25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal.

It’s a popular Christian argument: historians have roughly 25,000 manuscripts of New Testament books, far more than any other book from ancient history. Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript. Even more poorly represented are the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, and other great figures from history, for which we have more like a dozen manuscripts each.

Do we conclude that our records of Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar or Histories by Tacitus are so unreliable that they can’t inform our understanding of the past? Of course not. But if that’s the case, we must then accept the far-better attested New Testament manuscripts—or so the popular argument goes.

The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That doesn’t mean the original copy was history—just like the original copy of The Wizard of Oz or the Arthurian legends wouldn’t be a record of history.

Consider the claim of 25,000 manuscripts. The originals of every New Testament book were written in Greek, but three-quarters of these manuscripts are translations into other languages. We can avoid the extra layer of interpretation imposed by a translation by focusing on just the 5800 Greek manuscripts.

Now consider when these manuscripts were written.

This chart shows the number of Greek manuscript copies by century. (The data is from Wikipedia, with manuscripts categorized on the cusp of two centuries put into the earlier century.) We have zero manuscripts from the first century and eight from the second. The twelfth century has the most, with 1090 manuscripts. The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century, which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

I recently explored the three most famous additions to the New Testament (the Comma Johanneum, the woman caught in adultery, and the long ending of Mark). The scholarly analysis for whether some of these passages are authentic or not turn on just a few manuscripts, and this chart shows why. The vast majority of the manuscripts, from perhaps the sixth century and after, never enter the conversation.

Our 25,000 manuscripts became 5800 Greek manuscripts, but those have now dwindled to just those few in the first few centuries after the crucifixion.

There are one hundred manuscripts in the first four centuries, and many of these are just tiny scraps. Consider papyrus P52 above—yes, that is considered a “manuscript.” It is a tiny fragment of John just 9cm long. It is our oldest New Testament manuscript and dates to the first half of the second century. Three more manuscripts (P90, P98, and P104) are also scraps of a similar size and date to the second half of the second century. (Though it’s probably obvious, I’ll emphasize that these dates are all just approximations, and arguments can be made for different dates.)

Another handful of manuscripts date to around 200 CE. Six of them (P4, P32, P64, P66, P77, and P103) are scraps, but in this group we get our first substantial manuscripts. P46 (part of the Chester Beatty collection) has much of nine epistles. P66 contains most of John. P75 (the Bodmer Papyrus) has a substantial fraction of Luke and John.

The record looks fairly good when you look at the dates of our earliest fragments of the various books in the New Testament—John in the second century, Matthew and Luke around 200, Mark around 250, and so on. But, again, the emphasis should be on the word fragment. Only when you get to the oldest complete (or nearly complete) texts—the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus from the fourth century—do you get all the missing pieces. (I’ve written more about this centuries-long dark age here.)

The “best attested by far!” claim for the New Testament is true but irrelevant. It’s not all that surprising that a handful of early documents from a popular religion in a dry climate were preserved until today, and let’s acknowledge that that’s impressive and historically important. But that we have 1090 manuscripts in the original Greek from the twelfth century is not much more helpful in recreating the originals than that we have 100 million new copies printed each year. What matters are the earliest copies—perhaps the hundred from first four centuries. And the hundred dwindle down to just a relevant handful of copies that are larger than scraps.

25,000 New Testament manuscripts? Big deal.

It is error alone which needs the support of government.
Truth can stand by itself.
— Thomas Jefferson

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Curious Case of the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus
Who Would Die for a Lie? (Another Weak Christian Argument) (2 of 2)
12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend (3 of 3)
12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend
About Bob Seidensticker
  • Y. A. Warren

    They are ALL stories written by humans with their own world views and interpretations of events. Even eye witness accounts of events are notoriously unreliable. I am mystified as to why so many people buy into snake oil sales pitches by people who want to look superior while they look down on the “unwashed masses.” Bullies manipulate others to their way with fear. They can kill me, but they can’t make me believe, even when I say what they want to save my skin or the skins of those i love.

    • smrnda

      Agree on the unreliability of eyewitness accounts; after seeing some research on memory, I can’t see how ‘eyewitness accounts’ keep getting propped up as some indicator of reliability. Eyewitness accounts of crimes frequently implicate the wrong person – this is why so many people have been exonerated because of DNA evidence.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        We already talked about “What Jennifer Saw,” didn’t we? It’s amazing how misplaced our confidence in our memories can be.

  • Jason


    I’m glad you wrote this post but I’m disheartened that it was necessary. I’m a Greek philologist, and let me confirm that the total number of manuscripts representing a text is absolutely NO indicator of its authenticity. In general all this tells us is how eagerly people copied the text (and thus how important the texts were to a group of people). Considering the popularity of Christianity in the medieval period, it’s not the least bit surprising that we have a ton of manuscripts. Earlier fragments (Papyri, etc from let’s say the 4rd cent. CE and before) can effectively give us helpful information about what the earliest versions of the NT were like, but even that has absolutely nothing to do with the authenticity of the claims found in the NT.

    I’m eager to see if there are actually people reading this post who will argue that more manuscripts = more reliability/authenticity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m an amateur, so I appreciate the input of those who’ve done the hard work. Thanks.

      I’m certain that I’ve heard this argument a dozen times. But yes, it would be interesting if any of its proponents are here and interested in bolstering up their side of the argument.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I’m a Greek philologist…

      Shame! You stay away from those children.

      • busterggi

        Technically its just the little girls that have to worry, they’re the phillies (damned Greeks for not having an f).

  • JohnH2

    Have to point out that it may not be the case that we can discount completely all translations. If in Greek we have versions say A and B but not C but in a variety of other languages we do have a version C, and have it in very early manuscripts in the other languages then it seems proper to surmise that there was probably a version C in Greek as well that is now lost. Obviously in the cases where we know what manuscript was being translated from then the translation can be discounted, but if we had version C (even fragmented) in Latin from from the second or third century that would provide more evidence then 200 Greek manuscripts from the 9th or 10th century.

    I really have no idea if this is at all the case in reality, just dealing in hypothetical.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There might be a version in C in Greek. But I agree: a non-Greek version could preserve a tradition lost in the Greek manuscripts that we have. Remember the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus? That was a Syriac fragment, and scholars tried to infer the age of the Greek tradition that it came from.

      I felt comfortable dropping the non-Greek manuscripts and simplifying the argument simply because all the discussions that I could find did the same.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      This reminds me of another tidbit from The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos. He mentions that the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, varies noticeably from the “standard” Hebrew version. Many scholars attributed this to a rather loose job of translation.

      Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And the DSS include Hebrew versions of some of the OT books which are much closer to the Septuagint version.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century,
    which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

    To paraphrase something I read in Hector Avalos’ The End of Biblical Studies, you could argue that God saved the revelation of The Book of Mormon until after the printing press was invented to ensure its accurate transmittal. There are millions of high accuracy manuscripts of the BoM in existence now (where a printed book counts as a manuscript).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Wow–God’s pretty smart. As Judas said in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    P52 is the earliest fragmentary manuscript of the NT. Wikipedia sez

    Although Rylands 52 is generally accepted as the earliest extant record of a canonical New Testament text,[2] the dating of the papyrus is by no means the subject of consensus among scholars. The style of the script is Hadrianic,[3]
    which would suggest a most probable date somewhere between 117 CE and
    138 CE. But the difficulty of fixing the date of a fragment based solely
    on paleographic evidence allows a much wider range, potentially extending from before 100 CE past 150 CE.[4]

    So, taking the earlier dates of ~ 100 CE, that’s still almost 70 years after the alleged facts. Imagine someone published a book today about John F. Kennedy and his assassination, which happened 50 years ago. And this wasn’t a scholarly treatment that examined the various primary materials. No, this claimed to be a primary account itself, an eyewitness account. No one would bother to even take it seriously.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Another manuscript complication: someone from a later period deliberately copying the style of an older, more respected period.

      Consider also that the historical consensus always rejects the supernatural. The religionist has an uphill climb.

    • trj

      In fairness, the gospels themselves don’t pretend to be eyewitness accounts. Christians like to claim they are, but they have zero scriptural support for this.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Another manuscript:

    Ancient Magician’s Curse Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem

    Therefore, magic is real. But wait, there’s more:

    To obtain her goal Kyrilla combined elements from four religions, Robert
    Walter Daniel, of the Institut für Altertumskunde at the University of
    Cologne, told LiveScience in an email. Of six gods invoked, four of them
    are Greek (Hermes, Persephone, Pluto and Hecate), one is Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one, Abrasax, is Gnostic, a religion connected to early Christianity. Additionally, the text contains magic words such as “Iaoth” that have a Hebrew/Judaism origin.

    Wow, this manuscript proves multiple religions to be true!

  • joannemcportland

    I’m not being disingenuous, Bob, but WHO is making the claim that “the more manuscripts, the more factual the account”? The presence and number of manuscripts, even those purporting to provide historical accounts, is no test of fact. The Scriptures present truth, not fact (though for believers, of course, there doesn’t have to be a cognitive dissonance in this). There are far fewer early manuscripts of the Jewish Scriptures extant, but that doesn’t make them useless as source of religious truth for Jews and Christians (and even, in part, for Muslims).

