Section 1 .. Choose Life

003white  Index to Choose Life       >      Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament


Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament
f we applied whatever criteria 'scholars' use to dismiss the Gospels, to the evidence for other ancient historical figures, we would be forced to dismiss as myth every single thing we think we think we know about these people. So what is the excuse for many scholar's policy that what's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander?

Carol Brooks

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bible’s humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. If we applied whatever criteria liberal scholars use to dismiss the Gospels, to the evidence for other historical people and events, we would have to dismiss as myth everything we think we think we know about the ancient past.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies  Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
Part 8 b:The Resurrection Accounts The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written, and therefore, it is a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm, or undermine, the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does doing it twice sound? -  which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian. Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.


Liberal scholars reject the Gospels on the basis of certain 'standards'. However, if we apply exactly those standards to the evidence for other ancient historical figures, we would be forced to dismiss as myth every single thing we think we think we know about those people. Why? Simply because everything we assume to be factual history is based (just as the Gospels are) on historians. So the questions are, when were the Gospel accounts written, were they authored by the people whose name they bear, and did they intend to record history, or did they have a hidden agenda? Finally, can we be reasonably certain that the text we have to today is what was originally written

The Gospels tell the story of Christ on earth. However, based on certain criteria, many do not acknowledge them as truthful historical documents. However, if we applied the same standards to the evidence for other ancient historical figures, we would be forced to dismiss as myth every single thing we thought we knew about them. what is the excuse for the policy that what's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander?

Do The Gospels Fulfill The Historian's Requirements?
Bias aside, do the Gospels meet the requirements that would enable the historian to make an informed decision about their authenticity.

Authorship: Were The Gospels Written By The People They Have Been Attributed To?
The evidence is strongly in favor of Matthew, Mark, John and Luke the physician having written the Gospels. The ancient historian Papais certainly believed they were.

Dating: When Was The New Testament Written?
Critics claim that the New Testament was written decades after the actual events occurred therefore the authors could not have accurately recorded the details.

Narrowing The Gap
There is overwhelming evidence that the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written within 20-30 years of the Cross, and that the letters of Paul were largely complete before that time.

Gaps Between Other Ancient Record and The Events They Describe
If we were to discard all accounts of ancient events written more than 20 years after the events they describe, we would have to re-evaluate what we think we know about numerous ancient figures.

Motive... Did the Gospel Writers Intend To Record History Or Did They Have A Hidden Agenda?

What Would It Have Taken For a First Century Jew To Believe in Christ?
When even the first line of the Shema (their daily prayer) was and is a declaration of belief in the One God.

Liberal scholars reject the Gospels on the basis of certain 'standards' but apparently...

What's Sauce For The Goose Is Not Sauce For The Gander
For example, although I never saw and have absolutely no interest in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ, shortly after its release an interviewer with NPR asked Jewish scholar Daniel Matt what he thought of the movie. Note: Daniel Matt served as Professor of Jewish Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley from 1979-2000 and is considered a leading scholar of Kabbalah and the Zohar. He replied (All Emphasis Added)

    I see Jesus as a Jewish mystic, I see him as a profound Jewish teacher... The Gospel's presentation of Jesus and of the tragedy of his death does not necessarily reflect the historical reality of Jesus' own lifetime.  And I think the problem with the movie is that it assumes that the Gospels are totally historically accurate... it's impossible to know what actually went on in the 1st century between Jesus and other Jews of his time.  We certainly know that Jesus had no intention of starting a new religion; that he wanted simply to live Judaism and to find God through the Jewish faith and to bring other Jews to God. [01]

While I am sure many people sagely nodded their heads in agreement (I have to wonder if you are doing so now). If so you probably need to give a little more thought to Matt's response because it is extremely flawed. Of course the story told in the Gospels does not necessarily reflect the historical reality of Jesus' own lifetime". Just as not one single historical account necessarily reflects the reality of the person or event they wrote about. We assume it is true, unless proved otherwise.

Daniel Matt also said "it is impossible to know what went on in the 1st century between Jesus and the other Jews of the time". So, according to him, written records made by eyewitnesses apparently doesn't count. And, if written records are to be so summarily dismissed, it would be impossible to know what went on at any other time in history between any individuals or groups... Cleopatra and her relationship with Caesar, Ptolemy or Mark Anthony for example. We certainly could say nothing about Alexander the Great's megalomania, policies, dress, or conquests. And, much closer to Jesus' time, we certainly wouldn't know a thing about Herod the Great and his tyrannical rule.

In fact, we would be forced to dismiss every single thing we think we know about anyone from the ancient past simply because everything we believe to be factual history is based (just as the Gospels are) on historians. Someone wrote down what Herod said and did and someone else (quite a few people in fact) wrote down what Jesus and the Jews of His day said and did.

