What are the Most Important New Testament Manuscripts?

The New Testament was written in the first century, but the  date each book was written is highly debated. Conservative Christians usually date most of the books of the New Testament before A.D. 70, since there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army, which occurred that year. Other people claim much of the New Testament was written after A.D. 70, and that any apparent prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem was written after...

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What Text Types are the Variants in Colossians 2:2?

In the article How Are Textual Variants and Variation Units Related? I had a chart showing the reading that textual critics think is most likely to be original for the last variation unit in Colossians 2:2, along with 14 textual variants. The standard text reads:

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the...

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Is a Textual Variant Both Meaningful and Viable?

I've stated repeatedly in previous articles that most textual variants are simple mistakes made by scribes when copying the New Testament, but some changes are intentional. When trying to decide if a variant could be original, textual scholars start by asking two questions:

Is the Variant Meaningful?

Often, mistakes do not create a meaningful text. Spelling errors may produce a series of letters that aren't really a word. Jesus instructed...

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How Are Textual Variants and Variation Units Related?

Textual variants are words or phrases in a manuscript that are different from the standard text. There may be several textual variants for a verse in the Bible, such as the last verse of the Lord's Prayer. Variation units are places in the standard text where the original wording is uncertain, and scholars try to determine which textual variant most likely reflects the original wording.

Textual Variants in Colossians 2:2

A single...

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What are Diglots and Polyglots?

New Testament, Matthew 1: NRSV, Greek and NIV

The words diglot and polyglot are linguistic terms that come from Greek words meaning "two-tongued" and "many-tongued", respectively; they can also mean "language" rather than "tongued". When used as adjectives, they refer to people who speak more than one language. In this article, I'll be using them as nouns and refer to manuscripts and books which have more than one language. Most of the time, I'll use polyglot to refer to two or more...

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What Symbols has the Church Used to Refer to Christianity?

Christian symbols used by the church

I've been working on the series What are New Testament Manuscripts?, and my last article,  What are Nomina Sacra?, described how names and titles for God were contracted to show a special reverence for them. The other articles in the series were about Biblical Manuscripts, but this one focuses on Christian symbols used by the church, sometimes in copies of the New Testament, but also in commentaries, prayers, letters and even on...

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What are Nomina Sacra?

Nomina Sacra, Matthew 1:1, Papyrus 1 (A.D. 200-299)

Nomina Sacra is a method early scribes used to contract Sacred Names when copying the New Testament. Although the term nomina sacra (plural; singular: nomen sacrum) is Latin, it has a modern origin in Ludwig Traube's 1907 book Nomina sacra: Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen Kürzung (Essay on the history of Christian abbreviations). In my last article, What is Scriptio Continua?, I indicated...

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What is Scriptio Continua?

The written word has evolved significantly over the millennia. Many of the evolutions have made writing easier for the sender, and reading easier for the recipient. The media that has been used for writing is one example: some of the oldest knowing writings (or drawings) are on cave walls, and sometimes clay tablets were used. Papyrus (made from the papyrus plant, common along the Nile river) was used for well over 2,000 years, then parchment (made from animal...

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How does the Quality of New Testament Manuscripts Compare to Other Ancient Manuscripts?

Last week I showed some data about the quantity and ages of both New Testament manuscripts and ancient Greek and Roman authors in the article How does the Quantity of New Testament Manuscripts Compare to Other Ancient Manuscripts?. I had originally planned on using these quotes in last week's article, but it was getting too long. This week is mostly quotes by scholars and authors regarding that data.

So what we have are...

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How does the Quantity of New Testament Manuscripts Compare to Other Ancient Manuscripts?

In my last article, How Many New Testament Manuscripts Exist?, I showed there are over 5,800 Greek New Testament manuscripts that have been cataloged. Scholars also know of over 20,000 manuscripts in other languages, about half of them in Latin. There are also undoubtedly thousands of manuscripts in private collections, churches and libraries which are effectively lost to the academic world and haven't been studied.

Unfortunately, there...

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