Reliability of the New Testament

Hello everyone! I am looking for someone to chat with on this topic.

I find that much of the debate over Christianity vs atheism often hinges on the reliability of the New Testament as well as attesting to the historical person and work of Jesus Christ. Atheists often disagree with the reliability of the New Testament and Jesus’ existence because of the time it was written in (1st century AD/CE). It being 2,000 years old causes atheists too question its reliability. The same goes for Jesus’ historical existence. Yet, I often find atheists ignoring (regardless if the ignorance is intentional or not) important information about the reliability of the New Testament and Jesus’ existence. This is especially true of the Gospels and what the other books of the New Testament suggest about the written as well as the eyewitness accounts. I know that this discussion has already occurred in a separate forum but it has stopped and not been continued. I thought I would start it up again and offer some important information to discuss.

New Testament Reliability

  • From the source which is linked at the bottom of this post:
    "* There are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing.
  •  The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure.
  •  In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000."

The Historical Existence of Jesus Christ

  • the reliability of the New Testament (both its Gospels, epistles, and other literature)
  • the 12 disciples as key witnesses to the events and life of Christ
  • There 500 witnesses to Jesus’ life after he was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)
  • Jesus was with the disciples for some time after his resurrection
  • important political figures are named in connection with Jesus Christ in the first century (Caesar, Pontus Pilate, The Herodian dynasty)
  • historical writers who are not Christians wrote about Jesus and Christianity (From Source: Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Josephus, Mara Bar-Serration).

Source: https://www.thecollegechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/HANDOUTS-Is-Scripture-Reliable.pdf

1> There are no original texts to ascertain the reliability of the much later texts. For instance the earliest fragment of “Mark” (certainly not an eyewitness account, and anonymous like ALL the synoptics) dates to 160CE. Mark of course being the copied basis for both Mathew (with additions) for a Jewish audience and Luke with contrasting additions and for a Greek audience. The most adjacent in time fragment we have of any gospel is the the fragment of “John” dated between 125CE and 250CE. John was written by 4 or more authors and certainly not an eyewitness account.

2> We can be sure that the original “followers of the way” in Jerusalem had copies of Matthew , but it did not contain the birth narrative and in their copy of Luke the wording fostered their belief that the Jesus figure was entirely human (see my writings on the Ebionites on this forum)

3> The 1st to 5th centuries was a hotbed of contrasting beliefs, texts, cults and sects (see my various writings in More on Christian sects in the second to 5th centuries - #3 by Old_man_shouts_at_cl) the wording of many texts was interpolated, edited, altered to accommodate the leading cult’s opinions until Constantine’s takeover in the 4th Century CE.
Several texts were invented during the 2-4th Centuries including 2 Peter, Titus and 2 Timothy to satisfy local mores.

4> The Roman Church did not even have a canon of texts until the competition from the Marcionites with their gospel made the Early Church try to cobble together a set from the myriad of texts available.

5>All 4 of the “gospels” are anonymous and all 4 show signs of multiple revisions

There is not one contemporary reference to his alleged life of the gospel inspired Jesus figure.
There is not one independent contemporary witness to the resurrection. The “500” CLAIMED witnesses to the resurrection are all anonymous.

The fact that a very human “jesus” may have inspired the magical stories found much much later in the ramblings of “Paul”, an admitted visionary, and they in turn inspired the even later creator of “Mark” is a much more likely scenario than the semi divine, magical zombie jesus described in the modern bible.

I could write so much more on this subject but you will find your arguments eviscerated elsewhere on these pages. Feel free to write me if you need clarification or citations for any of my points.

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These have been debunked so many times in these forums and elsewhere. Only those who have NEVER read the actual references quote them as you have.

If you would like to see the ACTUAL references and why you are so wrong just reply to this post. I will oblige.

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Debate implies that at least one “side” can bring evidence to the table to provide real world context. Would we say this is the case regarding the subject in question, currently?

I’m also in the ‘your arguments have been well addressed here’ camp. More reading and less posting, perhaps?

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  1. The gospels are anonymous hearsay.
  2. They are dated decades after the events they purport to describe.
  3. There are no contemporary accounts of anything, beyond some scant evidence of a fairly common execution, of someone with a fairly common name.

NB If you could objectively evidence that people were making these claims who were there, it would still only be bare unevidenced claims about supernatural magic, from an epoch of extreme ignorance and superstition, your work would all still be before you.

Unless you can objectively evidence their claims, this is just a bare appeal to numbers, an argumentum ad populum fallacy.

