The way we talk to people about the Bible is different than it was 50 years ago. Back then, there was a fundamental belief and trust in the Bible, and most discussions were over the different interpretations of specific Scriptures and doctrines.

Today, most conversations begin with questions about the authenticity or legitimacy of the Bible. Critics of Scripture have been chipping away, over the years, trying to convince people that the ancient claims concerning the Bible are absurd and preposterous. Before we can begin talking to people about sin, forgiveness, salvation, the church, and heaven, we have to provide “apologetic” (APOLOGIA – lit. “a defense”) teaching to show them that these critics have been completely wrong and are pushing lies about the word of God.

It is nothing new to hear claims that the New Testament was written anywhere from 100 to 300 years after Jesus died on the cross. The claim is that men, centuries later, created these 27 books in our Bibles and that they were written by storytellers trying to promote rumors and legends about a man named Jesus, whom many critics don’t believe was a real human being. So, a lot of times, this is where we have to start when we are trying to plant the seed of the gospel, and there are a lot of thorns and rocks in the soil that have to be removed.

The good news is that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove that God’s word is, and always has been, exactly what it claims to be: The inspired word of God, written by eyewitnesses to the events they are recording, which took place in the first century.

Internal Evidence

One of the best claims of reliability of any writing depends on how close to the actual events it was recorded. And, of course, eyewitnesses are crucial. The writers of the New Testament repeatedly claim that they were present and witnesses to the events they write about.

In his second letter, Peter writes about being with Jesus on the mountain at His transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17; Mark 9),

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ – and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain”…2 Peter 1:16-18

Even Luke, when writing the book of Acts, speaks in the first person, claiming to have been present with the apostle Paul during his second missionary journey.

“So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days”…Acts 16:11-12

Granted, claiming to be an eyewitness does not prove anything, but because the claims are made, the ball is in the court of the critics to prove that their claims are not true, which is hard to do when the evidence is stacked against them.

One of the first places to start investigating a text for its authenticity is in its internal evidence. What are the things that we would expect to find or not find if it was originally written in the first century?

One compelling note of interest is that among all of the details concerning the major events that were taking place at that time, there is no mention of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D. Jesus does prophesy that the temple and all of the buildings surrounding it would be utterly destroyed (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), but no other writer mentions this significant event.

The original temple in Jerusalem had been built nearly 1,000 years before. For ten centuries, it had been the center of Jewish worship and the Jewish faith. When the Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 B.C., it was recorded in great detail.

So why didn’t any of these Jewish writers of the New Testament books say anything about it being destroyed in 70 A.D.?

The best explanation is that it had not taken place yet when they were writing. There wasn’t anything to write about because the temple was still standing as they penned the words of the New Testament. This would suggest that most of the New Testament was already completed before 70 A.D.

Another interesting piece of internal evidence is seen at the end of the book of Acts. Luke ends this book in a very abrupt way, with the apostle Paul sitting in prison, waiting to go on trial. The last eight chapters, from the time he was arrested, had been building up to the moment when he would stand before Caesar, his final judge. But we are never told how it ended. History and tradition tell us that he was acquitted in 63 A.D. and traveled to Macedonia, Asia Minor, and possibly even to Spain. Then, being arrested again by the Emperor Nero, Paul was executed in 68 A.D.

So, why wouldn’t the writer of the Book of Acts include all of this?

Again, the internal evidence suggests that Luke finished writing it before Paul went before Nero the first time, meaning Acts was written before 63 A.D.

Once again, the internal evidence by itself does not prove what the Bible claims, but as you can see, the evidence continues to build, pointing to being written at an early date instead of a later one.

External Evidence

Let us now take a look at just a few of the external pieces of evidence that can be added to an apologetic argument.

