not fair. You make the professor's claim look foolish.

Socrates: My purpose is quite the opposite – to hold him clearly apart from the foolish, not to ensnare him in it. (…) (2)

 

Who can be A witness? It is good to note that if, for example, the resurrection of Jesus or being born from a virgin or other similar things are not held as true, they are not based on sure facts but it is only a philosophical view – a view that is actually related to deism and which denies the visible interference of God in the world both in the past and nowadays.

   But it is good to ask whether it is worth our while to trust in the researchers of today and in their "sure" opinions, or in what eye-witnesses themselves have seen, written, and told. Since several passages in the Bible refer to how people themselves were eye-witnesses and also hearers. In addition to this, Luke told that he tried to study the backgrounds of the issues which were known to be true, i.e., he certainly must have interviewed people about these events. If there is a better scientific way than eyewitness observations and accurate examinations of issues – which Luke used, for example – researchers should let us know about them.

 

- (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

 - (John 1:14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

- (1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

2 For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;

3 That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

 

 - (Luke 1:1-4) For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

2 Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus,

4 That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed.

 

In the same way, John and Peter claimed to be speaking the truth:

 

 - (John 19:35) And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe.

 

- (John  21:24) This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

 

 - (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

So, when we are looking for a scientific approach, we are certainly on more solid ground if we trust in the reports of eyewitnesses, instead of trusting people who live 2,000 years later and who do not have any personal information about the events. Is it not bold and also foolish for someone to claim that he knows more than eyewitnesses?

   Or if someone now claims to know more than they did, would it not be just the same as if a person “with sure facts” rushed to the scene of an accident from 1,000 miles away claiming to have seen everything? We can, therefore, ask how could anybody take us seriously if we were this kind of witnesses?

 

the researchers' jesus. A consequence of researchers' preconceptions, that is what can happen and what cannot, is that they have created their own Jesus. As they have not believed in the Bible as it has been written, they have been forced to give an explanation for how the stories about Jesus came into being.

   Therefore, it is not at all strange that many liberal researchers have searched for "the historic Jesus" or "what Jesus really was like", and have come up with rather conflicting results – results that actually cancel each other out. Some of them have deemed Jesus a political radical, some a seeker of the title of Messiah, some an ordinary faith healer whom there were many, some a religious genius and others a wise teacher who gradually became supernatural in the minds of the successors and changed into the Son of God.

   Based on the previous issues, we can see that the researchers' picture of Jesus need not have anything common with the reality and neither does it get any support from any reliable historical data. On the contrary, the researchers are forced to use the same Gospel material, which is available to others as well, and this material does not support their special views at all. Thus, they – even though they have appeared as unprejudiced and scientific – have been forced to trust their imagination and guess since they do not hold any concrete data in their hands. In addition to this, they have some kind of a condensed version of Christianity – a version that cannot help us with regard to eternity:

 

Socrates: Your religion is Christianity?

Professor: Yes.

Socrates: And your religion speaks about miracles?

Professor: Yes.

Socrates: What are these miracles?

Professor: Incarnation, the expiatory sacrifice of Christ and the resurrection, for example.

Socrates: What do those words mean?

Professor: All right, I understand. Socrates would not have known about these things. All right, this is good practice. They mean that the Almighty God came as a man, died, and rose from the tomb to save us from sin, death, and hell.

Socrates: And in your opinion this is not essential? If that really has happened, if it really has taken place, how can it simply be discarded like an extra piece of clothing? What will be left?

Professor: Timeless truths. How to live. Love.

Socrates: My goodness, everyone already knows them. If your religion is only capable of Great Platitudes, who will be interested in it then? Why be a Christian rather than something else?

Professor: I think that you must take up that question with professor Changing in the comparative religion science lecture.

Socrates: I would have rather wished to talk about it with you, as you claim to be a Christian. I still do not fully understand what it means. (…) (3)

 

 

 

2. "The disciples wrote it"

 

We are often told that the reports about Jesus must be rejected because the disciples wrote them and, therefore, they cannot be objective. Some people say that the Gospels were written because of the early church's desire to emphasize Jesus and therefore, they cannot be reliable. We disagree, based on the following considerations:

 

Is what has been written and spoken about true? Firstly, it is not a question of who wrote the Gospels, but whether the details they wrote about are true. The fact that the disciples were successors of Jesus does not matter, if they only told the truth. Only speaking the truth truly does matter, not the relation of the writers to the events:

 

- (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

- (John 21:24) This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

 

The appreciation of Jesus. The fact that the disciples regarded Jesus to be the Son of God, and His words to be worthy of preservation, suggests that they would strive to preserve them in their original form. The more valuable someone considers a person, the more accurately they will try to preserve his words. His value motivated disciples to accurately preserve the message. Many researchers, of course, hold the opposite opinion.

 

 - (John 6:68,69) Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

69 And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

Relationship between rabbis and their disciples. Another point that supports the accounts’ accuracy is the rabbis' relation to their disciples. In the society of that time, teachings of famous rabbis were regarded as "holy tradition" and were to be learned carefully by heart and then to be distributed on to others. The relation of Jesus to His disciples was probably of this kind; and besides, Jesus was not an ordinary rabbi; His disciples understood him to be the Messiah, sent by God. They would not have dared to change His words, or add anything to them.

 

What would they have achieved by lying? If stories about Jesus were not true, we might ask how the disciples would have benefited from lying. The fact is that most of them had to suffer for the sake of their message; eleven out of the twelve Apostles suffered a martyr’s death. (How many liberal theologians are ready to die because of their beliefs?) It would be a great wonder, indeed, if twelve men invented a lie for no reason, then willingly died to support that lie. The following quote refers to how little the disciples would have benefited from their supposed lie.