The Harry Potter novels consistently claim wizards are real, so what?

Another argumentum ad populum fallacy, unless you can objectively evidence the claims they make. There are 325 million copies of the Harry Potter novels consistently claim wizards are real, this doesn’t make wizardry real, even if the original books and everyone who read them claimed it was.

I don’t care, that someone with a pretty common name met a pretty common end is irrelevant to the claim a deity took human form and visited ancient Palestine, and all the unevidenced supernatural claims associated with that claim.

No there aren’t, there is a claim for them. However it could be 5000000 CLAIMS to have witnessed a supernatural event, from an epoch of extreme ignorance and superstition, and that is not objective evidence, and without that it is an irrational bare appeal to numbers, another argumentum ad populum fallacy.

Great, now demonstrate something beyond this bare claim that a deity exists, and that any resurrection occurred.

New York city is accurately depicted in connection with the Spiderman movies, this doesn’t make Spiderman real.

J K Rowling wrote about Harry Potter, and she doesn’t believe in wizardry, what’s your point? The existence of someone with a common name, being executed in a fairly common way, doesn’t objectively evidence any of the supernatural claims made about him, or remotely evidence he was anything but human.

I am an atheist because no one ever demonstrates any objective evidence for any deity, can you demonstrate any?

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I have doubts that this is true. In volume, there may be more Akkadian literature which dates from a couple to a few hundred years BCE.

My main reason for writing that statement was because I often viewed these discussions from a bird’s eye view. I try keep the claims of both sides in mind. Yes, I believe that both sides can bring evidence to the table because of the fact that it is a discussion. Also, I am not sure what you mean by ‘more reading and less posting’. I only have the main post that stated this conversation and this reply to you. Otherwise, most of the posts are from other people.

Response To Claims on Forum

Hello everyone. I appreciate your responses to my initial post. There was a lot to consider based on the rebuttals and comments you offered. I will address the claims as best I can based on what I have learned or researched. I will not be able to get to all of the claims in a single post but I will address some here.

Point 1: People Rejecting ‘Miracles’

This does not disprove the Gospel accounts or make them an unreliable account of history. Most Greco-Roman historians recorded miracles in their historical writings, including Herodotus who is regarded as the father of history. Yet such texts and histories are not completely disregarded because they contain miracles (but the NT is often disregarded for this reason alone). Even if the miracles reported are unreliably reported, that does not mean we should automatically dismiss everything else reported in the Gospels. That would be committing an association fallacy.

Source - Youtube Video: The Reliability of the New Testament (Answering Objections) by Inspiring Philosophy

Point 2: The Gospel authors and other eyewitnesses are ‘anonymous’

I am not sure how this is an indictment against the Gospels or the 500 eyewitnesses that I mentioned in my initial post. Part of the reason for the anonymity was in order for them to avoid the threat of persecution from the Jews. The Jews held power in Jerusalem before 70AD when the temple was destroyed. If their names had been mentioned in the Gospels or other letters, then they could have potentially been persecuted. Also, ancient biographies were typically written without mentioning the author’s name in the biography itself. Not in every case but in many cases they were.

The early church fathers are an important source in helping us know the authorship of the Gospels. Tertullian, writing in 200 AD, attributed the Gospels to the traditionally known authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This was written in a work titled ‘Against Marcion.’ St. Irenaeus of France wrote in 180AD about the four Gospels and their authors being Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in his work ‘Against Heresies.’ He also pointed out that John’s Gospel was written later than the other Gospels. Clement of Alexandria wrote in 180AD that the Gospels with genealogies came first (Matthew and Luke) where as Mark was written on request from Peter preaching in Rome. He also said that John’s Gospel came last out of the four. This is referenced from ‘Adumbrationes in Epistles Canonicas on 1 Peter 5:13’. Papias wrote in 125AD about writing down what Peter had witnessed. Papias’ words were written in Eusebius’ ‘Ecclesiastical History’. Also, all of these church fathers lived in different areas of the ancient world which attests to the Gospels being spread over the ancient world and sharing the same message.

Source - Youtube Video: Reliability of the New Testament (Authorship and Dating) by Inspiring Philosophy

Point 3: The Dating of the New Testament Writings

From Source on NT Letters Being Referenced by Early Church Fathers:

“- In the 1830s German scholars of the Tübingen school tried to date the books as late as the 3rd century, but the discovery of some New Testament manuscripts and fragments from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, one of which dates as early as 125 AD (Papyrus 52), disproves a 3rd-century date of composition for any book now in the New Testament.

