In the 27 letters of the New Testament we find the largest, earliest written, most thoroughly scrutinized surviving manuscript evidence in all of antiquity.
There are 24,593 extant manuscript copies of the New Testament in existence today. We have nearly complete copies of the New Testament, dated from 175-225 AD. Since we have manuscript copies from 175-225, it is certain that the original autographs were penned on papyrus, early in the first century. Under the brutal conditions of the first century, papyrus rarely survived more than 200 years. There are no other events of antiquity, secular or religious, that have this large body of surviving manuscript evidence, written so close to the events they describe.
203 Eyewitness Statements About Jesus In The New Testament
All Events Of Antiquity Are Validated In The Same Way: By Extant Manuscript Evidence
Regardless whether an event from antiquity is secular or religious, the proven methods of higher and lower literary criticism, regard all past events exactly the same. If they meet the requirements of historical literary criticism, they are defined as valid historical events. In this regard, the surviving New Testament manuscript copies that describe the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, are absolutely reliable, historical events.
Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
It Is The Writers Of The New Testament Who Tell Us They Are Eyewitnesses
The writers state emphatically that they saw and heard Jesus, and they recorded their testimony so that people all over the world would know the truth about Jesus: “And he who has seen (gr. ὁράω) has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe” (John 19:35).
The writers document that Jesus told these men repeatedly that He called them for the purpose of being “His witnesses,” and to distribute a record of all He had said and done; “everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Twelve Times Jesus Told John To Write Everything He Sees And Send It To The Churches In Asia MInor:
- “Write in a book everything you see and send it to the churches in Asia…” Rev. 1:11
- “Write down what you have seen…” Rev. 1:19
- “Write letters…” Rev. 2:1, 2:8, 2:12, 2:18, 3:1, 3:7, 3:14
- “Write this down…” Rev. 14:13
- “Write this…” Rev. 19:19
- “Write in a book everything you see…” Rev 21:11
- This confirms the texts in the Gospels and Acts where Jesus told these men to take their testimony about Him to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Texts Reveal An Honest Narrative Of Genuine People And Events
The writers of the New Testament are brutally honest about their own weaknesses, telling us that they didn’t believe in Jesus at first (John 7:5). It was not until they saw Him alive three days after being brutally scourged, crucified, and pierced through His heart, that they finally believed Jesus was God and Messiah.
The writers record themselves hiding out in fear while Jesus was being crucified, and when the morning of the third day arrived, it was a woman who went to the tomb first to find it empty and Jesus risen. When Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples who were terrified they would also be crucified, they didn’t believe Mary.
The Gospel writers believed that they were not the focus of their testimony, so they did not seek to elevate themselves. We find an artifact of truthful testimony by the omission of their names as a purposeful decision to diminish themselves and elevate Jesus. In John’s Gospel, chapter 7, verse 18, he records that Jesus said: “Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies.”
Evidence That Jesus Claimed To Be God
It was because Jesus had said this, and John took Jesus’ words seriously, that John refers to himself only as “the disciple Jesus loved.”
Critics who seek to insinuate that the omission of the authors names in the Gospels, somehow makes their testimony tenuous, do so at their own peril. What has actually happened is that by doing what Jesus said: not seeking to elevate themselves in their testimony, but to make Jesus the object of the narrative, these writers have validated themselves as honest, humble, truthful recorders of genuine testimony about Jesus.
A secondary problem for critics is that writing something anonymously, does not define any work of literature as unreliable. There are nearly one hundred current titles in the world today, where the writers have remained anonymous. Nt one of these is considered unreliable by the author’s anonymity.
Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
Miracles Did Not Make People Believers In The First Century
The writers of the New Testament tell us that even though Jesus performed many miracles, evern raising the dead, most of the people who saw these things, still did not believe in Him (John 12:37). These men tell us how they failed themselves to believe all that Jesus said and did, because of the weakness of their faith.
The New Testament is not written as a novel, a mythological narrative, or a fanciful fantasy; it is written as a historical account of true events.
The Central Issue Of The New Testament Is Whether The Writers Saw Jesus
If the men who wrote the New Testament never saw Jesus, and they didn’t write these narratives until late in the first century, then the entire story of Jesus is meaningless. This is why critics attack the writers and the timing of the writing so vigorously.
What cannot be found anywhere during the entire history of the world since the first century, is any evidence that the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament writers, is not true. What can be found in the actual texts of the New Testament, is repeated statements by the writers that they are eyewitnesses of all that Jesus said and did, and Jesus told them to immediately write their testimony and send it out to the entire world. No one has ever impeached their testimony. You will find hundreds of opinions in published books and essays, written by critics, but never any actual evidence that has impeached the writers as eyewitnesses.
The early church Fathers had no doubts about who the authors of the New Testament were, and they give us their testimony in thousands of citations and commentaries, beginning early in the second century. The entire New Testament is quoted more than 31,000 times by the early Christian church. In 248 AD, Origen never once stated, in all of his commentaries for the 27 New Testament books, that neither the authors nor their eyewitness accounts were in doubt.
Scottish historian, Sir David Dalrymple, wrote a three-volume treatise, in which he states that upon his investigation of the writings for the early church Fathers, he was able to completely reconstruct the entire New Testament except eleven verses.
In 248 AD, First Christian Apologist, Origen, Impeached Every Modern Assertion Made Today By Atheists
In 248 A.D. Origen successfully confirmed the miracles of Jesus, His claim to be God, and His resurrection—against atheist philosopher, Celsus.
In Origen’s defense of Jesus, called Contra Celsum, this early Christian apologist refuted all of the same criticisms being brought by Bart Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar participants today. Over 1,750 years ago, Origen refuted the ideas that Jesus was not capable of miracles, He didn’t claim to be God, and His resurrection never happened.
From the beginning, just after Jesus had healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the sea, and risen Himself from the dead, critics rose up to deny these things had happened. Men like Origen successfully defended these false ideas, with evidence from the near historical record which existed at that time. Origen’s work in 248 A.D. became the most impactful of all early Christian apologetics works.
New Testament scholars today regard Origen’s book that refuted the attacks against Jesus’ deity and resurrection, which are being made once again today, as effectively neutralized as a threat. Over 1,750 years ago, Christianity received “unprecedented academic reputability.”
In Chapter 67 of Origen’s rebuttal of Celsus’ denial of Jesus’ Deity, Contra Celsum, he writes:
“For we assert that the whole habitable world contains evidence of the works of Jesus.”
In the accompanying essay: “When Were The Gospels Written?,” you will find additional evidence to prove that the Synoptic Gospels were completed by 44 AD.
This essay focuses on the evidence that proves that the narratives about Jesus were written by the men who saw and heard Jesus, or by reliable scribes who took the eyewitness testimony of those who saw and heard all that Jesus said and did.
Eyewitnesses Who Saw The Risen Jesus:
- Mary Magdalene: John 20:11-17
- Mary/Salome: Matthew 28:9-10
- Peter: Luke 24:34
- Two Disciples: Luke 24:13-32
- 10 Apostles: Luke 24:33-49
- 11 Apostles: John 20:26-30
- 7 Apostles: John 21:1-14
- 12 Apostles: Matthew 28:16-20
- 500 at one time: 1 Corinthians 15:6
- James: 1 Corinthians 15:7
- 11 Apostles: Acts 1:4-9
- Paul: 1 Corinthians 9:1, Acts 9:3-6, Acts 9:17, 1 Cor 15:8, Acts 18:9-10, Acts 22:12-21, Acts 23:11, Acts 26:12-18
The Text Of The New Testament Records The Writers Stating They Saw Jesus
Contrary to critics who seek to impugn the reliability of the authors for the New Testament, the writers themselves state repeatedly that what they are recording, they saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and they are telling the truth.
