Chapter 9: Appendix to New Testament

New Testament Manuscripts

 

The New Testament was written in Greek.   Its accuracy is also well supported by the manuscript evidence.   In fact, there are thousands of surviving New Testament manuscripts from the first few centuries after Jesus.   When compared with other ancient writings from the time of Jesus and before, the evidence for the New Testament is overwhelming.

 

Professor F.F. Bruce ( University of Manchester) has written:

 

            The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.   And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.  

The New Testament Documents , 1960, p. 15

 

Other support for the reliability of the New Testament comes from early believers who quoted it.   For example, Ignatius (Bishop of Antioch, AD 70-110) quoted from Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, James, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, and I Peter.   Others such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, and Tertullian quoted thousands of times from the New Testament.   These quotations can also be used to check the accuracy of the surviving manuscripts.

 

Manuscript of Ancient Documents

 

Author

Written

Earliest

Copy

Time Span

(years)

Copies

Caesar

100-44 BC

AD 900

1,000

10

 

Livy

59 BC – AD 17

?

?

20

 

Plato

427-347 BC

AD 900

1,200

7

 

Tacitus

AD 100

AD1100

1,000

20

 

Pliny the Younger

AD 61-113

AD 850

750

1

 

Thucydides

400-400 BC

AD 900

1,300

7

 

Suetonius

AD 75-160

AD 950

800

8

 

Herodotus

480-425 BC

AD 900

1,300

8

 

Horace

?

?

900

8

 

Sophocles

496-406 BC

AD 1000

1,400

193

 

Lucretius

55 BC

?

1,100

2

 

Catullus

54 BC

AD 1500

1,600

3

 

Euripides

480-406 BC

AD 1100

1,500

9

 

Aristotle

384-322 BC

AD 1100

1,400

49

 

Arisophanes

450-385 BC

AD 900

1,200

10

 

Homer

900 BC

400 BC

500

643

 

New Testament

AD 40-100

AD 125

25

24,000

 

Taken from Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell, revised edition 1979, p. 42-43

 

Professor Bruce Metzger, Yale, foremost authority on New Testament text, wrote:

 

                So extensive are these citations that if all other sources of our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.  

The Text of the New Testament , 1968, p. 86

 

On the Preservation of Scripture

 

1.                   “The WORDS (extent of preservation) of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.   THOU (agent of preservation, God) shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation FOREVER (period of preservation)” (Psalm 12:6, 7).

 

2.                   “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).   Jesus insisted, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

 

3.                   Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

 

4.                   “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever” (Psalm 33:11).

 

5.                   “And His truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5c).

 

6.                   Psalm 111:7, 8 says, “ALL His commandments are sure.   They stand fast FOREVER and EVER.”

 

7.                   “Thy word is true from the beginning; AND EVERY ONE OF THY RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS ENDURETH FOREVER” (Psalm 119:160).

 

8.                   “But the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8b).

 

9.                   “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

 

10.               In Matthew 28:19, 20 Jesus required the church to teach ALL THINGS whatsoever He commanded.

 

11.               “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail” [a tittle is smaller than an apostrophe] (Luke 16:17).

 

Another factor to remember is that New Testament Greek, as other early writings, did not use quotation marks, ellipses, or brackets.   Thus we do not known when the New Testament writers were making verbatim quotations of Jesus’ words, as the quotation marks indicate to the modern reader.   Also, since ellipses were not used, we do not know whether the writer shortened the quotation by leaving out words or whether he added editorial comments into the quotation since brackets were not used.   Everett Harrison writes that “verbatim reporting was not expected on the part of a faithful disciple.”   Even though the New Testament writers often quoted Jesus’ words freely, they did not lose the accuracy of His sayings.   As Harrison stated, “Reason and experience teach us that the same can be stated in more than one way without loss of accuracy.”

 

When we compare the numerous parallel passages found in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), we can find quotations that vary slightly in wording, a few events that are listed in different order, etc.   Some have majored on these few minor variations or discrepancies between parallel passages found in the Gospels.   Johnson pointed out, “Contrary to our modern practice of precise documentation, exact, verbatim citation was not common in the Greco-Roman world of the first century AD.   Also, sometimes their writings are imprecise, and in some cases they may even appear ambiguous.   Both of these are trademarks of ordinary first-century writing and thus should not be made a point of criticism.

 

The result of the early Christian work was good copies, although not perfect copies.   As we will see later, there are many spelling errors, trifle changes in word order, etc., but over 99% of the text is known to us.   Robertson estimated that there is concern only with a “thousandth part of the entire text.”   Schaff states that only 400 variations out of the 150,000 known in his day affected the sense.   Of these, only 50 had any real significance and not one affected “an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.” Geisler and Nix estimate that only about forty lines or four hundred words of the New Testament are in doubt.   Warfield sums up by stating, “the great mass of the New Testament, in other words, has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no variation.”   Summing these witnesses up, the variations that exist in our New Testament text have no significant affect on its meaning; today we have good copies.

 

It is a common practice among liberals to go from the recognition of variations to assertions that they show the Bible is full of errors and therefore must be screened to recover the original.   This allows them to freely accept or reject the passages as they see best, resulting in their creating their own badly distorted “revelation.”   As has been pointed out, “there is an irresistible temptation to reconstruct the teachings of Jesus on the basis of this select material, and the results cannot possibly be other than a massive distortion” (Carl F. Henry, Revelation and the Bible).   The result of their approach is their failure to understand the only type of revelation that counts, the revelation God has recorded for us in the Bible.

