An ongoing debate concerning the Bible is the issue of whether or not its message is reliable and credible. Skeptics and unbelievers assert that the message of the Bible has changed over the years and the manuscript evidence to support an unchanging message is just too weak. I would invite you to entertain the idea that the exact opposite might be true.
The following is a chart showing several ancient writings, the date written, the date of the earliest copy currently in existence, the time span between the date written and the oldest copy in existence and the number of manuscripts on that writing currently in existence. The second part of the chart applies the same evidence to various books and complete sets of the New Testament.
|Author||Date Written||Earliest Copy||Time Span||Copies (extent)|
|Herodotus (History)||480 – 425 BC||900 AD||1,300 years||8|
|Thucydides (History)||460 – 400 BC||900 AD||1,300 years||?|
|Aristotle (Philosopher)||384 – 322 BC||1,100 AD||1,400 years||5|
|Caesar (History)||100 – 44 BC||900 AD||1,000 years||10|
|Pliny (History)||61 – 113 AD||850 AD||750 years||7|
|Suetonius (Roman History)||70 – 140 AD||950 AD||800 years||?|
|Tacitus (Greek History)||100 AD||1,100 AD||1,000 years||20|
|Biblical Manuscripts: (note: these are individual manuscripts)|
|Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26)||1st century||50-60 AD||co-existant (?)|
|John Rylands (John)||90 AD||130 AD||40 years|
|Bodmer Papyrus II (John)||90 AD||150-200 AD||60-110 years|
|Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.)||1st century||200 AD||150 years|
|Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels)||1st century||200 AD||150 years|
|Codex Vaticanus (Bible)||1st century||325-350 AD||275-300 years|
|Codex Sinaiticus (Bible)||1st century||350 AD||300 years|
|Codex Alexandrinus (Bible)||1st century||400 AD||350 years|
When all manuscripts are included the following evidence exists for the New Testament.
Total New Testament manuscripts = 5,300 Greek MSS, 10,000 Latin Vulgates, 9,300 others = 24,000 copies
230 of those manuscripts were written prior to 600AD.
The conclusion of the matter is that the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, is the most heavily documented historical document in existence today. There is more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient writing.
What that means in practical terms is that you can believe in the message of the Bible as authentic and unchanging. It has not been altered, manipulated, or corrupted over the years. The preponderance of manuscript evidence has served as a checks and balances to prevent that very thing from happening.
So I would invite you to explore its content more often, knowing that as you do you are reading the true and inspired message of the living God to mankind.