SIDEBAR: There are 387 uses of the Greek word, ὁράω (“We saw, we have seen,” In the New Testament. Clearly the writers of the New Testament are stating emphatically, they saw Jesus and they are eyewitnesses. This is the evidence that resides in the 24,593 extant manuscripts of the New Testament.
The Koine-Greek text is very specific in this regard, the writers using the precise word, ὁράω, to define what they saw:
Paul said: Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen (ὁράω) Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? ~1 Corinthians 9:1
There are eight places in the New Testament where Paul states that he saw (ὁράω) Jesus; two additional places where Ananias and Barnabas state that Jesus appeared to Paul:
- Paul’s statement (above): 1 Corinthians 9:1
- On the road to Damascus: Acts 9:3-6
- Ananias said that Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:17
- Barnabas said that Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:27
- At Corinth: 1 Corinthians 15:8
- At Corinth: Acts 18:9-10
- At Jerusalem: Acts 22:6-10
- While praying at the Temple: Acts 22:12-21
- At the Roman barracks: Acts 23:11
- Before King Agrippa: Acts 26:12-18
The last meeting Paul had with Jesus, in Acts 26:12-18 (above), Jesus said the following to Paul:
Jesus told Paul: “But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” ~Acts 26:16
Jesus called Paul for the express purpose of being a witness, who saw the risen Jesus with his eyes, and a minister to tell people about Jesus. Jesus also told Paul that He would give him more knowledge in the future, a continuing revelation. Paul knew more about Jesus than any of the other Apostles. There are 18 mysteries Jesus gave to Paul that are described as previously hidden from the foundation of the world.
Peter said: that he had seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes.
“For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw (ὁράω) his majestic splendor with our own eyes. ~2 Peter 1:16
This is a reference by Peter to the Transfiguration of Jesus that Peter, James, and John also saw, as recorded in Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 13:26, and Luke 9:28-32. On that day Jesus showed these three men what He will look like when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth. Moses and Elijah were also with Jesus during this transfiguration.
In Mark’s Gospel, we find this text that Mark recorded as Peter recounted to him, what took place on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is this event that Peter recorded first through Mark his scribe, that Peter later cites again as the moment when he saw Jesus with His eyes and truly believed.
See The Evidence Mark Was The Scribe Of Peter
Peter later wrote in 1 Peter 1:19 that this experience of seeing Jesus, as He appears after His resurrection, forever convinced him that all the prophets had written about the Messiah was penned only for Jesus.
“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place.” ~1 Peter 1:19
John Said: “We saw (ὁράω) him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands…We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard…” ~1 John 1:1-4
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen (ὁράω) with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning (Jesus) the Word of life…” ~1 John 1:1
James saw the risen Jesus, as recorded by Paul, who said that James also saw Jesus with his eyes after His resurrection, and finally all 12 of the Apostles saw Jesus alive, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:
“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures had said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures had said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen (ὁράω) by James and later by all the apostles.” ~1 Corinthians 15:3-7
Mary Magdalene is unique amongst all the eyewitnesses. She saw Jesus crucified, and was first to see Him alive on the third day, early in the morning.
Mary saw Jesus crucified: “Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.” ~John 19:25
Mary was the first to see the risen Jesus: “Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.”…Mary was standing outside the tomb crying…She turned to leave and saw (ὁράω) someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. …“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).~John 20:1-16
Two Disciples, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, saw Him alive with their own eyes as they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
“That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them…“What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
…Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus…they crucified him….“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!
Then Jesus said to them…Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…As they sat down to eat, Jesus took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them (they saw the nail prints in His wrists). Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus…within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” ~Luke 24:13-34
Matthew records eleven of the original Apostles who saw Jesus alive on the third day after He was crucified. Paul is added later in the book of Acts. In order to be a true Apostle of Jesus, they had to see the risen Jesus:
“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” ~Acts 1:21-22
- Simon, called Peter
- Andrew (Peter’s brother)
- James (son of Zebedee)
- John (James’ brother)
- Matthew (the tax collector)
- James (son of Alphaeus)
- Simon (the zealot)
- Paul of Tarsus, later.
As Matthew is recorded in the New Testament as one of the Apostles whom Jesus chose to be His witness, it is certain that Matthew saw Jesus with his own eyes, alive after being crucified.
500 Eyewitnesses Who Saw Jesus All At The Same Time
Jesus was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I (Paul) had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. ~1 Corinthians 15:4-8
These Men And Women Who Saw Jesus Alive After Dying On The Cross, Said They Are Witnesses Of The Risen Jesus
Peter: 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” ~Acts 2:32 (NLT)
Jesus told these men that they are His witnesses and He wanted them to tell the whole world about what they had seen Jesus accomplish.
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 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 1:6-8
In describing their eyewitness testimony of Jesus. There is no ambiguity in what these writers meant; they saw Jesus with their eyes, they heard Him with their ears, they wrote a truthful testimony.
Jesus Commanded The Men Who Saw Him, To Write A Testimony
Jesus said that the entire reason He called these men to follow Him, was because He wanted them to be His witnesses. Jesus commanded the disciples to take what they had seen and heard, and tell it to the whole world.
Jesus 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.” The only way this would be possible, is if the men who saw and heard Jesus, wrote a personal testimony, a Gospel, and shipped it to the local churches in Asia Minor. The New Testament records a circular postal route where seven Christian churches received letters from Paul, and the writers of the New Testament. From Asia Minor, the written Gospels were shipped all over the Roman Empire.
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.”
Jesus Said That Recording A Written Testimony About Him, Was Predicted By The Old Testament Prophets
Jesus said that these men who saw Him, would proclaimed to all the nations, what they had seen and heard: Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things” (Luke 24:45-48).
The surviving 24,593 Manuscripts of the New Testament are the evidence that a written record was made early in the first century, by eyewitnesses and distributed all over the world. These surviving manuscripts we have today, come to us from many nations, written in 13 different languages.
The Source Of The Written Witness Of Jesus: Personal Letters
When we read the text for ourselves we find that these narratives are really just personal letters that were written by men who had firsthand knowledge of Jesus or had personally interviewed those who had seen and heard Jesus.
When we evaluate these texts with modern methods used for determining genuine events of history, we find that the New Testament meets and exceeds every literary requirement for accurate and reliable historical events.
Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
When we apply modern forensic techniques used to determine the validity of written testimony utilized by the FBI and apply these methods to the New Testament, we discover that there is stunning and verifiable evidence in the texts that allows us to accurately conclude that what these men wrote is genuine testimony and the writers are telling the truth.
How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable
When we examine the 24,593 surviving manuscripts of the New Testament, we find that they were written closer to the time of the events they describe than any other events of ancient history. These manuscripts exist today in greater numbers than any other works of literature which seek to document persons and events in the historical record.
When Were The Gospels Written?
This great number of surviving manuscripts are evidence that the text of these documents was considered true and reliable by those who made so many copies. People of ancient times did not undergo the intense and tedious task of copying texts for others to read unless it was already established by eyewitnesses that these events were true and reliable.
The existence of more surviving copies of the New Testament than any other ancient texts, tells us that these events were of such great importance that these ancient people made, perhaps, tens of thousands of additional copies than those which have actually survived. The fact that we have nearly 25,000 extant manuscript copies today, is evidence that originally there were thousands more made which did not survive time and decay. These massive numbers speak clearly that these ancient people believed that what they were copying and distributing was true.
Even though there are such a great number of surviving manuscripts from all over the world, and in several different languages, there are no significant changes in all of the texts of the New Testament manuscripts that we would expect to see in ancient documents that survive in such large numbers.
Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
When we compare all of the copies of these surviving 24,593 manuscripts with each other, we find the same consistent narrative with the same primary events:
- The claims of Jesus to be God and Messiah.
- The fulfillment of over 400 prophecies from the Hebrew prophets which predicted a Messiah exactly like Jesus.
- The validation that Jesus performed works that would only be possible if He was, in fact, God.
