Taken from the introduction to the book:
The foundation of Christian faith rests on the documents of the Bible, particularly the New Testament writings. In fact, Christian belief rises or falls on the historical credibility of those documents. Are they historically plausible? Are they authoritative? How did the early Christians identify which books were inspired by God and which were not? How do we know they were right?
The fact of the matter is, in our post-modern world the very foundation for having this discussion has taken a beating. How can we know anything istrue?Whodefineswhatit means when we say something is true? Or for that matter, does it even matter what is true? Every religion has its sacred documents, so what is so special about the Bible? Post-modern thinkers would tell us today that all religions can be true, as long as we understand that truth is a sociologically conditioned concept. The idea is that one sacred document is true for one person, while another sacred document is true for another (“true” in the sense that those documents provide comfort and meaning to their respective adherents). They are not necessarily true in the sense of historically accurate, we are told. But they are a different kind of true—a religious, spiritual kind of true. So for many people today the question of this book in your hands is really a moot issue. Why, then, this book?
We believe a document or a writing needs to be taken on its own terms and examined for what it really teaches and reflects about the world. In the case of the Bible, the New Testament has been held to the highest standard for most of its history and seen as historically true in the sense that it purports to be written by eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ and their immediate associates. Furthermore, the writings that compose the New Testament, when taken on their own terms and not passed through the post-modern interpretive lens, base the teaching they contain on historically factual events, most centrally the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are told by many present-day scholars that this was a religious construct devised over a period of years to frame the decided impact that the humble carpenter of Nazareth had on the world. The myth, we are told, grew to the point of religious dogma. If this is true (that this is an accurate historical description of what happened), then Christianity is built on a religious fable.
The documents themselves don’t allow that interpretation, for in the first letter to the Corinthians, the text says:
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:13-19)
Clearly, based on the text’s own criterion, it really does matter whether the text itself (in this case, the record of Christ’s resurrection), represents historically true information, post-modernism notwithstanding. Further, the documents include other statements attributed to Jesus that are offensive to the religious pluralism of our western world. For example, according to the writer of the gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The record of Jesus’ sayings does not allow for the common idea that all religions lead to the same destination, that all teach essentially the same truths. The exclusivity of biblical Christianity is based on the statements of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament gospel accounts.
If, on the other hand, one asserts that Jesus was wrong in making such a statement, then the person making the assertion is guilty of making an absolute moral judgment on the founder of the Christian movement, demonstrating an intolerance that is anathema in our post-modern mindset today.
The only alternative is to challenge the historical record and conclude that the New Testament is not an accurate record of what Jesus said. Scorn would not be too strong a term to describe the attitude of those who maintain this third view toward those who hold to the historical credibility and authority of the New Testament documents.
So as we can see from these two sample texts that the study of the historical veracity and authenticity of the New Testament text is essential. For if it can be demonstrated that the documents are reliable in their record of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, then no one can dismiss the Jesus of the Bible in order to embrace a “Jesus” more suitable to a post-modern faith.
Much has been written and debated concerning these questions, but most of the scholarship is hidden away in theological tomes and in a technical language far removed from the average person’s comprehension. Much one-sided thinking is heralded in the media, with the impression that there is general agreement among thinking people and scholars that the New Testament is not really what it purports to be or what your parents believed about it. After all, they say, we live in an enlightened, post-modern age.
This book reduces the vast amount of information on this topic into an accessible and readable form for the non-scholar. The goal is to show the credibility and reliability of the New Testament documents. I envision two kinds of readers:
(1) The average, intelligent individual who is not a Christian but who is seeking truth and a foundation for his or her life.
(2) The average, intelligent Christian who wants to better equip him or herself for defending the New Testament Scriptures. Seekers of spiritual truth who are enrolled or planning to enroll in college or university will particularly benefit from this study.
“Theologian J. I. Packer was right when he said: ‘The problem of authority is the most fundamental problem that the Christian church ever faces.’ Understanding the process, standards, and history of Canonization strengthens one’s confidence in the authority of the Scriptures and equips one to defend it. The Formation of the New Testament is carefully researched, well written, and helpfully indexed. Chuck Gianotti gives us a useful tool for students, parents, and Bible teachers, as well as for those examining the Christian faith.–Dr. Bill McRae, President Emeritus,Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 x .25 inches
Author: Chuck Gianotti
Page count: 157