How Does the New Testament Compare to Other Ancient Documents?

The New Testament (NT) documents are extremely reliable ancient records by historical standards, especially compared to other documents about other ancient people – people whose existences are never questioned:

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

We have 2 sources for our information about Alexander the Great.  Both of these sources were written about 400 years after Alexander the Great lived.

CAESAR AUGUSTUS

We have 5 sources that give us the information we know about Caesar Augustus.  One is a funeral writing, written at his death.  One was written 50–100 years after his death.  The last three were written 100–200 years after his death.

JESUS OF NAZARETH

For Jesus, we have 4 sources – the four Gospels found in the NT, each individually investigated, each containing both complimentary and unique information.  The 4 Gospels were written 25–60 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, which means within the lifetime of those who knew Jesus and witnessed his ministry.  (Jesus was crucified about AD 30–33, and all of the Gospels were written before AD 100.)

Two of the Gospels – Matthew and John – were written by Jesus’ actual apostles, where the other two – Mark and Luke – were written by disciples of Jesus’ apostles, Paul and Peter.  This means the 4 sources we have for best knowing about Jesus’ life come from eyewitnesses.

  • For Aristotle, we have 49 ancient manuscripts.
  • For Sophocles, we have 193 ancient manuscripts.
  • For Plato’s tetralogies, we have 7 ancient manuscripts.
  • For the NT, we have 5,686 ancient manuscripts in the original Greek, either in part or in whole.  Plus, there are about 9,000 other ancient manuscripts of the NT books in other languages.

I think it’s safe to say, the only reason anyone doubts the NT record is because it reports miraculous events.

 

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