Beyond Tradition

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men." Colossians 2:8

The Genesis

 by Sean D. Harmon

Part I of II:

For those already familiar with Christianity 101, you might want to skip this part and go to The Textual Reliability Issue below. The consensus among the majority of scholars is that Jesus was executed somewhere between the first century between 30-36 CE. It all basically began when Jesus' disciples, who were Jews, proclaimed his resurrection shortly after his crucifixion. They became notoriously known as apostles and began to evangelize this message called the "gospel" in Judea and Rome shortly after this proclaimed event (the Greek word for gospel is euaggelion "good news" and was used as a generic word before it was used to identify the New Testament documents themselves). Somewhere between this time and the turn of first the century, the gospels and letters that make up the New Testament was derived. The New Testament is a compilation of 27 canonical books (as opposed to non-canonical or apocryphal books that were not included in the canon compilation, which we'll discuss in Part II). The canon books consist of:


  • Four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • A historical chronicle of the early apostles in and around Judea shortly after the crucifixion called Acts (or "Acts of the Apostles").
  • A compilation of epistles or letters from various apostles to the early churches in Judea and the Mediterranean in the first century (the majority of which come from the apostle Paul, one of the most prominent and influential figures of the Christian missionary movement in the first century),
  • And a highly controversial apocalyptic book called Revelation.


They were all initially separate manuscripts written in Greek, although some scholars actually hold that the originals were written in Aramaic (the original Jewish language of the time), and the gospels we have now were very early Greek translations of those works, particularly Matthew. Though this is not the majority view, most scholars concur that there are clear instances of an Aramaic substrata underlying the gospels, particularly Mark and Matthew.[1] Some offer another theory, arguing that an Aramaic proto-Matthew (or perhaps just an earlier gospel by Matthew) existed before his additional Greek gospel (the one we have translated today),[2] which would seem to correlate with the attestation of the early second century church father Papias.[3] Probably the vast majority of scholars disregard this and instead argue that the gospels were written in Greek and have always been in Greek. I'll touch on this in more detail in other articles. In any event, the New Testament books were either written on rolled scrolls of papyrus (Fig on the right) or notebooks called codices (Fig on the top left). Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels because they're much more similar to each other in structure and content than the gospel of John.

Though some of the epistles are generally accepted as written by the authors who's names are ascribed to them (with the exception of several that are believed by some to be written under apostolic pseudonymous), the original gospel authors are much less agreeable among scholars and is an issue that is hotly debated. Unfortunately the original New Testament documents don't exist today, due to being destroyed, burned, eaten by bugs, worn out through over-use or buried somewhere and just not found yet. The earliest manuscripts of the New Testament that we have in our possession today are handwritten copies of copies of copies… and so on down through the centuries.

The textual reliability issue

The extant or oldest New Testament manuscript copies we currently have are fragments,[4] anywhere from slivers or small pieces of papyrus that have survived and date from second to the third century, such as p66 and p75. Full-scale Greek and Latin manuscript copies, manuscripts that have a relatively complete biblical form, date around the fourth century or later. Obviously the gap of time that exists between the oldest extant copy we have in existence and the original logically suggests that there was an exponential amount of copies made one after another in between. In other words, if the original gospels were composed somewhere in the first century, and the oldest copies we have exist in fragments within the late second to the third century, and full manuscripts in the fourth century or later, then we could assume there were quite a few copies that were made in between that stretch of time that we have lost, thus leading one to worry just how reliable these copies actually are, or how accurately they reflect the original that may be many copies back. Basically here's the process: the more handwritten copies of a manuscript that are actually in existence, the better we can trace such errors or aberrations, possibly back or at least close enough to the original. In other words, it's much like the telephone game. Let's say we have a long line of people sharing a story to each other, one after the next until we get to the last person. If we only had the last person left, we would never know how accurate it was against the original story. Let's say we had two separate lines of people who participated in the same process, hence, two people left from two different lines that had shared the same story, we still couldn't be sure because we would undoubtedly have mistakes and discrepancies between the two with no other sources by which to gauge to whom the majority of discrepancies lay. However, if we have many people left over from many separate lines that had shared the same story, hundreds, from different locations of the world, speaking different languages, their stories may be compared and analyzed, giving us a pretty good idea where any stark changes may have occurred and increasing the probability that the original story can be pieced together and recounted fairly accurately.

