The following witnesses exist for the New Testament:-
Ancient Greek Manuscript Fragments: The earliest known manuscript of the New Testament is the John Rylands Papyrus fragment of John's Gospel, also known as P52, containing John 18:31-33, 37-38, dated to ~AD 125 (image at right). Some fragments of Greek Uncial Manuscripts go back to about AD 175-200. The Chester Beatty Papyrii which contain almost all the NT books, were copied about AD 220-230.
Early Christian (and non-Christian) authors: Eusebius (270-340), Ireneaus (130-202 AD), Ignatius (~60-115 AD), Theophilus (~100-193 AD), Dorotheus (~240-300 AD), Tertullian (160-220 AD), Cyprian (195-258 AD), John Chyrostom (347-407 AD) etc have quoted extensively from the Bible. Since their quotations agree with our Bibles today, we know that our Bibles are the same as the ones they used.
Late Greek Manuscripts (7th to 15th century): There are about 5000 of them. Although all of them do not contain the whole New Testament (manuscripts are much bulkier than printed paper), there is abundant witness for each book of the New Testament among these 5000 manuscripts.
Early Translations: The important ancient translations of the Greek New Testament are: the Syrian Peshitta (150 AD), the Old Latin Bible (160 AD), and the Gothic Bible of Ulfilas (330 AD). We also have the Sahidic, Bohairic, Coptic and Armenian Bibles. There are about 20,000 manuscripts in these languages.
Early Quotations: The New Testament is quoted extensively in The Unknown Gospel (AD 150), The Gospel of Truth, written by the heretic Valentinus, and various "church fathers". The Biblical text is also preserved in "lectionaries", i.e. early church service manuals, which quote many New Testament passages. These quotations show that the New Testament we have today is the same as that of the first few centuries AD. Sir David Dalrymple was once asked the question, “Suppose that they had been destroyed, and every copy of it lost by the end of the third century, could it have been collected together again from the writings of the Fathers of the second and third centuries?” Owning all the works of the Fathers of the second and third centuries, he searched and found the entire New Testament except for eleven verses.
The following table shows the level of preservation of the works of some secular historians versus that of the Bible. The columns show the author, the date written, the number of manuscripts surviving, and the number of years after the date written for the earliest manuscript.
| Julius Caesar (Gallic Wars)|| 50 BC||10||900|
|Aristophanes||450-385 BC||?||1200 |
|Livy|| 59 BC- 17 AD||20||?|
|Homer (Iliad)||900 BC||643||500|
|New Testament||50-100 AD||25700||250|
"We have [as of 2007] 5700 Greek copies of the New Testament. When I started seminary, there were about 4800, but more and more have been discovered. There are another 10000 copies in Latin. There are versions in other languages – Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian and so on. These are estimated to number between 10,000 and 15,000. So right there we've got 25,000 to 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament…a great majority of these manuscripts are complete for the purposes the scribes intended. For example, some manuscripts were intended to include just the gospels, others just Paul's letters. Only sixty Greek manuscripts have the complete New Testament" – Daniel Wallace, in Lee Strobel, The case for the Real Jesus, Zondervan, p83