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The Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts- course – provided by LAD Rosary

NT308

MSCS Certificate of Appointment

Craig A. Evans

Lexham Press, 2014

NT308: The Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts

 

You may use  quotations from this content in presentations, books, or articles.

Logos Mobile Education
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Academic Editor: Michael S. Heiser

Syllabus

Course Description

The Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts (NT308) answers a question commonly asked about the New Testament: Can we trust the manuscript record? This course clearly outlines the history of these important documents. It discusses the quality, quantity, and age of the manuscripts, and how these elements compare to nonbiblical ancient texts. The course describes the practices of ancient writers and scribes and provides numerous examples to show that the manuscripts of the New Testament are reliable.

Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion you should be able to:

• Detail the number of pre-Gutenberg NT manuscripts we have and describe their quality
• Explain how the NT manuscript record compares to that of other ancient works
• Describe practices of ancient scribes and scholars that contributed to the longevity and quality of NT manuscripts
• Describe the preservation of the NT in ancient translations and commentaries
• Discuss how the various forms of historical attestation demonstrate the reliability of the NT text

Recommended Base Package

Logos Bible Software, Platinum Edition.
To download a Notes document that highlights the readings for this course, join the NT308 Faithlife group: https://faithlife.com/nt308.

Course Outline

Introduction
Introducing the Speaker and the Course

Unit 1: Evidence for the Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts
1. The Basics of New Testament Manuscripts
2. Finding Manuscripts in Logos
3. Examples Demonstrating the Quality of New Testament Manuscripts
4. Adding Manuscript Images to Presentations or Documents
5. Exploring Ancient Manuscripts and Resources
6. The Comparative Strength of the New Testament Manuscript Record
7. The Longevity of the Autographs
8. Researching the Works of Tertullian
9. The Number of Autographs
10. Accessing and Navigating the Textual Apparatus
11. The Preservation of the New Testament in Translations

FINAL EXAM

Course Exams

The final exam will cover everything in the course. It will consist of multiple-choice and true or false questions. Use of a Bible or any other tool is not permitted.

Introduction

Introducing the Speaker and the Course

Introduction

My name is Craig Evans. I’m the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, eastern Canada. My area of expertise is the historical Jesus and the NT Gospels. Of course, this area of study has taken me into textual criticism, the study of ancient manuscripts, archaeology, [and] the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other early Jewish and rabbinic writings.
In this course, we’re going to be looking at the NT manuscripts, particularly the ones relating to the Gospels. We’re going to be asking ourselves the question: Can we trust the NT manuscripts?

How Close Can We Go?

A series of questions will be addressed in this course. How close to the autographs, or the originals, can we go? That is, how far back in time does the evidence take us? The originals were written in the first century. How old are our earliest copies?

How Good Were the Scribes?

Of course, there is a second very important question, and that is, how good were the early scribes? Were they competent, or were they sloppy and careless? These are the scribes who not only wrote out the originals, but also made the earliest copies, in the first and second centuries and beyond.

How Many Autographs Exist?

A third question asks, how many autographs were there? You might think this is strange. There are, after all, 27 books in the NT. Weren’t there 27 autographs? I think you’re going to find the answer to this question very surprising, very interesting, and very encouraging.

How Long Did the Autographs Circulate?

Then we have a last question that we must address, and that is, how long did the autographs circulate? How long did they last—their longevity—before being discarded or destroyed? I think you’re going to find this question interesting and the answer very surprising.
I look forward to having you with me, and I look forward to going through this lecture and speaking to these very intriguing questions.

UNIT 1
Evidence for the Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts

1. The Basics of New Testament Manuscripts
2. Finding Manuscripts in Logos
3. Examples Demonstrating the Quality of New Testament Manuscripts
4. Adding Manuscript Images to Presentations or Documents
5. Exploring Ancient Manuscripts and Resources
6. The Comparative Strength of the New Testament Manuscript Record
7. The Longevity of the Autographs
8. Researching the Works of Tertullian
9. The Number of Autographs
10. Accessing and Navigating the Textual Apparatus
11. The Preservation of the New Testament in Translations

SEGMENT 1
The Basics of New Testament Manuscripts

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Discuss the reliability of NT manuscripts by detailing the number of manuscripts we have and the date of the earliest manuscripts
• Describe the quality of the earliest NT manuscripts

How Far Back Can We Go?

How far back does the manuscript evidence take us?

The Number of the Manuscripts

We have 5,800 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek NT. That is, these are manuscripts that predate the Gutenberg press, predate the first printed Greek NT produced by Erasmus in 1516. Now of course, most of these 5,800 are from the Middle Ages. There are only a few hundred that reach back to great antiquity. In fact, we have some four dozen manuscripts—and most of these are incomplete, of course, and some of them are small fragments—that date to the year AD 300 or earlier.
For our purposes, these are the most important manuscripts. If they date to the 200s or up to about the year 300, that means that they were composed about 200 years or so after the NT originals. The originals were written, we think, in the second half of the first century; maybe one or two [were] written at the beginning of the second century. That is, in a nutshell, the manuscript evidence.

The Dates of the Earliest Manuscripts

We do have two or three manuscripts, perhaps four, that reach back to the second century. One of these is P52, and it’s a fragment of John 18. Some date it as early as 120 or 130; most think that it’s probably to be dated about to 140. Another one is P64. That dates perhaps to 170, 180—something like that; in other words, the latter part of the second century—and it only provides a few words and phrases from Matt 26.
We may even have a fragment—it’s not yet published, and it’s not yet settled, but it’s a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that could even date to the end of the first century, maybe even to the 80s. This is quite surprising. That’s not a bad record, and we’re going to analyze it in greater detail in lectures that are coming.

What Is Their Quality?

The other question that we must ask is, what is the quality of these manuscripts? After all, it’s one thing to say, OK, we have some very old fragments that we can get back within 100, 150 years or so of the originals—but how good are these copies, these fragments?

The Professionalism of the Scribes

Actually, in looking at them, we see that they’re neatly copied by professional hands. They’re not sloppy. They’re not illegible. They’re not full of misspellings, grammatical errors, and other types of mistakes. On the whole, [they’re] very neatly done.

