Dan Wallace – Recent Discoveries of NT Manuscripts

Nov 9, 2013 at Birch Cove Baptist Church

VIDEO by AcadiaDivCollege

The Reliability of The New Testament – Daniel Wallace PhD

Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Recently his scholarship has begun to focus on John, Mark, and nascent Christology. He works extensively in textual criticism, and has founded The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (csntm.org), an institute with an initial purpose of preserving Scripture by taking digital photographs of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. He has traveled the world in search of biblical manuscripts. His postdoctoral work includes work on Greek grammar at Tyndale House in Cambridge, textual criticism studies at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, and the Universität Tübingen, Germany. Photo credit www.dts.edu –

 The Realiability of the New Testament

Wallace: Excerpt: If my New Testament doesn’t really tell the truth about who God is, or who Jesus is, or whether He was really raised from the dead, or if I can’t be sure that’s what the original text said, then I’ve got a few problems to deal with. What I want to give you today is a reason for confidence in the Scriptures. I will begin by quoting from some scholars who have disagreed with this confidence:

  1. We begin with well known scholar Dan Brown, who wrote in his book ‘The DaVinci Code”: The Bible has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.” You’ve all heard something like that, you may even have said something like that: The Bible’s been translated so many times, and retranslated, how can we tell what it originally said? We’re going to deal with this issue front on and you’re going to realize that’s a really stupid statement to make.
  2. But, there are others who have written something similar. Atheists are now joining the chorus: „We do not have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. The originals are lost. We don’t know when and we don’t know by whom. What we have are copies of copies. In some instances, the copies we have are twentieth generation copies.” C. J. Werleman, Jesus lied P. 41. By the way, there’s a new kind of atheism out that no longer says that Christianity is wrong, that’s presupposed, but, what it’s now saying is that Christianity is evil. And that’s what we have to deal with: Atheism is good and Christianity is evil. C. J. Werleman also wrote a book titled „God hates you, hate him back„. It’s kind of a strange title for an atheist, don’t you think( for someone who doesn’t believe in God)? Now, he says: We don’t have any of the original manuscripts; he’s right. He says: The originals are lost and we don’t know when and by whom. He’s right. What we have are copies of copies. That’s true. However, I have no idea where he got the idea that some copies are 20th generation copies. I think he made it up.
  3. Muslims are saying the same thing, and Muslims are a huge group for us to have to deal with. They have their apologists who are making claims about the Koran. And, a very well known british muslim, M. M. Al-Azumi has written a book called „The history of the Koranic texts from revelation to compilation- a comparative study with the Old and New Testaments„. The book is very, very popular in Britain. He says, „The Orthodox church, being the sect which eventually established supremacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various opposition (a.k.a „heresies”) which were in circulation… In each case this sect, the one that would rise to be the Orthodox church, deliberately corrupted the Scriptures so as to reflect its own theological visions of Christ, while demolishing that of all rival sects.” What’s he talking about? He is saying that the Bible that you have today is a corruption of the original. What he says elsewhere is that the deity of Christ is definitely not taught in the original New Testament, and (that) this group known as the Orthodox church, which is nothing that even resembles orthodoxy, made up things about Jesus and they demolished all the other views.Well, where are Werdleman and Al-Azumi getting their ideas from? They’re not New Testament scholars. They don’t know Greek, as far as I know. Well, they’re getting it from a number of New Testament scholars, but, principally, from one fellow who has become the #1 theologian in the country as far as the media is concerned. If you ever watch any of these stories, it’s typically around Christmas and Easter is when you will see these TV shows that are typically dealing with „well, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead…” Somebody claimed just a few years ago that we actually found the bones of Jesus.

Well, Bart Ehrman was an evangelical, he went to Moody Bible Institute, he’s a graduate of Wheaton College- two very fine evangelical schools. He went on to Princeton Seminary to study under the great Dr. Bruce Metzger, who was one of the finest New Testament scholars of the 20th century and an evangelical himself. Ehrman got his master;s and his doctorate under Metzger at Princeton Seminary. And then he began to drift. Later on, he got out of evangelicalism, but still called himself a Christian, years later he called himself an agnostic, which is where he is at today. But, he has also said, „If there is a God, it’s definitely not the God of the Bible.” He’s not the God that I could possibly ever worship. Because of his spiritual journey, or unspiritual journey, Ehrman has become kind of the spokesman for liberalism and is the #1 theologian, as I said, in the media, newspapers, radio, television, they all interview him because (they say): Oh, here’s a guy who came out of evangelicalism and now he’s against it.” This is where these other people have gotten their ideas from about the text. Bart Ehrman is a bonafide New Testament scholar whose specialty is the New Testament manuscripts. In his book „Misquoting Jesus” he said, „Not only do we not have the originals, we do not have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies, of the copies of the originals.” I am sure he is right in the first and second generation. But, Ehrman has made this claim and his writings have impacted tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, who are either marginally within the Christian faith, or were considering and they’ve abandoned it. That’s Bart Ehrman. (8:30)