There are more than 5,000 copied Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and copies also written in Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages, totaling about 24,000 hand written manuscript copies of both fragments, portions and full manuscripts of the New Testament, dating from about the third century up to the advent of the printing press.[6] One of the primary issues is that, since originals were written in the first century, there is obviously a gap of time between the originals and the copies we have -- anywhere from 100-200 years or so. Hence, an overstated fear is how we really know there weren't massive changes or modifications between that time that we would not have been able trace. Firstly, the original authors with the authority to scribe such works were obviously revered figures in the early church, making it unlikely anyone would have assumed such audacious redactions to their works so early on (we're talking relatively from the first century). Secondly, it obviously wouldn't be reasonable to assume each author died immediately after they scribed their work, thus it's not likely to assume the early church would have kept silent and not have contested attempts at doctoring their works in the years, possibly even decades after the fact when the authors were still alive and while copies of their works were presumably circulating. Paul Wegner points out...


"While the writers of the New Testament Scriptures were still alive it is unlikely that people could have changed their writings without their authors pointing out such discrepancies. Paul sometimes requested that his letters be circulated to the other churches (Col 4:16), and thus the autographs must have been copied almost immediately; this would make it unlikely that others could modify the text without some traces of the originals existing. The early church also had a great reverence for these works (2 Tim 3:16; 2Pet 1:20-21) and their authors (2 Pet 3:15-16), so it is doubtful that they would change their writings (see also Rev 22:18-19)."[7]


Moreover, the New Testament documents that were originally separate works were often made public at the outset and read out loud in the churches to the whole congregation in the churches they were circulating at the time.[8] They were often passed around to other churches in different locations, which was often instructed by the authors themselves who wrote these documents (see Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 1 Timothy 4:13), thus any radical changes certainly would not have gone unnoticed. Polycarp also noted that the transmission and sharing of epistles from church to church was a common practice,[9] and we can certainly assume the gospels were circulating this way as well during their public release. Point being, even though we have a rather vast gap of time between the original New Testament works and the manuscript copies we have in our possession, and though unintentional errors certainly crept in, the supposition of intentional and rampant editing and redacting on a whim of which we are unaware is highly unlikely, especially in the early stages of copy transmission, particularly from the first century.

What is also a key factor in all this is that a large portion of the manuscripts that we have are derived from different sources. Expert palaeographers are capable of dating a particular manuscript to within 25 years of the date of its composition, give or take. Though it's anything but an exact science, it's not at all guesswork either, and is determined by comparing the style and lettering to other documents of the relative era whose dates have been confirmed.[10] The Greek manuscripts are basically broken up into three distinct categories: Alexandrian (200-900 CE), Western (300-900 CE), and Byzantine (500-1200 CE) texts, all of which are based on distinct, exceptional, eccentric, or independent lines of text, meaning that they not only vary in style and form but in key textual areas, indicative that they came from distinct textual sources, sources of which often date much earlier than the manuscripts themselves. Dan Wallace argues that when the various Alexandrian texts agree, it undoubtedly reflects a purer stream of wording that dates much older than the Alexandrian texts themselves; and Bart Ehrman, the scholar he was debating, did not challenge him on this point.[11] We know for a fact that copies of the New Testament, particularly the gospels, were already circulating en masse during the second century (discussed here: The Genesis: Gospel date consensus), evident not only by fragments of manuscripts that date that early but by the many references of these works by a variety of sources and church fathers that were scattered throughout the empire from Egypt, Turkey and Rome; so even though we don't have a large number of these early physical copies in our possession, we undoubtedly have their descendant copies. In other words, in order to imagine that covert modifications and changes occurred during the second century, we would have to imagine that the modification was made as a scribe copied it, and then all other manuscripts that were circulating were gathered and destroyed, and then the copy with the modification was then redistributed as the source copy and the circulation started all over again from that particular point, which would have been impossible.

To get a better illustration of this; imagine the original works like seeds that are planted in a forest. Once these seeds sprout into trees, seedlings are gathered from these trees and scattered around a second forest. But of course, the guardians of those first trees are preserving the trees and certainly won't allow those trees to be destroyed. Thus more seedlings are gathered not just from the first trees but the second trees and taken to a third forest and scattered around. In some cases, hybrids are even produced as a result. Seedlings are then taken from the first, second and third trees and scattered around a fourth forest... and on and on. As I pointed out, the second century was like a forest of a variety of these trees that sprouted from the original trees of the first forest, and though the original trees from the first forest and the earliest descendant trees from the second forest have been lost, we have some fragmented leaves from the various branches of the second forest, a variety of branches from the third forest, a variety of branches and trees from the fourth forest... and on and on. Textual criticism is the science of studying and comparing these leaves, branches and trees in order to see where they vary and determine what the originals may have looked like. Though there's an open window of unknowns between the first century and sometime around the second century (or full manuscripts we don't have in our possession), thanks to textual criticism, it would have been impossible to have made modifications and then kept those modifications covert, because it would have been impossible to manage the sheer circulation of copies that would have presumably occurred in between that gap of unknowns -- much like it would have been impossible to systematically clear away all the old forests as new forests were produced over and over again.


