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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)

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