  • Additionally, a letter to the church at Corinth in the name of Clement of Rome in 95 AD quotes from 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and a letter to the church at Philippi in the name of Polycarp in 120 quotes from 16 New Testament books.

  • Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) was a student of the Apostle John. He was martyred, killed by Lions in the arena in Rome. After his arrest and during his transportation to Rome, he wrote seven letters (later, some obviously spurious additional letters were attributed to him – these are ignored here). The letters of Ignatius, written very close to 107 A.D., quote from several New Testament books as well.”

Source: https://www.thecollegechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/HANDOUTS-Is-Scripture-Reliable.pdf

That’s outstanding!

Evidence where the existence/ nonexistence of gods is concerned - finally.

I am keenly interested in what might be demonstrated on your “side” of the debate, at the very least.

One favor to ask, though: please leave out the New Testament.

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No one need disprove anything, since the claim and therefore the burden of proof is entirely yours, so can you demonstrate any objective evidence that the Jesus character portrayed in the gospel myths was anything but human?

This doesn’t evidence miracles, you’re using a false equivalence fallacy, since you didn’t take your arguments to a history debate forum, but to an atheist debate forum.

Again this is moot, can you demonstrate any objective evidence for any deity or anything supernatural or that they are even possible? With or without the gospel myths…

This unevidenced speculation about why they were anonymous is not relevant, what’s relevant is that the anonymity makes them hearsay by definition, and there is no evidence for eyewitnesses, only unevidenced claims for the same, but even knowing who made the claims would not of course objectively evidence those claims, all your work would still be before you.

The gospels are anonymous, no credible historian disputes this. Those names were assigned centuries later. Though again the authorship alone would not help you, since you’re not just making historical claims, you’re making supernatural ones for a deity, taking human form and visiting ancient Palestine.

FYI if you are going to cite sources you should hyperlink them, and instead of listing endless YouTube videos of religious apologists, please cite what objective evidence you think they contain for any deity, and give the time that evidence is presented, as I for one have better things to do than sit through 20 minutes or more of someone preaching their subjective unevidenced religious beliefs. If you find them compelling say why, and lead us to any facts you think support this.

I can see no relevance to your god claims in the long list of dates at the end, except to note they are centuries after the fact?

Or demonstrate sufficient objective evidence that supports the gospel myths’ claims a deity took human form and visited ancient Palestine.

Now one more time, can you demonstrate any objective evidence for any deity, or for anything supernatural, or that these things are even possible?

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Or someone lied; explaining why we have zero eyewitness accounts of Jesus.

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Too bad it seems they didn’t write any of that down (or it didn’t survive).

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none of them met Jesus; and the last one is the only one that MIGHT have been alive during the period in which the story of Jesus is told.


eta:

I’m going to stick my neck out and guess that this is false. The source you listed is absolute garbage imo. Could you provide an academic source?

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No, the early church fathers are not reliable. They were grinding axes to lop off the heads of rival sects. If you had the slightest idea of the subject you would know that both Irenaeus and Tertullian were writing against the popularity of Marcion who had written his own gospel. They had to find some convincing authorship for their arbitrary choice of texts to undermine the canon that Marcion had devised. As promised a Taster of Marcion

And modern scholarship has completely debunked this ancient wishful thinking. We know that the text now titled “Mark” was written first, probably based on the maunderings of “Paul”. “Matthew” followed containing roughly 60% of Mark word for word, expanding some stories, correcting the egregious errors of jewish law and lore in the greek “Mark”. The birth narrative was probably added later as we know that the Ebionites were using a version of Matthew that did not contain the “virgin” nonsense.
Luke is another Greek copy of Mark with some stories expanded and new ones added. The errors in Jewish Law remain. None of these anonymous texts were written before 70CE, and most are dated to 80 CE and later.

John is the exception and the fragment P52 is dated at the earliest to 125CE and might be as late as 250CE. John contains many of the stories in Luke and Mark, but expands them and adds detail, like any fan fiction writer does today. It, again, is not an eye witness account by a 1st century Aramaic speaking Jew.

Conclusion: None of the gospels are contemporary to events described. None of the Synoptic texts are attributed until the late 3rd Century. 2 of the three gospels are copies of another and the last text is written even later and in a style common at the end of the 1st century.

One cannot base these texts as historical accounts for the reasons above, never mind the claims for supernatural events that underpin a very unremarkable life. Dead itinerant preachers were a very common occurrence in the 1st century CE. There are 13 such “messiahs” with better provenance that your messiah of choice.

