Is the New Testament (NT) reliable? (Part II: The reliability of the New Testament story) 

To judge the reliability of the biblical story, scholars apply the criteria of authenticity to the biblical accounts. The criteria of authenticity represent standards or tools by which the historical plausibility of an event is assessed. So let’s discuss 3 of these criteria and apply them to the biblical story 

1. The criterion of multiple attestation: the criterion states that if an event or a story is recorded by multiple and independent sources, that boosts its likelihood to have occurred. Applying this to the biblical story, we have several non-Christian sources (Roman, Greek and Jewish) that affirm the following facts which are in congruence with the biblical story and therefore attest to the reliability of the story: 

            1. Jesus Christ lived in the first century AD in Judea.  

            2. He was believed to be a miracle worker. 

            3. He was followed by several disciples believing He was the Messiah. 

            4. He was accused of blasphemy by the Jewish leaders. 

            5. He died on the cross under the reign of Pontius Pilate. 

            6. His disciples claimed to have several encounters with Him after rising from death. 

            7. His disciples evangelized and preached about His crucifixion, death and resurrection. 

            8. Christians multiplied in numbers before the great fire of Rome.  

            9. Christians used to meet regularly to worship Him. 

       These facts, which are attested from many sources outside the NT, are in coherence with the NT story and hence, the biblical story as narrated in the NT fulfills this criterion of authenticity.  

2. The criterion of Embarrassment: the criterion states that if an event or a story is embarrassing to its writer, then it is unlikely to be invented and this increases its likelihood of occurring. We have several passages in the NT that seem to be embarrassing to the disciples who are also the early founders of the church. For example, at the time when Jesus was arrested, His disciples ran away and abandoned Him. Also, the very first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and Jesus’s resurrection were women and given the Jewish middle eastern context belittling women and their testimonies, if the story was made up by the disciples, women would have been the disciples’ very last option to witness the empty tomb and testify to the resurrection. 

       Hence, the biblical story fulfills this criterion. 

3. The criterion of contextual credibility (sociohistorical context): the criterion states that for a story to be authentic, it must contain elements that conform to and do not contradict with the socio historical context of that time. When we have a look at the NT, we find several elements that conform to the socio historical context of the story, for example a study was conducted on the distribution of personal names in the first century AD in Palestine reveals that the names mentioned in the NT manuscripts conform to the names used at that time in that region. Similarly, there are archaeological discoveries that are in alignment with the NT manuscripts. In addition to that, the gospel of Luke presents historical details that further add to the plausibility of the story in terms of its historical context. In chapter 3 verses 1-2, Luke writes “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness”. Such level of detail suggests that Luke was well aware of the Roman and Jewish historical context of his story. 

        Hence, the biblical story fulfills this criterion. 

Based on these three criteria, we can reasonably trust the NT story.  

Is the New Testament (NT) reliable? (Part I: The reliability of the manuscripts)

NT critic Bart Ehrman claims that the manuscripts we have today don’t represent the original writings, but in fact are error-ridden copies that cannot be trusted. The number of variations among these manuscripts even exceed the number of words in the NT in its original Greek language. He suggests that there are about 400,000 variations in the manuscripts we have and about 138,200 words of the Greek NT; that means that for every word that exists there’s around 3 options for it! 

However, is that really an indication of the accuracy of the manuscripts? and what do the numbers really mean? 

To answer this question and determine the reliability of the NT manuscripts, we need to look at how historians assess any work of antiquity coming from the ancient world. Historians generally assess any text by looking at three things: A) the number of manuscript copies that exist for the text; B) the time gap between the original text and its earliest surviving copy; and C) the significance of variations between the copies.  

Historians and textual critics have more confidence in the reconstruction of the original text when there are lots of copies, short time gaps, and insignificant variations. If we are to compare the NT manuscripts with the manuscripts citing the work of well-known philosophers, authors or historians like Plato, Homer or Seutonius, whose works are thought to be reconstructed with high degree of accuracy, we’ll find that the NT manuscripts outnumber any of these works and have much earlier attestations than these works as well. To put things into perspective, we have about 250 copies of Plato with the earliest manuscript found after about 1300 years of the original writing. However, for the NT we have over 5,800 manuscripts in the Greek language alone and around 20,000 manuscripts in other languages (e.g. Coptic, Latin, Syriac). In fact, the textual critic, Dan Wallace states that “in comparison with the average ancient Greek author, the NT copies are well over a thousand times more plentiful”. In addition, these manuscripts with all their translations are found to be cited extensively by the early church fathers during the early centuries of Christianity to the extent that Ehrman himself claims that these citations are so extensive that “if all the other sources of our knowledge of the text of NT were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire NT.” 

