When Was the New Testament Written?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’ve been using Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith as a source of topics for a number of programs now, and we’re presently considering the subject of the reliability of the Bible. Dave, as many of our regular listeners know, we’ve interrupted the continuity of this series to address issues related to the terrorist attack on our country and its relationship to the religion of Islam. But on our last program, you just got on a roll in answering a question regarding the reliability of the Bible and the perspective taken by the so-called scholars of the “Jesus Seminar” when we ran out of time. So let me repeat the question and see how long it takes you to get up a full head of steam here.
Question: “I was taught in seminary, and have read the same charge in a number of scholarly books, that the New Testament is not reliable because it was written centuries after the time of Christ by men who weren’t even alive in Christ’s day. The “Jesus Seminar,” a group of scholars with impressive credentials, makes this claim today. Is there any evidence to the contrary?”
Now, Dave, before you answer that, whoever brought up this question or sent it in—and I know this happened quite a while ago, or posed it to you—the credentials of the Seminar so-called authorities? They’re ludicrous! But worse than that, the whole process of how they go about this.
Dave: Well, they do have PhDs. They have . . .
Tom: Dave, not everybody. Some are television producers, I mean . . .
Dave: Right. But the major guys supposedly are theologians; some have taught in seminary and so forth—which doesn’t mean anything. The ludicrous part is they study the Bible when they don’t believe it! They don’t believe it was written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, you know—they don’t believe it was written by Peter. It’s written by people centuries later, who pretended! So you have a total liar writing centuries later, they say, misrepresenting himself as John the apostle, who says, “That which we have seen, that which we have heard, our hands have handled, we have looked upon the Word of Life.” Or Peter, who writes, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables; we were eyewitnesses of these things.” Or Luke, who says “Well, Theophilus, I really checked this out, and there are a number of people who have undertaken to write about it, and I have checked with those who were eyewitnesses, I’ve been an eyewitness myself, and I am writing this down so you will know the certainty of those things which you believe.”
Now this was all written by people centuries later? That’s a fraud. They are pretending to be someone who they really aren’t. So, first of all, we have a total lie. We have a book written by guys who are liars. t’s a fraud!
Tom: If the Jesus Seminar so-called experts are correct.
Dave: Right. So, what’s the point? I mean, it’s like studying Huckleberry Finn to try and find some truth in it.
Tom: Dave, give our audience a little background on how the Jesus Seminar scholars (so-called), how they— these participants—how they come to conclusions about things regarding the Bible.
Dave: Well they vote. It’s like . . .
Tom: So, a topic comes up . . .
Dave: It’s like the psychologists; you know, we’re going to come up with a new DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible for psychiatry, listing—well, we come up with new mental illnesses, and then we vote upon them. Somebody describes their symptoms, and . . . this is not scientific!
Tom: So this group gets together, a topic comes up . . .
Dave: They have colored beads . . .
Tom: . . . they hear different opinions, and then they . . . what?
Dave: They vote on whether they think Jesus did this or didn’t; or whether they thought He said this or didn’t. They supposedly make some analysis of the text. The text written by frauds centuries later? What are you going to find in that?
The whole thing means nothing. It is meaningless! If the Bible is what these men say, forget it! Throw the thing out! You know, we’ve said it before on this program, and it’s rational: If we don’t have a revelation from God that we can know is a revelation from God, we can know that God is speaking to us, forget it! Who is interested in anyone’s opinion? Especially people who were born 1,900 years too late! They are going to analyze a fraud, written centuries after the fact, and then they’re going to come up on that—based upon that—they are going to conclude some things about the life of Jesus and his teachings.
Tom, it’s a joke! And yet, people go for it, because, “Well, we can’t believe . . . I mean, Jesus really rose from the dead! He couldn’t have really fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes! I mean, some guy got the inspiration to share his lunch, and then everybody picked up on it, and that is how it went, you know. And to open the eyes of the blind, to raise the dead—this is just . . . well, that was added to try to make it seem that Jesus was the Messiah. You’ve got to throw in a few miraculous things.”