 

Furthermore, I noted that the Bible always refers to large and public events. If these had not actually taken place, the cancellation of the Bible's information would not have been a problem for its enemies, who have always been the majority. But nobody has succeeded in it. On the contrary, they have become stronger as the message of the Bible has been despised and ridiculed. I also noted that those who have testified of these events have been ready to die for it. They have stood fast, even though it has not benefited them in any outward way but has caused mere trouble, suffering and death. Why would they have done so if they had not been convinced of its truthfulness? Why would Peter and John and Thomas and others have testified that Jesus had risen from the dead if they had not seen it? Why would they have stuck with their testimony if they knew it would result in a lot of suffering for them? We can read their answers in 2 Peter 1:16- 21 and 1 John 1:1 - 3. (4)

 

The description of Jesus. The claim that the disciples embellished the image of their Master as being heavenly is not true. If they had done so, they would certainly have created another kind of person: they would have created some kind of a victorious hero. Doctor Chr. Ernst Luthard wrote about this:

 

But if the disciples had, according to their expectations, created a picture of the Messiah they certainly would have done it in another way. They would have created a royal son of David, and not a Galilean prophet, crucified and resurrected. The outward reality of Jesus' history was more of an obstacle than an aid to their faith, as it was not in line with their wishes. Only the influence of Jesus' personality raised them higher than all insults of their faith and assured them that He was the Messiah. (5)

 

The disposition of Paul. The next verses describe the character of Paul, the man who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament. It is unlikely that a person like Paul would have been guilty of lies:

 

- (2 Cor 12:14,15) Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

 

- (2 Cor 2:3,4) And I wrote this same to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.

4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly to you.

 

- (Rom 9:1-3) I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh

 

 - (2 Tim 3:10,11) But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

 

- (Phil 3:17) Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example.

 

Archaeological and other findings. Many archaeological and other findings prove the reliability of the Gospels. They indicate that these writings accurately reflect the lifestyle and conditions of society back then. For example, the researcher-archaeologist William Ramsay – a man who examined the Gospel of Luke and especially the reliability of the Acts – stated:

 

In the beginning, my reaction towards it was negative as the ingenuity and apparent conclusiveness of Tubing's theory completely convinced me at some point. (…) Gradually, I understood that the different details of the (biblical) report were surprisingly truthful. When I started, I was sure of the book having been written in the second century and that it was not reliably telling about the conditions during the first century, but slowly I found it to be a useful ally in some difficult research." (6)

 

Ramsay has also referred to the significance of Luke as a historian:

 

Luke is a forefront historian; he describes the facts reliably, but in addition to that he shows genuine comprehension of history; he internalizes the large lines of historical development and proportions his presentation to the significance of each case. He grabs important and decisive events and by dealing with them extensively shows the right view, but he deals with subjects, which in his view are insignificant only briefly or not at all. In brief, this author should be among the greatest historians. (7)

 

A.N. Sherwin-White, a researcher of the classical era who has been regarded as the pre-eminent expert of Roman law, also wrote about the reliability of the Acts of the Apostles (Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963, p. 173). He states that attempts to deny its reliability are absurd:

 

The historical accuracy of the Acts has proven to be amazing. (…) Any attempt to reject the fundamental quality of the history of the Acts, even in the small details, seems absurd. Researchers of the history of Rome have for a long time regarded it as self-evident.

 

The well-known archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote (Rivers of the Desert, 1959, p. 31) about archaeology related to the Bible. He indicates that the archaeological findings confirm the historical reliability of the Bible:

 

Absolutely and certainly speaking, not a single archaeological finding has ever questioned any passage of the Bible. Tens of archaeological findings that confirm the historical statements of the Bible either in broad outline or in detail have been made. (8) 

 

Miracles. The claim that the miracles, which Jesus worked and His resurrection are not true is not consistent with other sources:

 

- Jewish historian Josephus wrote about the miracles and resurrection of Jesus

- The Talmud, in which there are writings of the religious Jews of that time (mainly Pharisees), mentions miracles performed both by Jesus and by the disciples, even though the Talmud warns everyone against turning toward disciples of Christ for assistance even in danger or threat of death.

- In a fragment of the writings of Quadratus, Jesus' miracles and how He raised people from the dead are mentioned. Some of the people risen from the dead were alive when the writings were written.

- In the letter of Barnabas (appears in the book “The Apostolic Fathers”) the miracles by Jesus are mentioned.

 

Additional accounts outside the Bible. Other written accounts additional to those found in the Gospels are essentially similar to those written by disciples. Other accounts provide the following picture of Jesus:

 

- Jesus was a man filled with wisdom, if he can even be called a man (Josephus).

- Jesus was known by the name Jesus the Nazarene (Talmud).

- He said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Talmud).

- He was a teacher (Josephus, Talmud).

- He had disciples (Talmud).

- He worked miracles (Josephus, Talmud).

- His disciples healed the sick and worked miracles (Talmud).

- Pilate (26–36 A.D.) condemned Him to death (Tacitus, Josephus) because of the provocation of influential Jewish men (Josephus) during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14–37 AD.) (Tacitus).

- He was condemned to death on the cross (Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Talmud).

- There was darkness at the time of His crucifixion (Thallus).

- He was crucified during the Passover (Talmud).

- He rose from the dead (Josephus).

- The successors of Jesus regarded Him as God and sang songs to praise Him (Plinius the Younger).

- He had Jewish and Greek successors (Josephus).

- Faith in Christ originated from Judea (Tacitus, Josephus) and spread to Rome from there (Tacitus).

- Jesus' successors were called Christians (Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plinius the Younger).

- Jesus had a brother called Jacob (Josephus).

- Jesus was called Christ or the Messiah (Josephus).

