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Thread: How Do We Know the New Testament Books Are Genuine?

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    How Do We Know the New Testament Books Are Genuine?


    How Do We Know the New Testament Books Are Genuine?
    By Guillermo Gonzalez Published on January 24, 2021
    How Do We Know the New Testament Books Are Genuine? | The Stream

    Ask Google, "When were the gospels written?," and it will respond with the following quote from the Wikipedia entry for "Gospel": "The Gospel of Mark probably dates from c. AD 66–70, Matthew and Luke around AD 85–90, and John AD 90–110."

    I tend to mistrust Wikipedia, but on this topic, it merely summarizes the consensus view among New Testament scholars (both liberal and some conservative). It is a question that scholarship must address, since the first editions didn't come to us with publication dates.

    Why, though, is this even an important question? Isn't it enough to know when the events of the New Testament occurred? Who cares (apart from academics) when the books were written? To answer this question, first we need to cover some history of biblical studies.

    History of Dating

    The liberal Anglican clergyman John A. T. Robinson helpfully reviewed the history of thinking on this topic in his 1976 book, Redating the New Testament. He notes that in 1800 the dating of New Testament books was based largely on tradition, and ranged over a 50 year period from 50 to 100 AD.

    By 1850, though, the influential F. C. Bauer in Tübingen, Germany, had pushed the New Testament's completion well into the late second century. He drew this conclusion based on his assumption that early Christianity developed through a Hegelian process of "dialectical development," meaning a struggle of differing, even opposing views, resolving into a common, shared view only gradually over time.

    Although the Tübingen School's influence peaked in the nineteenth century, aspects of their ideas remain to the present. Still, by 1900, J. B. Lightfoot at Cambridge and Adolf von Harnack in Germany had pulled back most of the New Testament books to the first century. Over the next fifty years, most scholarship again settled to the period 50 to 100 AD, which is where we find ourselves today.

    Most of that work, however, remains wedded to prior philosophical assumptions, especially disbelief in prophecy and other miracles. This leads to a first answer to, "Why is this an important question?" Sometimes scholars' answers come from philosophies they read into their work, not from historical evidence.

    Who Cares?

    So again, who cares? We all should. Jesus' resurrection was either in 30 or 33 AD. If the Gospels and Acts were written closer to 100 AD, rather than say, 60 AD, then there might have been enough time for legends to grow around Jesus and be included in the Gospels. Whole new theological perspectives could have been grafted in. So maybe Jesus didn't really perform miracles or claim to be God on earth; maybe that was added in later. Living eyewitnesses to the purported events would be few and far between. Perhaps the authors based their accounts on little more than Christian lore passed down to them. If this were the case, then we would have reason to doubt Gospels' historical reliability.

    Liberal scholars reject the supernatural aspects of the New Testament. This biases them toward choosing late dates for its writing. Their view collapses, however, if it can be shown that the Gospels were written early. It also fails if the historical details can be confirmed.

    Early or Late?

    How can we decide between early and late dates for the writing of the New Testament books? Well, we don't decide by first choosing our favorite theological development theory and then asking how much time was needed for it to happen. No, the obvious answer is to let the evidence speak for itself. We need to examine evidences both internal and external to the text of the New Testament.

    The New Testament contains multiple details concerning people (and their titles), places, customs, and events. Several people from within its pages are also known from outside sources, including contemporary writers such as Josephus as well as archeology. The book of Acts, in particular, is rich in such details. Arguably, it is the most easily datable book.

    But, what good is dating one book of the New Testament? Even if Acts were dated early, that doesn't mean the other 26 books should be. That's not quite true. The books of the New Testament are not completely independent accounts. Acts plays a unique role as serving as a kind of bridge between the Gospels and the epistles.

    Acts is actually the companion volume to the Gospel of Luke. Virtually all scholars agree on this. We can link Luke to the other Gospels where they cover the same events. Going the other direction, we can link Acts to several of the letters of Paul, given his prominence in Acts. These links by themselves won't always allow us to date the other books, but they do serve as helpful anchor points.

    More To Come

    You might have noticed that I didn't answer the "early or late" question. This I intend to do in a series of forthcoming articles on the dating of the New Testament books. I will start with Acts and work my way through the Gospels and then perhaps one or two other books.

    I won't be breaking new ground in this series. I'll merely summarize the best current scholarship and provide some helpful resources along the way. Without giving away too much, let's just say that consensus isn't always the best answer.



    Guillermo Gonzalez is an astronomer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1993. He has also held positions at The University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University and Grove City College. Dr. Gonzalez has published over 80 peer-reviewed research papers on topics related to astrobiology and quantitative stellar spectroscopy. He is co-author of the second edition of Observational Astronomy, a widely used undergraduate textbook. He is also co-author, with Jay W. Richards, of The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery.







