CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES

Psalm 14:1 "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God"

All articles are written in the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

When Was The New Testamnet Written?

 

This study deals with another problem that must be considered in the study of Christian Evidences. What evidence do we have that the New Testament is genuine, honest, and right? All we know about Jesus is in the New Testament. If this book is wrong, then we are at a complete loss to uphold Christianity or have any faith in it. Thus we must study this topic to find the true basis of our faith and hope.

Is the New Testament genuine? Can it be tracked back to the men who were supposed to have written it? Can we know that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter and others actually wrote the New Testament? In answering these questions we must show that the New Testament was written in the first century, AD.

The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament in its original language date back to the fourth century. There are three important manuscripts we wish to notice:

I. Sinaitic Manuscript or “Codex Sinaiticus”. Found at the foot of Mt Sinai, at the Monastery of St. Catherine in 1859 by Tischendorf, this manuscript was kept in the imperial library at St. Petersburg until 1933, when it was sold to the British Museum at the price of a half a million dollars. It contains all the New Testament together with a large portion of the Old Testament and other writings. Critics who have studied Greek say this copy must have been made about 350 AD.

 II. Alexandrian Manuscript . This manuscript has been kept in the British Museum since 1627. This manuscript contains most of the New Testament and was made about 475 to 525 AD.

 III. Vatican Manuscript . This manuscript is kept in the Vatican library since 1481. This manuscript contains most of the New Testament and was written about 300 to 350 AD.

(Other manuscripts of note: “ The Ephraem ” 5 th century, now in Paris , contains about half the New Testament. “ The Beza ” 5 th century, now in the University of Cambridge , and contains the Gospels and Acts. “ The Washington ” 4 th century, found in Egypt in 1906, now in the Smithsonian Library at Washington , it contains the Gospels.)

The books of the New Testament were listed, or catalogued, by historians and other writers in the 2 nd and 3 rd centuries. This proves that these books must have been in existence then.

 I. In the council of Carthage , 397 AD., those who were present made a list of the books which were then considered inspired. They listed all of the books of the New Testament as we have them now.

 II. Cyril lived in Jerusalem from 315 to 386 AD. In one of his lectures he named all the books of the New Testament except Revelation.

 III. Eusebius lived from 270 to 340 AD. He has been called the father of church history. In his writings he names every book of the New Testament.

 IV. Origen lived in Alexandria from 185 to 254 AD. In his writings he too  mentions all the books of the New Testament, showing that they were then in existence.

 V. Clement of Alexandria lived from 165 to 220 AD. In his writings he too mentions all the books of the New Testament.

The writings of these men show that the New Testament was in existence in the days in which they lived, and that it was then considered an inspired book.

There are translations of the New Testament now in existence which were made in the 2 nd century, around 270 AD. This shows that the New Testament was then in existence. Every book is as old as the oldest existing translation. Therefore we know the New Testament must be at least as old as the 2 nd century.

Any book must be as old as any quotation from it. There are quotations from the New Testament in the writings of men who lived in the 2 nd century. Time and space in this article will not allow us to list every quote and person and some have been listed already. Suffice it to say, that they quoted from the New Testament, showing that it was already in existence. Therefore we can conclude that the New Testament must have been written and in existence before the 2 nd century AD.

(Note: There are now in existence about 4000 known manuscripts of the Bible, or parts of the Bible, made between the 2 nd and 15 th centuries. This may seem few to some, but it is far more than the manuscripts of any other ancient writings. There is not a complete known copy of Homer earlier than 1300 AD; or of Herodotus earlier than 1000 AD.)

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Were the writers of the New Testament honest men? Can we accept what they wrote as true?

The first evidence of their honesty comes from the agreement of their writings with other writers of that time.

