The Uniqueness of the Biblical Manuscripts has a page of quotes which it can be rather interesting to rummage through. One of the quotes is from Sir Frederick Kenyon about the uniqueness of the Biblical manuscripts.

"In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century; the earliest extant manuscripts (trifling scraps excepted) are of the fourth century - say, from 250 to 300 years later. This may sound a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earliest manuscripts.

We believe that we have in all essentials an accurate text of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it based was written more than 1400 years after the poet's death. Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Thucydides are in the same state; while with Euripides the interval is increased to 1600 years. For Plato it may be put at 1300 years; for Demosthenes as low as 1200."

Sir Frederick G. Kenyon, "Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament," 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1912), p. 5.

It is important to note that the "trifling scraps" mentioned by Sir Kenyon actually move the dates of compostion to dates much earlier than was previously, widely believed. A chart of some of the dates of the early papyri are given in an article here. It is helpful to note that the first five papyri listed are dated before 70 A.D. which is consistent with the early dating that a growing number of scholars are advocating. (It should be noted that the early datings in the link are not the widely accepted datings.)

For more resources on this issue, visit the CADRE page entitled (Re)Dating the New Testament.


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