Christian Apologetic
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8. ACCURACY OF NEW TESTAMENT TEXT

Did the New Testament autographs provide an accurate account of what a man named Jesus said and did? This question will be addressed with the help of an inverted logic tree. At the top of the logic tree is a thesis (x) and its antithesis (not-x). One is true, the other is false. This initial thesis bifurcates into a composite thesis (x and y) and its quasi-antithesis (x and not-y) where x and y are stand-alone theses meaning each one can be independently true or false. The actual antithesis corresponding to the composite thesis (x and y) is given by not-(x and y) = not-x or not-y but this antithesis is not assigned a location on the logic tree. Instead, a node is related to its branches by the biconditional:

x if and only if [(x and y) or (x and not-y)]

which is the tautology defined by "A if and only if B" where A = x and B = [(x and y) or (x and not-y)]; A and B have the same truth table as shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Truth table for x vs [(x and y) or (x and not-y)]

x
y
(x and y) or (x and not-y)
1
1
1
1
0
1
0
1
0
0
0
0

Finally, the process of successive bifurcation may be continued indefinitely.

It is frequently difficult to develop a procedure for determining the truth of a complex premise. However, if the premise can be expressed as a logical ("and" operator) combination of theses and antitheses and placed at any branch tip of a logic tree, a unique characteristic of logic trees can be utilized to determine whether the premise is true or false. When a logic tree is constructed according to the algorithm described above, one and only one of the statements located at branch tips must be true. A general proof of this proposition will be left as an exercise for the interested reader. However, proofs will be outlined for the specific logic trees used in this book.

Consider the generic three level logic tree in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Generic three level logic tree

The statements located at branch tips are nA, B, C and nC. The fact that one and only one of these four statements must be true can be seen by: (1) assigning "false" to any group of three and deducing the value of the fourth and (2) assigning "true" to any one of the four and deducing the values of the other three:

nA = 0
x = 1
B = 0
implies
y = 0
implies
nC = 1
C = 0
z = 0


x = 1
C = 0
nC = 1
implies
y = 0
implies
B = 0
z = 0
nA = 0


nA = 0
x = 1
B = 0
implies
y = 0
implies
C = 1
nC = 0
z = 1


x = 1
nC = 0
C = 1
implies
y = 0
implies
B = 0
z = 1
nA = 0


nA = 0
x = 1
C = 0
implies
y = 1
implies
B = 1
nC = 0


x = 1
nC = 0
B = 1
implies
y = 1
implies
C = 0
nA = 0


B = 0
C = 0
implies
x = 0
implies
nA = 1
nC = 0


nC = 0
nA = 1
implies
x = 0
implies
C = 0
B = 0

Now consider the logic tree, in Figure 2, concerning the accuracy of New Testament text.

Figure 2. Logic tree concerning the accuracy of New Testament text

One and only one of the four statements located at branch tips in Figure 2 must be true.

(1) Jesus was not a man.

(2) Jesus was a man and New Testament autographs were documents which gave an accurate account of what Jesus said and did.

(3) Jesus was a man and New Testament autographs were not documents which gave an accurate account of what Jesus said and did and authors of New Testament autographs were truthful men.

(4) Jesus was a man and New Testament autographs were not documents which gave an accurate account of what Jesus said and did and authors of New Testament autographs were not truthful men.

Analyses of the logic trees in this book requires recognition that one and only one of the following theses is always true: (a man is truthful); (a man is a deliberate liar); (a man is insane). A truthful man always tells the truth about important issues regardless of the consequences. A liar tells the truth or lies with equal facility depending on how his objectives are best served. An insane man tells the truth or lies with no connection to reality. Finally, a specific individual may be insane but group insanity is not logical.

The subsequent paragraphs of this chapter will examine the likelihood that statements (1), (3) and (4) represent truth. The falsity of these three statements and, therefore, the truth of statement (2) cannot be established with certainty. However, so much evidence can be amassed in support of this position that a final step of faith is small and guided as opposed to large and blind.

(1) Jesus was not a man

The existence of a man named Jesus was claimed by:
  • Josephus, the first century Jewish historian
  • Tacitus, the first century Roman historian
  • The first century authors of the Gnostic gospels
  • The first century authors of the New Testament autographs

These four sets of authors did not share a common background, philosophy or religion. Why would they independently invent or perpetuate the invention of a fictitious character who would have been a virtual contemporary for each of them? Furthermore, even if one or more of them did invent such a character, why wasn't the hoax unmasked by eye-witnesses; why didn't someone stand up and say, "This man Jesus never existed"? I can't think of a good reason. Can you?

