One scholar said that if you took all of the original copies of extra-biblical works penned in the AD 50s and 60s, you could fit them all between two bookends spaced one foot apart. All of other literature, that's all you have.
But if you look at the New Testament, you find something interesting: an abundance of ancient manuscripts exist—5,750! If you take all the other fragments of the New Testament, you have about 24,000-plus fragments and documents (scrolls) from that time! What's interesting is that the earliest copy we have from the New Testament is a copy of the gospel of John penned in AD 120, only 30 years after John originally penned it. I bring that up because everybody wants to knock the Bible: "The Bible is invalid. How can you trust that old book penned by people?" But nobody disses the other ancient documents, the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Homer—which have much less credible evidence. Did you know that the earliest copy we have of the complete work of The Odyssey by Homer was written 2,200 years after its original? So: 30 years versus 2,200 years. Copies of works by Plato and Aristotle number only about five to ten, written about 1,000 or 1,500 years after the originals. But nobody disses those documents—but they do the Bible.
The question would then be: "How do we know the Bible is an accurate representation of the original? After all, you did mention copies, so somebody copied these documents. So all we have today aren't the originals, but copies of the originals. How do we know they didn't get distracted or something, and they wrote the wrong words down?"
But that only betrays an ignorance of the level of integrity of the ancient scribes. In the Jewish religion 2,000 years ago, becoming a scribe was a demanding and lofty profession. It took an entire lifetime of commitment. Training began at age 14 and did not end till age 40. And once you completed your training and were going to copy the master scroll, the material had to be carefully prepared, the ink had to be specially mixed and selected. Thirty-seven letters per line were required; every line was inspected and then reconfirmed, every letter, the space between the letters, the number of letters, the number of lines per page—all checked and rechecked. And the middle letter of the page was checked against the middle letter of the master scroll. If they didn't match up in any of these criteria, the copy of the entire scroll was burned—and the scribe would start from scratch, hand-copying it. All you have to do is take the oldest manuscript we have before the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls and compare them with the Dead Sea Scroll documents, which represents a time gap of hundreds of years. When you look at the copies, you find that there is no difference; an incredible level of consistency and accuracy.
Skip Heitzig is the founder and senior pastor at Calvary Albuquerque. His teachings are heard across the country and around the world on The Connection. Skip and his wife, Lenya, and son and daughter-in-law, Nathan and Janaé, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Skip and Lenya are the proud grandparents of Seth Nathaniel and Kaydence Joy.