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Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad
Tag Archives: Historical
More reliable…Aristotle or the New Testament?
January 21, 2011Posted by on
In one of our previous posts we took a look at the time frame between the crucifixion and the writing of the New Testament. What we found was that the timeline of the writing was no different than our current timeline of writing books about our recent history. This is a standard that is acceptable to all historians.
Now that we can verify that the timeline is acceptable, can we verify that the words
themselves are acceptable?
First it must be conceded that the original text of the New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter) do not exist. However, there are a significant number of copies (manuscripts) that do. This is a critical point. Most atheist’s will argue that a lack of the original autographs indicates that there is no way we know that the words in the New Testament accurately represent the events they depict. This argument is faulty because copies can give a gateway into what the original text said.
Consider for a moment that someone (for whatever reason) wanted to copy this post. Two days later…wordpress.com goes crazy, and this post is lost forever. The only evidence that the original post existed would be the one copy made. Now let’s expand that scenario. Let’s say that 100 copies were made of my original post, and then wordpress.com crashes. The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made.
In both examples the original post has been destroyed, and all we have are copies of the original post. Now, how can we determine which best preserved the text of the original post? Some would answer that the one copy would be the best representation of the original because there is less chance for an error in the copying of the original post. Theoretically you would be correct. The less something is copied the less chance there is for error in the copy. Realistically that argument cannot stand. The premise with the argument is that the copy is correct. But how can you tell? You can’t. You have nothing to compare the 1 copy to, to determine how faithful it was to the original that was destroyed. In this case the 100 copies would be a more reliable source to see what the original post said. The reason, you can compare 100 copies and see any variance. For example, if 99 of the copies have the sentence “The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” and the 1 copy has “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made” there is a high probability that the former was in the original.
So the principle is simple, verification through sheer volume.
Consider the following statistics:
|Author||Date Written||Number of Copies||Accuracy of Copies|
|Homer (Iliad)||900 B.C.||643||95%|
|NewTestament||1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D.||5600||99.50%|
This is an incredible chart. The New Testament has 5,600 copies…In Greek. The “in Greek” is significant because the original text was written in Greek (common language of the day). If we add copies from various languages such as Latin the total number of copies would go as high as 24,000. That is 24,000 copies of the original documents, the original writings of the Apostles. No other document in antiquity can claim such a volume. Other famous writers of antiquity fail this test. This is not to say that the copies of these other documents are inadequate or that the copies are wrong. It is simply to say that you have much less quantity with which to verify its contents and, therefore, much less confidence in those copies.
Consider Plato. Plato is well known for his writing “The Republic”. There are only 7 copies of the original. How confident can one be that the translation we read of “The Republic” is the one that Plato wrote? Confidence level has to be low because you only have 7 copies to compare against one another. However, historically speaking, “The Republic” has been accepted as an accurate recording of Plato’s words.
Now consider Aristotle. Aristotle is credited with making contributions to logic, metaphysics, biology, botany, politics, etc… How confident can we be that what we read today represents what Aristotle actually wrote? There are only 49 copies of Aristotle’s works. Once again, historians easily accept the historicity and authority of the writings of Aristotle as many have dubbed him the “father of the field of logic”. However, as compared to the New Testament, the confidence level has to be low.
Now consider the Greek poet Homer. Homer is well known for his literary works such as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. If we look specifically at the Iliad you will see that there are 643 copies of the original. This allows for a fairly broad comparison and can create a high degree of confidence that the Iliad that we read today, is very similar to the original version.
Finally consider the New Testament. The New Testament is a combination of several authors. There are 5,600 copies of those books in their original language. This allows historians to compare 1 copy with 5,599 other copies to see if it matches. Based on this comparison, scholars have been able to identify a 94% word for word match of all of the copies. To put this into context…there are 138,020 words in the New Testament. All 5,600 match precisely for 129,738 words. Pretty incredible? This would leave 6% open to review for error. Scholars state the 3% of the 6% can be attributed to misspellings, notes in the margins, and punctuation errors. This would leave 3% open for review. Scholars argue, (and I agree) that the 3% have no impact on the message being delivered – they are simply a similar statement with perhaps slightly different vocabulary and syntax. It would be the same as the example given above (“The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” verses “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made”).
What does this mean? This means that the 5,600 copies of the originals are at least 97% consistent with one another. This means, that on text evidence alone, that you can feel 97% – 99% sure that the words you read are exact representative of the original documents.
That makes the New Testament the most textually reliable document in ALL of antiquity.
This fact, taken with the historical accuracy spoken of in our previous post means you can have complete confidence that the story recounted in the New Testament is reliable – this should, in turn increase your confidence in its message.
The evidence that Jesus is real…The New Testament
January 17, 2011Posted by on
By request we have decided to take a like at some of the overwhelming evidence for Jesus. Not just the fact that he existed, but also that he was God in the flesh. This can be a daunting task, so much so, a number of great books have been written on the topic. One that is highly recommended by both KB and I is the book More than a Carpenter. This is a great read that focuses on one man’s search to disprove that Christ existed, and ended up coming to Christ.
To set this up…
Many atheists will say that either Christ didn’t exist (wasn’t even born), or will concede the point that He existed, but was not divine. Most will tell you that the New Testament cannot be counted as historical evidence to support Christ. This is a fascinating argument by atheists because the argument would undercut most, if not all historical events that were documented in antiquity. The truth is that the historical events recorded in the Gospels, and the New Testament are the most documented events in antiquity. Atheists choose to deny this truth…either out of ignorance or plain stubbornness. We simply ask that atheists apply the same standards to the Bible as they would to other historical documents.
Now consider this for one moment. The original dates of the New Testament writings were between 50 – 100 AD. Some atheist’s will disregard the historicity of the
Gospels and Acts because they were not written at the time of Christ. However, I would submit that this is simply a red herring. Take for example the Events of World War II. One of the most celebrated books about World War, Band of Brothers, was written in 1992. Using interviews of the men, Stephen Ambrose was able to compile an excellent retelling of the events of Easy Company. Band of Brothers chronicled the acts of the men of Easy Company. It detailed some of their conversations, their emotions, and their actions. I don’t believe there is anyone who would doubt that the events, or conversations documented in this book were not real. But there is a catch. This book was written some 40 years after the fact.
Christ was crucified in approximately 33 AD. If we were to apply the same time frame for Band of Brothers that would put that book being written at about 73 AD, which is smack dab in the middle of the time-frame when the New Testament was being written. History books, in general, are written several years after the fact. There are books being written about US Presidents… 200 years after the fact. All are generally accepted as being historically accurate. Remember, the New Testament was written within 20 – 70 years of the events it records. This is the equivalence of reading a new history book about, Ronald Reagan’s Presidency (20 years), The Vietnam War (40 years), The Korea War (57 years), and World War 2 (65 years).
Keep in mind this is only a set up to future posts. Our goal with this post was to demonstrate that the timing of the writing of the New Testament, is not that dissimilar to our current history books.