Skip to comments.The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
Posted on 09/09/2013 6:54:55 PM PDT by Gamecock
Full Title: Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #1: The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
This new blog series is designed to help the lay believer learn some basic facts about the New Testament canonthe kind of facts that might be helpful in a conversation with a skeptic or inquisitive friend. The first of these facts is one that is so basic that it is often overlooked. It is simply that the New Testament books are the earliest Christian writings we possess.
One of the most formidable challenges in any discussion about the New Testament canon is explaining what makes these 27 books unique. Why these and not others? There are many answers to that question, but in this blog post we are focusing on just one: the date of these books. These books stand out as distinctive because they are earliest Christian writings we possess and thus bring us the closest to the historical Jesus and to the earliest church. If we want to find out what authentic Christianity was really like, then we should rely on the writings that are the nearest to that time period.
This is particularly evident when it comes to the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the only gospel accounts that derive from the first century. Sure, there are a few scholars have attempted to put the Gospel of Thomas in the first century, but this has not met with much success. After all the scholarly dust has settled, even critics agree that these four are the earliest accounts of Jesus that we possess.
Now, a few qualifications are in order. First, it should be noted that there are disagreements about the dating of some New Testament books. Some critical scholars have argued that some New Testament books are forgeries written in the second century. Meanwhile, other scholars have defended the authenticity (and first-century date) of these books. This is a debate that we cannot delve into here. However, even if these debated books are left aside in our discussions, we can still affirm that the vast majority of the New Testament writings (including the four gospels) still remain the earliest Christian writings we possess.
Second, some may point out that 1 Clement is a Christian writing that dates to the first century, and it is not included in the New Testament canon. True, but the consensus date for 1 Clement is c.96 A.D. This date is later than all our New Testament books. The only possible exception is Revelation which is dated, at the latest, around 95-96 A.D. But, some date Revelation earlier. Even so, this does not affect the macro point we are making here.
Just to be clear, we are not arguing here that books are canonical simply because they have a first century date. Other Christian writings existed in the first century that were not canonicaland perhaps we will discover some of these in the future. Our point is not that all first century books are canonical, but that all our canonical books are first century. And that is a point worth making.
In the end, every Christian should remember one basic fact, namely that the New Testament books are distinctive because, generally speaking, they are the earliest Christian writings we possess. None are earlier. If so, then it seems that the books included in the New Testament are not as arbitrary as some would have us believe. On the contrary, it seems that these are precisely the books we would include if we wanted to have access to authentic Christianity.
Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.
Is this controversial?
30-60 Passion Narrative
40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
50-60 1 Thessalonians
50-60 1 Corinthians
50-60 2 Corinthians
50-90 Signs Gospel
50-95 Book of Hebrews
50-140 Gospel of Thomas
50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
65-80 Gospel of Mark
70-100 Epistle of James
70-120 Egerton Gospel
70-160 Gospel of Peter
70-160 Secret Mark
70-200 Fayyum Fragment
70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
80-100 2 Thessalonians
80-100 Gospel of Matthew
80-110 1 Peter
80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
80-130 Gospel of Luke
80-130 Acts of the Apostles
80-140 1 Clement
80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
80-250 Christian Sibyllines
90-95 Apocalypse of John
90-120 Gospel of John
90-120 1 John
90-120 2 John
90-120 3 John
90-120 Epistle of Jude
93 Flavius Josephus
100-150 1 Timothy
100-150 2 Timothy
100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
100-150 Secret Book of James
100-150 Preaching of Peter
100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
100-160 2 Peter
To some, yes.
Is this controversial?
The old liberal received wisdom was that the NT books were late, late, late. 2nd century forgeries.
All these accounts were written 50-100+ years after Jesus. Why the delay? Why no accounts written contemporaneously with, or shortly after Jesus?
And with that time delay, doesn’t that imply a 2nd- or 3rd-generation telling of the story, with all its inherent distortions of the original?
I like Haley’s Bible commentary. It has a great discussion.
Because the authors thought Jesus would return at any time. They didn't write it down because the didn't see the need. As they aged they changed their minds and penned the eyewitness accounts.
Why no accounts written contemporaneously with, or shortly after Jesus?
Answered above. What were you doing on September 11? Where were you? How did you first find out?
And with that time delay, doesnt that imply a 2nd- or 3rd-generation telling of the story
No. Jesus was crucified at 33. If an eyewitness was 23 when Jesus was nailed to a cross, he would have been 73 at the 50 year mark.
One of the miracles of God is how He formed the Scriptures without the aid of any institution deciding what is inspired and what isn't.
If I might add, one reason we know the accounts that were written were accurate is because they were read by people who actually lived through the events. The NT testament closed with the death of the last Apostle, John.
33 King James hands out the red-letter edition.
Thanks for anticipating what prolly was coming up.
My Summa is Theo`d Illogically
Check the dates here.
The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
And they were all written prior to 68 AD.
You do us all a great favor reviewing why we can be so confident in the truth revealed to us in Scripture. Defending the unique character of our Bible is something every Christian should be able to do if they want to share The Gospel with someone.
How the New Testament books were selected as acceptable reading in church (i.e., canonical) was a long and painful process that involved many decades of discussions, with no absolute consensus reached. Syrians, Ethiopians, Greeks, Russians, Rome and Protestants all have different books, the Protestant canon being, by a long way, the most recent.
Regardless, I find it really strange how many merely claim the NT as Christian writings. I would point out that the earliest Christian writings were the Pentateuch.
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“Is this controversial?”
Should it be? It is about the truth. It is about everything O’Bozo hates. It is about who we are. Controversial? Ha...
Because human committees decided them for you, by consensus.
I don’t see Obama in this at all. Obama is a tiny flea. He comes, he annoys , he’s he’s gone. We are talking about eternal matters.
