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  #1  
Old 16 June 2007, 08:26 AM
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Read This! Extant manuscripts of the New Testament

Comment: Many sites, such as this one, claim there are 25,000 ancient
copies of the New Testament:
http://www.thechristianexpositor.org/page52.html

This number is repeated around the internet.

As a New Testament scholar, I think that's off by at least a zero:
There are 116 papyri (http://www.thechristianexpositor.org/page52.html)

A chart of ancient New Testament manuscripts:
http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/MSConv.html
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  #2  
Old 16 June 2007, 12:34 PM
Base Ten
 
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Read This!

I'm no "New Testament scholar" either, however from my brief poking around the internet...


His second link is the same as the first, and doesn't mention "116 papyri" anywhere.
However, this link http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/...ipts_disc.html does mention 116 papyri, and elsewhere shows a count of 5,745 Greek New Testament manuscripts.


The list in his third link is 838 rows long.


This link http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bib-docu.html states :
There are more than 4,000 different ancient Greek manuscripts containing all or portions of the New Testament that have survived to our time. These are written on different materials.
...
In addition to the actual Greek manuscripts, there are more than 1,000 copies and fragments of the New Testament in Syria, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic, as well as 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, some of which date back almost to Jerome's original translation in 384 400 A.D.


This link http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/Versions.html while my brief scan didn't find totals, has some detailed information on translations into different languages. (It's a similar URL to his third link)


Wikipedia here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragr..._New_Testament mentions "Archaeologists have discovered papyrus fragments of the New Testament dating as far back as the middle of the second century. Of all 5,000 extant manuscripts..."


Another link http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuse...-Testament.htm "About 4,000 manuscripts, in whole or in part, of the Greek New Testament are now known." It also goes into details about errors between versions.


And then this link http://www.allabouttruth.org/origin-of-the-bible.htm says :
The manuscript evidence for the New Testament is also dramatic, with over 5,300 known copies and fragments in the original Greek, nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000 AD.


Base "there's definitely more than" Ten
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Old 16 June 2007, 06:40 PM
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I've never heard the 25,000 number, never in my life. I usually say "around 6000" or "close to 6000" but really it's 5000 and change, such as the number base10 gave.

NT manuscripts are classified into a number of groups, which derive from haphazzard historical development of the field rather than well thought out planning or reasonable classification!

The first would be what we call "papyri" which refer to manuscripts written in uncials (capital letters, or majuscules) on a material made by crushing and drying papyrus plants together, known not surprisingly as papyrus. Papyrus was used in the earliest times and so papyri mss (manuscripts) tend to be the oldest ones we have. papyrus becomes fragile when repeatedly wetted, however, so the only papyrus mss that survived did so in hot dry climates, such as the sands of egypt. A large number of papyri have been published in the last century from the oxyrhinchus excavation site, and now the number is up to 116. Almost all of these are partial or lacunary, however.

The next group is what we call "uncials." These are mss that are, like papyri, written in uncial letters, but rather than being written on papyri they are written usually on vellum, or animal skin. Really, "uncials" encompasses any ms written in uncials that is not written on papyri. Since the papyri are the earlier ones, the remaining uncials tend to be younger. The oldest come from the third or fourth centuries. However, the surviving uncials tend to be much more complete, often encompassing complete copies of the NT, or in atleast one case, the whole bible in Greek. Last I checked there were 310 extant uncials, and I don't think we've discovered any more.

The next group is what we call minuscules. These are mss primarily written on vellum, paper, or whatever else, but are written in lower case letters, called minuscules. This style of writing developed much later into the middle ages, and thus minuscules tend to be much younger mss. Further, because they've had less time to fall apart, there are more minuscules extant than any other type, some 2877 of them. While there are a tonne of these minuscules, they tend to be considered less important in text critical decisions because they are younger and tend to just repeat and re-enforce eachother rather than offering independent evidence of one reading or another.

Finally, the last group is what we call lectionaries, and these are special manuscripts of the NT that were organised and printed with special markings or special divisions in special orders so as to facilitate liturgical reading in chuch. Lectionaries are therefore not very valuable in text critical decisions since they are mss that were specifically modified for a task. There are about 2432 of these extant today.


There are also miscellanious ostraca (pottery shards) talismans and other unclassifiable artifacts that have excerpts or quotations of the NT on them, and these are sometimes interesting for showing the use, geographical spread, or age of one reading or another.

I have no idea where the 25000 number comes from in regard to NT mss however.

As before, for further reading on this topic you can do no better than starting with Bruce Metzger's The Text of the New Testament. Get the latest edition just updated by Bart Ehrman. There are plenty of other good books on this subject, but you're wasting your time starting anywhere but with Metzger.
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Old 16 June 2007, 09:41 PM
Base Ten
 
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Thanks for that concise information callee.

