More on New Testament Reliability

After a lengthy discussion on the Reliability of the New Testament, the two primary debaters eventually presented their positions and closing remarks, so I decided to close comments.

However, along the way, there were many others who contributed thoughts and viewpoints that stimulated discussion as well. Therefore, I decided to open a new discussion post and I’m leading with a question that Arkenaten (Ark, for short) asked. His inquiry was directed to a specific person, but anyone who has thoughts/answers/opinions is urged and encouraged to participate.

reliable
rɪˈlʌɪəb(ə)l/
adjective
1.
consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted.
“a reliable source of information”
synonyms: dependable, good, well founded, well grounded, authentic, definitive, attested, valid, genuine, from the horse’s mouth, sound, true;

Of these (minimal) New Testament events listed below one would reasonably expect to find at least some mention within independent sources especially as we are dealing with the birth, life and death of the Creator of the Universe, Therefore, please list any independent source that corroborates some or all of the following:

The Three Wise Men and the Wandering Star
Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents
Feeding of the 5000
Feeding of the 4000
Resurrection of Lazarus
Mention of the life and deaths of any of the 12 disciples, including corroborating independent testimony.
Paul’s missions, including his arrest and deportation to Rome.

Please note. We are discussing the biblical character, the miracle working, Jesus of Nazareth , and not an itinerant eschatological 1st century rabbi who may have been called Yeshua.
Thanks.

As a reminder, I will be somewhat absent except for occasional input when I just can’t help myself. 😀

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62 thoughts on “More on New Testament Reliability

  1. Hello Ark, thanks for the question. You want corroboration for specific New Testament materials, such as;

    Mention of the life and deaths of any of the 12 disciples, including corroborating independent testimony.

    So, let’s look at our sources. The first thing to look at is what Paul tells us in his letters. Paul knew the disciples himself, especially John, Peter, and James. Paul tells us a number of details about the lives of various of Jesus’ disciples. The life of the twelve is also independently documented in our four Gospel accounts which also speak about them at length, and so the Gospels also bring their own corroboration to the table and we know that the Gospels are independent from Paul’s letters.

    Then, in 70-95 AD, Clement of Rome writes this;

    But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

    So, from Clement of Rome (a possible acquaintance of Paul, see Phillipians 4:3), we know Peter was tortured and martyred. Then, there are our pre-Pauline creeds. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 in specific is a short creed Paul quotes that dates to within a few years, if not months, of the crucifixion of Jesus and goes back to the original Jerusalem apostles. This is what the creed says;

    For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sinsaccording to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    The creed mentions that Jesus appeared to the twelve, meaning we have a source documenting the existence of twelve almost immediately after Jesus gets crucified. This creed tells us that Jesus appeared to the twelve disciples after His death (resurrection). This is another good source, independent and corroborative of all the other sources I already mentioned (Paul, Gospels, Clement).

    Finally, the most important source, of course, is the Book of Acts, written by a historian who both traveled with Paul and interviewed the original eyewitnesses, whom records various things they were doing with their lives after Jesus’ death. To recap, our five independent and corroborating sources are 1) Paul’s letters 2) Four Gospels (if this even counts as one source) 3) Clement of Rome 4) pre-Pauline creeds 5) Book of Acts. This enough (historically speaking) since it exceeds the corroboration for most other events and people of ancient history we know happened (which are usually based on 1-2 independent sources on average).

    You also ask for sources about “Paul’s missions, including his arrest and deportation to Rome” — see the passage of Clement of Rome’s writings that I quoted above.

    The rest of what you ask for only has corroboration between the four Gospel accounts.

    Weirdly, your comment ends with this;

    Please note. We are discussing the biblical character, the miracle working, Jesus of Nazareth , and not an itinerant eschatological 1st century rabbi who may have been called Yeshua.

    Besides the fact that it’s not just a “may” that He was called ‘Yeshua’, the entire distinction here is totally useless because in both cases you’re describing the exact same figure: Jesus.

    Like

  2. Nan,

    This is a good idea, to try and get MORE perspectives and lines of inquiry and investigation OTHER THAN two subjective long-winded men with their own personal ideas and biases. 😉 I genuinely hope many people participate with DIVERSE backgrounds, not just one or two. 🙂

    I’ll be following and reading.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Is it really worth entertaining this ridiculous half-wit, SC?
    If he ever has a genuine light-bulb moment there’s every likelihood it would be of such low wattage it wouldn’t be able to power a brain fart.