 

Other points which are EVIDENCE of THE truthfulness of the gospels. In addition to the external references mentioned above, there also exist other points which prove the reliability of the gospels, such as:

 

Unfavorable material from the point of view of the writers. One thing that proves the truthfulness of the Gospels is the unfavorable information in them (concerning the writers and Jesus) that certainly would have been left out if the disciples had not tried to be truthful and tell how matters really were. Such unfavorable points are, for instance, the fact that Jesus could not perform any miracles in Galilee (Mark 6:5) and that His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5), many people turning away from Him and no longer following Him (John 6:66), Jesus' words to the rich young man, "Why call you me good?" (Mark 10:18), some other people claiming that Jesus did miracles by the power of Beelzebub (Matt 12:24), Peter denying Jesus (Matt 26:69-75), some doubting when they saw the risen Lord, (Matt 28:17) as well as the disciples fearing and being behind locked doors (John 20:19).

   The existence of such negative references in the text, strongly support the historical accuracy of the events.

 

There is no clear reason – except that the writers wanted to tell the matters just as they were – for why the Gospels include such a strange detail as Jesus shouting on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If the primary target of the writers of the Gospels was to describe Christ as the Messiah ("the Anointed one") and as the Son of God, by no means would they have included this passage in their accounts. And they certainly could not have made it up! (9)

 

Large public events and crowds. A strong point that proves the historical accuracy of these events are the crowds of thousands of people that appeared during the activity of both Jesus and the Apostles. The Apostles might also, in their public speeches, appeal (Acts 2:14-36, 3:12-26, 7:2-53, 13:16-41, 17: 22-31, 22:3-21, 24:10-21, 26:2-23) to the fact that the listeners themselves knew matters and, therefore, they did not occur anywhere out of reach.

   It would certainly have been impossible to speak and write about such issues or to get thousands of people to believe in Christ if these really had not been true, as there were certainly many hostile witnesses around who could immediately nullify any incorrect information. The next verses refer to large crowds:

 

- (Matt 4:24,25) And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

 

- (Mark 3:8) And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came to him.

 

- (Matt 14:16,20,21) But Jesus said to them, They need not depart; give you them to eat.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

 

- (Matt 16:9-11) Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?

11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  

 

- (Acts 2:22,40,41) You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know

40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.

 

- (Acts 26:24-26) And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

 

 - (Acts10:37,38) That word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

 

Several well-known people. The Bible often speaks about influential people who are known from history (Herod the Great, Pilate, Caiphas the High Priest and his father-in-law Annas, Joseph of Arimathea, the prominent member of the Council, Herod Agrippa, Gamaliel, Proconsul Sergius Paulus, Proconsul Gallio, King Agrippa, Governor Felix, Governor Porcius Festus, etc.) and refers to large and public events. If these events had not taken place, it would not have been difficult for the opponents of the Gospel to invalidate the information of the Bible, as they were always the majority and many of them were still alive at the time when the New Testament was written. As Polycarpos, a pupil of the Apostle John, said:

 

So sure is the ground on which these Gospels rest that even the heretics themselves prove in favor of them, and from this, each of them try to draw up their own special doctrines. (10)

 

All things have their causes. There must be a good reason why the Christian church began in the first century and started growing explosively, because nothing comes from nothing. If Jesus Himself was not this reason, then we must find some other cause.

  Why would we search for other causes or people – about whom historical sources tell nothing – since there exists enough support for Jesus providing the impetus? If He had not been regarded as the Son of God, and His resurrection and performance of miracles as facts; if His life was not the fulfillment of prophesies; If His actions as the Saviour did not atone for our sins (the most important issue!), then surely no one would have written anything about Him. If He was not more special than all other people in every way, then there existed no reason to write about Him. The only reasonable explanation for writing about Him must have been that the events actually occurred, and the disciples - the witnesses – wanted to record their testimony

 

 - (Luke 24:47,48) And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 And you are witnesses of these things.

 

Accurate details. If several accounts of the Bible were not true, there could be no accurate details in them: however, the Gospels and the book of Acts are full of such details. Many stories do not include such accurate details, while the Gospels include many: it indicates that people who witnessed and experienced the events were present. The following quote refers to this:

 

The accounts of the Gospels are full of slight details that are not directly in connection with the plot of the story. The historians (and the lawyers) are commonly of the opinion that this is an indication of an eyewitness account (or at least of an account declared by an eyewitness). John, for example, mentions how he won Peter in the race to the tomb. He goes on to say that he looked in the tomb and saw the strips of linen there, but that he himself did not go in. But Peter went into the tomb and saw "the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen." (John 20:4-8).

   There is no clear reason for adding these details; they do not add anything to what is essential in the account. On the contrary, they are quite unexpected. Who would have intentionally made up an account from which it can be concluded that Jesus rose from the dead nude? Such details existing can mean only one thing – that everything happened just like this. (11)

 

No mythology. Even though the Gospels speak of supernatural things, they do not include any mythological features – on the contrary, they are very moderate in describing things. The faults and imperfections of the disciples are described very realistically; they are not portrayed as invincible heroes or heroines, which was normal for stories told by ancient nations. Another point that accounts for the reliability of the stories is, naturally, that they were written only a few decades after the fact and when there still were hostile opponents. Noteworthy material of legends could surely not have come about in such a short time.

  C.S. Lewis, who was a professor in Oxford University, referred to the contents of the Gospels and how they do not resemble legends at all:

 

As a researcher of literary history, I am completely convinced that whatever the Gospels are, they are not legends in the least. I have read plenty of legends and it is completely clear to me that these are not such.

 

the Simplicity of ISSUES. Some researchers claim that the Gospels are not reliable because they contradict each other and the order of events change. They think that these matters weaken their historical reliability and make them unreliable.

   However, we say that those researchers cannot see the wood for the trees; that is, they cannot distinguish between the whole picture and unessential features (or as Jesus said, "You blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel", Matt 23:24). What should be more significant is whether Jesus lived, not in what order He spoke or did things. The order of the speeches is not so important with respect to the whole picture (even though we can clearly see some kind of an order in the events). Or should we assume that the Gospels would be exactly the same, word for word? Would this not be used to support the view that the Gospels are merely invented stories? (For example, when a traffic accident occurs, the eyewitnesses may have slightly different statements but this does not render the issue void – the accident nevertheless happened.)

