The Errors Of Modern New Testament Criticism

At its inception New Testament criticism was intended as a forensic method for proving the scriptures of the Koine-Greek texts describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, were valid. Today New Testament criticism is used by the enemies of Christ to try and discredit, malign, and impeach the narratives of Jesus.

Unknown to a majority of people is the existence of the atheist and progressive New Testament scholar. These are people who don’t believe God exists, or that the Bible is true, yet seek to write about these important subjects as experts. Imagine going to a doctor for medical advice and he tells you that he doesn’t believe in medicine. Today many people accept the conclusions of atheists regarding whether the New Testament is a reliable record of truth.

The methods that atheist scholars use to try and prove their assertions that Jesus was contrived by the writers of the New Testament, are the fundamentals of New Testament criticism. The problem is that they do not use these methods in the same way that they were intended, but to further their attempts at discrediting Jesus and the testimony about Him in the books of the New Testament.

In this essay we will explore some of these traditional methods used to evaluate the surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament, and how atheist scholars have deviated from the intended purpose of these forensic methods to use them to discredit the texts.

If we examine the men and women who write books, essays, that state the the texts of the New Testament are not reliable, we find that a majority of these persons are atheists. We might wonder why an atheist would seek an advanced degree in Biblical studies just to use their status to try and impeach the reliability of the New Testament.

The answer is obvious. Atheists don’t believe the Bible is true, that God exists, or that Jesus is who the writers of the New Testament present Him as. When we examine the commentary written by modern atheist New Testament scholars, we find that their comments and conclusions are largely based upon their opinions, not on any evidence that would prove the texts are unreliable.

I have read many of the most popular books that were written by atheist New Testament scholars, and there are no evidences provided to prove their assertions the texts are not true. You will find many conjectures, areas of speculation, and the opinions of the atheist who write these books, but not any scholarly proof their conclusions are true.

If we simply examine the extant manuscript copies of the New Testament for ourselves, we very quickly learn that the writers of these texts were recording a historical narrative of events that they saw and heard. According to atheist scholars today, the New Testament was written late in the first century by non-eyewitnesses. In 2020 I compiled a list of evidences that prove from the historical record, that the New Testament was written early in the first century, by the men who saw and heard Jesus.

When we examine the books and essays of these atheist scholars, we cannot find any evidence in their works to prove their assertions of unreliability. The modern atheist scholar believes that because they have a Ph.D, the reader should trust their judgment and conclusions.

The problem for the average reader of these books and essays is that most people don’t know these writers are atheists and don’t believe the Bible is true in the first place. In the conclusions of the conservative scholars who also write about the New Testament, we find they do believe the New Testament is an accurate narrative of true events. Who is correct? Those who provide evidence to support their conclusions. In the case of the atheist scholar, we do not find evidence, we find opinions. It is very easy to prove the reliability and truthfulness of the New Testament by actual evidence. I know this because I have published books with the historical evidence to prove the reliability and truthfulness of the New Testament.

The problem today is that the voices of atheist scholars are primarily the opinions that are heard by most people. These men and women are a small minority of the total number of New Testament scholars who write and publish evidence to prove the New Testament.[1]

In reality, the majority of New Testament scholars present the opinion that the New Testament is accurate and reliable. The business of claiming to have once been an Evangelical Christian, now an atheist because of an education, turns out to be an extremely profitable venture. Many of these atheist New Testament scholars claim that they once believed in Jesus, but after their university education, they now know that the New Testament is not true. This is a ruse created as a marketing tactic to sell books. Some of these atheist scholars have made millions of dollars marketing their claims.

The majority of atheists who are seeking to refute Christianity today, do not read the books and essays of the conservative scholars; they peruse the words of the atheist scholars to use in their own attempted impeachments of Jesus and the New Testament.

I have received numerous statements from atheists, and people who are critical of the New Testament, that a leading scholar has written that Jesus never claimed to be God, but was made God by the writers of the New Testament; the Gospels are written anonymously and are therefore unreliable; the disciples of Jesus were illiterate and not capable of writing the elegant Koine-Greek texts we find in the surviving New Testament manuscripts; the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, but by others late in the first century; the New Testament has been changed over the past 2,000 years and we don’t know what the original autographs said; there are hundreds of thousands of textual variants in the New Testament manuscript copies and bring the texts into doubt as to their reliability. The list goes on and on…

None of these assertions are true; not one atheist scholar has provided any evidence to prove these false accusations against the New Testament are true. In my latest book on New Testament Criticism: “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus,” I document the 134 places in the narratives of the New Testament where the writers state that they are writing as men who saw and heard Jesus. There are 396 places in the books of the New Testament where the writers cite the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and that He was seen alive for a period of 40 days, to over 500 eyewitnesses. The actual historical texts of the New Testament prove that the writers saw and heard what they wrote, because they say this in their testimony.

