Are the New Testament documents reliable history?

We can judge the reliability of the history of the New Testament by comparing its manuscript value to the manuscript value of classical histories which are generally received as authentic.  It is only fair that the New Testament receive the same consideration as other writings from antiquity.  This is what we have for some of the classical histories:

1. Caesar’s Gallic Wars (by  Julius Caesar) written c. B.C. 58-50.  There are no originals and the oldest copies come from about the ninth century A.D.

2. The Roman history of Livy c. B.C. 59-17 A.D.  Of the 142 books originally written, only thirty-five survive in some twenty manuscript copies, the oldest coming to us from the fourth century.

3. The histories and annals of Tacitus were composed around 100 A.D.  Gaps of from 800 to 1000 years exist from the original writings to the few copies in our hand.

4. The history of Thucydides written c. B.C. 460-400 comes from eight manuscript copies, the earliest being from about 900 A.D.

5. The history of Herodotus written about B.C. 480-425 has about the same manuscript attestation as that of Thucydides.

And for the New Testament:

There are presently in existence about 5,000 copies of the Greek New Testament in whole or in part.  The oldest and most reliable of these date from about 350 A.D.   But even earlier than those manuscripts we have the writings of the apostolic fathers written from about 90-160 A.D.  In these writings there are quotations from almost all of the books of the New Testament, showing that these books were already in circulation among the churches before the end of the first century.  These authors do not seek to convince the readers by emotionalism, but by an appeal to the intelligence.  As one person observed: “If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.”

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Are the New Testament documents reliable history?

  1. Moonsray Thea

    writings of the apostolic fathers written from about 90-160 A.D. In these writings there are quotations from almost all of the books of the New Testament, showing that these books were already in circulation among the churches before the end of the first century.

    Please, name the apostolic father you have in mind,
    Date his writing
    Cite and quote him mentioning any gospel
    Cite and quote him quoting any gospel passage.

    You won’t. You can’t. It didn’t happen.

    What you say here is simply not true. You, or somebody you’re quoting, made this up. You made it up. Your post is a perfect example of how Christian myths arise. Very useful in understanding the origin of the Jesus stories. They are myths.

    Moonsray

    • To Moonsray…
      Thank you for your comment. I want to be authentic in my writing, and I appreciate honest doubt.
      You are right that my statements came from a secondary source, which listed New Testament books quoted in the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and a letter written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, all written about 100 A.D. A letter from Polycarp to the Philippians about 120 A.D. also quoted from several New Testament books.
      I’ve done some reading on-line this morning and you can do the same.
      I thought http://www.sikhspectrum.com/022007/jass.htm
      was a good site.
      http://mb-soft.com/believe/txv/earlychr.htm
      is another.
      To be fair I have looked at a couple of sites that discount the historical reliability of the documents. Here is one that seems far-out to me…
      Contradicting the historicity of the New Testament:
      http://www.fargonasphere.com/piso/
      I found a different one the other day, but I can’t locate it now.
      There is more I want to say, but I think I will do it in a new post.

  2. Moonsray Thea

    You are right that my statements came from a secondary source, which listed New Testament books quoted in the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and a letter written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, all written about 100 A.D. A letter from Polycarp to the Philippians about 120 A.D. also quoted from several New Testament books.

    1 Clement, from 96 AD, is notable in that it does not name or quote our gospels—as one would expect if they existed then.

    E Barnabas is notable in that it does not name or quote our gospels—as one would expect if they existed then.

    Didache’s date is unknown.

    Polycarp died after 150 AD. That he quotes the gospels is true. Proving that they existed by 150 AD.

    All the datable early Christian writers fail to quote or even mention or modern gospels. It’s as if the gospels didn’t exits, don’t you agree?

    Moonsray

    • jrkramar

      I checked my secondary source and see that the “quotations” were more like paraphrases. Of course there were no “chapter and verse” quotations, as those tools for reference were not added until the 11th century and later.

  3. Moonsray Thea

    I checked my secondary source and see that the “quotations” were more like paraphrases. Of course there were no “chapter and verse” quotations, as those tools for reference were not added until the 11th century and later.

    There is no chapter and verse. There is no mention of any gospel book. There is no mention of any gospel author. There is no mention of any gospel miracles. There is no mention of any gospel events. There is no mention of anyone anywhere any time who had ever read, or heard of, or quoted, or knew anything whatsoever about our modern gospels.

    There are only quotations of Jesus. And the words these fathers say Jesus said, those words are not found in any of our modern gospels.

    The idea that these quotations are “paraphrases” is silly. And circular. They are only paraphrases if the gospels already existed. It may as well be the gospels are paraphrases of the fathers, or of whatever source the fathers used.

    Moonsray

  4. If the New Testament documents are myths, they are not like other myths. They give an historical setting specifying places, persons, times and events.
    John, in chapter 10 begins by giving both the date and time of a discussion between Jesus and the Jews surrounding him. Luke sets the time of John the Baptist “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

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