The New Testament: Fact or Fiction?

A Greek Bible open to the well-known passage of John 3:16

The reliability of the New Testament is always under attack from one direction or another. In fact, God’s Word has been questioned from the very beginning. In the garden the serpent asked Eve, “Did God actually say?” Undoubtedly, God’s Word will continue to be under fire until the end of time.

While attacks against Scripture are unending, these attacks have been addressed in the past and continue to be answered. The following links will help you as you consider the reliability of the New Testament.

Which books should be included as a part of the New Testament canon? To put it another way, why are some writings included in the New Testament while others are rejected? 

Consider this article from got questions.org. In a simple and straightforward manner, this article explains how New Testament writings were recognized as Scripture. Of interest, “We believe that God was involved in each step of the process, for why would God go to such lengths to inspire His Word and then not preserve it? Why would He speak to us and then fail to guide us in recognizing His speech?” Read more.

Scott Kellum, a New Testament professor at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, tackles the question of why we have twenty-seven books in the New Testament. He sheds light on reasons that writings like the Gospel of Thomas and others are not included. Of note, Kellum says, “… almost before the ink was dry, the earliest Christians, including leading figures in the church such as the apostles Paul and Peter, considered contemporaneous Christian documents as Scripture on the same level as the OT. From this it is not too difficult to trace the emerging canonical consciousness with regard to the formation of the NT through the writings of the early church fathers in the late first century and early second century. In fact, prior to the year 150, the only NT book that was not named as authentic or not unequivocally cited as authoritative in the extant patristic writings is the tiny book of 3 John.” Read more.

Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary and New Testament professor, provides ten facts about the New Testament that every believer should know. Each of these facts links to an article with more detail. In exploring the possibility that an early church council decided which books to include in the New Testament canon, Kruger says, “The fact of the matter is that when we look into early church history there is no such council.  Sure, there are regional church councils that made declarations about the canon (Laodicea, Hippo, Carthage).   But these regional councils did not just ‘pick’ books they happened to like, but affirmed the books they believed had functioned as foundational documents for the Christian faith.  In other words, these councils were declaring the way things had been, not the way they wanted them to be.”Read more.

Don’t the Gospels contradict each another? How can I believe the New Testament if it can’t keep its own story straight? 

It has been suggested that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are hopelessly contradictory. The account of the resurrection of Jesus is usually given as a prime example. In the following article, the details of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection are harmonized or placed together to reveal that no true contradiction exists. Consider this, “The gospel accounts of the resurrection are complementary, not contradictory. If the church had conspired in concocting the resurrection, then certainly they would have exercised care in developing very uniform accounts. Instead the resurrection reports provide just what is expected of multiple eyewitness accounts, varied and corroborating details.” Read more.

What does comparing the names of people in the New Testament with the names of people in other ancient works reveal about Scripture’s truthfulness? 

Dr. Peter Williams, warden of Tyndale House at the University of Cambridge, presents new research supporting the truthfulness of Scripture. He compares the number of times that people’s names occur in the New Testament with other ancient works from the New Testament era. This research provides more compelling reasons to believe in the truthfulness of Scripture. While it will take you just over an hour to watch, it will be an hour well spent.

 

What did Jesus believe about the Scriptures? 

Even some who claim to be Christians have lost confidence in the complete truthfulness of Scripture. In this powerful message, Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church, considers what Jesus Himself believed and taught about the Scriptures. I believe this message will strengthen your trust in God’s Word and give you a greater desire to read the Bible and be shaped by the God who really has spoken..

He Has Risen! The Gospels Tell the True Story

cross against the sky

It is often argued that the Gospels are contradictory and cannot be trusted. In fact, the resurrection accounts are given frequently as an example of the unreliability of the New Testament. On the contrary, the Gospels give us reliable eyewitness reports of the most important event in human history, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Below is one possible way to harmonize the gospel accounts of the resurrection. While there are other ways to harmonize the details of the gospels, what is most important is not the particular way the Gospels are harmonized but the fact that the Gospels can be harmonized and thus present the truth of the resurrection. [1]

  1. Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and other women begin walking to the tomb (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, John 20:1-2; In John 20:1, only Mary Magdalene is mentioned, but in John 20:2, Mary’s testimony to Peter and John indicates that she wasn’t alone).
  1. An earthquake occurs with an angel moving away the stone that covered the entrance of the tomb. In fear, the guards pass out and eventually flee (Matthew 28:2-4).
  1. On the way to the tomb, the ladies discuss who will move the stone for them so they can anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:3). Late Friday afternoon, some ladies prepare their own spices and ointments (Luke 23:55-56), and Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought spices after the Sabbath on Saturday night (Mark 16:1).
  1. As the sun rises, they arrive at the tomb and notice the stone has been rolled away (Mark 16:3-4, Luke 24:2).
  1. When Mary Magdalene sees that the stone is gone, she quickly leaves to tell Peter and John (John 20:2).
  1. The angels appear to the remaining ladies, announcing Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:5, Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4-6). While Luke and John mention two messengers, Matthew and Mark mention only one. It is possible that one of these messengers spoke, and for this reason, Matthew and Mark mention only this one. Neither Matthew nor Mark report that only one messenger appeared. Mark mentions one young man while Luke mentions two men. In Scripture, angels frequently appear in human form, so these messengers are angels who appear as men. In fact, Luke later refers to these messengers as angels (Luke 24:23).
  1. Briefly, the ladies are afraid and don’t tell anyone (Mark 16:8).
  1. The ladies rush back to the disciples and first tell Peter and John what they experienced and then travel to meet with the rest of the disciples who doubted their testimony (Matt 28:8, Luke 24:9, 11).
  1. Peter and John rush to the empty tomb after Mary Magdalene and the other ladies report the missing body. They may have passed Mary Magdalene or taken a different route to the tomb. After seeing the empty tomb, Peter and John return to their homes (Luke 24:9, 12; John 20:2-10). Luke mentions only Peter going to the tomb, but later mentions more than one person (Luke 24:12, 24).
  1. Mary Magdalene makes her way back to the empty tomb, filled with sorrow. As she looks into the tomb, the two angels appear to her and ask her why she is weeping. She turns around and sees the risen Christ (John 20:11-17).
  1. The guards who fled from the tomb meet with Jewish religious leaders and accept a bribe from the religious leaders to lie and report that Jesus’ body had been stolen (Matt 28:11-15).
  1. The ladies continue their journey to meet with the rest of the disciples and along the way encounter the risen Christ and worship Him (Matthew 28:8-9).

For Further Thought…
The gospel accounts of the resurrection are complementary, not contradictory. If the church had conspired in concocting the resurrection, then certainly they would have exercised care in developing very uniform accounts. Instead the resurrection reports provide just what is expected of multiple eyewitness accounts, varied and corroborating details.

The gospel accounts provide compelling internal evidence for reliability. For example, in the ancient world the testimony of women was customarily discounted in legal matters. If the resurrection had been fabricated, the first eyewitnesses of Jesus would certainly have been men.

External evidence reinforces the resurrection accounts. For instance, how do you account for the revolutionary and sweeping spread of Christianity? By AD 64, Christians had so permeated the Roman Empire that Nero could blame Christians for the fire of Rome.

[1] I have used the following resource to assist me in this synopsis: Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).