 

Period of Roman Emperors in Gospels, Acts, Epistles

 

It has been well spread that the Christian faith, the Biblical faith, is rooted in its history, persons, events, and National confederations.   It does not dwell in the realm of myths (Hinduism, Buddhism) or bizarre reconstructions (Islam, Mormonism).   One signal feature is that of the era of the Roman Caesars and their sub-rulers.   In order they are:

 

1.           Augustus Caesar (31 BC-14 AD), the adopted son of Julius Caesar, earlier known as Octavian.   He came to power after defeating Marc Anthony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.   His decree for a world census is mentioned in Luke 2:1.   When Jesus was born, Paul appealed to him later during his long reign (Acts 26:21, 25).

 

2.           Tiberius (14 AD-37 AD), whose reign is mentioned in Luke 3:1.   The Sea of Galilee was earlier called the Sea of Tiberius.   Its prenupal city bore his name and still does (James 6:1, 23, 22:1).   Jesus’ ministry was during this reign.   Jesus was born 4 BC, immediately prior to the death of Herod the Great.   Pilate was procurator of Judea, 26-36 AD, under this regime, confirmed extra-Biblically.  

 

             The crucifixion of Jesus at the Passover feast was on Friday, 4/6/30 AD.   He rose Sunday, “the third day,” reckoned inclusively by Jewish custom.   The apostles were subsequently imprisoned at this time, but delivered by an angel, Gabriel, well known interposer for them before the Sanhedrin.   Saul of Tarsus was persecuting believers in this period (Acts 8) before his conversion (Acts 9).

 

3.           Caligula (37-42 AD) was a cruel emperor.   He attempted to put his statue in the Temple at Jerusalem.   He placed the obelisk where the Vatican now stands in Rome.   He was eventually murdered along with his family.

 

4.           Claudius (42-54 AD), a scholarly but much ridiculed emperor who reigned during Paul’s ministry.   Paul’s second missionary journey is recorded in Acts 15-17 in his reign.   Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens, met Priscilla and Aquila near Thessalonica, appeared before Gahlio (Acts 18) whose name is recorded in insereptious.   He visited Jerusalem on his third missionary journey.

 

5.           Nero (55-68 AD), a villainous man who murdered two wives and died with the words “what an artist is lost in me.”   He burned Rome in 64 AD and blamed it on the Christians.   During this period, Paul spent two years at Ephesus (Acts 18-19) and went to Macedonia and Galilee (Acts 19:21-20).   Paul wrote Corinthians and Galatians and went to Corinth.   He wrote Romans and returned to Jerusalem.   Agapus prophesied his imprisonment at Caesarea.   He debated Felix at Caesarea and then defended himself before Festus (Acts 25‑26).   His voyage to Rome as a prisoner in 6 AD landed him in Meleta.   He wrote Philemon, Colossians, Philippians, and Ephesians there.   This closed the Acts of the Apostles.   His possible tmp to span in this general period is problematic.  

 

6.           Galba, Otho, and Vitellius (69-70 AD) were all passive, ineffective rulers.

 

7-9.       Vespasian (70-79 AD), a simple and practical ruler, and two minor leaders.

 

10.         Titus (79-81 AD), who had conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD as army commander.

 

11.         Domitian (81-96 AD), persecutor of Christians, considered cruel and ineffectual.

 

12.         Nerva (96-98 AD), mild ruler who adopted his successor Trajan.

 

13.         Trajan (98-117 AD), a professional soldier under whose reign the Apostle John died.   Herod Agrippa died at Rome under his reign after a 22-year rule.

 

14.         Hadrian (118-161 AD), born in Spain, traveled through Europe, erected Hadrian’s wall in England to fence off barbarian invaders.

 

15.         Antoninus Pius (161 AD) gorged himself to death on Swiss cheese.

 

16.         Marcus Aurelius (180 AD), a talented ruler.

 

17-27.    Several Emperors succeeded Marcus Aurelius, mostly murdered.

 

28-37.   Decius (251 AD) was a violent persecutor of Christians.   Of his successors several were murdered, none distinguished.  

 

38.         Diocletian (305 AD), was the persecutor who banished the Apostle John to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation before dying at Ephesus.   He was considered the last of five imperial persecutors to which symbolic reference is made in Rev. 2:10.   “You shall have tribulation ten days; given to Smyrna the suffering church of Mantyra.”

 

39-41.   Three nondescript Caesars.

 

42.         Constantine (337 AD), who, because of a vision prior to a major battle, embraced the Christian faith and made it the state religion of the Roman Empire.   He was baptized finally on his deathbed.   This person launched European State-church unification to the disaster of the church, through well meaning.

 

The subsequent history of the Empire saw it collapse under barbaric invasions from the North and decline in inner and military strength of its own people (read Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).   There were repeated efforts to revive the confederation typically in the period of “The Holy Roman Empire” in the Middle Ages.   European leaders repeatedly clashed in order to control areas of Europe.   Napoleon tried this in vain.   The Germans also did this more than once.   Russia’s leader took the title Czar and German leaders took the title Kaiser, derived from the Caesars.

 

Only in our day has Europe come together in unity.   The European union common market, merging of economics, common currency (the Eurodollar), and gaining military cooperation demonstrates this.   This merging unity will compare the revived Roman empire of the end times, under the leadership of a brilliant evil leader called the Antichrist.   He will install his image on the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem, the final “abomination of desolation,” which will precede Messiah’s second coming.



 

Cut off from rule by “curse of Coniah” (Icconish) [Jehoiachin}

Jeremiah 22:28-30

 

and

 

“Write this man childless—no man of his descendents will prosper, sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.”

Messiah was to be born a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14) called Immanuel (“God with us”).   Matthew 1:21‑25.   Jesus had no biological father.   He was conceived by the Holy Spirit implanting the divine seed into the woman.   Jesus, the Messiah, was “ the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15).