Regarding the time gap between the earliest surviving manuscripts and the original manuscripts, we have two manuscripts, P52 and P66, which are dated around 35-40 years after the original manuscripts. In the world of ancient literature, this is considered a blink of an eye. In fact, the average time between the writing of most works contemporaneous with the NT like the works of Pliny, Sueotonius or Tacitus and their first copies is not less than a couple hundred years, so again no other work of antiquity comes close to the early attestation of the NT manuscripts.   

With regards to the textual variants among the manuscripts, yes there are about 400,000 variants in the NT manuscripts, yet the significance of them is what really matters. So let’s first define what a variant is. A variant is any difference between manuscripts. If a scribe spells “John” and another spells it “Johnn”, that’s a variant. If two scribes use two different synonyms for the same word, that’s a variant. If two scribes write the same sentence with the same meaning but use a different word order, that counts as a variant. If a verse or a block of text is found in one copy but not in others, that’s also a variant. 

If we take a closer look at these 400,000 variants, we’ll find that 99% of them don’t impact the meaning of the text whatsoever. Most of them come from spelling and word order. The remaining 1% (only 4,000 variants) are meaningful but none of them affects one single doctrine of the Christian faith. And in fact, considering the vast number of manuscripts that we have for the NT, it logically follows to have a big number of variants. So the large number of variants is due to the fact that the NT has more manuscripts than any other work of antiquity 

In conclusion, based on the rich and early attestation of the NT, as well as the insignificant variations among its manuscripts, we can trust that the NT manuscripts are reliable. In fact, if we do not trust the NT manuscripts, we cannot trust any other work of antiquity. 

Were The Gospels Written By Anonymous Authors?

Bart Ehrman, a famous New Testament scholar, claims that the four canonical Gospels were written anonymously, and were later falsely attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, a century after they had been written. In his book, “Forged: Writing in the name of God, Why the Bible’s authors are not who we think they are”, he builds a story for why these names were selectively chosen after they had already been in circulation in the early Church. Instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, he says, the real authors were anonymous Christians who relied on hearsay and legend rather than eyewitness testimony. He claims that the canonical Gospels were written in the third person, and were not attested for, in church fathers until Irenaeus, in the late second century. 


Is there evidence for this claim? 

First, there is simply no evidence that the first manuscripts of the Gospels lacked attribution to their traditional authors. There are no manuscripts that simply lack titles that consistently identify Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to their respective Gospels. Academic critics, on the other hand, say the variants in the titles of those early manuscripts prove the author’s names were added at a much later date. However, the usual variant is just the absence of the word “Gospel” which leaves a title that begins with “According to . . .” followed by the author’s name which is never absent from these manuscripts! If this is evidence for anything, then it is evidence for the unbroken and consistent oral tradition that churches worldwide had about the authors of each Gospel. 

In fact, many scholars reject the notion that the Gospels were anonymous at all. They argue that the hypothesis, that the Gospels were anonymous, requires many assumptions to be validated, which violates the principle of Occam’s Razor (that the best explanation is the one that requires the fewest assumptions). They maintain that the Apostolic fathers didn’t mention the Gospels’ authors because this was their custom even when they quoted the Pauline epistles or the Old Testament.  

Second, even if the earliest copies of the Gospels did not contain the names of their authors, that would not disprove the traditional authorship of those texts. For example, the works of the ancient Roman historian Tacitus often do not bear his name, but few historians have ever questioned that Tacitus wrote them. We know Tacitus is the author of these works because other ancient writers, like St. Jerome, identify him as the author. Bart Ehrman himself explains that anonymous literature was the custom of that period of time. 

