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Monday, January 17, 2011

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Historicity of the New Testament Part 5

Historicity of 
the New Testament

Part 5

When we consider the things that we have already covered, then the authenticity and the authorship of the New Testament can be considered firmly established. General accuracy can also be established as well as their internal consistency as confirmed by linguistic and archeological studies. This CAN and HAS been done by intelligent and considered studies.

Skeptics and those who choose to be atheists have however, sought to escape the impact of these studies by charging the writers with fraud, and the text with muddy antiquity, that is to say, they have thrown their hands up in surrender as to any truth being retained based solely on the number of years that have past since the writer’s inception. Their contention is that the writers were interested in being the leaders of some new religious and/or political movement and they conspired to create a type of “Superman” who would fulfill the Savior and Messiah position that was promised for hundreds of years by their ancestral writings. As representatives, the main proponents would then exercise authority and power of the one they supported.

Such a supposition, however, belongs to the school of straw grasping and pandering to those with the weakest intellectual ability to direct for themselves any cognitive investigations independent of so called “outside expertise”. 

Let’s take a look at discrediting these notions.

1) The conspiracy involves such a large number of people, of such diverse backgrounds, that a collusion on the part of all concerned is not even remotely possible. There were at the least eight different writers involved, not to mention a great deal of associated colleagues, and these wrote and lived at widely scattered times and places over a period of about 1500 years. (Considering all texts, not just the New Testament.) Watergate WAS a conspiracy, and look how quickly the whole thing fell apart.

2) Evidences of collusion are noticeably absent in the writings. Each writer gives his own independent witness, writing from his own perspective. On the surface, they often appear to contradict each other, and these contradictions are resolved by close study and cross examination of the testimonies. Many would point to this a evidence of irrelevance, but one cannot find the truth in these testimonies without following the course of rigourous testimonial investigation. To simply pass a casual judgement is to treat the subject with less than it requires and will ultimately say more about the investigatior’s own desire to know the truth than it does about the truth contained within the various testimonies themselves. 

3) Rather than containing their writings to generalities or perhaps only to individual experiences, a practice that would sufficiently evade long term investigation, the records instead team with public events and dates and places well known by the world at the time. 

4) An honest and candid reading of the New Testament texts does not lead one to fraudulent conclusions. The very atmosphere of the writings is drenched in the sincerity of the writers. If any of the writings are merely a wicked deception, then they are the texts of the greatest con men ever born to Earth. Con men who were eventually executed, almost to the man, for what they knew was really a lie, or perhaps as a result of their own mental instability, despite the absence of insanity that mad men usually display. Quite the feat to accomplish for what appears on the humanistic surface to have been all in vain. 

5) This willingness for the authors to suffer and die for what they knew is crowning proof. For they killed no one in some public outrage against the machine, but charged forward for the betterment of mankind itself while causing no harm, only to find martyrdom at the end of their ministries. John, of course, outlived them all, as was hinted at in the very scripture words of Christ himself, but he too found exile, if not martyrdom at the end of his life. Men die for unworthy causes that are a lie all the time, Nazi Germany being a prime example, but none of those men would have admitted they they knew it was all a lie. Those that did, either extracted themselves or they fought the cause. Unstable people fighting for a cause have an unfortunate habit of taking innocents with them in their drive to prove or defend their cause. It simply is not realistically possible, nor logically possible, that all these men would have sacrificed their lives, both the life itself and also their one and only voyage of life upon this Earth, for some grand illusion. 

The writers of the New Testament were sincere, intelligent men, firmly convinced of what they wrote. But were they just wrong? Were they victims of mass delusion? Were they unstable, easily convinced of their own emotional perceptions? Were they the biggest suckers since the audiences of P.T. Barnum?  Were miracles that they reported about simply a mass hallucination or mass suggestion? Were their minds just playing tricks on them?

One has to consider that the events were:

1) In the open. Crowds of people often surrounded them, and only a few miracles were done in hidden privacy. The feeding of the five thousand is reported in all four Gospels. 

2) Reported in a great variety of times and places, by many different people of diverse backgrounds. Mass delusion is never reported in this way.

3) Written up by men not regularly associated with hallucinations or a lack of credibility. Paul was a highly educated Levite, with a careful and  articulate mind. His writings bear this out. Luke was a physician and detail oriented historian. Matthew was a politician and tax assessor. James was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. 

4) Accepted by great numbers of people who, due to the intense persecution of their faith, would have been highly motivated to make every effort to make sure the claims of the early Apostles about the person of Christ were accurate. If the Apostles had been nothing more than deluded fanatics, you and I would have never been sitting here discussing this today. When everyone died, that would have been the end of it. 

So what about the character of Christ himself?  Was he the greatest deceiver ever known?  More in Part 6.

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