Encyclopedia of The Bible – Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament
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Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament


I. Introduction

No other ancient lit. has affected the Western world so profoundly as has the Bible, and in particular the NT. Nor has any ancient writing or body of lit. been preserved in quantity even comparable to the number of extant MSS of the NT in Gr. and in other ancient VSS. The writings of some ancient authors (e.g., part of the Annals of Tacitus) are represented by only one MS from ancient times. Other writings have survived in a few or a few dozen copies. A few hundred MSS of the works of some authors, including Euripides and Cicero, are known. Of the NT, on the other hand, nearly 3,000 handwritten copies in Gr. are preserved—ranging from fragments of a few verses to the entire NT—plus some 2,000 additional Gr. MSS in which the text is arranged in lectionary form for daily readings, as well as 8,000 MSS in Lat., and 2,000 or more in other ancient VSS.

In another respect, too, the MS tradition of the NT is distinctly superior to that of other ancient lit. The oldest known MSS of the works of some ancient authors date from a thousand years or more after the death of the author. A time interval of several hundred years is not uncommon, ranging downward to a mere three hundred years, as in the case of Virgil. In contrast, two of the most important existing MSS of the NT were written less than 300 years after the NT was completed, and an appreciable amount of the NT is extant on papyrus MSS written from one to two centuries after the Biblical authors wrote. Since classical scholars assume the general reliability of these secular works even where the time interval is great and where only a few MSS are available, it is clear that with far greater assurance the student of the NT may assume that the presently-available NT text reliably represents what the authors originally wrote.

At the same time, the multiplication of any piece of lit. in ancient times was a very different matter from that of the period since the invention of printing from movable type. It is now possible to print any number of identical copies of a work; but in ancient times, when each individual copy had to be made separately by hand, the only certainty was that no two copies of a book of any length would be identical. This period of handcopying of MSS includes three-fourths of the time from the completion of the NT to the present; and the vast number of copies made of parts or all of the NT during these early centuries means that multiplied thousands of textual variants were introduced into these MSS. The originals (autographs) of the NT books were doubtless lost at a very early date. This means, technically speaking, that it is not possible to determine the exact original wording of the NT from any given MS. Rather, a comparison of MSS must be made and principles established for determining as nearly as possible the exact form of the original text. This process of studying copies of a work whose original is unknown, for the purpose of determining the form of the original text, is called textual criticism. Whereas the NT is the largest and most significant area of this study, textual criticism is necessary for virtually every piece of ancient lit., since in only the rarest instances has the autograph of an ancient writing been preserved to modern times.

Textual criticism is a basic discipline, a prerequisite to all further NT studies, for the determination of the text to be used must precede the interpretation of the text.

In making a copy of a book by hand, an ancient scribe—and a modern scribe as well—would almost certainly introduce errors and changes of various sorts into his copy, accidentally or, at times, intentionally. When his MS was copied, then, most of his variants would be carried over into the next MS along with any additional errors and changes that the next scribe might make. Thus the more copies that intervene between a given MS and the original, the more differences there will generally be between that MS and the original form of the text. Moreover, a MS from a later cent. will usually have more copies between it and the original than a MS from an earlier cent. would have. This is an over-simplification, because in actual fact a MS of the 11th cent., for example, might have been copied directly from a 4th-cent. MS that was only a few copies removed from the original, whereas an 8th-cent. MS might have been copied from a 7th-cent. MS that was itself twenty copies removed from the original.

In the case of NT MSS, even the relatively large number now known doubtless represent only a small percentage of the total number that were produced during the early centuries. In virtually no instance is it possible to show that any extant MS is the direct ancestor of another MS, and it is impossible to determine how many copies lie between any given MS and the original. Scholars therefore commonly assume that a later MS is further removed from the original in number of copies intervening than is an earlier MS, but recognize that there are exceptions to the rule.

It must not be supposed, however, that the text of the NT rests upon precarious grounds because of the multitude of copies through which it has passed or because of the great number of variants found in the MSS. There is in fact virtually no question concerning by far the greater part of the words of the NT. Indeed, the same is true of ancient lit. in general. It is only a relatively small portion of the words of the text that requires the attention of the textual critic. Virtually all MSS of any given part of the NT say essentially the same thing. It has been stated that there is no question at all concerning seven-eighths of the words of the NT; if differences of no significance be disregarded, only about one-sixtieth of the words can be regarded as in doubt; and only about one word in a thousand involves both a substantial question of meaning and serious doubt of the correct text (Westcott and Hort, The NT in the Original Greek, “Introduction” and “Appendix 2). No Christian doctrine rests upon insecure textual evidence.

II. Paleography

A. Book forms

1. Papyrus roll. In the 1st Christian cent., when the books of the NT were written, the accepted form for a literary work was a papyrus scroll. The papyrus plant was a tall reed that grew along the banks of the Nile River but almost nowhere else. The stalk of this plant was peeled, and its pithy center was cut into thin strips, which were laid side by side with another layer over them at right angles. After being pounded to aid adhesion of the layers and left to dry in the sun, the resulting thin sheet served fairly well to receive writing when written upon lengthwise of the papyrus strips with a pen made from a reed. These sheets, measuring from six by nine inches to twelve by fifteen inches, were slightly overlapped and glued together to make a roll of twenty sheets, the form in which papyrus was generally sold. If a work were too long for one roll, several rolls could be fastened together. There were practical limits for the length of a scroll, but a long work could be extended to more than one scroll. The scroll was generally simply rolled on itself; there is little evidence of the use of rollers.

The columns of text of a scroll were usually narrow, so that the scroll need not be unrolled widely to read it. Writing was done on the inside surface of the roll. On this side the papyrus strips were laid horizontally. The text of a work was not generally written on the outside surface of the roll, both because of the inconvenience to the reader and the fact that the papyrus strips on this surface would be vertical and writing across the grain of the papyrus would be more difficult. Exceptions occur, however, as in Revelation 5:1, “a scroll written within and on the back.”