Third, again, even if the earliest copies of the Gospels did not contain the names of their authors, it is not accurate to classify them as anonymous writings. An anonymous writing is one where the author deliberately hides his/her identity. This is not the case in the Gospel of Luke for example. Luke clearly addresses his Gospel to Theophilus who seems to have inquired about the story of Jesus and requested Luke to develop an accurate account of Jesus. It is clear that the recipient – Theophilus – would know that Luke is the one who is addressing him given the context of their exchange. It also isn’t the case with the Gospel of John as he refers to himself often within the Gospel as the “disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23). 

Fourth, there is an unbroken chain of evidence since the beginning of the church that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the authors of the Gospels. As St. Augustine has dealt with the same claim in his reply to the heretic Faustus, he stated: 

“How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers but by the unbroken chain of evidence? So also with the numerous commentaries on the ecclesiastical books, which have no canonical authority and yet show a desire of usefulness and a spirit of inquiry. . . . How can we be sure of the authorship of any book, if we doubt the apostolic origin of those books which are attributed to the apostles by the Church which the apostles themselves founded?” 

By the end of the first century, the authorship of each Gospel had been confirmed. Papias of Hierapolis, wrote in the first decades of the second century that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were in circulation by the end of the first century. Justin Martyr, in 150 AD, referred to the Gospels as written by the Apostles or their companions, and Irenaeus, in 190 AD, affirmed the traditional authorship of the Gospels, mentioning that this was handed down to him. He concluded that the Gospels’ authorship would have been confirmed within a generation from their writing, among all Christian communities, without confusion or any evidence for discussion or disagreement. 

Finally, another argument in favor of the traditional authorship of the Gospels is this: if they had been forged, it is highly likely the forgers would have pretended to be more impressive-sounding authors. This is what heretics in the second, third, and fourth centuries did when they attributed their forged Gospels to people like Peter, Philip, and Mary Magdalene. Why pretend to be a relative unknown such as Mark or Luke? Why would they impersonate a persona non grata such as Matthew, whose popularity as a former tax collector would have been only slightly higher than that of Judas Iscariot? 

Biblical scholar Brant Pitre aptly summarizes the issue: “According to the basic rules of textual criticism, then, if anything is original in the titles, it is the names of the authors. They are at least as original as any other part of the Gospels for which we have unanimous manuscript evidence.” 

Was Jesus Shocked That He Was Crucified?

In a recent debate between Bart Ehrman and Jimmy Akin, Bart claimed (in second 58:28 in this link ) that if we take the gospel narratives separately, we see that Jesus is shocked that He was crucified. He makes a point that this narrative in Mark is contradictory to the narratives in other gospels where Jesus is less silent and more deliberate about His crucifixion. 

However, is it true that Jesus was shocked with His predicament in the gospel of Mark? It is simply not true and a misrepresentation by Bart of the gospel of Mark.  

If we take references from the gospel of Mark alone, we find that Jesus clearly prophesied three times that He was going to be executed and resurrected from death. In Mark 8, right after Peter confessed Jesus as Christ, Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly” (Mark 8:31-32). On a later occasion, in Mark 9, Jesus repeated His prophecy of His death and resurrection as “He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” (Mark 9:31). For the third time, in Mark 10, Jesus predicts His death and resurrection even in more detail saying “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” (Mark 10:33-34). 

Were The Gospels Written By Actual Eyewitnesses Of Jesus?

New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman claimed that: “Even though we might desperately want to know the identities of the authors of the earliest Gospels, we simply don’t have sufficient evidence. The books were written anonymously and evidently not by eyewitnesses.”  

Now that we have answered this question and confirmed the identities of the authors of the Gospels, can we really be sure that those authors were actual eyewitnesses of Jesus? 

The first followers of Jesus also understood the importance of reliable eyewitnesses, especially when they began to claim that Jesus had returned from the dead. This claim is, after all, quite incredible. As a result, early Christians cherished eyewitness testimonies about the resurrection. 

