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The Persecuted Church

 

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How did we get our New Testament?

Because believers had access to the apostles who were the eyewitnesses there was no immediate need to put it to paper. However, after the churches first martyr Stephen, persecution ensued and they were scattered, it was then that it became necessary to pen down the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This was approximately 15-20 years after the Church began on Pentecost. The majority of New Testament books were written between 45-75 A.D. (excluding the apostle John's writings, which occurred much later in 75-95 A.D.)  A. T. Robinson's book, Redating the New Testament, dates all of the New Testament documents between A.D. 47 and A.D. 70. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 352

While the New Testament was in the process of being written down the apostles used the Old Testament to prove who Jesus was to the Jews as they were in the process of writing the New Testament and distributing to all the churches. Just as the Old Testament was read in the synagogues so was the New Testament letters.

These letters were written by eyewitness proven this by their statements from the authors themselves contained in them. For example in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul appeals to ask the eyewitnesses about the resurrection from some of 500 witnesses that saw Jesus that were still living. Four times Paul specifically said I am writing this with my own hand making it clear it was from the living apostles and not written 50 or 100 years later.

Sir William Ramsay, one of the greatest archaeologists who ever lived wrote of Luke the author of the gospel and the book of Acts stating, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, this author should, be placed along with the very greatest of historians. Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.

John whom was the last surviving apostle wrote after the others were gone as persecution was increasing. Revelation was written while He was in exile on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) in the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Domitian (A.D. 96). This is according to Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter 18. This is confirmed by an earlier source, Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter XXX, section 3. Some date it as early as 75-80 AD.

Jesus tells John the apostle in Rev 1:11, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” 

What the apostles taught in person, they wrote to be the Scripture, there was no conflict. They were consistent in what they taught the churches.

I Jn 1:5:  “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” It was have them persevere in the faith. I Jn. 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

It was necessary to keep them in the truth as there were false teachers increasing inside the church. I Jn .2:26 “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.”

As the apostles went out they shared the writings they commanded them to be passed on to others. The apostles put their writings into circulation through the church. “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren” (1 Cor. 1:2 and Eph.1:1). Which would be the whole church. 1Thes 5:27: “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren: meaning it was to be read to all the church’s. Obviously the originals could not be passed to everyone everywhere. So what they did is similar to how they copied in the Old Testament times.

To protect the writings from being lost they were copied for distribution. Schools of Scribes (scholia) copied the Scripture each by hand, also lecture rooms were created where people would copy down what they heard. The manuscript language they were in was Koine, the common Greek language spoken by the people! The bible was not written only for the aristocrat or royalty or the highly educated, nor strictly to the Jews but for to go out to the whole world it was written in a language everyday people would understand. At the time the Greek was like our English of our day. From the beginning the church copied and shared the original documents to circulate the apostles writings. By the closing of the 2nd century, about 170 A.D., we find the expression the New Testament for the Bible.

 First copied were the Pauline epistles: Col 4:16 “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” We do not have Paul’s letter to Laodicea today, it is lost, as a few others are. It is doubtful there was necessary information contained as God superintended what the church needed to learn and grow throughout the centuries.

Paul wrote an epistle, “to the church’s of Galatia (Gal.1:21).” And finishes with Gal 6:11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! 

 Jesus tells John the apostle in Rev 1:11, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Peter in his second epistle writes  Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder) (2 Peter 3:1). 2 Peter 3:15-16 and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”

 Peter endorses Paul’s letters as Scripture for them in approval by all the apostles.

Philemon 1:19: “I, Paul, am writing with my own hand.” Gal. 1:20  (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Gal 6:11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” Phil 3:1: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.”

To say the New Testament was written in 300 AD is seriously and blatantly wrong. Archaeologist Nelson Gleuck wrote: “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after A.D. 80.”  William F. Albright the famous paleographer said that every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the 40’s and 80’s of the first century and very probably between 50 and 75. Interesting that two conservatives (e.g., F. F. Bruce, John Wenham) and liberal  (Bishop John A. T. Robinson) have penned defenses of early dating for the New Testament is a witness to the strength of the data for an early date. For example, in redating Matthew Mark and Luke, noted conservative British scholar John Wenham presents a convincing argument that the synoptic Gospels are to be dated before 55 A.D. He dates Matthew at 40 A.D. (some tradition says the early 30s); Mark at 45 A.D.; and Luke no later than 51-55 A.D.34 Liberal bishop John A. T. Robinson argued in his Redating the New Testament that the entire New Testament was written and in circulation between 40 and 65 A.D. (source: Knowing the truth about the Bible Ankerberg and Weldon, p.19)

We find the New Testament extensively quoted from the writings of the early church fathers, whom were pastors and apologists (evangelists). The Didache was in circulation prior to A.D. 80. In it contains knowledge of Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians and I Peter, and possibly Hebrews and Jude.  The Epistle to the Corinthians from Clement of Rome was circulated in the first century. It quotes from Romans, I Corinthians, Hebrews and possibly Acts. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch, all written before A.D. 117,(his death)  refer to Matthew, John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and possibly eleven other New Testament books.  Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians written prior to A.D. 117, quotes John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Hebrews, James and I John. Other early Christian writings (such as The Shepherd of Hermas and II Clement) contain numerous quotations of the New Testament documents. The gospel of truth by an unknown author had comprehensive knowledge of the New Testament books. Tertullian in the 200’s translated the Greek into Latin quoted from every epistle except Philemon, James and 2,3rd John.  Ireneaus quotes Paul over 2900 times in his letters and mentions 4 gospels, that to add or subtract would be heresy. Athanasius, in the council of Niacea in 325 Ad. Which debated the deity of Christ against the rising heresies referred to all 27 books of the New Testament calling them the springs of salvation  By 170 AD the whole church from Asia to Africa had in their possession the completed Bible (2 peter was still considered). Origen nearly 1000 years before the council of Niacea placed the gospels in the order we still have them in today.  Whether one agrees with these pastors / apologists is not the point. All, the early church from the first to second century show they were familiar with twenty one of the twenty seven New Testament books which is demonstrated by their writings and quotations. By this time period the Apocrypha was not part of the Canon.

A man named Marciom in 140 rejected the entire Old Testament, he started his own church, he rejected Matthew, Mark  and John and rewrote Luke. He accepted 10 of  Paul’s epistles rejecting the pastoral letters. This had the church become more vigilant in the writings.  The Gnostics copied the circulated their own rendition of the New testament and distorted it. This is why it was so important to have the apostles writings disseminated to the whole church to withstand this false teaching that was trying to corrupt the truth. The Universal church had accepted all the writings long before any council gave its official stamp of approval in closing the canon. The canon was a creation of the church but given whom they recognized as God.

 

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