Visualizing the Reliability of the New Testament Compared to Other Ancient Texts

Dan Wallace (professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary):

“NT scholars face an embarrassment of riches compared to the data the classical Greek and Latin scholars have to contend with. The average classical author’s literary remains number no more than twenty copies. We have more than 1,000 times the manuscript data for the NT than we do for the average Greco-Roman author. Not only this, but the extant manuscripts of the average classical author are no earlier than 500 years after the time he wrote. For the NT, we are waiting mere decades for surviving copies. The very best classical author in terms of extant copies is Homer: manuscripts of Homer number less than 2,400, compared to the NT manuscripts that are approximately ten times that amount.”

To illustrate this, Mark at Visual Unit has produced a great infographic comparing the NT manuscript evidence with other ancient writings:

For other helpful diagrams, illustrations, and infographics related to the Bible and Christianity visit Visual Unit.

HT: Tim McGrew

69 replies
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  1. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    And my logic was, with respect to my example, that worshipping god means wasting the one life you have arguing over details of an antiquated book – a very severe detriment to my mind, although addressed in part by bNonns point.

  2. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Actually, when you consider the wager in the wider context of Pascal’s apologetic, you can see that is not a knock over objection. Pascal does consider other religions.

  3. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    This does not fairly represent the logic of the argument, for IF God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, then arguing over the details of said book are not a waste of time, and neither is the book antiquated. Also, worshiping God does not mean arguing over the details ONLY, but also living a fulfilled and meaningful life.

  4. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    “Pascal does consider other religions.”

    “IF God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ…”

    Ah the never-ending dressing up of christian bias in objective clothing.

  5. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peanutaxis, 

    I don’t understand you. Are you saying it not an objective fact that Pascal considers other religions, e.g. Islam? Are you saying the conditional propostion I refered to before is false? 

  6. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I believe you’ve made this point before. As I have made the point that an a-religious person cannot objectively consider other religions as well. This does not mean however that our biases overcome our judgement. 

  7. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    ‘This does not fairly represent the logic of the argument, for IF God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, then arguing over the details of said book are not a waste of time, and neither is the book antiquated. Also, worshiping God does not mean arguing over the details ONLY, but also living a fulfilled and meaningful life.’ Your first sentence is my point. That’s why it’s called ‘Pascal’s WAGER’, surely? The contingency is on the IF statement. The corollary is, and if God has NOT revealed himself, arguing over the details is not particularly consequential when placed alongside eternity in hell etc – well I disagree quite strongly. Your second sentence, as it stands, is a fair point, other than the fact that – as you know – there are extensive arguments to be made for the negative consequences of being Christian. 

  8. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    Yes I am pointing out it’s recurrence.

    But your ‘point’ is pure nonsense. What you claim is the equivalent of claiming that a Liverpool supporter can sit on the side of a Liverpool game and just cheer for the game in general as well as a person who supports no particular team. Even if the non-football-supporter doesn’t even like the game, his viewpoint is far more objective between teams.

  9. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    I like the analogy. More detail: the ‘Pool supporter may be a supporter because he is from Chester, and his Dad chose Liverpool instead of Everton because he went to school with Dalglish. His son was always going to be a ‘Pool fan and that’s just that. He might not even understand football that well, but hell, he has an emotional attachment to it. Whereas, say, the fan in East Africa walks past a television and sees Liverpool steam-rolling AC Milan in a Champions League final, loves the passion and commitment, and is set on a team with that much heart. He likes them because at that moment, they’re the best, the most engaging and the most appealing, and not just because he had it rammed down his throat when he first became aware of his existence. 
    And ironically, in this scenario – contradicting your point, Stuart – Bnonn is the atheist. He probably doesn’t like football – it doesn’t make sense to him, it has no value and it’s a waste of his time. In fact he has a distaste for all sport and the way it makes people – particularly men – behave. So he’s not a liverpool fan, he’s not even a football fan, and he would rather not be at Anfield at all. 
    I still maintain that you can, as I do, argue about the validity of religious belief while maintaining the position that this is a ‘non’ belief. 

  10. Al
    Al says:

    Bnonn,
    Funny how the word “many” has cropped up again so soon, but if we’re to take you literally, when you say “many atheists would rather go to hell than do that(I was one of them)” I’m left wondering about your meaning of the word “atheist”, or how I could have got it so wrong.  I haven’t had deep discussions with other atheists, unfortunately, so I don’t know what many of them believe, but to “rather go to hell” must first entail a belief in hell (along with God and heaven), which to me would have made you, not an atheist, but someone who accepted the basic tenets of Christianity and felt you were deliberately rejecting God.

    Why this amazes me so much, is:1) that I thought I was an atheist because to me there is no evidence for God, heaven, or hell that is not generated within our own minds, and2) that I need to spell out this definition of an atheist.

    So, I can understand that you know many people who reject God, as you did, but how does that make them atheists?  Yes, many atheists could very well recognize that, not eternity in heaven, per se, but believing in eternity in heaven, has the precondition attached of trusting, believing in, and worshipping God, but surely to an atheist that’s just irrelevant to his/her own belief.
    Al 
     

  11. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Tom,

    You say, “I still maintain that you can, as I do, argue about the validity of religious belief while maintaining the position that this is a ‘non’ belief.”
    Sure, or course you can. My point was that there are no dis-interested parties in these matters. As Pascal emphasizes, we are all going to die. Thus I was making the point to Peanutaxis, that none are objective and free of bias, as he makes himself out to be (at least more than religious folk are).

  12. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    ‘Al, sorry you’re having such trouble following a simple idea. Do a search on this page for “conditional” and re-read my comment.’Well this is the same confusion I had. It’s just the way you phrased it, Bnonn. If you had said it in front of me I would have understood you. I guess what you meant was, [some] atheists judge god to be so immoral that, if they died and found he did exist, they would rather go to hell than spend eternity with him. I think this an emotional rather than rational response, because if I’m honest, I would rather be in ‘heaven’ than in ‘hell,’ especially since by this theoretical point I would have been forced to swallow the ‘truth’ one way or another, but it’s a non-issue really – as Al points out, no atheist accepts that there is any sound evidence for god, heaven, or hell, so to say we would ‘rather go to hell’ is nonsensical. Except in the rhetorical sense. But I think it needs intonation, or something.  

  13. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

     Al,

    “but to “rather go to hell” must first….”

    Yeah it’s nonsense, you’re completely correct. The atheist who says
    they’d rather go to hell does not actually entertain the idea of going
    to hell seriously. Usually by saying that they’d rather not worship a
    god like that they are making a jibe point about the immorality of the idea of god.

    “Al, sorry you’re having such trouble following a simple idea.”

    Al, I’m sorry that you have to suffer such ad-hominem, passive-aggressive attacks. But it’s not about you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive%E2%80%93aggressive_behavior#Signs_and_symptoms

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