Saturday, January 29, 2011

Historical Reliability of the Gospels #1

Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions
Click image to learn more about Without a Doubt.
 Without a Doubt by Kenneth Samples

Key Points from Chapter 7 Part 1: Historical Reliability of The Gospels

The Christian faith depends on the historical nature and accuracy of the unique claims, character, and credentials of Jesus Christ! – Page 91

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-18. Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Christ. 

Support for the Historical Reliability of the Gospels

1.      The New Testament documents are the best attested documents of antiquity in terms of total number of manuscripts. 

·         Check out this website:
·         5,000 individual Greek Manuscripts
·         8,000 copies of the Latin vulgate
·         Without these there are still thousands of manuscripts from commentaries and sermons that can be used to piece together the entire New Testament and these are from the early church fathers in the second to fifth centuries. – Page 92
·         Textual criticism exists because of the Bible.

2.       The interval of time between the date of the original authorship and the date of the earliest New Testament manuscript copies is extremely short.
 T   The historic statements made about Jesus by ancient non-Christian authors for the most part matches well with the Gospel record. 

·         He was a provocative teacher, a wise and virtuous man from the region of Judea.
·         He reportedly performed miracles and made prophetic claims.
·         The Jewish leaders condemned him for acts of sorcery and apostasy.
·         He was crucified by Pontius Pilate at the time of the Jewish Passover, and during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.
·         Jesus’ followers reported that he had risen from the dead.
·         The Christian faith spread to Rome were the Christians were persecuted and tried for crimes.
·         First-century Christians worshipped Jesus Christ as God and celebrated the Eucharist in their services.
·         Even though these Romans ridiculed the Christians as being morally weak, they were often times known for their courage and virtue. 

4.       The authors of the four Gospels were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life themselves, or were closely associated with the eyewitnesses.  

John 19:1-4
1 John 1:1-2
Luke 1:1-4
Galatians 1:11-12
2 Peter 1:16

5.       The Gospel writers intended to convey factual and historical information and the writings of their historical content have been confirmed to a significant degree.

6.       The apostles’ testimony becomes more credible when it is considered that they had nothing to gain from it and everything to lose.  

·         They received no monetary reward or power from their message.
·         They received only beatings, imprisonment, and death.
·         Adversaries could have exposed their message as a lie, but they couldn’t. 
·         We can trust their message because they had no motif to lie or deceive.
·         If they did lie and deceive they violated everything Jesus taught about honesty and truth.


  1. Dr. Bart Ehrman shockingly put it this way: “we don’t even have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, etc, etc, etc, of any original book of the New Testament!”

    —thus the entire New Testament comes from a shockingly dark abyss of anonymousness (yikes!)…because we don’t know where they were written, the date they were written, nor who wrote them (only ancient hearsay [from not-to-be-trusted sources] and wild guessing can be applied to them; but they can never be verified as being true. Never!).

    So this goes without say: the entire NT, and the Jesus story in it, is untrustworthy, in a multitude of ways!

    Fact…1st century…0 NT documents

    Fact…2nd century…confetti (only about 10 to 15 fragments show up, beginning around 125 AD [now note this shocker: 125 AD is the 1st time Jesus shows up in recorded history; are you shocked!]; fragments maybe [?] of the NT or maybe of something else)

    Fact…3rd century…chunks of the NT (that’s a whopping 170 years or so after Jesus allegedly lived on earth before we finally get books of the NT. Now note: the gospels (i.e. The Gospel According to Matthew, etc) aren’t mentioned in history until around 180 AD; are you shocked?!)

    Fact…4th century…earliest complete NT (that’s a staggering 300 years or so after Jesus allegedly lived on earth before we have the first complete NT! And obviously 170 to 300 years is more than enough time for all kinds of myths, traditions, folklore, alterations, forgeries, fiction, personal agendas, brainwashing, propaganda, etc, to occur concerning the Jesus story!)

    You see: the New Testament, and the Jesus story in it, is untrustworthy (!) on a multitude of levels!

    Brett Strong....e-mail me at

    would love to hear from anyone to let them know how untrustworthy the bible really is...thus the NT (and the rest of the bible) should be used for basically entertainment value

  2. There are no original manuscripts of Shakespeare's works, either. And none for Aristotle, Plato, or the wars of Julius Caesar, either. In fact, there are no original manuscripts for most of history! That is why people copy things: vellum, parchment, and paper do not last forever. Your argument about no original manuscripts from the first century is thus spurious.

    Furthermore, the transmission of Bible documents produced a science known as textual criticism. That is, because there are an unprecedented number of manuscripts in the Bible tradition, a science was born in order to classify and examine them.

    It is a known historical fact that transmission of biblical manuscripts was done with utmost care and precisions. A fact in point: the dead sea scrolls find in the 1940's produced a complete manuscript of the Book of Isaiah from the Old Testament. It predated the oldest extant copy by 1000 years. And in a total of 66 chapters, only a handful of words, were different.


    Dramatically, when the Bible manuscripts are compared to other ancient writings, they stand alone as the best-preserved literary works of all antiquity. Remarkably, there are thousands of existing Old Testament manuscripts and fragments copied throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean and European regions that agree phenomenally with each other. 1 In addition, these texts substantially agree with the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which was translated from Hebrew to Greek some time during the 3rd century BC. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in Israel in the 1940's and 50's, also provide astounding evidence for the reliability of the ancient transmission of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries BC.

    The manuscript evidence for the "New Testament" is also dramatic, with nearly 25,000 ancient manuscripts discovered and archived so far, at least 5,600 of which are copies and fragments in the original Greek. Some manuscript texts date to the early second and third centuries, with the time between the original autographs and our earliest existing fragment being a remarkably short 40-60 years.

    Interestingly, this manuscript evidence far surpasses the manuscript reliability of other ancient writings that we trust as authentic every day. Look at these comparisons: Julius Caesar's The Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts remain, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph); Pliny the Younger's Natural History (7 manuscripts; 750 years elapsed); Thucydides' History (8 manuscripts; 1,300 years elapsed); Herodotus' History (8 manuscripts; 1,350 years elapsed); Plato (7 manuscripts; 1,300 years); and Tacitus' Annals (20 manuscripts; 1,000 years).

    Homer's Iliad, the most renowned book of ancient Greece, is the second best-preserved literary work of all antiquity, with 643 copies of manuscript support discovered to date. In those copies, there are 764 disputed lines of text, as compared to 40 lines in all the New Testament manuscripts. In fact, many people are unaware that there are no surviving manuscripts of any of William Shakespeare's 37 plays (written in the 1600's), and scholars have been forced to fill some gaps in his works. This pales in textual comparison with the over 5,600 copies and fragments of the New Testament in the original Greek that, together, assure us that nothing's been lost. In fact, all of the New Testament except eleven minor verses can be reconstructed outside the Bible from the writings of the early church leaders in the second and third centuries AD.

    In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.