Appologetics: Evidence for Christianity

Bibliographical Tests
By: Seraiah Wolf

Hey guys, my name is Seraiah and I’m going to be shooting several blogs your way on the topic of apologetics. I’m going to throw you in right now, click play, we’re getting started.

So with that as an outline, we’re going to spend the next few weeks providing support for those premises which will give credence to our conclusion, namely that Christianity is the true religion. Our topics will include:
o The Bibliographical Test: Historical Reliability of Ancient Documents
o Internal and External Tests: Historical reliability of the N.T.
o The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
o Fulfillment of Messianic Prophecies
o The Deity of Christ
The topic we will start on today is the historical reliability of ancient documents using the bibliographical test. You see, if someone proved that the N.T. is not historically reliable then all of us would be proved to be gullible followers of a false religion, but, if the N.T. IS historically reliable, then we have some evidence to support our next few premises.
Now that I just have you dying to read the next section, I’m going to pause and say that all this information comes from Defending Your Faith, a twelve lesson series on apologetics by Dr. Mark Bird, my professor in Creation Apologetics at God’s Bible School and College in Ohio. As part of my class, I am required to teach lessons from this book to a small group. This is my small group (hi guys) and these are my lessons. So far I have learned an incredible amount as I’m sure you will too, but I don’t want you to think I’m wickedly smart. My professor is wickedly smart and his hard work allows me to share this with you.
When the N.T. was written:
If the bible was written 100-200 years after the life of Christ, we probably wouldn’t get an accurate account of the events during that period. The message most likely would be distorted, since there would be ample time for myth to develop. Fortunately we don’t have this problem. There is strong evidence to suggest that the bible was written during the eyewitness period—that is, during the time that there were still people around who actually witnessed the events described in the N.T. That’s within 60 (most books within 30) years of the death of Christ in AD 30.
  1. Manuscript have been found that date within or close to the first century. An example would be John Pyland Papyrus, dated AD 125, which included a fragment of John. The original manuscript must have been in circulation earlier.
  2. Early church fathers (Clement, Ignatius) were quoting many of the N.T. books by around AD 100. The books that were quoted had to be in circulation at that time
  3. There is no suggestion that the N.T. writers knew of the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70) as a fact that had already happened.
  4. According to history, Paul died in the AD mid-60s. At the end of Acts, Paul is dead. Therefore, it’s most likely probable that Acts and the books that Paul wrote were written before AD mid-60s (^_^). Luke also wrote the book of Luke before he wrote the sequel Acts, so Luke must have been written earlier than AD mid-60s.
Now this only shows the approximate time of when the N.T. was written, but this doesn’t determine the reliability of the document. To do that, we are going to start with the biographical test, and finish with the external and internal proof next week. These three major tests are used on every ancient document to determine their reliability.
The Bibliographical Test
This test evaluates the reliability of manuscripts by looking at the time span between original and existing manuscripts, the number of those manuscripts, and the quality of them. We know WHEN the N.T. was written, but how do we know if we HAVE the same document that was written then?
We mentioned John Ryland Papyrus manuscript already. Another is the Cheter Beatty Papyri, dated AD 120-150. These papyri contain most of Paul’s letters, the Gospels, and Acts. Here, it’s only taken 90 years from when the N.T. was written to the oldest ancient records that we have. Does that seem like a long time? Well, feast your eyes on these numbers.

