Can we trust the New Testament manuscripts?

Fiction writers like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) and popular scholars like Bart Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture) have convinced many people the New Testament is unreliable

We are led to believe that Emperor Constantine determined the New Testament canon in the fourth century; that Christian leaders, vying for power, changed the Gospels to suit their personal agendas; and that amateur copyists butchered early New Testament manuscripts.

If these charges are true, the Church today is built on the shifting sands of legend, power, and political expediency.

Fortunately, the case for the reliability of Scripture is stronger today than it has ever been, thanks in part to a 2018 Faithlife film, “Fragments of Truth.” In the film, Craig Evans of Houston Theological Seminary takes us on a global journey through time and texts.
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Filling up the measure of sin

Does God draw a line in the sand when it comes to sin? That is, can unbelievers rebel against God so grievously, and reject His grace so persistently, that ultimately they pass a point beyond which they can never be saved?

It appears the answer is yes. Consider the following passages of Scripture.

Gen. 15:16 – “for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” The Lord tells Abraham that his descendants are to be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years (in Egypt), after which God delivers them from bondage and brings them into the Promised Land.

Why the delay in fulfilling His promise to Abraham? Because the Amorites’ measure of sin is not yet full. The Amorites are engaged in degrading sin. God has determined to destroy them and to give their land to His chosen people.

In a similar manner, Noah proclaims judgment upon the wicked for 120 years, but God determines the day in which He closes the door of the ark and opens the floodgates of heaven.
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Is heaven our final home? – Part 2

In the previous column we saw how Scripture describes heaven as the intermediate state between death and resurrection for followers of Jesus as they await future resurrection and glorification. Now, we look in more detail at heaven as well as the new heavens and new earth.

What about heaven?

The New Testament reveals many truths about this intermediate state for followers of Jesus. Here are 12:

(1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reside in heaven, yet they have immediate access to earth (Matt. 3:16-17).

(2) God’s will is done completely in heaven – and one day will be done on earth (Matt. 6:9-10).

(3) Angels surround the throne in heaven (Matt. 18:10), as do majestic heavenly creatures and redeemed people (Revelation 4-5).
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Is heaven our final home?

Is heaven the final destination of all who rest in Jesus? Or do we spend eternity someplace else?

In 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul describes two different and mutually exclusive states of existence for the Christian. While we are on earth, “at home in the body,” we are “away from the Lord.” And when we are “out of the body” we are “at home with the Lord” (5:6, 8).

The New Testament teaches that upon death, believers’ souls/spirits separate from our lifeless bodies and enter the presence of God in heaven (see also Phil. 1:21-24). There, we enjoy intimate fellowship with our Lord while awaiting the future resurrection and glorification of our bodies (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
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Have Jews and Christians corrupted the Bible?

In a previous column, we briefly examined several prophecies Jesus made concerning Himself. We presented the prophecies in the hope that our Muslim friends, who consider Jesus a great prophet but not the Son of God, would consider Jesus’ predictions, and their fulfillment, as evidence of His deity.

The traditional Muslim response to the Bible, however, is that Jews and Christians have corrupted it, so it cannot be trusted. However, this claim poses problems that begin with the Qur’an itself.

In Surah 10:94, Allah tells Muhammad, “So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters” (Sahih International).

In addition, Surah 5:48 reads, “And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book [Qur’an] in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it …” (Sahih International).

Since the Qur’an was not collected in written form until after Muhammad’s death (AD 632), these passages clearly refer to the Old and New Testaments — specifically, the Torah (Law), Zabur (psalms), and Injil (Gospel).

So, Allah seems to be telling Muhammad to use the Bible to verify the truth claims of Islam. But if the Scriptures are corrupted, as Muslims claim, when were they corrupted?

There are only two possible answers: before the days of Muhammad, or after the days of Muhammad. Let’s explore both possibilities.
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