The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

In the previous chapter, it was shown that history is objectively knowable. In the present chapter, we will discuss whether or not the reports of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ as presented in the New Testament documents are historically reliable.

This chapter is an important step in the overall apologetic for historical Christianity. It will serve not only as a basis for the historicity of Christ’s claims to be the Incarnate Son of God but also for the historicity of the confirming miracle of the resurrection of Christ from the grave.

There are two important steps in establishing the historical reliability of the New Testament. First, there is the matter of the authenticity of the New Testament documents. Second, there is the question of the reliability of the New Testament writers.

The Authenticity of the New Testament Documents

The direction of the argument in these chapters is as follows:

  1. the New Testament documents are historically reliable (Chapter 16);
  2. these documents accurately present Christ as claiming to be God Incarnate and confirm his claim by showing that he fulfilled prophecy, that he lived a sinless and miraculous life, and that he predicted and accomplished his resurrection from the dead (Chapter 17);
  3. therefore, the deity of Christ is historically and miraculously confirmed.

There are three elements in establishing the authority of the New Testament documents: first, an examination of the extant manuscript copies; second, a comparison of New Testament manuscripts with those of ancient secular history; third, the dating of the original sources of these manuscripts.

The Extant Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament

There is more abundant and accurate manuscript evidence for the New Testament than for any other book from the ancient world. There are more manuscripts copied with greater accuracy and earlier dating than for any secular classic from antiquity. First, let us examine the number and nature of the New Testament manuscripts themselves.1

The John Rylands Fragment (P52).

This papyrus contains five verses from John 18:31–33, 37–38. It is dated between A.D. 117–138. The great philologist Adolf Deissmann argued that it may be even earlier. The manuscript is housed in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.

The Bodmer Papyri (P66, P72, P75).

These papyri date from around A.D. 200. They contain most of the Gospels of John and Luke along with the books of Jude, I Peter, and II Peter. These manuscripts contain the earliest complete copies of New Testament books.

Codex Vaticanus (B).

This manuscript dates from between A.D. 325–350. It is a vellum manuscript containing the whole New Testament as well as the Greek (LXX) Old Testament. It was discovered by modern textual scholars in 1475 when it was catalogued in the Vatican Library where it still remains.

Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph).

This manuscript dates from around A.D. 340. It too is vellum and contains the whole New Testament and half of the Old Testament. Count Tischendorf discovered it in a monastery on Mount Sinai in 1844. It is contained in the collection at the University Library in Leipzig, Germany.

Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C).

This manuscript dates from around A.D. 350. It contains only part of the Old Testament but most of the New Testament. This early manuscript was written over but retrieved by chemical reactivation. The National Library in Paris possesses it.

Codex Alexandrinus (A).

Dating from about A.D. 450, this too is a complete vellum manuscript of the Bible with only minor mutilations. It is housed in the National Library of the British Museum.

It should be kept in mind that although the foregoing great vellum manuscripts date from the fourth and fifth centuries, they represent in whole or in part an “Alexandrian” (mode Alexandria, Egypt) type text that dates from A.D. 100–150.

Codex Bezae (D).

Dating from A.D. 450 or 550, this manuscript is written in both Greek and Latin. It was discovered in 1562 by the French theologian Theodore de Beza, who gave it to Cambridge University. This manuscript contains the four Gospels, Acts, and part of III John.

 

Other Early Greek Manuscripts

There are numerous early Greek manuscripts.

  • Codex Claromontanus (D2) dates from A.D. 550 and contains much of the New Testament.
  • Codex Basiliensis (E) has the four Gospels from the eighth century.
  • Codex Laudianus (E2) contains Acts from the sixth or seventh century.

These are followed by numerous other manuscripts with everything from parts to the whole New Testament dating from the ninth century on. The total count of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament is now around 5,000.

The New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger counts 76 papyri, 250 uncials, 2,646 minuscules, and 1,997 lectionary manuscripts. This would total 4,969.2 No other book from antiquity possesses anything like this abundance in manuscripts.

Comparison of the New Testament with Ancient Secular Writings

From the standpoint of a documentary historian, the New Testament has vastly superior evidence to that of any other book from the ancient world. The following chart will reveal the superior number, dating, and degree of accuracy of the New Testament over other books.3

COMPARISON OF ANCIENT TEXTS

Author

Date Written

Earliest
Copy

Number
of Copies

Accuracy
of Copy

Caesar

1st Cent. B.C.

900 A.D.

10

——

Livy

1st Cent. B.C.

——

20

——

Tacitus

c. 100 A.D.

1100 A.D.

20

——

Thucydides

5th Cent. B.C.

900 A.D.

8

——

Herodotus

5th Cent. B.C.

900 A.D.

8

——

Demosthenes

4th Cent. B.C.

1100 A.D.

200

——

Mahabharata

——

——

——

90%

Homer

9th Cent. B.C.

——

643

95%

New Testament

1st Cent. A.D.
(50-100 A.D.)

2nd Cent. A.D.
(c. 130 A.D. f.)

5,000

99 + %

Several observations are pertinent to the above chart.

(1) No other book is even a close second to the Bible on either the number or early dating of the copies. The average secular work from antiquity survives on only a handful of manuscripts; the New Testament boasts thousands.

(2) The average gap between the original composition and the earliest copy is over 1,000 years for other books. The New Testament, however, has a fragment within one generation from its original composition, whole books within about 100 years from the time of the autograph, most of the New Testament in less than 200 years, and the entire New Testament within 250 years from the date of its completion.

(3) The degree of accuracy of the copies is greater for the New Testament than for other books that can be compared. Most books do not survive with enough manuscripts that make comparison possible. A handful of copies that are 1,000 years after the fact do not provide enough links in the missing chain nor enough variant readings in the manuscript to enable textual scholars to reconstruct the original.

