PART 4 - THE
HISTORICAL ACCURACY OF SCRIPTURE
Why Should The Historical
Background Of The Bible Be Studied?
In what ways does
the study of history help with understanding the Bible? Can it
be a help for us?
Helpful In Many Ways
There are at least five ways in which the study of
the background of the Bible can help.
Specific Historical References
the entire biblical revelation centers on what God has done in
history. For example, one chapter in Scripture, Genesis 10,
has five times more specific geographical references of
importance than the entire Koran, the holy book of Islam! In
addition, there are over 300 references in the Book of Acts
alone to names, places, and events. With so much attention to
detail, the historical reliability of the Scriptures is of
vital importance. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it
must be able to withstand the most thorough historical
2.See If The Bible Is Factual
The study of history, and its related fields, give
us a means to check up and see if the Bible is factual. The
Biblical faith is not a blind faith—it claims to record the
works of God in history. Since the Bible itself makes the
claim to record events that have happened in history, we
should see how it matches up with the secular evidence. This
can be done by comparing what the Scripture says to the known
facts of history.
3.Place The Events In Sharper Focus
Looking at the subject of Biblical history can
place the events in the Bible in sharper focus. By
understanding the background we can better assess the Biblical
story and its meaning.
Studying the biblical background can
help solve problems that occur in Scripture. An understanding
of the customs, language, geography, and politics of the day
can help understand certain difficult sayings and events.
5.Fill In The Gaps
Gaps in the
biblical records can be filled in by a study of the background
history. Since the Scriptures are selective in what they
record, a study of the background can help fill in the gaps.
The study of the historical
background of the Scripture is essential in confirming the
truth of the Biblical record, along with clearing up certain
difficulties that arise in the text. Background studies also
help with our interpretation of Scripture—giving us a better
understanding of times and customs when these events
transpired. For these reasons, the study of the background of
Scripture is essential for our learning more about the Bible.
Is It Important That The Bible
Is Historically Accurate?
As we begin to
explore the subject of the historical accuracy of Scripture we
will discover it is of vital importance. The Christian faith
is an historical faith—it records what God has done in
history. This being the case, the historical accuracy of
recorded events is of utmost importance. This is true for both
the Old and New Testament.
The Old Testament is a testimony of the mighty
works of God. The Lord reminded Israel of His mighty power.
The historical accuracy of the Bible is of the utmost
importance because the revelation of God to mankind was
accomplished through His mighty words and deeds in history.
I am the Lord your God, who brought
you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage
The nation was continually urged to
remember these mighty deeds of God:
But the Lord, who brought you up from
the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm
. . . Him you shall worship (2 Kings 17:36).
people, remember now . . . that you may know the
righteousness of the Lord (Micah 6:5).
God Came To Our
Jesus Christ, God the Son, came into
And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the
only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John
We find the
writers of Scripture appealing time and time again to actual
historical events to testify to both the existence and power
of God. The entire biblical revelation centers on what God has
done in history.
say that the message of Scripture is what is important, not
whether the Bible is historically accurate. Such is not the
case, however, as attorney/theologian John Warwick Montgomery
Christianity's truth claim consists
merely of a finger pointing back through time to an
historical figure who divided world history into two
parts—to Jesus of Nazareth—to His statements concerning
Himself and true religion, and to the life He led
attesting to the statements He made. An honest,
historically accurate, scientific investigation of these
data (involving chiefly a study of the documents collected
in the New Testament) will show that Jesus claimed to be
God Incarnate, that He described the only true (but not
the only possible) religion consisting of fellowship with
Himself, and that He attested His claims by a sinless life
which profoundly affected everyone who crossed His path,
and by a resurrection which left no doubt in the minds of
eyewitnesses that He was in fact the true God (John
Warwick Montgomery, The Shape of The Past: An
Introduction to Philosophical
Historiography, vol. 1, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1962, p.
historical importance and accuracy of the Bible is an
essential matter with respect to the Christian faith.
Unique To Judaism And Christianity
It also must be stressed that historical
reliability is unique to Judaism and Christianity. No other
religion has any sort of historical base on which their belief
system rests. Historian Paul Maier writes:
Because Judaism-Christianity has so
thoroughly influenced Western culture, we are prone to
imagine that all other world religions have a similarly
solid historical base. This is by no means the case. It
can, in fact, be argued that every religious system before or since
Judaism and Christianity has avoided any serious
interaction with history, and instead has asked it
followers to believe by sheer faith alone, the claimed
revelation of its founder(s). This is true of the
mythologies of yesterday and the cults of today, the
religions of the East or the New Age of the West.
whatever links with genuine history are claimed—as in
several modern beliefs systems today—these are never
verified by secular history or findings by archaeology.
Typically, a single founder claims divine revelation,
which is subsequently written down as a holy book for his
or her following. The founder may well be historical, of
course, but one looks in vain for true correlations with
secular history in the founder's holy book. Rather than
any private, once-for-all-revelation, Judeo-Christianity's
Scriptures encompass a two thousand year plus period—two
millenia in which its holy books constantly interlaced
themselves with history (Paul Maier, In the
Fulness of Time, p. xv.)
Demonstrate To Be Factual
If the Bible
is the Word of God, then it must be able to withstand the most
thorough historical investigation. Millar Burrows, who was
America's foremost expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls wrote:
There is a type of Christian faith, .
. . rather strongly represented today, [that] regards the
affirmation of Christian faith as confessional statements
which the individual accepts as a member of the believing
community, and which are not dependent on reason or
evidence. Those who hold this position will not admit that
historical investigation can have anything to say about
the uniqueness of Christ. They are often skeptical as to
the possibility of knowing anything about the historical
Jesus . . . I cannot share this point of view. I am
profoundly convinced that the historic revelation of God
in Jesus of Nazareth must be the cornerstone of any faith
that is really Christian. Any historical question about
the real Jesus who lived in Palestine nineteen centuries
ago is therefore fundamentally important (Millar Burrows,
More Light on the Dead Sea
Scrolls, New York: Viking Press, 1958, p.
accuracy of Scripture is of vital importance, for it is the
appeal made by the Bible itself to argue for its truthfulness.
