Many articles have been published on the reliability of the new testament and it is widely accepted that among all of the ancient documents we possess, the new testament is the most reliable as it has far more manuscripts than any other ancient text. In this short paper I aim to present the reader with just some few comments regarding the trustworthiness of the new testament.
Some have never really questioned the reliability of the new testament and they just believe it blindly until a friend or a sceptic may ask the question, ‘why should we trust the bible?’ and then suddenly you are thrown into an agnostic sphere not knowing what to say and how to respond. There are a few comments you can make in such a situation which makes for a very compelling case for the reliability of the new testament.
The first case you may offer to your friend is to bring to his attention that the New Testament documents enjoy superior manuscripts evidence. Manuscripts are a book or texts written by hand before the invention of printing. The New Testament is supported by more than 5500 copies, some in Greek and some in other languages, while most ancient classical Greek and Roman texts have fewer than ten each, (Gary R. Habermas). For example, Homer (The Iliad) was written 900 B.C. and the earliest copy we have is 400 B.C. that’s a 500 years time span with an overall 643 copies of surviving manuscripts. When this is compared with the New Testament, the New Testament is far superior as it was written 40-100 A.D. with over 2400 plus existing copies (this includes fragments of text), showing a time span of 25 years. There is also little variations between these manuscripts. The closer the manuscripts are to the initial events, the more reliable they are therefore the New Testament writers are in a better position to detail what exactly happened than all other ancient writers.
The second case you may present to your friend on the reliability of the new testament is the internal evidence of the content presented that is that the writers accurately present reliable reports of current and reliable knowledge of first century Palestine. For example if you were detailing events that happened near the big Ben in London, and in your report you mentioned the big Ben but it was later suggested that the Big Ben was not built when your event took place, this will invalidate your report. It is the same with the bible. Certain places and buildings were mentioned in the Bible that some scholars have dismissed as never existed but recent archaeology findings have shown that the Biblical report was accurate. For example Lee Strobel notes that “Sceptics have been asserting for a long time that Nazareth never existed during the time when the New Testament says Jesus spent his childhood there.” However, Paul Barnett reports that “in 1961 a mosaic dated from the third century in which Nazareth appears was unearthed in Caesarea Maritima. Nazareth … is not mentioned in the Old Testament, nor in Josephus’s work. Questions as to its genuineness were resolved by this discovery.” There are many more examples of archaeological evidence that may be given, the source of the quotation above deals with many more findings if you wish to investigate. Here is the Link.
A third case you may offer to your sceptic friend is that of extra biblical and non biblical sources which confirms many details from the life of Jesus and teachings as it is presented in the gospels and letters. For examples Early Christian writers like Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp provide even more confirmation, writing just ten years or less after the completion of the New Testament, (Gary R. Habermas). Other non Christian sources which references to Jesus and the early Church are Tacitus who reports that Christians derived their name from a historical person called Christus. Other Non Christian sources are Pliny the Younger, Josephus and many more. You can read more on this link. This only confirms the reliability of the New Testament.
There are many more reasons that can be presented here, but as stated above that only a few comments will be made in this paper. If you seek to go beyond the general traditional view of arguing for the reliability of the New Testament, this link points you to Gary R. Habermas paper on Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels.
Your friend and you yourself may have many more questions regarding the reliability of the gospels, the sources presented below should aid you in your quest. If you like to listen rather than read then here is a live presentation on the reliability of the New Testament text by James White. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2992