    I don’t argue with the facts of your case at all, and most Jews and Christians wouldn’t, either. I just don’t see why you think these facts are going to surprise anybody, disprove the teachings of faith believers hold, or somehow score points for those who aren’t theists. You and I have this discussion–or at least shared puzzlement–all the time. It seems sort of pointless, no?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Stand to Reason. Please Convince Me/Cold Case Christianity. Reasonable Faith.

      They’re not hard to find.

      “The scriptures present truth” is a faith statement. I don’t hold to it.

      You and I have this discussion–or at least shared puzzlement–all the time. It seems sort of pointless, no?

      Are we on the same page? Great! Lots of people aren’t, and it’s to them that I’m making this argument.

      • evodevo

        Obviously, JoanneMc doesn’t live in the Bible Belt, like I do. I hear this apologetic argument all the time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          She’s Catholic. I can appreciate how this argument may not come from Catholics much. But that doesn’t say that it’s not a very popular argument.

          The shoe’s on the other foot this time. Normally it’s me who gets scolded for not appreciating the breadth of Christianity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      One additional thought: the argument isn’t completely nonsensical. The New Testament manuscript collection is substantially better than that for many other ancient works, and that is something. I just don’t think that it takes those excited by that argument quite where they think it does.

    • RichardSRussell

      “Religious truth” bears the same resemblance to “truth” that “homeopathic medicine” bears to “medicine”, “creation science” bears to “science”, or “Fox News” bears to “news”.

    • smrnda

      It depends on the nature of the beliefs and their relation to the text.

      Plenty of Christians and most Jews aren’t obsessed with the text being totally accurate – it’s a received tradition which has layers and layers of commentary built onto it, in which factual inaccuracies are not necessarily that relevant.

      However, there are quite a number of Christian sects that base beliefs on the idea that certain events DID happen and that these events have consequences. To some people, Genesis can be a myth and that is fine, but for Ken Ham, if it’s not true, then there’s no original sin, therefore Jesus doesn’t make sense. There are a decent number of Christians for whom certain events must be true, or else their whole belief system falls apart.

  • busterggi

    Just think how many non-Christian manuscripts we might have had the Christians not burned the Library at Alexandria and other book burnings afterwards.
    A little selective history on the Christian part.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard that the Muslims burned the Library once as well. If the books supported the Koran, they were redundant, and if they opposed it, they were blasphemous. Burn the lot!

      • Greg G.

        They each point fingers at one another but the Library was burned many times. The coup de grâce may have been done by the Muslims but the good stuff was probably in ashes long before the Koran was written.

      • busterggi

        Yeah, the Abrahamic ‘peoples of the book’ sure do like burning other people’s books.

        • JohnH2

          Actually the Christians for a long time really liked burning Christian books, including scripture, just so long as the person didn’t have an authorization letter from the local priest and/or it wasn’t part of the approved version.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are you referring to the various kinds of early Christianity (Ebionites, Gnostic, etc.) fighting against each other?

        • JohnH2

          It continued long past that; The Cathars had scriptures that the Catholics burned (along with the Cathars).

        • GubbaBumpkin

          You may recall that the Holy Roman Catholic Church wished to monopolize its control of scriptures. Only clergy could possess copies, and they had to be in Latin rather than local languages. This went on until at least the 16th century.

        • busterggi

          Know who else burned books because they didn’t fit the authorities’ approval?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i smell the Truth of Godwin…

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      The Library of Alexandria was apparently burned several times, starting with Julius Caesar when he seized the city (likely accidental), then again when a revolt against Rome occurred. Books from the Library were said to be stored in the Serapeum, a pagan temple, and probably destroyed with all the rest in 391 when paganism was banned by Emperor Theodosius I. It’s not known how many, if any, of the books were actually there however. Later with the Muslim conquest of Egypt, the Library again was destroyed by Caliph Omar according to later Arab writers. Caliph Omar supposedly said: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.” However, the accounts have been questioned as this was only written of much later, and those writing it may have had biased motivations. So it’s not that simple as “the Christians burned the Library.” If they did (sort of) it was only one of several times that happened.

    • MNb

      Before you repeat this nonsense you better read this essay, written by a pro:


      Anti-Christian conspiracy theories aren’t any better.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        That article wasn’t entirely convincing. I agree that texts that you don’t like are taken care of by decay, but from the standpoint of a single bishop frustrated at a pernicious heretical belief in his domain, things look quite permanent.

        If the point is that decay caused the majority of the loss of ancient heretical manuscripts, I can buy that. I don’t see that deliberate destruction was never used, however. Wasn’t the Nag Hammadi library buried for safe keeping? If so, that would suggest they were afraid of something.

  • Greg G.

    The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century,
    which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

    The Black Death explains why the drop began in the 14th century. 30 to 60% of the population died. There was a smaller pool to draw priests from and they were pressed into service with less training.

    Some theorize that the churches inability to halt the plague made people question it. This questioning may have led to Protestantism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I hadn’t thought of that.

      One slightly relevant connection is that the Black Death created a surplus of rags that made paper (made of rags) cheaper.

      Good point about the church’s inability to stop the plague. But, of course, the church’s fallback would obviously be: “Don’t blame the church! God is obviously judging you. It’s your own fault. Praise God.”

    • MNb

      “Some theorize”
      They theorize wrongly, for four reasons. The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century. Protestantism only arose more than 150 years after The Black Death. Luther and Calvin never referred to it. Luther didn’t even mean to cause a schism.
      So it’s not a good point but a bad point – the product of wishful thinking.

      • Pofarmer

        “The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century.”

        More info?

      • Greg G.

        The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century.

        That was before the economy of Europe was changed.

        Protestantism only arose more than 150 years after The Black Death.

        Protestantism arose after 150 years of the Renaissance, which began about the time of the Black Death in a city that was hard hit.

        Luther and Calvin never referred to it.

        The American Civil War ended less than 150 years ago and those events still ripple through American society, but it isn’t often cited as a motivation for current events.

        Luther didn’t even mean to cause a schism.

        The fleas didn’t intend to cause an epidemic, either. The Renaissance had paved the way for a new type of religion to get a foothold.

  • Ricker

    Just a thought: why couldn’t the manuscript fragments be carbon dated to determine when they were made?

    • GubbaBumpkin

      They could be.

      But in the case of a valuable and tiny fragment such as P52, that would probably require the destruction of too much material.

      It is also possible that a forger could find old parchment and put new writing on it. Putting new engravings on legitimate artifacts to enhance their value is a well-known practice; consider the James ossuary or the Solomon’s Temple pomegranate (briefly, an ivory pomegranate was carved with an inscription to tie it to Solomon’s Temple in order to increase its value).

      In fact there are cases where old scrolls were scraped clean and reused for reasons of economy, not criminal intent (this would be much more likely with hide-based parchment rather than papyrus). See ‘palimpsest.’

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Also, the style of handwriting is a decent alternative dating technique.

  • Paul D. Miller

    The number of manuscripts is only one way of measuring how accurately the received texts reflect historical events. The proximity of the manuscript to the author, and the proximity of the author to the event, also matter. Here the New Testament does pretty well. You mentioned the Iliad: Homer, if he existed, probably lived 400 years after the events he wrote about, and the earliest manuscripts are some two millennia after his life. By contrast, the authors of the Gospels purport to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, and there are fragments that date within decades of their writing. Even if you don’t accept the claims to eye-witness accounts, some second-century redactor is still far closer to Jesus’ life than Home was to the Trojan War. And the redactor would be working within a culture that valued oral tradition and taught exact memorization of sacred material. Your point about the 25,000 manuscripts is right, but even so, I think we can have reasonable confidence that the NT documents preserve a useful historical record.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You’re right about those other factors. I ignored them to focus on just the one issue.

      I also agree on the reasonable confidence. But since some Christians think that every word was deliberately placed there with God’s guidance, the doubt that we have due to the centuries (in many cases) from autograph to our best manuscripts puts a cloud over our goal of knowing with certainty what the autographs said.

      I disagree with your point about oral tradition, however. I’ve heard that some Jewish students of the time would be taught to memorize much or all of the Pentateuch. But the New Testament writings weren’t scripture for a long time after they were written.

      Christians do nothing wrong today by writing and publishing their own interpretation of some aspect of Christianity, and another Christian does nothing wrong by writing a rebuttal. They aren’t scripture. And Paul’s letters are now seen as scripture; they weren’t at the time. Important, yes; scripture, no.

      The gossip fence is a better analog to how the gospel story was passed along before being written rather than students memorizing a written text.

      • avalon


        “But since some Christians think that every word was deliberately placed
        there with God’s guidance, the doubt that we have due to the centuries
        (in many cases) from autograph to our best manuscripts puts a cloud over
        our goal of knowing with certainty what the autographs said.”

