Biblical manuscript

Biblical manuscript

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A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

. The word Bible comes from the Greek biblia (books); manuscript comes from Latin manu (hand) and scriptum (written). The original manuscript (the original parchment the author physically wrote on) is called the "autographa." Biblical manuscripts vary in size from tiny scrolls containing individual verses of the Jewish scriptures (see Tefillin
Tefillin
Tefillin also called phylacteries are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. Although "tefillin" is technically the plural form , it is loosely used as a singular as...

) to huge polyglot
Polyglot (book)
A polyglot is a book that contains side-by-side versions of the same text in several different languages. Some editions of the Bible or its parts are polyglots, in which the Hebrew and Greek originals are exhibited along with historical translations...

 codices (multi-lingual books) containing both the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

) and the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, as well as extracanonical
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

 works.

The study of biblical manuscripts is important because handwritten copies of books can contain errors. The science of textual criticism
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

 attempts to reconstruct the original text of books, especially those published prior to the invention of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

.

Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) manuscripts


The Aleppo Codex
Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the 10th century A.D.The codex has long been considered to be the most authoritative document in the masorah , the tradition by which the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation...

 (c. 920 CE) and Leningrad Codex
Leningrad Codex
The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, using the masoretic text and Tiberian vocalization. It is dated AD 1008 according to its colophon...

 (c. 1008 CE) are the oldest Hebrew language manuscripts of the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

. The 1947 find at Qumran
Qumran
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

 of the Dead Sea scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 pushed the manuscript history of the Tanakh back a millennium from the two earliest complete codices (see Tanakh at Qumran
Tanakh at Qumran
The Tanakh is the Hebrew Bible and Qumran is an archaeological site near the Dead Sea. More than two hundred portions of the Tanakh have been found near Qumran, forming part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were found in a series of caves, which have since been numbered, and these numbers used...

). Before this discovery, the earliest extant manuscripts of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 were in Greek in manuscripts such as Codex Vaticanus
Codex Vaticanus
The Codex Vaticanus , is one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible , one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named for the residence in the Vatican Library, where it has been stored since at least the 15th century...

 and Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

. Out of the roughly 800 manuscripts found at Qumran, 220 are from the Tanakh. Every book of the Tanakh is represented except for the Book of Esther
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is a book in the Ketuvim , the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and is part of the Christian Old Testament. The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim...

; however, most are fragmentary. Notably, there are two scroll
Scroll
A scroll is a roll of parchment, papyrus, or paper, which has been drawn or written upon.Scroll may also refer to:*Scroll , the decoratively curved end of the pegbox of string instruments such as violins...

s of the Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

, one complete (1QIsa), and one around 75% complete (1QIsb). These manuscripts generally date between 150 BCE to 70 CE.

Ancient Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 scribes developed many practices to protect copies of their scriptures from error.

Extant Tanakh manuscripts

Version |Examples Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

Tanakh at Qumran
Tanakh at Qumran
The Tanakh is the Hebrew Bible and Qumran is an archaeological site near the Dead Sea. More than two hundred portions of the Tanakh have been found near Qumran, forming part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were found in a series of caves, which have since been numbered, and these numbers used...

Hebrew, Paleo Hebrew
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet
The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet , is an abjad offshoot of the ancient Semitic alphabet, identical to the Phoenician alphabet. At the very least it dates to the 10th century BCE...

 and Greek(Septuagint)
c. 150 BCE - 70 CE c. 150 BCE - 70 CE
Septuagint Codex Vaticanus
Codex Vaticanus
The Codex Vaticanus , is one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible , one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named for the residence in the Vatican Library, where it has been stored since at least the 15th century...

, Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

 and other earlier papyri
Greek 300-100 BCE 2nd century BCE(fragments)
4th century CE(complete)
Peshitta
Peshitta
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

Syriac early 5th century CE
Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

Codex Amiatinus
Codex Amiatinus
The Codex Amiatinus, designated by siglum A, is the earliest surviving manuscript of the nearly complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate version, and is considered to be the most accurate copy of St. Jerome's text. It is missing the Book of Baruch. It was produced in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of...

Latin early 5th century CE
early 8th century CE(complete)
Masoretic Aleppo Codex
Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the 10th century A.D.The codex has long been considered to be the most authoritative document in the masorah , the tradition by which the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation...