between penned date & our physical manuscripts
1,400 years
1000 years
950 years
500 years
90 years
If one can accept other ancient documents are reliable and reject the N.T. as unreliable, even though the N.T. passes the test for reliability much better than the other documents, then there is a double standard. We don’t believe that classical literature was significantly corrupted; why would we think that the N.T. was corrupted during the 90 year span?
Are there are WAY too many differences among surviving N.T. manuscripts for us to know what the original actually looked like? Are there large numbers of conflicting manuscripts? Let’s talk about that.
It’s much better to have many manuscripts; the more manuscripts we have for comparison, the closer we can get to the original manuscript reading. If a great variety of manuscripts are analyzed, we can be sure that whatever all the copies agree on was in the original manuscript. Well, how does the N.T compare to other ancient documents? Just check out the numbers, baby.
Number of Copies
5,700 (Greek)
After you take into account the 10,000 Latin manuscripts, 9,300 manuscripts of other versions and tens of thousands of quotations from the N.T. by early church fathers, you have superior manuscript evidence! The piece of ancient literature with the greatest quantity of existing manuscripts (besides the bible) is Homer’s Iliad with only 643 copies.
“The number of manuscripts of the N.T., of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world” Frederick Kenyon, renowned paleographer and textual critic.
Alright guys, check this baby out. 7/8s of the N.T. is the same in ALL manuscripts. Of the 1/8 that is left, most differences are in spelling, style, or grammar differences . Only 1/8 of that (1/60) are significance differences. In other words:

About 400 differences are significant to the meaning of the N.T. This is less than one page in an English translation. Now before you go into freak mode, listen to this: In spite of any errors in the copying, no variant reading harms any doctrine of the N.T. Though a disputed passage may touch on a doctrine, every doctrine of the N.T. is taught in its indisputable parts.
Also, the only textual variant which affect more than a sentence or two are John 7:53-*:11 (the story of the woman caught in adultery) and Mark 16:9-20 (the end of the book). Most variants affect only individual words or phrases.
Now compare this with other ancient literature. Most piece of literature cannot even be reconstructed enough to know what percentage was in the original for sure. One exception is Homer’s Iliad, with 643 copies. It is about 95% pure. The N.T., which is at least 98% percent pure compares very well with other ancient literature.
Though these arguments do not prove that the Bible is the Word of God (more on that later), they do confirm that we have what was originally written. If what was written is the Word of God, then we can be certain we have that same Word today. We can state with certainty, along with Frederick Kenyon
“The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries”(Frederick Kenyon)


Eternal Security: More Than A Doctrinal Distinctive

(Or more simply: Why you can’t lose your salvation and why it matters)
By: David Harris

After several semesters of being heavily involved in campus ministry, I’ve realized that a Christian can have unity with other Christians, even if they have a wide range of theological differences- as long as Christ is central, unity can be present. However, this is not to say that some issues cannot be debated, and it is also not to say that they aren’t IMPORTANT. One issue in particular I’ve had numerous discussions/debates with fellow Christians is that of eternal security. I’ve oft found myself among a group of people, where I am the only one among them that holds to this doctrine- and I have the obligation thus of defending it. I’d like to take a fairly brief look at the importance of this doctrine, because if not carefully thought through and considered, extremely serious consequences may result- consequences as critical as one’s eternal destiny.

First off, let me just be clear on one thing: I don’t believe that believing in eternal security is essential for salvation (especially considering those who are saved are eternally secure). Some of my closest and dearest friends do not believe in this doctrine, and it has had no great effect on our friendships. However, if this theology is taken too far I believe it can be damning because ultimately salvation rests not on Christ, but on the individual person.

Let us examine the antithesis of eternal security first: let’s say we CAN lose our salvation. There are three possibilities as to how one could lose it (with the third being “intertwined” with the other two). Number one: a person’s deeds have a negating effect on salvation. So perhaps if a man accepts Christ, but then goes out and murders someone, he has lost his salvation and is now out of the saving grace of God.  Number two: a person loses their FAITH in Christ. So while he made a “decision” to follow Christ, now he has turned his back on Christ and no longer believe in His saving grace- this triggers the negating effect on that individual’s salvation. Thirdly, and finally, God removes you from His grace (which could intersect with the other two). Let’s take a look at each of these individual options.

