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Is the New Testament Reliable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/14/2018 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 596 times Debate No: 119480
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




I will be taking the position that the New Testament is reliable and trustworthy. I will post my arguments on rounds 2, 3, 4, And 5.

If you accept the challenge, Please state your position/claim or claims.

Thank you


Reliable in what sense?

Reliable as a historical document for informing us about events of the past? I wouldn't say so.

Reliable as a source of morality? I wouldn't particularly say so either, While there may be some good bits of advice there are a whole host of equally bad pieces of advice.
Debate Round No. 1


I mean reliable as a historical document confirming its accuracy and informing us historical events in the past.

Ancient Jews were capable of memorizing large amounts of scripture and Ancient Greek storytellers were able to memorize the entire Iliad or Odyssey. The telephone game analogy is not a good representation of how the important teachings were preserved through oral tradition. The oral tradition would be transmitted in the open for the whole community to hear. Repeated many times for all present people to memorize. And the whole community would be present to correct errors. Ancient teachings would often repeat their teachings over and over, And have their students repeat it back to them so they would commit it to memory. It was not uncommon for a Jew to have the entire Old Testament memorized by age 14. There is no reason to assume the disciples of Jesus could not retain and memorize large amounts of teachings.

There are two forms of Oral Traditions: Controlled, Means the material is memorized and identified as a preserved tradition. Uncontrolled, Means a living tradition which is subject to variations as the community needs. There is good evidence in the New Testament which show controlled tradition. The culture they were raised in had a strong emphasis on memorization and preserving tradition.

We see techniques for enhancing memorization in the New Testament such as parables, Visual or memorable images, Wordplay, And parallelisms membrorum. Parables: Jesus taught lessons through stories and visuals. Visual or Memorable Images: Mark 10:25, Matthew 7:3. Wordplay: Matthew 23:24. Parallelismus Membrorum, To give a sentence in similar form so that the passage has a pattern and rhythm: Estimated 80% of Jesus' teachings. Luke 11:9, Matthew 7:17. There is evidence that indicates Jesus taught a controlled tradition to enhance memorization. This way of teaching will encourage memorization of important doctrines and teachings, Not exact wording. It is the message of the Gospel that saves, Not specific words.

Scholars estimate the reliability of oral tradition can last for over a century before we could expect corruption to seep in.
". . . More advanced students appear to have learned through a process of dictation and recitation. " | ". . . Not only had to memorize individual elements of standard works but also be able to place the texts they had memorized in the correct order. " - Professor of Old Testament and leading scholar for textual formation of the Hebrew Bible David M. Carr in his book "Writing on the Tablet of the Heart" Pages 27 & 28.

There is some external evidence confirming the reliability of the New Testament. If the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses, And is not a fabrication from imposters, Then they should be able to get most of their facts right. The authors should paint Jesus in the correct culture, Region, And historical figures. They should correctly identify towns, Rulers, Cultural aspects, Geography, And customs. If the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses, They should get their facts correct about the region and culture. The historical facts in the Gospels should be confirmed by other historical sources.

Here's the external evidence confirming the reliability of the New Testament:

---- Secular attestation to the life and ministry of Jesus: We have 7 sources outside of the New Testament that confirm Jesus' ministry.

Tacitus a non-believer says this, "Hence to suppress the rumor, He falsely charged with the guilt, And punished with most exquisite tortures, The persons commonly called Christians, Who were hated for their enormities. Christus, The founder of the name, Was put to death by Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. " Tacitus underlines 5 facts --- 1. Jesus existed 2. He was put to death 3. Under Pontius Pilate 4. Ruling in Judea 5. Under Tiberius.

Josephus, A Jew not a Christian, Said "Now there was about this time Jesus, A wise man, If it be lawful to call him a man, For he was a doer of wonderful works, A teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, And when Pilate, At the suggestion of the principal men among us, Had condemned him to the cross, Those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day. "
Josephus also confirms that the brother of Jesus was James and John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas.
Josephus acknowledges 9 facts --- 1. Jesus existed 2. He was a good and moral teacher 3. Many people followed Him 4. He was put to death by Pilate 5. Crucified 6. Disciples claimed He was alive 7. Continued to preach his message 8. James was the brother of Jesus 9. John the Baptist was killed by Herod Antipas.

Also confirmed in the Babylonian Talmud saying, "On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, In front of him, For 40 days saying: "He is going to be stoned, Because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, Let him come and plead in his behalf. " But not having found anything in his favor, They hanged him on the eve of Passover. " Admitting three facts --- 1. Jews wanted to stone Jesus (John 8:59) 2. Jesus was crucified around Passover (Matthew 26:2) 3. He led many Jews astray.

