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Lesson 2 of 50 - Apologetics (part two) -
Section A, Chapter 2 - Authenticity of the New Testament

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Chapter Tests:
Sect A, Ch 3 -
Authenticity of the New Testamennt


Essay Tests:
Sect A, Ch 3 - Critic the Jesus Seminar

Authenticity of the New Testament

Authenticity refers to the genuineness and reliability of the New Testament documents.  Claiming that the New Testament is authentic means that:


The authenticity of the New Testament is important.  If the information is inaccurate or a forgery then our faith is in vain.  We are some of the most deceived and confused people in history.  Paul wrote:

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.  Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men!” 
-1 Corinthians 15:17-19

Critics attack the New Testament documents by saying these things:

The “Jesus Seminar”: A Voice of Deception

  • Organized in 1985 by 70 “scholars”
  • They meet twice a year to make pronouncements about the
    authenticity of the words and deeds of Jesus
  • They have a public information campaign that includes promoting their ideas by: TV, articles, interviews, tapes/cds, movies
  • The group uses colored beads to vote on the accuracy of Jesus’ sayings:
    1) Red Bead = Jesus probably spoke it
    2)  Pink Bead = saying could be attributed to Jesus
    3) Gray Bead = the saying probably came from a later source, but not Jesus
    4) Black Bead = Jesus almost certainly did not say this
  • They vote on the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, and a document called “Q”
    (“Q” represents the word “quelle” which means “source”)
  • The results of the Jesus Seminar’s “scholarship”:
    - Only 15 sayings, or 2%, of Jesus’ recorded in these
    documents are absolute (a Red Bead)
    - 82% are not  authentic (a Black Bead)
    - 10% are doubtful (Pink or Gray Beads)
  • In Matthew: 11 of the 420 sayings are authentic, 235 received the Black Bead
  • In Mark: 1 of the 177 sayings is authentic, 92 received the Black Bead
  • In Luke: 14 of the 392 sayings are authentic, 185 received the Black Bead
  • In John: 0 (none) or the 140 sayings are authentic, 134 got the Black Bead
  • In the Gospel of Thomas: 3 of the 202 sayings are authentic, 92=Black Bead
  • The Conclusion of “The Jesus Seminar”:
    1) The “old Jesus” and “old Christianity” are no longer relevant
    2) Jesus did not rise from the dead
    3) Gospels are from a late date (after the apostles) and can not be trusted
    4) The authentic words of Jesus come from “Q”, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter.
  • What effect does this have on Christianity?  Jesus is a cynic, a sage, a reformer, a feminist, a prophet-teacher, a radical socialist, an end time preacher.  But, Jesus is not the Son of God, not the Messiah prophesied of in the OT, not the savior and not the soon returning king.
  • The Jesus Seminar is a voice of deception in our times.

-Probe Ministries Christian (critical) view of Jesus Seminar

-Jesus Seminar’s Misguided Conclusions

Proving the Authenticity of the New Testament Documents

A. Effects must have a Cause

B. Quality and Quantity of available Manuscripts

What is a manuscript?

A manuscript (abbreviation - ms. or plural, mss.) is the term used to identify hand written copies of an ancient document. Before there were printing presses or copy machines all documents were written by hand. New Testament manuscripts, or NT mss, are copies of the New Testament books that began to be made in the first century and continued to be made until the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 A.D.

Learn more about manuscripts here:

See pictures of manuscripts here:

No other document from antiquity even begins to approach the number of available manuscripts for the New Testament.  For example:

  1. Homer’s “Illiad”.
    1. There are 643 remaining manuscripts of Homer’s "lliad"
    2. The "Illiad" has the second most existing manuscripts. The New Testament is first.
  2. In comparison there are a total of 48,600 manuscripts of the New Testament
    1. 5,686 are Greek manuscripts
    2. 10,000 are Latin Vulgate manuscripts
    3. 9,300 are other earlier versions
    4. 24,000 manuscripts portions of the New Testament
  3. Available Manuscripts of Writings from Antiquity

    Title of Document                      Number of Available Manuscripts

    Tacitus “History”                                              5
    Plato “Tetralogies”                                           7
    Thucydides “History”                                       8
    Herodotus “History”                                         8
    Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”                                  10
    Aristotle                                                          49
    Homer “Iliad”                                                643
    New Testament                                         5,686 Greek plus 40,000 others

C. Time elapse

  1. Time elapse is the time span between the time of the original writing and the oldest manuscript, or written copy, of the original.
  2. Time elapse between original manuscript and earliest existing copy of the New Testament manuscripts is amazing when compared to the time elapse between the original writing and a manuscript of other ancient documents
  3. The time elapse for the book of John is about thirty years (85 – 115 AD)

    Author      Document   Date of Writing   Oldest MS   Time Elapse

    Caesar           “Gallic Wars”     58-50 BC                850 AD                900 years
    Tacitus            “Histories”         100 AD                    850 AD                750 years
    Thucydides    “History”             460-400 BC            900 AD               1,300 years
    Herodotus      “History”             488-428 BC            850 AD               1,300 years
    Plato               “Tetralogies”     427-347 BC            900 AD                1,250 years
    Aristotle                                     384-322                  1100 AD              1,400 years

    The New Testament

    NT Book    Date         Name of MS          MS Date        Time Elapse

    John                85 AD        John Ryland’s MS                 115 AD           30 years
    John                85 AD        Bodmer Papyrus II                150-200 AD   65-115 years
    Most of NT     45-95 AD  Chester Beatty Papyri          150-200 AD   55-155 years
    Bible w/ NT    45-95         Codex Vaticanus                  325 AD           250-280 yrs.
    Bible w/ NT    45-95 AD  Codex Sinaiticus                   350 AD           275-305 yrs.

