Matthew 6:9-13 - After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom
come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive
our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
week’s Sermon is – Our Dependence
Upon The New Testament
1. We have seen evidence from unbiased sources that establishes Jesus:
a. As a person of history
b. Who lived and died in the First Century A.D.
2. But we also pointed out that such sources tell us little about:
a. Who He was
b. What He did
...to earn such a reputation that, centuries later, His teachings and life still has so much influence
in our society
3. For the Christian, the only record which describes in any detail the life and death of Jesus
is the New Testament:
a. But as a historical document, is it reliable?
b. Can we trust it to be accurate in relating facts of history concerning Jesus, His life, death and resurrection?
c. Can we even have confidence that what we have today in the form of the New Testament is an accurate
copy of that penned by the original authors?
4. These are some of the questions we will seek to answer as we begin to examine The Historical Reliability
Of The New Testament
[But first, to appreciate the importance of this subject, it may help to demonstrate how dependent
our faith is on the reliability of the New Testament as a historical document...]
I. WHY DO WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD?
A. THE ANSWERS OFTEN GIVEN ARE...
1. “Because of the miracles He did”
2. “Because He fulfilled hundreds of the Messianic prophecies found in the OT”
3. “Because He rose from the dead”
B. BUT WHERE DOES ONE LEARN ABOUT THESE THINGS...?
1. Where do we read about His miracles? The New Testament!
2. Who says that He fulfilled the Messianic prophecies? The authors of the New Testament!
3. What is the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Again, it is the New Testament!
[As Jesus prayed, we come to believe in Him through the words of His initial disciples (John 17:20 - Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe
on me through their word;). But then consider this point...]
II. WHAT IF THE FOLLOWING WERE TRUE CONCERNING THE NEW TESTAMENT:
A. IT WAS WRITTEN OVER 100 YEARS AFTER THE EVENTS HAPPENED:
1. Then the New Testament was not written by eyewitnesses, nor by those whose names are connected with
it (Paul, Peter, etc.)!
2. It was the general consensus of many scholars in the last century that the New Testament was in fact
composed during the Second Century A.D., not the First
3. If such is true, then the New Testament is a forgery!
B. IT WAS FILLED WITH ERRORS IN REFERENCE TO GEOGRAPHY, PEOPLE, AND EVENTS:
1. How could we trust the authors of the New Testament to be accurate in describing supernatural events,
when they were careless with describing the natural ones?
2. This would make the New Testament an unreliable record!
C. THE MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE WAS VERY SCARCE, A THOUSAND YEARS REMOVED FROM THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS:
1. Then we would have no way of testing the accuracy of the copyists, who for hundreds of years preserved
the New Testament only by making copies by hand
2. Then our faith in Jesus would be based upon shallow ground, upon a document which is historically
III. OUR FAITH IN JESUS DEPENDS ON THE NEW TESTAMENT BEING RELIABLE AS A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT:
A. “BLIND FAITH” MAY SEEM ADEQUATE FOR SOME:
1. For children who believe whatever their parents say
2. For people who are never placed in an environment where their faith is challenged (like state universities)
3. For people who are not trying to convince others to trust in Jesus for their salvation
B. BUT IF WE DESIRE TO HAVE A “STRONG FAITH”:
1. Then we need to understand our dependency upon the New Testament
2. We need to know how to demonstrate the evidence which supports it as a reliable, historical document!
1. Hopefully, we now appreciate the need to carefully examine the evidence for the historical reliability
of the New Testament
2. In doing so, we shall apply the same kind of tests applied to any ancient document to determine
3. The next study will examine what is the acid test for any ancient document claiming to be a
historical record of certain events (i.e., how soon after the events occurred were they recorded?)
Evidence For The Early Existence Of The New Testament
1. The New Testament presents itself as a historical record of events that supposedly occurred during
the First Century A.D.
2. How reliable is it? How do we determine the reliability of any ancient document that professes to record
events of history?
3. To establish the reliability of ANY historical document, one of the first questions to be raised is:
“How soon after the events took place were they recorded?”
4. Applied to the New Testament, this involves trying to determine what evidence there is for the early
existence of the New Testament...
I. WHY EVIDENCE FOR EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE N.T. IS CRUCIAL:
A. IF SOME EVENT IS RECORDED LONG AFTER IT OCCURRED:
1. It is not likely to have been written by eyewitnesses
2. It is not likely to have been written when other eyewitnesses were around to confirm or dispute its
3. Its credibility would be weakened; for example, which would be the more credible source for information
about an event that occurred during The Civil War Between The States:
a. A present day writer depending totally upon secondhand sources?
b. Or diaries and letters written by eyewitnesses of the event?