If that is the case, forget it! What is the point? You’ve got a total fiction, and now we’re going to take fiction, and we’re going to come up on the basis of fiction! Look, Tom, it’s like this: we had an accident four centuries ago. Let’s say, a big accident in Rome. Let’s say that there was an assassination in Rome four centuries ago.
Tom: Et tu, Brute?
Dave: Yeah, right. Well, that was earlier, but anyway, just last week some guy who wasn’t there dreamed up a scenario. “Well, here’s the way I think it was, and here are the parties that I think were involved,” and so forth and so on. And then the scholars—they sit down and they examine this fictitious account that this guy wrote and they . . . “Wow, now, if we examine this carefully enough, I think we could finally get to the truth of what really happened.”
If the Bible was written centuries later, whoever wrote it centuries later doesn’t know what happened! And, certainly, 1,900 years later, scholars examining it are not going to come up with the truth. Tom, I’m sorry, I’ve said this too much, but it is just incomprehensible how people with PhDs—I’m sorry—could be such numbskulls! It just doesn’t make any sense.
But, Tom, if you don’t believe in miracles, you don’t believe the truth, what do you have to work with? I mean, they want to be theologians, so what else are you going to work with? So they work with something that they deny has any value, but now they’re going to examine it carefully.
Tom: Yes, Dave, this just encourages the idea that people read this stuff: “See,” they’re just thinking, “it’s all mythology, so what difference does it make?”
Let me give you an example of how this . . . at least this idea, this approach, filters down. I remember a couple of years ago I was sitting in on a youth Sunday school class, and the way the program was being administered, the Sunday school teacher gave all the kids a biblical situation—a problem—that dealt with evil, and so on. Then the teacher said, “Now, how would you resolve this?” And they went around, and they started with each child in the class. I don’t think they got around to everybody, but those who wanted to participate, and it was amazing to hear all of the ideas with regard to how they would solve this problem. Not one of them was even close to being biblical. Now, this is going on and on, and I’m looking at my watch thinking, hey, we’re kind of running out of time here, let’s get to the biblical perspective.
Well, there were about three minutes left, or less, and the teacher . . .
Dave: This is a Sunday school class?
Tom: A Sunday school class, and the teacher . . .
Dave: How old were they?
Tom: Oh, they had to be, I think, junior high.
Tom: It was that level. And the teacher then said, “Well, here’s what the Bible says.” I was sitting right next to one of the kids, and he turns to his friend and he says (after hearing the teacher’s biblical approach) said, “Well I kind of like my idea better.” And he was serious!
So, you know, it’s this interaction kind of thing. Let’s participate, let’s give our opinions, let’s participate! Dave, it’s a delusion.
Dave: Yeah, we’re going to tell God He doesn’t know how He created the universe. We’re going to tell God that He doesn’t know what really happened.
Okay, well, Tom, enough of that. Too much of that, in fact! Let’s get down to the . . . there’s irrefutable internal evidence, first of all.
Tom: We’re going back to the reliability of the Bible. How do we know it’s reliable?
Dave: Well, you’ve got 66 books written over a period of I think, 1,600 years by forty different writers, most of whom didn’t know one another. They lived in different cultures, different times—most of them—from one another. The only thing they had in common was they each claimed to be inspired by the one true God. Now, you just . . .
Tom: Let me give people out there who maybe haven’t heard this before—let me give a list of some of these individuals that you’re talking about. Moses wrote the five books of the Bible around 1450 BC. He was highly educated, being raised the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and in the court of Pharaoh. All right? That’s one. Joshua wrote the book named after him about 1370 BC. He was a great military leader. David, a shepherd and a king, wrote many of the psalms around 1000 BC. Amos was a farmer; his book was written about 800 BC. Isaiah the prophet wrote his book around 750 BC. Daniel was a statesman; he wrote in Babylon about 575 BC. Ezra, a priest and a scribe, who wrote around 500 BC. Nehemiah’s book was written around 450 BC. He was a servant to a Babylonian king. Jonah wrote his book around 800 BC.
Dave: None of these that you’ve named, I think, knew one another at all.
Dave: They didn’t live . . .
