The New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the number of manuscripts. Ancient classical works have comparatively few manuscripts, with twenty entire or partial copies generally being an excellent number. By comparison, the New Testament has over 5000 copies. Such a wide difference would provide the New Testament with a much better means of textual criticism, which is crucially important in ascertaining the original readings.^26
19 Ibid., pp. 187–188.
20 Paul Maier, First Easter: The True and Unfamiliar Story(New York: Harper and Row, 1973), p. 94.
21 Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review, pp. 181–182.
22 Sherwin-White, Roman Society, p. 189. Throughout this volume, Sherwin-White investigates various claims in the book of Acts.
23 Ibid., pp. 189–193.
24 For more complete data concerning these points of critique, see Sherwin-White, Roman Society, pp. 186–193 and Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review, especially p. 180–184.
25 Sherwin-White, Ibid., pp. 186–187; Grant, Ibid., pp. 199–200.
26 See F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), especially p. 16; John A.T. Robinson, Can We Trust, especially p. 36.
Perhaps the strongest manuscript evidence concerns the date between the original and the earliest copy. For most of the ancient classical works, a gap of only 700 years would be excellent, while 1000–1400 years is not at all uncommon. By comparison, the Chester Beatty Papyri and Bodmer Papyri contain most of the New Testament and are dated about 100–150 years after its completion. An entire copy of the New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus) and a nearly complete manuscript (Codex Vaticanus) date only about 250 years after the original autographs. Such early dates for the New Testament help to insure its authenticity.^27