i IS CHRISTIANITY A FRAUD? A Preliminary Assessment of the Conder Thesis third edition By Eric V. Snow AUTHOR'S PREFACE/ABSTRACT This essay defends the New Testament as historically accurate, as not being dependent for its doctrinal content on pagan religions and philosophy, and as having properly used the messianic texts of the Old Testament.
It attacks Darrell Conder's Mystery Babylon and the Ten Lost Tribes in the End Time, which advocates conversion to some type of Judaism. This document was originally in WordPerfect 5.1 format for Windows 3.1, with elite (12 point) type and six lines of text per vertical inch, with footnotes. I wish to thank John Wheeler, a Global Church of God laymember who can read Hebrew, for his assistance on interpreting the messianic prophecies.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Using the Ideas of Higher Critics and Jews, Conder's Ideas Aren't New......................................................2 Conder's Views of the Old Testament Opens the Doors to Deism or Agnosticism.....................................................2 The Book of Daniel Attacked?!......................................3 1. THE HISTORICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT DEFENDED..................5 The Bibliographical Test as Applied to the New Testament...........6 How Can You Know If the New Testament is a First-Century Document........................................................7 Scholars Move Away from a Second-Century Date for the NT...........8 How People in ... more. less.
Cultures More Dependent on Oral Tradition Have Better Memories.................................................8 How the Book of Acts Implies the NT was written before c. 63 A.D...9 The NT Wasn't Subject to a Long Period of Oral Tradition..........10 The NT Has a Shorter Gap Between Its Original Writing and Oldest Extant Copies...........................................11 Some Problems with Form Criticism, which Conder Implicitly Uses...12 The NT's Eyewitness Testimony Undermines Form Criticism...........13 Why Should This Eyewitness Evidence Be Believed...................14 Ancient People Knew the Difference Between Truth and Fables.......15 The Battle Between the Received and Critical Texts of the NT......16 The Average People of Judea Could Have Know Greek.................19 The New Testament Was Not Written in a Highly Scholarly Greek.....22 How Can Anyone Be Certain that the Right Books Are in the NT?.....23 Was the Canon Determined from the Top-Down by the Catholic Church's Hierarchy?............................................25 The Nature of the Sunday-Keeping Church Before C.<br><br> 313 A.D. Reconsidered...................................................26 How Other Historical Information Confirms the New Testament.......29 The Reliability of Luke as a Historian............................30 The Date of Christ's Birth and the Census by Quirinius............31 Such Roman Censuses Not Absurd....................................33 Early Pagan Sources Which Refer to Jesus..........................33 Josephus as Independent Testimony for the NT and Jesus's Life.....35 ii Conder's Reconstruction of Jesus' Trial Reconsidered..............37 The Romans' Indifference to Doctrinal Disputes Among the Jews.....38 Conder's Use of the Argument from Silence.........................40 Conder's Use of an Ancient Jewish Slander: Jesus Ben Panthera....42 The Internal Evidence Test: Does the NT Contradict Itself?.......43 Does an Addition or Subtraction of Detail Create a "Contradiction"?...............................................43 Supposed New Testament "Contradictions" Briefly Examined..........45 Conder V. Stephen: What Is the Verdict?..........................46 Did Matthew Misquote Zechariah?...................................49 Do Certain Messianic Prophecies Contradict the New Testament?.....50 How Does God Reconcile Justice and Mercy Concerning His Law?......51 How Did Judas Iscariot Die?.......................................52 Are the Genealogies of Christ in Luke and Matthew Contradictory or False?......................................................54 Was God's Curse Against Jeconiah Lifted?..........................56 The Great Trilemma--Jesus Christ: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?........57 The Problems of the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection...............59 Why Denying the Tomb Was Empty Is Implausible.....................61 Were the Resurrection Appearances Hallucinations?.................63 Did the Disciples Steal the Body?.................................64 The Swoon Theory Weighed and Found Wanting........................66 How Is the Transformed Behavior of the Disciples to be Explained Otherwise?...........................................67 Conder's Attacks on the NT's Reliability Faulty...................68 2.<br><br> CHARGES THAT PAGANISM INFLUENCED EARLY CHRISTIANITY MADE BY UNINFORMED.....................................................69 Ignoring Chronology in Order to Say Mithraism Influenced Early Christianity...................................................70 Ignoring Chronology to "Prove" Christianity's Dependence on the Mysteries..................................................72 The Need to be Specific When Comparing Between Christianity and Paganism...................................................73 Was the Taurobolium, a Pagan Rite, a Source of Christian Doctrine?......................................................74 Surface Similarities Do Not Prove Dependence......................76 Some Standard Differences Between Most Mystery Religions and Christianity...................................................77 The Fundamental Differences Between Pagan and Christian Miracle Accounts.......................................................78 The Unreliable Nature of the Miracles Attributed to Buddha........80 Is the Christian Passover Pagan?..................................81 Were Mithraism or Dionystic Rituals the Source of the Christian Passover?............................................83 Did the Pagans Have Savior-Gods Who Died as Jesus Did?............84 How the Death of Dionysus Was Different from Jesus'...............85 How Prometheus's Sufferings Were Different from Jesus' Death......87 Specifically How Jesus' Death Differed from the Pagan Gods' Deaths Summarized........................................88 Frazer's Thesis Ties the Vegetation Cycle to the Pagan Gods' Deaths and "Resurrections".....................................90 Did the Dying Savior/Sun-Gods Really Rise from the Dead?..........91 Reasons for Faith: Are the Parallels to Paganism Necessarily So Problematic?................................................93 iii Did Platonism or Hellenistic Philosophy Influence First- Century Christianity?..........................................96 Did Gnosticism Influence First-Century Christianity?..............99 Christianity Did Not Depend on Pagan Religions for Its Doctrines: A Summary.........................................101 3. THE MESSIANIC PROPHECIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AS QUOTED IN THE NEW: WERE THEY TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT?.........................102 What Is the Foundation of Our Faith in the New Testament?........102 What Types Are, and How They Differ from Direct Predictive Prophecy......................................................104 The Suggestive Type Found in Abraham's Near Sacrifice of Isaac on the Altar............................................105 Conder on Micah 5:2--OT Prophets Can Suddenly Change Subjects and Times Without Warning.....................................106 Does Micah 5:2 Have to Refer to a Family/Clan Instead of a Specific Place?...............................................107 David as a Type (Forerunner) of Christ in Psalm 22...............108 Was "They Pierced My Hands and My Feet" in the Original Hebrew?.......................................................110 Zechariah 12:10--Will End-Time Jews Look Upon the God They Pierced?......................................................111 Isaiah 7:14--Does It Refer to Jesus' Birth?......................112 Isaiah 9:6--The Messiah is Born and Called "Mighty God"..........114 Just Who Is the "Servant" In Isaiah? Jesus or Israel?...........116 The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53 Points to an Individual, Not Israel....................................................118 The Mournful and Conquering Messiahs: Is the OT Self- Contradictory?................................................120 When Was the Messiah to Come?