Integrity of the New Testament Documents

This post is from the blog: Vivificat!

Folks, I was reading this article published today in Time Magazine online, entitled, The Burial Box of Jesus’ Brother: A Case Against Fraud, because the controversy has been around for a while and of course, because of the significance of the artifact were the claims to its authenticity be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, the introductory paragraph disappointed me, although I am already used to this case of disappointment coming from the so-called mainstream experts. Check it out:

The world of biblical archaeology was stirred in 2002 by the unveiling of a limestone burial box with the Aramaic inscription Yaakov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”). Allegedly dating to an era contemporaneous with Christ, the names were a tantalizing collation of potentially great significance: James was indeed the name of a New Testament personage known as the brother of Jesus, both ostensibly the sons of Joseph the carpenter, husband of Mary. If its dates were genuine, the burial box — or ossuary — could well be circumstantial evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, a tenet supported only by gospels and scripture written, at the earliest, a generation after his crucifixion and, of course, by the faith of hundreds of millions through 2,000 years.

What are the unspoken assumptions here? One, that the New Testament is not a reliable source to prove the objective historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and two, that all we have is that meager evidence supplemented by the ultimately insubstantial faith of millions. Hence, the need for external evidence such as this ossuary to substantiate – or not – the story.

Those who cling to these assumptions probably willfully or unwittingly ignore the fact that, if they were to apply the same standard of suspicion and doubt other documents received from antiquity and recognized as recording true history, they would not stand either. The following table illustrates and compares the antiquity and amount of New Testament manuscripts with that of other documents from antiquity commonly accepted as “historical.” Particular attention is paid to the time elapsed between the historical facts they record to the time they were set in writing (Source: The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict ).

To see the table comparing the evidence for the New Testament manuscripts versus the scanty evidence for such antiquities that everyone accepts freely such as the histories by Homer, Heredotus, etc. Click Evidence for the Integrity of the New Testament Documents


9 Responses

  1. The main difference between the NT and the other documents in the table is that the other authors (except, of course, Homer, and it’s well understood that The Iliad is a myth) claimed to be documenting the life of a supernatural being with superhuman powers. The more ridiculous the claims of ancient documents, the more skeptical any intelligent person is likely to be. Especially when those claims aren’t supported by a single eyewitness or any other evidence. And, let’s face it, the NT is full of ridiculous claims.

  2. The New Testament claims ARE supported by eye witnesses. As for “ridiculous claims” all I can do is quote St. Paul:

    I Cor 1:18

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
    20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength


  3. @bfhu – so who are these eye witnesses that support the NT? Name them.

  4. The names of some of the eyewitnesses:

    All of the disciple of Jeus:
    1. Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter),
    2. James, the son of Zebedee, and
    3. John the brother of James
    4. Andrew
    5. Philip
    6. Bartholomew
    7. Matthew
    8. Thomas
    9.James the son of Alphaeus, and
    10. Thaddaeus
    11. Simon the Zealot;
    12. Judas Iscariot
    13. Mary, Jesus’ mother
    And many others named in the various Gospels and letters that make up the NEW TESTAMENT.

    St.Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the early history of the Church in his book of Acts. He consulted eyewitnesses in order to make an accurate account of the events surrounding the life of Jesus and later the Church He founded.

    Luke 1

    1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

    Luke again in Acts 1

    In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

    Of the disciples of Jesus, who were the closest eyewitnesses to all that Jesus did, who wrote a book or letter preserved for us in the New Testament: Peter whose memoir was written down by Mark in the Gospel of Mark. Also, Peters two letters, I & II Peter. The apostle John in his Gospel and three Letters.

    1 John 1

    1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
    Walking in the light
    5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;

    Revelation 1 (John)

    1The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2who testifies to everything he saw

    • Can you find anywhere in Luke where he says that he spoke directly to those people? I think you’ll find he doesn’t.

      All you have in Luke is a document written by an anonymous author (the name “Luke” was given to it by Papias in the mid 4th century), who, although claiming to have spoken to eyewitnesses, in fact copied in large part from earlier works, namely “Mark” and the Q Source. At least, that is the dominant hypotethis in biblical scholarship currently.

      How much credibility can we give an author who makes false claims? Very litte, I’d say.

      • That is your opinion and the opinion of he so called higher textual criticism which I do not accept. And neither do many other scholars. Those who do not want to accept the ancient faith and would rather debunk it have found an excuse with the faithless, doubting German higher criticism. This is the fruit of Luther’s Rebellion.

        Thanks for your comments but they are unconvincing.

  5. And therein lies the problem with your argument that there is some kind of historical evidence for Jesus. Your evidence falls apart at the slightest inquiry. You choose NOT to accept the position of historians and instead choose to “accept the ancient faith”. You are unable to provide any critical evidence to support the claim of an historical Jesus.

  6. Cameron,
    I am not a historian but I have read people who are and historical and archeological evidence supports the sacred scriptures. I do not have the credentials to argue this point with you.

    All I can do is present Pascal’s wager: If you are correct and there is no God or Salvation through Jesus then when we die we are both just dead and gone. But if I am correct and there is a God who sent His son to save us all from Hell because He is Love and Mercy, then when we die our eternal souls will go to judgement.

    You don’t seem like the type to take out fire insurance but I think you would have to be convinced of the TRUTH of Catholic Christianity first. Would you follow the Truth no matter where it led? May God bless your search for the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.
    Kyrie Elieson

  7. bfhu,

    Pascal’s wager also requires that you worship every other god every worshipped over 10,000 years of human god-worshipping. Do you also cover your bets by worshipping the greek gods, the roman gods, the aztec gods, the mayan gods, the norse gods, etc?

    You must be a very busy person. 🙂


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