Another illustrative example 

Suppose the author of Matthew writes his gospel and gives it to the church at Syria. A scribe from the church at Rome hears about it, travels down to Syria and makes a copy of it. He takes his copy -- we’ll call copy A -- back to Rome, which would become the root of the Western texts. A scribe from Egypt travels to Syria to make himself a copy -- we’ll call copy B -- which would become the root of the Alexandrian texts. We can logically assume that additional scribes in the Syrian church were assigned to make back-up copies of Matthew while the original Matthew was carefully preserved. In the meantime, the Syrian copies begin to spread out -- we’ll call C -- which would later become the root of the Byzantine texts. The whole time, more copies are exponentially spreading from A, B, C, we’ll call D, E, F, and on and on...

Somewhere during this event, a nefarious scribe comes along and makes a copy from say… A, but completely doctors the accounts (with what we covered previously, this most likely would have happened much later than earlier, as it did with Marcion in the early second century who apparently altered certain NT books including the gospel of Luke, a defiant act that his contemporaries like Irenaeus were not unaware of). He doesn’t like the virgin birth or Jesus’ baptism, so he takes it out, changes a few other scenes where he has Judas as Jesus’ right hand man instead of his betrayer, then modifies some other scenes here and there. We’ll call his tainted copy A(x). Problem is -- AND HERE IS THE IMPORTANT POINT -- not only can he not destroy source A where he copied this from (something he would have to do to keep descendant copies from continuing to circulate from that source) because the church that possesses it would most likely have him flayed alive, but it would hardly be possible for him to travel to all other locations throughout the Mediterranean on a search and destroy of Matthew's original, in addition to B, C and all subsequent copies made from those copies, much less even know exactly where all these potential copies are located.

Even if we wanted to theoretically suspect that such a process was possible with one gospel, we would have to conclude this happened with the other three gospels as well, which is not even theoretically plausible being that each gospel was written in different places themselves. There is no evidence of a unified church authority able to control the distribution and flow of these sources until centuries later when Christianity became an official Roman religion and was given some form of government power; in fact, at the time, Christendom was illegal throughout the Empire. As time goes on, the originals and the earliest sources -- A, A(x), B, C, D, E, F, etc. -- between the first and the late second century become extinct, yet copies from those independent sources have branched out exponentially. Thus we don't need the originals or even the early copies to know what was doctored because somewhere along the line, as we’re gathering the scattered Matthean fragmented manuscripts around the world and comparing the descendant copies of copies of copies of A, A(x), B, C, D, E, F it will become apparent that radical modifications took place in the parent A(x) source by comparing it to its peers.

The good news is that even though we don't have the originals, or even many of the earliest copies between a 100-200 year period of unknowns, there could not possibly have been covert changes of such a radical nature as that of A(x) that we would not be able to weed out using textual criticism methodology. This is the beauty of having so many unique extant textual source copies available to us for comparison in the data pool. The bad news is that such alterations between the copies, called variants, are a stark reality. So just how many variants are there between the thousands of manuscripts we have and how does this affect how we read the text?


The horror of the variants

Having so many sources is both a blessing and a curse. As I previously mentioned, there is no way covert changes could have occurred without textual criticism weeding these changes out between the copies. The problem is, there are indeed many variants existing within these manuscripts in comparison to each other, in fact, there is probably no two manuscripts that are a perfect reading to each other, and the scribe of a particular manuscript often made marginal notes himself when he noted a particular variant when reading from the text he was using to transcribe his copy. Experts in the field, such as Bart Ehrman, and their arguments naturally cause shock waves throughout the Christian and secular community, and will most likely get the most media attention, which is then heralded with glee by skeptics and atheists abroad, mainly because Christians as usual do themselves great disservice by hiding these facts from their congregations with bold and grand assertions about the bible being perfectly preserved until an outspoken critic comes along and delightfully counters these assertions with either the sole intent to spite fundamentalist Christianity, stir up controversy in order to sell a book, or probably a little of both.