        The fact that there were deliberate changes made to the NT (the Comma Johanneum, the woman caught in adultery, and the long ending of Mark etc…) give us some idea of how early christians viewed these texts. If the leadership was willing to add to it or change it on purpose and the rank-and-file shrugged off those changes, wouldn’t that show considerably less reverence than today’s christians have? Maybe early christians didn’t see these stories as “every word… deliberately placed there with God’s guidance” nor even as history (in the modern sense of the word).

        Imagine how modern christians would react to changing or adding to the bible and then ask yourself why early christians didn’t seem to care.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree that early Christians had no problem tweaking the early books (less so over time, as it became “scripture”).

          Now, of course, the Bible is fixed and immutable (though new translations can cause a stir with different word choices).

        • wtfwjtd

          How about the question of access? In modern times, say, the last 500 years, copies of the Bible can be had by anyone, pretty much anywhere. Wasn’t it the case that in earlier times access to the Holy Scriptures was limited to clergy only? Seems to me this limited access gives loads of room for hanky-panky. Also, you can have a language problem too–the masses aren’t fluent in the original language of the scriptures, and that was another thing that was meant to set the clergy apart from the ignorant masses. The clergy was meant to act as a dispenser and interpreter at the same time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The hanky panky problem is a big issue for me. But if you’re worred about Bibles from 500 years ago, you can check on changes/drift by comparing them with the best copies (say the codices from the 4th century).

          The real issue is in the long dark period before those codices.

        • Greg G.

          Also, scribes didn’t necessarily understand what they were copying, they were just hired pens. They weren’t familiar enough with the literature to distinguish between a margin note and a text corrections inserted in the margin.

    • MNb

      “that the NT documents preserve a useful historical record”

      Not really because of a simple reason: they weren’t meant to be a historical record. The authors had an explicit religious agenda.

      It doesn’t follow that the NT – same for the OT btw – should be entirely dismissed. In an indirect way a lot of info can be retrieved. But we should always be suspicious if that info is about Jesus or about the authors (ie how the authors saw Jesus).

      Anti-religious apologists often compare the NT with Harry Potter. What they forget is this: that Harry Potter is fiction doesn’t imply that England at the end of the 20th Century hadn’t cars, trains etc. The problem is how to separate fact from myth.

      Your point is discussed here:


      It looks like minimalism gives the best results.
      Another important method is provided by the principle of embarrassment. If the authors write something that makes them look bad in their own eyes we can be quite sure it’s correct.
      The Gospels were written down at least a few decades after Jesus’ death. His kingdom hadn’t come yet despite explicit promises it would come soon. The authors being literate – very rare in their time – must have realized that. Still they wrote it down. The best explanation is that Jesus actually made that promise. You can’t have cognitive dissonance as described by Leon Festinger without a cult and you can’t have a cult without a leader – ie Jesus.
      Other parts can be demonstrated to be myths: notably the infanticide after Jesus birth and the story of the demon/pig killing. They rather tell us what Jesus meant for his early followers.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        On the principle of embarrassment: keep in mind that we may misinterpret what is embarrassing. One could say that Peter must’ve really denied Jesus 3 times. Otherwise, why would they put that in?

        But, of course, someone who didn’t care for Peter might’ve put that in! It’s easy to imagine infighting.

      • Greg G.

        It looks like minimalism gives the best results.

        But not good results. The early epistles don’t support an itinerant preacher or teacher. They only “preach Christ crucified.” (1
        Corinthians 1:23 )

        Even stories that seem plausible at first glance, such as Mark 7:1-19, fall apart upon scrutiny. If Jesus taught the disciples that they could eat with defiled hands, argued with the Pharisees over it, and declared all foods clean, why would Peter argue with Paul about those things in Antioch as reported by Paul in Galatians 2? It’s more likely that the author of Mark took Paul’s writings and put them in Jesus’ mouth. (Remember that Mark is supposed to have used Peter as his source, according to tradition.)

        If the authors write something that makes them look bad in their own eyes we can be quite sure it’s correct.

        Unless the authors were writing to make someone else look bad. Also, what may seem embarrassing to a later generation may not have been embarrassing when it was written.

        The Gospels were written down at least a few decades after Jesus’ death. His kingdom hadn’t come yet despite explicit promises it would come soon. The authors being literate – very rare in their time – must have realized that. Still they wrote it down. The best explanation is that Jesus actually made that promise.

        Even more likely is that they inferred it from some of Paul’s writings such as

        1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (NIV)
        13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

        Where did Paul get his ideas?

        Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—

        If Jesus had lived and been crucified recently, what is Paul talking about with the “revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past”? He thinks the crucifixion and resurrection is ancient history but the fact that they are starting to understand the verses on suffering are telling about Jesus from long, long ago. Many of the same verses that modern Christians tout as prophecy about Jesus, the early Christians were reading as recently revealed history from long before their time. Paul doesn’t say much about Jesus that he couldn’t have read from the scriptures. That these revelations were being made to that generation was evidence to them that the Messiah that the Jews were hoping for was finaly about to come.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      By contrast, the authors of the Gospels purport to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life…

      BZZZZZT! No they do not. Thank you for playing. Go break commandments somewhere else.

      … is still far closer to Jesus’ life than Home was to the Trojan War.

      So what? Is someone here claiming the The Iliad is an accurate historical account? If anyone believes that some kind of Trojan War happened, it is due to evidence outside that text.

      • Greg G.

        Luke thought his sources were eyewitnesses but it seems that the early Christians disagreed as they surely would have preserved writings of eyewutnesses. Luke and Matthew are clearly dependent on Mark but nobody considers Mark to be an eyewitness. Q apparently didn’t square with 2nd century theology so it wasn’t worth preserving. John takes some material from Mark as if through storytelling rather than directly from text to text and it seems to be influenced by Egyptian ideas so it can’t be an eyewitness testimony, either.

        The epistles don’t support the idea that Jesus was a teacher or preacher either.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s not like i’ve necessarily searched far and wide, but i find it curious that i’ve yet to stumble across some apologist or other who brings up [lack of any particular sort/source of earliest writing] and attributes it to purges, schisms, censorship, burned libraries etc.
          do you know of anyone who takes such a tack? or is that simply too absurd a speculation on balance? (even if it is, it seems odd not to come across it, since there are other absurdities and relatively imaginative excuses for all sorts of religious rabbit-holes…)

        • Greg G.

          I saw something two days ago that said the Church had destroyed some old opposition documents. I was reading a lot of things regarding Marcion and the Gospels of the Hebrews, the Nazoreans, and the Ebionites. Sorry, I can’t recall which source it was.

  • Kevin Walsh

    A more interesting question, I think, is not how many of these manuscripts are from the early centuries but why, given how few of them there were initially, there was an explosion of translation/copying that occurred afterwards. No doubt there were all sorts of texts around in the 2nd century on various topics; the fact that a group of 8 turned into thousands is worthy of further investigation.

  • Clayton

    Your argument that there aren’t any manuscripts from the first century is of course true because the New Testament wasn’t even compiled until the second or third century.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Most or all of the books of the NT were written in the 1st century. That we don’t have any copies from the 1st century is a big deal–it undercuts the possible accuracy of the copies that we do have.

      • The Penitent Man

        Academically speaking, no, it isn’t a big deal at all. When compared to Homer the NT thoroughly beats copies of the Iliad by 400 years.

        • Greg G.

          Homer’s writings are fiction. It doesn’t matter how accurate it is. The NT is claimed to be accurate. People kill people over different interpretations of the Bible. I don’t think the accuracy of the Bible is important either. It’s important whether it’s true.

        • The Penitent Man

          My statement wasn’t about accuracy. I was just mentioning how academics judge the historicity or accuracy of ancient documents. The number of copies of the NT won’t change whether or not it is true or false. So in that we agree. People just use that information to support their personal biases.

          People kill people over many things, religion has been falsely portrayed as the cause of most wars and huge body counts. In reality religious wars account for less then 5% of all recorded wars. I do not deny that false religion has been used to good effect in creating all types of atrocities.

        • MNb

          “religion has been falsely portrayed ….”
          An excellent example of “using information to support your personal biases.”
          All organized religion is politics by definition. Hence this

          “religious wars account for less then 5% of all recorded wars”
          is meaningless. As soon as religious folks go to war organized religion is involved and the war has a strong religous component.
          The flip side is that “religion causes war” is also meaningless. The correct conclusion is that religion does nothing to prevent war, which is qutie an open door.

        • The Penitent Man

          Wow! Lots of logical fallacies going on in your response. No, it isn’t meaningless at all. You’re making some very broad statements.

        • MNb

          As you don’t back up your statements by any means you’re asking me to commit the argument from authority. Alas your authority is exactly zero. So shrug.

        • The Penitent Man

          I don’t believe in “authority”, at least not human authority. I personally don’t care for your arrogant attitude.

        • MNb

          Thanks for confirming that I don’t have to accept your statement that “it’s not meaningless at all”.
          The arrogance is yours, beginning wiht “lots of logical fallacies”.

          “I personally don’t care for your arrogant attitude.”
          So there is something we agree on.