<br><br> The Potential Implications of Genesis 49:10.................................................121 Was the Second Temple to Be Standing When the Messiah Came?......124 The Seventy Weeks Prophecy Shows the Messiah Came by the First Century.................................................125 The Inserted Punctuation in Biased Jewish Translations of Dan. 9:25.....................................................126 The Battle Between Two Schools of Prophetic Interpretation over Dan. 9:24-27..................................................127 The Case for Jesus Being the Messiah Summarized..................128 Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?...............................129 The Problems with the Conder Thesis Summarized...................131 For Further Reading..............................................132 2 IS CHRISTIANITY A FRAUD?<br><br> A Preliminary Assessment of the Conder Thesis third edition by Eric V. Snow The New Testament's descriptions of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and his ancestry being from the House of David "were clearly fabulous tales, contrived solely to connect Jesus to that place and family because of a simple misunderstanding by the Gentile forgers of the Gospels." 1 It is claimed that "history clearly tells us is that the Babylonian Mystery Religion is almost identical to Christianity" (MB, p. 47).<br><br> The old Worldwide Church of God was "not much different from the first century Samaritans whose religion consisted of about one-third 'Judaism,' and two-thirds Mithraism" (MB, p. 47). Taking the wine and bread during the Passover service as symbolic of personally accepting Jesus' sacrifice is as pagan as Easter and Christmas.<br><br> It should be abandoned as "an abomination before your Creator!" (MB, p. 48). The New Testament writers are guilty of anti-Semitism: "It is an indisputable fact that the two thousand years of Christian persecution against the Tribe of Judah can be laid right at the door step of the Gospels" (MB , p.<br><br> 59). Jesus is said not to be the promised Messiah, to save the world from its sin: TO BE BLUNT, THE REASON THE TRUE PROPHECIES OF ISRAEL'S MESSIAH ARE NOT USED IN REFERENCE TO JESUS IS THAT THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS NEVER WRITTEN ABOUT ISRAEL'S MESSIAH. IT WAS WRITTEN ABOUT THE GOD-SAVIOR OF BABYLONIAN MYTHOLOGY!<br><br> THEREFORE, THE SATAN-INSPIRED NT WRITERS HAD TO LOOK FOR EXCUSES IN OUT-OF-CONTEXT VERSES TO DECEIVE THE LATTER DAY TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL IN THEIR CONTINUING BAAL WORSHIP! THE GOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE MESSIAH OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME, AND THERE IS SIMPLY NO WAY TO MAKE THE TWO RECONCILABLE! (MB, p.<br><br> 80). As these statements show, Darrell Conder has converted to some type of Judaism, and he castigates the New Testament (NT) as anti-Semitic, pagan- influenced, historically inaccurate, and full of misused Old Testament (OT) quotes about the Messiah. Below, it shall be maintained that the Conder thesis is false, that the New Testament is historically accurate, that it is not a product of pagan thought but of Messianic Jewish thinking, and that the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament did point to Jesus of Nazareth, crucified in A.D.<br><br> 31 as the promised Savior of mankind. USING THE IDEAS OF HIGHER CRITICS AND JEWS, CONDER'S IDEAS AREN'T NEW Conder launches his attack in three broad areas, which are considered each in turn: (1) Is the NT historically reliable? (2) Was the NT was 1 Darrell W.<br><br> Conder, Mystery Babylon and the Lost Ten Tribes in the End Time (Salt Lake City, UT: Commonwealth Publishing, 1996), p. 113. Below, this work will be referred to as "MB" Footnotes to it are placed internally to the text because of frequent citations made.<br><br> All emphasis in quotes are original to the work cited, unless otherwise noted, with the exception of Scripture. The time-honored practice of capitalizing the first word of uncapitalized words in quotes has also been followed in some places. 3 influenced by pagan thought, especially the mystery religions of the Roman Empire such as Mithraism?<br><br> (3) Did the NT misuse the OT's messianic prophecies? It is very important to realize that most of Conder's ideas are hardly new. Agnostics, atheists, liberal higher critics, and various assorted infidels in the fields of theology and Biblical criticism have long attacked the NT as historically unreliable and (mostly earlier in this century) as influenced by the Mystery Religions and Gnosticism.<br><br> Conder's originality mainly consists in harnessing various liberal, higher critic works (such as commentaries, encyclopedias, etc.) to the service of Judaism instead of agnosticism or Deism (i.e., unbelief, plain and simple). His attacks on the NT's use of the messianic prophecies largely appear to reflect how Jews in the centuries since the crucifixion have worked hard to evade the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures in Jesus of Nazareth. Because it isn't really new, many traditional Christian works of apologetics deal with the subjects Conder raises.<br><br> The closest thing to a refutation of Conder written in advance that I know of, and it's highly recommended, is Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson's He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993). After reading Mystery Babylon, those afraid Conder may be right should read books by traditional Christians who defend their faith rationally. It is criminally foolish to commit yourself to fundamentally new religious beliefs (not just a mere change in fellowship groups) after listening to just one side that would cost you your eternal life.<br><br> Jesus made it plain that those who deny Him cannot be saved (Matt. 11:33): "But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." John made it clear that: "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? .<br><br> . . Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also" (I John 2:22-23).<br><br> Conder raises fundamental questions which need answering--his book strikes at the core of Christianity. Unlike the marginalia of church government and the sacred calendar that have distracted the Church of God in recent months, he challenges our deepest held beliefs. CONDER'S VIEWS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT OPENS THE DOORS TO DEISM OR AGNOSTICISM Before turning to consider historical accuracy of the New Testament, let's investigate the implications of Conder's treatment of the Old Testament.<br><br> He evidently doesn't fully realize that the way he repudiates the New Testament by citing higher critic scholarship on it means the same can be done with the Old. Right now, the train Conder and his followers are on is (arguably) marked "Judaism." But it would not be surprising to see a few years down the road that locomotive Conder pulling into a station labeled "deism," "agnosticism," or "atheism." What would his followers do then? (Although I have read somewhere in Masada that he has denied this, this suspicion does have a solid foundation, as shown below).<br><br> In MB he uncritically uses commentaries that employ higher critic theories about the OT without rebuking them. For example, he quotes through another work Olmstead's History of the Persian Empire that says Ezra edited the OT. He then states himself: "Ezra, a descendant of the last high priest of the family Aaron (before the captivity), and a man who had the authority of God to restore the faith of Israel, edited the 'Old' Testament" (MB, p.