Yet ignorance is bliss when it comes to critics on this subject, and the church's ignorance is far more of a destructive force to itself than any critic could ever hope to achieve with textual criticism. Of course, while the critic and skeptic will amplify it, claiming that we can never ever really know what the originals said, the apologist will naturally play down the issue, some declaring that we have the perfect inerrant word of God and who assure us to this day that the King James bible is just that bible (even though, in truth, the King James is based on the Textus Receptus as its root source, which many argue is the most unreliable source).[12] Most of the time this is dramatically emphasized by those with little knowledge of textual criticism history, not knowing the King James is actually based on the majority of manuscript texts, texts that are dated later than other earlier texts which are considered arguably the least reliable by some scholars.[13] Yet it becomes more than evident that textual criticism is more of a threat to the inerrancy camp, or those who don't fully understand the subject than it is to theological Christian doctrine itself, and though a lot of evangelical fundamentalists usually try and play the issue of textual criticism down with either silence or blind and false assertions -- sometimes vehemently and with conviction -- the critics are no better at exploiting it to the fullest with exaggeration.

Biblical scholars relish finding new manuscripts of the canon texts, because the canon texts are always remarkably preserved from text to text, and there are never any real surprises, such as finding Jesus actually killed by a sword instead in one text, or ascending on a white horse in another, or born from a bolt of lightening in yet another. There are numerous variants, most of which are scribal errors such as misspelling and that are inconsequential to the actual text. There are about 400,000 variants in all between the earliest manuscripts we have, and though this might sound alarm bells ringing, this is actually not as scary as it sounds. Both Ehrman and Daniel Wallace argue that most common variants are spelling variants -- sometimes a misplaced pronoun such as an, sometimes John is spelled with two n's, sometimes the word and is found in place of Lord, or sometimes definite articles are placed before someone's name such as "the Mary" in some manuscripts but absent in others.[14] Sometimes the order of words, spelling, added conjunctions, or synonyms can vary in a Greek sentence, such as "Jesus loves Paul," which can be written in a myriad number of ways in the Greek...


1. ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον

2. ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον

3. ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον

4. ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον

5. Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

6. τὸν Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

7. Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

8. τὸν Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

9. ἀγαπᾷ ᾿Ιησοῦς Παῦλον

10. ἀγαπᾷ ᾿Ιησοῦς τὸν Παῦλον

11. ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς Παῦλον

12. ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς τὸν Παῦλον

13. ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς

14. ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς

15. ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς

16. ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς


1-16 is a typical variant that can quickly increase to many different ways to phrase "Jesus loves Paul" in the Greek that would have absolutely no consequential baring on the text or affect the essence of the actual phrase or anything within the text itself, yet these would all be classified as sixteen or more separate variants. A single word if misspelled the same way in two thousand manuscripts would count as "two thousand variants."[15] Though Ehrman might not be considered a favorable friend to fundamentalist Christians, even he has this to say about the variants...


"Most changes are careless errors that are easily recognized and corrected. Christian scribes often made mistakes simply because they were tired or inattentive or, sometimes, inept. Indeed, the single most common mistake in our manuscripts involves “orthography,” significant for little more than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most of us can today. In addition, we have numerous manuscripts in which scribes have left out entire words, verses, or even pages of a book, presumably by accident. Sometimes scribes rearranged the words on the page, for example, by leaving out a word and then reinserting it later in the sentence. And sometimes they found a marginal note scribed by an earlier scribe and thought that it was to be included in the text, and so inserted it as an additional verse. These kinds of accidental changes were facilitated, in part, by the fact that ancient scribes did not use punctuation and paragraph divisions, and did not in fact separate words on the page butprintedthemalltogethermakingmistakesinreadingfairlycommon."[16]


It's also important to note that even the intentional variants are menial or have little effect on the theology expressed in the overall manuscript itself. Examples of meaningful or intentional changes Wallace explains are in the early lectionaries. Lectionaries were used in early churches where sections of scripture were pulled out and used for daily readings during the church service, and a lot of the changes were done to clarify the select passages. In other words, lets say a biblical scripture stated: "he was going someplace," and it was not uncommon to start off a Lectionary reading right at this section, thus a need of a textual change to "Jesus was going someplace" to specify the subject and clear up any ambiguity in the reading. As to the number of meaningful variants (variants that affect the meaning in some way) this area is extremely gray because different scholars state different opinions based on their particular objectives when counting variants as "meaningful."

