The Making of New Testament Books

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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

As Luke, Paul, Peter, Matthew, James, or Jude handed their authorized text off to be copied by others, i.e., published, what would it have looked like? What is the process that the New Testament writers would have followed to get their book ready to be published, that is, copied by others? Once they were prepared for publication, how would they be copied throughout the centuries, up until the time of the printing press in 1455 C.E.?[1] As we open our Bible to the Gospel of Matthew, or the letter to the Romans, or any of the 27 books of the New Testament, how can we have confidence that what we are reading is a reflection of the original in our language? If we were to bring home from a bookstore a copy of the KJV, ASV, RSV, ESV, CSB, LEB, NASB, NLT, NIV, NRSV, or any of the other one hundred and fifty plus English translations, could we have confidence that what we are reading is, in fact, the Word of God? Some translations have footnotes throughout that say, “Other ancient MSS[2] read …. What exactly does that mean, and which is the Word of God: the words in the main text of our Bible, or the others below in the footnote?

The science and art of textual criticism has answered these questions, and more. It is a science because there are rules and principles, as well as a method or process that is to be followed if the textual scholar is to get back to the original reading.[3] It is an art because the human agent needs to be balanced with his use of those rules and principles. It is like driving a car. The driver needs to follow all driving rules as he stays between the lines of his side of the road to reach his destination. So too, the textual scholar needs to stay within the rules to reach his destination of establishing what the original words of the original texts were. However, the designers of the roads were not rigid to the point of making those two lines so narrow that there was no room for the driver to miss obstructions, which might be in his path. This extra room would help the driver to avoid objects that could result in a crash. The same holds true for the textual scholar having room within the lines of his field to prevent a wreck, causing him not to be able to reach his desired destination, i.e., the original reading.


From ancient times until 1455 C.E., anything that was penned was done so literally, by hand. A “manuscript” is a handwritten text. It did not matter if it were a poem, letter, receipt, book, or a marriage certificate; it would still have been produced and copied by hand. In addition, it would mostly have been done one copy at a time in the early decades of Christianity. In the second century C.E., it may have been copied in a scriptorium, i.e., a room in a monastery for storing, copying, illustrating, or reading manuscripts. In the scriptorium, there would have been a lector who would have read aloud slowly as multiple scribes or copyists took down what he was saying.

The modern-day young person is far removed from the 1920s to the 1980s where people actually used physical paper, pens, pencils, and envelopes to write letters. The same material was used for homework in school. Everything today is digital: Microsoft Word Docx, PDFs, laptops, tablets, social media, and smartphones. A twenty-year-old today would likely find it challenging to write a letter with merely pen and paper. He would find it tedious and physically taxing, not to mention his lack of practice in writing would make it more difficult at being proficient in making the letters and it would not be aesthetically pleasing. The hand, wrist, and forearm would get very tired to the point where he would need to take a break.

In early Christianity, to manually copy a Bible text would be far more arduous than what was just described. There would be many different physical and mental tasks involved in the process of Tertius copying the book of Romans as the apostle Paul dictated to him, which would have been laborious and strenuous. The same would be even more true of the copyists that would then use that original copy of Romans to make other copies. He would not have had the luxury of having the words dictated, and he would have to look at the exemplar back and forth thousands of times as he made his copy that contained 7,000+ words. Imagine if he were copying the entire Greek New Testament of 138,162 words.

Additionally, far more was involved than simply reading the exemplar and writing a word or phrase in the copy. The material that was being written on was papyrus or parchment. Papyrus was a material prepared in ancient Egypt from the pithy stem of a water plant, used in sheets throughout the ancient Mediterranean world for writing. Parchment was a stiff, flat, thin material made from the prepared skin of an animal and used as a durable writing surface in ancient and medieval times. More on this later. 

When the materials used and the working environment are understood, we will fully be able to appreciate why ancient people hired secretaries (scribes). The scribe would lay out a layer of strips that he had cut from the papyrus plant. The pithy juices of the plant would be put in the strips. Another layer would have been placed at right angles over top of the first layer. Something flat and heavy would be placed on the papyrus sheet so the two could be bonded by pressure, which would have produced what we would consider a sheet of papyrus paper. It was no easy task writing on the surface of this papyrus sheet, as the material was rough and fibrous.


The scribe could be seen sitting on the ground with his legs crossed, a board laying over his knees. He would be hunched over, holding the exemplar sheet of papyrus with the fingers of say his left hand and his thumb of the same hand resting on the papyrus sheet he was using to make his copy. Or, if a professional scribe, he would pin his sheets of papyrus down. To the other corner of the board would be a small container of ink that he had personally made from a mixture of soot and gum. If this scribe were not experienced at making documents, or he was using below-average level materials, his calamus, or reed pen, could very well snag and tear the papyrus, or the writing could be unreadable. To the right of this scribe, we would see a sharp knife, which would have been used to sharpen his reed pen, and a damp sponge that would be used to erase any errors he might make. Being that he is copying a New Testament book, he would likely be doing his level best to write every letter with the greatest of care, meaning he would be writing slowly, all of this bringing with it some difficulty. Imagine the constant sharpening of his pen with his knife and the continuous replenishing it with ink to keep the strokes even.

As we can mentally picture, this scribe was carrying out many simultaneous tedious tasks as he went about copying a book of the New Testament. If he had some experience or if he were a professional in making documents and copying literature, he would have had to consider the page before him to calculate the proper word division. He would be using stichoi notations at the end of the copying process, that is, notes on how many lines were copied to get paid, which means that he had to keep track of his lines. The scribe would always have to be conscious of an imaginary upper and lower line that he sought to keep his text between. Unlike our notebooks today, papyrus and parchment sheets did not come with ruled lines. The scribe would use an unsharpened instrument to draw 25-30 pressure lines on his page that was to receive the text. Before he even began the above, he would have to have the ability to estimate just how many sheets would be needed for the project if he were making a copy of an individual gospel or a codex of all four gospels, or the gospels and acts, or a copy of Paul’s epistles, or even one of Paul’s epistles, such as Romans. He would have to determine how he was going to construct the codex: was it to be one gather or multiple gathers. If it were multiple gatherings, how many sheets would he need in each gathering? To estimate these things, he would have to determine the size of the letters, how many letters to a line, how big were the margins. These are just some of the basic difficulties that were involved as early scribes made copies of our New Testament books.