Where did you copy and paste that? The “lost sayings Gospel Q” doesn’t exist. It’s a hypothetical document by liberals who imagine that the Gospels we have are rip offs of a original, which also gave rise to the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ and other poorly written Gnostic works. They’re full of it, since any reading of the “Gospel of Thomas” would so that it’s heavily based off the Gospel of Matthew. Your list also dates it ranging from 50AD, but there is no evidence that it had such an early existence. The only evidence of its existence is in the second century, as it is attributed to heretics then living as a recent work. It just pulls Matthew out of context into something stupid. Same thing for the “Signs Gospel.” Another hypothetical document with no evidence that it ever existed. So why bother dating it?
Stick with conservative scholars who actually believe in Christianity, not these sophists and liars.
Thnka fir the update
nihil non sequitor adjuvat neminem
But not the current versions. And there have been MANY alterations between those and what we have today.
These dates are all but certainly way too early.
NIHIL EX NIHILO
Not according to the introduction to each book in my Bible.
“the Protestant canon being, by a long way, the most recent.”
The Protestant canon matches Jerome’s canon. It is not “the most recent.” It is the ancient one that, aside from the New Testament of course, was accepted by the Jews. It is true that the church in Rome rejected the epistle to the Hebrews in the 4th century, and the Greeks in that same period rejected Revelation, yet both of those books had a long and venerable history in the church from the very beginning. These books were only disputed, by the way, due to the weakness of those people in fighting heresy. The Romans, for example, did not know how to answer the Manicheans on their abuse of the epistle of Hebrews. Same problem with heretics abusing the book of Revelation. Instead of defending the scripture, those churches, in the minority, simply put them out of the canon.
Furthermore, almost every book in the New Testament, aside from maybe 2 Peter and one or two others, were quoted or referenced by Papias, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus, all men ranging from the 1st century into the 2nd.
It does not appear that any of these men thought that they were not quoting scripture, insomuch as they say “the scripture saith,” and then they quote it.
But textual analysis, dating of the materials, and other methods have established the dates of those writings as noticeably later.
And the earliest versions we have date from much later — probably the third century.
Frankly, your sources have an agenda.
Just remember that my sources are correct. After all — the Catholics gave you the Bible.
Merely saying that they’re correct doesn’t make it so.
“These dates are all but certainly way too early.”
On the contrary! Many of them are dated too late.
That’s not what the documentary evidence shows.
“But textual analysis, dating of the materials, and other methods have established the dates of those writings as noticeably later.
And the earliest versions we have date from much later probably the third century.
Frankly, your sources have an agenda.”
You have no idea what you’re talking about. Those dates are from even the liberal scholars. They date it as late as they can, but they can’t date it later because the New Testament was being quoted by sources we still have today well within the 1st century and into the early parts of the 2nd, by men who were already quite old. Ignatius, for example, died between 97-115AD. Clement is dated not long after the destruction of the Temple. To claim otherwise simply isn’t credible.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
“But not the current versions. And there have been MANY alterations between those and what we have today.”
Yet of the over 5,000 New Testament fragments in Greek alone, not counting all the ones in Syriac, Latin, Arabic, and many other languages, their accuracy amongst each other and what we have today is at 99.5%. The Holy Scriptures are the best preserved documents in the world.
>> “Is this controversial?” <<
Only when you take it down to the nit picking level in most cases.
The really stellar historical point relates to the early date of 1 Corinthians.
Placing that letter in the 50s means that Paul wrote the letter 17-27 years after the crucifixion.
1 Corinthians chapter 15 makes an incredible historical claim that if true devastates skepticism:
“For I delivered to you [b]as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; . . .
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified [f]against God that He raised [g]Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
To allege as Paul did that 500 people saw Jesus alive after death in a period around 50 AD would be epistemological suicide— unless Jesus was resurrected. Anyone could demand to meet others who saw him alive. That would be an easy fact to check at such an early point in time.
I quoted that to a major atheist on one occasion and even with a team of researchers assisting him, he admitted he had not answer to the allegation raised by Paul.
>> “Reading the mind of another Freeper is a form of “making it personal.” <<
Clearly that was not what he was doing.
It was the content of the post that yielded the reply GPH made. The post showed quite well that the postor did not have any understanding of the subject.
The society, as in Jewish history until then, relied on oral history. Many people were witnesses to Jesus and as long as they lived they were able to keep the story straight, no way to change the story without it being corrected by others. The books started to be penned when the authors were getting old and wanted the story to stay in its correct form.
>> “Regardless, I find it really strange how many merely claim the NT as Christian writings. I would point out that the earliest Christian writings were the Pentateuch.” <<
I agree fully!
Yeshua’s coming was prophecied in Deuteronomy 18.
Tu non sibilas Dixiam!
Latin, the language of the occult!
When responding in a foreign language, be sure to include the English translation so all posters can read it.
Totally untrue. Most of the Gospels (except perhaps John), were written down within thirty years after the crucifixion, as were Paul's letters (He died between 62 and 65 AD, so his letters were already written).
Here is the kicker, Luke's introduction to what is known as the Gospel of Luke:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
It's recorded that Luke was with Paul, with Peter and at least some other Apostles who were the eyewitnesses, so he got it all straight from them, and this in a culture that revered passing on truth, and Luke is clearly a careful, well educated man.
Notice he says that others prepared works before him, meaning that Mark and Matthew were likely written already.
The idea that everything was somehow forgotten and then made up because it was a 2nd and 3rd generation thing is simply incorrect, and one of the finest myths (dare I say lies?) of liberals ever concocted.
>> “When responding in a foreign language, be sure to include the English translation so all posters can read it” <<
You’re just no fun at all tonight!