There are, however, variants that affect the text that both apologist and critical scholar would both agree are meaningful. Two of the biggest meaningful variants are Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-11, which are argued as being later interpolations or uncertainties of its placement in the originals, and could have some serious impact on the text and even one's theology, particularly the former (and indeed it has, as some unfortunate souls who lack common sense have actually died from the practice of "picking up serpents"). In some manuscripts the ending of Mark 16:9-20 is as it is in bibles today, in others it is not found and ends at verse 16:8, while in others there is an entirely different ending, thus the majority of scholars have concluded that the original text of Mark ended at 16:8, whether intentionally or prematurely (due to possible damage, lost codex, etc.). As far as the story of the adulterer in John, this is more complicated. Most scholars conclude the story was not originally in John, yet where it came from is the debate. Some scholars conclude the story was made up and added, while others believe the story is authentic just misplaced or a free flowing tradition added to the text later. Another theory proposed is that the text was taken out earlier, perhaps from a different gospel, because of the connotations of adultery as being permissible, but then added back to the text later, which is a theory that is just as plausible. These are the only two major interpolations of this nature, yet other types of meaningful variants that actually affect the text or alter the meaning are few and far in between, and as I pointed out, the meaningful variants and how it affects actual doctrine are debatable depending upon the scholar questioning them.

According to Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition, a highly credible and recognized study complied by a group of biblical textual experts, 62.9% of the New Testament or two-thirds is in total agreement (this is not counting orthographical variants such as misspellings, scribal errors, etc.).[17] This is actually extraordinary when considering what this entails. Though 37.1% or the other third not in agreement might seem disconcerting, this is really only part of the story. Say you have a bunch of manuscripts. You look at a text such as Luke 4:44. In a percentage of manuscripts it says: "So he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea;" in another percentage of manuscripts it says: "So he kept on preaching in the synagogues of the land of the Jews.” Now either reading obviously doesn’t affect what the text is conveying or the meaning in any sort of significant way, much less in a theological or doctrinal way, but we might not ever be able to solve what the exact reading was from the manuscripts we have based on any sort of majority. This is where the lines cross between apologist and critic, Christian and skeptic, and thus the reason this area gets extremely gray and why it's simply impossible to make any unbiased claims of textual certainty one way or the other. Someone like Dan Wallace would point out the fact that it’s a variant we can’t solve but has no significant affect on the meaning, whereas Ehrman would merely proclaim that we can’t ever know what the original meaning was and there are hundreds of readings just like these! And though Ehrman is not lying, he’s really only giving a half-truth or making it sound more alarming than it is. It’s not that we don’t know what the meaning is, it’s that we don’t know what the exact reading was. These are the types of variants that would make up that 37.1% of exact readings that can never be solved, and a significantly lesser percentage of that would make up the "meaningful" variants.

Overall, the level of preciseness where most of the variants, including the meaningful ones, are found is more than satisfactory to get an accurate understanding of what was meant. "Let us have peace with God" in one manuscript, and "We have peace with God" in another (Romans 5:1), or the verse in Luke (9:2): "he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" in one manuscript and "he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal" in another is not going to fling any theological or even historical accuracy into a hopeless quagmire of uncertainty and dire consequence. Moreover, Christians need to embrace variants as a good thing. As was previously pointed out, we could actually go over the list of these meaningful variants in the four gospels alone because they are but a handful, less than a dozen, and even these variants would be debatable as to how or what degree the text is affected, and even more so theologically. So if we had just two or even a dozen manuscripts even as early as the second century that had 100% exact textual readings in all the manuscripts, critics would rightly cry conspiracy because this would be an obvious sign of external control over this material, thus we would never be able to determine if there actually was a conspiracy to modify the texts covertly. In other words, we don't need to assume covert changes took place because there are 400,000 variants between the earliest texts, the majority of which are orthographical, misspellings, scribal errors, etc., something we would expect in a world where such controls over the distribution of material simply would have been untenable.

