Evidence of the Reliability of the New Testament

Evidence of the Reliability of the New Testament

Following up on Pastor Erik’s Sunday sermons, I’d like to show your some information about the reliability of the New Testament. But first, let me explain a few things.
“Reliability” doesn’t mean “correctness,” at least not in the sense that the content is an accurate description of the real world. Put in a different way, when we talk about the “reliability” of a modern copy of an ancient text, we’re talking about the sameness between them, the fact that we can rely on the modern text to say the same or nearly the same thing as the ancient text. This is important regarding the Bible because many critics of the Scripture argue that what we have now has been altered or edited and that it’s not very reliable at all. (In fact, this is one of the biggest sources of criticism levied against Christianity by Islam. Muhammad claimed that the reason he was given the Koran was because Christians and Jews had corrupted the true words of God.)
However, one of the ways to prove the reliability of a text is to examine the ancient copies of that text, known as “manuscripts.” Manuscripts are ancient copies of an even more ancient original text that has most likely been lost to history. For example, the original copy of the Pau’s epistle to the Roman church has most likely been gone In looking at the manuscript copies of the text, four things are important to note: 1) when the original text was written; 2) when the earliest surviving manuscript was written; 3) the gap of time between these two; and 4) how many manuscripts survive. So, armed with that framework for examining manuscript evidence, take a look at this chart:

From The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.
From The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.

Clearly, the New Testament has a considerable amount of manuscript evidence that can be examined for reliability, and in fact, when the NT’s manuscripts are examined for reliability, they are found to be incredibly consistent. So much so, that apologist and scholar Norman Geisler argues that the text is 99% error free, after redundant errors and simple, non-substantive errors are accounted for. This means that the modern text of the Bible that you are reading is incredibly—even miraculously—consistent with what was written down 2000 years ago!
Now, again, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the content of the Bible is the “Word of God,” but this does go a long way to silence the critics who claim that our modern Bibles are full of errors or mistranslations.