Unit III The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (1)


Unit 3 The  Historical Reliability of the New Testament (1)


In this lesson we begin our consideration of the historical reliability of the New Testament. I want you to keep two things in mind as we begin this portion of our investigation.

First of all, remember the propositional statement – There is abundant evidence from historical sources which is adequate to prove that Jesus is the son of God and that the Bible is the word of God.

Secondly, remember the logic of the methodology – We will take the historical facts the new Testament gives us and by systematic argumentation we will reason them to the conclusion that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and conclusively then that the Bible is the word of God.


You know now that those historical sources are the New Testament documents. If we can prove that the New Testament is historically reliable to report the events that place in the past, then we can develop our methodology. We will take the historical facts the New Testament gives us and by systematic argumentation we will reason them to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God and conclusively then that the Bible is the word of God.



LESSON AIM: To consider evidence that the New Testament documents are historically reliable in every way.


LESSON PREVIEW:  you will…

Discover that we are totally dependent upon the New Testament for any information on the life and teachings of Christ.

See that archeology verifies the statements of the Bible where the two speak on the same things.

Learn that contemporary writers and New Testament writers are in agreement when they both speak on the same people and events of history.






  1. We Have Limited Knowledge about Jesus From Non-Christian Sources
    All we can know apart from the New Testament is that Jesus uas crucified by Pilate on the charge of sedition outside the city of Jerusalem. Beyond that we can know very little.
  2. Without The New Testament We Don’t Know Anything About The Teachings of Christ
    1. We know nothing about the life of Christ.
    2. We don’t know anything about the burial of Christ.
    3. We know Nothing about the evidences for the resurrection of Christ.
      NOTE: There is neither a historian nor a theologian nor a gospel preacher that can say with any authority whatever that Jesus did anything or that Jesus said anything or that anything happened to Him without an appeal to the New Testament as the historical source book of that statement.
  3. Our Faith Comes From The New Testament, John 17:20
    1. What is the ground of our faith in Jesus?
      1. It isn’t the sources that were pagan.
      2. It isn’t the Jewish sources
      3. And it certainly isn’t any kind of an existential experience or a subjective feeling.
    2. The ground of our faith is the testimony of the apostles. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God?, Romans 10:17



Now you may not believe that the New Testament is the word of God. But when we can show you that the New Testament is historically reliable, then whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God or not, whether you believe the Bible is the word of God or not, one thing is for sure, if it is a history book, when it says Jesus made certain claims, then He made those claims. When it says Jesus did certain deeds, then He did those deeds.

If those deeds are sufficient to confirm His claims, then reason has to sit in judgment on the evidence and draw a conclusion in regard to just who Jesus Christ was and what the New Testament really is. Since then, our total source material for Christ is the New Testament documents, it must be considered historically reliable.



The contribution that archeology has made in showing the new Testament’s historical reliability.

  1. No Contradiction Between an Archeological Discover and a Biblical Statement
    1. We have two hundred years or more of archeological research, digging up artifacts out of the ancient dirt, reflecting on Biblical statements.
    2. There is not a single contradiction between an archeological discovery and a biblical statement.
  2. Archaeology Confirms Many of The Bible’s Statements




  1. Writers Contemporary With New Testament Writers
    At the time the New Testament writers were writing, there were contemporary men writing also.

    1. Men like Tacitus and Josephus were also writing their histories.
    2. When these men wrote their histories, they dropped them into the historical context.
    3. Historical check points:
      1. Certain persons,
      2. Involved in certain events,
      3. At certain times, and
      4. In certain places,
      5. They told about the morals of the time.
      6. They wrote in the linguistics of the time.
      7. They wrote of politics, climate, customs, and culture.


NOTE:  If a person receives Tacitus, or Josephus, or some classical historian from antiquity as reliable, and if the New Testament says substantively the very same thing that these men are saying, and they agree with Him about the events and the times and the places, then if we accept these classical historians as reliable, we are going to have to accept the New Testament as reliable on the same ground.


Historical People and Dates Recorded By Both Biblical Writers And Pagan Writers.

  1. Luke 3: 1 -2 Luke introduces the ministry of John the Baptist. In doing so he mentions:
    1. Tiberius Caesar
    2. Pontius Pilate
    3. Herod, tetrarch of Galilee
    4. Philip, tetrarch of Ituraea and Traachonitis
    5. Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene
    6. Annas
    7. Caiaphas
    8. John the Baptist


NOTE: Every one of these men can be found outside Bible statements in extra biblical statements’ in classical histories. What you  are reading in Luke is history of a reliable sort.


  1. Mark 15:33 – Mark records the darkness that took place during the crucifixiton of Jesus. Thallus, a pagan hitorian, also mentions this same darkness in his trying to give an explanation for it.
  2. Acts 11: 27 – 28 – A Famine is prophesied by Agabus to come to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Josephus makes the observation that the famine came to pass during the time of Claudius, about the year A.D. 45
  3. Acts 13 – Sergius Paulus converted by Paul and later writes a letter encouraging his sister to become a Christian.
  4. Acts 18: 1 -2 – Claudius commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. In his life of Claudius, Suetonius refers to this same event in about the year 120 A.D.



Sometimes in our statements we admit to things that we don’t know we are admitting to. For an illustration, when a person says the Jesus Christ is the son of God, he is admitting that there is a God. And so it is in regard to the historical reliability of the New Testament. With all the information that we have that comes down to us from the ancient sources, you could expect an atheist to admit Jesus was a real person of history. But , of course, those people don’t believe He is the son of God. However, when you ask these people who Jesus is, what their evaluation of Christ Jesus really is, they all answer that “Jesus was a great man of history.”


They have just admitted that to some appreciable degree, the New Testament is a history book that is reliable to report the events in the days of Christ. Here is why, The new Testament is the only source book we have to tell us about the greatness of Jesus. All we can know about Jesus from extra-biblical sources is that he lived, and that He was crucified by Pontius Pilate outside Jerusalem on the charge of sedition.


So if a person admits that Jesus is a great man of history, what he is saying is that the New Testament is reliable to report that greatness, because that is the only document in our possession that does tell us of the greatness of Jesus.