Do Five Thousand Copies of an Ancient Book Prove The Stories in the Book Are True? No!

My review of “Lord or Legend“, part 7, by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy:

We possess roughly 5,500 ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, either in fragments or in whole. On top of this, we possess thousands of ancient translations of the New Testament as well as countless citations by early Christian writers. By comparison, among the next best attested ancient works is Homer’s Iliad, for which we have less than seven hundred published manuscripts. …Obviously, the New Testament is in a class by itself in terms of the wealth or our textual attestation.

Equally relevant is the relatively early dating of some of these manuscripts. Our earliest fragment of a Gospel text comes from the first half of the second century. …No other ancient work comes close to this wealth of early textual attestation. …Clearly, if anyone is going to doubt that the copies of the Gospels we possess today are reasonably close to the originals, they would have to reject outright the textual reliability of virtually every other ancient text.

–p. 82-83

Gary: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a Christian apologist use these statistics I’d be rich!

So what!!!

Let’s use the same logic for Homer’s Iliad: If we had 5,500 copies of the Iliad, and the earliest fragment of the Iliad in our possession was from just 100 years after Homer wrote the original, would these facts in any way prove that one-eyed cyclops exist and that demi-gods can be robbed of their supernatural powers by shooting an arrow into their achilles heel?

No.

Dear Christian apologists: Please stop quoting these statistics. They don’t help your case. They don’t help you prove that a first century Jewish virgin gave birth to a demi-god fathered by a ghost; who after being executed as an adult for treason, was raised from the dead by his (god) father, enabling him to eat a broiled fish lunch with his former fishing buddies, before rocketing off into outer space, where he currently reigns as King of the Cosmos!

The number of copies of a book and the age of the earliest copy of that book in no way validates the claims in that book.

Read part 8 here.

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End of post.

8 thoughts on “Do Five Thousand Copies of an Ancient Book Prove The Stories in the Book Are True? No!

  1. This has been a very interesting series Gary. Have enjoyed following it when I’m able. 🙂 Some thoughts I have about this particular post, if I may.

    That first paragraph is a perfect example of Faulty Generalization, also known as the fallacy of defective induction. IOW, scholars of Ancient and Early Classical history know there are several verified reasons why many manuscripts and relevant evidence no longer exist: they were destroyed by wars, sieges, and razing of fortresses/cities as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. They also know well the once feared, mighty Imperial Roman Empire conquered, controlled, and ruled the known Classical world, their vast lands, and enslaved subjects with a harsh and heavy hand—‘history is written by the Victors’ so to speak, which holds true when the defeated are all exterminated/dead along with their own culture, legacy, and tangible evidence/manuscripts.

    Hence, a conclusion made about all or many instances of a phenomenon, that has been reached on the basis of one or a few instances of that phenomenon… is a Faulty Generalization. In our modern era many propagandists manipulate specific categories of historical evidence—if it can be legitimately defined as evidence—and manipulate those words and descriptions to biasedly portray their own narrative of people and events despite there being adequate evidence (intentionally?) omitted from the exhaustive inventory. Two examples…

    1) There are over 45 known non-Canonical manuscripts regarding Jesus/Yeshua bar Yosef and his Movement that were intentionally left out of the final Greek/Hellenized Christian New Testament by the earliest Greek Church Fathers.

    2) 1st-century Homeland Second Temple Judaism/Messianism is a far cry different culture and religious system than traditional Ancient or Classical Greek mythologies and Apotheosis (Christ). Even the spoken and written languages of those two opposed cultures—Mishnaic Hebrew/Syro-Aramaic versus Koine Greek—are very different and widely misunderstood then as they are today! IOW, even the final 4th-century CE GREEK Synoptic Gospels got several concepts grossly wrong from Yeshua’s Jewish culture, teachings, and Sectarian Movement.

    Finally, that last paragraph above from Boyd’s and Eddy’s book is an erroneous derivative of its previous paragraph and its logic too I’m sure. If I were going to utilize the defense of or apology of the 4th-century Canonical New Testament’s veracity by “original manuscript” dating, then why not ALSO utilize all the Second Temple Judaic-Messianic sources and manuscripts from the end of the Zugot, all the Tannaim, and early Amoraim Rabbinical eras too? These were eras between c. 170 BCE to 500 CE. But much more importantly the Tannaim era was from c. 10 CE to 220 CE, exactly during Yeshua’s/Jesus’ lifetime!!!! Perfect, right?

    No, not at all perfect. Christian Apologists intentionally or ignorantly overlook completely all Jewish Tannaic sources (of Jesus’ life) so that a more Greek-Hellenized Christology is publicized in their GRECO-ROMAN New Testaments. Ahh, but alas… once again, it seems ‘history was written by the [Roman] Victors.’ 🤔 Some very funny, covert business was taking place in those many decades and centuries (c. 70 – 325 CE) after Yeshua the Jewish Rabbi/Reformer was executed and the great Roman Legions destroyed Homeland Judaism/Messianism and their Temple in Jerusalem. Problematic Jewish zealots/rebels eliminated almost completely… until the discovery of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls.

