I.                   New Testament letters


A.                Previously discussed.

1.                  Made their appearance in latter half of 1st century.

2.                  Undoubtedly written on papyrus sheets; rather fragile.

3.                  Not long after penning, original autographs perished.

4.                  But, early Christians made copies.

B.                 The copies

1.                  Known simply as “manuscripts”.

a.                   Term basically denotes anything written by hand.

b.                  By general consent, restricted (re: Bible) to documents of original tongues.

c.                   Therefore, a New Testament manuscript is a Greek manuscript.

2.                  If have a New Testament manuscript.

a.                   1st, need to determine its age.

(1)               Many present no problem, since several hundred have exact day and year written on them.

(2)               Dated ones assist with undated ones.

(3)               With undated:

(a)                Must look carefully at the handwriting.

(b)               Letters large or small?

(c)                Words written together or spaces between the words?

(d)               How many columns to a page?

(e)                What is the appearance of the columns?

(f)                Marks of punctuation present or divisions into paragraphs?

(g)               Form of the letters, plain and simple or elaborate and complex?

(4)               Takes special expertise.

(5)               There are exceptions (e.g. perplexing problems with later manuscripts).

b.                  Two major types of New Testament manuscripts.

(1)               Form of letters supplies the key in determining type.

(2)               One group.

(a)                Earliest and certainly most important.

(b)               Written in capital letters.

(c)                Without intervening spaces.

(d)               Without marks of punctuation.

(e)                Known as “uncials”.

(3)               Second Group

(a)                A larger group.

(b)               Handwriting is smaller and in a running hand-style.

(c)                Known as “cursives”.

(d)               Debuted in 9th century.

3.                  Number of New Testament manuscripts.

a.                   Over 5000.

b.                  Not all are complete New Testament (only few contain even approaching complete New Testament)

c.                   Present manuscripts indicate four categories followed when making copies.

(1)               The Four Gospels.

(2)               The Acts and General Epistles.

(3)               The Pauline Epistles.

(4)               The Book of Revelation.

d.                  Often groups (2), (3) and (4) were combined to form a 2d volume.

4.                  When New Testament first written, both uncial and cursive styles were in use.

C.                 Uncials

1.                  Represented in about 375 manuscripts, including:

a.                   About 90 papyri documents (50 dating from 2d to 4th century).

b.                  About 30 fragments of ostraca (broken pieces of pottery).

c.                   Most papyri and ostraca found in the 20th century.

d.                  Therefore, about 250 copied on vellum, and date from 4th to 10th century.

2.                  The important uncials (date back to AD 300-450).

a.                   The Vatican Manuscript (abbreviated as Codex B).

(1)        4th century.

(2)        Located in the Vatican Library at Rome (since at least 1481).

(3)        Contents not available until close of 19th century.

(4)        Until 1889, only a few editions of portions were allowed.

(5)        1889-90, a complete photographic facsimile of whole made for all scholars to use.

(6)        Rare in that contains in Greek practically all of Old Testament and New Testament.

(7)        Beginning lost (as far as Ge 46:28); some Ps missing (Ps 106-138); and ending dropped off (Heb 9:14 to the close, letters of Timothy and Titus, and Revelation).

(8)        Bound in book form (a codex) and had 759 leaves of finest vellum.

(9)        Someone had traced the text whose ink was beginning to fade (sad since original ink has not faded from view).

(10)      Considered to be the most exact copy of New Testament known.

(11)      Note: it does not include Mk 16:9-20, but scribe left, at this point, more than a column of space blank.

b.                  The Sinaitic Manuscript

(1)        Of almost equal importance to the Vatican Manuscript.

(2)               “Discovered” by Constantine Tischendorf at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai. (a Greek Orthodox monastery).

(3)        Goes by abbreviation of Codex Aleph (Aleph is first letter in Hebrew alphabet).

(4)        First sheets found in 1844 in basket headed to fire.

(5)        Next 15 years, his attempts to gain more failed.