Bruce Metzger does provide an interesting comparison of the New Testament with the Indian Mahabharata and Homer’s Iliad. The New Testament has about 20,000 lines. Of these only 40 are in doubt (i.e., about 400 words). The Iliad possesses about 15,600 lines with 764 of them in question. This would mean that Homer’s text is only 95 percent pure or accurate compared to over 99.5 percent accuracy for the New Testament manuscript copies.

The national epic of India has suffered even more textual corruption than the Iliad. The Mahabharata is some eight times the size of the Iliad, of which some 26,000 lines are in doubt. This would be roughly 10 percent textual corruption or a 90 percent accuracy copy of the original.4 From this documentary standpoint the New Testament writings are superior to comparable ancient writings. The records for the New Testament are vastly more abundant, clearly more ancient, and considerably more accurate in their text.

The Dating of the Original New Testament Sources

The manuscript evidence takes us to within a generation of the completion of the original New Testament documents. But the death of Christ is computed to have occurred somewhere between A.D. 29 and 33. The next link in the argument for the historical reliability of the Gospel records deals with the date of the original composition of the Gospel records.

The German posthegelian Tübingen school of F. C. Baur once dated the completion of the New Testament into the second century. Using a dialectical presupposition, they argued that the thesis of Paul’s Gentile Christianity was opposed by the antithesis of Peter’s and James’s Jewish Christianity that was not synthesized until the second century by Johannine Christianity. However, this opinion is no longer reasonable in view of the evidence for the Gospel of John being a first century composition. The dating for all the New Testament books falls well within the first century.

No less authority than Biblical archaeologist William F. Albright said that “every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between A.D. 50 and 75).”5 Let us examine the evidence for the dating of the documents of the New Testament.

Paul’s Writings

The apostle Paul was martyred under Nero in A.D. 67. His earliest epistles were written before his imprisonment in Rome between A.D. 60–62 (Acts 28). Of the thirteen epistles attributed to Paul, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians are conceded even by ardent critics of the Tübingen school to be genuine. The only substantial debate on the thirteen epistles is over the pastoral epistles (I and II Timothy, Titus).

In the remaining ten authentic epistles there are found all the essential points of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ written by a contemporary of the eyewitnesses (see I Cor. 15:5 f.). Paul taught that Jesus was virgin born (Gal. 4:4) and that he was the preexistent Creator of the universe (Col. 1:15–16) who existed both in the “form of man” and in the “form of God” (Phil. 2:5, 8).

Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and David (Rom. 9:5; 1:3) who lived under the Jewish law (Gal. 4:4), who was betrayed the night he instituted a memorial meal of bread and wine (I Cor. 11:23 f.), was crucified under the Romans (I Cor. 1:23; Phil. 2:8) although the responsibility lay with the Jewish authorities (I Thess. 2:15).

This same Jesus is said by Paul to have been buried for three days, to have risen from the dead, and to have been seen by over five hundred eyewitnesses, the majority of whom were still alive when Paul wrote (I Cor. 15:4).

Paul knew the Lord’s apostles personally (Gal. 1:17 f.). Peter, James, and John are mentioned as “pillars” of the Jerusalem community (Gal. 2:9). Paul knew that the Lord’s brothers and Peter were married (I Cor. 9:5). On occasions Paul quoted sayings of Jesus (I Cor. 7:10; 9:14; 11:23). Elsewhere Paul summarized the Sermon on the Mount (Rom. 12:14–21) and insisted on following the example of Christ (Rom. 13:14).

In short, to use the words of F. F. Bruce, “The outline of the Gospel story as we can trace it in the writings of Paul agrees with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in the four Gospels in particular.”6

Several observations about Paul’s testimony are pertinent to the question of the authenticity of the New Testament documents.

First, although Paul was not personally an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, he was a contemporary of many who were.

Second, Paul wrote within thirty years of the actual events themselves, far too short a time for the alleged distortions and dialectical development claimed by the Tübingen school.

Third, Paul challenged his readers to check with the eyewitnesses—most of the five hundred were still alive—if they wanted to verify the truth of his message (I Cor. 15:5). There is no indication from history that Paul’s challenge was ever taken or his claims falsified. On the contrary, these writings of Paul—particularly Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians—bear every indication of authenticity.

 

The Writings of John the Apostle

The Gospel of John claims to be written by “the Disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper …” (John 21:20). By the process of elimination, this disciple must have been John. Other disciples as Peter, Philip, Thomas, and Andrew are named in the third person (1:41; 6:9; 14:5, 8).

Furthermore, the writer was one of the inner circle of James, Peter, and John, as is evidenced by the fact that he leaned on Jesus’ bosom (John 13:23–25), that he had eyewitness and inside information (John 18:15), and that Jesus on his death committed his mother to John’s care (John 18:26, 27). But James died very early (c. A.D. 44) in the persecution of Herod (Acts 12:2) and Peter is named in the third person (John 21:21). Hence, by elimination, the author of the fourth Gospel must have been John.

There is ample external and internal evidence to confirm that this eyewitness Gospel was written by the young disciple of Christ. Externally we have both the John Rylands Fragment and the testimony of the early Church Fathers. The Rylands Fragment argues strongly for a first-century origin of the Gospel since an early second-century copy (c. A.D. 117 f.) was found in Egypt.

E. F. Harrison summarized the evidence well:“Among the earliest witnesses to Johannine authorship are the Anti–Marcionite Prologue to John and the Muratorian Canon, both in the second half of the second century. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria from approximately the same period, agree on John the Apostle.” The testimony of Irenaeus is crucial because only one generation stood between him and John. John’s disciple, Polycarp, was among Irenaeus’ teachers (Eusebius, V, xx.6).7

The statement of Papias (Eusebius III, xxxix.4) alleging two Johns, one an apostle and the other an elder, even if true, in no way affects the evidence that John the apostle was the author of the fourth Gospel. And the Alogoi sect (A.D. 170), who denied John’s authorship, seems to have been a fabrication to deny John’s authority in teaching about the Logos (John 1:1, 14). In short, the external evidence for John the apostle is strong.

