> Two Key Questions
Is Jesus a historical fact?
Can the Bible be trusted?
Our main source
of information about Jesus is the New Testament in the Bible. Is
the New Testament true? Is it an accurate historical record or a
collection of religious myths? Do other historical records mention
with the first question: Is what the New Testament says about
Jesus a true, accurate historical record?
How do historians
determine the accuracy of ancient documents and records?
- How close,
in time and geographically, were the writers of the documents
to the original events?
- How many
early copies do we have, how close are the copies to the originals
- Do the documents
have contradictions or factual inaccuracies?
- Are the descriptions
of locations, roads, structures and geographical features confirmed
We have copies
of other ancient documents that are considered historically accurate.
For example, Caesar wrote his history of the Gallic Wars between
50 and 60 BC. The earliest copies we have were made around the year
1000. We have ten copies from that time period. They are considered
by historians to be accurate.
The Roman historian
Tacitus wrote his Annals of Imperial Rome in about 115 AD.
We have one copy of the first six books in this series. It was copied
in about 850 AD. Books 11 through 16 are available in a copy made
about 1050 AD. Books 7 through 10 are lost. The Annals of Imperial
Rome is considered by historians to be accurate.
We have nine
Greek manuscripts of first century historian Josephus' work titled,
"The Jewish War." These copies were made in the
10th, 11th and 12th centuries. They are considered by historians
to be accurate.
around 350 BC. The earliest copy of his epic poems comes from A.D.1100
-- over 1,400 years after his death. We have five early copies of
We have eight
copies, dated about 900 A.D., of the history of Thucydides. He lived
in the mid-400's BC. Historians have long ago determined, based
on these eight manuscripts created 1300 years after the original
was written, that the history of Thucydides is accurate.
the bible of the ancient Greeks, composed in 800 BC has an impressive
650 ancient Greek copies available -- the earliest is from the second
and third centuries AD - 1000 years after the original was written.
So how does
the New Testament compare with these universally accepted historical
We have over 22,000 early copies of ancient New Testament manuscripts!
Some papyri manuscripts date to the first century, within a few
decades of when the original was written. There are over 5,600 ancient
Greek manuscripts. Over 9,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts. And over
8,000 ancient manuscripts in Ethiopic, Slavic and Armenian. The
earliest copies date so close to when the originals were written
that the time difference is essentially non-existent.
We have papyri
copies containing portions of the Gospels, the book of Acts, Paul's
letters and the book of Hebrews made in the first, second and third
centuries. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri date to about the
year 200. The M. Martin Bodmer Papyri also date to about the year
200. The Saint John's Library Papyri -- containing a portion of
the book of John -- was made in Egypt and dates to between the years
98 and 130 AD (The book
of John was written in approximately 90 AD).
Question One Summary
copies: No other ancient historical documents come even close
to being available in such large numbers (the Iliad is second with
650 copies) as is the New Testament.
to the originials in time: No other ancient historical documents
are available in copies made so soon after the originals were written.
(Most other documents are available only in copies made over 1000
years after the original.)
Other than a few minor differences in the Old Testament that are
attributed to "typos"
- none of which are related to fundamental doctrines or beliefs,
there are no contradictions.
Archeology has never contradicted anything in the Bible and has
confirmed much of the Bible.
The conclusion: based on the number of copies, and their
closeness in time to the originals, the New Testament has ample
support for its accuracy.
two: Are we reading an accurate translation of the Bible today?
Current translations of the New Testament are made using the ancient
Greek manuscripts. They are very accurate. All other ancient records
(such as the Greek and Roman histories) have a much less solid connection
to the originals. If someone were to argue that the accuracy of
the New Testament has been lost over time, then no other
ancient historical document can be accepted as accurate.
If you do not
feel the Bible has been accurately translated, you can purchase
a copy of the New Testament in the original Greek, learn to read
ancient Greek, and read it for yourself. There is nothing hidden
or secret. The quality of the translation from Greek to Engllish
is available for all to examine.
The conclusion: the translations of the New Testament we
have today (NIV, NASB, NLT, NRSV, NKJ...) are accurate translations
and can be trusted.
three: Do other historical records mention Jesus? Yes!
Keep in mind
that if all the documents we have from the first two centuries AD
were collected and put on a bookshelf, they might take two feet
of shelf space.
One of the best
known references to Jesus is in Josephus's history titled Antiquities.
(Flavius Josephus was born in AD 37 and died in AD 97).
writers who mention Christ are Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55-120), Gaius
Suetonius Tranquillas (secretary to Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138),
and Pliny the Younger who was a Roman author and administrator.
the year AD 221, Julius Africanus quotes from a history of the Eastern
Mediterranean written in about AD 52 by Thallus. Julius Africanus
writes concerning the time of Jesus' crucifixion::
the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks
were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts
were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his
History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the
the writings of opponents of Christianty such as Jews and Gnostics,
confirm that Jesus was a real person. If they could, the best alternative
for Christianity's enemies would have been to say Jesus never lived.
But the evidence was too real and fresh--there were people still
alive who knew Jesus or the Apostles. Their only alternative was
to accept Jesus, but change his message.
The conclusion: the non-Christian writtings confirm that
Jesus was a real person.
And remember, in
the Bible we are reading eye
witness accounts, and carefully researched history, of what actually
happened, written by people who were alkive when Jesus was alive.
reading: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable by
reading: The Historical Jesus by Gary R. Habermas