This would be considered embarrassing testimony because they were non-believers. They admit it was believed that Jesus had some supernatural power. There's evidence in a citation from Africanus about Phlegon and Thallus mentioning a period of of darkness that happened around the time of Christ's death.

---- Confirmation of archaeological finds:
The majority of what we find in archaeology confirms the biblical account. There's SO MUCH DATA it would be impossible to go over it all on this. In Luke 3:1-2 he puts historical crosshairs in his gospel. All eight leaders he mentions are known from history to be in those positions at that time (29 AD). Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay spent 20 years investigating the gospel of Luke. Ramsay concluded that Luke, "should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. " He wrote, "You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's, And they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment. " Ramsay noted that Luke references 32 countries, 54 cities, And 9 islands without making a single mistake. He did all of that without modern-day maps or Google Earth!

Example 1: Rulers like Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, And Gallio the Proconsul.
Example 2: Erastus the treasurer at Corinth (Romans 16:23)
Example 3: Tomb of Apostle Philip found.
Example 4: House of Caiaphas Ossuary is Authentic.
Example 5: Discoveries of Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Example 6: The Synagogue at Capernaum (Luke 7:1-10).
Example 7: 1st Century Galilean fishing boat identical to the description in the New Testament.
Example 8: Jesus died on Friday, April 3, 33AD' claims study that matches crucifixion to the earthquake mentioned in the Gospel. It was reported that layers of the soil, Two earthquakes were detected looking at the layers of build up sediment. They build up each year, A widespread earthquake is known to have happened 31 B. C. With a 6. 9 to 7. 1 magnitude and 26-36 AD with a 6. 3 magnitude. That would be capable of destroying tombs, Rocks, And the temple which was recorded in Matthew 27:51-54, Mark 15:39, And Luke 23:45. This coheres with the biblical account that an earthquake happened at this time.

---- Coherence with ancient history:
Nathaniel Lardner's "Credibility of the Gospel History" reveals 17 volumes of accurate details in the New Testament that is parallel with ancient history, Culture, Etc. The depiction of Jesus's crucifixion correlates to known facts of crucifixion.
The Book of Acts gets 84 facts right about the culture. Facts Luke reveal --- 1. Proper names of ports 2. Local industries for certain regions 3. The proper lines of boundaries 4. Slang terminology 5. Specific landmarks 6. Local variations in languages 7. Proper titles for regional and local officials. John gets 59 facts right about ancient Judea.

I'm not making an argument for the morality of the New Testament, That is a separate topic.


https://gyazo. Com/67cefdce0a6ac5b4159ccb314cff240a
Debate Round No. 2


You didn't rebuttal any of my arguments. . . . . . .


Sorry, Did you read the image I linked? I tried multiple times to upload my argument in the text but it wouldn't post, So I settled for posting a link with an image with the text. If you can't get the link to work remove the space between "gyazo. " and "Com" and also change the upper case c in "Com" to lower case.

If you did read it, What do you mean? I repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of your external source evidence.
Debate Round No. 3


Okay taking the space out worked, I was able to read your response.

Is there evidence that the books were actually written by the people they were credited to? Latest dates scholars give:
Christ's death 33AD | Mark 70 AD | Matthew & Luke 85 AD | John 96 AD. The 2 main reasons why scholars date the Gospels late: Mark is assumed to be the first Gospel written because it is the shortest. Matthew & Luke are said to have been based on Mark. John came last from an independent source. Mark 13 is a prophecy of Jesus of the destruction of the temple and the surrounding events that took place in 70 AD. Atheist Maurice Casey argues Mark 13 should be dated around 40 AD. Maurice Casey a scholar of the New Testament. Oral tradition specialist Albert Lord argues that oral narrative parallels that we have found doesn't necessarily mean the shorter version is older in his book The Relationships Among the Gospels on page 42. It could be the result of practical constraints. The external evidence shows (early church fathers are unanimous) that the Gospel of Matthew was written by the disciple Matthew. The Gospel of Mark was written by Mark, Interpreter of Peter. The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke, Companion of Paul. The Gospel of John was written by the disciple of John: Tertullian writing around 200 AD in Africa says, ". . . That the documents of the Gospels" were written by the Apostles Matthew and John and the apostolic men of Luke and Mark. " - Against Marcion 4. 2. 1-2. St. Irenaeus writing around 180 AD in France says, Matthew wrote a "Gospel among the Jews in their own style" (while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome). Mark, The disciple of Peter, Handed to us the preaching of Peter. Luke, A follower of Paul, Set forth a Gospel. Later, John the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, Put out a Gospel while residing in Ephesus. From Against Heresies 3. 3. 1-2. Clement of Alexandria writing around 180 AD in Alexandria says, The Gospels with the genealogies came first. Mark was done by request of Peter's preaching in Rome. John came last with the urging of friends. From Adumbrationes in Epistolas Canonicas 1 Peter 5:13. Papias writing around 125 AD in Hierapolis says, "This, Too, The elder used to say: Mark who had been Peter's interpreter, Wrote down carefully, But not in order, All that he remembered of the Lord's sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, But later, As I said, One of Peter's. Peter used to adapt his teaching to the occasion of without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord's saying, So that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only - to leave out nothing that he had heard, And to make no misstatement about it. " - Ecclesiastical History 3. 39. 15-16. Tim McGrew, A professor of philosophy, Made a point that if you plot all four church fathers on a map you see wide attestation to the authors of the Gospels from all over the ancient world. This is the kind of testimony that we dream of receiving with ancient documents. We have multiple authors in different regions all telling us the same general story. If the church fathers did make up the authors to attribute them to the four Gospels then why is there not unanimous attestation to who wrote Hebrew? Hebrews is anonymous. Church fathers had to try to guess who the author was. If they made up the authors of the Gospels, Why not do the same with Hebrews? And why not give all four Gospels prominent names? They could've done better than Mark or Luke who never met Jesus and were later disciples of the apostles. If you are making it all up why not just pick two of the other two disciples (Thomas & Philip)? It would have made the Gospels look better instead of attributing them to men who never were considered church fathers or disciples of Jesus.