, Leningrad Codex
Leningrad Codex
The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, using the masoretic text and Tiberian vocalization. It is dated AD 1008 according to its colophon...

 and other incomplete mss
Hebrew ca. 100 CE 10th century CE
Samaritan Pentateuch
Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan Pentateuch, sometimes called Samaritan Torah, , is a version of the Hebrew language Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, used by the Samaritans....

Samaritan alphabet
Samaritan alphabet
The Samaritan alphabet is used by the Samaritans for religious writings, including the Samaritan Pentateuch, writings in Samaritan Hebrew, and for commentaries and translations in Samaritan Aramaic and occasionally Arabic....

200-100 BCE Oldest extant mss c.11th century CE, oldest mss available to scholars 16th century CE
Targum
Targum
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and do means "way", "method", or "path"...

 
Aramaic 500-1000 CE 5th century CE

New Testament manuscripts



Parts of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 have been preserved in more manuscripts than any other "ancient" work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 manuscripts, 10,000 Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

, Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

, Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

, Ethiopic
Ge'ez language
Ge'ez is an ancient South Semitic language that developed in the northern region of Ethiopia and southern Eritrea in the Horn of Africa...

, Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 and Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

. The dates of these manuscripts range from c. 125 (the John Ryland's manuscript, P52
Rylands Library Papyrus P52
The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John's fragment, is a fragment from a papyrus codex, measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches at its widest; and conserved with the Rylands Papyri at the John Rylands University Library , Manchester, UK...

; oldest copy of John fragments) to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century. The vast majority of these manuscripts date after the 10th century. Although there are more manuscripts that preserve the New Testament (at least in part) than there are for any other ancient writing (e.g., we only have 10 copies of Julius Caesar's 'The Gallic Wars'), this does not mean that the exact form of the text preserved in these later, numerous manuscripts is identical to the form of the text as it existed in antiquity. Textual scholar Bart Ehrman writes: "It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes - altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament...." In reference to the textual evidence for the New Testament, Bruce M. Metzger wrote,
"In evaluating the significance of these statistics...one should consider, by way of contrast, the number of manuscripts which preserve the text of the ancient classics. Homer's Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

...is preserved by 457 papyri, 2 uncial manuscripts, and 188 minuscule manuscripts. Among the tragedians the witnesses to Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 are the most abundant; his extant works are preserved in 54 papyri and 276 parchment manuscripts, almost all of the later dating from the Byzantine period...the time between the composition of the books of the New Testament and the earliest extant copies is relatively brief. Instead of the lapse of a millennium or more, as is the case of not a few classical authors, several papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament are extant which were copies within a century or so after the composition of the original documents."


Every year, several New Testament manuscripts handwritten in the original Greek format are discovered. The latest substantial find was in 2008, when 47 new manuscripts were discovered in Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

; at least 17 of them unknown to Western scholars.

When comparing one manuscript to another, with the exception of the smallest fragments, no two copies agree completely throughout. Note, however, that a single difference prevents agreement. There has been an estimate of between 400,000 variations among all these manuscripts (from the 2nd to 15th century) which is more than there are words in the New Testament. This is less significant than may appear since it is a comparison across linguistic boundaries. More important estimates focus on comparing texts within languages. Those variations are considerably fewer. The vast majority of these are accidental errors made by scribe
Scribe
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing...

s, and are easily identified as such: an omitted word
Haplography
Haplography is the act of writing once what should be written twice. For example, the English word idolatry, the worship of idols, comes from the Greek eidololatreia, but one syllable has been lost through haplography. Other examples are "endontics" for endodontics, and "voraphilia" for...

, a duplicate line, a misspelling, a rearrangement of words. Some variations involve apparently intentional changes, which often make more difficult a determination of whether they were corrections from better exemplars, harmonizations between readings, or ideologically motivated. Palaeography
Palaeography
Palaeography, also spelt paleography is the study of ancient writing. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of...

 is the study of ancient writing, and textual criticism
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

 is the study of manuscripts in order to reconstruct a probable original text.

