By Bridget Brenton
The sheer weight of the New Testament manuscript evidence is outstanding when compared to any other ancient book or book collection in all antiquity.
The events of the New Testament took place roughly 2000 years ago, and today we have 5,686 Greek partial or complete New Testament manuscripts in existence.
Added to that is 9,000 early translational copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic language. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.
There are also 38,289
quotations from the New Testament by early church fathers who wrote between the second and fourth centuries AD. Therefore it is said that even if we exclude all the New Testament manuscripts we would still be able to reconstruct the New Testament from these quotes.
By comparison, The Annals of Imperial Rome by the Roman Historian Tacitus in AD 116 only survive in two manuscripts – one copied in about AD 850 and the other in the eleventh century. That's over 700 years between the original compilation and the earliest surviving manuscripts.
Homer's Iliad from 800 BC has 643 manuscript copies from second century AD and beyond.
The Jewish War by first century historian Josephus has nine manuscripts that were copied no earlier than the tenth century AD.
Scholars treat these documents as authentic despite the scarcity and age of the manuscripts. Meanwhile the New Testament is the best attested-to document in the ancient world. Professor FF Bruce said: "The evidence of our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence of many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning."
The consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% exact. That is an amazing accuracy. Between the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus containing all books of the New Testament we can be assured all versions of the Bible are reasonably true to the original source material.
The importance of understanding the New Testament as a historical document is it gives supporting evidence for the resurrection and the life of Jesus. There are strong historical undertones in it and Luke has time and time again been noted to be one of the more accurate ancient historians. He wrote his gospel as an "account" of the things they were eyewitnesses to. He pins down events accurately to their historical context with checkable information.
Time and time again, Luke has shown to be accurate to a 'T'. Historians Sir William Ramsey, Irina Levinskaya, Colin Hermer, Conrad H. Gempf and others over the years have done much work in confirming the accounts of Luke. The Roman historian Sherwin White noted: "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming... any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd."
When the Bible is the best attested to historical document of ancient times, dismissing it is just ludicrous. Famous atheists often ignore the work of such ancient historians because it makes the accounts in the Bible more likely to be true than not.?