The Stability of the Text

We find a textual agreement with the more fully preserved copies of later times. In other words, these early copies don’t appear to be eccentric or radically different in some way, textually, from the mainstream textual tradition that came to be well-preserved and dominate on into the Middle Ages. We have every reason to believe that the early texts and the early manuscripts reflect a stabilized textual tradition.
Examination of the oldest NT manuscripts demonstrates that they are of quality, and it shows that they compare very well to other manuscripts in the non-Christian classical tradition, in Greek and in Latin, and we will do some comparison with manuscripts from these traditions later on in this course.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

New Testament Manuscripts LBD
From the Evangelists to Us: Handing Down the Gospel Texts INT:CMMF
Exegetical Skill: Textual Criticism INT:CMMF

See Also

Greek New Testament Manuscripts DNTB
The Ancient Records of the Greek New Testament TNT:MME
The Text of the New Testament HWGNT:TTT

Guides and Tools

New Testament Manuscripts Topic Guide

SEGMENT 2
Finding Manuscripts in Logos

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Search your Logos library for manuscript resources
• Find images of manuscripts in your Logos library

Introduction

This entire course is centered on the study of ancient NT manuscripts, and in particular, the Gospels. Dr. Evans raises several critical questions at the beginning of his lecture: How close to the autographs, or to the originals, can we go? How far back in time does the evidence take us? How old are the earliest copies? How good were the early scribes—were they competent, or were they sloppy and careless?
One of the ways that we can enhance our understanding of the manuscripts is by looking at them directly—actual transcripts of the manuscripts, and in some cases, images of the manuscripts. Logos provides a wealth of resources that introduce us to manuscripts discussed in this course. That’s what I’d like to survey in this screencast video.

Searching for Manuscripts

First, click on the Search icon to open up a new Search panel. We are going to run a Basic search. Simply type in “manuscript” to run a search in your library for this topic. We’ll leave off quotation marks, so that we can keep the search as broad as possible. This search is for “All Text” in “Entire Library,” according to the preset parameters.

Exploring the Results

I wanted to show you the results of this search so that you can get an appreciation for how many resources are included in Logos relating to manuscripts, even for base packages that have comparatively few resources.
Now scroll down to “Library Results” and click on “By Title” to rank this list by title.
The first resource I want to look at in detail is The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. I click on the title page, and a few things are apparent here. First, this resource is that of a single manuscript: 0162 (P. Oxy. 847). As we get further into this course, we’ll get a better understanding of what this identification code refers to. Second, this is an actual record of the text from the NT Greek manuscript. Third, it contains John 2:11–22. And finally, the resource is brief; true to the description, it contains only the text from John 2:11–22.
Now, what we’re doing here is actually viewing the words of an original Greek manuscript. The image of the manuscript is not provided, but the most important element is—the text of the manuscript.
The reason I brought this particular resource to your attention is because it is the most valuable source of manuscript information in your Logos library. If you will be doing any textual criticism work in the original manuscripts, you will be referencing this resource time and again.

Exploring The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts

Let’s do a quick aside on this resource. Click on your library icon. Then type in “The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts.” Most likely, you’ll have dozens of results. That’s because this resource is so vast. I’m going to click on this one, 0162. Then I’ll click on “Title Page” in the left navigation pane. Now I’ll click “main volume” to access the master resource.
Now I’m still in the relevant corresponding section of the resource, but it is located within the collection as a whole. From this view, we can get a glance at the contents, date, provenance, housing location, physical feature, and textual character of the manuscript. This depth of information on the manuscript is a key aspect of manuscript research. For further research on the manuscripts, this is a definite go-to resource.
Let’s close out this window, and I’m going to point you in another direction of our general search results.

Searching for Manuscript Images

This time, click on “Image” and re-run the search in order to surface image results. When studying the manuscripts, I like to have a clear visual understanding of the subject matter, especially when dealing with physical objects like manuscripts.
Many of the images returned in this query are very relevant to the subject matter of this course. Let’s click on this one. This image shows the John Rylands fragment of John 18:31–33. Seeing this picture puts the subject matter of the course into clear perspective. When Dr. Evans refers to “manuscripts,” he is often considering small pieces of papyrus with nearly illegible script.
The discussion in this resource is helpful in sharing some of the information about this manuscript: “This papyrus fragment (2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches) from a codex is the earliest known copy of any portion of the New Testament.”
Let’s close this window and return to our Image Search panel. I want to show you one more important image. I’ll click on this image from [The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary] labeled “Photo 33.” This is a facsimile of one of the most important manuscripts of the NT: Codex Sinaiticus. Dr. Evans will look at this manuscript in a later lecture, so this is a good one to tuck away for future reference. And as is the case with most images, you can right-click on the image that appears in the new panel and choose to share this graphic through your choice of presentation software.
Seeing the manuscript is excellent background knowledge to have as we dive into the remainder of this course.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, a simple and general search in Logos is a great starting point for more detailed study. As you’ve seen from this screencast video, we performed a very basic search, but by doing so we helped to frame our understanding of a vast subject area in biblical research, and deepened our understanding, going forward, for this course.
More specifically, we found resources that we can return to during the progress of this course, and found some sources of deeper research for future study. Even before launching into the details of this lecture, we’ve been able to look at actual manuscripts, view the text of these manuscripts, and access a master resource that contains nearly all of the text of the early NT manuscripts.

SEGMENT 3
Examples Demonstrating the Quality of New Testament Manuscripts

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Discuss how early NT manuscripts compare in quality with contemporaneous works from the non-Christian world
• Describe the professionalism of early NT scribes

Papyrus 52

The quality of the Greek NT manuscripts can be seen by simply looking at them, reviewing the oldest ones that we have, and I’ve done that. I begin now with Papyrus 52, and I just want to make a few comments about it. It is in Manchester, England, if you want to see it for yourself. It is a small fragment, [the] size of a large postage stamp, and on one side we have a few words and phrases from John 18, beginning in verse 32. And then, if you flip it over, it continues with a little later in John 18. The value of it is—if you have a chance to see it, you’ll notice that it’s neatly inked, neatly lettered; very straight lines; a proper margin at the top; and the style of writing puts it in probably the mid-second century. Some scholars date it to perhaps as early as 120 or 130. Most would agree that it’s prior to 150, and put it about 140.
Now if you compare it to writings from a similar period of time—secular writings written by professional scribes—you’ll notice that P52 is [of] equal quality. The point I’m making here when I say this is, [there’s an] idea that because Christianity was an illegal religion, sometimes persecuted in some places in the Roman Empire, that the scribes therefore hired to make copies of Scripture would be so poorly trained, perhaps even incompetent, that early copies of Christian Scripture would be very poorly done—unreliable, inaccurate, rife with errors, and so forth. But when we look at the manuscripts themselves, not theories but the actual artifacts themselves, we discover that that simply is not true. P52, our earliest fragment, compares very well to non-Christian papyri produced in the same period of time.