One of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts: P66 Papyrus

The Scroll or Roll Book

Scroll of the Book of Esther, Seville, Spain.

A scroll is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or other material, used for a written document. The scroll was generally divided into pages, even though it was continuous, by gluing separate sheets at the edges. Usually, the reader or lector and the writer unrolled the scroll one page at a time, leaving it rolled up on both sides of the current page that was showing. The scroll is unrolled from side to side, with the text being written or read, from lines of text, from the top to the bottom of the pages. For example, if it were Hebrew, it would be written from right to left, and one would open that scroll by rolling to the right. On the other hand, if it were Greek, it would be written from left to right, or even in an alternating direction with other languages. Boustrophedon is an ancient method of inscribing and writing, in which lines are written alternately from right to left and from left to right. Usually, professional scribes would justify both sides of the pages, with both left and right margins aligned. On the papyrus scroll, Harold Greenlee writes,

Papyrus scrolls are mentioned several times in the New Testament; references are usually translated as “book.” Luke 4:17 speaks of the scroll (biblion) of the prophet Isaiah. John uses the same word to refer to his gospel in John 20:30. The “books” or “scrolls” mentioned in 2 Tim 4:13 may be either parchment scrolls or leather scrolls of the Old Testament. Rev 6:14 describes the sky as vanishing like “a scroll when it is rolled up.”[4]

Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, (p. 23)

The scroll was the first form to receive writing, which was in a format that could be edited by the author or scribe and was used in the Eastern Mediterranean ancient Egyptian civilizations. The parchment scroll that was used by Moses to pen the first five books of the Old Testament; it goes back to about the late sixteenth-century B.C.E. The codex (bound book) got its start by Latin authors in the first-century C.E. (widely used in the second-century), some 1,500 years after the scroll. The early Christians popularized the codex in the second-century C.E. Some would even argue that it was the Christians who invented the codex. However, it appears that Christians mainly began using the roll, or scroll, at least until about the end of the first century C.E. Nevertheless, from the close of the first to the third century C.E., there was a struggle between those who encouraged the use of the codex and those preferring scrolls. Traditionalists, familiar and comfortable with using the scroll, were unwilling to give up deep-rooted conventions and traditions. Nevertheless, the popularization of the codex played a significant role in the displacement of the scroll. Therefore, the scroll continued to be used for centuries.


Scrolls were used for literary works. Continuous rolls were twenty or thirty feet long and nine to ten inches high. (Psa. 40:7) The text was written in columns, which formed the pages. (Jer. 36:23) Our English word “volume” literally means something rolled up. Imagine being in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, where he skillfully unrolled with one hand while simultaneously rolling it up with the other hand until he reached the place he wanted to read. (Lu 4:16-17; Isa. 61:1-2) The ink that was used on the surface of the scrolls had to withstand being rolled and unrolled, and so, special ink was developed. In addition, the Jews would discard any scroll that had too many letters missing from wear and tear. It was not until about the fifth-century C.E. that the codex finally outnumbered the scroll by a ten to one margin in Egypt. When we consider the surviving examples, we also see that the scroll had almost vanished by the sixth-century C.E.

A typical four-leaf quire can be formed from a single sheet of papyrus, parchment, or paper by folding and then cutting the sheet

The Codex Book

A typical four-leaf quire can be formed from a single sheet of papyrus, parchment, or paper by folding and then cutting the sheet

A codex is a collection of ancient manuscript texts, especially of the Biblical Scriptures, in book form.[5] It is made up of papyrus sheets or parchment inscribed with handwritten material, which is created by folding a single sheet of standard-sized pages, giving the scribe two leaves or four pages.

Indications of Universality

  • All of the early papyrus were in codex (book) form. (125-400 C.E.)
  • The standardization of the nominal sacra (sacred names) very early on: God Θεός ΘΣ; Lord Κύριος ΚΣ; Jesus Ἰησοῦς ΙΣ; Christ Χριστός ΧΣ; Spirit Πνεῦμα ΠΝΑ, being in a contracted format and with a horizontal line above the letters. Eventually, it would be 15 sacred names. The following second-century manuscripts that clearly show these nomina sacra are as follows: vP4+P64+P67 dates to (150-175 C.E.), P32 dates to (150-200 C.E.), P46 dates to 150 C.E.), P66 dates to about (150 C.E.), P75 dates to about (175 C.E.), and P90 dates to (150-200 C.E.). This means that the nomina sacra for Lord, Jesus, Christ, God, and Spirit are standard by 150 C.E. 
  • Initially, there were some inconsistencies in the application, but universally it was soon decided to use the nomina sacra regardless of whether the referent, meaning, or context was mundane or sacred in its use.
  • By the late first century, New Testament books were being collected in codex form: the Gospels or the Gospels and Acts. The early second century saw the collection of the apostle Paul’s letters, which included Hebrews.
  • There was the standardization of the codex size for the Gospels, like our 8.5 x 11 inches today. The standard size in the second/third centuries was 11.5-14 cm (4.5-5.5 inches) Width x 14.5-17 cm (5.7-6.7) Length. A new standard size began to develop in the third century. Just the fact that they had a standard size for the Gospels is unusual because this is not the case for Paul’s letter or any other books.

The first codices were made with waxed-coated wooden tablets. The people of Greece and Rome used waxed tablets before the Christian era. Schoolboys were sometimes given waxed tablets on which the teacher had written letters in model script with a stylus. Today, we have the blackboard (UK) or chalkboard (US), which was initially made of smooth, thin sheets of black or dark gray slate stone. In the early part of the 20th century, schoolchildren even had smaller slate tablets. They had a reusable writing surface on which text or drawings could be made with sticks of calcium carbonate, i.e., chalk.

