I was watching a YouTube video by Rook Hawkins, one of the proponents of the Jesus-as-myth hypothesis. In the video, he asks viewers to “send research” so he can write a book claiming that Luke and Acts were not written until the mid-second century.
It doesn’t bother him that Clement the Bishop of Rome writing at about 95 AD quoted Luke and Acts in his letters. The 19th century liberal view that parts of the New Testament were written 100 years after Jesus death was refuted in the early part of the 20th century, but it continues today, strangely promoted by liberal academics, self-appointed Internet “scholars” and the popular media.
To understand the widespread misperception, a few facts need to be examined.
No original manuscript of any document from the first century or earlier exists today. There are a couple of reasons for this. The papyrus books and scrolls that make up the earliest manuscripts of the Bible were extremely fragile and subject to decay. At most, they could be expected to last only a few hundred years before they began to disintegrate into dust. The job of the scribe was to be in a mode of continual copying, since the entire body of literature in the entire world needed to be recopied in every generation. Scribes would often destroy the older copies to differentiate them from the newer ones. Or if the papyrus was usable but faded, he would copy another sometimes entirely different work over the older one. As a consequence, most of the works from ancient times have been lost forever.
A more durable material called vellum had been invented by the first century but didn’t come into frequent use until about 300 A.D. The life expectancy of vellum is about 1000 years or longer. Prior to this time, we find remarkable preserved fragments containing excerpts from many books in the New Testament. There is no single New Testament compilation from the first two centuries, but we find surprisingly numerous fragments that taken together form the content of much of the New Testament.
After the period when vellum came into use, we find an explosion of manuscripts. The majority of the extant manuscripts of the New Testament from 300 until 1000 AD are much earlier and more numerous than the manuscripts of any other ancient literary work of importance. Many of these compilations, called codices, contain the entire text of the New Testament.
When we look at manuscript evidence for works from ancient times, the New Testament is by far the most reliable document we have. There are more extant manuscripts of the New Testament than of any other work from antiquity.
In fact, there are over 24,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts, the earliest existing manuscript fragment, known as P52, a portion of the text from the Gospel of John chapter 17, was copied within 35 years of the Apostle John’s death. Many other partial and complete manuscripts exist within the first three centuries after Christ.
This is quite amazing when we compare the New Testament with the closest contenders from this time period.
Homer’s The Iliad. About 600 copies of exist. The earliest was made 1,300 years after the originals were written.
The works of Plato. Only seven copies exist the earliest being 1,200 years removed from the original autographs.
The works of Julius Caesar. Only 10 copies still exist, and they were made 1,000 years after he died.
The works of Tacitus. Only 20 copies exist over 1000 years after the originals.
That any of these early papyrus fragments exist today is a providential circumstance if not a miracle. There are simply no complete manuscripts or any fragments left of Homer, Plato, Caesar, Tacitus or any other work from this time period.
In addition, most ancient manuscripts have widely variant copies and much of the text has suffered corruption. About five percent of the lines from the Iliad are corrupted due to variations in extant copies. Compare that with the most reliable New Testament manuscripts that have variations of less than one half of a percent.
The Internet has changed scholarship forever. Compared to the problem that first century scribes faced, we are living in a Golden Age of communication that the ancients would have thought to be miraculous. What I am typing at this moment could conceivably last forever without any corruption in transmission. What is published on the Internet is immediately viewable by millions of people in every country in the world in a matter of seconds.
We have more information at our fingertips than ever before, but unfortunately we moderns are less capable of discerning the media material we view, hear and read. As R.J. Rushdoony has written, we are the “New Barbarians” – a generation of semi-literates barely able to think logically. It is sad and yet encouraging. Take the hubbub over the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” special on the History Channel on Sunday night. Even the liberal commentator Ted Koppel was openly disgusted at the lack of credibility of these filmmakers. At least they admitted Jesus was a real person. The Jesus Mythists are one step beyond left field.
This is actually the best time in history to be a Christian apologist. If you can think logically and read on a college level, you are already head and shoulders above the average 21st century American. Add to this the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things and you won’t find too many arguments against Christianity that are not a veritable house of cards.
Your comments are welcome!
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
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“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)