The New Testament provides the primary historical source for information about Jesus. Because of this, in the past two centuries many critics have attacked the reliability of the biblical documents. There seems to be a constant barrage of charges that have no historical foundation or that have been proved invalid by archaeological discoveries and research.
While I (Josh) was lecturing at Arizona State University, a professor who had brought his literature class approached me after an outdoor “free speech” lecture. He said, “Mr. McDowell, you are basing all your claims about Christ on a second-century document that is obsolete. I showed in class today that the New Testament was written so long after Christ lived that it could not be accurate in what it recorded.”
I replied, “Sir, I understand your view, and I know the writings on which you base it. But the fact is, those writings have been proven wrong by more recently discovered documents that clearly show the New Testament to have been written within a generation of the time of Christ.”
The source of that professor’s opinions about the records concerning Jesus was the writings of the German critic Ferdinand Christian Baur. F. C. Baur assumed that most of the New Testament Scriptures were not written until late in the second century AD from myths and legends that had developed during the lengthy interval between the lifetime of Jesus and the time these accounts were set down in writing.
By the twentieth century, however, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Early papyri manuscripts (the John Rylands manuscript, AD 130; the Chester Beatty Papyri, AD 155; and the Bodmer Papyri II, AD 200) bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from later dates.
Millar Burrows, for many years professor of biblical theology at Yale Divinity School, says:
Another result of comparing New Testament Greek with the language of the papyri [discoveries] is an increase of confidence in the accurate transmission of the text of the New Testament itself.1
Such findings as these have increased scholarly confidence in the Bible. William F. Albright, who was the world’s foremost biblical archaeologist, writes,
We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about AD 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.2
He reiterates this view in an interview for Christianity Today.
In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century AD (very probably sometime between about AD 50 and 75).3
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.