The “Jesus Documents”

1: The “Jesus Documents”: An Introduction
— This message begins a study of the documents we call the New Testament, but which are, in fact, the “Jesus Documents.” These are the source of our information and knowledge concerning Jesus. In this series, we want to look at the criticism and challenges to these documents, and the reasons we can believe in their reliability. We start with the continuous attacks on these writings and consider why these assaults are ongoing.

2: The “Jesus Documents”: Are They Reliable? — Perhaps the most common charge against the Jesus Documents is that they must not be dependable records because they are so old and we do not have the originals, only copies. But is this the test historians use for weighing the reliability of other ancient documents? Let us see how these documents compare to other widely accepted ancient writings.

3: The “Jesus Documents”: Does History Support Them? — Whenever we read the New Testament documents, we hear of emperors, kings, and countries. These are easily confirmed from other historical sources of that time. But what about lesser historical figures and events, like Pontius Pilate, Jesus himself, the apostles, the first century church, and belief by early Christians in the resurrection of Jesus. In this lesson we look at some of the documentary, archaeological and other evidence of that period which confirm the accuracy of the Jesus Documents. This is exactly what we would expect if these documents are historical in nature, but opposite of what would be likely if they are fictional in whole or part.

4: The “Jesus Documents”: When Were They Written? — Many critics and skeptics of the New Testament have claimed the Jesus Documents could not have been written by personal followers of Jesus. They argue that the documents were actually written a hundred or more years after Jesus lived and so are filled with myths and legend. Today we want to consider the evidence that overturns such false claims. The actual evidence is that the Jesus Documents were already being widely copied, distributed, quoted and even translated into other languages within one hundred years of Jesus’ crucifixion. Clearly documents which do not yet exist could not be so copied and quoted!

5: The “Jesus Documents”: Can We Trust the Copies We Have? — Connected to our discussion of when the original Jesus Documents were written is an examination of how they were copied and distributed. Then we must consider how trustworthy the copies we have are, since no known original manuscripts still exist today. Critics for over a century have insisted that the copies we have are very corrupted versions of the originals, with many additions, myths, and superstitions added to what they think the originals must have recorded. But is this true? Can we know with any reasonable certainty one way or the other. Many conservative Biblical scholars say, “Yes!” Today we briefly review the evidence and reasons for believing the records were accurately copied, and that our current “Jesus Documents” (the New Testament) is a reliable record of the originals!

6: The “Jesus Documents”: Which Books Belong? — Modern critics of Christianity and the New Testament speak of “lost gospels,” “secret gospels,” and “missing books” from early Christianity. But, in fact, there are no such writings discovered that belong in the same collection as the Jesus Documents. How do we know? Not by listening to those who ignore the evidence! Rather we go to the first centuries of the church and listen to them! Today’s lesson is about the formation of the “canon” of the New Testament.

7: The “Jesus Documents”: Into Other Languages — Today in the church we find folks who fret a lot about which English translation we (or they) should use. And while such a discussion might have some value, the far better discussion is, “Why is it important have the Jesus Documents in languages other than their original Greek?” The answer lies in the Great Commission. The message of the Jesus Documents is “for all nations.” Since “faith comes by hearing,” all nations must hear the gospel in the languages they understand. This morning’s message is about the history and importance of having the Jesus Documents in every language spoken by man, including English!

8: The “Jesus Documents”: Living and Powerful! — Written by contemporaries of Jesus, then carefully copied, distributed and preserved for almost 2,000 years, the Jesus Documents have an unparalleled history of their own. But why should we pay attention to them in the 21st century? Because, unlike any other documents, these writings are still “living and powerful!” Listen today as we speak of the great value these writings about Jesus still bring to us today.

This sermon series was originally delivered to the Tanglewood Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas in January-March, 2013 by Richard Cravy.