Chapter 9 – Do we have Early Testimony About Jesus?
Historians have documented 10 Non-Christian writers who mentioned Jesus within 150 years of his life. By comparison, you will find documentation that Roman Emperor Tiberius was mentioned by 9 writers within that time frame.
Here is a compilation of facts documented by these non-Christian writers.57
- Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
- He lived a virtuous life.
- He was a wonder-worker.
- He had a brother named James.
- He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
- He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
- He was crucified under Pontus Pilot.
- Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he did.
- His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
- His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
- Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
- His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God.
Here is the goal of chapter 9
Since, as we have shown, the existence of God and the possibility of miracles is firmly established through natural revelation, and the general story of Christ and the early church is affirmed through non-Christian sources, did the miracles of Christ actually occur as the disciples claim? So the New Testament documents record actual history? Could it be that they are not biased religious writings full of myths and fables as many in our modern world assume, but instead describe events that actually occurred about 2,000 years ago? Is so, we’ll be well on our way to discovering which theistic religion is true.58
To test the historical validity of the New Testament the authors pose two questions
1. Do we have accurate copies of the original documents that were written down in the first century?
2. Do those documents speak the truth?
Here is some of the evidence for question #1.59
- Copies of the original documents- about 5,800 Greek New Testament manuscripts. 20,000 more in other languages. The next closest document with copies of manuscripts is The Iliad by Homer with 1,800 total.
- Some of the manuscripts were written very close to the time the originals would have been written. Within 25 years. Other manuscripts by comparison – Homer; about 400 years between the original and the oldest copies. Plato 1,200 years (only 7 actual copies). Caeser 1,000 years (only 10 actual copies). Pliny 750 years (only 7 actual copies).
- The early church workers quoted the original so many times, you could make your own complete reproductions of the New Testament just from reading others quoting it.
- Because of the quantity of source material, the accuracy of the New Testament has been established at 99.5 percent.
Seven items provide the basis for the historical reliability of the New Testament (is it the truth?).60
- Early testimony that supports the New Testament.
- Eyewitness testimony that confirms the New Testament.
- Multiple, independent eyewitnesses.
- Trustworthy eyewitnesses.
- Archeological corroboration and corroboration from other writers.
- Enemies of Christianity who attest to the reliability of the New Testament.
- Testimony regarding the New Testament that has content embarrassing to the authors.
The authors draw two major conclusions in this chapter.61
- We have an accurate copy of the original New testament documents.
- The New Testament documents are early and contain even earlier source material.
Often you hear about doubts about the New Testament. What do you think about the overwhelming evidence that eliminates reasonable arguments by doubters?
57Geisler & Turek page 223 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
58Geisler & Turek page 223 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
59Geisler & Turek pages 224-230 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
60Geisler & Turek page 231 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
61Geisler & Turek pages 248-249 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.