Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the reliability of the new testament_part two

My previous post dealt with the method whereby we received the NT. This post addresses the reliability of that method.
There are many reasons that one can believe the Bible is accurate.
1. There are more manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
Below is a chart detailing the number of NT manuscripts compared to other ancient texts. Also compared is the time between the event and the first copy. The NT was written between 20 and 30 years after the events as compared to an average of 1,000 years for other texts. Date of NT Copies Chart
2. There are older manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
John Ryland Fragment A.D. 117-138
Bodmer Papyri 200
Codex Vaticanus 325-350
Codex Synaticus 340
See above chart . The earliest manuscript for other writings is 900A.D.
3. More accurately copied manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
The Following chart compares the accuracy of the NT and other ancient text by comparing the number of lines to the number of lines in question. Renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson says, “we are only in doubt of about one tenth of one percent.” Frederick Kenyon, a manuscript expert, says, “The number of manuscripts of the new testament, of early translations from it, of quotations of it in the oldest writers of the church, is so large that it is practically certain the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or the other of these ancient authorities. We can say this of no other book in the world.” Finally,Norman Geisler, the great (and current) Christian Apologist says, “You could destroy all 5,700 manuscripts of the New Testament, all 15,000 in Ethiopic, Coptic, Latin and other ancient languages, destroy the 3 billion Bibles now in print and you could still go to any major library and by using the church fathers reconstruct the entire new testament all but third John. But when did you last quote from third John?" For the record, there are over 36,289 NT quotations contained in the writings of the Church Fathers. In other words, the New Testament is not corrupted, but rather can be trusted in its details.   Accuracy of the NT texts chart
Reliability of the writings
More writers (9 eyewitnesses wrote 27books.[Matthew, Mark, Luke John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews if he was someone other than Paul or Luke])
Earlier writers (Late 1 cent. books cited. There is internal evidence that the temple had not yet been destroyed. This event happened in 70)  click to enlarge If Acts was written before the destruction of the temple--and there is good evidence that it was--then Luke would have to be written before Acts. Most scholars agree that Mark was written first. This is pushing the date back to the mid-fifties. Accounts of Jesus' life were recorded within 20+ years of his death! There are no other books from the ancient world that can make a claim anywhere close to this. By comparison the only thing we know about the life of Alexander the Great is from two biographers 300-600years after the events... but do you hear anyone questioning his work or personhood?
More accurate writers: They gave minute details accounting time of day and which way the wind was blowing etc. They gave historical reference points--not something you do if you are making stuff up. He are a few verses from Luke: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2 ESV
Reliability of the writers
Self Incriminating. This was stated in my previous post under the title of principle of embarrassment. They recorded details about themselves that they would have otherwise omitted had they been lying about the events.
Corroborative Their stories [the gospels in particular] can be taken together to make a single comprehensive, non-contradicting story. Simon Greenly who wrote "A Treatise on Evidence," and then wrote"The Testimony of the Evangelists"--the first book discusses the proper method for processing witnesses in a court of law; the second applies that method to the four Gospels--said, “If they had testified on oath in a court of justice, they would be entitled to credit. And their narratives as we have them now would be received as ancient documents coming down from the proper custody. If so,then, it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result by receiving their testimony in all of the extent of its import.”
Non-Harmonization of the writers Although their story can be harmonized, then did not do so in their writings. This is exactly what modern witnesses in a court of law do. They made no attempts to create one exact story.
No Conspiracy Conspiracy theories are untenable
Did not deny testimony under the threat of death All of the Apostles, with the exception of John who died in exile, died as martyrs.
Included 30 historical people not something you do in fictional writing lest someone go and check the details and prove the writer wrong. C.S. Lewis said, “All I am in private life is a literary citric and historian. That’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis that if anyone thinks the gospels are either legends or novels then that person Is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critique. have read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people and I know perfectly well that the gospels are not that kind of stuff.” 
The New Testament is more accurately copied than any other text from the ancient world.
The events of the New Testament have more witnesses and more reliable witnesses than any other text from the ancient world.
If we cannot believe the bible, then we cannot believe any event from the ancient world.
If we doubt the New Testament, then we must doubt all ancient historical figures.
If we doubt the bible, then we are applying a standard to the bible which we apply to no other document.
If we cannot believe the bible, then we cannot believe any event from the ancient world.

One final note of interest: Many other religious books give power to the leaders of the religious sect. The Book of Mormon or the Quran gives their own religious leaders a great amount of power and authority. The Bible, does not do this. This is not to say that no Bible-thumper' has appropriated more power due him; but that is a misappropriation of power, power not granted by scripture since Christ is the head of the church and has left us with only the scriptures.

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