          “religion has been falsely portrayed as the cause of most wars and huge body counts.”
          either. It’s just an unfounded accusation, dressed up with your arrogance. Which I don’t care for.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And we don’t think of Homer as historically accurate. You’re arguing that the NT is more likely to be accurate, but that’s a far cry from “it’s accurate history.”

        • The Penitent Man

          I could have used Julius Caesar as an example so the point is mute. And no, I’m not arguing “more likely”. There have been many attacks on the historicity of the New Testament in decades past because at that time there hadn’t been many archaeological finds to support, what at the time, seemed like contradictions (in reality they were paradoxes which have been solved and vindicated).

          The New Testament writings align with the history of the Roman Empire very accurately. The same is true concerning the writings of the Sanhedrin.

        • Pofarmer

          You could have used Julius ceasar as an example, and you would have still neen wrong by a mile

        • hector_jones

          But the point is mute.

        • Pofarmer

          deaf,dumb, whatever, pick your bad metaphor.

        • Greg G.

          Luke-Acts used Josephus as a source and Josephus is our witness from the era, so it’s liking to compare better to Josephus than to reality. It would be important to add verisimilitude to a fictional story.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This sounds like the Argument from Accurate Place names. I wrote about this recently and don’t find it compelling.

        • The Penitent Man

          Accurate place names, accurate historical figures and their job descriptions at the right time, etc. I’m not trying to convince you, just offering my take on the subject.

        • MNb

          The same applies to Robin Hood.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Going back to what I think your point is:

          the NT thoroughly beats copies of the Iliad by 400 years.

          Right. Impressive. But just because it’s better doesn’t mean that it’s historically accurate. The NT story is thoroughly defeated by the Mormon story on historical grounds, but neither of us accept that.

        • MR

          Ha! Scientology has you both beat. And the founder of that lived within my lifetime! I never knew finding the truth could be so easy!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dang it! Xenu wins again.

        • The Penitent Man

          Huh? No, the Mormon story does not come close. Think about what you just wrote please. Then explain why your former statement is apples to oranges, and a bit ridiculous,

        • Pofarmer

          The point isn’t that Mormonism is true. The point, at least in my mind, is that the beginnings of Mormonism are much closer in time, much better recorded, and much more easily dismissed than claims of early Christianity and the NT, and yet, there are millions upon millions of true believers in John Smith in the World today. Simply because there is a movement, starting in a place and time, does not mean that a single one of the core tenents of that movement are real, in fact, it’s quite likely, and almost required, that some of them are spectacularly false. You should read Eric Hoffers “True Believers”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just thought about it. I’d love to explain why my statement is ridiculous, but nothing comes to mind.

          Instead, here is a 2-part post that explains my thinking.

    • The Penitent Man

      I think we should focus on what are called “The Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) since they are the foundational documents. The oldest fragment found is dated somewhere around 200 A.D. (a difference of only 130 years from the original). The original autograph is thought to have been written in 70 A.D. which gives us a difference of only 36 years after the death and resurrection of Messiah Yahushua (commonly called “Jesus Christ).

      That’s better then any other document of antiquity we’ve found to date.

      • Pofarmer

        Wow, only 130 years. Tell me some exploits about your great, great Grandfathers buddies. 36 years was a generation at that time. So you have anonymous writings, a generation removed from the events that they are supposed to describe. And NO description of events from what are considered the earliest writings.

        • The Penitent Man

          You’re making assumptions to support your opinions. Just because we’ve not yet found any manuscripts or documents from the first century doesn’t mean we won’t find them in the future. And funny enough, a fragment or Ms was found of Mark and is said to be from the fist century. We’re all still waiting for the results to come in on that one.

          My point is that the NT is still miles above what you and most other people accept as reliable historical proof that an event occurred, miracles set aside.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is that the Gospels relay things that simply didn’t occur. Herods,slaughter of the innocents, didn’t happen. Census, wrong timing, wouldn’t have happened as described. Star of Bethlehem, didn’t happen. 6 hrs darkness, didn’t happen. Zombie apocalypse, didn’t happen. So, you are left picking and choosing the possible from among the impossible then further Winnowing down the probable from what’s left. Then, when you realize that Mark is based mostly on existing literature, and you wind up with a very small amount that might be historical

        • Greg G.

          The historical facts might be things like John telling us that Ananus was the father-in-law of Caiaphas.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe there was a big drunk wedding in Cannan.

        • Greg G.

          Why wasn’t I invited?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          nice summary

        • The Penitent Man

          Herod’s slaughter of the innocent didn’t happen? That’s news to me because there are records that such an event did in fact happen. The other events you mentioned are also documented (the six hours of darkness for instance). Those that are not have just yet to be explained. I expect, as happens in this area, that new information will be revealed and support the accounts in the Scriptures.

          I disagree with everything you have written. I’m not sure how you came to your erroneous conclusions but I suspect a lot of leeway and bias got you there.

        • Pofarmer

          “Herod’s slaughter of the innocent didn’t happen? That’s news to me because there are records that such an event did in fact happen.”

          Let’s have it, then.

        • The Penitent Man

          You have an Internet connection. If you really want to educate yourself then do your due diligence. I’m not here to serve you up information.

        • Pofarmer

          The reason I,asked is because I can’t find anything, and don’t know of anything.

        • Greg G.

          The story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus in Mark 15:16-41 follows the plot of Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20. It takes many details from Psalm 22. The piercing of the hands and feet comes from Ps 22:16, the dividing of the garments comes from Ps 22:18, the mocking from Ps 22:7, and the “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” comes from Ps 22:1.

          The darkness comes from Amos 8:9 and the vinegar and gall can be found in Ps 69:21.

          There may have been an eclipse that got associated with the story but the crucifixion was supposed to be during Passover which is set by the moon calendar to the time of a full moon which means an eclipse would be impossible. Tertullian, Origen, and Julius Aficanus mention the darkness but they would be at least 150 years too late.

          Mark 15:16-41; Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20; Psalm 22; Amos 8:9; Psalm 69:21

          Matthew adds the zombies coming out of their tombs. He took that from Ezekiel 37:7-13.

          Matthew 27:52-53; Ezekiel 37:7-13

          The Slaughter of the Innocents is similar to Josephus’ account of Moses’ birth in Exodus.

          Thses stories don’t look like history. They look like a reworking of the literature of the day by using mimesis.

        • The Penitent Man

          No, the Torah precedes the NT and makes concrete prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah so your mention of Torah, Prophets, and Psalm passages support the NT, they do not refute it in any way. There are non-biblical historians that make mention of the darkness during the crucifixion. No one said anything about an eclipse, and as a matter of fact the opposite is argued since there was no eclipse historically. So what caused the darkness?

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, the only mention is of a partial eclipse, in the wrong place, unless you have something else.

        • The Penitent Man

          Tallus: Tallus was a secular historian who (circa AD52) wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time.

          On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.

          The document no longer exists but it was quoted by other writers like the Christian, Julius Africanus, who wrote around AD221. He quotes Tallus’ comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afaternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Julius wrote: Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.” Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 The importance of Tallus’ comments is that the reference shows that the Gospel account of the darkness that fell across the earth during Christ’s crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from non-Christians.

        • Pofarmer

          This thallus?
          “For Thallus also remembers Belus the ruler of Assyria and Cronos the Titan, asserting that Belus waged war along with the Titans against Zeus and the select gods who were with him, stating at this point: ‘and defeated, Ogygus fled to Tartessus. While at that time that region was famous as Akte, now it is called Attica, which Ogygus then took over.’ (Theophilus, Ad Autolycum 3.29)”

        • Pofarmer

          Furthermore, Babylonians, Sumer ins and the e Chinese, who were all practiced astronomers and astrologers should have recorded and mentioned it as it would have been a rather big deal, but, crickets.

        • Dys

          It’d be far more interesting if we knew what Tallus actually said, in context. As it stands, we don’t – there is merely a reference to him by Julius Africanus, whose work was also lost but fragments were preserved in other writings.

          Richard Carrier has discussed the topic of Tallus in depth: http://www.jgrchj.net/volume8/JGRChJ8-8_Carrier.pdf

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll read Carrier. But it is interesting, that without Tallus work, you can’t be sure Julius Africanus,wasn’t just making shit up as,apologetics or Christian scribes had added the passage in to Tallus work, as happened in Josephus and,countless others.

        • Dys

          But realistically, they don’t even have the originals of Julius Africanus. They have the works of George Syncellus (9th century Byzantine) who quoted pieces of Sextus Julius Africanus’s work (3rd century), who referenced Tallus (2nd century).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting. I’ll have to look into that. The copying aspect is so often ignored by apologists. They’ll say “second-century person X said Y,” not realizing that we “know” that only through a 6th-century Syriac copy.

          I recently listened to a podcast in which the Christians cited the “every disciple but John was martyred,” not realizing that that comes from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (15th century?).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Oh, c’mon. These are Christians, remember?

          Next you’ll be saying that the reason that the laudatory Josephus passage is traceable back to Eusebius is because he added that bit into his own copy.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, it’s pretty handy how much stuff conveniently shows up around eusebius.

