Whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc. this question is ideally for those well read in Biblical studies and ancient history.
We’ll begin with three brief questions:
How do you deal with the lack of original manuscripts, which leaves you only copies that cannot be compared to originals for accuracy?
How do you deal with the lack of an unbroken chain of transmission between the New Testament authors and today’s Christians? By lack, I mean an unbroken chain cannot be demonstrated, but merely assumed from deduction, based on the premises that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and such.
How do you deal with the anonymity of the authors within the Gospel writings and the lack of detail, especially when compared to other ancient historical writings.
The lack of original manuscripts do not particularly concern me, because we have so many copies that we can be confident that we have good manuscripts. I’d be more concerned with the authenticity of say The Iliad and the Odyssey
I’m not sure what you mean here “unbroken chain”. We have the Early Church Fathers constantly using or commentating on the Scriptures. That shows continuity, Just not sure what you mean here.
There is no anonymity of the authors of the Gospels. One could read Eusebius’ History of the Church to see who the authors are.
I could assert that all the copies were based on a single inaccurate copy, and this would have as much weight as the claim that the copies were accurately based on an authentic original; because both claims are equally true i.e. unsubstantiated.
The generation immediately following the authors of the New Testament, known as the Apostolic Fathers, were almost (if not totally) completely silent on the writings of the New Testament; all we possess are random quotes without reference or attribution from the very few extant writings.
Please do not resort to emotional responses. There is simply no room for assumptions when it comes to primary sources in religion which are considered to impart incontrovertible proofs. The subject is far too important for assumptions.
Naturally, Christianity was illegal, and hence copies of works prior to being legal are difficult to come by, given the decaying nature of papyrus, etc. But to answer,
A lot of copies is actually better than finding an original. We have the plurality of the copies to show great agreement on pretty much all the main points. An original copy would naturally be considered authoritative, but one could simply screw with it, add in X, etc., and then that would be considered authoritative wrongly.
Meanwhile, a lot of copies means that you can see various changes that are made, vs if one guy just decided to screw with what was said.
We do have various writings of the apostles and then their students and so on. Is it somewhat scarce? As would be expected with 2000 years and having to be an “underground” Church, kinda. But we do have the writings of those from the time of the apostles to today, so this is sort of an odd statement.
I do not at all find it lacking in detail compared to other works from the time. There’s a fair bit of detail, but just to let you know, writing was fairly expensive, as in general the populace didn’t really have access to these things. Usually, writing was done for a reason (ie, for a patron/nation), not by some guys who were in a particularly non materialistic group who believed in a miracle worker named Jesus as the Messiah. Those there around the time tell us of who wrote the various passages, and we know for instance that Luke who wrote the Gospel also wrote Acts.
I don’t quite understand how that would justify holding the New Testament as being a primary source. It’s almost as if you’re agreeing with me, but instead saying “yeah, we lack evidence for authenticity, but it was beyond our control”.
Yes you could assert that, but do you have any evidence?
It seems to me that based upon your statement above, what would have to happen is this. One of the Gospel writers, say St. Matthew for the sake of argument, would have had to written his Gospel. This is the original copy. Then, before any copies of the original were made, someone would have had to make an fake copy and then destroy the original. If any copies of the correct Gospel of St. Matthew had been made and then a fake copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew had been made, then there would be two conflicting copies of St. Matthew’s Gospel. There is no evidence of that anywhere.
In addition, if the fake Gospel of St. Matthew had been circulated, there would have been an uproar by the Christians living at that time since the fake Gospel of St. Matthew would have contained errors that had not been taught by the Apostles or their successors. Again, there is no evidence of any of that.
You were saying “how do you deal” so I may have interpreted it in trying to understand the state of affairs.
Why do you not accept the Gospels as authoritative? If Luke, for instance, was also the writer of Acts (as we know he is) then it is reasonable to think it was written earlier than 62 AD as Acts leaves off without the glorious martyrdom of Paul. The gospel was written before acts, so it was thusly earlier than that work. According to both modern scholarship and the early witness of the Church fathers, Luke was not first in writing. This means that various Gospel accounts were written earlier than the time reasonably needed to be supplanted by legend and falsehood. The writers of these testaments are attested to by various early sources. As the testaments were written during the lifetimes of various apostles, and were OK-ed and continued to be accepted by the early church, there’s no reason to deny that they adequately represent the beliefs of the early Church that may have normally been given out via oral telling than written.
I would refer you to the Letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians. St. Clement was the third successor to St. Peter of the See of Rome. He was a companion to St. Paul (Phil 4:3) and would have learned from him. In his letter, he uses selections from both the Old and New Testaments. He quotes Genesis, Ephesians, First and Second Peter, Acts, Titus, Proverbs, Deuteronomy, First and Second Corinthians, Wisdom, Exodus, Numbers, First Kings, all four Gospels, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hebrews, Romans, Second Chronicles, Judith, James, Joshua, Jerimiah, Proverbs, Psalms, Job, Numbers, Habakkuk, Malachi, Daniel, and Esther. Thirty four books, 14 from the New Testament: not a bad list.
The fact that he does not directly say, “this is from the Gospel of Matthew” (for example) does not particularly bother me. He used the reference; he would have known the entire book to take the reference from.
Listening to the pseudo-intellectual musings of those who could - but refuse - to seek the truth…
It really seems to me that you’re being disingenuous here. All of the primary source materials are out there thanks to things like New Advent, and they’re readily available. Even a cursory examination of the Patristic material demonstrates a remarkable level of circulation, consistency, and care among the first Christians with regard to the gospels. There are so few persistent errors in Scriptural transmission that it really is remarkable.
This is an evidentiary point, not an argument.
If you are earnest, then you have a lot of reading ahead. “Seek, and you will find.” If you’re just here trying to kick up dust into the face of those who believe by dressing up as an expert on the subject, I think you’d better move on. Either way, we’re not of any use to you.
Another emotional response. I didn’t claim to be an expert, my questions were based partly on Islamic principles of authenticating writings, and partly on modern scholars who believe the authorship of the Gospels to be spurious and not written by eye-witnesses.
If you’re going to claim that you’ve spent a great deal of time studying the history and source documents, then please, don’t just leave, show us the fruits of your studies.
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