Christian Responses: Authority and Authenticity of the Bible

Authority and authenticity of the Bible:

The Jewish historian Josephus as well as the secular Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius all bear record of the person of Jesus. The Talmud and the Koran both attest to the person of Jesus. Historian Gary Habermas, has detailed 39 ancient sources outside of the bible that provide further corroboration for more than 100 facts about Jesus life, teachings, death and resurrection.

The Bible is replete with evidence of the supernatural elements that were testable, and also of God’s pervading involvement with history past, present and future. In no other religion were the authors of the scriptures supernaturally confirmed with miracles. And no other religion than Christianity has a Savior that was foretold with unbelievable precision. Even the most liberal critics admit that the prophetic books were completed some 400 years before Christ, and the book of Daniel by about 167 B.C. The Old Testament contains scores of prophecies about the coming of the Messiah.

Professor Peter Stoner, along with 600 students, calculated the mathematical probability of just 8 New Testament prophecies being fulfilled in any one person at one chance in a hundred million billion. No other book (religious or otherwise) offers anything that can compare with these supernatural predictions.

Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy list 191 on them, while Oxford scholar Alfred Edersheim cites 400. Major predictions about the Messiah, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus, was that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), of the seed of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 22:18), of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), of the house of David (II Sam 7:12-16), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); He would be heralded by the Lord’s messenger (Isaiah 40:3); He would cleanse the temple (Malachi 3:1); He would be “cut off” 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27); He would be rejected (Psalm 118:22); He would have his hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16); He would be pierced in His side (Zechariah 12:10); He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10); He would ascend into Heaven (Psalm 68:18); and He would sit down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1).

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There are over 25,000 pieces of archeology supporting the bible including:
Biblical sites, cities, empires, artifacts, weapons, raw material and more on record which have been located and verified using the scriptures as a guide. In fact many biblical cites still exist today.

Archaeology has corroborated the essential reliability of the New Testament. Time after time, when incidental details of the New Testament can be checked out, they emerge as being accurate. For instance, John 5:1-15 describes how Jesus healed an invalid by the pool at Bethesda, which John describes as having 5 porticoes. And recently the pool was excavated and scientists discovered 5 porticoes or colonnaded porches just as John described.

Luke, who wrote one-quarter of the New Testament, has been found to be a scrupulously accurate historian, even in the smallest details. One archeologist carefully studied Luke’s references to 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands, finding not a single error. “The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is very accurate as an historian,” said archeologist John McRay. The authorship of Matthew and Mark was affirmed by Papias in 125 A.D. Then Irenaeus confirmed this in 180 A.D.

The New Testament also features letters by the apostle Paul that are dated as early as A.D. 49. His high Christology – that Jesus is God and the Lord of Heaven and Earth – does not evolve through his various writings and thus “must have been largely completed before he began his great missionary journeys…that is, by A.D. 48,” stated J. P. Moreland, Professor at the Talbot School of Theology.

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 5000 ancient New Testament Greek manuscripts, with fragments dating back as early as the 2nd century. Counting Latin Vulgate manuscripts and others, the total is 24,000 manuscripts in existence. Next to the New Testament, the greatest manuscript evidence for any other ancient work is for Homer’s Iliad, of which there are fewer than 650 copies that come a full thousand years after the original writing.

Not only is 100% of all the major truth and the vast majority of minor truth of Scripture preserved in the manuscripts we have (and in the translations based on them), but more than 99% of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we posses. The reason is twofold: (1) we have thousands of manuscripts, and (2) we have early manuscripts. The proximity to the original text and the multiplicity of the manuscripts enable textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with more than 99% accuracy. Renowned Greek scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed that all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99% of the verses in the New Testament. Another noted Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, said the real concerns of textual criticism is on “a thousandth part of the entire text” making the New Testament 99.9 percent pure.

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Strictly speaking the gospels are anonymous. However, the uniform testimony of the early church was that Matthew, the tax collector and 1 of the 12 disciples, was the author of the first Gospel in the New testament: John Mark, a companion of the disciple Peter, wrote the Gospel we call Mark; and Luke, known as Paul’s “beloved physician,” wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. And there are no known competitors for these 3 gospels. While the name of the author of the fourth Gospel isn’t in doubt – it is certainly John – there was a question concerning whether this was John the apostle or a different John. Professor Craig Bloomberg stated that he is convinced that “a substantial majority of the material goes back to the apostle,” although someone closely associated with John may have acted as an editor, “putting the last verses into shape and potentially creating the stylistic uniformity of the entire document.” In any event, he emphasized, “the Gospel is obviously based on eyewitness material, as are the other 3 Gospels.”

Significantly, there is no evidence from the first century that the authorship of the Gospels was ever in doubt. In fact, if authorship was going to be invented, certainly names of prominent apostles such as Peter or James would have been used in an attempt to bolster credibility rather than to attribute the Gospels to Mark and Luke, who weren’t even among the 12 disciples, and Matthew, who was formerly a hated tax collector.

In reality, far from being contradictory, the Gospels are clearly complementary. Throughout the centuries, countless bible scholars have attested to the fact. Had all the Gospels writers said the same thing in the exact same way, they could have been legitimately questioned on the grounds of collusion. Paul’s writings in Galatians, where he describes meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem and confirming that his message of Christ’s deity was correct, coupled with an extremely early creed about the resurrection found in 1 Corinthians 15, demonstrate that belief in a divine, risen Jesus was in existence within just a few years after his death.

“In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament.” ~ Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum and author of The Palaeography of Greek Papyri.

Former atheist skeptic Lee Strobel subjected the Gospels to 8 tests they might face in a court of law – the intention test, the character test, the consistency test, the bias test, the cover-up test, the corroboration test and the adverse witness test – to determine whether they could be considered trustworthy. His verdict was that their essential reliability is beyond serious doubt. As an example, just because the Gospels take a different perspective in describing events does not mean the are irreconcilable. Matthew say there was one angel at Jesus tomb, while John say there were two. Matthew did not say there was only one. John was providing more detail by saying there were two.

After studying the consistency amount the four Gospels, Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School, the 19th centuries greatest expert on legal evidence, concluded: “There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction.”

Even the once-doubting Sir Lionel Luckhoo, identified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful attorney in the world, concluded after an exhaustive analysis of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leave absolutely no room for doubt.”