In the Gospels we see that Jesus repeatedly commanded His disciples to immediately write their testimony and send it out the the known world.[2] The only method that a first century person had in reaching the whole world, was by the writing, publication, and distribution of letters to distant lands. This is exactly what the historical record proves. All of the surviving manuscript copies we have today for the New Testament, came from all over the world, written in 14 different languages.

When we examine the four Gospels, we find that Jesus repeatedly stated that He is God, and that the Old Testament prophets predicted the Messiah would be God. As Jesus stood before the Scribes and Pharisees, He cited 2 Samuel 7:14, Psalms 2:7, and Psalms 110:1, all well known Messianic texts that describe the coming Messiah as the Son of God, the Son of Man.

Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man,” 77 times in the Gospels. Jesus did this because He wanted the reader to know that the Son of Man that the prophet Daniel cited in 7:13, “coming with the clouds”, was speaking of Him. Daniel is the first prophet to call the Messiah “The Son of Man.”

When the leaders of Israel questioned Jesus under oath and asked Him specifically if He was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus said “yes,” and added the text from Daniel 7:13 that says: “coming with the clouds.”

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

“Yes,” Jesus said, “I am. And in the future you will see me, the Messiah, sitting at the right hand of God and returning on the clouds of heaven.” ~Matthew 26:62-64

According to the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, when He comes to earth to establish His one thousand year kingdom on earth, He will be “coming with the clouds.” This is a reference to the immense army of resurrected believers that will be coming with Jesus, as described by Revelation chapter 19.

Regarding the allegation of atheist New Testament scholars that the texts of the New Testament have been changed over the past 2,000 years, what has actually taken place in not an alteration of the text, but simply different words used to say the same thing. Much like the differences in modern translations like the New King James Version, in comparison with the King James Version. Both of these translations are telling the reader the same narrative about Jesus, but the New King James Version used modern words instead of the archaic english that was understood when the texts were published in 1611.

Some atheist scholars assert that the Gospels could not have been written by simple fishermen because they were illiterate. The text in Acts chapter four is used to try and prove this claim: Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

Notice that the Pharisees are simply speculating that Peter and John are untrained in the scriptures, not that they are illiterate. If we continue to read the rest of the text in Acts 2-4, we see Peter quoting from 25 Hebrew texts, written by the Old Testament prophets, and attributing these scriptures to Jesus as the Messiah who has fulfilled these prophecies. How could an illiterate man have the skill necessary to navigate all of the Hebrew scriptures and pull out 24 in instant recall, as he stands before a large crowd of people from all over the world in Jerusalem?

The answer is obvious: Peter and John were not illiterate. There is sufficient evidence in the New Testament, written by these men, that proves they had the ability to compose a testimony of what they saw and heard. If they needed any assistance in writing their testimony about Jesus, Matthew was trained as a Roman tax collector to read and write Greek, Luke was a medical doctor who could read and write Greek, Mark spoke and wrote Greek, and Paul was a Hebrew scholar and member of the Pharisees, who spoke and wrote Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Bart Ehrman Is Wrong That Acts 4:13 Proves Peter Was Illiterate

The claim that the Gospels were written anonymously and are therefore, unreliable, is an unsubstantiated claim. Simply because someone decides to leave their name off of a document, does not mean the texts in these documents are not true or are unreliable. In the case of the four Gospels, these men recognized that their task was to tell the world about Jesus, not themselves. It is not difficult to discern who wrote these four narratives. The internal evidence of their words allows us to determine who the writers are. The early Christian church had no doubts about who the writers of these Gospels were, and we do not find any doubts about the authorship of these narratives at any time during the entire history of the Christian church. At the beginning and the end of the four Gospels, there are clues to the author in the text. Within the texts of the Gospels there are forensic evidence that has made it possible to know who the writers are.

What we find in the critical comments and conclusions of atheist New Testament scholars, is that they are untrained in the actual texts of the New Testament; knowing and understanding what they actually say. Instead, these adversaries of the New Testament peruse the texts to try and find places where they can discredit or claim inaccuracies, by a misuse of the methods for New Testament criticism.

One of the errors of modern New Testament criticism, in its methods and practices, is the way in which these critical scholars go about their procedures in determining the reliability of the narratives. During the long history of the New Testament the goal has always been to study and learn the texts, comparing scripture with scripture, relating these texts to what the Old Testament prophets wrote, and by this hermeneutical approach, being able to make valid conclusions about the New Testament.

Today the modern atheist New Testament scholar does not seek to study and learn the texts, but instead, applies certain methods that do not add to our understanding of these texts, but cause confusion.

Among these modern techniques, source, form, and redaction criticism were created during the period of 1900-1975.

Form Criticism is focused on the premise that the Bible existed as an oral communication with stories and teachings that were communicated by spoken words, not written texts. The critics of the New Testament who use Form Criticism to impeach its reliability, state that over time in the Oral Tradition, the stories were changed, embellished, and do not represent the actual events that took place.
In the earliest form of the oral traditions of the scriptures, scholars committed the entire body of God’s word to memory. When a particular passage was recited, it would remind the listener of several other places in the scriptures where a similar passage spoke or illustrated a comparable principle.Before the New Testament was finalized, the true account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was well known by the oral tradition.