The idea of the Bible being
historically accurate is important for the following reasons:
1. The Scripture itself makes the claim that God has
intervened in history. Many of these events have been recorded
for us in Scripture.
2. The people were urged to
remember what God had done for them in the past. They were to
call to mind actual historical events that took place.
3. The central truth of the Christian faith—that God
became a man—happened in history.
4. The historical
accuracy of these claims demonstrates the truth of the
Christian faith and its superiority over other religions that
have no such verifiable evidence.
Is The Old Testament
The Old Testament
records events that span thousands of years. Biblical scholar
John Bright correctly points out the Bible's own high view of
The genius of the Old Testament faith
does not lie in its idea of God or in the elevation of its
ethical teachings. Rather it lies in its understanding of
history, specifically of Israel's history, as the theatre
of God's purposive activity. A concern with the meaning of
history, and of specific events within history, is one of
its most characteristic features. It records a real
history, and it interprets every detail of that history in
the light of Yahweh's sovereign purpose and righteous
will. It relates past events—the stories of the
Patriarches, the Exodus, the giving of the Promised
Land—in terms of his gracious dealings with his people,
his promise to them and fulfillment. It continually sets
forth the response that Yahweh requires of his people, and
interprets their fortunes in the midst of events, in terms
of their obedience or disobedience to his demands. And it
announces that Yahweh will yet do, in the judgment of
Exile and beyond, for the accomplishment of his purpose.
The Old Testament consistently views Israel's history as
one that is guided as a destination by the word and will
of her God (John Bright, The
Authority of the Old Testament. London: SCM
Press, 1967, p. 130).
R. K. Harrison, Old Testament scholar
and historian, emphasized the important role of archaeology in
confirming the historical accuracy of the Old Testament:
Archeology must not be regarded as
the sole determining consideration in matters of
historical criticism, since it, too, is beset with its own
kind of problems. These include poor excavating techniques
in earlier days, the varied interpretation of specific
artifacts, and the difficulty of establishing an assured
chronological framework into which events can be placed
with confidence. Archaeology is in no sense an adequate
'control' mechanism by which OT sequences stand or fall.
Nevertheless, archaeological discoveries have assisted
enormously in demonstrating the historicity of certain OT
events and personages, and in other areas have furnished
an authentic social and cultural background against which
many OT narratives can be set with assurance. Numerous
cuneiform texts that have been unearthed show how the
Mesopotamian writers of early historiographic material
expressed themselves in terms of a world view, as is the
case of the first few chapters of Genesis, thereby
indicating that the latter should not be taken as myth,
but as Mesopotamian historiography (R. K. Harrison, Bruce
Waltke, Donald Guthrie, and Gordon Fee, Biblical
Criticism: Historical, Literary and
Textual. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1978, pp. 6, 7).
In Old Testament Criticism
Not only has
the basic history of the Old Testament period been confirmed
by archaeological testimony, there also have been some
startling reversals of Old Testament criticism.
Could Moses Write?
twentieth century, it was believed that Moses could not have
written the first five books of the Old Testament because
writing was said to be virtually unknown or, at least, not
commonly used at his time. Representative of this thought was
liberal scholar Herman Schultz, who wrote in 1898,
Of the legendary character of the
pre-Mosaic narrators, the time of which they treat is a
sufficient proof. It was a time prior to all knowledge of
writing, a time separated by an interval of more than four
hundred years, of which there is absolutely no history,
from the nearest period of which Israel has some dim
historical recollection, a time when in civilized
countries writing was only beginning to be used for the
most important matters of State. Now wandering herdsmen
have invariably an instinctive dislike to writing. In
fact, at the present day, it is considered a disgrace
among Bedouin tribes in the peninsula of Sinai to be able
to write. It is therefore impossible that such men could
hand down their family histories, in themselves quite
unimportant, in any other way than orally, to wit, in
legends. And even when writing had come into use, in the
time that is, between Moses and David, it would still be
sparingly used, and much that happened to the people must
still have been handed down simply as legend (Herman
Schultz, Old Testament Theology. H.A.
Patterson, trans. Edinburgh: T cf. stone inscriptions of
Ahiram). Thus, by the time of the entry of the Hebrews
into Canaan in the Late Bronze Age they would be
confronted, if not already familiar with at least five
different forms of writing systems used for eight or more
languages (D.J. Wiseman and Edwin Yamauchi,
Archaeology and the Bible. Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 25).
This is echoed
by noted scholar Cyrus Gordon:
The excavations at Ugarit have
revealed a high material culture in Canaan prior to the
emergence of the Hebrews. Prose and poetry were already
fully developed. The educational system was so advanced
that dictionaries in four languages were compiled for the
use of scribes, and the individual words were listed in
their Ugaritic, Babylonian, Sumerian, and Hurrian
equivalents. The beginnings of Israel are rooted in a
highly cultural Canaan where the contributions of several
talented peoples . . . have converged and blended. The
notion that early Israelite religion and society were
primitive is completely false. Canaan in the days of the
Patriarchs was a hub of great international culture (Cyrus
Gordon, Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit, Christianity Today, November 23,
An ancient people, known as the Hittites, are
mentioned some fifty times in the Old Testament. For a long
time they were considered to be fabricated by the Bible
because the only evidence of their existence came from the Old
Testament. Liberal scholars assumed the biblical references to
the Hittites were historically worthless. John Elder comments
on modern confirmation of the Hittites:
One of the striking confirmations of
Bible history to come from the science of archaeology is
the 'recovery' of the Hittite peoples and their empires.
