What Jesus Said About Who He Is?

The most offensive thing a Christian can say is that Jesus is the only way for salvation. This is characterized as intolerant, as arrogant, as narrow minded. But according to the Gospels, Jesus prompted belief in His exclusive relationship with God, the Father. He spoke of Himself as „the light”, „living waters”, „the way”, as „the good shepherd”, as „the vine”, „bread”, as „the door and gate to God”. When Jesus said „I and the Father are one” the religious leaders at the temple understood what He meant because they picked up stones and they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. They understood that Jesus was making a claim far higher than the oneness of mission, He was claiming to be one of essence with the Father. Jesus knew who He was and was very clear in declaring who He was: that He was one with the Father. That he was God come to earth.
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Equipping the Church: Bad Arguments Against Christianity – Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl, President of Stand to Reason: When you think about it, there are a lot of ways to disprove Christianity. I mean, if there is no God, if Jesus never existed, we’re sunk. There are a lot of strategies that people take to try to show that your faith is in vain. Right now, there’s a full court press on Christianity, and I want you to get in the game. I don’t want you to sit on the sidelines.

If God is so good, and God is so loving, and God is an all powerful being, why in the world is there evil and suffering?

Watch Greg Koukl answer at the 2014 Worldview Fellowship Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee.

VIDEO by Theology, Philosophy and Science Fellowship Church Knoxville (February 28, 2014) – Lecture by Greg Koukl

Chris Putnam – Defending the Faith Part 1 of 2

Christ Putnam of logosapologia.com uploaded by LogosApologia

Some notes from Chris Putnam, from the video at bottom of post:

  • The statistics for young Christians who go to college are not good. In some surveys, up to 70% of the kids that go off to college fall away from the faith while they are in college. In looking at why that occurs, Frank Turek says, „We’ve told them for a long time ‘that is true’, but we didn’t tell them ‘why’ it’s true. And when they go to college and they are confronted by an atheist professor who throws up all kinds of arguments, they don’t have any responses, and that can make it very difficult. So, I have a passion for training people on how to defend their faith, and there’s some really easy things that you can do, you don’t have to have an exhaustive knowledge of theology, or apologetics, or philosophy to be a lot more effective, then you might imagine you can be. That’s what this workshop is for.

Ephesians 6:11-12

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

If we look at these things that Paul is talking about, for ex. ‘the shield of faith to block the darts’, we don’t see a lot of special rituals or prayers.. The tools that he talks about, like the helmet of salvation- that’s salvation that you possess. It’s a gift from God, and that’s something that you always have. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God, which is your Bible, that you learn, you study, and memorize. The belt of truth. Truth is something that you learn, that you have in your mind. The idea that I’m getting at is that the more that you are familiar with the truth, the better you know your Bible, the better that you know some theology, and the more impenetrable your spiritual armor is. Spiritual warfare is largely in the realm of the mind, the ideas that we hold and what we believe is true. Remember, how the serpent tempted Eve to sin in Genesis 3. He planted a false idea in her head: „Did God really say that you can’t eat from any tree?” God said you can eat of any tree except one. Notice how he twists the phrase at first, saying ‘any tree’. So it’s a false idea that gets planted in your mind, and for the majority of our lives, that’s how it works.

In the Bible, we see a lot of verses about ‘the world’. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. That tells us right there that Satan is the god of this world.

  • Romans 12:2 „Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 „We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

In the Bible, the term ‘the world’ is a Greek word ‘kosmos’, and it’s used not for the planet earth, it’s really about an evil world system that’s opposed to God. It is led by Satan, and we are unwittingly under Satan when we are born into this evil world system. The way you conquer it is through Jesus Christ. So, the primary warfare in this realm is in ideas. „Every thought captive”- that’s really where the battle is taking place.

Colossians 2:8 – „See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Now, this term here ‘the elemental spirits of the world‘, this is where the philosophies and deceit are coming from, according to human traditions. This is a Greek word ‘stoicheia’ – that word is rendered – elemental spirits. In the ancient world, this term was used for evil spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and in a lot of jewish writings. It was a common term for evil spirits, for demonic forces, and that’s how Paul’s using it. The Bible’s telling us that these ideas are not just Richard Dawkins and the new atheists, these are demonically ideas opposing God. This is spiritual warfare.

What does the Bible tell us about people in the last days? 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 

We are here at this conference to discuss emerging threats and trends, and I don’t think anyone can deny what we seem to see our culture sliding away from Christian values. Europe is pretty much gone. It was founded on Christian values, and had these huge gothic cathedrals in the middle ages, and then the church became politically powerful and it got corrupted. But, I mean, it’s gone now. There are very few Christians there.