The scroll form of book had certain disadvantages, including some with which the modern user of microfilms is familiar. The scroll needed to be completely rerolled after being used, although a careless reader might leave this task for the next reader. Moreover, consultation of various passages of a scroll was much more difficult than with the modern book form. This latter factor was one of the principal influences that led, not long after the beginning of the Christian era, to the replacement of the scroll by another book form.

2. Papyrus codex. From antiquity, waxed tablets had been used for school exercises and other temporary writings. These tablets were somewhat like a child’s slate, with a surface of wax instead of slate, and with a stylus as the writing instrument. As time went on, the practice developed of fastening two or more of these tablets together by thongs tied through holes at the edge of the tablets. Even before the Christian era this led in turn to the development of notebooks composed of folded sheets. These notebooks were used for informal and nonliterary purposes. They also came to be used at times for the first draft of an author’s literary works, which would then be copied onto a papyrus scroll for their final form.

At first the number of sheets folded together into a quire varied; each sheet might be folded separately, or several sheets—sometimes even an entire book—might be folded together into one quire. Later, however, a quire of four sheets, which made sixteen pages, became standard.

3. Parchment codex. From antiquity, skins of animals were used in writing. About 200 years before the Christian era, however, a new process was developed whereby the skins were scraped, soaked in quicklime, and rubbed with chalk and pumice stone, which produced a thin, firm, and very durable writing surface. Writing could be done on this surface with a quill pen as well as with the softer reed pen. This material, known as parchment, or vellum (although “vellum” originally referred to the finer grades of calfskin), likewise came to be used for notebooks in codex form.

When the NT books were written, therefore, the codex book form—made of papyrus or parchment—was known, but the recognized book form for literary publications was still the papyrus scroll and continued to be so for some centuries for secular classics. Early in the Christian era, however, the codex form was developed into full book size and began to be used for published works, particularly for the Bible; for even the very oldest MSS of the NT are in codex form, not scrolls. The NT likewise led in the transition from papyrus to parchment for literary purposes; whereas the NT was copied on papyrus codices in the earliest period, beginning in the 4th cent., parchment almost completely displaced papyrus as the writing material for NT MSS.

Even the originals, therefore, of the various NT books may have been written in the modern book or codex form. On the other hand, the books of the NT that were more nearly “literature” as they were published, such as the gospels and Acts, may have been written on scrolls in accordance with the current literary tradition; whereas those that were more nearly personal communications, such as the letters of Paul, may have been written originally in codex form. All of the NT books were prob. originally written on papyrus. In any event, whether the autographs were in scroll or codex form, it was not long before the codex was the one form in which NT MSS were copied. Indeed, the habit of the early Christians of consulting their Scriptures may have been a factor in popularizing the codex form and in causing it to replace the scroll as the accepted form for lit.

Of the extant MSS, the oldest are papyrus codices, with the papyrus codex giving way to parchment codex in the 4th cent. Not until shortly before the invention of printing from movable type was parchment displaced by paper in the Western world.

The regular word for a papyrus scroll is βιβλίον, G1046, meaning “having to do with βίβλος, G1047, the pith of the papyrus plant.” This word occurs in the NT, e.g., in Luke 4:17, 20, and in John 20:30. Revelation 6:14 describes the sky as vanishing “like a scroll that is rolled up.” In 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul requested his “scrolls” and his μεμβράνας, this latter word possibly referring to parchment codices (see “The Codex,” by C. H. Roberts, Proceedings of the British Academy XL, 174.)

To summarize, NT book forms and materials in the earliest centuries were approximately as follows:

Autographs: papyrus codices (and papyrus scrolls?)

2nd and 3rd centuries: papyrus codices

4th cent.: parchment codices.

occasional papyrus codices are known, however, from as late as the 7th cent.

4. Other forms. Small portions of the NT were occasionally written in two additional forms, although neither their purpose nor their extent entitles them to be classified on the same level as MSS. More than twenty portions of the NT, representing six books, are preserved on broken pieces of pottery, which was used by the poorest people as writing material. These broken pieces, or “potsherds,” are called “ostraca” when they contain a written text. In addition, brief NT passages were sometimes inscribed on talismans, or good luck charms, although they were condemned by church authorities (see Metzger, Text of the NT, 33). A few of these talismans are extant.

B. Handwriting

1. Uncial. From before the beginning of the Christian era, two forms of Gr. handwriting were current. For letters, business documents, and other nonliterary purposes, a connected “cursive” style of handwriting was used, somewhat analogous to Eng. longhand writing. For literary purposes, a style known as “uncial” was used. Uncial letters, corresponding approximately to Eng. printed capital letters, were written separately. Taking into account the respective uses of these two styles of writing, the autographs of the books of the NT that were written for publication, such as the gospels, were presumably written in uncial letters; whereas those that were personal communications, such as the letters of Paul, may have been written in the cursive hand. Since, however, these letters were very soon being copied for distribution and were being thought of as lit., they too were soon circulating in uncial MSS; and even the very earliest extant MSS of the Pauline letters, as of all of the NT, are written in uncials. For practical purposes, therefore, it may be said that the transmission of the NT was in uncial MSS from the beginning.

2. Minuscule. The two styles of handwriting existed side by side for several hundred years. About the 9th cent., a major change occurred by the development of a refined and more formal style of handwriting out of the nonliterary cursive. This “minuscule” hand, as it is called, produced very attractive MS and could be written much more rapidly than the uncial hand. The oldest known minuscule MS of the NT is dated a.d. 835, which is also the oldest NT MS known that contains a date. The minuscule hand was readily accepted, and by the end of the 10th cent. it had completely displaced the uncial hand. Thus a rather clear division of the history of NT MSS can be drawn: uncial MSS in early centuries, uncials and minuscules in the latter part of the 9th and the 10th centuries, and minuscule MSS thereafter.