Here is a people whose name appears again and again in the
Old Testament, but who in secular history had been
completely forgotten and whose very existence was
considered to be extremely doubtful . . . But until the
investigation of modern archaeologists, the Hittites
remained a shadowy and undefined people (John Elder,
Prophets, Idols, and Diggers, New York:
Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1960, p. 75).
A. H. Sayce was the first scholar to identify the Hittite
people from a non-biblical source. In 1876 he released his
information from the monuments and revolutionized critical
theories concerning the Hittites.
In the twentieth century, much more
information about the Hittites has come to light confirming
the historical accuracy of the Old Testament. Fred H. Wight
Now the Bible picture of this people
fits in perfectly with what we know of the Hittite nation
from the monuments. As an empire they never conquered the
land of Canaan itself, although Hittite local tribes did
settle there at an early date. Nothing discovered by the
excavators has in any way discredited the Biblical
account. Scripture accuracy has once more been proved by
the archaeologists (Fred H. Wight, Highlights
of Archaeology in Bible Lands. Chicago:
Moody Press, 1955, pp. 94, 95).
Another testimony of the trustworthiness of the Old
Testament comes from Jesus Christ. When we examine the way
Jesus viewed Scripture we can see that He trusted it totally.
He said the Word of God was true:
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word
is truth (John 17:17).
said the Scripture could not be broken (John 10:35).
It is clear from Jesus' statements that He believed
the Bible to be historically accurate and without error.
Summary Of Jesus' Attitude
authority John Bright summarizes Jesus' attitude toward
I am quite unable to get around the
fact . . . that the Old Testament was authoritative
Scripture for Jesus himself. Jesus knew no Scripture save
the Old Testament, no God save its God; it was this God
whom He addressed as Father . . . never once did He
suggest that in the light of His work they might safely be
discarded. On the contrary, He regarded the Scriptures as
the key to the understanding of His person; again and
again He is represented as saying that it is the
Scriptures that witness to Him and are fulfilled in Him.
At no place did He express Himself as shocked by the Old
Testament . . . Although the Old Testament on occasion
offends our Christians feelings, it did not apparently
offend Christ's Christian feelings! Could it really be
that we are ethically and religiously more sensitive than
He? Or is it perhaps that we do not view the Old
Testament—and its God—as He did? The very fact that the
Old Testament was normative Scripture to Jesus, from which
He understood both His God and . . . Himself, means that
it must in some ways be normative Scripture for us
too—unless we wish to understand Jesus in some other way
than He Himself did and the New Testament did (John
Bright, ibid. p. 77).
After briefly examining some of the historical and
archaeological evidence in favor of the historical reliability
of the Old Testament, we summarize with several observations:
1. The persons, places and events listed during the
different periods of Old Testament history match up well with
the facts and evidence from history and archaeology.
2. New evidence from recent discoveries has shown that
certain Old Testament passages, once considered historically
unreliable, are now found to be historically precise.
3. Above all, the Christian Church believes the Old
Testament is historically reliable because of the testimony of
Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be God in human flesh. These
claims were later validated by His resurrection from the dead.
Jesus taught that the Old Testament was the Word of God,
totally accurate in all that it said. There can be no stronger
confirmation than the testimony of Jesus.
The Old Testament
The archaeologist, John Elder, offers
a fitting conclusion to the issue of the Old Testament's
It is not too much to say that it was
the rise of the science of archeology that broke the
deadlock between historians and the orthodox Christian.
Little by little, one city after another, one civilization
after another, one culture after another, whose memories
were enshrined only in the Bible, were restored to their
proper places in ancient history by the studies of
archeologists . . . The over-all result is indisputable.
Forgotten cities have been found, the handiwork of
vanished peoples has reappeared, contemporary records of
Biblical events have been unearthed and the uniqueness of
biblical revelation has been emphasized by contrast and
comparison to the newly understood religions of ancient
peoples. Nowhere has archeological discovery refuted the
Bible as history (John Elder, Prophets,
Idols, and Diggers, Bobbs-Merrill, Co. p. 18).
there is every reason to believe the Old Testament is
Does The New Testament Match Up
With Secular History?
The New Testament
is primarily a record of the salvation work of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God. Yet when the New Testament addresses
historical issues, it too is accurate and reliable.
Investigate The Same Way As Other
The New Testament was written in the same way
as other documents in the ancient world. Consequently, it
should be examined the same way as these other documents.
Contrary to the claims of other religions and cults, there is
no record of documents written on golden plates or discovered
in some cave. Neither are the writings of the New Testament
brought down from heaven by angels. They are the
straightforward accounts of the people who walked and talked
with Jesus and were observers of the things that He both said
and did. The men who wrote these books made them public at the
time they were written. There is no idea of hiding them so as
to be discovered by some later generation. Every aspect of the
composition of the New Testament is the same as other
historical writings of that period. Therefore we need to
investigate their claims as we would any other historical
who were formerly skeptical of the New Testament record, are
now more apt to take it seriously. Bible scholar Carsten Peter
Thiede writes or these changes:
Stone after stone has been added to
the mosaic which we are beginning to recognize as the
world of Jesus and the first Christians. Classical
scholars, historians, archaeologists, have ventured into
the domain of theology and New Testament studies, and they
have come up with new assessments of the data. Judged from
their vantage point, those who argue for early dates of
authentic Gospels as sources of information about an
historical Jesus . . . are no longer the conservative or
fundamentalist outsiders. We are witnessing a 'paradigm
shift'. It may still be true that those who rubbish the
New Testament in best selling books make the headlines,
but behind the scenes, the stage is being reset. Sir Henry
Chadwick, the Oxbridge church historian, symbolized this
wen he wrote, in a review of the book The Jesus
Papyrus which I wrote with Matthew d'Ancona
in 1996, 'Thiede and d'Ancona are likely to be near the
truth in wanting to re-date the first three Gospels about
the middle decades of the first century' (Carsten Peter
Thiede, Jesus: Life or Legend, Second
Edition, Oxford, England, Lion Publishing, 1997, p. 9).
