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Overview Why Apologetics? Did Jesus Exist?  Is the Bible Reliable?  Jesus' Claims  Was Jesus God?  Conclusion

Overview > Is the New Testament reliable?

Is the New Testament reliable as a historical record?

We now need to determine whether we can make use of the New Testament as a reliable historical record. Does the New Testament contain an accurate account of the life of Jesus Christ? In order to determine its reliability, we need to test the New Testament with the same criteria that all historical documents are tested. One this is done, we will find that if one discards the Bible as being unreliable, we must discard almost all ancient literature as being unreliable! [5 p. 73]

There are three tests that should be applied to any ancient documents

  1. The Bibliographical test. This is an examination of the textual transmission by which the documents reach us. In other words, this determines whether or not the text that we have now is the same as what was originally recorded. Has the text been changed over time? Can we be sure that the documents of the New Testament that we now have, are the same as the ones originally recorded? [6 p. 43]

  2. The Internal evidence test. This determines whether what is written is credible (accurate/true) and to what extent. Were the writers of the New Testament telling the truth? [6 p. 51]

  3. The External evidence test. This determines whether other historical material confirms or denies the internal testimony of the documents. What sources are there, apart from the literature under analysis that substantiates its accuracy, reliability, and authenticity? [6 p. 54]

We now look at the New Testament with respect to the three tests.

Reliability Conclusion

In order to determine whether we can make use of the New Testament as a reliable historical record - an accurate account of the life of Jesus Christ - we have tested the New Testament documents with the same criteria that all historical documents are tested.

The Bibliographical test enabled us to establish that due to

  1. the large number of document copies,
  2. the short time period between the original documents and the existing copies, and
  3. the negligent number of textual variances between copies, we can safely conclude that we have very accurate copies of the New Testament documents. In fact, the New Testament passes this test better than any other ancient historical document.

The Internal Evidence test enabled us to establish that as,

  1. the New Testament authors were either eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus or had first hand information (e.g. interviewed eyewitnesses),
  2. the New Testament does not contain 'gospel fictions' or lies,
  3. the New Testament does not contain myths, and that
  4. the New Testment does not contain contradictions, we can conclude that the New Testament documents are highly credible (accurate/true) in their historical accounts about the life of Jesus.

The External Evidence test enabled us to establish that due to

  1. evidence from extra-Biblical authors,
  2. evidence from martyrs,
  3. archeological evidence,
  4. historical-geographical evidence, and
  5. Jewish cultural evidence, the content of the New Testament documents is strongly confirmed by additional historical material.

The New Testament documents satisfactorily pass each of the tests of historicity. If we are to discard the New Testament as unreliable in its accounts about Jesus, then we must discard almost all ancient literature as being unreliable! [5 p.73]

We cannot apply one standard or test to secular literature and another to the New Testament. We need to apply the same test, whether the literature under investigation is secular or religious. Having done this, we can say that the New Testament is trustworthy and historically reliable in its witness about Jesus. [6 p. 55]

"There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest [person] cannot dismiss a source of this kind" - Dr. Clark H. Pinnock [6 p. 55]

 

 


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