We present a few New Testament manuscripts from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth. We chose 300 CE as our terminus ad quem because the production of New Testament manuscripts radically changed after the persecution under Diocletian (303-305 CE) and especially after Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the empire. Many of the manuscripts that are presented here are nearly two hundred years older than the well-known uncials such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The early manuscripts presented here contain about two third of the New Testament text and in some cases the apocrypha. One can loosely consider these manuscripts to be the representative sample of the "Bible" which the people in the early centuries of Christianity read and revered. To them, these manuscripts were the New Testament text.
It is to be remembered that the manuscript tradition of the New Testament is non-uniform. The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible (Under "Text, NT") reminds us that:
It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS tradition is wholly uniform.
Thus, the modern day Greek New Testaments are the critical editions produced by eclectic method, where the prefered reading is determined on a case-by-case basis, from among numerous variants offered by the early manuscripts and versions. Therefore, these critical editions of the Greek New Testament do not completely replicate the evidence of any one manuscript. In fact, a careful reader of the critical editions of the New Testament would notice that not all the manuscripts contained in the lists of witnesses that are found in the introductory matter are used in the apparatus.
We have cited the following works consistently for the physical description and dating of the manuscripts.
Kurt Aland & Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions & To The Theory & Practice Of Modern Text Criticism, 1995, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 1968, Oxford University Press, New York (later editions omit the checklist of Greek New Testament papyri).
B. P. Grenfell & A. S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 1898 - , 66 volumes to date, Egypt Exploration Fund, London.
Kurt Aland et al., Greek-English New Testament, 1986, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, Germany.
A brief note on dating of the manuscripts is required. The dating of the manuscripts listed below represent consensus among the scholars. As the New Testament scholarship progressed, the dating was changed in some cases and we have followed the latest dating that has been accepted by the majority of the scholars. Supporting evidence is provided by the extra references quoted in the bottom of the document. In some cases when there is no consensus, e.g., whether the manuscript originated from second or third century, we have clubbed them into manuscripts from 2nd / 3rd century. Lastly, the manuscripts below are arranged in the numerical order in each sub-section.
Please let us know if we have made some mistakes or if our knowledge is not up to the mark.
List Of Papyri Of The New Testament
List Of Codices Of The New Testament
Text-Types Of The New Testament Manuscripts: Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean & Byzantine
2nd Century CE
Young Kyu Kim suggested that P46 should be dated to the first century (Y. K. Kim, "Palaeographic Dating Of P46 To The Later First Century", Biblica, 1988, Volume 69, pp. 248-257). Although the article provoked a widespread interest, but failed to receive any sustained attention in the literature. Recently Pickering produced a detailed refutation of Kim's dating and he dates P46 back to c. 200 CE (S. R. Pickering, "The Dating Of The Chester Beatty-Michigan Codex Of The Pauline Epistles (P46)" in T. W. Hillard, R. A. Kearsley, C. E. V. Nixon and A. M. Nobbs (eds.), Ancient History In A Modern University: Volume II (Early Christianity, Late Antiquity And Beyond), 1998, Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, NSW Australia and William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (Michigan)/Cambridge (UK), pp. 216-227). There is no support for Kim's dating from other palaeographers
Also a claim has been made by Carsten Thiede and Matthew d'Ancona in their book The Jesus Papyrus (the US edition of this book is called Eyewitness To Jesus) that P64 and Qumran fragment 7Q5 belong to mid-1st century CE. However, Thiede's book has come under a lot of criticism due to its sloppy research. Thiede also published a paper:
Carsten P. Thiede, "Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64): A Reappraisal", Tyndale Bulletin, 1995, Volume 46, pp. 29-42.
The above one is a slightly revised version of the paper that appeared earlier in:
Carsten P. Thiede, "Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64): A Reappraisal", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 1995, Volume 105, pp. 13-20.
Many scholars have written a critique of the work of Thiede and d'Ancona. The New Testament scholar Professor J. K. Elliott had written a devastating critique (See his review of Thiede's book in the reference below). An online review by Professor Elliott is also available. The critiques of Thiede's work are done by:
- J. K. Elliott, "Review Of The Jesus Papyrus & Eyewitness To Jesus", Novum Testamentum, 1996, Volume 38, pp. 393-399.
- Peter M. Head, "The Date Of The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew (P. Magd. Gr. 17 = P64): A Response To C. P. Thiede", Tyndale Bulletin, 1995, Volume 46, pp. 251-285 (Reprinted here with minor alterations).
- D. C. Parker, "Was Matthew Written Before 50 CE? The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew", Expository Times, 1996, Volume 107, pp. 40-43.
