Object Lesson: Reliability of the New Testament

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here. I hope you didn’t feel neglected! I’ve just been crazy busy. I’m done with seminary for the time being, so I’ve got a bit more time. (Not much, but enough to at least do a quick post.)

I needed to come up with a way to help illustrate some of the evidence for the reliability of Scripture. I was brainstorming and came up with an idea for an object lesson. The video should give you the general idea.

If you want to do something similar, here are some of the facts from the presentation.

Author Time Span Between Original and Copy Number of Copies Accuracy
Plato 1,200 Years 7
Caesar 1,000 Years 10
Aristotle 1,400 Years 49
Homer (Iliad) 500 Years 643 95%
New Testament 30 Years 5,600 99.5%

The information for the New Testament in the table above is just for Greek manuscripts. There are another 19,000 or so manuscripts translated into other languages.

If you’d like to get more information on the manuscript evidence for the New Testament, here are a few links to get you started:

Manuscript Evidence for Superior New Testament Reliability

Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability

The Bible’s Manuscript Evidence

Christianity Isn’t Kids’ Stuff

Kid's Story Version of Noah's Ark

This post is going to be rather stream of consciousness in style, but go with me a minute. I do have a point.

It all started when I saw a recent Barna Group study on why young Christians leave the church. The study identified six reasons for this:

  • Churches seem overprotective.
  • Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
  • Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
  • Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
  • They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
  • The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

You can read more the about the study on the Barna website.

This study has basically the same results as a Britt Beemer study that is the basis for the book, Already Gone.

The results of this study reminded me of an experience I had about a year ago. I was putting together a new magic routine, but was stuck coming up with a way to illustrate one critical point. So I turned to an online Magic forum that has a section dealing with Gospel magic. While I did receive some helpful replies, I was surprised by the opposition I encountered. I was told quite adamantly that gospel magic should be limited to simple object lessons for kids. Some on the forum thought it was entirely inappropriate to deal with “theology.”

While the attitude of  Christian magicians  is of interest to me, in the big scheme of things, it’s really not all that important. What is important is the state of the church. Sadly, the same attitude is commonplace in the modern church. “Theology” is scary, so we present a watered down, simplified version of the gospel. This is especially true in kid’s ministry, where we tend to just teach simple Bible stories. This approach is simply not working. In fact, the more regularly kids attend Sunday School,  the more likely they are to leave the church when they grow up. That’s right, Sunday School, as it is typically done, is actually driving people away from church! (You can read more about this in the Already Gone book I mentioned above.)

Kids need more than just childish Bible stories. They need reasons to believe. They need to learn how Christianity finds application in the real world. They need to be allowed to ask the tough questions and be given real answers. We need to do better.