Two attitudes to avoid

It reminds me of a couple of attitudes we need to avoid as we think about these issues of the text of Scripture.

  1. Radical skepticism or total despair. This attitude is the one I have just presented to you from these 3 writers:  That, basically, we can’t tell what the original text said, we might as well give up (cause) we don’t know.
  2. But, there’s another attitude that’s equally pernicious, and it’s found among Christians. King James only people have this attitude. Many of you come to church with your Bible in your hands, and you say, „This is exactly what the apostles wrote.” We don’t know for sure about some things, but we do have certainty about others. So there’s another attitude we need to avoid, which is absolute certainty. It makes us uncredible in the eyes of skeptics and sometimes when that absolute certainty gets dashed, people switch the pendulum way too far, over to radical skepticism. (9:00)

While there are 2 attitudes to avoid, there are 4 questions I want us to answer this morning:

  1. How many textual variants are there?
  2. What kinds of textual variants are there? Do they affect doctrine, are they spelling differences?
  3. What theological beliefs depend on textually suspect passages?
  4. Is what we have now what they wrote then?

The above notes are from the first 10 minutes of the video (there are 26 minutes remaining, in which Dr. Wallace answers the 4 questions)

VIDEO by Shulamitefire The Realiability of the New Testament

ABOUT THE VIDEO: Published on Jul 28, 2013

If you encounter someone who questions or doubts the accuracy and reliability of our Bible, the information Dr. Daniel Wallace provides in this presentation at Heights Baptist Church in 2013 will address those issues directly.

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace has been Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Seminary for over 25 years and is an internationally known Greek New Testament scholar. He has been a consultant for five Bible translations and founded the Center for the study of New Testament Manuscripts.

The Earliest Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament (via Justin Taylor)

The Earliest Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament.

Dr. Dirk Jongkind, a Research Fellow at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England, shows how the earliest manuscript evidence for the New Testament tells the story of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate:


How many surviving New Testament manuscripts are there?

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...

{46} is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament.

How Many and How Old? (bold type emphasis mine) From Stand to reason website (Greg Koukl) www.str.org

The ability of any scholar to do effective textual criticism depends on two factors.  First, how many existing copies are there to examine and compare?  Are there two copies, ten, a hundred?  The more copies there are, the easier it is to make meaningful comparisons.  Second, how close in time are the oldest existing documents to the original?

If the numbers are few and the time gap is wide, the original is harder to reconstruct with confidence.  However, if there are many copies and the oldest existing copies are reasonably close in time to the original, the textual critic can be more confident he’s pinpointed the exact wording of the autograph.

To get an idea of the significance of the New Testament manuscript evidence, note for a moment the record for non-biblical texts.  These are secular texts from antiquity that have been reconstructed with a high degree of certainty based on the available textual evidence.

The important First Century document The Jewish War, by Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus, survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th Century–four centuries after they were written.[3] Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome is one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages.[4] Thucydides’ History survives in eight copies.  There are 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus’ History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original.  Homer’s Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.[5]

{P 52} is the oldest known surviving manuscript of the New Testament

Bruce’s comments put the discussion in perspective:  „No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of any use to us are over 1300 years later than the originals.”[6]

For most documents of antiquity only a handful of manuscripts exist, some facing a time gap of 800-2000 years or more.  Yet scholars are confident of reconstructing the originals with some significant degree of accuracy.  In fact, virtually all of our knowledge of ancient history depends on documents like these.

The Biblical Manuscript Evidence

By comparison with secular texts, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning.  The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style)![7]

Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries.[8]

Uncial manuscripts provide virtually complete codices (multiple books of the New Testament bound together into one volume) back to the 4th Century, though some are a bit younger.  Codex Sinaiticus, purchased by the British government from the Soviet government at Christmas, 1933, for £100,000,[9] is dated c. 340.[10] The nearly complete Codex Vaticanus is the oldest uncial, dated c. 325-350.[11] Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th Century to the early 5th Century.