Hardly a convincing entry. Pure hearsay. Try again.

There were many texts and cults bearing a similarity to the jewish messanaic cults that spread with the Roman Empire. Each church had a text, that it claimed was the one truth, Marcionites, and the Keralian Church founded (in legend) by Thomas (the twin) are examples, Some places (mostly hellenistic) used Luke only, Some used a gnostic text. The Coptic texts differ markedly as did the composite Syriac text. The texts were systematically edited and anything deviating was destroyed in the pogroms following the establishment of the Roman Church.

There was no orthodox Canon until the mid 4th century.

Only now are some ancient texts coming to light or being reconstructed like, Marcions Gospel, the Keralian founding texts, etc etc. The cleansing of the texts and the pogroms of the 4th to 10th centuries were notable for their thoroughness, that is the tradition you inherit. There is not an unbroken line of texts that spread back to the 1st 1/3 of the 1st century CE. Divest yourself of that cute notion.

Now we are getting perilously close to ridicule! The earliest fragment of any gospel is that P52 fragment of “john”. It does not evidence the veracity of any other text in the Canon.

It is widely accepted even by established churches that most of 1 Peter, all of 2 Peter, 2 Timothy and Titus are out and out forgeries, that all but 6 the remaining Pauline letters are composites rewritten years later. We know that Mark ended abruptly before the current version.

You are quoting people with a vested interest in the mythology of their beliefs

well how did you find those dates? His birth date is unrecorded and his death could be anywhere according to scholars, between 108 and 140 CE. In the days of average male lifespan being in the low 40’s and his alleged martyrdom would have been for a middle aged/younger man. You can see why I approach such claims with a sprinkling of healthy scepticism.

Only a much later tradition has him as a companion of “John”.

Please desist from presenting your youtube gathered wishful thinking as fact.

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I appreciate your response. However, telling me to not cite the New Testament in order to defend the New Testament seems a bit contradictory. We have the Gospels, which are a core part if not the core part of the Bible. They relay not just the history of Jesus life, death and resurrection, but the whole message of salvation. That message is contained in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus stated that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection fulfill the need for salvation from sin and salvation from death. Sin itself distorts man’s conscience and makes us enslaved to it. Yet, Christ has made those who repent and believe in his Gospel as free from these things (Romans 6:14, Romans 6:18, Romans 6:6, Romans 6:22, Romans 10:9-10).

IMG_5115

Welcome self-proclaimed @historianwriter :smiley:

We’re pretty familiar with many “holy” (proclaimed sacred writings) from the Koran to the Book of Mormon; the Vedas to Torah - Do you view claimed sacred writings as the same equal evidence of your chosen book/s, the Gospels?

I understand that your deity of choice is Jesus. But others choose their deity with the same standard (a holy book).

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Hearsay. Unsupported claim.

Define “sin” then show evidence that it does what you say.

Demonstrate with evidence that the ramblings of a psychotic visionary carry any weight at all in reality.

It seems to me that you are now realising that you and your youtube scholarship are way out of your depth and you realise that you have nothing of substance to offer.
Evidenced by your offering a strawman in the shape of

As I did not do that at all.

They repeat stories about an unevidenced itenerant preacher and use Greaco-Roman motifs to establish the semi divinity of the object of their devotion. They then liberally lard the stories with supernatural, unevidenced happenings to convince a largely illiterate audience.

That those stories have stuck a chord with you is only evidence of your lack of rigorous thought process and, not to be too unkind, the propensity for gullibilty found so often in the less sceptical.

That you even bothered to Google some information (that you didn’t cross check) is a step more than most who venture here with your kind of argument. Keep it up, but try honest history not the evangelist theological websites you are favoring at the moment.

The historical method should guide you in your journey:

“Depending on the degree of importance of knowing the truth of something we make sure we are being told the truth by checking such things as:

Who is telling us this?

  • How do I know if I can trust them?

  • Can their claims be confirmed somehow?”

  • How do I know if this document is genuine?

If you honestly apply this rigor to your gospels you will come to a very different conclusion. You may still be a believer, but you will be honest in debate about your sources and their shortcomings. Try it.

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There was no telling but don’t say I didn’t request nicely.

A debate between anything “vs atheism” is about belief in gods. And, in this case, what you’re offering as evidence vs. the reality that no evidence has actually been demonstrated to exist.

I guess I’ll sit and watch now.

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FYI @Old_man_shouts_at_cl he was referring to @Bluedoc

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Ah yes I see that now.