<br><br> 9). This claim smacks of standard higher critic theory, in which various anonymous "redactors" (i.e., editors) supposedly assembled in slipshod fashion the Pentateuch and other OT books after the return from the Babylonian Captivity (586 b.c. to 539 b.c.).<br><br> Scholar Julius Wellhausen, in books published in 1876 and 1878, maintained that the different names used for God ("Elohim" and "Jehovah") showed that different authors wrote different parts of the Pentateuch. The 4 priestly legislation of the "Elohist" document was largely the work of Ezra. Later editor(s) revised and edited the Pentateuch until it took final shape by about 200 b.c.<br><br> This whole theory maintains Moses had nothing to do with the first five books of the Old Testament. Called the documentary hypothesis or J E D P theory, it still has enormous influence in the scholarly world as a habit of mind and frame of reference, even with its often-admitted major problems. 2 Then, was the book of Isaiah was written by one man (the traditional view) or two or more (the higher critic view)?<br><br> Conder cites a liberal Catholic work, The Collegeville Bible Commentary, to deny the traditional Christian interpretation of Isaiah 52-53. "Second Isaiah" is mentioned, yet this draws no criticism from him. (See MB, pp.<br><br> 98-99). 3 Being liberals in theology, they naturally tend to deny a priori (before further investigation of the facts) the very possibility of successful predictive prophecy in Scripture. Hence, predictions about the Messiah, like predictions about much else, have to be "explained away," in order to fit a naturalistic paradigm (i.e., a world without God, or without One who intervenes).<br><br> Conder doesn't realize he is implicitly relying on their fundamentally agnostic or deistic premises when using their arguments against the messianic prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. THE BOOK OF DANIEL ATTACKED?! Conder assaults the book of Daniel almost as harshly as any part of the NT.<br><br> Undeniably, Conder takes comfort from the supposed "overwhelming evidence about Daniel's composition [such] that many biblical scholars have ceased to try and make any of it [the seventy weeks prophecy] fit a prophecy of Jesus" (MB, p. 128). Evidently because the Seventy Weeks prophecy points to the Messiah's arrival by A.D.<br><br> 100, he virtually attempts to read Daniel out of the Hebrew canon. To undermine faith in it, he cites a slew of works influenced by higher critic theories of its late date and authorship. He uses the Catholic Encyclopedia and Asimov--a science/science fiction writer and outright atheist--who willingly place a second century (c.<br><br> 165 b.c.) completion date on it. 4 He says Daniel "was not holding up to historical 2 A good capsule summary in is Josh McDowell, ed., More Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Scriptures, rev. ed.<br><br> (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1981), p. 45. A powerful, recent critique of the documentary hypothesis is: Duane Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991).<br><br> More briefly, see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), pp. 45-54. 3 For a brief but solid defense of the unity of Isaiah's authorship, see Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp.<br><br> 263-266. 4 Asimov has said in print he was an agnostic, but he finally admitted to his atheism thus: "Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time." Isaac Asimov in Paul Kurtz, ed., "An Interview with Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible," Free Inquiry 2 (spring 1982): 9, cited by Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), p.<br><br> 106. Conder's use of Asimov's commentary on the Bible illustrates the slipshod scholarship that characterizes Mystery Babylon. He does not cite "big names" in liberal scholarship, such as Bultmann, but uses such works as encyclopedias, showing he is largely getting 5 scrutiny" and contains an "unhistorical mention of Darius the Mede." (MB, pp.<br><br> 124-125). Conder somehow thinks that because the Jews put the book of Daniel in the Writings instead of the Prophets that it need not be regarded as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. This is simply false.<br><br> If it's in the Hebrew canon, which is the same for Protestant Christians as it is for the Jews, then it is infallible and without error (in the original writing, or autograph) regardless of the order the Jews (or anybody else) arranged their Bibles (the Tanakh) in. The book of Daniel is clearly prophetic: "But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth; and knowledge will increase. .<br><br> . . And he [the angel] said, 'Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Dan.<br><br> 12:4, 9). Daniel is one of the best proofs of the Bible's inspiration, due to its detailed predictions of Middle East history. Consider, for example, the long prophecy of Dan.<br><br> 11, which is an overview of the struggles between the Greek Seleucid (Syria/Mesopotamia) and Ptolemaic (Egypt) dynasties after Alexander the Great's death caused his generals to divide up his empire four ways. As a result, since various liberal higher critics cannot believe in successful predictive prophecy, because it would prove the Bible was inspired by an Almighty God, they "backdate" books such as Daniel to avoid the ominous implications of fulfilled prophecy. Hence, higher critics say Daniel "had" to be written by or around 165 b.c., not by about 530 b.c., when Daniel himself was alive.<br><br> However, this book's vocabulary and language decisively refutes such a late date. Since languages change over time, this allows scholars roughly to date the book, especially by comparing it with the Dead Sea Scrolls. It lacks Greek loan words (outside of ones universally used for musical instruments), which points to a time before the Greek conquest of Persia under Alexander the Great (c.<br><br> 336 to 324 b.c.) It also places the verb late in clauses, unlike the Jewish Targumic and Talmudic literature written around during the second century b.c. or later. Based on linguistic reasons alone, the book of Daniel could not have been written later than the fifth or late sixth century b.c.<br><br> 5 Conder's basic error here, similar to what he does with the NT, is to cite uncritically the ideas of liberal higher critics about the Bible, discount conservative Christian scholarship, and also (presumably) ignore what these same higher critics have to say about the Old Testament, which would destroy whatever faith someone would have in the Holy Scriptures. So now--why pick and choose? Suppose I cited Asimov or the Collegeville Bible Commentary when (presumably) they said something the liberal, higher critic scholarship second hand.<br><br> Many of the secondary sources he uses, such as Doane and Walker, clearly appear to manifest outright hostility towards Christianity. When citing the legends of the Mystery Religions of the Roman Empire, their bias surely distorts the myths in question towards looking more like Christian teaching and history than they really were, thus misleading Conder into reaching the same conclusions as theirs. Drinking from such poisoned wells leads to poisoned results, especially when (judging from his footnotes) standard conservative Christian scholarship has hardly been consulted or refuted.<br><br> (While he has said in Masada that he has done this, he needs to freely cite and then refute it). 5 Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 282-284.<br><br> He refers to more technical works, such as his own Survey of Old Testament Introduction, for those who know Hebrew and Aramaic, and want the specific details. In his Encyclopedia (284-285, 286-289), he does deal with objections to Daniel's historicity, such as the identity of "Darius the Mede" and what date Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judea. 6 critical about the OT as being uninspired, unhistorical, etc.<br><br> Should that destroy someone else's faith in the OT? Yet Conder routinely cites works which are (presumably) as skeptical of the OT as of the NT, yet he only uses the parts that attack the NT (including the NT's use of the OT). He cites the parts suited to his thesis of converting to some type of Judaism ("the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"), while ignoring the material detrimental to his purposes.