Around the year 1930, the late A. Chester Beatty acquired a collection of twelve Greek manuscripts, becoming known as the “Chester Beatty Papyri,” or P46. Around the same time, other manuscripts from the same collection found their way to the University of Michigan and to the John H. Scheide papyrus collection at Princeton University. Within this collection were fragments of all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Acts, nine of Paul’s epistles, and Hebrews. What is compelling is that after using various dating methods, these copies of Scripture have been dated around 200 A.D., meaning that enough time had passed for all of these books to be written and copied by the turn of the third century. This has invalidated the claims of the critics who have tried to convince us that the New Testament books weren’t written until the third or fourth centuries.

We, however, can do one better. In 1920, Dr. B.P. Grenfell was traveling through Egypt and purchased a collection of ancient papyri on behalf of the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester in England. These fragments were set aside and nearly forgotten until Colin H. Roberts, a Fellow of St. John’s College in Oxford, sat down to translate them in 1934. He immediately noticed the historical significance of one particular fragment, now known as P52. This fragment contains words from the account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate as recorded in John 18:31-33. Based on the style of script, Roberts dated it to the first half of the second century, and most current scholars believe that it was written between 125 and 150 A.D. This little scrap of papyrus is the oldest known historical link to the New Testament and places the writing of the gospel of John, believed to be the last gospel account written, prior to 125 A.D.

Geisler and Nix, in their General Introduction to the Bible, say,

Because of its early date and location (Egypt), some distance from the traditional place of composition (Asia Minor), this portion of the Gospel of John tends to confirm the traditional date of the composition of the gospel.”

Archaeological finds continue to verify, not contradict, the early authenticity of the Bible!

One final exhibit of evidence we present is the writings of the early church fathers. Men like Polycarp, in his “Epistle to the Philippians,” which is dated to have been written in 120 A.D., contains quotes from three of the gospels, Acts, 10 of Paul’s epistles, Hebrews, 1 Peter and 1 John. This again verifies that all of these books had been written prior to 120 A.D. But the argument continues to get even stronger when we see the letters of Ignatius, written in 115 A.D., quote from 11 books of the New Testament.

This is the same number (11) of New Testament books that quotes have been found from in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, which has been dated to as early as 95 A.D. Even though we don’t have actual copies of the text dating that far back, we have the writings of men who were quoting from their own copies.

To sum it all up, note a quote from Nelson Glueck, who served as President of Hebrew Union College from 1947 until his death in 1971. Being a renown Jewish archaeologist, he said,

“In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written between the 40s and 80s A.D.”

If anyone had the motivation to try to discredit the authenticity of the New Testament, it would be a Jewish scholar trying to disprove any validity to the message of Christ, but Dr. Glueck couldn’t ignore the evidence he had seen throughout a lifetime of study and investigation.

The critics will always make claims to try to discredit the authenticity and authority of God’s word, and we will continue to make an apologetic defense, presenting the truth and the facts.

Steve Schinnerer
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Steve Schinnerer was raised in the church in Scott City, KS where his father served as an elder for 25 years.  Steve attended Oklahoma Christian for one year where he met his wife, Jennifer, of Yukon, OK.  Steve and Jenni have four children: Ajay, Jagger, Liberty, and Jase, they also have 4 grandchildren. Jenni is a stay-at-home mom where she homeschools and is focused on raising her children in the Lord.

Steve and Jenni both attended Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver where they graduated: Steve with a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Theology, and Jenni with and Associates degree in Bible. 

Following Bear Valley, Steve and his family moved to Porter, OK where he served as their pulpit minister for six years, and then another six years as the pulpit minister for the Cherokee Hills church of Christ in Oklahoma City before coming to Cave Springs in the fall of 2013.

Steve and Jenni have a passion to teach the saving message of Jesus Christ and do so whether it be in their home congregation, at summer camps, gospel meetings, lectureships, or in the foreign mission field.  Steve has been able to preach in eight different countries around the world with most of his time abroad spent in Africa and Australia.  Steve and Jenni have recently been focusing on young families, trying to help strengthen marriages, encouraging parents to utilize Biblical discipline and training with their children and especially in helping men in their battle to become the husbands and fathers that God desires for them to be.