Books: Primary Source Testimony
investigate the New Testament, we observe that the writers of
the New Testament books claimed to be either eyewitnesses to
the events recorded or those who gathered eyewitness
testimony. The Apostle John wrote,
That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which
we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning
the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen,
and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which
was with the Father and was manifested to us (1 John 1:1,2).
The fact that the New Testament
writers claimed such objective, complete, and firsthand
evidence concerning Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance.
Their evidence is not hearsay or imaginary: it is direct and
reliable as Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce observes,
The earliest preachers of the gospel
knew the value of . . . first-hand testimony, and appealed
to it time and time again. 'We are witnesses of these
things,' was their constant and confident assertion. And
it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem
to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early
years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could
remember what had and had not happened.
And it was not
only friendly eyewitnesses that the early preachers had to
reckon with; there were others . . . who were also
conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death
of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk
inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of the
facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would
be only too glad to do so. On the contrary, one of the
strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the
confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers; they not
only said, 'We are witnesses of these things,' but also,
'As you yourselves know' (Acts 2:22). Had there been any
tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect,
the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience
would have served as a further corrective (F. F. Bruce,
The New Testament Documents: Are They
Reliable?, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1964, pp. 33, 44-46).
The Books Were
Read Aloud In The Churches And Circulated
We know that many of the New Testament books were read
aloud in the churches. We have examples from the gospels,
Paul's letters, and the Book of Revelation. In Paul's earliest
letter he wrote:
I adjure you by the Lord to have this
letter read to all the brothers (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
The Gospel of
Matthew also assumes someone will be reading it aloud.
Therefore when you see the
abomination of desolation which was spoken of through
Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the
reader understand) (Matthew 24:15).
wrote to the Colossians, he ordered his letter to be read
And when this letter is read among
you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans;
and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from
Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).
A very important passage is
found in First Timothy. Here Paul commanded the public reading
of the Scriptures.
Until I come, give attention to the
public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching
(1 Timothy 4:13).
would include all of the New Testament that had been written
until that time.
John promised a special blessing to the person who read the
book out loud as well as those who heard it read. They would
receive a blessing if they obeyed the things written in the
Blessed is he who reads and those who
hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which
are written in it; for the time is near (Revelation 1:3).
message of Jesus went out publicly, before both believers and
unbelievers. It was open for all to freely investigate.
The Story Of Sir William Ramsay
An example of the historical trustworthiness of the
New Testament can be found in the story of Sir William Ramsay.
In the nineteenth century it was widely believed that the New
Testament was an invention of the second-century church. Sir
William Ramsay provides us with an example of how an honest
scholar of history can change his perspective when faced by
incontrovertible evidence from history and archaeology. Ramsay
began his historical research toward the end of the nineteenth
century when he was taught that the New Testament was not
written in the first century and was not historically
reliable. Although the New Testament Book of Acts contained a
variety of eyewitness historical references, liberal critics
rejected its historicity and declared it untrue.
young historian, Ramsay was determined to develop an
independent historical/geographical study of first-century
Asia Minor. He assumed the Book of Acts was unreliable and
ignored its historical allusions in his studies. The amount of
usable historical information concerning first-century Asia
Minor, however, was too little for him to proceed very far
with his work. That led him, almost in desperation, to consult
the Book of Acts for any help possible. Ramsay discovered that
it was remarkably accurate and true to first-century history
Change Of Mind
testified to what changed his mind:
I may fairly claim to have entered on
this investigation without prejudice in favour of the
conclusions which I shall now seek to justify to the
reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavourable
to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the
Tübingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did
not then lie in my line of life to investigate the subject
minutely, but more recently I found myself brought into
contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the
topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was
gradually borne upon me that in various details the
narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with
a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second
century composition, and never relying on its evidence as
trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came
to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult
investigations (Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul
The Traveler and Roman Citizen. Grand Rapids,
MI: Baker Book House, 1962, p. 36).
Since many historical details,
national boundaries, and government structures in Asia Minor
were different in the second century from what they had been
in the first, it is reasonable to conclude that the actual
author of Luke and Acts was a first-century author, not a
Acts 14:1-6, for example, was in historical dispute
for many years. The passage implies that Lystra and Derbe were
cities in the district of Lycaonia but Iconium was in a
different district. Later Roman writers such as Cicero
contradicted the passage, asserting that Iconium was also in
Lycaonia. For years this was used to show the historical
unreliability of Acts.
In 1910, however, Sir William Ramsay
discovered an inscription declaring that the first century
Iconium was under the authority of Phrygia from A.D. 37 to A.D. 72. It was
only during these years that Iconium was not
under the authority of Lycaonia. Not only did this discovery
confirm the accuracy of the statement in Acts 14, it showed
that whoever wrote this passage knew what district Iconium was
in at that time. That places the author as an eyewitness to
K. A. Kitchen gives further comment on Ramsay's
Ever since the . . . explorations and
discoveries of William Ramsay earlier this century, the
accuracy of Luke as a historian and reporter has been
upheld by a multiplicity of details, particularly in the
Book of Acts. He assigns the right titles to the proper
officials at the correct periods of time in question. Such
as the proconsul in Cyprus (Acts 13:7) and of Achaia (Acts
18:12), the Asiarchs at Ephesus (Acts 19:31), among others
. . . Luke was careful to entitle Herod Antipas the
Tetrarch of Galilee, not loosely 'king' as
many of his subjects flatteringly did (Kenneth Kitchen,
The Bible in Its World: The Bible and
Archaeology Today, Downers Grove IL: Inter-Varsity
Press, 1977, pp. 132,133).
historian, A. N. Sherwin-White, declares,
For Acts the confirmation of its
historicity is overwhelming . . . any attempt to reject
its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now
appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for
granted (A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman
Society and Roman Law in the New
Testament, Oxford: At the Claredon Press, 1963,
F. F. Bruce, a
classical scholar turned biblical scholar, observes,
It is a curious fact that historians
have often been much readier to trust the New Testament
than have many theologians. Somehow or other, there are
people who regard a 'sacred book' as ipso
facto under suspicion, and demand much more
corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for
an ordinary secular or pagan writing. From the viewpoint
of the historian, the same standards must apply to both
(F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are
They Reliable? 5th rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm.