The ancient world—which did not have the ability to write, publish, and distribute materials to the masses—relied on the oral tradition. More than the telling of stories, the oral tradition was a major part of education and viewed as essential to conveying the facts of history, that required preservation.

In the Hebrew oral tradition, teachers memorized entire books by simply listening to them as they were spoken over and over. Students were taught to memorize everything that their teachers said or taught. When accounts of what God had said were being revealed, students memorized these accounts word for word.

These students were later tested for accuracy by recounting what they had learned, back to their teachers. In this early world, before the distribution of books, this was considered the greatest and most important part of their life as followers of God. Because of their high regard for the oral tradition used by those who memorized the words of God, we have great confidence today that what is written in the Old Testament scriptures are absolutely reliable and are an accurate account of the true words of God.[3]

It is well understood today that the oral traditions of the Jews were also highly respected during the early days of the Christian church. Regarded as authentic and reliable, the oral tradition continued during the time of Jesus’ ministry here on the earth. Because of the high esteem attached to the memorization of scripture and the retelling of God’s word orally, the writers of the New Testament continued this extreme desire for accuracy in recording the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

These were honest men who were radically changed by their new relationship with Jesus, and considered their honesty in accurately describing what Jesus had said and done their highest priority. For this reason, the Gospel accounts of Jesus are considered today absolutely reliable and credible accounts of the actual events that took place in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.⁠[4]

The disciples of Jesus had committed to their memory each of the important events that occurred during His brief three and one-half-year ministry, rehearsing these events over and over, retelling them to groups of people who would also memorize the events and teach others. The evidence that the early church considered these oral transmittals of the actual events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as scripture, equal to the Old Testament, is proven by the mass distribution of these letters to the churches in Asia by multiplied copies.

The New Testament Bears Evidence Of Early Writing

It is very easy to confirm that the Synoptic Gospels were completed by 44 A.D. We can accomplish this by the internal evidence found in the Gospels, and through the records of secular history.[5]
When we follow the timeline that is given to us in the New Testament, and compare this with the timeline of secular history as found in the Roman and Jewish records, we discover that the writing of the Gospels began immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and were completed before Paul began his first missionary journey into Asia, carrying these Gospels with Him.
Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians in 49 A.D. In this letter Paul describes a conversation he had with Peter and James 14 years before, in 35 A.D. Paul penned the text in Galatians just before he appeared before Festus in 49 A.D.

After Paul had completed his first eighteen months missionary journey through Asia Minor, he received a report that the believers at Galatia were struggling due to false teaching that had crept into their church. Some of the Judaizers had tried to convince the Christians of Galatia that in addition to trusting in Jesus, they must also keep the laws of Moses. In response to this difficulty, Paul wrote to confirm his former words—that no Christian must keep the laws of Moses in order to be saved.

This issue continued to be a problem amongst the new Christian churches, which precipitated the meeting with the Jerusalem Council, also in 49 A.D., that is seen in Acts 15:1-30. During this meeting of the early church leaders, it was determined that only three laws would be imposed upon new Christians: “(1.) abstain from things polluted by idols, (2.) from sexual immorality, (3.) from things strangled, and from blood~Acts 15:20.

Again we are learning correct dates for the events of the New Testament and eventually the time of writing for the synoptic Gospels, starting with the coinage of Festus and the statement of Paul in Galatians 2.[6] These verified events allow us to forensically determine additional accurate dates for many other events in the New Testament.

Internal Textual Evidence Of The New Testament

A second piece of forensic evidence found in the New Testament text comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:18), where he quotes the precise words of Jesus that Luke had first recorded in his Gospel, Luke 10:7: “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” This quote by Jesus, recorded by Luke, is not in any of the other Gospels. Paul quotes this text from Luke verbatim. This means that Luke’s Gospel must have been written very early, before Paul penned this letter to 1 Timothy in 64 A.D. while Paul was still imprisoned at Rome.

Luke states at the beginning of his Gospel that he obtained the testimony for his Gospel from the eyewitnesses who had been with Jesus from the beginning. This means that Matthew and Mark must have written their Gospels before Luke. You will see in the timeline that follows when these Gospels must have been written.

The early writing of the Synoptic Gospels is important to the missionary journeys of Paul in Asia Minor because he describes his witness to these various people as coming from the authority of the Gospels—written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke—and personally revealed to Paul by Jesus.

Without a written testimony from the men who had seen Jesus, Paul would not have the proper authority to preach the Gospel of Christ. In Acts 15 Paul states that he was teaching the Gospel he received from the men who had been with Jesus during the years of His public ministry.

