UNIT 4 The APOSTOLIC FATHERS
This is our second study of the historical reliability of the new Testament. Keep in mind that the evidence for Christ is confined to the New Testament documents; therefore, we must consider the New Testament as totally historically reliable. Keep in mind also the logic of our course, that if we can show that the new Testament is reliable to report the events that took place in the first century, then whether we believed the Bible to be the word of God or not, whether we believe Jesus is the Son of God or not, one thing is for sure, if the New Testament is reliable to report history, then when it says Jesus made claims, he did. When it says Jesus did certain deeds, then he did. And, we are able to match the deeds against the claims and draw a conclusion.
What is the function of reason? The function of reason is not to do away with the evidence because there is some prejudice against the supernatural. The function of reason is to sit in judgment on the evidence as it comes to us, and to draw a conclusion that is in keeping with the claims that are made.
Now what we want to do in this lesson is to give two more reasons for believing that the New Testament is totally historically reliable.
LESSON TEXT: All the scriptures contained in the lesson outline.
LESSON AIM: to see the heavy weight of evidence for the historical reliability of the New Testament contained in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.
LESSON PREVIEW: You will….
- Learn that the New Testament was written in the very generation in which the events took place and circulated among the very people about whom they were written.
- Become aware of a group of men called the Apostolic Fathers who wrote during the first and second centuries who quoted nearly all of the New Testament.
- Consider the historical fact of Jesus’ claims and deeds that He did.
THE ACID TEST
They were written in the same generation in which the events took place.
- The New Testament Was Written In The Very Generation In Which The Events Took Place
What we have in writings of the New Testament are eyewitness accounts.
- Men who saw what was going on, men who participated in the events that took place.
- Very care researchers like Luke who researched it from eyewitnesses, or Mark, who, tradition says, wrote down what Peter preached.
- The New Testament documents are actually eyewitness accounts.
- They were written in the generation in which the events took place.
- They Were Circulated Among The People Who Were Alive When Those Events Took Place
Hundreds of thousands of people in the first century became Christians, and they suffered persecution and discrimination precisely because of what was written in those books.
F.F. Bruce tells us that at the turn of the century that the Romans sent out military police to confiscate the writings of the New Testament, and that the church of Christ would not give them up. What does that tell us? It tells us they believed these New Testament documents were the word of God. But whether you believe it is the word of God or not, one thing is for certain, these people certainly confirmed to you, as far as they were able to know, these documents were historically reliable. The acid test is very strong.
THE WRITINGS OF THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS
There is a collection of documents written from about 90-160 A.D. referred to as the writings of the apostolic fathers.
- A Corpus Of Writings From About 90 to 160 A.D.
- Not the Apostles.
- Men who came after the Apostles.
Men who either sat at the feet of the apostles or at the feet of those who did. Men like:
- Ignatius, Barnabas (not the Barnabas of the Bible), Clement of Rome
- Men who wrote for us between 90 and 160 A. D.
- Written To Churches And Christians
- To Encourage people to be faithful in the face of persecution.
- They quoted from nearly every book of the New Testament.
This tells us two things:
- First of all that during those dates the New Testament had already been completed and had either been or was very close to being brought together in its own corpus.
- Secondly, that the Christians in the first century to who these men addressed themselves really received the new Testament documents as totally historically reliable to report the events exactly as they took place.
THE HISTORICAL FACT OF JESUS’ CLAIMS
We can know that the claims of Jesus were backed up by historical evidence.
- John 6:38, Jesus Claimed To Have Come Down From Heaven
- John 7:16, Jesus Claimed That His Teaching Came From God
- John 8:12, Jesus Claimed To Be The Light Of the World
- John 8:23ff Jesus Claimed To Be From Above
He claimed to be God-man, Immanuel – god in the flesh.
- John 10:30, 36, Jesus Claimed To Be God
- John 11:25, Jesus Claimed To Be Able To Raise The Dead
- John 12:48, Jesus Claimed That His Word Was The Word Of God
- John 14:6, Jesus Claimed To Be The Way And The Truth And The Life
THE HISTORICAL FACTS OF THE DEEDS THAT HE DID
Here is evidence of the historical nature that the claims of Jesus are reliable.
- The Miracles of Jesus
- Definition of a miracle – “a supernatural happening that defies naturalistic explanation.”
- Literally as works of God.
- John the Baptist a great witness
- Miracles are a greater witness than John, John 5:36
Now whether you believe those deeds, whether you believe the new Testament is the word of God or not, one thing is for sure, the New Testament is a history book. It is reliable, and when it records those deeds, then those deeds took place.
The New Testament documents are certainly not myths. They were written in the sane and sober appearance of history, the authors ask us to believe their accounts are true (e.g. John 19:35; 20:30 -31), and they come up reliable upon investigation.
- Some Deeds Of Jesus Recorded In The New Testament
- The water turned into wine, John 2: 1 -12
- The healing of the nobleman’s son, John 4:46
- The healing of the lame man, John 5: 1-9
- The feeding of the 5,000, John 6: 5-13 (a miracle for modern times Post Blindness Syndrome)
- Jesus walked on water, John 6:16 – 21
- Jesus healed the blind man, John 9: 1 – 7
- Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, John 11:38-44
John says in the twentieth chapter, verses 30 and 31, “Many other signs, therefore, did Jesus in the presence of the disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written,” and he had reference to these seven, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.” John has recorded for us a history book as he saw it take place, as he participated in it, and his propositional statement is, “I have recorded these deeds for you which obviously are works only God Could do in order to cause you to believe.
- The Supreme Sign
Jesus Christ Himself was raised from the grave.
There was a Nazarene that made claims and backed up the claims with marvelous deeds and with the resurrection of His own body from the grave. Reason tells us that jesus is what He claimed to be.
And Now a Miracle for Us
John 9:32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.
Mark 8:23-26 And he took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, Seest thou aught? 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men; for I behold them as trees, walking. 25 Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked stedfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his home, saying, Do not even enter into the village.
|Men as Trees Walking|
|The Bethsaida Miracle
By Chuck Colson| Published Date: February 11, 1999
In his book An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks describes the case of a man named Virgil, who had been blind since childhood. At the age of 50, Virgil underwent surgery to restore his sight.
What he experienced afterward inadvertently confirmed the Bible’s account of one of Jesus’ miracles.
Following the surgery, Virgil suffered from what is called “post-blind syndrome”—the inability to make sense of the panorama of colors and shapes that crowds our field of vision. As Sacks writes, Virgil would “pick up details… an angle, an edge, a color, a movement—but he would not be able to synthesize them, to form a complex perception at a glance.” For example, when looking at a cat, Virgil “would see a paw, the nose, the tail, an ear, but he couldn’t see the cat as a whole.”
It took time and practice, but Virgil studied a tree and finally learned to put it together. As his wife put it, “He now knows that the trunk and leaves go together to form a complete unit.”
This is a little added, because it is science proving scripture, this previous miracle, I believe was for us, in this century so we could see the perfect proof of the miracles of Jesus in the 21st century.