The Reliability of The New Testament By Brian R. Diehl

The Reliability of The New Testament
By Brian R. Diehl
TH365 Apologetic Evangelism
Instructor: Joe Holden
Calvary Chapel Bible College Online
March 30, 2012
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In this paper I will attempt to address the reliability of the New Testament. This will be
accomplish using manuscript evidence, archaeological evidence, scientific evidence, and
historical evidence.
What is the manuscript evidence for the New Testament? Manuscript: a book or
document written before the invention of printing.1 The amount of evidence supporting
the New Testament is amazing. God truly intended us as His creation to be able know
that the New Testament is valid. There are a total of over 24,000 manuscripts that attest
to the original documents of the New Testament.2 This includes Approximately 5,600
plus partial and complete Greek manuscripts.3 Also the Gospels boast of over 2,300
manuscripts and fragments surviving from the earliest centuries of the Christian church.4
There are over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and 9,300 other early versions.5 In comparison to
other documents in the world from ancient history the New Testament is the most
documented. The next closest one is Homers Iliad which only has 600 plus manuscripts
supporting it. Aristotle’s writings have only 50 manuscript copies of any one of his
original works and the time of removal is over 1100 years before the earliest copy.
The P52 John Rylands fragment is the earliest New Testament manuscript which is
between 50-250 years removed from the original events. This is a piece of papyri
measuring about 3.5 by 2.5 inches in size and written on one side is John 18:31-33 and on
the other side is 18:37-38. So far this is the earliest known fragment of the New
Testament in any language.6
2 Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes
3 Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament, 2nd ed., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968)
4 Blomberg, Craig L., “Gospels: Historical Reliability,” in Joel B. Green, Scott McKnight, and I. Howard
Marshall, eds. Dictionary of Jesus andthe Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP),
5 Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes
6 The university of Manchester The John Rylands University Library
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Manuscript breakdown:
Uncials 307
Minuscules 2,860
Lectionaries 2,410
Papyri 109
TOTAL 5686 + Greek manuscripts
Manuscripts in other languages
Latin Vulgate 10,000 +
Ethiopic 2,000 +
Slavic 4,101
Armenian 2,587
Syriac Pashetta 350 +
Bohairic 100
Arabic 75
Old Latin 50
Anglo Saxon 7
Gothic 6
Sogdian 3
Old Syriac 2
Persian 2
Frankish 1
SUBTOTAL 19, 284
In conclusion I have to say that the evidence we have through manuscripts alone and of
how close they were written time wise to the actual events is so great it seems almost
imposable to see the New Testament any other way but being reliable.
Next lets look at the archaeological evidence.
Archaeology’s repeated affirmation of the New Testament’s accuracy provides important
corroboration for its reliability. This is in stark contrast with how archaeology has proved
to be devastating for Mormonism.8
Through the years there have been numerous archaeological findings that support the
reliability of the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke and Acts have many references to
people, cities, rulers, travel, coins, sea routs.
7 McDowell, Josh, New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), Joe Holden, Apologetic
Evangelism Course Notes
8 Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of
the Evidence for Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998],143.
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But the question is then asked was Luke a historian that could be trusted? In the book The
Case For Christ Lee Strobel answers this question in his interview with John McRay,
PH.D. McRays reply to Lee’s question of Luks reliability is as stated, “He’s erudite, he’s
eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and
archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what
he has to say.”9 What a statement to the credibility of Luke.
One of the oldest findings is the James Ossuary. An ossuary is a limestone box that was
used to keep the bones of the dead after the decay of the flesh occurred in the tomb.
Tombs were rare and expensive and needed to be reused. This particular ossuary bares
the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” The 2,000-year-old ossuary—a
box that held bones—bears the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Until
now, all references to the three men have been found only in manuscripts. (Hillary
Mayellfor, National Geographic News, October 21, 2002). The Pool of Bethesda is
mentioned in John 5:2. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is
called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick
people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went
down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in
first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. (John 5:2-
4 NKJV) The New Testament was the only known place that this pool was mentioned
until 1888. That is when the remains of the pool was unearthed during an excavation near
the Church of St. Anne.
We also have evidence of a crucifixion victim that was found in 1968 in a cave in
Jerusalem. After analysis of the victims wounds it was confirmed that they were in fact
consistent with the crucifixion of Christ described in the New Testament. There are many
9 Strobel, The Case For Christ, 129.
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other archaeological finds that prove the reliability of not only the New Testament but
also the Old Testament as well.
The scientific evidence that supports the reliability of the New Testament. John 1:1-3
states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without
Him nothing was made that was made.” (NKJV) This scripture not only states the
existence of Christ before the earths creation, and His deity. But also confirms His
creation of everything. Science provides evidence of our universe having a beginning.
With science we also now have an understanding of the structure of molecules and cells
in our bodies and then there is our DNA. all of this is so perfectly balanced and in order
like a well oiled machine. It is imposable for these things to have just happened by
chance. I see that science supports that there is a creator and the scripture reference above
shows that Christ is that creator.
Now lets look at the historical evidence that proves the reliability of the New Testament.
There are three principles that are used to test all historical documents which should also
be used to test the reliability of the Scriptures. The Bibliographical Test (check
manuscripts), The Internal Evidence Test ( prophecy, eyewitness), and The External
Evidence Test (archaeology, non-Christian eyewitness). The Bibliography Test was
already covered in the section above pertaining to the evidence in manuscripts. For the
