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.

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 5:18 am  Comments (2)  
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