Myth #2: The New Testament was written 100 years after Jesus
By Jay Rogers
Published September 2008
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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- The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)
- Myth #1: The "historical Jesus" is different from the Jesus of the Bible
- Myth #3: There was no virgin birth and Jesus was not born in Bethlehem
- Myth #4: Jesus did not claim to be God
- Myth #5: The Gospels contradict one another and contain fiction
- Myth #6: The Miracles of the New Testament were invented
- Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
- The Real Jesus - Part One
- The Real Jesus - Part Two
- The Real Jesus - Part Three
- A New Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels
- Countering Bible Contradictions
Myth #2: The New Testament was written 100 years after Jesus
Jennings: “There is no reliable evidence about who the authors actually were. It is pretty much agreed that they were not eyewitnesses. In fact, the Gospels were probably written 40 to 100 years after Jesus’ death.”
Jennings is simply echoing a popular myth: some of the theologians of the Jesus Seminar have suggested that writers pretending to be Matthew, Mark, Luke and John took a historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, and invented a genealogy and added historical references as time went by thus “improving” the authenticity of their story.
There is no evidence that the earliest manuscripts of the Bible were altered to be more “historic.” In fact, there is proof that little of the New Testament has been altered. If we look at early copies of the New Testament books, we find that there are some differences between variant manuscripts. But these are mainly misspellings and scribal errors in copying small words, prepositions and numbers.
In addition, most modern translations make note of these differences in the form of footnotes. In fact, you could take all the variant readings of the most reliable New Testament manuscripts and fit them all on one page. There is no major Christian doctrine that would be affected or changed by these small differences. Therefore, even with minor textual variations in the older manuscripts, Christians can still view scripture as inerrant and inspired of God.
What of the charge that historical references and stories surrounding Jesus’ life were added later on?
The fact is that the Jews recorded exact historical references — the best of all the ancient historians — because they believed that God was trying to teach them something through history. In keeping with this tradition, the writers of the Gospels sought to record accurate historical events surrounding the life of Christ.
In Luke 2:1, we see that Jesus was born in the days when Quirinius was governor of Syria; and when Caesar Augustus was Emperor. In Luke 3:1, we are given the exact year of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar; Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea; Herod being tetrarch of Galilee; his brother Phillip the tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis; and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.”
These were the rulers of the surrounding countries of Judea in the first century. These are all true persons and places that may be corroborated in other recorded histories.
And what of the charge that the Gospel accounts were written many years after Christ? The higher critics face a huge problem with credibility here. In dating the New Testament in the second century rather than the first, they must ignore the fact that there were a number of late first century and early second century writers who quoted extensively from the New Testament. The Christians of that era already thought of what we know today as the New Testament as being authoritative as scripture.
We have already seen that Christian writers named Clement, Barnabas, and Polycarp wrote about Jesus in the first century. There are other documents as well.
• The Didache, a late first century catechism, quotes extensively from the New Testament.
• Ignatius (A.D. 35-110), the Bishop of Antioch, quotes from 16 New Testament books.
• Irenaeus (A.D. 130 -200), the second century Bishop of Lyons, makes 1,819 references to New Testament scriptures.
• Tertullian (A.D. 160 -220) quotes from the New Testament 7,258 times.
The problem for the higher critics and those searching for a “historical Jesus” is that these people were writing in the late first and second centuries. Since they quote from the New Testament books extensively, we can know that the church in many areas of the Roman Empire had access to all of the New Testament scriptures. So the Gospels must have been written sometime in the first century, during the time of the Apostles.
William Foxwell Albright, one of the world’s foremost biblical archaeologists, said: “In my opinion, every book in the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the 40s and 80s of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 to 75).”
In the 19th and 20th centuries, there have been thousands of archaeological discoveries of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that are hundreds of years older than the manuscripts available prior modern times. There are now more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and 24,000 manuscript portions available for study. In other words, there are more reliable New Testament manuscripts in the original Greek language available for direct translation into modern English today than ever before.
Sir Frederic Kenyon, who was the director and principal librarian of the British Museum, states, “The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and general integrity of the books in the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”
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