So how close are we to having the original New Testament?
In the original Greek language, we have over 5,800 manuscripts. No other ancient document comes close to having this many. The nearest one, Homer’s Iliad, has 643 manuscripts. And the New Testament also has, in addition to the Greek manuscripts, at least 15,000 to 20,000 copies that are in other languages, called “versions.”
Many scholars say that with this many copies of the New Testament it is possible to reconstruct the original with almost complete accuracy. One of the leading authorities on textual criticism today, Dr. Daniel Wallace, comments in an interview with author Lee Strobel: “Essentially, scholars do not have to come up with conjecture about what the wording of the original text might be. We have the wording of the original in the manuscripts somewhere. Pragmatically, we could say that the wording of the original can be found in the text of our published Greek New Testaments or in their footnotes” (emphasis mine).
As far as the time interval goes, again the New Testament leaves its competitors in ancient literature way behind. The earliest completemanuscripts of the New Testament go back to about 325 A.D., about 225 years after the time of the originals, but there are also major fragments that go back much further. In fact, there were very few early complete manuscripts because they were very bulky to use, being written by hand. But the earliest fragments, some very substantial , go back to as close as about 25-50 years after the originals. In contrast, the time between the original of Homer’s Iliad and it’s earliest manuscripts is four hundred years. Time gaps for other ancient literature of which we have multiple manuscripts range from four hundred to fourteen hundred years, with most over a thousand years.
Yet again scholars do not doubt the authenticity of any of these ancient non-biblical documents. Nor do they give up studying ancient history!
Wallace comments again: “The quantity and quality of the New Testament manuscripts are unequalled in the ancient Greco-Roman world. The average Greek author has fewer than twenty copies of his works still in existence, and they come from no sooner than five hundred to a thousand years later. . .Even the great historians who give us much of our understandings of ancient Roman history are quite incomplete. . .Livy, for example, wrote 142 volumes on the history of Rome, but only 35 survive.”
So if we are skeptical about the New Testament, we should be a thousand times as skeptical about other ancient authors. But I don’t hear about any history classes being cancelled!
 Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, in an interview with Daniel B. Wallace, 83-84.
 Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, interview with New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2007, 72.