Hunting for the text of the New Testament

Last week I tuned into the BBC programme ‘Bible Hunters’ about a number of characters who had unearthed (sometimes literally) ancient manuscripts of the New Testament which had, apparently, radically changed our understanding of Jesus’s ministry and teaching and early Christian understandings of it. Perhaps naively, I had hoped to enjoy a stimulating exploration of … Continue Reading

Mission, democracy and flourishing

Nineteenth-century missionaries were culturally insensitive colonials, colluding with the colonial powers to oppress local culture and impose their own values, to the detriment of those they were proselytising. Right? Wrong, according to some remarkable research reported in this month’s Christianity Today. For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era … Continue Reading

Pope Francis: model evangelist?

Last week Pope Francis wrote a 2,700-word letter to Eugenio Scalfari, the founder-editor of La Repubblica, Italy’s largest-circulation general-interest newspaper. Amazingly, Scalfari decided to publish it. It took up the whole front page…and the following four pages, under the simple heading ‘Francesco’. (Can you imagine the UK’s most popular newspaper giving its first five pages to a … Continue Reading

Undesigned coincidences and historical reliability

Dr Tim McGrew of the Library of Historical Apologetics just posted a fascinating document in a private Facebook group of which I am a part:

Sometimes two historical records incidentally touch on the same point in a manner that would be very unlikely if one of them were copied from the other or if both were copied from a common source. For example, one account of an event may leave out a bit of information, leaving some natural question unanswered, while a different account indirectly supplies the missing detail and, in so doing, answers that question. When this happens, the best explanation is that both records are grounded in the actual historical event; that is why the two bits fit together so well.

Forgers do not want to leave loose ends like this that might raise awkward questions; they take care to tie everything together neatly. But these are just the sort of things we would expect to find in authentic records of the same real event told by different people who knew what they were talking about.

He then goes on to give some key examples from the gospels:

Continue ReadingUndesigned coincidences and historical reliability