Monday, November 5, 2012

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?

I've been reading a lot more lately, specifically using the Kindle app. I just finished reading The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce. If you've known me any length of time, you'll know that I am a big fan of Dr. Bruce.

If you have ever wondered about the reliability of the New Testament and the texts behind them, then this book is a great place to start. If you have a Kindle, I can loan the book to you.

I highlighted a lot in this book, and will share a couple of things below. But before doing that, I believe that in just 10 chapters that Bruce gives us a vast amount of information to help us come to the conclusion that what we know as the New Testament today (and since its official canonization, which he treats in chapter 3) is more reliable than other ancient texts. After some preliminaries, Bruce has a great treatment of The Gospels and their miracles, the Pauline letters, and Luke's contributions. He follows this with archaeological evidence as well as that of Jewish and Gentile writers. Somewhat surprisingly, as I'm reviewing my highlights, I see that most of what I thought was vital related to the practical aspects of what the reliability of the New Testament documents. I hope the quotes can boost your faith as well!

Two of my favorite sections were his treatment of the Gospels and those of Luke. Below will be some quotes I found extremely helpful. If you are looking for a great primer on the New Testament documents, this is definitely a book you should read!

"For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers."

"No matter how we classify the gospel material, we never arrive at a non-supernatural Jesus."

"The gospel as preached in those early days emphasized what Jesus did rather than what He said. The proclamation which led to the conversion of Jews and Gentiles was the good news that by His death and triumph He had procured remission of sins and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers."

"In his Argument to the Gospel of John, the great Reformer John Calvin says: `I am in the habit of saying that this Gospel is the key which opens the door to the understanding of the others.' His opinion has been endorsed by Christian thinkers of many ages, who have found in this Gospel depths of spiritual truth unreached in any other New Testament writing."

"The members of the Christian Industrial League, an organization which carries on a gospel witness among the tough characters of Skidrow, in the heart of Chicago's `Loop' area, say `that in their work they have found that St. John's Gospel is the best for dealing with these tough, hard men. Its straight, unequivocal words about sin and salvation somehow go home and carry conviction to the most abandoned, while its direct invitation wins a response that nothing else does.'"

"The same victorious power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power which operates in His followers, achieving in their lives triumph over the dominion of evil. Properly to appreciate the power of God in the resurrection of Christ, one must appreciate it in one's own experience. That is why Paul prayed that he might thus know Christ, and the power of his resurrection"

"Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." - Bruce, quoting Sir William Ramsay

"One point is worth noting, however: apart from Jewish and Christian writers, Tacitus is the one and only ancient author to mention Pilate. It may surely be accounted one of the ironies of history that the only mention Pilate receives from a Roman historian is in connection with the part he played in the execution of Jesus!"

"The spirit of these early Christians ought to animate their modern descendants. For by an acquaintance with the relevant evidence they will not only be able to give to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, but they themselves, like Theophilus, will thus know more accurately how secure is the basis of the faith which they have been taught."