Friday, May 22, 2020

Video Lecture: Early Versions of the New Testament

Lecture 4:  Early Versions of the NT
The lecture-series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism continues at YouTube:

Lecture 04: Early Versions of the New Testament

(20 minutes) With captions!

An outline:

Alexander Souter: “The history of the New Testament text cannot be understood without a knowledge of the history of the church.”

          Part of that history is the history of the early translations of the New Testament text.  Today we are taking a closer look at some of the early versions of the New Testament – especially early translations of the Gospels. 

This involves mainly the study of early translations into Latin, Coptic, and Syriac, but there are other important versions of the New Testament too.

The Old Latin, also called the Vetus Latine:

          Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs (180) - A transcript of a trial during a persecution in Carthageduring the trial:

          Saturninus the governor:   “What sort of things do you have in that case of yours?”

          Speratus (Christian):  “Books and letters of Paul, a righteous man.”

The Old Latin” might be a misleading term.

Different Latin transmission-lines:      African, European, Italian, & Spanish.       

Do they go back to one Latin text?    Or to one Greek text?              

Mark 9:15 – gaudentes, “rejoicing” instead of “running”  

Two Christian writers around the late 300s and early 400s – Jerome and Augustine – said that there were many Latin versions, with a range of quality.

Once-used Greek words – translated the same way?

The earliest Latin Gospels-text tends to be “Western.”    

Text types –

Western:  tweaked to increase clarity in a particular way, like the text of the Gospels and Acts in Codex Bezae.

Byzantine:  agreeing with the text that was in dominant use in the vicinity of Byzantium (Constantinople).

Alexandrianagreeing with the text of Codex Vaticanus (and allies).

Caesarean (Gospels):  agreeing with the text of family-1

In witnesses with a Western form of the text, the Gospels often appear in this order:      Mt – Jn – Lk – Mk.

Vulgate:  Gospels:  by Jerome.               

        Gregory the Great (590 to 604):  still the “new” version.          

But it’s not as if we can pick up any Vulgate manuscript and expect to see every reading that Jerome adopted. Some Old Latin readings were mixed into Vulgate texts.

There were later revisions:   Alcuin.  Theodulf. Others.

The representation of Old Latin witnesses: 

Old identification-method: witnesses are represented by lower case letters, by lower case letters with superscripted numerals, and by short abbreviations.

New identification-method: Beuron numbers, so-called because this method was developed by members of the Vetus Latina Institut in Europe.

Gospels manuscripts have numbers 1-49;    Acts/Catholics/Revelation are 50-74;

Pauline Epistles are 75-99.

A lot of Old Latin witnesses are only partly Old Latin, side-by-side with Vulgate texts. 

Production-dates don’t always mean anything.

Coptic:  different transmission-lines in different dialects.

SahidicBarcelona codices. –                

Alexandrian Gospels    

Sahidic version in Acts 27:37 – agrees w/B. 

(Suggests a close relationship.)          

Codex T:  “diglot” – Sahidic and Greek side by side.               

The Western text was also in Egypt:

          G67:  Acts in “Middle Egyptian.”

Middle Egyptian:  basically three manuscripts:

          G67, Codex Schoyen 2650 (Matthew), and the Schiede Codex (Matthew)

Lycopolitan:  the Qua Codex (300s).

Proto-Bohairic:  Papyrus Bodmer III (300s).   Includes the Gospel of John.  Alexandrian. 

          Strange treatment of sacred names in John 1:1 & 1:18.

BohairicHuntington MS 17 (from 1174)

Achmimic: incomplete.  Mt, Lk,  Jn, Romans, Gal., James, Jude.

Fayyumic:  fragmentary

Syriac:  different transmission-lines.

          Tatian’s Diatessaron. In Syria, this appears to have been the dominant Gospels-based text until the Peshitta emerged (late 300s?).  The Diatessaron did not have the

genealogies. But Aphrahat apparently has something else, with genealogies.

Old Syriac:  Sinaitic Syriac.  Curetonian Syriac.  Codex at St. Catherine’s, Syriac 37.

Peshitta:  usually agrees with the Byzantine Text.

         Not included:  Second Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude, and Revelation.

Peshitta MSS of special interest:                 

Codex Phillips 1388               

        B.L. Add MS 14470               

        Rabbula Gospels           

Philoxenian – includes the books not in the Peshitta

Harklean Syriac:    Echoes an ancient Greek text in the General

Epistles.      Extremely literal. Finished in 616 – using ancient MSS near Alexandria.