So it's not possible to assume the gospels had gone through a state of flux and modification that would cause reason for alarm or uncertainty, because not only would it not have been possible in an ancient world to control the flow of this material (and a period that was hostile towards Christianity on governmental levels within the Empire), but statistically the meaningful variants would not make up such a minute percentage of that 400,000 variants that exist between the thousands of copied manuscripts. This is why the variants don’t hurt apologetics, quite the contrary. Thanks to textual criticism methodology, the more the manuscripts and the more the variants between them, the better it is for apologetics. Of course, this certainly does not prove that what the original authors themselves wrote in the first century was true or not (something we'll discuss in other articles), or in other words, textual reliability obviously does not equate to historical reliability, but this is merely the cart before the horse. When all is said and done, we can believe with a fair amount of assurance that the Greek New Testaments we have today, which came through an innumerable amount of lost and handwritten copied sources, reflect a very high degree of accuracy of the lost originals.

But what about the originals?

Why is finding an accurate date of composition for the original gospels such an argumentative catalyst for the apologist and the critic, and how is it possible to figure this out if we don't even have the originals? Obviously, to Christians, the closer the original works themselves were written after Jesus' crucifixion (30-36 CE), the closer they are to the traditions that were taught by the eyewitnesses who were there, saw, heard, and experienced the accounts firsthand. And of course the idea is that this minimizes chances of embellishment, exaggeration, and most importantly, bias or theological contrivances that had presumably advanced in the evolution and development of Christian ecclesiastical doctrine that became apparent later on. Since the eyewitnesses who lived in the first century, and even second generation to those eyewitnesses who would have had information passed directly to them from the eyewitnesses were still around 20-40 years after the event (up to about 70 CE), had the gospels been written before this period, any falsities or fabrications would have been disputed by these people, opponent and proponents alike.

Imagine if in the year 1968 we lost every bit of historical literature about Martin Luther King Jr. in some major disaster, and today a group of people decided to rewrite a full biography about King using bits of historical tradition from those who retold the accounts of what they either witnessed themselves or heard from others which had accumulated over time. But they got carried away and deified King, exaggerating events, twisting history, sayings, and claims he made about himself to try and sell his divinity. You can rest assured that there would be quite a controversy with proponents and opponents alike, such as black activists and white supremacist groups, whether living when he was alive or with close ties to the generation that did, would speak up about it. Likewise, had any similar contentions been raised about Jesus in the first century, we would have unquestionably read about them along with the myriad number of other issues addressed by either the first century apostles who wrote letters to the early churches about various issues and concerns in the church at the time, or in some of the commentaries and histories of the early church fathers between the second and later centuries who were privy to the earlier traditions and controversies, or even some of the outspoken anti-Christian critics who became prominent early on and who had a knack for exploiting earlier controversies. More on the dating in Part II.

Click here for Part II, or go home


Source References

1. B. C. Butler, The Originality of St Matthew, pp. 147-156; 1951.

    Brunett H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, p. 297; 1964.

    Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts; 1967.

    W. D. Davies, Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 2, p. 43; 1991.

    Pierson Parker, The posteriority of Mark, in New Synoptic Studies of W. R. Farmer, pp. 68-70; 1983.

    F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: The Gospels, Chap. 4, (

    The Aramaic New Testament: A repository for scholarly work in the field of Aramaic Source Criticism (

    Also see my article here: The Q Conundrum, Problem # 3.

2. Daniel B. Wallace, Matthew: Introduction, Argument, and Outline; #2 External Evidence (  

    J. P. Holding, Q Tips (

3. Papias, as quoted by Eusebius in Church History: chap. 39:16 (

4. Bible Fact: N.T. Ancient Manuscripts (  

    Kurt & Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 73-184; 1995.

5. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 58; 1993.

6. Bible Fact: N.T. Ancient Manuscripts (

7. Paul D. Wegner, A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible, p.39; 2006.

8. ibid., p.207.

9. Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, chap.13 (

10. J. K. Elliott, The Jesus Papyrus - Five Years On; 1999 -- "The dating by scholars of these literary fragments is not an exact science. It is however not mere guesswork. Expert palaeographers are able to determine the rough parameters for the dates of their texts to within plus or minus 25 years; this is done on the basis of comparisons of the style of lettering in the literary texts with identical handwriting styles in texts whose dates are known" (

11. Dan B. Wallace, Ehrman Vs Wallace: Round Three; 2012. 

12. See Novum Testamentum Graece.

13. See Textus Receptus.

14. Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, (interview with Daniel B. Wallace), pp. 85-87; 2007.

      Daniel B. Wallace, The Gospel According to Bart ( 

15. Strobel, ibid., pp. 84-85.

16.  Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, p.220; 2005.

17. See Novum Testamentum Graece, Accuracy of the New Testament.