Internal evidence for the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel is even stronger than the external.

  1. There is the identification with John by the process of elimination discussed above.
  2. The Gospel was written by an eyewitness, as is indicated by the many first-person references (cf. 20:2; 21:4).
  3. The author was a Jew who was thoroughly acquainted with Jewish customs of purification (2:6), burial (19:40), feasts (5:1), and even Jewish attitudes (7:49).
  4. The author was a Palestinian Jew who was familiar with the geography and topography of the land (cf. 2:12; 4:11; 5:2; 18:11; 19:17). All of this evidence points collectively in the single direction of John the apostle of Christ.

The Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel is important whatever date is assigned to the book, whether the late date of A.D. 80–100 traditionally given to it by scholars or the earlier date argued more recently on the basis of comparison with Qumran literature.

George Ladd summed up the early view as follows: “Many contemporary scholars now recognize a solid Johannine tradition, independent of the Synoptics, stemming from Palestine and dating from A.D. 30–66.”8 If the early date can be established, then so much the better. But even with the late date we have in our possession a historian’s treasure—a firsthand, eyewitness account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ!

The Synoptic Gospels

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke pose an interdependent question with respect to the time of their composition. As early as A.D. 130 Papias wrote, “Matthew compiled the Logia in the ‘Hebrew’ speech [i.e., Aramaic], and every one translated them as best he could.”9 Traditionally scholars have taken this to indicate the chronological priority of the Gospel of Matthew, but more recently New Testament source critics have argued for the priority of Mark.

  1. F. Bruce provides a good summary for the evidence that Mark’s Gospel was written first:

We find, for example, that the substance of 606 out of the 661 verses of Mark appear in Matthew, and that some 380 of Mark’s verses reappear with little material change in Luke. Or, to put it another way, out of 1,068 verses in Matthew, about 500 contain material also found in Mark; of the 1,149 verses of Luke, about 380 are parallel in Mark. Altogether, there are only 31 verses in Mark which have no parallel in Matthew or Luke.10

With this kind of literary dependence of Matthew and Luke on Mark it seems reasonable to posit Mark as the earliest Gospel. There is, of course, the remaining problem of the 250 verses common to Matthew and Luke (called Q from Quelle, or source) not found in Mark. There are also 300 verses peculiar to Matthew (M) and about 520 verses in Luke (L) not found in the other Gospels.

There are a number of possible explanations of these other sources. Some posit an early edition of Mark which did not have the 31 verses not used by Matthew and Luke. As to the verses peculiar to Matthew and Luke respectively, they may have had independent sources. If Matthew was written by the tax–collector disciple of Christ, he may have taken notes of his own on Jesus’ ministry which he incorporated into Mark’s accepted framework.

Luke states in the prologue of his Gospel that he had many eyewitness and written accounts from which he worked.

Whatever the status of the sources and material, the key to dating the Gospels is the Book of Luke. If Luke was dependent on Mark, then the dating of Luke will demand a prior dating of Mark, and Matthew by implication can be fitted into the same pattern. Let us examine the probable date of the Gospel of Luke. The key to dating Luke is the dating of the sequel of Luke, namely, the Book of Acts.

(1) Acts was written by a companion of Paul as is indicated by the “we” sections written in the first person (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–21; 27:1 f.). The rest of the book is in the same style.

(2) By the process of elimination, the only close companion of Paul not mentioned in the third person is Luke the beloved physician. Timothy, Silas, Mark, Barnabas, and so on, are all named (see 15:39; 16:1, 25). Only Luke remains. The high quality of the Greek, the use of medical terminology, and the obvious knowledgeability of the author all fit the character of Luke the physician.

(3) The narration of Acts ends with Paul’s detention in a Roman prison (A.D. 60–62). Since Paul is presented as still alive when Luke wrote and since he stopped his story at this point in history, we must assume that A.D. 60–62 is the time of composition. Surely the death of Paul (c. A.D. 67) would have been included had Luke written after that time.

(4) Now the Gospel of Luke is Part I of the two-part Luke-Acts history. Acts refers to the “first book” written to the same person, Theophilus (1:1; cf. Luke 1:3).

The interests, writing style, and Gentile emphases of both books support a common author as well. It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Luke, the companion of the apostle Paul, wrote the Gospel of Luke sometime around A.D. 60. If Mark is prior to Luke, then this would place Mark between A.D. 50 and 60. Since Papias said Mark was the secretary of Peter, the external evidence would support this early dating of Mark. Matthew, likewise, can be assumed to date from about the same time.

There are of course some internal problems with this dating of Matthew and Luke at approximately A.D. 60. Some critics argue:

  1. That Matthew 22:7 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) as already past (cf. Luke 14);
  2. That Matthew 18:15 f. depicts an already organized Christian church;
  3. That Matthew 28:18–20 reflects an advanced ecclesiology.

Upon examination, none of these arguments is decisive or even substantial. The references in Matthew to the “church” could be either retrospective to the Jewish synagogue or anticipatory of the New Testament church which Jesus said was yet future (see Matthew 16:16f.).

The baptismal formula in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19) need be no later than the belief that Jesus was God’s Son—which is taught in both Matthew (16:16f.) and Mark (14:61–65). The only argument of significance is the possible reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and this could be an implied prediction given before the fact (see Matt. 22:7).

Indeed, the real basis of the whole objection to the early date for the synoptics seems to be an anti-supernatural bias. It is assumed that a description of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24–25) in A.D. 70 would not be possible before the fact. But if there is a theistic God who knows all, including the future, then there is no problem believing that both Matthew 22 and Matthew 24 could be predictive.

And since there is good reason to believe that Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark and that Luke was written by A.D. 60, it is reasonable to conclude that Mark and Matthew were written before A.D. 60. It is the testimony of the earliest Church Fathers that Matthew the disciple wrote the Gospel and that Mark, Peter’s secretary, wrote the Gospel of Mark.

