How Does the New Testament Itself Help Us to Determine Its Reliability?

Scholars studying ancient literature have devised the science of textual criticism to examine documents such as The Odyssey, comparing them with other ancient documents to determine their accuracy. More recently, military historian Charles Sanders augmented textual criticism by devising a three-part test that looks at not only the faithfulness of the copy but also the credibility of the authors. His tests are these:

The bibliographical test

The internal evidence test

The external evidence test¹

Let’s see what happens when we apply the internal evidence test to the early New Testament manuscripts. [Read more…]

Was Jesus Actually Dead?

“Marley was deader than a doornail, of that there was no doubt.” So begins Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the author not wanting anyone to be mistaken as to the supernatural character of what is soon to take place. In the same way, before we take on the role of CSI (crime scene investigator) and piece together evidence for a resurrection, we must first establish that there was, in fact, a corpse. After all, occasionally the newspapers will report on some “corpse” in a morgue who was found stirring and recovered. Could something like that have happened with Jesus? [Read more…]

Is There Any Evidence that Jesus Existed?

Skeptics like Ellen Johnson [former President of American Atheists] cite the “lack of secular history” for Jesus as evidence that he didn’t exist.

Yet there is very little documentation for any person from the time of Christ. Most ancient historical documents have been destroyed through the centuries, by wars, fires, and pillaging, or simply through weathering and deterioration.

According to E. M. Blaiklock, who has catalogued most of the non-Christian writings of the Roman Empire, “practically nothing exists from the time of Christ”, even for great secular leaders such as Julius Caesar.¹ Yet no historian questions Caesar’s existence.

And since he wasn’t a great political or military leader, Darrell Bock notes, “It is amazing and significant that Jesus shows up at all in the sources we have.”²

So, who are these sources Bock mentions? Which early historians who wrote of Jesus did not have a Christian agenda? First of all, let’s look to Jesus’ enemies. [Read more…]

Heretics Confirm the New Testament

The wealthy merchant Marcion (d. c.160 A.D.) didn’t like what he thought was the cranky God of the Old Testament, so he removed this God from his version of the Bible. He amputated the entire Old Testament as well as any New Testament books that to him sounded like the Old Testament. We generally know what was in his Bible, and it contained much of what is in ours. What he amputated is harder to discern. The important point is that Marcion’s partial list of New Testament books in 135 A.D. affirms their acceptance 200 years prior to the Council of Nicaea. [Read more…]

Are the New Testament Accounts of Jesus Reliable?

How do we know that the words we read about Jesus in the New Testament are reliable?  Can we actually trace the manuscript evidence back through the centuries and determine what the original writings said?

The answer from the science of textual criticism is, “Yes,” but only if there are enough ancient manuscripts dating to within a few generations of when the originals were composed.  The Scholars studying ancient literature have devised a three-part test that looks at not only the faithfulness of the copy but also the credibility of the authors.  The tests are these:[1]

1. The bibliographical test

2. The internal evidence test

3. The external evidence test

Let’s see what happens when we apply the first of these tests to the early copies of New Testament manuscripts. [Read more…]