Sep 4 2009

Evidence? What evidence?

Over the years I’ve sat through a number of civil trials as an observer.  Over 2 or 3 days (sometimes more) I would hear the plaintiff put on their side, and the evidence always seemed overwhelming.  It wasn’t until I heard the defense evidence that things were put into perspective; at times, the plaintiff’s case would simply evaporate in light of the rest of the evidence.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately from folks like Bart Ehrman about the many problems with the Biblical texts, yada, yada.  His rhetoric can sound pretty convincing if that’s all you hear.

A blogger who calls himself Makarios has put together a short series of posts listing just a partial listing of facts that start to tell “the rest of the story.”

In Can you trust Luke? he mentions all of the valid historical facts in the Gospel of Luke; enough to certainly give any historian credibility (except, of course, if he’s talking about Jesus).  With ancient history (or current history, for that matter) credibility is important.  He continues that discussion here.

Then, in I’m an expert!, he provides some facts that support the historicity of the New Testament in general, and compares the NT docs to other ancient historical documents. The comparison is striking.  With regard to the NT, he writes:

When it comes to the New Testament, especially as it attests to the reality of Jesus the Christ, His life, His death and especially His resurrection, there is more witness testimony than for any other document in ancient literature. With respect to the accuracy and continuity of the documents:

. There are more than 5,700 Greek copies of the New Testament.

. There are 10,000 copies of the New Testament in Latin.

. Take into consideration copies that are available in other languages and we have available to us 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament.

. Take into consideration all the quotations of the early Church Fathers and you will find over one million more verses that have been preserved from the first century onward.

Comparing the ancient documents that we have,

At the latest, there is only a 75 year gap between available copies and the time that the New Testament was completed. For the early Church’s creed that Paul passes on to the Christians in Corinth and which he most certainly got from the apostle’s oral, eye witness reports, we are looking at within 5 years of Jesus death and resurrection at most.

For copies of materials from other ancient historical writers, a gap of 1,000 years is not unusual and what we have in those cases are mere fragments of their works.

and he continues,

. The history of Thucydides has just eight copies dated 1,300 years after he wrote.

. Copies of Aristotle’s poetics are dated 1,400 years after the originals and only five copies exist.

. Copies of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are from 1,000 years after the originals and only ten copies exist.

Even though the time between the original and copies seems very long indeed, no classical scholar, or atheist for that matter, would ever conclude that the copies are not dependable because they were written over a thousand years after the original. They do however complain if a document that’s been included into the New Testament is dated 30 years later than the original. (You may roll your eyes now)

He concludes this series of posts here.

None of this is, of course, conclusive. It merely provides credibility to what we have as the New Testament documents.  But, that’s what history is all about.