Bible and Church Conference 2009 Peter Williams, Dirk Jongkind, Simon Gathercole. DVD; 138 minutes; Tyndale House, 36 Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge, CB3 9BA, England. Price £17.50.
This DVD is a visual record of three lectures given at Westminster Chapel, London in June 2009. As the cover of the DVD states, ‘Society is being bombarded with misinformation about the Bible. This DVD brings together experts who expose false claims about the New Testament and show how it can be trusted’.
Dr Peter Williams tackles the subject of ‘Have we got the history right?’ He marshals evidence from non-Christian writers of the time, including Tacitus and Pliny, showing how the quick spread of Christianity would conflict with the argument that much of the Bible is based upon legend. Similarly, using a statistical analysis of the names of the time and the test of corroboration, he shows there is a remarkable correlation with the names in the scriptures, and that the records in the different gospels about the feeding of the 5000 dovetail remarkably well. He concludes by summarizing some of the answers to the argument of the sceptics that the message of Christianity is an invention.
Dr Dirk Jongkind’s subject is ‘Have we got the text right?’ Do we have reliable access to what the writers originally wrote? He cites the accusations of three critics, the most recent being Roger Bolton’s article for the BBC on Codex Sinaiticus. Jongkind provides a number of arguments for the reliability of the text: (1) the quick spread of Christianity would make deliberate copy errors more difficult to reproduce generally; (2) the fact that very old documents exist – there are no ‘dark ages’ when invention may have occurred; (3) we have large numbers of quality manuscripts providing a vast amount of evidence which also helps us to establish what formed part of the original scriptures. Although the argument takes careful following, his treatment of the issues surrounding the copying of the text is extremely helpful.
Dr Simon Gathercole looks at the issue of Gospels included in the canon of scripture and the so-called ‘other Gospels’ which were not included. He looks at the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas, showing the radical differences between these manuscripts and the teaching of the New Testament. He points out that the record of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can be relied upon because of: (1) the geographical specifics; (2) their presentation of the true humanity of Christ, one who demonstrated His love towards needy sinners; (3) they contain the record of eye-witnesses who lived through the period of the Lord’s ministry. These specifics are absent from the other so-called Gospels.
Clearly, not all will see the need of such material, particularly that presented by Dr Gathercole, but those who do will find this DVD compelling for the way the speakers handle their subjects and provide evidence that will support the faith of many. As the New Atheism gathers momentum and a secular society generates greater scepticism about the Bible, it is helpful to be able to rest on the accuracy, reliability and truth of what God has conveyed to His people down through the ages of time.
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