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Authenticating Documents:

When it comes to securing evidence for an article, all of the following questions
apply, and the gospels are no different
How do we know the gospels arent forgeries?
How do we know they arent counterfeit?
How do we know they were not tampered with in between copies?
How do we know they tell the whole story?
There could be other parts that tell it in a different light, and the
originals couldve been censored since the early church may not have liked it
Interview 2: Bruce Metzger, PhD
Copies of copies of copies: how do we know that the New
Testament today is the same as it was when originally written
Unprecedented multiplicity of copies that have
The more copies that survive and coincide, the
more likely they are to relate back to a common original
We have copies going back to a couple of centuries
after Christ to copies written almost ten centuries after the original
We also have Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic
manuscripts, and a variety of other ones that came later
Even without Greek manuscripts, we
could piece together info from these translations and recreate the
New testament and even without earlier translations we could
use the multiplicity of quotations in commentaries, sermons,
letters, and other docs from the early church fathers
A Mountain of Manuscripts
To put this in perspective, we have 5,000 Greek
manuscripts of the New Testament - the book with the next most
manuscripts. is Homers Iliad, which we have 650 manuscripts of, and
they are from the second and third century AD, almost 1000 years after
Homer actual wrote it
The Scrap that Changed History
What is the earliest portion of the New Testament
possessed today?
A fragment of the gospel of John,
containing about five verses, which dates back to between 100
and 150 AD
Thus, Johns gospel could not have
been written in the year 160 AD, as some German skeptics argue
A Wealth of Evidence
5664 Greek manuscripts -> 8000/10000 Latin
Vulgate manuscripts -> 8000 Ethiopic/Slavic/Armenian manuscripts ->
24000 manuscripts in total
There is no body of ancient literature in the world
which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New

Yes theres a wealth of evidence but what about

the discrepancies?
Examining the Errors
There a variety of variations in the manuscripts
However, this does not mean we cannot trust them.
Some of the sentences have words in the wrong order, but in Greek this
is inconsequential (ie Dog bites Man vs Man bites Dog). Most of the
variations relate to this
There are 200,000 variations, but 1 word
misspelled in 2000 copies is 2000 variations
There are no doctrines in jeopardy because of
these variations, and most of the variations tend to be minor and not
The new testament has survived in purer form than
any other great book - a form that is 99.5% pure
Great. But why are some ancient gospels (like the
Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of Truth, etc)
A High Degree of Unanimity
How did the church determine which books to use?
1. the books had to have apostolic
authority - they had to have been written by apostles themselves
or other eyewitnesses or followers of apostles (Mark/Luke)
2. Was the book congruent with the
basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative?
3. Did the book have continuous
acceptance and usage by the church at large?
The four gospels met these criteria,
while the other didnt; the most traveled roads in Europe are the
best roads; thats why theyre so heavily traveled
The New Testament books became
canonical because no one could stop them doing so
Many of the other books were
written far after Christ was on earth, and they carry names that are
unrelated to who actually wrote them; however, the four gospels
were accepted with remarkable unanimity as being authentic in
the story they told
The Secret Words of Jesus
Why was the gospel of Thomas excluded by the
While much of it coincides with the other four
gospels, there are certain other statements which do not fit
at all with the other four gospels
Split wood; I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will
find me there. This is pantheism
Let Mary go away from us because women are not
worthy of life. Lo, I shall lead her in order to make her a male, so that

she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every
woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
This clearly does not coincide with the four
canonical gospels
To say that canon emerged only after councils and
synods pronounced it so would be like assembling a council of famous
musicians to pronounce Bach and Beethovens music as wonderful this
pronouncement is redundant as we already know this fact to be true
There has never been any serious dispute about the authoritative
nature of twenty of the New testaments twenty-seven books (Matthew Philemon + 1 Peter and 1 John). The remaining 7 books were eventually fully
recognized by the church