The difficulty in all of this, though, is in where the manuscripts are coming from. Often, especially in monasteries, a manuscript cache is little more than a former manuscript recycling center where imperfect and incomplete copies of manuscripts were stored while the monastery or scriptorium decided what to do with them. There were several options. The first was to simply "wash" the manuscript and reuse it. This was very common in the ancient world and even up into the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

; such reused manuscripts are called palimpsest
Palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος originally compounded from πάλιν and ψάω literally meaning “scraped...

s. The most famous palimpsest is probably the Archimedes Palimpsest
Archimedes Palimpsest
The Archimedes Palimpsest is a palimpsest on parchment in the form of a codex. It originally was a copy of an otherwise unknown work of the ancient mathematician, physicist, and engineer Archimedes of Syracuse and other authors, which was overwritten with a religious text.Archimedes lived in the...

. If this was not done within a short period of time after the papyri was made, then washing it was less likely since the papyri might deteriorate and thus be unusable. When washing was no longer an option, the second choice was burning (since they contained the words of Christ and the apostles, prophets, and saints, and were thought to have had a higher level of sanctity than secular literature). Burning them was considered more reverent than simply throwing them into the nearby garbage pit, although that was not unheard of as in the case of Oxyrhynchus 840). The third option was simply to leave them in what has become known as a manuscript gravesite. When scholars come across manuscript caches, for example that at Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (source of the Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

), or Saint Sabbas Monastery outside Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

, they are not finding libraries, but storehouses of rejected texts (sometimes, oddly, kept in boxes or back shelves in libraries due to space constraints). These texts were unacceptable because of their scribal errors and contain corrections inside the lines possibly evidence that monastery scribes were comparing it to what must have been a master text. In addition, texts thought to be complete and correct but which had deteriorated due to heavy usage and/or had missing folios would also be placed in these caches. Once in a cache, insects and humidity
Humidity
Humidity is a term for the amount of water vapor in the air, and can refer to any one of several measurements of humidity. Formally, humid air is not "moist air" but a mixture of water vapor and other constituents of air, and humidity is defined in terms of the water content of this mixture,...

 would often contribute to the continued deterioration of the documents.

Complete and correctly copied texts would usually be immediately placed in use and thus usually would wear out fairly quickly which would require repeated recopying. Further, because manuscript copying was highly costly when it required a scribe's attention for extended periods, a manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 might only be made when commissioned, in which case the size of the parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

, script
Writing system
A writing system is a symbolic system used to represent elements or statements expressible in language.-General properties:Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that the reader must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to...

 used, any illustrations (thus raising the effective cost), whether it was one book or a collection of several, etc. would be determined by the one commissioning the work. The idea of stocking extra copies would probably have been considered at best wasteful and unnecessary since the form and presentation of a manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 were more often than not customized to the aesthetic tastes of the buyer. This is part of the reason why scholars are more likely to find incomplete, and at times conflicting, segments of manuscripts rather than complete and largely consistent works.

Distribution of Greek manuscripts by century
New Testament Manuscripts Lectionaries
Century Papyri Uncials Minuscules Uncials Minuscules
2nd 2 - - - -
2nd/3rd 5 1 - - -
3rd 28 2 - - -
3rd/4th 8 2 - - -
4th 14 14 - 1 -
4th/5th 8 8 - - -
5th 2 36 - 1 -
5th/6th 4 10 - - -
6th 7 51 - 3 -
6th/7th 5 5 - 1 -
7th 8 28 - 4 -
7th/8th 3 4 - - -
8th 2 29 - 22 -
8th/9th - 4 - 5 -
9th - 53 13 113 5
9th/10th - 1 4 - 1
10th - 17 124 108 38
10th/11th - 3 8 3 4
11th - 1 429 15 227
11th/12th - - 33 - 13
12th - - 555 6 486
12th/13th - - 26 - 17
13th - - 547 4 394
13th/14th - - 28 - 17
14th - - 511 - 308
14th/15th - - 8 - 2
15th - - 241 - 171
15th/16th - - 4 - 2
16th - - 136 - 194

Transmission


The task of copying manuscripts was generally done by scribe
Scribe
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing...

s who were trained professionals in the arts of writing and bookmaking. Some manuscripts were also proofread, and scholars closely examining a text can sometimes find the original and corrections found in certain manuscripts. In the 6th century, a special room devoted to the practice of manuscript writing and illumination
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

 called the scriptorium
Scriptorium
Scriptorium, literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes...

 came into use, typically inside medieval European monasteries. Sometimes a group of scribes would make copies at the same time as one individual read from the text.

Manuscript construction


An important issue with manuscripts is preservation. The earliest New Testament manuscripts were written on papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

, made from a reed that grew abundantly in the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian Nile Delta
Nile Delta
The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers some 240 km of Mediterranean coastline—and is a rich...

