This post of someone else’s valuable thoughts and work continues on the theme of reliability and dependability of the texts that tell us about the birth, life, death, resurrection of the man Jesus the worlds Messiah. Worth thinking about, whether you believe in Him or not.
Historicity of the New Testament – by James M. Rochford [footnotes at original article]
The gospels and epistles are a historically reliable record of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. There are three tests in which all historical documents are subjected in order to determine their reliability:
A. The Bibliographical Test
B. The Internal Test
C. The External Test
Let’s begin with the first test:
A. Bibliographical Test
The bibliographical test (also called lower criticism or textual criticism) asks if the manuscripts from the first-century were accurately transmitted to us today. Was the original NT documents distorted over time?
Many modern people believe that the New Testament was passed down to us like a game of Telephone. I’m sure you remember the game of telephone from grade school. You might begin with the phrase, “Games are played in this space” and you end with the phrase, “James has an ugly face…” (at least, that’s how I remember it from grade school). By whispering the phrase from person to person, the message becomes distorted and unintelligible. Critic Bart Ehrman estimates that there are roughly 400,000 variations in the New Testament. He writes, “There are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” However, this claim is misleading for a number of reasons:
First, the reason why we have so many variations in the New Testament documents is because we have so many manuscripts. Textual critic Daniel Wallace observes, “No classical Greek or Latin text has nearly as many variants, because they don’t have nearly as many manuscripts. With virtually every new manuscript discovery, new variants are found. If there was only one copy of the New Testament in existence, it would have zero variants.” This objection is similar to criticizing a muscle car for burning too much fuel. The engineer might retort: “The only reason this car burns so much fuel is that it burns so much rubber!” In the same way, Ehrman’s criticism actually serves to demonstrate one of the greatest strengths of the New Testament documents: the thousands of manuscripts that support it.