    Note: As an aside, it is true that that Jesus had no intention of starting a "new religion". However, it is also true that he took the Old Testament laws to an entirely new level. Because that topic is beyond the scope of this article please read Jesus and The Law

Liberal 'Scholars' Decide what Was Inserted Later
Yet, scholars pick and choose what they think was written at the time and what was added later. For example, a 2004 article by Jon Meacham (an American writer, reviewer, historian and presidential biographer among other things) that said (Emphasis Added)

    "The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion, understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism, attractive to as broad an audience as possible... And many scholars believe that the author of Matthew, which is the only Gospel to include the "His blood be on us" line, was writing after the destruction of the Temple in 70 and inserted the words to help explain why such misery had come upon the people of Jerusalem. According to this argument, blood had already fallen on them and on their children." [02]

Note: Matthew attributed the sentence "His blood shall be on us and on our children! (27:25)" to the crowds of people present when Pilate washed his hands in front of them stating that he was innocent of Jesus' blood.

The question that has to be asked is how said 'scholars'presume to know that this line was inserted at a later date? Since one can safely assume that none of them were peering over the author's shoulder there would have to be some solid tangible reason for them to come to this conclusion. There isn't. This statement is not based on anything that even resembles evidence, but is simply an opinion probably intended to discredit the Bible.

And yes, the last few verses in Mark have long been the subject of much controversy, many scholars strongly convinced they are a later addition to the Bible. Even Bruce Metzger - professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Greek scholar, and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society said

    "Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious." [03]

So what is the excuse for many scholar's policy that what's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander? As said by Grant Jeffrey (Emphasis Added)

The underlying assumption of the liberal scholars who reject the historicity of the Gospels is their belief that these documents were composed over one hundred years after the events of Jesus' life and death. The scholars call the period between the death of Christ and the writing of the Gospels the formative period. The popular German Tubingen school of thought or theory is that the Gospels were edited by unknown Christian redactors to create new theological statements that Jesus never uttered. They suggest that these Gospel accounts were mainly myths or religious legends that developed during the lengthy interval between the lifetime of Jesus and the time these accounts were set down in writing. While this attitude is extremely widespread in liberal universities and seminaries, the evidence produced in the last fifty years provides powerful proof that the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth. [04]

By implication, if the Gospels were composed as mythical accounts over one hundred years after Jesus' death, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were mere pen names for other anonymous and very imaginative, authors.

And anyone who claims that Jesus intended to make their young religion attractive to as broad an audience as possible doesn't know the first thing about Christianity. Jesus actually made it a lot harder. Also Christianity is NOT a faction but a 'continuation' of Judaism - its ultimate fulfillment - what all of the Old Testament pointed to. See Jesus and The Law

All of which brings us to a crucial question....

Does The Bible Fulfill The Historian's Requirements?
In view of the fact that different standards are applied to the Bible vs. other ancient documents, we need to ask the million dollar question ... bias aside, do the New Testament records fulfill the historian's requirements in order to make an informed decision as to whether the document in question is authentic.

Dr. John Warwick Montgomery is among much else director of the  International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism & Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. He says he found himself forced to consider seriously the claims of Jesus Christ in the New Testament in order to preserve intellectual integrity. However he also admits he was brought over the threshold of Christian faith "kicking and struggling." [05] Following in the footsteps of the great Harvard Law School professor Simon Greenleaf this is what he had to say about the New Testament.

    "evidential apologetics begins by showing that the New Testament documents are a reliable source of information about Christ's life. These documents handsomely fulfill the historian requirements of

    Transmissional reliability (their texts have been transmitted accurately from the time of writing to our own day),

    Internal reliability (they claim to be primary-source documents and ring true as such)

    External reliability (their authorships and dates are backed up by such solid extrinsic testimony such as that of the early second-century writer Papias, a student of John the evangelist, who was told by him that the first three Gospels were indeed written by their traditional authors).  [06]

For details related to the three points above.

    Transmissional reliability
    See Chapter 9 The Bible Then and Now Is the Bible today what was originally written? (Link will open in a new Window)

    Internal reliability: (On This Page)
    Authorship: Were the Gospels written by the people they have been attributed to? (below) What Papias wrote.
    Dating: When were the Gospels written? Did legend turn Jesus from a 'wise man' into the Son of God?
    Motive: Did the Gospel authors intend to preserve history, did they have a hidden agenda, or 'borrow' from pagan sources?

    External reliability:
    See Chapter 10 - Historical Corroboration: Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources? Why isn't there more evidence? and Chapter 11 - Archaeological Corroboration: Can any details of the New Testament be confirmed by archaeology? (Links will open in new Windows)

001orange Also See How ALL Historical Accounts Are Pieced Together
in Part 8 b: Alleged Discrepancies in the Resurrection Accounts

Authorship: Who Wrote The Four Gospels?
Although the early church was unanimous in their belief that Matthew, Mark, John and Luke the physician wrote the Gospels  there are those who believe that they were not written by the people they have been attributed to. Either the authors used pen names or the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were randomly assigned to the gospels in order to distinguish them one from another.

Neither of these theories holds water simply because, for example, Matthew was a hated tax collector, which makes it unlikely that another author would have used his name as a pseudonym. Similarly, Luke was a Greek physician who lived in Antioch, in ancient Syria. No Jew would choose to write in the name of a Gentile whom they considered... well... dogs.

