This is an important issue. Almost everything we know about Jesus Christ as a figure of history comes from the New Testament.
Yes, there are a few ancient references to Jesus outside the NT (Josephus, AD 94, a Jewish historian and Tacitus, AD 116, a Roman historian) but by FAR our greatest source for the historical Jesus comes from the New Testament itself.
I continue to have numerous Facebook conversations with atheists (usually enjoyable) and almost without exception, they object to using the New Testament as a source of evidence. They view the Bible as man-made, corrupt, oppressive, untrustworthy, too old to be believed and so on.
The New Testament is Credible
Well, here are a few facts to keep in mind. The RELIABILITY of the New Testament is not in doubt, even among secular scholars. In other words, we have immense confidence in the underlying Greek texts we use for our English translations.
The Greek texts we use for translation purposes are estimated to be within 99% of the EXACT words (even little words like “the” and “now” and “and”) originally written by the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude, almost 2000 years ago.
How are we sure of this level of accuracy? Because of the literary science known as “textual criticism.” Scholars involved in textual criticism compare ancient manuscripts to other ancient manuscripts to obtain what was originally written.
The original writings of the New Testament do not exist today. But here is the beauty of it – there are SO MANY ancient Greek manuscripts available for study and comparison that scholars have no doubt about the original writings.
By way of comparison, consider the writings of Plato. Everything we know about his writings derives from just six ancient Greek manuscripts. Just six. That’s it. The New Testament? There are over 6,000 ancient Greek manuscripts available to compare.
The New Testament is by FAR the most widely attested work of antiquity. Nothing else even comes close.
The New Testament is Accurate
Now granted, even though we know precisely what the New Testament authors originally wrote, that still does not mean that what they wrote is TRUE.
Ancient people wrote false and frivolous things the same way people do today. So the reader has to make his or her own judgment about the truthfulness of what the NT authors wrote.
But we have help. From earliest times (and we have their records too) readers of the NT have confirmed its truthfulness. You can read second and third generation writers after Jesus who either knew the Apostles or had “living memory” of them. They all attest to the truthfulness of the New Testament.
CONSIDER THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. Is it believable? Did it happen?
Because if not, everything in the New Testament falls apart.
The Gospels insist, from eyewitness accounts, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, demonstrating that He is God in the flesh.
Consider the original disciples, terrified and in hiding after the crucifixion. Yet just days later, they were seen in public, boldly and without fear, claiming to have seen, talked with, touched and even had a meal with Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
They spent the rest of their lives saying the same thing – even to the point of being martyred for their claims.
Now ask yourself, why would they willingly and cheerfully go to their death TO PRESERVE A LIE?
People lie to get OUT of trouble, not to get into trouble. I believe that’s worth thinking about.
If you have sincere questions about the truthfulness of the New Testament, read it for yourself. Don’t be content with some of the crazy things you find on the internet. Try one of the Gospels — say, the Gospel of Luke, read it and make up your own mind.