Papyrus 52 Compared to the Petaus Collection

If we just look at a number of other papyri, I think I can make that point even clearer. For example, if you look at the Petaus collection, also found in Egypt—Petaus was a village scribe. We’ve found among his papers one that’s numbered 121, a practice sheet, and about a dozen times he writes out the same line: “I, Petaus, village scribe, have handed in …” If you look at it, it’s terribly executed. The lines are not straight. They wander; they meander. Some of the letters—you can’t even make them out. In fact, he misspells some of the very words that he’s written over and over again. I’m not aware of any early Christian manuscript that looks like this.

Papyrus 52 Compared to the “Letter of a Prodigal Son”

We have another example. This one—you could call it the “Letter of a Prodigal Son.” In fact, just like in the parable, the young man that writes this letter says to his mother, “I know that I have sinned.” He desires to be reconciled to his mother. He’s in debt—he owes people money. He’s reduced to wearing rags, and he’s full of regrets and full of sorrow. The interesting thing is, if you ever have a chance to look at this particular papyrus, you’ll notice how poorly written it is—grammatical errors, misspellings, sloppily constructed letters. Again, the point is, I don’t know of anything written by early Christian scribes that compares to this kind of sloppiness.

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 209

Sometimes it’s pointed out that the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 209, which has been given the Greek papyrus number of P10, is an example of poor scribal execution. It’s Romans 1:1–7, but this is hardly fair. It actually isn’t a Greek NT manuscript; it’s a businessman’s paper. On the back side, we have his business agenda and notes, and on the other side, perhaps whiling away the time as he was waiting for a meeting, or perhaps just simply practicing his knowledge of Scripture, he apparently wrote from memory the first seven verses of Romans, and along the way accidentally omitted most of verse 6. So instead of being an example of poor NT scribal scholarship, it’s actually just the opposite—a rather remarkable testimony to the knowledge of Scripture a layman possessed, who was not attempting to write out a copy of Romans.

Papyrus 1

If we just waltz through some of the oldest papyri that we have, we will see a consistent pattern. For example, Papyrus 1, which was one of the very first papyri discovered by Grenfell and Hunt when they went to Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1896. Papyrus 1 begins with Matt 1:1–12, and you flip it over to the other side and it continues at verses 14–20. Now, it’s in poor shape. There are holes in it and so forth, but when you look at it carefully, you see neatly executed letters, nice straight lines, and no glaring errors or mistakes.

Papyrus 45

Papyrus 45 preserves about one-half of the four NT Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—again, well executed: nice straight lines, clearly written-out letters, and overall, a very good manuscript.

Papyrus 46

P46 also dates to about the same time, [the] beginning of the third century. [It’s] a collection of Paul’s letters, neatly executed—pages are numbered, proper margins, straight lines—no evidence of carelessness or sloppiness, but first-rate work.

Papyri 64, 66, and 67

P64: small fragments of Matt 26 in Magdalen College, Oxford. These fragments also could date to the very end of the second century. Some even date them as early as AD 170 or 180. Neatly executed letters. Now we’re not talking about high-end penmanship here, or calligraphy. We’re just talking about proper, workmanlike, scribal execution.
P66, another example of early third-century Christian scribal practice: John’s Gospel, beautifully executed.
P67: fragments of Matthew. The same thing. If you look at these fragments, you’ll see neatly executed letters, straight lines—what you [would] expect in scribal professionalism.

Papyri 75, 77, 87, 104, and 121

P75: another important copy of the Gospel of John, [with] the same characteristics as the other manuscripts—neatly done, professionally done, and it compares very well to its own contemporaries. We have some fragments in P77, fragments of the Gospel of Matthew. P87: fragments of (not well attested) Philemon, also dating to the third century. P104, from Matthew, although very fragmentary—again, we can see neatly executed penmanship. The legibility of the letters—crystal clear, properly done. P121: fragments of John 19.

NT Manuscripts Compared to Secular Ancient Manuscripts

So how do these manuscripts compare, then, to the penmanship that we see in the second century and the early third century in the eastern Roman Empire? Quite comparable. There are some manuscripts in the secular world, the non-Christian world, that would be of higher grade, high-end, where calligraphy is very important—fancy, beautiful, artistic-style manuscripts. It’s true [that] Christians didn’t have that kind of financial wherewithal. There was a greater economy and [pragmatism] on the part of the early Christian communities and their scribal activity. But if you actually look at the manuscripts, you see no evidence of sloppiness, carelessness, incompetence, which some have alleged in recent years. No, you see first-rate scribal execution.
There’s no reason to think that these early copies of Christian Scripture were somehow inferior or incompetently done [and] therefore unreliable, [so that] we don’t really know how the original text read. There [are] no grounds for this at all.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

Comparing Manuscripts LBD
Manuscript Witnesses BECA
Papyrus 52 TENTGM

See Also

List of the Most Important Manuscripts DNTB
Significant Manuscripts and Printed Editions EM:INTPTC
What Ancient Books Looked Like TNT:MME

SEGMENT 4
Adding Manuscript Images to Presentations or Documents

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Access images of biblical manuscripts
• Add images to PowerPoint, Keynote, or Proclaim presentations
• Add images to documents

Introduction

Dr. Evans opened the lecture by explaining that the quality of NT manuscripts can be seen by simply looking at them and reviewing the oldest ones that we have. He discusses, in particular, Papyrus 52 and explains its features, like postage-stamp size, phrases from John 18:32, the neatly inked and lettered features, etc.
Evans’ point is this: When compared with the integrity of other ancient Near Eastern manuscripts, the biblical manuscripts are extremely well attested, valid, and accurate. The goal of this screencast is to provide an understanding of how to access these manuscript image resources, and also how to integrate the usage of them with other products and for other practical purposes.