You might claim the Gospels cannot be trusted because they do not mention the authors internally: This was how the majority of ancient biographies were written. The majority of the works of ancient world have to be externally attributed. E. P. Sanders, New Testament scholar, Says ". . . The claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, Rather like an encyclopedia article today, Implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospels of Matthew had the author written "this is my version" instead of "this is what Jesus said and did. "" We have good evidence they were written by the Apostles and men who they are attributed to. The New Testament has 5 attributions less than 150 years time frame from original, Papias who is less than 50 years from original. Papias testifies there was living eyewitnesses in his day (Aristion and John the elder) in Ecclesiastical History 3. 39. 15-16. The first 3 Gospels can be dated prior to 70 AD. None of the Gospels directly mentions the destruction of the temple. This is inconsistent with their style of pointing out things that happened after the fact. For example: All four Gospels mention Judas for the first time being a traitor --- ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who betrayed him" (Matthew 10:4) | ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who betrayed him" (Mark 3:19) | ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who became a traitor" (Luke 6:16 | ". . . . He spoke of Judas the Son of Simon Iscariot, For he, One of the Twelve, Was going to betray him" (John 6:71). Other examples: Coming Famine (see Acts 11:28), Jesus' Resurrection (see John 2:19-22). Jesus makes the prediction of the destruction of the temple. As reported in Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, And Luke 21:5-6, They simply mention that Jesus predicted this yet do not indicate that it already happened. This seems inconsistent with their style of writing when something was fulfilled. The language of the Gospels and Acts indicates they were written in a pre-persecution time. In 64 AD the first Christian persecution began under Nero. Christian were fed to wild animals, Burned alive, Tortured and crucified. Anti Roman works like the Revelation of John and the forged apocalypse of Peter were produced which didn't paint Roman a good life or speak well of their persecutors. Scholars say that these works represent the anguish Christians were feeling during and after the persecutions and the new anger they now have for the Roman persecutors. In the Gospels and Acts, We do not see this same attitude towards Rome. In Acts 21:28 & Acts 27:3 paints Rome in a good way. As well as Luke 7:1-10 & Matthew 8:5-13 & Mark 15:39 & Acts 26:24-27. This indicates an early dating of the following documents; Matthew, Mark, Luke, And Acts.

External and internal evidence indicate Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. The destruction of the temple in 70 AD wiped out the vast majority of the Jewish population. If Matthew was written after 70 AD to whom was he writing? Matthew mentions details that would only matter to a Jewish population still centered in Jerusalem. Like the field Judas hanged himself in (see Matthew 27:8). John Wenham, Bible scholar, Says "Some of the Apologetic (e. G. The account of the suicide of Judas and the account of the guard at the tomb) seems of no great theological significance, Yet of particular interest to those who frequented Jerusalem. " - Redating Matthew, Mark, And Luke page 95. It makes more sense Matthew was writing a Gospel for Jews in Judea prior to 70 AD. Richard Bauckham, Scholar in theology/historical theology/New Testament studies, Cites evidence that many elements in Mark fit in the community prior to 70 AD. He pointed out that the Gospels are filled with names which represent an authoritative list of witnesses that people could question to verify the Gospel accounts. However many places in the Gospels, Many key eyewitnesses are left anonymous. Scholars like Gerd Theissen and Craig Evans point out that key witnesses were left anonymous for their protection, Since they still could have been prosecuted by the Jewish authorities. In Mark 14:47 someone cut off the ear of a soldier in trying to protect Jesus. He is left anonymous for his protection. If his name was told, The Jewish authorities (who still had power in Jerusalem) could arrest him for attacking a soldier. By the time John is written we find out it is Peter (see John 18:10). Telling by the time John was written (the last Gospel) keeping Peter's identity secret in this situation was no longer necessary. At this time the Jews lost their power in Jerusalem which means the passion narrative in Mark must be placed prior to 70 AD.