This being the case, we have another Gospel by an eyewitness, contemporary, and disciple of Christ (Matthew) and a third by a secretary to the apostle Peter (Mark).

To summarize, we have five different authentic sources for the life of Christ. Paul, the contemporary of the eyewitnesses, wrote some ten epistles between A.D. 50 and 60 which contain the essential teachings about Christ. Luke, the companion of Paul, using written documents and eyewitness accounts, wrote a complete life of Christ and history of the early Christian Church up to A.D. 60–62.

Mark is believed on literary grounds to be prior to Luke and Matthew and, hence, must be dated between A.D. 50 and 60. Mark was a secretary and an associate of the apostle Peter who was an eyewitness disciple of Christ. John uses independent sources of his own that can be traced on linguistic grounds to between A.D. 30 and 66, though many place his composition between A.D. 80 and 100.

All in all, we possess eyewitness testimony in documents that were recorded between twenty to fifty or so years after the actual events themselves. This means that the New Testament records are authentic first century and firsthand information about the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ. The only remaining link in establishing their historical reliability is the examination of the trustworthiness of the writers of the documents.

The Reliability of the New Testament Writers

There are several divergent lines of testimony that support the reliability of the New Testament writers. Despite criticisms like those of David Hume that impugn the ability or integrity of any eyewitnesses to miracles, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. First, there is the unquestioned integrity of the witnesses in both number and nature. Second, there is the evident sanity of the writers. Third, there is the verified accuracy of their testimony through the collaborative testimony of external sources.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

The Integrity of the New Testament Witnesses

The Number of New Testament Eyewitnesses to the Events

The number of eyewitnesses supporting or writing the New Testament accounts is large,

(a) The direct eyewitnesses who either wrote or superintended what was written of Christ’s miraculous life and teachings are Matthew, Peter (through Mark), and John. Add to this the numerous eyewitness and written accounts used by Luke and Paul, and the resultant testimony is more than substantial,

(b) The death of Christ was actually witnessed by the apostle John (John 19:26, 27), by Jesus’ mother, as well as by the soldiers, the crowd, and many other women standing nearby (v. 25; cf. Mark 15:40, 41). John wrote about what he had seen himself, and the other writers used the testimony of those present.

(c) On the crucial doctrine of the resurrection of Christ there were over five hundred persons to whom Christ appeared bodily. He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1), to Mary the mother of James (Matt. 28:2), to Salome and Joanna (Luke 24:10), and to several other women from Galilee (see Luke 23:55).

Christ appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34) and later to Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32). Later Christ revealed himself to the ten apostles in Jerusalem (John 20:24) and then to the eleven when Thomas was present a week later (John 20:26–29). The next Sunday Jesus appeared to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–24).

Further, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16–20) and to more than five hundred brethren at one time (I Cor. 15:6). Finally, Jesus appeared to his brother James (I Cor. 15:7a) and to the disciples on the Mount of Olives just before he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:4–12). The number of individual appearances is more than sufficient to determine the validity of their testimony. No like testimony is possessed for any event from ancient times.

 

The Nature of the New Testament Eyewitnesses to Christ

Not only was there an overwhelming number of witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, but the nature of their testimony places it way beyond reasonable doubt. Several factors support this contention,

(a) The witnesses were in most cases independent of one another. There were at least ten different appearances spaced over forty days (Acts 1:3).

(b) There was an initial disinclination to believe what they saw, which would eliminate the possibility of hallucination (cf. John 20:25 f.; Luke 24:15 f.; Matt. 28:17).

(c) Physical and tangible evidence was presented that he was indeed the bodily resurrected Christ. He ate fish, showed his hands and feet, asked them to handle his flesh and bones (Luke 24:39–43), and even challenged Thomas to put fingers and hands into his wounds (John 20:27).

Furthermore, Christ spent much time with them doing “many other signs” (John 20:31), “speaking of the kingdom of God,” and showing “many proofs” of his resurrection (Acts 1:3). He even ate breakfast with seven of them and had a prolonged discussion with Peter (John 20:15f.). He also ate with two other disciples in Emmaus (Luke 24:28 f.).

(d) Furthermore, the accounts of the resurrection appearances are divergent enough to draw the allegation of contradiction. Although it is possible to reconcile the accounts, the divergence of perspective argues strongly for the independence and integrity of the witnesses. There is certainly no collusion among them for all to tell the same story.

If there were collusion, they could have easily ironed out some problems, such as the report in Luke that there were two men (angels) by the tomb whereas Matthew speaks of only one. The same independence of testimony holds true for other things in the Gospels.

For example, Matthew speaks of both thieves railing on Christ (27:44), but Luke speaks of one rebuking the other and asking Christ for a place in his kingdom (Luke 13:39f.). It is possible that one repented, but the recorded divergence speaks for the integrity of the witnesses,

(e) All that is known about the apostles testifies to their honesty and integrity. That they taught honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness is abundantly clear from their writings. What is recorded of their lives clearly supports their teachings. They did not fear men, even under the threat of imprisonment or death (see Acts 4:18f.; 5:27f.). They did not tolerate lying (Acts 5:1 f.); they refused to be bought with money (Acts 8:18).

And on top of it all, they remained steadfast in their testimony under extreme persecution (see II Cor. 11:23f.) and even to the point of martyrdom, which almost all the apostles underwent. As has been pointed out before, men will sometimes die for what they believe to be true but never for what they know to be false. A man becomes extremely honest and truthful under the threat of death.

In summary, both the vast number of the independent eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as the nature and integrity of the witnesses themselves, leave beyond reasonable doubt the reliability of the apostolic testimony about Christ.

There seems to be no way to deny the historicity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection without impugning the integrity of the apostolic eyewitnesses. And there are ample reasons (without any significant evidence to the contrary) that Christ’s disciples were at least honest and truthful men.

