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P66 Papyrus 66 [150 C.E.] is of the Alexandrian text-type (more trusted). P66 comes to us by way of a professional scribe (practiced calligraphic hand, pagination numbers), a major corrector and a minor corrector. Although a professional scribe, he took some liberties because he was a Christian and knew the Scriptures well, such as harmonizing John 6:66 to Matt. 16:16 and John 21:6 to Luke 5:5. Another indication of his being a Christian is that he made several singular readings (occurs in only in P66) that reveal that he was reading and interpreting the text. His numerous scribal errors would seem to suggest that he was inattentive at his task of copying but, in fact, he was absorbed with reading and interpreting that, at times, he forgot the word that he was supposed to be copying. Another indication that he was a professional scribe was his pausing to fix his own errors. The diorthōtēs, the person largely concerned with correcting copies according to a different exemplar. The diorthōtēs fixed his singular readings. Some of the singular readings were designed to help the reader, as P66 was made to be read in a church. The scribe of P66 has several omissions as well, some accidental from carelessness or being tired and some being on purpose. Lastly, the scribe of P66 also had a tendency to trim things out of the text where he felt they were unnecessary.
What lies below is from Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Vol I & II (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academics, 2019). Thus, we are promoting three of his books.
The Original Scribe
With a practiced calligraphic hand, the original scribe of P66 wrote in larger print as he went along in order to fill out the codex. The large print throughout indicates that it was written to be read aloud to a Christian congregation.7 The scribe of P66 was very likely a Christian.8 The text exhibits his knowledge of other portions of Scripture inasmuch as he harmonized John 6:66 to Matt. 16:16 and John 21:6 to Luke 5:5. In addition to using standard nomina sacra, he used special nomina sacra for the words “cross” (σταυρος) and “crucify” (σταυροω).
The original scribe was quite free in his interaction with the text. He produced several singular readings that reveal his independent interpretation of the text. While the numerous scribal mistakes would seem to indicate that the scribe was inattentive, many of the singular readings—prior to correction—reveal that he was not detached from the narrative of the text. Rather, he became so absorbed in his reading that he often forgot the exact words he was copying. His task as a copyist was to duplicate the exemplar word for word, but this was frustrated by the fact that he was reading the text in logical semantic chunks. As a result, he continually had to stop his reading and make many in-process corrections. But he left several places uncorrected, which were later corrected by the diorthōtēs. The diorthōtēs was primarily concerned with correcting matters of substance and adjusting the copy according to a different exemplar. The only time the diorthōtēs seemed to have deviated from his task of correcting was in 8:25, where he added “I told you” to help readers understand Jesus’ enigmatic answer to the religious leaders’ query about his identity. Thus, the expression “what I have been telling you from the beginning” became “I told you in the beginning that which I also speak to you.”
The singular readings of the original scribe reveal much about his reader-reception processing. From these readings, we can see some of his unique receptions. On occasion, he read into a present text a previous text. This is best illustrated in his copying of 5:28, where the phrase “hearing his voice” prompted a distant but similar textual association, which made the scribe think of an earlier verse (1:23). So he wrote “all who are in the wilderness” instead of “all who are in the graves.” He also read ahead of himself, and with his prior knowledge of John, he read a future text into a present one (chronologically speaking). In 4:21, the scribe wrote “an hour is coming when neither in this world nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” instead of “an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” This was evidently influenced by verses such as 16:32–33 and 17:11, where Jesus spoke of leaving “this world” to go to the Father.
A host of other singular variants display the scribe’s interaction with the text. In several instances we see how the implied reader (as a textual construct) prompted some kind of gap-filling. Several examples will illustrate this. In 1:49 the scribe of P66 has Nathaniel telling Jesus “you are truly the Son of God” because in the previous verse Jesus told Nathaniel he was truly an Israelite. In 9:17 the scribe added an intensive pronoun because the context called for a personal opinion (in contrast to the opinions of others) from the man who had been blind: “What do you yourself say about the fact that he opened your eyes?” In 10:3 the scribe responded to the implications of the text by changing the words “I will lead my sheep out” to “I will gather my sheep together”—which is the more expected statement. In 15:15 the scribe wrote “I call you friends” instead of “I have called you friends” as a reaction to following the lead of the textual clues. Nowhere prior in John’s Gospel had Jesus told his disciples that they were his friends; hence, the scribe considered the perfect tense to be inappropriate. In 17:11 the scribe wrote “Father, preserve them in my name which you have given me” instead of “Father, preserve them in your name which you have given me” because the former fulfills the natural expectation mandated by the text. The same phenomenon occurred in 20:14, where the natural object as directed by the text is “Lord,” not “Jesus.”