    However, the authors of the apocryphal gospels, which were written much later on, did precisely the opposite. For example, The Letter of Peter to Philip, found at Nag Hammadi a city in Upper Egypt, was probably originally written in Greek and dates back to the late 2nd century or the beginning of the 3rd. It, therefore, could not possibly have been written by the apostle Peter. The name "Peter" was probably chosen because it was a distinguished and well known one that carried a lot more weight than Matthew, Mark and Luke. Similarly, The Gospel of Mary, which incidentally didn't specify which Mary, was found in Cairo in 1896 and dates to the second century. The Gospel of Judas was given that title because it claims that Jesus wanted Judas to betray Him because it was necessary to fulfill Jesus' plan.

See The Canon of Scripture and The Apocrypha

In his writings dated back to about A.D. 125, Papais, bishop of Hierapolis, wrote a five volume treatise called An Exposition of the Lord's Oracles. All that remains of this works are a few quotations and references by other people of the time. Irenaeus (c. 185) and Eusebius (c. 300), for example. The following is what Papias said about the authorship of the gospels: (Emphasis Added)

    Mark, who had indeed been Peter's interpreter, accurately wrote as much as he remembered, yet not in order, about that which was either said or did by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, Peter, who would make the teachings anecdotally but not exactly an arrangement of the Lord's reports, so that Mark did not fail by writing certain things as he recalled. For he had one purpose, not to omit what he heard or falsify them.

Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech, but each interpreted them as he could. [07]

Which makes it reasonably clear that although the name Mark occurs several times in the New Testament and it is not known for certain how many men were being referred to, the Mark mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 was probably the author of the second Gospel. This because Peter was obviously very close to him calling him "my son Mark".

Papais also referred to John the elder and John the apostle, and it is not clear whether he is talking about one person or two. However, the rest of the fragment seems to make it clear that John, the son of Zebedee, authored the Gospel.

And, if you are concerned that the only evidence we have as to what Papais wrote is from others that quoted him, please remember that Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire and lived from about AD 56 – 120. Both his Histories and his Annals rely on two manuscripts ... one from the ninth century and the other from the eleventh.

Yet, Tacitus is considered a very reliable historian.

Dating: When Was The New Testament Written?
Critics claim that the New Testament was written decades after the actual events occurred therefore the authors could not have accurately recorded the details. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, yet the most reliable account of his reign is generally held to be that of Arrian, who lived from the first to second century AD.

In any case, if one actually reads what they wrote, the authors were very clear that either they themselves were eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry, or what they were recording was the testimony of eyewitnesses. For example...

    Peter stated that they "did not follow cleverly devised tales", but were eyewitnesses of Christ's majesty. And that they themselves heard God's voice from heaven when they were with Jesus on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16, 18)

    John said they were testifying to what they had seen with their eyes, what they had looked at and touched with their hands. (1 John 1:1), and referring to the crucifixion, said "he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true... "(John 19:35)

The one exception was the Gentile Luke who was not a firsthand eyewitness to Jesus' ministry. However, as he said, after carefully investigating everything, he compiled an account of things handed down by those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning. And that it seemed fitting to him to write these accounts out in consecutive order (Luke 1:1-4).

Additionally the Gospels do speak of people whose names we do not know like a 'man with a withered hand', 'a leper'. However, they also name people even some who played very minor roles. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of an official of the synagogue whose daughter was dying but only Mark and Luke give us his name - Jairus. Luke names Cleopas as one of the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus (24:13-32), and Mark says that the blind beggar that Jesus healed near Jericho was called Bartimaeus (10:46) (See Chapter 8 ... Differences and Discrepancies in The New Testament).

In chapter 15, Mark says that a "passer-by coming from the country" was pressed into carrying Christ's cross. However, Mark identifies the man by his sons. Apparently his readers knew who Alexander and Rufus were.

    They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. (Mark 15:21)

Luke, traveling with Paul on some of his journeys was an eyewitness to many of the events related in Acts as seen by his use of the pronoun "we" in certain passages.

    When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. (Acts 16:10-12 NASB)

    When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. (Acts 28:1-2 NASB)

    At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. (Acts 28:11-12 NASB)

For evidence that these journeys really took place See Chapter 11... Archaeological Accuracy of the New Testament

All these accounts were being circulated in the lifetime of people who could deny their accuracy thus do serious damage to a religion that had not yet spread its wings. It is an indisputable fact that both the Jews and the Romans would have leapt at the opportunity to discredit the claims concerning Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The fact that Christianity grew and prospered is a indication that the authorities did not have enough proof that the claims were false. The following is a good example of this.

    When Peter and John healed a lame man who used to daily beg alms at one gate of the Temple, people who had often seen him sitting there, were "filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (Acts 3-4) This greatly disturbed the priests who wanted to know by what power they had done this. After listening to Peter's very spirited reply, about how the man they had crucified had healed the beggar after being raised from the dead, the officials began to confer with one another, wondering what to do with these men since, as they said, it was apparent to all who lived in Jerusalem that "a noteworthy miracle" had taken place through them, and they couldn't deny it. (Acts 4:16).

