Bible Myths Myth #2: The New Testament was not written by eyewitnesses to the events they describe.

Today’s Bible Myth Myth is comprised of several myths working together to undermine confidence in the reliability of the New Testament.  These myths are:

  • The New Testament was not written by eyewitnesses to the events they describe.
  • The New Testament is based on oral legends that were not written down until centuries after Jesus’ time.
  • The New Testament is just another collection of tall tales from a prescientific era.

We’ll take a closer look at these one at a time, in three separate posts.  First…

Myth: The New Testament was not written by eyewitnesses to the events they describe.
Truth: The New Testament was actually authored by eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century, and a handful of books were written by their associates.

The NT consists of 27 books, and we know who wrote 26 of them.  (We’re not really sure who wrote Hebrews, which has made for some really lively debates among scholars.)  Of those 26 books, eight were written by men who were among Jesus’ 12 apostles.  Thirteen were written by a man who had frequent interaction with the risen Christ and personally knew the original apostles.  Three were written by companions of these men, who may or may not have known Jesus before His crucifixion but were eyewitnesses to the birth of the church and the ministry of the apostles in the first century.  And two NT books were even written by Jesus’ brothers!

Jesus selected 12 men and appointed them as His apostles (Mark 3:13-19).  In our NT, eight books were written by men in this group.  Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name.  John wrote his Gospel, three letters (1-3 John), and Revelation.  Peter wrote two letters, creatively titled 1 and 2 Peter.

James and Jude were brothers of Jesus, who each wrote one letter bearing their names.  We know that Jesus had brothers with these names (see Matthew 13:55).  Their authorship of these two letters was attested by the early church.

The apostle Paul was several years younger than Jesus.  He first appears on the scene as a young hater of Christians who assists in their persecution (Acts 7:58).  But after a dramatic encounter with the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:1-19), Paul became a zealous preacher of the gospel of Jesus (Acts 9:20-22).  He traveled the world, spent time with the other apostles (those who were the Twelve; see Galatians 1:18 for one example), suffered terribly for his conviction that Jesus was alive (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), and eventually was martyred.  This is the man who wrote 13 books in our New Testament, a collection of letters: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

The adventurous life of Paul, recounted frequently throughout his letters, is told in narrative form by Luke.  This Luke is a really interesting guy.  For one thing, he’s the only non-Jew to write a book of the Bible–and actually, he wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else!  He only authored two books, the Gospel of Luke and Acts, but those two volumes together are longer than even all of Paul’s letters combined.  Luke was a brilliant, highly educated man.  A doctor by trade (Colossians 4:14), he was a thorough researcher.  Much of what we know of the events surrounding the first Christmas may very well have come from his interviews with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and others who were eyewitnesses (see Luke 1:1-4 and the events that follow).  We don’t know whether or not Luke knew Jesus before His crucifixion, and in fact it seems unlikely.  But he was a close companion of Paul’s and, as I mentioned, thoroughly investigated the claims of the early church while its founders were still alive.

That leaves us with Mark.  Mark was a young guy in Jerusalem who seems to have observed Jesus from a safe distance, and his mother was actively involved in the earliest days of the Christian church (Acts 12:12).  Mark became an ardent follower of Christ and a traveling companion, at various times, of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas (his cousin).  The best evidence indicates that Mark was Peter’s sidekick; if Peter was Batman, then Mark was Robin.  Mark heard Peter recount his experiences with Jesus many, many times, and when Peter died, Mark wrote them down for us.  That’s how we got the Gospel of Mark, which was arguably the first of the four Gospels to be written.

This post would easily turn into a book if I jumped into all the evidence for authorship I have described above.  There are those who disagree with everything I have just written, but my assertions are all supported–by far–by the weight of the evidence.  When discussing evidence for New Testament authorship, there are two types: internal and external.  Internal evidence is ample throughout the NT, and refers to the claims of the text itself.  For instance, in 1 Peter 1:1, the author begins, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”  This is part of the internal evidence of Peter’s authorship of the letters bearing his name.  Internal evidence also includes eyewitness details, of which Peter provides plenty.  The internal evidence for the NT authorship as I’ve described above is so prevalent that if it were not accurate, it would render much of the NT as fraudulent.

But for many people, it’s not enough to simply say, “Well the Bible says…”  And for still others, there’s the question of precise identity.  For example, James claims to be written by James, but which James?  Which Jude?  Which John?  This is where the external evidence puts many arguments to rest.  We have much evidence from outside the Bible in the late first century and early second century that confirms New Testament authorship.  Men such as Clement wrote in the first century, while some of the apostles were still alive, and verified their authorship of the NT books.  In fact, it is the first- and second-century church that labeled the various NT books by the names of their authors.

If you would like more information on evidence for NT authorship, please let me know and I would be glad to help.  For now, suffice to say it’s only a myth that the New Testament was written later on by people who did not even know Jesus or His first followers.  The truth is that the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses to the events it describes.