. This tradition continued as late as the 8th century. Papyrus eventually becomes brittle and deteriorates with age. The dry climate of Egypt allowed some papyrus manuscripts to be partially preserved, but, with the exception of P77, no New Testament papyrus manuscript is complete; many consist only of a single fragmented page. However, beginning in the 4th century, parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

 (also called vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

) began to be a common medium for New Testament manuscripts. It wasn't until the 12th century that paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 (made from cotton or plant fibers), which was invented in 1st century China, began to gain popularity in biblical manuscripts.

Of the 476 non-Christian manuscripts dated to the 2nd century, 97% of the manuscripts are in the form of scrolls; however, the 8 Christian manuscripts are codices
Codex
A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...

. In fact, most New Testament manuscripts are codices. The adaptation of the codex form in non-Christian text did not become dominant until the 4th and 5th centuries, showing a preference for that form amongst early Christians. The considerable length of some New Testament books (such as the Pauline epistles
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

), and the New Testament itself, was not suited to the limited space available on a single scroll; in contrast a codex could be expanded to hundreds of pages.


Script and other features


The handwriting found in New Testament manuscripts varies. One way of classifying handwriting is by formality: book-hand vs. cursive. More formal, literary Greek works were often written in a distinctive style of even, capital letters called book-hand. Less formal writing consisted of cursive letters which could be written quickly. Another way of dividing handwriting is between uncial
Uncial
Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...

 (or majuscule) and minuscule. The uncial letters were a consistent height between the baseline
Baseline (typography)
In European and West Asian typography and penmanship, the baseline is the line upon which most letters "sit" and below which descenders extend.In the example to the right, the letter 'p' has a descender; the other letters sit on the baseline....

 and the cap height, while the minuscule letters had ascenders and descender
Descender
In typography, a descender is the portion of a letter that extends below the baseline of a font. The line that descenders reach down to is known as the beard line....

s that moved past the baseline and cap height. Generally speaking, the majuscules are earlier than the minuscules, with a dividing line roughly in the 11th century.

The earliest manuscripts had hardly, if any, punctuation or breathing marks. The manuscripts also lacked word spacing, so words, sentences, and paragraphs would be a continuous string of letters (scriptio continua
Scriptio continua
Scriptio continua is a style of writing without spaces or other marks between words or sentences....

), often with line breaks in the middle of words. Bookmaking was an expensive endeavor, and one way to reduce the number of pages used was to save space. Another method employed was to abbreviate frequent words, such as the nomina sacra
Nomina sacra
Nomina sacra means "sacred names" in Latin, and can be used to refer to traditions of abbreviated writing of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in early Greek language Holy Scripture...

. Yet another method involved the palimpsest
Palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος originally compounded from πάλιν and ψάω literally meaning “scraped...

, a manuscript which recycled an older manuscript. Scholars using careful examination can sometimes determine what was originally written on the material of a document before it was erased to make way for a new text (for example Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus is an early 5th century Greek manuscript of the Bible, the last in the group of the four great uncial manuscripts...

 and the Sinaitic Palimpsest
Sinaitic Palimpsest
The Syriac Sinaitic , known also as the Sinaitic Palimpsest, of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai is a late 4th century manuscript of 358 pages, containing a translation of the four canonical gospels of the New Testament into Syriac, which have been overwritten by a vita of female saints...

).

The original New Testament books did not have titles, section headings, or verse and chapter divisions
Chapters and verses of the Bible
The Bible is a compilation of many shorter books written at different times and later assembled into the Biblical canon. All but the shortest of these books have been divided into chapters, generally a page or so in length, since the early 13th century. Since the mid-16th century, each chapter has...

. These were developed over the years as "helps for readers". The Ammonian Sections
Ammonian Sections
Eusebian canons or Eusebian sections, also known as Ammonian Sections, are the system of dividing the four Gospels used between late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The divisions into chapters and verses used in modern texts date only from the 13th and 16th centuries, respectively...

 were an early system of division written in the margin of many manuscripts. The Eusebian Canons was a series of tables that grouped parallel stories among the gospels. After 400 were used κεφαλαια.

