Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’

Let me tell you two mini stories. The first concerns my Great Uncle Neville (Whall) who people used to call Nunkie. He died well before I was born but two stories have been passed down to me about him. Both concern his great passion in life, cycling. The first tells that he was the president some cycling organisation and used to cycle all over the UK and Europe. As part of this role he went on to jointly found the Youth Hostel Association. The second tells of him cycling in the grounds of Windsor Great Park and meeting King George VI. There is a photo somewhere of my Great Uncle explaining to the King how the gears on his bike work.

 

Now the second story concerns me at school. I was never too keen on education, as my results and school reports will attest to. One of my favourite comments found in one of my old school reports states that “Nathan has decided that this subject is superfluous to his requirements”! If something interested me I would work hard and do well, if it did not then no amount of cajoling would make me do any work for it.

 

Both of these stories are, to the best of my knowledge and memory permitting, true. However, there is a difference in their reliability. The first story has been handed down to me. Facts may have been embellished or forgotten. In fact I’ve had to check with my dad some of the information before putting it down on paper. If someone wanted to find out the accuracy of the story they would have great difficulty. I’m sure that in the archives of the Youth Hostelling Association there may be a mention of it’s founders but my Uncle might not have wanted to push his name to the forefront. He may be mentioned, he may not. I’m sure King George VI didn’t drive back to Windsor Castle and write an account of meeting my Uncle. I don’t even know if he got my Uncle’s name. It would be an account that is very hard to prove or disprove. However, with the second story things would be slightly easier. If someone wanted to prove or disprove this story their task would be fairly simple. For a start they could be shown my report cards. They could interview my teachers and fellow class mates. They could interrogate me, my parents and family. It would soon become obvious whether this story was true or not.

 

So what on earth have these two stories got to do with the reliability of the gospels. Well, hopefully I can explain. For hundreds of years it was thought that the gospels were written by people in the 2nd Century. They were accounts that had been passed down through families or churches or groups of people. They were thought to be very much second hand accounts just like the story of my Great Uncle. It was thought that when they were written down the people that had been involved in the events were long since dead. You couldn’t have gone to them to verify the facts. You couldn’t have proved or disproved what was being written. However outrageous it seemed there was no proof to be had, no-one to argue against it. However, later research suggests that the gospels were all very likely written before the year A.D.70. So it also seems likely that they were first hand accounts of what happened. Many of the first people to read these accounts would have known the people involved. They could have checked out if the stories were true. The writers wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people that had been around at the time. If I had written a famous book claiming to be an “A star” student people would soon step forward to tell the world that I was not. If the Bible were written within the lifetime of the events it would soon have become obvious if they were no more than lies or exaggerations. People would not have been prepared to suffer and die for what others were calling blatant lies. The whole idea of Christianity would have been extinguished before it even got started. There are no accounts of people calling into question the reliability of the Gospel account.

 

Backing up the Bible.

 

The Gospels as historical texts don’t stand alone. Events that take place within the Gospels are mentioned by Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian who wrote around A.D. 37 – A.D. 100; Tacitus a Roman Historian who wrote around A.D. 55 – A.D. 117; Thallus who wrote around A.D. 55; Pliny the younger who was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor and also in the Talmud.

 

If you take the view that the writers of the new testament set out to deceive, to write lies and to create this new Religion called Christianity you have to ask three questions…

1.  What was their Motive? The writers gained neither fame or fortune from their writings – their writing did not push themselves to the forefront. In fact it bought them nothing but persecution. Why would they set out to try and deceive?

 

2. Why would they write the way they did? There are two major things that don’t add up unless the only motive of writing these accounts was to portray a true and accurate picture of the actual events that took place. Firstly, why would they write it in such an embarrassing way. The Gospels are written in a way that portrays the disciples as people who always got things wrong. Why would they write about Peter denying Christ; why would they include that the disciples we often afraid and got things wrong; that so many deserted him on the cross, that they misunderstood; said the wrong things. Secondly, why would they include stuff that was so difficult to explain or even seeming at odds with their beliefs. For example why would they make up that Jesus got baptised? At first sight this would seem to show that Jesus was not perfect as a perfect man would have no need to be baptised. These sort of things would clearly cast doubt on what they were trying to get across and would have been left out had they been trying to deceive.