Weaknesses Of A Later Writing

One of the problems with the idea of a later writing for the New Testament, that took place as a result of the stories passed down through the oral tradition, originates from the idea that first century people could not read and write, and therefore, could not record the texts we find in the Bible.
Today, archeological discoveries for both the Old and New Testament texts, prove that people who lived during the periods these events took place, did have the ability to write their narratives. As with all modern New Testament criticism, many assumptions must be made in order to use the methods ascribed to by atheist scholars. 
We know today that the men who state in the New Testament that they saw and heard Jesus and are writing their testimony, actually had the ability to do this, we don’t need Form Criticism to determine the nature or reliability of the New Testament narratives.
One of the proponents of Form Criticism was German scholar Rudolf Bultmann, who wrote that the Bible should be stripped of its miraculous accounts, and be “demythologized” in order to be accepted by modern society. This statement reveals the agenda of the modern atheist scholar: not to examine the texts of the New Testament and learn what the writers have said, but to determine ahead of time that they cannot be reliable, due to their supernatural descriptions of this Jesus did.
The entire point of the New Testament is to present the facts that men saw and heard concerning Jesus of Nazareth, and preserve them so that the world could also know. These men did not understand who Jesus was at the beginning. They saw His miracles and it was just as hard for them to comprehend them then, as it is for us now. They wrote what they saw and heard, because this is what Jesus commanded them to do:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8
When we examine the testimony of these men that is state in the book of Acts, after the Gospels, we find them saying that they are witnesses who saw what Jesus did, and that they know He was crucified and rose from the dead:
God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” ~”Acts 2:32
“But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” ~Acts 4:19-20
The book of Acts contains 29 statements by the men who saw Jesus, saying they are witnesses of all that they are writing. The New Testament is a book of eyewitness testimony, whether the men who wrote—saw what they recorded, or men who accurately recorded the eyewitness testimony of these men who saw Jesus perform miracles, be crucified, and raised from the dead.
These men saw and heard Jesus, and knowing HIm and what He said. changed everything about their lives.
Procedures formerly used to prove the New Testament, are now used by modern atheist New Testament scholars, to try and impeach the miracles of Jesus and refute the testimony of these men who wrote their testimony, of any credibility.
Even more stunning, people accept the opinions of men and women who never saw these events 2,000 years ago, but reject the men who were there when they took place. All of the evidence to prove any event of antiquity resides in the people who were there and recorded these events for us. No serious historian would ever place greater weight upon the opinions of someone today, over those who wrote the testimony when it took place during the first century.
One of the weaknesses of atheist scholars is their disregard of the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures, which predict a Messiah with supernatural abilities to heal every sickness and disease.[7] This support from the Hebrew scriptures, predicting a Messiah exactly like Jesus, is a crucial supporting evidence for Form Criticism. The proven accuracy of the Jewish scribes in writing their texts, predicting everything that Jesus said and did—recorded in the narrative of the New Testament—is virtually identical to what the disciples of Jesus said that Jesus did. [8]
Source Criticism is the modern method that seeks to examine the earliest sources for the biblical texts, and evaluate them for reliability, accuracy, and authenticity. These are good and honorable goals in seeking to evaluate literary works of antiquity. The problem that has arisen for the modern atheist and progressive scholar, is that assumptions are made and flawed conclusions are the result, while asserting that these methods have been used.correctly.
First, the assertion that the Bible is not the Word of God—it is written by men who are fallible. This error is easily overcome by texts which state the Bible is not merely written by men.
Second, having stated that the Bible is merely the work of men, it can be subjected to the same type of literary criticism that is conducted in secular writings of antiquity.
Third, the method used to try and impeach the reliability of the Bible, is to assert “inconsistencies, contradictions, and discrepancies,” that the atheist and progressive scholar sees in the texts of the Bible. Since they find these difficulties, in their mind, this indicates that God could not be the author. This is what Bart Ehrman stated that caused him to stop being a Christian and eventually become an atheist.
The problem for Bart Ehrman, Joel Baden, and Josh Bowen, is that there are no “inconsistencies, contradictions, and discrepancies,” in the Bible. Upon examination of texts in which they assert these problems, anyone trained in the Bible can easily impeach their false assertions. I have done this in many of my essays and books.

See examples of how Source Criticism is deceptively used to try and impeach the reliability and authority of the Bible:

For example: the idea that the New Testament is filled with “textual variants,” or errors, is false. While citing Source Criticism as the method used to evaluate the texts of the extant New Testament manuscripts, the errors, or variants cited, are not errors at all. What we find when we investigate the actual texts that these scholars claim are errors, we find that they are nothing more than spelling errors, using different words that mean the same thing, that tell the same story, and grammatical errors, or omitted characters in a word.
These variations happened over the course of history as the text was copied, commented upon, and spread throughout the world. None of these changes affect the story of Jesus or invalidates who He is or what He has done.
The following are a few examples of alleged textual variants from Matthew’s Gospel. Follow the link above to see all of these variants in the Gospel narratives.

