- Plato (ancient Greek philosopher, fourth century BC): 219 manuscripts
- Tacitus (first century Roman historian): 31 manuscripts
- Suetonius (first century Roman historian) 300 manuscripts
- Homer’s Iliad (ancient Greek drama—c.a. 800 BC): 2,300 manuscripts
Homer’s Iliad is the closest runner up to the New Testament documents. Dan Wallace really drives home the point when he says:
In comparison with the average Greek author, the New Testament copies are well over a thousand times more plentiful. If the average-sized manuscript were two and one-half inches thick, all the copies of the works of an average Greek author would stack up four feet high, while the copies of the New Testament would stack up to over a mile high! This is indeed an embarrassment of riches.
Not only do the New Testament documents have more manuscripts in their favor, they also have earlier manuscripts than every other ancient document or collection of writings.
But that isn’t all. Not only do the New Testament documents have more manuscripts in their favor, they also have earlier manuscripts than every other ancient document or collection of writings. For example, the earliest copy of Plato’s writings comes to us from about 1,300 years after they were first written. The dating for Homer’s Iliad is much better, but the earliest manuscripts we have for it are still 400 years after it was originally written. With the New Testament, however, the entire collection of documents is preserved (multiple times over) within 300 years after the original writings, with the earliest manuscripts coming to us around the mid-second century.
When Bible translators look at this evidence, the overwhelming consensus is that the manuscript evidence we have enables us to clearly identify the original writings of the New Testament authors with about 98% certainty.  The remaining two percent of uncertainty primarily deals with passages like Mark 9:29 where Jesus speaks of a demon that “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” If you look up that verse in your Bible, you’ll see a footnote that leads you to the bottom of the page where the translators have indicated, “some manuscripts add and fasting.” In other words, even a majority of the two percent of discrepancies deal with matters that don’t really matter in terms of the major teachings of Jesus.
The technical word for these uncertainties is variants, which just means there is a variant reading between some of the manuscripts. But these variants in no way jeopardize any significant doctrine, command, or teaching of the Bible—as Mark 9:29 illustrates above. New Testament scholar D.A. Carson makes the point clearly when he says, “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”
In the end, the evidence strongly shows that what we hold in our hands today is what was written back then.
In the next post we’ll take a look at some of the historical objections raised against the Bible. It’s one thing to know we have an accurate copy, but what if we have an accurate copy of a bunch of mistakes?! Check out next week’s post!
 This chart is adapted from Jonathan Morrow, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 96
 J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture (Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2006), 82.
 Murrow, Questioning the Bible, 97
 Murrow, Questioning the Bible, 97
 Wallace, “Has the New Testament Text Been Hopelessly Corrupted?” in Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder ed., In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 147–149
 Murrow, Questioning the Bible, 93-105
 D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 56.