B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984, p. 15).
Ramsay's study led him to conclude
that Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect to its
trustworthiness (Ramsay, ibid. p. 81) and Luke is a historian
of the first rank; not merely are his statements trustworthy .
. . this author should be placed along with the very greatest
of historians (Sir William Ramsay, The Bearing of
Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New
Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953,
From the evidence gathered by Ramsay, we
discover that Luke, author of the greatest portion of the New
Testament (Luke and Acts) and an eyewitness of many events
during the growth of the first-century church, was a careful
From the evidence
that we have available the New Testament matches up well with
what we know of secular history.
Are The Writings Of Paul
Though the gospels
were written a relatively short time after the death and
resurrection of Christ what about the letters of the Apostle
Paul? When were they composed? How do they help with the
reliability of the New Testament?
Some of the letters of the Apostle Paul may
actually have been written earlier than the gospels. For
example, First Thessalonians was written approximately A.D.
51, while the first letter to the Corinthians was penned about
A.D. 56. Obviously, all of his letters were written before
A.D. 67, when he died.
The testimony of the Apostle Paul confirms the
evidence presented in the gospel accounts concerning Jesus
A. Creator Of The Universe
John tells us that Jesus was the Creator of the
All things came into being by Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come
into being (John 1:3).
testified that Jesus was the Creator of the universe:
For by Him all things were created
that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities
or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him
The Jewish Law
Jesus was always obedient to the
law of God. He asked if anyone had ever seen Him sin.
Which one of you
convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not
believe Me? (John 8:46).
No one could
give an example - because He did not sin. In the same
way, Paul emphasized that Jesus was obedient to the Old
But when the fullness of the time had
come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under
the law (Galatians 4:4).
All four gospels agree that Jesus was betrayed
by Judas Iscariot record the fact. Paul also spoke of Jesus'
betrayal by Judas:
For I received from the Lord that
which I also delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus on the
same night in which He was betrayed took
bread (1 Corinthians 11:23).
All four gospels are consistent
that Jesus died by means of crucifixion. Paul mentions Jesus'
death by crucifixion as the cornerstone of his message: But we
preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).
From The Dead
Again, all four gospels testify
that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul also confirmed that Christ
rose from the dead:
For I delivered to you first of all
that which I also received: that Christ died for ours
sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried,
and that He rose again the third day, according to the
Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
points must be emphasized concerning the testimony of Paul.
A. Contemporary Of The Disciples
The Apostle Paul, though not an eyewitness to the events
of the life of Christ, was living at the same time as the
disciples who were eyewitnesses. Therefore he was their
B. He Wrote Within Thirty Years Of
letters were composed within thirty years of the events of the
life and ministry of Jesus. This is far too short a time for
him to have radically changed the message of Jesus without
receiving criticism from both believing and non-believing
eyewitnesses of the events.
For example, First
Thessalonians is probably the earliest letter that Paul wrote.
It can be dated around the year A.D. 51 - about twenty years
after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Challenged His Readers To Investigate The Evidence
Paul challenged his readers to
investigate for themselves the evidence concerning the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He was seen by over five hundred
brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain to the
present (1 Corinthians 15:6).
eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection were still alive when Paul
wrote to the church at Corinth. Anyone doubting the fact of
the resurrection could check out their testimony.
We conclude that the testimony
of the Apostle Paul adds further evidence to the
trustworthiness of the gospel's picture of Jesus.
When Were The New Testament
The time of the
composition of the New Testament text is extremely important,
because if the documents were written and circulated at an
early date, the eyewitnesses would still be living. They could
either verify or deny the events recorded.
evidence shows that the four Gospels were written in a
relatively short time after the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. This can first be seen by examining the internal
evidence of the New Testament itself.
Jerusalem And Temple Still Standing
three Gospels, and possibly also the fourth, were apparently
written while the city of Jerusalem was still standing. Each
of the first three Gospels contain predictions by Jesus
concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
(Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), but none records the
fulfillment. We know that the city and Temple were destroyed
by Titus the Roman in A.D. 70. Hence, the composition of the
first three Gospels must have occurred sometime before this
event, otherwise their destruction would have been recorded.
The Book Of Acts
The Book of
Acts also provides us with a clue as to when the gospels were
written. Acts records the highlights in the life and ministry
of the Apostle Paul. The book concludes with Paul at Rome
awaiting trial before Caesar. The inference is that Acts was
written while Paul was still alive, seeing his death is not
recorded. Since there is good evidence that Paul died in the
Neronian persecution about A.D. 67, the Book of Acts can be
dated approximately A.D. 62.
If Acts were written about A.D.
62, then this helps us date the gospels, since the Book of
Acts is the second half of a treatise written by Luke to a man
named Theophilus. Since we know that the gospel of Luke was
written before the Book of Acts, we can then date the Gospel
of Luke sometime around A.D. 60 or before.
The Brother Who Was Well-Known
There may be
further evidence for an early date for Luke's gospel. Paul
wrote of a brother who was well-known among the churches for
And we have sent along with him the
brother whose fame in the gospel has spread through all the
churches (2 Corinthians 8:18).
ancient testimony that this refers to Luke and his written
gospel. If this is speaking of Luke and the gospel he
composed, then we have it well-known in the mid-fifties of the
Mark As A Source
be a reference in the writings of Luke that he used Mark as a
written source. John Mark is called a minister by Luke in Acts
13:5 (the Greek word huparetas). In 1:2, Luke
says he derived the information for his gospel from those who
were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. The term
translated minister is the same Greek word huparetas. It is possible that this could be a
reference to Mark as one of his written sources.