Within both the uncial and the minuscule periods, certain other characteristics help to establish approximate dates of MSS. The earliest uncials on papyrus are almost entirely devoid of ornamentation. Even a new section is indicated, if at all, by nothing more than a point for punctuation and a small space within the line. The early uncials on parchment have no ornamentation and very few diacritical marks or marks of punctuation. A new section may be indicated by beginning a new line or by a slightly larger initial letter extending into the left margin. With the passage of time, accents, breathings, and punctuation marks were added. Initial letters of sections were enlarged and ornamented, and illustrations and other adornments were added, although the handwriting itself tended to deteriorate, the letters becoming heavier and less neat.

The minuscule MSS passed through somewhat the same stages. Although diacritical marks and punctuation occur in the minuscules from the beginning, the early minuscules were neatly written and had relatively little adornment, and developed toward more adornment and less neatness in the later centuries (see W. H. P. Hatch, The Principal Uncial MSS of the NT, and Facsimiles and Descriptions of Minuscule MSS of the NT).

One characteristic of Gr. MSS that remained constant was the absence of spacing between words, both in uncial and minuscule handwriting. This was simply a convention of style, not from any attempt to save space. Word division at the end of a line, however, followed definite rules of syllable division.

C. Palimpsests. Although papyrus was a very satisfactory material for writing, it did not lend itself to extensive erasing. Parchment, on the other hand, was so durable that it could be erased and reused. Thus, if the text of a parchment MS were no longer needed, or if the sheets had become worn or torn, the MS would sometimes be taken apart, sheets that were too badly damaged would be discarded, the leaves might be cut in half along the center fold, and the original text would be scraped off. The sheets would then be rearranged into new quires and used to receive a new text. Even MSS of the NT were not exempt from being thus erased, so much so that church authorities were forced to condemn the practice. Such an erased and rewritten MS is called a palimpsest, from πάλιν, G4099, meaning “again,” and ψάω, “I scrape.” Fortunately, standards of erasure were not too effective for these palimpsests, and it is possible to read much of the erased text under the later writing. One very important NT palimpsest is Codex C, known as Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus because the NT text is written over with writings of the Syriac Church Father Ephraem. In all, some fifty palimpsest MSS are known in which the erased text was an uncial NT text.

D. Abbreviations. In the oldest NT MSS, abbreviations were almost entirely limited to fifteen words, such as “God,” “Lord,” “heaven,” and certain words with sacred associations. Abbreviations for these words were contractions—i.e., the first and last letter or letters, with a horizontal line above to indicate the contraction. In addition, the letter nu at the end of a line was sometimes indicated by a raised horizontal line instead of the letter. In the minuscule period, various other words came to be abbreviated by suspension, which consisted in writing the first part only of the word. In additon, ligatures, in which two or more letters were combined into one unit, were introduced, as well as symbols, which were a sort of shorthand of forms representing certain endings or words.

E. Divisions of the text. Many Gr. MSS of the NT contain numbers (indicated by Gr. letters) in the margin that indicate the Ammonian sections and the Eusebian canons. At a very early date, the four gospels were divided into sections of greatly varying extent. These sections are attributed to a certain Ammonius. In the 4th cent., the Church Father Eusebius constructed a gospel harmony based on the Ammonian sections. Using the Ammonian numbers, he made tables listing the passages in which parallels occurred in all four gospels, in the various combinations of three gospels and two gospels, and of the passages that occurred in one gospel. He then added the table number to each Ammonian section number throughout the gospels. This system made it easy to find parallels between any of the gospels. These numbers are also used in some printed editions of the Gr. NT.

F. Catenae. In addition to NT MSS with a continuous text, two other MS formats are of interest. One of these is the MS with a catena, in which the Biblical text is accompanied by a series of selections from the writings of Church Fathers, to form a commentary on the NT text. MSS with catenae took various forms: the patristic commentary might be written in the outer margins, with the Biblical text occupying a smaller part of the page; the Biblical text and the commentary might be written in alternate sections; or the text and commentary might be written in parallel columns. In the oldest MSS with catenae, the authors of the passages of the catena were usually indicated. In later MSS, the names were often either abbreviated, indicated by symbols, or omitted. A symbol or number was often placed at the beginning of a passage in the catena and in the body of the NT text to indicate the NT passage to which the commentary referred.

G. Lectionaries. A second variation from a straight-text MS is the lectionary, in which NT passages are arranged in the order in which they are to be read in church services during the year. A reflection of lectionary usage is likewise found in many regular NT MSS, in which the word ἄρχη, “beginning,” and τέλος, G5465, “end,” or their abbreviations, are found.

III. Witnesses to the text

The text of the NT is known from three basic sources: Gr. MSS, ancient translations or VSS, and quotations from ancient writers.

A. Greek MSS. When early editors began to refer to Gr. MSS, they were cited in various ways, such as by name or by other designation associating the MS with its owner or the library in which it was located. With a citation of increasing numbers of MSS, it became necessary to use a less cumbersome system. Various attempts were made in this direction before the system now in use was perfected. Under the present system, papyrus MSS (referred to as “papyri,” all of which have an uncial text) are indicated by a capital or Gothic “P” followed by a superscript number to designate each MS. Seventy-six papyri are currently listed. Uncial MSS on parchment (called simply “uncials”), some of which had already been designated by capital letters of the Eng. and Gr. alphabets, are also designated by a number preceded by a zero (e.g., 02, 056), because of the limitations of the alphabetical designations. Minuscule MSS are designated by number (e.g., 33, 565, 2065). Lectionaries are designated by a number preceded by “Lect.” or an italic 1 (e.g., Lect. 299, 1 1301).

1. Papyri. All of the very earliest extant MSS of the Gr. NT are papyri. They date from the middle of the 2nd cent. through the 4th cent., although one (P74) is as late as the 7th century. Although most are fragmentary, together they include a considerable portion of the NT. In spite of their early date, the reliability of the papyri is reduced by the fact that many of them were copied by nonprofessional scribes and show a consequent lack of attention to small details.

Two collections of NT papyri are esp. significant. The Chester Beatty collection, acquired in 1930-1931, includes the following:

a) P45, containing approximately one-seventh of the text of the gospels and Acts, dating from the early 3rd cent.

b) P46, which includes a large portion of the Pauline epistles (except the pastorals), plus Hebrews, dating from the early 3rd cent.

c) P47, comprising roughly one-third of the text of Revelation, dating from the 3rd cent.