   So, we must understand that these small contradictions are petty and unessential with respect to the whole. Instead, what is more essential is that the Gospels give an answer to the most important question: who Jesus Christ really was. They point the way to Him, which is of course the most important thing.

   So, most essential for us is certainly whether Jesus lived, what He spoke and did, and whether we receive the message of Him or not. We will still study each of these three matters separately:

 

Did Jesus live? First of all, there is the question of whether Jesus lived, that is, whether He is a historical person. Actually, we have already answered this question, as we noted that He has really lived and been on Earth. In addition to the Gospels, He is referred to by historians like Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plinius the Younger, and Thallus and in the Talmud. They indicate that Jesus once lived on Earth.

 

The Encyclopedia Britannica (15th edition, part 3, p.145) refers to these other sources that talk about Christ:

 

These separate reports prove that in the ancient times even the enemies of Christianity never doubted that Jesus was a historical person. The first time it was questioned was by many writers at the end of the 1700s, in the 1800s and in the beginning of the 1900s, with insufficient proof.

 

Gottlieb Klein was the main rabbi in Stockholm. Martin Buber, philosopher and Hasidic theologian, once stated that Gottlieb Klein knew the Jewish literature from the time of the second temple better than anybody else. Klein wrote in his book Is Jesus a Historical Person that Jesus surely lived on Earth:

 

My conclusion, which I have not come to at the last minute, but which has been formed after more than three decades and as a fruit of examining the history of the New Testament, can be summarized as follows: No other doctrine of the ancient world has been written more brightly, accurately and personally than that of Jesus. We can see and hear a real, a specific person before our eyes, who has the features of His time and who can be explained only in the light of the conditions that prevailed during His own time and environment. Ethical monotheism from somewhere else is searched for in vain as Jesus preached it in the spirit of a prophet and with them. A similar Jewish intellectual world to where Jesus walked, is searched for in vain. The sure historical fact, which no professor can ever change, therefore, is: Jesus is a historical person. (12)

 

What Jesus spoke and did? The next question concerns what Jesus spoke about and what He did. We can believe that the Gospels have just enough information about this. These writings indicate, for instance, that Jesus is the only way to God and that He came to fulfill the law, which is a basis for everyone's sins having been forgiven. Several verses indicate the significance of Jesus Christ:

 

- (John 8:24) I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.

 

- (John 8:45,46) And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not.

46 Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?

 

- (John 5:40) And you will not come to me, that you might have life.

 

- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.

 

To receive the message or to reject it. The third thing is receiving. Even though Jesus is already the way to God, has fulfilled the law for us and all being based on grace, we have something to do as well. We have to want to turn to Him and give our lives to God. Grace has already come through Jesus, but we can reject it, if we turn our back on God. Do not, therefore, reject the mercy of God and undervalue this important issue:

 

 - (2 Cor 6:1) We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

 

 

 

 

3. Has the Bible's text remained unchanged?

 

One thing that has occasionally been claimed is that the Bible is not in its original form, but that its text was changed at some stage. It has been suggested that perhaps the text we read today is not in any way similar to the original. If we examine this claim we can find evidence against it:

 

The abundant number of manuscripts. Although the original texts of the New Testament have not survived, many copies from quite early times have been preserved, and these show that the text is the same. As a general rule, the greater the number of preserved manuscripts of a text, the easier it is to verify its original form.

   Over 24,000 Greek and other early (100 - 400 A.D.) manuscripts of the New Testament or parts of the New Testament exist. When compared with the second-longest antique text, the Iliad of Homer (of which only 643 documents survive) – these early manuscripts represent a huge sample –, almost 40 times greater than the Iliad texts. Another example, texts from the war of Caesar in Gaul, includes just 10 documents, a very small number compared with the number of New Testament documents. Still, nobody doubts the reliability of these works. The following list describes the number of copies still available (information from Christianity: Hoax or History? by Josh McDowell):

 

Number of copies / Work

10  / Caesar                                   

20  / Livius                                     

7   /  Platon (tetraloges])                   

20  / Tacitus (annals)                     

1   / Tacitus (smaller volumes)      

7   / Plinius younger (history)        

8   / Thukydides (history)               

8   / Suetonius (De Vita Caesarum) 

8   / Herodotos (history)               

     / Horatio

193 / Sofocles                           

2    / Lucretius       

3    / Catullus        

9    / Euripides      

200 / Demosthenes 

49   / Aristotle  

10   / Aristophanes 

643 / Homeros (Iliad) 

over 24 000 / New Testament

 

 

Short interval. The time interval between an original text and its earliest copy can provide insight into the quality of its preservation. Generally, the shorter the interval between creation of an original text and its earliest copy, the more probable it is that the text was not changed.

   In this respect, the New Testament stands in good position. The average interval between creation of original works and their earliest copy is approximately 1,000 years. For New Testament books, only decades (depending on the time when the Gospel of John was written) separate the original from its copies -- a considerably shorter period than for the other texts. This short interval and the large number of preserved copies prove that New Testament texts have survived in their original form.

   The following list shows the interval between original and earliest copy of various texts of antiquity (information from Christianity: Hoax or History? by Josh McDowell):

 

Interval between original
text and earliest copy

1000 y / Caesar

          / Livius

1200 y / Platon (tetralogies])

1000 y / Tacitus (annals)

900   y / Tacitus (smaller volumes)

750   y / Plinius younger (history)

1300 y / Thukydides (history)

800  y / Suetonius (De Vita Caesarum)

1300 y / Herodotos (history)

900  y / Horatio

1400 y / Sofocles

100   y / Lucretius

1600 y / Catullus

1500 y /Euripides

1300 y / Demosthenes

1400 y / Aristotle

1200 y / Aristophanes

500  y / Homeros (Iliad)

25    y / New testament

 

The same text. New Testament texts were preserved in many old manuscripts, and there are very few differences – so few that from a practical point of view they are insignificant. When it comes to the uniformity of the texts, F.C. Grant stated:

 

To an attentive reader it is apparent, that (…) checking has not affected even one doctrine of Christian faith because of the simple reason that from the group of thousands of ways of reading the manuscripts there has not appeared even one that would require checking of the Christian doctrine. (13)

 

Also, Sir Frederic Kenyon commented on the same issue:

 

The interval of the original writing and the earliest preserved evidence is so short that it is insignificant, and the last ground for doubting that the Bible has been essentially altered is now removed. The authenticity of the books of the New Testament, that they are genuine and unchanged, can now be deemed completely confirmed. (14)

 

Quotes from the New Testament. Other evidence pointing to the originality of the books in the New Testament is the early church fathers’ quotes from them. Even if copies or parts of the New Testament texts had not survived, we could still reconstruct nearly the whole New Testament (except for 11 verses) from these quotes that have been preserved. According to research done by the British Museum, it is possible to find about 89,000 passages of the New Testament from among the writings of the early church. This number is very significant, and indicates how much the New Testament was used already in the early times. As to the number of these references, Sir Frederic Kenyon stated:

 

We cannot stress too much that the Bible’s – in this case especially the New Testament’s – main textual content is infallible. The number of the manuscripts of the New Testament, early translations and quotes that earlier writers of the church have used is so great that it is practically sure that for every passage that has been under suspicion, the right reading has been preserved, at the least in some of these texts. This cannot be said about any other ancient book in the world. (15)

 

THE TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. In the previous paragraphs, we have mainly dealt with the text of the New Testament. However, there is also evidence supporting the preservation of the texts of the Old Testament as well, such as:

 

Quotes in the New Testament. One good piece of evidence is that in the New Testament there are quotes from and references to the Old Testament. There are up to several hundreds of these quotes and they appear, for example, in the words of Jesus and also in the letters by Paul.

   It is essential to realize that these hundreds of quotes prove the accuracy of the text of the Old Testament. They show that texts were identical to the original, in the same way that quotation of passages from New Testament books by church fathers points to the accuracy of New Testament books. They show that the texts of the Old Testament – of which the most recent reached their final form about 400 years earlier – were not changed.

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls are another compelling piece of evidence in the case of text accuracy. These scrolls, the oldest of which date back to about 300 B.C., were found very near the Dead Sea. Their text does not deviate from the texts of modern Old Testament books. On the contrary, these scrolls – in which were found all the books of the Old Testament except for the Book of Esther – are quite similar to those currently used. Thus, the allegation that changes have been made to the text of the Old and/or New Testament books is false. There exists no proof for such a claim. Instead, we are supplied many material proofs that exactly the opposite is true: the texts have been faithfully preserved.

 

 

 

 

4. The dating of the Gospels

 

Some researchers have tried to date the Gospels – the books that tell about Jesus – at a point very late in time, and have said that, "The New Testament cannot be very accurate because it was written so much after the time of Jesus." They deem the Gospels unreliable because, they think, they were not written so long ago.

   What is the truth? Were the Gospels written by contemporaries of Jesus or were they not? Below, we are going to study the evidence associated with their creation. This evidence proves that the Gospels were, after all, written at a very early point in time.

 

The writers are well-known. One uncontested piece of evidence supporting the early creation of the Gospels is that the writers themselves were either apostles who lived at the same time as Jesus (Matthew, John) or they were associated with the apostles (Mark and Luke). External sources including Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius, Origenes, Clemens Alexandrian and a fragment of Muratorio are among those ancient sources who confirm the identity of the writers. There is nothing uncertain about who wrote these books. For example, the following account written by Papias, bishop of Hieropolis, describes the activities of Mark to document information provided by the Apostle Peter. Also, Papias knew the Apostle John.

 

The oldest [apostle John] also used to say, "Mark, who was the interpreter of Peter, wrote down to every detail everything he [Peter] mentioned either about the speeches of Christ or his works, but not in chronological order, however. For he was not a hearer and follower of the Lord; but later on, as I said, he followed Peter who adapted his teaching according to need, not in order to dictate a collection of words of the Lord.

   Therefore, Mark did not make any mistakes when he this way wrote down some points as Peter mentioned them; since he paid attention to this exact point: to mention everything he had heard; and he would not add any wrong evidence. (16)

 

One can ask, therefore, how the origin of these books could be later in time if the writers clearly were contemporaries of Jesus and the apostles. The lifetimes of the apostles – many of them, like Peter, died in the 60s – clearly followed their own deadlines for the writing of the Gospels. It is impossible that they wrote them after their death, and we can also assume that at this point, they could not check any details.

   The conclusion is that these texts were written much earlier than today’s critics generally suppose. (Well-known liberal researcher John A.T. Robinson concluded after having studied the issue a second time that all the Gospels must have been written between the years 40 and 65.) People who suppose that they were written later do not have any proof. 

 

The information about society. Both the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles include several details of a historical, geographical and religious nature about the society of the time – quite detailed information and thus all the more difficult to explain. These pieces of information include, for example:

 

- Titles of persons. Luke uses exactly correct official titles for various persons – titles that would have been hard to learn later on, since at that time the titles and official positions of persons changed often. It is probably just this fact that correct titles have been used at the correct time that makes the strongest impact on researchers today. The most reasonable explanation is that these writings were created very soon after the actual events.

 

- Jerusalem. It has been possible to confirm details about Jerusalem (it was destroyed in 70 A.D.) and its natural features. For example, Solomon's Colonnade (John 10:23), the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2) and several other physical structures have been uncovered by archaeologists.  

   These kinds of references in the Gospels, especially those referring to Jerusalem, would have been hard to write at a later date, because the city was destroyed in the year 70, and almost nothing of it was left standing. Only people who were familiar with Jerusalem’s history and buildings before the city’s destruction could have written those texts. This clearly sets the date of the creation of the Gospels to within a generation of its principle characters, not a time closer to our own.

