Melinda Perry #1134 Christ and the Bible 28 April 2009 The Fighting Lion

Perry 2 Outline Thesis: The New Testament Gospels are historically accurate and very reliable documents I. Introduction: the fighting lion II. Writing of the Gospels A. Importance of B. Method of 1. Memory and Writing 2. Eye-witness accounts III. Critics attacks 1. Difference between Gospels 2. Writing/translating mistakes and variations IV. Evidence 1. Ancient Manuscripts 2. Archeological Finds 3. Other writings V. Conclusion

Perry 3

The Fighting Lion

There’s an interesting quote of Charles Spurgeon that says, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself”.1 In a day and age where the Bible seems constantly the under scrutiny, the quote seems all the more interesting. What does it take to defend the Bible? Or is Charles Spurgeon correct to say that the Word of God is strong enough to even defend itself? A lot of worth is put upon the Bible, is it reliable to live for? Work for? And for many people in the world, even to even die for? Charles Spurgeon seemed to think so. The evidence is very astounding--in particular when looking at the New Testament, and the Gospel’s reliability. The New Testament Gospels are historically accurate and very reliable documents. There contents are incredible writing, through the years the characters and lessons in these books have changed millions of lives. They are so much more than a popular read or historical document, or so it definitely seems. There are many people in the world that view the Bible as unreliable; many mistakenly view the book as merely a religious document; they fail to realize how much the Bible is actually historical in nature. This truth applies to the first four books of the New Testament: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.

1

Qtd. in Little, Paul E. Know What you Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristiy Press, 2008) 101.

Perry 4 These books, which are known as the Gospels, hold four separate and significant accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This puts a lot of “pressure” on the accurateness of these texts. The life and teaching of Jesus Christ is the center ring of Christianity, so the accurate thing to say is that the texts that were written about Jesus Christ are what is central to the Christian faith and church. F. F. Bruce, in his book about the New Testament Documents, puts it this way, “The character of Jesus can be known only from the New Testament records, the influence of His character is therefore tantamount to the influence of the New Testament records”.2 The stakes are high: if these documents are a bunch of fluff, than the faith is pointless, the church is crazy, and martyrs are victims of a foolish death. It’s extremely important that the New Testament can be trusted. Even thought the Gospels are about Jesus’ life and ministry, they were not written while Jesus was actually on Earth. The earliest Christians spread the message and news of Jesus through oral tradition.3 This was common in the culture of Jesus’ day, where education, worship, and teaching were done by word of mouth.4 The Gospels were written, at the most, thirty years after Jesus’ life on

2

Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 3. 3 Pelikan, Jaroslav. Jesus As A Rabbi. Pbs Online 2008. 13 Feb. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org> n.p. 4 Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 43.

Perry 5 Earth.5 It’s a highly accepted belief that Jesus was crucified in the year of 30 AD6, and the New Testament seems to have been completed by 100 AD7. The accounts were of course written from their author’s memory. Today’s society may see memory-written biographies as bogus, yet one must remember that the culture of Jesus’ time was very different. Craig Blomberg was speaking of this culture when he stated: Rabbis become famous for having the entire Old Testament committed to memory. So it would have been well within the capability of Jesus’ disciples to have committed much more to memory than appears in all four gospels put together--and have passed it along accurately... this was an oral culture, in which there was a great emphasis placed on memorization.8 The Gospel writers are trustworthy, yet the accuracy of these texts do not rely solely on these four men. It is important to remember that the books of the Gospels were originally read by many people who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life. The books’ reliability increases dramatically with the understanding that the writers did more than claim their eye witness accounts: they were speaking with and to the people who saw the things of Jesus with their very own eyes.9 This
5 6

Ibid 34. Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 6. 7 Qtd. in Little, Paul E. Know What you Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristiy Press, 2008) 98. 8 Qtd. in Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 43. 9 McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972) 8.

Perry 6 fact cannot be underestimated. As the Bible and Exegesis Professor at the University of Manchester was once quoted: “One of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers… Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as further corrective”.10 Even though the eyewitnesses obviously approved of the writing, there are some who still question the authenticity of the Gospel books. Their doubt lies in the details. When comparing and contrasting the four books that make up the Gospels, one can see that the stories aren’t carbon copies of each other. Some details differ, maybe the order of events or word choice in a message. This reality is sometimes pointed to when attempting to prove the inaccuracy of the Gospels. One may think that differing stories means dishonest accounts, or inaccurate memories. However, logically, the opposite is true. One must think of a teacher grading a written report on a field trip. If this teacher were to find an entire class handing in identical descriptions of the happenings of the exciting day, she would not be found celebrating her class’s excellent memory and writing skills. Most likely, she would assume the kids had dishonestly cheated on their assignment. This is because perspectives and point of views differ from person to person. This fact is just as true in the writings of Jesus Christ. The writers of the Gospels were humans, and as historian Wayne Meeks points out, human be-

10

McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972) 65.

