In the previous section we saw that there were some very good reasons to accept theism (belief in God) and to reject atheism (the belief that there is no god). But this doesn’t mean that Christianity is true. There are many theistic religions, such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, to name a few. Has God communicated in ways that help us decide between these faiths?
The videos in the previous section demonstrate that God has already revealed Himself through the natural world and through our conscience. Can a God who created the entire universe out of nothing also part the Red Sea? Turn water into wine? Heal diseases instantly? Raise the dead? Of course. All of those miraculous events are simple tasks for an infinitely powerful Being.
Now this doesn’t mean that God has performed those miracles. It only means that He could have – that such miracles are possible. Given the good arguments for God’s existence, ruling out miracles beforehand is clearly illegitimate. The great skeptic David Hume (1711-1776) declared that the only believable events are regular events, and since a miracle is not a regular event, it ought not to be believed. But if we can’t believe in rare events then we can’t believe anything from history, which is comprised of rare, unrepeatable events. Such a position is clearly unreasonable.
But even if objective truth exists, and God exists, and miracles are possible, isn’t the Bible suspect? Hasn’t it been corrupted and manipulated over thousands of years? While the original New Testament documents have not survived, we have abundant, accurate and early copies of the original Greek New Testament documents (over 5,800 to date, some of which can be viewed here) – many more than the ten best pieces of ancient literature combined. Moreover, the nearly perfect reconstruction of the originals has been achieved by comparing the thousands of manuscript copies that do survive. We have discovered manuscript fragments from the early second century and perhaps as early as the mid-first century. There are no works from the ancient world that even comes close to the New Testament in terms of manuscript support.
Not only do we have early copies of the originals, we know all the original New Testament documents were written before 100 A.D. (i.e. within 70 years of the death of Jesus) and most before 70 A.D. (within 40 years of Jesus’ death), much too early for legend and myth to creep in. We know this in part because:
- Early church fathers like Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp quoted from 25 of the 27 books in the New Testament as early as 100 A.D. which means the originals were written earlier than that.
- None of the New Testament documents make any mention of the onset of the Jewish war in 67 A.D. or the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. Since Jesus predicted the latter event, the writers would have pointed out his fulfilled prophesy if they were writing after 70 A.D.
- The Book of Acts concludes with both the Apostle Paul and James still alive. James died in 62 A.D. which indicates Acts was written prior to this, and therefore the Gospel of Luke even earlier (since Acts is the follow up to the Gospel of Luke). Paul died in 68 A.D. which means all of his letters were written earlier than that.
Our modern day English translations of the New Testament have a 99% degree of accuracy. They are not based on translations of translations of translations, but on just one translation: from Greek to English, using thousands of handwritten Greek manuscripts, many dating back to the 2nd century. Thanks to modern textual scholarship we can have more confidence today that we are reading what the original authors wrote than at any other time in the past 1,800 years.