Roman wax tablet and stylus

Polyptychs [pol·yp·tych ˈpälipˌtik] is an arrangement of three or more panels with a painting or carving on each, usually hinged together. Some were discovered at Herculaneum, an ancient Roman town near modern Naples that was destroyed along with Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E.To make the waxed tablets of Jesus’ day, one would slightly hollow out a flat piece of wood and fill that void with wax. These tablets were also used for temporary writing like modern chalkboards. They were also commonly used for corresponding with others. Greenlee writes, “They were also used at times for legal documents, in which case two tablets would be placed face to face with the writing inside and fastened together with leather thongs run through holes at the edges of the tablets. In one of his writings, St. Augustine mentions some tablets he owned, although his were made of ivory instead of wood.”[6] An example of temporary (short-term, momentary) writing is found in the Gospel of his ability to speak, was asked what name he wanted his son to have. Luke 1:63 reports, “And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’”

In time, sheets of foldable material replaced rigid tablets. The codex has been viewed as the most significant advancement in the development of the book, aside from the printing press.[7] Some of the earliest surviving codices were made of papyrus, being preserved in the dry sands of Egypt.

When we consider the thought of unrolling and using a scroll instead of the codex, we can likely think of many advantages of one over the other. The codex can contain far more written material; it is much easier to carry and more convenient. Some in the early days of the codex even mentioned these advantages, but some were slow to move away from the scroll’s long use. Again, the Christians played a significant part in the eventual death of the scroll. Their evangelism would have been far more cumbersome without the codex.

The Codex Gigas, 13th century, Bohemia.

Compared to the scroll, the codex was also far more affordable because both sides of the pages could be written on, getting more value for one’s money. Moreover, instead of having one book with each scroll, one could have the whole of the old or New Testament. The fact that one could find Bible passages far easier and faster, this, too, added to the codex’s success. This preference for the codex was not only true for Christians, but also lawyers and the like. When we think of the early Christians, we are reminded that they evangelized to the point of going from 120 disciples in the upper room on Pentecost 33 C.E. to more than one million Christians spread throughout the Roman Empire at the beginning of the second century C.E. In addition, early Christians were evangelists, who used pre-evangelism, i.e., apologetics. They could have what we now call proof texts, easily located, to make their arguments to pagans and Jews alike. Then, the fact that the codex book had a wooden cover made it more durable than the scroll, adding to its advantages. Codices were useful, sensible, and likely practical for personal reading. The Christians of the third century C.E. had parchment pocket Gospels.


Larry Hurtado, in his blog (The Codex and Early Christians: Clarification & Corrections), writes,

Bagnall offered figures (pp. 72-74) comparing the number of non-Christian and Christian codices from Egypt datable to the early centuries, also giving the percentages of Christian codices of the total.  His own data show, e.g., that Christian codices amount to somewhere between 22-34% of the total for the 2nd-3rd centuries CE.  Yet Christian books overall amount to only ca. 2% of the total number of books (codices and rolls) of these centuries.  Of course, there are more non-Christian codices, but the first point to note is that Christian codices comprise a vastly disproportionate percentage of the total number of codices in this period.

The very data provided by Bagnall clearly show that Christians invested in the codex far more than is reflected in the larger book-culture of the time.  That is, the early Christian preference for the codex is undeniable, and this preference is quite distinctive in that period.  Bagnall actually reached the same judgment, stating, “Christian books in these centuries (2nd/3rd) are far more likely to be codices than rolls, quite the reverse of what we find with classical literature.” (p. 74)

My second point also stands and is supported by Bagnall:  the early Christian preference for the codex seems to have been especially keen when it came to making copies of texts used as scripture (i.e., read in corporate worship).  For example, 95+% of Christian copies of OT writings are in codex form.  As for the writings that came to form the NT, they’re all in codex form except for a very few instances of NT writings copied on the back of a re-used roll (which were likely informal and personal copies made by/for readers who couldn’t afford a copy on unused writing material).  Here again, Bagnall grants the same conclusion, judging that, although they were ready to copy “the Christians adopted the codex as the normative format of deliberately produced public copies of scriptural texts” (p. 78), but were ready to use rolls for other texts (76).[8]

Skin of a stillborn goat on a stretcher (modern) – The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Making of a Codex

Making a codex began with a dried and treated sheepskin, goatskin, or another animal hide. “The pelts were first soaked in a lime solution to loosen the fur, which was then removed. While wet on a stretcher, the skin was scraped using a knife with a curved blade. As the skin dried, the parchment maker would adjust the tension so that the skin remained taut. This cycle of scraping and stretching was repeated over several days until the desired thinness had been achieved. Here, the skin of a stillborn goat, prized for its smoothness, is stretched on a modern frame to illustrate the parchment making process.”[9] The first step for preparing the pages to receive writing was setting up the quires, i.e., a bundle of parchment sheets folded together for binding into a book, especially a four-sheet bundle folded once to make eight leaves or sixteen pages. Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham point out that “the quire was the scribe’s basic writing unit throughout the Middle Ages.”[10]

The Craft of the Scribe

The recto is the front side of a papyrus sheet or parchment sheet, while the verso is the back of a page. If the scribe were writing on a papyrus sheet, he would write his script on the horizontal lines of the fibers on the recto side of his sheet. If the scribe were using a parchment sheet, the manuscript had pinpricks placed in it to be ruled with lines to accommodate writing better. In some of the documents, we can still see faintly visible lines. It was similar to modern-day tablet paper, with horizontal lines running across the page to receive text, and vertical lines, which served to mark the boundaries, justify both sides. The scribal schools had different techniques for ruling manuscripts. Sometimes, a textual scholar can identify a particular manuscript’s school, based on how it was ruled, giving us the place of its origin. The parchment’s hair side was darker than that of the flesh side, so scribes placed the quires so that the hair side faced the hair side of the corresponding page, making it more reader-friendly.


Study of Ancient Handwriting

The study of ancient handwriting and manuscripts is an essential skill for paleographers, but also for the textual scholar as well. The style of the characters that make up an alphabet change every fifty years or so; thus, it is essential to know the eras of different styles. Moreover, scribes use abbreviations and contractions for various reasons. Therefore, the student of ancient handwriting must know how to interpret them. For example, several contractions and abbreviations are found in our earliest manuscripts of the Christian Greek New Testament.[11] We briefly mentioned this earlier.

