Authenticity of the New Testament
Authenticity refers to the genuineness and reliability of the New Testament documents. Claiming that the New Testament is authentic means that:
- The letters were written by the writer claiming to have written them (for example: John wrote the Gospel of John, Paul wrote Romans, Luke wrote Acts, etc.)
- The letters were written at the time the author claims to have written them
- The letters were written at the location the author claims he was at when he wrote them.
- The letters were sent to the people that they were addressed to.
- The letters contain the original information that the author intended to be in the document.
The authenticity of the New Testament is important. If the information is inaccurate or a forgery then our faith is in vain. We are some of the most deceived and confused people in history. Paul wrote:
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men!”
-1 Corinthians 15:17-19
Critics attack the New Testament documents by saying these things:
- The New Testament letters were written after the apostolic age.
- The New Testament contains legends
- The events in the New Testament are not historical events
- The books of the New Testament were written by church people to develop a particular belief they were trying to support and spread.
- The authors who claim to have written them did not write the New Testament letters.
- The New Testament letters were not sent to the people that were to receive them.
The “Jesus Seminar”: A Voice of Deception
- Organized in 1985 by 70 “scholars”
- They meet twice a year to make pronouncements about the
authenticity of the words and deeds of Jesus
- They have a public information campaign that includes promoting their ideas by: TV, articles, interviews, tapes/cds, movies
- The group uses colored beads to vote on the accuracy of Jesus’ sayings:
1) Red Bead = Jesus probably spoke it
2) Pink Bead = saying could be attributed to Jesus
3) Gray Bead = the saying probably came from a later source, but not Jesus
4) Black Bead = Jesus almost certainly did not say this
- They vote on the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, and a document called “Q”
(“Q” represents the word “quelle” which means “source”)
- The results of the Jesus Seminar’s “scholarship”:
- Only 15 sayings, or 2%, of Jesus’ recorded in these
documents are absolute (a Red Bead)
- 82% are not authentic (a Black Bead)
- 10% are doubtful (Pink or Gray Beads)
- In Matthew: 11 of the 420 sayings are authentic, 235 received the Black Bead
- In Mark: 1 of the 177 sayings is authentic, 92 received the Black Bead
- In Luke: 14 of the 392 sayings are authentic, 185 received the Black Bead
- In John: 0 (none) or the 140 sayings are authentic, 134 got the Black Bead
- In the Gospel of Thomas: 3 of the 202 sayings are authentic, 92=Black Bead
- The Conclusion of “The Jesus Seminar”:
1) The “old Jesus” and “old Christianity” are no longer relevant
2) Jesus did not rise from the dead
3) Gospels are from a late date (after the apostles) and can not be trusted
4) The authentic words of Jesus come from “Q”, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter.
- What effect does this have on Christianity? Jesus is a cynic, a sage, a reformer, a feminist, a prophet-teacher, a radical socialist, an end time preacher. But, Jesus is not the Son of God, not the Messiah prophesied of in the OT, not the savior and not the soon returning king.
- The Jesus Seminar is a voice of deception in our times.
-Probe Ministries Christian (critical) view of Jesus Seminar
-Jesus Seminar’s Misguided Conclusions
Proving the Authenticity of the New Testament Documents
A. Effects must have a Cause
- Something must have happened around 30 AD for history to be so effected and 2,000 years of church history resulted.
- Christianity has had a huge impact on world history
- Millions of personal testimonies of changed lives
- POINT: All history, every bit that we have and know today, must come from written records. The effect we see today and through out 2,000 years of history tells us that around 30 AD there was a powerful cause that began this powerful effect.
B. Quality and Quantity of available Manuscripts
|What is a manuscript?
A manuscript (abbreviation - ms. or plural, mss.) is the term used to identify hand written copies of an ancient document. Before there were printing presses or copy machines all documents were written by hand. New Testament manuscripts, or NT mss, are copies of the New Testament books that began to be made in the first century and continued to be made until the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 A.D.