Manuscripts became more ornate over the centuries, which developed into a rich illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

 tradition, including the famous Irish Gospel Book
Gospel Book
The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament...

s, the Book of Kells
Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks ca. 800 or slightly earlier...

 and the Book of Durrow
Book of Durrow
The Book of Durrow is a 7th-century illuminated manuscript gospel book in the Insular style. It was probably created between 650 and 700, in Northumbria in Northern England, where Lindisfarne or Durham would be the likely candidates, or on the island of Iona in the Scottish Inner Hebrides...

.

Cataloging



Desiderius Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus , known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, and a theologian....

 compiled the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, basing his work on several manuscripts because he did not have a single complete work and because each manuscript had small errors. In the 18th century, Johann Jakob Wettstein
Johann Jakob Wettstein
Johann Jakob Wettstein was a Swiss theologian, best known as a New Testament critic.-Youth and study:...

 was one of the first biblical scholars to start cataloging biblical manuscripts. He divided the manuscripts based on the writing used (uncial
Uncial
Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...

, minuscule) or format (lectionaries
Lectionary
A Lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.-History:...

) and based on content (Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

s, Pauline letters
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

, Acts
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

 + General epistles
General epistles
General epistles are books in the New Testament in the form of letters. They are termed "general" because for the most part their intended audience seems to be Christians in general rather than individual persons or congregations as is the case with the Pauline epistles...

, and Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

). He assigned the uncials letters and minuscules and lectionaries numbers for each grouping of content, which resulted in manuscripts being assigned the same letter or number.

For manuscripts that contained the whole New Testament, such as Codex Alexandrinus
Codex Alexandrinus
The Codex Alexandrinus is a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible,The Greek Bible in this context refers to the Bible used by Greek-speaking Christians who lived in Egypt and elsewhere during the early history of Christianity...

 (A) and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus is an early 5th century Greek manuscript of the Bible, the last in the group of the four great uncial manuscripts...

 (C), the letters corresponded across content groupings. However, for a significant, early manuscript such as Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 (B), which did not contain Revelation, the letter B was also assigned to a later 10th century manuscript of Revelation, thus creating confusion. Constantin von Tischendorf
Constantin von Tischendorf
Lobegott Friedrich Constantin Tischendorf was a noted German Biblical scholar. He deciphered the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, a 5th century Greek manuscript of the New Testament, in the 1840s, and rediscovered the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century New Testament manuscript, in 1859.Tischendorf...

 found one of the earliest, nearly complete copies of the Bible, Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

, over a century after Wettstein's cataloging system was introduced. Because he felt the manuscript was so important, Von Tischendorf assigned it the Hebrew letter aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

 (א). Eventually enough uncials were found that all the letters in the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 had been used, and scholars moved on to first the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, and eventually started reusing characters by adding a superscript. Confusion also existed in the minuscules, where up to seven different manuscripts could have the same number or a single manuscript of the complete New Testament could have 4 different numbers to describe the different content groupings.

Von Soden


Hermann, Freiherr von Soden
Hermann, Freiherr von Soden
Baron Hermann von Soden , German biblical scholar, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 16, 1852, and was educated at the University of Tübingen. He was minister of Dresden-Striesen in 1881 and in 1887 became minister of the Jerusalem Church in Berlin...

 published a complex cataloging system for manuscripts in 1902-10. He grouped the manuscripts based on content, assigning them a Greek prefix: δ for the complete New Testament, ε for the Gospels, and α for the remaining parts. This grouping, however, was flawed because some manuscripts grouped in δ did not contain Revelation, and many manuscripts grouped in α contained either the general epistles or the Pauline epistles, but not both. After the Greek prefix, Von Soden assigned a numeral that roughly corresponded to a date (for example δ1-δ49 were from before the 10th century, δ150-δ249 for the 11th century). This system proved to be problematic when manuscripts were re-dated, or when more manuscripts were discovered than the number of spaces allocated to a certain century.

Gregory-Aland


Caspar René Gregory
Caspar René Gregory
Caspar René Gregory was a American-born German theologian theologian.-Life:Gregory was born in Philadelphia. He studied theology at two Presbyterian seminaries: in 1865-67 at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton Theological Seminary...

 published another cataloging system in 1908 in Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, which is the system still in use today. Gregory divided the manuscripts into 4 groupings: papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries
Lectionary
A Lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.-History:...