- Jesus healed every person that came to Him. He opened the eyes of the blind, caused the lame to walk, opened the ears of the deaf, and even raised a man who had been dead for four days. These specific events of healing are exactly what Isaiah 35 predicted for the Messiah.
- All 12 of the Apostles saw Jesus crucified, dead, and risen three days later.
- Over 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive at one time, after He was crucified.
Jesus said that He would bring to the remembrance—everything He had said and done during His three and one half years on earth, so these men could remember and write an accurate account.
Jesus said that the 12 Apostles were called to be His witnesses and write a testimony of all they had seen and heard concerning Him.
Although Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and said that not one stone of the Temple would be left upon another, these actual events were never recorded in the New Testament, even though the destruction of Jerusalem did happen in 70 A.D. Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms this.
If the letters of the New Testament were written after 70 A.D., it is certain that they would have included the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction and the obliteration of the Temple, in the texts of the New Testament.
The fact that these two critical events in the history of the Jews were never mentioned in the New Testament, is empirical evidence that the New Testament was written before 70 A.D.
Every other event that Jesus predicted, such as Peter’s betrayal, also included the fulfillment of these events in the New Testament. This is because they happened before the writing of the text. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were not included in the New Testament because they had not taken place.
These facts prove the New Testament letters, including the four Gospels, but not including Revelation, were all written before 70 A.D., when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
Scholar, Bart Ehrman, On The Eyewitnesses
According to New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, because the narratives of Jesus found in the New Testament were written in Greek, they could not have been written by the followers of Jesus. According to Ehrman, the Apostles of Jesus were not educated men who would have been able to write Greek. For this reason, Ehrman concludes that the four Gospels could not have been written by eyewitnesses, but were written by others much later, who had not seen Jesus. Do you think that Jesus called 12 men to see what He had done, so they could tell the world, but they could not write?
We know for certain that the writers of the New Testament were able to read, write, and speak Koine-Greek. Luke personally interviewed the Apostles who saw and heard Jesus, and he was a highly educated Greek medical doctor (Luke 1:1-4). Luke writes the most extensive, in-depth Gospel of the four. Mark was a Greek speaking citizen who wrote the testimony of Peter in the Gospel of Mark. Matthew was a tax collector who was required to speak Greek in order to carry out his duties for the Roman government. Paul states in the text of the New Testament that in addition to being a proficient Hebrew scholar trained by the esteemed Gamaliel, Paul also spoke Koine-Greek (Acts 21:37-38). There is also evidence in the historical record that even the Apostle John was able to read and write Koine-Greek. Ehrman is wrong.
There are several additional problems with Ehrman’s conclusions. First, and most important; the surviving manuscript copies for the four Gospel that we have in our possession today are copies of the original autographs, not the original writings. To assume that because the surviving manuscript copies we have today were written in Greek, therefore the original autographs were also written in Greek, is a conclusion that cannot possibly be proven. The entire hypothesis of Ehrman is based on this assumption.
We don’t know what language the original autographs were written, or who it was that may have assisted the Apostles in transcribing them. We don’t know that the Apostles were not able to write Greek. We don’t know that the original autographs were first written in Aramaic or Hebrew and later copied as Greek texts. In the third decade of the second century, Papias said: “Matthew gathered the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue, and each person translated them as he was able.”1
We can’t accurately conclude what language the original autographs were written because they don’t exist any longer. There are no original autographs for any ancient texts of that age, secular or religious. All that we have today to prove any ancient event are the surviving manuscript copies.
Luke writes at the beginning of his Gospel that he was very familiar with all of the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, states that he personally interviewed the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus and heard Him. Luke was a Greek speaking Physician who was highly educated. Matthew was a tax collector and must certainly have acquired the ability to write well. The Romans would have required every tax collector to possess the ability to write and speak adequately in order to carry out their appointed tasks. Mark was a Greek speaking Jew, who was able to write in Greek, and was the scribe for Peter.
When we examine the text of Acts 21:37, we see that Paul was also able to speak Koine-Greek.
Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, (in Greek,Ἐλληνιστί) “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek? ~Acts 21:37
The commander of the barracks was surprised that Paul, a Jew, could speak Koine-Greek. From this we can demonstrate that Paul, a proficient scholar of the Pharisees, was also able to assist the writers of the Gospels in writing their texts in Greek, if this was necessary.
Could Uneducated Men Write The Gospels?
Ehrman often states that the writers of the four Gospels were uneducated men who did not have the capacity to write the elegant Koine-Greek text we see in the New Testament. He refers to Acts chapter 4 where Peter and John are standing before the council of leaders at Jerusalem. In this text we find the statement: “they could see that the Apostles were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.”
From this statement, Ehrman has concluded that it was impossible for these men to have the skill necessary to write the Gospels. The problem is that Ehrman leaves out the rest of the text which helps the reader understand how uneducated men could have the ability to write what we find in the four Gospels. “They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” It was Jesus who gave these uneducated men the ability to understand and communicate everything that He had said and done during His three and one-half years of ministry. Jesus told these men: “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.” ~John 14:26
It was these unique abilities to remember and write all they had seen and heard that Jesus imparted to these men, which made it possible for them to write what we see today in the New Testament.
Faulty Perception Determines Errors Of Assumption
One of the problems that the leaders of Israel consistently exhibited, was their false perception that Jesus and His Apostles were uneducated.
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. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. ~Acts 4:13-14
It is important to notice here that the rulers, elders, and scribes of Israel “perceived” that Peter and John were uneducated. This does mean that they actually were illiterate, it was merely the perception of these men that they were not capable of reading or writing the scriptures. The Pharisees had previously stated the same thing about Jesus, and they were also wrong:
They were surprised when they heard Jesus. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. ~John 7:15
Jesus repeatedly demonstrated that He was far more proficient in the scriptures than all of the Pharisees, and chief priests, who were the Ph.D’s of the Hebrews scriptures during that time.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? ~Mark 12:24
In the next chapter you will see this further demonstrated when Jesus challenges the Pharisees understanding of Psalms 110.
Evidence Of Peter’s Proficiency
Examine the text of Acts chapters 2 and 3, where Peter is before thousands at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. He delivers one of the most spectacular dissertations describing Jesus’ fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets, that has ever been recorded.
Understanding the context of how this meeting took place is important to a comprehension of what the Jewish leaders are saying in the final paragraph. They had seen and heard Peter preaching before a very large crowd of worshipers, who had come from many nations to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. In Acts Chapter 2, Peter begins to preach with such fervor and scholarly knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures, that the leaders of Israel were completely flabbergasted at how an uneducated fisherman was able to navigate over 25 of the Hebrew texts and apply them to Jesus.
The first reference in the following are the scriptures from Acts. The reference that follows is the text Peter is quoting from in the Old Testament. No uneducated fisherman would ever be capable of teaching through these 25 verses and apply them to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament texts. This is, of course, unless he was empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s Dissertation Of Acts Chapters Two And Three
- Acts 2:17-21~Joel 2:28-32
- Acts 2:18~Numbers 11:29
- Acts 2:25-28~Psalms 16:8-11
- Acts 2:29~1 Kings 2:10
- Acts 2:30~2 Samuel 7:12-14
- Acts 2:30~Psalms 89:4
- Acts 2:30~Psalms 132:11
- Acts 2:31~Psalms 16:10
- Acts 2:34-35~Psalms 110:1
- Acts 2:39~Isaiah 43:3
- Acts 2:39~Isaiah 57:19
- Acts 2:40~Deuteronomy 32:5
- Acts 3:13~Exodus 3:6, 15
- Acts 3:18~Psalms 22;
- Acts 3:18~Psalms 41:v9
- Acts 3:18~Psalms 69:4, 21
- Acts 3:18~Isaiah 50:6
- Acts 3:18~Isaiah 53:4-11
- Acts 3:18~Zechariah 12:10
- Acts 3:18~Zechariah 13:7
- Acts 3:22~Deuteronomy 18:15, 18
- Acts 3:23~Leviticus 23:29
- Acts 3:23~Deuteronomy 18:19
- Acts 3:25~Genesis 22:18
- Acts 3:25~Genesis 26:4
Does it seem to you that Peter is uneducated and unable to communicate the scriptures?