    Before long we will have a bloody treatise on why T.Rex and Allosaurus were, despite their big, sharp pointy teeth vegetarian and lived happily among humans all the live long day. Tra la la.

    I’ve face-palmed so much reading his comments I now have indelible marks on my forehead

    At least Mel and Wally are a bit more fun.

    SC is just a Dickhead. I give up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahaha… your sense of humor cracks me up. 😉

      I definitely understand the concept “Pick your battles wisely.” The war is (can be) won in several ways without wasting space, time, and emotional energy. I’ve had to learn this many times over having grown up in and living in the U.S. Evangy-Fundy bible-belt South. In some/many ways (including Texas — the fringe of the bible-belt) our vocal population, typically rural, they think we STILL live in the 1861-65 Confederate States of America, just without blatant slavery. The undertones and mentality of the white-plantation-owning Confederacy are very much still around today, including the hyper-religious rhetoric. Afterall, that is only 7-8 generations back. 😮

      Because of transgenerational teaching/parenting — at least here in the bible-belt states — I don’t want to throw-up my arms every single time. I MUST DEAL WITH THEM in person on a daily-weekly basis. And I damn sure don’t want humanity around here to keep devolving, digressing back to chest-beating, banana-eating primates! 😉 😛

      Can I count on your help mate!? Hahahaha!

      Liked by 4 people

      • Do you remember the movie Hear no evil see no evil?

        Remember the scene towards the end where the poor cop after having been driven almost mad by Dave and Wally. the two lead characters, and is in the verge of having a nervous breakdown, and he keeps asking:

        ”Can I shoot ’em, now? Please can I shoot em? Why can’t I shoot ’em? But I wanna shoot em! ‘

        Well …. now you know how I feel,more or less, after any lengthy dialogue with any of the Giant Nobs for Jesus Inc.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Bwahahaha! I don’t remember seeing that particular film, no. But I do get the picture. Ummm…

          …should I ask what caliber your weapon would be? Or perhaps I should ask what weapons system it might be — unless I need some frankfurters & burgers bar-b-qued up real fast, a flame-thrower might be a bit much. Fyi.

          Like

    • Well, essentially, this wasn’t supposed to be another post devoted to SC — I tried to indicate that your question (which WAS directed to SC) was open to everyone. Maybe I’ll rework the Intro a bit and make it more generic.

      Did you notice that even though he wrote a response (twice), it was only to ONE of your questions. Wonder why … ??? lol

      Liked by 2 people

      • He doesn’t actually read but rather skims and does the old WLC reply –
        ”Yes, I heard (read) your question but I shall totally ignore the real content and give you the Apologetic 101 answer instead. In fact, I shall keep going on like this until you all become Christians or Mormon Suicide Bombers, or Promise to Vote Republican”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Is it really worth entertaining this ridiculous half-wit, SC?

      Ark, it looks to me as if you’ve also become a dickhead. Anyhow, since your arguments withered away (by the way, I also read your discourse with Taboo where you doubted the existence of Paul, which is totally nuts), it is no wonder that you ‘give up’. You might need Jesus for that, pal.

      Like

        • “Nuts? really? Okay … one single piece of contemporary, independent, non-biblical, non-christian evidence to back your claim of an Historical ”Paul”.”

          This is insane. I thought you would run to a corner and try to make an excuse for questioning Paul’s existence so as to ensure you don’t lose all your credibility with me, but instead you hopped right on the train. If you at least showed you were embarrassed (you probably are embarrassed now that I caught you, you’re simply not showing it) I would have some sympathy for you.

          Anyhow, we have Paul’s letters, so he existed. A non-existent figure can’t write, but Paul did so he must have existed. It’s so utterly wild to think that Paul is an entirely concocted Christian myth that I really wonder where the mythicists (like you) get this stuff from.

          Like

        • Yes, we have ”letters’, and some are considered to have been written by the same hand, but we do not have any independent evidence that tells us there was someone called Saul of Tarsus / ”Paul”.
          Oh, and as you are so hot on your history, please tell us who was the person believed responsible for gathering these letters?

          Like

        • “Yes, we have ”letters’, and some are considered to have been written by the same hand, but we do not have any independent evidence that tells us there was someone called Saul of Tarsus / ”Paul”.”

          Of course we do, we have Paul’s own letters, and then we have people who knew Paul (like whoever wrote Luke & Acts), and then we have Clement of Rome who also probably knew Paul.