Has its own limited apparatus in the margin.

Palestinian Aramaic – mainly extant in lectionaries. Has the story of the adulteress at the end of John.

Other Versions:

Gothic:  mid-300s. 

Main witness:  Codex Argenteus.  Wulfilas – an Arian.  Was he an Arian when he did the translation-work?  We don’t know.

Armenian and Georgian

         Armenia:  first Christian nation (early 300s)         

         Mesrop:  made the Armenian alphabet, and translated the Bible.

         Thought to have a basis in a Syriac text.  (Maybe some Diatessaron influence?)

         First edition – finished c. 411.

Revision – 430s.  Based on a Greek codex from Constantinople.

800s and 900s = Old for Armenian.           

Late revisions (esp. in Cilician Armenia) toward the Byz. Text (Nerses of Lambron) and toward the Vulgate (1100/1200s).

There are different kinds of script used for writing Armenian:

          erkat’agir = iron letters (because of the ink?) – has a better chance of not

being a medieval revision.
          bolorgir = rounder and smaller

          notrgir = cursive (later)

         shghagir = modern slanted cursive

The older an Armenian Gospels MS is, the more likely it appears to be based on a text that was like the text of f1.             

The same is true of Old Georgian Gospels-MSS’ textual character.

Georgian:  translated from Armenian. But some Georgian witnesses are older than most  Armenian witnesses.

         Oldest substantial Gospels-MS: Adysh MS:  897 A.D.

         The Old Georgian is an echo of an echo, but the voice is old.

         The Old Georgian also goes back to the 400s.

         George of Athos:  early 1000s – revision of the Gospels in     Georgian.  His revision made the Georgian text more Byzantine.

         Revelation may have a different kind of base-text than the rest.

Armenian and Georgian copyists went all over the place – Egypt, Jerusalem, etc.

Some quirk-readings may have been acquired from a particular locale.

Ethiopic (Ge’ez)

                   Christianity in Ethiopia:          

                   Beta Samati site – church in the early 300s.

                   Chrysostom (380s) – mentioned that the Gospel of John had been translated into Ethiopic.

                   Consistently translated from Greek.

Garima Gospels:  produced in the 500s.  And it’s fancy.

Most Ethiopic MSS:  1300s or later.           

          Tends to match up with the Peshitta – mainly Byzantine.         

          Does not have the PA.

          There are over 500 Ethiopic NT MSS.

          John seems less Byzantine.


          First layer:  600s or even earlier.

         Najran, in southern Arabia:  a Christian center in the 400s.

Base-texts of Arabic versions echo families of texts.

Some families echo the Peshitta, but at least two echo Greek texts.

0136/0137 – Greek-Arabic diglot (frag., Mt)

Sinai Arabic MSS 8 and 28 = Codex Sinaiticus Arabicus (CSA)

Families A and C echo Greek texts (more than 70% Byzantine).

Family B in Lk. 16:19:  the rich man's name:  Nineveh (comp. Sahidic and P75)

Old Church Slavonic - 800s. 

Glagolithic alphabet, and Cyrillic alphabet.

Nubian - A Christmastime lectionary and assorted inscriptions.         

Caucasian Albanian - New Finds (1975) at Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Takeaway #1:       

Early versions can be extremely valuable to track the scope of readings and groups of readings. 

Q:  What was the early range of rival readings?

Takeaway #2:

Early versions shouldn’t be asked to do things that they can’t do.  Sometimes, articles are not transferable.  Sometimes word-order cannot be expected to reflect the Greek word-order.  Some languages don’t have exact parallels for the nuances of Greek.

Takeaway #3:

Early versions should be considered with an awareness of stages in their histories. 

Early versions’ testimonies should generally be boiled down to reflect the history of the text of the version, keeping in mind when and where the versional text was revised, in cases where this can be observed.

