Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm an Expert!

. It's amazing how people who claim for themselves a superiority of analytical thought and bias-proof intelligence can claim themselves experts on a subject area that they simply do not grasp.

The people that I’m talking about are atheists and the matter in question are the historical documents that have been compiled and included in the New Testament. Claiming nothing more than an inability to trust anything to do with religion, this group of people toss out solid evidence like someone emptying a stinky ashtray.

When it comes to the New Testament, especially as it attests to the reality of Jesus the Christ, His life, His death and especially His resurrection, there is more witness testimony than for any other document in ancient literature. With respect to the accuracy and continuity of the documents:

. There are more than 5,700 Greek copies of the New Testament.

. There are 10,000 copies of the New Testament in Latin.

. Take into consideration copies that are available in other languages and we have available to us 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament.

. Take into consideration all the quotations of the early Church Fathers and you will find over one million more verses that have been preserved from the first century onward.

It is these early manuscripts and quotations that allow us to know that the copies that we have of the New Testament and the eyewitness testimony are very reliable and accurate.

There isn’t any other literature from the Greco-Roman world that comes even close to this quantity or quality of evidence. If we were to take all the copies available from prominent authors of that time, we couldn’t find any one of them that have more than 20 copies of their work still in existence. Put them in a stack and you might get a pile of books a little over a metre high. Do the same with copies of the New Testament and you will have a stack of books 1.5 kilometres or 1,500 metres tall. Of course quantity is meaningless if the documents were originally written centuries after the event. For example, the gospels of Thomas or Judas or Mary, were written so long after the event, and by people so foreign to the context that their authors cannot even accurately describe Palestine and the Jewish culture as they truly were. In a case like that it wouldn’t help to have a billion copies.

This is not a concern for those looking to the New Testament documents for authenticity. At the latest, there is only a 75 year gap between available copies and the time that the New Testament was completed. For the early Church’s creed that Paul passes on to the Christians in Corinth and which he most certainly got from the apostle’s oral, eye witness reports, we are looking at within 5 years of Jesus death and resurrection at most.

For copies of materials from other ancient historical writers, a gap of 1,000 years is not unusual and what we have in those cases are mere fragments of their works. Here is the amazing part in all this. Atheists, those self proclaimed bastions of intelligence, integrity, and rational thought will eagerly accept secular ancient literature that has very little confirmation. Yet, they will disregard any document from the same time period if it has been gathered and placed into the New Testament. They will eagerly accept secular ancient literature that has very little external verification. Yet, they will disregard any and all of the abundant extra Biblical testimony regarding Jesus of Nazareth simply because those documents record information about a person who challenges their world-view. Outlandish, outrageous and beyond the pale hardly describes their behaviour. How they can live with themselves is puzzling. How they can view themselves as logical and reasonable is puzzling.

When I’ve asked those who challenge any information about Jesus, “What criteria do you use to judge the credibility of ancient literature like the New Testament” I get a “Huh?” One atheist said that all he looks for is a single confirming account of the event in question. Of course he means unless that event is recorded in the Bible. Then any number of confirming documents are insufficient. It seems that YouTube or similar source material is the atheist’s most frequent generator of information regarding Biblical criticism.

Many people are unaware that the reliability of ancient documents is based on standard measures. Those who possess genuine skills as Historical Scholars have attested to the validity and the dependability of the New Testament documents for the following reasons:

Bibliographical test - Are the copies that we have reliable? In comparing the New Testament documents to other ancient sources, how does the New Testament stack up? Well, let’s do a comparison.

. The history of Thucydides has just eight copies dated 1,300 years after he wrote.

. Copies of Aristotle’s poetics are dated 1,400 years after the originals and only five copies exist.

. Copies of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are from 1,000 years after the originals and only ten copies exist.