4. Of course, it would be necessary to show that such diaries and letters were authentic and where possible
shown to be accurate
B. DURING THE LAST CENTURY, SOME SCHOLARS ASSERTED THAT THE GOSPELS AND THE BOOK OF ACTS DID NOT
EXIST BEFORE 130 A.D:
1. This would mean the Gospels and Acts were not written by eyewitnesses!
2. Rather, it was written by frauds who misrepresented themselves as eyewitnesses!
a) For the author of Acts claims to have been present during some of the events described in that book
- cf. “we” in Acts 16:11-12 - Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia,
and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that
part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
b) The author of the Second Epistle Of Peter claims to have been an eyewitness of the Transfiguration
- 2 Peter 1:16-18 - For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory,
when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this
voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
[Written by eyewitnesses and others who lived during those times, or a book written by liars in a effort
to deceive? These are the only choices we have! This is why it is important to establish the early existence of the New Testament...]
II. EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE N.T.
A. INTERNAL EVIDENCE:
1. The ending of the book of Acts:
a. The book ends abruptly with Paul in prison, awaiting trial - Acts 28:30-31 - And Paul dwelt
two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching
those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
b. A plausible explanation is that Luke wrote Acts during this time, before Paul finally appeared
c. This would be about 62-63 A.D., meaning that Acts and Luke (which came first - cf. Acts
1:1 - The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, - with Luke
1:1-4 - Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely
believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order,
most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.)
were written within thirty years of ministry and death of Jesus
2. No mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
a. Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus' prophecy that the temple and city would be destroyed within that
generation - e.g., Mark 13:1-4 - And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master,
see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him,
Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not
be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew
asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when
all these things shall be fulfilled? - Mark 13:14 - But when ye shall see the abomination
of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them
that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: - Mark 13:30 - Verily I say unto you,
that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. - Luke 21:5-9 - And as some spake
of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall
not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be
not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of
wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is
not by and by. - Luke 21:20-24 - And when ye
shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then
let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them
that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things
which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that
give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be
trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. - Luke 21:32 - Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
b. History records that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem with its temple was destroyed, exactly as Jesus foretold!
c. Yet not a single book of the New Testament refers to this event as having happened!
1) Such would be very unlikely if they had been written after 70 A.D.
2) For that event helps to verify Jesus' claim to be the Son of God, and it is hard to imagine that any
writer after 70 A.D. would not make mention to the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy!
d. This has prompted some scholars to conclude that ALL of the books of the N.T. were written prior to
70 A.D. - e.g., John A. T. Robinson, in his book Redating The New Testament
B. PAPYRI FRAGMENTS:
1. Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri (dated 200-250 A.D.)
a. Made public in 1931
b. Contains the Gospels, Acts, Paul's Epistles, and Revelation
2. Papyrus Bodmer II (dated 200 A.D.)
a. Discovery announced in 1956
b. Contains fourteen chapters of John, and portions of the last seven chapters
3. Early Christian Papyri (dated 150 A.D.)
a. Made public in 1935
b. Written by someone who had the four gospels before him and knew them well
4. John Rylands MSS (dated 130 A.D.)
a. This is oldest fragment of the NT
b. “Because of its early date and location (Egypt), some distance from the traditional place of
composition (Asia Minor), this portion of the gospel of John tends to confirm the traditional date of the composition of the
gospel.” - General Introduction To The Bible, Geisler & Nix
C. PATRISTIC WRITINGS:
1. Epistle Of Polycarp To The Philippians (dated 120 A.D.)
a. A personal acquaintance of John, the apostle
b. He quotes from the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians,
2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 1 John
2. Letters Of Ignatius (dated 115 A.D.)
a. Written to several churches in Asia Minor
b. He quotes from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 &
2 Timothy and Titus
3. Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians (dated 95 A.D.)
a. This letter was written to encourage the church to respect their elders
b. He quotes from the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews, and 1
III. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS EVIDENCE:
A. THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS IN EXISTENCE AND WELL KNOWN BY THE END OF THE FIRST CENTURY A.D:
1. As stated by Nelson Glueck, former president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in the Hebrew
Union College in Cincinnati, and renowned Jewish archaeologist: “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was
written between the forties and eighties of the First Century A.D.”
2. “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book
of the New Testament after 80 A.D.” - W. F. Albright, Biblical archaeologist
B. THUS THE NEW TESTAMENT PASSES THE “ACID TEST” FOR THE AUTHENTICITY OF ANY DOCUMENT
1. It was written in the same generation in which the events took place
2. It was circulated among the very people about whom these documents spoke while they were still alive
to deny them!
a. E.g., remember Clifford Irving and his “biography” of Howard Hughes?
b. Was quickly denounced as a fraud by those who knew best and soon lost its credibility
3. The fact that the first generation preserved the New Testament for posterity shows their regard for
the genuineness of its contents
1. But the “acid test” is only the first test any historical document must pass
2. So what if it was written early:
a. Is it accurate in its description of people, places, and events where it can be checked?
b. How do we know that what we read today is an accurate representation of the original “autographs”
(the manuscripts actually penned by the authors)?
c. How can we be sure that in the passing of time the content of the original did not become corrupted
through mistakes in copying?
questions shall be examined in the next two studies...