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

Have we got it right? New DVD on Jesus, history and the NT

Earlier this year, the Tyndale House sponsored a conference at the Westminister Chapel, in London, to both address contemporary objections to the historicity of the New Testament and show why the Bible can be trusted. With the goal in training Christians to be able to share their faith with confidence, the conference brought together some of the foremost evangelical scholars around today. The DVD of the sessions has now become available. You can purchase it online here.

Information about the three lectures included on the DVD, from the Bible and Church website:

Have we got the history right? Dr. Peter J. Williams

A widely held idea is that Christian beliefs arose over a long period of time through a mixture of gullibility and conspiracy. Early Christian records are held to be legend, myth or fabrication.

However, when we consider the earliest accounts of Christianity by non-Christian writers we see that Christians were never in a position to fabricate the accounts of Jesus, and that the core Christian beliefs must have been held very early

Dr Peter (P.J.) Williams is the Warden of Tyndale House. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he received his MA, MPhil and PhD, in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible.

Have we got the text right? Dr. Dirk Jongkind

Another popular idea is that the Bible has been corrupted, either by deliberate falsification or simply lost through passage of time. Such ideas are promoted in the British media.
This session will explain what New Testament manuscripts are and compare the manuscripts we have of the New Testament with what we have for other ancient writings.

It will also show how little evidence there is for deliberate change within New Testament manuscripts. The scribes of the New Testament manuscripts would not have been good conspirators because they were interested in copying not in changing.

Dr Dirk Jongkind is a Dutch biblical scholar who finished his PhD at Cambridge University on Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.

Have we got Jesus right? Dr Simon J. Gathercole

Probably the most popular idea in relation to the Bible is that books have been missed out or put in due to political pressure and various media have been full of talk about ‘other gospels’.

Here some of the most famous ‘other gospels’ are considered: the gospels of Thomas, Judas and Mary. But first it is important to establish two facts about the very earliest Christians and their beliefs:

* they believed that Jesus had died as a ransom for our sins.
* they believed that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament.

It is found that while Matthew, Mark, Luke and John agree with these two Christian beliefs, the apocryphal gospels generally do not. They do not fit the pattern of earliest Christian belief precisely because they were written later.

They are less reliable than the canonical gospels both in their picture of history and in their picture of Jesus’ message. For real pictures of Jesus, based on eyewitness testimony, you need to read the New Testament.

Dr Simon Gathercole is Editor of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Having studied Classics and Theology at Cambridge University.

(Source: Justin Taylor)

Are the New Testament manuscripts reliable?

In this video, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dan Wallace responds to the objection that the New Testament manuscripts are unreliable.


Ehrman and Williams discuss the reliability of the New Testament

Last weekend, Bart Ehrman and Peter Williams discussed the textual reliability of the New Testament on the popular UK radio show, Unbelievable. Explaining the science of textual criticism and successful bookselling aren’t things you’d expect to go hand in hand. Against unlikely odds, prominent Biblical scholar and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Bart Ehrman has managed to couple the two. His fizzing cherry-bomb of a bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, has brought about an unlikely level of interest in the study of the genealogy of the Biblical documents across broad audiences. However, it must be pointed out that Ehrman’s success does not chiefly rest in his exploration of the origin and transmission of the Biblical texts. While he has an undeniable knack for translating a subject known for it’s aridity into simple and accessible terms, Misquoting Jesus has catapulted to the top of celebrated booklists because of the claims put forward by Ehrman. In the book, Ehrman controversially argues that the existence of so many variant copies of the New Testament manuscripts have cut us off from the actual words of Jesus and prevent us from trusting the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation.


This episode of the radio show has Ehrman explaining and defending some of the claims of his book with another Biblical scholar Peter Williams. Williams is the head of the Tyndale House at Cambridge and the senior lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Aberdeen. If you’re unfamiliar with textual criticism or the broader controversy surrounding Ehrman’s book, this may be a good introduction to the debate.

Stream the discussion online from the Unbelievable site or download the full episode (about 28MB in size). You can subscribe to the podcast here.

This weekend, Ehrman will return to the show to discuss God and the problem of evil with eminent philosopher of religion, Richard Swineburne.

(Source: JT and Denny Burk)