I've heard several interesting - perhaps myths or facts - concerning the transcription of books of the Bible.

The first one is that there are fewer errors in the Bible transcriptions than occurred in transcriptions of other misc. ancient writings, due to the great care and routines that the scribes would undertake. For example, they would count the number of words and letters on each page and if it didn't match exactly the counts from what they were copying, they'd destroy the page and start over.

Another one is that there was some (maybe order of monks?) that out of reverence would ritually bathe and put on new clothing every time before they would write the name of God. It would take them a heck of a long time to complete the passages that contained many references to God.

Have you heard of these or other interesting routines or stories, and can we tell if they have some degree of truth to them?


Base Ten
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Old 16 June 2007, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Base Ten View Post
Thanks for that concise information callee.

I've heard several interesting - perhaps myths or facts - concerning the transcription of books of the Bible.

The first one is that there are fewer errors in the Bible transcriptions than occurred in transcriptions of other misc. ancient writings, due to the great care and routines that the scribes would undertake. For example, they would count the number of words and letters on each page and if it didn't match exactly the counts from what they were copying, they'd destroy the page and start over.

Another one is that there was some (maybe order of monks?) that out of reverence would ritually bathe and put on new clothing every time before they would write the name of God. It would take them a heck of a long time to complete the passages that contained many references to God.

Have you heard of these or other interesting routines or stories, and can we tell if they have some degree of truth to them?


Base Ten
Hey base ten,

The counting the letters thing did in fact happen, though not for NT mss that I am aware of. That tradition comes from the practice of the masorites - early medieval scribes who copied the Hebrew scriptures that we call the OT. The OT developed more slowly over a much longer period of time - thousands of years actually - so by the time we get to the christian era the OT was already comparatively well established, and its status as sacred scripture already enshrined. As such, Jewish scribes knew what they were doign and how they should do it right from the start and were able to plan a better system accordingly.

In comparison, the Christian NT was written over about 50-60 years, and when it's individual parts were first circulated they were not thought of as sacred scripture, but rather just as good and helpful books. As such, that same oh-my-gosh-the-words-of-God care was just not taken. Compound that with the fact that the earliest Christians were of the poorer classes and so there was a shortage of trained scribes or the money to pay the same, and so most of the earliest NT transcription was accomplished by untrained and low educated laymen. In other words, the worst transcriptions of the NT was the earliest transcription, and most of the variants that textual critics deal with today entered the ms tradition at this stage. Once Christianity became more established as a religion, got more money, and the books of the NT gained status as sacred documents, much more care started to be taken. Some of the later monks and scriptoria did approach the level of care of the masorites, but primarily that wow-were-they-good reputation belongs to the masorites.

As for the ritual washing thing, I have to admit I've never heard of it, though off my head I would be suspicious of it. It was primarily the Jews who had that kind of concern for the name(s) of God, so right away tht story would be more fitting to a Jewish scribe than a Christian one. Second, Christian scribes very early on developed the practice of what we call nomina sacra, of the sacred names, wherein they wrote only one or two letters of the word and drew a line above or below it to indicate the truncation. Debates rage whether this was an act of piety or practicality (divine names occur more often and thus take up lots of room cumilatively, but papyrus and vellum were expensive! ), but in either case I would suspect that having already omitted the divine name there would be little need to wash before writing it. I could be wrong though.
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Old 17 June 2007, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by callee View Post
The OT developed more slowly over a much longer period of time - thousands of years actually
"Thousands of years" would only be correct if you include and accept the whole oral tradition at the base of the written text. Orthodoxy claims the oldest and most important part, the Torah, was given in its entirety to Moses on mount Sinai in 1280 BC. Even accepting that date you would get about a thousand years for the whole OT, but in fact there is no proof of any actual written text at that time.

Quote:
In contrast, modern historians conclude that the origin of the Torah indeed came from this time-frame, but developed in different strands, which were eventually redacted together sometime around 400 BCE, the time of Ezra the scribe. These beliefs are accepted as correct by Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism.
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Old 18 June 2007, 02:04 AM
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Gah! sorry, see, that's what happens when you get a new testament guy talking about the old testament! No, I was thinking of the standard documentary hypothesis, which generally (as I double check the reference now) is thought to have begun in the 11th century and run to the 5th century bce, except that - just like the last time I tried to talk about this on snopes! - in my head all of those numbers got an extra zero added onto them, which made me say "thousands" instead of "hundreds"! Thanks for the correction!
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Old 16 April 2010, 07:45 PM
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The 24,000 number comes from here http://www.carm.org/manuscript-evidence

This number includes the 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages too.

The 24,000 has been quoted by Bruce M. Metzger in "A Case For Christ" by Lee Strobel.

I do not know if Metzger has ever stated this number in his own work.
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