Thursday, May 12, 2011

Can We Trust These People?

Can we trust the writers of the New Testament? Now the identities of the authors are attested by many early sources. Further, it does not seem reasonable that the real originators of Christianity should leave us no evidence and that all we would have preserved would be forgeries made long after the fact. Or that none of the numerous critics of Christianity noticed this. Also, one test for acceptance of a book by Christians was whether the author was who he claimed to be.

Now one argument against the gospel accounts is the similarity of those accounts. But in the ancient world it was considered proper to repeat a story as it was generally told. We see this in the similarities of Samuel and Kings with Chronicles in the Old Testament. The Roman historians followed the same sort of pattern. But the gospels were not simply copied, but show many differences in details. This argues that they had a definite degree of independence. There is also archeological and historical evidence from the time confirming the accounts. Further, the accounts frequently portray the later "heroes" of the church in an uncomplimentary light.

According to the New Testament and tradition, the original founders of Christianity suffered severely, to the point of being put to death. Even if you discount these, within about thirty years of the founding of the Christianity people were being put to death by Nero for being Christians. Now this does not prove that Christianity is true, but it does show that the people involved believed what they were saying. It tells against any kind of conspiracy theory. Particularly since it is unclear what the conspirators thought they would get out of it. Even if the apostles somehow escaped, how did they manage to convince other people in such a short period of time to die for this belief? Also relevant here is Chuck Colson's objection. He was involved in the Watergate scandal, and he asked the question: If a small group of people with all the power of the presidency, in no danger of their lives, could not keep the Watergate break-in secret, how could these powerless people, in constant danger of death, manage it?

Some have claimed the gospels were originally novels. But would anyone get so confused as to die for a novel? Or if written after the persecution started, would anyone write a novel, knowing it could get them and anyone who read it killed? It could be claimed that the whole thing was based on the wishful thinking of the immediate followers of Jesus, similar to appearances of Elvis. This might work for the disciples, but how would they convince others? Can you imagine belief in Elvis becoming a major faith and ultimately taking over our society? We are then left with the conclusion that the writers of the New Testament were honest men, reporting what they saw or what they heard from others who saw. And we need to decide how we will respond to this.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Mike! The testimony and sacrifices of the apostles inspire me today.