Perry 7 ings can’t help but build memories in according with what makes sense in their particular view of the world.11 It’s expected that the author’s writing would be unique somehow. Some question about variations there may be to the text from years of translation, and rightly so. Anyone who’s played a game of telephone knows that word passed on numerous times can easily change. FJA Hort was extremely interested in this subject, and he spent his lifetime studying the concept. He searched through different New Testaments, studying the variations among them. He concluded, “Not more than 1000th part of the whole New Testament is affected by differences of reading”.12 That is a very small margin of error. It’s also important to realize that according to Hort, the variations he did find were in grammar and spelling differences13, not important words and claims. The New Testament has astounding evidence proving its reliability. Some of this evidence has to do with the large amounts of existing ancient manuscripts. There are over five thousand copies of the Greek New Testaments that originated from the early church.14 Other historical records can only blush in comparison to this astounding number—the Jewish historian Josephus, whose historical records are considered adequately reliable, has only nine existing manuscripts.

11

Meeks, Wayne A. What Can We Really Know About Jesus/” Pbs Online 2008. 31 Jan 2008 <http://www.pbs.org> n.p. 12 Little, Paul E. Know What you Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristiy Press, 2008) 97-98. 13 Ibid. 14 Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate (Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1999) 11.

Perry 8 Even Homer’s famous Iliad only has 650 manuscripts.15 “The wealth of surviving manuscripts of the New Testament, as well as over one hundred thousand [ancient] letters from Christians that contain more than 99% of the eight thousand verses of the New Testament, provides overwhelming proof that the text of the New Testament is historically reliable”.16 There is ample evidence in favor of the reliability and accuracy of Gospels. The books can be trusted as an accurate telling of who Jesus was and what Jesus did. They wrote to tell the world that Jesus Christ was not a story or a myth, but his existence was real and life changing. Ancient manuscripts are fascinating because they are like looking into the past, through a piece of papyrus or a old scroll. Archeological finds are the same way. Whenever archeologists find things about Jesus’ time, it interestingly fits into what the Gospel historians recorded in their writings. Unfortunately, archeology is limited with the time period and place of Jesus’ life. This is because Jerusalem was destroy in 70 AD, then a new city was founded on it in 135 AD. It isn’t very “practical” to have an archeological dig in a densely populated city, unfortunately.17 But there has been archeological evidence supporting the New Testament. One example of this is the discovery of the Pool of Betheseda. John 5:2 describes a location that Jesus healed an invalid. It says, “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which
15

Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 60. 16 Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate (Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1999) 11. 17 Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 96.

Perry 9 is surrounded by five covered colonnades.”18. Well, in there were archeological excavation in the year 1888 that found an ancient church and 2 pools in the NE corner of Jerusalem, where the quarter is called Bethzetha.19 This find completely supports John’s description, and verifies the accurateness of his account. Interestingly enough, the Gospel writers were not the only ones writing about Jesus. Historians of Jesus’ day are found mentioning Jesus or his followers. These historians are completely secular, they weren’t worshiping or following Jesus Christ, yet they apparently had no trouble acknowledging his life, death, and teaching.20 One example of this is the Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote most of his works near the end of the first century.21 Josephus was by no means a Christian; in fact, he claimed to be a member of the Pharisaic group22, who opposed to the teaching of Jesus. Josephus’ religious perspective did not keep him from writing about Jesus. “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles”.23 Josephus is a perfect example of a man who
18 19

New International Version Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 95. 20 Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate (Ontario: Frontier Research Publcations, 1999) 162. 21 Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 77. 22 White, L. Michael. Josephus, Our Primary Source. Pbs Online 2008. 31 Jan. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org> n.p. 23 Qtd. in McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972) 84-85.

Perry 10 is without bias, yet still writes of the existence and role of Jesus. Another example of this would be Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman Historian. He confirmed the details of Jesus’ death when he wrote in the Annals of Imperial Rome, “…[Christ], who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate…”.24 The idea that ancient historians even bothered to pen the name of Jesus effectively proves his existence, but they do much more than that. They also bring to mind the question of who Jesus was, and how he grabbed the attention of a Jewish and Roman Historian. The New Testament Gospels are historically accurate and very reliable documents. Clearly, these “old books” are so much more than simple Sunday school stories. Their authors did an amazing job at being both newsmen and historians. The writing was backed up by eyewitnesses then, and now is supported with thousands of ancient manuscripts and archeological evidence. Incredibly, the main character of their writing was not only seen in their books. Other historians, unbiased towards Christians, even wrote about him. Perhaps that is the “fight of the lion” that Charles Spurgeon say when he talked about the reliability of the Bible. The documents clearly deserve good status as historical documents, but the incredible thing is that they’re so much more. What other historical document speaks of a man who’s teachings got him killed, but started a revolution of sorts that is transforming so many today. That, too is the fight of the lion. Regardless of claims and doubt that any man can try to throw on scripture, God’s Word keeps fighting.
24

Qtd. in Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate (Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1999) 162.

Perry 11

Bibliography Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Perry 12 Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate. Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1999. Little, Paul E. Know What you Believe. Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristiy Press, 2008. McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972. Meeks, Wayne A. What Can We Really Know About Jesus/” Pbs Online 2008. 31 Jan 2008 <http://www.pbs.org> Pelikan, Jaroslav. “Jesus As A Rabbi.” Pbs Online 2008. 13 Feb. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org>. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998. White, L. Michael. “Josephus, Our Primary Source.” Pbs Online 2008. 31 Jan. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org>.