Surviving Texts

The first four books of the New Testament ~ Matthew, Mark, Luke, John ~ are eye-witness accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, the Christ.  

The fifth book of the New Testament is eye-witness accounts of the beginnings and early years of the church as led by the apostles of Jesus, the Christ.  The rest of the New Testament is teachings of God as given to Jesus’ apostles to write.
Although the originals written by the apostles personally no longer exist, below are a few of the numerous papyri that still exist of hand-written copies.  Keep in mind that copyists who lived (for example) 50 years after the death of an apostle could (and likely did) have personally known the apostle.Magdalen Papyrus (P-64) has been dated AD 50-60, some twenty years after the death of Jesus and during the lifetime of all of his Apostles.  It shows scriptures from Matthew chapter 26, and is exactly as we have it today.

Below is John Rylands Papyrus (P-52) dated at about AD 100-120, some 15 years after the death of Jesus’ Apostle John.  It is written on both sides with John 18:31-33 on one side and John 18:35-38 on the other side.



Context of John 18:31-33 (on FRONT
side of John 18:35-38
ειπεν ουν αυτοις ο πιλατος λαβετε
αυτον υμεις και κατα τον νομον
υμων κρινατε αυτον ειπον ουν αυτω
οι ιουδαιοι ημιν ουκ εξεστιν
αποκτειναι ουδενα  ινα ο λογος του
ιησου πληρωθη ον ειπεν σημαινων
ποιω θανατω ημελλεν
αποθνησκειν  εισηλθεν ουν εις το
πραιτωριον παλιν ο πιλατος και
εφωνησεν τον ιησουν και ειπεν
αυτω συ ει ο βασιλευς των ιουδαιων

Context of John 18:37-38 (on BACK side of 18:31-33)
Context of John 18:37-38 (on BACK side of 18:31-33)
ειπεν ουν αυτω ο πιλατος ουκουν
βασιλευς ει συ απεκριθη ο ιησους συ
λεγεις οτι βασιλευς ειμι εγω εγω
εις τουτο γεγεννημαι και εις τουτο
εληλυθα εις τον κοσμον ινα
μαρτυρησω τη αληθεια πας ο ων εκ
της αληθειας ακουει μου της
φωνης  λεγει αυτω ο πιλατος τι
εστιν αληθεια και τουτο ειπων
παλιν εξηλθεν προς τους ιουδαιους
και λεγει αυτοις εγω ουδεμιαν
αιτιαν ευρισκω εν αυτω
The Chester Beatty Papyri (P45) contains Acts of the Apostles.   The Chester Beaty Papyri (P46) are dated between 100 and 150 AD.  They contain most of Apostle Paul’s inspired writings: The majority of Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians; and two chapters of 1st Thessalonians. It is written in a handwriting which has only been found in first-century manuscripts.  Written about ten to twenty years after the death of Jesus’ Apostle John.  Below is a photo of one of over one hundreds pages ~ 2nd Corinthians 11:33 – 12:9 ~ along with the same passage in modern Greek print.
The Bodmer Papyrus (P-66) is dated about AD 150, some 50 years after the death of Jesus’ Apostle John.  Below is one of many such pages which contain the Gospel of John.

Gospel of John 7:32-38 Translation from original Greek to English:

The Pharisees heard these things the people were saying about Jesus. So the leading priests and the Pharisees sent some temple police to arrest Jesus. Then Jesus said, “I will be with you people a little while longer. Then I will go back to the One (God) who sent me.  You will look for me, but you will not find me. And you cannot come where I am.” These Jews said to each other, “Where will this man go that we cannot find him? Will he go to the Greek cities where our
people live? Will he teach the Greek people there? This man (Jesus) says, ‘You will look for me but you will not find me.’ He also says, ‘You cannot come where I am.’ What does this mean?” The last day of the festival came. It was
the most important day. On that day Jesus stood and said with a loud voice, “If a person is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. If a person believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from his heart. That is what the Scriptures say.”