. This division is partially arbitrary. The first grouping is based on the physical material (papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

) used in the manuscripts. The second two divisions are based on script: uncial and minuscule. The last grouping is based on content: lectionary. Most of the papyrus manuscripts and the lectionaries before the year 1000 are written in uncial script. However, there is some consistency in that the majority of the papyri are very early because parchment began to replace papyrus in the 4th century (although the latest papyri dates to the 8th century). Similarly, the majority of the uncials date to before the 11th century, and the majority of the minuscules to after.

Gregory assigned the papyri a prefix of P, often written in blackletter
Blackletter
Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

 script (n), with a superscript numeral. The uncials were given a prefix of the number 0, and the established letters for the major manuscripts were retained for redundancy (i.e. Codex Claromontanus
Codex Claromontanus
Codex Claromontanus, symbolized by Dp or 06 , δ 1026 , is a Greek-Latin diglot uncial manuscript of the New Testament, written in an uncial hand on vellum. The Greek and Latin text on facing pages...

 is assigned both 06 and D). The minuscules were given plain numbers, and the lectionaries were prefixed with l often written in script (). Kurt Aland
Kurt Aland
Kurt Aland was a German Theologian and Professor of New Testament Research and Church History. He founded the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster and served as its first director for many years...

 continued Gregory's cataloging work through the 1950s and beyond. Because of this, the numbering system is often referred to as "Gregory-Aland numbers". The most recent manuscripts added to each grouping are 124, 0318
Uncial 0318
Codex 0318 , is the most recently registered New Testament Greek uncial codex. It is a diglot Greek–Coptic manuscript. It consists of 18 two-column, 27-line, 25 cm by 22 cm pages. The remaining text is from the Gospel of Mark, including most of chapters nine through 14...

, 2882, and 2281. Due to the cataloging heritage and because some manuscripts which were initially numbered separately were discovered to be from the same codex, there is some redundancy in the list (i.e. the Magdalen papyrus
Magdalen papyrus
The "Magdalen" papyrus was purchased in Luxor, Egypt in 1901 by Reverend Charles Bousfield Huleatt , who identified the Greek fragments as portions of the Gospel of Matthew and presented them to Magdalen College, Oxford, where they are cataloged as P. Magdalen Greek 17 and whence they have their...

 has both the numbers of 64 and 67).

The majority of New Testament textual criticism deals with Greek manuscripts because scholars believe the original books of the New Testament were written in Greek. However, the text of the New Testament is also found, both translated in manuscripts of many different languages (called versions), and quoted in manuscripts of the writings of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

. In the critical apparatus
Critical apparatus
The critical apparatus is the critical and primary source material that accompanies an edition of a text. A critical apparatus is often a by-product of textual criticism....

 of the Novum Testamentum Graece
Novum Testamentum Graece
Novum Testamentum Graece is the Latin name editions of the original Greek-language version of the New Testament.The first printed edition was the Complutensian Polyglot Bible by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, printed in 1514, but not published until 1520...

, a series of abbreviations and prefixes designate different language versions (it for Old Latin, lowercase letters for individual Old Latin manuscripts, vg for Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

, lat for Latin, sys for Sinaitic Palimpsest
Sinaitic Palimpsest
The Syriac Sinaitic , known also as the Sinaitic Palimpsest, of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai is a late 4th century manuscript of 358 pages, containing a translation of the four canonical gospels of the New Testament into Syriac, which have been overwritten by a vita of female saints...

, syc for Curetonian Gospels
Curetonian Gospels
The Curetonian Gospels, designated by the siglum syrcur, are contained in a manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament in Old Syriac, a translation from the Aramaic originals, according to William Cureton differing considerably from the canonical Greek texts, with which they had been...

, syp for the Peshitta
Peshitta
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

, co for Coptic, ac for Akhmimic, bo for Bohairic, sa for Sahidic, arm for Armenian, geo for Georgian, got for Gothic, aeth for Ethiopic, and slav for Old Church Slavonic.)

