New Testament Reliability
You can know that the Bible is from God and is Accurate
(Written by Robert Kuenning, Minister)
This is part of a papyrus manuscript dating from about 200 AD.
It has the last line of Romans and the beginning of Hebrews.
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart"
"All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17
You see, behind the Bible is a mountain of evidence backing up its claims that it is God's Word and that we can have an accurate copy of the scriptures today. No other ancient writing comes anywhere close to having so much solid proof that its contents are true.
Accuracy and preservation isn't just important to those challenging the Bible. The way every believer, Bible student, Bible teacher, translator, researcher, ancient historian, archeologist and editor handles the Bible also hinges on the certainty of its truth. That's why there has been so much research in this subject and so many challenges to the Bibles truth.
Bibles today are translated directly from the original languages, Hebrew and Greek. The test is whether we have an accurate copy of each testament in its original language. Believer or not, you can KNOW that the Bible is accurate and reliable!
Here we will discuss the reliability of the New Testament (NT). Old Testament reliability is cover in another pamphlet like this one.
- New Testament Overview
- The 27 Books of the NT were written in the Greek language over a 50 year period from approximately 40 AD to 90 AD.
- The NT consists of Gospels (stories of Jesus' life), history, letters, and prophecy.
- Jesus promised his Apostles that the Holy Spirit would tell them what to teach:
"but when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" - John 16:13-14
- The NT mostly tells the story of Jesus and the beginnings of His church.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Jesus) - Matthew 28:19-20
- Layers of Evidences
Here, are a few reasons that we can have absolute confidence in the New Testament:
- Huge Volume of Available NT Manuscripts There are nearly 25,000 ancient NT manuscripts!
- Greek ----------- 5,686
- Latin ------------ 10,000+
- Ethiopic --------- 2,000+
- Slavic ----------- 4,101
- Armenian ------- 2,587
- Syriac Pashetta - 350+
- Bohairic --------- 100
- Arabic ---------- 75
- Old Latin -------- 50
- Anglo Saxon ----- 7
- Gothic ----------- 6
- Sogdian ---------- 3
- Old Syriac ------- 2
- Persian ---------- 2
- Frankish --------- 1
- This amazing number of existing ancient NT documents alone assures us that we can reconstruct the original with confidence!
- Consistency Across the Manuscripts - Even in so many documents, there are very few serious differences and none that effect a principle of faith or doctrine. Most Bibles today show them in the text.
- Dates of Manuscripts - The earliest manuscripts are very close to the dates the originals were written. The closest NT document was written less than 50 years after the original! We have nearly complete NTs that were copied less than 300 years from the originals. This is a very small gap and makes the NT unique in its documentary reliability.
- Wide Diversity of Language & Distribution - Beyond the 15 languages on the above list, we have early quotations from at least 8 more languages. Those 23 different versions and the obvious way that the early books were copied and scattered gives NT accuracy two wonderful boosts:
- One, the wide variety of languages allow scholars to compare and check those copies against the Greek for additional clarity and verification.
- Two, the wide distribution guarantees that no person or group could possibly have controlled or corrupted the overall NT.
- More NT Documentary Evidence
- Early Christian Writers - Throughout the early years of the church, Christians (mostly Elders) wrote a large number of letters and Bible lessons that contain a huge number of NT quotations. These documents date from ~90 AD and contain over 36,000 NT quotations! The entire NT could be recreated from these writings alone! This is an invaluable source in establishing accuracy and dating of the originals.
- Church Lectionaries - Early Churches began writing out Bible lessons for Sunday Services and Studies. Researchers have catalogued over 2,300 Lectionaries (There are many more to be studied.) dating from ~500 AD. They note that the NT could be recreated from them except for Revelation and Parts of Acts.
- The New Testament Canon - This is an important part of any NT study. The 'canon' is the list of which books should be in the NT.
- Trusted by the Early Christians - The very earliest Christians received the letters and Gospels from the Apostles. They knew the men and accepted that their teachings were from God. Jesus said it would be:
"the Holy Spirit... will teach you all things, and bring your remembrance all that I said to you." - John 14:26-27 (Also John 16:12-15)
The Apostles, themselves, taught that their words were not from man but from God through His Spirit.
"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; ... [the] things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit,"
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
These letters were trusted and tested and sent from church to church as scripture. Know this:
The NT books were not trusted by the early church because they were put into a canon, they were put into a canon because they were trusted by the early church!
This is an important point to remember and we do know what the early church trusted and used:
- Early Christian Writers (again) - Those same writers gave us a good early look at the canon. Those who wrote from 90 to 120 AD listed 20 of the 27 books (including all 4 Gospels)! And they included no other non-NT book! We know what books the very early church trusted and used.
- Even an Early False Teacher, Marcion, in 140 AD discussed 14 NT books and no others, as he argued against trusting the OT.
- The Non-NT Books being paraded today as "lost gospels" (etc.) were never seriously trusted or used by early Christians. The earliest didn't even exist until ~150 years after Jesus' death! With anti-Christian origins, ridiculous and fanciful stories, and unchristian doctrines, there is no serious challenge on their being omitted.
- Accuracy Check Through History - Only recently has the extreme accuracy of the details of the NT writings been made clear. Historians now conclude that the NT books had to be written before 100 AD (many before 70 AD) for them to contain the detailed facts that they have.
- Conclusion: - The evidence that the New Testament is accurate and reliable is enourmous:
- 25,000 Manuscripts!
- Copy with in 50 years of Original!
- 36,000 more quotations to 90 AD!
- NT Books we know were 1st Century.
- For more on this subject try:
- The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell
- The New Testament Documents, Are they Reliable, Bruce
- Redating the New Testament, Robinson
Valley Church of Christ
P.O. Box 876401
Wasilla, AK 99654
Any study Bible will tell you the approxamate date each book of the Bible was written (along with it's purpose, author, to whom it was written, setting, etc.) but to make it easier, it's also listed below.
- Matthew ~ Probably between 60-65 AD
- Mark ~ Between 55-65 AD
- Luke ~ About 60 AD
- John ~ Probably 85-90 AD
- Acts ~ Between 63-70 AD
- Romans ~ About 57 AD
- 1 Corinthians ~ About 55
- 2 Corinthians ~ About 55-57 AD
- Galatians ~ About 49 AD
- Ephesians ~ About 60 AD
- Philippians ~ About 61 AD
- Colossians ~ About 60 AD
- 1 Thessalonians ~ About 51 AD
- 2 Thessalonians ~ About 51-52 AD (a few months after 1 Thessalonians)
- 1 Timothy ~ About 64 AD
- 2 Timothy ~ About 66 or 67 AD
- Titus ~ About 64 AD
- Philemon ~ About 60 AD
- Hebrews ~ Probably written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are reffered to in the book, but no mention is made of the temple's destruction.
- James ~ Probably 49 AD
- 1 Peter ~ About 62-64 AD
- 2 Peter ~ About 67 AD
- 1 John ~ Probably between 85 and 90 AD
- 2 John ~ Around 90 AD
- 3 John ~ About 90 AD
- Jude ~ About 65 AD
- Revelation ~ About 95 AD