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From Editor Dave Littlewood
THE CURE FOR UNBELIEF
Failure is caused by lack of faith, says Andrew Murray
Discover the forgotten evangelist who brought a stunning revival to Liverpool
The brave Russian concert pianist who stood up to Stalin, one of the world’s worst mass murderers
THE AMAZING PEACE CHILD
Just how would you win a Stone Age tribe that reveres Judas Iscariot as the hero of the gospel story?
JOHN ALEXANDER DOWIE
From a wall of miracles to public disgrace – lessons from the ministry of a healing ministry pioneer
AND CAN IT BE THAT I SHOULD GAIN?
How Charles Wesley found peace with God and penned one of the most popular hymns of all time
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Some time ago I went to look at what I consider one of the wonders of the ancient world. No, I didn’t go to some far-flung corner of the world but to Manchester, England. There, in the Rylands Library, is housed a tiny fragment of papyrus (measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches) on which there is inscribed on one side the words of John 18:31-33 and on the other side verses 37-38 of the same chapter.
The importance of this fragment is quite out of proportion to its size, since it may with some confidence be dated to the first half of the second century AD. Palaeographical research has put it at around AD 117-138 (though it may even be earlier), showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 30 years of its composition. Hence the so-called ‘Papyrus 52’ ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament.
In an age in which the Bible is often denigrated as ‘unreliable’ by uninformed people in the media, it is important for us to realise that the New Testament is the best attested of any ancient historical document. For example, the important first century document ‘The Jewish War’, by the Jewish historian Josephus, survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th century – four centuries after they were written. Tacitus’ ‘Annals of Imperial Rome’ is regarded by scholars as one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages, many hundreds of years after it was written.
Compare this to the thousands of fragments of the Bible in existence – many of which can be dated very early. In fact the so-called ‘Codex Vaticanus’, which contains most of the Greek New Testament books complete, is dated around AD325–350, while the Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th century to the early 5th century.
Logically therefore, those who dismiss the New Testament should also dismiss all the other ancient historical documents, something which few scholars would ever dream of doing. However, we might suspect that those who dismiss the New Testament do so not on the grounds of its reliability but because they find its message rather uncomfortable to live with. After all, neither Tacitus nor Josephus challenge us in the way we live as the New Testament does!
From the time of Apostle Peter – here included in this edition along with other great Heroes of the Faith – the message of the gospel has been transforming lives by the power of the Word of God, constantly outliving those who attack it. In the words of Samuel Valentine Cole: “Hammer away, ye hostile hands; Your hammers break, God’s anvil stands.”