Their solution? Command the disciples not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

And we all know how well that worked.

A very interesting yet often overlooked detail is that Luke's gospel is the only one of the four to focus on the events surrounding Jesus' birth from Mary's perspective.  In chapter 2, Luke twice tells us that Mary "treasured" some things in her heart (The shepherd's account of the angelic visitation in verses 8-19, and Jesus sitting in the temple as a young boy talking to the teachers in verses 41-51). Since no one else could have known what Mary was thinking and feeling, either Luke spoke to Mary who recalled her thoughts to him, or he had to have spoken to someone very close to her whom she had confided in.

Similarly, the account of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness had to have come from the lips of the Savior Himself, since no one was with Him during this ordeal. In fact Jesus only called His disciples together after this incident. (Mark 1)

Possible Problems With Eyewitness Testimony
Even in a modern court of law eyewitness testimony carries considerable weight however, there is always the danger that a witnesses' memory has been compromised in some way. For example, because the human memory is easily influenced by bias or suggestion, by introducing misleading cues a skilled third party can cause false memories even of details that did not exist.

However, one can hardly believe that any advocate's power of persuasion would be sufficient to sway the story of the disciple Thomas who, along with the other 11, spent three years with Christ then, after the resurrection, actually put his hand in the gash in Jesus' side.

In any case, we are not talking about one witness, but several - Matthew, Mark. Luke, John, Paul, James, Jude, etc., all of whom tell the same story. In fact, in the first of his two letters to the church in Corinth Paul wrote that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve (one assumes he is speaking of the apostles), then He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom were still alive at the time of writing. Then He appeared to James, and finally to Paul himself. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

In other words, he named people including James (the one time skeptic - John 7:3-5) who could corroborate what he was saying. Paul would have been a fool to be so explicit if there had been no resurrection, .

While it is true that the disciples were never put on a literal witness stand, we have to remember that the bulk of their preaching was done in the synagogues in the presence of hostile Jewish religious leaders. It is inconceivable that these men who not only had detailed knowledge of Jesus' ministry but were instrumental in ending His life, would have sat idly by while the disciples willfully manipulated the facts or told a bunch of trumped up stories.

Moreover, on the day of Pentecost when all Israel was in Jerusalem for the Feast Peter actually appealed to what the Jews already knew... (Emphasis Added)

     "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know (Acts 2:22 NASB)

How easy would it have been for someone to stand up and throw a handy tomato or two at Peter? 

Narrowing The Gap
So just when were the Gospels written? Certainly not the couple of hundred years after the events as some critics claim. In fact we can date the gospels to within 20-30 years after Jesus died and was resurrected.

Yes, 20-30 years.

Most of the following information is from chapter nine (Pages 235 - 248) of the Book I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. Additional details from this chapter are on THIS page.

Before A.D. 100
Three of the early Christian authors, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement of Rome, writing before A.D. 110, quoted passages from most of the New Testament books, with the exception of Jude's one epistle and John's second letter (not to be confused with John's Gospel). Which means that the New Testament documents from which they quoted were written around, or earlier than, the turn of the century.

Before A.D. 70
When the Jews of Judea rebelled against Rome in 66 AD the Roman army led by the future Emperor Titus besieged the city and, just four years later, killed thousands of the residents of Jerusalem and burned and destroyed the temple. This temple was not just a small building but a huge complex that was an integral part of Jewish religious life from the time of Solomon. In fact, the importance of the Temple cannot be overestimated. The Jews considered the Temple the earthly dwelling place of the Almighty, whose name is so holy they dared not even speak it. It was to this place they brought the sacrifices, without which there was no atonement for sins. The Temple complex was also the seat of the Great Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the day.

The New Testament documents speak of the temple and the activities associated with it, yet none of them mentioned this terrible tragedy. This in spite of the fact that two of the Gospel authors were disciples of Jesus who personally heard Him predict the destruction of the Temple before their generation passed away.

If we were to read a book about the history of the World Trade Center, which says nothing about the towers being destroyed, but ends with them still standing, one would conclude that the book was written before September 11th 2001.

We can similarly conclude that most of the New Testament was written before A.D. 70.

Before A.D. 62
The physician Luke, author of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, traveled with Paul and recorded prominent events in the unfolding of the early church. He was so precise and his narrative so detailed that he correctly identified "local politicians, local slang, local weather patterns, local topography, local business practices". He even recorded the right depth of water about a quarter mile off Malta as his ship was about to run aground in a storm!  [See Chapter Archaeological Corroboration]

In his narrative, Luke also recorded many, many details of Paul's ministry, including his sermons, his theological summit with Peter and James (Jesus' brother and the leader of the church in Jerusalem), and the trials Paul underwent... shipwreck, beatings and imprisonment. He even mentions the martyrdom of Stephen and the other James... John's brother. Yet, conspicuous by its absence is the fact that Luke did not say a word about Paul's execution by the Roman emperor Nero, or James' death at the hands of the Sanhedrin, that had earlier sentenced Jesus to death. In other words, we can safely surmise that Paul and James were both very much alive up to the time Luke finished writing the book of Acts.

