How does the New Testament measure up to other ancient books?

BibleAsk Team

The New Testament in Relationship with Ancient Books

The New Testament is a book which is made up of different manuscripts. To ascertain its credibility today, we are to find the number of copies from those manuscripts which are currently in possession. The more copies we have the better evidence we have to know if the documents we now have matches the original.

The following chart speaks for itself*:

Earliest CopyApproximate Time Span between original & copyNumber of CopiesAccuracy of Copies
Lucretiusdied 55 or 53 B.C.1,100 yrs2—-
PlinyA.D. 61-113A.D. 850750 yrs7—-
Plato427-347 B.C.A.D. 9001,200 yrs7—-
Demosthenes4th Cent. B.C.A.D. 1100800 yrs8—-
Herodotus480-425 B.C.A.D. 9001,300 yrs8—-
SuetoniusA.D. 75-160A.D. 950800 yrs8—-
Thucydides460-400 B.C.A.D. 9001,300 yrs8—-
Euripides480-406 B.C.A.D. 11001,300 yrs9—-
Aristophanes450-385 B.C.A.D. 900120010—-
Caesar100-44 B.C.A.D. 9001,00010—-
Livy59 BC-AD 17—-???20—-
Tacituscirca A.D. 100A.D. 11001,000 yrs20—-
Aristotle384-322 B.C.A.D. 11001,40049—-
Sophocles496-406 B.C.A.D. 10001,400 yrs193—-
Homer (Iliad)900 B.C.400 B.C.500 yrs64395%
1st Cent. A.D. (A.D. 50-100)2nd Cent. A.D.
(c. A.D. 130 f.)
less than 100 years560099.5

Based only on the manuscripts evidence available, the New Testament stands as the most historically documented piece of ancient literature ever written. And the internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure. Further, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Therefore, the total number of manuscripts supporting the New Testament is over 24,000.

In addition, the New Testament was written before the close of the First Century. And since Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30., this means that all the books of the New Testament were completed within 70 years and there were many people alive that could have contested the writings.

For these reasons, the Bible is the best-selling book of all times. It has been translated into over 800 languages, and reached over 200 countries.  The Bible, and more specifically, the New Testament, stands as the greatest literary achievement the world has ever read.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team


*Slick M (2008). Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability. CARM.

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