 

The Sanity of the New Testament Eyewitnesses and Writers

A man can be honest but yet be psychologically unbalanced. Perhaps the apostles were under some psychological delusion or hallucination. These charges have been made but must be ruled out by the known facts of the case. Mass hallucination or delusion is eliminated by several factors.

  • First, there was the inclination to disbelieve the reports of the resurrection. Hallucination is a phenomenon which occurs when people are already inclined to believe in something.
  • Second, the apostles and eyewitnesses were persons who had known Jesus intimately for years. Recognition was no real problem.
  • Third, there were numerous and independent occasions of long duration, involving conversation and verification by various groups of people, that rule out any possibility of psychological deception.
  • Fourth, mass delusion is ruled out by the numerous independent occasions when one, two, seven, ten, eleven persons had the same experience that the five hundred had. Some of the individuals saw Christ on at least four or five different occasions. Peter saw Christ alone, with the seven, with the ten, with the eleven, and at the ascension. John saw Christ on at least the last four of these occasions as well.
  • Fifth, the resurrected Christ did what was familiar to them to convince them of his reality; for example, he showed the fishermen how to catch fish (John 21:4 f.). A man can be fooled on things with which he is not familiar but the staunch fishermen could not be tricked at their own trade.
  • Sixth, Jesus performed “many proofs” and “signs” after his resurrection to convince the disciples of his reality (John 20:30; Acts 1:3). The number and repetition of these miracles rule out any reasonable possibility of delusion.

Since, then, there is no evidence for either individual or collective delusion or hallucination of the eyewitnesses it is necessary to conclude that they were not only honest but also sane witnesses of the events of which they spoke. This leaves us with but one obstacle between their witness and the truth of the events of which they spoke, and that concerns the accuracy of their testimony.

 

The Accuracy of the New Testament Eyewitnesses

Two theories stand in the way of accepting the accuracy of the New Testament records: Form Criticism and the “faulty memory” hypothesis.

An Evaluation of the Form Criticism Hypothesis.

Form criticism holds that the life and teachings of Christ have been historically obscured by the religious needs and interests of the early church. These critics believe that the oral traditions were formed into various “stories” and woven into continuous narratives by means of editorial summaries devoid of historical value in accordance with the life–setting of the early church.

Because it is impossible to know what really happened, the “sayings” of Jesus are strung together like pearls on the thread of religious interest without regard for historical accuracy. According to the more radical critics, when the records are demythologized, all that remains is at best the mere fact that an unusual man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived in the early first century. Even the original words of Jesus are for the most part lost within the re–forming and reshaping process.

There were no doubt many needs and interests of the early church that revealed themselves in the way the Gospel writers put together their material on the life of Christ. Each writer clearly manifests motifs and interests which are characteristic of his work. It has been long observed that Matthew presents Christ as King, Mark presents him as a Servant, Luke as a perfect Man, and John as God Incarnate. Each writer worked his material around his particular motif. Each writer, too, had a particular audience in mind in the early church of a generation or so after Christ’s death.

The needs of that particular audience no doubt influenced the way the writer put his material together. Furthermore, each writer had to be selective of the vast material, both oral and written (cf. Luke 1:1–3; John 21:25) available to him. However, having admitted all this, we are a long way from the charge that the Gospel records are not a reliable historical summary of the major events and teachings of Christ. There are several definitive reasons for rejecting the Form Criticism hypothesis in favor of the historical reliability of the Gospels.11

  • It Minimizes or Neglects the Role of the Apostles and Eyewitnesses

If the Form critics are correct then we must assume that the eyewitnesses allowed distortions of the life of Christ to occur in the documents during their lifetime. A number of apostles outlived the first Christian writings about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The writings began around A.D. 50 and most apostles lived until the Neronian persecutions (around A.D. 67) and John probably lived on to near the end of the century.

Even granting for the sake of argument the assumption that their interests were not primarily historical but religious, it is inconceivable that they would allow gross misrepresentations regarding central teachings and events in Christ’s life.

  • It Is Highly Improbable That the Early Church Had No Biographical InterestsThe assumption that the early church had only a religious interest is gratuitous and contrary to fact. Each of the Gospels has the same overall outline or history of events. The synoptic Gospels reveal an even closer parallel. Matthew and Luke apparently follow the basic outline of Mark who reflects the elements in the early kerygma (proclamation) of Peter in Acts 10:37–42.

Luke shows a special interest in history, taking pains to point out political personages and events that paralleled the life of Christ. Luke mentions three emperors in his writings (Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius; see Luke 2:1; 3:1 and Acts 11:28). Luke fixes the time of Jesus’ birth during Caesar Augustus and Herod the Great (1:5; 2:1). Numerous Roman governors appear in Luke’s writings including Pilate, Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Felix, and Festus.

The descendants of Herod the Great— Herod Antipas, the vassal kings Herod Agrippa I and II, Bernice, and Drusilla—are also mentioned by Luke. Leading members of the Jewish priestly caste are also recorded, including Annas, Caiaphas, Ananias, and the famous Rabbi Gamaliel.

Luke mentions the proconsul of Achaia, Gallio (Acts 18:12), who came to prominence, according to the Delphi Inscription, in July of A.D. 51. There are numerous other references of historical interest in Luke’s works which leave no doubt as to his historical interest.12

The other Gospels are not without historical, chronological, and biographical interests. Matthew records Jesus’ family lineage (chap. 1). He mentions the visit of the Magi from the East, the decree of Herod to slaughter the babies around Bethlehem (chap. 2), the imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist by Herod Tetrarch (chap. 14), and the leaders associated with the trial and crucifixion of Christ such as Pilate and Caiaphas (chaps. 26–27).

