Monday, 15 November 2010

Christianity Question #6

Is the New Testament Picture of Jesus Reliable?

Short answer: No.
The grounds for accepting the New Testament as trustworthy compare very favorably with the grounds on which classical (Greek, Roman) scholars accept the authenticity and credibility of ‘reliable’ ancient documents [like Julius Caesar's "Gallic Wars]". -- F. F. Bruce (1981)
Taking this example - is the Gallic Wars picture of Julius Caesar reliable? Same answer: no. All Bruce was talking about was that the modern New Testament story is bibliographically reliable. It is reliably close to what the original authors wrote by the usual standards of scholarship for classical documents.

Bruce is inviting us to consider the biblical account of Christ by the same standards that we consider other historical documents. OK. So lets:

If Julius Caesar claimed a virgin birth and a bodily resurrection we would not believe it. The Caesars were called "God" and "Son of God" but do we believe this to be literally true? By the same standard of scholarship, we should disbelieve those claims about Christ also.

It is not clear why Christians feel they need an accurate account of Jesus, after all we are happy with inaccurate accounts of classical times and of Julius Caesar.

Bruce F. (1981) New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981.

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