<br><br> His treatment of the book of Daniel is ominous--it means he may well be on the road to deism or agnosticism, with Judaism being a mere pit stop. 1. THE HISTORICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT DEFENDED To survey Conder's charges more systematically, first let's consider his arguments against the New Testament being inspired by God, historically reliable, and accurately preserved by scribes through the centuries.<br><br> Suppose we are raised knowing nothing about the Bible, OT or NT, like some tribe in the jungles of New Guinea or in Brazil near the Amazon. One day, a missionary comes along, and drops on us a copy of the Bible in our own language, and we are literate enough to read it. How could we judge whether its contents are reliable?<br><br> Suppose some other missionary left a Quran (Koran) behind. How could we judge whether that book was reliable? To be rational in our religious beliefs, instead of just blindly following what our parents believe, we need to take the same approach HWA himself did, and prove God to exist, and the Bible to be the word of God.<br><br> 6 Fulfilled prophecy, in which the Bible predicts something and it occurs before God judges humanity, is one of the strongest proofs of the Bible's inspiration. Christ's predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple are in this category (Matt. 24:2-3; Luke 21:5-6, 20-24).<br><br> Concerning the trustworthiness of the New Testament in particular, how can its claims be analyzed, especially in comparison with (say) the Quran? The military historian C. Sanders developed three ways of evaluating the trustworthiness of any document historically: (1) the bibliographical test (2) the internal evidence test (3) the external evidence test.<br><br> The bibliographical test maintains that the more handwritten manuscript copies there are of an ancient historical document, the more reliable it is. Also, the closer in time the oldest presently existing manuscript that has survived is the to the original first copy (autograph) of the author, the more reliable that document is. There is less time for distortions to creep into the text by scribes down through the generations copying by hand (before Gutenberg's perfection of printing using moveable type by c.<br><br> 1440). The internal evidence test involves analyzing the document itself for contradictions and self-evident absurdities. How close in time and place the writer of the document was to the events and people he describes is examined: The bigger the gap, the less likely it is reliable.<br><br> The external evidence test checks the document's reliability by comparing it to other documents on the same subjects, seeing whether its claims are different from theirs. Archeological evidence also figures into this test, since many Biblical sites and people can be confirmed by what archeologists have dug up in the Middle East. How does the New Testament stack up under these tests?<br><br> Let's check it out, referring to some of Conder's attacks on it in the process. 6 Herbert W. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1985), pp.<br><br> 21-22; Herbert W. Armstrong, The Bible Superstition or Authority? .<br><br> . . and Can You Prove It?<br><br> (1985), pp. 1-2. 7 THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST AS APPLIED TO THE NEW TESTAMENT By the two parts of the bibliographical test, the NT is the best attested ancient historical writing.<br><br> Some 24,633 known copies (including fragments, lectionaries, etc.) exist of it, with 5309 of these being in Greek. By contrast, the document with the next highest number of copies outside the Hebrew Old Testament [OT] (which has over 1700 copies) is Homer's Illiad, with 643. Other historical writings by prominent ancient historians have far fewer copies: Thucycides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 8; Herodotus, The Histories, 8; Julius Caesar, Gallic Wars , 10; Livy, History from the Founding of the City, 20; Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars , 8.<br><br> Conder is fond of citing Tacitus's statement about Jesus Christ being crucified (for example, MB, p. 53). For the Annals of Tacitus, there are, at the most, 20 surviving manuscript (ms) copies of it, while only one (!) endured of his minor works.<br><br> Conder mistakenly implies the large number of manuscripts is a reason for disbelief in the NT by citing the 1908-12 Catholic Encyclopedia, which says "the greatest difficulty confronting the editor of the New Testament is the endless variety of the documents at his disposal." Conder then comments, after it cites a figure of 2,328 [Greek?] manuscripts (mss) and 30 more recent discoveries: "This article was written about 1908, which should tell the reader how many more mss. have been brought to light in the eighty-five plus year interval!" He goes on to say that "there were thousands of these manuscripts and they were by no means consistent with each other. In other words, the texts had tens of thousands of errors in them.<br><br> The only solution was to 'reconstruct' a new Greek version of the Christian Bible" (MB, p. 15, fn. 34; p.<br><br> 16). Conder's charge ignores how more manuscript evidence there is, the easier it becomes to catch any errors that occurred by comparing them with one another. As F.F.<br><br> Bruce observed: Fortunately, if the great number of mss increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared. The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice. 7 Having over 5300 Greek mss.<br><br> to work with, it becomes much easier to detect scribal errors in the NT than by comparing with one another the (say) ten copies of Caesar's Gallic Wars, long a standard work of Latin teachers to use with beginning students. The science of textual criticism has an embarrassment--of riches--when it comes to the NT. 8 7 Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol.<br><br> 1 (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1979), pp. 39-43; F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, fifth ed.<br><br> (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1960), pp. 19-20. 8 Conder may be implicitly building upon average people's skepticism of ancient texts here, forgetting a real science of textual criticism does exist, and is used in analyzing documents that aren't sacred in origin.<br><br> See C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: William B.<br><br> Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), p. 95. 8 HOW CAN YOU KNOW WHETHER THE NEW TESTAMENT IS A FIRST-CENTURY DOCUMENT?<br><br> Conder argues that the New Testament is not primarily a first-century document: This is not to say that some details of Jesus' life and those of his disciples weren't written down in the first century. . .<br><br> . What such independent testimony tells us is that scraps of original writings were collected, placed with the sayings of Jesus (which will be discussed later) and this formed the first 'New Testament.' It is now generally agreed upon [by higher critics!--EVS] that there was no Gospel account such as we know it today in the first century C.E. .<br><br> . . Prior to the Gospel of Mark, it is agreed by the [higher critic!--EVS] experts .<br><br> . . that the only Christian writings circulating in the first few centuries were the sayings of Jesus.<br><br> . . .<br><br> Many encyclopedias will point out that after a few generations the sayings of Jesus, which were devoid of any details of his life, were not sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of the increasing membership of the Christian Church. (MB, pp. 14, 21).<br><br> He maintains the Gnostic Nag Hammadi manuscripts (found in 1947) is a translation of a second-century original in Greek, which makes it "in certain respects . . .<br><br> the oldest known ms. of the NT in existence." (MB, p. 22).