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Comparing the New Testament with Other Ancient Books

HomeChristianity and the BibleComparing the New Testament with Other Ancient Books

The New Testament is the best-attested book of the ancient world. The manuscript copies of most Greek and Latin authors can usually be counted on both hands, with some rising in the hundreds. Homer’s writings are the second-most popular with less than 2500 copies of his Iliad and Odyssey combined. But Homer pales in comparison with the New Testament.

The number of New Testament manuscripts in Greek alone now stands at 5824. Add another 10,000+ for Latin copies (which the NT began to be translated into in the second century), and several thousand more for Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian, Arabic, Hebrew, and many other languages. Conservative estimates are that the New Testament weighs in at 20,000 to 25,000 manuscripts in these various languages. Scholars don’t know for sure because they haven’t finished counting them all yet.

That’s approximately ten times the amount of manuscripts for Homer, and Homer had a 900-year head start! And the average New Testament manuscript is not some small scrap; no, the average is more than 450 pages long. In terms of sheer quantity of manuscripts, nothing in the ancient world comes close to the New Testament.

This information came from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. You should go there and check them out!

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