Why I trust the Bible…and why you should, too!

Fourth Gospel Fragment

“The importance of this fragment is quite out of proportion to its size, since it may with some confidence be dated in the first half of the second century A.D., and thus ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language.

It provides us with invaluable evidence of the spread of Christianity in areas distant from the land of its origin; it is particularly interesting to know that among the books read by the early Christians in Upper Egypt was St John’s Gospel, commonly regarded as one of the latest of the books of the New Testament.”

How do we know the New Testament documents are historically reliable? Generally there are 3 tests for determining valid historiography and trustworthiness of a document:

  1. Internal test: asks whether the document itself claims to have been written by eyewitnesses who have very little to gain and much to lose by lying.
  2. External test: asks whether material, including archeological evidences and other historiography, which are external to the document either confirms/disconfirms the reliability of the document.
  3. Biographical test: looks at the variety of copies and seeks to determine how far removed in time they are from the original documents.

There are approximately 5,300 copies of Greek manuscripts dating from early 2nd century to the 16th century. Approx. 8,000 manuscript copies of the Latin Vulgate (translation done by Jerome, 382-405 CE) exist and more than 350 copies of the Syriac (Aramaic) New Testament dating circa 400s are available for scrutiny. Virtually the entire New Testament could be reconstructed from quotations in the early Church Father’s writings (ca. 150 CE – 400 CE). (See also the fine article by Dan Wallace on some of the latest findings and research here.) Consider the following historical records of some ancient texts compared to the Four Gospels of the New Testament.

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7 thoughts on “Why I trust the Bible…and why you should, too!”

  1. Hi mate,

    That’s really interesting seeing the fragment of John’s gospel like that.

    There aren’t any articles on the apologetics wiki about the dating of the gospels yet. Would you or any of your readers like to help write one?

    If you would like, click here to start editing.

  2. Paul,
    Excellent summary of the evidence. I would also add that some of the source material used by the writers of the gospels (especially Mark) pushes the dating back even further. William Lane Craig points to the source material for Mark’s passion narrative which German scholar Rudolph Pesch dates to within seven years of the crucifixion! (“Reasonable Faith” by William Lane Craig, 3rd edition, p. 362.)

  3. Ah….thanks, Louis. I’ve yet to read the 3rd edition of Craig’s book. Have editions 1 and 2. Suppose I need get my hands on it and complete my set!

    The implications for early textual evidences of Christendom are beyond important!

  4. Chucky,
    Thanks for the invite to write on the apologetics wiki, but someone more apt at that field than I would be far better.

  5. Greetings and thanks for visiting, Yossman!.

    As I understand, in the same way a biography is a written account of a person’s life, so too a “biographical test” for historical documents is a written account of the evidence for the historical reliability of the biblical documents. Since we do not have any of the original documents of the New Testament, we ask what the written record says regarding the extant manuscripts or copies of the New Testament documents.

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