The New Testament is the New York Yankees of Ancient Literature
by Ryan Leasure
I hate the New York Yankees, i.e., the evil empire. With all their money, they’ve bought players such as Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, A-Rod, and Jeter. Historically, they’re the most successful Major League Baseball team by a landslide. Not only do they have more money, they have won more championships — twenty-seven in all. No other team comes close. The runner-up, the St. Louis Cardinals, have eleven championships, while my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates have won five. The average baseball franchise has only won three.
You can see why it’s easy to hate on the Yankees. The numbers don’t lie. Twenty-seven championships compared to three is a wide disparity. It’s almost as if they’re not even in the same league.
Like the Yankees, we have a similar situation with the New Testament manuscript tradition. It’s everyone’s favorite target — hated by many — but at the end of the day, it blows away the competition.
COMPARING ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS
To give you an idea of the disparity, I’ve listed below some of the best attested documents of ancient history. In fact, outside the New Testament, the Iliad’s manuscript tradition is the richest.
TACITUS’ ANNALS – 16 BOOKS (AD 120)
Number of Manuscripts: 36 (no manuscripts exist for books 6-10)
Earliest Surviving Manuscript: 850 AD (730 year time gap)1
PLINY THE ELDER’S NATURAL HISTORY (AD 79)
Number of Manuscripts: 200
Earliest Surviving Manuscript: 5th Century AD (350 year time gap)2
JULIUS CAESAR’S GALLIC WARS (50 BC)
Number of Manuscripts: 261
Earliest Surviving Manuscript: 9th Century AD (900 year time gap)3
LIVY’S HISTORY OF ROME (AD 17)
Number of Manuscripts: 473
Earliest Surviving Manuscript: 4th Century AD (300 year time gap)4
HOMER’S ILIAD (800 BC)
Number of Manuscripts: 1900
Earliest Surviving Manuscript: 415 BC (375 year time gap)5
NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS COUNTED
Just like the Yankees have far and away more championships than anyone else, the New Testament has far and away more manuscripts than any other work of antiquity…
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