Some of the singular variants also show that the scribe was interested in helping his readers better understand the text. Again, several examples illustrate this. In 6:1, the scribe deleted “of Tiberias” in the expression “of the Sea of Galilee, of Tiberias” because his Egyptian Christian readers would probably not have known that the Sea of Galilee was also called the Sea of Tiberias. In 8:36, the scribe changed “you will be free” to “you are free” in the interest of his Christian readership, who would have already received freedom in Christ. In another instance, the scribe of P66 turned 10:27 into a direct quote of 10:3 by adding “As I said to you ….” This shows that the scribe wanted to help his readers understand that Jesus had previously spoken what follows: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” In 11:39, the scribe made a deletion to alleviate a potentially confusing text, especially when read orally. In 13:33–34, the scribe made some changes to provide a better reading connection between verses. In 17:8 the scribe probably shortened the verse for the sake of readability, unless the shorter text is original.
This leads to another phenomenon in the manuscript P66, that of omissions. Beginning with chapter 17 and on to chapter 19, P66 exhibits several omissions. These could be of three kinds: (1) careless omissions, (2) purposeful excisions, or (3) non-interpolations. If they were careless omissions, it could be that the scribe was experiencing fatigue near the end of the copying process and consequently made careless mistakes. Significantly, many of these omissions are about seventeen letters long, suggesting that the lines of the scribe’s exemplar were about seventeen letters long. However, many of the omissions seem so sensible that it is difficult to attribute their omission to carelessness. It is possible, then, that P66’s exemplar had a trimmer text. However, since none of these shorter readings show up later in the textual tradition, this cannot be determined with any certainty. As the Alands note, most variant readings endure; sooner or later, they show up again in the textual stream.9 Thus, it is more likely that the shorter text in P66 is not original but redactional, the work of the scribe attempting to trim the text of whatever he perceived to be unnecessary.
Some examples illustrate this. In 17:11, the scribe omitted “that they may be one, even as we are” to preserve the thematic unity of Jesus’ final prayer. The omission in 17:18, if not accidental, also could have been done in the interest of preserving the thematic unity of 17:17–19, which deals with sanctification. In 18:5 the appositive “the one betraying him” was dropped after the name “Judas” because the readers had previously been introduced to Judas as Jesus’ betrayer (18:2). In 18:15 the scribe deleted the clause “and that disciple was known by the high priest,” perhaps because it didn’t seem likely that the “other disciple” (who is usually presumed to be “the beloved disciple”) could have been known by the high priest. In 19:5 he omitted the whole sentence: “And he says to them, ‘Behold, the man.’ ” Perhaps the scribe of P66 took exception to Jesus being presented by Pilate as a mere man. In 19:16, he omitted the phrase “and carrying the cross by himself” so as to conform John to the Synoptic Gospels. In 19:28 he omitted the phrase “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled” to obviate the problem of identifying an Old Testament Scripture that says “I thirst.” In 19:38, he deleted the words “and Pilate gave permission” so as to harmonize this verse with Luke 23:52–53, a parallel text.10
Before speaking of the corrector’s work, it is necessary to note that Martin’s editio princeps of P66 was full of errors and in great need of correction. I carefully checked all the corrections to P66 for my doctoral dissertation11 and for the preparatory work on this volume. At the same time, we completely checked all the notations of Fee12 and of Royse13 on P66, and we did a thorough check of all the corrections in P66, adding several more beyond what were recognized by Fee or Royse.
Gordon Fee believed (probably correctly) that two exemplars were used in the making of P66. The second exemplar was not used for the original preparation of the manuscript, but for corrections only. However, Fee imagined that the scribe himself functioned as the corrector, making corrections in smaller print and with haste. Fee wrote:
The scribe had recourse to another MS (or MSS) with which he compared his own completed MS and made some changes accordingly.
… The scribe of P66, after copying from one MS, had opportunity at a later time to check his copy against another MS, with the result that in a number of instances he chose one reading over another and changed his MS.14
Royse also believed that the scribe corrected the manuscript himself, which prompted Royse to argue that “the total activity [of P66] is indeed rather careful, and this care is shown clearly by the fact that the papyrus, when it left the scribe’s hands, contained a fairly low percentage of nonsense readings.”15
Other scholars suspected that there might have been another person working on the manuscript after the original scribe finished his work. Colwell reveals this in a later evaluation of the manuscript.