Mark Possibly Written Before
Furthermore, modern scholarship has generally
assumed that the Gospel of Mark was written before Luke. If
this is the case, then we are somewhere in the fifties of the
first century when this book was composed. Since Jesus' death
and resurrection occurred approximately in the year A.D. 30,
these two gospels were written during the time when
eyewitnesses, both friendly and unfriendly, were still alive.
These eyewitnesses could either verify or falsify the
information contained in the gospels.
We now go a step further by considering Matthew's
gospel. According to the unanimous testimony of the early
church Matthew was the first gospel written. The church father
Eusebius places the date of Matthew's gospel in A.D. 41. If
this is true, then we have a third independent source about
the life of Christ written during the eyewitness period.
The Gospel of John is usually
assumed to have been the last of the four gospels composed.
John testified that he was an eyewitness to the events that he
Many other signs therefore Jesus also
performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not
written in this book; but these have been written that you
may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and
that believing you may have life in His name John
This is the disciple who bears witness
of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that
his witness is true. (John 21:24).
also internal evidence that John himself wrote before A.D. 70.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep
gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five
porticoes (John 5:2).
the sheep gate as still standing at the time he wrote. The
sheep gate was destroyed in the year A.D. 70, along with the
rest of the city of Jerusalem. This could very well be an
indication that John wrote his gospel while the city of
Jerusalem was still standing. Greek scholar Daniel Wallace
writes the following concerning this verse.
The present tense should be used as
indicating present time from the viewpoint of the speaker.
The implication seems to be that this gospel was written
before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Although many
may object to a pre-70 date for John's gospel, they must, in
support of their view, reckon with this text (Daniel
Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics, Zondervan,
1997, p. 531).
The late John
A.T. Robinson, a liberal scholar, in his book Redating The
New Testament, concluded there is sufficient evidence
for believing that every New Testament
book was composed before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
When all the
historical and textual evidence is amassed, it becomes clear
that the New Testament was composed at a very early date
either by eyewitnesses or those who recorded eyewitness
testimony. The eminent archaeologist William F. Albright
In my opinion, every book of the New
Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties
and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably
sometime between A.D. 50 and 75) (Interview with
Christianity Today, January 18,
Albright also stated:
Thanks to the Qumran discoveries, the
New Testament proves to be what it was formerly believed to
be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers
between cir. 24 and cir. 80 A.D. (W.F. Albright,
From Stone Age to Christianity, Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1963, p. 29).
John Wenham writes the following
concerning the available evidence we have to date the New
1. Luke knew Mark's
2. The dates should be reckoned working
back from Acts, the natural date of which is A.D. 62.
3. Luke's gospel was apparently well known
in the mid-50's.
4. According to
tradition, Mark's gospel gives Peter's teaching in Rome.
5. Peter's first visit to Rome was probably
42-44 and Mark's gospel was probably written about 45.
6. The universal tradition of the early
church puts Matthew first, which means a date around 40.
(John Wenham, Redating Matthew, Mark, And
Luke, Downers Grove, Illinois; IVP, 1992, p. 243).
Legal expert Simon Greenleaf makes a sensible
conclusion concerning the dating of the gospels:
The earlier date, however, is argued
with greater force, for the improbability that the
Christians would be left for several years without a
general and authentic history of our Savior's ministry
(Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the
Evangelists, Kregel, 1995, p. 19).
We add to this the testimony of
unbelievers. Unwittingly, they have given testimony to the
early composition of the New Testament. Speaking of Celsus, a
man living in the second century who hated Christianity,
Bishop Fallows writes:
This unbeliever, although he caused
great annoyance to the believers in Christ living in his
day, and seemed to be disturbing the foundations of the
Christian faith, rendered more real service to
Christianity than any father of undisputed orthodoxy in
the Church. He admits all the grand facts and doctrines of
the gospel, as they were preached by the Apostles, and
contained in the acknowledged writings, for the sake of
opposing. He makes in his attacks eighty quotations from
the New Testament, and appeals to it as containing the
sacred writings of Christians, universally received by
them as credible and Divine.
He is, therefore, the
very best witness we can summon to prove that the New
Testament was not written hundreds of years after the
Apostles were dust; but in less than a century and a half
had been received by the Christian Church all over the
world. He expressly quotes both the synoptic Gospels, as
they were termed (the first three Gospels), and the Gospel
of St. John (Bishop Fallows, Mistakes of
Ingersoll and His Answers, pp. 91,92).
Evidence From The New Testament
internal evidence from the New Testament itself that parts of
it were already considered as Scripture. Peter had the
following to say about Paul's writings.
And regard the patience of our Lord
to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul,
according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also
in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in
which are some things hard to understand, which the
untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of
the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter
Paul's writings on the same level as the rest of the
Paul And Luke
addition, Paul quotes Luke's gospel and calls it Scripture.
For the Scripture says, You
shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing, and The
laborer is worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5:18).
is from Luke 10:7. When Paul wrote First Timothy it seems
Luke's gospel had already been accepted as Scripture.
completed New Testament was recognized early in the history of
the church. Tertullian, writing in the first two decades of
the third century, was the first known person to call the
Christian Scriptures the New Testament. The title had appeared
earlier (190) in a composition against Montanism by an unknown
Consequently, when all the evidence is in, it
shows that not only the New Testament documents were written
soon after the events they recorded, they were also recognized
at an early date to be authoritative by those who read them.
