Chuck Foreman – Teaching Pastor
When we make a statement like, “the Bible is reliable,” what we mean is that the oldest manuscripts we have available to us have been carefully compared to literally thousands of ancient copies to determine their integrity or accuracy. This is actually a literary science called textual criticism. We put all the manuscripts we have of Bible books under this type of relentless scrutiny. In other words, we’re trying to answer question, Do the copies and versions we have of the Bible accurately represent the oldest and best manuscripts of the Bible? This has actually kept the Bible from being corrupted over the centuries, contrary to what many uninformed skeptics have said. What we’ve discovered by applying the techniques of textual criticism is that our Bible is one of, if not, the best ancient work in the world, in terms of textual integrity. As far as I’m concerned, being a believer in the scientific method and a skeptic at heart, the integrity of any ancient or modern text must be determined before I will even consider its claims. Now for the real question…
Why should I believe what the Bible, especially the New Testament says? If a guy writes that he saw a man walk on water, heal the lame and blind, multiply food for 5000 hungry people, raise the dead and himself rise from the grave, I’m not likely to believe his stories. I would likely enjoy his account, but dismiss it as delusional. However, if I discover another ancient author who tells of the same things, and then another and another, all of whom claim to be eyewitnesses who wrote independently of each other and at different times, it’s going to be more difficult to simply dismiss their claims.
And if when I compare their documents, I find that they basically agree with one another in the recounting of their experiences and yet have enough variation to show that they didn’t just all hunker down in a room somewhere and copy each other word for word, then I might be a little more willing to consider what they say. Agreement and variation in testimony is important even in a court of law. Too much variation between testimonies and they are called into question. Too much agreement and you suspect collaboration. Some popular skeptics like Bill Marr, have capitalized on the variation in the New Testament text. For instance, John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus records that Mary saw two angels in the tomb after Peter and John had entered and inspected the empty tomb. But Luke’s version says that the women, including Mary, saw the two angels before Peter arrived at the tomb. Marr asserts that this kind of discrepancy makes the two accounts unreliable. But I think it makes them even more believable. You would expect some variation like this between two testimonies of people who are remembering their experience, or who like Luke, is constructing his account from his interviews with various eyewitnesses.
So, we have 6 eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament documents (Matthew, John, Paul, Peter, James & Jude). We have 2 others who claim to record eyewitness testimony (Mark & Luke). Are their stories believable? Read them and decide for yourself. But whether or not this is actually what they wrote, cannot be called into question any longer. The question is, are they telling us the truth? What do you think?