Manuscript Evidence

Welcome to the first of several posts on the reliability of Scripture! As I mentioned before, these points are not mine, but come from an article by Hank Hanegraaff entitled “MAPS to Guide You Through Biblical Reliability”.  This is basically my summation and thoughts about this article. This is not the most in-depth information you will find on this topic- I just want to give an overview.

Today we will talk about the M- manuscript evidence. This refers to the tests that are used to determine the reliability of the copies of the manuscripts that we have (we do not possess the original documents penned by the writers). So, how do we know that the copies we have are in fact accurate?

There are several sub points that Hank describes in this section of the article, but for me, the most pressing is the bibliographic test. This considers the quantity of manuscripts and fragments that we have, and the time span between the original and our earliest copies.

Basically, we have a huge number of copies that were copied within a very short time span after the original manuscripts. He goes into more detail about this, but the take away is that this is phenomenal for the time period, and ensures that no textual errors creep in and change doctrine.

Here’s an interesting fact: apart from the New Testament, the only other ancient writing that has even close to the same level of accuracy associated with it is Homer, and the New Testament supersedes those. This means that the bibliographic evidence for the Bible is stronger than any other classical literature, and no one seems to question the accuracy of the writings of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Tacticus, etc. Where there are 14,000 copies of scripture, there are 7 copies of Plato’s writings.

Here’s a chart taken from “I’m Glad You Asked” by Boa and Moody.







Homer 850 BC —- —- 643 95%
Herodotus 450 BC about 900 AD about 1350 years 8 there
Euripedes 440 BC about 1100 AD about 1500 years 9 are
Thucydides 420 BC about 900 AD about 1300 years 8 not
Plato 380 BC about 900 AD about 1300 years 7 enough
Aristotle 350 BC about 1100 AD about 1400 years 5 copies
Caesar 60 BC about 900 AD about 960 years 10 to
Catullus 50 BC about 1500 AD about 1600 years 3 reconstruct
Livy 10 BC —- —- 20 the
Tacitus 100 AD about 1100 AD about 1000 years 20 original
New Testament 60 AD about 130 AD about 100 years 14,000 99.5%

Something to consider! The manuscript evidence for the reliability of the Bible is overwhelming.


5 thoughts on “Manuscript Evidence

  1. But accuracy of the current copies in comparison to the original does not guarantee that the bible is in fact non-fiction.
    I think that when people question the accuracy of the bible they are not just questioning that the words are not the original words penned by the original author but its accuracy as a historical text.

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