A Case for the Bible, Part 9: Even if we did not have any of the early manuscripts from the Bible could we reconstruct it from other sources?
This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?
The early church acted fully within its authority when it rejected as non-canonical the Gospel of Thomas, for example, and other similar books. The leaders rightfully decided these writing did not represent their views. Therefore, they did not belong in the Christian Bible. And if they never were in the Bible in the first place, they couldn’t be lost from the Bible. –Gregory Koukl, Stand to Reason Apologetics Ministry, Ancient Words
Last week we answered the question: How do we know the Bible has the right books? This question was a stumbling block for me especially when I found out that there were a lot of other so-called gospels written in the second through fourth centuries. However, by having previously done a little research on what qualifies as primary versus secondary sources, finding out that documents that are written closer to the events they record are more reliable, I was able to readily accept the fact that what we have in the Bible are the most reliable books and the ones that should be there. What actually gave me the most confidence that what we have is the Bible God wanted us to have is that the earliest Christian Church, and people therein, were already using these books before they were canonized. The early Church leaders (fathers) were doing sermons and writing letters and lectionaries based on the writings and teachings of the Apostles in the first century! Regardless of any of the other writings in the second century on the books that the early Christian leaders were using are the ones that we should be using as well because they are the founders of our Church. These guys are the ones that had direct contact with the Apostles of Jesus and they are the first and second generation of disciples after them, not the people of the Gnostic movement. The people involved in the Gnostic writings were people in opposition to the Christian Church and the early Church leaders. The books we have in the Bible today are the same ones we find in the manuscripts of the first few centuries used by the leaders of the earliest Christian Churches and those are the ones I am going with not the later antagonistic writings.
Even if we did not have any of the early manuscripts of the New Testament could we reconstruct the autographs (original writings by the authors) from other sources? YES!
Lectionaries and letters:
The greatest attestation for the authority and accuracy of the New Testament is the masses of quotations taken from its early pages by the early Church leaders.
- We have 2,135 lectionaries from the early Church fathers that have been catalogued. If there had ever been any forgeries or changes to the original New Testament writings, they would all have to had been changed as well.
- There are some 86,000 New Testament quotes from the early Church Fathers.
- There are over 36,000 quotations from the New Testament books found in writing of Church leaders from the time even before the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. and from people like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origin, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Eusebius, many of which died martyrs deaths for what they were teaching.
- Even the early deniers in their negativity of the faith quoted from the New Testament books never realizing they were actually helping to verify their authenticity in the future!
- Overall there are estimated to be over one million quotes from the New Testament books by early Christians leaders and teachers.
Another really important point is the fact that the foundational beliefs of Christianity could have never been changed or altered because they are found in the earliest creed written just a few short years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and remained the central Gospel theme in future creeds before and beyond the time the Bible was canonized in the 4th century.
1st Corinthians 15:3-8 (early first century)
“The first Creed”
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me…
Join us next week as we continue to examine evidence for the reliability of the Bible.
Let me know what you think: With all the evidence for God’s Word being God’s Word—where will you stand? With the evidence being so strong can you too commit to the earliest Christian creed that so many died for?
Over the next several blogs I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15