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                         "CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS"

            Evidence For Early Existence Of The New Testament

INTRODUCTION

1. The New Testament presents itself as a historical record of events
   that supposedly occurred during the First Century A.D.

2. How reliable is it?  How do we determine the reliability of any
   ancient document that professes to record events of history?

3. To establish the reliability of ANY historical document, one of the
   first questions to be raised is:  "How soon after the events took
   place were they recorded?"

4. Applied to the New Testament, this involves trying to determine what
   evidence there is for THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT...

I. WHY EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IS CRUCIAL

   A. IF SOME EVENT IS RECORDED LONG AFTER IT OCCURRED...
      1. It is not likely to have been written by "eyewitnesses"
      2. It is not likely to have been written when "other eyewitnesses"
         were around to confirm or dispute its accuracy
      3. Its credibility would be weakened; for example, which would be
         the more credible source for information about an event that
         occurred during The Civil War Between The States...
         a. A present day writer depending totally upon second-hand
            sources?
         b. Or diaries and letters written by eyewitnesses of the event?
      4. Of course, it would be necessary to show that such diaries and
         letters were authentic and where possible shown to be accurate

   B. DURING THE LAST CENTURY, SOME SCHOLARS ASSERTED THAT THE GOSPELS
      AND THE BOOK OF ACTS DID NOT EXIST BEFORE 130 A.D.
      1. This would mean the Gospels and Acts were not written by
         eyewitnesses!
      2. Rather, it was written by frauds who misrepresented themselves
         as eyewitnesses!
         a) For the author of Acts claims to have been present during
            some of the events described in that book - cf. "we" in
            Ac 16:11-12
         b) The author of the Second Epistle Of Peter claims to have been
            an eyewitness of the Transfiguration - 2 Pe 1:16-18

[Written by eyewitnesses and others who lived during those times, or a
book written by liars in a effort to deceive...these are the only
choices we have!  This is why it is important to establish the early
existence of the New Testament!]

II. THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY EXISTENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

   A. INTERNAL EVIDENCE...
      1. THE ENDING OF THE BOOK OF ACTS
         a. The book ends abruptly with Paul in prison, awaiting trial
            - Ac 28:30-31
         b. A plausible explanation is that Luke wrote ACTS during this
            time, before Paul finally appeared before Nero
         c. This would be about 62-63 A.D., meaning that ACTS and LUKE
            (which came first - cf. Ac 1:1 with Lk 1:1-4) were
            written within thirty years of ministry and death of Jesus
      2. NO MENTION OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70 A.D.
         a. Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus' prophecy that the
            temple and city would be destroyed within that generation
            - e.g., Mk 13:1-4,14,30; Lk 21:5-9,20-24,32
         b. History records that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem with its temple
            was destroyed, exactly as Jesus foretold!
         c. Yet not a single book of the New Testament refers to this
            event as having happened!
            1) Such would be very unlikely if they had been written
               after 70 A.D.
            2) For that event helps to verify Jesus' claim to be the
               Son of God, and it is hard to imagine that any writer
               after 70 A.D. would not make mention to the fulfillment
               of Jesus' prophecy!
         d. This has prompted some scholars to conclude that ALL of the
            books of the New Testament were written prior to 70 A.D.
            - e.g., John A. T. Robinson, in his book REDATING THE
            NEW TESTAMENT

   B. PAPYRI FRAGMENTS...
      1. CHESTER BEATTY BIBLICAL PAPYRI (dated 200-250 A.D.)
         a. Made public in 1931
         b. Contains the Gospels, Acts, Paul's Epistles, and Revelation
      2. PAYPRUS BODMER II (dated 200 A.D.)
         a. Discovery announced in 1956
         b. Contains fourteen chapters of John, and portions of the
            last seven chapters
      3. EARLY CHRISTIAN PAPYRI (dated 150 A.D.)
         a. Made public in 1935
         b. Written by someone who had the four gospels before him and
            knew them well
      4. JOHN RYLANDS MSS (dated 130 A.D.)
         a. This is oldest fragment of the NT
         b. "Because of its early date and location (EGYPT), some
            distance from the traditional place of composition (ASIA
            MINOR), this portion of the gospel of John tends to con-
            firm the traditional date of the composition of the gospel."
            - GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE, Geisler & Nix

   C. PATRISTIC WRITINGS...
      1. EPISTLE OF POLYCARP TO THE PHILIPPIANS (dated 120 A.D.)
         a. A personal acquaintance of John, the apostle
         b. He quotes from the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2
            Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessa-
            lonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 1 John
      2. LETTERS OF IGNATIUS (dated 115 A.D.)
         a. Written to several churches in Asia Minor
         b. He quotes from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians,
            Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus
      3. EPISTLE OF CLEMENT TO THE CORINTHIANS (dated 95 A.D.)
         a. This letter was written to encourage the church to respect
            their elders
         b. He quotes from the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Corin-
            thians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 Peter

III. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS EVIDENCE

   A. THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS IN EXISTENCE AND WELL KNOWN BY THE END OF
      THE FIRST CENTURY A.D.!
      1. As stated by Nelson Glueck, former president of the Jewish
         Theological Seminary in the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati,
         and renowned Jewish archaeologist: "In my opinion, every book
         of the New Testament was written between the forties and
         eighties of the First Century A.D."
      2. "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any
         solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after
         80 A.D." - W. F. Albright, biblical archaeologist

   B. THUS THE NEW TESTAMENT PASSES THE "ACID TEST" FOR THE AUTHENTICITY
      OF "ANY" DOCUMENT OF ANTIQUITY
      1. It was written in the same generation in which the events took
         place
      2. It was circulated among the very people about whom these docu-
         ments spoke while they were still alive to deny them!
         a. E.g., remember Clifford Irving and his "biography" of Howard
            Hughes?
         b. It was quickly denounced as a fraud by those who knew best
            and soon lost its credibility
      3. The fact that the first generation preserved the New Testament
         for posterity shows their regard for the genuineness of its
         contents

CONCLUSION

1. But the "ACID TEST" is only the FIRST test any historical document
   must pass

2. So what if it was written early...
   a. How do we know that what we read today is an accurate representa-
      tion of the original "autographs" (the manuscripts actually penned
      by the authors)?
   b. How can we be sure that in the passing of time the content of the
      original did not become corrupted through mistakes in copying?

These questions shall be examined in the next study...
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The "Executable Outlines" Series, Copyright Mark A. Copeland, 1999. You may freely use, copy, or distribute this material, provided it is done at no cost to others. "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

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