Finding Images of Manuscripts

Let’s go ahead and find a good image to use. I’ll start with a general search, and then we’ll bore down on a single image. Click the Search icon. Then click “Image” to conduct an Image search. Finally, type “papyrus” into the Search box.
The search returns a variety of images that might not actually be manuscript images, but we can easily sort through them to find real manuscripts. I’m going to choose this one—Papyrus 1532, featuring a text from Heb 12:1–11.

Sending Images to Proclaim

Now if you’re doing a lesson or presentation on manuscripts, or maybe even on inspiration or biblical integrity or a similar topic, this would be a helpful resource to feature. The image provides a helpful understanding of what an ancient manuscript looks like.
If you’re using Proclaim, like I do, you can send the image directly to Proclaim. First, I’ll go ahead and open up Proclaim on my system. Then right-click the image to bring up the context menu. Click “Send to Proclaim,” and this resource automatically goes to this presentation software. I’ll keep the upload option as it is—“Upload and sync to my group.” Then click “Add.”
Now I have the image in my new presentation. I can add a description and create my presentation as I normally do.

Sending Images to PowerPoint or Keynote

Now if you are not using Proclaim, you can also send the image to Keynote or PowerPoint. Simply right-click the image, then send to the application of your choice. Just to provide an example, I’m going to click “PowerPoint,” and automatically the image is inserted into a new PowerPoint project, scaled to fit or in its original size.
Keep in mind that you can use the image “Send to” feature for almost any image in your Logos library. But as always, please remember to provide citation information for each image that you use.

Adding Images to Documents

If you’re creating a document and want to include an image, the process is very easy. You have two options. First, you can save the image to your computer—right-click, [choose] “Save as,” then choose the destination for the file—or you can copy the image and paste it into a document. Just right-click, then choose “Copy.” You can easily paste it into most documents, using keyboard shortcuts or paste options. I’m going to simply copy this image and paste it into a Word document, like that. This is great if you’re creating a handout for your people to follow.

Conclusion

We just looked at a single example of image search and import in this screencast video. These images are helpful resources, not only for personal study and research, but also for sharing with others. There are plenty of ways to do this—Proclaim, Keynote, PowerPoint, or simply adding them to any document.

SEGMENT 5
Exploring Ancient Manuscripts and Resources

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Download the Perseus collection within the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri
• Open the Petaus collection
• Examine the ostraca and find general information on them

Introduction

In the previous lecture, Dr. Evans spends some time discussing the Petaus collection. The Petaus collection is a group of writings discovered in Egypt. The writings are apparently by a village scribe. These manuscripts have had a continued impact upon scholarly research in the realm of biblical manuscripts.
Dr. Evans explains how the Petaus collection serves as a benchmark for establishing the superiority of most—if not all—of the biblical manuscripts that we have access to. The Petaus collection is an important resource for biblical manuscript research.

Downloading the Perseus Collection

The resource we’ll examine in this screencast video can be downloaded for free. From Logos.com’s home page, type in “Duke Databank,” then press Enter. The resource to download is called the “Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (256 vols.)”
To download, you can add this resource to your virtual cart, or click “Quick Buy” if you already have an account established with Logos. Once you have downloaded this resource, you’ll be able to access this massive work that we will explore in this video.

Surveying the Petaus Collection

First, let’s actually open up the Petaus collection and find out what these documents look like. Click your Library icon and type in “Petaus.” Here is the resource: P. Petaus: Das Archiv des Petaus.
There is not much explanation surrounding this resource. The title page is pretty skinny. I simply want to highlight at this point that we have access to the complete collection of Petaus, 127 documents in all.
If you were doing your own comparative research on the grammatical methodology of Petaus vs. the grammatical method of, say, Pauline epistolary writings, this would be your resource. You can analyze each of the writings of Petaus and draw out relevant comparisons.
One of the helpful features of the Petaus collection is that every word has been morphologically mapped. So, if you hover over this first word—Ὅρμου (Hormou)—you’ll see the grammatical information below.

Accessing Ostraca Resources

Now, I want to go to another resource. This one wasn’t mentioned by Dr. Evans, but it does touch on the subject of manuscript research in a tangential way. One of the things that we’re doing in manuscript research is really diving into the use of ancient Greek. And one of the best examples of koine Greek is found in everyday transactional writing.
These writings are found in the ostraca. It’s helpful to look at the ostraca, especially when doing detailed comparative studies, and Logos has these ostraca. I’ll just provide you with a cursory overview of the ostraca resources available in your library.
So I’ve closed the previous resource, and now I’m going to pull up a new resource. Go to your library and type in “ostraca.” Instantly you get a sense of the kind of resources that are available. I’m going to choose the first one—O. Ashm.: Ostraca in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Again, most of the words in this resource are mapped, making the job of grammatical analysis much easier for us.

Finding General Information on Ostraca

This level of research is suitable for academic journals and some (very detailed) exegesis, but what might give us an introductory insight is a brief understanding of Petaus and ostraca. I love the way that Logos allows us to pivot from microscopic, detailed research to panoramic, big-picture research within just a few keystrokes.
Let’s back up from this investigation and get the big picture. Click on the Search icon. Then, keeping your search parameters to “All Text” and “Entire Library,” type in “ostraca.” The first level of result is a Topic Guide on ostraca.
This is going to help my research immensely, so click on “Ostraca,” and what we see next is the Topic Guide menu on ostraca. I hover over the entry “Ostraca” in my Bible dictionary, and have an instant sense of what ostraca [are], how [they affect] biblical research, and a summary of the findings. Further, I can see images of ostraca in the media resources below.

Conclusion

These two levels of research—the detailed and the macroscopic—are helpful when you’re orienting yourself to a new topic or theme, and then when you’re delving into a theme in greater detail.
This course on manuscripts is a great place to conduct this level of research. Although it’s a detailed topic, there are perfect opportunities to back up and acquaint ourselves with some of the broader features of the study as well.