        • hector_jones

          The cause of the darkness was the imagination of the writer of the story.

        • Greg G.

          The OT supports the NT in the same way that The Odyssey and The Iliad support the NT and The Annead. The NT deeds were taken from the OT and Homer, then reworked.

          Apparently, a Roman historian named Thallus discussed an eclipse. Julius Africanus refers to him and makes it out like Thallus was arguing that the darkness at the crucifixion was an eclipse though Thallus is not quoted. Neither of the writings still exist as only this is known from somebody writing around the 8th or 9th century. The darkness was caused by Amos 8:9 which inspired Mark to include it in the crucifixion story.

        • MNb

          “That’s news to me because there are records …”
          You’re invited to provide any record but Matthew.
          Plus there is quite some indirect evidence that the story was made up.

        • The Penitent Man

          I’m not really into spoon-feeding people with information they will reject because of personal bias.

        • MNb

          Of course not. You don’t have any such information.

        • Greg G.

          The earthquake source for Matthew 27:51 is Zechariah 14:4-5.

          Matthew 27:51; Zechariah 14:4-5

        • Pofarmer

          It seems our Penitent friend is still looking for his sources.

        • Greg G.

          “Hmmm, that evidence for the slaughter of the innocents is around here somewhere…”

        • hector_jones

          I expect, as happens in this area, that new information will be revealed and support the accounts in the Scriptures.

          Um, are you insane?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s weird how the Christian scholars who laughed at the Gospel of the Wife of Jesus as fraudulent before it got examined are now citing this supposed 1st-century Mark fragment as authentic. I’d like them to be consistent.

        • The Penitent Man

          I would agree with you there Bob. Biased people aren’t the best sources to form a solid opinion on.

        • TheNuszAbides

          just to nitpick: 36 years may have been close to an ‘average lifetime’ (which is what i assume you meant by ‘generation’, which to my mind is more like the span between birth and procreation), but not an instructive one, i.e. it’s not the age most people died at. it’s thrown off by infant mortality (which has almost always been a huge factor everywhere) and our longest-lived ‘first-world’ specimens are not really that far outside of the historical range.

      • MNb

        That’s correct, but it’s no reason to be any less skeptical. Myths need far less than 36 years to develop.

        • The Penitent Man

          From my own research (from biased sources unfortunately and long ago) that seems untrue. It takes more then a scant 36 years for myths to form, at least from a historical perspective. It usually takes centuries, not decades. But if you have a good example I have no problem looking at it.

        • Greg G.
        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Whoa–hold on. You’re saying that the miraculous stories about Sathya Sai Baba are a myth?!

        • MNb

          I invite you to investigate the myths around 9/11. Some elementary calculation might teach you that that event is far less than 36 years ago.


        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Myths? Next you’ll be telling me that the Nostradamus prediction of 9/11 isn’t authentic:

          In the year of the new century and nine months,

          From the sky will come a great King of Terror…

          The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.

          Fire approaches the great new city…

          In the city of York there will be a great collapse,

          2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos

          While the fortress falls the great leader will succumb

          Third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

          Wait–OK that actually wasn’t authentic … but my point remains!

        • The Penitent Man

          What surrounds 911 are definitely not what I or most would classify as “myths”.

        • hector_jones

          “From my own research (from biased sources unfortunately and long ago) that seems untrue.”

          It can’t get any more conclusive than that, amirite?

        • The Penitent Man

          No you are not right. Biased doesn’t instantly equate to incorrect or wrong. And I didn’t say all of the sources I looked at where biased. Also I base the use of the term “biased” on some of the sources being Christian in nature (academics and scientists that are Christian).

        • adam


        • Pofarmer

          There are myriad examples of myths forming within a persons own lifetime. There is an American “faith healer”, who’s name currently escapes me, who was said that eyes miraculously appeared on children who were born without them, etc, etc. This excludes, of course, that the accounts weren’t written as myth to begin with. The sources that you read, more than likely, were saying that it would take more than 36 years for the accumulation of myth to completely occlude the original events.

        • The Penitent Man

          Look up the word “myth” in a good dictionary and then place it in the context we are using right now. You are wrong.

        • Pofarmer


      • Greg G.

        Mark is thoughat to have been written no earlier than 70 AD. John borrows a few stories from Mark so it must be later. Matthew and Luke copy parts of Mark verbatim. We have the documents that Mark based his story around and they aren’t even about Jesus. He reenact deeds and miracles from Moses, Elijah, and Elisha while reliving the adventures of Odysseus while traveling around the Sea of Galilee. So the gospels are too unreliable.

        Most of the epistles are earlier than the gospels and they don’t support the itinerant preacher from Galilee at all. But Paul says he got his information not from humans but from revelation of hidden mysteries. It is confirmed that he is referring to the OT scriptures because everything he says about Jesus comes from the OT. That holds for the other early epistles, too. Paul didn’t think he lacked knowledge compared to the other apostles so he must have thought their knowledge came from where he got his knowledge.

        • The Penitent Man

          I’ve heard these arguments before. I’m not sure if they are worthy of respect or not, but from my personal experience researching such claims they usually wind up being propaganda.

          I agree, Paulos preaches a totally different Messiah. If anything, it seems that Paul was deceived (had a vision inspired by the evil one). His preaching and teachings match the mystery religions more-so then the Torah or what Yahushua and His disciples taught.

          There are a lot of problems with the different “gospels” (bad translation of the Greek word euangelion). I’m not sure what that means to me at this point. It does mean I have a lot of work ahead of me.

          Rather then be like the majority I want to know the facts, the problems, the contradictions, etc. I do not want to claim the “in-errancy” of the New Testament like so many King James Only people do (along with other Christian groups). There are just too many problems with the text to claim it was “God breathed”.

          I look at the texts like an autobiography. They are historical in nature (they can be backed up by historical figures mentioned within, along with customs and other indicators of the times ,etc.).

          I also highly respect them because I fear and respect God. But I do not need them to be perfect in order to establish or justify my beliefs and my knowing.

        • Greg G.

          Rather than repost this information that I posted yesterday I will just give the pointers.

          This one points out that Paul was getting his revelations from scripture and it has a link to a page that combines the work of several scholars to show the source material Paul used for most of the verses.


          This link shows the verses for everything Paul says about Jesus and where the information can be found in the Old Testament, confirming that is what he meant when he spoke of revelation.


        • The Penitent Man

          And your point is what Greg? (respectfully, not trying to be smart).

        • Greg G.

          My point is that the gospels are not about a Jesus from the early first century because they are composed of stories about other characters. The early epistles don’t talk about a first century person either, as everything mentioned comes from centuries old writings.

          So the “foundational documents” are not reliable evidence.

        • The Penitent Man

          You’re right, they are about a man named Yahushua who is the Messiah of Yah. Believe what you like, no sweat off my back.

        • Greg G.

          BTW, is your screen handle “The Penitent Man” from the Indiana Jones movie where he was trying to pass a booby trap that beheaded the foolhardy while the clue was the penitent man shall pass, meaning you had to keep your head down?

        • The Penitent Man

          Good movie. I’m not sure to be honest. I don’t remember. I’m working on being humble but it’s rough.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Paul was deceived by the Dark Lord? But his epistles are part of the Christian canon. What does that say about the reliability of the process that put them there? If some bad apples got through the process, why not more? Doesn’t this cast doubt over the entire canon?

        • The Penitent Man

          Dark Lord? I didn’t mention Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” my friend.

          I agree. Just because a bunch of authorities decided what was inspired and what wasn’t doesn’t make it true. There was a lot of political maneuvering going on during the process, the debate about Arianism, etc. Not to mention the amount of control and power Constantine would wield in the aftermath.

          I believe people need to look at and study the individual writings, where they came from, how old they are, and how well they sync up with history and the message found in the Torah.

          Again, the “canon” is something made up by men (not the actual writings themselves but the process), a consensus that was created in order to construct a religious organization rather then spread the teachings of the Messiah.

        • Pofarmer

          So you can divine the true teachings, from, what?

        • The Penitent Man

          The Torah. If it doesn’t mesh up with the Torah then it must be rejected.

        • Pofarmer


        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, I was thinking Darth Vader, but touche.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you’ve closely studied things like Bart Ehrmans “early Christianities” which points out the wide ranging divergence of beliefs among early Christians?

        • The Penitent Man

          No I haven’t. I’m not a Christian, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t be interested in reading it. The first followers of “the way” were not Christians, they were Nazarenes, Torah following “Jews” (they numbered in the tens of thousands) who were later wiped out by Roman Christianity. Their writings were burned, hence the reason why we have Greek manuscripts but no Hebrew or Aramaic texts.

        • Pofarmer

          So, where is the information on this?

        • Pofarmer

          “I look at the texts like an autobiography. They are historical in nature (they can be backed up by historical figures mentioned within, along with customs and other indicators of the times ,etc.).”

          This can also place them in the genre of historical fiction.

        • The Penitent Man

          No, it cannot. Study the era and the writing practices at the time. It doesn’t make a very good fit by any means.