Even though the time between the original and copies seems very long indeed, no classical scholar, or atheist for that matter, would ever conclude that the copies are not dependable because they were written over a thousand years after the original. They do however complain if a document that’s been included into the New Testament is dated 30 years later than the original. (You may roll your eyes now)

Now, remember the 30,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament that I mentioned earlier with at least one million quotations that are also in existence? Do you know what kind of time frame between copies and originals that we’re talking about? One of the world’s foremost archeologists William F. Albright has stated, “We can say emphatically that there is a solid basis for saying that EVERY book of the New Testament was completed before A.D. 50 and 75.” The majority of the New Testament documents were completed by Paul who was executed by Nero in 64AD.
- The amazingly short time frame means that the burden of proof shifts to the person who is saying that these documents can’t be trusted.

. External evidence - Do other historical documents confirm what was written in the documents in question? This is one of the most critical steps in confirming New Testament documents. Not because they are more in doubt than other ancient literature but because the sceptic’s presuppositional bias causes him to doubt, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. In the case of the New Testament, confirmation by Eusebius, Papias, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, The Babylonion Talmud, Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Tertullian, and many others, as well as archeological finds provide powerful external evidence for the reliability of the New Testament documents.

- This means that the burden of proof shifts to the person who is saying that these documents can’t be trusted.

. Coherence - Is the information accurate, based on what we know from other historical documents regarding culture, events, customs etc.? The New Testament writers were so obviously authors from the time and culture about which they were writing that even secular historians and archaeologists turn to the New Testament documents for confirming information regarding their own discoveries.

- This means that the burden of proof shifts to the person who is saying that these documents can’t be trusted.

. Dating - Was the description of the event in question written within a short time after the event took place? Was the document written when eyewitnesses were still alive? Was the document written early enough that legend did not have a chance to develop? The answer to these questions is an overwhelming “Yes” for the New Testament documents.

- Because of this, the burden of proof shifts to the person who is saying that these documents can’t be trusted.

Internal Evidence - Are the writers obviously telling the truth? Aristotle himself said, regarding literary criticism, “The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, and not arrogated by the critic to himself.” John Warwick Montgomery states, “One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error . . .”

Of course sceptics look at miracles that are documented and say > Fraud or Error.

The New Testament in general and Jesus in particular actually takes the time to specifically address both the ancient and the modern sceptic’s concerns. First of all, in advocating their case for Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles appealed to common knowledge of those who were alive at the time. “Not only have we seen these things, but you also have seen and heard what happened in the life of Jesus.” Eyewitnesses were still alive when the New Testament documents were written and circulated.

Jesus is quoted as saying, “You don’t have to believe Me when I say that I Am God just because that’s what I tell you. But your should believe that I Am God because of what I do.”

Why would He say that? Jesus made that statement because He was doing things that were clearly outside of or contrary to the laws of physics as they/we understand them. Those people knew that a disease doesn’t respond to someone talking to it. Those people knew that water doesn’t just turn into wine at someone’s command. Those people knew beyond a shadow of doubt that normal people don’t calm a storm or forgive those who are unjustly killing them. And those people for sure knew that dead people don’t come to life again by natural means. Neither could Jesus’ detractors just toss these events aside. People were healed. The wine was real. Storms were calmed, people were forgiven, the blind were made to see, the lame were walking, people's lives were renewed and changed and Jesus was seen to be alive in ways that disallowed the idea of hallucinations or outright lies. Those are things that only God can do. Jesus was saying that He was doing these things in real space and real time and He was doing it for their benefit. And as it turns out He was doing it for our benefit as well. He did those things so that we could know that He was and is the real deal.

A man named John, who was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus describes Jesus’ manipulations of matter and energy as “signs.” They were signs that Jesus has mastery over the natural elements of our universe. That kind of manipulation and that kind of power is only possible in the Being who brought into existence the very elements and laws that govern those elements in the first place. Those demonstrations by Jesus were signs that He used to show that something from another dimension had physically and visibly entered into our dimension. Something totally “other” happened when Jesus walked the earth. In fact, the Christian faith, and the body of believers - the Church, even with all it's faults, is an ongoing evidentiary miracle in it’s own right. There would be no reason for the Christian faith to exist let alone be the driving force for virtually all we know as good for the human race if Jesus was and is not God incarnate. Because there is no evidence to suggest that the writers of the New Testament were lying,

- The burden of proof shifts to the person who is saying that these documents can’t be trusted.