Takeaway #4:

Instead of thinking of the versions uniformly as “Versions “of the New Testament,”      early versions should generally be separated into Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, General Epistles, and Revelation.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

An Uncial of Luke 5-6 at Mount Sinai

          At the Sinai Palimpsests Project website, part of one of the manuscripts included among the New Finds collection – Greek N.F. M 98 – has lower writing that consists of a folio from a Greek uncial, preserving text in four columns (two columns per page, probably 26 lines per column) from Luke 5:33-34, 5:36-37, 5:39-6:1, and 6:3-4.  Dr. Giuglielmo Cavallo – author of the first chapter in the superb little 2008 book, The Shape of the Book – identified and analyzed this text a while ago, and assigned it a production-date around 1000.  It has received an official Nestle-Aland identification number:  0288.  Let’s take a closer look at its text, which is on the first page (front and back) of the manuscript.
          In its four columns of text, compared to the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, this witness has two variants:  in Luke 5:33, we encounter ποικνα instead of πυκνα, and after ομοιως we meet δε και instead of just και.  Other than these two readings, the text is perfectly Byzantine, agreeing with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  This witness disagrees with the Nestle-Aland compilation at almost every opportunity:

In the lower writing of Greek N.F. M 98: 
● 5:34 – Ις (before ειπεν) is not included
● 5:36 – απο (after επίβλημα is not included
● 5:36 – σχίσας (after καινου) is not included [Not noted in NA27 apparatus]
● 5:36 – σκιζει (instead of σκισει in À B C L)  [Not noted in NA27 apparatus]  
● 5:36 – συμφωνει (instead of συμφωνήσει) [Not noted in NA27 apparatus]
● 5:36 – το επίβλημα before απο is is not included
● 5:39 – και is at the beginning of the verse [bracketed in NA27]
● 5:39 – ευθεως appears after παλαιον
● 5:39 – χρηστότερος instead of χρηστός
● 6:1 – δευτεροπρώτω is present
● 6:1 – των is present before σπορίμων
● 6:3 – οποτε instead of οτε
● 6:3 – οντες appears at the end of the verse [bracketed in NA27]
● 6:4 – ως is at the beginning of the verse [bracketed in NA27]
● 6:4 – ελαβεν και instead of λαβων

Reconstruction of the lower writing in Greek N.F. M 98.
           Here is a reproduction of the text of Luke in Greek N.F. M 98, with the upper writing removed.  Twice, the copyist appears to have used a kai-compendium or dwarf letters, but the writing at both points was obscured by the upper writing.  (This is signified in the reproduction by the light red squares.)          
Before presenting a transcription of the text, here are some thoughts about some textual contests that could be considered if one were defending the Byzantine readings found in Greek N.F. M 98.

● 5:34 – Ις in the Alexandrian Text could be introduced for the sake of clarity, or as a remembrance of 5:31.
● 5:36 – απο and σχίσας could be added for the sake of clarity.
● 5:36 – συμφωνει could be altered to συμφωνήσει as part of an expansion which also involved the addition of το επίβλημα before απο.
● 5:38 – In Greek N.F. M 98, space-considerations seem to favor the inclusion of και αμφότεροι συντηρουνται at the end of the verse.
● 5:39 – A copyist might excise και as an attempt at stylistic improvement.  (The entire verse is absent in Codex D and several Old Latin witnesses.)
● 5:39 – χρηστότερος can account for χρηστός with a simple parableptic error.
● 6:1 – δευτεροπρώτω is certainly the more difficult reading.
● 6:3 – οποτε can account for οτε with a simple parableptic error.
● 6:4 – The support for nothing before εισηλθων at the beginning of the verse is sparse.
● 6:4 – Part of the Alexandrian line seems harmonized to Mark 2:26.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Video Lecture: How Manuscripts Were Made

Lecture 03 in the series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism is now online:
The Structure of New Testament Manuscripts And How They Were Made

In this brief lecture, I describe what a leaf is, what a quire is, Gregory's Rule, cancel-sheets, multi-quire codices, ruling, catchwords, correctors, trimming, binding, palimpsests, and more.

With captions!

Here is an excerpt:

             Today, we will take a closer look at how a codex was made, once the papyrus or parchment or paper had been provided. 

 . . . 

One sheet of parchment = a bifolium, a sheet folded vertically in the middle.

Half a bifolium = a folio = a leaf.  

This has an effect on how pages are numbered:  it used to be the norm for the folios of a handmade book to be numbered.  Now it is the norm for the pages of books to be numbered; they are paginated rather than foliated.

 When a codex lies open:  the page on the left is called the verso, and the page on the right is called the recto.  One leaf, or, one folio, of a Greek manuscript, has a front – “recto” – and back – “verso.”  (For manuscripts in languages read from right to left and back to front, such as Hebrew or Syriac, this is reversed.)  So the best way to refer to the pages of ancient manuscripts is not to refer to a page-number, but to refer to the folio, recto or verso. 