The abbreviations that are most relevant to this discussion are what have become known as the sacred names, or nomina sacra (nomen sacrum, singular), such as Lord ( ),[12] Jesus ( , ), Christ ( , , ), God ( ), and Spirit ( ). These sacred names are abbreviated or contracted by keeping the first letter or two and the last letter. Another essential feature is the horizontal bar placed over these letters to help readers recognize that they are encountering a contraction. The early Christian writers had three different ways that they would pen a sacred name: (1) suspension, (2) contraction, and (3) longer contraction. The suspension was accomplished by writing only the first two letters of “Jesus,” for example (ιησους = ιη), and suspending the remaining letters (σους). The contraction was accomplished by writing only the first and last letter of Jesus (ιησους = ις) and removing the remaining letters (ησου).

The longer contraction would simply keep the first two letters instead of just one and the last letter (ιης). After penning the suspension or contraction, the scribe would place a bar over the . This practice of placing a bar over the name was likely carried over from the typical way of scribes putting bars above contractions, especially numbers, which were represented by letters, e.g.,  = eleven.

When students of ancient handwriting know these individual letter forms, ligatures,[13] punctuation, and abbreviations, it enables them to read and understand the text. Of course, textual scholars must learn the language of the manuscripts they are studying; in our case, Greek. They need to be an expert in the forms of the language, the various handwriting styles, writing customs, and able to identify different hands within the same manuscript, and scribal notes and abbreviations. They also need to study the development of the language over the years and its history, to better analyze the texts. As we have discussed, students of ancient handwriting must know the writing materials, which will enable them to better identify the period in which a document was copied.[14] One of the primary goals of paleographers is to ascertain the text’s date and its place of origin. For these reasons alone, they must consider the style and formation of a manuscript and the style of handwriting used therein.

Detail of the Berlin Papyrus 9875 showing the 5th column of Timotheus’ Persae, with a coronis symbol, to mark the end.

With the majuscule hand for example, we have what is known as the Ptolemaic Book Hand, and how it developed is difficult to say because we have so few examples, which are not datable. It is not until we reach the third century B.C.E. that we can have confidence in the Ptolemaic bookhand era. This period’s hands are stiff, awkward, and sharply defined (e.g., EΣ, and Ω). Moreover, the letters evidenced no consistency in size. At times, there was a fineness and pleasing subtlety attained. When we arrive at the second century B.C.E., we find the letters becoming more rounded and more uniform in size. However, one can detect a loss of unity in the first century. On this, Comfort writes, “Paleographers date the emergence of the Roman Uncial as coming on the heels of the Ptolemaic period, which ended in 30 BC. Thus, early Roman Uncial begins around 30 BC, and the Roman Uncial hand can be seen throughout the first two to three centuries of the Christian era. The Roman Uncial script, generally speaking, shares the characteristics of literary manuscripts in the Roman period (as distinct from the Ptolemaic period) in that these manuscripts show a greater roundness and smoothness in the forms of letters and are somewhat larger than what was penned in the Ptolemaic period. Furthermore, the Roman Uncial typically displays decorative serifs in several letters, but not all. (By contrast, the Decorated Rounded style aims at making the decorations rounded and replete.)”[15]

Majuscule Hand

During the Byzantine period (300-650 C.E.), the dominant type of book-hand became known as the biblical hand. It had its earliest beginnings toward the end of the second-century C.E., being used by all, not necessarily having any connection to Christian literature. In addition, manuscripts from Egypt, of vellum or papyrus dating to around the fourth century C.E., contained other forms of script, i.e., a sloping somewhat unpolished rough hand resulting from the literary hand, which continued until about the fifth century C.E. The three early great codices, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus of the fourth century C.E. and Alexandrinus of the fifth century C.E., were penned in majuscules of the biblical hand. The hand that produced Vaticanus is the least demonstrated, as the letters are characteristic of the biblical hand but do not possess the later manuscripts’ heavy look, with a greater roundness to them. Sinaiticus, which was copied shortly after that, has larger, heavier letters. In Alexandrinus, we notice a development in the form, a definite distinction between thick and thin strokes.

Codex Vaticanus, From Page Matthew 1:22-2:18

Codex Sinaiticus, From Page Matthew 2:5-3:7

Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century, The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Once we enter the sixth century C.E., we notice in the manuscripts, vellum or papyrus, that the heavier hand became the standard but still possessed an attractive appearance. However, there was a steady decline in the centuries to come, as the writing appears to be done artificially, i.e., as a matter of duty or custom, without thought, attention. The thick strokes became heavier; the cross strokes of T and Θ and the bottom of Δ were equipped with sagging spurs. This era of an unpleasant hand followed in sequence, morphing from sloping to upright.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Publishing Industry of the Ancient World

Most people today would not imagine the ancient world’s having a large publishing industry, yet this was the case. The ancient writings of famous authors were great pieces of literature that were highly sought after from the moment they were penned, much as today. Thus, there was a need for the scriptorium[16] to fill orders for both pagan and civil literature, as well as the Bible books. There was a need for hundreds of copies, and as Christianity displaced paganism, the demand would grow exponentially.

The Autograph (“self-written”) was the text written by a New Testament author or the author and scribe as the author dictated to him. If the scribe was taking down dictation (Rom. 16:22; 1 Pet. 5:12), he might have done so in shorthand.[17] Whether by shorthand or longhand, we can assume that both the scribe and the author would check the scribe’s work. The author would have authority over all corrections since the Holy Spirit did not inspire the scribe. If the inspired author wrote everything down himself as the Spirit moved him, the finished product would be the autograph. This text is also often referred to as the Original. Hence, the terms autograph and original are often used interchangeably. Sometimes textual scholars prefer to distinguish, using “original” as a general reference to the text that is correctly attributed to a biblical author.  This designation does not focus on the process of how a book or letter was written.

The original can also be referred to as the first Authorized Text (Archetypal Manuscript), i.e., the text first used to make other copies. We should also point out that some textual scholars debate whether the original or autograph of any given book was actually the first text used to make copies. And they prefer to call the latter the Initial Text instead, not requiring that it actually be the autograph. Conservative scholars would maintain that they are the same. Neither term should be confused with what is known as an ordinary Exemplar, which is any authorized text of the book from which other copies were made. The original text necessarily was the first exemplar used to make copies, but additional copies of high quality were used as exemplars. We will frequently use exemplar to refer to any document that serves as a standard that a scribe employed as his text for making another copy. Usually, a scribe would have a main or primary exemplar from which he makes most of his copies and one or more secondary exemplars to compare what he found in his main exemplar. Scribes sometimes substituted text from other exemplars for what they have in their main exemplars.

