At 5:59, William Lane Craig says (this quote can also be found at the book referenced at the bottom of this post, below the video):
“R. T. France, who is a New Testament scholar, writes:
‘At the level of their literary and historical character, we have good reason to trust the Gospels seriously as a source of information on the life and teaching of Jesus. Ancient historians have sometimes commented that the degree of skepticism with which New Testament scholars approach their sources is far greater than would be thought justified in any other branch of ancient history. Indeed, many ancient historians would count themselves fortunate to have four such responsible accounts written within a generation or two of the events and preserved in such a wealth of early manuscript evidence.’
“And then listen to what [R. T. France] concludes:”
‘The decision as to how far a scholar is willing to accept the record they offer is likely to be influenced more by his openness to a supernaturalistic worldview than by strictly historical considerations.’
“In other words, skeptcism about the Gospels, let’s face it, is not rooted in their historical and literary quality, which is very good. It’s rooted in an anti-supernatual bias.”
This quote can also be found in Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann, Edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, InterVarsity Press, 2000, Kindle location 2119.
Here is the quote from the book, which which is longer than what Craig gave in the video thought not materially different in the point it makes. I include it here simply for the sake of being thorough, since the point is an important one. Also, it is this fuller quote that I used in the post that links to this one (i. e., Double Standards in Reception of Ancient Documents and Their Authors).
At the level of their literary and historical character we have good reason to treat the gospels seriously as a source of information on the life and teaching of Jesus, and thus on the historical origins of Christianity. Ancient historians have sometimes commented that the degree of scepticism with which New Testament scholars approach their sources is far greater than would be thought justified in any other branch of ancient history. Indeed, many ancient historians would count themselves fortunate to have four such responsible accounts, written within a generation or two of the events and preserved in such a wealth of manuscript evidence as to be from the point of view of textual criticism virtually uncontested in all but detail. Beyond that point, the decision as to how far a scholar is willing to accept the record they offer is likely to be influenced more by his openness to a “supernaturalist” world-view than by strictly historical considerations.
The book gives as the source of this quote: R. T. France, “The Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, Truth (1985): 86.
(4 min read; 896 words, footnotes included)
This is a multi-author volume whose genesis lay in one of the three debates held over the last few years between Bart D. Ehrman and Daniel B. Wallace.
This book was recommended by Andrew Pitts (who was interviewed at length by Nick Peters).
Most of the works from antiquity are very limited in their number of manuscripts. For example, there is only 7 for Plato and 8 for Herodotus.
The number of New Testament manuscripts is quite vast. It is the best textually supported book from antiquity. There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament. There are almost 5700 New Testament manuscripts in Greek alone. The only other writing that comes close to this is the Greek mythology The Iliad, by Homer, which boasts 643 manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts date as early as the second and third century.
Let us suppose we have five manuscript copies of an original document that no longer exists. Each of the manuscript copies are different. Our goal is to compare the manuscript copies and ascertain what the original must have said. Here are the five copies:
Manuscript #1: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.
Manuscript #2: Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.
Manuscript #3: Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world.
Manuscript #4: Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world.
Manuscript #5: Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.
Could you, by comparing the manuscript copies, ascertain what the original document said with a high degree of certainty that you are correct? Of course you could.
The question of whether scripture has been preserved is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason, asserts Gregory Koukl. He goes on to say, “Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D. Has the New Testament been altered? Critical, academic analysis says it has not.
(6 min read; 1,376 words)
Walk Good » Apologetic Wednesday: Was the Bible Just A Big Game Of Telephone? [Editorial note of March 4, 2017: Sorry, but it appears that site originally publishing this material is no longer being supported.]
Jim Wallace effectively explains why lots of New Testament manuscripts means we can have lots of confidence that we know what the original said.
(3 min read; 585 words)
The referenced post was written Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.
The earliest undisputed manuscript of a New Testament book is the John Rylands papyrus (p52) (pictured above), dated from 117 to 138. This fragment of John’s gospel survives from within a generation of composition. Since the book was composed in Asia Minor and this fragment was found in Egypt, some circulation time is demanded, surely placing composition of John within the first century. Whole books (Bodmer Papyri) are available from 200.
Most of the New Testament, including all the gospels, is available in the Chester Beatty Papyri manuscript from 150 years after the New Testament was finished (ca. 250).
No other book from the ancient world has as small a time gap between composition and earliest manuscript copies as the New Testament.
Is our copy of the Bible a reliable copy of the original? In a word, yes. At the very least, we can be more sure of the Bible’s text that we can of the writings of Plato, Thucydides, Tactitus, Suetonius, Homer, and any other writer from ancient times.
This article – Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original – includes a chart which demonstrates in specific and comparative terms why we can be more confident about the original contents of the New Testament documents than we can about the original contents of any other documents from antiquity. I have also linked to a more extensive chart of this kind from CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)
Related post from me: Authors of Antiquity
(4 min read; 954 words)
Daniel B. Wallace speaks on the textual integrity of the New Testament. His approximately 45-minute talk is broken up into three parts of approximately 15 minutes each, with a concluding clip of about 3 minutes. This talk was uploaded to YouTube December 17, 2010. Therefore, you can probably find more current versions of Wallace’s presentation than this. Nevertheless, the key points will remain the same.
Dan Wallace refutes the notion that we can’t know what the original biblical texts say (as suggested by Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code). The context of his comments is that he’s rebutting the views of Bart D. Erhman. Wallace’s comments on this subject are broken into the two video clips you see below.
Moreover, beginning at 00:50 in this first clip, Dan Wallace says:
“When the King James translators did their work, they based their New Testament on essentially six New Testament manuscripts, the earliest of which came about 500 years before the King James was produced. Now we have, almost 400 years later, we have about one thousand times as many manuscripts as they had. And our earliest don’t come 500 years earlier, our earliest manuscripts go all the way down to the 2nd Century. It’s a huge difference. As time goes on, we’re actually getting closer to the original both in numbers of manuscripts and in the dates of those manuscripts.”
In the second clip, Wallace points out how much more sure we can about what the New Testament says than we can be about any other ancient text. “Conjectural emendation” (which must be applied when there there is no textual evidence) are commonplace in textual criticism of ancient literature other than the New Testament; for the New Testament it is not necessary because there textual evidence for every word. Thus if we say that we can’t be sure about what the New Testament says, then, in order to be consistent, we would have to say that we are even less sure of all the other writings of antiquity. That means Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Cicero, Tacitus, Julius Caesar, and all the rest! (Though he only implies as much in these videos, Wallace has certainly been this explicit about it elsewhere. There are many videos of his presentations on the internet.)