[Editor’s notes. I received a six-part set of claims from a visitor to the site. I will answer them in a series of responses


1. The Bible [Gospels] were not written until well after the purported events.
2. There was much dispute over the contents of the Bible. The early Church had many conflicting versions of events it followed. When the Bible was finally finalized [Council of Rome 382 AD] there was much contention.


1. On the claim that the gospels were written well after the purported events, Mark was written in either the 50s or 60s AD.  Matthew was written, possibly in the 50s but more likely in the 60s.  Luke was written about AD 64 and John somewhere between 70-95 AD. This is what the evidence shows.  The first three were written between twenty and thirty-five years after the events.  I am thinking right now about what I was doing thirty years ago.  I am pretty sure my memory of these events is pretty reliable.  I know where I lived, the names of my friends, what job I had.  I am pretty sure that if I was in a boat and a massive storm was suddenly calmed, I would not be confused about whether or not that actually happened.  That would be especially true if there were a dozen eye witnesses to the event who were still alive and who could confirm or deny that it happened.  As for the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, I am absolutely certain that many of those who witnessed the event were still alive and that John would not forget whether or not it happened.  As for the message of Jesus or his making of bread and fish, it is inconceivable that thousands of witnesses of these events, most of whom were still alive when they were recorded, would be mistaken about the details of these events.  The same can be said about the events surrounding the execution of Jesus.

Besides, it is accepted by all scholars that there was a generally-accepted oral history of all of these events which literally went back to very beginning of the church–the time when the events happened.  Anyone writing a gospel would not be able to include things which were in conflict with the well-established truths contained in the oral histories.  The claim that there was a long time span between the events and their being written down is simply not accurate. The claim that those (and there were many thousands) who were still alive when the gospels were written would have forgotten the events, allowing for untruth to enter the gospels is an untenable hypothesis.

2. Unlike the first claim, which simply is not even true, there is at least a grain of truth in the second claim.  However, the amount of question about the contents of the New Testament is being fairly significantly exaggerated, in my opinion.  Here are some facts.  Clement of Rome, writing about AD 97 (plus or minus five years, depending on the opinion of the scholar) quoted from Matthew, Mark Luke (possibly only two of the three), Acts, Romans 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, 1,2 Peter.   He quotes the New Testament books with the same authority as the Old Testament. He did not quote authoritatively from any other book.  Similarly, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch.  Died about AD 107.  In his letter to the Ephesians he quotes from  Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, 1,2 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Timothy, James, 1 Peteter.  In his other letters he quotes from 1 Tim, 2 Thess, Acts, Hebrews, Galatians, Revelation.  Also, Polycarp writing to the Philippians in AD 120 quotes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, 1,2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1,2 Thessalonians, 1,2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 1,3 John. Additionally, Justin.  About AD 150  Mentions four “memoirs of the apostles” (gospels) which, with “the writings of the prophets”, was read to the church on Sundays.   Quotes or refers to all four gospels, Revelation, nearly all of the other NT books.  Irenaeus, around  AD 180 quotes or alludes to every NT book.   There was some debate in the mid-second century about five or six of the New Testament books, it is true, but consensus was nearly established even by the middle of the second century.  There was some doubt about Revelation, 2 Peter, Hebrews, 2 and 3 John.  But even these were used extensively by the church fathers in the second century and no others were used authoritatively.  The agreement in Ephesus in 382 merely confirmed the exact same list that had existed for well over two hundred years. By AD 200 there was no significant doubt about the 29 New Testament books.  These are the facts of the matter from my research.

John Oakes

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