We have mentioned the Scriptorium, a room where multiple scribes or even one scribe worked to produce the manuscript(s). A lector would read aloud from the exemplar, and the scribe(s) would write down his words. The Corrector was the one who checked the manuscripts for needed corrections. Corrections could be by three primary persons: (1) the copyist himself, (2) the official corrector of the scriptorium, or (3) a person who had purchased the copy. While those correctors were contemporaneous with the original scribe(s), others could have made corrections to the text centuries later. When textual scholars speak of the Hand, this primarily refers to a person who is making the copy, distinguishing his level of training. Paleographers have set out four basic levels of handwriting. First, there was the common hand of a person who was untrained in making copies. Second, there was the documentary hand of an individual who was trained in preparing documents. The third level was the reformed documentary hand of a copyist who was experienced in the preparation of documents and copying literature; and fourth was the professional hand, the scribe experienced in producing literature.[18]

We must keep in mind that we are dealing with an oral society. Therefore, the apostles, who had spent three and a half years with Jesus, first published the Good News orally. The teachers within the newly founded Christian congregations would repeat this information until it was memorized. After that, those who had heard this gospel would, in turn, share it with others (Acts 2:42, Gal 6:6). In time, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to see the need for a written record, so Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would pen the Gospels, and other types of New Testament books would be written by Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. We can see from the first four verses of Luke that Theophilus[19] was being given a written record of what he had already been taught orally. In verse 4, Luke says to Theophilus, “[My purpose is] that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

When the Son of God on Golgotha, outside of Jerusalem on Friday, Nisan 14 33 C.E. about 3:00 p.m., gave his life, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not write their Gospels immediately. It was Matthew, who first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew some 12-17 years after Jesus’ ascension, 45-50 C.E. Shortly after that, translating it into Greek. Luke followed with his Gospel about 56–58 C.E. Then, Mark and his Gospel were written about 60–65 C.E. Finally, John’s Gospel was written some 65 years after Jesus death in about 98 C.E. One thing few biblical scholars in the seminaries address today is how these apostles Matthew, John, and the disciples Mark and Luke were able to record the life, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ with such unerring accuracy.

The appearance of the written record did not mean the end of the oral publication. Both the oral and the written record would be used together. Many did not read the written documents themselves, as they could hear them read in the congregational meetings by the lector. This would apply to those that could read as well because they may not have been able to afford to have copies made for themselves. Paul and his letters came to be used in the same way as he traveled extensively but was just one man and could only be in one place at a time. It was not long before he took advantage, in that, that he could be in one place and dispatch letters to other locations through his traveling companions. These traveling companions would not only deliver the letters but also know the issues well enough to address questions that might be asked by the congregation leaders to which they had been dispatched. In summary, the first century saw the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his death, resurrection, and ascension. After that, his disciples spread this gospel orally for at least 12-17 years before Matthew penned his gospel. The written record was used in conjunction with the oral message.

In the first-century C.E., the Bible books were being copied individually. In the late first century or the beginning of the second century, they began being copied in groups. At first, it was the four gospels and then the book of Acts with the four gospels and shortly thereafter a collection of the Apostle Paul’s writings. Each of the individual books of the New Testament were penned, edited, and published between 45 and 98 C.E. A group of the apostle Paul’s letters, and the gospels were copied and published between 90 and 125 C.E. The entire 27 books of the New Testament were not published as a whole until about 290 to 340 C.E.

Thus, we have the 27 books of the New Testament that were penned individually in the second half of the first century. Each of these would have been copied and recopied throughout the first century. The copies of these copies would, of course, be made as well. Some of the earliest manuscripts that we now have indicate that a professional scribe copied them. Many of the other papyri provide evidence that a semi-professional hand copied them, while most of these early papyri give evidence of being made by a copyist who was literate and experienced at making documents. Therefore, either literate or semi-professional copyists produced the vast majority of our early papyri, with some being made by professionals.

Sadly, we do not have the autographs. Even if we did, we would have no way to authenticate them. We do, however, have copies of New Testament manuscripts that go back to the second and third centuries C.E. Over the centuries, this copying of copies continued. The authors were inspired so that the originals were error-free. However, this is not the case with those who made copies; they were not under the Holy Spirit’s influence while making their copies. Therefore, these copies must have contained unintentional mistakes, as well as intentional changes, differing from the originals and each other. However, this is not as problematic or alarming as it may first sound. By far, most of the copyist errors are trivial, such as differences in spelling, word order, and such.

Moreover, they are easily analyzed and corrected so that we know what the original contained. It is true that other copyist errors, a tiny portion, are noteworthy (significant), arising from the copyist’s desire to correct something in the text that he perceived as erroneous or problematic. In an even smaller number of cases, the scribe made changes to strengthen orthodox doctrine. However, these changes have little to no effect on doctrines because other passages addressing the same beliefs provide the means to analyze and correct the copyist’s “corrections.” Moreover, we have enough textual evidence to know what words were in the original.

In the language of textual criticism, changes to the original text introduced by copyists are called “variant readings.” A variant reading is a different reading in the extant [existing] manuscripts for any given portion of the text. The process of textual criticism is examining variant readings in various ancient manuscripts to reconstruct the original wording of a written text. These variants in our copies of the New Testament manuscripts are primarily the reason for the rise of the science of textual criticism in the 16th century. After that, we have had hundreds of scholars working extremely hard over the following five centuries to restore the New Testament text to its original state. Keep in mind that textual criticism is not just performed on the Old and New Testament texts, but in all other ancient literature as well: Plato (428/427–348/347 B.C.E.), Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 B.C.E.), Homer (Ninth or Eighth Century B.C.E.), Livy (64or 59 B.C.E.–17 C.E.), Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.), and Virgil (70–19 B.C.E.). However, as the Bible is the greatest work of all time, which has directly influenced countless Christians’ lives (billions), it is the most crucial field.

