Lecture 06 - Some Important Manuscripts - in the series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. (24 minutes, but viewers are expected to explore the links and thus take longer)
Subtitles provide a basic outline and links to supplemental materials.
We are about to meet some manuscripts. Some of these, you might encounter very often in the apparatus of the Greek New Testament. Others are relatively small, but they are among the earliest witnesses to the readings they support.
In the course of this lecture, I will mention links to supplemental materials as we go. I hope that you will pause this video when a link appears, explore each resource, and then return to the lecture. These resources include images of manuscripts that can be viewed in fine detail.
Today I am going
to refer to the Alexandrian Text, the Western Text, and the Byzantine
Text. Hopefully in a future lecture I
will go into more detail about these terms.
For now, you can generally picture them as three forms of the text: the Alexandrian Text was used in
The importance of Papyrus 52, which
is at the John Rylands Library in
● Papyrus 104 is
another early papyrus fragment that is a top contender for the title “earliest
New Testament manuscript.” It was
Papyrus 104 contains text from Matthew 21:34-37 on one side. The text on the other side is very extremely badly damaged. But the surviving damaged text there probably contains text from Matthew 21:43 and 45. This would mean that Papyrus 104 is both the earliest manuscript of Matthew 21 and also the earliest witness for the non-inclusion of Matthew 21:44.
Greg Lanier’s detailed analysis of Papyrus 104 can be found online in Volume 21 of the TC-Journal, for 2016.
● Papyrus 23 is a fragment of the Epistle of James, probably made in the early 200s. It contains text from part of James chapter 1.
You can get a very good look at Papyrus
23 by visiting the website of its present home, the
● Papyrus 45 is much more substantial –
but it is still very fragmentary. When
it was made in the first half of the 200s, Papyrus 45 contained the four
Gospels and Acts. The order of books,
when the manuscript was made, is unknown.
Its surviving pages at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin contain text
from Matthew 20 and 21, Mark 4-9, Mark
11-12, Luke 6-7, Luke 9-14, John 4-5, John 10-11, and Acts 4-17. A leaf in
Papyrus 45 has several readings that are especially interesting due to the impact they have on Hort’s Theory of the Lucianic Recension. Hopefully we will take a closer look at this in a future lecture, but for now, we can just sum it up as the theory that the Byzantine Text – the text in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts – originated as the result of an editorial effort by someone in the late 200s – possibly Lucian of Antioch – who was combining readings from two earlier forms of the text: the Alexandrian Text, and the Western Text. Based on this theory, Hort rejected readings in the Byzantine Text that were neither Alexandrian nor Western, reckoning that they did not exist before the Byzantine Text was made.
But in Papyrus 45, which is assigned
to the early 200s, there are some readings that are not supported by the
flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text or the Western Text.
The text of Papyrus 45 does not agree particularly strongly with Codex Vaticanus, and it does not agree particularly strongly with Codex Bezae either. In the parts of Mark where Papyrus 45 is extant, its closest textual relative is Codex W – but Codex W’s text in those parts of Mark is not particularly Alexandrian or Western either.
When Papyrus 45 was first studied, after it was brought to light in the 1930s, there was a tendency to call its text Caesarean, like the text of family-1. But the late Larry Hurtado showed that whatever Papyrus 45’s text is, it is not closely related to the Caesarean Text. And while it repeatedly agrees with the Byzantine Text, it is not consistently Byzantine either.
● Papyrus 46 is the earliest substantial
copy of most of the Epistles of Paul, basically arranged in order according to
their length, with Hebrews between Romans and First Corinthians. There is some uncertainty about how many
epistles the copyist intended to include in the codex. Part of this manuscript is at the Chester
Beatty Library in
● Papyrus 66 contains most of the Gospel
of John, with some gaps due to incidental damage. It was found in
● Papyrus 75 is also assigned to around 200. It is a damaged but substantial codex that contains text from Luke and John. Its surviving text of Luke begins in chapter 3; its surviving text of John ends in chapter 15. The text of Papyrus 75 is close to the text found in Codex Vaticanus, but the two manuscripts are not related in a grandfather-and-grandson kind of relationship. Page-views of Papyrus 75 can be found online at the website of the Vatican Library.