Dating the New Testament manuscripts



The New Testament books appear to have been completed within the 1st century. However, the original manuscripts of the New Testament books do not survive today. The autograph
Autograph
An autograph is a document transcribed entirely in the handwriting of its author, as opposed to a typeset document or one written by an amanuensis or a copyist; the meaning overlaps with that of the word holograph.Autograph also refers to a person's artistic signature...

s were lost or destroyed a long time ago. What survives are copies of the original. Generally speaking, these copies were made centuries after the originals from other copies rather than from the autograph. Paleography, a science of dating manuscripts by typological analysis of their scripts, is the most precise and objective means known for determining the age of a manuscript. Script groups belong typologically to their generation; and changes can be noted with great accuracy over relatively short periods of time. Dating of manuscript material by a radiocarbon dating test
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 requires that a small part of the material be destroyed in the process; it is less accurate than dating from paleography. Both radiocarbon and paleographical dating only give a range of possible dates, and it's still debated just how narrow this range might be. Dates established by radiocarbon dating can present a range of 10 to over 100 years. Similarly, dates established by paleography can present a range of 25 to over 125 years.
Earliest extant manuscripts
The earliest manuscript of a New Testament text is a business card sized fragment from the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

, Rylands Library Papyrus P52
Rylands Library Papyrus P52
The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John's fragment, is a fragment from a papyrus codex, measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches at its widest; and conserved with the Rylands Papyri at the John Rylands University Library , Manchester, UK...

, which dates to the first half of the 2nd century. The first complete copies of single New Testament books appear around 200, and the earliest complete copy of the New Testament, the Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

 dates to the 4th century. The following table lists the earliest extant manuscript witnesses for the books of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

.

Book

Earliest Extant
Manuscript

Date

Condition

Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...


P64, P67, P104

c. 200

Fragments

Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...


P45
Papyrus 45
Papyrus 45 is an early New Testament manuscript which is a part of the Chester Beatty Papyri. It was probably created around 250 in Egypt. It contains the texts of Matthew 20-21 and 25-26; Mark 4-9 and 11-12; Luke 6-7 and 9-14; John 4-5 and 10-11; and Acts 4-17...


c. 250

Large Fragments

Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...


P4
Papyrus 4
Papyrus 4 is an early New Testament papyri of the Gospel of Luke in Greek. It is dated as being a late 2nd/early 3rd century manuscript.- Description :...

, P75
Papyrus 75
Papyrus 75 is an early Greek New Testament papyrus.- Description :Originally '[it] contained about 144 pages ... of which 102 have survived, either in whole or in part.' It 'contains about half the text of ... two Gospels' – Luke and John in Greek...


c. 200

Fragment

John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...


P52

c. 125-160

Fragment

Acts
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...


P38, P45
Papyrus 45
Papyrus 45 is an early New Testament manuscript which is a part of the Chester Beatty Papyri. It was probably created around 250 in Egypt. It contains the texts of Matthew 20-21 and 25-26; Mark 4-9 and 11-12; Luke 6-7 and 9-14; John 4-5 and 10-11; and Acts 4-17...

, P91, P48

early 3rd century

Fragment

Romans
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...


P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

1 Corinthians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

2 Corinthians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

Galatians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

Ephesians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

Philippians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

Colossians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

1 Thessalonians

P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

2 Thessalonians

P92

3rd/4th century

Fragment

1 Timothy

א
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...


c. 350

Complete

2 Timothy

א
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...


c. 350

Complete

Titus
Epistle to Titus
The Epistle of Paul to Titus, usually referred to simply as Titus, is one of the three Pastoral Epistles , traditionally attributed to Saint Paul, and is part of the New Testament...


P32

c. 200

Fragment

Philemon
Epistle to Philemon
Paul's Epistle to Philemon, usually referred to simply as Philemon, is a prison letter to Philemon from Paul of Tarsus. Philemon was a leader in the Colossian church. This letter, which is one of the books of the New Testament, deals with forgiveness.Philemon was a wealthy Christian of the house...


P87

3rd century

Fragment

Hebrews
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...


P46

c. 175-225

Fragments

James
Epistle of James
The Epistle of James, usually referred to simply as James, is a book in the New Testament. The author identifies himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ", with "the earliest extant manuscripts of James usually dated to mid-to-late third century."There are four views...


P23, P20

3rd century

Fragment

1 Peter

MS 193

3rd century

Fragments

2 Peter

P72
Papyrus 72
Papyrus 72 is an early New Testament papyrus. It contains all the text of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude. Paleographically it had been assigned to the 3rd or 4th century.- Description :...


3rd/4th century

Fragments

1 John

P9

3rd century

Fragment

2 John

0232
Uncial 0232
Uncial 0232 , is a Greek uncial manuscript of the New Testament. The manuscript palaeographically has been assigned to the 5th or 6th century....


