Sunday, 3 August 2014

More Unique Things about Jesus: such weak argument against NT

As part of my series on “Unique Things about Jesus”, I ask " Why do those arguing against the authenticity of the New Testament draw on such flimsy evidence or even mis-translate Greek words to change the evidence in their favour?" This is something that has always struck me about these opponents, whereas in other academic fields arguments are usually reputable - though in the case of some of Richard Dawkins's arguments, I feel a similar phenomenon occurs.

Many atheists assume that the New Testament is a “myth”, a "forgery" and a “fiction”, a kind of conspiracy perpetrated upon the ancient world by a group of sneaky (but very clever) Greeks and Jews. The motive for their conspiracy is unclear. There is no argument that makes any sense, though no atheists go on to ask this question. Most atheists would not claim training in making any reliable assessment of the facts and evidence. Only Bible "scholars" would, and many atheists assume that they agree with their point of view.It might surprise some that even the most anti-Christian academic viewpoint largely accepts that Jesus was a real, historical figure : He is even mentioned outside the Bible. It is not even the explicit view of the “Higher Criticism” movement, which has done more than any other movement to undermine the authority of the the Bible over the last hundred years, that the New Testament is a forgery.

Academics study the style of writers, occurrence of words in various books, and come up with theories about authorship, though when questioned their arguments often seem weak. These people have dominated many theological colleges for decades, with many losing their faith on their account.

I take as one example a flimsy argument about Acts 4.13, which, it is claimed, prove that Peter and John were "illiterates” - “evidence” that they could not have written epistles and Revelations, or think or speak well enough to achieve what they did. Acts 4.13 says "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and discovered that they were illiterate...they were amazed".

Most people in England before this 19th century could read, but not write but there is no word for this condition. We know this fact by the prevalence of small pocket Gospels among ordinary women in Elizabethan times, who had clearly attended dame schools. It was true of the men in the time of Jesus. Boys were taught to read in synagogue schools, even in the case of Jesus to read Hebrew from the scroll. Jesus was once seen “writing on the ground” - he was not “drawing on the ground”. Therefore, it is likely that some were also taught to write, the Jews always being "people of the book". The Greek word “grammatos” which the critics claim means “illiterate” in Acts 4.13, does not mean "illiterate" (cannot read or write) but “unlettered” (ref Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, Pontificio Istituto Biblico). If we say someone is “unlettered”, it means they do not have a university degree, or “A“ levels. They stopped their formal education, at the basic level. This is exactly what we know Jesus and some of his friends: they took up practical jobs in family businesses, probably at maturity, which was at the age of 12. They did not go on to train as rabbis. How can respectable academics make such errors? The only reason is that they are very short of convincing evidence. As C S Lewis intimated The New Testament is the best attested set of documents in antiquity.

The clear lesson is this : if you really want to waste your entire and only life on earth, spend it trying to disprove the New Testament.

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