Learn more about manuscripts here:
No other document from antiquity even begins to approach the number of available manuscripts for the New Testament. For example:
- Homer’s “Illiad”.
- There are 643 remaining manuscripts of Homer’s "lliad"
- The "Illiad" has the second most existing manuscripts. The New Testament is first.
- In comparison there are a total of 48,600 manuscripts of the New Testament
- 5,686 are Greek manuscripts
- 10,000 are Latin Vulgate manuscripts
- 9,300 are other earlier versions
- 24,000 manuscripts portions of the New Testament
Available Manuscripts of Writings from Antiquity
Title of Document Number of Available Manuscripts
Tacitus “History” 5
Plato “Tetralogies” 7
Thucydides “History” 8
Herodotus “History” 8
Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” 10
Homer “Iliad” 643
New Testament 5,686 Greek plus 40,000 others
C. Time elapse
- Time elapse is the time span between the time of the original writing and the oldest manuscript, or written copy, of the original.
- Time elapse between original manuscript and earliest existing copy of the New Testament manuscripts is amazing when compared to the time elapse between the original writing and a manuscript of other ancient documents
- The time elapse for the book of John is about thirty years (85 – 115 AD)
Author Document Date of Writing Oldest MS Time Elapse
Caesar “Gallic Wars” 58-50 BC 850 AD 900 years
Tacitus “Histories” 100 AD 850 AD 750 years
Thucydides “History” 460-400 BC 900 AD 1,300 years
Herodotus “History” 488-428 BC 850 AD 1,300 years
Plato “Tetralogies” 427-347 BC 900 AD 1,250 years
Aristotle 384-322 1100 AD 1,400 years
The New Testament
NT Book Date Name of MS MS Date Time Elapse
John 85 AD John Ryland’s MS 115 AD 30 years
John 85 AD Bodmer Papyrus II 150-200 AD 65-115 years
Most of NT 45-95 AD Chester Beatty Papyri 150-200 AD 55-155 years
Bible w/ NT 45-95 Codex Vaticanus 325 AD 250-280 yrs.
Bible w/ NT 45-95 AD Codex Sinaiticus 350 AD 275-305 yrs.
John 18:31-33; 37-38, 115 AD . . . . .Fragment of Revelation from Oxyrhynchos
Some of the Important New Testament Manuscripts
John Ryland’s Manuscript
Chester Beatty Papyri
|What is Papyrus?
Papyrus is a plant that grows along the Nile Delta in Egypt. The long stems of the plant were used to make a paper like material to write on. Many of the ancient manuscripts that we have discovered were written on papyrus.
Read more here: http://www.earlham.edu/~seidti/iam/papyrus.html
What is Parchment?
Parchment is a writing material made from the skins of animals like sheep, goats or calves. When pieces of parchment were made into pages and attached like a book it is called a codex.
Read more here: http://www.earlham.edu/~seidti/iam/parchment.html
D. Early Translations
- Ancient literature was rarely translated into another language.
- The Syrian and Latin translations were done about 150 AD
E. Early Church Fathers
- We have letters and writings of men who knew and heard the apostles.
- The men quoted the NT documents during the years 70-150 AD in their writings
- The quotes in their writings testify to what was in the NT documents in the first century
- These men would not have:
- Tolerated a change in the apostles writings or their teachings
- Quoted from a book that was written by an imposter and not written by an apostle
- Altered or added to the teachings or the words
Codex Sinaiticus from 325 AD
Internal Confirmation to New Testament Authenticity
- Paul always begins his epistles with his name and claims authorship.
- Undesigned coincidences run through the New Testament books that prove Paul was the author. Many references to people, places, situations align with the book of Acts and the epistles Paul wrote.
- Linguistic evidence is consistent with the authors:
- Paul’s style and vocabulary remain the same in all his books.
- This is clearly true of John as well using words like “light”, “word”.
- Archaeology and anthropology confirms the places and customs recorded in the Bible.
