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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Are Spelling Differences Meaningful in New Testament Manuscripts?

Last week I wrote about the estimated 200,000-500,000 textual variants in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. That's a lot of variants, but with over 2,000,000 pages of New Testament manuscripts available for scholars to study, that averages out to less than 1 unique textual variant for every 4 pages of text. Now consider, the majority of textual variants in the New Testament manuscripts are spelling differences that don't affect the meaning of the...

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How Many Textual Variants Exist in the New Testament Manuscripts?

In my article What are Textual Variants? I described textual variants as being any word or phrase in a manuscript that is different from the standard text. If a word is misspelled, it's a variant. If a scribe accidentally left out a verse, it's a variant. Any change, no matter how small, is considered a variant. I've read about two ways to count textual variants, and they conflict.

Counting Method 1

The first method for counting...

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What are Textual Variants?

Last week I started a new series with the article Why are there Variations in Different Translations of the New Testament?. Textual Variants are places where ancient manuscripts attest to more than one reading of a passage. There are about 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, and it's unreasonable to think anyone could copy it without making a single mistake. Most of the variants are simple spelling errors or other accidental...

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Why are there Variations in Different Translations of the New Testament?

Textual Variation, Matthew 3:16

Have you ever looked at the footnotes in a Bible and seen an alternate wording? Perhaps a note that starts with "some manuscripts add....", "Other ancient authorities add" or even "This clause not found in early mss"? For example, the last verse of the Lord's Prayer can be written several ways:

  • And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13 ESV)
  • And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil...

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Why did I Study Biblical Manuscripts?

People study Biblical manuscripts for a variety of reasons.

  • Some manuscripts have detailed drawings in them, and it's amazing how many years it took to create some of the manuscripts (What are Illuminated Manuscripts?).
  • The study of paleography (What is Paleography?) shows how writing styles changed over time.
  • Manuscripts are evidence of how people have valued God's written...

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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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How Many New Testament Manuscripts Exist?

I've been wanting to write about the number of New Testament Manuscripts for a while, but I haven't been able to find the types of resource I thought would be available. In my article What is the Gregory-Aland Numbering System?, I showed the most common system scholars use to track Greek New Testament manuscripts and fragments, but there are probably many fragments which haven't been submitted to the...

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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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