Many New Testament historians believe Jesus Christ was born between 6 – 4 BC, based on information Matthew shared in his account of the Life and Ministry of our Lord (Matthew 2:1). Luke wrote that Jesus began His Ministry “at about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23), which would have been somewhere between 24 – 26 AD if Jesus was exactly 30. The fact that Luke used the phrase “at about thirty” means it could have been a few years later. While there is still some debate about the length of time Jesus Ministered on earth, three to four years is generally used to express the time frame found in John’s Gospel. That would place the Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection somewhere between 27 and 30 AD.
The Author of the New Testament is the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (John 14:25-26). Jesus Breathed on the disciples after His Resurrection and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21). The Spirit fell on them a little more than a month later as they waited for Him in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4). The disciples immediately began to minister in the Power of God’s Spirit and the world is still hearing His Voice.
The Holy Spirit spent the first 15-20 years after Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension leading great numbers of people to Christ (Acts 2 – 6). The opposition to the Holy Spirit’s Message also grew and a great persecution dispersed Christ’s followers across the land (Acts 7 – 9). Historians estimate that time as being in the middle of the 4th decade of the 1st century AD. The Holy Spirit began Inspiring the Writing of the New Testament 15-20 years later. While there is some debate about who wrote first, Paul and James are the two most likely candidates. The Spirit of God had much to Say to the world (John 16:5-15) and spent almost 50 years Inspiring the Writing of the New Testament.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:16-21
The Holy Spirit took great care during the Inspiration of the New Testament, so it makes sense that He would also protect it through generations of Christians. The Letters of the Apostles that the Spirit Inspired were carefully copied and distributed to other groups of believers across the world. The Holy Spirit chose the Koine Greek as the primary language of the New Testament and guided the process of copying to make sure the copies were accurate to the originals the Apostles wrote.
How successful was the Spirit? More than 5,350 Greek manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD are available for reading and comparing. That is a large mountain of evidence for writings of antiquity. There are only ten copies of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars available to study, yet its accuracy is not seriously questioned. Some of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are within a few decades of the original Writings, but the earliest manuscript of the Gallic Wars is a thousand years removed from the original writing. Again, no serious questions about the Gallic Wars.
In our next study, we will look at the part early copies of the New Testament play in its trustworthiness.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”