Each of the next three manuscripts was designed as a pandect, that is, a large one-volume collection of the entire Bible. We tend to assume that it is not unusual to have a single volume that contains all of the books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But that is because we are part of a post-printing-press generation. In the world of manuscripts, Greek pandects of the Bible are rare.
Vaticanus is a very important manuscript of the Bible, housed, along with many
other manuscripts, at the Vatican Library in
Vaticanus was produced in the early 300s. Its text, in the New Testament, is formatted in three columns per page. This is usually its format in the Old Testament books too, although in the books of poetry the format is two columns per page. Codex Vaticanus does not contain the entire New Testament; it has no text from First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, or the book of Revelation; a text of Revelation is in the codex, written in minuscule lettering, but it is not really the same codex.
Vaticanus also does not contain the text of the book of Hebrews after Hebrews 9:14.
The lettering in Codex Vaticanus has been extensively reinforced; that is, someone, long after the codex was made, traced over the lettering, except where, rightly or wrongly, he thought that the text was inaccurate. The exact date when this was done is a matter of debate. I suspect that Codex Vaticanus, before it ended up at the Vatican Library, was previously in the hands of an important character in the 1400s named Bessarion, and scribes working for Bessarion may have been responsible for sprucing it up a bit. This did not materially affect its text.
The entire manuscript can be viewed page by page at the website of the Vatican Library.
● Codex Sinaiticus is the wingman of Codex Vaticanus. Its text is not as good, but it is more complete. The New Testament text of Codex Sinaiticus has survived in more or less the same form in which it left its scriptorium in the mid-300s. “More or less,” that is, because a few centuries after its production, someone attempted to adjust many of its readings, but those attempts can be detected. In addition to containing the text of every book of the New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus also contains the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Shepherd of Hermas.
Most of the text of Codex Sinaiticus is Alexandrian. However, in the first eight chapters of John, more or less, its text tends to be more like the Western Text. It is as if the copyists were working from an exemplar of the Gospels that was Alexandrian, but in these opening chapters of John, their main exemplar was damaged, and so they used a drastically different exemplar as their back-up.
That would be consistent with a
historical scenario that is mentioned by Jerome, who states that Acacius and
This indicates that Eusebius of
Caesarea was not involved in the production of Codex Sinaiticus, because it is
extremely unlikely that he would have allowed his own cross-reference system to
be presented so carelessly. At the same
time, as the place where Eusebius was bishop until his death,
In addition, there are several clues
embedded in the text of Codex Sinaiticus that suggest that it was made at
Details about the origin of Codex
Sinaiticus, and the quality of its text, have tended to be overshadowed by
stories about its discovery in the 1800s by Constantine Tischendorf at Saint Catherine’s
Codex Sinaiticus has a secondary set of section-numbers in its margin in Acts that is, for the most part, shared by Codex Vaticanus. This indicates that when these numbers were added, probably in the 600s, these two manuscripts were at the same place.
Codex Sinaiticus has its own website, CodexSinaiticus.org , and there one can find not only good photographs of the manuscript but also some interesting information about its background and how it was made.
● Next is Codex Alexandrinus. This codex, from the early 400s, has undergone significant damage: it is missing the first 24 chapters of Matthew. The surviving Gospels-text of Alexandrinus is particularly important because it tends to support the Byzantine Text, unlike Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. In Acts and the Epistles, its text agrees much more often with the two flagship Alexandrian codices, but this is a tendency, definitely not a two-peas-in-a-pod level of agreement. For Revelation, Codex A is the best manuscript we have. The entire New Testament portion of Codex Alexandrinus can be viewed page by page at the British Library’s website.
● The worst Greek manuscript we have is Codex Bezae, a diglot manuscript, with alternating pages in Latin, which was produced in the 400s. It has undergone some damage, but it still contains most of the four Gospels, in the order Matthew – John – Luke – Mark, part of Third John in Latin, and most of the book of Acts.
More important than its production-date is the date of the readings that it supports: many of them are supported by Old Latin witnesses, and by early patristic writers who used what is called the Western Text.
The high level of textual corruption in Codex Bezae makes the text found in relatively young manuscripts look excellent in comparison. Codex D’s text demonstrates that what really matters is not the age of a manuscript, as much as how well the copyists in the transmission-line of a manuscript did their job.
