(In Defense of the Resurrection: Part 1part 2part 3part 4 and part 5)

There are many Biblical and extra-biblical sources attesting to the life and death of Jesus, but can they be trusted?

Robert Price, although he and his colleagues appreciate the Bible as an ancient source, sees its value primarily as “text of mythology.”[1] Richard Carrier, one of the authors of The Empty Tomb, even declares the historical Jesus hypothesis dead and says it’s “no longer needed.”[2] But he remains among a small minority who make such claims. Fellow historian Bart Ehrman contends that a virtually unanimous corps of scholars since Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) agree that “Jesus existed, that he was ineluctably Jewish, that there is historical information about him in the Gospels, and that we can therefor know some things about what he said and did.”[3] This is also evident from the New Testament writers, who clearly place the events in the realm of history by referring to geography, history, culture, names and eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1-4, Galatians 1, 2 Peter 1:16, Acts 1:21-22, Hebrews 2:3).

I will now shortly summarize some reasons why the biblical sources are trustworthy according to the three criteria presented in the first blog post.

1) There are several independent attestations. Pauline authorship is widely acknowledged to several of the New Testament Letters, among other, 1 Corinthians with an extensive list of eyewitnesses to the resurrection. The four gospel authors also represents independent sources: John and Matthew, who were apostles and eyewitnesses themselves and Luke and John, who had direct access to such eyewitnesses. While the synoptic Gospels might have had common sources, there’s still good reason to believe that they were also independent attestations. Read More (external link).

2) “The bibliographical test examines manuscript reliability,”[4] the more manuscripts available the greater transmissional reliability. With 5795 different manuscripts, the New Testament is beyond comparison with the other ancient classics like, Homer – Iliad (1757), Caesar – Gallic Wars (251) and Plato’s Tetralogies (210). Better yet, the distance between the autograph (original written document) and the first manuscript is only 40 years. In comparison: 400 years (Homer), 950 years (Caesar) and 1300 years (Plato). Read More (external link).

The dating of the 27 books in the New Testament is hotly debated, but most scholars agree that they were written in the first century. Paul is generally held to be the earliest writer, sometimes in the early fifties.[5] Luke-Acts is likely written in the early sixties, prior to the fire of Rome (64) and persecution of Christians under Nero (mid-sixties), since there is no mentioning of this. Mark and Matthew is usually considered earlier than Luke while John is most likely written in the early nineties. There are scholars who date all the gospels after A.D. 70, due to Jesus’ prediction that the Temple would be destroyed (Mark 13, Matt 24, Luke 21). But a time gap of 40 years still allows for eyewitness accounts and doesn’t reduce the credibility dramatically. Read more (external link).

In summary: The New Testament events are extremely well documented compared to other ancient events due to several independent sources, an abundance of manuscripts, and short time-lapse between events and writing.

[1] Robert Price, Jeffery Jay Lowder, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), Kindle location 131.
[2] Richard Carrier, “Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt: Should We Still Be Looking for a Historical Jesus?” on August 2014, (http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/08/car388028.shtml accessed 05.18.2015)
[3] Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012), 14.
[4] Clay Jones, ”The Bibliographical Test Updated,” Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 3, 2012. (http://www.equip.org/article/the-bibliographical-test-updated/#christian-books-4 accessed 05.18.2015)
[5] Johnd Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peassant (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 372.

Written by Karl-Johan