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Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 5:18 am  Comments (2)  
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Bible Myth Myth #1: Jonah Could Not Have Been Swallowed By A Whale

The story of Jonah is a favorite target among those who like to ridicule the Bible.  The argument has two legs: First of all, no one could get swallowed by a whale and survive.  Second, the Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and a whale is a mammal, not a fish.

But both arguments have fatal flaws.

As for how realistic it is to become a giant fish’s dinner and then get puked up and manage to live to tell the story….  It’s an easily established scientific fact that there are aquatic species large enough to swallow a man whole.  Various kinds of whales and sharks have been found with animals in their stomachs that were larger than a man.  Scientists debate whether or not there is sufficient air inside a whale to sustain a person.  This debate misses the point, though.  It’s like taking the story of Jesus walking on water and debating whether or not it’s possible for someone to have webbed toes that enable them to go for a stroll on a lake.  There’s a reason it’s called a miracle, folks!  Maybe it’s possible that Jonah was swallowed by a whale and survived strictly by natural means, but that scenario is not required for the veracity of the Jonah story.  The reason is simply that God is the Creator who can do whatever He wants with His creation, such as have a man get swallowed by a whale and survive.  Honestly, what I find much more miraculous than Jonah’s fish tale is the repentance of the people of Nineveh.  By the way, such a massive revival would certainly be more likely if the preacher had just survived getting swallowed by a fish.  That’s a testimony I’d certainly pay attention to.

Second, the Bible does in fact say that “the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17).  But a whale is not a fish… right?  The problem is that to argue that the fish in this passage could not be a whale is like arguing that the Cuban Missile Crisis could not have involved the nation of the USSR because the USSR is not a nation.  The problem here is obvious: at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USSR was a nation.  And when Jonah was written, a whale was a fish.

It’s kind of like the planet, or non-planet, of Pluto.  Poor Pluto reminds me of people with chaotic social lives.  One day their relationship status is “in a relationship.”  The next day it’s “single.”  The next day it’s “engaged,” followed by “single again.”  Pluto has enjoyed status as a planet, then been cut from the team, and these days I don’t even know what it’s considered.  But did Pluto itself change?  Nope, still the same frozen rock hurtling beyond Neptune.  Only our classification of it changes.  So if someone wrote 20 years ago that they named their dog after the ninth planet from the sun, would that exclude Pluto since scientific minds reclassified it?  Of course not.

It’s the same situation with the fish-whale.  The prophet Jonah wrote his account more than two and a half millennia ago.  Our current species classification system was designed by the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century.  Until a couple hundred years before that, animals were classified by how they moved: walking, swimming, or flying.  But even that system, established by Aristotle in the fourth century before Christ, postdates Jonah by more than three centuries!

So it would make perfect sense if Jonah saw a whale and thought, “What is this thing?  Let’s see, it lives in the ocean, swims, and has fins and a tail.  Hmm, must be a fish.”  Even though he had three days and nights inside the belly of the fish, he was so busy praying that he likely never got around to exploring whether or not his devourer had gills or gave birth to live young.  And even if he had, the classification system of our Swedish friend Carolus was still a couple dozen centuries away from invention.

Is it false that Jonah was swallowed by a whale?  No, we can safely conclude that this is just a Bible myth myth.

Published in: on November 28, 2014 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bible Myth Myths

Periodically over the next few weeks I’m going to post a series on Bible Myth Myths.

For centuries, opponents of the Bible have attempted to discredit it by comparing it to pagan mythology.  The word “myth” has now become a tool of subtle manipulation.  Frequently someone will assume a pretense of intellectual superiority by claiming something is a “myth.”  If you tell me that Mikey from the “he-likes-it!” commercials died from mixing Coke and Pop Rocks, I can tell you, “Oh, that’s just a myth.”  That implies that I know something you don’t.  What often happens is that instead of actually researching my claim, you might simply accept my position so that you don’t feel inferior.  Then the next time someone tells you that Mikey overdosed on soda and candy, you can lift your chin a little higher and say, “Actually, that’s just a myth.”  Even on those all-too-rare occasions when we actually do look into someone’s claim that something is a myth, unfortunately our idea of reliable research is Snopes at best and Wikipedia at worst.  So we can play the myth card and somehow get off with not having to substantiate our claim or even offer any logical support for our position.

In such an atmosphere, it’s become popular to film documentaries or spread Facebook posts that allegedly debunk “myths” about the Bible.  But these are typically done as a drive-by shotgun blast of misinformation, with the victims left intellectually wounded and left for brain dead.

In response, I would like to expose some of these Bible myth myths for the unfounded propaganda that they are.  Stay tuned for Bible Myth Myth #1: Jonah could not have been swallowed by a whale.

By the way, little Mikey (known in real life as John Gilchrist) is alive and well.  And I hear that he does in fact enjoy soda and pop rocks.  But that could be just a myth.

Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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