Beginning at Acts 2:14-41, Peter systematically describes Joel 2:28-32, Psalms 16:8-11 (Greek version), and Psalms 110:1, all as fulfilled by Jesus as the Messiah. There were few men in Israel at that time who were capable of accomplishing such a dissertation, and with such accuracy.
Peter even quotes from the Greek version of the text in Psalms 16:8-11, which would only be possible if He knew Greek.
The idea that Peter and John, with the other Apostles of Jesus, were illiterate, is not supported by the text of the New Testament.
Jesus Imparted Supernatural Abilities To His Apostles
Just before Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead in John chapter 14:25-26, Jesus said that after He is gone the Holy Spirit will come and remind these men of all that Jesus had said and done, so that they could write an accurate account and send it out to the world.
I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. ~John 14:25-26
How do we know that these men had supernatural abilities to remember and write the elegant Gospels we find? Read the last part of Acts 4:14 above: But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say.” The Pharisees had before them, a man who had been healed by Peter and John, so it was impossible for them to condemn these men for their good work. This tells us that these uneducated men, who had been with Jesus, also had supernatural abilities given to them by Jesus. Peter and John were able to simply speak to this man and he was healed. Notice how skilled Peter is in communicating the truth of Jesus to the leaders of Israel:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ~Acts 4:8-12
Again, Peter quoting scripture from Psalms 118:22, as one proficient in the Hebrew prophecies written for Messiah. The first line of this text tells us why this was possible, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
There is no question that these simple men had been given the ability write an accurate and elegant narrative of Jesus in the four Gospels, because Jesus made this possible.
There is also great evidence in the historical record from the early leaders of the Christian church that the writers of the four Gospels, are the men know to us today.
Papias Describes Mark As The Scribe Of Peter
Papias wrote that Mark was the scribe for Peter in composing the Gospel of Mark, while they were in Rome. In a five volume work called, “Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord,” Papias describes the Apostle John telling him that Peter dictated the words of Mark’s Gospel:
“And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.”2
Irenaeus Stated that Mark Obtained His Text From Peter’s Teaching
Irenaeus also reported that Mark had penned Peter’s Gospel as a scribe, adding the following detail:
“Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed on his preaching to us in written form”3
Justin Martyr Said That Mark’s Gospel Came From Peter
One of the first Christian apologists, Justin Martyr, wrote:
“It is said that he [Jesus] changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and it is written in his memoirs that he changed the names of others, two brothers, the sons of Zebedee, to Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’….”4
Justin Martyr said that Mark’s Gospel was really the “memoir” of Peter, which describes the sons of Zebedee as “Sons of Thunder.” Mark is the only Gospel that uses this term, describing James and John in this manner.
Clement Wrote That Mark Recorded Peter’s Words
In his book, “Hypotyposeis,” Clement describes a tradition of the elders regarding the Gospel of Mark:
“And so great a joy of light shone upon the minds of the hearers of Peter that they were not satisfied with merely a single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter and whose gospel is extant, to leave behind with them in writing a record of the teaching passed on to them orally; and they did not cease until they had prevailed upon the man and so became responsible for the Scripture for reading in the churches.”5
Eusebius Said That Mark’s Gospel Came From Peter
Eusebius wrote that the actual words for Mark’s Gospel were written down from what Peter had said while he was teaching at Rome. Eusebius was not simply repeating what Papias had already stated, but is writing as an independent source to validate Mark’s Gospel as coming from Peter directly.
“The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”6
This text is extremely important because it tells us that Peter was well aware of what Mark had written, concerning his words, and he did not object to what Mark had written for him.
Tertullian Confirms Peter’s Words As Recorded In The Gospel Of Mark
One of the early Christian Apologists, Tertullian, refuted the assertions of Marcion in his publication, “Against Marcion.” In this book Tertullian describes Peter as the true author of Marks’s Gospel.
“While that [gospel] which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.”7
The Muratorian Fragment
The oldest known list of New Testament books is called the “Muratorian Fragment.” Dated near 170 A.D., it contains text that describes the facts of Jesus, as witnessed by Peter, that are in Mark’s Gospel.
“But he (Peter) was present among them, and so he put [the facts down in his Gospel]”
This text is a reference to Mark’s presence during Peter’s sermons when he was in Rome and recorded these messages which later became the Gospel of Mark.
The Muratorian Canon or Canon Muratori, is a copy of the oldest known list of books for the New Testament. This fragment consisting of 85 lines bound in a 7th or 8th century codex from the library of Columbanus’s monastery at Bobbio Abbey, a translation from the original Greek texts.
This fragment contains a list of all the New Testament books that were accepted as canonical by the Christian church, and known by the original compilers. This fragment was discovered in the Ambrosian library at Milan, Italy by Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), who is the most famous of Italian historians of that generation, published in 1740.8
The official formation of the New Testament canon took place in 367 A.D., when Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, in his annual Easter letter, composed the list of 27 books that is still recognized today as the canon of the New Testament. In large part, the canon already existed as a certified list of books, much earlier. First Christian Apologist, Origen, used all 27 of the New Testament books in his extensive commentaries in 240 A.D, 127 years before the actual canon was formed.
Origen Stated That Mark’s Gospel Was Authored By Peter
In one of his commentaries from near 240 A.D., Origen describes the foundation of the four Gospels. As a part of this text, Origen attributes the Gospel of Mark to Peter:
In his first book on Matthew’s Gospel, Origen states that:
“He knows only four Gospels, writing as follows: Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language. The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus, my son.’ 1 Peter 5:13 And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John.” 9
The early church Fathers had no doubts about who the authors of the New Testament were and they give us their testimony in thousands of citations and commentaries, beginning early in the second century. The entire New Testament is quoted more than 31,000 times by the early Christian church. Origen never once stated in all of his commentaries for the 27 New Testament books, that neither the authors nor their eyewitness accounts were in doubt.
Scottish historian, Sir David Dalrymple, wrote a three volume treatise in which he states that upon his investigation of the writings for the early church Fathers, he was able to completely reconstruct the entire New Testament except eleven verses.13
There is absolutely no corroborating evidence to support Bart Ehrman’s conclusions that the original autographs of the four Gospels could not have been written by the Apostles of Jesus. There is no evidence that the original autographs were written in Greek at all. They very well could have been written in Aramaic or Hebrew and the later copies written in Greek. Ehrman presents no actual evidence to support his hypothesis other than conjecture that these men could not write in Greek and were therefore not eyewitnesses.
The New Testament Writers Claim To Be Eyewitnesses:
The writers of the New Testament state clearly in many places that what they are recording, they actually saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and they know they are not lying.
I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying. ~1 Timothy 2:7
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 9:1
Jesus stated 96 times in the Gospels that He is telling the truth.
Jesus responded…”I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” ~John 18:37
Six of the Twelve Eyewitness Apostles, Wrote The New Testament:
- John wrote one Gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation (5).
- Peter wrote one Gospel (Mark), two letters (3).
- James Zebedee wrote one letter (1).
- Paul wrote thirteen letters (13).
- Judas “not Iscariot” wrote the letter of Jude (1).
- Matthew wrote one Gospel (1).
John Said He Saw Jesus With His Own Eyes:
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. ~1 John 1:1-4
Paul Said That He Saw The Risen Jesus With His Own Eyes
“Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes?” ~1 Corinthians 9:1
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. ~1 Corinthians 15:3-8
As Paul was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! ~Acts 9:3-5
Note: In the two verses above from 1 Corinthians 9 and 15, Paul also said that he “saw Jesus at that time.”