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      1. Ark, a great question!

        Of course what has become crystal clear and is no longer a serious debate among the least biased, equitable Secular or Jewish scholars of the Second Temple Period that the heavily Hellenized Gospels—though Mark is the more and only Jewish-esque Greek Gospel in the Canonical NT—the next logical question should now be… (and sit down Ark and hold your tongue Sir 😉 )…

        Who was (the caricature of?) Yeshua bar Yosef and his Sectarian Messianic Reform Movement based solely on his ACTUAL familial culture and 1st-century Homeland Rabbinical Judaism ACCORDING TO the much more reliable sources of the period, e.g. the Eras mentioned above, particularly the Tainniac Era, and the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran, to name just two libraries of reliable, contemporaneous manuscripts and sources?

        And yes, through this wholly reliable historical lens—versus the amputated, maligned, and mythological (bogus) Greek Apotheosis versions found in the Canonical New Testament—a Rabbinical Reformer CAN INDEED be discovered. Yet, Yeshua bar Yosef was one of many 1st-century failed Messiahs and Saviors of Israel’s hopes of a revived, restored God’s Kingdom on Earth free of foreign corrupting powers/empires.

        Of course Ark, this factual reality is a much less hyper-sensationalized story or gospel of Greek Apotheosis that the Greco-Roman Church Fathers wanted for an upcoming Almighty Holy Empire on Earth. Enter Constantine the Great (battle at Milvian Bridge 312 CE) to Theodosius I and following Theodocian dynasties to 457 CE… when Greek Christology has literally no contenders opposing Rome’s glories. They were all but eliminated. 🙂

        Again, what IS obviously clear now to impartial Secular scholars & historians Ark is that the Greek “Jesus Christ” of the well-known canonical Gospels, Acts, and Epistles is mostly… well… entirely erroneous and certainly not representative of ANY Late Second Temple Period Judaism. The Earliest Church Fathers followed by the Patristic Greek Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church made sure of that; i.e. a whole new religion… with no seeds, roots, or factual origins at all.

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        1. If we accept, as most serious historians do, that the Lake Tiberius Pedestiran as portrayed in the gospels is simply a work of fiction then our sole ”witness” is Saul of Tarsus – I am going to take it as a given that, as nobody mentions the Testimonium Flavianum prior to Eusebius you consider it to be an interpolation in toto ( not the rock group).
          Right away we are faced with somewhat of a conundrumumumumum … um as Paul née Saul did not consider Jesus to be a normal human being (which is what the likes of Ehrman insist upon).
          Therefore, as the gospels are ostensibly made up tales to fulfill a religio/political agenda – and we can include Acts in this as well – and as Paul/Saul considered Jesus to be some sort of ”Made in Heaven by Yahweh” being – which we can discount as well – then the evidence (ha ha ) of there being an actual real live human being itinerant preacher prancing around Galilee is weaker than my morning cup of tea.

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          1. 😄 HAH! I have no issues at all with this/your conclusion Ark. 😉

            I guess I’m merely holding out (with no serious impatience) for further archaeological, geological, literary and social sciences (like linguistics and anthropology) discoveries to shed more precise and historically contextual light on all events, people, and accurate or false “narrations” of the 1st-century Levant. I personally feel/think that once all possible evidence of the period and sociopolitical players/ethnicities are exhausted… every rational reasonable person interested in this subject (Jesus, the canonical Xian NT, Hellenism, Judaism, Church origins, etc.) will be unable to deny Rome’s and Hellenism’s heavy, all-invasive hijacking and distorting, destroying hand of a Semitic people’s fighting for independence. That’s all.

            The majority of experts/scholars of Classical Greek culture and society essentially know just how much the Greco-Romans LOVED (were obsessed with?) dramatic, hyper-sensationalized, supernatural stories of great heroes and tragedies. Would you agree Ark? 🙂 And the heavily Greco-Roman gospels and entire New Testament is a superb representation of this.

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              1. Indeed! And what I’ve found comical is that Monty Python’s version of the same tale, legend is intriguingly NOT that far off the mark with what the Greco-Romans—and to a lesser extent the Sectarian Jews—orally shared and decades/centuries later wrote onto papyrus scrolls constantly retro-fitted, retro-graded modified versions of what the masses and Jewish leaders found/saw as contradictions, problems, and wholly false interpretations of Sectarian distinctions, including Yeshua’s Movement. Lots and lots of rumors and inaccuracies running amok Ark when so many points-of-view claiming Divine authority. Yes, it was a Monty Python comedy then and still remains so today! Lol 😛

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