Many years ago while attending college, my roommates and I had a fun evening of pulling pranks on each other. It started out with just a simple word or two, from two of us trying to entice the others to come back at us with something more. One prank escalated to the next, and before we knew it I grabbed the fire extinguisher, pulled the safety pin and gave a shot of the fine white powder into the room the others were hiding in. I’ll never forget the look on their faces as they ran out of the room looking as if they aged forty years in an instant, because of the white powder in their hair. While laughing hysterically, I realized the extinguisher didn’t fully turn off and was leaking out more powder. I took it outside and before you knew it, there was a large white cloud slowly moving towards the main campus. It didn’t help that our assistant dean of men lived in the room next to us, but the evidence was clear. Someone had used the fire extinguisher and not for a legitimate purpose. I thank God I didn’t get kicked out of college, but I did have to pay a fine. In fact, if I remember right, one of my roommates paid half. Thanks, Bryce!
Like this white cloud was the evidence that the fire extinguisher had been discharged, so there is evidence abounding as to the credibility, authenticity, and trustworthiness of the New Testament record. While I could write a book on this subject, I won’t because it’s already been written by Dr. Don Bierle, who was one of my profs at college. In his book, “Surprised by Faith,” he shares his personal, life-changing discoveries from a skeptical Scientist to his journey of faith in God, the Bible, and personal fulfillment. For the purposes of this article and to hopefully whet your appetite to read his book, I will share just one evidence of the trustworthiness of the New Testament, namely, that of manuscript evidence.
When using manuscript evidence there are three primary questions to be asked. These are:
- How Many?
- How Early?
- How Accurate?
It’s amazing to me how other ancient works of antiquity are used in our educational institutions which aren’t even in the same league with the New Testament, and yet if you listen to the media and academia, you come away with the impression that the New Testament is a made up story, with no legitimacy and full of errors. But what does the evidence say? It’s okay to be a skeptic, but at least be an honest one. This means looking at the evidence, before drawing a conclusion.
So what is the evidence? Let’s first look at the first question, how many, and let’s do this by comparison to some other ancient works. There have been 251 manuscripts found of Caesar’s Wars, 757 manuscripts for Homer’s Iliad, and 24,406 and counting of the New Testament! This means that each of these manuscripts can be compared to the works we have today to see how much error occurs and, obviously, the more the better.
Next is the test of how early? It goes without saying the earlier the better, especially if there are copies within the eyewitness time frame. So what’s the evidence? Nearly 850 years passed from the original copy of Caesar’s Wars before the first manuscript surfaces. What’s this mean? Not only was there 850 years of scribal coping, for errors to be made, but, again, only 251 manuscripts to compare to. The first manuscript we have from Homer’s original is over 600 years. You guessed it — the New Testament is the best again with only 40 years from the original to manuscript copies found to compare to. Not only that, but 40 years is within the eyewitness generation.
Finally, how accurate are they? Again, the New Testament is in a class by its self with a 0.20% distortion rate, meaning that 99.80% of the New Testament has no distortion and the little there is, has no effect on the meaning of teachings within the text. The closest is the Iliad at 4.90%.
This just scratches the surface, but when have you heard even this amount of evidence on the History Channel, Time magazine, or in high schools, colleges and universities across this country? For the skeptics who might be reading this, all I ask is that you be an honest one and take the time to look at these and the host of other evidences concerning the reliability of the New Testament. As previously mentioned, one way to do this is by reading, “Surprised by Faith” by Dr. Don Bierle. You can also search for the video titled, “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.
For those of you who believe the Word of God, I would challenge you to be prepared to give reasons for your faith. In 1 Peter 3:15, it says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Like the white cloud from the fire extinguisher was evidence of my college shenanigans, so are the myriad of evidences that verify the authenticity and reliability of the New Testament.
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