Once one comes to terms with the awful quality of Codex Bezae’s text, though, many of its readings are awfully interesting. It echoes a time in the text’s history when copyists prioritized conveying the meaning of the text – or what they thought was its meaning – above the form of the text found in their exemplars.
Codex Bezae can be viewed online
page by page at the
from the 400s, and probably earlier than Codex Bezae, is Codex Washingtonianus. Codex
W was acquired by the American businessman Charles Freer in 1906. It is the most important Greek
Gospels-manuscript in the
This has led some researchers to suspect that although most of Codex W appears to have been made in the 400s, it may be a copy of an earlier codex that was based on exemplars that had been partly destroyed in the Diocletian persecution, in the very early 300s, just before Codex Vaticanus was made. Page-views of Codex W can be accessed at the website of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
● Codex Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus, also known as Codex C, is a palimpsest. Its surviving pages contain text from almost every book of the New Testament, as well as pages from some of the books of Poetry in the Old Testament, and two apocryphal books. It was made some time in the 400s. Its text is somewhat Alexandrian, with significant Byzantine mixture. It is one of the few Greek manuscripts that support the reading “six hundred and sixteen” as the number of the beast in Revelation 13:18.
The parchment of Codex C was recycled to provide material on which some of the works of Ephraem the Syrian were written; this accounts for the name of the manuscript. Its Biblical text was established in the 1840s, after much effort, by Constantine Tischendorf, the same individual who brought Codex Sinaiticus to the attention of European scholars. The text has undergone extensive correction.
● 0176 is a fragment, probably produced in the 400s, that contains
text from Galatians 3:16-24. This manuscript was excavated from
● The Purple Triplets is my pet name for three uncial manuscripts from the mid-500s: Codex N, Codex O, and Codex Σ. Codex N is also known as 022, Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus. Codex O is also known as 023, Codex Sinopensis. It contains text from the Gospel of Matthew. And Codex Σ is also known as 042, Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, or the Rossano Gospels. It contains text from Matthew and Mark.
These are not the only Greek uncial manuscripts written on purple parchment. What is especially interesting about these three is that they are related to each other like siblings, copies of the same master-copy. Codex Σ is known not only for its mainly Byzantine text, but also for its illustrations, which can be viewed at http://www.codexrossanensis.it .
● Codex Regius, also known as Codex L, contains most of the text of the four Gospels. It was probably made in the 700s, probably by an Egyptian copyist. Codex L is one of six Greek manuscripts that attest to both the Shorter Ending and the Longer Ending of Mark. Codex L also has a large distinct blank space in the Gospel of John where most manuscripts have John 7:53-8:11, the story of the adulteress.
● Codex Pi, also known as Codex Petropolitanus, is a Gospels-manuscript assigned to the 800s. Its text is a very early form of the Byzantine Text.
● Codex K, also known as Codex Cyprius, is another Gospels-manuscript that was also probably produced in the 800s. In the first 20 verses of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, compared to the text in Codex Sinaiticus, the text of Codex Cyprius is much closer to the original text.
● Minuscule 2474, the Elfleda Bond
Goodspeed Gospels, from the 900s, contains an example of the text of the
Gospels that dominated Greek manuscript-production in the
There are also several clusters, or groups, of manuscripts, that share readings that indicate that they share the same general line of descent:
In the Gospels, the text of some members of a group of manuscripts that display a note called the Jerusalem Colophon is above average importance.
Readings shared by the main members of Family 1 in the Gospels, best represented by minuscule manuscripts 1, 1582, and 2193, probably echo an ancestor-manuscript from the 400s.
Members of Family 13 in the Gospels tend to echo an ancestor-manuscript with many reading that diverge from the Byzantine standard.
Also, in the General Epistles, members of the Harklean Group echo a form of the text that has some unusual readings that are earlier than Codex Sinaiticus.
Some other minuscules, such as minuscules 6, 157, 700, 892, and 1739, are as important as some of the uncials. Their existence should remind us that when we ask how much weight ought to be given to a particular manuscript, the primary consideration should not be “How old is it”, but “How well did the copyists in its transmission-stream do their job?”.
No manuscript sprang into being out of nothing, and any manuscript, early or late, if it is independent from another known manuscript, has the potential to contribute something to a reconstruction of the text of the New Testament.
Saint Catherine’s Monastery at