"Trusting the New Testament" Hub Page

Welcome to the hub page for the second Tekton Building Blocks series book, Trusting the New Testament which officially came out July 3, 2008. Here we'll provide descriptions of each chapter, plus whatever links are necessary for further discussion and news on each of these chapters. This will include links to discussion forum threads, answers to any attempts at rebuttal, and any new information about what is discussed in the chapters.

Some of these chapters are available for preview in issues of the Tekton E-Block. These will be noted.

Unless otherwise indicated, chapters are authored by James Patrick Holding.

Table of Contents

Introductory Material

Section One: The Oral Transmission of the New Testament

Chapter 1: Thanks for the Memory -- An introduction to the medium or oral tradition, with examples from various cultures, and an answer to the question, "Isn't it just an extended game of telephone?"

Chapter 2: One at the Expense of the Other -- Addressing the claim that putting oral material down in writing destroys or distorts it.

Chapter 3: This is the Way We Remember -- A discussion of memory-aiding devices and their specific use in the New Testament.

Chapter 4: History by Word of Mouth -- Is oral transmission unsuitable for reporting history accurately, especially over time?

Chapter 5: Wouldn't Writing Have Been Better? -- On whether written transmission is superior to oral transmission when it comes to preserving information.

Chapter 6: Was Jesus Illiterate?

Chapter 7: Holy Hearsay! by Charles Jake IV -- Examining the claim that oral transmission is just "hearsay," and a legal analysis of what hearsay actually is, and why it is not accepted in courts.

Chapter 8: Memorization and the Qur'an by Jonathan Kendall -- Discusses the example of how Muslims memorize their sacred text, as an analogy to how Christians would have done the same.

Section Two: The Textual Transmission of the New Testament

Chapter 9: The Embarrassment of Riches -- How the New Testament stacks up in terms of textual evidence compared to other ancient documents.

Chapter 10: Apparitional Interpolations -- On arguments (apart from textual evidence) that the NT text has been tampered with; specific focus on claims by Robert M. Price concerning the 1 Cor. 15 creed.

Chapter 11: Inerrancy and Human Ignorance -- Why did God not preserve copies of the NT inerrantly?

Chapter 12: Copyist Errors and Common-Sense Conjectural Emendations -- On arguments (apart from textual evidence) that the NT text has been accidentally changed in the process of copying.

Chapter 13: The World According to Bart -- On Bart Ehrman's arguments about the textual reliability of the NT.

Section Three: The Authorship of the New Testament

Chapter 14: Knowing Who Wrote What -- How authorship is determined for ancient documents, and how the NT documents measure up.

Chapter 15: The Authorship of Matthew

Chapter 16: The Authorship of Mark

Chapter 17: The Authorship of Luke-Acts

Chapter 18: The Authorship of John

Chapter 19: The Undisputed (Within Reason) Paulines -- A brief consideration of six letters of Paul whose authorship is undisputed by the vast majority of scholars - Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon -- followed by analysis of arguments by a scholar on the fringe who does deny the Pauline authorship of one of them.

Chapter 20: The Authorship of Ephesians

Chapter 21: The Authorship of Colossians

Chapter 22: The Authorship of 2 Thessalonians

Chapter 23: The Authorship of the Pastorals

Chapter 24: The Authorship of Hebrews -- Hebrews is truly anonymous - but can we make some reasonable guesses?

Chapter 25: The Authorship of James

Chapter 26: The Authorship of 1 Peter

Chapter 27: The Authorship of 2 Peter

Chapter 28: The Authorship of 1 John

Chapter 29: The Authorship of 2 and 3 John

Chapter 30: The Authorship of Jude

Chapter 31: The Authorship of Revelation

Section Four: The Canon of the New Testament

Chapter 32: The Formation of the New Testament Canon

Chapter 33: The Gospel of Thomas

Chapter 34: The Gospel of Judas

Chapter 35: Books with Their Pictures on Milk Cartons

Chapter 36: Constantine, the Canon, and the Council of Nicaea

Responding Material

Bart Ehrman's book Forged is all about NT authorship issues. How does he fare? Our evaluation.

Reviews of Books

Here, we'll note reviews of the book, and link to reviews of books concerned with the NT reliability/authorship.

Jason Engwer of Triablogue offers this positive review here:

I recently finished reading the second book in J.P. Holding's Tekton Building Blocks series, Trusting The New Testament (United States: Xulon Press, 2009). I highly recommend it.

