Yesterday, I came across a very interesting video on YouTube. It is a scholarly debate about the authenticity of the New Testament text as we have it today. Be warned, it is almost two hours long, but nevertheless, it is well worth taking the time to watch it for yourself. Both scholars (Dr Bart Ehrman and Dr Daniel Wallace) make their points very well.
It turns out that Dr Bart Ehrman was a Christian who eventually lost his faith when he began to question the authenticity of the Biblical text and then subsequently found it difficult to reconcile the subject of suffering with the idea of a loving God. He is the author of a number of books including Misquoting Jesus and Forged: Writing in the Name of God.
A highlight of the discussion, for me, was when Dr Wallace revealed that a previously unknown, first century manuscript of a book of the New Testament has recently turned up. Apparently, the matter is still very ‘hush-hush’ and is to be the subject of a book to be released in about one year (around February 2013). I previously wrote about when the Gospels were written here and here … this new information could turn out to be very important corroborating evidence.
However, as it is Easter, I also listened to a podcast in which Dr Ehrman was challenging the evidence for the resurrection and in it I learned that the text of 1 Corinthians 3-8 is something that St Paul included from Christian oral tradition. This is very significant indeed because Paul is writing only about 25 years after the death of Jesus, so that passage turns out to be part of a very early Christian oral tradition.
It is quite amazing what you can read and sometimes not see. Reading the passage in question, it is absolutely clear that Paul is including information from another source. Take a look for yourself:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
You can see that Paul is saying that he ‘received’ this information and, of course, he would have had access to excellent firsthand sources. In fact, in Galations, Paul reveals his sources included the disciples of Jesus. It turns out that he went to see them at least twice and, no doubt, he would have received quite a bit of information about Jesus and his life and death during that time.
In the discussion with Michael Licona (in the podcast), on the subject of the resurrection of Jesus, there is a very interesting section on the matter of bias. The scholars agree that we are all biased. Dr Ehrman pointed out that the only historians that believe in the resurrection are Christians; on the face of it, a very powerful indicator of bias. But, of course, as is pointed out to him, once you come to decide that the resurrection is the most plausible explanation for the available historical evidence, that is not very surprising.
Is the resurrection a historical event? You need to check out the evidence for yourself. But, again be warned, as Michael Licona pointed out, reaching an objective conclusion on this matter could completely change your life.