 

- Descriptions of eye-witnesses. Above, it was explained that the texts include plenty of details and descriptions by eye-witnesses which are difficult to explain if the texts were created much later after events. The most reasonable alternative is to accept the explanation that the texts must have been written during the generation that was there to see and witness the events.

 

The relationship between the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels. One important key in dating the Gospels lies in dating of the Acts of the Apostles. If we know the time when the Acts of the Apostles was written, we must admit that the Gospels were written before that date.

   Almost all researchers agree that the Gospels (at least the three first ones: Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written before the Acts of the Apostles because:

 

1. The Gospels describe events up to and including the year 30 A.D., whereas the Acts of the Apostles describes events that occurred before approximately 60 A.D. This means that there is a difference of almost thirty years between them.

 

2. Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of Apostles, wrote the Gospel first – cf. Luke 1:1 and the Acts 1:1.

 

3. Above, it was noted that Luke wrote his Gospel before the Acts.

   The common view, however, is that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were written before Luke. Furthermore, church tradition holds that the Gospel of Matthew was the first one written. (This was noted by Irenaeus, for example, who said that Matthew published his gospel first among the Hebrews in their language. What is important about the statement of Irenaeus is that he had a connection to Polycarpos who was a disciple of Apostle John.). This proves that the three first Gospels were Matthew, Mark (as noted before, Mark served as Peter’s interpreter) and Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles was written after them by Luke.

 

So if we know when the Acts of the Apostles was written, we also know that the Gospels must have been written before that time.

   When did Luke write the Acts of the Apostles, then? Was this text written at some later point in time or was it written closer to the events it mentions? Below are some reasons why it is justified to believe that the text had already been written by the early ’60s:

 

- Not once does Luke mention in the Acts of the Apostles the shocking devastation of Jerusalem and its temple in the year 70 A.D. during which approximately a million people died. Neither does he mention the rebellion against the Romans that led to the destruction and started in 66 A.D. This is significant because in the Acts of the Apostles, Jerusalem is the central place and Luke does mention a smaller skirmish between the Jews and the Romans that took place in 44 A.D. He would certainly have mentioned the events of 66 and 70 A.D. if they had already occurred. The fact that he does not mention these events clearly suggests that he must have written the text before those events took place.

 

 - In the earlier work of Luke Jesus prophesies the devastation of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But the Acts of the Apostles does not include any reference to the fulfillment of this prophecy. Certainly Luke would have mentioned it, if it had already taken place when he was writing the Acts of the Apostles.

   Actually, there is not even one reference in any book of the New Testament to the actual devastation of Jerusalem and its temple: it is always referred to as an event in the future, not something that has already happened. This omission can only be explained by the fact that the texts were written before the devastation of Jerusalem occurred.

 

- Luke’s description of Rome and its administrative organization is quite peaceful. He does not mention, for example, Emperor Nero who widely persecuted the Christians after 64 A.D. – even though he does mention other emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, in The Acts 11:28). This suggests that Luke must have written the Acts of the Apostles before 64 A.D.

 

- The Acts of the Apostles ends with Apostle Paul being still alive in Rome; his death is not mentioned (in 64 A.D.?). Neither does Luke mention the martyrdom of Peter (65 A.D.) and Jacob (62 A.D.) – although even historian Josephus mentions the death of Jacob – but he does describe in detail the deaths of other “less important” leaders such as Stephanus and the other Jacob.

   This omission by Luke is significant, because approximately half of the Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul, a large portion of it Peter, and Jacob is also an important person. The only reasonable explanation is that Luke must have written the text before these people died. There is no other way to account for the fact that he did not write about their deaths.

 

The letters of Paul. Even if we had no evidence proving that the Gospels were written at an early date, there is still the similarity between the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus and the descriptions of Him in other parts of the New Testament. Paul, for example, whose letters are commonly thought to have been written between 50 and 60 A.D., described Jesus in the same way. His view of Jesus hardly differs from that given in the Gospels.

   What is important about the view given by Paul is that he was also a contemporary of Jesus and the first disciples. He also met the other apostles a couple of times (Gal 1:18, 2:1,9) and was influenced at the same time as them.

   In any case, the letters of Paul (marked with P) and the Gospels (G) have the similarities listed below. These similarities prove that the Gospels offer the same view of Jesus as the letters of Paul, which are assumed to have been written in 50 – 60 A.D.

 

The creator of all:

 

- (John 1:3 G) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 

- (Col 1:16 P) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

 

God who became a man:

 

- (John 1:1,14 G) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

- (Phil 2:5-8 P) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.

 

- (Rom 9:5 P) Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

 

Came to save people:

 

- (Luke 19:10 G) For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

 

- (1 Tim 1:15 P) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

 

The judge of all:

 

- (Matt  16:27 G) For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

 

- (2 Cor 5:10 P) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.

 

The second coming:

 

- (Matt 24:30 G) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

 

- (1 Thess 4:15,16 P) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

 

Came under the law and fulfilled the law:

 

- (Matt 5:17 G) Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

 

- (Gal 4:4,5 P) But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

 

Suffered:

 

- (Luke 17:25 G) But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

 

- (Hebr 2:18 P) For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

 

Sinless:

 

- (John 8:45,46 G) And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not.

46 Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?

 

- (Hebr 4:15 P) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

 

Betrayed:

 

- (Matt 26:25 G) Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I?  He said to him, You have said.

 

- (1 Cor 11:23 P) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

 

Condemned before Pilate:

 

- (Matt 27:2 G) And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

 

- (1 Tim 6:13 P) I give you charge in the sight of God, who vivifies all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

 

Crucified:

 

- (Luke 23:33 G) And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

 

- (1 Cor 2:8 p) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

- (2 Cor 13:4 P) For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.

 

- (Gal 3:1 P) O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

 

Rose from the dead:

 

- (Luke 24:5,6 G) And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them, Why seek you the living among the dead?

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spoke to you when he was yet in Galilee,

 

- (1 Cor 15:17,20 G) And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.