The last days, really, technically began at the cross. This has been going on for a long time. But, if you remember in Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about what happens in the end times, He does give us this idea that many will fall away, lawlessness will increase. So, it is valid to extrapolate from that, that we should expect to see these trends increasing. So what  characteristics to we see in that verse?

  • narcissism – that’s just people that love themselves, proud, arrogant, swollen with conceit, unappeasable
  • materialism – lovers of money, ungrateful
  • lawlessness – abusive, disobedient to their parents, unholy, heartless, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless
  • hedonism – lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power

This is permeating the culture in the world system, and it’s even celebrated, and lauded as virtue. But, we shouldn’t be without compassion. We shouldn’t be angry all the time. We have to remember that all of us are free from that, only by the grace of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us- The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We should have compassion on lost people. It’s messy to deal with lost people- they are being held captive by false ideas, and it’s gonna cause us to get our hands dirty, to get involved with people. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t do it. I became a Christian, myself, later in life, and I was lost for a long time. I remember what it was like, and that’s why I have a passion for communication why Christianity is true, and why we believe what we believe. I was a skeptic for a long time, and my passion for apologetics grew out of my own search for answers to questions. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and if your neighbor does not believe, they’re being held captive. 2 Corinthians 5:20- We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. This is our job. When Jesus gave us the great commission, God’s making His appeal to this lost world through us. So we are in this evil world system to communicate the truth of the Gospel and be God’s representatives. It says we’re ministers of reconciliation. When Jesus says He gives us a commission, that’s like a military term- an assignment. (13:40)

Ambassadors have three essential skills:

  1. Knowledge- an accurately informed mind
  2. Wisdom- a tactical method (we will talk about later)
  3. Character

Tactical wisdom

Strategy and Tactics

Matthew 10:16 „“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Strategy is like the big picture, the large scale part of the operation. When I say strategy, it’s kind of the tremendous resources we have as Christians. We have 2000 years of scholarship and apologetics, and writing to draw from. We’re positioned strategically pretty well in the realm of the culture and ideas. We have a lot do draw from. We have an excellent case- we have the truth on our side.And we have the answers to life’s most important questions. The kind of questions that atheists have no answer for. They might come up with an idea of how we came to be through naturalism, but, they have no idea why. And that’s the kind of question that a child will ask: Why am I here? What is all this for? Why is there something, rather than nothing? They don’t have any answers for that, and we do.

So our strategy includes the content, the information, the reasons why someone would believe Christianity, why it accurately reflects reality. And I think that is the main advantage. When you look at story that the atheistic world will tell, they wanna tell everyone that ‘you’re good people’. And that you just have problems, you’re oppressed, everyone’s basically a good person. But, the Bible has this radically different message: You’re not good people, you’re fallen, and you’re desperately wicked and you need a Savior. But, if you look at what matches reality, what do you see that matches the world? The atheist story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. We see a lot of wickedness, and we see people in high places doing wicked things, people with every advantage that still have to steal. Their version of reality doesn’t match. So, strategically, we have a very good case. (15:50)

 Defensive and Offensive Apologetics 

Defensive– 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Defensive apologetics answers direct challenges to Christianity. For ex., it responds to attacks on the Bible’s reliability. It answers the problem of evil (if there’s a good God, then why is there so much evil in the world?) It addresses such things as Darwinian macro evolution, which opposes a Creator and attributes it all to random chance. I try to model Jesus when debating this, but I fail all the time. If you look at the way Jesus was with sinners, like the woman at the well- He was very gentle with people that were hedonists. But, the people He got angry with, and yelled at were the religious leaders. So I try to be gentle with the really lost people.

Offensive– Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. Offensive apologetics makes a positive case for Christianity, it provides evidence for the existence of God, it supplies evidence for the resurrection of Christ form history, it presents evidence of fulfilled prophecy. And, our strategic concerns center around a number of  areas in the culture right now:

  • radical relativism
  • postmodernism, which denies the existence of objective truth- you have your truth, and I have my truth. And that is a way to undermine the Gospel completely, because if someone doesn’t believe in the concept of truth, you can’t even get on the page.
  • there’s all kinds of challenges to who Jesus was, competing views of Jesus’s identity.
  • the problem of evil
  • ethical issues concerning abortion, homosexuality, human cloning, trans humanism, doctor assisted suicide. There’s some evangelicals in the Evangelical Lutheran denomination who are endorsing this trans human idea, thinking that it’s God’s mandate for us to evolve further, by strapping computers to our brains.
  • the historicity of the Bible, the Gospel (20:00)

