Is the New Testament historically reliable?
Does it still make sense to follow Jesus after leaving the message? Should we abandon Christianity? Is atheism the best path to follow?
This article is one in a series of studies on whether it is rational or logical to follow Christ after one has left the message. We address a number of questions which should be examined in determining whether belief in God and in the Christian God, in particular, makes sense. You are currently on the topic that is in bold:
1. There are no valid reasons that the New Testament should not be accepted as a reliable historical document. This would include:
2. Archeology confirms the historicity of the Bible and there is not a single archeological discovery that has disproved any biblical reference.
3. While there are real problems in the Bible, there are also real answers to those difficult passages.
Are the Gospel accounts historically accurate and trustworthy?
As a student of history and of Christianity, I do not believe there are any significant shortcomings with respect to the historicity of the Gospels.
First, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. While many critics point to disagreements between the Gospel accounts, the apparent discrepancies are actually a positive factor in evaluating their reliability.
J. Warner Wallace, a well-known cold case detective, became a Christian after examining the Gospels as potential eyewitness accounts to the life of Jesus. He stated:
Second, the Gospels were written much earlier than many liberal scholars have supposed. A.T. Robinson, in his book, Redating the New Testament, presents compelling evidence that the first three Gospels were all written within approximately 30 years of the time the events occurred, which is well within the time when eyewitnesses would still be available to corroborate the accounts. Archeologist William F. Albright commented, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.”
Third, the Gospels and the book of Acts (also authored by Luke) have been described as historically accurate by respected historians. Archaeologist W. F. Albright stated, “All radical schools in New Testament criticism which have existed in the past or which exist today are pre-archaeological, and are therefore, since they were built in der Luft [in the air], quite antiquated today.”
Noted historian Nelson Glueck stated:
Another historian, Colin J. Hemer provided seventeen reasons to support the book of Acts being written during the lifetime of many of the participants. This supports the historicity of the book of Acts and, indirectly, the Gospel of Luke. Respected historian A.N. Sherwin-White pointed out that the case for accurate reporting is much better for Jesus as represented in the Gospels than it is for Tiberius Caesar, a contemporary of Jesus.
While people like Bart Ehrman, who is not a historian or an archeologist, may cast dispersions on the Bible, the archeological and historical records do not support him.
Finally, the argument that the followers of Jesus were illiterate Aramaic speakers and not capable of writing the Gospels in Greek ignores the fact that an amanuensis (scribe), who could be either a slave or a freedman, was commonly used in the Roman world as a literary assistant to write letters and other documents under the direction of the author. One would think that the authors of the Gospels would have wanted to preserve their accounts in the Greek language, the lingua franca of the eastern Roman Empire, rather than a language that was not as readily transportable. Using someone skilled in Greek as an amanuensis would have been the easiest method for the uneducated disciples to accomplish that.
The historicity of the New Testament supports belief in the Christian faith
Which worldview, of the many that exist today, is correct? Secular humanism? Islam? Buddhism? Hinduism? Christianity? Is there evidence that supports any of these worldviews?
Many people, including some Christians, view faith in Jesus Christ as requiring “blind faith”, a faith that simply trusts without question. But the Bible supports the importance of evidential or reasonable faith, a faith that is based on evidence and logic. In John 14:11, Jesus pointed to the importance of evidence when he said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
Luke starts out his Gospel with a clear reference to the importance of evidential proof:
Luke reiterates the importance of evidence and proof in his opening statement in the Book of Acts, which he also authored:
The Christian faith is a reasonable, intelligent and logical faith. Paul reasoned in the synagogue on a weekly basis with Jews and Greeks who believed in the God of the Old Testament. He also debated with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens.
What Paul and the Gospel authors recognized was that the one thing that changes everything is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul stated that if the resurrection did not take place then he was a false witness and the Christian faith was futile.
But the Christian faith rests firmly on the eyewitness testimony of the authors of the Gospels. The hope of the Christian faith is not based on a fairy tale or a collection of myths but on the sound evidence that has stood the test of time. Christianity is not afraid of the hard questions that may be asked by the skeptic, as we have found there are solid answers to those questions.