Can We Construct The Entire New Testament From the Writings of the Church Fathers?

by J. Warner Wallace

I’ve often heard it said that the New Testament is well referenced and attested by the Early Church Fathers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Century. As an example of this, some researchers have cited Sir David Dalrymple (1726 – 1792AD) a Scottish judge and historian who wrote three volumes on early Christian Church history called, “Remains of Christian Antiquity”. Dalrymple was an expert in the writings of the early Church. It’s alleged that after careful examination of the writings of the Fathers he wrote, “…as I possessed all the existing works of the Fathers of the second and third centuries, I commenced to search, and up to this time I have found the entire New Testament, except eleven verses.” That’s quite a claim if you stop and think about it. As I was preparing an article for on the transmission of the New Testament, I decided to investigate this statement to find its source. I simply wanted to cite Dalrymple properly. After purchasing Dalrymple’s books and manuscripts on this topic, I came to the conclusion that he has either been improperly referenced or inaccurately cited. I simply cannot confirm the quotation from Dalrymple that is offered repeatedly by Christian Case Makers.

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But that doesn’t mean the general claim is false. In fact, when writing Cold Case Christianity, I researched the writings of the generations of Christian students who followed the original New Testament authors. These Early Church Fathers sat at the feet of the apostles and learned from the apostolic eyewitness accounts. These secondary leaders then wrote letters and documents of their own, repeating the claims of their teachers…


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