GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE: New Testament Text

The Church Fathers lived during the early centuries of the church. In the course of instructing the Christians of their day and defending the faith against the heretics of their time period they left a tremendous amount of written material which contains thousands upon thousands of citations of the New Testament scriptures. In their book "A General Introduction To The Bible" Geisler and Nix estimate that there are over 36,000 references or citations by the Fathers of the New Testament. Harold Greenlee in his book "Introduction To New Testament Textual Criticism" states. "These quotations are so extensive that the New Testament could be virtually reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament Manuscripts." (p.54) The following brief survey of the Fathers will provide an introduction to the evidence available in the writings of the fathers.

THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS ( c.70 - c.150 )

These early fathers, who lived between 70-150 AD, were Greek speaking men and with the possible exception of the books of Philemon and III John quoted from every book of the New Testament.

THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS ( c.150 - c.300 )

The Ante-Nicene Fathers wrote in Greek, Syriac and Latin. After surveying the works of these men Geisler and Nix point out that prior to the council of Nicea in 325 ad there were some 32,000 quotes and allusions made from the New Testament alone.


These men lived through some of the last persecutions of the church by the Roman Empire. Their testimony concerning which books of the Bible were considered authentic is very valuable. At a time in history when people were losing their lives over the possession and use of "scripture" we can be sure that they were wholly convinced when they gave their acceptance and approval to various documents they believed to be scripture.

Overall, the value of the witness of the church fathers is twofold: One, their testimony confirms that the existing canon of scripture (the list of books considered inspired) in our English Bibles is authoritative and true. Two, their quotations of the New Testament are so numerous and comprehensive that if we were to lose every single manuscript of the New Testament we would be able to reconstruct the New Testament text based on the written record left to us by the Fathers.