Most of the leaves of the Beatty papyri are in the Chester Beatty collection in Dublin, although thirty of the eighty-six leaves of P46 are in the University of Michigan collection, and some fragments of one leaf of P45 are in Vienna. These three papyri were published by Sir Frederic Kenyon, in fascicules containing the printed text as well as photographs.

The second and perhaps even more significant collection of NT papyri is that of the Bodmer Library in Geneva, Switzerland. Little is known of the actual source of these MSS. The collection includes the following MSS of the Gr. NT:

a) P66, containing a large part of the gospel of John, dated by some authorities as early as the middle of the 2nd cent. and thus the oldest extensive MS of any part of the NT.

b) P72, which includes the Epistle of Jude and the two Epistles of Peter together with numerous other writings, dating from the 3rd cent.

c) P73, a small fragment of Matthew.

d) P74, noteworthy in that it is a papyrus MS although written in the 7th cent., containing Acts and the Catholic Epistles in fragmentary form.

e) P75, which contains much of Luke and John, dating from near the end of the 2nd cent. or slightly later.

Except for P73, these Bodmer papyri have been published, with text and photographs.

f) The oldest known fragment of the Gr. NT, possibly even older than P66, is a small fragment in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, designated P52, containing a few lines from John 18. Dated in the first half of the 2nd cent. by its editor and by other paleographers, it furnishes evidence that prior to the date when the Tübingen critics claimed the fourth gospel was written (c. 160), it had actually been in circulation long enough to reach into the interior of Egypt.

Other papyri, individually or parts of collections, are located in libraries in various parts of Europe, the United States, and the Middle E.

2. Uncials. Extant uncial MSS (on parchment) number 250, varying from small fragments of a few vv. to the complete NT. Dating from the 4th through the 10th centuries, and thus later than most of the papyri, their significance is greater than that of the papyri because they are so much more extensive in content. In addition, by the uncial period, the Christian religion had gained official recognition, and consequently most uncial MSS give evidence of having been professionally copied. The following are some of the more significant or representative uncials:

a) א (Aleph, 01), Codex Sinaiticus, from the 4th cent., containing both OT and NT complete, in the British Museum in London. Its discovery by Constantin Tischendorf in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai (hence its name) is a fascinating story (see C. Tischendorf, Codex Sinaiticus, 8th ed. [1934]). It is one of the most important MSS of the NT in existence. Its text is arranged in four columns to the page, in a neat hand with little adornment. The pages are about fifteen by thirteen inches. Brought from Mt. Sinai to Russia in 1859 by Tischendorf, who considered it so important that he was unwilling to have it assigned to an obscure place in the then-current alphabetical listing of MSS, he assigned to it instead the first letter of the Heb. alphabet. In 1933, it was purchased by the British government from the Soviet government for £ 100,000.

b) A (02), Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th-cent. MS, containing most of both Testaments (lacking, in the NT, almost all of Matthew, part of John, and most of 2 Corinthians), is displayed in the British Museum alongside Codex Sinaiticus. It was presented in 1627 to King Charles I of England by the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had obtained it in Alexandria. Its pages are approximately ten by thirteen inches. The text, two columns to the page, has somewhat more ornamentation than Codex Sinaiticus.

c) B (03), Codex Vaticanus, written about the middle of the 4th cent., and located in the Vatican Library since the 15th cent. or longer, is perhaps the single most important extant MS of the NT. It originally contained both Testaments and part of the Apocrypha; the MS now lacks most of Genesis and part of the Psalms in the OT, and part of Hebrews and all of Titus, Timothy, Philemon, and Revelation in the NT. The pages are approximately eleven by eleven inches in size. The text, very neat and without adornment, is printed in three columns to the page.

d) C (04), Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, is the most important palimpsest MS of the Gr. NT. It is located in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris. Written in the 5th cent., it evidently originally contained both Testaments. In the 12th cent. its Biblical text was scraped off, most of the leaves were discarded, and the remaining ones were written over with some of the writings of St. Ephraem. Tischendorf read and published the Biblical text, but the use of chemicals in an attempt to restore the erased text have further defaced the MS. The extant portions of the MS include parts of almost all of the NT books.

e) D (05), Codex Bezae, is a 6th-cent. MS of the gospels and Acts, which has been in the Cambridge University library since it was presented to the university by Theodore Beza in 1581. The text is written in one column to the page, but in lines of greatly varying length. It is a bilingual MS, with Gr. and Lat. on facing pages. The gospels are in the order—Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. The chief representative of the so-called “Western text” (see discussion of text-types below) has many textual peculiarities, and its text of Acts is about one-tenth longer than the common form of the text.

f) Dpaul (06), Codex Claromontanus, of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, is a 6th-cent. MS containing the Pauline epistles and Hebrews. By remarkable coincidence, both MSS designated “D” are bilingual, both have Gr. and Lat. on facing pages (Gr. on the left), both have the text in “sense lines” of irregular length, and both are representatives of the peculiar “Western text.”

g) N (022), Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus, is written in silver letters on purple vellum, as are also Codex O (023), Σ (042), and Φ (043). All four of these MSS are from the 6th cent. Most of Codex N is in Leningrad, but parts of it are in several other locations.

h) W (032), Codex Freerianus, or Washingtonensis, is a 4th or 5th cent. MS of the Freer Art Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Like Codex D, it contains the gospels in the Western order.

i) 14 (040), Codex Zacynthius, in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society in London, is a palimpsest of the gospel of Luke from the 8th cent. It is the oldest known NT MS with a catena and the only such MS in which both the NT text and the catena are in uncials.