Option one: sin removes salvation. Let’s take a man who came to faith in Christ as a young man of 15. He appeared to be convicted of his sin at the time of his conversion, and immediately had a changed life. However, several years later the young man is now an unrepentant fornicator- he is persisting in sin of which God directly commands not to commit (1 Corinthians 6), and has therefore “lost” his salvation. There are several problems with this assessment. For one, there is a strange and unanswered haze around this. The question remains: what sin does it take to remove salvation? Insert any sin you want. We know from James 2:10 that if someone even breaks one of God’s laws, he is held accountable for breaking all the law- therefore we could say that no sin is “worse” than another. So what sin does it take to lose salvation? Is it a lie? Sexual sin? Not putting God first in life? What is the time of the loss? Minutes? Seconds? Milliseconds? 1 John 1 says that if someone says they have no sin (Christians included) they are liars- so we will never be 100% rid of our sin. Romans chapter 7 gives the portrayal of a very mature Christian (Paul). He only becomes more aware of the depth of his sin in his maturity. Furthermore, 1 John 2 talks of how Christ is our advocate when we do sin (“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”). This statement does not have any salvation “qualifiers”; it is all encompassing. In verse 12 John says: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” When someone comes to Christ, they are totally and fully forgiven of their sins- past, present, and future.

Let’s examine the second “possibility”; that when one loses their faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, that person loses their salvation. First of all, there is an entirely (and I would argue more biblical way) to look at this: if someone renounces their faith in Christ, then it’s a good indication that they were never a Christian to begin with. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” If when God draws someone to faith in Christ they are a totally new person and have a new heart and new desires, does their new God given nature in Christ somehow “become old” again? Cannot God keep those who (as asserted in Ephesians 1) foreknew before the foundation of the world?

This last “possibility” is perhaps the most difficult to deal with, because it has to do with a fundamental understanding of God’s work in salvation. If you believe that God “does the saving” in salvation, then you are in a much better place to understand this issue- this is one of the reasons I believe that the issue of eternal security is so critically important. While ignorance may be a viable excuse, if you are relying on your own works to “maintain” your salvation, I fear you could be in danger of being among those whom Christ says: “Depart from me ye who practice lawlessness”. Your reliance on yourself for salvation does not equate to trusting in the saving work of Christ. In no way am I trying to make lightly of sin- 2 Peter 1 warns to “make your calling and election sure”. Notice however, he doesn’t say: “make sure of your salvation”. He isn’t warning against falling out of God’s grace, but having a false profession of faith. One verse often used for those arguing for eternal security is John 10:28: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. The common retort is: well, it says no one else, but it doesn’t say anything about them leaving the hand. To that I say: What about never perishing? Is Jesus lying here then? He said that those who are His sheep will have eternal life- once again, there is no qualifier here. John 6:39-40 says: "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day." We see two things of great importance here: Salvation is decided by God, and not one of those whom God has chosen will be lost (so one would at the very least have to say that even if a man loses his salvation many times, if God has chosen him he will be raised up on the last day and inherit eternal life no matter what).

In all my various discussions with those of the opposite persuasion, I’ve still never been given a reasonable, hermeneutical response to Ephesians 4:30: “and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The word sealed here does not merely mean being “set” in Christ, but being totally secure from all outside and inside harm. Finally, Romans 8:38 says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor thing to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Speaking in the context of the redeemed, this passage also is a great example of God’s everlasting and unchanging holding on our salvation.   

Once again, I would like to make sure that the readers of this piece know that I’m in no way making light of the seriousness of sin. “Are we to sin more so that Grace may more abound? May it never be!” Paul fought fiercely against the doctrine of antinomianism, which says: “as long as we’re eternally secure, we might as well sin!” However, Paul never compromised the doctrine of eternal security while fighting against antinomianism- he only affirmed it while he rebuked those who were living carnally- in fact (in 1 Corinthians) he never even assumes that those whom he is rebuking are not saved.

While I admire the concern of living holy for those who deny eternal security, I would strongly warn and admonish those deny this key doctrine to “make sure they’re calling and election”. There is nothing in this life as important as knowing where you will spend your eternity, and if you are relying on yourself instead of the cross, you may find yourself in the wrong line when you meet your maker.
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