Resources on New Testament History & Apologetics

Books IEarlier this week, I promised a friend that I would provide for him a list of resources to aid in his studies about the New Testament, how it developed, how we know it’s true, and how we can combat the false information about Christianity that seems to proliferate both on- and off-line.  Well, this post makes good on that promise.  It’s an expanded version of a list that I posted some time ago.

Obviously, this list is far from exhaustive, but it does provide a wide range of excellent resources.  Hopefully, he—and you—will find it useful.

Books and Other Resources

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis – First published in book form in 1952, this one’s a classic.  It’s also short, topping out at 191 pages.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best books available for helping one to understand the basic teachings of Christianity.  Lewis tosses aside the differences between Catholics, the various Protestant denominations, and all other forms of Christianity.  Instead, he focuses on the faith’s core messages, or “mere” Christianity.  This one is highly recommended.

The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel – This is a good beginner book for those interested in defending the Christian faith from critics, and I highly recommend it.  It’s fast-paced and covers a lot of ground.  Strobel made his own journey from atheist to Christian, then wrote this book to share the things he learned along the way.  It is presented as a series of interviews with leading New Testament scholars and other experts about the historical, archeological, and other facts that support Christian belief.

More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell – This is an updated version of a book first written by Josh McDowell in 1977.  At 168 pages, it’s a fairly easy and quick read.  Similar to The Case for Christ, this book was written by a former skeptic who became a Christian, and it offers a range of historical, archeological, logical, and other evidences for the truth of the gospels.  It’s a good beginner book, like The Case for Christ.  Those who want to dive deeper should check out Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict and related resources.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Gary Habermas, Ph.D. and Mike Licona, Ph.D. – Much like the first two books mentioned above, this book provides a range of historical evidences to support the gospel accounts.  Its primary focus is on Jesus’ resurrection, and it does an admirable job of making its case.  It also provides helpful guidance to Christians who wish to share their faith with others.  Such guidance is needed, as many Christians are rather uncomfortable doing this…or are not very skilled at it.  For those who want a very deep dive into the historical support for Jesus’ resurrection, check out Mike Licona’s doctoral dissertation on the topic, The Resurrection of Jesus:  A New Historiographical Approach.  At more than 700 pages, this book is a behemoth, but it is thorough work by a great scholar.

The Canon of the New Testament:  Its Origins, Development, and Significance, Bruce Metzger, Ph.D. – Published in 1997 and reprinted in 2009 by Oxford University Press, this book is a good resource (288 pages plus four appendices) for those who wonder how the New Testament came to include the 27 books that we know today.  Bruce Metzger was a New Testament scholar and textual critic, expert in Greek, a longtime professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a giant in his field.  This book provides a measured history of how the New Testament came to be, and demolishes the tired (and utterly false) myth that the books of the New Testament were selected by a group of church leaders who censored books they didn’t like.

Who Wrote the Gospels?:  Evidence for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:  Ron Jones, D.D. – Many skeptics and critics claim that the gospels were not actually written by the Apostles Matthew and John, by Mark (the follower of Peter), and by Luke (the colleague of Paul).  Therefore, these critics say, the gospels do not relate eyewitness accounts and cannot be trusted.  The more I have studied this question, the more I am convinced that the skeptics and critics are wrong.  This book packs a lot of information into 78 pages.  It’s a great little resource, and, for me, it answered some questions that were totally unaddressed in much larger works.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg, Ph.D. – In 336 pages, this book masterfully tackles the allegation that the gospels are full of errors and contradictions, and cannot be trusted as historical documents.  Blomberg does an effective job of pointing out the flaws in skeptical scholarship, and provides a well-reasoned defense of the gospels.

The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel:  Issues and Commentary, Craig Blomberg, Ph.D. – The Gospel of John takes a lot of fire from critics, who allege that it’s historically inaccurate, theologically flawed, and not written by the Apostle, John.  This 294-page book by Professor Craig Blomberg mounts a powerful defense of the accuracy and traditional authorship of John.  It provides great insights for any student of this important gospel.

