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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

Sources for Nero and the Reliability of the Gospels

The following post has been written by Mark Keown, New Testament lecturer at Laidlaw College and author of What’s God Up To On Planet Earth?. He has kindly given us permission to reprint it here.

I have been doing some research on Nero looking for data that might help in the interpretation of Philippians, which I believe should be placed in Rome in the early 60’s when Nero was on fire. One interesting offshoot has been comparing the sources we have for Nero with those we have for the Gospels. The three main sources we have for Nero are Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio Cassius. The first, Tacitus or Publius/Gaius Cornelius Tacitus lived from AD 56-117. So he was born 2 years after Nero came to power and was 10 when Nero died. So he did not experience Nero first hand, although he might have seen him. He was a senator and historian, at one point Governor of Asia (AD 112/113). He was a part of the scene when Domitian was at his peak of despotic mania. He drew on earlier sources like Pliny the Elder which are lost. The work of most interest to study of Nero, Annals (Annales), was written sometime in the period AD 110-120, likely at the latter end of the decade. This is some 50-60 years after the event. We have only two incomplete manuscripts, one from AD 850, nearly 8 centuries after the event (Ch. 1-6), the other from the eleventh century (Ch. 11-16). We do not have the material on Nero’s childhood and youth, nor the final two years of his life.
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Tim McGrew on Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels

The argument from undesigned concidences is a little known argument for the historicity of the New Testament. Once popular in the nineteenth century, the argument has more recently been brought to light by Professor Tim McGrew of Western Michigan University. Very simply, the argument shows how incidental details that are left out by one gospel writer are often filled in by another writer to answer questions raised by the first. This provides good evidence to conclude that at numerous points the authors of the gospels were accurately and independently reporting actual events rather than merely copying one another or engaging in creative myth-making.

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