SEGMENT 6
The Comparative Strength of the New Testament Manuscript Record

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Describe the difference between NT manuscript attestation and that of other works from a similar time period
• Explain how that strong manuscript record points to the textual reliability of the NT

The New Testament Compared to Other Works

If the Greek NT manuscripts are numerous and very old and very reliably copied, we must ask then the question, how does the NT manuscript record compare to the record of other ancient manuscripts? That’s a good question, and when we answer it, we will be very surprised, and I think we will learn a lot. You’ll be impressed to know that the NT record compares very well.

Julius Caesar’s Gallic War

Take, for example, Julius Caesar and his Gallic War. He composed it in the 50s BC. What do we have? Now, Julius Caesar is the founder of the imperial Roman legacy. All we have are ten fairly well-preserved manuscripts. The oldest dates to about AD 850.
Think about that. One of the most important Romans ever to live in antiquity, he wrote Gallic Wars—which made him famous in elite circles in Roman society—and all we have are ten fairly well-preserved manuscripts, and the oldest one is 900 years removed from when he wrote the original.

Livy’s Roman History

Or how about Livy? Livy, the Roman historian? He was born around, we think, 59 BC and died, we think, around AD 17—so, a turn-of-the-era scholar. He wrote Roman History, of which about one-third survives. So in this case, we don’t even have the entire work. Two-thirds of it is missing. Well, of this one-third that survives, our oldest manuscript, which contains parts of books 3, 4, 5, and 6—this oldest manuscript dates to about AD 350. In other words, [it’s] more than 300 years removed in time from when he originally wrote, and it isn’t even complete. Most of his work is lost.

Tacitus’ Annals and Histories

How about Tacitus, the Roman historian, author of Annals and Histories, writing sometime around AD 110, 115? The oldest manuscripts of these works date to the 9th and 11th centuries (AD)—in other words, 800 years and 1,000 years after the original. Tacitus’ minor works, like Agricola and Germania, same thing. These two important works [are] preserved in a 10th century codex—in other words, some 800 years after the writing of the original.

Thucydides and Herodotus

Or Thucydides, the great Greek fifth-century-BC historian? His History survives, and our oldest manuscript dates to about AD 900, or about 1400 years after the time of the original. Or Herodotus, also a fifth-century [BC] Greek historian? His Histories survives, and the oldest manuscript [dates] to about AD 800, or about 13 centuries or so after the original.

The Superior Preservation of the New Testament

So what we have are classical works. Classical historians read them, study them, take them seriously—yet the manuscript tradition is rather weak compared to the NT manuscript tradition. The classical manuscripts are late and few in number, yet no recognized classical historian doubts the general reliability of these manuscripts, even if they were produced 1,000 years or so after the original. That’s what so impresses me about the Greek NT manuscript tradition.
And if we’re referring to the Gospels, we have virtually the entire Gospel text about 200 years or so after the time of the writing of the originals. We don’t just have a handful of manuscripts—we have hundreds that are old. We have thousands that predate the Gutenberg printing press, which means that through comparison and examination, reconstruction, and hard work—what’s called textual criticism—we can with confidence reconstruct the text as it was originally written, or at least come within about 99 percent of it. This is a record of preservation that by far and away surpasses that of all other texts from antiquity.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

New Testament Manuscripts: The Story of the Manuscripts BECA
Writing and Books BEB

See Also

Ancient Writing Materials and Practices ENTM:WITC
Writing and Literature: Greco-Roman DNTB

SEGMENT 7
The Longevity of the Autographs

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Describe the implications of recent manuscript discoveries upon questions of the longevity of NT autographs
• Discuss reasons for the possible longevity of NT autographs

How Long Do Manuscripts Last?

We come now to a very important question, and that asks, how long did the manuscripts last? Now, I have here in mind the originals, the autographs, but also the earliest copies.
Just for illustration, let’s think of Matthew. Let’s suppose Matthew’s Gospel was written in the year 75. It might have been written some years earlier, maybe even a few years later, but we’ll just say, in the year 75. How long did it last? How long did it circulate?
I asked a professor, when I was in grad school many years ago, this very question. “How long do you think the autographs lasted?” I asked. “Oh,” he says, “I don’t know—10, 20 years.” The answer, at that time, seemed reasonable to me. We think of our cheap paperbacks, read several times—the spine begins to crack; pages start to fall out. Surely these precious documents would have been eagerly read by many people over and over again.
So after 10 or 20 years, maybe the original Matthew was falling to pieces and was discarded, and other copies were made, and so on. In fact, if—let’s say every manuscript lasted about 10 years, and then there was a copy made, and that copy lasted 10 years, and another copy was made. Over the course of 150 years—or from, say, the year 75 to 225—we could have as many as 15 generations. Each time there’s a new copy made, probably some more scribal errors are introduced; more variance enters into the text.
So after 15 such generations, who knows? Maybe the text of Matthew in AD 225 would be very different from the original Matthew that was composed by the evangelist in the year 75. So this is the backdrop, just—that kind of assumption. Is there evidence that shows that that is so? Or perhaps the evidence shows something else?

Libraries in the Ancient World

Well, in a recent study published in 2009, there was an analysis of 53 libraries from antiquity that have been recovered intact. And what I mean by that is, the entire library: the actual literature itself—the various books—as well as supporting documentation, private letters, and things like that. The entire collection was dumped at the same time. So when scholars were sifting through the dry sands of Egypt, or whatever the location is, all of these books were found together.
Of course, this is wonderful, because the books then can be studied together. We not only have copies of literature, but we have letters that have dates on them. We have correspondence talking about the books—requests that a new one be copied, or a request that one that had been loaned out be returned, and so forth. And so this kind of information has enabled scholars to reconstruct the history of the library, as it were.
Now, I’m talking about 53 libraries—not archives, business papers, and that sort of thing, but libraries, [consisting] of literature. The smallest library that’s been analyzed had 12 books in it, and some of the largest have close to 1,000 books. Many of these libraries that were found intact were recovered from the dry sands of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, where about a half million texts were recovered from 1896 on into the 20th century, when the digging finally came to an end.

The Answer for the Longevity Question

What we’ve learned is that these libraries contained books that were in use, before being retired or discarded—were in use anywhere from 150 years to 500 years. It was noticed that most of these books fell in the 200- to 300-year range before being retired or discarded or thrown out. This has enormous implications for our understanding of the NT manuscripts and [for] our question: How long were they used? What was their longevity before they were retired or thrown out?