Since Paul was executed during Nero's reign that ended in A.D. 68, and the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that James was killed in 62, we can conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that the book of Acts was written before 62.

Before A.D. 60
If Acts was written by AD 62, then the Gospel of Luke was written even earlier. We know this because the first verse of Acts says, "in my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.." The "former book" was the Gospel of Luke which was addressed to Theophilus as well.

Therefore, considering that at least a short period of time passed between the writing of the two accounts, the Gospel of Luke had to be written before A.D. 60.

Additionally, in the first four verses of his Gospel, Luke says he consulted other sources... his words indicating that he was speaking of written sources. "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us..." (Luke 1:1). Although we do not know for sure, it is entirely possible that he was referring to Matthew and Mark's Gospels and/or other written records which have been lost.

Before A.D. 55-56
There is little doubt that the apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians was written between AD 55 and 56. It was largely written to resolve controversies about various subjects, including prophecy, speaking in tongues, and the Lord's Supper, which means that the church was celebrating the Lord's Supper and experiencing supernatural activity within 25 years of Jesus' ascension.

However, this letter also contains the earliest testimony to the resurrection. The fact that Paul said "most of the 500 "remain until now" is compelling evidence that the resurrection happened just a few years earlier- not in the distant past.  (Emphasis Added)

    For I delivered to you what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then the twelve. After that He appeared to more that five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all of the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NASB).

And when did Paul become a Christian?

In his letter to the Galatians (1:17) Paul told his readers that he did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him but went instead to Arabia, then returned once more to Damascus. Although we do not know what part of Arabia Paul went to nor why he went there, we do know is that he was preaching the Gospel in Damascus and had a narrow escape while he was there. (Luke mentions this escape in Acts 9:24-25, without naming the king). As Paul told the Corinthian church...

    In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33 NASB). 

In other words, Paul's escape from Damascus occurred before 40 A.D., the year King Aretas died. In the very next verse Paul said, it was but three years later that he went up to Jerusalem "to become acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and stayed with him fifteen days". He adds that he did not see any of the other of the apostles, except James, the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:18-19 NASB). 

The point of all this is that Paul was already preaching in Damascus a mere seven (or less) years after Jesus' death and resurrection, and he visited James and Peter in Jerusalem around the same time.

A very early date for Mark?
There is a possibility that the papyrus fragment 7Q5 (fragment 5 from Qumran cave 7) found in the caves in Qumran is a copy of Mark's Gospel. The fragments were dated between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50.  If we have copies from A.D. 50, then the original must have been written earlier.

In Summary there is overwhelming evidence that the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written within 20-30 years of the Cross, and that the letters of Paul were largely complete before that time. Additionally, myths and legends do not begin to proliferate in the same city as the event took place while eyewitnesses are still alive.

Why Did The New Testament Authors Wait So Long?
Why did the Gospel authors wait so many years before committing these events to paper?

The vast majority of people in those days were illiterate. Even those able to read and write were unlikely to put quill to parchment. Writing was held in high regard and largely confined to court/tax records, religious documents, and other important transactions. There was no such thing as a newspaper and, with the exception of artistic writing such as poetry, fictional material such as novels were an unknown luxury. Besides which, if you think about it, even in this day of modern literary conveniences what percentage of people write an article or book about a historical event?

And it pays to remember that many ancient cultures had an outstanding oral tradition. Anyone who has read Alex Hailey's novel Roots should be aware that in times long past stories were memorized in great detail and passed down through the generations with amazing accuracy.

Additionally, many early Christians expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. However, as time went by and there was no sign of the return of our Lord, they could very well have decided to record what had happened. Added to this is the fact that as the church began to grow and expand, the most efficient method to communicate the story of Jesus was by the written word.

Gaps Between Other Ancient Record and The Events They Describe
It stands to reason that the closer a document is to the event it describes, the more credible it is, which is why many skeptics will maintain that even a 20-40 year gap between the events and the written accounts is too long to be reliable. However, if we were to discard all accounts of ancient events written more than 20 years after the events they describe, we had better re-evaluate what we think we know about numerous ancient figures. For example...

The two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great, written by Arrian and Plutarch, date back to more than 400 years after the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. Yet, historians generally consider them to be accurate.

Most people assume that Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar (100 B.C.-44 B.C.) who turned the Roman Republic into the powerful Roman Empire, was a real live person who said and did everything recorded in ancient sources. Yet the earliest manuscript we have about Caesar's life was written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. His Lives of the Twelve Caesars was written in AD 121, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian. However, the first pages about Julius Caesar's youth are missing.

    At the beginning of the third century, an official named Marius Maximus wrote another collection of twelve biographies, imitating Suetonius. This work is now lost but was used as a source by the anonymous author of the Historia Augusta, a fourth-century collection of imperial biographies. [08]

And what makes it worse is that, when it comes to ancient secular writings, in most cases the manuscripts in our possession can be centuries removed from the original writings. For example, Caesar's Gallic Wars was composed between 58 and 50 B.C. But the oldest of the surviving nine or ten good manuscripts dates back to some 900 years after Caesar's day.