<br><br> Later he says that gentile converts later rewrote and added to the Gospels during the first two or three centuries after Jesus' death, so that the NT was nothing like what exists today until many, many decades after 100 A.D. Oral traditions about the life of Jesus were passed down over several generations before being written down, causing many inaccuracies from what really happened to be found in the Gospels. The descriptions surrounding Jesus' birth were "never a part of the earliest writings of the Christian Church" (MB, pp.<br><br> 21- 22, 26, 29). So now--if the NT wasn't written down fully until one or more centuries after Jesus died, then belief in its historical accuracy is logically undermined. SCHOLARS MOVE AWAY FROM A SECOND-CENTURY DATE FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT Recently among scholars there has been a move away from a second-century composition date for the New Testament.<br><br> For example, Biblical archeologist William Foxwell Albright once remarked: "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew [Luke presumably would be an exception--EVS] between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75)." Elsewhere he stated: "Thanks to the Qumran discoveries [meaning, the Dead Sea Scrolls], the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers between cir.<br><br> 25 and cir. 80 A.D." Scholar John A.T. Robertson (in Redating the New Testament) maintains that every New Testament book was written before 70 A.D., including even John and Revelation.<br><br> He argues that no New Testament book mentions the actual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Rome, it must have been all written before that date. If the New Testament is a product of the first century, within one or two generations of Jesus' crucifixion, worries about the possible inaccuracies of oral transmission (people telling each other stories about Jesus between generations) are unjustified.<br><br> As scholar Simon Kistemaker writes: 9 Normally, the accumulation of folklore among people of primitive culture takes many generations: it is a gradual process spread over centuries of time. But in conformity with the thinking of the form critic [a school of higher criticism that studies how oral transmission shaped the present organization of the New Testament], we must conclude that the Gospel stories were produced and collected within little more than one generation. HOW PEOPLE IN CULTURES MORE DEPENDENT ON ORAL TRADITION HAVE BETTER MEMORIES In cultures where the written word and literacy are scarce commodities, where very few people able to read or afford to own any books, they develop much better memories about what they are told, unlike people in America and other Western countries today.<br><br> For example, Alex Haley (the author of Roots) was able to travel to Africa, and hear a man in his ancestor's African tribe, whose job was to memorize his people's past, mention his ancestor Kunta Kinte's disappearance. In the Jewish culture in which Jesus and His disciples moved, the students of a rabbi had to memorize his words. Hence, Mishna, Aboth, ii, 8 reads: "A good pupil was like a plastered cistern that loses not a drop." The present-day Uppsala school of Harald Riesenfeld and Birger Gerhardsson analyzes Jesus' relationship with His disciples in the context of Jewish rabbinical practices of c.<br><br> 200 A.D. Jesus, in the role of the authoritative teacher or rabbi, trained his disciples to believe in and remember His teachings. Because their culture was so strongly oriented towards oral transmission of knowledge, they could memorize amazing amounts of material by today's standards.<br><br> The values of this culture emphasized the need to remember their teacher's teachings and deeds accurately, then to pass on this (now) tradition faithfully and as unaltered as possible to disciples made in the future. Paul's language in I Cor. 15:3-8 reflects this ethos, especially in verse 3: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures .<br><br> . ." Correspondingly, the apostles were seen as having authority due to being eyewitness guardians of the tradition since they knew their Teacher well (cf. the criterion for choosing an apostle listed in Acts 1:21-22; cf.<br><br> I Cor. 9:1). Furthermore, the words of Jesus were recorded within a few decades of His death while eyewitnesses, both friendly and hostile, still lived.<br><br> These could easily publicly challenge any inaccuracies in circulation. Scholar Laurence McGinley writes that: "The fact that the whole process took less than thirty years, and that its essential part was accomplished in a decade and a half, finds no parallel in any [oral] tradition to which the Synoptic Gospels [Mark, Luke, and Matthew] have been compared." HOW THE BOOK OF ACTS IMPLIES THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS WRITTEN BEFORE C. 63 A.D.<br><br> A very straightforward argument for the date of the New Testament can be derived from the contents of the book of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts). The Gospel of Luke and Acts were originally one book, later divided into two. As a result, Luke was necessarily written a bit earlier than Acts.<br><br> In turn, Luke is traditionally seen as having depended upon Mark over and above his own sources, so Mark was necessarily written still earlier. Furthermore, Matthew is normally seen as having been written after Mark but before Luke. Hence, if a firm date can be given to Acts, all of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, and Matthew) had to have been composed still earlier.<br><br> There are six good reasons to date Acts as being written by c. 63 A.D. First, Acts doesn't mention the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., despite much of its action focuses in and around 10 that city.<br><br> Only if it was written earlier does the omission of this incredibly disruptive event in the Holy Land make sense. Second, Nero's persecutions of the mid-60's aren't covered. Luke's general tone towards the Roman government was peaceful and calm, which wouldn't fit if Rome had just launched a major persecution campaign against the church.<br><br> (The later Book of Revelation has a very different spirit on this score, even if it is in symbolic prophetic code, since the Beast was Rome). Third, the martyrdoms of James (61 A.D.) as well as Paul and Peter (mid-60s A.D.) aren't mentioned in Acts. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus does record the death of James, so this event can be easily dated.<br><br> Since these three men are leading figures in the Book of Acts, it would be curious to omit how they died, yet include the martyrdoms of other Christians like Stephen and James the brother of John. Fourth, the key conflicts and issues raised in the church it records make sense in the context of a mainly Jewish Messianic Church centered on Jerusalem before 70 A.D. It describes disputes over circumcision and admitting the gentiles into the church as having God's favor, the division between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6:1), and the Holy Spirit falling on different ethnic groups (Jews followed by gentiles).<br><br> These issues had a much lower priority after 70 A.D. than before. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.<br><br> basically wiped out Jewish Christianity as a strong organized movement. Fifth, some of the phrases used in Acts are primitive and very early, such as "the Son of man," "the Servant of God" (to refer to Jesus), "the first day of the week," and "the people" (to refer to Jews). After 70 A.D., these expressions would need explanation, but before then they didn't in the Messianic Jewish Christian community.<br><br> Finally, of course, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. isn't referred to in Acts despite its apocryphal effects on the Christian community. Since in his Gospel Luke himself relates Jesus' predictions of Jerusalem's destruction in the Mount Olivet Prophecy (chapter 21), it's hard to believe he would overlook its fulfillment if he had written Acts after 70 A.D.