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 Variant Units?

In my article two weeks ago, I wrote there are an estimated 200,000-500,000 textual variants in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Last week I showed spelling errors are counted, but most aren't significant.

Variant Types

The types of textual variants that exist in New Testament manuscripts are split into two  broad categories:

  • Insignificant Variants are errors that are usually found in only a few manuscripts and that can...

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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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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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What is the Gregory-Aland Numbering System?

Prior to the K-Liste (What is the Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments?), there were several different systems for cataloging New Testament manuscripts, which created confusion and inconsistencies for scholars. For a while, Latin letters were used (i.e. Codex Vaticanus is 'B'), but when there were more manuscripts than letters in the Latin alphabet, some people started using Greek letters (i.e. Codex Sangallensis is 'Δ') and one person used a...

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What is the Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments?

P52 - Manuscript Workspace

In my last article, Where are Manuscripts Found?, I briefly mentioned scholars use published lists to keep track of the New Testament manuscripts which have been cataloged. The list used by most New Testament manuscript scholars is Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments (Short List of Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament), produced by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, University of Munster, Germany. Fortunately for...

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What is a Manuscript?

What is a Manuscript?

The word manuscript comes from the Latin words manu, meaning hand, and scriptus, meaning write. Historically, a manuscript is a handwritten document, or a handwritten copy of a document. In modern times, a manuscript could be made on a typewriter or computer, but then refers to the original document created by the author, as opposed to mass-produced copies of the same document.

Manuscripts are a...

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How were the Canonical and Non-Canonical Books Categorized?

This article in my series about the Biblical Canon will be short, although the footnotes are extensive. In the first few hundred years after Jesus's resurrection, the church was trying to understand which books were in the canon. God made the canon, but it was still up to the church to recognize which books were appropriate for use.

Have you ever walked into a crowded room and seen some faces which are vaguely familiar, but you can't remember the...

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Why Create a Written Canon? Part 2

The Biblical Canon contains all the scripture "...breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...." (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV). Last week I wrote Why Create a Written Canon? Part 1, about heresies the early church was combating. However, that's not the main reason the canon was formed. If the canon had been created to fight heresies, that would make the canon reactive, an attempt to fix...

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