 

Grace through Him:

 

- (John 1:17 G) For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

 

- (1 Cor 1:4 P) I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

 

 We can be saved by believing in Him:

 

- (John 1:12 G) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 

 - (Rom 10:11 P) For the scripture said, Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.

 

Only way to salvation:

 

- (John 14:6 G) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.

 

- (1 Cor 3:11 P) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 

- (Eph 3:12 P)  In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

 

 

 

 

5. The way of gessing

 

Occasionally, some liberal researchers claim that new evidence, important data, has been found that is in conflict with the view of Jesus given in the Bible, and which cancels it. In this context, the gospel of Thomas, the secret gospel of Mark, the gospel of Peter and especially the so-called “Q source” are mentioned and said to cancel the view of Jesus given by the New Testament.

   However, we should study these sources and their reliability. We will find that there are numerous problems with this evidence. We are going to study some of them below:

 

Finding of the sources. The following is known about how the four writings mentioned above were found:

 

 - The Q source has never been found. It is based on a mere hypothesis, and assumed to have existed. However, more and more researchers doubt that it even exists.

 

- The Secret Gospel of Mark is based on the claim of Morton Smith that he found a letter by Clemens Alexandrian (ca. 150–215 A.D.), in which this writing was mentioned.

   The problem is that nobody has ever seen the secret gospel of Mark. Another problem is that nobody has ever seen the above-mentioned letter by Clemens; it disappeared mysteriously from the monastery in which Morton Smith claimed to have found it! This kind of evidence has no value whatsoever.

 

 - The gospel of Thomas has never been commonly known or accepted. It was actually not found until a little more than fifty years ago, and most researchers date it at the middle of the second century. This collection includes clear Gnostic features (for example, a woman must make herself a man in order to enter the kingdom of heaven), and there are also some familiar words of Jesus from the Gospels, but there is no reason to assume that they are anything more than quotes from the Gospels of the New Testament.

   As a matter of fact, this text cannot even be regarded as an actual gospel, because it does not tell when and in which situations the words were spoken. It only includes separate expressions with no historical frame of reference.

 

- The myth-like Gospel of Peter was found as recently as a little over hundred years ago.

 

Myth-like. Many of the above-mentioned sources and books of apocrypha are myth-like.

   For example, the Gospel of Peter mentioned above includes Jesus who feels no pain on the cross. When he comes out of the tomb, there are two men with him whose heads almost reach the heavens, and the head of Jesus reaches above the heaven! In addition to this, a speaking cross comes out of the tomb after them!

   In the gospel of Thomas it is told how the child Jesus plays and creates living sparrows from clay, and as a learning carpenter, stretches wooden logs as if they were rubber, and also makes other tricks with no purpose in mind. This list could go on and on.

   J.B. Phillips, in his book Ring of Truth: A Translator's Testimony (1967, p. 95), wrote that these writings that were left out of the New Testament are based on magic and mystification, myths and imagination:

 

"I had to admire their wisdom. Obviously, most people have not had the chance to read apocryphal ‘gospels' and ‘letters’, even though all researchers have read them. I can only state that in these writings, we move to the world of magic and mystification, myths and imagination. When I was translating the New Testament, I never --- experienced the eerie world of sorcery and magic powers radiating from these books that have been left out of the New Testament. It is just this realistic faith of the writers of the New Testament that convinced me that their writings are genuine." (17)

                                                               

The time of writing. In addition to the books of apocrypha being myth-like and based on imagination, they have also been normally dated at the 2nd or 3rd century or even at a more recent point in time. Thus, they have been written a long time after the actual events and they also lack the eyewitness descriptions and the accurate geographical and other details that are so usual in the New Testament. These properties are completely missing from these writings of a later point in time.

 

 

 

 

6. The current books of the New Testament

 

Many liberal researchers try to bring out the myth-like books of the apocrypha, but there are several good reasons why the current books of the New Testament are a part of the New Testament. We are going to study these reasons first from the point of view of the four Gospels:

        

The current four Gospels

 

 - One piece of evidence is that the writers are commonly known. They are known to have been apostles themselves or persons who had a personal connection with the apostles. There is no suggestion in the early church that the Gospels known by the names of their writers were written by someone else. When it comes to the apocryphal books, it is not known who wrote them, and they are not commonly known or valued.

 

- In approximately 180 A.D. Irenaeus, who had a connection to Polycarpos, the disciple of Apostle John, wrote that, "the four gospels could be regarded as clear and natural as the four cardinal points."  This indicates how esteemed the current four gospels were at that time.

 

- A Church Father Origenes (ca. 230 A.D.) referred to the four gospels. He said, "The Christians have four gospels, the heretics a large number of them." (Edwin M. Yamacchi, “The Word From Nag Hammadi,” Christianity Today, 13 January 1978)

 

 - The canon of Murator dating back to approximately the year 170 A.D., obviously refers to the four gospels as well. The early parts of the text have been partially destroyed, but in the later part it is stated how the Gospel of Luke is the third Gospel, and the Gospel of John the next after Luke. It is likely that the first Gospels were written by Matthew and Mark.

 

 - Ca. 160 A.D. Syrian apologist Tatianus made known a combination of four gospels that was known by the name of Diatessaron. This book was a combination of the four canonical Gospels: it included parts of each of the four Gospels. At present, the text is important mainly in showing how these four Gospels were valued and a part of the canon.

 

- The Chester Beatty papyruses found in 1930 initially included the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. These papyruses that were dated at the beginning of the 3rd century indicated that the current books of the New Testament had already been collected.

 

- An opponent of Christianity, Celsus, who lived in the 2nd century, also indirectly confirmed the status of the current Gospels. In his assaults, this non-believer mentioned almost all of the essential issues and doctrines of the Gospels and quoted the New Testament eighty times, because they included Christians’ holy writings. He accurately quoted the current four Gospels.

 

Other evidence on behalf of the current books of the New Testament

 

- Other sources confirm. As we already noted, the essential parts of the other sources are identical to the writings of the disciples. These sources confirm numerous details from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels.