3rd/4th century

Fragment

3 John

א
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...


c. 350

Complete

Jude
Epistle of Jude
The Epistle of Jude, often shortened to Jude, is the penultimate book of the New Testament and is attributed to Jude, the brother of James the Just. - Composition :...


P72
Papyrus 72
Papyrus 72 is an early New Testament papyrus. It contains all the text of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude. Paleographically it had been assigned to the 3rd or 4th century.- Description :...


3rd/4th century

Fragments

Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...


P98

2nd century

Fragment

Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...


P115
Papyrus 115
Papyrus 115 is a fragmented manuscript of the New Testament written in Greek on papyrus. It consists of 12 fragments of a codex containing parts of the Book of Revelation. It dates to the 3rd century, ca. 225-275 AD...


3nd century

Fragment

Textual criticism


The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: none of the original documents is extant, and the existing copies differ from one another. The textual critic seeks to ascertain from the divergent copies which form of the text should be regarded as most nearly conforming to the original. The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 has been preserved in three major manuscript traditions: the 4th-century-CE Alexandrian text-type
Alexandrian text-type
The Alexandrian text-type , associated with Alexandria, is one of several text-types used in New Testament textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of biblical manuscripts...

; the Western text-type
Western text-type
The Western text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts...

, also very early but prone to paraphrase and other corruptions; and the Byzantine text-type
Byzantine text-type
The Byzantine text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts, though not in the oldest...

, which includes over 80% of all manuscripts, the majority comparatively very late in the tradition.

Since the mid-19th century, eclecticism, in which there is no a priori bias to a single manuscript, has been the dominant method of editing the Greek text of the New Testament (currently, the United Bible Society, 4th ed. and Nestle-Aland, 27th ed.). In textual criticism
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

, eclecticism is the practice of examining a wide number of text witnesses and selecting the variant that seems best. The result of the process is a text with readings drawn from many witnesses. In a purely eclectic approach, no single witness is theoretically favored. Instead, the critic forms opinions about individual witnesses, relying on both external and internal evidence. Even so, the oldest manuscripts, being of the Alexandrian text-type
Alexandrian text-type
The Alexandrian text-type , associated with Alexandria, is one of several text-types used in New Testament textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of biblical manuscripts...

, are the most favored, and the critical text has an Alexandrian disposition. Modern translations of the New Testament are based on these copies.

Listings


See also

  • Dating the Bible
    Dating the Bible
    The Bible is a compilation of various texts of different ages. The dates of some of the texts of the Hebrew Bible are difficult to establish....

  • Biblical criticism
    Biblical criticism
    Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of Biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings." It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work...

  • Textual criticism
    Textual criticism
    Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

  • Higher Criticism
  • Categories of New Testament manuscripts
    Categories of New Testament manuscripts
    New Testament manuscripts in Greek are categorized into five groups, according to a scheme introduced in 1981 by Kurt and Barbara Aland in Der Text des Neuen Testaments. The categories are based on how each manuscript relates to the various text-types. Generally speaking, earlier Alexandrian...

    • Alexandrian text-type
      Alexandrian text-type
      The Alexandrian text-type , associated with Alexandria, is one of several text-types used in New Testament textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of biblical manuscripts...

    • Byzantine text-type
      Byzantine text-type
      The Byzantine text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts, though not in the oldest...

    • Caesarean text-type
      Caesarean text-type
      Caesarean text-type is the term proposed by certain scholars to denote a consistent pattern of variant readings that is claimed to be apparent in certain Greek manuscripts of the four Gospels, but which is not found in any of the other commonly recognized New Testament text-types; the Byzantine...

    • Western text-type
      Western text-type
      The Western text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts...

  • Manuscript culture
    Manuscript culture
    Manuscript culture uses manuscripts to store and disseminate information; in the West, it generally preceded the age of printing. In early manuscript culture monks copied manuscripts by hand, mostly religious texts. Medieval manuscript culture deals with the transition of the manuscript from the...

  • Nag Hammadi library
    Nag Hammadi library
    The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman...

  • Fifty Bibles of Constantine
    Fifty Bibles of Constantine
    The Fifty Bibles of Constantine were fifty Bibles commissioned in 331 by Constantine I and prepared by Eusebius of Caesarea. They were made for the use of the Bishop of Constantinople in the growing number of orthodox churches. It was described by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine and his account...


External links