F.F. Bruce

Preface to the Fifth Edition of The New Testament Documents

'Reliable as what?' asked a discerning reviewer of the first edition of this little work, by way of a comment on the title. His point, I think, was that we should be concerned with the reliability of the New Testament as a witness to God's selfrevelation in Christ rather than with its reliability as a record of historical fact. True; but the two questions are closely related. For, since Christianity claims to be a historical revelation, it is not irrelevant to look at its foundation document...

Chapter 9 - The Evidence of Early Jewish Writings

1. The Rabbinical Writings When the city of Jerusalem fell in AD 70, together with the temple, the dominion of the priestly families and the supreme court of the Sanhedrin fell with them. The only party in Judaism which was capable of undertaking the necessary work of reconstruction was that of the Pharisees, and this they did, not on a political but on a spiritual basis. Led by Yohanan the son of Zakkai, they made their headquarters at Jabneh or Jamnia, in the southwest of Palestine. He...

Chapter 8 - More Archaeological Evidence

The archeological evidence bearing on the New Testament is not so imposing as that bearing on the Old Testament; but, though less spectacular, it is not less important. We have already considered some of the evidence from inscriptions and papyri; we may look at one or two more examples before passing on to evidence of another kind. The reader of Acts will remember that on Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, a riot arose in the temple because the rumour got around that he had polluted the sac...

Chapter 7 - The Writings of Luke

Outside Paul's own letters, we have most of our information about him from the writings of his friend and companion Luke, the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a physician by profession, and according to a tradition which can be traced back to the second century was a native of Antioch in Syria. Some support is given to this tradition by the internal evidence of his writings. So far as we can tell, he was the only Gentile among the New Testament writers. His t...

Chapter 6 - The Importance of Paul's Evidence

The earliest of the New Testament writings, as they have come down to us, are the letters written by the apostle Paul up to the time of his detention in Rome (c. AD 60-62). The earliest of our Gospels in its present form can probably not be dated earlier than AD 60, but from the hand of Paul we have ten Epistles written between 48 and 60. This man Paul was a Roman citizen of Jewish birth (his Jewish name was Saul), born somewhere about the commencement of the Christian era in the city of Tar...

Chapter 5 - The Gospel Miracles

Before we leave the Gospels, something ought to be said about the miracle stories which are found in them. Anyone who attempts to answer the question which forms the title of this book must recognize that for many readers it is precisely these miracle-stories which are the chief difficulty in the way of accepting the New Testament documents as reliable. To some extent it is true to say that the credibility of these stories is a matter of historical evidence. If they are related by author...

Chapter 4 - The Gospels

1. The Synoptic Gospels We now come to a more detailed examination of the Gospels. We have already indicated some of the evidence for their date and early attestation; we must now see what can be said about their origin and trustworthiness. The study of Gospel origins has been pursued with unflagging eagerness almost from the beginning of Christianity itself. Early in the second century we find Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, gathering information on this and kindr...

Chapter 3 - The Canon of the New Testament

Even when we have come to a conclusion about the date and origin of the individual books of the New Testament, another question remains to be answered. How did the New Testament itself as a collection of writings come into being? Who collected the writings, and on what principles? What circumstances led to the fixing of a list, or canon, of authoritative books? The historic Christian belief is that the Holy Spirit, who controlled the writing of the individual books, also controlle...

Chapter 2 - The New Testament Documents, Their Date and Attestation

1. What are the New Testament documents? The New Testament as we know it consists of twentyn seven short Greek writings, commonly called 'books', the first five of which are historical in character, and are thus of more immediate concern for our present study. Four of these we call the Gospels, because each of them narrates the gospel-the good news that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ for the redemption of mankind. All four relate sayings and doings of Christ, but can scarcely be ca...

Chapter 1 - Does it Matter?

Does it matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not? Is it so very important that we should be able to accept them as truly historical records? Some people will very confidently return a negative answer to both these questions. The fundamental principles of Christianity, they say, are laid down in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the New Testament; their validity is not affected by the truth or falsehood of the narrative framework in which they are set. Indeed, it ...
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