P66 seems to reflect a scribe working with the intention of making a good copy, falling into careless errors, particularly the error of dropping a letter, a syllable, a word, or even a phrase where it is doubled, but also under the control of some other person, or second standard, so that the corrections that are made are usually corrections to a reading by a number of other witnesses. Nine out of the ten nonsense readings are corrected, and two out of three of all his singular readings were corrected. In short, P66 gives the impression of being the product of a scriptorium, i.e., a publishing house. It shows the supervision of a foreman, or of a scribe turned proofreader.16
After making a study of the corrections in P66, another scholar, Erroll Rhodes, proposed a similar yet more elaborate scenario. He said P66 was emended in three stages:17
- The scribe of P66 made some immediate corrections as he was producing his copy.
- “After the transcription of P66 was completed, a preliminary check was made of the manuscript (whether by the scribe himself or by a more experienced colleague) by someone who was concerned with matters of orthography (even itacisms), but also with an interest in seeing that the sentences should read sensibly.” This is like proofreading a text before it goes to press to be printed.
- “A second review of the manuscript was then made with a greater concern for transcriptional accuracy. An exemplar [different from the first exemplar] was employed at this stage.” Corrections were made in the direction of producing a text that is quite similar to Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece, 25th edition.18
Of all the scholars, Rhodes’s scenario is probably closest to the truth. However, he is still hesitant about the identification of the second corrector. In fact, not one scholar has been able to say definitely that a second hand was involved in the corrections, although both Colwell and Rhodes suspected this.
This hesitation can now be eliminated because a paleographic study of the second corrector’s handwriting reveals that the first paginator is the same as the second corrector. The lettering lines up exactly.19 As noted by Fee, many of these corrections bring the manuscript into line with an Alexandrian-type text.20 This corrector could have been the official proofreader (the diorthōtēs) in the scriptorium who used a different exemplar to make his emendations.
Thus, it seems relatively certain that the manuscript was produced in three stages.
- The original scribe copied the entire text of John, making corrections ashe wrote—primarily to emend any transcriptional mistakes he noticed. Most of these corrections involved fixing nonsense readings.
- The paginator of the first part of the manuscript (pages 1–99) made many corrections, both grammatical and substantive. These corrections often brought the manuscript into line with an Alexandrian-type text. Most likely, this corrector used a different exemplar for his emendations. This corrector can properly be called the diorthōtēs.
- Another corrector, probably the same person as the second paginator, made a few changes, especially in chapter 13, for the purpose of preparing the text for a lectionary reading. This scribe or lector marked up this portion with extensive breathing marks and punctuation in preparation for oral reading.
In the footnotes of the transcription, we have used the following notations:
c1 = correction made by original scribe, the one who made several in-process corrections
c2 = correction made by official diorthōtēs, the second hand that paginated the first 99 pages and made several substantive corrections
c3 = correction made by another scribe, the third hand that paginated from 100 to the end and made small corrections. He also may have been a diorthōtēs, but he did not function in that capacity nearly as much as the previous corrector.
not specified = correction made by an undetermined hand
In most instances, the particular corrector can be determined. When making deletions, the original scribe scraped out a letter or word and often wrote over it or next to it. The diorthōtēs made deletions using dots over letters and hooks. He also made a number of transpositions by using transposition markings ( // / ), and multiple word insertions by using insertion marks (./. and arrows) accompanied by a marginal insertion. Many of the corrections are not noted in the editio princeps.
New reconstructions from previously unpublished fragments are found in 14:27; 15:1; 16:23, 29; 17:6–7, 12–13; 19:16, 20–21, 24; 20:24, 27; 21:12, (17).
Philip W. Comfort Writes,
The Date of P66
In the editio princeps, Martin originally dated P66 to around a.d. 200, saying it was very much like P. Oxy. 1074 (Exodus), a manuscript the editors said might well be placed at the beginning of the third century or even earlier.
Hunger, founder of the Vienna Institute of Papyrology, redated P66 to the first half of the second century (A.D. 100–150). Hunger contends that P66 must be dated to the same period as P52 (P. Rylands 457), which is dated 110–125, and the Egerton Gospel (ca. 130–150). This means that P66 should not be dated later than 150. Hunger based his readjustment on the many similarities (especially in theconnecting letters, i.e., ligatures) between P66 and manuscripts dated to the late first and early second century. He cites many manuscripts in the article in which he makes this assessment.
Turner, disagreeing with Hunger, dated P66 to the first half of the third century (A.D. 200–250) because the broad delta, broad theta, narrow alpha (stroked in one sequence), finial end on the crossbar of epsilon, and hook (apostrophe) between double consonants are characteristics of third-century manuscripts. It must be kept in mind that Turner was reacting to the revised datings of the 1950s and 1960s, when many of the codices were given earlier dates than previously ascribed to them. During this period paleographers were beginning to realize that the codex was a late-first-century invention. Turner thought the revisions went too far in the direction of earlier dating and therefore posited a more conservative dating for many of the New Testament manuscripts.
