Shortly after we completed filming in Israel of our series of mini-documentaries on “Archaeology Jesus,” Reuben Evans of Faithlife Films asked me what project we should do next. At the time, I was researching my book, “Jesus and the Manuscripts.” How many, how old, and how good the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament Gospels are, was very much on my mind. Without thinking more than a few seconds, I suggested to Reuben that we make a documentary on the oldest surviving manuscripts of the New Testament Gospels. He liked the idea, and so did the leadership at Faithlife.
Reuben, his film crew, and I flew to Europe in late May 2017. We visited Dublin in Ireland, Manchester, Oxford, and Cambridge in England, Geneva in Switzerland, and the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Over the course of two weeks, we filmed the oldest surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament Gospels. We interviewed the world’s leading textual critics, experts on ancient manuscripts, and curators and librarians who house and preserve these manuscripts for public viewing and scholarly study.
Scholars we interviewed included Keith Elliott, David Parker, Larry Hurtado, Simon Gathercole, Daniel Wallace, Peter Williams, David Trobisch and Jacques Berchtold. We filmed the oldest fragments of the Greek Gospels, including Papyrus 52, Papyrus 64, and Papyrus 66. I even held in my hands Codex Bezae, named after the great Swiss Reformer Theodore Beza, who donated it to the Cambridge University Library. The context contains the four New Testament Gospels and the book of Acts, and dates around the year 400.
Faithlife Films has created a 90-minute documentary called “Fragments of Truth,” that released theatrically on April 24. Houston Baptist University hosted a pre-screening release in the Dunham Theater. After the screening, President Robert Sloan moderated 30 minutes of questions directed toward me and Reuben Evans (we’re friends but not otherwise related!). This Q&A session was filmed, and a brief, edited segment was added to the end of the documentary, which was shown in 741 cinemas and theaters across the United States. In Texas alone, 77 cinemas and theaters showed the documentary, which is narrated by legendary actor John Rhys-Davies, famous for his roles in “Indiana Jones” and “Lord of the Rings.”
The documentary shows that the New Testament Gospel manuscripts are ancient, reliable, and faithfully reflect the text of the original writings, or autographs. We hope many Christians, along with their family and friends, (especially those who have heard claims recently made in the media to the effect that the Gospel manuscripts are full of errors and uncertain readings) will see the film.
I find it interesting also that “Fragments of Truth” appears in the same academic year in which Lee Strobel’s movie, “The Case for Christ,” also appeared. The latter appeared in the fall 2017 semester and the former appeared in the spring 2018 semester. This is amazing. Has this ever happened before that two members of the same faculty appear in theatrical releases in the same academic year? I think this says something about HBU’s position of leadership in crucial areas of thought and study in these troubled times!