<br><br> Hence, judging from what the author included as important historically, if Acts was written about c. 63 A.D., the Gospel of Luke would be slightly older, and correspondingly Matthew and Mark probably should be dated to the mid-40s to mid-50s A.D. 9 Paul's letters have to be older than Acts as well.<br><br> THE NEW TESTAMENT WASN'T SUBJECT TO A LONG PERIOD OF ORAL TRADITION Several reasons indicate that the New Testament wasn't subject to a long period of oral tradition, of people retelling each other stories over the generations. Let's assume the document scholars call "Q" did exist, which they say Matthew and Luke relied upon to write their Gospels. If "Q" can be dated to around 50 A.D.<br><br> after Jesus's death in 31 A.D., little time remains in between for distortions to creep in due to failed memory. Furthermore, the sayings of Jesus found in the Gospels were in an easily memorizable, often poetic form in the original Aramaic. Since Paul was taken captive about 58 A.D., the way he wrote to the Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Galatians indicates that he assumed they already had a detailed knowledge of Jesus.<br><br> He almost never quotes Jesus' words in them (besides in I Cor. 11:24- 25). Hence, as James Martin commented: As a matter of fact, there was no time for the Gospel story of Jesus to have been produced by legendary accretion.<br><br> The growth of 9 J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1987), pp. 152-54.<br><br> 11 legend is always a slow and gradual thing. But in this instance the story of Jesus was being proclaimed, substantially as the Gospels now record it, simultaneously with the beginning of the Church. J.<br><br> Warwick Montgomery remarked that form criticism [a school of higher criticism] fails because "the time interval between the writing of the New Testament documents as we have them and the events of Jesus' life which they record is too brief to allow for communal redaction [editing] by the Church." Anderson adds, in a statement that must be reckoned with by Conder and his followers: What is beyond dispute is that every attempt to date the Gospels late in the first century has now definitely failed, crushed under the weight of convincing evidence. If the majority of the five hundred witnesses to the resurrection were still alive around AD 55 . .<br><br> . then our Gospels must have begun to appear when many who had seen and heard the earthly Jesus--including some of the apostles--were still available to confirm or question the traditions. 10 Claims that the NT wasn't finished being written by c.<br><br> 100 A.D. are simply untenable. THE NT HAS A SHORTER GAP BETWEEN ITS ORIGINAL WRITING AND OLDEST EXTANT COPIES Dates that turn the NT into a second-century document have been increasingly discredited by scholars in recent decades.<br><br> This development makes the time gap between the earliest preserved copies and the autograph, or first manuscript, much smaller for the NT than the pagan historical works cited above. William Foxwell Albright has commented: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date[s] between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today." 11 For the NT, the gap between its original copies (autographs) and 10 William Foxwell Albright, Christianity Today, Jan.<br><br> 18, 1963; William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1946), p. 23; John A. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1976); as cited in McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pp.<br><br> 62-63; R.T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), pp. 119-20; Simon Kistemaker, The Gospels in Current Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972), as cited by Josh McDowell, More Evidence, p.<br><br> 210; Laurence J. McGinley, Form Criticism of the Synoptic Healing Narratives (Woodstock, MD: Woodstock College Press, 1944), p. 25, as cited by McDowell, More Evidence, p.<br><br> 211; James Martin, The Reliability of the Gospels (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1959), p. 103-104, as cited by McDowell, More Evidence, p. 212; John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964, p.<br><br> 37 as quoted in McDowell, More Evidence, p. 213; Norman Anderson, Jesus Christ: The Witness of History (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), p. 31.<br><br> 11 William F. Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1955), p. 136; as cited by McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pp.<br><br> 62-63. 12 the first preserved mss. is about 90 years or less, since most of it was first written before 70 A.D., and fragments show up shortly thereafter.<br><br> One fragment of John, dated to 125 A.D., was in the past cited as the earliest copy known of any part of the NT. But in 1972, nine fragments of the NT were found in a cave by the Dead Sea. Among these fragments, part of Mark was dated to around 50 A.D., Luke 57 A.D., and Acts from 66 A.D.<br><br> Hence, Conder is relying on outdated scholarship when he writes that "the earliest known fragments of the NT . . .<br><br> date from the second century C.E. [A.D.]" (MB, p. 11).<br><br> The earliest major manuscripts, such as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are dated to 325-50 A.D. and 350 A.D. respectively.<br><br> By contrast, the time gap is much larger for the pagan works mentioned above. For Homer, the gap is 500 years (900 b.c. for the original writing, 400 b.c.<br><br> for the first copy), Caesar, it's 900-1000 years (c. 100-44 b.c. to 900 A.D.), Herodotus, 1300 years (c.<br><br> 480-425 b.c. to 900 A.D.) and Thucycides, 1300 years (c. 400 b.c.<br><br> to 900 A.D.). 12 For the OT, even with the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, the gap for the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) is still around 1300 years or more. (These discoveries still demonstrate faith in its accurate transmission is rational, since few mistakes crept in between about 100 b.c.<br><br> and c. 900 A.D. for the book of Isaiah).<br><br> Hence, the NT can be objectively judged more reliable than these pagan historical works both by having a much smaller time gap between when it was written and the first preserved copies, and in the number of ancient handwritten copies. While the earliest mss. have a different text type from the bulk of later ones that have been preserved, their witness is still powerful for the NT's preservation since these variations compose a relatively small percent of its text.<br><br> SOME PROBLEMS WITH FORM CRITICISM, WHICH CONDER IMPLICITLY USES Form Critics maintain the early church had little or no biographical interest in recording the details of Jesus' life, but was interested mainly in his sayings for the purposes of preaching, a view Conder harnesses for his purposes. First, in reply, these critics are evidently using a limited definition of "biography." Analyses by Stanton and Gundry show the Gospels were similar enough to Hellenistic (the ancient Greek world's) biographies so they can be included in that category. The manner in which Mark, for example, recorded the names of many individuals and specific geographical locations shows he wasn't creating a legend, myth, or literary piece, but "drew from a living tradition." Mark didn't note that Pilate was the Procurator of Judea, which was a particular matter of historical knowledge.<br><br> Instead, he emphasized Pilate's belief that Jesus was innocent while on trial before him--a point of biographical interest, not general historical interest. But the Christian tradition which St. Mark followed had a vivid biographical memory.<br><br> It told that Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, had borne the cross of Jesus, and it recorded the names of three of the women who saw Jesus die--Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the less, and Salome. Furthermore, why did supposedly the Church after the first generation suddenly develop such an interest in biographical details about Jesus' life, but lacked 12 See Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986), p.<br><br> 112. He cites in turn David Estrada and William White Jr., The First New Testament (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978); McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pp. 42-43.