The book is 300 pages long, and it covers four topics (oral tradition, New Testament textual transmission, New Testament authorship, and the New Testament canon) in thirty-six chapters. The foreword is written by Richard Howe of Southern Evangelical Seminary, and two chapters are written by Charles Jake IV (an attorney writing on the application of legal standards to the New Testament) and Jonathan Kendall (a lay Christian apologist writing on memorization of the Koran in Islam), but most of the book is written by Holding. There are chapters on the nature of oral tradition in antiquity, whether Jesus was illiterate, Bart Ehrman's view of the New Testament text, the Gospel Of Thomas, whether the Council of Nicaea determined the New Testament canon, and many other issues. There's a defense of the traditional authorship attributions of all of the books of the New Testament. Each of the New Testament documents is addressed only briefly, however, as you would expect in a book that's 300 pages long and covers so many other topics as well. He discusses more than twenty books not included in the canon, with the Gospel Of Thomas and the Gospel Of Judas each given a chapter of its own.

Those who have been active in apologetics for a long time should already be familiar with the general outlines of his argumentation. But he adds many significant details along the way, and he often interacts with books published within the last few years.

Here are a few passages from the book in which he addresses some of the inconsistencies of Christianity's critics, a theme he often addresses in this book and elsewhere:

Indeed, that despairing textual critics nevertheless proceed with their textual and historical work shows that they have their own presumption that we do know something; in particular, that someone like Bart Ehrman continues to use the New Testament as a source to argue for matters concerning the history of Christianity - as well as that he continues to use, without qualification, sources like Josephus and Tacitus with far, far less textual evidence - shows that "we don't know" is not the philosophy which critics employ in practice....

It is somewhere between 250 and 300 years before external testimony directly grants authorship of the Annals to Tacitus. We will see with further examples below that this is actually fairly quickly, as classical works go. But it needs to be said that this evidence is vanishingly small compared to the incredible number of attestations and attributions of NT documents by patristic writers, some few earlier than (but many as late as) those listed for Tacitus above....

Plato's later works show a broader range of vocabulary [than] his earlier ones [as New Testament documents attributed to the same author sometimes vary in their range of vocabulary], and Hamlet has more unique words than any other Shakespearian play - yet no one denies Shakespeare its authorship. (pp. 93-94, 141, n. 42 on p. 214)

I disagree with Holding on some points, such as his view of the authorship of Hebrews and some portions of his approach toward the New Testament canon. (For an explanation of my views on those subjects, see here.) He doesn't say much about hostile corroboration of the New Testament, such as affirmations of the traditional authorship attributions in non-Christian sources. His section on New Testament authorship is weighted too much toward answering objections and too little toward making a case for his own view. I agree with him that the sort of evidence he does discuss is more significant than critics suggest, but there's so much he doesn't include, sometimes leaving unmentioned some of the most significant evidence.

These are relatively minor disagreements, though. It's a very good book that covers many topics. And it's meant to address a general audience. The large majority of Christians would learn a lot from the book, and even those who are more knowledgeable on these subjects should find some valuable material they weren't familiar with.

Jason's article on hostile corroboration may be found here and we highly recommend it. He also sent these notes.

P. 61 refers to Boston as John F. Kennedy's birthplace. I don't know much about Kennedy's background, but my understanding is that he was born in Brookline. Maybe Brookline was associated with Boston in some way at the time. I don't know.

This came from a quote of Kirk and Thatcher. From what I can see on maps, Brookline is a suburb of Boston. Of course, theorists like Dennis MacDonald and Acharya S are not adverse to saying "close enough" for matches that aren't quite matches anyway!

On p. 177, n. 8 attributes a quote to Origen in his first homily on Luke, but that passage isn't there in my copy of his homilies. You may want to check your source.

The book New Testament Apocrypha: Gospels and Related Writings by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and Robert McLachlan Wilson indicates that this does appear in Greek fragments of the Homily though not in the Latin version.

On p. 219, you mention that there's one source who attributes Hebrews to Barnabas. But, in addition to Tertullian, Jerome comments that "many" attributed Hebrews to Barnabas (Bruce Metzger, The Canon Of The New Testament [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], p. 236). Donald Guthrie cites some other sources of the patristic era, later than Tertullian, who also state or suggest that the letter was written by Barnabas. I can't give you a page number, since I have Guthrie's New Testament introduction in a CD format without page numbers.

We appreciate the additional information!

The passage attributed to Origen on p. 244 and n. 4 on p. 246 is from Tertullian.

This is correct. I am uncertain how the attribution was made to Origen, but since I did get the title of the work correct (Prescription Against Heretics) it was undoubtedly an editing error of some sort on my part.

Additional Resources

Bibliography of resources for interpretation of the New Testament

Bibliography of resources for the history of the canon of the New Testament

Bibliography of resources for historicity of the New Testament