John is replete with chronological references such as to the “first” miracle of Jesus (John 2:11), numerous references to the time of day (John 4:6; 19:14), and other references to the time of the year (John 2:23; 6:4; 7:2). Mark too reflects both a general chronological interest in the order of events in Christ’s life and specific interest in times and places. Mark alone records all three times of day that relate to Jesus’ crucifixion (see 15:25, 33).

In the face of these and many more facts it is simply untrue to claim that the Gospel writers had no historical interests.

  • Form Criticism Neglects the Testimony of Luke in the Prologue of His Gospel

Luke not only reflects a historical interest but he openly claims to have one and reveals that many others in the early church reflected the same interest in their written accounts. Luke wrote, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, … it seemed good to me also having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account … that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” (Luke 1:1–3). Several things are apparent from Luke’s comments.

First, there were in his day (by A.D. 60) already “many” written accounts of Jesus’ life.

Second, Luke was definitely interested in the historical “truth,” in an “orderly account.”

Third, the sources of these written accounts were “eyewitnesses.” On the supposition of Form Criticism, this testimony would be false, since the critics depend on oral tradition being re-formed over a prolonged period of time in order to fit the religious needs of the early church.

Hence, the hypotheses of Form Criticism fly in the face of the clear testimony of Luke. Since the evidence for the date and authorship of Luke is good, it is best to reject the unjustified assumption of the Form critics.d. There Is No Explanation as to Why Details Are Remembered and the General Outline Is Forgotten

On the presupposition of the Form critics many of the details of Jesus’ sayings were remembered but the general outline of the events was forgotten. This seems highly implausible on the face of it. Why should the early church forget the overall order of events? One must assume either a terrible lapse of memory on the part of the first generation of believers or else that the Gospels were not put together until much later than the times already established above. Neither supposition fits the facts well.

Their memories were very good on many little details including the exact Aramaic words Jesus used on occasions (see Mark 5:41; 15:34), and the first Gospel (perhaps Mark) was composed only twenty or so years after Jesus died.

  • Necessary Time for Classification and Formation of Material Is Not Available

As has already been stated, the time lapse between Jesus’ death (A.D. 29–33)13 and the first Gospel record (A.D. 50–60) is too short to fit the Form Criticism theory. According to this view the early church would need enough time to disseminate, collect, classify, and form the “stories” and “sayings” of Jesus out of their original context into the “life-setting” of the early church. One generation is not enough time to accomplish this for several reasons.

First, some of the eyewitnesses would still be alive to correct any distortions.

Second, it would take more than a generation to accomplish all the steps in the process. As long as the generation of people following the apostles was alive (say, A.D. 60–90) it would be exceedingly difficult to conceive of how they would be unable to detect major divergence from the truth taught them by the apostles. In order to make the theory work for this short a time period one would have to assume several things contrary to fact:

  1. that there was no historical interest on the part of the apostles;
  2. that there were no written accounts during the first generation after Christ (say c. A.D. 30–60); and
  3. that memories of even the general outline of events were so diminished in one generation that nothing significant of historical value can be retrieved.

 

It is easier to believe the testimony of Luke and the early Church Fathers who claimed that Matthew, Mark, and John wrote Gospels.

 

  • The Gospels Are Vastly Different from Folklore and Myth

According to Form Criticism, the Gospels are more like folklore and myth than historical fact.14 They were passed on and preserved like a tale because of their religious value and not because of their historical value. But even a quick comparison of the New Testament first-century Gospels with the apocryphal Gospels of the second and third centuries will reveal the difference.

The fanciful tales of Jesus’ alleged childhood miracles, the heretical admixture of Gnosticism, and the unrealistic portrayal of the apostles marks off the apocryphal from the authentic Gospels as clear as night from day. The truth of Form Criticism is appropriately applied to these apocryphal writings of the second and third centuries. But by clear contrast, the New Testament documents have the ring of authenticity.

  1. Form Criticism Wrongly Assumes That the Early Church Did Not Distinguish Between Jesus’ Statements and Their Own Words

Form Criticism is contradicted by the facts of the early church’s usage of Jesus’ words. Contrary to the Form theory, the early church did make a clear distinction between their own words and those of Jesus. For the most part it is not difficult to make a red–letter edition of the Bible. Paul clearly differentiated between Jesus’ words and his own on the question of marriage (I Cor. 7:10, 12, 25).

Likewise, Paul delineated the words of Jesus on paying ministers (I Tim. 5:18) and on the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:24, 25). Again, when preaching to the Ephesian elders Paul quoted a saying of Jesus that is not even found in the four Gospels (Acts 20:35). In view of New Testament practice it is a gratuitous assumption to argue that the early church indistinguishably blurred the sayings of Jesus with their own.

Form Criticism Neglects the Individuality and Creativity of New Testament WritersWhy should we assume that the Gospels were put together by the early church over a period of years? Were the apostles incapable of composing them? Luke was an educated man. Mark probably came from a cultured family. John wrote in very simple language. Matthew was used to keeping records as a tax collector. There is no apparent reason why the Gospels in their present form could not have been the works of these men.

Further, why not assume the differences in the Gospels are due to the separate sources, individual interests, and creativity of the different authors? Luke tells where he got his information (Luke 1:1–3), namely, from extant written accounts. Matthew could have obtained his unique material from his own notes on Jesus’ life and teaching.

Mark appears to follow the outline of Peter’s kerygma (Acts 10) and was no doubt privy to Peter’s firsthand information. John was probably confidant of many private conversations by virtue of his youth and by his family’s entrance into the upper circles in Jerusalem. In view of these situations, there is no reason why the facts cannot be easily explained via the separate sources, styles, and interests of the individual writers.

  1. Gospel Stories Do Not Grow by Accretion over the Years

The evolutionary theory of the Gospel material is contrary to several other facts. Not every story grew in detail over the years. Some material not found in later accounts is found in earlier ones. For example Mark’s Gospel is considered earlier than the others and yet Mark alone names the blind man Bartimaeus (10:46). Further, Mark names the disciples who came to Jesus on the Mt. of Olives (13:3), whereas Matthew does not (24:3).