Here, we should also expound a little more on the “criticism” portion of the term textual criticism. It may be helpful if, for a moment, we address biblical criticism in general, which is divided into two branches: lower criticism and higher criticism. Lower criticism, also known as textual criticism, is an investigation of manuscripts by those who are known as textual scholars, seeking to establish the original reading, which is available in the thousands of extant copies. Higher criticism, also known as literary criticism, is the investigation of the restored text to identify any sources that may lie behind it. Therefore, we can say the following:

LOWER CRITICISM (i.e., textual criticism) has been the bedrock of scholarship over the last 500 years. It has given us a master text, i.e., a critical text, which is a reflection of the original published Greek New Testament. It had contributed to the furtherance of Bible scholarship, removing interpolations, correcting scribal errors, and giving us a restored text, allowing us to produce better translations of the New Testament. However, of late, the dissecting higher criticism mindset of the 19th and 20th centuries has seeped into the field of New Testament Textual Studies.

HIGHER CRITICISM (i.e., literary criticism, biblical criticism), has taught that much of the Bible was composed of legend and myth, that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible, 8th century B.C.E. Isaiah did not write Isaiah, there were three authors of Isaiah, 6th century B.C.E. Daniel did not write Daniel, it was penned in the 2nd century BCE. Higher critics have taught that Jesus did not say all that the Gospels have him saying in his Sermon on the Mount and that Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees in Matthew 23, as this was Matthew because he hated the Jews. These are just the highlights, for there are thousands of tweaks that have undermined the word of God as being inspired and fully inerrant. Higher critics have dissected the Word of God until it has become the word of man, and a very jumbled word at that. Higher criticism is still taught in almost all the seminaries. It is common to hear so-called Evangelical Bible scholars vehemently deny that large sections of the Bible are fully inerrant, authentic, accurate, and trustworthy. Biblical higher criticism is speculative and tentative in the extreme. 

Constantine Von Tischendorf was a world-leading textual scholar and a renowned Bible scholar. He rejected higher criticism, which led to his noteworthy success in defending the authenticity of the Bible text. Tischendorf was educated in Greek at the University of Leipzig. During his university studies, he was troubled by higher criticism of the Bible, as taught by famous German theologians, who sought to prove that the Greek New Testament was not authentic. NT Textual scholar Harold Greenlee writes, “This ‘higher criticism’ has often been applied to the Bible in a destructive way, and it has come to be looked down on by many evangelical Christians.”[20] The sad situation is that modern-day textual scholarship as a whole is unwittingly or knowingly moving the goalposts for some unknown reason. It is now the earliest knowable text in textual criticism, the sociohistorical approach to New Testament Textual Studies, and the newest trend of trying to redate our earliest NT papyri.[21]


The New Testament in the Original Greek is a Greek-language version of the New Testament published in 1881. It is also known as the Westcott and Hort text, after its editors Brooke Foss Westcott (1825–1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828–1892). (Textual scholars use the abbreviation “WH”) It is a critical text (Master Greek text of the NT seeking to ascertain the original wording of the original documents), compiled from some of the oldest New Testament fragments and texts that had been discovered at the time. The two editors worked together for 28 years.

The Nestle Greek New Testament (first published in 1898) is a critical edition of the New Testament in its original Koine Greek now in its 28th edition, forming the basis of most modern Bible translations and biblical criticism. It is now known as the Nestle-Aland edition after its most influential editors, Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland. Textual scholars use the abbreviation “NA.” The NA is now in its 28th edition (2012), which is abbreviated NA28. Throughout the 130 years since 1881, there have been hundreds of manuscript discoveries, especially the early papyri that date within decades of the originals. One might expect significant changes been the WH text of 1881 and the 2012 NA28 text. However, The NA28 is 99.5% the same as the 1881 WH Greek New Testament.

In contrast, higher criticism (i.e., literary criticism) has attempted to provide rationalized explanations for the composition of Bible books, ignoring the supernatural element and very often eliminating the traditional authorship of the books. Late dating of the composition of Bible books is widespread, and the historicity of biblical accounts is called into question. It would not be an overstatement to say that the effect has often been to challenge and undermine the Christian’s confidence in the New Testament. Fortunately, some conservative scholars[22] have rightly criticized higher critics for their illogical or unreasonable approaches in dissecting God’s Word.


Importance of Textual Criticism

Christian Bible students need to be familiar with Old and New Testament textual criticism as essential foundational studies. Why? If we fail to establish what was originally authored with reasonable certainty, how can we do a translation or even interpret what we think is the actual Word of God? We are fortunate that there are far more existing New Testament manuscripts today than any other book from ancient history. This gives New Testament textual scholars vastly more to work within establishing the original words of the text. Some ancient Greek and Latin classics are based on one existing manuscript, while with others, there are just a handful and a few exceptions that have a few hundred available. However, for the New Testament, over 5,898[23] Greek New Testament manuscripts have been cataloged,[24] 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and an additional 9,300 other manuscripts in such languages as Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian.

The other difference between the New Testament manuscripts and those of the classics is that the existing copies of the New Testament date much closer to the originals. In the Greek classics, some of the manuscripts are dated to about a thousand years after the author had penned the book. Some of the Latin classics are dated from three to seven hundred years after the time the author wrote the book. When we look at the Greek copies of the New Testament books, some portions are within decades of the original author’s book. One hundred and thirty-nine Greek NT papyri and five majuscules[25] date from 110 C.E. to 390 C.E.


Distribution of Greek New Testament Manuscripts

  • The Papyrus is a copy of a portion of the New Testament made on papyrus. At present, we have 147 cataloged New Testament papyri, many dating between 110-350 C.E., but some as late as the 6th century C.E.
  • The Majuscule or Uncial is a script of large letters commonly used in Greek and Latin manuscripts written between the 3rd and 9th centuries C.E. that resembles a modern capital letter but is more rounded. At present, we have 323 cataloged New Testament Majuscule manuscripts.
  • The Minuscule is a small cursive style of writing used in manuscripts from the 9th to the 16th centuries, now having 2,951 Minuscule manuscripts cataloged.
  • The Lectionary is a schedule of readings from the Bible for Christian church services during the year, in both majuscules and minuscules, dating from the 4th to the 16th centuries C.E., now having 2,484 Lectionary manuscripts cataloged.

