The questioner in this video demonstrates a common but seldom-admitted skepticism about the New Testament documents – a skepticism that is abandoned when it comes to practically all other ancient literature.
The questioner leads me to imagine a court case where a man is convicted of murder based on ample evidence, to which his defense attorney replies, “Yes, but do you have any other evidence?” – thus implying that all the existing evidence is tainted but without offering any reasonable argument as to why we should consider it tainted.
Such people think that we believe the story of Jesus because we believe the New Testament to be the word of God. No. We believe the story of Jesus because we treat the New Testament documents the same way we treat all other documents from antiquity. Only after we are convinced of the reality of Jesus – what he said and did – do we need to come to a conviction about the New Testament being the word of God.
At about the 4:50 mark, Craig notes that the earliest biographies we have of Alexander the Great come from Plutarch and Arrian about 400 years after the fact. This compares with the four Gospels which give us Jesus’ life within a generation or two at the most. The questioner is employing a double standard, regarding the New Testament documents with a far greater skepticism than is applied toward other documents from that time period.
In this post, Craig Keener looks at three different historical periods covered by the Bible – the times of Abraham, Israel’s Kings, and Jesus – and explains how our historical knowledge of each period differs. In providing this nuance, Keener helps us to see how unwarranted skepticism about the historical reliability of the Bible really is.
[T]he notion of word-for-word agreement is a relatively recent historical development. In times of antiquity it was not the practice to give a verbatim repetition every time something was written out. To be sure, I don’t believe that one passage of Scripture ever directly contradicts other passages. Yet, when someone asks, “Does everything in Scripture and in the biblical manuscripts agree word-for-word?” that person is asking the wrong question. The answer to that question will always be a resounding “no.”