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!
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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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
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
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