The Canon of Trent

The Council of Trent – an official gathering of Roman Catholic Church leaders – was held from 1545 to 1563.  In its fourth session (April 4th,  1546), it affirmed the New Testament canon that had already been in place and uncontroversial since ancient times.

Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle [ 1, 2, 3 ], one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.

This is the first, and only, ecumenical church council convened for the purpose, even in part, of resolving disagreements about the biblical canon..and even it, because it was Roman Catholic, did not involve Protestant or Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  While there is a dispute among these three main branches of Christianity about whether the Apocrypha should be included with the Old Testament, there is no such dispute about the contents New Testament.

Source:  Wikipedia article on Canon of Trent

The Muratorian Fragment Claims Apostolic Authorship of the New Testament’s Contents

In speaking of a book which was deemed to have value but not to qualify for the New Testament, the Muratorian Canon reads:

And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after [their] time.

Full text of the Muratorian Fragment

Athanasius Claims Apostolic Authorship of the New Testament’s Contents

From the 39th Festal Letter* of Athanasius, 20th bishop of Alexandria, published in 367 emphasis added]:

Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.

*There are 43 such letters of Athanasius extant, numbered 1-64 (i.e., 21 of them are missing).

The New Testament Itself Implicitly Claims Apostolic Authorship of Its Contents

The New Testament ascribes authorship of its 27 books to 8 men, each of whom is revealed in its pages to be either an apostle or working under the direct supervision of an apostle.  Thus James and Jude – the brothers of the Lord – take their place among the apostles after the resurrection (e.g. Acts 1:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5.), while Mark and Luke – by virtue of their status as co-workers – are deemed “apostolic men.”

Here then are the eight apostolic authors named in the New Testament in the order of the appearance of the first (or only) book ascribed to each.  I have put all books ascribed to each author in parentheses after his name.

Matthew (Matthew)  –  There is only one Matthew mentioned in the New Testament (Matt 9:9; 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), and he is one of the original twelve apostles.

Mark (Mark) –  There is only one “Mark” mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39; Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Phile 1:24; 1 Pet 5:13), and he is the one also called John who was a co-worker of Barnabas (as well as his cousin), Paul, and Peter.

Luke (Luke, Acts)  –  There is only one “Luke” mentioned in the New Testament (Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Phile 1:24), and he is the one who was a co-worker of Paul’s.

John (John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation)  –  Although there are several persons in the New Testament named “John,” this is John the son of Zebedee who was one of the original twelve apostles.

Paul (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews) –  There is only one person named “Paul” in the New Testament, and he is the apostle who had originally been known as Saul of Tarsus.

James (James)  –  Although there are several persons named “James” in the New Testament, this is the brother of Jesus (i.e. another son of Mary)

Peter (1 Peter, 2 Peter)  –  There is only one person in the New Testament named “Peter,” and he is the one who was among the original twelve apostles.

Jude (Jude)  –  There is only one person named “Jude” in the New Testament, and he is the brother of Jesus and James (i.e. also a son of Mary).

Related post: The New Testament Is Itself an Implicit Claim That Its Contents Are Apostolic

Related post on a different blog (Bible Study Notes for the Kingdom of God):  Individual Writing Apostles

Notes on the Verisimilitude of the New Testament

My post Craig Evans on the Reliability of the Bible.  It contains a link to a transcript of an interview with Evans titled “Is the Bible Reliable?”  (The article does not, however, contain the word “verisimilitude.”)

YouTube video Bart Ehrman & Craig Evans 2012 Debate P1 (start at 14:04).  Herein, Dr. Evans describes various aspects of verisimilitude in the New Testament.

Facebook post by Neil Shenvi on The frequency of first names in the biblical accounts matches the actual frequency of names in 1st century Palestine.  Neil told me that he derived this information from R. Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Eerdmans (2006), p. 85-88.  Neil also recommended this YouTube video lecture by Dr. Peter J. Williams (Warden of Tyndale House in the UK):  New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts (total time 53:45).

The Wikipedia article Language of Jesus identifies numerous Aramaic words found in the Greek New Testament (e.g. Abba, mammon, hosanna, Gethesemane).  Most Bible scholars believe that Aramaic was the language used by Jesus and His disciples because it was the common language of the cities and regions in which they lived and traveled.  Greek was the lingua franca of the broader world at that time.  Therefore, finding some Aramaic words sprinkled throughout documents written in Greek is just what you would expect of a first-century Mediterranean-wide social movement that originated in Palestine.

