That faith

April 5, 2012

Authenticity of the New Testament books

Filed under: New Testament documents — Tags: , , — JMJ @ 4:49 pm

As with any ancient book transmitted through a number of handwritten manuscripts, the question naturally arises as to how confident can we be that we have anything resembling the autograph. Let us now look at what evidences we have for the integrity of the New Testament manuscripts. Let us look at the number of manuscripts and how close they date to the autographs of the Bible as compared with other ancient writings of similar age.

1. Tacitus, the Roman historian, wrote his Annals of Imperial Rome in about A.D. 116. Only one manuscript of his work remains. It was copied about 850 A.D.

2. Josephus, a Jewish historian, wrote The Jewish War shortly after 70 A.D. There are nine manuscripts in Greek which date from 1000-1200 A.D. and one Latin translation from around 400 A.D.

3. Homer’s Iliad was written around 800 B.C. It was as important to ancient Greeks as the Bible was to the Hebrews. There are over 650 manuscripts remaining but they date from 200 to 300 A.D. which is over a thousand years after the Iliad was written.

4. The Old Testament autographs were written 1450 – 400 B. C.

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls date between 200 B.C. to 70 A. D and date within 300 years from when the last book of the Old Testament was written.
  • Two almost complete Greek LXX translations of the Old Testament date about 350 A. D.
  • The oldest complete Hebrew Old Testament dates about 950 A. D.
  • Genesis-Deuteronomy were written over 1200 years before the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Codex Vaticanus is an almost complete Greek translation of the Old Testament dating around 350 A.D. The Aleppo Codex is the oldest complete Old Testament manuscript in Hebrew and was copied around 950 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date from within 200-300 years from the last book of the Old Testament. However since the five books of Moses were
written about 1450- 1400 B.C. the Dead Sea Scrolls still come almost 1200 years after the first books of the Old Testament were written.

5. The New Testament autographs were written between 45-95 A. D.

  • There are 5,664 Greek manuscripts some dating as early as 125 A. D. and an complete New Testament that dates from 350 A. D.
  • 8,000 to 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts.
  • 8,000 manuscripts in Ethiopic, Coptic, Slavic, Syriac, and Armenian.
  • In addition, the complete New Testament could be reproduced from the quotes that were made from it by the early church fathers in their letters and sermons.

Skeptics and liberal Christian scholars both seek to date the New Testament books as late first century or early second century writings. They contend that these books were not written by eyewitnesses but rather by second or third hand sources. This allowed for the development of what they view as myths concerning Jesus. For example, they would deny that Jesus actually foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. Rather they would contend that later Christian writers “put these words into his mouth.”

1. Many of the New Testament books claim to be written by eyewitnesses.

  • The Gospel of John claims to be written by the disciple of the Lord. Recent archeological research has confirmed both the existence of the Pool of Bethesda and that it had five porticoes as described in John 5:2. This correct reference to an incidental detail lends credibility to the claim that the Gospel of John was written by John who as an eyewitness knew Jerusalem before it was destroyed in 70 A. D.
  • Paul signed his epistles with his own hand. He was writing to churches who knew him. These churches were able to authenticate that these epistles had come from his hands (Galatians 6:11). Clement an associate of Paul’s wrote to the Corinthian Church in 97 A. D. urging them to heed the epistle that Paul had sent them.

2. The following facts strongly suggest that both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written prior to 65 A.D. This lends credibility to the author’s (Luke) claim to be an eyewitness to Paul’s missionary journeys. This would date Mark prior to 65 A.D. and the Pauline epistles between 49-63 A.D.

  • Acts records the beginning history of the church with persecutions and martyrdoms being mentioned repeatedly. Three men; Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus all play leading roles throughout the book. They were all martyred by 67 A.D., but their martyrdoms are not recorded in Acts.
  • The church in Jerusalem played a central role in the Book of Acts, but the destruction of the city in 70 A.D. was not mentioned. The Jewish historian Josephus cited the siege and destruction of Jerusalem as befalling the Jews because of their unjust killing of James the brother of Jesus.
  • The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome under house arrest in 62 A.D. In 64 A.D., Nero blamed and persecuted the Christians for the fire that burned down the city of Rome. Paul himself was martyred by 65 A.D. in Rome. Again, neither the terrible persecution of the Christians in Rome nor Paul’s martyrdom are mentioned.

Conclusion: These books, Luke-Acts, were written while Luke was an eyewitness to many of the events, and had opportunity to research portions that he was not an eyewitness to.

[From http://www.godandscience.org/%5D

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