Dating Of The New Testament
When all the
historical and textual evidence is amassed, it becomes clear
that the New Testament was composed at a very early date by
eyewitnesses or those who recorded eyewitness testimony. The
eminent archaeologist William F. Albright concluded,
In my opinion, every book of the New
Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the
forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very
probably sometime between A.D. 50 and 75) (Interview with
Christianity Today, January 18,
Thanks to the Qumran discoveries, the
New Testament proves to be what it was formerly believed
to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers
between cir. 24 and cir. 80 A.D. (W.F. Albright,
From Stone Age to Christianity, Baltimore,
MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1963, p. 29).
The evidence is clear. The New Testament is a
reliable historical document containing firsthand evidence of
the life and ministry of Jesus as well as the ministry of the
Could The New Testament Writers
Have Had A Faulty Memory?
If we grant that
the New Testament was composed at an early date what about the
possibility that the writers had a faulty memory of what
Relied On Memory
people in the first century were not as literate as modern
man, they relied more upon memory than we do today. John
Warwick Montgomery makes an appropriate comment:
We know from the Mishna that it was a
Jewish custom to memorize a Rabbi's teaching, for a good
pupil was like 'a plastered cistern that loses not a drop'
[Mishna Aboth, II.8]. And we can be sure that the early
Church, impressed as it was with Jesus, governed itself by
this ideal (John Warwick Montgomery, History and
Christianity, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity
Press, 1964, pp. 37,38).
The events of the life of Christ
would have made a vivid impression on all of the people who
witnessed them. After one of Jesus' miracles the Bible says,
All were amazed and glorified God
saying, 'We never saw anything like this!' (Mark 2:12).
miracles were not the norm, any extraordinary event would not
soon be forgotten.
Sufficient Number Of Eyewitnesses
In addition, the number of eyewitnesses to the
miracles of Christ were sufficient. The Apostle Paul said that
the resurrection of Christ was witnessed by over five hundred
people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
The miracles of Jesus were done in public view as
Paul told King Agrippa:
For the king, before whom I also
speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that
none of these things escapes his attention, since this
thing was not done in a corner (Acts 26:26).
It must be
remembered that not all of the eyewitnesses to the biblical
miracles were believers. If the disciples tended to distort
the facts; the unbelieving eyewitnesses would have immediately
Does Not Fit
demonstrate that the faulty memory hypothesis does not fit the
facts. The New Testament was composed such a short time after
the events occurred that it would be folly to assume the
writers' memories were so faulty that neither they nor the
unbelievers could remember the actual events of the life of
What Is Higher Criticism?
is the discipline concerned with the authorship of documents.
While it is perfectly valid to study the authorship of
biblical documents, higher criticism of the Bible has gone far
beyond that. Most higher critics seem determined to establish
that the Bible is of purely human origin. They deny the very
idea that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.
Such denial is not new, of course,
for we see it way back in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent
said to Eve,
Has God indeed said, You shall not
eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1).
thing we hear from the mouth of the serpent is the denial of
One of the
original contentions of higher criticism was that the practice
of writing was unknown during the time of Moses; therefore,
Moses could not have authored the first five books of the
Bible. Sir Frederic Kenyon, the great biblical scholar, wrote:
About the middle of the nineteenth
century there was a period when it was often maintained
that writing was unknown in the time of Moses and the
Judges and the earlier kings, and consequently that the
narratives of these early periods could not be based upon
authentic records. This disbelief in the antiquity of
writing has been completely disproved by the discoveries
of the last century. First of all, in 1852 and 1853 Henry
Layard and his assistant Rassam discovered the libraries
of the kings of Assyria at Nineveh, which contained
hundreds of tablets of baked clay (the form of book used
in Mesopotamia), including the chronicles of Sennacherib,
Essarhaddon, and other rulers contemporary with the kings
of Israel and Judah. Others contained the Babylonian
narratives of the Creation and Deluge. Subsequent
discoveries carried back proof of the early use of writing
far beyond the time of Moses and even of Abraham (Sir
Frederic Kenyon, The Story of the
Bible, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967, p. 7).
Thus we see
that one of the original contentions of higher critics—that
writing did not exist during the early biblical period—has
been thoroughly refuted by recent findings. This is but one
example of how higher critics refuse to consider in an honest
way the Bible's own testimony as to its origin.
criticism claims to treat the Bible as it would any other
book. Yet with any other book, good scholarship would demand
that we at least consider the book's own statement of who
wrote it and why, and that we test it out. In the example we
have seen, higher criticism came to faulty conclusions because
it insisted that the Bible must be wrong and assumed that
Moses—although educated in Pharaoh's court, the most advanced
environment of his time—couldn't have written the Books of
Valid To A Point
So we conclude
that the higher criticism is a valid discipline to a point.
But as it has been practiced, it shows a dangerous tendency to
reject the idea that the Bible might be what is says it is,
What Is Form Criticism?
One of the modern
ways in which the Gospels are studied is through the
discipline known as form criticism. Form criticism attempts to
classify the material found in the Gospels according to their
literary form. Such classifications include miracles stories,
sayings and narratives. Consequently the Gospels are divided
up into different segments known as pericopes and classified
Go Too Far
While there is
nothing wrong with categorizing the Gospels into these
different forms, many critics go a step further and attempt to
determine the reliability of certain events or sayings
according to their form.
F.F. Bruce points out that form
criticism confirms the fact of the supernatural portrait of
Jesus as recorded in the New Testament.
But perhaps the most important result
to which Form Criticism points is that, no matter how far
back we may press our researches into the roots of the
gospel story, no matter how we classify the gospel
material, we never arrive at a non-supernatural Jesus . .
. All parts of the gospel record are shown by various
groupings to be pervaded by a consistent picture of Jesus
as Messiah, the Son of God . . . Thus Form Criticism has
added its contribution to the overthrow of the hope once
fondly held, that by getting back to the primitive stage
of gospel tradition we might recover a purely human Jesus,
who simply taught the Fatherhood of God and the
brotherhood of man (F.F. Bruce, The New
Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, Downers
Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1979, p. 33).
