There’s a problem with the New Testament, and every conservative Christian scholar, including the likes of Daniel B. Wallace, James White to the Liberals such as Dr. Crossan have implicitly conceded to their distrust of the New Testament text. Let’s first list a few facts to establish the foundation for our case:
- The Council of Nicea was held in 325 CE.
- The oldest editions of the New Testament in their most complete forms date between 350 – 450 CE (Codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Rescriptus).
- The Councils of Carthage in 393 and 397 CE affirmed the Christian canon of the New Testament.
If Christians are satisfied that the ‘true’ and ‘original’ text of the New Testament was in circulation at the time of the Council of Nicea, and accept that the New Testament books were used before, during and after the Council to affirm the Athansian Creed of the Hypostatic Union, versus that of the Arian Creed, and also accept that in 367 CE Athansius affirmed these texts, and also agree that in 393 and 397 CE the Patristics (Early Church Fathers) agreed that the New Testament in circulation was the ‘true’ and ‘original’ scripture, then why do Christians seek manuscripts before the Councils of Nicea and Carthage to ‘validate the text of the New Testament’?
What am I saying? I’m saying –
We have New Testament codices from the 4th century. In the 4th century, three important Ecumenical councils utilized the New Testament canon and since it was used during the Council of Nicea, then Christians should be statisfied with the New Testament codices of the 4th century. Since they are not satisfied and constantly seeking to rediscover the ‘original’ (authograph) manuscripts from the time of the presbyters and apostles, then they are acknowledging their distrust in the New Testament which existed at the time of the 4th century – the same New Testament we essentially have today. That being the same New Testament canon and codex that Christians today call scripture.
If the Christians accept the canon of the New Testament during the 4th century and believe as they do today in the New Testament we currently have – largely based on 4th century codices, then they should not seek a New Testament before the 4th century, as that would by and large mean that the Church Fathers affirmed the wrong canon, they affirmed false books, invented books, incorrectly attributed books to the apostles as being scripture, moreso their use of it during their debates against each other would mean that the evidences used to establish proto-Orthodox Christian doctrine are false, therefore meaning the beliefs and scripture of contemporary Christians is false.
Apologetic Use of this Argument
We now no longer need to invest our time in approaching Christians to discuss their New Testament. The very fact that they are zealously attempting to rediscover the original text, when they already have the texts ratified, verified and authenticated by the Church Fathers, the same text the Church Fathers used to defend current orthodox Christian beliefs – demonstrates that Christians have based their beliefs on foundations they themselves do not trust. Therefore, in terms of polemics and apologetics, the Christians who claim to understand Textual Criticism and adamantly preach about any New Testament manuscript before the 4th century has demonstrated to the Muslim that he is unsatisfied with the New Testament and the beliefs based on it.
This would mean, in simple terms – there is no reason to argue or debate about the New Testament text, when we can simply agree with the Christians in their search for an earlier than 4th century text. We should simple shake their hands and say, “thank you for giving us reasons to doubt your scripture and your beliefs about God”.
If the Church fathers used the wrong New Testament text, and based their beliefs (which they quoted heavily) on the New Testament of the 4th century, then undoubtedly the religion of Christianity has collapsed due to their own search for any New Testament document/ manuscript before the 4th century CE.