Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is the New Testament Reliable?

Last week's series of posts left off at a crucial point: is the Bible reliable?  Specifically, I would like to deal with the New Testament.  As I have studied and read and contemplated many philosophical/theological/scientific points and arguments, I believe the lynch pin in the whole ordeal is Jesus.

If Jesus really was raised from the dead, then that historical phenomenon changes everything.  If Jesus was who He claimed He was, well, that adds another dimension.  There are those who scoff at Jesus and the claims of the resurrection.  Rightfully so.  We are even told by St. Paul in scripture that the idea of the resurrection was foolishness and a stumbling block to many even in the ancient world.  Dead men don't just come back to life--especially those who had been crucified by the Romans.  You see, the Romans had a 100% success rate of death by crucifixion.  Once you were nailed to a cross, you were a goner.  Plain and simple.

But one can even doubt the historical veracity of the crucifixion or the historical veracity of Jesus Himself by simply saying the Bible stories about Jesus were simply made up--lies--inventions of various communities or people who were starting a new religion.  These things are actually floating around, and some have gained quite a bit of steam.  Richard Dawkins even casts doubt on Jesus as a historical figure in his book The God Delusion.

Yet, there are really no serious ancient historians who doubt the existence of Jesus.  None.  Nearly all regard Him as a historical figure.  Why?  Frankly speaking, we have more evidence for Jesus than we have for folks like Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great. 

There have been several lectures I have watched on YouTube from many experts in the field.  Below are several videos.  Nearly all of them are over an hour long.  If you are truly interested in the evidence, I invite you to watch them and judge for yourself:

These four videos are thorough with their presentation of the evidence regarding Jesus.  They also make a strong case for the reliability of the New Testament especially the Gospels.  A very detailed approach to the reliability of the Gospels comes from Richard Bauckham in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: the Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.   Bauckham is thorough--very, very thorough.

Mind you, none of these folks gives absolute proof that the New Testament is 100% accurate, but they are saying, quite frankly, that by the tools of ancient history, the Gospels are reliable.  They can be defined as ancient biography based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses to the events surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Eyewitness testimony is not without its faults.  It does not capture every detail of an event, and our brains tend to remember only certain points.  However, there is something quite interesting about eyewitness testimony--it begs to be accepted as long as the witness is deemed credible.  (The credibility of the eyewitnesses is dealt with very strongly, I think, by the videos.)  I mean, as I have pointed out in a sermon illustration before--if you are on a date with your significant other, and she outlines her day for you.  If you respond, "That sounds great, honey, but do you have any corroborating evidence to back up your assertions?", then your night is going to go downhill very, very fast. 

If indeed the New Testament is reliable and we can get a sense of Jesus through those writings, then we must deal with two important claims: Jesus was raised from the dead, and Jesus claimed to be God.

Time demands me to stop today.  Tomorrow is another day.


Anonymous said...

I always wonder why people want verifiable "evidence" for the truths of the Bible? When I read the skeptics, I see them all trying to outsmart God with their small minds (comparatively speaking)by finding "this problem" and "that problem/contradiction." It is as if God is/was incapable of giving us His Words and keeping them safe during transmission through his people all down through these thousands of years. God the Creator of everything is just not capable to speak to us the way He wants to. I believe that the "weight" of evidence that exists is stronger than for any other document in history. However, the Christian faith -- is by faith.

According to this verse, there is only one test:

"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:3

I hear the skeptics mock God and Jesus -- and deny everything about Him that comes from Scripture. And that is indeed what they will sound like because they have turned away from Him in unbelief. They have rejected His claims that He and the Father are one. They reject that Jesus rose from the dead and that He is God. That is what they will sound like because the Holy Spirit can no longer teach them the truth from the Word.

I asked an Eastern Orthodox priest what they believe about the inerrancy of the Bible. He gave me a longer explanation, but the gist of it is: the Word is both Human and Divine. They do not sweat the supposed "discrepancies." The Word gives them, and us, Christ. That is the message that they trust. When I brought up Bart Ehrman, he said "he's a clown."

It is very painful to hear and read the skeptics speak this blasphemously about Jesus. My heart hurts for them that they believe, and deny, the way they do.

Anonymous said...

I love the videos! Thank you!