Two New Testament Gospels specifically claim that eyewitness reports formed the foundation for what they had to say about Jesus. ‘”These things were handed down to us,” the preface of the Gospel According to Luke declares, “by those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning.” (Luke 1:2 ; see also Acts 1:22). And St. John’s Gospel announced with utmost sincerity, “The one who saw this has testified-his testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth” (John 19:35; see also 21:24). Around A.D. 160, an unknown writer in Rome recorded an oral tradition that backed up these claims. According to this author, Luke based his Gospel on personal interviews, presumably with eyewitnesses, and the Fourth Gospel represented the eyewitness testimony of the apostle John. 

The other two Gospels don’t specifically claim to come from eyewitnesses, but early Christians believed that these writings represented eyewitness testimony. Writing from Asia Minor in the early second century, Papias of Hierapolis affirmed that Mark’s Gospel preserved Peter’s eyewitness testimony and that the apostle Matthew was responsible for the Gospel that bore his name. A few years later, lrenaeus of Lyons – the leading pastor in an area known today as northern France – linked each New Testament Gospel to an eyewitness of the resurrected Lord. Justin Martyr – a defender of Christian faith, writing from Rome in the mid-second century – referred to a quotation from Mark 3:16-17 as coming from the “recollections of Peter.” Around A.D. 200, Tertullian of Carthage put it this way: “We present as our first position, that the Gospel testimony has apostles for its authors, to whom the Lord himself assigned the position of propagating the Gospel. There are also some that, though not apostles, are apostolic-they do not stand alone; they appear with and after the apostles.” So, St. John and St. Matthew, of the apostles, first instill faith into us while the apostolic writers St. Luke and St. Mark renew it afterwards. 

As we can see, from the first century onward, a consistent strand of Christian tradition tied the truth of the New Testament Gospels to eyewitness testimony.  

Why did the early church and our Orthodox church adopt the Septuagint scriptures? And why don’t the Jewish rabbis and the Protestant churches use it?

The Septuagint, abbreviation LXX, is the earliest extant Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew. The Septuagint was presumably made for the Jewish community in Egypt when Greek was the common language throughout the region. Analysis of the language has established that the Torah, or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), was translated near the middle of the 3rd century BCE and that the rest of the Old Testament was translated in the 2nd century BCE before Christ. The Septuagint is the only complete and reliable translation for the Old testament that was in Greek which is the most widely used language by the time of the early church. 

In addition to all the books of the Hebrew canon, the Septuagint includes the deuterocanonical books, which are not included in the Masoretic text adopted by Jews. The Protestant churches use only the Masoretic text as the canonical Old Testament.  

So why did the early church, and currently orthodox churches, use the Septuagint? 

FIrst, our Lord and Savior Jesus Himself used the Septuagint as evidenced in many instances (click here for more details on this topic). For example, He confirmed the book of Maccabees as scripture by celebrating The Hanukkah. According to the gospel of Saint John: “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” (John 10:22, NKJV). The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. Those books are part of the Septuagint, but not canonized in the Hebrew Masoretic Text. 

In addition, early Christians used the Septuagint out of necessity, since the language of most early Christians was Greek and they could not read Hebrew. Therefore, the Septuagint helped in the spread of Christianity in the early Church.  

The Jews themselves used the Septuagint up to the second century CE. They stopped using the Septuagint altogether only in the second century after Christ, as many early Christians relied on the Septuagint to refer to prophecies that they claimed to have been fulfilled by Christ. The Jews considered this a misuse of Holy Scriptures and adopted the Masoretic text instead. The discoveries of the dead sea scrolls revealed copies of both Hebrew (pre-Masoretic) and Septuagint versions used by the communities of Qumran which assures that both Old Testament versions were used within the Jewish sects and that the Septuagint scriptures was regarded as divine scriptures by Jews. 

The Greek text, not the original Hebrew, was the main basis for the Old Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic, and part of the Arabic translations of the Old Testament and has never ceased to be the standard version of the Old Testament in the Greek church. Indeed, St. Jerome used the Septuagint to begin his translation of the Vulgate Old Testament in 382 CE.  

Finally, the Church’s theology was also explicitly shaped by the Septuagint. For example, St. Matthew’s reference to the prophecy of Jesus’ virgin birth is supported only in the Greek text (whereas the Hebrew has “young woman”). The writings of the Apostolic fathers are similarly saturated with quotations from the Septuagint, and specific Greek readings were used to refute heresies throughout Church history.

