the autographs of scripture: genesis 2019 july 25
the autographs of scripture: torah 2019 july 26
the autographs of scripture: prophets and writings 2019 july 29
The autographs of the New Testament are easier to trace, as so many witnesses to their history left records of their testimony.
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the Church.
-Eusebius, quoting from Irenaeus of Lyons.
Matthew, also called Levi, an apostle and previously a publican, composed a gospel of Christ. It was at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek, though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroera, a city of Syria, who use it. In this, it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Savior quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. This is why these two forms exist, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son,’ and ‘for he shall be called a Nazarene …’
– Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, chapter 3.
The apostle Bartholomew, that is Nathaniel, took the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew with him on his missionary journey to India, where he left it with the churches he founded there. When a later missionary arrived in India to begin preaching, he found churches already established in possession of the Hebrew Matthew, and the testimony of Bartholomew’s initial preaching. As Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia in AD 68 on his return from India, we know that Matthew’s Gospel was written before AD 68.
Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered (indeed, not in order), of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed Him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but did not make, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. He gave attention to one thing, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.
–Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History.
Both Eusebius and Jerome testify that Mark’s Gospel was finished while Peter was still alive, so prior to AD 66.
But there is an even greater testimony concerning Mark’s Gospel.
In 1955 there were discovered several papyrus fragments in [Dead Sea Scrolls] Qumran Cave 7. The unusual – and unexpected – feature of Cave 7 was that all of its fragments were in Greek, as opposed to the exclusively Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls that had been found in the other caves. Apart from two of the fragments which were from the Greek version of the Old Testament (Exodus and the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah), the rest of the fragments from Cave 7 were all catalogued as unidentified, and were considered indeed to be unidentifiable.
That’s how things remained until 1972, when the papyrologist, Dr José O’Callaghan, thought that he would try to identify them. They were housed at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and in April 1972 he was able to do a hands-on examination of each of them and to take a series of infra-red and other photographs. What he discovered concerning them was to shock the academic world – the fragments belonged to books of the New Testament.
Why that should have shocked the world of academe was this. The cave and its fragments were sealed up in the year AD 68 when the Roman 10th Legion overran the area. This means that these New Testament books had been written out before that year, and were indeed copied out of earlier exemplars. It means that the New Testament had been written out and was in circulation well inside the Eyewitness Period of AD 30-70. In other words, it undermines everything – and I mean everything! – that the Bible critics have been saying for the past couple of hundred years or so. It means that the Gospels had not after all been a collection of oral traditions handed down over nigh a hundred years, growing all the while with the telling, as the critics have always claimed. It means that they were accounts that had been written out by eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry, and even of His resurrection. They had heard His words and had written them down. It was just too much for the critics to swallow. The howls of execration lasted for years. Nothing but ridicule and scorn was poured on O’Callaghan’s head (it still is in fact), and he became the sniggering stock of the academic world. The voices that supported him were very few indeed, and they soon found themselves drowned out by the din of protest. And yet O’Callaghan yielded not an inch. He knew the truth of what he had discovered, and issued numerous rebuttals of his critics (see Bibliography). The main problem that the critics faced was that O’Callaghan knew more about his subject than they did, which is why he was able to rebut their every objection. So the critics did what they always do best. When your argument is weak, they shout longer and louder, and once your opponent can no longer be heard, then simply ignore him as if he had never been. It was a time-honoured strategy, and sometimes it worked. But not this time.
Here we will examine these fragments afresh, and we will consider all that O’Callaghan said about them. The critics have had their say. Since 1972, they have howled their protests and have cowed any and all who would dare to contradict them and their abysmally low view of the Scriptures. That will all come back to bite them one day. Meanwhile, we will consider the evidence which tells us so richly that our New Testament is no collection of fables written out so late that they are worthless, but a thoroughly authentic eyewitness account of the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of God. It is time for the fragments from Qumran Cave 7 to speak for themselves once again.
Dr. William Cooper, The Authenticity of the New Testament Fragments of Qumran.
The Gospel fragments found in Qumran were all from Mark’s Gospel, testifying that the original autograph was indeed younger than AD 68. The other New Testament fragments found in Qumran were from Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, James, and 2 Peter.
Luke was a contemporary of Paul and accompanied him on some of his missionary journeys, as well as to Jerusalem where Paul was detained for a number of years before being sent to Rome. At the close of Paul’s life under house arrest in Rome, he wrote in 2 Tim 4:11, “Only Luke is with me.” It is likely that during the inactive years of Paul’s imprisonment, Luke had the time to write the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, having access to many eyewitnesses in while in Jerusalem, as he states,
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had complete understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the certainty of those things, in which you have been instructed. Luk 1:1-4
and Paul’s own testimony to complete the accounts. We know that Acts was finished prior to AD 68, as a fragment of it was found at Qumran. As Acts was the second book Luke wrote following the Gospel (Acts 1:1), it means that the Gospel was likely finished prior to or near to the date of Paul’s martyrdom in AD 66.
John was the youngest of the twelve apostles, and a pillar of the Jerusalem Church from the beginning, but after the mother of Yeshua – Mary’s death, whom the Lord had entrusted to his care upon the cross, he settled in Ephesus in Asia Minor. From here he wrote the three epistles, and the Gospel of John, the last of the four Gospels.
John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
-Ireneaus of Lyons, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John.
But John, the last of all, seeing that what was corporeal was set forth in the Gospels, on the entreaty of his intimate friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.
– Eusebius, quoting from Clement of Alexandria.
During the reign of the emperor Domitian, he was banished to the island of Patmos, where he saw and wrote the Revelation. He was the longest-lived apostle of the twelve, and the only one to die a natural death. Church tradition places his death at Ephesus sometime after his release from Patmos, which was in AD 98. His epistles, Gospel, and Revelation were all completed before the end of the 1st century.
As Paul was martyred in AD 66, we know his epistles were authored before that date. Furthermore, the letters were shared among the churches, so copies were immediately made:
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. Col 4:16
The apostolic epistles were all penned before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. James, the brother of Jesus, was the first pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, and the author of the epistle attributed to him. Josephus related that the brother of Jesus, who was called James, was killed after Festus oversaw Judea but before Albinus had succeeded him. This would be in AD 62. The High Priest Anani Ananus took advantage of the temporary dearth of Roman authority and assembled a Sanhedrin, who condemned James on the charge of breaking the law, then had him executed. Hegesippus of Rome, the earliest Church historian whose works are now all lost, is quoted in Eusebius as saying,
The Scribes and Pharisees placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and threw down the just man, and they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall. And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head.
The epistle of James was written before his death, and a fragment from it found in Qumran testifies to its existence before AD 68.
Peter was crucified in AD 66 during the reign of Nero, and his epistles predated his death. A fragment from 2 Peter was found in Qumran, an irrefutable witness to this fact. Jude, the brother of James and Jesus, wrote his epistle before that of 2 Peter, which would date it earlier than AD 66.
So much for the antiquity of the original autographs of Scripture. Of course, thousands of years later not a single autograph still exists, of which we are aware. But copies of them do.