The books of the New Testament were copied and distributed widely during the lifetime of the apostles. Any early changes would have been resisted by them. After their death, there were already copies spread throughout the Roman world. To have changed them all so as to completely eliminate the original readings would have required a tremendous effort. As a result, those who claim that text has been change must face a major problem with their theory.

The Roman Empire

From PBS Frontline

The most fascinating evidence comes from the fragments (as opposed to the codices).  The Chester Beatty Papyri contains most of the New Testament and is dated mid-3rd Century.[12] The Bodmer Papyri II collection, whose discovery was announced in 1956, includes the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John and much of the last seven chapters.  It dates from A.D. 200 or earlier.[13]

The most amazing find of all, however, is a small portion of John 18:31-33, discovered in Egypt known as the John Rylands Papyri.  Barely three inches square, it represents the earliest known copy of any part of the New Testament.  The papyri is dated on paleographical grounds at around A.D. 117-138 (though it may even be earlier),[14] showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 30 years of its composition.

Keep in mind that most of the papyri are fragmentary.  Only about 50 manuscripts contain the entire New Testament, though most of the other manuscripts contain the four Gospels.  Even so, the manuscript textual evidence is exceedingly rich, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.

Ancient Versions and Patristic Quotations

Two other cross checks on the accuracy of the manuscripts remain:  ancient versions and citations by the early church Fathers known as „patristic quotations.”

Early in the history of the Church Greek documents, including the Scriptures, were translated into Latin.  By the 3rd and 4th Centuries the New Testament was translated into Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, etc.  These texts helped missionaries reach new cultures in their own language as the Gospel spread and the Church grew.[15] Translations of the Greek manuscripts (called „versions”) help modern-day textual critics answer questions about the underlying Greek manuscripts.

In addition, there are ancient extra-biblical sources–characteristically catechisms, lectionaries, and quotes from the church fathers–that record the Scriptures.  Paul Barnett says that the „Scriptures…gave rise to an immense output of early Christian literature which quoted them at length and, in effect, preserved them.”[16] Metzger notes the amazing fact that „if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [the patristic quotations] would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.”[17]

The Verdict

What can we conclude from this evidence?  New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading.  Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like.  A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.[18]

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism.  This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure.  In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.[19]

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up this way:  „The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and  nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[20]

This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason.  Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.

Has the New Testament been altered?  Critical, academic analysis says it has not.

The early spread of the Gospel

The Jewish Diaspora

By the end of the first century BCE, Rome had taken over the eastern Mediterranean and the Jewish population was spread through many cities of the east. In the third and fourth centuries CE there were substantial Jewish settlements in most major eastern cities and many western provinces as well.


Related articles:

  1. …some Church history – Spread of the Bible
  2. The Bible- bestselling book of all time Part 1
  3. The Bible- bestselling book of all time Part 2
  4. Ignatius (35 AD-107 AD)- Bishop of Antioch (used gospel in his 1st century writings)
  5. Athanasius (296 A.D.-373 A.D.)- defending orthodoxy
  6. J.I.Packer- the interpretation of Scripture

[2]Bruce, F. F., The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1974), 19.

[3]Barnett, Paul, Is the New Testament History? (Ann Arbor:  Vine Books, 1986), 45.

[4]Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1986), 405.  Note:  Bruce records two existing copies of this document (p. 16) but Barnett claims there’s only one (p. 45) and that single copy exists in partial form.  To be conservative, I’ve cited Geisler & Nix’s statistics.

[5]Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament (New York and Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1968), 34.  This number consists of 457 papyri, 2 uncials and 188 minuscule manuscripts.

[6]Bruce, 16-17.

[7]Geisler & Nix, 402.


[9]Metzger, 45.

[10]Geisler & Nix, 392.

[11]Ibid., 391.

[12]Ibid., 389-390.

[13]Metzger, 39-40.

[14]Geisler & Nix, 388.

[15]Barnett, 44.

[16]Ibid., p. 46-47.

[17]Metzger,  86.

[18]Wallace, Daniel, „The Majority Text and the Original Text:  Are They Identical?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June, 1991, 157-8.

[19]Geisler and Nix, 475.

[20]Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1979), 56.

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