Is the New Testament historically accurate?
This is important, because the Bible is not just a religious book, it is one of the primary historical sources for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We’re not talking about theology and religious teachings found in the letters of Paul. I’m not talking about what Jesus actually taught. I’m talking about what he actually did. How do we know Jesus really did these things? especially the historical details regarding the resurrection, Can we trust what the New Testament says?
Since the manuscript discoveries of 2010 and 2016, we know the New Testament was written between AD 50 and 75. Yes, there’s ongoing debate that puts the hypothetical “Q” source material as written in AD 40, but I don’t believe in Q – there’s no evidence. It's all theoretical, due to the similarities of the Synoptic Gospels (but there's no physical evidence or reference of such a thing).
So that’s at least 20 years after Jesus left the earth! A lot of stories and details can change in 20 years! But lucky for us, Jesus was born into a culture with a very strong oral tradition. – the Jewish people, even today. For us today, reading and writing are so natural, readily available. But it wasn’t like that / for any culture in the first century. Yes, reading and writing existed, but it wasn’t practical for the general public, before the printing press was invented.
But Jewish historians will tell you – that the 1st century oral tradition, especially in Judaism, was pretty much word-for-word. From an early age, young Jewish boys were trained to memorize large sections of the Torah. They claim this has been going on since the time of Moses!
Right here, I include an interview with a Jewish rabbi. You can watch the video for the edited down version.
The Mishna – the most essential part of the Jewish religion - was finally written down only after centuries of oral tradition. The Mishna itself warns that written documents could be falsified and thus forever preserve error.
The holy text was transmitted word-of-mouth – word-for-word.
The Talmud, in the Jewish religion says, that one should memorize word-for-word even when you don’t understand what you’re saying. This is the culture and context of when the gospels was written. Just like any pupil following a rabbi in Jewish culture, teachings would be memorized word-for-word. This is how they practiced religion.
And if these disciples believed their own rabbi was the Messiah, you don’t think they would memorize even harder and pay attention more?
Plus, the gospels is historically and geographically accurate. The way it describes certain cities in the 1st century are proven recently by archaeology. I could give some examples, but I see this as a weak argument, since even today, we have movies with fictional stories taking place in real places like New York or Los Angeles. Like, the disciples could’ve made up stories that supposedly happened in real places.
But there’s the proof of fulfilled prophecy:
Jesus said that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and it actually happened 40 years later in 70 AD.
Now, you might say, “That’s just a lucky guess” since Jerusalem was destroyed many times.
But Jesus also spoke judgment against 3 other ancient cities.
and they were all destroyed in 400 AD, never to be rebuilt again.
“Coincidence” you might say, since ancient cities got destroyed all the time too.
Yes, but ancient cities got rebuilt all the time.
Of the 4 ancient cities surrounding the Sea of Galillee, Jesus spoke against 3 of them, and they were destroyed, never to be rebuilt. but the 4th one, that Jesus didn’t speak against, Tiberias, is still standing today.
Now, that’s not powerful proof, but it’s still something to consider.
Now the best proof, for the historicity of the New Testament comes from modern archaeology.
Archaeology cannot show that the Bible is from God,
but it does show that Luke was a very accurate historian.
For example, skeptics said Luke was wrong – there was no Roman census around the time of the birth of Jesus, - Quirinius was not governor, and that everyone had to return home.
But archaeology proved Luke right on all 3 counts.
Skeptics also said Luke was inaccurate when he said Iconium was not in Lycaonia, since the Roman writer Cicero said it was.
Who’s right? Well, Luke must be wrong since the New Testament isn’t historical?
Several archaeological discoveries showed that Luke was right.
Luke’s historical accuracy regarding:
Lysanias the Tetrach of Abilene (Luke 3:1)
Erastus, the city treasurer (Rom 16:23)
The civic assembly, Ecclesia, of Ephesus (Acts 19:23)
Philippi as a district of Macedonia (Acts 16:12)
Rulers in Philippi were called praetors
Rulers in Thessalonica were called politarchs (Acts 17:6)
Gallio was Proconsul (Acts 18:12)
Publius, the “first man” of Malta (Acts 28:7)
People said Luke was wrong, or that there was no proof.
Inscriptions and writings have been discovered which validate Luke as a legit historian.
So, what else did Luke write about?