Implications for the New Testament Manuscripts

This would mean that the original Matthew—written in 75, let us suppose—could possibly still have been in circulation as late as AD 225. This is extraordinary. In other words, when P45, which I mentioned briefly in the previous lecture—when Papyrus 45, which contains chunks, about half or so of the four NT Gospels—when that scribe put pen to paper and composed that, sometime around AD 210 or 220, the original Matthew and the original Mark and Luke and John could still have been in circulation, being copied, influencing the text of the NT. So the idea that there was this was wide gap, this broken link between the originals, written in the first century, and our oldest extant copies that we now possess, that you and I can go see in museums and libraries around the world—instead of a wide, 150-year gap, where who knows what changes may have taken place, we may well have had the originals lasting right on into the third century itself.

Reasons for the Longevity

Now, of course, as I got to thinking about this 2009 study by George Houston—after I picked myself up off the floor, I realized, now, wait a minute. That’s not so strange.

Materials Used by Scribes

Books in antiquity were valuable. They were precious, and they were made of very durable materials. They were made out of papyrus, which obviously lasts a long time; otherwise, we wouldn’t be digging them up in the dry sands of Egypt and in various tombs and other locations. After all, we have papyri documents reaching back to 1,000 BC, so it is endurable stuff—but also animal skins, parchment, vellum, and so forth last a long time.

The Practice of Scribes

It isn’t just that, but look at the practice—say, at Qumran. Qumran was destroyed either in the year 68 or 73. The library was still in circulation, still being used. Over 200 Bible scrolls, and what do we find when we look at them? Well, many of these Bible scrolls, perhaps as many as 40, were somewhere between 200 and 300 years old when the Romans destroyed the compound at Qumran near the Dead Sea. This is the same practice that’s been observed involving the libraries that George Houston has studied. Books were used for a long, long time.

The Practice of Early Christians

What about the early Christians themselves? We have some evidence there that’s very important. For example, the great codices—Vaticanus, which dates to the early fourth century, and Sinaiticus, which also dates to the early fourth century—they were used for hundreds of years, and we know that because they were re-inked. In the case of Vaticanus, in places where the original ink had faded—these pages were re-inked, we estimate, about 500 years after the book had originally been produced.

Tertullian

We even have evidence from the church fathers. Tertullian, writing around the year 190, in a tractate called Prescription against the Heretics—in chapter 36, he complains of the heretics who mutilate the text, and he says, “If you don’t believe me, then check out the autographs of Paul’s Letters,” and he mentions a few letters by name, “which you can find in Hierapolis, in Asia Minor.”
The autographs? Tertullian wrote in Latin, and the word he used was authenticæ. Well, some translators couldn’t believe that he should be taken literally. Maybe what he meant was the original Greek, as opposed to a mutilated copy or a translation. But authenticum, or in the feminine plural, authenticæ—referring to Paul’s Epistles (another feminine plural), it literally means “autographs.” Well, thanks to George Houston’s study and the discovery of how long books were in circulation—their great longevity—perhaps we should take Tertullian’s remark at face value. Maybe that’s literally what he meant, that there were actual autographs in circulation, still available for study in a place like Hierapolis.

Bishop Peter

In fact, another bishop, writing in the early fourth century—Bishop Peter—he says the same thing about the Gospel of John, that the original could still be seen at Ephesus. Well, at one time, this struck us moderns as far-fetched. We couldn’t imagine a book lasting 150 or 200 or 225 years, but the evidence from Egypt and from elsewhere suggests that that’s exactly the way it was, so we should have no reason to think that the NT writings would be an exception.
The original Letters of Paul, the original Gospels—these would have been precious for early Christians. They would have held on to them for as long as they could. For them to have existed 100 or even 200 years or more would not be surprising at all. But the important point that I’m making is: As long as they existed, they would have been copied.
So the originals would not have simply influenced the first copies in the first century, but would have been the template, the archetype for copies in the second century as well and perhaps even on into the third century. This encourages our view that the Greek text was quite stable. There were not wild fluctuations, changes, subtractions, and additions, but a very reliable and very stable text.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

Ancient Libraries BEB
Library HIBD

See Also

Libraries: In Greece and the Roman Empire ISBER
How Ancient Manuscripts Were Written TNT:MME

Guides and Tools

Library Topic Guide

SEGMENT 8
Researching the Works of Tertullian

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Access the writings of Tertullian
• Open Tertullian’s writings from citations in other Logos resources

Introduction

Dr. Evans has referred several times to Tertullian, who was an influential church father. Tertullian’s works are significant in NT research, and so it is important that we become familiar with this individual and his writings.
Tertullian himself has some things to say about the authenticity of NT manuscripts. Dr. Evans explained that Tertullian wrote in Prescription against the Heretics in chapter 36 in such a way that affirmed the authenticity of apostolic writings.

Opening Prescription against the Heretics

We know, first of all, that this work is by Tertullian, and it’s called Prescription against the Heretics, so that’s enough to do a basic-level search in our library. Click on Library. Then type the first word—”Prescription”—and there it is. Let’s go ahead and click to open this, and see if we can find the account where he mentions apostolic writings.
I’m going to search for the phrase that Dr. Evans mentioned. So I press CTRL + F or CMD + F to keyboard shortcut the search function. Then I type the following phrase: “in which their own authentic writings.” The resource moves directly to chapter 36. The first sentence of this section contains the phrase that we searched for.
Now just as a point of interest, look at the phrase “authentic writings.” Notice footnote 12. Hover over that, and you’ll understand more about what Dr. Evans was referring to when he discussed the controversial interpretation of this word.

Accessing Other Tertullian Resources

Because Tertullian is such an influential figure in early church literature, you’ll probably encounter him at other points in your research.
For example, if you’re studying, say, the book of Job, and you’re reading Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament—in their treatment on Job 29:18–20, they refer to Tertullian’s treatment of this passage. Here we read “We have the reverse case in Tertullian, de resurrectione carnis, c. xiii.” This reference is automatically tagged to the appropriate Tertullian resource. You can mouse over or click through to access the resource. It’s that easy.

Conclusion

In this screencast, we’ve seen how easy it is to reference some of the original sources, whether they’re mentioned in an external lecture, or whether we encounter them in our reading or study.