But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. ~Galatians 1:15-16
The Greek word used to translate “reveal” here in Galatians 1:116, is ἀποκαλύπτω apokalyptō, which means to unveil, let us see, fully disclose. This is the same Greek word used in the introduction to the Book of Revelation where it states that this book is an apokalyptō for Jesus, an “unveiling,” so that we might be able to see Him and who He is.
Critics say that Paul never saw Jesus, but this is only a partial truth. Paul did not see Jesus before He was crucified in the days of His ministry, but He did see Him alive after His resurrection. Paul states this as evidence, preserved in the New Testament. Critics of the New Testament often state “half-truths” about Jesus, the eyewitnesses, and the New Testament, but rarely the entire truth. When we examine the text for ourselves we can see that there is a great deal of evidence that has been preserved for us that Paul did, in fact, see Jesus after He was risen from the dead and Jesus spoke to Paul and revealed many secrets (mysteries) of the scriptures that no other man have ever known.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ~1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NKJV)
The Greek word in the text of 1 Corinthians 2:7, is “μυστήριον mystērion,” is information from God that was not formerly known by the prophets or anyone else in the Bible. Paul stated that because God had given him these eighteen “mysteries,” (15 for Paul, 3 for John) he was also given a “thorn in the flesh,” to humble him so that he did not become exalted above measure. Essentially, Paul suffered an physical ailment in his vision for all of his life, as a reminder from Jesus that what He had been given as revelation, was to be received and spoken with humility and not to exalt himself but Christ.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. ~2 Corinthians 12:7
Paul describes eighteen of these mysteries that Jesus gave him, which were not given to any other Apostle.10
Jesus Said That His Disciples Are Eyewitnesses Of All That He Said And Did:
Jesus Tells His Disciples That He Came To Fulfill All the Prophecies of Moses And The Prophets
Then Jesus said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. ~Luke 24:44-49
Jesus Said That John The Baptist And His Miracles Are Witnesses For Him:
“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.” ~John 5:31-38
Jesus Said The Apostles Will Be His Witnesses To the World
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 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.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. ~Acts 1:6-9
Peter Said That All The Apostles Are Witnesses Of Jesus
In the book of Acts, chapter 2, Peter is standing before a great crowd of people from many countries who are gathered at Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. Although Peter is a simple fisherman who is not trained in the scriptures, he displays an incredible knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures and is able to relate the Prophecies of the Messiah to Jesus as the fulfillment of all that was written by the prophets about the Messiah.
What is incredible about this text is that Peter is taking the verses of scripture from Psalms 110, which are very specific to the Messiah, and directly stating that Jesus fulfilled these word that David wrote for his future descendent.
“King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave. “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. ~Acts 2:25-32
Notice that Peter is clear that Psalms 110 was not written for David, but for his future descendant, the Messiah. Peter states that David wrote this Psalm as a prediction that the Messiah would be resurrected from the dead, nearly 1,000 years before Jesus was crucified and rose on the third day.
Peter states that all of the Apostles who saw Jesus crucified and alive on the third day, are witnesses of this.
In Acts 3:12-26, Peter Repeats His Declaration Of Jesus Resurrection While At The Temple
He States That All 12 Apostles Are All Eyewitnesses And Saw That Jesus Was Raised From The Dead.
In Acts chapter 3, Peter again reiterates the fact that Jesus is the Messiah whom the prophets predicted. Jesus is the specific “Prophet” that Moses predicted.
Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. ~Deuteronomy 18:15
Peter states that beginning with Samuel, every Old Testament prophet wrote about what had happened with Jesus as He fulfilled every prophecy of the Messiah. Peter says that the 12 Apostles are “witnesses” of Jesus death and resurrection.
Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him.
You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!“Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.
“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’
“Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.” ~Acts 3:12-26
Peter Before The High Priests And Officials States That All The Apostles Are Witnesses Of Jesus’ Death And Resurrection:
When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”
The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” ~Acts 5:17-32
Peter States That All The Men Who Wrote A Testimony Of Jesus In The New Testament Are Not Making Up A Story—They Told The Truth
- Peter specifically states that he is not making up a story.
- Peter says that he saw Jesus with his eyes.
- Peter is referencing a text from Mark’s Gospel, Mark 9:2-8.
- Peter states that this experience of actually seeing Jesus transformed as He will be at His return, and hearing the Father’s voice from heaven, strengthened his faith that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had written fro the Messiah.
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. ~2 Peter 1:16-21
Peter Is Referring To The Testimony He Recorded Through Mark In His Gospel:
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. hen Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. ~Mark 9:2-8
Peter’s reference to Mark 9, is a confirming piece of evidence that Mark’s Gospel is actually from Peter who dictated these words to Mark as a scribe. This confirms the true authorship of Mark and impeaches the idea by Liberal Theologians that Mark was written anonymously. We know that Peter is the author, by his own statement in 2 Peter, chapter 1, referencing what he dictated to Mark in chapter 9 of his Gospel.
Paul Writes To Timothy That Jesus’ Death And Resurrection Is Confirmed By “Many Witnesses:”
Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. ~2 Timothy 2:1-2
Paul Preaches At The Synagogue At Antioch: “Many Saw Jesus Alive After His Resurrection”
Brothers—you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles—this message of salvation has been sent to us! The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the one the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath. They found no legal reason to execute him, but they asked Pilate to have him killed anyway.
When they had done all that the prophecies said about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead! And over a period of many days he appeared to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people of Israel. ~Acts 13:26-31
Paul Stated That If The Apostles Denied Jesus Had Risen, They Would All Be Lying:
For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. ~1 Corinthians 15:13-15
John Said The Disciples Of Jesus Saw Him Perform Many Miracles:
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. ~John 20:30-31
John Said Jesus Appeared To His Disciples After Jesus Was Raised From The Dead:
Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. ~John 21:1-2
Stephen Saw Jesus Raised From The Dead, Seated In Heaven:
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” ~Acts 7:55-56
Jesus Said That He Appeared To Paul So He Could, “Tell People You Have Seen Me”
One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. ~Acts 26:12-16
Luke Said That He Personally Interviews Those Who Had Seen The Events Of Jesus’ Life, Death, And Resurrection
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. ~Luke 1:1-4
The question of whether Luke’s Gospel is credible as an eyewitness account is important but also often misunderstood. One of the founders of the Harvard Law School, examined the four Gospels for their testimony in an effort to disprove them as reliable testimony. As an atheist, Doctor Simon Greenleaf was certain that he would be able to impeach the reliability of the New Testament by showing that the Gospel writers were not eyewitnesses. Instead, Dr. Greenleaf found himself a believer in Christ by the end of his thorough examination of the four Gospels.
Concerning Luke’s Gospel, Dr. Greenleaf Said The Following:
“He does not affirm himself to have been an eye-witness; though his personal knowledge of some of the transactions may well be inferred from the “perfect understanding” which he says he possessed. Some of the learned seem to have drawn this inference as to them all, and to have placed him in the class of original witnesses…what is the legal character of his testimony?
If it were the result of inquiries, made under competent public authority, concerning matters in which the public are concerned, it would possess every legal attribute of an inquisition, and, as such, would be legally admissible in evidence, in a court of justice.”11
In other words, the testimony which Luke presents to us, carries the weight of competent public authority and retains all the legal attributes that are necessary to be considered admissible as valid evidence of eyewitness testimony.
Dr. Greenleaf Continues…
“If, therefore, Luke’s Gospel were to be regarded only as the work of a contemporary historian, it would be entitled to our confidence. But it is more than this.
It is the result of careful inquiry and examination, made by a person of science, intelligence, and education, concerning subjects which he was perfectly competent to investigate, and as to many of which he was peculiarly skilled, they being cases of the cure of maladies; subjects, too, of which he already had the perfect knowledge of a contemporary, temporary, and perhaps an eye-witness, but beyond doubt, familiar with the parties concerned in the transactions, and belonging to the community in which the events transpired, which were in the mouths of all; and the narrative, moreover, drawn up for the especial use, and probably at the request, of a man of distinction, whom it would not be for the interest nor safety of the writer to deceive or mislead.