Tom: Right, so let’s go onto the New Testament—books written between 40-90 AD. Matthew was a tax collector, Luke was a physician; he may have been a Gentile. Peter was a fisherman; Paul was a Pharisee So that’s a lot of individuals over a great period of time with, again, different cultures, different . . . so the book has to have continuity.
Dave: Tom, let’s say you and I are going to sit down and we’re going to write a new book to the Bible. I’ve been studying the Bible for more than 60 years; I think I know it pretty well. But I don’t know it well enough to write another book to add to it and say, “This is part of the Bible that intricately interweaves itself with the doctrine, the history, and so forth, of everything that went before.” If I am going to even comment upon these things from the past, and, you and I now, we are writing this—Tom, with a computer we couldn’t be sure we wouldn’t contradict ourselves. We’d stub our toe somewhere. You’ve got all of these people over 1,600 years and they never stubbed their toe once. They never contradicted one another once. None of them introduced any extraneous ideas. They didn’t introduce any doctrines. We’re talking about some very important and complex issues: justice, God’s existence, His purpose and plan for mankind. This becomes rather involved. If you had some philosophers discussing this, they couldn’t possibly agree among themselves, and yet it is all consistent right through from Genesis to Revelation.
Tom: Dave, the idea of these individuals—the tendency to introduce things from their culture into their writings—I would do that!
Dave: Or their own ideas.
Tom: Their own ideas. Well, my favorite example is Moses. There he is—he’s raised in Egypt in the court of Pharaoh, the scholars that helped educate him! You figure— or, the theologians, so-called, of Egypt—he’s going to be influenced by these people, but why don’t we find anything about Egyptian culture, Egyptian religion . . .
Dave: Mythology . . .
Tom: We don’t—he writes the first five books of the Bible. We find nothing, zero.
Dave: Absolutely! Well, from that standpoint, Tom, the evidence is overwhelming that this book was inspired by the . . . all the writers were inspired by the same author, which is exactly the claim. In Ezekiel, for example, I think more than 50 times Ezekiel said, “The word of the Lord came unto me saying . . .” Or Jeremiah . . .
Tom: Now, Dave, I just want to add to that, because I just went through the book of Ezekiel. I challenged somebody to pick up that book. Almost, for at least 10 or 12 chapters, each chapter begins: “And the word of the Lord came unto to me . . . And the word of the Lord came unto me . . .” So he’s either lying through his teeth . . .
Dave: . . . or he’s hallucinating, he’s . . .
Tom: Yeah. Or it’s absolutely true! The word of the Lord did come to him.
Dave: Mm-hmm, and the word of the Lord that came to him agreed exactly with the word of the Lord given to the other writers of Scripture.
Furthermore, we have prophecy—prophecies about Israel, and they’re being fulfilled right today! I mean, just a statement that God made through Ezekiel 2,400 years ago: “I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone around the necks of all the nations of this world.” Did it happen? This is the number one problem—Jerusalem! You’ve got to solve that problem. I mean you couldn’t even imagine. It’s a little nothing place. Why Jerusalem? Why not Washington or New York and so forth? That He would make the princes of Judah like fire and would devour their enemies around them. You couldn’t have believed that, in 1948 when those Jewish settlers were attacked by the regular armies of six Arab nations? The whole world was cheering for the other side. The British were trying to help the other side. The Jews could hardly scrounge around and get anyone to sell weapons to them. You wouldn’t have believed that the Jews would win, but Israel has won every war until the point that the Arab nations that outnumber them at least 100:1 around them, they recognize that they can’t defeat them by a frontal assault! And so they say, “Let’s pretend peace, and we can get some territory within. We’ll divide up the land.” Exactly what the Bible said! So we’re heading for the very false peace that the Bible said would be established.
I mean, we can go on and on. They would be scattered around the world; they would be hated and persecuted. Anti-Semitism was foretold in detail. Who could have ever imagined? Why? Are the Jews so bad that the whole world must hate them, that they’ve been killed and persecuted down through history, century after century, by the Catholic Church, even by Protestants, by Martin Luther himself, who writes a horrendous diatribe against them? “Tear their tongues out, burn down their synagogues,” and so forth? Tom, you could not have made this up! And these prophecies have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled before our very eyes.