3. Minuscules. Minuscule MSS outnumber uncials ten to one. Although a larger percentage of uncials than minuscules may have perished because of the greater antiquity of the uncials, the disparity in numbers of the surviving MSS doubtless points to the fact that the minuscule handwriting made the copying of MSS a much more rapid and less expensive process. The following minuscule MSS should be mentioned:

a) 1, a 12th-cent. MS containing the NT except Revelation, in Basel, Switzerland. It was one of the MSS used by Erasmus in the preparation of the first published ed. of the Gr. NT. “Family 1” is the term given to a group of minuscules—1, 118, 131, 209, and 1582— all dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries, whose text is very closely related and is significantly different from the type of text current in the minuscules in general.

b) 2, a 12th-cent. MS of the gospels located in Basel, which was also used by Erasmus.

c) 13, a 13th-cent. MS of the gospels now located in Paris. “Family 13” is a closely-related group of minuscules, including 13, 69, 124, 346, 543, 788, 826, 828, and a few others. One unique feature of this group is that the story of the woman taken in adultery follows Luke 21:38 instead of John 7:52. Family 13 is in turn textually related to Family 1.

d) 33, called “queen of the cursives [i.e., minuscules]” because of its excellent text, dates from the 9th or 10th cent. and contains the NT except Revelation. It is located in Paris.

e) 81, one of the few MSS containing the date of its composition (1044), contains Acts in an excellent text. It is located in London.

f) 565, a 9th-10th cent. MS of the gospels, located in Leningrad, written in gold letters on purple vellum, is one of the most beautiful of the MSS of the NT. Its text frequently differs from the common minuscule text and is related to the text of Families 1 and 13.

g) 700, dating from the 11th or 12th cent., also differs frequently from the common text of the minuscules and has affinities to 565 and Families 1 and 13. It shares with one other (162) the reading, “May thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us,” instead of “Thy kingdom come,” in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:2.

h) 1424, owned by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood, Illinois, is a 9th-or-10th cent. MS that contains the entire NT, with an accompanying catena for all except Revelation. Together with Codex M and more than twenty-five other minuscules it comprises Family 1424.

4. Lectionaries. Although lectionaries originated in the uncial period, most of the extant copies are minuscules. Very little study has been made of lectionaries until in recent years at the University of Chicago. In very early times, certain Scripture passages were designated for reading on each day of the year, and for special services and days; and numerous NT MSS contain indications of the beginning and endings of lections within their text. As early as the 4th cent., however, special MSS were prepared in which the NT text was written in the order in which it was to be used for the daily readings, or for the readings for Saturdays and Sundays, beginning with Easter. This type of lectionary is called a synaxarion. Another type giving readings for such special occasions as feasts and saints’ days, is called a menologion. Lessons in the lectionaries include all parts of the NT except Revelation. A lectionary that contains lessons from the gospels is called an evangelistarion; one containing lessons from other parts of the NT is called an apostolicon.

In addition to presenting the text in a different order, the first words of the Scripture lesson in lectionaries are sometimes modified to avoid undue abruptness or to clarify a reference (e.g., the substitution of “Jesus” for “he”). In addition, many lections are introduced by one of a number of set formulae preceding the first words of the Scripture text, such as “The Lord said to his own disciples,” “At that time,” “The Lord said this parable,” and others.

Of approximately 1,800 extant lectionaries, varying from small fragments to complete MSS, about two-thirds are evangelistaria, somewhat less than one-third are apostolica, and the remainder are combinations of both types.

B. Ancient versions (see also [http://biblegateway/wiki/B. Ancient versions NT, ANCIENT VERSIONS]). The tr. of a literary work from one language into another was not common in ancient times. In those instances in which it was done, the resulting tr. was generally too free a rendering to be useful in determining the wording of the original. The Gr. tr. of the OT is therefore virtually the only example of a generally reliable tr. of ancient lit. prior to NT times.

With the spread of the message of the Christian faith, missionaries began to tr. the Bible into the language of the people to whom they ministered. Since these trs. were generally faithful to the original language, they also provide additional attestation to the NT text.

There are certain cautions that must be observed in using a VS as evidence for the Gr. text from which it was tr. The translator’s command both of Gr. and of the receptor language would affect his tr., and allowance must be made for possible errors in tr. Allowance must also be made for features in one language that are not normally reflected in another language. For example, Lat. has no definite article; therefore the word “boat” in Lat. could be the tr. of either “a boat” or “the boat” in Gr. In a language in which meaning is largely dependent upon word order, as in Eng., many variations in word order that are possible in Gr. could not be attested. Further, in no instance is the original MS of an ancient tr. extant, and the textual student must base his study on copies that may include both copyists’ errors and changes introduced into the VS at a later date. The VS itself must therefore be subjected to textual criticism to establish as nearly as possible the original form of the VS before the VS can be used in the determination of the Gr. text.

It is not the VS itself that is of interest in NT textual criticism, but rather the information that the VS gives as to the form of the Gr. text from which it was tr. If the approximate date of the tr. is known, a VS can help to indicate the form of the Gr. text that was known at the time and in the geographical area in which the tr. was made.

The following are the significant ancient VSS of the NT:

1. Syriac. Although Syr. is a dialect of Aram. the language of Pal. at the time of Jesus, the extant Syr. MSS are all trs. from Gr. originals and thus farther removed from the original accounts than is the Gr. text.

a. The Diatessaron. Although it is not even certain whether this work was composed in Gr. or Syr., it may be discussed along with Syr. VSS because of its influence on the Syrian church. Written in the middle of the 2nd cent. by a certain Tatian, the Diatessaron (“through the Four”) was a continuous gospel harmony that combined material from all four gospels. In 1933, a fragment in Gr., supposedly from the Diatessaron, was found in the Middle E. No other MSS of this work are known, the closest evidence being the NT quotations in St. Ephraem’s Syr. commentary on the Diatessaron. Harmonies in several other languages are assumed to show influence of the Diatessaron.

b. The Old Syriac. Apart from the Diatessaron, part or all of the NT had been tr. into Syr. by the beginning of the 3rd cent. or slightly earlier. This early VS survives in two MSS of the gospels: a 5th cent. MS edited by William Cureton in 1858 and known as the Curetonian Syriac (Syrc), and a 4th cent. palimpsest MS, discovered in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai in 1892 and known as the Sinaitic Syriac (Syrs). These two MSS differ from each other more than the normal scribal differences between MSS: the Sinaitic may represent an earlier form of which the Curetonian is a later revision.