(6)        By 1859, Tischendorf had formed friendship with the Emperor of Russia and received backing.

(7)        Near end, a steward showed his manuscripts.

(8)        Had part of Old Testament, and entire New Testament (with all 27 books complete).

(9)        Finally, obtained it as a gift to Russia Czar .

(10)      In 1933, Soviets sold it to British for 100,000 pounds.

(11)      Located in British Museum (now British Library).

(12)      Also includes Ep. Of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.

(13)      Vellum of outstanding quality.

(14)      Generally dated from middle of 4th century.

c.                   The Alexandrian Manuscript

(1)        A 5th century uncial.

(2)        Originally came from Alexandria (Codex A).

(3)        Offered by Cyril Lucar, high official of the Greek church, as a gift to James I of England (died before gift completed).

(4)        In 1627, was presented to successor Charles I.

(5)        Now in British Library.

(6)        Only 10 leaves missing from Old Testament, but 25 leaves dropped from beginning of Mt., 2 leaves from Jn., and 3 from 2Co.

(7)        Quality of contents not up to high standard of Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts.

d.                  Note that all three have becomes known since the translation of the K.J.V.


II.                Other Manuscripts and New Testament Witnesses


A.                Two other key manuscripts from 5th century.

1.                  The Manuscript of Ephraem

a.                   A “palimpset”, Greek terming meaning “scraped again” or “rubbed again”.

b.                  Take old parchment, scrape off ink, then write over the old.

c.                   Codex C.

d.                  Top layer is a 12th century copy of works of Ephraem of Syria.

e.                   Beneath that is a 5th century copy of Scriptures.

f.                   Much missing from Old Testament.

g.                  New Testament: 145 leaves from every book except 2Th. and 2Jn.

h.                  Full edition published in 1845.

i.                    Now in National Library of Paris.

2.                  The Codex Bezae (Codex D).

a.                   Presented to University of Cambridge by Theodore Beza in 1581.

b.                  The earliest known Biblical copy in two languages (Greek and Latin), facing each other.

c.                   Contains only the Gospels and Acts, with small portion of 2Jn. in Latin.

d.                  At time of K.J.V. was only important uncial available, but was little used due to speculation surrounding it.


B.                 The Cursives

1.                  The larger group of manuscripts (approximate 2800 have been catalogued).

2.                  Date from 9th to 16th century, which limits their value.

3.                  Known more technically as “minuscules”; use smaller forms of letters.

C.                 The Lectionaries

1.                  “lection” refers to a selected passage of Scripture designed to be read in public worship services.

2.                  Therefore, is a manuscript arranged in sections for that purpose.

3.                  Have extant copies of both uncials and cursives.

4.                  Were copied a little more carefully than ordinary manuscripts.

5.                  More than 2200 now enumerated.

D.                The Versions (translations)

1.                  Principal among other materials of secondary rank.

2.                  A number were made very shortly after New Testament books first issued, therefore valuable.

3.                  The Syriac Versions.

a.                   Chief language of Syria and Mesopotamia.

b.                  Almost identical to Aramaic.

c.                   The Old Syriac

(1)               Became known of in the 19th century.

(2)               Two chief manuscripts.

(a)                The Curetonian Syriac (5th century copy of Gospels)

(b)               The Sinaitic Syriac (discovered in 1892; rescript man. of Gospels)

d.                  The Peshitta

(1)               Means “simple” or “common”.

(2)               Refers to the standard Syriac translation in use since 5th century.

(3)               More than 350 manuscripts of the Peshitta.

e.                   Latin versions

(1)               The Old Latin (probably originated ca A.D. 150).

(2)               The Latin Vulgate (Jerome; A.D. 384, Gospels, later rem.)

(a)                A revision of a certain form of Old Latin version.

(b)               10,000 or more extant copies.

E.                 Early Christian Writers.

1.                  From end of 1st century, in 2d century, and shortly afterward.

2.                  Volumes have been preserved.

3.                  Many filled with quotations of New Testament.








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