 

3. Would they really have carried the lie through until death? It might have been fun for a while to try and deceive people. They used their great minds to create something spectacular. But, let’s face it would they really have gotten so wrapped up in their lies and deceit that they would all be willing to die for some fabrication? If it were just one of them you could imagine that he was overtaken by his web of lies and could, perhaps, not tell reality from the lie, but all of the writers, all of the disciples, all of the martyrs? It just doesn’t make sense.


All of this doesn’t add up to prove that the Bible is true but I do hope that along with other blogs in the series “What If the Bible is Valid” it will go to show that the Bible has a lot more validity than many people would have to believe. It is not just a book that can be discounted or that you have to belief with blind faith. If you put all the pieces together you will hopefully see that the Bible is a factual document that is worth looking into.

 

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So let’s have a quick look at some of the claims of the Bible.  The Bible makes so many claims that are sometimes hard to believe so what are these claims?

1. There is only one God

2. Jesus is the Son of God

3. God created all things

4. Jesus died to bring us back into a right relationship with God

5. God consists of 3 persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in one

6. Jesus was fully God and yet fully man – he was also without sin

7. Jesus is the only way to God

8. God is all powerful, all knowing, ever present, all loving.

9. Jesus died on a cross but defeated death and rose again, he is now in heaven

10. Jesus will come again

11. If we believe and trust in Jesus He will forgive all our wrongdoings

12. Jesus healed people, cast out demons, raised people from the dead, forgave sins, calmed the sea, turned water into wine

13. God spoke to His people through the prophets

14. One day those who have put their trust in Jesus will live with God in heaven

15. Jesus was born of a virgin

Now these are just the first 15 claims that came to mind, there are hundreds of others on almost every page of the Bible. I can’t prove to you that any of these claims are true.  I can’t produce evidence that shows that there is truth in any of them.  However, in the time since the Bible was written no-one has been able to disprove any of the claims.  Don’t you find that quite remarkable?  That a book written by over 40 people spanning thousands of years, some being simple people, some had great learning, all claiming outrageous things, but all unable to be proven wrong even thousands of years later.

In fact as our learning has increased, as technology has developed more things are being discovered that substantiate the claims not contradict them.  For example the Bible claims that most of the New Testament was written by Jesus’ disciples.  However, many people have disregarded this and have said that the New testament was written 60 or 70 years after the death of Christ therefore making it unlikely that they were written by the disciples.  However, it is now agreed by many scholars that the New testament was written much earlier than first thought and well within the lifetime of Jesus’ disciples. This not only backs up the claims of the Bile but it also brings something very important into play – the reliability of the New Testament content.

If I write a book about events that happened hundreds of years beforehand – especially if it is on a subject not written about before – there may be some murmurings about the reliability of the facts but it would be fairly hard to disprove them.  Even if the facts sounded completely wrong it would be very hard to collect evidence to speak against them.  However, if I were to write about something that took place last year things would be very different.  If my facts about an event were wrong people who were there would speak out against them.  People who wanted to investigate could ask people who were involved, produce witnesses and put together a case.  So if the disciples of Jesus had decided to make up these stories people would have spoken out.  Even if Jesus’ disciples had been so deluded as to really believe these things had taken place, others would have spoken out about them. Christianity in it’s early existence would have been snuffed out. Yet you had thousands of people who were willing to die for these claims.  If the disciples had spent three years with Jesus could they have been that taken in by him that they would rather die than renounce their faith?  If they had made it all up would they have died in order to keep a hoax going? If the disciples of Jesus had written the new testament only a short time after it had happened and the events and things written about hadn’t taken place huge numbers of people would have spoken out about it.  The disciples would have become a laughing stock and the Christian faith would have died on it’s feet.

We’ll have a look at more of the claims in part three.