As well as being the title of a book by Josh McDowell, this statement is very relevant for those of us who have been doing the Alpha course at the Vine Community Church. In our second session we learnt from a barrister, Nicky Gumbel, how we can trust the documents that make up the New Testament as reliable accounts of historical events that took place around 2000 years ago. Nicky pointed to sources outside the Bible as well as discussing the gospel texts themselves:
“The first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote this about Jesus: ‘There was about this time Jesus, a doer of wonderful works.’ And [Josephus] then goes on to talk about the crucifixion of Jesus and his alleged resurrection.”
Nicky then went on to say, “Now, of course, the New Testament was written a long time ago, and people say: ‘How do we know that what we have here hasn’t been changed over the years?’ And the answer is we do know, through a science called ‘textual criticism’.
Essentially, the way textual criticism works is like this: the more manuscripts that you have, and the earlier they are, the more you can be sure about what the original said.”
Nicky pointed out that no one questions the authenticity of these other documents, but none of them match the reliability of the gospels, accounts and letters which make up the New Testament. For example, the earliest copies of manuscripts we have concerning Herodotus and Thucydides, which were written around 488-400 BC are AD 900, some 1300 years after they were written! And we only have 8 copies of each! There are over 24,000 copies of New Testament texts and the earliest date back to AD 130 and were written between AD 40-100!
Last week I came back from a tour of Israel. It was so good to be able to visit the actual places where Jesus was born, was brought up and met people’s needs so wonderfully. We are told that He was crucified “under Pontius Pilate”. In the past, one of the many things people doubted was if Pontius Pilate even existed at all – until 1961, when this stone was found. I took this photo of it when I was in the museum in Jerusalem. The explanation is above.
With this and a vast amount of other evidence it is wonderful to know that when we put our faith in Christ we truly are trusting in a sure foundation!