        • Pofarmer

          Matthew Ferguson, among other ancient historians, disagree. I could give you a link to his papers on it, but I’m sure you could just google it.

  • Mikeydarev

    That graph with the appearance of the documents in each century is really helpful for me understanding this topic. Answers some questions I had running around in my mind.Thanks Bob

    • MR

      Agree. The world needs more graphs. :)

  • Justin

    I’m finding it interesting that an individual with absolutely no credentials in ancient writings and historiography writing what is essentially an opinion piece on the validity of manuscript evidence for the New Testament. While I understand that Mr. Seidensticker is an intelligent man (one would have to be in order to graduate from MIT) it is a bit of a slap in the face from those of us with credentials to merely throw misleading information out and act as if it is factual. It is evident that the author is not familiar with antiquity…nor that he is familiar with ancient writings and a critical analysis of texts. Everyone is of course welcome to their own opinion, but lets keep in mind that this is all that this is…an opinion. I can tell you with ease that this is not anywhere near a complete look at the manuscript evidence and how it is categorized and compiled. Regardless of Mr. Seidensticker’s opinion 25,000 NT manuscript fragments IS still significant considering there are only 600 some odd fragments of the 2nd best attested piece of ancient literature (that being the Ilyiad). Other ancient texts that record historical events around the time of the first century or slightly earlier where only one or two are found are given more credence and credibility than that of Scripture purely because of the implications of the Bible’s message. If it had any other content and was this prolific it would be regarded as fact and anyone stating otherwise would be recanted as a fool. It is befuddling to me as to why people who clearly don’t know any better insist upon making themselves look foolish by improperly weighing the evidence and jumping to conclusions because they lack the epistemic foundation to understand the study (and its findings) to begin with. Citing papyrus numbers and codices may impress the average person reading this…but anyone with an ounce of classical training knows that merely reciting the manuscript numbers doesn’t mean that they understand their significance or their meaning for critical study. Anything confirming consistency within the canon (and inconsistency) is an item of note. If a mistake had been made (which did happen) than understanding the commonality of these errors and how to recognize them (especially from a particular copying tradition) help us to understand what the originals looked like. The evidence conveyed here isn’t conclusive, and far from complete…so my question is…why the deception? I’m not sure…but I smell someone trying to sell stuff in trying to be controversial regarding a field of expertise that he barely comprehends (as is evidenced in his overview of his “findings”). A graduate from MIT should know better than to post findings without adequate research.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m finding it interesting that an individual with absolutely no credentials in ancient writings and historiography writing what is essentially an opinion piece on the validity of manuscript evidence for the New Testament.

      Then you’re in the right place! I’m just an amateur. No serious credentials. But that won’t stop me from kicking around some ideas within the Christian apologetics community and passing along the odd critique.

      Don’t feel shy. Respond to the posts.

      it is a bit of a slap in the face from those of us with credentials to merely throw misleading information out and act as if it is factual.

      You’ll be quite an asset! That is, assuming you stop trash talking and actually provide constructive feedback. But so far, you’re just obnoxious.

      25,000 NT manuscript fragments IS still significant considering there are only 600 some odd fragments of the 2nd best attested piece of ancient literature (that being the Ilyiad).

      Closer to 2000 copies, actually. But what’s a factor of 3 error among friends?

      This post intentionally focuses on the single claim of the 25,000 manuscripts. I’ve explored more here if you want something that may be closer to what you’re talking about (it’s part 3 of a series).

      It is befuddling to me as to why people who clearly don’t know any better insist upon making themselves look foolish by improperly weighing the evidence and jumping to conclusions because they lack the epistemic foundation to understand the study (and its findings) to begin with.

      It is befuddling to me what your point is. You’ve not raised a single issue that I’m not aware of or that I haven’t analyzed in a blog post.

      You got a point? Drop the empty bravado and show us the errors.

      so my question is…why the deception?

      Great minds think alike! I’m guessing you’re playing the gunslinger to cover up insecurity issues. Maybe you’re a student, feeling full of yourself in your small pond, and eager to try out your new knowledge in the wide world.

      How’d I do? Did I guess your deception correctly?

      • Maximus

        So absence of evidence is evidence of absence? But does that even apply here? How many 1st century manuscripts of anything have survived? There could have been thousands, but I usually throw away old copies of things I don’t need once I’ve made a new one, don’t you? Did you factor in the Roman confiscation of texts during the persecutions? (A bible costs two years wages at one point in the faith’s infancy). Did you factor in textual families (locales) from various parts of the Roman Empire? The fact that surviving Patristic era Fathers’ works quoted scriptures too? (I’ll admit, I don’t know if those are counted as manuscripts are not, I don’t think they are). 100 is impressive. 6,000 is impressive. We live in a “see it to believe it culture”, but if the bible is true in what it says about us, Jesus could be walking on water now and people would come up with a different reason for how he was able to pull it off other than the one he was articulating.

        The reason why believers put this argument out there is because of the specious argument that the canon has all of these wholesale changes and additions. Are there errors? Absolutely, but one look at “novum testamentum graece” and you see the majority are errors of transmission and not wholesale modifications. Those don’t concern me. What would concern me is if you discovered a textual family that didn’t have the resurrection, substitutionary atonement, original sin.

        How did they maintain all that textual continuity in a faith that spread throughout the empire like wildfire and did so non-violently? “Hey, over there in the east, from now on, you guys need to say that Paul wrote Ephesians and us over here in the west will do the same, kay!” Why would they need to do that? Why not remove the verses that are difficult to understand? Why not harmonize the Gospel accounts?

        • MNb

          Please reread what BobS wrote:

          “The “best attested by far!” claim for the New Testament is true but irrelevant.” And why? Again I quote:

          “That doesn’t mean the original copy was history.”
          Or, in my interpretation: the sheer amount of 25 000 copies does not provide any evidence that says The Resurrection actually happened.
          What’s hard to understand here?

        • adam


        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So absence of evidence is evidence of absence?

          It certainly can be.

          How many 1st century manuscripts of anything have survived? There could have been thousands, but I usually throw away old copies of things I don’t need once I’ve made a new one, don’t you?

          So you’re saying that the gospel story rests on a poor foundation? Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying all along. I don’t much care why the early manuscripts are gone (some reasons are obvious); my point is simply that they’re gone.

          We live in a “see it to believe it culture”, but if the bible is true in wh at it says about us, Jesus could be walking on water now and people would come up with a different reason for how he was able to pull it off other than the one he was articulating.

          You dispute things you see in the paper written about something that happened yesterday.

          you see they errors of transmission and not wholesale modifications. Those don’t concern me. What would concern me is if you discovered a manuscript that didn’t have the resurrection, substitutionary atonement, original sin.

          Not likely to happen because of the issues you raised—destruction of manuscripts, age, etc. But it makes no sense for you to take comfort in the fact that your religion is beyond direct contradiction through history. Nothing is hardly a good foundation for a religion.

          Why not harmonize the Gospel accounts?

          Who’s saying that the gospels were made up? That the errors were deliberate? Not me.

        • Maximus

          Bob, thanks for responding.

          “So you’re saying the Gospel story rests on a poor foundation?”

          No, I’m not saying that. There all millions of European Starlings in the U.S. today. All of them come from a group of 60 released in Central Park in 1890. I don’t need to see the corpses of those 60 to know that they were there. The manuscripts/codices/etc emerged all over the Empire. They did not think ahead to answer methodological naturalistic skeptics 2,000 years later who would want to see the originals. There is no evidence of wholesale modifications. The one’s you referenced are footnoted in most bibles today (along with other instances). Recent history of events in Palestine were fresh enough on the minds of people. They had no need to preserve them once they had made a good copy. (BTW, the fragment from John you reference was a major find. Harvard Divinity School textual critics had long maintained John was a 4th century Gospel at the earliest added to make Jesus more divine than he appears in the Synoptics. Their commitment to methodological naturalism caused them to be “blind” in a sense.)

          “You dispute things you see in the paper written about something that happened yesterday.”

          This is true, but I have to see the witnesses. History cannot be distilled beyond eye-witness testimony. There were enough people at the Nexus of this thing that believed it and died for it with nothing to gain. To butcher Kant’s principals a bit, I am relying on the phenomenal experience of those who encountered Jesus and the post Ascension church age (Paul, Peter, early martyrs, et al) and combining it with my noumenonal experience in this world that tells me that there is probably a first cause that precedes the existence of matter. The Bible does not tell me everything there is to know, on the contrary, to borrow from Calvin, it is “baby-talk” to tell creatures what they need to know.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          There all millions of European Starlings in the U.S. today. All of them come from a group of 60 released in Central Park in 1890.

          Interesting. Kudzu is another invasive species deliberately introduced with another interesting story behind it.

          The manuscripts/codices/etc emerge d all over the Empire. They did not think ahead to answer methodological naturalistic skeptics 2,000 years later who would want to see the originals.

