The Expository Files


The Integrity Of The New Testament

Summation & Resulting Confidence

The Integrity of the New Testament - Special 2013 Series



[From The Editors: This article is the final of a series we are running this year. The 2013 series is called "The Integrity of the New Testament" and deals with textual criticism. Can the New Testament be trusted? Has it been corrupted through time? Can we know what God has said? It should be obvious how important this topic is. This is especially so given the climate of society today and its attitudes toward the Bible.  We wish this series to help everyone understand the process of the Bible's history as a document and why we can have confidence in its message. Near the end of the year we are planning to publish these twelve articles in book form (Kindle, Nook and old fashioned print and ink).

 

Warren E. Berkley

 

Expository Files writers who contributed to this series have well stated the case for the integrity of the New Testament. The editors believe these men have not only offered sound propositional evidence, but they have also destroyed arguments “and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God,” with the common aim to “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:5, ESV).

What made this necessary? In what historical context did the objections arise? And, what can the reader take away from all this in terms of confidence and valuable action for today? First, where much of this debate came from…

 

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries marked by a celebration of the powers of human reason, a keen interest in science, the promotion of permissive religious tolerance and an attitude of dogmatic unbelief in the supernatural. During this period various attitudes regarding the Bible and religion developed which we would today identify with modernism and humanism.

 

Part of this “Enlightenment” was to question the integrity of the Bible, and in particular to raise questions about the New Testament writings, the account of Jesus & the epistles. Regarding the gospel of John, for example, Horne said: “Its authenticity has been questioned by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Le Clerc, Wetstein, Semler, Schulze, Morus, Haenlein, Paulus, Schmidt, and various other writers who are mentioned by Wolfius, and by Koecher...” [Introduction to the Scriptures, Baker, 1970, Horne].

 

More recently and in our time there is The Jesus Seminar; a group of purported New Testament scholars who met first in 1985, and have worked together periodically since then using the tools and methods of modernism to call into question almost everything the New Testament says about the Lord, and continue the unjustified attack on the New Testament and the gospels in particular, with direct negative attention to the book of John. These men have "voted out" the book of John.

 

This is an example of why the whole subject of biblical criticism and the integrity of the New Testament requires apologetic attention (Phil. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). This is the backdrop of questioning the New Testament.

 

a priori assumption 

a priori assumption (ah pree ory) n. from Latin, an assumption that is true without further proof or need to prove it. It is assumed the sun will come up tomorrow. However, it has a negative side: an a priori assumption made without question on the basis that no analysis or study is necessary, can be mental laziness when the reality is not so certain. Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill.

These men (Jesus Seminar operatives and their fans) began with certain assumptions. Josh McDowell deals with this in a chapter titled: “The Presupposition of Anti-supernaturalism,” [More Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p.#3]. Many, McDowell observes, “...are led astray because of conclusions that are allegedly based upon objective historical or literary investigation and method. However, in reality, the conclusions are the result of a subjective world view.” (p.#3). McDowell uses the term “Anti-supernaturalism” meaning “...disbelief either in God’s existence or His intervention in the natural order of the universe.” So, these men begin with their long ingrained intellectual assumptions; those assumptions determine and shape their methods - they invent their own Jesus, and He becomes an advocate of their worldview. In order to do all this, they must reject the integrity of the New Testament. Thus, the need for this book.

 

It is not a matter of the synoptic problem, a question of dating, evidence or literary structure – not in many cases. Regarding the gospel of John, for instance, the core issue with many of these modern scholars is, the straightforward and repeated claims about who Jesus is – and what one’s response to Him should be. Remember, we are talking about a group of men who assume Jesus is not deity. Or, they define His deity is such a manner, there is no uniqueness to Him. Some border on a New Age definition of Deity. If you begin with these assumptions of unbelief - if you have a bias you are working from that is (as Josh McDowell says) anti-supernatural, I believe your problem with John will not be literary, but doctrinal; not objective, but subjective. And the same with the other books of the New Testament (which by and large, echo the affirmations of John and expand on what our response to Christ should be).

 

As written in an earlier chapter:  “Unless one reads documents through the lens of a apriori assumptions, the evidence supports the conclusions that the historical accounts, letters, biography, and other genres found in the New Testament were written by eyewitnesses and other persons living in that historical period with access to written sources and persons knowledgeable about the events described.  The New Testament is not the stuff of  mythology or fiction, as the early and wide accessibility of the documents attest.” [See earlier in Steve Wolfgang’s chapter.] {More about the integrity of John, see the Supplement at the end of this chapter.}

 

Along with the Jesus Seminar “study,” even in popular movies – the integrity of the New Testament is denied. One fictional character said: “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has revolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definite version of the book,” [The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, p.231].

Even more recently, the battle against the Bible and the Author has even greater reach in our media-driven culture. It is not just in the halls of academia, or on the printed page. Have you heard what Bill Maher has said, to huge favorable audiences? Speaking against the Bible he has said, “I believed all this stuff when I was young. I believed there was a virgin birth, I believed a man lived inside a whale, and I believed that the Earth was five thousand years old. But then, something very important happened to me – I graduated sixth grade.” [Quoted in “Has God Spoken?” Thomas Nelson, Ibook version, 2011-08-04.]

