The Miracle of the New Testament

I am amazed at the miracle of the New Testament. To me, it’s mere existence is one of the touchstones of my faith in God.

Let’s assume for one moment that Jesus was not the Son of God, and that there is no Holy Spirit. Jesus wrote nothing himself; all of the records of his life and teaching come from his followers and his followers’ followers. According to some scholars, we can’t even be sure that he really said what his followers say he said. According to some other scholars, the rest of the New Testament after the Gospels – the letters of Paul, Peter, et al., the Revelation of John – are dramatically different than what Jesus “really” taught. Again, I’m not endorsing these thoughts, but just telling you what some people think.

What then are we left with? The text of the New Testament has spurred on some of the most profound moral achievements in the history of mankind: Augustine’s philosophy, the great monasteries, the life of Francis of Assissi, humanitarian projects like hospitals and orphanages, the dramatic rise of literacy in the West, the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa. The list could go on and on. Not bad for a group of smalltown fishermen and merchants.

The New Testament was written by a small group of people, mostly from a couple of villages in Galilee. Luke and Paul probably had the equivalent of a university education, but the rest were tradesmen. Yet their writings triggered not only dozens of moral revolutions over the last 2,000 years, but also radically reinterpreted the Hebrew Scriptures, completely transforming an entire religion. Assuming that authorship is correct, then we have, at minimum, seven of the world’s greatest moral geniuses – the 4 Gospel writers, plus Paul, Peter, and James. I would argue that the work of any one or two of them would be enough to found a religion, yet we have at least seven, not even counting the anonymous author of Hebrews, or considering whether any of their attributed writings were written by someone else. And remember: most of these “geniuses” were Galilean tradesmen, considered uneducated by their neighbors. All of them were contemporaries with one another, and their collected works were written over a span of no more than 50 years. Along the way, they created from scratch a new literary genre (the Gospel), wrote the highest achievement in all of Jewish apocalyptic literature, and redefined the possiblities for letter writing.

Either this is the greatest coincidence that history has ever seen, or there’s something to this idea that Jesus is the Son of God and sent the Holy Spirit to teach and inspire his disciples.

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