Matthew 1:18
Christ Jesus
Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:21
Then she will bring forth to you a son
Then she will bring forth a son

Matthew 1:23
you will call his name
they will call his name

Matthew 1:24
was awakened

Matthew 3:5
the children of Jerusalem
the Jerusalemites
all Jerusalem
all of Jerusalem

Matthew 3:6
into the Jordan
in the Jordan

Matthew 4:6
throw yourself down from here
throw yourself down

Matthew 4:18
while passing
while walking

Matthew 5:11
for the sake of my name
for the sake of righteousness

Matthew 6:1
your righteousness
your giving
your gifts

Matthew 6:8
open your mouth
ask him

Matthew 6:9
the heaven
the heavens

Matthew 7:22
Lord, lord, did we not eat and drink in your name? And did we not prophesy in your name?
Lord, lord, did we not prophesy in your name?

Matthew 7:23
away from me, all of you
away from me

Matthew 8:5
But he was entering into Capernaum
But when he was entering into Capernaum
When Jesus was entering into Capernaum
But after these things, then he [went] into Capernaum

Matthew 8:15
she was serving him
she was serving them

Matthew 8:28

Matthew 9:11
How come you are eating and your teacher is drinking with tax collectors and sinners?
Why are you eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?
Why is he eating with tax collectors and sinners?
Why are you seated with tax collectors and sinners?
Why is your teacher eating with tax collectors and sinners?

If you are paying attention to what is being stated in each example above, you notice that none of these variants change the primary narrative they are describing. In examination of every texts that is asserted as an error or variant, not once do these instances change the primary focus of all four Gospels: Jesus came to earth, born as a man, lived a sinless life, performed miracles to prove He is God, healed every sickness and disease, raised people to life who were dead, commanded the physical laws of the universe to obey Him, was crucified, died, buried, rose from the dead on the third day, was seen alive for 40 days after His resurrection by over 500 eyewitnesses, and ascended back to heaven.
The claim that the New Testament is unreliable because it is filled with textual variants, is a ruse. If you examine all of the surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament, you will see that none of these alleged variations changes the narrative about Jesus. All that these variants do is say the exact same thing using different words. In most cases these variants are simply a varying way of telling the same story.
This misuse of the modern methods of Source Criticism, claiming errors and unreliability, is a farce. There is not a single instance where these variants alter the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
What we do find is that the modern atheist scholar is being disingenuous when he states that these methods of evaluating the New Testament texts, proves these narratives about Jesus are unreliable. They do not.
In fact, these methods prove the opposite: the variants we find, prove the reliability of the texts, because the entire narrative about Jesus has remained the same for nearly 2,000 years, only the words that are used to tell us this story have changed. These different words and phrases mean the exact same thing as the writers of the New Testament first recorded early in the first century.
Redaction Criticism, approaches the Gospels with the idea that each of the four writers had a slightly different perspective and focus. Redaction Criticism considers the author of the Gospels as the primary editor of the texts. This is different from Form Criticism in that Redaction Criticism does not examine the different parts of the narrative in an effort to discover the the genre. Instead this forensic method seeks to discover how the author formed his texts to express a theological goal.

Claims of Interpolation

Solely for the purpose of impeaching the reliability of the New Testament, modern atheist New Testament scholars have asserted that sections of the text are identified as interpolations (things inserted). Now a part of New Testament criticism, the idea of interpolations is that in late medieval manuscripts of the New Testament, scribes added notes in the later manuscript copies that have become a part of the English tradition in English-speaking countries. The idea is that these scribal additions have corrupted the text so that we don’t know what the original manuscript copies have said.
When we examine these texts to see what the accused texts contain, we find that they are merely certain verses, words, and phrases that are left out of some copies. The primary reason this took place is because these texts were found in other places in the New Testament.
None of these claimed interpolations have any bearing on the primary narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrections. Whether these items are included or omitted, they do not affect the text in the slightest.
What these claimed interpolations have accomplished is to allow the modern adversaries of the New Testament to acquire a weapon that is used to try and impeach the reliability of the texts. When a person hears that there are verses, words, and phrases that were added or omitted in the New Testament, this sound quite insidious. “If this has, in fact, taken place, how could anyone really know if the New Testament is what the original writers intended?” Of course, this is a ruse used to detract from the integrity of the New Testament texts, but bears no power or reality to do so.
Upon examination of these texts, which I will present immediately after this paragraph, you will see that they are insignificant and have no bearing on the narrative, nor do they diminish or bring into question any of the testimony about Jesus in the New Testament.
New Testament Verses Not Included In Modern English Translations

In most cases, where we find that a particular verse, word, or phrase is in dispute, these same verses, words, and phrases are written in other places in the New Testament. In other words, in cases where one of the four Gospels does not have these items in their texts, but they are in another Gospel, some of the translators or copyist, thought that this was an omission and simply decided to add the item to the text.