            When we are dealing with a single fragment of a single text that can be identified, the part of the text that comes first in the composition is regarded as the recto. 

A gathering = several sheets stacked upon each other, and folded vertically down the middle.

Sometimes a gathering is made from a stack of three sheets, and this is called a ternion.

Sometimes a gathering is made from a stack of five sheets, and this is called a quinion.

But usually a gathering is made of four sheets, called a quaternion, for a total of 16 pages.  This kind of gathering is the standard quire.  (Q-u-i-r-e.)

 You could say that if a man in ancient times wanted to obtain four folded sheets of parchment to make a 16-page booklet for a group of singers at the cathedral, he wanted to acquire a quire for a choir. 

            Some early codices had quires made of much more than four sheets.  A codex can be made with only one quire, folded in the middle.  Such a codex is, understandably, called a single-quire codex.  This kind of book has two disadvantages:  the more pages are folded together, the more “creep” there is – the part that sticks out in the middle-pages past the edge of the lowest and uppermost page when the quire is folded.  Also, the thicker a single-quire codex is, the harder it is to keep it closed, and to make its pages lay flat. 

             When the sheets of a quire were stacked together, it was customary for the book-maker to arrange the parchment so that the parchment page that was from the outside of the animal, where the hair had been, faced another page from the outside of the animal, and the opposite side of the page, from the inside of the animal, faced another page from the inside of the animal. 

             This custom, which could be summed up as, “Hair faces hair, flesh faces flesh,” is called “Gregory’s Rule,” because it was first detected by C. R. Gregory.  Papyrus is a plant and thus papyrus-pages have neither hair nor flesh, but papyrus sheets in a codex tended to be arranged using the same principle, so that the smoother side of each folio faced the smooth side of the next folio, and the rougher sides of the folios faced each other.

            To avoid the problems that arose with single-quire codices, the Multi-Quire Codex was invented:  instead of beginning as one stack of sheets, the book began as two or more stacks of sheets, folded in the middle.  These booklets, each consisting of one quire, were then sewn to each other to form a book, which was usually given a protective binding or cover of some sort.  In some case, the book was kept in a special leather pouch or satchel.      

            The multi-quire codex had some advantages over scrolls.  For example:  when reading a codex, it is much easier to page through a codex of the Gospels and  compare parallel-passages, than with a scroll.  Also, if one folio of a codex is damaged, it can be removed and replaced.  Scrolls can be repaired too, but it’s more trouble. 

            When making a codex, if the main copyist were to make a mistake so bad that it ruined the entire page, the proof-reader, or whoever noticed the mistake, could remove the individual sheet, and replace it with one in which the mistake had been corrected.  This meant replacing not only the text on the page where the mistake had appeared, but also the text on the other folio on the sheet – four pages of text in all.  Such a replacement-page is called a cancel-sheet.           

            Before a copyist wrote the text on a page, the page first had to be ruled – that is, the page need to be marked with lines for the copyist to follow.  Some codices have the text arranged in just one column on each page; some codices have the text in two columns.  Codex Vaticanus is almost unique by having the text formatted in three columns on most pages, although in its Old Testament portion, in the Books of Poetry, the format is two columns per page.  If a manuscript was intended to feature commentary-material in the margins, this usually had to be anticipated and the page-format had to be adjusted accordingly. 

            Some manuscripts appear to have been prepared quire by quire before the quires were sewn together.  Quires were typically numbered.  It was not unusual, at the end of a quire, for the copyist write the first word of the next quire.  These are called “catchwords,” and along with the quire-numbers, they helped the person who assembled the book – and people who later repaired the book – avoid getting the quires in the wrong order.  But sometimes the quires got mixed up anyway. 

            There was more to the production of a book besides the reproduction of the text of its exemplar.  If a manuscript was the product of a scriptorium – a center for producing manuscripts – then after the initial production of the quires, a supervisor proof-read the work of his assistants, correcting their mistakes.  The proof-reading supervisor is called the diorthotes.  

            Embellished letters were often written in different ink – red, or golden – after the main text was written.  If there were illustrations, some space had to be left for them.  In some manuscripts, the space has been left for illustrations, but the illustrator

apparently never showed up.  And some manuscripts have apparently cannibalized illustrations from other manuscripts:  pictures have been cut from other parchment pages, and have been glued down onto pages in a manuscript. 

             Another thing to consider, when we look at what went into the production of a manuscript, is that we are not always looking at the result of a single production-event.  Some manuscripts were made by more than one copyist, and the larger a manuscript is, the more likely this is to be the case. 