And what about the biographies and teachings of some of the other religious leaders?

    Although the Gathas of Zoroaster, about 1000 B.C. are believed to be authentic, most of the Zoroastrian scriptures were not put into writing until after the 3rd century A.D.

    Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha lived in the 6th century B.C., but his biography "appears to have evolved over time and was largely completed by the Buddhacarita, an epic poem written by Asvaghoa in the 2nd century CE."

Yet, we have a papyrus fragment of John's Gospel dating to about 130 A.D., a near complete codex (manuscript in book form) of the Gospel of John dated to around 200 A.D., which makes it not only one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts known to exist, but a mere one century removed from the original writing. We also have a great part of the New Testament dated between 175-225 A.D. More About Manuscript Evidence In The Chapter The Bible Then and Now

 Motive?  Did the Gospel Writers Intend To Record History Or Did They Have A Hidden Agenda?
The Conspiracy Theory.
While there is little argument that Jesus lived and died and few will disagree with Him being a "good and wise' man  the debate begins to heat up when the topic of the supernatural events surrounding His life and death is broached beginning with the miracles Jesus is said to have performed. However, the controversy reaches fever pitch when it comes to the Resurrection.

Skeptics advance numerous theories, including

a) the disciples stole Jesus' body

b) Jesus didn't really die but merely passed out then, somehow recovered after being placed bleeding in a damp tomb for three days without food or water. Neither theory makes a whit of sense considering there were guards at the tomb that was sealed with a stone so heavy it would probably have taken several men to move it.

c) Hallucinations. Hallucinations do not occur to several people at one time, do not last some forty days, do not eat. On at least two occasions Christ ate with His disciples (Luke 24:42-43; John 21:1-14) (Once, in fact, to prove he was not a ghost - Luke 24:36-43), do not hold extended conversations with you. (Jesus conversed for forty days with at least eleven people, speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God -Acts 1:3). Cannot be touched. (The disciples touched Jesus (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:39; John 20:27).

Of course the resurrection story could have been one gigantic hoax.. a conspiracy. However, as Matt Slick of carm.org says,

    "... in order for this conspiracy to work several people would have needed to get together and write documents that were not only inspirational but reflected accurate historical accounts, could stand up to cross examination, and agreed with each other sufficiently to avoid being exposed as a fraud. After all, if their stories and writings were contradictory, their conspiracy would fall apart. This means that there had to be large and sophisticated collusion and careful, deliberate fabrication over a long period of time since the New Testament documents were written over approximately a 50 year span. The writers would have to be very careful about who was named and what places were mentioned. Why? Because the accounts dealt with actual places and people and they would have to make sure it was all correct.

If these people wanted to gain power and influence by concocting a plan as grandiose as this, is it logical to say that they agreed to make up a story about this person Jesus, who was known to many people, and say things about Him that were not true, and then get people to believe that He had risen from the dead?

Does it make sense that they would go against not only the Jewish system but also that of the Roman Empire, all so that they could try and gain power and influence in an area already dominated by two powerful cultures, the Jewish and Roman? Or is it more logical to say that they didn't conspire to deceive, but simply wrote and testified to what they saw? Doesn't it make more sense to say that they wrote what they knew, recorded the facts, the places, and the events and that it was all true and that explains the New Testament documents better than anything else?" [09]

Besides which all the disciples were simple common peasants. Even if they were smart and very conniving men, successful conspiracies are never based on easily verifiable facts. One simply doesn't get away with fabricating the story of the resurrection in the same place as and just a few days after the crucifixion.  Additionally, the fact that the fledgling church started in Jerusalem very shortly after after Jesus was crucified would have made it impossible for the apostles to exaggerate the things He said or did. Had there been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples' adversaries who had the power to expose any fraud and a vested interest in doing so.

The disciple's changed lives and attitudes showed that something momentous had happened. Just days earlier these men had lost their leader and were cowering in the background probably very fearful for their own lives. Yet, even in the face of persecution and death they suddenly became the bold, confident, driving force behind the global spread of Christianity. A made up story can't possibly account for this extreme change in their personalities.

In any case, even if they dreamed up this crazy story, they would had to have been extremely stupid or mad as March hares, to have stuck to it.

Lies are always told for some, usually selfish, reason. What exactly did the disciples gain by inventing the story of the resurrection? No more than temporary notoriety. However, they paid a terrible price for their five minutes of fame. Tradition tells us that virtually all the disciples died horrible deaths. For example, Peter was hanged upside down, Mark was dragged through the streets to his death, James was beheaded and Thomas was pierced through with a lance. Yet not one of them once recanted their story.

While many will die for what they believe to be the truth, who in the world would be willing to be martyred for what they know to be a lie. Martyrdom, one has to confess, is rather convincing proof that the disciples believed what they preached... Christ had risen from the dead. And this belief was based on the fact that they had seen, spoken to and eaten with the resurrected Lord.