Such a document certainly possesses all the moral attributes of an inquest of office, or of any other official investigation of facts; and as such is entitled, in foro conscientiae, to be adduced as original, competent, and satisfactory evidence of the matters it contains.”12
This is a great dissertation in legalese, but in simpler terms, it all means that Luke was so proficient by the process he used to interview all the eyewitnesses, going back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and understanding as a medical doctor, many of the things he confirms in his Gospel, the testimony that Luke presents in his Gospel is equal to that of an actual eye witness.
Why Are These Scriptures Describing Eyewitnesses Important?
One of the primary objections that atheists and critics of the New Testament narratives make concerning Jesus and the text which declares Him as performing miracles, claiming to be God, crucified, and risen from the dead, is that none of these accounts were written by eyewitnesses.
As you can see from just a few of the places where eyewitnesses are declared and specifically state that they saw Jesus with their own eyes, the assertions that these are not eyewitness accounts, is not true. All of the narratives in the New Testament, come to us by honest men who wrote what they actually saw and heard. They state that they saw Jesus with their own eyes and they are telling us the truth. We have 24,593 surviving manuscripts today from as early as 60 A.D, 240 A.D, that contain the entire New Testament. When we compare these thousands of surviving manuscripts with each other, they all preserve a concise, fundamental narrative that Jesus claimed to be God, performed miracles to prove He is God, fulfilled all the 400 Prophecies of the Messiah, and was crucified and rose from the dead.
What We Can Learn From Simply Studying The Text Of The New Testament:
Many of the false assertions about the New Testament are impeached by simply studying the text itself. What ancient texts actually say is a crucial key in determining whether the narratives are true. All ancient surviving manuscript copies of events are first evaluated by their written text. Historians always give greater credence to what the writers state, rather than the commentary of later skeptics or critics. Obviously the writers who were present when these events took place, have greater knowledge of the events in the texts than someone 2,000 years later, who states that these events did not happen. This is particularly true when no impeaching evidence is presented to cause the historian to doubt that narratives of these ancient manuscripts.
The men who wrote the New Testament say that Jesus rose from the dead, and they state, in their own words, that they saw Him alive.
Critics state that they know better today that the writers were not eyewitnesses and that Jesus did not rise from the dead. If we think about this, it is easy to decide who us telling the truth. Do we believe the men who were there and saw the events, or people today who claim these events never happened?
There Is No Evidence That The Writers Of The New Testament Lied
Men like Bart Ehrman, who is described as a New Testament Scholar, freely admit that He is an atheist. Ehrman has stated that He doesn’t believe the Bible is true. We might ask how, then, can anyone rely upon a person who starts his examination of the New Testament with the certainty that it is not true?
Would you go to a doctor who told you ahead of time that he doesn’t believe in medicine? Why would anyone believe a Biblical scholar who does not believe that God exists?
New Testament Scholarship is not biased, but many New Testament Scholars are. Every human being is capable of cognitive prejudice. People tend to choose their preferred conclusions and then justify their choices by fallacious reasoning.
The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- The Body Of New Testament Evidence
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?
1 Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16
2 Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (60-130AD, Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15, Book 3 Chapter 30 and Book 6 Chapter 14.
3 Irenaeus, “Against Heresies” Book 3 Chapter 1, Irenaeus (130-200AD).
4 Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho,” 150 A.D.
5 Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D., “Hypotyposeis,” Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15.
6 Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” Book 6 Chapter 14.
7 Tertullian, 160-225AD, “Against Marcion,” Book 4 Chapter 5.
8 Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevii (Milan 1740), vol. III, pp 809–80. Located within Dissertatio XLIII (cols. 807-80), entitled ‘De Literarum Statu., neglectu, & cultura in Italia post Barbaros in eam invectos usque ad Anum Christii Millesimum Centesimum’, at cols. 851-56.
9 Origen, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book 6 Chapter 25.
10 Mysteries Revealed In The New Testament:
1. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11; Lk. 8:10)
2. Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25)
3. Salvation in Christ (Rom. 16:25)
4. The wisdom of God (1Cor. 2:7)
5. The doctrines of God (1Cor. 4:1; Col. 2:2; 1Tim. 3:16)
6. The gospel (Eph. 6:19)
7. Gift of knowledge (1Cor. 13:2)
8. Speaking in tongues (1Cor. 14:2)
9. The rapture of the church (1Cor. 15:23,51-58 Jn. 14:1-3 1Th. 4:13-16)
10. God’s will (Eph. 1:9)
11. The church (Eph. 3:1-9; 5:32)
12. Christ in people (Col. 1:26-27)
13. Doctrines of Christ (Col. 4:3)
14. Spirit of lawlessness (2Th. 2:7)
15. Faith of the gospel (1Tim. 3:9)
16. Seven candlesticks (Rev. 1:20)
17. God’s delay in casting out of Satan (Rev. 10:7; 12:7-17)
18. Mystery Babylon (Rev. 17:5,7)
List from Dake’s Commentary On The Bible
11 Simon Greenleaf. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Kindle Locations 229-234). Kindle Edition.
12 Simon Greenleaf. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Kindle Locations 240-246). Kindle Edition.
13 Charles Leach, Our Bible?How We Got It. Chicago: Moody Press, 1898, pp. 35, 36
FYI, Simon Greenleaf was never an atheist: he was a life-long Episcopalian.
Yes, I am aware of statements to this effect. They are merely conjecture. There is no evidence anywhere this is true. The statements made by Greenleaf came directly from his students who heard him say that he was an atheist prior to an investigation of the Gospel narratives, and the subsequent writing of his Treatise, proving the Gospels are valid evidence of truthful testimony.
It is interesting that this information has been known for decades and has only recently been disputed by critics, but without any evidence to prove it is true.
A larger question for you is why you made no attempt at impeaching a 10K word essay that demonstrates that the men who saw and heard Jesus, are valid eyewitnesses of actual historical events?
If you really believe the New Testament was NOT written by eyewitnesses, and it is all a fabrication, please present this evidence here. I would love to see it.
There is not now, nor has there ever been, any evidence that proves the men who wrote the New Testament, were not eyewitnesses themselves, or interviewed the men and women who were “with Jesus from the beginning,” and saw all these things happen.
Any person who is really seeking to know whether God exists, must consider the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament, as credible, reliable, and truthful. A person can say they don’t believe it, but they cannot claim it is not evidence that God exists.
The entire reason Jesus came to earth, and these men wrote what they saw and heard, was so that we could know for sure that God exists. All of the New Testament is true, and there is no evidence anywhere it is not true.
To the same extent, if you lived in a society which had never heard of Christianity (and didn’t delve into outside records of Christianity), you could never discover it. It took a human mind to create Christianity. If you remove the idea of Jesus, you could never discover Jesus.
The gist of the essay is that you assert the existence of a large number of writings created about 150 years or more after Jesus provide proof of the events written therein. You (and others) have faith, and so this is logical within the context of the effort.
Before going further, here’s some background info. I have Asperger’s syndrome. In my case, I am unable to form a belief (not a philosophical “belief,” but beliefs in the form of religions, spirits or other things which depend on ideation without substance). I cannot engage or hold something imaginary as potentially real. No ghosts. No Santa Claus. No Gods. Things of faith are without meaning to me because I cannot hold something on faith. Reading your essay, it is obvious that the central tenet thereof is that faith is the central pillar of it. If you believe, all of this makes sense. But I cannot “believe.” All I see is conclusory statements without substantive evidence. There is nothing in this essay which has the ability to influence or convince me because the central way to accept your premise is through faith.
My point here is this: You essay is not evidence and doesn’t present evidence. It speaks to people who agree with you. I replied to your original comments because I suspect you do not have an understanding of the various reasons people are atheists. Primarily, you lump us into a single pile and assert we reject the evidence of something you must accept solely on faith. In my case, I cannot accept on faith. I am not capable. However, I’ve talked to other atheists who can take on faith but they reject religion on other grounds (for example the internal inconsistencies of Christianity and the stories of Jesus).
