The Textual Reliability of the New Testament

I was interviewed by Nick Peters on his Deeper Waters podcast today. Two-hour, live program. He’s going to interview Craig Blomberg next week about his new book. Nick is doing a terrific ministry. I encourage you to give a listen:


10 thoughts on “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament

  1. Hi Dr. Wallace,

    I just stumbled upon this page arguing that not only does the New Testament not explicitly mention a Trinitarian God, but that it actually leaves no room to believe in one. Until now I hadn’t heard an argument go that far. I was wondering if you might consider replying or commenting on it in a future post if you have time.


    1. This kind of argument is made all the time, but it is groundless. See Alister McGrath’s The Genesis of Doctrine, Bruce Metzger’s and the NET Bible’s comments on the trinitarian formula, etc.


      1. It’s a kind of equivocation fallacy. It tries to equate the Father, Son, or Spirit individually with the Trinity. It’s best to say the Father has all the attributes that make Him God and He exists in a Trinity.


  2. Interesting interview.

    However, I’m a bit surprised that’s how you interpret Ehrman’s view of the text. I’m not saying you’re wrong—maybe you have accurately characterized Ehrman, I don’t know the guy’s work very well. But are you sure? It seems like a very strange view for a professional.

    Let me give you my take on the reliability of the text, which I have assumed is similar to Ehrman’s view, based on the little I’ve read of him. We see from NT transmission that substantial alteration of the text is possible (even though it is fairly unlikely). Look at the longer ending of Mark, or the Pericope Adulterae, which are the classic examples. These are large swaths of text which have been erroneously inserted into the text. And, maybe this is just my amateur naivety making trouble for me, but it seems like these large-scale insertions are more and more likely to have occurred, the closer you get to the autographs. (This is based on common sense reasoning, together with the supporting evidence that both the longer ending and the PA are very early insertions, not late.) Meanwhile, the earliest transmission of the text is very poorly-attested. So, if such insertions took place, there is a good chance we might not be able to detect them.

    Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that I think there is some undetected large-scale insertion lurking in the NA27. That seems very unlikely, I have to admit. But, it IS a reasonable possibility, as far as I can judge. Perhaps as an analogy, we might observe that, since I’m a good driver and have never been in a car accident, it is not very likely I will get into a car accident this year either, but it’s still worth paying for insurance!

    Anyway, it usually doesn’t bother us that pieces of an ancient text might not be authentic. When I read The Anabasis, I didn’t find myself skeptical that this or that line was really written by Xenophon. But, that was mostly due to an assumption I made out of convenience. When it comes right down to it, I have to admit that I really don’t know for sure if every line is authentic to Xenophon. In fact, it’s a pretty good bet that a few of the lines—maybe more than a few—are NOT written by Xenophon. The dramatic cry that went up, “Thallatta, Thallatta!” darn near brings tears to my eyes, but I have to admit, even that most famous line might not be original. It very probably IS original, but I don’t know for sure. How could I?

    It’s hard to see how anyone could disagree with this, except to say that they think it’s even less likely than I do that major alterations occurred undetected in the NT. But that’s just a matter of subjective judgment. Even if you think it’s less likely, surely you must agree it is a reasonable possibility. Undetected large-scale insertions can and do happen. Surely, they could have happened to the NT too.

    To my mind, the real difference of opinion comes into play when we ask how to deal with this reasonable possibility. You apparently want to ignore it. And that’s not necessarily a bad policy. After all, it was my policy too, when reading The Anabasis. But, let’s be clear about what we are doing. We’re just assuming out of convenience that the text is authentic, but we don’t really know for sure. All we can say is that each line is LIKELY authentic, and then we can quibble about exactly how likely that is. But any way you cut it, “likely” is the best we can do.

    Or at least, that’s how I see it. Perhaps you think I am wrong about more than just how likely it is.


  3. Charles Wetesnik

    Nick, I just listened to your Interview with Daniel Wallace and I found it very informative. Most useful to me what the information you gave on how to count variants. i had read in Lee Strobel’s book that you multiply the same variant by the number of copies. Dr. Wallace refutes that. As always, we want to make sure as Christians we are spreading the truth. I am trying to contact Lee Strobel to offer the clarification. Thanks again for the great show.


  4. Henrico Rossouw

    I must admit that i was very surprised(and not very pleasantly) that the bible i considered to be the inerrant word of God contained scribal interpolations. Now i’m no scholar, i’m just a bible reading born-again christian so i must say that it’s very hard for me now to just read my bible without wondering if that partular portion that i’m reading actually belongs in the bible or am i going to find out 5 years from now that it was never in the original menuscripts at all and that some scribe inserted some text somewhere where it does’nt belong. Why would God allow it to happen anyway? could’nt God just have guarded His word against scribal interpolations?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. archivesislam

      I think its important to realize and understand the transmission of religious texts and how we got them today. Some people believe that the English they are reading is the EXACT words of Jesus. So much so that a certain Texas Governor said the following ” If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the children of Texas!”.


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