- The New Testament was written in Koine Greek and not Classical Greek
- Stories, poems and legends were written in Classical Greek
- Letters, notes, bills, etc. were written in Koine Greek which is the language of common life. This was discovered and proven in the 1800’s.
Internal Evidence for the Early Date of Acts
and Luke’s Authorship
According to those who accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, the Book of Acts is believed to have been written during Paul’s lifetime by Luke. This means it was written before 70 AD and probably around 61 AD. This is the
evidence in the book of Acts that indicates it was written before 70 AD.
- No mention of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
- No mention of the burning of Rome in 64 AD.
- No hint of deterioration of Roman and Jewish relationships that resulted from the Jewish war with Rome beginning in 66 AD.
- No hint of the deterioration of relationships between the Romans and the Christian due to Nero’s persecution during 65-67 AD.
- Gallio’s judgment (Acts 18:14-17) set a precedent to legitimize Christianity for this time period.
- There is not hint of Pastor James’ martyrdom by the Sanhedrin around 67 AD.
- The Sadducees are portrayed as still having authority reflecting a pre-70 AD date.
- Acts never mentions Peter in Rome.
- Peter (died 65 AD) and John (died after 96 AD) seem to be alive in Acts. No details are given about any of the disciple’s deaths but James (died 44 AD).
- There were Gentiles in the synagogues. Few would be looking into Judiasm after 70 AD.
- The temple is still standing with no hint of attack or of being destroyed.
- There is a confident tone of normal life continuing. Unlike life after 65 and 70 AD.
- Acts ends as if the events at the end of the book were still occurring. The ending leaves Paul alive with no hint of his martyrdom.
- No where in the book does the author try to appear to predict any of these key events or try to give Paul credit as a prophet of these events.
KEY POINTS (back to the top)
- The New Testament is made up of historical documents that are authentic
- Authenticity means the documents are genuine and reliable.
- There are critics who want to say the New Testament is a fraud and not a first century document.
- Manuscripts from the first, second and third centuries prove the New Testament was already being preserved before the critics want to say it was being written.
- The vast amount of manuscripts help prove the New Testament authenticity.
- The short time period between the first writting and our oldest manuscript help support our belief that the New Testament that we have today is very, very close if not exactly what was originally written.
- Accepted history of the Romans and even the world is based on documents with as few as 5-10 existing manuscripts. The New Testament has 5,686 Greek manuscripts itself.
- The time interval between the original writing of many accepted historical documents is 900 years. Plenty of time for corruptions to enter the text. The New Testament manuscripts are with in 30 to 200 years of the original.
- Internal evidence in the New Testament books also proves they are authentic first century documents.
OTHER SITES with more information concerning NT authenticity: (back to the top)
New Testament Reliability
Catalogue of New Testament Papyri & Codices 2nd—10th Centuries
Manuscript evidence Here
BOOKS from Galyn's Shelf: (back to the top)
"Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament" by Philip Wesley Comfort
"How We Got the Bible" by Neil R. Lightfoot
"Books and Their Makers in the Middle Ages" by Geo. Haven Putnam
"Light from the Ancient East" by Adolf Deissmann
QUESTIONS (back to the top)
Do you think the New Testament is authentic?
How can the number of manuscripts help support the New Testaments authenticity?
Does the time between the writing of the document and the closest copy make a difference?
Do you think a document that has been copied for 900 years or one that has been copied for 150 years will have more errors in the text?
List 4 important manuscripts and about the time it was written.
List 2 reasons why we can say the New Testament letters of Paul are authentic based on internal evidence from the text.
List 3 reasons why we can say the book of Acts was written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Sect A, Ch 3 -
Authenticity of the New Testamennt
Sect A, Ch 3 - Critic the Jesus Seminar
"There is no time for creating a change in Jesus or his work."
"There are too many on lookers for one person to create a false quote, let alone a false book."
"The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself." -ARISTOTLE
"It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our convition that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God." - SIR FREDERIC G. KENYON, Director of British Museum
"To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."