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The Time Is Now!

Section 7, Chapter 4

The New Testament:
Absolutely Reliable Historically

Back to Chapter 3

Both conservative and liberal scholars now agree that the New Testament was written within 50 years of the events it describes. Grant R. Jeffrey writes:

". . . despite the fact that a large number of Roman official records and a much larger number of Christian writings have survived till today, we cannot find evidence of a single eyewitness to these Gospel events ever denying their truthfulness. This fact is of outstanding importance in assessing the reliability and truthfulness of the Gospel records as any judge or lawyer would confirm."288/30

Once a presbyter in the early days of the Church published a counterfeit epistle that he claimed was authored by the Apostle Paul. Tertullian and Jerome tell us that when this happened the Church leadership immediately called an ecclesiastical trial to examine the document. The end result was that they claimed it was counterfeit and published this fact throughout Christiandom.288/30 The Church down through the centuries has been careful and vigilant to maintain the integrity and truthfulness of the New Testament record. Also, because of the widespread copying and translations of the New Testament, it was impossible for someone to corrupt the text. The person would need to go throughout the whole world and change every copy of the New Testament.

*Jesus’ Existence and Death
Confirmed Historically:

Many times when witnessing the Love of Jesus Christ on the field, people will say to me that the historical Jesus found in the Bible and miracles are only in the Bible and not confirmed in History. Is this true? No. Many historical records exist outside the Bible which confirm the historical claims of the Bible recorded by both Jesus’ enemies as well as His friends.

One example of this is the darkness that fell over the land on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion from 12:00 noon to 3:00 P.M. on a full moon day recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 27:45, Luke 23:44-45 and Mark 15:33. Some critics of history have tried to say that this was just a solar eclipse. In doing so, they are affirming that this account of darkness over the land recorded in the Bible really did take place. Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian writer in 52 A.D., was one of these critics. Julius Africanus, a Christian writer about 221 A.D., wrote concerning Thallus’s criticism:

"Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun - unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died)."34

This reference of Julius Africanus shows us that the Gospel accounts of the darkness which fell upon the land during Christ’s crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from non-believers who witnessed it.184/113

Phlegon, another first century writer wrote, "During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon." 185/11 These writers confirm both Jesus’ historical existence and crucifixion as well as the New Testament account of the darkness which covered the land at Jesus’ crucifixion during a full moon day.

About 150 A.D., Justin Martyr, a Church Father, addressing his Defense of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, refers to Pilate’s report and to the Acts of Pontius Pilate, concerning Jesus’ historical crucifixion and miracles which were available to the Emperor. He wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius,

"‘They pierced my hands and my feet,’ are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after he was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the ‘Acts’ which were recorded under Pontius Pilate." 186

He later wrote: "That he performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the ‘Acts’ of Pontius Pilate." 186

*Jesus’ Enemies Confirm His Existence, Virgin Birth, Miracles, and Crucifixion:

Jesus’ enemies, the Jews, also confirm New Testament claims about Jesus, his virgin birth, crucifixion, etcetera. The Babylonian Talmud confirms Jesus’ crucifixion: "... and hanged him on the eve of Passover." Concerning Jesus’ virgin birth: of course they denied it, but affirmed it was claimed by Jesus’ and His followers. Joseph Klausner, a Jew, says, "The illegitimate birth of Jesus was a current idea among the Jews...." Again the Jews did not deny the fact that Jesus performed miracles, they only deny that God was the source of those miracles. One Jewish historian of that day records in Baraila:

"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going forth to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover." (Babylonia Sanhedrin 43a).187/23

The 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica states concerning the many independent secular accounts about Jesus of Nazareth:

"These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries." 188/145

*Flavius Josephus Historical
Account About Jesus

Flavius Josephus, the Jewish and Roman historian, wrote the following concerning Jesus Christ:

"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." (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, bk. XVIII, chap. III, Section 3).

Flavius Josephus, born in A.D. 37, a Jewish and Roman historian, witnessed all the events that led up to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and recorded these events. Some historians have tried to say that the above passage was injected into his writings hundreds of years later. If this were true, it would mean that the person who did this traveled throughout the entire world, sought out every copy of Josephus’s works and added this quote. this would mean he had to recopy everyone of Josephus’s works so it would appear in the proper place in the text he had chosen to put it. This idea is ridiculous and impossible. Josephus did write it in his Antiquities of the Jews and the evidence of this is that there is not one ancient copy of his work in existence anywhere that does not have this passage. If the events recorded in the Gospels actually occurred, it is only natural that Josephus would mention them at the appropriate place. It would be more incredible if he had not mentioned anything about Jesus Christ or His Resurrection.