 

These “current events” show the need for this book. As Ethan Longhenry noted in the first chapter: “The integrity of the New Testament, therefore, is crucial for us to maintain confidence in our faith in Jesus.  This fact is well-known to the opponents of Christianity: they know that if they are able to discredit the integrity of the New Testament, they will find more success in undermining the truth claims regarding Jesus as the Risen Lord and Christ.  For this reason it is necessary for every successive generation to consider the history of the text of the New Testament and to demonstrate our confidence in the text we have.”

 

Likewise, the co-editor wrote in his chapter: “So, why is this important? It is important because skeptics have attacked the trustworthiness of the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry due to the period of time between the events themselves and the writing down of those events. In making this objection, they must ignore the evidence that shows the message would not have become corrupted and legendary in the way they say it might have during this time.”

 

Is Jesus Real?

 

If Dan Brown’s character had it right, this question will need attention: Was Jesus Just A Humanly Invented Figure? Was He just the “hero of a romance,” “a creation of constructive imagination?”

This theory is well managed in The Man of Galilee by A.W. Haygood. He shows, in just a few words, how ill-founded this idea is. It involves this: Four men, three Jews and a Gentile, at about the same time – among people who didn’t write books, least of all based on imagination, were suddenly seized with this stange desire to write books. And thus it came about that they – through their dramatic genius, came up with the character of Jesus. Haygood argues that this is not only improbable, it is impossible, given all the history and culture of that time.

 

Haygood says, “the doctrine I set forward concerning Jesus is this: Such a person must have actually lived, as the condition of conceiving such a character, for the reason that the power of creating such a character was never in the Hebrew mind, or any other,” [The Man of Galilee, A.W. Haygood.]

 

Conclusion – Here Is Our Confidence!

 

“Today, Christ’s authority is still expressed by the once-for-all revelation of his will through his ambassadors, the apostles. We must never allow human pride and wisdom to displace this authority, but as Paul pleads with the Corinthians to do, accept apostolic letters as the very word of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37; see 1 Thess. 2:13). This word comes with an irresistible challenge to everyone alike because of its divine origin (1 Cor. 14:36). Humble submission to his authoritative word builds up and unites Christians in one body while obstinate rejection of his ambassador’s message breeds strife and division within the family of God (1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:3; 4:7).” [The Book of 2 Corinthians, Truth Commentaries, p. 325. Melvin Curry].

__________________________________________________________

Supplemental:

From his Commentary on John, Burton Coffman:

 

In view of the mountain of evidence establishing the traditional view of the gospel of John, it may be inquired why such persistent and sustained attacks have been made against it. The reason for this lies in the nature of the gospel itself.  

 

This book affirms that there lived in a province of the Roman empire, during the times of the Herods and of Tiberius Caesar, a Jew who claimed to be one with Almighty God, who stated that before Abraham was, he existed, and that he had lived even before the creation of the world, that no one could come unto God except through him, that he was the rightful Lord of all creation, the bread of life, the light of the world, the true vine, the shepherd of Israel, the living water, the way, the truth, and the life and that he would in the last day command a total resurrection of all who ever lived on earth and that he would assign all men their proper destiny in the final judgment.  

 

The author of this gospel called Jesus “God” in the first verse; and, throughout the whole marvelous work, he deployed his material to prove it skillfully and powerfully. He affirms that he knew this Jesus, was his constant companion, disciple, and intimate, and that he was one of the first to become his follower.

 

He declares himself an eyewitness of all that he recorded, that he saw the Master baptized, heard the voice out of heaven, saw him raise the dead, change water into wine, walk on the sea, and feed a multitude out of a boy's little basket.

 

He saw Jesus arrested, attended the trials, witnessed the crucifixion, saw the soldier thrust the spear into his side, was present at the burial, and was the person singled out by Jesus to care for the blessed Mary, being thus commissioned while Jesus was still upon the cross. He entered the tomb after the resurrection and saw the grave clothes lying in such a manner as to convince him that Jesus had risen from the dead; he was present in the upper room when Jesus appeared to the disciples with Thomas absent, and again a week later with Thomas present. He saw the confrontation when Jesus challenged Thomas to see the print of the nails in his hands and to thrust his hand into Jesus’ side, and recorded the astounding confession of the erstwhile unbeliever, “My Lord, and my God!”

 

Furthermore, the author of this gospel, after thinking about it and constantly preaching it for half a century, emphatically declared his unqualified certainty of all that had happened and his burning conviction that Jesus Christ could have been none other than Almighty God come in human flesh. He emphasized that this conviction was shared by all of the men who best knew Jesus and were in a position to witness and evaluate the events supporting their conviction. He corroborated his own conclusion by calling as witnesses: John the Baptist, who hailed him as “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;” Andrew who said, “We have found the Messiah!;” Philip who declared, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote;” Nathaniel who confessed, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel;”  and Thomas who hailed him as “My Lord, and my God!” 

 

Now, if anyone believes that there is any such a being upon this earth as Satan, the deduction is mandatory that the evil one would be compelled to challenge such a book as John.

 

As Hendriksen suggested, “The opponents cannot allow this testimony to stand. If it remains unchallenged, they have lost not only the battle, but the war!”

 

In this light, it may be received as a basic assumption that all of the objections against this gospel are not founded upon objective facts or fair reasoning, and that many of the objections are merely the inevitable subjective reflexes of minds out of harmony with God and opposed to the truth. 

 

{Gospel of John, Coffman Commentary Series, pages #4-5}

 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.12; December 2013

 

 

 

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