Thursday, February 24, 2005

Can I get a(n eye)witness?

In yesterday's post, I talked about how there is substantial evidence that the texts from which we derive our current New Testament translations are relatively numerous, sufficiently consistent, and comparatively close to the time at which the events they describe took place. All of this is well and good, but if they were written by people who had not the first clue about what really went on in the life of Jesus, the NT would be worthless.

So let's take a look at the authors themselves. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus', and in a position to see as much of Christ's ministry as anyone else. Mark was a disciple of Peter's, and therefore had a first-hand eyewitness from whom to glean information. Luke was the Apostle Paul's "beloved physician" and, by historical standards, a first-rate historian. In fact, there have been at least "84 facts in the last 16 chapters of Acts [also written by Luke] that have been confirmed by historical and archaeological research" (1) John, the author of the last Gospel, was another of Jesus' disciples, and one of His three closest at that. These were either eyewitnesses, or had first-hand access to eyewitnesses.

Other NT books were also written by people who would have been "in the know": Peter (I - II Peter), John (Revelation, I-III John, in addition to the Gospel), James (James), and Jude (Jude). These latter two were most likely brothers of Jesus Himself (2). Paul was a contemporary of the other Apostles, and his letters were accepted as accurate and authoritative by the other first-century churches. In short, the NT was written by people in a position to know.

What is more, these books were written closely enough to the events they describe that if they were not accurate, they would have been exposed as fraudulent by those who were enemies of this new sect.

And finally, some critics claim that the authors of the Gospels (and many other NT books) were not who they claimed to be; instead, the argument is that these were "pen names" used to lend credibility to the accounts. However, these criticisms come of late. The early church is virtually unanimous in ascribing these books to those authors the orthodox tradition holds wrote them. In lieu of evidence that men like Iraneus, Papias, Polycarp and Clement were frauds themselves, it is much more likely that those closest in time to the writings would know best who the authors were. To cast aspersions on their integrity because they may have been "biased" is silly. Everyone has biases; you need more evidence than that to dismiss their claims.

There is much more written in "defense" of the authorship of the NT books, but this summary is a good starting point. I'll be taking a break from the series tomorrow to answer the Vox Apologia question, and perhaps take a shot at XBIP's symposium for the week.

God bless.
(1)Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Crossway Books, Wheaton Ill (2004).

(2)Alexander, David and Pat Alexander (ed.) Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible. Eerdman's Publishing, Grand Rapids MI (1983).

I also used as a reference, though didn't quote anything additional from, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

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