None of these additions or omissions are done for a dishonest or malicious motives, because they do not harm the text, or the narrative about Jesus. Clearly a well-meaning scribes or translators were seeking to help the reader, without realizing they were harming the text. In any case, none of these additions or omissions, alters the narrative of Jesus.

We know today by modern forensic procedures that these differences in the four Gospels; the omission or addition of certain details that one writer included or excluded, are evidence of truthful testimony. If we have four witnesses who are writing about the same event, we could expect that one witness would remember things that others did not. These are not artifacts of deceit, but authenticity.

In any case, all of these alleged interpolations are not malicious in nature, and they have no effect on the overall truthfulness or reliability of the texts. What does happen is that dishonest atheist scholars often use the existence of these added and omitted texts to try and assert that no one can trust the New Testament. This is both dishonest, and malicious in its intent.

In a majority of the following verses that were added or omitted, they are included in other places in the New Testament manuscripts. These verse are shown here to make it clear that the omission of the questionable verse does not change or diminish the narrative testimony of the writers of the New Testament.

The Sixteen Verses Not Included In Modern English Versions:

  1. Matthew 17:21
  2. Matthew 18:11
  3. Matthew 23:14
  4. Mark 7:16
  5. Mark 9:44
  6. Mark 9:46
  7. Mark 11:26
  8. Mark 15:28
  9.  Luke 17:36
  10. John 5:3–4
  11. Acts 8:37
  12. Acts 15:34
  13. Acts 24:6–8
  14. Acts 28:29
  15. Romans 16:24
  16. 1 John 5:7–8

Redaction Criticism recognizes that the writers of the New Testament were not as concerned with the chronological sequence of historical events as in recording the person testimony about Jesus for the world. The reason that we find these events in different order in the synoptic Gospels, is because these men are writing their testimony according to their personal remembrance. In John chapter 14:25-26, Jesus tells these men that after He is risen and returns to heaven, He will send the Holy Spirit who will “bring to their remembrance, all the things He had said and done.”[9]

One of the negative aspects of the Redaction Criticism, is the assumption of the Marcan priority. If we simply examine and study each of the four Gospels independent of each other, and compare them side by side, we discover that there are significant and marked differences in a majority of the similar events.

Although Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar, In my analysis, these texts are not mere copies of each other.

There is adequate unanimity between these witnesses to demonstrate corroboration, but sufficient variation in their details and particular differences in the accounts to eliminate the assertion of collaboration.

This cannot be resolved by textual criticism, asserting that Matthew and Luke received their texts from Mark, or that Matthew got his text from Mark, and Luke from Matthew.

Upon careful comparison, all three synoptic Gospels are different from each other in their details, while describing the same events. These are three independent accounts.

The first three books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are frequently referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. Described in this manner due to their similarities to each other, while different from John’s Gospel. For some critics, these similarities are so close that a great controversy and debate has ensued. The result of this disagreement is commonly referred to as The Synoptic Problem.”

It is my view that scholars themselves created this problem due to a lack of understanding in precisely what has been written. In examination of these three Gospels, we find precisely what we would expect from three independent sources: There is adequate unanimity between these Gospel witnesses to demonstrate corroboration, but sufficient variation to eliminate collaboration.

All three Gospel authors wrote independent accounts. The differences are explained by simple forensic investigation which reveals that in genuine testimony which is truthful, multiple witnesses write a majority of the same accounts, with additions and omissions separate from the others. These differences are in accordance with individual memory and independent priority. The existence of these differences in recollection are precisely what forensic experts look for in written testimony in order to confirm truthful accounts.

Evidence The Four Gospels Are Separate And Distinct Narratives

All that has ensued with these various theories is what could be expected when so many opinions of men creep into an analysis of God’s word, confusion. By simply reading the text of all four Gospels, no theory is necessary. There are similarities in the synoptic Gospels when the writers are recounting the actual words of Jesus, or an event that a particular Gospel writer thought was significant. Other writers either added their own details, or omitted the details other writers included because they were either not as important as other details, or not remembered at the time of writing.

If the writers had copied from each other, it is likely that we would find a nearly identical account in all the Gospels. A significant marker of individuality, while maintaining corroborating accounts, demonstrates the independent memories of each Gospel writer.

The Synoptic Problem

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the three, while large sections are also found in Matthew and Luke. Analysis suggests that Matthew and Luke share over two hundred verses that are not found in Mark. These similarities are found in their subject matter, precise words, and the order of specific events. When critics find these similarities in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, they refer to these as the triple tradition. Critics refer to the material only found in Matthew and Luke as the  double tradition, also known as Q. Text that is distinctively located in Matthew is described as the M tradition. Text found uniquely in Luke is described as the L tradition.

It is important to understand that even with these diverse differences in text in all three Gospels, they all share a commonality in the same narratives they are recounting. None of these differences changes the fundamental and important accounts of Jesus in coming to earth as God in the form of a man, performing miracles to prove His claim to be God, dying by crucifixion, and being raised from the dead. All four Gospel writers emphasize the importance of Jesus as the true Messiah, fulfilling all of the prophecies required for the Messiah. All four Gospels recount these same important events, defining them as credible, truthful independent narratives.