Internal Test we need to look at eyewitness accounts such as Luke 1:1-4 “Inasmuch as
many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been
fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers
of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect
understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most
excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were
instructed.” (NKJV) Also we see what I believe to be one of the greatest testaments to
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Christ’s resurrection the staggering account of all of the people that saw Him after His
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you
received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word
which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all
that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and
that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five
hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have
fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all
He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the
apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of
God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain;
but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was
with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (NKJV)
Then there is the need to understand the evidence of oral tradition. During the Bible
times huge chunks of scripture were memorized. Although oral story telling may have
permitted for certain freedoms. Fixed points of the narrative were required to remain
unchanged. These are called a Vox. This preserved the facts of Gods Word. With the
Exterior Evidence Test traditions about Jesus appear in various pieces of literature. These
ancient non-Christian sources have value in that they offer data from a secular
perspective, often clarifying and corroborating with the gospel record.10 We have Greco-
Roman sources such as Tacitus and Suetonius. then there is the Jewish testimony of
Josephus. Flavius Josephus is thought to be the most important witness to Jesus from the
10 Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes
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Jewish culture. Here is a statement form him. “Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a
wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a
teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of
the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ: and when Pilate, at the
suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that
loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third
day, as the divine prophets foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things
concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this
In conclusion, if after all of the evidence we have today about the New Testament is
examined and one comes to the conclusion that it is not reliable and throws it out. Then
shouldn’t all of the other history, poetry, and philosophy music, plus any other findings
pertaining to this life be thrown out as well?
For my personal application I have to say that this class has truly challenged me. I now
know how to explain Christ in His deity and in his human nature. How our scientists and
archaeologists have found and continue to find revealing evidence that supports the
Bible. This is great because a lot of people out there think that science and the Bible are
completely separate. Also I can now refer to the notes that I have written down for future
references. I can accurately communicate with those that believe in evolution the facts
about everything having a beginning that is not partial and evolving but is complete.
I do have to say though, I am very very lost in a lot of this. I almost have a sense of
lacking intelligence when it comes to all that I have listened to and read during the course
of this class.
I thought I knew about the Bible, but after taking this class and especially after trying to
write this paper I have concluded that I have so much more to learn and am in a great
11 Josephus, Complete Works, 379, Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes
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need to apply my self to the study of the Bible. I am thankful that Jesus says, “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 NKJV)
All in all I do see a difference in me and in the way I look at and think of the Bible, Jesus
Christ, the world I live in and the people I am around. Also my thinking of the universe
and all that is in existence has changed. I have a better understanding of how history,
archaeology, and science point to the Bible not away from it. The greatest take away for
me is I can stand firm on the fact that the New Testament is reliable and the world around
me continues to point to the truth that God sent His Son to us. Fully God and fully man,
completing the task needed to save me and the all those in the world. So loving is God
that He gives us an opportunity to understand the who, what, when, and where of the
Bible, and His redemptive plan. Not making it a lofty thing that is out of reach. I know I
feel like all of this is out of reach at times but I am finite. I rest in the Word of God, that
He himself will teach me through His Word and through others that are submitted to Him
and His Word.
Thank The Lord!
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Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament, 2nd ed., (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1968)
Blomberg, Craig L., “Gospels: Historical Reliability,” in Joel B. Green, Scott McKnight,
and I. Howard Marshall, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove:
The university of Manchester The John Rylands University Library
McDowell, Josh, New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson,
Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of
the Evidence for Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998],143.
Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes
Josephus, Complete Works, 379, Joe Holden, Apologetic Evangelism Course Notes

Never Thirst

Jesus encourages us in
John 4:14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (NKJV)

This is God’s promise to us. He is the complete answer for our thirst. The place in our soul that hungers daily to be filled. Christ promised to not just fill it and it empty out, but to fill us up in such a way that we, our souls will never thirst again, and our lives will become a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. What does a fountain do? It pours out and gives water to the thirsty. Are you thirsty?

May you be encouraged today, that as you draw near to God through a real relationship with Jesus Christ, be in prayer and the reading of the Word and in fellowship with other believers, that God IS going to put the pieces together. It may look a little different than what you first intended but in the end if you press into Jesus and allow Him to do the work, a godly life will flow out of you, everlasting life. Be Salt and Light make the world thirsty for Jesus!