This course will teach you:

  1. To maneuver in conversations
  2. To stay in the driver’s seat

Engage tactically – Consider how the question posed to the skeptic fuel the conversation, but ultimately leave him responsible for the answer. (20:00) photo below via http://www.peterfalk.com

Columbo Tactic– something Greg Koukl came up with. Remember, Columbo? He’s this bumbling detective who disarms his opponent. If you remember his technique, he was always saying, „Maybe you can help me with this, you’re a smart guy…” He was always asking questions and playing dumb. And that’s kind of the idea: saying, „What do you mean by that?” „What led you to that conclusion?” What you do when you’re asking questions is it puts you in charge of the conversation, and it puts the other person on the defensive. So, the key to the Columbo tactic is that you go on an offensive in a disarming way with carefully selected questions, to

  • productively advance the conversation. The guideline is simple. If you hit a roadblock, ask a question.
  • Never make an assertion when a question will work. This approach offers tremendous advantages. Questions are interactive, it invites others to participate. People like to talk about themselves, and what they believe. It makes headway without requiring you to state your case.
  • Questions shift the burden of proof to the other person.
  • The Columbo tactic puts you in the driver’s seat
  • It allows you to move your case forward without sounding like you’re preaching to people.

There are 3 unique purposes of the Columbo tactic:

  1. Gain information
  2. Reverse the burden of proof
  3. Indirectly exploit  a burden or flaw

Columbo Tactic 1 – What do you mean by that?

Many people object to Christianity over things they have not thought through very much. A lot of people repeat slogans they’ve heard and they have no understanding of why they believe it. When they say:

  • there is no God, ask: What do you mean by ‘God’? 
  • all religions are basically the same, ask: Really? In what way are they the same?
  • you shouldn’t force your views on me, say: How am I forcing my views on you?
  • that’s just your interpretation, ask: What do you mean by ‘just’? Although you are giving your interpretation (your understanding of the true meaning of the text), you need to find out if they believe all interpretations are equally valid and yours is „just” one of them.
  • the Bible has been changed over the years, ask: How do you think it’s been altered? You need to find out if they are familiar with the process of the written transmission of ancient texts or are just repeating what they’ve heard.
  • how can God exist when there is so much evil in the world, ask: What do you mean by evil? and „What, in your mind, is the conflict?” The question of evil doesn’t provide evidence against God but in favor of Him, for God must exist to provide the absolute standard by which evil is measured. A really good book, if you want to pursue this further is ‘Mere Christianity’ by C. S. Lewis. The whole first half of the book is basically the moral argument for the existence of God. And he was an atheist. And J. R. Tolkien, who wrote the Lord of the Rings, actually convinced Lewis to become a Christian. C. S. Lewis describes the process that went through his mind, is that he objected because there was so much injustice in the world, that he just couldn’t believe that there was a God in charge. And then he started to think: Where did this idea of justice come from? Why do I think the world is unjust? If I don’t have some standard of justice in my mind, where does that come from? That led him to believe in God. Because he said, „If there really is evil- you don’t know a line’s crooked, without knowing what a straight line looks like. You have to have a standard to measure it by. So, the problem of evil is a bigger problem for the skeptic than it is for the theists. (36:30)

Columbo Tactic 2 – Reversing the burden of proof

The person who makes the claim bears the burden

They have to give evidence for their claim. The burden of proof always has one cardinal rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden, so don’t allow yourself to be thrust in the defensive, when they’re the ones making the claim. A lot of time they try to put the burden on us, „Well, you prove the Bible.” And, I found with the skeptics, they know that we have a heart to evangelize people. They know that we do that, and they try to play it against us. The idea is we’re not just trying to win. We wanna expose what their objections are, in a way that’s loving, yet, corrective. Make them give you their arguments for why they don’t believe. Follow up questions to ask in step #2:

How did you come to that conclusion? 

  1. What are the reasons for holding the view that you have?
  2. Do you have evidence for that?
  3. What led you to that conclusion?

It ultimately shifts the burden of proof to the other person, where it belongs.

  • Avoid the professor’s ploy

Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a power play; instead use your tactics. Refuse to shoulder the burden of proof when you have not made the claim.