c. The Peshitta. Near the end of the 4th cent. a new VS of the NT in Syr. was made. This VS did not include 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Since both branches of the Syrian church accept the Peshitta (Syrp), it must have been in use prior to their split in a.d. 431. The Peshitta, which is still the Syriac VS in common use (the missing books being supplied from the Philoxenian version), is known in more than 300 MSS, some of which date from the 5th and 6th centuries.

d. The Philoxenian. In 508, a Syr. NT was completed by a certain Polycarp for Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabug in Syria. What is possibly the only extant MS of the Philoxenian (Syrph), contains only the books that were not included in the Peshitta: 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

e. The Harkleian. It is not clear whether Thomas of Harkel, who was Bishop of Mabug after Philoxenus, in 616 merely reissued the Philoxenian VS and added some marginal notes from a few Gr. MSS, or whether his work was a thorough revision entitled to be called a new VS, to which he added marginal readings that he believed were significant but not warranting a place in the text itself. If the latter is true, then the Philoxenian VS survives only in the MS referred to above. It is the marginal readings of the Harkleian version (Syrh) that have been of particular significance in textual criticism, esp. in Acts.

f. The Palestinian. Probably about the 5th cent., another Syr. VS was produced, which is not closely related to any of the other Syriac VSS. Known as the Palestinian Syr. (Syrpal), it is unique in that, except for a few fragments of continuous text MSS, it has survived only in lectionary form, which is preserved in three MSS of the 11th and 12th centuries. It may have been tr. originally from a Gr. lectionary.

2. Latin. a. The Old Latin (itala). Although Gr. was commonly known and spoken throughout most of the Rom. empire during the first two or three centuries of the Christian era, the need for a Lat. tr. of the Scriptures soon arose. By the end of the 2nd cent., the gospels and perhaps all of the NT were prob. current in Lat. in North Africa, and soon afterward in other parts of the empire. The MSS of the Old Lat. (OL or It. [Itala]) differ so much among themselves that it appears that the OL is not one VS but numerous trs., which accords with the statement by Augustine that in the early days of the Christian era anyone who had a Gr. MS and thought he knew both Gr. and Lat. attempted to make a Lat. tr. Colloquialisms and unsophsiticated expressions in the OL support the theory that it originated among the common people.

Of the fifty or so OL MSS that are known, none contains the NT in its entirety, although together they include most of the NT. The MSS date from the 4th through the 13th centuries, which indicates that the OL was in use to some extent long after it had officially been superseded by the Vul. OL MSS are cited by single lower-case letters plus abbreviations such as aur, ff2, gig, and ph.

b. The Vulgate. With the passage of time, the great variations within the OL became more evident and more unacceptable. In 382, Pope Damasus appointed Jerome, the outstanding Biblical scholar of that day, to undertake a revision of the Lat. to bring it into conformity with the Gr. Within two years Jerome had completed his revision of the gospels, stating that he changed the Lat. only where he felt it was actually necessary. The rest of the NT was eventually finished, although the revision was more cursory; some have questioned the extent to which the revision outside the gospels is the work of Jerome himself.

Jerome’s revision, known as the Vulgate, or “common” VS, revised numerous times through the centuries, formed the basis of what is still the official VS of the Roman Catholic Church. Some 8,000 MSS of the Lat. Vul. are extant, twice as many as the number of Gr. MSS, which suggests that the Vul. Bible was the most frequently copied work of ancient lit.

Manuscripts of the Vul. are commonly designated by abbreviations of their names (am, cav, fu, harl), or by their capital initial letters.

3. Coptic. Early in the Christian era an alphabet was developed for the Egyp. language using Gr. letters with some additional forms taken from the older demotic script that, with the hieratic, were derivatives of the hieroglyphic writing of more ancient times. From the Nile delta to the southern part of the country, some six dialects of the language existed. The most significant for NT study are from each end of this geographical area.

a. Sahidic. Part of the NT was tr. into Sahidic, the dialect in use from Thebes and S, by the beginning of the 3rd cent., and the complete NT was available within a cent. Almost the entire NT is preserved in the extant MSS, the oldest of which is from the 4th or the 6th cent.

b. Bohairic. The dialect of Alexandria and Lower Egypt, Bohairic, seems to have received the NT later than Sahidic; perhaps in the region of the literary capital of Egypt, it was sufficiently well-known that a tr. was not needed until later. Some one hundred MSS of the NT in Bohairic are extant, but the oldest known of these, until recently, was written in the 12th cent., which caused some scholars to postulate a very late date for the origin of the VS. The recent publication, however, of a 4th-cent. papyrus MS of John in Bohairic, from the Bodmer Library, makes it clear that the VS originated in the 4th cent. or earlier.

c. Middle Egyptian dialects. Between the regions of the Sahidic and the Bohairic dialects, at least part of the NT was tr. into other dialects of Coptic. In Fayumic and sub-Achmimic most of John is extant. Manuscripts in Achmimic include parts of the gospels and Catholic Epistles dating from the 4th or 5th cent.

4. Gothic. The NT was tr. into Gothic at the middle of the 4th cent. by Ulfilas, whom Metzger (Text of the NT, 82) and others credit with having reduced the language to writing as well. This VS survives in about six MSS, all from the 5th and 6th centuries and all fragmentary. One, Codex Argenteus, in the University Library of Uppsala, Sweden, containing portions of the gospels, is written in silver ink on purple vellum (hence its name). All of the other MSS are palimpsests.

5. Armenian. The NT was tr. into Armenian in the first half of the 5th cent. It was tr. directly from Gr. by St. Mesrop, who also created the Armenian alphabet, with the help of St. Sahak; or, according to another tradition, it was tr. by St. Sahak from Syr. A revision appeared later, which became the dominant form of the VS by the 8th cent. and is the basis of the Armenian text still in use. Not only is the Armenian VS regarded as a very beautiful and accurate tr., but there are also more extant MSS—more than 1,500—of this VS than of any other NT VS except the Vul. Almost all of the MSS, however, are later than the 9th cent. and represent the revised form of the VS.