John Ryland's Fragment of the Book of John Oxyrhynchos Papyri Fragment from Revelation with the number of the beast
John 18:31-33; 37-38, 115 AD . . . . .Fragment of Revelation from Oxyrhynchos

Some of the Important New Testament Manuscripts

John Ryland’s Manuscript   
Bodmer Papyrus
Chester Beatty Papyri         
Codex Vaticanus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Alexandrinus
Ephraemi Rescriptus
Oxyrhynchos Papyri

What is Papyrus?

Papyrus is a plant that grows along the Nile Delta in Egypt. The long stems of the plant were used to make a paper like material to write on. Many of the ancient manuscripts that we have discovered were written on papyrus.

Read more here:

What is Parchment?

Parchment is a writing material made from the skins of animals like sheep, goats or calves. When pieces of parchment were made into pages and attached like a book it is called a codex.

Read more here:

D. Early Translations

  1. Ancient literature was rarely translated into another language.
  2. The Syrian and Latin translations were done about 150 AD

E. Early Church Fathers

  1. We have letters and writings of men who knew and heard the apostles.
  2. The men quoted the NT documents during the years 70-150 AD in their writings
  3. The quotes in their writings testify to what was in the NT documents in the first century
  4. These men would not have:
    1. Tolerated a change in the apostles writings or their teachings
    2. Quoted from a book that was written by an imposter and not written by an apostle
    3. Altered or added to the teachings or the words

Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus from 325 AD

Internal Confirmation to New Testament Authenticity

  1. Paul always begins his epistles with his name and claims authorship.
  2. Undesigned coincidences run through the New Testament books that prove Paul was the author.  Many references to people, places, situations align with the book of Acts and the epistles Paul wrote.
  3. Linguistic evidence is consistent with the authors:
    1. Paul’s style and vocabulary remain the same in all his books.
    2. This is clearly true of John as well using words like “light”, “word”.
  4. Archaeology and anthropology confirms the places and customs recorded in the Bible.
  5. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek and not Classical Greek
    1. Stories, poems and legends were written in Classical Greek
    2. Letters, notes, bills, etc. were written in Koine Greek which is the language of common life.  This was discovered and proven in the 1800’s.

Internal Evidence for the Early Date of Acts
and Luke’s Authorship

According to those who accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, the Book of Acts is believed to have been written during Paul’s lifetime by Luke.  This means it was written before 70 AD and probably around 61 AD. This is the
evidence in the book of Acts that indicates it was written before 70 AD.

  1. No mention of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
  2. No mention of the burning of Rome in 64 AD.
  3. No hint of deterioration of Roman and Jewish relationships that resulted from the Jewish war with Rome beginning in 66 AD.
  4. No hint of the deterioration of relationships between the Romans and the Christian due to Nero’s persecution during 65-67 AD.
  5. Gallio’s judgment (Acts 18:14-17) set a precedent to legitimize Christianity for this time period.
  6. There is not hint of Pastor James’ martyrdom by the Sanhedrin around 67 AD.
  7. The Sadducees are portrayed as still having authority reflecting a pre-70 AD date.
  8. Acts never mentions Peter in Rome.
  9. Peter (died 65 AD) and John (died after 96 AD) seem to be alive in Acts.  No details are given about any of the disciple’s deaths but James (died 44 AD).
  10. There were Gentiles in the synagogues.  Few would be looking into Judiasm after 70 AD.
  11. The temple is still standing with no hint of attack or of being destroyed.
  12. There is a confident tone of normal life continuing.  Unlike life after 65 and 70 AD.
  13. Acts ends as if the events at the end of the book were still occurring.  The ending leaves Paul alive with no hint of his martyrdom.
  14. No where in the book does the author try to appear to predict any of these key events or try to give Paul credit as a prophet of these events.

KEY POINTS (back to the top)

OTHER SITES with more information concerning NT authenticity: (back to the top)

New Testament Reliability
Catalogue of New Testament Papyri & Codices 2nd—10th Centuries
See images and read details of these manuscripts here
Manuscript evidence Here

BOOKS from Galyn's Shelf: (back to the top)
"Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament" by Philip Wesley Comfort
"How We Got the Bible" by Neil R. Lightfoot
"Books and Their Makers in the Middle Ages" by Geo. Haven Putnam
"Light from the Ancient East" by Adolf Deissmann

QUESTIONS (back to the top)
Do you think the New Testament is authentic?
How can the number of manuscripts help support the New Testaments authenticity?
Does the time between the writing of the document and the closest copy make a difference?
Do you think a document that has been copied for 900 years or one that has been copied for 150 years will have more errors in the text?
List 4 important manuscripts and about the time it was written.
List 2 reasons why we can say the New Testament letters of Paul are authentic based on internal evidence from the text.
List 3 reasons why we can say the book of Acts was written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.


Chapter Tests:
Sect A, Ch 3 -
Authenticity of the New Testamennt

Essay Tests:
Sect A, Ch 3 - Critic the Jesus Seminar


"There is no time for creating a change in Jesus or his work."

"There are too many on lookers for one person to create a false quote, let alone a false book."

"The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself." -ARISTOTLE

"It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our convition that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God." - SIR FREDERIC G. KENYON, Director of British Museum

"To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."