Excerpted from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D.:

… it is quite doubtful whether Bertrand Russell ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about Him …

… it is quite doubtful whether Bertrand Russell
ever existed at all, and if he did
we do not know anything about him …

Negative Bible critics charge or imply that the New Testament documents are unreliable since they were written by disciples of Jesus or later Christians. They note that there is no confirmation of Jesus in any non-Christian sources. Several factors undermine the validity of this criticism.
There is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is a reliable record composed by contemporaries and eyewitnesses of the events. There are more manuscripts, earlier manuscripts, better copied manuscripts, and manuscripts written by more people who were closer to the events than for any other piece of ancient history. Archaeology is continually confirming details of their writing. If the New Testament record is unreliable, we have no hope for any reliable knowledge of any other ancient happenings.

The objection that the writings are partisan involves a significant but false implication that witnesses cannot be reliable if they were close to the one about whom they gave testimony. This is clearly false. Survivors of the Jewish holocaust were close to the events they have described to the world. That very fact puts them in the best position to know what happened. They were there, and it happened to them. The same applies to the court testimony of someone who survived a vicious attack. It applies to the survivors of the Normandy invasion during World War II or the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The New Testament witnesses should not be disqualified because they were close to the events they relate.

eclipseRelated to the charge that Jesus lacks testimony by unbelievers is that there is strong evidence, but a lack of weak evidence.

Suppose there were four eyewitnesses to a murder. There was also one witness who arrived on the scene after the actual killing and saw only the victim’s body. Another person heard a secondhand report of the killing. In the trial the defense attorney argues: “Other than the four eyewitnesses, this is a weak case, and the charges should be dismissed for lack of evidence.” Others might think that attorney was throwing out a red herring. The judge and jury were being distracted from the strongest evidence to the weakest evidence, and the reasoning was clearly faulty. Since the New Testament witnesses were the only eyewitness and contemporary testimonies to Jesus, it is a fallacy to misdirect attention to the non-Christian secular sources.


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