This is the fifth week in a 5 week series on one of the most important questions asked throughout history. That question is this: “Is the Bible Really True?” That is to say, “Is the Bible we read today the same as what was written by those people “way back when.” This question is a fair question and requires a reliable response. Although we are dealing with limited space in these articles I will provide some of the resources in my research.
Who Would Die for a Lie?
Nobody would die for a lie knowing that it was a lie. Many have died for a lie, but they did not realize they were dying for a lie. They thought they were dying for the truth. Fact is, all the Apostles, save John were killed for their preaching. Some were speared to death; some were killed with a sword; some were beheaded and some were beaten to death. Why is this a logical and reasonable validation of the New Testament? The answer is they had first hand knowledge of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
In the Book of Acts 5:17, and following, the apostles were jailed after the ascension of Jesus for preaching the Good News of Jesus the Christ. Then in verse 25 we read, “Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’” The Apostles were called to seal their faith with their own blood and they did. Early disciples of Jesus wanted to imitate Jesus in every way and being put to death for their faith was considered an honor. Look at what happened to some of the followers of Jesus:
Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia.
Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece.
John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward branded at Patmos.
Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward.
James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller's club.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died.
Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded.
Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica.
Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.
Such was the fate of the apostles. And so many of us today have trouble getting out of bed and making it to worship on Sunday. An old saying goes, “If it is comfortable or convenient it is not Christianity.” No truer words were ever uttered.
How Do Historians Determine a Document’s Validity?
In his book, Introduction in Research in English Literary History, Chauncey Sanders sets for the three tests of reliability employed in general historiography and literary criticism. The first test is the “Bibliographical Test.” That is to say, this test is the amount of time between the original document and the first recorded document we have after the original document. Of all ancient documents the Bible has the shortest time span between when a book of the Bible was first written and what we have in the first written extant copy after that. We have no originals of any of the ancient ocuments.
Caesar compose his history of the Gallic Wars between 58 and 50 B.C. and the first copy we have after that is 1000 years later. Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote his Annals of Imperial Rome about 116 A.D. and we have the first extant copy 850 years later. The same is true of all other ancient authors and historians such as: Pliney the Younger, Seutonius, Heroditus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Euripdes, etc.
The New Testament was written between 49 A.D. and 100 A.D. The earliest copy we have after that is 125 A.D. Only 25 years later. What about the Old Testament. One quick look reveals the Dead Sea Scrolls copied about the time of Jesus by the Essence Jews were found in a cave at Qumran, next to the Dead Sea, in Israel, 1967 A.D. We find the complete book of Isaiah we have in our Bibles today and that writing of over two thousand years old is the same. 95% of what we have in the book of Isaiah today is exactly the same. The other 5% from the Dead Sea Scrolls are only spelling errors and slips of the pen making them difficult to read. That is incredible. We have 20,000+ copies of New Testament manuscripts are available to us today. And we have over 50,000 fragments of manuscripts of the New Testament.
The second test of documents validity is the “Internal Test.” That is to say, did the writers of the documents say they were eyewitnesses or got their information from eyewitnesses? I John 1:3 reads, “We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us…” 2 Peter 1:16 read, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” They had first hand knowledge of what they wrote about.
The third test documents validity is the “External Test.” Roman historians such as: Josephus Flavus, Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion testified to the events in the New Testament.
Dear Friends, have confidence that what we have in our Sacred Scriptures is true beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, if it is true, and we know it is, how does that fundamentally change what you believe? What we believe is true and there is not another religious book in the history of the world that can make these claims. Go in peace and serve the true and Triune God.
Sources: Johnson, Philip E. Reason in the Balance. Intervarsity Press; Kennedy, D. James. Why I Believe. Word Publishing. 1980; McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Here’s Life Publishers. 1979; Wilson, Bill and Josh McDowell. He Walked Among Us. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1993; Bruce, F.F. Are the New Testament Documents Reliable. Eerdmans Publishing. 1968