6. Georgian. Christianity was introduced into Georgia, situated between the Black and Caspian Seas, in the 4th cent. The origin of the Georgian VS of the NT is uncertain, but it is attributed by some to the same St. Mesrop who is associated with the Armenian VS, and its origin placed in the early 5th cent. It was evidently either tr. from or influenced by the Armenian VS. The last of several revisions, which was made by about the 11th cent., is the basis of the Georgian VS still in use. Extant MSS are numerous, although three that date from the late 9th and 10th centuries are believed to retain more elements of the Old Georgian.

7. Ethiopic. Although some one hundred MSS of the Ethiopic VS are known, the fact that none of them are earlier than the 13th cent. has added to the difficulties of establishing a date for the origin of the VS, with extreme views of the 2nd cent. and the 14th cent. having been suggested. Most likely it originated near the 6th cent., although possibly earlier, tr. either from Syr. or directly from Gr.

8. Slavonic. The NT in Old Slavonic is credited to two brothers, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who seem to have originated the two forms of the Slavonic alphabet, the Cyrillic and the Glagolitic. These brothers, who became missionaries to the Slavs, tr. the NT in the second half of the 9th cent. The VS may originally have been in lectionary form, which is the form of the text in most of the extant MSS.

9. Other versions. After the rise of Islam, numerous trs. of the NT into Arab. were made, including one in the rhymed prose style of the Koran, and made or corrected from several different language VSS. The Pers. VS is known from a few MSS from the 14th cent. and later. A Frankish VS, a language of west-central Europe, is known from one 8th-cent. MS of part of Matthew in Frankish and Latin. Fragments are extant of a Sogdian VS, a trade language of south-central Asia prior to the 10th cent. A fragment of a 10th-cent. lectionary attests to the existence of a VS in Nubian, spoken in a region between Egypt and Ethiopia. A VS in Anglo-Saxon is known from nine MSS of the 11th to the 13th centuries.

Although appreciable work has been done in some of the NT VSS, far more remains to be done in order that the VSS may make their full contribution to NT textual research.

C. Patristic quotations. In addition to actual MSS of the NT in Gr. and other ancient VSS, Scripture quotations in the works of the early ecclesiastical writers form an important source of information concerning the text of the NT. Most of the works of these Church Fathers are in Gr. and Lat., with a lesser amount in Syr. and some other languages. These quotations are so extensive that the NT could virtually be reconstructed from this source alone.

As in the case of the VSS, there are limitations in the use of the writings of the Fathers as aids in determining the text of the NT. The original of the patristic work is not extant, so the textual critic must first study the known MSS of the work in question to determine as nearly as possible its original wording, in particular the NT quotations in the work. The NT quotations within a Father’s writings are the very parts that a scribe would most likely change intentionally—if, for example, the quotation did not agree with the form of the NT text with which the scribe was familiar. Even when the original form of the NT quotation in the patristic work has been determined as nearly as possible, if the author is merely giving the general sense of the passage instead of a verbatim reference, or if he (or his amanuensis) is quoting from memory instead of copying the quotation from a NT MS, the value of the passage for textual criticism will be limited. For example, the 4th cent. St. Cyril of Jerusalem bases an argument concerning the Lord’s Supper on what he himself says is the precise statement of St. Paul; yet his quotation concerning the institution of the Holy Communion is neither 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 nor any one of the parallel accounts in the gospels, but is rather a conflation from the various accounts, evidently quoted from memory (see Greenlee, The Gospel Text of Cyril of Jerusalem, pp. 19, 20). In general, however, longer quotations are more likely to have been copied from a MS than are shorter quotations.

As with the VSS, the goal for the patristic quotation is the information it gives concerning the NT text. To the extent to which the NT text that a Church Father used can be determined, that particular form of the text can be assumed to have been known and used at the time and in the general location in which that church father lived. In other words, the NT quotations of a writer’s works form, so to speak, a fragmentary MS of the NT from his date and region. In addition, ancient writers at times refer to alternative readings of which they are aware in MSS of the NT, and may even give their opinion of these readings.

For an extensive survey of the ecclesiastical writings and their works, reference must be made to a volume of patrology. The following are a few of the more significant of the Fathers:

Irenaeus (c. 140-210), Bishop of Lyons.

Tertullian (c. 150-240) of Carthage, one of the most prolific of the Lat. Fathers.

Origen (c. 185-254) of Alexandria and later of Caesarea, author of significant exegetical writings and other works.

Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 313-340), author of an ecclesiastical history, commentaries, and other works.

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (328-373), author of apologetic works and writings against the Arians.

Gregory of Nazianzus in Cappadocia (c. 330-389), author of forty-five orations and other works.

Gregory of Nyssa in Cappadocia (d. 394), author of exegetical, dogmatic, and ascetic writings.

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (374-397), author of an exposition of Luke and other writings.

John Chrysostom (c. 344-407), Patriarch of Constantinople, brilliant preacher (hence, his title “golden mouth”), whose extant works are the most extensive of any patristic writer.

Jerome, or Hieronymus (c. 331-420), who produced the Lat. Vul. Bible, author of Lat. commentaries and other writings.

Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, author of philosophical, dogmatic, and exegetical works.

Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (412-444), author of apologetic, dogmatic, and extensive exegetical works.

Although the potential value of the patristic quotations for NT textual criticism is very great, much work remains to be done both in preparing critical edd. of the works of the Church Fathers and in making analyses of their NT quotations.