    This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity (futility) of their mind, having the understanding darkened...
    (Ephesians 4:17-18)

    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly...
    (Psalm 1)

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    Senior Member Romans828's Avatar
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    QUOTE: So maybe Jesus didn't really perform miracles or claim to be God on earth

    All I know is this: I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see.

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  7. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ezekiel 33 View Post
    When I was formally studying Greek we used Mounce's books.

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    Senior Member diakonos777's Avatar
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    Luke was the first official "Journalist" reporting the Real News, ie.,, the Good News. He even interviewed Mary.

    Quote: So again, who cares? We all should. Jesus' resurrection was either in 30 or 33 AD.

    Humm, AD means after death. So, I don't get that.

    I always wondered though. Who started the calendar? Who was keeping track of time. I know about the Jewish calendar, so who was the Believer that got that all going?

    Then AD, at the Cross Jesus died, so why is that not the first day of a year? So then the start of the season's must have been put in the thought of it's making. But it still would not be correct, day one Jesus died.

    Did they publish special one's on dried sheep skin with some kind of art at the top. Lol, admit it that made ya giggle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by diakonos777 View Post
    Humm, AD means after death. So, I don't get that.
    (I like it though)

    The current dating system was devised in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor but was not widely used until after 800 )according to Wiki)

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    Quote Originally Posted by diakonos777 View Post
    Luke was the first official "Journalist" reporting the Real News, ie.,, the Good News. He even interviewed Mary.

    Quote: So again, who cares? We all should. Jesus' resurrection was either in 30 or 33 AD.

    Humm, AD means after death. So, I don't get that.

    I always wondered though. Who started the calendar? Who was keeping track of time. I know about the Jewish calendar, so who was the Believer that got that all going?

    Then AD, at the Cross Jesus died, so why is that not the first day of a year? So then the start of the season's must have been put in the thought of it's making. But it still would not be correct, day one Jesus died.

    Did they publish special one's on dried sheep skin with some kind of art at the top. Lol, admit it that made ya giggle.
    AD actually means Anno Domini - The Year of Our Lord. One thought is 0 AD is when Jesus was born. But calculations and recalculations show He may have been born 4 or 3 BC. Our calendar is only as good as the information we have and the people who make the calculations.

    An interesting aside, the early Romans marked their years from the beginning of the Roman empire. So we know now that the Roman Empire began c. 753 BC. They numbered years from the beginning of that time, that is, Year 1, 2, and so on.

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  15. #8
    I tend to look to sites other than Wikipedia for such questions. Wiki is able to be edited by the public and those edits will typically appear immediately and stay until a fact-checker finds the new edit in any heading or subject.
    I knew a fact checker who worked for Wiki at one time. They said atheists and atheist online groups were the foremost culprits for editing with false information anything related to Bible study.
    I find that fascinating. A people who insist there is no proof God exists commit their time to focusing on something they believe isn't really there.

    Timeline of New Testament Books - New Testament Charts (Bible History
    Online)

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  17. #9

    What Can the Book of Acts Tell Us About How We Can Trust the Gospels?
    By Guillermo Gonzalez
    Published on February 27, 2021
    What Can the Book of Acts Tell Us About How We Can Trust the Gospels? | The Stream


    New Testament scholars debate when the Gospels, Acts and Epistles were written, with skeptics contending that they came late. With the Gospels in particular, later writing would mean more chance for myth, legend and "theology" to be mixed in along with true reports of Jesus.


    The Time Setting of Acts

    In the first part of this series,
    I looked back at how scholars' views on it have varied over the past 200 years or so. F. C. Baur (1792-1860) of the University of Tübingen dated the book of Acts to the mid second century. Such a late date would mean we couldn't trust Acts as a reliable source of history from the first century. Any kernel of truth of actual events, places and people would have been distorted by decades of editing and fabrication.

    To be fair, Baur had less data to work with than we do today. Most cities mentioned in Acts still had no known location. It wasn't until late in the 1800s that Oxford archeologist and New Testament scholar Sir William M. Ramsay began work in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and discovered evidence for many of them.

    Ramsay had been schooled under the liberal Tübingen theologians, and he had fully expected to show that Acts was not historical. The facts forced him to change his mind. Ramsay wrote in 1915,

    I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it there [in Acts]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.

    As a result of his findings he converted to Christianity.


    Details Point to the Mid-First Century

    Additional research over the past century has continued to build on Ramsay's discoveries. J. White minces no words about the proper time setting of Acts. He wrote,

    One of the most striking aspects of the Acts record is how many of its political and social details belong to the middle of the first century, and to that era alone. Nor is it the number of mid-first century details that is impressive, but the fact that these details reflect the very different political and social realities found in the different Roman provinces and cities. There are dozens of these details in Acts and they are all historically accurate.

