Unlike Any Other Ancient Document!

There are many books from ancient times that scholars consider reliable and do not doubt as authentic to the originals, even though our current forms are based on copied manuscripts.

For example:

  1. Tacitus, the Roman Historian,
    • wrote his Annals of Imperial Rome somewhere around 116 AD.
    • There were 16 volumes of his history.
    • Books 1-6 exist today in only one manuscript, form about 850 AD.
    • Books 7-10 are lost.
    • Books 11-16 are in another manuscript from the eleventh century.
    • This book is considered authentic based on this evidence.
  2. Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, has more evidence.
    • Wrote The Jewish War around the end of the 1st century
    • There are 9 Greek manuscripts from copies written in the 10th-12th centuries.
    • There is one Latin translation from the 4th cent. (original written in Greek)
    • And a Russian translation from the 12th cent.
  3. Homer, ancient Greek
    • wrote the Iliad around 800 BC
    • Fewer than 650 manuscripts survive today,
    • The earliest come from the 2nd cent. AD.
    • That’s a gap of 1000 years.
    • Not including the New Testament, that is the most number of manuscripts for any ancient document.

Now Compare:

  1. The New Testament, various authors
    • Has over _______ catalogued Greek manuscripts,
    • Some fragments can be dated from the beginning of the _______ century.
    • That’s a gap of _______________ years.
    • Over _____ complete Greek New testaments from ________ AD, along with fragments
    • Nearly ________ Greek Manuscripts from _______ AD onward
    • Greek Church lectionaries that contain the NT as read in Church (about ______ of these)
    • Latin (known as the Vulgate) (____________)
    • Syriac, Coptic, and also secondary languages such as Armenian, Gothic, Georgian, Slavic, and Ethiopian from early centuries (_________).
    • There are about _________ total NT manuscripts in existence today.


  • How does the evidence for the reliability of the New Testament documents affect your opinion of what we can know about Jesus?
  • Do you think the standards that we apply to these documents is fair and accurate?
  • Why do you think it might be important that the bible documents we have are true to the originals?