             Sometimes, the text of a manuscript was adjusted to conform to a different exemplar.  In cases where this was attempted, the person who made the adjustments is called a “corrector,” whether or not he was indeed making the text in the copy more like the original text.  A corrector might work on a manuscript before it left the scriptorium, or hundreds of years later.

             A manuscript might be damaged, and also be repaired, long after its initial production.  A manuscript might be supplemented with lectionary-related material long after it was first made.  And sometimes, if the script that had been initially written on the page had faded, a later copyist might trace over, or “reinforce,” the old lettering.  So we need to be on the lookout for indications of changes that a manuscript has undergone after it was made.

              This can involve not only alterations to the text, but also physical changes to the book.  Books and their binding were occasionally damaged, whether by fire or water or simple wear-and-tear, and they needed to be repaired.  Sometimes, the pages were re-trimmed, and in some cases,  the person doing the trimming was careless, and trimmed away not only some material in the outer margins, but also lines of text.

            Sometimes the covers of New Testament manuscripts feature a layer of padding on the inside, and sometimes this padding was made of pages from discarded manuscripts.  In some rare cases, the cover of a New Testament manuscript may contain pages of another New Testament manuscript.

         But being turned into binding-padding is not the most drastic post-production change that could happen to a manuscript.  Some manuscripts were recycled.   There were times and places where parchment was scarce or expensive or both, and if a copyist possessed a parchment book that he did not consider valuable, he might dismantle it, and wash or scrape the ink off of its pages, in order to obtain its parchment.  Why would anyone recycle a New Testament manuscript? 

            (1) The manuscript might be written in an unfamiliar language.  A Latin-speaking copyist might not see a Greek manuscript of the Gospels as valuable if he did not read Greek.  

            (2) The manuscript might be considered surplus.  A pragmatic Greek-speaking copyist might not consider a Greek manuscript of the Gospels as valuable if he worked at a monastery where there were dozens of Greek manuscripts of the Gospels on hand. 

            (3)  The manuscript might have been damaged.  A copyist might possess a manuscript that has been damaged beyond repair, but still have some intact pages which could be re-used.  Why throw away valuable parchment when it can be made into useful parchment by scraping off the ink?

             For whatever reason, copyists recycled quite a few manuscripts of books of the New Testament, washing and scraping off the ink, which rendered the parchment blank so that it could be re-using as material to hold a different text.  At least, it looked blank for a while – but in the course of time, the ink that had bonded to the parchment became perceptible again.  Because the parchment of these manuscripts have been scraped twice – once in the initial production, and again when they were recycled – they are called palimpsests, from the Greek words for “scraped again.” 

            On a palimpsest, the earliest layer of writing is called the lower writing, and the more recent layer of writing is called the upper writing.  The parchment of some palimpsests has been recycled more than once, which can present a challenge to those trying to read the earliest layer of text.  A relatively new method of detecting the lower writing, involving some special equipment, is called Multi-Spectral Imaging. 

             For details about a specific single-quire codex, visit the University of Michigan’s website that describes the structure of P46.  Just search for University of Michigan Papyrus 46 Codex.  All of the pages about P46 there are worth exploring. 

             I also recommend watching the video, 7 minutes and 35 second long, at YouTube, called “C-SPAN Cities Tour - Ann Arbor: P46 - The Pauline Epistles.”

             For some additional general information about the structure of a codex, watch the video, 2 minutes and 8 second long, The Structure of a Medieval Manuscript, made available at YouTube by the Getty Museum.

            For information about ruling a page – arranging the lines and margins – watch the video, Making Manuscripts:  The Page, one minute and 40 second long, made available at YouTube by the British Library.

            And, finally, for more information about what can be done with Multi-Spectral Imaging, watch the video, 5 minutes and 16 seconds long, Codex Zacynthius MS Add. 10062, Recovering the Text of the Oldest New Testament Catena Manuscript, made available at YouTube by the Cambridge University Library.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Video Lecture: Kinds of Greek NT Manuscripts

Lecture 02 -
Kinds of Greek NT Manuscripts
            The second video lecture in the series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism is online.  This lecture, a little more than 20 minutes long, reviews different kinds of continuous-text Greek manuscripts of books of the New Testament – papyri, uncials (majuscules), and minuscules – and some of their distinctive features. 
            Sub-titles provide a running outline of the lecture.