The popular Christian magazine Christianity Today also published a critique of Thiede's work in the article Indiana Jones and the Gospel Parchments.
A detailed discussion on the issues related to early dating by Kim and Thiede is available here.
2nd / 3rd Century CE
Papyrus 32, P32
Papyrus 52, P52
Papyrus 64, P64, Papyrus 67, P67, and Papyrus 4, P4 (believed to be coming from the same codex).
Papyrus 66, P66
Papyrus 90, P90
Papyrus 98, P98
Papyrus 104, P104
3rd Century CE
Papyrus 23, P23
Papyrus 38, P38
Papyrus 45, P45
Papyrus 46, P46
Papyrus 75, P75
Papyrus 77, P77
Papyrus 103, P103
3rd / 4th Century CE
Papyrus 1, P1
Papyrus 5, P5
Papyrus 9, P9
Papyrus 12, P12
Papyrus 15, P15
Papyrus 20, P20
Papyrus 22, P22
Papyrus 27, P27
Papyrus 28, P28
Papyrus 29, P29
Papyrus 30, P30
Papyrus 37, P37
Papyrus 39, P39
Papyrus 40, P40
Papyrus 47, P47
Papyrus 48, P48
Papyrus 49, P49
Papyrus 53, P53
Papyrus 65, P65
Papyrus 69, P69
Papyrus 80, P80
Papyrus 87, P87
Papyrus 91, P91
Papyrus 95, P95
Papyrus 101, P101
Papyrus 106, P106
Papyrus 107, P107
Papyrus 108, P108
Papyrus 109, P109
Papyrus 111, P111
Papyrus 113, P113
Papyrus 114, P114
Papyrus 118, P118
"The Great Uncials"
Papyrus 13, P13
Papyrus 16, P16
Papyrus 17, P17
Papyrus 18, P18
Papyrus 24, P24
Papyrus 70, P70
Papyrus 72, P72
Papyrus 78, P78
Papyrus 86, P86
Papyrus 92, P92
Papyrus 100, P100
Papyrus 102, P102
Papyrus 115, P115
Other Important Uncials
Canon Of The Bible
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Washingtonianus or Washington Ms. of the Gospels
A detailed discussion about the various canons of the Bible drawn at various times by different Churches can be seen here.
Criteria Used In Choosing Among Conflicting Readings In New Testament Witnesses
- The Criteria
- Outline Of Criteria
- External Evidence
- Internal Evidence
- Some Examples
Modern Approaches To New Testament Textual Criticism
- Radical Eclecticism (G. D. Kilpatrick, J. K. Elliott)
- Reasoned Eclecticism (B. M. Metzger, K. Aland)
- Reasoned Conservatism (H. A. Sturz)
- Radical Conservatism (Z. Hodges, A. Farstad)
The Multivalence Of The Term "Original Text" In New Testament Textual Criticism, E. Jay Epp, Harvard Theological Review, 1999, Volume 92, No. 3. pp. 245-281.
- The Use of the Term "Original Text" Past and Present and Its Multivalence
- The Relation of an Elusive, Multivalent "Original Text" to the Concept of "Canon"
Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament
Sir David Dalrymple (Lord Hailes), The Patristic Citations Of The Ante-Nicene Church Fathers And The Search For Eleven Missing Verses Of The New Testament
Based on a narrative whose source is alleged to have been the renowned Scottish Judge Sir David Dalrymple (Lord Hailes), it is frequently asserted that the entire New Testament can be reconstructed from the citations of the Church Fathers of the first three centuries, with the exception of only eleven verses. Going back to the original documents, something which none of the authors have attempted to study, it is shown that the data in them clearly disproves this claim – repeated in numerous missionary and apologetical publications for a period of more than 165 years.
- Historical And Theological Antecedents
- An Anecdote
- Dalrymple's Invitation: Some Preliminary Observations
Critical Text Of The New Testament: Methodology & Implications
- Formation Of A Critical Text: Methodology & Implications
- Appendix: Other Articles Of Interest
Articles Related To The Reliability Of The New Testament (Offsite)
The Textual Reliability of the New Testament (1) by Steve Carr
The Textual Reliability of the New Testament (2) by Steve Carr
There are couple of Kenneth W. Clark Lectures delivered by Professor Bart Ehrman at Duke Divinity School. The lectures are on Text and Tradition: The Role of New Testament Manuscripts in Early Christian Studies. The two lectures are:
These lectures are interesting from the point of view that it represents modern trends in the approach to the problems of the text of the New Testament.