          We know his name is ‘Paul’ because 1) he identifies himself with this name in his letters, so we know he went by ‘Paul’, and 2) everyone from the historical record we have who knew him called him ‘Paul’.

          ‘Saul of Tarsus’ was his name before he became a Christian. But after converting, he changed his name to ‘Paul’.

          “Oh, and as you are so hot on your history, please tell us who was the person believed responsible for gathering these letters?”

          This is an amazingly vague question — I’ll take it to mean you asking who was responsible for composing these letters — an easy answer, Paul of course.

          Jesus is real, Paul is real, and that’s the cold hard reality you’ll need to deal with.

          Liked by 1 person

        • God help me. Do you also think Paul didn’t exist? If you don’t give a clear answer in your next response, I’ll assume that you don’t think he exists and put you on the same level of sanity as Ark.

          Like

        • You didn’t answer the question. As I clearly explained in my last response, if you didn’t answer the question, I would simply presume you think there was no Paul. That’s all I need to know about how you handle ancient history.

          Like

        • Ark: “Oh, and as you are so hot on your history, please tell us who was the person believed responsible for gathering these letters?”
          SC: This is an amazingly vague question — I’ll take it to mean you asking who was responsible for composing these letters — an easy answer, Paul of course.

          RFLMAO
          No, Dipshit, it was not Saul of Tarsus or Paul but someone else?

          Would you like to phone a friend? The clock is ticking ….

          Jesus is real, Paul is real, and that’s the cold hard reality you’ll need to deal with.

          Really? Got any verifiable, independent evidence?

          Liked by 1 person

        • “No, Dipshit, it was not Saul of Tarsus or Paul but someone else?”

          Again, the question barley makes grammatical sense. The person who composed Paul’s letters is… Paul himself. If that’s not what your asking for, then what is it you are asking for?

          You then question the existence of Paul and Jesus at the time, asking for “verifiable” and “independent” evidence — we have enormous leagues of that for both. As I mentioned before, Paul wrote letters for us, and at least two people who knew him (Clement, author of Luke-Acts) wrote about him, as for Jesus, our records are ridiculously overwhelming and so all I can do is point you to the debate between Bart Ehrman and Robert Price on Jesus’ existence, be sure to especially focus on Bart’s opening speech.

          Like

        • I am not asking who composed Paul’s letters, that is obviously the person know as Paul, but who is generally attributed to have gathered/collected them?
          Read the question carefully …

          You then question the existence of Paul and Jesus at the time, asking for “verifiable” and “independent” evidence — we have enormous leagues of that for both.

          No, we do not.

          Oh, and Acts is regarded as historical these day bu all the best scholars.
          But I’m sure you know this already, of course.

          Like

        • “I am not asking who composed Paul’s letters, that is obviously the person know as Paul, but who is generally attributed to have gathered/collected them?
          Read the question carefully …”

          Gathering and collecting Paul’s letters? You mean into the New Testament? Obviously we haven’t a clue, and this happened over a long period of time, not by a single person.

          But aside from answering that question, I can’t even fathom why it’s relevant.

          “Oh, and Acts is regarded as historical these day bu all the best scholars.”

          Yes, I know Acts is regarded as historical by all the best scholars. How does this do anything besides shooting your argument in the foot?

          Like

        • Gathering and collecting Paul’s letters? You mean into the New Testament? Obviously we haven’t a clue, and this happened over a long period of time, not by a single person.

          Well … if you say so! 🙂 You’re the historian, right?
          But I suggest you go read a bit more …. or call a friend?

          Yes, I know Acts is regarded as historical by all the best scholars.

          LOL … oh for an edit button. I imagine Nan must have read that with total confusion coming from me.
          Oh well… I’m not the chief secretary in the typing pool, I’m afraid.
          Let me redress that comment for you….
          Acts is regarded as Historical FICTION by all the best scholars, these days.
          My bad …
          However, that you truly believe it is historical is … hysterical.

          Like

        • “tell, me, do you ever read any proper historians?
          I mean ones that do not actually believe they are sinners?”

          ROTFL Is this your excuse for thinking Paul didn’t exist? By pretending secular historians agree with you? ROFL

          Like

  4. On this one –> “The Three Wise Men and the Wandering Star”

    How does one even tell which building in a small town a star is directly above?