Here are some other examples in Mark keeps eyewitnesses anonymous for their protection:
Mark 14:51 - man who flees from guards. | Mark 11:1-7 - man who supplies donkey for Jesus' entry. | Mark 14:12-16 - man who was harboring Jesus for passover on the night of his arrest. | Mark 14:3-9 - woman who anointed Jesus.
Let"s examine how the book of Acts ends. The last section is a build up to Paul"s trial in Rome. Several chapters are build up for Paul to head to Rome to face trial. Acts ends in Acts 28 (Paul arrives in Rome), Says in Acts 28:30 "He lived there two whole years at his own expense"" There is not mention of his trial or if he was ever released or not. It is said that Paul arrives in Rome around 60 AD. Based on the book of Acts mentioning a change in procurators of Felix to Festus (Acts 25:1 & 13-14) which dates to 59 AD. The most likely possibility is that Acts was completed before Paul"s trial. We have plenty of evidence the first 3 Gospels were written before 70 AD and even before 62 AD. Mark was written probably around 57-60 AD because Emperor Claudius expulsion of the Jews happened 49 - 54 AD because that"s when he died. This would allow Peter and Mark to go to Rome and preach. Peter probably didn't go to Rome right away since Paul"s letter to the Romans (dated 56 AD) doesn't mention or greet Peter. Yet Paul greets dozens of others by name.

Running out of chara


You spent your last two paragraphs defending the supposed creation date of the Gospels, Yet I'd like to make it clear that I never raised the issue with the supposed dates the Gospels were penned. The difference of a few years does not, In my opinion, Substantially affect the 'trustworthiness' of the Gospels so I won't dwell on that. Also, Could you clear up what you mean by the Gospels being "written" by Mark, Mathew, Luke, And John - do you mean they wrote them first hand or dictated them to a scribe? After all, If we were to assume the wide help view that the Gospels were originally written in Greek, Then it would be extremely unlikely that the all the four would be able to write it themselves - as illiteracy is almost a certain given their backgrounds.

Anyway, It's unlikely that neither Mathew nor Luke ever met Jesus and (as you state yourself) their accounts are based on Mark. For me, This is where the credibility of Matthew and Luke, In particular, Are called into question as the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Mathew share 765, 41% and 46% of the similar content. (18% of Mark and 10% of Mathew are similar, And 3% of Mark and 1% of Luke are similar). This is displayed in your own quotation " ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who betrayed him" (Matthew 10:4) | ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who betrayed him" (Mark 3:19) | ". . . . And Judas Iscariot, Who became a traitor" (Luke 6:16 | "". The original quote by Mark has just been slightly paraphrased by Luke and Mathew, Ad it is this sort of thing which makes it appear that Luke and Mathew hold little credibility independently as if they were only created to provide some sort forced reinforcement of Mark's writings. Also, How do you explain the 23% of Luke and 24% of Mathew that are similar? Biblical scholar Austin Farrer notes that when we find two documents that contain common material, Identical in the words and phrases they use to describe some scenes, The simplest explanation is that one of the two used the other as a source, Rather than both using a third document as a source. Furthermore, Are we also to just assume that the 35% of Luke that is unique and 20% of Mathew that is unique has all come from reliable sources too? How are we to know where they got this information about Jesus from without having met him?

While the identities of people may have been hidden to protect them, It would also be convenient for the authors them to be described as anonymous if they were fictional characters, Wouldn't you agree?
In regards to John, At the supposed time his Gospel was written, It's likely that he would have been entering his 90s, So its probably at this age his mental state would have begun to deteriorate, Thus negatively affecting the reliability of his accounts.

Finally, You've still yet to comment on how we differentiate between metaphorical and literal stories. The Gospels are supposedly bibliographies, Yet how can this be the case when events like the dead roaming around Jerusalem are described. You'd at least hope for some independent historical account of this happening if it were true.
Debate Round No. 4


EJR925 forfeited this round.


Nondescript forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Nondescript 3 years ago
RE my 4th round post: "765" is supposed to be 76%, And those percentages are respective
Posted by Nondescript 3 years ago
@EJR925 Let's keep it as a back and forth, Respond to previous arguments but bring up new/reiterate old arguments as well if you like.
Posted by EJR925 3 years ago
@nondescript I would like to respond to your questions and other statements but I ran out of room. Would you prefer me to stick with the debate rounds or address your questions and other statements on "Comments" any way is fine with me.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 3 years ago
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