When It Comes to Ancient Texts, the More Copies We Have, the More Confidence We Have

by J Warner Wallace

There are over 24,000 ancient fragments and manuscripts of the New Testament in existence today. We find additional Biblical documents all the time; our collection continues to grow. Compared to other ancient texts (like the Iliad, for example, with less than 2,000 ancient fragments or copies), the New Testament is singularly unique among ancient literature. The robust number of copies we possess is important and directly related to the level of confidence we can have about the original text. Given the number of manuscripts we have to compare to one another, we can rest assured that the New Testament we read today is a reliable reflection of the original text. I sometimes use analogies from cold case crime scenes to illustrate this point, but over the years, one simple analogy seems to work best. Let me share it with you.

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Imagine that my son, a med school student contacts me because he is in desperate need of money to continue his education. After going to the bank and withdrawing $5,000.00, I decide to meet him on Wednesday at the Starbuck’s on Main Street. I send him the following text on my iPhone:

I got the %,000.00 you needed. Meet me at Starving on Main Street next Wednesday @ 4pm

Unfortunately, my typing skills are less than perfect, and I’ve inserted a few typos. To make matters worse, the iPhone has auto-corrected one of my words and made the sentence even more confusing. After texting me that he doesn’t understand, I send my son another text…


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