    The birth narrative is simply riddled with fantastic sounding events, it’s a great story that’s worthy of a mythical god, but it certainly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. “Therefore, please list any independent source that corroborates some or all of the following:”

    To this good list (and the alleged virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus of course) I would add: The alleged Roman taxation that required Joseph, and presumably everyone else descended from David (1,000 years of descendants), to all go to Bethlehem. Do we have any independent historical evidence that the Romans ever conducted a census or taxation this (ridiculous) way?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Quick note: Scientific Christian had written two versions of one of his comments. I deleted one of them since they essentially included the same information. However, for some reason the one I did NOT delete isn’t showing up. It’s visible on the “back-end,” but for some reason it’s not visible here in the “Comments” section (at least on my screen).

    In any case, if you wish to repost CS, feel free. Sorry for the confusion.

    Like

    • I had the first version saved somewhere else, so I lucked out there. It’s been re-posted.

      The reason why the second version disappeared is because I wrote it in a reply to the first version — so when you delete a comment, all the responses to that comment also go away. That included my second version.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Ark, thanks for the question. You want corroboration for specific New Testament materials, such as;

    Mention of the life and deaths of any of the 12 disciples, including corroborating independent testimony.

    Paul knew all the disciples himself, especially John, Peter, so we know they existed, and we also know aspects of their lives mentioned in Paul’s letters. The life of the twelve is also independently documented in our Gospel accounts,

    Then, in 70-95 AD, Clement of Rome writes this;

    But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

    So, we know how Peter was tortured and died, historically, and we know that Peter’s martyrdom for Christianity happened in and around the time that it happened to Paul. Then, there are our pre-Pauline creeds. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 in specific is a short creed Paul quotes that dates to within a few years, if not months, of the crucifixion of Jesus and goes back to the original Jerusalem apostles. This is what the creed says;

    For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sinsaccording to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    This ridiculously early creed (which is contemporary to all the twelve apostles) mentions that Jesus appeared to “the twelve”, meaning we have a source documenting the existence of twelve so early on in Christian history as to engrave them in historical fact. The only thing we know about their lives, though, from this creed, is that Jesus appeared to them thereafter His death (resurrection). The most important source, of course, is the Book of Acts, written by a historian who both traveled with Paul and interviewed the original eyewitnesses (as in the actual twelve themselves), recording various things they were doing with their lives after Jesus’ death written by someone who knew them and was their contemporary. Church historiography doesn’t get better than this. You also ask for “Paul’s missions, including his arrest and deportation to Rome” which is corroborated in the Clement passage above, besides its appearance in Acts. Nothing else you ask for, though, has corroboration, besides the corroboration between its recordings in the various Gospel accounts.

    Weirdly, your comment ends with this;

    Please note. We are discussing the biblical character, the miracle working, Jesus of Nazareth , and not an itinerant eschatological 1st century rabbi who may have been called Yeshua.

    Besides the fact that it’s not just a “may” that He was called ‘Yeshua’, the entire distinction here is totally useless because in both cases you’re describing the exact same figure: Jesus.

    Like

  8. The life of the twelve is also independently documented in our Gospel accounts,

    Not independent: FAIL.

    So, we know how Peter was tortured and died, historically,

    Wrong:
    Death[edit]
    The Apostle Peter is said to have died in 64 CE from crucifixion. The manner of death was attested to in vague references by Christian authors writing long after the event. The apocryphal Acts of Peter, written about 100 years after Peter’s death, attests to him having been crucified upside down. As a result an upside down cross became known as a Cross of St. Peter, which remains the symbol of the pontiff today, although Aleister Crowley co-opted this to be an anti-Christian symbol by arguing that someone on an upside-down cross would be farthest from the light.

    John 21:18-19 is said to foreshadow Peter’s crucifixion. It states, in part, “but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” Obviously this prophecy was penned with the knowledge that Peter had already passed on and, in addition to being vague, since Chapter 21 is acknowledged to have been a later addition to the Book of John, was written well after Peter’s death.

    Nonetheless one may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to compel the belief that Peter was crucified.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Peter_the_Apostle

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Apostle Peter is said to have died in 64 CE from crucifixion. The manner of death was attested to in vague references by Christian authors writing long after the event. The apocryphal Acts of Peter, written about 100 years after Peter’s death, attests to him having been crucified upside down. As a result an upside down cross became known as a Cross of St. Peter, which remains the symbol of the pontiff today, although Aleister Crowley co-opted this to be an anti-Christian symbol by arguing that someone on an upside-down cross would be farthest from the light.