Mark alone records that Jesus was himself a “carpenter” (Mark 6:3) and not merely the “son of a carpenter” as Matthew 13:35. Mark alone gives the details of the young man who streaked out of the Garden (Mark 14:51), a reference which many believe refers to Mark himself. In any event, there is no evidence that the later versions of the stories were more detailed than the earlier ones, as Form critics would have us believe.

In summation. Form Criticism fails to controvert the most substantial evidence that the first-century eyewitness reports recorded in the Gospels provide valid historical material concerning the life of Christ. There is no reason why the Gospel accounts should not be accepted as reliable versions of what Jesus really did and said.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

The “Faulty Memory” Hypothesis Evaluated

Some scholars are willing to grant an early date for some written accounts of Jesus’ life but are unwilling to grant their accuracy. They would argue that after thirty years the disciples had “misty memories.” How, for example, could the Watergate hearings have been held thirty years after the fact? Even within months after the Watergate event many of the witnesses had difficulty recalling precisely what was said and done!

This “Faulty Memory” hypothesis is itself based on a faulty memory. It forgets several important facts about the New Testament situation that make it quite different from Watergate.

  • First, memory was much more developed in ancient times than it is for literate peoples today. Before the ready availability of written and printed documents, life depended much more heavily on memory. Like a muscle, the brain works better with usage. The need to use it in ancient time was more acute and, hence, the memory more developed.
  • Second, the miraculous events of the incarnation covering several years of Jesus’ adult life left a far more vivid impression than the surreptitious events of Watergate covering only a few months.
  • Third, there were numerous eyewitnesses to all the major events and teachings of Jesus. One could serve as a cross–check on the memory of the other.
  • Fourth, the critics forget that there were many early written notes and records on Jesus’ life (Luke 1:1–3).
  • Fifth, the critics forget that Jesus promised that he would not let his disciples forget what he had taught them. He promised to “bring to their remembrance all that he had said to them” (John 14:26). If men by the natural powers of hypnotism can bring up forgotten detail, it should be no problem for a supernatural power to do so.

Were this all the evidence we possessed about the honesty and accuracy of the apostolic writings it would be more than sufficient to conclude they are both authentic and accurate? There is, however, an important source by which we can cross-check the accuracy of the apostles’ testimony about Christ. There are the supportive services of secular history and archaeology that can be called on for testimony.

 

Archaeological and Secular Testimony to the Accuracy of the New Testament

The archaeological evidence in support of the Bible, in general, is overwhelming. Donald J. Wiseman summed it up well when he wrote, “The geography of Bible lands and visible remains of antiquity were gradually recorded until today more than 25,000 sites within this region and dating to Old Testament times, in their broadest sense, have been located.…”15 Whole books are written on the subject, which we will not try to summarize here.

We wish to focus attention briefly on two points: the secular confirmation of the historicity of early Christianity in general and verification of specific persons and events in the New Testament in particular. And besides the thousands of archaeological confirmations of the Bible, it is noteworthy to read an eminent archaeologist’s writing that no archaeological find has ever been made that contradicts the history of the Bible.16

 

Secular History’s Confirmation of the Reliability of the New Testament.17

First-century historians confirm the general historical outline of the New Testament.

Jewish Historian, Josephus (A.D. 37–100)

The Jewish historian Josephus, contemporary of Christ, abounds with references to figures familiar to New Testament readers. F. F. Bruce summarized the evidence:

Here, in the pages of Josephus, we meet many figures who are well–known to us from the New Testament; the colourful family of the Herods; the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and the procurators of Judea; the high priestly families—Annas, Caiaphas, Ananias, and the rest; the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and so on.18

Moreover, Josephus wrote of “the brother of Jesus, the so–called Christ, whose name was James …” (Antiquities XX 9:1). And in a more explicit but disputed passage the Antiquities says:

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus.… Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die. And 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; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders (xviii.33, Arabic text).

Roman Historian, Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55?–after 117)

He wrote of Nero’s attempt to relieve himself of the guilt of burning Rome:

Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also (Annals XV.44).

Greek Satirist, Lucian (second century)

Lucian alludes to Christ in these words:

… the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.… Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws (On the Death of Peregrine).

 

Roman Historian, Suetonius (c. A.D. 120)

Suetonius, court official under Hadrian, made two references to Christ: in the Life of Claudius (25.4) he wrote, “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chestus [another spelling of Christus or Christ], he expelled them from Rome.” Elsewhere in the Lives of the Caesars (26.2) he wrote: “Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.”

Pliny the Younger (c. A.D. 112)

Writing to the emperor of his achievements as governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger gave information on how he had killed multitudes of Christians—men, women, and children. He said he attempted to “make them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do.” In the same letter (Epistles X.96) he wrote of Christians:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, and never to deny a truth when they should be called upon to deliver it up.

 

Samaritan–born historian, Thallus (c. A.D. 52)

According to Julius Africanus (c. A.D. 221), “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably, as it seems to me.” It was unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the time of the paschal full moon when Christ died.

 

Letter of Mara Bar–Serapion (after A.D. 73)

According to F. F. Bruce this letter residing in the British Museum is by a father to his son in prison. In it he compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and Jesus as follows:

What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished.… But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.19

The Jewish Talmud (completed by A.D. 500)

The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a, “Eve of Passover”) contains the following explicit reference to Jesus:

On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.

Another Talmudic section says R. Shimeon ben’ Azzai wrote concerning Jesus, “I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such–an–one is a bastard of an adulteress” (Yeb. IV 3; 49 a). It should be noted that the Jewish belief that Jesus was an illegitimate son and demon–possessed is the same as that presented in the New Testament (cf. Mark 3:22; John 8:41).

