Critics of the Bible claim that the New Testament books, especially the Gospels, were written centuries after the first century. They believe that legend dictated what the New Testament says. However, archaeologists may have discovered New Testament manuscripts dating back to the first century. These manuscripts are believed to be closer to their original autographs than any other literature in the ancient world.
The John Rylands Papyrus (P52)
A papyrus fragment was discovered in Egypt in 1920 that has the Scripture passages of John 18:31–33 and 37–38. This phenomenal find is called the John Rylands Papyrus and is designated as P52. It is currently located at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, and is dated at A.D. 100.
Scholars hold that the Gospel of John is one of the last of the New Testament books to be written. This Gospel dates somewhere in the early 90s of the first century. The dating of the John Rylands Papyrus at A.D. 100 opposes critical argument.
The Magdalen Papyrus (P64)
In 1901, three small fragments of a papyrus of the Gospel of Matthew were discovered in Luxor, Egypt, and sent to the Magdalen College Library in Oxford, England. Classified as Papyrus 64, these three fragments were examined by the famed German scholar Carsten Thiede in 1995, who dated the fragments between A.D. 30 and 70. He demonstrated that the Magdalen Papyrus was actually a part of two other fragments, Papyrus 67, a fragment of Matthew housed in Barcelona, and Papyrus 4, a nearly complete page from the Gospel of Luke, which is housed in Paris. In three places in the Magdalen fragments, the name Jesus is written as “KS,” an abbreviation of the Greek word Kyrios, or Lord.
Chester Beatty (P46)
A huge papyrus manuscript containing almost all of Paul's letters was reportedly discovered in 1930 near Fayrum, Egypt, together with two earlier manuscripts of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation. Classifed as Papyrus 46, fifty-six leaves are housed in Dublin, Ireland, in the Chester Beatty Collection. Thirty leaves are housed in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In 1988, scholar Young Kyu Kim studied P46 and determined that it was written before Domitian became Emperor in A.D. 81. Kim believed that the handwriting styles and linguistic changes from papyri of various known dates in the first century match those of P46.
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri and Papyri from Qumran Cave 7
These documents contain sayings of Jesus that have parallels in the Bible's four Gospels. They were discovered in Oxyrhynchus in Egypt and are dated at A.D. 150. Fragments of 1 Timothy 3:16–4:3 (7q4 1,2), James 1:23–24 (7q8), Mark 4:8 and Acts 27:38 (7q6 1,2), and Mark 6:52–53 (7q5) were discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written before A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. That suggests that these passages from 1 Timothy, James, Mark, and Acts were all written before A.D. 70.
The Bodmer Papyrus (P66, P72–75)
This collection comprises fifty Greek and Coptic manuscripts from codices and scrolls that were discovered in Egypt. Most are papyri, but three are written on parchment. They include the Old and New Testament texts and writings of the early Church Fathers. They date at A.D. 200.