  • Get out of the Hot Seat

You may not have an answer to everything an atheist or an agnostic comes up with, or you may not be prepared to deal with it, or sometime you may get somebody who is aggressive, so if you feel yourself overmatched, you can buy yourself some time.  It’s also a smart thing to do, as far as carrying the message of the Gospel. So, then just ask:

  1. Tell me exactly what you believe
  2. Give me your reasons for it
  3. Let me think it over

Columbo Tactic 3 – Have you ever considered…?

This is where you actually offer some new information. This is where having some knowledge, and having done some studies in some of these issues, you can actually come back with some new information. But, notice, you still phrase it in the form of a question.

  1. Listen carefully to the reasons he/she gives to the second Columbo tactic question: How did you come to that conclusion?
  2. Ask yourself if the conclusion follows from the evidence
  3. Point out errors with questions, rather than statements.

Jesus was a master of skillfully placed questions:

Luke 20:22-26
Mark 12:35-37
Luke 20:2-8
Matthew 21:28-32
John 18:22-23
Luke 7:40-42; 10:25-27; 14:1-6

Is Truth Relative? Greg Koukl at THRIVE Apologetics Conference 2013

See also

  1. Greg Koukl – Moral Relativism lecture to University students
  2. Apologetics PAGE

photo via http://rogueuniversity.com/musings

When you think about it, there are a lot of ways to show that christianity is false. Look at our story, it starts with „in the beginning God…”  If the atheists are right, we don’t get a beginning, we don’t even get started. Our case is based on Jesus of Nazareth. If He never existed we’re out of business. If He wasn’t the one reflected in the Scripture, if that’s just a bunch of legends, we’re up the creek as well. No soul. Why is that important? Because if there is no soul , there is no thing to go into the afterlife. And since the afterlife is an important part of christianity, we’re sunk again, if they can make the case there’s no soul. On the resurrection, Paul himself said that christians of all people should be pitied if there was no resurrection.

Christianity can be falsifiable in principle, and if it can be falsifiable and falsified, it can also be supported. It can be demonstrated that it can be true. But, the minute you say something like „can be demonstrated to be true”, you run into another obstacle, that is very popular and very in play in our culture. It’s also very unusual to me, because taken at face value, which strikes me as a pointless challenge. The other challenges that I mentioned, and by the way, every one of those areas I talked about- the existence of God, the existence of Jesus, the existence of the soul, the resurrection, and a whole bunch of others, there’s a full course press on all of those right now. And that’s why I’m glad you’re all in this conference. All of those, I would say, are intellectually noble ways of going after christianity.

Relative truth – pulling the rug from underneath the  christians

This next thing, that I want to spend my time talking about, I don’t think it is intellectually noble. I think it’s a foolish way of going after christianity, but it is very popular. Everybody’s fighting over what they think is true. Well, the truth of the matter is in this world truth doesn’t exist- it’s not unusual to go into a campus society in general and begin to talk about these kinds of things. And, as you advance christianity, if you’re doing it properly, you’re doing it as a picture of reality. This is true in the deep sense of the word. That’s our view; that’s our claim. That’s what we’re offering. And people want to dismiss it and say, „Well, there is none of that kind of stuff. Truth doesn’t exist in this world. Maybe it’s true for you, maybe it’s relative to your beliefs. Everybody has different beliefs that are true for them. But, no one can say that what they believe is true, that it applies to everyone.” In one sense it’s a kind of end around  all of the conflict. It’s a kind of a saying, :Well, everybody’s right.” It has a tolerant feel, but, at the same time it’s kind of like saying everybody’s wrong, too, „You are wrong in all your individual beliefs on what is actually so; you are just right for yourself.” And so, it’s an odd kind of „everybody’s right, but, in the background, everybody’s wrong, at the same time. A lot of folks haven’t thought about that particular point.

Truth on this view, then, is relative, is subjective, it is just up to individuals. And, I hope you can see how, when a culture is deeply convinced  of that idea, it’s a complete end around all the arguments. It’s a pulling the rug from underneath the christians. It’s a very clever move, in terms of spiritual warfare.

Notes continue under the video-

Professor Greg Koukl answers the question, „Is truth relative?” at the 2013 Thrive Apologetics Conference, held at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California.thrivingchurches

…and I think of spiritual warfare in the area of ideas and how ideas are being used to dissuade people. That’s why Paul says that the weapons of warfare are divinely powerful of destruction of forces which are tearing down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of  God, taking every thought captive through the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 The point here is this is an idea that is a fortress, that a lot of people can’t get past: The idea that christianity claims to be true, but are convinced there is no truth. I wanna deal with that challenge. If you’re a skeptic, I just wanna get you thinking about this. I think that the claim that there is no truth is obviously false, and I think that everybody in this room knows that it’s false.