With all due respect to Turner, I disagree with his date for P66. The delta is unusually wide in P66, but there are examples of this in second-century manuscripts (see P. London 110 and P. Berol. 9782). The body of the theta is not that broad (only the cross-through line makes it wide), and there are examples of this in the second century (see P. Oxy. 2161, 2213, and even 216 [dated first century]). The crossbar on the epsilon only rarely displays a finial, and this seems to be the result of a stop, creating a slight blob. This is very common in both the second and third centuries, as is also the formation of the alpha in P66. Furthermore, some manuscripts of the second century display the hook between double consonants (P. Mich. 6871, P. Oxy. 3013, BGU iii 715.5).
According to my evaluation, the following manuscripts exhibit a handwriting style very similar to that found in P66: P. Oxy. 220 (late first or early second century); P. Oxy. 841 (first hand, which cannot be dated later than A.D. 120–130, during the reign of Hadrian); P. Oxy. 1434 (A.D. 108–109); P. Oxy. 2161 and 2162; PSI 1208–1210 (same scribe, second century). Also, P. Chester Beatty IX and X (Esther and Daniel), dated second century by Wilcken and Galiano, have many affinities with P66.
There are several other manuscripts that bear even greater resemblance in both the details of lettering and overall appearance. As noted by Martin and Barns, P. Oxy. 1074 (Exodus; second century) is an extremely close match. But this was dated conservatively by Grenfell and Hunt to the beginning of the third century, while saying it was probably earlier. It appears to be a second-century manuscript. P. Lit. London 132 (first half of second century), which is also very similar to P. Oxy. 3010, is very much like P66, and even more so P. Berolinenses 9782 (second century). Therefore, comparative paleography strongly suggests a second-century date for P66, and probably in the middle of that century. Indeed, two noted papyrologists, G. Cavallo and R. Seider, have each assigned the same date to P66—“middle second century.”
The Provenance of P66
The Bodmer biblical papyri (or Dishna Papers) were discovered seven years after the Nag Hammadi codices in close proximity (in the Dishna plain, east of the Nile River). Dishna is midway between Panopolis and Thebes. In 1945 the Nag Hammadi manuscripts were found in Jabal al-Tarif, which is just north of Chenoboskion near Nag Hammadi, the city where the discovery was first reported. In 1952 the Bodmer papyri were found in Jabal Abu Mana, which is also located just north of the Dishna plain, 12 kilometers east of Jabal al-Tarif. It is quite likely that all these manuscripts were part of a library of a Pachomian monastery. Within a few kilometers of Jabal Abu Mana, in Faw Qibli, lies the ruins of the ancient basilica of Pachomius.
 Herbert Hunger, “Zur Datierung des Papyrus Bodmer II (P66),” Anzeiger der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, no. 4 (1960), 12–23.
 E. G. Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World, 2d ed., edited by P. J. Parsons (London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies, 1987), 108, no. 63.
 G. Cavallo, Richerche sulla Maiuscola Biblica (Firenze, 1967), 23. R. Seider, Paläographie der griechischen Papyri, vol. 2. (Stuttgart, 1970), 121.
 Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 376–378.
James M. Robinson, The Pachomian Monastic Library at the Chester Beatty Library and the Bibliotheque Bodmer, Occasional Papers 19 (Claremont, Calif.: Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School, 1990), 2–6.
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7 Eric G. Turner, The Typology of the Early Codex (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977), 84–86.
8 James Ronald Royse, “Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri” (Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 1981), 407–9.
9 Aland and Aland, Text of the NT, 69–70.
10 These examples of the scribe’s reader-reception are elaborated in Comfort, “Scribe as Interpreter,” 161–226.
11 See Philip Comfort, “The Scribe as Interpreter.”
12 Gordon D. Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II (P66): Its Textual Relationships and Scribal Characteristics, Studies and Documents 34 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1968), 57–97.
13 Royse, “Scribal Habits,” 373–449, 643–79.
14 Gordon D. Fee, “The Corrections of Papyrus Bodmer II and Early Textual Transmission,” Novum Testamentum 7 (1964–65), 253–54.
15 Royse, “Scribal Habits,” 404.
16 Ernest Colwell, “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, New Testament Tools and Studies 9 (Leiden: Brill, 1969), 118.
17 Erroll F. Rhodes, “The Corrections of Papyrus Bodmer II,” New Testament Studies 14 (1967–68): 280–81.
18 Eberhard Nestle et al., eds. (Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1963).
19 See Berner, “Papyrus Bodmer II, P66: A Reevaluation.”
20 Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II (P66), 71–75.
 Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 380–388.