These are the criteria that sceptics need to address when denying the reliability of the New Testament. In every case that I have encountered, they have failed to do so. The accounts of Jesus fulfill these criteria for historical reliability in spades. Failure to heed this evidence makes atheist sceptics appear impossibly ignorant.

Finally, it needs to be asked. If the Bible in general and the New Testament specifically is a work of fiction, who wrote this piece of fiction that changed the course of history, and then mysteriously slipped into obscurity? Who was this writer who invented the character of Jesus, a character so noble that presently 2 billion people love, cherish and worship Him?

As a former evangelist-turned-atheist Charles Templeton recently described Jesus - “He [Jesus] was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to His own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about Him except that this was a form of greatness? Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that He had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history.”

If this character Jesus is fictional, who is the writer who created a fictional character so powerful that at this very moment, millions would lay down their lives for Him? And how would such a gifted writer slip into obscurity with absolutely nothing being known about her / him? It doesn’t make any sense, but neither does most of what atheists say when they dip into the subject of historical theological literature.

17 comments:

salvage said...

...

So the Bible is accurate not because independent sources, physical evidence and established history supports it but because it's been copied a lot?

Alright, I see that you will not even begin to budge off that silliness so let's get specific shall we?

Noah's Ark, true or false?

Makarios said...

No, the Bible is not considered accurate because of the number of copies. The number of copies show us that the original information has been handed down to us accurately. IF the information is accurate, THEN because it's been copied a lot, you can see for your self that the description of events that were originally written down are trustworthy. Because it's been copied a lot you can see if and where changes / mistakes have been made.

The Bible is known to be accurate because independent sources, physical evidence and established history supports it.

Now the question becomes, what are you going to do with this information

PersonalFailure said...

So, if I write "Makarios is a 10 year old black girl" and enough people copy it, that makes it true?

salvage said...

The number of copies show us that the original information has been handed down to us accurately.

How does that prove that the original information was correct? How do we know that Paul,Peter and the rest didn't just sit down one day and make up the whole thing? Because there were copies of their work? That's all you need to prove if something is true? How many copies of the Canterbury Tales were there? How many copies of Stephen King's work is there? Does that mean Chaucer was reporting history? Does that mean that Maine is a hotbed of crazy supernatural horror?

>Because it's been copied a lot you can see if and where changes / mistakes have been made.

So because the Gospels contradict themselves on a few points that means they're true?

The Bible is known to be accurate because independent sources, physical evidence and established history supports it.

And can you please show me these independent sources?

No, someone saying that the Bible it true because they read it in the Bible doesn't count.

Can you please show me this physical evidence? And no an archeological site that shows there were cities in Israel 2,000 years ago doesn't prove that Jesus came back from the dead. See we're not arguing that there wasn't culture, life and religion in that time and place, we're arguing that there is no physical, historical or any other kind of evidence that Jesus ever existed or at least had any impact on the time he is alleged to have lived in.

Show me a woodcut, a carving, show me someone's 2,000 year old diary where they talked about seeing Jesus on the mound saying stuff. Show me a Roman record of a Jewish trouble maker causing a ruckus for the authorities. I can show you the like for many people who lived in that time. Heck, there are Greek slaves who left more evidence of their existence than your god.

>Now the question becomes, what are you going to do with this information

You haven't provided any, you just keep saying the same old, same old. Give me something new and then we'll see.

salvage said...

Oh and you never answered my question, Noah's Ark, true or false?

Glen20 said...

"There are more than 5,700 Greek copies of the New Testament"

No, there are not. There are 5,700 complete or fragmented manuscripts. There are more than one book in the New Testament. Some of these fragments are less than a sentence long.
With the exception of the smallest fragments, no two copies agree completely throughout. According to Ehrman, there has been an estimate of between 200,000 and 300,000 variations among all these manuscripts.

Glen20 said...

Salvage asked..."Oh and you never answered my question, Noah's Ark, true or false?"

I believe Makarios stated earlier that he believes the story of Noah's Ark to be true.
If this is untrue, Makarios, please correct.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Not only does Mak believe in Noah's ark (which, of course, reduces his credibility on scientific issues to that of a peanut shell), he also believes that Jesus turned water to wine. I can do a similar trick with beer but only in reverse. Presumably, Mak believes that Jesus performed many healing miracles. I wonder if he believes that Benny Hinn can heal?