God does not restrict the individuality of persons who serve Him to write, speak, or serve in the same way that everyone else does. Those whom Jesus called to witness all that He said and did, had the freedom to write a narrative from the memory the Holy Spirit enabled them with (John 14:26). Each man wrote their accounts from the mind, personality, recollection, and abilities of each individual. These differences in memory, style of writing, additions or omissions of details, does not remove the inspiration of the text as coming from God, promised by Jesus before He went to the cross.

The Result Of Error

The errors of New Testament Criticism today, is observed in the way that atheist New Testament scholars use these procedure in trying to impeach the reliability and accuracy of the texts. These procedures have been shown in this essay to be a misuse and that by the manner in which modern atheist scholars apply them to the New Testament, they deceive the reader and cause them to think the testimonies in these texts are fabrications, not the truth.

New Testament Criticism suffers, and so also those who seek to understand these texts, because distortion and fraud are being conducted in how these important texts are studied and analyzed.

Many young people who attend seminary, hear these distortions of the New Testament narratives, and believe their professors are authorities who should be trusted. Few students understand that the persons who are teaching these principles are really just atheists who have made it their goal to refute the idea that God exists, and the New Testament is not a reliable representation of historical events.

In fact, and by substantial evidence, it is the atheist professors and scholars who are the liars and have misrepresented the intent of New Testament Criticism: to learn and understand the texts of the New Testament and be able to communicate this knowledge to others.

The facts of evidence that is included in the following essays, proves that it is possible to know for certain whether we can trust what is written about Jesus. The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:

  1. When Were The Gospels Written?
  2. Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
  3. Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
  4. Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
  5. Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
  6. Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
  7. The Body Of New Testament Evidence
  8. Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
  9. Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
  10. Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Other Articles For New Testament Criticism


[1] See the list of New Testament scholars at this website.

[2] What these men had seen and heard, they were commanded by Jesus to immediately tell the entire world. This could only be accomplished if the testimony was written in letters and dispatched to the world. They could not simply tell people orally; this would not accomplish a worldwide ministry. The text had to be written and sent out just as the letters of Paul had been dispatched. Jesus instructed the Apostle John: “Write what you see in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:11). This was the method used by the early Christian church to convey news of Jesus and the teaching of His Gospel to people in distant lands.

The Apostles who saw Jesus risen from the dead were commanded by Him to be His witnesses to the entire world. In Acts 1:8, after Jesus had risen, He told the Apostles: “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” A witness is someone who sincerely tells other people what they have seen and heard. In different ways, twenty-nine times within the Book of Acts, these men are described as telling the world about Jesus as His witnesses. The only way they could accomplish this impossible task was if Jesus did what He had said in John 14:25-26, “I will send the Holy Spirit to remind you of all that I said and did,” and  then empower these simple fishermen to do extraordinary things by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Acts 4:33: “The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.

It was essential in winning souls for Christ that there were written texts from the eyewitnesses who saw and recorded that Jesus had fulfilled each of the Old Testament prophecies. This is what Jesus was describing in Luke 24 (above): You are witnesses of all these things.

Paul began his first missionary journey through Asia Minor in 45 A.D. It is clear that he had these texts from the Gospel writers with him as he moved from town to town. See the book: “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus,” chapter 3, “Dating The Gospels.

[3] Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel by Douglas A. Knight 1973. Semeia (1976a), The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (1984) An encyclopedia on oral tradition by Robert E. Coote in 1976 Leander E. Keck, “Oral Traditional Literature and the Gospels: The Seminar” (1978). Werner Kelber’s work (1979, 1983) Güttgemanns (1979, original German 1971).

[4] Gerhadsson, B. (1998). Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity with Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] We know that the text of Luke was written before Acts, his second book. In Acts Luke details the missionary journeys of Paul in Asia Minor. In Acts 11:27 Luke writes: “During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world.” (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) ~Acts 11:27-28

This reference to Roman Emperor Claudius allows us to date this verse from the book of Acts. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was emperor from 41-54 A.D. Agabus said that this famine was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius. In the fourth century, Roman historian, Orosius, writes that this famine described by Agabus took place in 46 and 47 A.D. A  translation from Orosius is found in the historical record written by King Alfred of England during the middle ages in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’. This Chronicle lists British history from 1 A.D. to 1154 A.D. and contains the following text: “A.D. 46. In this year, Claudius, the second Roman emperor to invade Britain, put much of the island under his control and added the Orkneys to Rome’s kingdom. This took place in the fourth year of his rule. In this same year, a great famine in Syria took place which Luke mentions in his book, ‘The Acts of the Apostles.’ Due to his incompetence, The Emperor Claudius Nero almost lost control of the British isle.”

