Today in our discussion on how we can know that the Bible is true, we will look at the manuscript evidence supporting the Bible, specifically the New Testament.
When I am talking about biblical manuscripts (sometimes referred to as MSS), I am talking about the original copies of parts of the Bible that we have today, such as texts written on pieces of papyrus and parchment.
Today we have over five thousand (5,000) partial and complete copies of the New Testament, some of which date back to within approximately 100 years of their writing. Others are copies taken from the originals and passed on through the ages. These manuscripts are 99% identical to each other.
What this means is that we have copies of the New Testament that date back to the very earliest days of the Christian church. For the fragments that are more recent, they are almost identical to the oldest ones. This tells us that they were copied with tremendous accuracy, and have been preserved as they were originally written.
For a moment, let’s compare this to another great work of antiquity, Homer’s Illiad. Second to the New Testament, this work has the next largest amount of manuscripts available today. There are 643 complete copies and fragments of Homer’s Illiad. The earliest copy dates to 500 years after it was originally written. The manuscripts are 95% identical.
No one questions that Homer wrote the Illiad, and that it had been preserved so that when we read it we are reading what Homer actually wrote. This is despite the fact that the earliest copy we have is from so long after it was originally written. In comparison, the Bible has considerably more available manuscripts, and these manuscripts date back much sooner to the actual events.
All of this manuscript evidence for the New Testament tells us that what we have in our Bibles today is actually what was written 2,000 years ago. This proves the integrity of the text we call the New Testament. With this in mind, we can look at the claims of the writing itself.