Josephus was a Jewish historian of that time. He was born in Jerusalem in 37 AD. In his history he mentions several things which agree with the writings of that time:

I. He tells how Herod was living with his brother's wife. See: Matthew 14:3-4 (Antiquities, Book 18, Chap. 5, Par.2)

 II. He names John the Baptist and tells how he was imprisoned and beheaded. (Antiquities, Book 17, Ch.5, Par2)

 III. He tells of the death of James the brother of the Lord and calls him: ‘The brother of Jesus who was called Christ, who's name was James”. (Antiquities, Book 20, Ch.9, Par 1)

 IV. He gives tribute to Christ and mentions his resurrection. (Antiquities, Book 18, Ch.3, Par.3)

Tacitus was a Roman writer who lived in the first century. In his writings he mentions the following facts about Christ and Christianity:

 I. That Christ suffers death under Pontius Pilate.

 II. That belief in Him was checked for a time by His death, but it soon broke out again.

 III. That it spread over Judea , and then to Rome .

 IV. That there was a vast multitude of Christians in Rome at the time of the fire (64 AD.).

 V. That Nero accused Christians of causing the fire, and punished them cruelly.

 VI. That their sufferings, believed to be unjust, awakened the sympathy of the people for them. (McGarvey, Evidences of Christianity, Part 111, Pg. 10)

A second indication of their honesty comes from the incidental agreement of their writings with other things. Every reference in the New Testament to political rulers is correct. In addition the mention of Annas and Caiaphas as high priests is also true. We learn from Josephus that Annas was the rightful high priest, but that Caiaphas, his son-in-law, was serving in his place. (Antiquities, Book 18, Chap.2, Par.2)

The references in the New Testament to the coins then in use are accurate and correct. The New Testament references to the sentiments of the Jews on various subjects agree with these described by Josephus, note:

 I. The Jews were looking for a Messiah. They had fixed on the place of His birth ( Matthew 2:4-6 ).

 II. They expected Him to be the son of David ( Matthew 22:41 -43 ).

 III. Other similar things are mentioned in the New Testament about the hope of the Jews; Josephus also mentions this hope (Wars, Book 6, Chap.5, and Par.4).

 IV. The feelings between the Jews and the Samaritans. John wrote that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans ( John 4:9 ). Josephus would also describe this segregation (Antiquities, Book 20, and Chap.6).

A third indication of their honesty comes from the fact that every geographical reference in the New Testament is correct. If they are correct in these matters, it strengthens our faith in what they wrote about other matters.

A fourth indication of their honesty is seen from the fact they died for what they had written and what they believed .

 

Conclusion: We have now seen that the New Testament must have been written in the first century AD. And that the writers must have been honest men. Based upon these things we must conclude that the New Testament is a true account of what happened then.

At first the scriptures were copied by hand. Of course it was easy for a copyist to make some errors in copying. But when several manuscripts and translations are compared, the same error will not be found in all of them. Thus by comparison these errors are found and corrected. “Only about one thousandth part of the New Testament is so variously expressed in the different copies, as to make any substantial difference of meaning.” (Mcgarvey, Evidences of Christianity, Part1, Pg.13)

There are a few instances of verses that are found in some manuscripts but omitted in others. Some examples: John 5:4; John 8:1-11; Mark 16:9-20; Acts 8:37; I John 5:7 . Much discussion has arisen over each of these passages concerning whether or not they were in the original text. We shall not attempt to settle the matter, except to say that the question does exist. However, no truth of the Bible would be altered if these were omitted, and as translators have worked with these manuscripts that do contain them, great effort has been made to test the teachings therein with the rest of the text and no variations have been found.

 

The original manuscripts of all the New Testament books, as far as it is known, have been lost. Copies of these precious writings began to be made from the very first, for other churches; and copies of copies, generation after generation, as the older ones wore out .

The New Testament with its 27 book canon, was accepted by the Early Christian Fathers, and finally ratified by the council of Carthage, became, without further questioning, the recognized word of God for Christendom for hundreds of years.

 

Next: “The Miracles of Jesus