On YouTube at

Here is an excerpt:

            In our first lecture, I mentioned that there are five kinds of witnesses to the New Testament text:  (1) manuscripts, (2) versions, (3) patristic writings, (4) lectionaries, and (5) talismans and inscriptions.  Today we are taking a closer look into the distinct characteristics of each kind of continuous-text Greek manuscript.

Let me tell you an old story [Jadecarver and Student] . . . 

             Before we do anything else - before we learn the guidelines of how to make text-critical decisions, before we learn about the impact they can have upon the text, and before we investigate controversies in the field - we get to know the materials.

             A New Testament Greek manuscript is a witness that contains the Greek text of one or more New Testament books, initially formatted as one or more New Testament books.  For everything else I’m going to describe, it is probably safe to add the words:   “There are some exceptions.”  Today, we’re not exploring exceptional cases.  They’re out there, but we can look into them later.             

             With some exceptions, every substantial New Testament manuscript in existence was a codex when it was produced.  A codex is a handmade book, as opposed to a scroll.  Some witnesses used to be codices but only a single fragment of a single page has survived. 

            If a fragment has writing on both sides, from the same composition, that’s a giveaway that it was part of a codex. 

            If an early fragment has writing on just one side, and it’s not the end of the composition, that indicates that it was part of a scroll. 

            If an early fragment, such as Papyrus 13, has writing on both sides, but the writing on one side is from a different composition compared to the text on the other side, that indicates that it was part of a scroll, which first had writing on one side, and then someone decided to recycle it, and wrote on the other side.

           Our earliest witnesses were written on papyrus, pages made from the processed fibers of papyrus plants that grew along the Nile River.         

            In the 300s, after Christianity was legalized, books continued to be made out of papyrus, but parchment began to be the preferred material for New Testament manuscript-makers.   Parchment is made out of animal-skin.  At the end of the lecture, I will mention some resources that should give you a good idea of what goes into making papyrus, and what goes into the process of turning the skin of an animal into the pages of a book.

            In the Middle Ages, manuscripts began to be made out of a different material, called paper.  Some manuscripts have portions that are parchment, and portions that are paper, especially in cases where a parchment manuscript was damaged, and paper was used to replace the damaged pages.

          Now let’s consider the different kinds of continuous-text Greek manuscripts.

            First, there are the papyri.                     

            Papyrus-material, by the way, is still produced today; here’s a piece. 

            Papyrus manuscripts of New Testament books have their own catalog-numbers or names in the libraries where they reside, but for general purposes they are known by the letter “P” and a number, which represents the order in which they were found.  So, Papyrus 52 was approximately the 52nd New Testament papyrus to be found, identified, and catalogued.  

            Papyrus manuscripts are typically the first witnesses mentioned when comparing the support for rival readings.  The earliest papyri echo a period that is earlier than all other manuscripts.  So it is natural to give them a high level of importance.  But there are seven things that should be kept in mind about the papyri.

             ● First, it is not unusual for papyri to be cited for readings that do not appear in the surviving part of the manuscript.  When it comes to papyrus fragments, there is often more to see than just what you can see.  Depending on how much text survives in a fragment, on how many pages, it is sometimes possible to create what is called a codicological reconstruction of part of the non-extant part of the manuscript.  For example, if you have fragments of two pages of a manuscript, you might be able to tell approximately how much text was on each page of the manuscript, and approximately how many pages it had.  The further the reconstruction gets from the extant text, the less useful it is for text-critical purposes.   But if a variant is large, and relatively close to the extant text, codicological reconstruction can serve as the basis on which to form a strong suspicion about whether the variant was present or absent in the manuscript, on the basis of space-considerations.     

            ● Second:  there is nothing magical about papyrus.  Copyists did not suddenly become more accurate just by writing the text on papyrus.  Papyrus 72 was probably made in the 300s, and it is one of the earliest manuscripts of the books that it contains.  But if you compare its text of the Epistle of Jude to the text of Jude in an ordinary late medieval manuscript, the text in the medieval manuscript will be far closer to the original text.    

            ● Third:  while the papyri are very old, many of them are not remarkably old.  Right now, we have about 140 papyrus manuscripts.   Forty of them were produced after the fall of the Roman Empire, in the 500s or later.    

            ● Fourth:  almost all of the papyri are fragmentary, and most of the papyri are very fragmentary.  Less than 30 early papyri – and by “early” I mean, “earlier than Jerome” – before the late 300s – consist of more than two pages. 