SEGMENT 9
The Number of Autographs

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Discuss how many NT autographs may have been created
• Describe the practices of ancient scholarship and how they point to the reliability of the NT
• Discuss modern chances of finding and recognizing a NT autograph

Ancient Writers and Multiple Autographs

Let’s raise now another question: How many autographs? You might think, ‘Wait a minute—there would be 27. There are 27 books of the NT, so there’d be 27 originals, right? Everything else would be a copy.’ Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Papyri from Oxyrhynchus and elsewhere show that multiple autographs were written before documents were circulated. What typically would happen is, the draft would be written out, it would be carefully proofread, and then another draft would be written out, and this one would be signed, if it was a letter, and that is where we get “autograph.” But then a copy would be retained, so at the very least, there’d be two copies—two originals, and by “original” I mean written out by the sender, by the author (or his scribe, who did the writing [while the sender did] the dictating). There’d be at least two composed under his nose, on his desk, that would go out with his stamp of approval. They in fact might not be identical, but obviously they’d be very, very close.

Multiple Autographs and the New Testament

With the 27 books of the NT, the reality is, there probably were at least 54 autographs—one set sent out for circulation, and one set retained. Actually, it’s even more than that. Letters, by their very nature—especially circular letters, like probably Ephesians, maybe 1 and 2 Peter; perhaps also James; perhaps some of the other letters by Paul—would have two, three, four copies made that were then sent out and circulated. This would mean, if I can hark back to the previous lecture, that the chances of an autograph surviving 100, 150, or even 200 years would be greatly increased, because there is not just one that might get lost or perhaps deliberately destroyed, but by having a second or third, we have, in effect, backup. We have redundancy, which would increase the chances for survival. This is a very important observation to make, and so we should not think then that the autographs disappeared after just 10 or 20 years, but rather [that they] circulated for a long time, influencing, even controlling, the textual tradition in subsequent years.

The Practice of Ancient Scholarship

Of course, George Houston’s fascinating study of these 53 libraries from antiquity showed us more things than merely longevity. His study showed that manuscripts were collected, compared, corrected, circulated, interpreted, and read publicly. In fact, in some cases very sophisticated commentary accompanied the documents: philological notes, exegetical notes, explanatory glosses—the kind of sophisticated interpretation we’ve come to expect in modern commentaries. We should never condescend and assume that people who lived 2,000 years ago weren’t very bright, or were naive and gullible.

Scribal Scholarship and the New Testament

We should assume that NT scribal scholarship was very similar to the secular scribal scholarship we see in the 53 libraries that George Houston has studied.

Evidence from Paul’s Practice

In fact, there is some evidence for thinking that way. I remind you of Acts 19:9, where Paul quit the synagogue, “taking the disciples with him, and then argued daily in the lecture hall”—the scholē or school or university—“of Tyrannus.” In other words, Paul had no trouble transitioning from a synagogue setting that had become hostile into a Greek or Hellenistic school, where he could lecture, and presumably where copies of Scripture could be made, even copies of Paul’s letters. Where there could be study—grammatical and philological study—and so forth.

Evidence from the Practice of Rabbis

I remind you that this is in keeping with the results reached by Saul Lieberman in his book Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1962), where he shows that rabbinic principles—and Paul was trained as a rabbi, as a Pharisee, at the feet of Gamaliel—that rabbinic principles of study and exegesis are indebted to Greek academics. This more recently has been reaffirmed in a work by Martin Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism, 200 BCE–400 CE. It’s the same thing, and so Hellenistic principles of pedagogy and study overlapped with rabbinic principles of study, and that would include scribal activity. Fair-minded comparative study shows that the scribes who copied NT Scripture were far more competent than village scribe Petaus, who found it difficult to write legibly and spell correctly.

The Practice of Ancient Scribes

We could ask another question, just for fun: Could we recover autographs? Is it possible to find Paul’s original letter, say, to the Thessalonians, or to the Galatians? Actually, I think it would be. Why? Well, we have autographs that have been found in Oxyrhynchus and elsewhere, and we know they are autographs simply because, after several pages of professional scribal handwriting, when we come to the greetings and the signature, the handwriting changes. It becomes large, clumsy, and sloppy. For example, in one secular papyrus—a letter—it says, “I wrote in my own hand.” The author wants to note that the entire letter was written by him and not just by a scribe. And yet in other letters it will say, ‘I, so-and-so,’ and then it will note [that] actually it’s been written by the hand of a scribe, because the author of the letter does not know letters—hasn’t ever learned how to make letters correctly.
Compare this to what Paul says at the end of 2 Thessalonians 3:17: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine. It is the way I write.” Paul, I think, says that because in 2 Thessalonians 2, he complains of a rumor that has started on the basis of a letter supposedly by him or Paul’s own scribe, Tertius, who wrote Romans for him. It says this in Romans 16:22: “I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.” At the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul says this—1 Corinthians 16:21, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.” Or Colossians 4:18: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.” Or Philemon 19: “I, Paul, write this letter with my own hand.” Or in Galatians 6:11, Paul says, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”

Can the Autographs Be Recovered?

I think it would be likely that a Pauline autograph would be readily recognized. Do you think we’ll actually find one? Well, I’m skeptical. Why? Because Paul didn’t write a letter, so far as we know, to the Christians at Oxyrhynchus. He didn’t write a letter to somebody who lived in an arid setting, where a letter written 2,000 years ago had a pretty good chance of surviving. He wrote his letters to Greece, to Asia Minor—at least one to Rome, in Italy—and those places get rainfall. Those places are not dry deserts. There’d be little chance for an original letter to be left in the city trash and then survive for 2,000 years.
No, I don’t think we’ll ever recover a Pauline autograph. But if by some fluky chance a NT autograph—especially if it’s a letter with a distinctive signature—should it turn up in the dry sands of Egypt, should it have gone to a place like that near the Dead Sea in Israel, for example, then at least theoretically I think it would be possible to find one and identify it.
Now, we have—I mentioned in the previous lecture—just to recap, we actually do have historical evidence, claims, that the autographs, some autographs of the NT, existed a long time. I remind you of Tertullian, writing about in the year 190 in a work called Prescription against Heretics. [In] chapter 36 he claimed that some of the autographs—and remember, in Latin, authenticæ—some of the autographs of Paul’s letters were still available for examination in order to refute heretics and others who had altered the text of Paul’s writings. Then a chap named Peter, bishop of Alexandria (he died, we think, around the year 311)—in his writings, of which only fragments survive—in fragment number five, he claims that the autograph of the Gospel of John was still available in his time, in Ephesus.
Even if this is incorrect and it was not the autograph, for him to say that would imply, I think, at the very least, that it was a very, very old copy, probably dating back to the early second century, which would lead some to think that it might have been the actual original that the apostle penned in the 90s. This is very important evidence, not only that there were multiple autographs, but [that] the autographs lasted a long time, and that they were passed on by scribes who were careful. We actually have numerous fragments of very early copies of Scripture, and we find that they were well done, well executed, and at the level that would be expected of any professional scribe.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

