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Paul_Dawson
 
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The Glaring Authenticity of the New testament

11 September 2012, 12:10
Evidence for the essence of God is as much of impossibility as evidence against the essence of God.

But what if I were to say that our evidence has come already? It’s just up to you to believe it.

Evidence for Jesus is abundant and the accuracy of the New Testament, overwhelmingly so. Our atheist friends would like you to think, and tell you to no end, that this is not so. But anybody who has spent some good time researching the topic will tell you that this is merely an unlearned nonsense.

Let me start with Richard Dawkins, most atheists’ superhero. He suggested that Jesus didn’t exist in his book ‘The God Delusion’. This has subsequently caused him much grief. The vast majority of serious historians accept that a man called Jesus existed, which is why Dawkins did a 180 degree about turn. Let’s watch Dawkins himself “recant” and admit that a man called Jesus existed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzSDVPVnoTs

The reason for his (and all historians) acceptance that a man called Jesus existed, is due to a number of secular (non religious) writings that have been authenticated by a various means we have available to us. With respect to document authentication, an "ancient document" is one that may be deemed authentic without a witness to attest to the circumstances of its creation because its age suggests that it is unlikely to have been falsified in anticipation of the litigation in which it is introduced. That is to say in the Bible’s case, the Gospels weren’t written as a lie. There was no purpose for them to do so although I’m sure the atheists and conspiracy theorists would disagree. There are four separate accounts of Jesus, slightly different but very much overlapping, as you would expect of four different people who were telling a 3.5 year long story of a man’s life. If one has reason not to accept the Bible’s authenticity, then one cannot accept any ancient text as authentic (as I will demonstrate) which is an absurdity, Let’s not concentrate on the Gospels though. Let’s stick with the secular writings and gather what we can of them. Imagine, as all historians do, you were there!  There are numerous ancient secular writings that exist which prove the existence of a man called Jesus but I will detail three for the purpose of brevity: 1.     Josephus ben Mattathias - (also known as Flavius Josephus):  37-100AD, Jewish priest, general and historian – Josephus wrote two great works of Jewish history: The Jewish War, written in the early 70's and Jewish Antiquities. In his Antiquities, XVIII, 33 he writes: "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. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.  And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day”  2.     Cornelius Tacitus (AD55-120) Roman historian:  Most acclaimed works are the Annals and the Histories. Annals XV,44 he writes: But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome.  Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities.  Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also (Nero crucified Jesus as a populist movement and gave the people what they wanted because he was at the receiving end of some political discomfort)  3.     Pliny the Younger: Roman governor in Bithynia AD112 wrote to Emperor Trajan to seek advice as to how to treat these newfound Christians who were not following his edict. He recounts that he had been killing Christian men, women, and children. He writes: They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of a meal--but ordinary and innocent food.

Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I therefore judged it so much more the necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.
(Pliny is concerned that so many have chosen death over simply bowing down to a statue of the emperor or being made to "curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do.")

When Philosophers and Scientists read the works of Aristotle or Plato, they don’t read them with sceptic’s glasses on and wonder if the words were really theirs. When we read the great stories of Homer, Iliad and the Odyssey, we don’t try to disprove what the message is.

Consider these dates and occurrences of manuscript evidence:

Aristotle – Famous Works: Numerous Philosophies Manuscripts in existence: 49 Gap between Original and Copies: circa 1400 years Homer – Famous Works: Iliad / Odyssey:  Manuscripts in existence: 643  Gap between Originals and Copies: circa 500 years New Testament –           Famous Works: The Ministry of Jesus Christ Manuscripts in existence: 5700 Gap between Originals and Copies: circa 250 years (to our complete copies) It is widely believed that Jesus was crucified around the time of 33-36AD. Many of the Gospels are also quoted in extra-biblical texts (usually letters) by the likes of Ignatius (AD 30-107) and Clement in his letter to the Corinthians in AD 95. There are also references to the temple worship in Matthew which would have been an unnecessary anachronism as the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD70. Amongst conservative and liberal historians the dates for the Gospels are: Mark (conservative 40s- mid 50s) (liberal late 60s-70s)Matthew (conservative 40s-early 60s) (liberal 80s-95)Luke (conservative 40s-50s) (liberal 80s-95)John (conservative mid 60s-65s) (liberal 90-95) It is in fact, very easy to marry up secular history with biblical history. The Romans and the Greeks had been scribing for hundreds of years and despite not being the most important thing, there were other things happening at the time such as Nero’s political problems, conflict between the Romans and the Jews and Herod’s death. It seems strange to me then why anyone should take the authenticity of the Gospels with such scepticism. That is not to say that they will believe what it says. But the book is undoubtedly authentic. As B.B Warfield observes, “The great mass of the New testament has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no variations”. Peter. S. Williams observes, “Due to the wealth of available manuscripts, the text of today’s New Testament is 99.9% accurate.” Even as an atheist, Antony Flew acknowledged that, “The textual authority, the earliness and the number of manuscripts for most of the Christian documents, is unusually great ... that’s ... very good authority for the accuracy of the text that is provided in translation in the New Testament.” So, for me, all the evidence I need is in this book of historical accounts and the CHOICE to believe it still remains ultimately mine. If God wanted us to have free will with the CHOICE to believe, then I am of the opinion that the method by which God has done things – with His ordinance of Greater Authority and His hand in all things - is of the utmost perfection. You choose to believe.

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