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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, July 22 2021

Is the New Testament a fraud?

Many people never seem to get around to reading and studying the Bible. Too many put their trust in what movies, books, academics and supposed experts say, when it is so important to read and study the Bible for yourself (see Acts 17:11).

by John Ross Schroeder

The Da Vinci Code controversy revolves around questioning the truth and accuracy of the New Testament. It is therefore more important than ever to understand how these books were selected to be part of the inspired Word of God. The apostle Paul tells us the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles (who authored most of the books of the New Testament) and the prophets (who authored the books of the Old Testament), with Jesus being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Near the time of the Apostle Peter's martyrdom, one of his concerns was the preservation of his teachings: "Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:15). The most obvious way for this to be accomplished was by the preservation of a written work, as Peter confirms in 2 Peter 3:1-2: "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle ...that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the Holy Prophets [in the Old Testament], and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour [the beginnings of the New Testament]" (2 Peter 3:1-2).

Similarly Paul’s final instructions to Timothy just prior to his martyrdom confirm this: "Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13). The British scholar F.F. Bruce commented: "What the parchments were which Paul so anxiously desired Timothy to bring we cannot be sure, but it is a reasonable guess that they contained portions of Holy Scripture" (The Books and the Parchments, 1963, p. 12).

Some have even pointed out that the "cloak" Paul mentions is likely not a reference to an item of clothing, but rather a cover or folder in which the parchments were held. The Greek word could denote either. In English we have the similar term "jacket," which can apply to either a coat or a book cover. Since Paul wrote this final letter to Timothy under the pressure of imminent execution, it is inconceivable he would not have taken steps to see that his letters would be preserved for future generations of the Church.

Much has been made of the supposed time gap of 40 and more years between Christ's preaching and the time the Gospel accounts were written. N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham of the Anglican Church, comments: "The once-fashionable scholarly tradition of pushing the gospels later and later and regarding their contents with more and more scepticism has been radically undermined..." (Decoding Da Vinci, 2006, p. 18).

Some scholars estimate Paul began writing letters less than 20 years after Christ's crucifixion with Galatians, thought to be his first letter, written as early as A.D. 48—only 17 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. His letters reveal Christ instituted the New Testament Passover ceremony with the symbols of bread and wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and confirmed Christ died by crucifixion, was buried and rose from the dead (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Philippians 2:8)—after which He ascended into heaven (Ephesians 4:9-10).

Note that Professor F.F. Bruce wrote in the fifth edition of ‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’: "The evidence of our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning" (p. 15).

Dr. Peter Head also concurs with F.F. Bruce's testimony: "The wealth of material undergirding the text of the New Testament becomes overwhelming . . . Documentary evidence for the New Testament is much stronger than for any comparable works from the ancient world" (Is the New Testament Reliable?, pp. 8, 10).

The biblical record is also supported by many archaeological finds, with inscriptions, seals, tombs, historical records and other artifacts verifying the existence of almost 70 individuals listed in the Bible, many of whom are mentioned only in passing.

Countless other discoveries such as cities, towns, customs and titles of government officials have been discovered that also bear witness to the books of the Bible being written when they claim to have been.

William Ramsay is a noted scholar who initially dismissed the New Testament as historical fabrication. The young Oxford graduate had been taught by his professors the Bible was written much later than it claimed to be and thus shouldn't be taken seriously. But over his long academic career Ramsay, during which he was honored with doctorates from nine universities and eventually knighted for his contributions to scholarship, at one point shocked the academic world by announcing that the incontrovertible evidence he had discovered over his years of study compelled him to become a Christian. He went on to write several books that are considered classic works on New Testament history.