The Authenticity of the Deuterocanonical Books 

Numerous Christians have difficulties with the Deuterocanonical Books, being unsure whether these books are part of Scripture or not. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches acknowledge these books, yet the Protestant Churches do not.  

Prior to looking at their authenticity, what are the Deuterocanonical Books and why are these books named as such? The terminology ‘’deuterocanonical’’ was introduced in the 16th century by Pope Sixtus V from the Roman Catholic Church (see Pope Sixtus V made a distinction between ‘’protocanonical’’ and ‘’deuterocanonical’’ books, where protocanonical books are the books of the first Old Testament canon (hence, proto and canon) and the deuterocanonical books are the books of the second Old Testament canon (hence, deuteron and canon). As Orthodoxy does not make this distinction, and both ‘’groups’’ are seen as protocanonical books, the term deuterocanonical is nevertheless used as this term is widely used in literature. The Deuterocanonical Books are: The Book of Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, 1 and 2 Esdras, the prayer of Manasseh and additions to the Books of Esther and Daniel. These books were removed from the Bible during the Reformation (16th century). The one who removed these books was Martin Luther, who first removed these books to the appendix of the Bible and subsequently removed them from the Bible. He also tried to remove several books from the New Testament, such as: The Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James and the Revelation of John (see episode 10 of ‘’Introduction to the Bible’’ podcast by ‘’Ancient Faith Ministries’’).  

What are arguments against the authenticity of the Deuterocanonical Books? 

Argument 1: The Deuterocanonical Books are not included in the list of books organized by Ezra the Priest in the library of Nehemiah. As Ezra had collected all books acknowledged as scripture, and he did not include the Deuterocanonical Books, these books are not supposed to be in the Old Testament Canon.  

Refutation: The information about the library of Nehemiah is, interestingly, only mentioned in the deuterocanonical book 2 Maccabees (2 Maccabees 2:13). Therefore, this argument is invalid as one cannot reject the Deuterocanonical Books based on information exclusively found in the Deuterocanonical Books. Another point is that the Israelites were divided back then, consisting of roughly three groups: Israelites in Jerusalem, Israelites in exile and Israelites returning home from exile. Furthermore, not all books were written prior to Ezra, some books, such as Sirach, were written after the time of Ezra and were written in other cities such as Jerusalem. As back then there were no databases, it was practically impossible for Ezra to collect Scripture from over the whole world. This, however, does not mean that Ezra purposely rejected these books, but he simply did not know of their existence or they were not even written.  

Argument 2: The average Bible does not contain the Deuterocanonical Books, therefore they are not important (enough) as they are not included in most Bibles.  

Refutation: That the average Bible does not contain these books does not mean that they are not part of Scripture. For instance, if I would remove books from the Bible and copy my Bible numerous times, would that mean that the books which I removed are not part of scripture? Of course not. More importantly, Orthodox and Catholic Bibles do contain the Deuterocanonical Books. Furthermore, ancient copies of the Old Testament also contain the Deuterocanonical Books, such as the Septuagint (3rd c. BC), the Peshitta (2-4th c. AD) and the Vulgate (4th c. AD). The copy which does not contain the Deuterocanonical Books is the Masoretic Text, which is a Jewish ‘’Bible’’. In addition, Bibles prior to the 16th century all contained the Deuterocanonical Books, as the ‘’controverse’’ started during the Reformation.  

What are arguments in favour of the authenticity of the Deuterocanonical Books? 

Argument 1:  The Biblical Canon has been discussed during several councils, such as: The Council of Laodicea in 363 (NPNF, series 2, Vol. 14, pp. 126-160), the Council of Hippo in 393, the Councils of Carthage in 397 (B. Westcott. General survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, pp. 440, 541–42) and 419 (NPNF, series 2, Vol. 14, pp. 438-510). During these councils, the Deuterocanonical Books were mentioned to be 1) part of Scripture and 2) to have the same authenticity as the rest of Scripture. For instance, Canon 59 of the Council of Laodicea mentions: ‘’No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments’’, and Canon 60 lists the Deuterocanonical Books as part of the Old Testament Canon (NPNF, series 2, Vol. 14, pp. 438-510). As the Deuterocanonical Books were highly used by the Church Fathers, one can come to the conclusion that these were truly a part of Scripture. The Council of Carthage mentioned the Biblical Canon of the Old and New Testament, and this list contained the Deuterocanonical Books. Despite that most acts of this council has been lost, they are cited, however, in the acts of the Council of Hippo. Furthermore, Canon 24 of the 2nd Council of Carthage listed the Deuterocanonical Books as part of the Old Testament Canon.  

