Another principle historians use to determine whether a record is authentic is to determine how long after was the fact recorded after it has occurred. Generally, the shorter the interval between the event and the time of writing, the more likely an account is true. For example, an account’s accuracy is doubtful if it was written 1,000 years after the event. How can we be sure that the writer has written accurately since he may not even be at the incident? Furthermore, what he wrote couldn’t be refuted by people who read it because the readers were also not at the scene of the incident.
We can also trust in the reliability of New Testament because they were circulated only shortly after the death of Jesus. There is strong evidence that the gospels were written within only 30 years after His death. Therefore the writers cannot afford to fabricate their reports since the readers can easily refute them if they were inaccurate. Since the interval is so short, there is also insufficient time for legends and myths tend to form around an event because this would take hundreds of years.
Recent archaeological discoveries of early papyrus manuscripts (eg John Ryland manuscript AD 130, Chester Beatty Papyri AD 155 and Bodmer Papyri II AD 200) has put the gap between the time of Christ and the manuscripts to only 100 to 200 years, much closer than most historical documents.
Gospel writers could not have written falsehood (or what they have written could not have been corrupted) because false accounts would have been easily refuted.
The New Testament accounts were tested by being circulated during the lifetimes of those alive at the resurrection. This means that the readers could contradict their testimony if they were not accurate. For instance, if we all witness a murder and a week later the police report turns out to be full of lies, we as witnesses can refute it. Likewise, we know the New Testament account is true because it has been “tested” by being circulated during the time of the contemporaries of Jesus. Furthermore, the accounts were circulated during the lifetime of those who were extremely hostile to Jesus. (They crucified him, remember?) Would these people have allowed false statements to pass as facts concerning events which they themselves were witnesses to?
In 1 Corinthians 15:38, when Paul talks about the resurrection of Jesus, he appeals to the audience’s knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time after his death. Paul reminds them that the majority of these people were still alive (vs.6) and could be questioned. Paul was in effect saying, “If you don’t believe me, you can ask them.”
In Acts 2:22, Peter said , “Men of Israel, listen to these words : Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God perform through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.”