            ● Fifth:  the primary value and use of the papyri, by far, has been to confirm readings that were already known from other witnesses.  The number of readings found exclusively in papyri that have been securely adopted in any major edition of the Greek New Testament is zero.  In the late 1800s, textual critics had practically no papyri to work with; now we have 140, and in terms of the contents of the text, they have made very little difference.

            ● Sixth:  almost all of the papyri were found in Egypt.  That is because papyrus tends to gradually decay in climates that are not very dry, and the climate in parts of Egypt is very dry.  So if a textual critic were to say, “Let’s reconstruct the text based on the earliest manuscript,” he would produce a text based on evidence from Egypt, at least in the passages for which there is an early papyri – because that’s where papyrus lasted longer than in other places.  That kind of approach might give us a good look at the texts that were used in Egypt.  But it doesn’t really help us see what the text looked like in other locations, where there was more rain – such as the location of every church mentioned in the New Testament.  Saying, “Let’s depend primarily on the oldest evidence” is like saying, “Let’s depend primarily on the evidence that experienced the best weather.”

            ● Seventh, the production-date assigned to a papyrus manuscript is usually an estimate, with a range of 100 years.  The analysis of ancient writing, called paleography, is used to arrive at these production-dates.  In rare cases, the circumstances in which a New Testament manuscript has been found sets some parameters for its production-date; for example, if a manuscript is found in the ruins of a city that was destroyed in a particular year, we can deduce that it was not produced after that year.  But usually, paleographers assign production-dates according to the Greek script that the copyist used.

             If you look at printed English fonts from 300 years ago, and compare them to fonts in use today, you will see some differences.  The same sort of thing is true of ancient Greek handwriting; different styles of script were dominant at different times.  Paleographers study the script in detail.  But they can’t look at a script and tell you how old a copyist was when he wrote it. 

            If you reckon that a copyist in the ancient world engaged in a peaceful profession that involved copying books, he could copy a book at age 20, or at age 70 – and use the same handwriting he had learned when he had first learned to write.  There’s no way to tell if he was young, and would go on using that handwriting for another 50 years, or if he was old, and had been using that handwriting for 50 years.  So this range of about 50 years in both directions is built-into most paleographically assigned production-dates. 

           Now let’s consider the uncial manuscripts, also called majuscules.  When you read the textual apparatus in a Nestle-Aland or United Bible Societies or Tyndale House Greek New Testament, you can tell when a witness is a papyrus, because it is identified by a number after the letter P.   Similarly, you can tell when a witness is an uncial, because all uncials are numbered with numbers that begin with the numeral 0.  Codex Sinaiticus is 01, Codex Alexandrinus is 02, Codex Vaticanus is 03, and so forth.  Whether an uncial is a massive codex like Codex Sinaiticus, or a Gospels-book like Codex Cyprius, or a small fragment like 0315, every one gets its own number.  These numbers are called the Gregory-Aland numbers, because this kind of identification-system was developed by the scholar C. R. Gregory and expanded by Kurt Aland.  Different identification-systems were used before this became the standard identification-method; a comparison-chart of the obsolete methods and the standard method can be found online at the Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism.

            That is the first standard way in which uncials are identified.  But there is another method:  some uncials are also represented by letters of the English alphabet, and some uncials are represented by letters of the Greek alphabet.  Codex Alexandrinus is Codex A, Codex Vaticanus is Codex B, and so forth.  Codex Sinaiticus is represented as À, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Generally, the more important an uncial is, the more likely it is to be better-known by its letter than by its number.

            There are only 26 English letters and 24 Greek letters, and we have a lot more than 50 uncial manuscripts.  Sometimes the same letter is used for different manuscripts in different parts of the New Testament.  For example, “D” is Codex Bezae in the Gospels and Acts, but in the Epistles, “D” represents Codex Claromontanus.  “E” is Codex Basiliensis in the Gospels, but in Acts, “E” is Codex Laudianus. 

            The numerical system is less likely to cause confusion, because each number represents exactly one manuscript.  But the letter-based system is easy to remember and it is used in the printed textual apparatus of the major editions of the Greek New Testament.  The only safe course of action is to learn both identification systems.

             It is not unusual for an uncial manuscript of the four Gospels to contain more than just the text of the four Gospels.  A Gospels-codex may begin with the Eusebian canons before the text of the Gospels begins, introduced by Eusebius’ letter to Carpian explaining how to use the Canons as a cross-reference tool.  Each Gospel may also be preceded by a list of its chapters; these chapter-lists are called Kephalaia.  The chapter-titles may be repeated at the top or bottom of the page of text where they begin; at these locations, they are called the titloi.  And at the end of each Gospel, one usually finds the closing-title.             