An embarrassing statement which modern churches have difficulty reconciling is recorded in Matthew. Specifically, Jesus admits that he did not perform miracles in Nazareth, his home town, because of the lack of faith among its residents (Matthew 13:58). This is no great surprise. While someone might be able to bamboozle people who don't know them, it is a much taller order to convince people who have known you since you were a pimply faced teenager that you are Christ in the flesh.

Makarios said...

"Jesus admits that he did not perform miracles in Nazareth, his home town, because of the lack of faith among its residents (Matthew 13:58)."

Yes. Because very few people believed in the home-boy, very few people came for healing. That seems pretty elimentary.
================
“So, if I write "Makarios is a 10 year old black girl" and enough people copy it, that makes it true?”

C’mon PF, you’re smarter than this. To make it believable that I’m a 10-year-old black girl, you would also need:
. Accurate independent sources,
. Physical evidence and
. Established historical reports.
In the case of the New Testament, regarding the life death and resurrection of Jesus, each of these criteria and more, are met. AND there are early, reliable, accurate documents detailing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. How do were know they are accurate? Because we have tens of thousands of copies that show the any variations or changes that have occurred are minimal at best.

Glen mentions Bart Erhman. Here is a man who says that there are 400,000 variations in a document that only has 138,000 words. That alone should raise flags about his agenda. Since Glen won’t explain what these "variaions" are referring to, I will.

If the letter “a” in a particular word should have been a letter “e”, that will account for 60,000 errors in 60,000 copies. None of the varation involve any issue of doctrine. Sounds impressive when you hear 400,000 errors. It’s not so impressive when you hear what that means.

Here is the physical evidence that requires an answer. And remember, whatever answer you come up with needs to answer ALL of the evidence, not just some of it. The resurrection, as described by those who went to their deaths proclaiming it provides precisely that kind of an answer, i.e., one that resolves all of the evidence.

. The tomb was empty - even Jesus enemies attest to that fact

. The sceptic Paul changed from being a man who tortured and killed Christians in his attempt to destroy the Church, to perhaps the most effective missionary the Christian Church has ever seen

. The sceptic James, Jesus very own brother went from thinking his brother Jesus was insane to becoming a martyr for proclaiming his brother to be the Messiah, the risen Christ

. The disciples as a whole went from cowards who were hiding behind locked doors, to a group of men and women who willingly went to their deaths rather than recant their story that they’d seen, walk with, talked with, touched and learned from the risen Jesus.

. The rise of the Christian movement, right there in Jerusalem where the murder of Jesus had taken place. If the enemies of Christianity could have shown that what Jesus’ followers were saying was a lie, they most certainly would have.

See my next post.

salvage said...

>The tomb was empty - even Jesus enemies attest to that fact

And they wrote it down in some sort of record outside of the Bible? They converted their whole families / tribe to follow the way of Jesus because they were so in awe of this obvious miracle? The Romans made a record of the sudden influx of pilgrims to what was once Jesus' tomb so they could worship? The locals recognizing the holiness of the spot where Jesus came back to life (um so what was his sacrifice exactly?) and sealed it off as a shrine?

See that's the problem, if Jesus had shown up in the Dark Ages (called that not because they were particularly bad but because people stopped writing stuff down so the history is "dark") then there could be a reason for there being no record but Jesus showed up at a point in history where Romans so enamored with their greatness wrote everything down and it seems a tad odd that your god didn't rate.


That's how we know a great deal about the rise of Islam not just from the religious texts but from the records kept by the various kingdoms that Mohammad and his descendants kicked the crap out of. If it was just the religious text and no other evidence then there would be doubt as to Mohammad's existence and what he did.

In that regard Islam has a leg up on Christianity, at least we know the guy they called their prophet was actually here.

Makarios said...

Is there anybody out there who’d be willing to help this boy connect the dots?

I’d like to see an atheist step up to the plate and show a little integrity here. Anybody? Anybody at all?

Makarios said...

