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


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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*:

Author Date
Earliest Copy Approximate Time Span between original & copy Number of Copies Accuracy of Copies
Lucretius died 55 or 53 B.C. 1,100 yrs 2 —-
Pliny A.D. 61-113 A.D. 850 750 yrs 7 —-
Plato 427-347 B.C. A.D. 900 1,200 yrs 7 —-
Demosthenes 4th Cent. B.C. A.D. 1100 800 yrs 8 —-
Herodotus 480-425 B.C. A.D. 900 1,300 yrs 8 —-
Suetonius A.D. 75-160 A.D. 950 800 yrs 8 —-
Thucydides 460-400 B.C. A.D. 900 1,300 yrs 8 —-
Euripides 480-406 B.C. A.D. 1100 1,300 yrs 9 —-
Aristophanes 450-385 B.C. A.D. 900 1200 10 —-
Caesar 100-44 B.C. A.D. 900 1,000 10 —-
Livy 59 BC-AD 17 —- ??? 20 —-
Tacitus circa A.D. 100 A.D. 1100 1,000 yrs 20 —-
Aristotle 384-322 B.C. A.D. 1100 1,400 49 —-
Sophocles 496-406 B.C. A.D. 1000 1,400 yrs 193 —-
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 yrs 643 95%
1st Cent. A.D. (A.D. 50-100) 2nd Cent. A.D.
(c. A.D. 130 f.)
less than 100 years 5600 99.5

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.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team



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