And one very significant but often overlooked, factor is

    In first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women whose testimony was considered worthless. If, on the other hand, the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, however socially and legally inconvenient.

See Section on The Resurrection

I think, perhaps, it is time to ask ourselves a couple of very important questions...

What Would It Have Taken For a First Century Jew To Believe in Christ?
Probably what it would take for a modern leader of Hamas to convert to Judaism ie. a whole heck of a lot.

 One God
Literally obeying the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:7 to say these words when they lay down and when they rose up, from that day to this Jews recite morning and evening prayers that commence with the Shema Yisrael. The first line of the Shema is "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB) - A declaration of belief in One God

Therefore, one has to ask, what would it have taken to persuade a first century Jew who knew his Old Testament like the back of his hand and believed with his heart and soul that there is only one God to accept that a human who walked with them, talked with them, and ate with them, was God? Yet, they viewed this man as the creator (John 1:3) and the judge of the world (2 Timothy 4:1).

It is just as difficult to explain how any Jew could believe that a man who had died by crucifixion was the Messiah when Deuteronomy 21:22-23 states that anyone who was hung on a tree was 'cursed of God'. And, if you add to this the fact that the common perception of the Messiah was a victorious one who would get rid of the Roman occupiers and restore the kingdom to Israel, Jesus' chance of convincing the Jews that He was the Savior was about the same as the proverbial snowball's chance in hell, except for one detail...

He rose from the dead.

This event was so momentous that it caused these first century Jews to completely change a centuries old religious ritual that God Himself had instituted. The Sabbath, mandated in the fourth Commandment and strictly observed by all Jews for thousands of years was a reminder of two very important events: the creation of the world (Exodus 20:11) and the deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). Yet, in no time at all, these first Jewish Christians began celebrating the Lord's day ie. Sunday - the day Christ rose from the dead. In fact, as Matthew Slick also points out...

In the Jewish culture the religion was intimately interwoven into the social and economic fabric. Anyone who would go against that system would knowingly risk starvation, mockery, beatings, ridicule, loss of family and friends, etc. This is not something to be considered lightly. Perhaps a single demented individual might consider doing such a thing, but how is it possible to get Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, Timothy, Apollos, etc. to all join in the charade, risk loss of family, reputation, economic stability, be persecuted and maybe even face death? Is this something that is rational to consider? Should we believe that they were all working together to deceive people so they could gain power, fame, and influence? It is simply extremely unlikely and full of problems as a theory.[10]

Consider the case of one particular first century Jew...

Originally called Saul Paul was a devout Jew who described himself not only as an Israelite, but a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised the eighth day (Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:5), a Pharisee of Pharisees (Acts 22:3), and educated in Jerusalem at the school of Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3).

    Note: It seems that it was fairly common for first-century Jews to have more than one name (See Acts 1:23, 9:36, 12:12), and Acts 13:9 tells us that Saul "was also called Paul".

Saul was so violently against what he probably considered a bastardization of Judaism, that he was "in hearty agreement" with putting Stephen, one of the earliest New Testament apostles, to death (Acts 8:1). After which, he "began ravaging the church, entering house after house  and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison" (Acts 8:3). Apparently not satisfied with that, Saul then

    "... breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem". (Acts 9:1-2 NASB)

Only something of outstanding consequence would have persuaded this terrible persecutor of Christians to abandon everything he had believed his entire life. Paul not only converted but became one of the foremost figures of the early church. He loudly and unfailingly proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Savior, planted innumerable small churches, and authored two thirds of the New Testament. He was eventually martyred for his faith.

Does anyone believe that the smooth talking disciples actually managed to so radically convert this man or, in the face of no other plausible explanation, is it more reasonable to believe that Jesus actually appeared to him on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.

Finally as Glenn Miller points out

    You have to explain how a conspiracy wide enough to cover all the books of the NT (multiple authors) and all the decades represented there could have been conceived, orchestrated, and controlled within first-century Jerusalem(!)--without even a formal church authority at the time  

    You have to explain how a 'new testament' that was only collected into a unity as such a century after the main apostles had died, COULD have somehow have perpetuated this conspiracy;

you have to explain how - in a church where divergent voices were always heard (either in the church or around the 'edges' of the church)--NO ONE knew about this and NO ONE blew the whistle. [11]

First Fruits
Occam's Razor is the principle that the simplest answer that fits all the evidence is usually the best answer to account for unexplained facts. In this case the simplest answer happens to be that Jesus did actually rise from the dead. However, many critics and skeptics cannot accept this since there is absolutely no evidence that a dead person has ever come to life... not ever.


As I said in the previous chapter... It is a never ending source of amazement that we in our infinite wisdom think that something cannot possibly be true simply because we haven't found any tangible evidence for it. Why would anyone who believes a Supreme Deity have any difficulty in believing that such a Being could not only create but also resurrect. For God, this is not a 'miracle', but all in a day's work, so to speak.

