Is Bible God's Words?

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Legend test for New Testament 

The New Testament was written 14 centuries before the invention of the printing press. The Bible was transmitted by the hand copying of manuscripts. This manual process opens up the possibility of copying errors and the addition of new material which did not exist in the original text, and thus legend may be introduced into the original record over time. Like most ancient documents, the original copies of the Gospels are long lost, as the original materials they were written on, like papyrus, degrade rapidly.  Two tests are used to evaluate the reliability of ancient manuscripts.

1. The number of manuscripts: 

The more manuscripts there are, the easier any altered copies can be identified, and the more reliable the documents are.

When more manuscripts are available for inspection, one can easily spot the altered portion of a document. For example, among 50 fifth century manuscripts, 5 of them read "James is a  fish" while 45 others read "James is a fisherman". The reasonable conclusion is that the original text said, "James is a fisherman". But if there were only 9 manuscripts and 5 read "fish" while 4 read "fisherman", it would be harder to make a definite conclusion. 

More reliable

The Number of Manuscripts








       Less reliable


                                        -------------------------------------- + --------------------------------------


2. Closeness to the original:

A manuscript copied closer in time to the original is more reliable than one that is dated later. 

A manuscript that is closer to the original should have less chance of scribal alternations and less possibility for legend to be introduced. For example, if the Gospel of Mark was first penned in 50 A.D., a second century manuscript will be more reliable than a fifth century manuscript because the latter has had an additional three hundred years for copying errors, intentional alterations and legend development to be introduced.

Closeness to the original:


By applying these two tests and comparing of the results to other famous ancient documents, the reliability of the New Testament proves to be superb. 

See the findings below for other similar important ancient documents: 

Ancient Documents Date written Earliest copy Time gap No. of copies
Herodtus (History) 480 - 425 B.C. 900 A.D.  1,300 years 8
Thucydides (History) 460 - 400 B.C.  900 A.D. 1,300 years ?
Aristotle (Philosopher) 384 - 322 B.C. 1,100 A.D.  1,400 years 5
Caesar (History) 100 - 44 B.C.  900 A.D. 1,000 years 10
Pliny (History) 61- 113 A.D.   850 A.D. 750 years 7
Suetonius (History) 70 - 140 A.D.  950 A.D.  800 years ?
Tacitus (History) 100 A.D.   1,100 A.D. 1,000 years 20
Confucius 550 B.C.  650 A.D. 1,200 years 30
I Ching 660 B.C.  900 A.D. 1,550 years 20 (?)

The above table lists the most famous historical documents which Roman and Greek history as we know it are based upon.  These documents have a time gap from 750 to 1,300 years between the originals to the earliest manuscripts existing today, and the number of copies are less than 20. The last two documents are important ancient Chinese books. They have similar test results. The reliability of  the above ancient documents are widely accepted. 

For New Testament Bible, the number of copies are far greater than the other ancient documents above:

New Testament Manuscripts

    No. of copies

Greek Manuscripts: 5,300 
Latin Vulgates: 10,000 
    Others:     9,300   

Total manuscripts:


Manuscript compiled prior to AD 600:


Quotations of N.T. prior to AD 325:


And for the closeness of originals, New Testament Bible is much closer than other ancient documents:

Ancient Documents Date written Earliest copy Time gap
Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26) 50 - 60 A.D. 50- 60 A.D. (?) co-exist (?)
John Rylands (John) 90 A.D. 130 A.D. 40 years
Bodmer Papyrus II (John) 90 A.D. 150-  200 A.D. 60 - 100 years
Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.)   50 - 100 A.D.  200 A.D. 150 years
Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels) 50 - 100 A.D.  200 A.D.  150 years
Codex Vaticanus (Bible) 50 - 100 A.D. 350 A.D.  275 - 300 years
Codex Sinaiticus (Bible) 50 - 100 A.D. 350 A.D.  300 years
Codex Sinaiticus (Bible) 50 - 100 A.D. 400 A.D.  350 years


These findings show that the sheer number of New Testament manuscripts and the closeness to the originals enable researchers to establish its reliability. The result is much higher degree of document reliability in New Testament compared to other major ancient documents. The New Testament record passes the Legend test with flying colors. 

In addition, more than 32,000 quotations of the New Testament Bible found in other ancient documents all written prior to 325 AD, these quotations are almost enough to compile a complete New Testament Bible. This fact adds to the high reliability of the New Testament text available to us today. 

We can be confident that there is no alterations or legend introduced into the texts of the New Testament over the past 19 centuries since it was written. The text in the New Testament today is the same as it was written 19 centuries ago.

The Gospel has not been altered, but is it fiction? Let's move on to the Fiction Test...