Can we trust the New Testament as a historical document?
|Earliest Copy||Approximate Time Span between original & copy|
Number of Copies
|Accuracy of Copies|
|Lucretius||died 55 or 53 B.C.||1100 yrs||2||----|
|Pliny||61-113 A.D.||850 A.D.||750 yrs||7||----|
|Plato||427-347 B.C.||900 A.D.||1200 yrs||7||----|
|Demosthenes||4th Cent. B.C.||1100 A.D.||800 yrs||8||----|
|Herodotus||480-425 B.C.||900 A.D.||1300 yrs||8||----|
|Suetonius||75-160 A.D.||950 A.D.||800 yrs||8||----|
|Thucydides||460-400 B.C.||900 A.D.||1300 yrs||8||----|
|Euripides||480-406 B.C.||1100 A.D.||1300 yrs||9||----|
|Aristophanes||450-385 B.C.||900 A.D.||1200||10||----|
|Caesar||100-44 B.C.||900 A.D.||1000||10||----|
|Livy||59 BC-AD 17||----||???||20||----|
|Tacitus||circa 100 A.D.||1100 A.D.||1000 yrs||20||----|
|Aristotle||384-322 B.C.||1100 A.D.||1400||49||----|
|Sophocles||496-406 B.C.||1000 A.D||1400 yrs||193||----|
|Homer (Iliad)||900 B.C.||400 B.C.||500 yrs||643||95%|
|1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D.||2nd Cent. A.D.|
(c. 130 A.D. f.)
|less than 100 years||5600||99.5%|
It should be obvious that the biblical documents, especially the New Testament documents, are superior in their quantity, closer in time span from original writing, and better regarding textual reliability.
The Bible is a book of History
It could be said that the Bible is a book of history -- and it is. The Bible describes places, people, and events in various degrees of detail. It is essentially an historical account of the people of God throughout thousands of years. If you open to almost any page in the Bible you will find a name of a place and/or a person. Much of this can be verified from archaeology. Though archaeology cannot prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God, it has the ability to prove whether or not if some events and locations described therein are true or false. So far, however, there isn't a single archaeological discovery that disproves the Bible in any way.
Nevertheless, many used to think that the Bible had numerous historical errors in it such as Luke's account of Lysanias being the tetrarch of Abiline in about 27 AD (Luke 3:1). For years scholars used this "factual error" to prove Luke was wrong because it was common knowledge that Lysanias was not a tetrarch, but the ruler of Chalcis about 50 years earlier than what Luke described. But, an archaeological inscription was found that said Lysanias was the tetrarch in Abila near Damascus at the time that Luke said. It turns out that there had been two people named Lysanias and Luke had accurately recorded the facts accurately.
Also, the walls of Jericho have been found, destroyed just as the Bible says. Many critics doubted that Nazareth ever existed, yet archaeologists have found a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea proving it existed. Finds have verified Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas. The remains of the Apostle Peter's house have been found at Capernaum. Bones with nail scars through the wrists and feet of people who had been crucified have been uncovered demonstrating the actuality of crucifixion. The High Priest Caiaphas' bones have been discovered in an ossuary (a box used to store bones).
There is, of course, a host of archaeological digs that corroborate biblical records such as Bethsaida, Bethany, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, etc. For more on this see, Archaeological Evidence verifying biblical events and places.
There are many such archaeological verifications of biblical events and places. Is the Bible trustworthy? Absolutely! Remember, no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted the Bible. Therefore, since it has been verified over and over again throughout the centuries, we can continue to trust it as an accurate historical document.
1. This chart was adapted from three sources: 1) Christian Apologetics, by Norman Geisler, 1976, p. 307; 2) the article "Archaeology and History attest to the Reliability of the Bible," by Richard M. Fales, Ph.D., in The Evidence Bible, Compiled by Ray Comfort, Bridge-Logos Publishers, Gainesville, FL, 2001, p. 163; and 3) A Ready Defense, by Josh Mcdowell, 1993, p. 45.
2. (Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.)