Looks like your friends either can’t or won’t put what you said into perspective.

Salvage if the tomb wasn’t empty, if Jesus body remained in the tomb, there wouldn’t be any Christianity today. Can't you see that?

If the tomb wasn't empty, if Jesus remained in the tomb, the disciples would have never gone to their deaths proclaiming they’d seen Jesus alive because they wouldn’t have seen Him alive. He would be DEAD.

If the tomb wasn't empty, if Jesus body remained in the tomb, Paul wouldn’t have had any Christians to kill.

If the tomb wasn't empty, if Jesus body remained in the grave Paul would have died a Pharisee and most of the New Testament would have never been written. Can't you see that?

If the tomb wasn't empty, if Jesus body remained in the tomb His family wouldn’t have gone to their graves thinking He was the Messiah. Can’t you see that salvage?

If the tomb wasn’t empty, if Jesus body remained in the tomb you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Christianity doesn’t have a body lying in a shrine or in a tomb salvage. Christianity doesn’t have a grave to worship because our Saviour is alive. He is believed to be alive because:
. The tomb was empty, and
. Literally hundreds of people saw Him, interacted with Him for over a month after He was known to be dead. People DID write about it but you reject any and all of that documentation.

Glen20 said...

Literally hundreds of people saw Him, interacted with Him for over a month after He was known to be dead.

We have one Biblical report that he appeared to hundreds. This, of course, is different from hundereds of accounts.

Glen20 said...

I think what Salvage is saying is that it is likely a story about the "empty tomb".

Glen20 said...

"Glen mentions Bart Erhman. Here is a man who says that there are 400,000 variations in a document that only has 138,000 words. That alone should raise flags about his agenda. Since Glen won’t explain what these "variaions" are referring to, I will.

If the letter “a” in a particular word should have been a letter “e”, that will account for 60,000 errors in 60,000 copies. None of the varation involve any issue of doctrine. Sounds impressive when you hear 400,000 errors. It’s not so impressive when you hear what that means"
.
----
Wrong. Completly wrong.

Errors were introduced in the form of additions, deletions, substitutions and modifications, most commonly of words or lines, but occasionally of entire verses.

A lot of manuscripts that fail to correspond in places and not infrequently contradict one another. Scholars estimate the number of manuscript variants in the hundreds of thousands, some estimating as high as 400,000. In Bart D. Ehrman’s now famous words, “Possibly it is easiest to put the matter in comparative terms: there are more differences in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

None of the original manuscripts have survived from the early Christian period. The most ancient complete manuscripts (Vatican MS. No. 1209 and the Sinaitic Syriac Codex) date from the fourth century, three hundred years after Jesus’ ministry. But the originals? Lost. And the copies of the originals? Also lost. Our most ancient manuscripts, in other words, are copies of the copies of the copies of nobody-knows-just-how-many copies of the originals.

salvage said...

Once again if the Romans executed someone and then three days later that someone was up and about visiting folks I suspect there would have been a wee bit more of a fuss made. There would be written, eyewitness first-hand accounts of that miracle from ALL aspects of society at the time.

And what do we have from the time and place?

Nothing.

All we have is some 30 years later stories being written down that have all the elements of similar myths that preceded it and it took another three centuries before it started to spread and here we are 2,000 years later and it still can't grow past Roman legacy borders.

If your god is so great and true why doesn't the majority of the planet follow him? Why did your Christ leave such an ambiguous religion? How many different Christian sects are there? What's up with the Reformation and the 30 Years War? Was that part of Jesus' plan? To have his followers kick the hell out of each other over the interpretation of doctrine? What about the Vatican? 2,000 years of corruption? Was that also part of the plan?

You can keep pointing to the few scraps of weak evidence all you like, for those bits of fluff I have logic, reason and history that outweighs it easily.

Your god, your religion makes no sense no matter what angle you look at it.

Rabhimself said...

Have to correct you there salvage, it makes perfect sense when you honestly believe it. Like Mak, when you are well within the christian delusion bubble, everything within it makes absolute sense, while the other religious bubbles floating around him, and indeed those who aren't in bubbles don't make sense.

:)