The definition of what we mean by truth – If belief is what made something true, there would be no difference between belief and make belief. When we say a thing is true, we’re not saying we don’t mean by that that we merely believe it, because we could believe false things. We don’t say that we see it or we have discovered it to be so, because that’s just how you find out whether a thing is true. if we’re just working with the concept of truth, what we mean when we say a thing is true is that our statements match up with the way the world actually is. Or our beliefs match up, or our thoughts match up. The philosophers call this the correspondence theory of truth- or that christianity matches up to the real world. That is the standard definition of what is truth.

Does that kind of truth exist? Is it possible for us to make statements about the world, and have some confidence that our statements actually match up? Can we know things about theology, about ethics? Can you actually know these things? Is it just not a leap of faith or a mere assumption, or a mere assertion? Can we have good reason that this is something we can count on? My answer to all of those things is: Yes. And I wanna show you how that can be the case. (23:00)

How can we know that the claim: There is no truth is false?

and that therefore, the claim that there is truth is a true statement.

  1. First problem: It’s suicidal, self refuting. The first reason that I reject the idea that there is no truth is that it is obviously false. When I go on campus, I am actually mystified  that this has gained such favor among people at university campuses. The minute I want to acquiesce to their view I run into a problem. The problem is that I am being enjoined to believe that it is true, in the sense I just described it and defined it, that there is no truth. Somebody says, „There is no truth.” You say, „Really? Is that true?” You’ve got to tell me what you expect me to do with your statement. Accept or reject. This is the way people are: When they say there is no truth, they don’t see the inherent contradiction in their own statement. I actually had a debate on this issue with Marv Meyer. The debate was titled: Is truth true? Meyer was arguing that there is no truth, and I was arguing with this question: There’s no truth. Is that true? That’s one of the ways to show that the statement „There is no truth” is false, it’s just obviously self refuting, and there’s no way around that. There’s just no way out of that problem.
  2. Second problem: That every single person knows things to be true. And you know that because you took an idea that you had in mind, and you compared it to the world, and you matched it up to see that there was a fit, and when your thoughts matched the way the world is, that’s a truth relation. If we are able to take statements or beliefs and in some measure match them against the world, to see if our beliefs are accurate, well, then we can find out what the truth is there. And, indeed, we do this every single day. In fact, if we could not determine truth about a whole bunch of things, we’d be dead in a day. Our lives depend on our ability to determine whether there is truth or not.

Now, I have just given you 2 reasons to believe that the statement „There is no truth” is false. (34:00 there are still 15 minutes left of the video where Koukl gives 2 examples)

How many surviving New Testament manuscripts are there?

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...

{46} is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament.

How Many and How Old? (bold type emphasis mine) From Stand to reason website (Greg Koukl) www.str.org

The ability of any scholar to do effective textual criticism depends on two factors.  First, how many existing copies are there to examine and compare?  Are there two copies, ten, a hundred?  The more copies there are, the easier it is to make meaningful comparisons.  Second, how close in time are the oldest existing documents to the original?

If the numbers are few and the time gap is wide, the original is harder to reconstruct with confidence.  However, if there are many copies and the oldest existing copies are reasonably close in time to the original, the textual critic can be more confident he’s pinpointed the exact wording of the autograph.

To get an idea of the significance of the New Testament manuscript evidence, note for a moment the record for non-biblical texts.  These are secular texts from antiquity that have been reconstructed with a high degree of certainty based on the available textual evidence.

The important First Century document The Jewish War, by Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus, survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th Century–four centuries after they were written.[3] Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome is one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages.[4] Thucydides’ History survives in eight copies.  There are 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus’ History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original.  Homer’s Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.[5]

{P 52} is the oldest known surviving manuscript of the New Testament

Bruce’s comments put the discussion in perspective:  „No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of any use to us are over 1300 years later than the originals.”[6]

For most documents of antiquity only a handful of manuscripts exist, some facing a time gap of 800-2000 years or more.  Yet scholars are confident of reconstructing the originals with some significant degree of accuracy.  In fact, virtually all of our knowledge of ancient history depends on documents like these.