Argument 2: Church Fathers listed the Deuterocanonical Books as part of their Biblical Canon. Several Church Fathers explicitly mentioned the Deuterocanonical Books in their Biblical Canons, such as Melito of Sardis (Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History, Book 4.26.12-14), Athanasius of Alexandria (373 AD) (Festal Epistle, 39), Cyril of Jerusalem (386 AD) (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 4.33-37), Gregorius Nazianzus (390 AD) (Hymns, Hymn 1.1),  Amphilochius of Iconium (403 AD) (see his work ‘’Lambics to Seleucus’’), Epiphanius of Salamis (403 AD) (see his work ‘’On the Weights and Measures, 49’’), Augustine of Hippo (420 AD) (see his work ‘’Retractions, 2.2-3’’) and Innocent I of Rome (417 AD) (see his Epistle to Exsuperius, 7) are some of these Fathers. In addition, Church Fathers often cited Deuterocanonical Books in their works, also they never objected to the authenticity of the Deuterocanonical Books. Significant Church Fathers cited the Deuterocanonical Books in multiple instances, such as Athanasius of Alexandria (373 AD), Basil of Caesarea (379 AD), Gregory Nazianzus (390 AD), John Chrysostom (407 AD) and Cyril of Alexandria (444 AD). Also, the Apostolic Fathers cited the Deuterocanonical Books, such as Clement of Rome (1st c. AD), Polycarp of Smyrna (2nd c. AD) and the Didache (2nd c. AD).  

Noteworthy is that several Church Fathers counted the books of the Old Testament as 22, symbolising the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This did not mean, however, that these Fathers did not acknowledge all books of the Old Testament, rather they used another counting method. The counting method which they used, grouped the twelve minor prophets as one book and books such as Samuel, Chronicles and Kings were not numbered as 1 and 2. Church Fathers who used this method to count books from the Old Testament were Hilary of Poitiers (367 AD) (see his ‘’Prologue to the Psalms, 15’’), Athanasius of Alexandria (Festal Letters, Letter 39), Gregory Nazianzus (Poems, Book 1, Section 1,12), Origen of Alexandria (254 AD) (Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History, Book 6.25), Jerome of Stridon (420 AD) (see his Letter to Paulinus, 6-8) and Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 4.35).  

Argument 3: The New Testament and Jesus Himself quoted several times from the Deuterocanonical Books. For example,  

  • Jesus quotes Sirach 26:7 when He stated that “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16,20).  
  • Jesus said: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) 
  • The Book of Sirach states that: “Do not babble in the assembly of the elders, and do not repeat yourself when you pray.” (Sirach 7:14) 
  • Matthew mentions that the people who were observing the crucifixion said: “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:43) 
  • The Book of Wisdom prophesied that He, referring to Jesus “boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true” (Wisdom 2:15,16) 
  • Jesus said: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31) 
  • Tobit states that: “Do to no one what you yourself hate” (Tobit 4:15) 
  • Jesus quoted from Tobit 4: “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you. Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little. You will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity. For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps one from entering into Darkness. Almsgiving is a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who practice it” (Tobit 4:7-11) 
  • Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34)  
  • Book of Wisdom: “For who can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills?” (Wisdom 9:13) 
  • Pauls instructs the believers that “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) 
  • Sirach 35:11: “With every gift show a cheerful face, and dedicate your tithe with gladness.” (Sirach 35:11) 
  • Paul wrote on Jesus as the Wisdom of God that He “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3)  
  • Solomon wrote on the Wisdom of God that “she is a reflection of eternal lighta spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness” (Wisdom 7:26) 

Did Jesus believe that the Totality of scriptures is the divine word of God?