IV. Transmission of the NT text

A. Before the invention of printing

1. The rise of textual variants. When the books of the NT were first written, they were largely “private” works rather than “literature” in the ordinary sense. This was esp. true of most of the NT epistles, which were simply correspondence between individuals and groups. Even the gospels were written for a purpose that was different from that of ordinary lit. When a book of the NT was copied in this very earliest period, therefore, it was generally copied privately for personal use rather than by a professional scribe. Furthermore, since the message of the book or letter was the important thing, a person making such a copy of a NT book might not necessarily feel obligated to strictly duplicate the word order or details that did not affect the sense. In the case of the narrative books, moreover, the earliest copyists apparently sometimes felt free to add small details of information. Moreover, in the earliest period of the NT, the status of the Christian religion in the political situation would not encourage widespread comparison of NT MSS. In addition, variants and errors are almost inevitable, even with a scribe’s best intentions of verbal exactness. All these factors, therefore, combined to produce divergence of MSS during the earliest period after the NT was written. This period continued until Christianity gained official recognition in the early 4th cent., although almost all of the variants that are significant in textual criticism may well have arisen during the first half of this period.

At the same time, the significance of this divergence between the MSS must not be exaggerated. The books of the NT doubtless came to be considered as “literature” soon after they began to be circulated, and those who copied the MSS would then have a double reason for copying with care: the preservation of the exact words of the sacred message as well as the common requirements for copying a literary work.

The differences between MSS that arose by repeated copying led to the development of “families” of MSS, or what is known as “local texts.” Copies of the NT, each with its own peculiarities and variants, were carried by Christians to various lands and localities. As each MS was copied and further copies multiplied, these copies, to a large extent, shared a common group of variants that were descended from their common ancestor and in varying degrees differed from the variants of the MSS that had been carried to other localities. In this way, the common peculiarities of a group of MSS serve to indicate their common ancestry as distinct from other groups of MSS. In some instances, a certain group of such MSS can be traced back to a specific region and a definite period of time by the fact that these MSS contain a group of variants characteristic of writings of a certain Church Father or which are found in a VS that originated at a certain time and place.

When Christianity gained official recognition under the emperor Constantine, MSS of the NT no longer needed to be concealed for safety. Soon the emperor himself ordered new copies of the Scriptures for the churches of Constantinople. It was evidently not long before comparison was being made between MSS and it was being discovered that there were many differences, esp. between MSS of different localities. During the next three centuries or so, then, whether deliberately and officially, or unintentionally and informally, there occurred a period of convergence of MSS. During this period the MSS that were produced tended more and more to conform to the same standard. This standard could now be better maintained, since the copying of MSS was to a larger extent the work of trained scribes. In addition, there was evidently some degree of editing, in the course of which the wording of parallel accounts in the gospels were harmonized to some extent, grammatical irregularities were corrected, and a text was produced that was in general smooth and easy to read.

More than nine-tenths of all extant MSS of the NT are from this period of convergence of the MSS or later. Thus only a small percentage of the MSS preserve a form of the text that antedates the late standardized text. Although copying of MSS by hand continued to mean that virtually no two MSS were completely identical, nevertheless from the 8th cent. on almost all MSS represented in a general way the standardized form of text, and this form of the text was still current when the printing press revolutionized the world of lit.

2. Types of variants. The changes that scribes introduced into the NT MSS are of several types, which may be classified as either (1) unintentional, or much less frequently (2) intentional variation (see Metzger, Text, 186-206, for a much fuller discussion).

a. Unintentional variants. Unintentional, or accidental, variants include errors of seeing, of writing, and of judgment.

Errors of seeing include esp. the confusion of letters or pairs of letters that look much alike in uncial writing such as ΕΘΟΞ, ΑΛΑ, ΗΝ, Ν́ΛΙ, and Π́ΓΊΙΤ. Occasionally, an abbreviation might be mistaken for a full word of similar appearance or vice versa (e.g., ΘΞ and ΟΞ—“God” and “who”—in 1 Tim 3:16); a scribe’s eye might skip from the first to the second occurrence of the same word, causing omission of the intervening material; he might read the same word or phrase twice; or he might confuse a word for a word of similar appearance (e.g., ἔλαβον and ἔβαλον—“they took” and “they cast”).

Errors of hearing might arise when a group of scribes copied MSS by dictation. Since very early in the Christian era several Gr. vowels and diphthongs came to be pronounced alike—e.g., ι, η, υ, ει, οι, and υι; ε, G1567, and αι; and ο, G3835, and ω—numerous confusions of spelling from dictation were possible. Some of these confusions resulted in obvious misspellings, but others produced a different word—e.g., the confusion of η, G2444, and υ, G5609, would change any form of the pl. pronoun “you” to the corresponding form of “us.”

Errors of memory might result in a mere change of word order in a series, substitution of one synonym for another, or the accidental inclusion of a word or phrase from a parallel passage.

Errors of writing might include the addition or omission of a letter or letters (e.g., ἐγενήθημεν νήπιοι, “we became infants,” and ἐγενήθημεν ἤπιοι, “we became gentle”; cf. 1 Thess 2:7), or the omission of an indication of abbreviation.

Errors of judgment, in addition to some of the preceding errors, might cause a scribe to include a marginal note, thinking that it was a part of the text itself. This may be the origin of the explanation of the troubling of the water in John 5:3, 4.

b. Intentional variants. Intentional changes are the result of scribes’ attempts to correct what they thought were errors, to make the text less ambiguous, or to strengthen the theology. On the other hand, there is virtually no evidence of a scribe’s intentionally weakening the theology or purposely introducing heresy into his MS.

Probably the most common type of intentional variant is the harmonization of parallel accounts in the gospels. To mention only two such instances, the much shorter VS of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:2-4 has been amplified by scribes in accordance with the longer form of Matthew 6:9-13; and the form of the conversation between the rich young ruler and Jesus in Matthew 19:16, 17 has been modified to agree with the form of the parallels in Mark and Luke.

Scribes also attempted to resolve apparent difficulties in the text. In Mark 1:2, the original reference to “Isaiah the prophet” was modified to “the prophets,” since the first part of the following reference was from Malachi (Mal 3:1). Since the Prodigal Son says in Luke 15:19 that he will say to his father, “Make me as one of thy hired servants,” scribes of several good MSS have added these words in v. 21.

Scribal changes in the interests of a strengthened theology or piety sometimes occurred. The most notable of these is the reference to the three heavenly witnesses of 1 John 5:7, 8 in the KJV, which is found in no Gr. MS ear