(3) New Testament autographs accidentally provided an inaccurate account of what Jesus said and did.

Consider the following:
  • The contents of the New Testament autographs must have been completely consistent with the beliefs of the Christian community at the time the autographs were circulated. Otherwise, the autographs would have been rejected just like the Gnostic gospels and other "heretical" writings were rejected.
  • The New Testament autographs must have pre-dated the oldest known manuscript fragments.

The oldest known manuscript fragments have been dated in the early second century A.D. This means the autographs were known to some portion of the Christian community during the first century. The fact that the autographs were accepted by their readers as statements of truth means that those autographs accurately described the beliefs of the Christian community at that time.

How could first century Christians, including those who wrote the autographs, have developed, totally by accident, inaccurate beliefs about what Jesus said and did when eye-witnesses were available to challenge those beliefs? I can't think of a way. Can you?

The idea that New Testament autographs accidentally provided an inaccurate account of what a man named Jesus said and did is viable only if the events in the life of Jesus had been recorded long after the death of all eye-witnesses. For example, if the events in His life had been handed down by word of mouth until 300A.D. and then finally began to be written down in what we now refer to as New Testament autographs, it is reasonable to believe that what He said and did could have become distorted. What was recorded would have been consistent with the beliefs of the Christian community of 300A.D. but those beliefs would have been erroneous.

(4) New Testament autographs deliberately provided an inaccurate account of what Jesus said and did.

This means the New Testament autographs contained deliberate lies set forth by certain individuals in the first century Christian community. Since eye-witnesses were alive to challenge these lies, the hoax could not have been perpetrated without the "clout" of the eleven apostles. These apostles must have been at least willing conspirators if not the actual originators of the fraud.

Since individuals do not usually conspire to defraud without anticipating some kind of gain, it is reasonable to ask, "What did the apostles get for their trouble?" There is no record to indicate they achieved wealth or political power. Instead, the apostles, along with the rest of the first century Christians, received persecution, torture and death as a reward for their beliefs. Yet no apostle ever recanted his story.

When, in recorded history, have sane men ignored personal gain and freely chosen persecution, torture and death to preserve what they knew to be a lie?

If you can rationalize the idea that eleven men, and their associates, risked their lives, with no hope of personal gain, to promulgate what they knew to be a lie, then another question must be asked. Why did anyone believe them?

History confirms that Christianity became a powerful evangelical force during the first century. Were all the converts more gullible than you? Were they so dumb they could be convinced without evidence that a poor carpenter rose bodily from the dead after spending three days in a tomb? If these converts were only of average intelligence, they would have demanded something more than the claims of a rag-tag bunch of amateur preachers. Surely they would have demanded something like the personal word of a trusted friend who witnessed a miracle or even saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes.

Some autographs even offered bold challenges daring skeptics to refute their claims (Acts 2:22; 26:24-28; 1 Cor 15:3-7). These challenges were thrust in the face of Jew and Roman alike. No one stepped forth to unmask the hoax. Why?

Finally, if you and your associates decided to concoct a hoax, focusing on a person claiming one-ness with God, would you agree to the fabrication of details that made this person seem susceptible to the same human frailties as you and I? If you personally were going to play the part of an apostle in this hoax, would you tolerate the fabrication of details that made you look selfish and petty? Such details were incorporated into the New Testament autographs:

  • Certain apostles argued about who among them should be most important when Jesus acquired his kingdom (Mark 9:33-37).
  • The apostles deserted Jesus after his arrest (Mat 26:56).
  • After the arrest of Jesus, one of the apostles denied even being acquainted with him (Mat 26:69-75).
  • Some people thought Jesus was crazy (John 10:20).
  • Jesus could not seem to perform miracles in a certain geographic location (Mark 6:1-5).
  • Jesus spent his early life uncertain about the precise nature of his ministry (Luke 2:51-52; 3:23).
  • Jesus confessed ignorance about certain future events (Mark 13:32).
  • Jesus had moments of bitterness (Mat 26:36-46).
  • Jesus uttered a cry of despair from the cross (Mark 15:34).

If you were fabricating events for a text which you planned to stuff down the throats of gullible people, would you include these nine items?

I contend that statements (1), (3) and (4) on our logic tree must be viewed as false based on all available evidence. Therefore, the question asked at the beginning of this chapter can be answered "yes" with near certainty. (12,13,14)

 

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