 

- Quotes from church fathers. Approximately 89,000 quotes from church fathers from the time before the 5th century regarding the current books of the New Testament have been preserved, and from these the whole New Testament, except for 11 verses, could be reconstructed – even if no books of the New Testament had been preserved. This proves how highly appreciated the current books of the New Testament were already in the early church.

 

- Number of manuscript copies. Thousands of manuscript versions and copies of the current books of the New Testament have been preserved. This is not the case with many books of the apocrypha: few copies were preserved, they were not commonly known, and they were known to have been written more recently.

 

- Part of God. If God wanted to send Jesus to atone for our sins, there is no reason to doubt that He would be unable to make sure that His message would be preserved in books and that just the right books would become the writings of the New Testament. This is only to be expected if we believe in the supernatural God.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

1. Gregory A. Boyd: Jeesus Median myllyssä (JESUS UNDER SIEGE), p. 37

2. Peter Kreeft, Sokrates & Jeesus, P. 39,40

3. Same, P. 48,49

4. C.O. Rosenius, Synti se on (“It is sin”), p. 113

5. Chr. Ernst Luthard, Kristinuskon perustotuuksista (“About basic truths of Christianity”), p. 314

6. W.M. Ramsay, St. Paul the traveller (1897), P. 7 – Quote from Taistelu Raamatusta (THE BATTLE FOR THE BOOK), David Marshall.

7. W.M. Ramsay, The bearing of recent discovery on the trustworthiness of the New testament (1915), p. 222 – Quote  from Taistelu Raamatusta (THE BATTLE FOR THE BOOK), David Marshall.

8. Quote from Elämä maan päällä - kehityksen vai luomisen tulos? (“Life on earth – result of development or Creation?”) Jeh. witnesses., p. 214.

9. Gregory A. Boyd, Jeesus Median myllyssä (JESUS UNDER SIEGE), p. 95

10. Writings of Polykarpos, which historian Irenaeus (180 jKr.), the bishop of Lyonin has preserved  – Quote from Jeesus, totta vai tarua? (CHRISTIANITY: HOAX OR HISTORY), Josh Mcdowell, p.62.

11. Gregory A. Boyd, Jeesus Median myllyssä (JESUS UNDER SIEGE), P. 78

12. Quote from Kenenkä te sanotte minun olevan?, Risto Santala, p. 66.

13. F.C.Grant , An introduction to the revised standard version of the New testament (1946), p. 42 – Quote from Raamatun juuret (THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS), F.F. Bruce, s. 266.

14. F.G.Kenyon, The Bible and archaeology (1940), p. 228 – Quote from Raamatun juuret (THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS), F.F.Bruce, p. 266.

15. F.G.Kenyon, Our Bible and the ancient manuscripts, p. 85 - Quote from Voiko Raamattukritiikkiin luottaa? Tapio Luttinen, p. 40.

16. Quote from Jeesus totta vai tarua (CHRISTIANITY: HOAX OR HISTORY), Josh McDowell, p.62.

17. Quote from Taistelu Raamatusta (THE BATTLE FOR THE BOOK), David Marshall, p. 37.

 

 

SOURCES:

 

- Boyd, Gregory, A., Jeesus median myllyssä (JESUS UNDER SIEGE)

- Boyd, Gregory, A. and Edward, K., Epäilijän kirjeet (LETTERS FROM A SKEPTIC)

- Bruce, F.F., Raamatun juuret (THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS)

- Eskola Timo and Junkkaala Eero, Tyhjän haudan arvoitus (“Mystery of the empty grave”)

- Gustavsson, Stefan, Perusteltu usko (Kristen pÅ GODA GRUNDER / “Justified faith”)

- Little, Paul, Tiedä miksi uskot (KNOW WHY YOU BELIEVE)

- Luttinen Tapio, Voiko Raamattukritiikkiin luottaa?

- Marshall, David, Taistelu Raamatusta (THE BATTLE FOR THE BOOK)

- Mcdowell, Josh, Jeesus - totta vai tarua? (CHRISTIANITY: HOAX OR HISTORY)

- Nummela, Leif, Perusteltu usko

 

 

More on this topic:

"The Bible isn’t historically reliable"

The early stages of mankind. The first 11 chapters of the Bible are real history. This includes creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the mixing of languages. Read here

The Bible and history. There is tremendous evidence for biblical events and the historicity of individuals - including Jesus. Check out this evidence

The Flood. There is ample evidence for the historical nature of the Flood in nature and in human tradition. Read how much evidence there is

Josephus' book War of the Jews and biblical history. The same people and events mentioned on the pages of the Bible also appear in other sources. Read what the historian Josephus has written

 

Apocrypha of the Old Testament and the history of the Bible. The same persons and events mentioned on the pages of the Bible also appear in other sources, such as the Old Testament apocryphal books. Read more here

 

Evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. The only logical conclusion is to hold the resurrection of Jesus true. The birth of the early church and the early success of the Christian faith require it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life

 

 

  

 

Grap to eternal life!

 

More on this topic:

"The Bible isn’t historically reliable"

The early stages of mankind. The first 11 chapters of the Bible are real history. This includes creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the mixing of languages. Read here

The Bible and history. There is tremendous evidence for biblical events and the historicity of individuals - including Jesus. Check out this evidence

The Flood. There is ample evidence for the historical nature of the Flood in nature and in human tradition. Read how much evidence there is

Josephus' book War of the Jews and biblical history. The same people and events mentioned on the pages of the Bible also appear in other sources. Read what the historian Josephus has written

 

Apocrypha of the Old Testament and the history of the Bible. The same persons and events mentioned on the pages of the Bible also appear in other sources, such as the Old Testament apocryphal books. Read more here

 

Evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. The only logical conclusion is to hold the resurrection of Jesus true. The birth of the early church and the early success of the Christian faith require it