Reliability of the Gospel Series and Unintended Coincidences in the Gospels (PowerPoint and Audio Presentation Series), Tim McGrew, Ph.D. – Tim McGrew is a scholar at Western Michigan University.  His presentations, with accompanying audio, can be accessed via the link above.  The Reliability of the Gospels series contains 9 presentations that tackle head-on the charge—made by many skeptics—that the gospels are full of errors and contradictions.  They are not, Dr. McGrew explains, and he uses multiple detailed examples to prove his point.  His presentation, Unintended Coincidences in the Gospels, provides compelling evidence that the gospels are exactly what tradition says they are:  Independently constructed eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection.

Fabricating Jesus:  How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, Craig A. Evans, Ph.D. – Evans is a highly engaging scholar.  In this 245-page book, he outlines how some modern scholars attempt to discredit the gospel accounts of Jesus by using invalid and discredited documents (such as various Gnostic gospels) and unsupported speculation.  This book provides a helpful overview of various 2nd century heresies, and modern “crackpot” theories about Christ.

Jesus and His World:  The Archaeological Evidence, Craig A. Evans, Ph.D. – Another one by Evans, this fast-moving 208-page book outlines how archeological discoveries provide insight into Jesus’ world, and how they support the truth of the gospel accounts.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham, Ph.D. – Through its 508 pages, this book dives deep into the idea that the gospels actually represent eyewitness accounts of the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus.  This book dissects, in detail, the writings of Papias and other early church fathers who discussed gospel authorship.  It also outlines modern scholarly research into the topic.  The conclusions are powerful and well-supported:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John bring to us accurate eyewitness accounts.  This book is worth reading, but it will help if you have already read some other books on the topic and have some familiarity with Papias, Irenaeus, and others.

The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable?, F.F. Bruce – This little book of about 120 pages was first written in 1943.  It’s a classic that still holds up today.  It is an easy-to-read and powerful defense of the gospels’ historical reliability.

Paul and First Century Letter-Writing, E. Randolph Richards, Ph.D. – Today, critics dispute the authorship of about half of Paul’s letters, claiming they were actually written by someone else, and challenging their validity.  Such allegations—and similar ones about the gospels themselves—betray a lack of understanding regarding publishing practices in the first century, and the roles of secretaries and scribes in producing letters and books.  This 232-page book offers a fascinating look into how letters were written and delivered in Paul’s world.  Its findings lend significant support to the idea that Paul actually did write the letters attributed to him by the Church.

The Triumph of Christianity:  How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion, Rodney Stark, Ph.D. – At 418 pages, this one is not a quick read, but it feels quick.  This is a fascinating study of early Christian history, and it explores how a tiny, upstart faith came to be the dominant religion throughout the Roman Empire—and beyond—in just a few centuries.  Stark contrasts Christianity with other religions practiced at the time, and he also discusses the critical role of women in advancing the faith.

God’s Battalions:  The Case for the Crusades, Rodney Stark, Ph.D. – Another one by Stark, this 248-page book addresses what some consider to be a massive stain on Christian history:  the Crusades.  Many critics of Christianity use the Crusades as a murderous example of Christian imperialism, and as a reason to discount the faith.  Stark paints an altogether different picture of why the Crusades happened, who took part, and what they achieved.  This book provides some much-needed balance on this topic.

What’s So Great About Christianity?, Dinesh D’Souza – This 308-page book provides a general defense of Christianity and does a great job of skewering some of the misconceptions that non-Christians have about the faith.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts:  Obviously, any student of the New Testament should read the whole thing, especially the four gospel accounts and Luke’s history of the early church, Acts of the Apostles.

Helpful Blogs and Websites

Favorite Authors and Speakers

There are scores of great scholars and authors who defend the faith and counter the often narrow-minded work of anti-Christian scholars and the “cut and paste” misinformation spread by anti-Christian bloggers.  Some of my favorite scholars, authors, and speakers on the topic include:

  • Richard Bauckham
  • F.F. Bruce
  • Craig Blomberg
  • Craig A. Evans
  • Norman Geisler
  • Gary Habermas
  • Ron Jones
  • Craig Keener
  • C.S. Lewis
  • Mike Licona
  • Josh McDowell
  • Sean McDowell
  • Tim McGrew
  • Bruce Metzger
  • E. Randolph Richards
  • Rodney Stark
  • Lee Strobel
  • J. Warner Wallace
  • Ben Witherington
  • N.T. Wright

Again, this list is not comprehensive, and there are hundreds of other great resources out there.  We’ll expand this list periodically and share additional resources with you.