Welcome to the inaugural edition of The National Herald’s Religion Insert. This is not a section devoted to members – clergy or laity – of the Greek Orthodox Church, or of the Church, or any church, as a whole.
Rather, it is a forum in which matters of theology, spirituality, and religion are discussed, and no subject is off limits.
Moreover, this Insert is conceptualized to be a thought-provoking collection of essays and to inspire further discussion. It is not a rehashing of rudimentary aspects of the faith. Though certainly some broad topics will be explored, and in lay terms, this is not Orthodoxy 101, or even Christianity 101.
On the other hand, though contributors will range from theological scholars to virtually anyone interested in the topics – with our without any formal theological education or background – the language will not be overly technical. Rather, it is designed for our readership as a whole.
The topic we have selected for this first edition, certainly not a simple one and one that continues to perplex some of the greatest thinkers of modern times, is the historicity of the New Testament.
Before we delve into our discussion, let’s begin with the word “historicity” itself. It means historical authenticity. For example, if we held in our hands a copy of the July 10, 2014 edition of the New York Times, we could read the weather report, which stated that it had not snowed in New York City the day before. Most likely, we would consider the report reliable. The information is either correct or incorrect. If it is incorrect, then the error was intentional or accidental. Let’s take a look at both possibilities – first that the Times would intentionally report the previous day’s weather inaccurately. For what possible reason would it do that? What could it have to gain? Any furtherance of its political agenda? Apparently, none at all. Confirmation of its reputation as a credible news source? Quite the opposite, in fact. Any economic gain that might come of it? Not unless it attracts readers who enjoy reading incorrect information. Accordingly, we can logically conclude that the Times would have no plausible reason to report the weather incorrectly on purpose.
Next, what are the chances the Times’ account of the previous day’s weather was wrong? Again, slim to none. First of all, even though the Times has correspondents all over the world, it is most probable that the one who covers the weather in New York is also physically situated in that city. Surely then, he/she would know that if the unusual phenomenon of snow on July 9 had in fact occurred, and would not mistakenly have reported that there was none. Second, of the near-2 million daily readers the Times has, surely a large number of them – but certainly one, at least – would have noticed the fallacious weather report and informed the newspaper of the mistake. As the Times regularly publishes its corrections, all we would have to do is look at editions in the ensuing week or two, and if the weather report had been false, the chances are great that we would read the corrected version. Next, we could compare the Times’ weather report to an innumerable array of other sources, from the U.S. Weather Bureau, to countless other publications that reported on the weather that day. Finally, if we were not in New York City ourselves on July 9, we could call a near-endless array of people and get their confirmation within seconds: “Snow, in July? No way!”
These, then, are steps that would eliminate any reasonable doubt as to the Times weather report’s historicity. With that in mind, we ask to what extent the New Testament has undergone historicitical scrutiny.
Historically, one of the most prevalent components in arguing for the validity of the Bible as the Word of God is that the prophecies written in the Old Testament were fulfilled thousands of years later in the New Testament.
For instance, the Old Testament’s Daniel 9:25-26 (written circa 165BC) describes that “seven sevens”(49) and “sixty-two sevens” (434) after the decree to rebuilt Jerusalem (483 years total), the Messiah would come and would be put to death. Cross-referencing to the Book of Ezra, Artaxerxes of Persia in 458BC directed the reconstruction of Jerusalem. Moving 483 forward from that point brings us to 26AD, roughly the start of Jesus’ ministry.
Another and even simpler Old-to-New Testament prophecy is that found in Micah 5:2, claiming that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem. Micah was written sometime during the 6th Century, BC. Its prediction about the exact place of Jesus’ birth – an obscure little town at that – at least 600 years later would have been as if someone around 1350AD predicted that about 630 years later, a leader of the world’s most powerful nation would emerge, born in the little town of Tampico, IL (Ronald Reagan, President of the United States).
Another prophecy is found in Zechariah 11, predicting that the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Written no earlier than the 5th century BC, that prediction was later confirmed over 600 years later in Matthew 27.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
Naturally, the fulfillment of even these three Old Testament prophecies in the New Testament, let alone the hundreds if not thousands of other ones, gives great credibility to the notion that the Bible is in fact the most incredible book ever compiled, and tends to point to its declaration as being the Word of God.
Skeptics, new to and experienced in theological scholarship alike, often counter with this hypothesis: what if the New Testament writers simply tailored the ending to propose that the prophecies were in fact fulfilled? What if they so desperately wanted to convince the masses that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and thus, knowing how the masses relied on the Old Testament prophecies, insisted that Jesus – by virtue of his birth, ministry, and death – had fulfilled them?
This, then, is the question we propose to those who choose to respond: a reply to such skeptics. An argument for the historicity of the New Testament. Because if the New Testament is credible beyond reproach, then the prophecies have in fact been fulfilled. And if that is the case, then can there be any doubt that the Bible is the most amazing book ever written?
The post Introduding TNH Religion Supplement: Examining the NT’s Historicity appeared first on The National Herald.Source: The National Herald