The Chester Beatty Papyri (P47) are dated between 150-190 AD and cover the book of Revelation.  Written about 75 years after the last Apostle’s (John’s) death.  Below is a photo of Revelation 13:16 through 14:4 along the same passage in modern print.
και ποιει παντας τους μικρους και τους εγαλους και τους πλουσιους και τους τωχους και τους ελευθερους και τους δουλους ινα δωση αυτοις χαραγμα επι της χειρος αυτων της δεξιας η επι των μετωπων αυτων   και ινα μη τις δυνηται αγορασαι η πωλησαι ει μη ο εχων το χαραγμα η το ονομα του θηριου η τον αριθμον του ονοματος αυτου   ωδε η σοφια εστιν ο εχων τον νουν ψηφισατω τον αριθμον του θηριου αριθμος γαρ ανθρωπου εστιν και ο αριθμος αυτου χξς    και ειδον και ιδου αρνιον εστηκος επι το ορος σιων και μετ αυτου εκατον τεσσαρακοντα τεσσαρες χιλιαδες εχουσαι το ονομα του πατρος αυτου γεγραμμενον επι των μετωπων αυτων και ηκουσα φωνην εκ του ουρανου ως φωνην υδατων πολλων και ως φωνην βροντης μεγαλης και φωνην ηκουσα κιθαρωδων κιθαριζοντων εν ταις κιθαραις αυτων  και αδουσιν ως ωδην καινην ενωπιον του θρονου και ενωπιον των τεσσαρων ζωων και των πρεσβυτερων και ουδεις ηδυνατο μαθειν την ωδην ει μη αι εκατον τεσσαρακοντα τεσσαρες χιλιαδες οι ηγορασμενοι απο της γης
The Bodmer Papyrus (P-75) covers most of the Gospel of Luke and much of the Gospel of John.  It is dated around AD 175-190, about 75 years after the death of Jesus’ Apostles, John.  Below is a photo of one of many pages.  This one covers Luke 24:52-53 through John 1:1-7.
Gospels of Luke 24:52-53 and John 1:1-7 Translation from original Greek to
The followers worshiped him there. Then they went back to Jerusalem.  They were very happy. They stayed at the temple all the time, praising God.Before the world began, the Word was there. The Word was there with God. The Word was God. He was there with God in the beginning. All things were made through him (the Word). Nothing was made without him.  In him there was life. That life was light (under-standing, goodness) for the people of the world. The Light shines in the darkness. The darkness has not defeated the Light.  There was a man named John.  He was sent by God. John came to tell people about the Light (Christ).
Within some sixty years of the death of the last apostle of Jesus ~ John ~ (according to ancient historian Eusebius), the ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT had been assembled with the same 27 books we have today.   

The Muratonian Canon that still exists and is dated around 170 AD, about 70 years after the death of the last apostle of Jesus, John, lists the same New Testament books that we use today (quoted below).  The first part is missing, but it does not detract from the listing.  A photo of the original is shown here with a translation from Greek to English below it:



….The third book of the gospel is that according to Luke. Luke the well know physician wrote it in his own name, according to the general belief after the ascension of Christ when Paul had associated him with himself as one zealous for correctness. One who took pains to find out the facts. It is true that he had not seen the Lord in the flesh. Yet having ascertained the facts he was able to bring his narrative with the nativity of John.

The fourth book of the gospel is that of John’s, one of the disciples. In response to the exhortation of his fellow disciples and bishops he said “Fast with me for three days then let us tell each other whatever shall be revealed to each one.” The same night it was revealed to Andrew, who was one of the apostles, that it was John who should relate in his own name what they collectively remembered. Or that John was to relate in his own name, they all acting as correctors. And so to the faith of believers there is no discord even although different selections are given from the facts in the individual books of the gospels. Because in all of them under the one guiding spirit all the things relative to his nativity, passion, resurrection, conversation with his disciples, and his twofold advent, the first in humiliation rising form contempt which took place and the second in the glory of kingly power which is yet to come, have been declared. What marvel it is then if John induces so consistently in his epistles these several things saying in person “what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, those things we have written.” For thus he professes to be not only an eye witness but also a hearer and a narrator of all the wonderful things of the Lord in their order.

Moreover the Acts of all the apostles are written in one book. Luke so comprised them for the most excellent Theophilus because of the individual events that took place in his presence. As he clearly shows by omitting the passion of Peter. As well as the departure of Paul, when Paul went from the city of Rome to Spain.

Now, the epistles of Paul, what they are and for what reason they were sent they themselves make clear to him who will understand. First of all he wrote at length to the Corinthians to prohibit the system of heresy, then to the Galatians against circumcision.

And to the Romans on the order of scriptures intimating also that Christ is the chief matter in them. Each of which is necessary for us to discuss seeing that the blessed apostle Paul himself, following the example of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name, in the following order:


Thessalonians, and

But he writes twice for the sake of correction to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians.

That there is one church defused throughout the whole earth is shown. by this sevenfold writing and John also in the Apocalypse. Even though he writes the seven churches, he speaks to all.

But he wrote out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, two to Timothy and these are held sacred in the honorable esteem of the church catholic, in the regulation of Ecclesiastical discipline.

There are over 5,300 known ancient Greek manuscript copies and fragments of the New Testament in Greek that have survived until today.  They cover every word in the New Testament that Christians use today.
For a detailed study, we recommend this comprehensive book:
How We Got the Bible, 3d ed.: Revised and Expanded, By Dr. Neil R. Lightfoot