New Testament Manuscripts

The New Testament was written in Greek. Its accuracy is also well supported by the manuscript evidence. In fact, thousands of New Testament manuscripts have survived from the first few centuries after Jesus. When compared with other ancient writings from the time of Jesus and before, the evidence for the New Testament is overwhelming.


Professor F F Bruce has written, “The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no-one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt” (The New Testament Documents, p 15).


“As F F Bruce points out, there is far more evidence for the accurate preservation of New Testament writings than for many historical manuscripts by secular writers. For example there are but nine or ten good copies of Caesar’s Gallic War (written between 58 and 50 BC) and the oldest manuscript is 900 years later than the original. The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote fourteen volumes of his Histories around AD 100. Only four and a half volumes have survived and the oldest existing manuscripts for these are dated in the 9th and the 11th centuries. Existing manuscripts for the New Testament, however, date much nearer the original source and there are thousands of copies in whole or in part.”  (Who Says? p 64)


Other support for the reliability of the New Testament comes from early believers who quoted it. For example, about AD 100, Ignatius quoted from more than half of the books of the New Testament. Other leaders in the church, within 200 years of Jesus, such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen and Tertullian, quoted from the New Testament thousands of times. These quotations can also be used to check the accuracy of the surviving manuscripts.


Professor Bruce Metzger has written, “Indeed so extensive are these citations that if all other sources of our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament” (The Text of the New Testament, p 86).


(Based on Getting to know the Bible better