This blog is a part of the “From Testimony to Testament” blog series where we are tracing the history of how the New Testament came to be.
This blog series seeks to answer the question, “How did the New Testament that we read today come to be, and can we trust it?” I have felt compelled to write it after I delivered a talk at our Equip seminars this summer about the historical reliability of the New Testament and realized that I did not have enough time to cover what I needed to cover. For the sake of time I was having to rush through material while smoke rose from the notebooks of those in attendance as they were scrawling their notes furiously.
The Unfortunate State of Things
Unfortunately, this topic deserves more attention than that. It has become an important topic for all Christians to know a little about. I say unfortunately because the sheer popularity of works like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus have given the general unbelieving population an easy way out of taking Jesus or the New Testament seriously. The everyday Christian (at least from what I have seen) is not prepared to answer the Facebook responses and face-to-face arguments provoked by these New York Times bestsellers. Responses like these are commonplace today: “Yeah, Jesus, cool. But isn’t the Bible just a corrupted translation of a corrupted translation of a corrupted translation? How do we really know what Jesus was like or what he said?”, “Didn’t Emperor Constantine decide for political reasons which books were to be in the New Testament? Why should we trust them?”, and “The Gospels were written so long after the death of Jesus, certainly the stories of the actual, historical Jesus were corrupted like something from the telephone game.”
What a lot of Christians aren’t aware of is that Christian scholars have done quite well answering the claims of people like Brown and Ehrman. In fact, a lot of what Brown has presented in The Da Vinci Code has been found to be fallacious even by unbelieving scholars. Also, I’ve personally taken Dr. Ehrman’s New Testament class and I can say honestly that he is very good at selectively presenting information. Most of the information he gives in class are arguments from the ‘40s and ‘50s that his students have never heard (with the intention of shaking their belief). Believing scholars have already dealt decisively with these arguments, yet there is no mention from him about that.
Faith Is Never in Opposition to Truth
Don’t get me wrong, the truth of the Word and the glory of God in it are revealed through the Holy Spirit, and so, we can trust that it is God’s inerrant, infallible, and authoritative word to us by faith. But faith is never in opposition to truth. If what we believe about the New Testament is true, then the research should back it up. But those who have yet to believe in Jesus and the Gospel have used these arguments to build defenses so that they don’t even have to deal with Jesus. They simply want to wish the New Testament Jesus away as simply a figment of his disciples’ imagination. Therefore, it is crucial for every Christian to know at least a little bit about the origins of the book they hold to be God’s word.
What This Blog Series Is and Is Not
This blog series is for the benefit of everyone at Mercy Hill. It will be written in hopes that anyone can understand it. I will trace, in as close of a chronological way as possible, how the New Testament was written, put together into a single volume, and ended up on our shelves. While everything in academia is argued, I will simply be presenting the general conservative Christian view on how these things happened. This blog will not enter into the academic debates that exist on this material. I will provide resources throughout the course of the blog for further research.
I am really excited about this blog series and hope you are too. Next week we will dive into how the story of Jesus was preserved in between his ascension and the first written gospel.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)