Apologetics, the genre of writings in defense of Christianity. Now previously I wrote briefly on this subject, so now I'd like to go a bit deeper into analysing this field. Probably the two most well known speakers in this field are Josh McDowell & Lee Strobel, there are others, however they all pretty much use exactly the same arguments. Now I briefly mentioned the Bibliographical argument in my previous post on this topic, but I'd like to address it in more detail this time. Some of what I'll write here will overlap with what I'd previously written, so I apologise for being repetitive.
So, Argument No 1: The Bibliographical Argument
It generally goes something like this: Historical scholars have a method to test the accuracy of ancient documents. They examine how many years past between the original composition of a text and the oldest surviving copy of the text. Along with this they compare the total number of surviving manuscripts to see whether they have mistakes of any sort, or whether they generally conform. The final part of this test is how many years past between the events being described and the original composition of the text. Now, the argument then proceeds to state that many well known and accepted Classical works have massive time spans between their original composition and the oldest remaining copy. Adding to this many of these have only a handful of ancient manuscripts which have survived. In contrast, the New Testament has more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscripts available, with the oldest dating roughly to the mid 2nd century. Most Biblical Scholars consider most of the New Testament to have been composed from the mid to late 1st century, with a handful of texts being early 2nd century (However I think that there is reason to believe that most of it was written in the mid-late 2nd Century.) Therefore it is concluded that a very short period of time passed between the original composition of the texts and the oldest surviving manuscripts. This is in comparison to time spans of 500+ years for classical works of Homer, Caesar and Plato. Further, the amount of surviving copies for non-Christian classical works is minuscule by comparison to the New Testament.
Therefore, the Apologist concludes that if you are to chuck out the New Testament as unreliable then you should also reject the rest of Classical literature!
Now, many Apologist just leave it there and say case closed (such as the following link: http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Manuscript.html ), however, others consider this only the first stage of the argument. They rightfully state that this only proves that the New Testament today is the same as was original written down. (This does rightfully dismiss the argument that the Bible has changed over generations.) The second stage of the argument is to argue that what was originally written down was the truth, historically accurate.
To this effect, Apologists are forced to draw directly from the New Testament itself!
They offer arguments such as:
1) The Disciples wouldn't knowingly die for a lie
2) That a myth takes several generations to develop, and the original manuscripts where written down within one generation of the events.
3) That the original Christian community wouldn't have allowed mistakes to have been published, that they would have pulled them up on any falsehood as they were all eye-witnesses to the events.
4) That they earliest opponents of Christianity didn't deny the events as the New Testament states, as they were also eye-witnesses.
5) Events from the Pauline epistles, which supposedly show the existence of a cohesive, orthodox creed right from the beginning of Christianity.
Now, this many seem convincing, and certainly many people see it that way. However, there is one very fundamental flaw behind all of those arguments, as well as the fact that each of them can be accounted for individually.
All the above arguments rely on material from the New Testament, essentially they use the Bible as evidence to prove the Bible! The Bibliographical argument therefore serves only to show that the New Testament Gospels have not really changed since they were first composed, however this is all it proves!
The reason why there are so many copies is that Catholic Christianity was chosen as the official Religion of the leading country of the Western world, by a power mad lunatic (Constantine), and for no other reason. This is not a conspiracy theory, regardless of how you interpret the rest, this much at least is historical fact.
The points used to argue that the originals were accurate are all based on circular reasoning, that is they assume other parts of Christian Doctrine as already proven.
The proposition that rejecting the New Testament means you should reject the rest of Classical literature is also false. I have never studied classical literature, but I'm pretty sure no one is making statements about the absolute nature of God as being infallibly proven from the writings of Julius Caesar. Therefore, clearly they can be treated differently. I'm sure scholars must acknowledge the possibility that Caesar showed bias in his writings, selecting what to include and what not to. I would encourage any involved in Christianity (and others interested in knowing as much as possible about it) to familiarize yourself with the topic of Apologetics, as the infallibility of the Bible as God's word is used as the primary basis for virtually all attacks on the beliefs and practices of others.
Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell both have many short videos online as well as their well known books (The Case for Christ and Evidence That Demands A Verdict), also I recommend checking out Kenneth Humphreys website (http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/ ) for the alternative view. He is very blunt, and not particularly kind to believers (he is also equally critical of my Spiritual beliefs, but he has been gracious enough to respond to all my emails), but he has very strong arguments for his case.
Next up, we'll look at some more arguments put forth by Apologists, such as an examination of the so called "Non-Christian" attestation of Christianity, ie the writings of Josephus, Tacticus, Suetonius and The Talmud.
Thank you all again for your time,