Combining the above secular testimony to Christ, we get the following picture:

  1. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate at Passover time.
  2. He was believed by his disciples to have risen from the dead three days later.
  3. Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery and believed be was born of adultery.
  4. The Judean sect of Christianity could not be contained but spread even to Rome.
  5. Nero and other Roman rulers bitterly persecuted and martyred early Christians.
  6. These early Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings and worshiped Christ. This picture is perfectly congruent with that of the New Testament.

Archaeological Confirmation of New Testament History

Besides the general outline of New Testament history confirmed by secular sources close to Christ, there is specific confirmation of specific facts of New Testament history from archaeology. We will center brief attention on the history given by Luke. There are literally hundreds of archaeological finds that support specific persons, events, and facts presented in Luke-Acts, including many which were once thought to be incorrect.

Especially noteworthy is Luke’s correct usages of official titles. He calls the rulers of Thessalonica “politarchs,” Gallio the “Proconsul of Achaea,” the one in Ephesus a “temple warden,” the governor of Cyprus a “proconsul” and the chief official in Malta “the first man of the island,” a title confirmed in Greek and Latin inscriptions.20

Likewise, Luke is known to be correct in chronological references. His reference to “Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene” at the time John the Baptist began his ministry (A.D. 27), once thought to be incorrect, is now known by Greek inscriptions to be correct. Lysanias was tetrarch between A.D. 14 and 29. Other chronological references are known to be correct including those to Caesar, Herod, and even Gallio (Acts 18:12–17).21

Numerous places named in the Gospels including the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7–11) and the “judgment seat” near Corinth (II Cor. 5:10) have been verified by archaeology.22 Further, names of persons mentioned in the New Testament appear in the finds of archaeology. Near the theater at Corinth was found an inscription: “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid the pavement at his own expense.” It is possible that this was the same Erastus who became a coworker of Paul (Acts 19:22).

These illustrations are only a few of the countless finds that confirm the New Testament presentation in its every detail. We may summarize the situation in the words of the distinguished Roman historian A. N. Sherwin-White about the writings of Luke: “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming.… Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”23

In like manner Luke is commended by the classical historian, G. D. Williamson for showing “complete familiarity with the thought, expression, and habitual terminology of the speakers, and … what memories the people of that time possessed!—if not on written notes, which we have reason to believe were commonly made.”24

It has been largely due to the archaeological efforts of the late great Sir William Ramsay that the critical views of New Testament history have been overthrown and its historicity established. Ramsay was himself converted from the critical view by his own research into the evidence. He wrote:

I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts], for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tübingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.25

The irony of the situation is that today the professional historians accept the historicity of the New Testament. It is the critics who use pre–archaeological and philosophical presuppositions that reject the historicity of the New Testament. As the renowned archaeologist and paleographer, William F. Albright, notes, “All radical schools in New Testament criticism which have existed in the past or which exist today are pre–archaeological, and are, therefore, since they were built in der Luft [in the air], quite antiquated today.”26

 

Summary and Conclusion

Both the authenticity and the historicity of the New Testament documents are firmly established today. The authentic nature and vast amount of the manuscript evidence is overwhelming compared to the classical texts from antiquity. Furthermore, many of the original manuscripts date from within twenty to thirty years of the events in Jesus’ life, that is, from contemporaries and eyewitnesses.

The historicity of these contemporary accounts of Christ’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection is also established on firm historical grounds. The integrity of the New Testament writers is established by the character of the witnesses as well as by the quantity and independent nature of their witness. As to the accuracy of their reports there is support in general from the secular history of the first century and in particular from numerous archaeological discoveries supporting specific details of the New Testament account.

The words of the great classical scholar Sir Fredric Kenyon serve well to summarize the question of reliability of the New Testament documents:The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.27

SELECT READINGS FOR CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  • Bruce, F. F. Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament.
  • ———. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
  • Geisler, Norman L. General Introduction to the Bible. Chapters 16–27.
  • Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction.
  • Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament.
  • Kenyon, Sir Frederic. The Bible and Archaeology.
  • ———. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts.
  • Metzger, Bruce. The Text of the New Testament.
  • Montgomery, John W. Christianity and History.
  • Ramsay, Sir William. St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen.

1 For further information see N. L. Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Chapters 20–27.

2 Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 31–33.

3 See F. W. Hall, “Manuscript Authorities for the Text of the Chief Classical Writers,” in Companion to Classical Text, and Bruce Metzger, Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism.

4 Bruce Metzger, Chapters in New Testament Textual Criticism.

5 Taken from an interview in Christianity Today, January 18, 1963.

6 F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, p. 79.

7 Eusebius, Church History. See A Select Library of Nicene and Post–Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, second series, vol. I.

8 George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 219–20.

9 Bruce, N.T. Documents, p. 38.

10 Bruce, p. 31.

11 These criticisms are an expansion on criticisms made by Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 149–51.

12 See Bruce, N.T. Documents, pp. 80–92.

13 see Harold W. Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, October 1973, pp. 338–51.

14 For a critical introduction to these books see Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha.

15 Donald J. Wiseman, “Archaeological Confirmation of the Old Testament,” in C. F. Henry, Revelation and the Bible, pp. 301–2.

16 Quoted by R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 94.

17 For a critical and scholarly presentation of secular sources of early Christianity, see F. F. Bruce, Non–Christian Origins.

18 Bruce, N.T. Documents, p. 104.

19 Bruce, N.T. Documents, p. 14.

20 Edwin Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures, pp. 115–19.

21 Yamauchi, pp. 99, 116.

22 Yamauchi, pp. 100, 116.

23 A. N. Sherwin–White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, p. 189.

24 G. A. Williamson, The World of Josephus, p. 290.

25 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 8.

26 William F. Albright, “Retrospect and Prospect in New Testament Archaeology,” in The Teacher’s Yoke, ed. E. Jerry Vardaman, p. 29.

27 Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology, pp. 288 f.

Geisler, N. L. (1976). Christian apologetics. Includes index. (305). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

 

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

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