The Hallucination Hypothesis of the Resurrection of Christ

In his post WILLIAM LANE CRAIG AND JAMES CROSSLEY DEBATE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, (April 24, 2011), Wintery Knight wrote “This is my favorite debate on the resurrection.”  (The debate itself was held March 6, 2007 at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom and titled “Was Jesus Bodily Raised from the Dead?”  The debate was chaired by Hugh Pyper.)  In the post, WK wrote “…Crossley is a solid scholar…”

I also came across another WK post referencing Crossley titled GARY HABERMAS AND JAMES CROSSLEY DISCUSS THE MINIMAL FACTS CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION  (August 13, 2015).  In this post, WK wrote, “James Crossley is my favorite atheist ancient historian, such a straight shooter, ” and “He’s on the skeptical left, but he has a no-baloney way of talking that I really like.”

Therefore, in the comments section of this second post, I asked him, “WK, of all the debates about the resurrection of Jesus that you have watched/heard/read, who, in your opinion, has put forth the best argument against it? (When I reject an argument I want to know that I’m not just rejecting a weak version of it or a weak spokesman for it.)”  You can see my question and his response here.

By the way, here is Gary Habermas writing about the issue at hand in an article titled “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection:The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories.” (2001).

In one of WK’s responses to me, WK links to a 2007 post on William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith blog titled Dale Allison on the Resurrection of Jesus.  Craig is answering a question about Allison and begins by saying this:

I’ve never seen a better presentation of the case for scepticism about Jesus’ resurrection than in Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2005). He’s far more persuasive than Crossan, Lüdemann, Goulder, and the rest who actually deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. That Allison should, despite his sceptical arguments, finally affirm the facts of Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection and hold that the resurrection hypothesis is as viable an explanation as any other rival hypothesis, depending upon the worldview one brings to the investigation, is testimony to the strength of the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection.

Thus we have WK saying that the best argument against the resurrection of Christ that he has heard is Michael Goulder’s in Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann, which Craig therein refutes.  And we have Craig himself saying that the best argument against the resurrection he has ever heard (he says specifically that it’s superior to Goulder’s) is Dale Allison in Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters which Craig then goes on to refute in the post itself.

In summary, two of the best known scholarly supporters of the resurrection of Christ (William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas) both see the “hallucination hypothesis” as the best argument skeptics have…but that it’s still decidedly inferior to the resurrection hypothesis as an historical explanation, even when articulated by the most effective spokesmen.

P.S. Since Eric Chabot had also posted on the Craig-Crossley debate (A Look at William Lane Craig and James Crossley Debating the Resurrection of Jesus), I posed to him the same question about “best challenge” to the resurrection of Christ that started the line of thinking that led to this post.  You can see my question and Eric’s response to me at the post.

Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | by J. Warner Wallace

In this substantive post, Wallace includes a three-column chart showing the major historical claims about the life of Jesus from the point of view of the biblical writers, hostile Jewish witnesses, and hostile Gentile witnesses.

(13-minute read; 3,103 words)

Source: Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | Cold Case Christianity

(HT: Greg West at The Poached Egg of Ratio Christi)

Is the Bible Reliable? (1 of 4): Introduction | Mark Ashton 

In the introductory video of this 2009 series, Pastor Mark Ashton of Christ Community Church in Omaha says that expecting someone to believe that the Bible is the word of God is too big a leap.  He suggests following a process that consists of these three steps:

  1. Believe the Bible is historically reliable.
  2. Believe what the Bible says about Jesus.
  3. Believe the Bible is the word of God

He says we can do this by focusing on these three tests:

  1. Internal
  2. External
  3. Manuscript

This constitues the outline of the videos that follow the first one.



A. N. Sherwin-White on Jesus as Historical Figure

(2-minute read; 350 words)

Source: Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: A. N. Sherwin-White on Jesus as Historical Figure

How Geographic Separation Affirms the Reliability of the New Testament | J. Warner Wallace

(4-minute read; 904 words)

Source: How Geographic Separation Affirms the Reliability of the New Testament | Cold Case Christianity

HT: Greg West at The Poached Egg of Ratio Christi