For many years, skeptics and scholars of textual criticism have attempted to poke holes, and cast doubt on the reliability of Holy Scripture. From the perspective of a skeptic, it makes sense to go after Scripture – because after all, scripture is foundational to the Christian Faith. There have been several questions over the years that have been presented, and a couple that are more prominent.  

One example of this is that of the manuscripts. Can we count on the Bible we read today remaining true to the original writings, even though these writings were copied by hand hundreds; even thousands of times as they were handed down through the centuries? Of course, as many biblical scholars have noted, if we can’t rely on these manuscripts, than it would follow that no ancient texts can be relied upon; and that idea is simply preposterous. To illustrate this point, we can look at The Odyssey by Homer. This epic poem consisting of 24 books was passed on by word of mouth for centuries, and it is still required reading for many students today.  

The authenticity of biblical manuscripts, while an important issue, is not the question though that we are addressing here. In this case we are looking at a different issue that some prominent skeptics have presented; and that is the question of whether or not Jesus believed in the totality of Scripture (what we refer to as the Old Testament), being the word of God. We know based on all four accounts of the Gospel that Jesus frequently quoted scripture, but do we have evidence that he believed the entire Old Testament to be God breathed? 

Jesus taught consistently of the importance of scripture, and its vitality in the lives of his followers:  

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” Mathew 4:4  

What though can we infer from this on what Jesus believed to be the words that “proceed from the mouth of God”? In the next chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we can see that Jesus clarified this question perfectly, which demonstrated that he in fact embraced the entirety of Scripture:  

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all of this is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18   

In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus is also clear about his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. It is important to note that he said these things in the brief period of time between his resurrection and ascension:  

“And beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” Luke 24:27   

Then he said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” Luke 24:44 

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he cited Scripture many, many times, and referenced people and events, giving no indication that these were anything but factual and accurate: In the Gospel according to St. Matthew we see Jesus making reference to Adam and Eve:  

“And he answered and said to them ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”’” Matthew 19:4.  

In the same Gospel account, we also see Jesus make reference to Jonah:  

“But he answered, and said to them ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Matthew 12:39-40.  

Yet another example from the Gospel according to St. Matthew makes reference to Noah and the Flood:  

“For as the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the son of man be.” Matthew 24:38-39  

When we examine the Gospels, we can see clearly that Jesus himself regarded Scripture as the Word of God. We see him give equal treatment to the Law, as well as the Prophets and Psalms. Not only did he quote and reference scripture on many, many occasions, but he also demonstrated their reliability from an historical perspective, showing that we can trust fully that the Bible is truly the authentic, and unassailable, word of God.  

How Were the Books of the Bible Canonized?

The Criteria of Canonicity is the decisive criteria that was used to decide which books are canonized, i.e. admitted to the Bible, and which are not. The criteria are: 

1. Apostolic Origin, also known as Apostolicity, examines the identity of the author, i.e. does the author have the apostolic authority or not? The apostles were commissioned by the Lord himself to be His spokesmen on this earth during the interval between the ascension of Christ and the completion of the New Testament Scriptures. They were given the gift of the Holy Spirit which would enable them to write inerrant Scripture and teach inerrant doctrine. Therefore, the books of the New Testament were to be related  to one of these authoritative, inspired apostles. 

2. Accreditation of the Apostolic Fathers, for example, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp, among the Apostolic Fathers. Did the Apostolic Fathers accept those books and quote them as scripture or not? 

3. The Ecclesiastical Acknowledgement: the writings that became canonical were writings that were used in early churches; they were read in public worship and known to be useful for study, doctrine, and edification.  

4. The rule of Orthodox, True Faith:  whether the content of the book is aligned with the Orthodox faith or not. 

Scripture’s Canonization was done in Catholic Councils gathering Bishops from all around the Christian world to affirm the authenticity and divinity of the scripture. The Council of Laodicea, in 363 A.D., stated that only the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo, 393 A.D., and the Council of Carthage, 397 A.D., also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative. There is no doubt Our Early Church Fathers and Apostles were faithful to death to deliver the True faith to all the world. The textual criticism that had included millions of direct and indirect scriptures, the strictness of the biblical canonization process, as well as the faithfulness of the apostles and early fathers, who offered their lives joyfully in martyrdom to Christ to keep the right faith, leave no room for doubting the authenticity of the Scriptures.