Josephus also Describes the death of James, the brother of Jesus. He wrote:

"As therefore Ananus (the High Priest) was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus (the Roman Procurator) was now dead, and Albinus (the new Procurator) was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. XX, chap. IX, sect. 1)

Josephus also wrote about the life of John the Baptist:

"Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away, [or the remission] of some sins [only] but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. . . . Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus (Masada), the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death." (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. XVIII, chap. V, sect. 2).

*The Dead Sea Scrolls Confirm The Historical Jesus

The Essenes, a Jewish community of ascetics that lived primarily in three communities: Qumran at the Dead Sea, the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem (Mount Zion), and Damascus until the destruction by the Roman armies in A.D. 68. In their writings, known as The Dead Sea Scrolls, they talk about the life of Jesus and even have quotations from the New Testament. One of the scrolls mentions that He was crucified for the sins of men. One of the scroll translators, Dr. Robert Eisenman, Professor of Middle East Religions of California State University, writes:

"The text is of the most far-reaching significance because it shows that whatever group was responsible for these writings was operating in the same general scriptural and Messianic framework of early Christianity."288/99

The scrolls mention the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies in Isaiah 53 concerning the identity of the Messiah and that He would suffer for the sins of people. The scrolls also reveal that the Essenes understood the prophetic gap of Jesus’ suffering for man’s sins and His return to set up an everlasting kingdom on earth. Also mentioned is that Jesus was the fulfilled prophecy in Psalm 22:16 and Jeremiah 23:5 which state that He would be a "Shoot of Jesse and the Branch of David" and that he would be pierced and wounded. It also mentions Jesus as "the scepter" probably referring to Genesis 49:10 which states,

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."

These scrolls confirm the historical truthfulness of the New Testament record about Jesus and His crucifixion and His being the Messiah. The scrolls also refer to Jesus as being the Son of God (scroll 4Q246) and as "the son of the most high God" which is the exact wording of Luke in Luke 1:32. Other New Testament passages mentioned in the scrolls are Mark 4:28, 6:48, 12:17; Acts 27:38; Romans 5:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:16; and James 1:23-24.


The Roman Historians Cornelius Tacitus and Pliny acknowledge the vast multitudes of Christians throughout the Roman empire.288/29 Tacitus, in A.D. 112, referred to the persecution of the Christians caused by Emperor Nero's false accusation that the Christians had burned Rome:

"Christus [Christ], the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." (Annals XV 44).

Tacitus in his writings confirmed many details in the Gospels, Acts, and Romans.

Suetonius, the official historian of Rome in A.D. 125, wrote in his Life of Claudius (25.4) concerning the Christians that they caused disturbances in Rome which led to their being driven out of the city. He states that this sect had its origin in "Chrestus" which was his spelling of the name Christ."288/91

Pliny, governor of the Roman province of Bithynia, in his Epistles X 96 wrote that Christians would not worship Emperor Trajan and would not curse Jesus Christ, even under extreme torture. Pliny described the Christians as people who loved the truth above everything else.288/91

*Historical Confirmation of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of The Apostles

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, both written by the physician Luke, have proved unquestionable in historical accuracy. The Gospel of Luke was considered historically unreliable for many years. An English Scholar by the name of William Ramsay himself held this position. He went to the ancient ruins of Greece and Asia Minor to dig to find evidence to prove his assertion. To his consternation he discovered that Luke and the rest of the New Testament was accurate in the smallest details. This resulted in his receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. His books are now classics in the study of New Testament Historical Studies.

A.N. Sherwin-White, a scholar at Oxford University and historical expert on the books of Acts wrote: "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. . . any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd."323

Archaeology has authenticated the gospel accounts.183/24 For example: Archaeologists at first believed Luke’s statement that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia and Iconium was not. This was based on Roman writings such as Cicero who indicated that Iconium was in Lycaonia. Thus, archaeologists said the Book of Acts was historically unreliable. However in 1910, Sir William Ramsay found a monument that showed that Iconium was a Phrygian city. Later further discoveries confirmed this.189/317

Through archaeology most of the ancient cities mentioned in the Book of Acts have been identified. The journeys of Paul can now be accurately traced as a result of these finds.184/95

Luke was accused of poor word usage. Example: Luke in Acts 16:12 refers to Philippi as a part or district of Macedonia. He uses the Greek word merivdo" (meridos) which is translated part or district. F.J.A. Hort believed that Luke was wrong in this usage. He said that meridos referred to a portion not a district, thus, his grounds for disagreement. Archaeological excavations, however, have shown that this very word, meridos, was used to describe the divisions of the district. Archaeology proves the absolute accuracy of Luke.189/320 Josh McDowell states,

"After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scripture, I came to the conclusion that it is historically trustworthy. If one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then he must discard almost all literature of antiquity."34/71-72

The New Testament: ABSOLUTELY Reliable Historically!

For Further Reading:

McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Vol 1. San Bernardino: Here’s Life Pub., 1979.

Ramsay, William. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953.

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Chapter 5
Bibliography & Notes
Section 7 Chapters

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