In any case, the whole point of Christianity is to that people have eternal life, which means those disciples of Christ who are already dead will be resurrected. However, it was always intended that He be the first one permanently raised. (Even the few people who were miraculously resurrected by ancient prophets, Jesus Himself, and the apostles after Him, did not live forever. They were all destined to die again at some point).

In the Old Testament God introduced The Seven Feasts of Israel that not only celebrated a historical event in Israel's past but also foretold future events See Typology. The first four feasts have already been fulfilled - the first two by Jesus Christ on the actual feast days according to the Hebrew calendar. Jesus was sacrificed on Passover and resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits when a sheaf representing the very first of the harvest was waved before the Lord. This was a symbolic gesture that dedicated the coming harvest to Him. Jesus' resurrection was like a wave offering presented to the Father as the first-fruits of the harvest to come at the end of the age.

The Apostle Paul said...

    But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  (1 Corinthians 15:20 NASB)

    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:22-23 NASB)

And it is important. Very. See Chapter The Message of The Bible

Did The New Testament Authors Borrow from Pagan Myths?
The monotheism of the Jews also puts paid to the fact that the New Testament authors would borrow from pagan myths and mystery religions. The Hebrew Bible forbade worshiping any god other than the God of Israel

    .Then God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:1-4 NASB)

Devotion to this one God was the mainstay of Judaism as shown by the twice daily recitation of the Shema (above), and Paul's conversion to Christianity did not change this. In his view...

    Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords (1 Corinthians 8:4-5 NASB)

In fact he considered the Gentiles both ignorant and idolatrous.

    So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'to an unknown god.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23 NASB)

    and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:23 NASB)

Also See Was the New Testament Influenced By Pagan Religions or by Pagan Philosophy ?

So, if the Gospels were written by the people they have been attributed to and were accurate historical accounts recorded within a few years of the events, why do they seem to disagree in certain details?

Continue To Part 8: Differences and Discrepancies in the New Testament
Many of the 'mistakes' discovered in the Scriptures actually arise from not having a clear understanding of what a real contradiction is. People are not contradicting one another when they give us different or additional information. Problems also stem from understanding too little about the Bible including not giving the passage or passages enough thought, ignoring the immediate textual context, or the original language, assuming a 'contradiction' even if different persons or things are being referred to, or when the recorded events took place at different times. HERE

Footnote I
Simon Greenleaf was an early professor (1833-1848) of Harvard Law School who maintained that the Four Gospels do not bear any marks of being forgeries and the oldest extant copies may be received into court as genuine documents. See more about his book The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. As said on Wikipedia

    Greenleaf argues that the gospel writers can be shown to be honest in their character and do not show any motives to falsify their testimony (pp. 28–31). He claims that keen observations and meticulous details are related by Matthew and Luke, and he concludes this demonstrates their ability (pp. 31–32). Greenleaf notes that there are parallel accounts from the evangelists concerning the central events of Jesus' life and that these accounts are not verbally identical. He maintains that discrepancies in their accounts are evidence that the writers are not guilty of collusion, and that the discrepancies in their respective accounts can be resolved or harmonized upon careful cross-examination and comparison of the details (pp 32–35).

    Greenleaf argues against the scepticism of the Scottish empirical philosopher David Hume concerning reports of miracles. He finds fault with Hume's position about "immutable laws from the uniform course of human experience" (p. 36), and goes on to assert that it is a fallacy because "it excludes all knowledge derived by inference or deduction from facts, confining us to what we derive from experience alone" (pp. 37–38). Greenleaf takes as his own assumption that as God exists then such a being is capable of performing miracles. He then argues that the various miracles reported in Jesus' ministry occurred in open or public contexts where friend and foe alike were witnesses (pp 39–42). Lastly, Greenleaf examines the problem of uniform testimony among false and genuine witnesses, and finds there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the accounts of the Four Evangelists. {PLACE IN TEXT}

End Notes (Chapter 7)
[01] Broadcast during Fresh Air, National Public Radio (WHYY), March 3, 2004. [As reported in an article Wanted: Dead (But Preferably) Alive... Can We Trust the Gospels? on the web site of St. Mark's Lutheran Church Ridley Park, PA.

[02] Jon Meacham. Who Killed Jesus? http://www.newsweek.com/who-killed-jesus-131113

[03] Bruce Metzger. The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270

[04] Grant R. Jeffrey. The Handwriting of God. Frontier Research Publications; English Language edition (October 7, 1997) Pages 213-214

[05] John Warwick Montgomery. JWM's website. https://www.jwm.christendom.co.uk

[06] John Warwick Montgomery. Tough-Minded Christianity: Publisher: B&H Academic (March 1, 2009). Page 98

[07] External Evidence: Papias. Stephen C. Carlson, http://www.hypotyposeis.org/synoptic-problem/2004/10/external-evidence-papias.html

[08] Jona Lendering. Suetonius.https://www.livius.org/sources/content/suetonius/

[09] Matt Slick The New Testament writers conspired together to gain power and influence.

[10] ibid

[11] Glenn Miller. Was Jesus really fraudulent, dishonest, sacrilegious, and conspiratorial? http://christianthinktank.com/hnoblood2.html


Index To
Choose Life