    The skeptic might say, "OK, you've convinced me that Acts describes places, politics and social customs from the first century accurately. But, couldn't its author have copied these details from other sources decades later? I can write a fictional travel account and get the details right, without ever leaving my home."

    Yes we can do that in the present day. We have vast information available at our fingertips. That was not the case 2000 years ago. Books were very expensive. Travel "brochures" could not have been common, if they existed at all. A wealthy writer might have owned a few books. Let's be generous and give our hypothetical second century creative writer a copy of the works of Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian. He wrote many details about political leaders, cities, wars and Jewish life in the Mediterranean region. It wouldn't be enough. Acts includes many more details not found in Josephus. What's more, Colin Hemer opines, inconsequential details are hard to explain except as vivid experiences recalled at no great distance." (p. 389)


    Pinning Down the Date

    So the evidence points to Acts being written in the middle of the first century. That still covers several decades, though. Can we do better? Yes, we can. There are powerful negative clues that restrict the range further.

    Acts is silent regarding several highly relevant events. At the top of the list is the lack of any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD. Jerusalem is central to Luke's narrative in Acts. It is simply unthinkable that he would have failed to mention its destruction, if it had already happened. After all, he mentions the much less significant expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:2).

    Luke speaks of the Temple multiple times, always as a functioning structure and institution. In his first volume, the Gospel of Luke, he recounts Jesus' prediction of the Temple's destruction (21:6). It's also mentioned in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Surely, if Jesus' prophecy had been fulfilled when he wrote, he would have been motivated to mention it.


    Liberal New Testament Scholars Hold a Different View

    Liberal New Testament scholars turn Jesus' prophecy on its head. Rejecting even the possibility of prophecy, they argue that the Gospels must have been written late. Their authors only made it appear that Jesus had predicted the Temple's demise. They put words in his mouth that he never spoke. Seriously, this is a large part of the argument against early dates for the composition of Acts and the Gospels.

    This still leaves us with questions, though. If the liberals are right, why don't Jesus' predictions of the Temple's destruction more closely parallel the accounts in Josephus, detailing more of the horrors inflicted on the Jews?

    Furthermore, you'd think Luke would have mentioned the deaths of James the brother of Jesus (62 AD), Peter (~64 AD) and especially Paul (~65 AD). He mentions the deaths of lesser Christian leaders: Stephen (Acts 7:57-59) and James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). But Acts ends rather abruptly with Paul still living. Neither is there any mention of Nero's persecution (started in 62 AD), nor of the Roman-Jewish war (started in 66 AD). The obvious conclusion is that Acts was written before any of these highly relevant events took place.

    We can be even more specific. The most important chronological anchor point in Acts is Paul's trial before the Roman Proconsul, Gallio, in Corinth (18:5-12). An inscription found at the temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece about a century ago informs us that Gallio served as Proconsul there in 52 AD. Roman Proconsuls typically served for only one year. Therefore that trial must have taken place that year. From this we can establish the dates of many other events in Paul's travels described in Acts.


    And the Answer is ...

    With all this taken into account, the most recent scholarship says Acts was completed in 60 AD, or, for the more skeptical, 62 AD at the latest. This is within three decades or so of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and well within the lifetimes of many of the eyewitnesses.

    What does this mean for the rest of the New Testament? Does dating Acts help with dating the Gospels or the epistles? It does, but I will address those questions later as I continue this series in future installments.



    Guillermo Gonzalez received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1993. He has also held positions at The University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, Grove City College, and Ball State University. Dr. Gonzalez has published over 80 peer-reviewed research papers on topics related to astrobiology and quantitative stellar spectroscopy. He is co-author of the second edition of Observational Astronomy, a widely used undergraduate textbook. He is also co-author, with Jay W. Richards, of The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery.







    This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity (futility) of their mind, having the understanding darkened...
    (Ephesians 4:17-18)

    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly...
    (Psalm 1)

  18. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Biblemouse View Post
    I tend to look to sites other than Wikipedia for such questions. Wiki is able to be edited by the public and those edits will typically appear immediately and stay until a fact-checker finds the new edit in any heading or subject.
    I knew a fact checker who worked for Wiki at one time. They said atheists and atheist online groups were the foremost culprits for editing with false information anything related to Bible study.
    I find that fascinating. A people who insist there is no proof God exists commit their time to focusing on something they believe isn't really there.

    Timeline of New Testament Books - New Testament Charts (Bible History
    Online)


    This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity (futility) of their mind, having the understanding darkened...
    (Ephesians 4:17-18)

    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly...
    (Psalm 1)

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