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New Testament reliability questions


Ronald M., Ukraine, submitted the following comment to the article The inspiration of Scripture comes in various forms:

This was an interesting and helpful article. I will recommend it to others. I would question one statement, and I know this is not a doctrinal statement and it is not a main issue. You said, “The careful reader of Scripture will notice that most of Paul’s letters are coauthored (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1), even though Paul speaks in the first-person singular most of the time.” I would not agree with this because it seems Paul just politely mentioning his traveling friends and helpers - for certain important reasons, perhaps. You did not mention Galatians 1:1-2 where a whole team are surely not co-authors. In the end, we likely agree that every word and letter in the original autographs was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, or, if not, we do not have assurance of absolute truth in everything the Bible says.

Lita Sanders responds:

No, Paul mentions “people who say hi” near the end of the letter. For instance: Romans is authored by Paul alone (1:1) and written down by Tertius (16:22), but much of chapter 16 is taken up with mentions of notable people who are with him. 1 Corinthians is by Paul and Sosthenes (1:1), but Aquila and Prisca are mentioned near the end as sending greetings (16:19). 2 Corinthians is by Paul and Timothy (1:1), yet ‘all the saints’ also say hi. Philippians is by Paul and Timothy, yet everyone says hi, particularly those in Caesar’s household (4:21). Colossians, by Paul and Timothy, but Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus who is called Justus say hi from among the Jews, and so do Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (4:10-14). This is enough to establish the pattern. “X says hi” goes at the end of the letter, the senders of the letter go at the beginning.

So what about Galatians? It’s the only letter that claims to be from “Paul and the brothers who are with me”—the others name people. Paul is likely indicating that this letter is not simply his personal opinion but is backed by the entire body of believers. Interestingly, the apostles and elders in Acts sent a letter from “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders”, when they wanted to repudiate the doctrines of the Judaizers (Acts 15:23), which is a direct parallel to the beginning of Galatians, for similar reasons. I hope this helps to clarify.

Leo W., U.S., submitted the following comment to the article Explaining resurrection details:

What about Mark 15:14 where it says Joseph of Arimathea moved the stone? If this were the case, anyone could steal the body. Also there was a whole day where there was no guard at all at the tomb. I get people say some things said in the Gospel accounts make them sound embarrassing, but it is as if the Gospel writers made so many holes, it causes problems, even with the Gospel as your source, they seem to have almost contradictions to what the text states. It says Jesus rose, yet they give so many possibilities even using the account on the possibility that He did not. Also the women at the tomb seeing Jesus first would not be embarrassing because in context, it was a norm for women to come to the tomb of dead people bringing spices. Not embarrassing, in fact it makes more sense. Of all people, it should have been the women because they closest to the actual event. So this should not be used to confirm the Bible because of embarrassing detail, but should just be taken as what would logically happen first if you were to write on one rising based off of the gender class and what the class did at that time.

Lita Sanders responds:

Mark 15:14 does not say anything at all about Joseph of Arimathea; Matthew 27:60 says that Joseph of Arimathea rolled a large stone in front of the tomb. However, just because a man, probably with help and before it was sealed with a Roman seal, could move the stone doesn’t mean that a group of women, after the stone had been sealed and with no man with them, wouldn’t worry about how they were going to get into the tomb. Do you really think that a guard would be set and the tomb sealed before making sure that the body was still there?

You don’t cite a contradiction; if you had I would have given it the same treatment I gave the proposed contradiction in the article; I would have shown how if you look at Scripture at its entirety, there are no contradictions, only differing details that when put together give a fuller picture.

Yes, if the resurrection actually happened we should not be surprised that women were the first to discover that Jesus was risen. But if this were made up, the prominent disciples would have been the first witnesses, because the testimony of females was not valued as much as males.

Leo W wrote further:

Sorry, I meant Matthew 27:60. I still wonder though that if Joseph had the ability to open the tomb at the time, why couldn’t others? Would not the idea that John the only apostle that did not go to his death was the one who took it? What if lesser known followers of Jesus took it? Also who says the Romans placed a seal on the tomb? Is that not an assumption? Many of these facts like the empty tomb are just givens like because the tomb is empty this rules out someone taking the body. Also Bart Ehrman who I really wish I could debate because I hold to a resurrection says that Romans could have run into disciples who stole the body of Jesus killing them and could not tell Jesus from the dead disciples and that Jesus’ body biodegraded within a few days and now we have a case. Ehrman says he does not believe this, but it is far less likely than Jesus rising from the dead. I am not trying to be a skeptic here because Indo believe, but I want to have answers to these tough questions which seem to not have good answers that I can find elsewhere.

Lita Sanders responds:

Leo, you can always make up a scenario of weird improbable events that no one in the 2,000 years since Jesus’ resurrection has thought of that might explain why the tomb could be empty. That’s not how historical investigations should be done, though. Jesus’ body was put in the tomb. The stone was rolled in front of the tomb. The stone was sealed and a guard was set. The Jews wanted to make sure Jesus’ body stayed in the tomb. The Roman guards were there to make sure Jesus’ body stayed in the tomb. Yet on the third day the body was gone. Mary Magdalene’s first thought was that someone had taken Him away. But she saw Jesus risen, and so did the other women, then so did the disciples. The risen Lord appeared to over 500 people at once, in history (1 Corinthians 15:6). Tradition states that 11 out of 12 apostles died for their testimony not because they had John’s testimony (which in your scenario would be the person who took the body)—they saw Jesus for themselves! Thomas said that he would not believe unless he saw and touched the wounds, and yet he was convinced.

Published: 19 October 2019

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