            Next come the minuscules – that’s minUscules.  Whereas uncial manuscripts are written in large letters that are usually separated from one another, minuscules are written in small letters that tend to be connected to one another in words.  Minuscule copies of New Testament books go back as early as the early 800s.  Uncial manuscripts continued to be made after that, but by the 1000s, minuscule script became dominant.  It took less time and required less materials to make a minuscule manuscript. 

            Here are a few things to know about minuscules:

            ● Minuscules should not be belittled simply because they are minuscules.  Kirsopp Lake said, “It is neither the date nor the script of a MS which determines its value for the critic, but the textual history of its ancestors.”

             ● Some minuscules are not technically continuous-text manuscripts:  they are commentaries, in which a portion of the New Testament text is written, followed by a portion of commentary, followed by the next portion of New Testament text, followed by a portion of commentary, and so forth.   This is not much different from a truly continuous-text manuscript that has the same commentary-material in the outer margins.  When several copies of the same commentary also share the same form of the New Testament text, divided into the same portions, it is clear that they share the same ancestry, and their weight should be boiled down.

            ● Some minuscules contain a high amount of abbreviation.

            ● Some uncials are partly minuscule.  It is not rare to see uncial letters and minuscule letters on the same page – occasionally, comments are written in minuscule script and the text is written in uncial script, to help prevent readers from getting them confused.

            ● Some minuscules are illustrated.  Minuscule copies of the Gospels may include full-page miniature portraits of each Evangelist before his Gospel begins.  In this context, the term “miniature” does not describe the size of the portrait; a “miniature” is a picture framed in pigment that contains red lead – a pigment called minium

             Often each evangelist in these pictures is accompanied by a symbolic representation:  usually for Matthew, it is a man or angel.  For Mark, it is a lion.  For Luke, it is an ox.  And for John, it is an eagle.  The symbolism is based on the visions of the seraphim around God’s throne in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

            Also, the initial letter of a book, or in some cases, many of the initial letters at the beginnings of sections of a book, may be artistically stylized.  When an initial is made to resemble an animal, this is called a zoomorphic initial.  In many manuscripts, at the beginning of a book, there is a large ornamental design, called a headpiece, accompanied by the title of the book.

            ● In some minuscules of the Gospels, in addition to the Eusebian Canons and chapter-lists, there are book-introductions, or summaries.  Sometimes there are lists of rare words.  In some copies of Acts, there is an itinerary of the journeys of Paul.  And sometimes, at the end of the book, there is a scribal note, or colophon, which might include information about when and where it was copied. 

           Regarding all other witnesses to the Greek New Testament:  we will hopefully look into them in future lectures.  Representatives of the Greek text of the New Testament tend to take center stage, because everything else does not contain the text that is being reconstructed.  But other witnesses are extremely important when it comes to tracking specific readings and building a history of separate forms of the text.              For example, when you see a rare reading in a Coptic manuscript from Egypt, and it also shows up in a Latin manuscript that was made in Ireland, it raises a question about how the text in these two geographically separated places is connected.  And if you see that the same reading in the same passage was quoted and interpreted by two early writers in two different locations, you can thus observe that the reading was widely distributed – and sometimes this evidence is earlier than any extant evidence from continuous-text Greek manuscripts.

             To learn more about early papyrus manuscripts and parchment manuscripts and how they were made, download Sitterly’s 1898 book Praxis in Manuscripts of the Greek Testament, and read chapters 1, 2, and 3.

            Also, watch the video, 8 minutes and 44 seconds long, that you can find at YouTube by searching there for “Beloved Essences How To Make Papyrus” –

            And another video, 3 minutes and 42 seconds long, that you can find at YouTube by searching there for “Texas Film Studio How To Make Papyrus.”

            And, watch the video about how to make parchment at Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs series, Season 4, Episode 26, which is also accessible at YouTube, beginning in the 20th minute of the video.

            And, watch the video about how paper was made in the late Middle Ages at YouTube; search there for a video 15 minutes and 18 seconds long, called “Papermaking by Hand at Hayle Mill.”

           Also, if you can acquire Larry Stone’s book The Story of the Bible, do so, and read chapters 1 and 3, and be sure to look inside the pouches.