<br><br> 13 this earlier on? After all, if they had the typical pagan mentality, in which myths were fine, and actual historical events were unimportant in religious affairs, why did this abruptly change later on? As Manson noted: But if the outline [the basic chronology of Jesus' life as found in the Gospels] had then to be created ad hoc [by improvisation], it can only be that for the thirty years between the end of the Ministry and the production of Mark, Christians in general were not interested in the story of the Ministry and allowed it to be forgotten.<br><br> One would like to know why the first generation were not interested while the second generation demanded a continuous narrative [my emphasis here--EVS]. More than that, we need some explanation why it was possible for the details of the story [which would include what He said] to be remembered and the general outline forgotten. It is not the normal way of remembering important periods in our experience.<br><br> 13 Human nature is more consistent than this, which makes the notion that later Christians would be more interested in details of Jesus' life than earlier ones patently absurd. THE NEW TESTAMENT'S EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY UNDERMINES THE FORM CRITICS' ARGUMENTS Form Critics and other skeptics whom Conder relies upon also ignore how Jesus' followers were eyewitnesses of His life. After his death, they could easily record what they remembered.<br><br> Some clearly mentioned being eyewitnesses and desiring to accurately preserve what they saw (John 21:24; Heb. 2:3-4; II Pet. 1:16).<br><br> What attitude could be more contrary to a mythmaker's and more of a historian's than Luke's? Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Acts 1:1-4) Eyewitness evidence is one of the best reasons for belief in the New Testament's inspiration.<br><br> As Barnes notes: 13 G.N. Stanton in "Ancient Biographical Writing," Jesus of Nazareth in New Testament Preaching--see E.C. Blackman, "Jesus Christ Yesterday: The Historical Basis of the Christian Faith," Canadian Journal of Theology (April 1961), vol.<br><br> 7, no. 2, pp. 118-27; Stanley N.<br><br> Gundry, "A Critique of the Fundamental Assumption of Form Criticism, Part I," Bibliotheca Sacra (April 1966), no. 489, pp. 32-39; see also Moreland; W.E.<br><br> Barnes, Gospel Criticism and Form Criticism (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936); my emphasis, T.W.<br><br> Manson, "The Quest of the Historical Jesus--Continues," Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, ed. Matthew Black (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1962), as quoted in McDowell, More Evidence, pp. 266-68.<br><br> 14 When critics deny the preservation of an 'historical' (or, better, a 'biographical') tradition of the ministry of Jesus, they forget that Jesus had a mother who survived Him, and also devoted followers both women and men. Are we to believe that these stored up no memories of the words (and acts also) of the Master? And the Twelve--though they often misunderstood Him, would they not preserve among themselves either by happy recollection or by eager discussion many of his startling sayings and of His unexpected deeds?<br><br> Not only did friendly disciples bear witness to Jesus' doings. Many hostile witnesses lived among the Jews who surely wished to pounce on anything that could possibly be used against Christianity or its Founder. Then were the details added as oral transmission about Jesus' life proceeded down the generations?<br><br> This claim against studies that show that stories when continually retold they become simpler, shorter, and increasingly omit specific details such as place names. For example, E.L. Abel observes: "Contrary to the conclusions derived from Form Criticism, studies of rumor transmission indicate that as information is transmitted, the general form or outline of a story remains intact, but fewer words and fewer original details are preserved." 14 Once the NT is seen as a document by eyewitnesses, or could be easily critiqued by such, Conder's attack on its reliability takes a major nose dive.<br><br> WHY SHOULD THIS EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE BE BELIEVED? There are special reasons for believing in the reliability of the New Testament authors. A document is more apt to be reliable when it is a personal letter, was intended for a small audience, was written in a rough, unpolished literary style, and contains rather irrelevant information such as lists of details such as the names of individuals.<br><br> Although a document can lack these characteristics and still be sound historically, they still remain prima facie powerful points in favor of a document being accurate when its origin is unclear. When something is written for propagandistic efforts among a vast audience, it's more likely to shade the truth or omit inconvenient, embarrassing facts. Now much of the New Testament is made up of letters intended for small churches or individuals, especially Paul's, which sometimes reflect rather hurried writing (consider I Corinthians and Galatians, both of which are pervaded by a crisis atmosphere).<br><br> Mostly written in the rough koine Greek of average people, it contains inconsequential details even in the Gospels which were intended for a broad audience (see John 21:2, 11; Mark 14:51-52). The Letter (epistle) to the Romans's sixteenth chapter is largely taken up with Paul's greetings and instructions to various individuals. Furthermore, eyewitnesses who have much to lose and little to gain from telling what they saw are reliable.<br><br> The Jewish Christians of the first 14 Barnes, Gospel Criticism, pp. 15 and/or 16; E.L. Abel, "Psychology of Memory and Rumor Transmission and Their Bearing on Theories of Oral Transmission in Early Christianity," Journal of Religion (Oct.<br><br> 1971), vol. 51, pp. 375-376; as in McDowell, More Evidence, pp.<br><br> 266, 272. This goes against Form Criticism because it normally maintains the original story was the more simple, not the more complex and detailed, and then details were added by later generations of Christians. In point of fact, the more detailed the account, the more likely it was the original one, based on research by Abel and others on how humans remember things.<br><br> 15 century, persecuted by their kinsmen, often paid for their beliefs with their lives. Eleven of the twelve apostles died martyrs' deaths, according to reasonable reliable tradition: How did they benefit materially from proclaiming Jesus as the Jewish Messiah? Paul mentioned the many trials he endured for proclaiming the gospel (II Cor.<br><br> 11:23-28). If the goal was to make lots of converts to gain lots of money, the apostles could have found easier and safer messages to preach, by changing their beliefs. This Paul refused to do: "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision [he didn't], why am I still persecuted?<br><br> Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished" (Gal. 5:11). Being Jews, if they proclaimed falsehoods about God, they had every reason to fear their God's wrath in the hereafter, so they had strong motives for telling the truth about the God they worshiped.<br><br> Christianity emerged from Judaism's capital, Jerusalem and its vicinity: If the Gospels' portrait of Jesus was seriously wrong, then-living hostile witnesses (which were hardly few in number) could have easily shot it down. Peter and company didn't pack up and go to (say) Athens and start proclaiming the Gospel far away from where anybody could easily check up on their assertions, but started in Jerusalem within weeks of Jesus' death on Pentecost. All in all, these eyewitnesses proclaimed the truth as they knew it, having strong reasons for doing so: Who dies for a lie, knowing that it is a lie?<br><br> 15 ANCIENT PEOPLE KNEW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUTH AND FABLES Some today may believe that the educated people of the ancient world didn't have a real grasp of the difference between the fact of what really happened and telling moral stories to make points. In fact, ancient pagan historians of the West clearly knew the difference, even if they weren't always sufficiently critical of their sources. Herodotus didn't always just believe his sources, and did emphasize the role of eyewitnesses.