Obviously, I have not gone through your essay point by point. It would have taken far too long for that. I focused on the opening and issues that jumped out quickly. If you feel like replying, feel free to on twitter.
Cheers and have a good weekend.
(Part 3 of 3)
One of the first things I learned when I began my exploration of Christ, was that God created us to know Him. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul goes to great lengths to explain this, beginning at verse 18.
Paul states that when God created each one of us, He placed a knowledge of His existence inside us. If we seek to know Him and pursue knowledge of who He is, with all of our heart, He will reveal Himself to us.
If we reject Him and the idea that He exists, we can never find God.
A prerequisite to finding God, is that we must first be honest and admit that He exists, then seek to know Him. He does not reveal Himself to anyone who denies His existence. He knows, that we know, He exists. He expects honest.
Hebrews 11:6 “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
Romans 1:19-21 “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.”
As I stated previously, the New Testament Synoptic Gospels were written by 44 AD, the balance of the New Testament was completed by 70 AD, with the exception of John who wrote near 90 AD.
This is what the forensic evidence of the extant manuscripts for the New Testament prove.
“When Were The Gospels Written?”
Thank you, Jim, for sharing your personal struggle. I have had several friends over the past four decades who struggle with this same syndrome. Although they also experienced many difficulties, they have told me that trusting in Christ, and staying focussed on what Jesus said, has helped them tremendously. I have a son that suffers from similar difficulty, and his faith in Jesus is the only thing that has kept him grounded in this world.
I want you to know that the evidence to prove that everything written about Jesus in the New Testament is substantial, if you take the time to discover it. You must also begin with the idea that it is true, and then study the texts with this in mind.
There is no evidence anywhere that the Bible is not all completely true. There are many claims, contrivances, conjectures and speculations made by critics, but none can be proven by evidence. I thought that people might like to know this.
When a person begins with the supposition that the Bible cannot be true, because miracles are not possible, this affects every subsequent conclusion that is made later. All doubts originate in the idea that what we were told for centuries, that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, is a lie. This has caused millions to doubt the reliability of the entire Bible.
A basic rule for determining reliability for all ancient manuscripts that come to us from antiquity, is that every document should be assumed trustworthy, unless it can be shown unreliable through the burden of proof.
One of the techniques utilized in document analysis is that when an examiner uses the presumption that the subject is lying, the test will always be self-refuting. The presumption that a person is always lying, while performing any examination for truth, is pointless, since the conclusion is already made before the examination has begun.
Unless we assume a general presumption of truth in every testimony, we will never be capable of determining whether anything is actually true. The only effective method that actually allows a professional examiner to determine truthful testimony is the presumption of truth at the onset.
I think you understand now that I began as an atheist, and it was the evidence that convince me. I wrote a book that contains all of the primary arguments atheists make in seeking to refute Jesus and the New Testament. It is called: “New Testament Apologetics.” If you are interested in this and cannot afford it, I would be happy to give you an Ebook copy.
Thank you for writing to me. I enjoyed reading your comments and opinions. You are an honest man and I respect the manner in which you conversed with me.
More broadly, if you consider the primary message attributed to Jesus, there are bases upon which to say a general message of hope could have expanded into the leap of faith (pun likely intended) that became Christianity. If you remove the religious context of Jesus, His teachings are fundamentally a liberal message of “you are allowed to have a say in your destiny. You can create a personal relationship with God.” I don’t pretend to be a scholar on this, but the core message of the NT centers around the ability of the individual to create, within the bounds of the broader idea, a personal relationship with God. This was a foundationally wide step away from conservative Judaism, in which the texts and clergy were the access to religion and God. Individuality was not an option. From my understanding of the historic foundations of Christianity, it was at its start a highly personal religion in which individuals had the freedom to access it. Granted, this changed over time. Still, this could have been a highly interesting message during the oppressive times of the Roman Empire, which controlled most of life. Likewise, it was a message which could have resonated with a large percentage of locals who were not satisfied with the status quo. The “truth” of the message could easily be considered to be interesting regardless of the truth of Jesus. There is historic evidence of this (although, this is not my area and I don’t clam to be an expert). Still, people who want to hear a message are likely to grasp onto it. Again, there is a corollary to the Big Lie- sometimes people want to hear something and they grab onto it and run. Truth is not important. Fulfillment of an emotional or other mental need is.
Second, consider your heading to the 3rd paragraph. “All Events of Antiquity are Validated in the Same Way: by Extant Manuscript Evidence.” This statement is also self-serving. Moreover, it is incorrect. Writen evidence is helpful, but if you assess how historical events are substantiated, researchers (in my experience as a reader of such things but not an investigator) look for internal and external evidence. Look at the writings of the participants, certainly, but look at extrinsic evidence- physical evidence. Other records. The fact that multiple manuscripts of the NT tell a similar story of Jesus tells only that writers were likely familiar with the general story, but there are no writings outside Christianity which support the stories in any way. Said for clarity, outside of the context of Christianity, there is literally no evidence of the existence of Christianity. Or, of course, any other religion. Consider this example. If you lived in a society which had never heard of ghosts, there is nothing you could find which would lead you to discover the concept of ghosts. You have to have someone with the imagination to opine the existence of them.
(Part 2 of 3)
Much of what you wrote, Jim, is true. The first statement that it is all “a leap of faith,” is not true. If this was the requirement to follow Jesus, I would have passed.
I am the ultimate skeptic. A bit like Thomas, and somewhat like Peter. I need Evidence that I can review, analyze, and prove, before I will accept anything.
I found in the extant manuscript evidence of the New Testament, the body of evidence I needed to examine for myself. I proved these texts are true, not by the opinions of scholars, but by my own hard work over 47 years.
It is true that Jesus came to make it possible for anyone to have a personal relationship with God. It was for this purpose that He came to earth. It is by Jesus’ death for all sins that we have the opportunity to have this relationship. Jesus did all the work, there is nothing we must do, except believe that His death paid for our sins, follow Him, and continue to trust in Him for all of our life.
The New Testament is the continuing story of the Jewish people and their promised Messiah, fulfilled. The Old Testament prophets penned 400 Messianic Prophecies that any candidate for Messiah had to fulfill, with great precision. If any part of any prophecy in the 400 was missed, this man could not be the Messiah God promised.
The New Testament is about a Jew, written by Jews, for Jews. It is extreme in its judaic application. Most Jews refuse to read and study the New Testament because of what they have been told by other Jews. Those who do read it are amazed that it is written to them, about their Messiah, doing exactly what the Hebrew Bible said He would do.
I document these 400 Messianic Prophecies in three of my books: “The Prophecies of the Messiah;” “The Messianic Prophecy Bible;” “These Things Were Written: An Expositional Treatise of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.”
Speaking as one who seeks the highest degree of scholarship in my work, this statement: “All Events of Antiquity are Validated in the Same Way: by Extant Manuscript Evidence,” is not only the basis that I use to validate events of antiquity, it is the proven method all other reliable scholars use to prove literary manuscript evidence.
Although your opinion makes it clear you disagree with this statement, it is absolutely true, and the basis for scholarly exegesis of events of antiquity.
The first place we should look in seeking to validate or eliminate a genuine event of antiquity, is the surviving manuscript evidence. The reason I became a believer in Jesus and have remained a believer for 47 years, is because the manuscript evidence supporting everything the men wrote about Him in the New Testament, is the best on the planet for a first century event of that magnitude.
It is commonly stated by atheists that there is no support for the events of the New Testament, outside the New Testament, but this is absolutely untrue. I have 136 secular citations for Jesus, His death and resurrection, from secular sources, at my website. The following is a link to that resource.