Form Critical Approach
are some positive features about the form-critical approach,
certain problems need to be considered. For one thing, the
view of many form critics is that the early church radically
changed the events and sayings of Jesus to fit their own
needs. The evidence, however does not support this view and is
refuted by the following points:
Not Enough Time
The time between the death of Jesus (about A.D. 33)
and the first written New Testament documents (Matthew (about
A.D. 40, Mark A.D. 45, and 1 Thessalonians, A.D. 51) is too
short for all these supposed changes to occur. Furthermore,
the entire New Testament was composed when many eyewitnesses
to the New Testament events were still alive. Any major
difference what occurred in the life of Christ and what was
recorded would have been easily detected.
Minimize Eyewitness Role
Some form critics maintain that the distortions of
the account of the life of Christ took place during His
lifetime. But the biblical writers appeal to the fact that
they were eyewitnesses of the events they describe. These form
critics minimize the role of the eyewitnesses.
No Biographical Interest?
argument is that the early church had no biographical interest
whatsoever. However, the evidence shows just the opposite. The
Gospel accounts are filled with historical details or
allusions. Matthew, for example, records Jesus' genealogy
(chapter 1), the visit of the Magi to Herod and the slaughter
of the innocents (chapter 2), and the events associated with
the trial and death of Jesus (chapters 26-27).
writings of Luke we also find many historical references.
Now in the fifteenth year of the
reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of
Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip
tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and
Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being
high priests, the word of God came to John the son of
Zacharias in the wilderness (Luke 3:1,2).
passage seven different people and their governmental
positions are listed in order to indicate the time that God's
Word came to John the Baptist. The idea that the Gospel
writers were not interested in any biographical or historical
details of the life of Jesus is not supported by the facts.
Gospels Are Not Folklore
Though many of
the form critics would place the Gospels on the same level as
folklore, the evidence speaks to the contrary. The life of
Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, is entirely different
from folklore. This can be readily seen from other works that
attempt to fill in the details of the missing years of the
life of Christ. Fanciful stories abound. The miracles recorded
in the Bible are always for a specific purpose in the ongoing
plan of God and they are accompanied by sufficient eyewitness
General Outline Forgotten?
It is hard to imagine that the Gospel writers
remembered the specific details of the life of Christ but
forgot the general outline, as some form critics would have us
believe. It is much more plausible to assume that the
disciples were correct on the general outline as well as the
We conclude that form criticism is a
legitimate discipline insofar as it classifies the sayings and
deeds of Jesus according to their form without attempting to
prove the accuracy of the statements based merely upon the
form in which they have been found.
We need to keep several things in
mind as we consider the various disciplines known as biblical
criticism. C.S. Lewis, who was intimately familiar with the
works of biblical critics, points out the shortcoming of their
All this sort of criticism attempts to
reconstruct the genesis of the text it studies; what
vanished documents each author used, when and where he
wrote, with what purposes, under what influences . . . This
is done with immense erudition and great ingenuity. At first
sight it is very convincing . . . What forearms me against
all these Reconstructions is the fact that I have seen from
the other end of the stick. I have watched reviewers
reconstructing the genesis of my own books in just this way
. . . My impression is that in the whole of my experience
not one of these guesses has on any one point been right;
that the method shows a record 100 percent failure . . . Now
this surely ought to give us pause. The reconstruction of
the history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very
convincing. But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning;
the results cannot be checked by fact. In order to decide
how reliable a method is, what more could you ask for than
to be shown an instance where the same method is at work and
we have the facts to check it by? Well, that is what I have
done. And we find, that when this check is available, the
results are either always, or nearly always, wrong. The
'assured results of modern scholarship,' as to the way in
which an old book was written, are 'assured,' we may
conclude because the men who knew the facts are dead and
can't blow the gaff (Cited by Walter Hooper, ed.,
Christian Reflections, Grand Rapids,
Eerdmans, 1967, n.p.).
several notable points in his essay. Form criticism is not an
objective science but a subjective experience based upon the
notions of the critic. Form critics are not guided by firm
scientific principles. The critics who state their results
with great assurance cannot come to any consensus of agreement
among themselves. One would think if biblical criticism were
such an exact science, as some form critics would have us
believe, then they would agree on the results.
Fails Practical Test
approach to Scripture also fails the practical test. If the
same critics, who lived at the same time, spoke the same
language, and had the same background, still could not
reconstruct the circumstances in which Lewis wrote, what makes
us think that they can do better when they are dealing with
writers of thousands of years ago, writing in a different
language with a different culture?
form criticism attempts to answer the question of the
historical circumstances in which the biblical writers
composed their works, they are found wanting.
What Should We Conclude About
The Historical Accuracy Of The New Testament?
After looking at
the question of the New Testament's historical accuracy we can
arrive at the following conclusions:
1.The question of the New Testament's
historical accuracy is of utmost importance because God has
revealed Himself by means of historical events. This is
especially true in the New Testament when God became a man.
2.Those who wrote about Jesus were either
eyewitnesses to the events in His life or recorded eyewitness
3.The New Testament
was written soon after the death and resurrection of Christ.
There was not enough time for the message to be altered.
4. We know that many of the New Testament
books were read aloud in the churches. The message was open
for all to hear and evaluate.
4. The disciples were able to be
cross-examined by their contemporaries about the events they
proclaimed. They preached their message in the very city where
many of the events took place.
5. Paul's letters were written during the
eyewitness period. They confirmed many of the main facts of
concerning the events, places, and names mentioned in the New
Testament conclusively affirms the basic historical
reliability of the text. Therefore, the testimony of law comes
into play. Since the document has come down to us where we
would expect to find it, without any tampering and that it
contains no obvious errors or contradictions, it should be
given the benefit of the doubt in matters where there is no
independent evidence to confirm or deny its teachings.
Therefore, we should rightly assume that the New Testament is
a reliable historical document