Jewish historian, Josephus, also records in Antiquities 20 chapter 1.3-2.5: “Herod, the brother of Agrippa who had perished, was allowed to govern over Chalcis. He asked Claudius Caesar for control over the temple along with the sacred treasury, and the ability to choose the high priests, and he was given all that he had asked for.” Around this time lived queen Helena of Adiabene, along with her son Izates. They both began to follow the Jewish way, turning away from their past lifestyle . . . Her arrival was of great help to the masses in Jerusalem, for there was a famine in the land that overtook them and many people died of starvation.

Queen Helena sent some of her stewards to the city of Alexandria in order to purchase as much grain as possible. She sent others to the island of Cyprus to bring back dried figs. Helena’s efforts to save many people left a legacy in the historical record, that allows us to verify the date of this famine described by Luke in the Book of Acts.

 Roman historian, Suetonius, also mentions this same famine in his writing, “Life of Claudius” Chapter 18: “There was a scarcity of food, which was the result of bad harvests that occurred during a span of several years.

 Roman historian, Tacitus, also writes in describing the famine, in his Annals, Chapter 11:4: “A vision that came to him at night was the reason charges were filed against the man. In this dream, he claimed to have seen Claudius crowned with a wreath made of wheat, the ears of which were folded downward. And from this vision, he predicted lean harvests to come.”

This presents us with a substantial secular and Biblical confirmation that the text of Acts, written by Luke, is not only accurate but confirmation that both Acts and Luke’s Gospel of Christ were written by 44 A.D.

[6] In 59 A.D. Paul is before Porcius Festus, the Procurator of Judea while Paul is a prisoner at Caesarea. We know that Festus was here at this date because of coinage that has survived history, with the Provincial coinage of Judea attesting to Nero’s 5th year.(1. F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, 1983, pp. 345. 2. Antiquities, Book XX, Chr. 8, § 9 “Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Cesarea.” Josephus, Flavius. The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus: Josephus’s work, translated by William Whiston in 1737. Kindle Edition. 3. Yamazaki-Ransom, K., The Roman Empire in Luke’s Narrative, Continuum, 2010, p. 145 [26]F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, 1983, pp. 345.

This documents Porcius Festus in Judea at 58-59 A.D., with Paul before him. Josephus records this same event in Antiquities, Book XX, Chr. 8, § 9: “Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Cesarea.“(see references above)

Paul experienced his final hearing before Festus, in Acts 24:27. In Acts 25:12, Festus instructs Paul to go to Jerusalem in order to be tried. Paul states that he is a Roman citizen and requests that he be sent to Caesar for trial. Festus orders Paul to be taken to Rome for trial before Nero.

After a shipwreck and a three-month delay on Malta, Paul arrived in Rome about February, 60 A.D. (Acts 28:1-16). While in Rome, Paul meets with the Jews, in Acts 28:15-28.

Eusebius writes that Paul was beheaded by Nero early in 68 A.D.(Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16).

This is verified by Eusebius, as he records the death of Nero on June 8, 68 A.D.(Bunson, Matthew (2009). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-1027-1. Archived from the original on 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2015-12-27.)

Nero, unable to garner the courage to take his own life, requested that his secretary, Epaphroditos, should kill him.4 These facts of the historical record allow us to understand other dates in the New Testament.

[7] If God wanted to prove to the world that He exists, how would He accomplish this? The most logical method would be to perform works that only God would be capable of. What we find in the Bible is that God told us, hundreds of years beforehand, that He would come to earth in the form of a man and then perform works of healing that would confirm He is God. Isaiah wrote one of these prophecies 700 years before Jesus arrived:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.  ~Isaiah 35:5-6

When Jesus arrives at Jerusalem and presents Himself to the nation as the Prophet whom Moses described, He validates His identity by the very proofs Isaiah predicted for the Messiah.

Then Jesus touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened…  ~Matthew 9:29-30

Then great multitudes came to Jesus, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them all.  ~Matthew 15:30

All that Jesus was doing to heal people was predicted by the Old Testament prophets and absolutely necessary for anyone who would come and seek to prove that they were the true Messiah.

[8] See “The Prophecies of the Messiah,” an extensive treatise on the 400 Hebrew Prophecies Jesus fulfilled in the New Testament.

[9] John 14:25-26 (NKJV) “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Alleged Contradictions, Anonymity of the Four Gospels, Archeological Confirmation, Bart Ehrman, Claims of Interpolation, Common errors of Atheists, Contradictions in the Bible, Empirical Evidence for the Resurrection, Exegesis and Hermeneutics, Historical Validity of the New Testament, How The NT Writers Remembered, Josephus as a credible witness, Literary authenticity of the New Testament, Marcan Priority, Mitchell G. Reddish, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the four Gospels, Pretend Believers, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Richard Baukham, Richard Pervo, Robert Clifton Robinson, Secular sources for Jesus, Tacitus as a credible witness, The Existence of God, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus, The Historical Jesus

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