<br><br> Although Thucydides presumably did invent most of the speeches found in his history of the Peloponnesian War, he still attempted to have them express the views of the speakers. He never felt free to invent any of the narrative. Lucian believed the historian's only task was to tell the story as it really happened, and Cicero thought similarly.<br><br> Polybius advocated judging eyewitnesses and analyzing sources. More careful than most, Tacitus did attempt to test his sources and to avoid intentionally distorting what information he had received. The Jewish rabbinical tradition had a similar respect for what had really happened: The duty of the disciples of a rabbi was to pass on accurately what they had learned from their teacher, as described above.<br><br> Josephus stated his commitment to being accurate and truthful, trying to correct mistaken sources. A standard higher critic view of the New Testament says the church made up stories about Jesus' live and teachings over the decades after His death because of later controversies it suffered. In fact, much indicates that the words of Jesus were distinct from how His later disciples expressed themselves.<br><br> Jesus used questions and the Aramaic words "amen" and "abba" in unique ways. Sixty-four times Jesus uses threefold expressions (such as ask, seek, knock). He uses passive verbs when referring to God, such as in this case: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father" (Matt.<br><br> 11:27). Paul, Peter, etc. did not copy His use of "how much more," "which of you," and "disciple." Often when Jesus' words, as written in Greek, are translated back 15 Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pp.<br><br> 136-38. 16 into Aramaic, literary qualities such as parallelism, alliteration, and assonance appear. Greek-speaking gentile disciples could not have fabricated His speeches whole cloth since their poetic quality in Aramaic can't be accidental.<br><br> Also, if the church had created Jesus' ideas decades later, why is it that "Jesus" never was made to comment on major controversies that struck the church? The Jesus of the Gospels says little or nothing about circumcision, gifts of the Holy Spirit, food laws, baptism, evangelizing the gentiles, rules controlling church meetings, and relations between the church and state. Paul almost never quotes Jesus directly: If he felt free to make up stories about Jesus, he could have easily and directly justified what he did by manufacturing sayings supposedly by Jesus.<br><br> (Some Muslims through the centuries evidently didn't hesitate to do this for the hadiths (sayings) of Muhammad!, "discovering" quotes convenient for the doctrinal or political controversies of the moment!) Jesus' life and ideas also had aspects that were problematic, even embarrassing, starting with the deep shame of being executed by crucifixion. (Roman citizens had the right of being beheaded instead!) Facing opposition from within His own family, Jesus was a carpenter, not someone materially rich or powerful. Jesus had views about legalism, divorce, fasting, women, and sinners that certainly presented stumbling blocks to mainstream Jews.<br><br> Similar to the Old Testament's portrayal of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, and Elijah, the New Testament repeatedly and plainly describes the sins and personal flaws of the disciples, such as Peter denying Christ three times and their arguments over who was to be the greatest in the kingdom of God. Surely, if the church concocted the New Testament to spread its message about Jesus, it should have edited out such embarrassing facts about its founders! The New Testament contains too much not fitting a late date for its origination and much of its contents weren't always favorable for promoting the best image of the church's founders and leaders.<br><br> If you created a historical document to promote your beliefs, you could come up with something more favorable to your cause's leaders than this! These unfavorable aspects found in the New Testament show early Christianity's leaders didn't feel free to rewrite history or ignore historical facts. 16 THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE RECEIVED AND CRITICAL TEXTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT Conder also seizes upon the long running dispute between the advocates of the Westcott-Hort/"Critical" (Alexandrine and Western) text and the Received (Byzantine) text in order to undermine general faith in the New Testament, judging from his citations of Robin Fox's The Unauthorized Version and D.A.<br><br> Waite's Defending the King James Bible (see generally MB , pp. 10-17). By citing those on each extreme of this debate, Conder makes the differences in the NT's Greek manuscripts seem worse than they really are.<br><br> The "Critical" text basically underlies almost all modern Bible translations, while the Received text underlies the King James Version (KJV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). The basic dispute involves a trade-off of two competing, conflicting claims. On the one hand, there are far more Greek manuscripts that reflect the Received text--approximately 80-90% has this text type, but they are mostly later manuscripts.<br><br> On the other hand, the earliest major manuscripts, such as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus from the fourth century, reflect the Critical text type, but they are much fewer in number. The biggest differences between the two concern the last twelve verses of Mark (16:9-20) 16 Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pp. 141, 145-47.<br><br> 17 and the episode of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-11), which the Critical text omits, but the Received text contains. The dispute overall concerns (by McDowell and Stewart's account) 10% of the text, a figure that seems high, judging from some of the statements found below. 17 Furthermore, the evidence for the omission of the last twelve verses of Mark is actually undermined by the Vaticanus manuscript itself, which is one of the foundational texts for the Critical (Alexandrine) text.<br><br> It (called "B" by scholars) has a blank column of the right size where the last twelve verses of Mark would have been, which means the original scribe knew something was missing. Catholic Church Fathers before these two manuscripts were copied (c. 350 A.D.) also cited from these last twelve verses, such as Papias, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, and Tertullian, and the early Old Latin and Syriac translations contain them.<br><br> Altogether, this makes for excellent evidence that Mark originally wrote them since these sources were originally written in the second century, before Vaticanus or Sinaiticus were copied in the fourth. 18 Importantly, the disputed territory (the 10%) can be reduced further when considering the arguments for the Received text's reliability (such as for the last twelve verses of Mark). Argument about 10% of the NT's text should not be a cause for doubting all of it, especially when no major doctrines depend on this controversy's outcome.<br><br> TEXTUAL CRITICISM CAN ELIMINATE MOST NEW TESTAMENT VARIATIONS Conder cites Forlong's Encyclopedia of Religion, which mentions that 150,000 variations have been computed to exist among the Greek mss. of the NT (MB, p. 12).<br><br> Should such a large number of variations make us doubt the reliability of the NT's text? True, since the NT has such a vast number of handwritten copies, a large number of scribal errors are inevitable between all the mss. But this cost is produced from the blessing of having more mss.<br><br> 17 Even they comment that "the same basic story in contained both in the majority text and in the other texts, and that no crucial doctrine of the Christian faith rests upon the 10% that is in dispute." Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity (San Ber