<< Previous | Index | Next >>"CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS" Evidence For Early Existence Of The New Testament INTRODUCTION 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 To establish the reliability of ANY historical document, one of the first questions to be raised is: "How soon after the events took place were they recorded?" 4.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 THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT 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 accuracy 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 second-hand 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 Ac 16:11-12 b) The author of the Second Epistle Of Peter claims to have been an eyewitness of the Transfiguration - 2 Pe 1:16-18 [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. THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT A. INTERNAL EVIDENCE... 1. THE ENDING OF THE BOOK OF ACTS a. The book ends abruptly with Paul in prison, awaiting trial - Ac 28:30-31 b. A plausible explanation is that Luke wrote ACTS during this time, before Paul finally appeared before Nero c. This would be about 62-63 A.D., meaning that ACTS and LUKE (which came first - cf. Ac 1:1 with Lk 1:1-4) 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., Mk 13:1-4,14,30; Lk 21:5-9,20-24,32 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 New Testament 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. PAYPRUS 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 con- firm 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 Thessa- lonians, 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 Corin- thians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 Peter 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 OF ANTIQUITY 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 docu- ments spoke while they were still alive to deny them! a. E.g., remember Clifford Irving and his "biography" of Howard Hughes? b. It 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 CONCLUSION 1. But the "ACID TEST" is only the FIRST test any historical document must pass 2. So what if it was written early... a. How do we know that what we read today is an accurate representa- tion of the original "autographs" (the manuscripts actually penned by the authors)? b. How can we be sure that in the passing of time the content of the original did not become corrupted through mistakes in copying? These questions shall be examined in the next study...
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