Is the New Testament really that reliable? Scholars such as Dan Wallace of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts,1 Darrell Bock, Ben Witherington III and Craig Keener have been answering the recent attacks by New Testament critics.
A manuscript is a handwritten copy of an ancient document. There are over 5,700 Greek New Testament Manuscripts. Some are fragments or individual books. There are 60 complete copies of the entire N.T. in Greek. They have also found over 10,000 Latin manuscripts of the N.T.
An autograph copy is the original document that was written by the author. There are no known autographs of any ancient writing, including the Bible. Nevertheless, as manuscripts continue to roll in, the earliest New Testament fragment spans less then 50 years from the original. Furthermore, ten to fifteen more manuscripts' dates fall into the second century. The earliest complete manuscript is dated at 350 A.D.2
Other ancient literature doesn't even compare with the N.T. in manuscript authority. Homer's Iliad ranks second to the Bible with a 500 year gap between the original autograph and the earliest manuscript copy, dating at 400 B.C., with 643 manuscripts. At the approximate time when the books in the N.T. were being written, Pliny wrote his History with a 750 year gap, dating at 850 A.D., of which there are only 7 manuscripts.3
There are also a number of early quotations from the early church. Between the first and thirteenth century, one million such quotations exist. “...there are 32,000 quotations from the New Testament found in writings from before the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. (Josh Mcdowell Evidence, 1972:52). J. Harold Greenlee points out that the quotations of the scripture in the works of the early church writers are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts.”4
Reinventing Jesus by Daniel Wallace, J. Ed Komoszewski and M. James Sawyer