How Geographic Separation Affirms the Reliability of the New Testament

by J Warner Wallace

Skeptics sometimes claim the New Testament Canon was the creation of 4th Century Catholic Church councils, rather than the reliable preservation of 1st Century disciples of the eyewitnesses. While it’s true the Council of Laodicea (363-364AD) endorsed the New Testament Canon we know today, these Church leaders simply affirmed the Scriptures followers of Jesus had been using for several generations. The earliest believers, hundreds of years before the Councils, preserved the precious eyewitness testimony related to Jesus, continually examining the competing accounts to make sure their collection was authentic and accurate. By the time of the Councils, a universal standard was accepted by orthodox Christians who wanted to determine which writings were the Word of God (and which were not). There were two important attributes considered by these believers:

Eyewitness Reliability
Were the texts authored by an eyewitness or someone with immediate access to the eyewitnesses? (Could the texts be trusted to reflect the truth about what happened? Were they uncorrupted both historically and doctrinally?)

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Practical Utility
Did the texts reflect the Divine nature and purposes of God in a way that assisted God’s people in understanding Him better? (Were the texts useful in teaching people about God? Were they understandable and accessible?)

These areas of concern guided the selection process for the earliest believers as they protected and preserved the documents they received from the apostles. We can have confidence in this process because these collectors had firsthand access to the men who wrote the Gospels. In addition to this, the geographic diversity in which these early believers and leaders emerged further substantiated their authenticity. The disciples of the apostles preserved the testimony of the eyewitnesses and mentioned this testimony in their own correspondence, even though they were separated by thousands of miles…

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