Tom: Yes, and again, for those who are concerned about what Dave said—these are by Jewish prophets! This isn’t something some Gentile made up, anti-Semitic, and so forth.
Dave: Right, and then you have the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. Daniel 9—the very day the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem. “Four hundred and eighty-three years from the going forth of the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah, the Prince.” And it happened! Nehemiah received that order in 445 BC on Nissan 1st. And 483 years to the day from that date, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey that we now—we celebrate that day as Palm Sunday.
You couldn’t make this up, you couldn’t bring it about—where Jesus would be born, and that He would be crucified, prophesied centuries before crucifixion was known; that they would gamble for his clothes at the foot of the cross. How did you get the Roman soldiers to do that? That He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. How did we get the rabbis and Judas to agree on just the right amount?
Tom: Right, 30 pieces of silver.
Dave: “Oh well, we read it there, and I guess this will prove he’s the Messiah, so let’s make a deal for 30 pieces of silver,” because that’s what God said in Zechariah back there. God is speaking because Jesus claims to be God, and He says, “Well, okay, count out My price, what am I worth? They counted out for Me 30 pieces of silver,” it says, “and that’s the price of a slave.” And then I said, “cast it down to the potter in the temple. . . .” And Judas, in remorse —Judas wasn’t trying to fulfill prophecy! He didn’t even know he was fulfilling prophecy! He cast that money down in the temple, and they buy a potter’s field for burying strangers in.
Paul, in Acts 13, says, “Our rulers, because they didn’t know the scriptures, they fulfilled what they said when they crucified him.” So, Tom, the evidence is overwhelming.
Tom: Now, you’re speaking about prophecy, and, as you’ve said and I’ve said, that’s irrefutable proof. But I want to go back to the Jesus Seminar. Just on the basis of history, now these guys are against anything miraculous, supernatural, at least it seems on the basis of what they write and how they go about their business. However, what about history? We have historic evidence with regard to . . .
Dave: Oh sure!
Tom: . . . so much of what’s in the Bible, but they still mythologize it. I don’t get it, Dave.
Dave: Well, Tom, if you are determined that miracles can’t happen, then you are blinded. Then you must interpret everything in a non-miraculous way. In fact, miracles are required in Christianity. That God would forgive us, that He would change our nature, that the Holy Spirit would come and indwell those who open their hearts to Christ and believe that He paid the full penalty for their sins. When we do that—when I did that more than 60, about 62 years ago, it was a transformation in my life.
Now, the Bible requires miracles; Christianity requires miracles. The Christ we believe in is not in the grave like Muhammad, or Buddha, or Confucius. Jesus said, “I will rise again.” In fact, He said, “I will come again.” He’s going to come again to this earth. Buddha didn’t say that; Muhammad didn’t say that, Confucius didn’t say that. “If Jesus is dead,” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “we’re all liars! We say we saw him.” He spent 40 days (not with Paul, because he became a believer later. He was persecuting the Christians), but they walked with Him, you know, and talked with Him. They were with Him 40 days after His resurrection.
Furthermore, He must be alive, because if He didn’t rise from the dead, then He didn’t pay the penalty for our sins. The fact that He rose from the dead proves that He paid the penalty for our sins because He took our place. And if He hadn’t paid the penalty, He’s still in the grave, which is where we deserve to be, because the wages of sin is death. But the fact that Christ rose from the dead proves that His sacrifice was accepted; it was sufficient. So, now, the Bible requires the resurrection of Jesus Chris; the gospel requires the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said . . . he didn’t say, “Go up to Siberia or down to the tip of South Africa where they can’t check up on it, guys, and tell them I rose from the dead.” Jesus said, “You begin in Jerusalem!” It was a short walk to the tomb. They could roll the stone away and expose His body and prove this was a lie. No, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart of the gospel, and, if you don’t believe that Jesus is God, who became a man, He rose from the dead, and is alive now, you are not a Christian.