Introduction to The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts TENTGM
Understanding Scribes and Scribal Practices LBD

See Also

The New Testament in Greek MTNT:IER
The Transmission of the New Testament HWGNT:TTT
Significant Uncial Manuscripts EM:INTPTC

SEGMENT 10
Accessing and Navigating the Textual Apparatus

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Access a Greek NT apparatus
• Research variants within the apparatus

Summary of the Lecture

As Dr. Evans wraps up this course, he talks about several observations that are practical for the purpose of Bible reading and understanding. For example, he explains that the 27 books of the NT have textual attestation based on at least 54 autographa—and probably more, due to the circular nature of many of the epistles and the likelihood of scribal duplication.
The redundancy and resultant textual variations that he discusses are what form the textual tradition that we observe in extant manuscripts.
So what does this actually look like? Well, most of the major variations are clearly documented in the most popular versions of the Greek NT.
Prior to the advent of Logos, biblical researchers were tied to a rather laborious method of apparatus research. But I want to show you how easy this is to do within Logos.

Open the Greek New Testament, UBS4

First, let’s open up your Greek NT. So go to the Command bar and type in “Novum,” which is the first word of the Novum Testamentum Graece Greek NT. Then click on the auto-populated entry, “Open Novum …”
I’m going to look up Phil 3:21 in my NT. Then I want to open another resource. So I click the Command bar again and this time add the term “apparatus.” The first entry is the apparatus that corresponds to the Novum Testamentum, so I want to click on that: Novum Testamentum Graece: Apparatus Criticus. Now I’ll drag to open the apparatus to a new panel, so I can view the two side by side.
Print copies of the [Greek] NT, most notably the Nestle-Aland and UBS, featured the apparatus as an on-page section of information, located below the main text. More detailed apparatus information was sometimes contained in an extra volume, as was the case with the UBS. Within Logos, these resources are broken up into two separately accessible and indexed resources. Now we can see how easy it is to interact with them.
To make sure that we connect the two resources, click the icon in the upper left corner of the Greek text. Select Link set “A.” Do the same with the apparatus: Click the icon and choose Link set “A.” Now whatever passage we access in our Greek text will provide sympathetic location for the apparatus.

Analyzing the Apparatus

My Greek NT is turned to Phil 3:21, and I have the apparatus information opposite it. The notation in the apparatus demonstrates the manuscripts’—or textual—support for variant readings in this text.
The first variant reading listed is συνμορφον, contrasted with the prefix συμμ and its corresponding support. The support for each reading is listed. The helpful feature here is being able to see, at a glance, where the support occurs within each text. So let’s hover over that first notation, the Hebrew letter א. When we mouse over this symbol, we see the entry within Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. We can go through every element in the apparatus and examine additional information by simply hovering over the hyperlinks.
If you are doing any detailed study on a particular text, it’s important to first examine the textual tradition for any variant. A significant variant could open up a new area of research. The ability to dive into the textual tradition and interact with the cited support sources is an extremely timesaving feature.

Conclusion

The rubber-meets-the-road value of this course is that it bolsters our understanding of the validity of NT manuscripts. Having this information as background also supplements our exegetical spadework. Coupling our manuscript knowledge with the textual apparatus power of Logos makes the task even more rewarding.

SEGMENT 11
The Preservation of the New Testament in Translations

Learning Objectives

After this section, you should be able to:

• Explain how early translations of and commentaries upon the NT demonstrate its reliability

Early Translations of the New Testament

Before concluding, we need to also know that the NT is preserved in a number of translations. Not only do we have 5,800 pre—Gutenberg Bible, pre—Gutenberg printing press, handwritten manuscripts in Greek, but you also have some 10,000 Latin translations that are early. We also have a number of translations in Syriac, Georgian, Coptic, and Ethiopic; in fact, another 10,000 or so of these manuscripts—when you add it all up, more than 25,000 old copies or originals of the NT.
In fact—one more point—even if all of the Greek NTS were lost, and all of these translations I just now mentioned somehow disappeared, we could reconstruct almost the entirety of the Greek NT from patristic quotations and commentary. In other words, the NT is the best-attested book by far from antiquity. Its text is stable. Its manuscripts are numerous and very old and very competently written.
We have every reason to have confidence that the modern Greek NT we have today, on which our modern translations are based, is very, very close to the originals, the autographs.

Conclusion

So allow me to conclude: The Bible manuscripts are early, they are numerous, and they’re available not just in Greek—the original language—but in several languages. The manuscripts are accurate. They reflect the work of competent scribes who collected and compared.
When we look at these manuscripts and compare them to other non-Christian manuscripts and traditions—well, maybe I should say there is no comparison. Of 20,000 lines of the Greek NT—according to Professor Bruce Metzger, long-time respected textual critic at Princeton Theological Seminary—of the 20,000 lines that make up the Greek NT, only 40 lines are in doubt, and not one of those lines contains anything that relates to important NT or important Christian teaching.
I conclude again by saying the NT is well preserved. The text is stable. The text of the NT reflects the original text, and therefore, when we read it and study it, we should have great confidence: This is indeed what Jesus originally taught, and what His disciples originally wrote.

Explore*

Suggested Reading

Ancient Versions of the Bible LBD
Introduction to A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament TCGNTSE

See Also

Ancient New Testament Versions DNTB
The Translation of the New Testament HWGNT:TTT

Guides and Tools

Ancient Versions of the Bible Topic Guide

Final Exam

To take the Final Exam for this course please click here.

Evans, C. A. (2014). NT308 The Reliability of New Testament Manuscripts. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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