          This is just another excuse for why we have an evidence gap. Why isn’t the point right now. The point is that there’s an evidence gap. It’s like you’re trying to balance a giant pyramid upside-down. Your foundation is far too weak to support the immense claims you’re resting on it.

          There is no evidence of wholesale modifications.

          Yet another appeal to no evidence. You’re forgetting that you have the burden of proof.

          You say that the gospels crossed the chasm from autographs to our oldest copies 200 or 300 years later [EDIT: without change]? Convince me.

          The one’s you referenced are footnoted in most bibles today (along with other instances).

          That’s a common apologetic response, and I agree with it as far as it goes.

          Take the long ending of Mark. We had two manuscript traditions, and scholars weighed the evidence and soberly picked on as our most reliable.

          Now, imagine the same situation for which we don’t have a variant tradition simply because of the ravages of time or deliberate destruction. Or five variant traditions. Now what do you do?

          How many places in the Bible does this describe? Three? Three thousand? We’ll never know.

          This is true, but I have to see the witnesses.

          You’re saying that this is how you evaluate a controversy in today’s paper? OK—you might be able to get good evidence today to resolve a puzzle. Ain’t happenin’ with the New Testament documents. Once again you’re hiding behind lack of information—not a very good shield, I’m afraid. In fact, more of a booby trap than a shield.

          History cannot be distilled beyond eye-witness testimony.

          And you think you have it with the gospels? Show me.

          There were enough people at the Nexus of this thing that believed it and died for it with nothing to gain.

          So it’s said. The gospels that clearly make an eyewitness claim are rejected from the canon.

          I am relying on the phenomenal experience of those who encountered Jesus

          Why imagine that the Bible has anything like that??

          my noumenonal experience in this world that tells me that there is probably a first cause that precedes the existence of matter.

          Yes, that does seem to be common sense, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, common sense isn’t much help at the frontier of science. That’s why a doctorate doesn’t come in a Cracker Jack box (well, mine did, but that’s another story).

          Quantum mechanics postulates uncaused causes.

        • Testmeandsee

          BELIEVE I AM HE OR YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SIN. Scripture is devine. Supernatural. Spirit. This myth about a dying God. God says there are no atheists, we all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves. All this debate and argument of what is true and what is not. The debate isn’t with each other … it has always been with man and God. Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow. I will take out his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. I am the Lord and there is no other. The message of the gospels is God in Christ reconciling the whole world to Himself. But, men love darkness more than light.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          God says there are no atheists

          Oops. I gotta tell you that God got this one wrong.

          I see no good reason to believe. If you have one or more, feel free to share.

        • Greg G.

          God says there are no atheists,

          John Loftus says that we are all atheists as we all don’t believe in most gods, but theists are simply inconsistent atheists.

        • adam



          When the bible god itself is a sinner….

      • sojourner4

        As for you lacking the credentials!! Don’t people actually get credentials in a subject such as you are handling so as to be able to show the rest of us “uncredentialed” people evidence?
        If we all need credentials in order to understand historiography etc., then why even have anyone bother sharing them to others? Just tell every one to go to the same seminary or whatever, and get “credentialed” then they will be in the “know.”
        You have obviously gone into the subject a lot more thoroughly than many of us “un-credentialed” folk, and your analysis is no doubt far better than those who claim to be credentialed.

    • allan

      Justin, that’s a lot of bluster but how about providing some evidence to support your critique. You complain that the bible is not accepted as fact. There are many good reasons for that. Just one of these is that it can be shown (by scholars) to be mainly a fiction. It’s also full of ‘magic’. There is no evidence that ‘magic’ is real (personal testimony doesn’t cut it). Not a single amputee healed by prayer.

  • TheNuszAbides

    Truth can stand by itself.— Thomas Jefferson

    idealistic claptrap! ;)
    i find myself in a rare instance of wishing i could believe Jefferson. though i suspect surrounding context could shoehorn it into my sphere of cynicism… where would i find that line?

  • Greg G.

    It has been noticed that most of the variations in the texts occurred before they were canonized. The earliest copies we have are copies of copies of copies, etc. We have zero copies from the first two centuries. We may have some idea what was changed before those copies but there may be a lot of changes that are not even suspected. Yet some scholars reject the evidence of change without textual evidence.

    Most texts of Mark 1:41 have “moved with compassion” but the older, more reliable texts have “moved with anger”. It seems more reasonable to most scholars that a scribe changed “anger” to “compassion” than that a scribe changed “compassion” to “anger”. But there is no way to know for certain and some theology hangs on it.

    Mark 1:41
    Being moved with compassion, he stretched out his hand, and touched him, and said to him, “I want to. Be made clean.”

    1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 looks like part of 1 Corinthians 8. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 sounds like it comes from the Pastorals era. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 sounds like Mark 14:22-25 and even more like Luke 22:19-20. 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 has a pattern of an exhortation, rhetorical questions, and an explanation using the same metaphors as the questions. The third round has an exhortation and some rhetorical questions but then it goes into the questionable passages above. But we find the explanations using the same metaphors from 1 Corinthians 10:22 in 1 Corinthians 11:30-31. That is an apparent interpolation that would have had to happen before the variations we have now.

    These are some questionable gospel passages that I think I got from a Bart Ehrman book. He notes that there are more variations in the New Testament texts we have than there are words in the New Testament. That is mostly due to the number of texts but most of the texts are very late.

    Doxology to the Lord’s Prayer
    Matthew 6:13 (NRSV)
    13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
    Absent in the Alexandrian texts and in oldest versions of Luke.

    Weather forecasting
    Matthew 16:2b-3 in Matthew 16:1-4 (NRSV)
    1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, [[“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’]] 3 [[And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.]] 4 An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
    Excluded from oldest texts, marked as questionable in some and relocated in another.

    The Longer Ending of Mark
    Mark 16:9-20
    Matthew and Luke disagree after that point. Church fathers knew of long ending in late 2nd century.

    Parable of the Two Debtors Luke
    The anointing seems to be in John 12:1-8 with similar accounts in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 but without the parable. That makes it questionable.

    [My own opinion is that it is original to Luke. The independent use of the number "5" and the "ten to one ratio" are earmarks of Lukan redaction.]

    Do in remembrance of me
    Luke 22:19 (NRSV)
    19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
    It does not appear in some of the oldest copies of Luke.

    Christ’s agony at Gethsemane
    Luke 22:43-44 (NRSV)
    [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]
    Included in some of the oldest manuscripts but is absent in some of the most reliable copies.

    Angelic disturbance
    John 5:3b-4 (NRSV)
    3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed, [[ waiting for the stirring of the water; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.]]
    The passage is not found in the most reliable manuscripts of John.

    Pericope Adulterae
    John 7:53 (NRSV)
    [[53 Then each of them went home,]]
    John 8:1-11 (NRSV)
    [[1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”]]
    Council of Trent deemed the Latin Vulgate to be authentic and authoritative
    “The most extreme example of presence in different locations is the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery, which is absent from the best texts of John, but occurs in 12th century and later manuscripts after John 7:52, or John 7:36, or John 4:44, or even Luke 21:38.” [66]

    Last chapter of John
    John 21
    Tertullian writes as if chapter 20 was the last.

    Comma Johanneum
    1 John 5:7 (NRSV)
    7 There are three that testify:
    General consensus today is that it is a Latin corruption that entered the Greek manuscript tradition .

    Here is a list of verses that modern translations have omitted due to the evidence that they are not original.

    Verses Omitted From Modern New Testaments
    ◦Matthew 17:21
    ◦Matthew 18:11
    ◦Matthew 23:14
    ◦Mark 7:16
    ◦Mark 9:44
    ◦Mark 9:46
    ◦Mark 11:26
    ◦Mark 15:28
    ◦Mark 16:9–20
    ◦Luke 17:36
    ◦Luke 23:17
    ◦John 5:3–4
    ◦John 7:53-8:11
    ◦Acts 8:37
    ◦Acts 15:34
    ◦Acts 24:6b–7
    ◦Acts 28:29
    ◦Romans 16:24

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I should write a post in response to this concern.

    Hey–wait a minute. I did! In fact, it’s this one here. Perhaps you didn’t read it? I’ve already shown that “yeah, but the NT has thousands of manuscripts!” doesn’t amount to much.

    I’ve written more on the difficulties here.

    The NT has hundreds and hundreds of mss that predate the earliest copy of Julius Caesar. That does not prove of course, that it is inspired, but it does prove that it is reliable.

    Nope. Historians scrub the supernatural out of Julius Caesar. They’ll do the same for the NT if you want them to judge it by the same criteria.

    Your observation about the three major additions (John 8), etc., misses the point. The reason they are not accepted in critical texts is precisely because they were not part of the original text.

    Yes, probably true. But how do we know? Because we have ancient texts documenting two or more variant traditions. NT scholars use various criteria for deciding which one is more authentic. But did you ever wonder how many places there are in the manuscript for which there were two or more variant traditions … but which we only have manuscripts of one? How would we even know?

    I imagine that your approach is “ignorance is bliss.” Granted, but it’s not scholarship.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Amateur sleuth is probably all I’ll ever be.