The Biblical Manuscript Evidence

By comparison with secular texts, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning.  The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style)![7]

Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries.[8]

Uncial manuscripts provide virtually complete codices (multiple books of the New Testament bound together into one volume) back to the 4th Century, though some are a bit younger.  Codex Sinaiticus, purchased by the British government from the Soviet government at Christmas, 1933, for £100,000,[9] is dated c. 340.[10] The nearly complete Codex Vaticanus is the oldest uncial, dated c. 325-350.[11] Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th Century to the early 5th Century.

The books of the New Testament were copied and distributed widely during the lifetime of the apostles. Any early changes would have been resisted by them. After their death, there were already copies spread throughout the Roman world. To have changed them all so as to completely eliminate the original readings would have required a tremendous effort. As a result, those who claim that text has been change must face a major problem with their theory.

The Roman Empire

From PBS Frontline

The most fascinating evidence comes from the fragments (as opposed to the codices).  The Chester Beatty Papyri contains most of the New Testament and is dated mid-3rd Century.[12] The Bodmer Papyri II collection, whose discovery was announced in 1956, includes the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John and much of the last seven chapters.  It dates from A.D. 200 or earlier.[13]

The most amazing find of all, however, is a small portion of John 18:31-33, discovered in Egypt known as the John Rylands Papyri.  Barely three inches square, it represents the earliest known copy of any part of the New Testament.  The papyri is dated on paleographical grounds at around A.D. 117-138 (though it may even be earlier),[14] showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 30 years of its composition.

Keep in mind that most of the papyri are fragmentary.  Only about 50 manuscripts contain the entire New Testament, though most of the other manuscripts contain the four Gospels.  Even so, the manuscript textual evidence is exceedingly rich, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.

Ancient Versions and Patristic Quotations

Two other cross checks on the accuracy of the manuscripts remain:  ancient versions and citations by the early church Fathers known as „patristic quotations.”

Early in the history of the Church Greek documents, including the Scriptures, were translated into Latin.  By the 3rd and 4th Centuries the New Testament was translated into Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, etc.  These texts helped missionaries reach new cultures in their own language as the Gospel spread and the Church grew.[15] Translations of the Greek manuscripts (called „versions”) help modern-day textual critics answer questions about the underlying Greek manuscripts.

In addition, there are ancient extra-biblical sources–characteristically catechisms, lectionaries, and quotes from the church fathers–that record the Scriptures.  Paul Barnett says that the „Scriptures…gave rise to an immense output of early Christian literature which quoted them at length and, in effect, preserved them.”[16] Metzger notes the amazing fact that „if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [the patristic quotations] would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.”[17]

The Verdict

What can we conclude from this evidence?  New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading.  Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like.  A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.[18]

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism.  This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure.  In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.[19]

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up this way:  „The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and  nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[20]

This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason.  Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.

Has the New Testament been altered?  Critical, academic analysis says it has not.

The early spread of the Gospel

The Jewish Diaspora

By the end of the first century BCE, Rome had taken over the eastern Mediterranean and the Jewish population was spread through many cities of the east. In the third and fourth centuries CE there were substantial Jewish settlements in most major eastern cities and many western provinces as well.


Related articles:

  1. …some Church history – Spread of the Bible
  2. The Bible- bestselling book of all time Part 1
  3. The Bible- bestselling book of all time Part 2
  4. Ignatius (35 AD-107 AD)- Bishop of Antioch (used gospel in his 1st century writings)
  5. Athanasius (296 A.D.-373 A.D.)- defending orthodoxy
  6. J.I.Packer- the interpretation of Scripture

[2]Bruce, F. F., The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1974), 19.

[3]Barnett, Paul, Is the New Testament History? (Ann Arbor:  Vine Books, 1986), 45.

[4]Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1986), 405.  Note:  Bruce records two existing copies of this document (p. 16) but Barnett claims there’s only one (p. 45) and that single copy exists in partial form.  To be conservative, I’ve cited Geisler & Nix’s statistics.

[5]Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament (New York and Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1968), 34.  This number consists of 457 papyri, 2 uncials and 188 minuscule manuscripts.

[6]Bruce, 16-17.

[7]Geisler & Nix, 402.


[9]Metzger, 45.

[10]Geisler & Nix, 392.

[11]Ibid., 391.

[12]Ibid., 389-390.

[13]Metzger, 39-40.

[14]Geisler & Nix, 388.

[15]Barnett, 44.

[16]Ibid., p. 46-47.

[17]Metzger,  86.

[18]Wallace, Daniel, „The Majority Text and the Original Text:  Are They Identical?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June, 1991, 157-8.

[19]Geisler and Nix, 475.

[20]Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1979), 56.

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