Historicity of the Old and New Testaments


Can someone please outline the historicity of the testaments? I prefer to not read lengthy books regarding the subject.


Perhaps you could elaborate what you mean by “outline the historicity of the testatments”.

Books would probably be better, but here’s a two part article:



Ah the internet generation. Give me what I want right now and I don’t want to work for it.


Amu, are you trying to get us to do your research for a school assignment?


No dear sir. I am trying to get you to do research for my religious curiousity. Plus, I just wanted a summary, which are different from books/articles.


Try wikipedia


Here are few reasonably short official documents (and online too):

"Instruction Concerning the Historical Truth of the Gospels" by the Pontifical Biblical Commission: catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_HistTruthFitzmyer.htm#PBCText
and an analysis of it: catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_HistTruthFitzmyer.htm#PBCText

and then there is:

DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON DIVINE REVELATION ***DEI VERBUM ***SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI (vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html)

which discusses historical analysis.

Here is a collection of references:

[LEFT]Catholic Church Documents related to Biblical Studies
compiled by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

at: catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/[/LEFT]


No one here will be inclined to do your research for you.

What we will be happy to do is discuss particular questions and issues. We will also be happy to give you resource suggestions-- books, articles, and websites-- from which you can do your research.

A summary of what, exactly? Your statement is quite broad and could fill volumes.

Do you have a particular question?


There is a 300 year gap between Jesus and the earliest complete manuscript. No one has been able to explain to me how Jesus’ words were passed down in a continuous manner for these ~300 years. Saying “through inspiration” or “we trust the Church” doesn’t do much to fill this large transmission gap.


I was being sarcastic

My particular issue is right above this post


There you go, now that’s an actual, specific question.

Upon what do you base this statement? What is your source?

This is inaccurate.

The Gospels were already in written form within 20-30 years of the Resurrection. Paul’s letters were, of course, written before his death circa 60-64 AD, same for Peter’s letters. John’s letters may be a bit later, but all are within the first century. These letters and gospels began being copied and circulated immediately and were then read in the assembly (at Mass) as St. Justin Martyr’s Apology shows.

They were written in the Gospel.

And, of course they were also recited orally. Memorization and oral recitation is not now what it was in the days of our forefathers-- memorization and reciting orally with accuracy was far more prevalent (look at the great Greek epics, those were recited from memory).

So, are you a Catholic? We don’t just “trust” the Church-- be know with certainty that she is infallible when it comes to the deposit of faith.


It’s a historical fact the earliest complete manuscript of the NT is ~ 325 CE. No record of a complete account exists before this. No evidence around this time ensures that everything in that manuscript came from Jesus.

Memorized by who? How do you know a piece of information was not shoved in Jesus’ mouth within that 300 year period?

I’m not Catholic. I understand that theological doctrine you state. However, when dealing strictly with historicity, it has no impact.



Do you mean all the books collected into one compilation? Perhaps, I’d have to research that.

However, each book existed individually from the first century, and as I said were copied and distributed to the Christian communities and read in the assembly.

These books didn’t just APPEAR in the 300s.

And nothing proves it didn’t, either.

The Bishops, priests, and deacons of course. They quoted from the Scriptures continually from the first century.

The Scriptures were read in the Mass and circulated widely.

How do you know it was?

The Gospels, as I said, were written within 20 years of Jesus death. And, they were written by eyewitnesses or their students. Whatever was “shoved” into his mouth was done then not 300 years later.

That explains a lot. It is important to know where you are coming from theologically.

Well, I disagree.


Also, please keep in mind that Scripture is not the only means of transmitting the faith. Both Scripture and Tradition compose the Deposit of Faith.


I’m sure you can ask your Catholic friends about this.

There were hundreds of ‘Gospels,’ and in beginning of the fourth century 4 were chosen by the Church. Why they were, what basis they had for choosing these four, etc… is vague.

The Bishops, priests, and deacons of course. They quoted from the Scriptures continually from the first century.

The Scriptures were read in the Mass and circulated widely.

What evidence is there that this happened?



The Gospels, as I said, were written within 20 years of Jesus death. And, they were written by eyewitnesses or their students. Whatever was “shoved” into his mouth was done then not 300 years later.

There is a gap in the transmission. This leaves room for doubt. I never said a specific event happened that shoved something in.

I didn’t say Catholicism is false. I said the NT has not been preserved like it should have been.


It may well be true that the oldest known preserved form of the gospel writings themselves are circa 300AD. There were other writings by the Church Fathers and others that commented on and quoted the Gospels before 300 AD. If someone in 300 AD had tried to issue an approved bogus set of Gospels the hallabaloo would have been so loud that it could be heard by the Maya in the Western Hemisphere. If Christians had tried to doctor up Isaiah and other OT books, do you think the Jews would have been silent?

No one is going to pull an original copy of one of the Gospels out of their behind so that you can rest easy that all is kosher. My Mother always told me that no question is stupid, but sometimes I wonder. :shrug:


The original copies of all the written sources have completely disappeared**. **The oldest fragment of any portion of the New Testament dates from the 2nd century, 100 years after Jesus’ death. The next oldest fragments (of Matthew, Luke, John, and Thomas) date to about 200. The first complete copy of the Greek New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus) is from the 4th century. Thus, three centuries separate Jesus from the earliest complete surviving copies of the gospels. None of the bibles we use are from a single or original source - they are formed from about 5000 Greek manuscripts that contain all or parts of the new testament.

These are the simple facts, undisputed by the church. Now as to whether this undermines anything, the answer is no and the reason is that the Catholic church does not promote a literalistic interpretation of the bible and does not engage in “proof-texting”. The overall themes of the scriptures are what we focus on and we combine that knowledge with the church’s traditions and teachings through the ages to arrive at our current understanding.



You also have the fact that we have many 1st, 2nd, & 3rd century from writings of early Christians that quote extensively from the canonized Gospels. So many so that it has been said that you could practically find all of the Gospels in their entirety contained therein.:slight_smile:


Catholic Church teachings did not originate from the New Testament.

Jesus first taught the apostles everything. The apostles handed down these teachings to their successors.
Their successors, the bishops, lived out these teachings daily in the mass, and the sacraments and in their teachings.
These teachings were organized in the form of teaching the articles of the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments and Prayer.
This was how the faith was passed on from generation to generation.
The teachings the early Christians believed back then are the same teachings the Church teaches today. See the writings of the apostolic fathers as a witness to this fact.

The New Testament is salvation history. The four Gospels are narratives of the life of Jesus. These four Gospels alone were chosen as inspired because of the teachings the apostles handed down, (tradition) to through the Church. The fact that these Gospels were written during the time of the eyewitnesses to the events and the fact that they were NOT rejected by these eyewitnesses is proof that they are historically correct.

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