    Do a brother a solid–show me the errors here. So far, it sounds like just hot air and chest beating from you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    One from the first? I suppose that’s the much-ballyhooed fragment of Mark?

    Let’s let that one go through the scholarly review process (which hadn’t started, last time I checked). Remember what happened to the Gospel of the Wife of Jesus.

  • Greg G.

    Please update my information. Do you have links?

    Are you counting fragments no bigger than a credit card as a manuscript with the earliest estimated date? Do those validate any questionable passages?

    I have gotten my information from cites such as these. The first has a five year old copyright so it may out of date.



  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Nice! You get to whine about faulty thinking and then, when called to defend the charge, say, “Nah–that’s your problem.”

    If I had a list of dirty tricks, I’d be sure to add that to the list.

    Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

  • Dys

    So you’re nothing more than the laziest of armchair critics, capable of little more than a meaningless and worthless “nuh uh”, yet for some reason expects to be taken seriously.

    Go fly a kite, you’re only a legend in your own mind.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Wow–that puts me in a pickle. As far as I know, I do know the facts. You’ve given me a failing grade, but when I ask the teacher to point out the specific errors I’ve made so that I can avoid them in the future–or even add a correction to this post–I get nothing.

    If I didn’t know better (and we know for a fact that you know the many errors because you said so), I’d think you have nothing.

    Dang–I guess we’ll never know.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I’ve summarized the facts and concluded that it’s not a big deal. You say it’s better than what we have for other ancient books? Sure–big deal, because no one’s building a worldview out of the works of (say) Julius Caesar.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Is this a trick question? You give the scholarly community time to evaluate it.

    Or do you think that that process never does anything but validate the initial hypothesis from the team that introduces it to the world?

  • Greg G.

    I heard about it a few years ago, then nothing. Do you have additional information on it? If it comes from the 70s or 80s, it could be the original or a copy.

  • Greg G.

    I remember hearing about that Mark fragment a few years ago and then nothing.

  • Greg G.

    This is what we have about the Mark fragment from the first century. A mummy death mask was discovered that was made of papyri-mache. A scrap of it appeared to have writings from the Gospel of Mark. Other scraps appear to be other New Testament writings. Wallace said a leading (but anonymous) paleographer dated the Mark fragment to earlier than 90AD.

    Dan Wallace explains what he meant from a debate with Bart Ehrman.

    Craig Evans talked about it in 2014. This has a youtube video. Evans doesn’t seem to know anymore about the fragment itself than what is in the Wallace article.

    Larry Hurtado explains the history of the news and that nothing has come of it so far.

    I think the Gospel of Mark was probably composed shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem so I think confirmation of this story would be pretty cool. However, my skepticism about it grows after three and a half years of nothing new. It is beginning to sound like a Christian myth like the coming refutation of evolution or the coming of the Messiah.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    That Wikipedia link has 2 manuscripts from the second century and 6 more from 2nd/3rd (not enough information to decide, one assumes). I think you said zero from the second century.

  • Dys

    They’ve been teasing the publication of the Mark fragment for years now. It was supposed to have been published by now. So it’s been due since about 2013.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    So then we have zero manuscripts from the 1st century.

    Be a little more careful about your scholarship in the future. Even though we’re troglodytes here and you’ve got the big scholarly balls, we do appreciate accurate information.

    Whatever explains this error of yours–ineptitude, overexuberance, cutting corners, assuming we’re too stupid to understand–it’s not appreciated.

  • Dys

    It’s also apparently the only useful thing you have to contribute.

    If you don’t want to elaborate on the errors you’re whining about, then stop whining. No one gives a damn about your claimed credentialism, and you’re not going to be given the benefit of the doubt so you can try and act professorial.

    I had to do my own research, I didn’t ask anyone on this page to do it for me.

    And if that was at all relevant to what you’re bitching about, you might have a point. But it’s not, so you don’t.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    You’re either a scholar who’s an asshole, or just an asshole. My money’s on the latter. I think this is all bluffing. You’ve made a dozen comments with zero content.

    We have a little experiment now. I’m interested to see if further evidence confirms or denies my hypothesis.

  • Dys

    Notice all the question marks and “ifs” contained in the article?

  • Greg G.

    Thank you, Ttimes. That is the only thing I found and it is dated February 9, 2012.

  • Dys

    In short, you have nothing substantive to say. Thanks for admitting it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Translation: ” ”

    OK, got it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    We must speak different languages. Where I come from, pointing out flaws is fine. Even pointing out flaws arrogantly is fine. Trouble is, you gotta back up your charges with evidence.

    So far, you got none.

    You want a dick-swinging contest (my interpretation from your opening comment)? Sure, that’s fine. If I’ve made a mistake, I’ll appreciate getting corrected so that I stop embarrassing myself with my error. But in a dick-swinging contest, you’ve got to eventually whip it out and show us. I’m waiting.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I fear you’re not raising my average.

  • Dys

    Don’t you have some other blogs to randomly criticize and not contribute anything meaningful to Ttimes?

    I mean, if we’re talking about caliber, you’re one in quite a long line of self-professed experts who piss and moan, yet when called up for elaboration, insist that their time is far too valuable to bother engaging in any meaningful discussion.

    In short, you’re nothing but a troll.

  • Greg G.

    Those are fragments and I didn’t see any that were definitely dated to the 2nd century. Some of those dates are done by paleography, aka handwriting analysis by comparing writing styles. That is how they get the early dates for P52. What if a scribe was home-schooled by his grandfather?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I’m not your teacher. I cleaned up your argument once, but I don’t plan on doing it again. I hope this was a helpful lesson to be a bit more careful with your “facts.”

    As an aside, I count 18 comments from you. I don’t remember a single one with any substance. Lots of bluster, no content.

    My hypothesis that you’re bluffing gains credibility all the time.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Yes, that is certainly a weakness of that method. Script styles change, but that’s a jerky process.

  • Dys

    It appears that our new best friend has a PhD in New Testament studies from Kings College, Aberdeen, Scotland, and also taught at Biblical Theological Seminary for 8 years.

    That being said, you’d think such a scholar would have more substance and far less bluster.


  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Excellent detective work, but how did you deduce that? That does indeed make sense given the email address he used.

    But I wonder why the bluster? If he’s really got the credentials and really has something to say, why the arrogance?

    This is an odd blogger who doesn’t fit the usual stereotypes.

  • Dys

    His disqus page gave his handle as @gsshogren. From there it was a pretty straightforward google search to his personal blog, a “where are they now” article on the BTS site, and some Amazon links to a few books.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I wonder if he’s now deleted all his comments.

    A shame. He had so much to teach us. I know, because he told me so.

  • MNb

    Good thing Ttimes removed all his comments, because the quality of this one is poor:

    “That’s correct, you can’t prove inspiration, or miracles, or incarnation by manuscript evidence. But what he is writing is that the textual attestation amounts to nothing, that it’s a (sarcastic) Big Deal. He is mistaken.”
    No, you didn’t write that the textual attestation amounts to nothing. Plus your first sentence explicitly says

    “It’s a popular Christian argument”
    Christian. Ie religious.
    Not scholarly.

    What’s really stupid is that he tops you with

    “you can’t prove inspiration, or miracles, or incarnation by manuscript evidence.”

  • Greg G.

    What happened to Ttimes? I hope he doesn’t go away complaining that we refused to learn from him. We begged him to enlighten us.

    I couldn’t tell if he was bragging or lying about his credentials.

  • Greg G.

    This page has information about Caesar’s Gallic Wars.


    The page has some interesting information but it cites Strobel and Slick as sources for some.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    He seems to have vanished. Did you see the clever decloaking done by Dys? He found out that his claim of being a Bible scholar appears to be accurate (or at least he’s repeating the same line at his blog).

    I was expecting that all the claims were bravado. I’ve seen plenty of dismissive “This is full of errors and I won’t waste my time pointing them out” drivebys, but I’ve never seen someone stick around and keep complaining but not providing any content.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Ah, Ttimes, we hardly knew ye.

    He was an odd one.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    You wonder if the team has discovered evidence that puts their discovery in a bad light. The lesson from the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus is relevant here. It’s unfortunate that the needs of priority conflict with open source scholarship.

    I also wonder at this process. Taking apart a historic mummy mask in the hopes that they’ll find Christian papyrus seems destructive.

    One final ramble: I remember Bob Price noting that early Mark manuscripts are poorly represented–you find Matthew and Luke more often in the early centuries. That’s because people saw those as the more complete gospels. Why make a copy of Mark when you’ve got a nice copy of Mark V2.0?

  • Greg G.

    I had missed that one. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Greg G.

    I have mentioned before how Luke and John follow Mark 6 up to a point, then abruptly jump to Mark 8. Luke does it in mid-sentence like he didn’t know that chapter 7 was missing. I wonder if Mark was despised for something in chapter 7?

    Matthew would be the basic Mark with New & Improved parts. They didn’t need the base model.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    You’ve got a far better grasp of some of these details than I. Let me know if you want to write a guest post sometime.