I saw a new documentary titled Fragments of Truth (see here). It features Dr. Craig Evans, who leads us through a series of locations, libraries, and archaeological digs to tell a story of early Bible manuscripts. The film also includes some top scholars such as Daniel Wallace and the keepers of the libraries which house the most important Bible documents.
The scholars in the film maintain that that they’ve proven that the papyri lasted much longer than what most people originally thought. Papyrus was a relatively cheap form of paper made from plant fibers, which compared to parchment, which was made from animal skins. The common modern myth has been that the papyri only lasted a few years, maybe 20 or so, and that in the early centuries the NT was copied many times over lots of iterations…..a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. But scholars in the film maintain that the average life of a papyrus was about 150 years, with many of them in use for 200 and some even 300. This is significant, for it could be that two copies from the autographs lasted until 500 or 600 AD.
Next, they now know that a good number of the early NT manuscripts were from secular, professional scribes, getting paid by the line. They would have no reason to redact the text, nor is their work as sloppy as many think.
Further, it would have been common for Paul or Luke or John to make several originals; keep one and send a few originals to different churches. Thus more than one autograph probably existed.
Next, the church was the first to make widespread use of the codex (book form), which makes the pages last much longer than scrolls.
With the huge number of copies, we can be assured that the Greek texts that are used in most translations for the last 1000 years are made from a small number of generations from the autographs. All the evidence points to a large number of manuscripts, each of which lasted a long time, and were available to trained scribes to copy for many years. The Greek texts that have been used for the life of the church were from a small number of generations from the autographs. Some of the extant manuscripts from the second or third century could have been first generation copies from the originals, done by trained scribes.
This further attests to the accuracy of the New Testament. Daniel Wallace, the author of a widely-used Greek grammar book and one of the world’s leading document experts, put the accuracy of the modern New Testament research to only 0.06% error, being 99.94% accurate. With this level of surety, we can be confident that what the Bible teaches about Jesus is what the original authors wrote. The film argues that the burden of proof is now on the skeptic, since the evidence for the text of the Bible is so strong.
We can be confident of what Jesus said. The question then appears before us: Why do we not follow His teachings? He tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, a concept that is missing in our lives.