      You go on to conclude that Peter wasn’t crucified, making your entire response on this issue a strawman fallacy. I never said Peter was crucified since I don’t believe in the second century apocryphal writings, and so I’ve never held the belief that Peter was crucified. I specifically said we know that Peter was tortured and killed because this death is reported in the 90’s AD by Clement of Rome who was a contemporary of Peter (and also probably knew Paul). Thus, the historical data confirms Peter was martyred. This is not a point of contention amongst academics. Anyhoo, you go on to cite RationalWiki, a useless source for any topic at all.

      Not at all.
      There may well have been a 1st century eschatological figure called Yeshua … he certainly was not called Jesus, that’s for sure … but even for the non-divine character there is no contemporary evidence.

      Mythicists getting history wrong again — why haven’t I gotten used to it yet? Yeshua is the Hebrew equivalent of ‘Jesus’, just like Yehoshua is the Hebrew equivalent of Joshua. Anyways, most ancient figures are not contemporaneously documented either (such as the Germanic warlord Arminius who destroyed a tenth of Rome’s army as well as the famous Pythagoras, credited with inventing the Pythagorean theorem in which modern trigonometry is built on), and so there’s no problem that we don’t have this for Jesus.

      However, the character you go all doey-eyed over, the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian, is simply a work of historical fiction.

      As the saying goes, “that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

      Like

      • Yes but Arminius didn’t miraculously enter this world after his mum was raped by a deity. Nor did Arminius miraculously cure dandruff, walk on H2o or sent naughty demons into squealing little piggies.
        He never once cursed a fruit tree that withered instantly on the spot, nor was he ever responsible for any form of global genocide in a former life/manifestation because he was having a bad hair day, that time of the month or he had girded his loins too tightly.
        Furthermore, while there are no images of Arminius on toast, damp bread, damp walls or dogs arse’s, there is at least one rather impressive statue and an impressive bust.

        Like

        • “Yes but Arminius didn’t miraculously enter this world after his mum was raped by a deity.”

          Aside from the gross misrepresentation of rape here, Arminius was enormous leagues more prominent in his lifetime by leaps and bounds than Jesus was, a simple Jewish rabbi at the time who had a somewhat reputation in and around Jerusalem and Galilee of doing wondrous works.

          Some miracles you mention Jesus doing, such as walking on water or exorcising a bunch of demons into pigs were seen by a very small and remote number of people, for example, and thus they cannot be used to claim that someone “should” have wrote about this because barley anyone saw it. The argument falls apart. Pythagoras, Arminius, and tons of others have no contemporaneous documentation (I don’t even think Hannibal does, which says a lot).

          Like

        • I think you just had a brain fart and it blew out your ears.
          Please read the comment again properly.

          But to remind you … I am not arguing against a first century eschatological Rabbi who was possibly crucified for sedition by the Romans , and for whom there would likely be zero references other than the already dubious ones we have, but against the biblical god-man,the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian born of a 14 year old non-consenting virgin Jewess, after a good rogering by her yet-to-be-born son in his Yahweh disguise. He is simply a work of fiction.

          Like

        • “I think you just had a brain fart and it blew out your ears.”

          Please note, gentle readers, that this was said by someone who doesn’t think Paul existed.

          “But to remind you … I am not arguing against a first century eschatological Rabbi who was possibly crucified for sedition by the Romans , and for whom there would likely be zero references other than the already dubious ones we have, but against the biblical god-man,the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian born of a 14 year old non-consenting virgin Jewess, after a good rogering by her yet-to-be-born son in his Yahweh disguise. He is simply a work of fiction.”

          Aside from the gross misrepresentation of ‘non-consenting’, and the grossly wrong presumption that this was a sexual act in the first place, we need to note that again, these were the exact same people. Really no difference between them aside from the imaginary pedestal you confected.

          Like

  9. Besides the fact that it’s not just a “may” that He was called ‘Yeshua’, the entire distinction here is totally useless because in both cases you’re describing the exact same figure: Jesus

    Not at all.
    There may well have been a 1st century eschatological figure called Yeshua … he certainly was not called Jesus, that’s for sure … but even for the non-divine character there is no contemporary evidence.

    But for the sake of argument I am prepared to go along with the current consensus.

    However, the character you go all doey-eyed over, the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian, is simply a work of historical fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

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