We should clarify that of the approximate 24,000 total manuscripts of the New Testament, not all are complete books. There are fragmented manuscripts that have just a few verses, but manuscripts contain an entire book, others that include numerous books, and some that have the whole New Testament, or nearly so. This is to be expected, since the oldest manuscripts we have were copied in an era when reproducing the entire New Testament was not the norm. Instead, it was far more common to copy a single book or a group of books (i.e., the Gospels or Paul’s letters). This still does not negate the vast riches of manuscripts that we possess.

What can we conclude from this short introduction to textual criticism? There is some irony here, in that secular scholars have no problem accepting classic authors’ wording, with their minuscule amount of evidence. However, they discount the treasure trove of evidence that is available to the New Testament textual scholar. Still, this should not surprise us as the New Testament has always been under-appreciated and attacked somehow shape, or form over the past 2,000 years.

On the contrary, in comparison to classical works, we are overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of existing New Testament manuscripts. We should also keep in mind that about seventy-five percent[26] of the New Testament does not even require the help of textual criticism because that much of the text is unanimous, and thus, we know what it says. Of the other twenty-five percent, about twenty percent make up trivial scribal mistakes that are easily corrected. Therefore, textual criticism focuses mainly on a small portion of the New Testament text. The facts are clear: the Christian, who reads the New Testament, is fortunate to have so many manuscripts, with so many dating so close to the originals, with 500 hundred years of hundreds of textual scholars who have established the text with a level of certainty unimaginable for ancient secular works.

After discussing the amount of New Testament manuscripts available, Atheist commentator Bob Seidensticker writes, “The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That does not mean the original copy was history ….”[27] That is, Seidensticker is forced to acknowledge the reliability of the New Testament text as we have it today and can only try to deny what it says. He also tells us of the New Testament, “Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript.”[28] Of those 1,757 copies of the Iliad, how far removed are they from the alleged originals? The Iliad is dated to about 800 B.C.E. There are a number of fragments of the Iliad that date to the second century B.C.E. and one to the third century B.C.E., with the rest dating to the ninth century C.E. or later. That would make this handful of fragmented manuscripts 500 years removed and the rest about 1,700 years removed from their original.


The Range of Textual Criticism

The Importance and scope of New Testament textual studies can be summed up in the few words used by J. Harold Greenlee; it is “the basic biblical study, a prerequisite to all other biblical and theological work. Interpretation, systematization, and application of the teachings of the NT cannot be done until textual criticism has done at least some of its work. It is, therefore, deserving of the acquaintance and attention of every serious student of the Bible.”[29]

It is only reasonable to assume that the original 27 books written first-hand by the New Testament authors have not survived. Instead, we only have what we must consider being imperfect copies. Why the Holy Spirit would miraculously inspire 27 fully inerrant texts and then allow human imperfection into the documents is not explained for us in Scripture. (More on this later) Why didn’t God inspire the copyists? We do know that imperfect humans have tended to worship relics that traditions hold to have been touched by the miraculous powers of God or to have been in direct contact with one of his special servants of old. Ultimately, though, all we know is that God had his reasons for allowing the New Testament autographs to be worn out by repeated use. From time to time, we hear of the discovery of a fragment possibly dated to the first century, but even if such a fragment is eventually verified, the dating alone can never serve as proof of an autograph; it will still be a copy in all likelihood.

If we ask why didn’t God inspire copyists, then it will have to follow, why didn’t God inspire translators, why didn’t God inspire Bible scholars that author commentaries on the Bible, and so on? Suppose God’s initial purpose was to give us a fully inerrant, authoritative, authentic, and accurate Word. Why not adequately protect the Scriptures in all facets of transmission from error: copy, translate, and interpret? If God did this, and people were moved along by the Holy Spirit, it would soon become noticeable that when people copy the texts, they would be unable to make an error or mistake or even willfully change something.

Where would it stop? Would this being moved along by the Holy Spirit apply to anyone who decided to make themselves a copy, testing to see if they too would be inspired? In time, this would prove to be actual evidence for God. This would negate the reasons for why God has allowed sin, human imperfection to enter humanity in the first place, to teach them an object lesson, man cannot walk on his own without his Creator. God created perfect humans, giving them a perfect start, and through the abuse of free will, they rejected his sovereignty. He did not just keep creating perfect humans again and again, as though he got something wrong. God gave us his perfect Word and has again chosen to allow us to continue in our human imperfection, learning our object lesson. God has stepped into humanity many hundreds of times in the Bible record, maybe tens of thousands of times unbeknownst to us over the past 6,000+ years to tweak things to get the desired outcome of his will and purposes. However, there is no aspect of life where his stepping in on any particular point was to be continuous until the return of the Son. Maybe God gave us a perfect copy of sixty-six books. Then like everything else, he placed the responsibility of copying, translating, and interpreting on us, just as he gave us the Great Commission of proclaiming that Word, explaining that Word, to make disciples. – Matthew 24:14;28-19-20; Acts 1:8.

As for errors in all the copies, we have, however, we can say that the vast majority of the Greek text is not affected by errors at all. The errors occur in variant readings, i.e., portions of the text where different manuscripts disagree. Of the small amount of the text affected by variant readings, the vast majority of these are minor slips of the pen, misspelled words, etc., or intentional but quickly analyzed changes, and we are certain what the original reading is in these places. A far smaller number of changes present challenges to establishing the original reading. It has always been said and remains true that no central doctrine is affected by a textual problem. Only rarely does a textual issue change the meaning of a verse.[30] Still, establishing the original text wherever there are variant readings is vitally important. Every word matters!

It is true that the Jewish copyists, as well as the later Christian copyists, were not led along by the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, their manuscripts were not inerrant, infallible. Errors (textual variants) crept into the documents unintentionally and intentionally. However, the vast majority of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament has not been infected with textual errors. For the portions impacted with textual mistakes, we can be grateful for the many tens of thousands of copies that we have to help us weed out the errors. How? Well, not every copyist made the same textual errors. Hence, by comparing the work of different copyists and different manuscripts, textual scholars can identify the textual variants (errors) and remove those, which leaves us with the original content.

Yes, it would be the most significant discovery of all time if we found the original five books penned by Moses himself, Genesis through Deuteronomy, or the original Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, first, there would be no way of establishing that they were the originals. Second, truth be told, we do not need the originals. Yes, you heard me, we do not need those original documents. What is so important about the documents? Nothing, it is the content on the original documents that we are after. And truly miraculously, we have more copies than needed to do just that. We do not need miraculous preservation because we have miraculous restoration. We now know beyond a reasonable doubt that the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament critical texts are about a 99.99% reflection of the content that was in those ancient original manuscripts.



