What is the Most Recent Manuscript Count for the New Testament?
by Sean McDowell
With the initial release of Evidence that Demands a Verdict in 1972, my father helped popularize the “bibliographic test” for the reliability of the New Testament. Essentially, the bibliographic test examines the textual transmission by which a document reaches us.
Since we do not have the original New Testament writings (the autographa), textual critics aim to determine the reliability of existing copies. For any particular work or collection of works, the greater the number and the earlier the dating of the manuscripts, the easier it is to reconstruct a text closer to the original and identify errors or discrepancies.
Since people still regularly cite manuscript numbers from the 1999 “New” Evidence, I thought it might be helpful to write a post with the most recent numbers from the updated Evidence (2017).
Scholars use different sources, such as the Leuven Database or the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. It is extremely laborious to track down the number of both classical and biblical manuscripts. We had a team of researchers and scholars help us with this endeavor. Still, for a variety of reasons, these numbers are educated guesses.
We list the numbers for other classical works and specific biblical manuscripts in the updated Evidence. But here are the key manuscript updates…