“The Record Of Secular History And Jesus”
There is also a substantial secular record that documents the resurrection of Jesus, from the secular records of history:
“Historical Evidence That Proves The Resurrection Of Jesus”
In the end, Jim, evidence is not what it takes to convince many people that the New Testament narratives about Jesus are true. Even during the time that Jesus performed the 40 miracles that are recorded in the New Testament, most of the people who saw these things with their eyes, still didn’t believe in Jesus:
John 12:37 “But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.”
Jesus said something similar to the people who were with Him and saw the miracles He did, that no human had ever done. before:
John 6:36-37 “But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.”
There are a number of comments I could make, but I’m going to limit this to a few core comments.
First, the fact remains that the NT is entirely hearsay. It was written, at best, at least 100 years after the fact. In the second paragraph (assuming you’re the author of this), you say, “[s]ince we have manuscript copies from 175-225, it is certain that the original autographs were penned on papyrus, early in the first century.” No evidence for this is given. It is simply a conclusory statement made without evidence. It is, primarily, a statement of faith and not fact. So, it is not a statement which supports your position. It reflects only your view of faith. Of course, the sentence misses the point the passage of 175 years from an event with or without the loss of predecessor documents renders the accuracy of the later documents open to speculation.
Likewise, the 2nd paragraph finishes with “[t]here are no other events of antiquity, secular or religious, that have this large body of surviving manuscript evidence, written so close to the events they describe.” The proper, third-party response to this statement is, “so what?” This is not evidence that the events described are true or real. Consider, in a different context, the number of Americans who believe what is called the Big Lie about the 2020 election. There are millions of people who believe the Big Lie and thousands (perhaps, millions) of contemporaneous writings. Those who believe the Big Lie believe it despite having access to stark, specific and supported evidence of the complete falsity of the Big Lie. Belief is the goal and all evidence is viewed favorably in light of the belief- without regard to the underlying reality. All of the thousands of writings on the Big Lie are completely without basis, but this does nothing to diminish the belief of the believers in them.
(Part 1 0f 3)
Jim, first I will say that I appreciate you taking the time to answer this essay and write your argument. I seldom see this in people who are critical of Jesus and the Bible. The fact that you made this attempt and were cordial in your observations, comments, and opinions, is to be commended.
As an attorney you are familiar with the difference between matters of fact, facts that are in evidence, and opinions, conjecture, and speculation.
Your opening comment treats this essay as hearsay, while it is all based upon matters of fact that are already in evidence. Your comments are your opinions, and you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
1. The New Testament, Synoptic Gospels, were written and complete, or nearly complete, by 44 AD. There is no evidence anywhere that the writers penned these texts 100 years after the events took place. This is the opinions of atheist and progressive New Testament scholars, but it cannot be proven by evidence.
What can be proven by the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, is that Jesus states repeatedly that He called these men to be His witnesses, and He intended that they would write a record of all they had seen and heard concerning Him, and send this eyewitness testimony out immediately: Acts 1:8: “…telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus told His disciples: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.”
Jesus told John to write down everything he saw and heard in a book and send this testimony to the seven churches located in Asia: ““Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
These men who wrote their testimony in the New Testament, saw and heard Jesus say and do the things they recorded, or the eyewitness testimony of those, “who had. been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry,” was recorded by the highly educated, Greek Speaking, Physician, Luke (See Luke 1).
None of the testimony about Jesus in the New Testimony is “hearsay.”
As you know, eyewitness testimony concerning criminal trials, is not reliable. However, eyewitness testimony concerning matters of history, is considered the highest form of reliable evidence.
Two essays at this site, document the historical reliability of the New Testament, and the Legal standard for reliable evidence, met and exceeded, by the eyewitnesses of the New Testament Gospels.
“Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?”
“Legal Analysis Of The Four Gospels As Valid Eyewitness Testimony”
2. My reference to manuscript evidence for the New Testament, dated at 175-225 AD, is a fact. We know this by the 24,593 extant manuscripts we have for the New Testament. We have nearly complete copies of the NT, from 175.
Since we have such a large body of surviving manuscript evidence from 175, it is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century.
You can see my documentation of the time when the NT Synoptic Gospels were written, by 44 AD, at the following link:
“When Were The Gospels Written?”
There are no surviving original autographs for any events recorded on Papyrus from the first century, secular of religious. The life of papyrus under the harsh conditions of that period, made it impossible for any to survive.
In this regard, the extant manuscript evidence of the New Testament is the largest, at 24,593, and the texts are written closer to the events, than any other events of antiquity, secular or religious. This is a fact in evidence.
This large body, earliest written, and match to our modern New Testament in every fundamental and important event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, defines the New Testament as the most thoroughly documented events for one person in all of antiquity. Again, this is a fact already in evidence.
In answer to, “So what,” not exactly a probative question…
The “so what,” is understood by the fact that no secular extant manuscript evidence for any other secular or religious event of antiquity can even come close to the earliest written, largest body of evidence, the NT presents.
Scholars consider secular manuscript evidence for secular events, valid and reliable, that consist of only a few dozen or hundred manuscript copies, written a thousand years after the events took place.
The evidence we have for the New Testament, in evidence, is from 175 AD. We have 24,593 surviving copies. There is no other event in the history of antiquity that has even a fraction of this manuscript evidence to prove secular events. In spite of this, scholars still validate these secular events based on this thin evidence.
If we are seeking to validate an event from antiquity, the evidence for the New Testament, is the largest, earliest written. This validates the reliability of these texts.
The only way that we can confirm any event of history, is by surviving manuscript evidence, where eyewitnesses state what they saw and heard concerning a person or events.
In the following link, I document the 203 Eyewitness statements by the men who saw and heard Jesus. Nothing in the secular or religious records of antiquity presents the world with this much evidence to prove all that Jesus said and did.
“203 Eyewitness Statements About Jesus In The New Testament”
Much of your difficulty in believing the testimony of the men who wrote the New Testament, originates, most likely, in the comments and opinions of atheist and progressive scholars you have read, who have written the exact same critical comments you stated in your observations of my essay.
Most people don’t realize when they read the books, essays, and comments by these scholars, that they are atheists, or progressives, who don’t believe God exists in the first place, nor that the Bible is the Word of God. Not exactly a reliable source for information.
See my essay: “Cognitive Bias: The Reason Atheist’s Cannot Understand The Bible”
Second, when people read these comments by these scholars, they seldom notice that no evidence is given along with the opinion of the scholar, to prove what they say is true. These atheist scholars expect the reader to accept their opinions as fact, without evidence, because they have a PhD.
I can’t speak for you, Jim, but when I was an atheist 47 years ago, I needed facts to prove to me that the New Testament is a true and reliable testimony of actual historical facts.
I found these facts, and these are what convinced me to trust everything written about Jesus in the New Testament.
I have published these facts in several of my books.
I will endeavor to answer the two remaining posts you placed at this essay…
My first concern is, the oldest fragment is claimed to from the year 175 AD.
So how can it be written by a eye witness?
Second : how are these fragments been dated?
Are there reports of performed carbon dating?
Thank you for your comment.
We have 24,593 manuscript copies for most of the New Testament, from 175-225 AD. If we have manuscript copies from 175, it is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century.
There are no surviving original autograph copies for any ancient documents written on Papyrus, secular or religious. The reason is that under the harsh conditions of the first century, Papyrus cannot survive more than 200 years.
In this regard, the New Testament presents us with the largest body of surviving manuscript evidence (24,593) of any event of antiquity, both secular and religious.
The surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament are also written closer to the events they describe, of any event of antiquity.
The Synoptic Gospels that describe Jesus performing miracles to prove He is God, were completed by 44 AD. There are 134 statements in the New Testament where the writers state they are “eyewitnesses,” and saw what they wrote, or it was dictated to them by eyewitnesses who saw these events take place.
The essay you wrote this comment at, has this evidence. I hope you will read the essay and find the answers you are searching for.