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[1] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

[2] Manuscripts, MS would be singular manuscript, while MSS will refer to more than one.

[3] When we use the term “original” reading or “original” text in this publication, it is a reference to the exemplar manuscript by the New Testament author (e.g. Paul) and his secretary, if he used one (e.g. Tertius), from which other copies were made for publication and distribution to the Christian communities.

[4] J. Harold Greenlee, Text of the New Testament, From the Manuscript to Modern Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing, 2008), 13-14.

[5] Late 16th century: < Latin, “block of wood, book, set of statutes”

[6] J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995), 8-9.

[7] Colin H. Roberts; T. C. Skeat, The Birth of the Codex, (London, Oxford University Press, 1983), 1.

[8] Retrieved Thursday January 17, 2019, The Codex and Early Christians: Clarification & Corrections,

[9] Retrieved Monday September 15, 2014 “The Making of a Medieval Book” The J. Paul Getty Trust.

[10] Raymond Clemens, Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008, 14.

[11] It should be noted that the early manuscripts were written in what we consider all uppercase letters, known as majuscule, the large rounded letters used in ancient manuscripts. Moreover, there were no breaks between the letters, so a phrase like GODISNOWHERE could be divided as GOD IS NO WHERE or GOD IS NOW HERE.  

[12] In the fourth and third centuries B.C.E., the sigma form of Σ was simplified into a C-like shape in koinē Greek.

[13] A ligature is a character that consists of two or more letters joined together, e.g. “æ”. We do not normally find ligatures in majuscule manuscripts. In the minuscule manuscripts, it can be difficult to determine a ligature due to the fact it is a manuscript with a running hand.

[14] Robert P. Gwinn, “Paleography” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropædia, Vol. IX, 1986, p. 78.

[15] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 110.

[16] A scriptorium was a room for storing, copying, illustrating, or reading manuscripts.

[17] “The usual procedure for a dictated epistle was for the amanuensis (secretary) to take down the speaker’s words (often in shorthand) and then produce a transcript, which the author could then review, edit, and sign in his own handwriting. Two New Testament epistles provide the name of the amanuensis: Tertius for (Romans 16:22) and Silvanus (another name for Silas) for 1 Peter 5:12” Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 06.

Andrews qualifies what Comfort had to say about shorthand. There is the slight possibility of Tertius or other Bible author’s scribes taking it down in shorthand and after that making out a full draft, which would have been reviewed by both Paul and Tertius. This is only the case if it is comparable to what a modern-day court reporter does. In some sense, they are taking down whoever is speaking down in shorthand. Imagine a courtroom where you have a witness talking fast, the prosecution interrupts, the defense jumps in with his rebuttal and the judge snaps his ruling, and the witness resumes his or her account of things. All of that is taken down explicitly word for word in shorthand, and if ever turned into longhand, it would be exactly what was said, down to the uh and um common in speech. So, if the shorthand of the day had that kind of capability; then, it is conceivable. We must remember these are the Bible author’s dictated words to the scribe based on their inspiration, not the word choice or writing style of the scribe.

[18] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 17-20.

[19] Theophilus means “friend of God,” was the person to whom the books of Luke and Acts were written (Lu 1:3; Ac 1:1). Theophilus was called “most excellent,” which may suggest some position of high rank. On the other hand, it simply may be Luke offering an expression of respect. Theophilus had initially been orally taught about Jesus Christ and his ministry. Thereafter, it seems that the book of Acts, also by Luke, confirms that he did become a Christian. The Gospel of Luke was partially written to offer Theophilus assurances of the certainty of what he had already learned by word of mouth.

[20] Greenlee, J. Harold. The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (p. 2). Baker Publishing Group.

[21] For defense against this redating, see THE P52 PROJECT: Is P52 Really the Earliest Greek New Testament Manuscript? Christian Publishing House (May 26, 2020) ISBN-13: 978-1949586107

[22] Such Bible scholars as the late R. A. Torrey, Robert L. Thomas, Norman L. Geisler, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and current scholars such as F. David Farnell, as well as many others have fought for decades to educate readers about the dangers of higher criticism.

[23] While at present here in 2020, there are 5,898 manuscripts. There are 140 listed Papyrus manuscripts, 323 Majuscule manuscripts, 2,951 Minuscule manuscripts, and 2,484 Lectionary manuscripts, bringing the total cataloged manuscripts to 5,898 manuscripts. However, you cannot simply total the number of cataloged manuscripts because, for example, P11/14 are the same manuscript but with different catalog numbers. The same is true of P33/5, P4/64/67, P49/65 and P77/103. Now this alone would bring our 140 listed papyrus manuscripts down to 134. ‘Then, we turn to one example from our majuscule manuscripts where clear 0110, 0124, 0178, 0179, 0180, 0190, 0191, 0193, 0194, and 0202 are said to be part of 070. A minuscule manuscript was listed with five separate catalog numbers for 2306, which then have the letters a through e. Thus, we have the following GA numbers: 2306 for 2306a, and 2831- 2834 for 2306b-2306e.’ – (Hixon 2019, 53-4) The problem is much worse when we consider that there are 323 Majuscule manuscripts and then far worse still with a listed 2,951 Minuscule and 2,484 Lectionaries. Nevertheless, those who estimate a total of 5,300 (Jacob W. Peterson, Myths and Mistakes, p. 63) 5,500 manuscripts (Dr. Ed Gravely /, 5,800 manuscripts (Porter 2013, 23), it is still a truckload of evidence far and above the dismal number of ancient secular author books.

[24] As of January 2016

[25] Large lettering, often called “capital” or uncial, in which all the letters are usually the same height.

[26] The numbers in this paragraph are rounded for simplicity purposes.

[27] 25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal. – Patheos, (accessed November 28, 2015).

[28] Ibid

[29] J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995), 8-9.

[30] Leading textual scholar Daniel Wallace tells us, after looking at all of the evidence, that the percentage of instances where the reading is uncertain and a well-attested alternative reading could change the meaning of the verse is a quarter of one percent, i.e., 0.0025%


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