Exploring Christianity – Part 2 – Credibility of the Author(s) – A

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Click here to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity.  He set up a new easy-to-read page that he can just add to as we go along.  The second part dealt with the case for the credibility of Biblical writers. 

Follow-up: Let’s start with your claim that the Bible is written by “credible authors.” If you could prove the credibility of an author who lived thousands of years ago, that would certainly bolster your argument when it came to writing describing Christ’s life, for example. However, it does nothing to bolster the veracity of writings which claim to portray God’s wishes for us. Since much of the Bible is comprised of these wishes, often revealed to an individual through means not witnessed by anyone else, aren’t you essentially taking them at their word? And what of the vast parts of the Bible the author of which is not known – how do you trust an unknown author?

It seems to me that while you can bolster your argument for accurate copying/translation through material evidence, your argument weakens when you regard the testimony of four individuals as true because you deem them trustworthy and completely falls apart when considering portions of the Bible which were simply “inspired” by God. At the end of the day, doesn’t your belief in the Bible’s veracity come down to faith?

Let me answer your last question first, namely, “Doesn’t your belief in the Bible’s veracity come down to faith?”

The answer is, “Yes,” in the sense of having faith based on confidence and trust. It is faith based on evidence. It isn’t blind faith or, worse yet, faith in spite of evidence. We all have faith in something; the question is what is the most logical and well-supported thing to have faith in?

There are parts of the Bible that have unknown or disputed authorship, but I wouldn’t consider it a vast portion. The credit for authorship may not have been important to pass along on some books, but the early church obviously took them to be inspired and worthy of canonization. There is a great deal of church history outside the Bible, so it isn’t like someone came along later and made up all these names. The early believers took these writings very seriously and carefully copied and shared them with others.

With respect to Moses’ authorship of the first five books of the Bible, here’s an article that deals with both sides of the debate. Here’s the most important part: “But nowhere in the Bible is it specifically stated that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch. Even if one believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, a case can be made that he authored only parts of the Torah, and that other writers added sections of their own and/or edited the resultant text.”

I’m not sure I completely follow your claim that accurate accounts of Christ’s life wouldn’t necessarily bolster our confidence in the portions that “claim to portray God’s wishes for us.” The Gospels record that He claimed to be God and that He proved He was God by performing countless miracles (including walking on water, raising the dead, healing the blind, curing leprosy, etc.) and rising from the dead just as He predicted. If those accounts are true, then we should take everything He said very seriously. Jesus validated the Old Testament, so we could trust that as well.

So why were these witnesses reliable? In the interest of space I’m going to summarize some points from an article called Matthew and John on the Witness Stand. Matthew and John were two of the Apostles and eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

The article notes five criteria used in legal circles to determine witness credibility. Do these two meet the criteria?

1. Did the witness make statements on a previous occasion inconsistent with his present testimony?
There is no evidence that Matthew and John ever submitted different testimonies before or after their Gospels were written.

2. Is the witness biased?
Matthew died as a martyr for the faith and John was exiled to an island (basically, a prison) or possibly martyred. If Jesus stayed dead, they had no incentive to claim that He had been raised to life. The same goes for people like Peter, Paul, James, and countless others who died grisly deaths rather than recant their message. This gives them a high degree of authenticity. Some people will die for a lie if they think it is true, but I don’t know anyone who knowingly dies for a lie. People are typically biased to save their hides but not to risk them for a known lie.

3. Is the witness of good character?
I am not aware of a shred of evidence that impugns their character or that they didn’t live their lives as if they really believed Jesus rose from the dead.

4. Was the witness incapable of observing, remembering, or recounting the matters testified about?
“Their writings are clear and lucid with an abundance of detail.” They give no indication that they were invented.

5. Did other witnesses show that material facts are otherwise than as testified to by the witness?
There are no contradictions in their testimonies (or those of other Gospel accounts). If Jesus’ body was still dead, I assure you that the Jewish authorities would have been glad to parade it down the street.

In summary, it is in no way required for us to confirm authorship to a specific individual (I trust directions to appliances even though I don’t know the author), but the Bible has many confirmed authors who are credible witnesses.

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