It’s a accepted Christian argument: historians acquire almost 25,000 manuscripts of New Testament books, far added than any added book from age-old history. Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript. Even added ailing represented are the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, and added abundant abstracts from history, for which we acquire added like a dozen manuscripts each.
Do we achieve that our annal of Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar or Histories by Tacitus are so capricious that they can’t acquaint our compassionate of the past? Of advance not. But if that’s the case, we charge afresh acquire the far-better accurate New Testament manuscripts—or so the accepted altercation goes.
The aboriginal botheration is that added manuscripts at best access our aplomb that we acquire the aboriginal version. That doesn’t beggarly the aboriginal archetype was history—just like the aboriginal archetype of The Wizard of Oz or the Arthurian legends wouldn’t be a almanac of history.
Consider the affirmation of 25,000 manuscripts. The originals of every New Testament book were accounting in Greek, but three-quarters of these manuscripts are translations into added languages. We can abstain the added band of estimation imposed by a adaptation by absorption on aloof the 5800 Greek manuscripts.
Now accede back these manuscripts were written.
This blueprint shows the cardinal of Greek arrangement copies by century. (The abstracts is from Wikipedia, with manuscripts categorized on the bend of two centuries put into the beforehand century.) We acquire aught manuscripts from the aboriginal aeon and eight from the second. The twelfth aeon has the most, with 1090 manuscripts. The columnist press was invented in the average of the fifteenth century, which explains abundant of the bead on the appropriate of the chart.
I afresh explored the three best acclaimed additions to the New Testament (the Comma Johanneum, the woman bent in adultery, and the continued catastrophe of Mark). The bookish assay for whether some of these passages are accurate or not about-face on aloof a few manuscripts, and this blueprint shows why. The all-inclusive majority of the manuscripts, from conceivably the sixth aeon and after, never access the conversation.
There are one hundred manuscripts in the aboriginal four centuries, and abounding of these are aloof tiny scraps. Accede card P52 above—yes, that is advised a “manuscript.” It is a tiny fragment of John aloof 9cm long. It is our oldest New Testament arrangement and dates to the aboriginal bisected of the additional century. Three added manuscripts (P90, P98, and P104) are additionally debris of a agnate admeasurement and date to the additional bisected of the additional century. (Though it’s apparently obvious, I’ll accent that these dates are all aloof approximations, and arguments can be fabricated for altered dates.)
Another scattering of manuscripts date to about 200 CE. Six of them (P4, P32, P64, P66, P77, and P103) are scraps, but in this accumulation we get our aboriginal abundant manuscripts. P46 (part of the Chester Beatty collection) has abundant of nine epistles. P66 contains best of John. P75 (the Bodmer Papyrus) has a abundant atom of Luke and John.
The almanac looks adequately acceptable back you attending at the dates of our ancient bits of the assorted books in the New Testament—John in the additional century, Matthew and Luke about 200, Mark about 250, and so on. But, again, the accent should be on the chat fragment. Only back you get to the oldest complete (or about complete) texts—the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus from the fourth century—do you get all the missing pieces. (I’ve accounting added about this centuries-long aphotic age here.)
The “best accurate by far!” affirmation for the New Testament is accurate but irrelevant. It’s not all that hasty that a scattering of aboriginal abstracts from a accepted adoration in a dry altitude were preserved until today, and let’s accede that that’s absorbing and historically important. But that we acquire 1090 manuscripts in the aboriginal Greek from the twelfth aeon is not abundant added accessible in recreating the originals than that we acquire 100 actor new copies printed anniversary year. What affairs are the ancient copies—perhaps the hundred from aboriginal four centuries. And the hundred abate bottomward to aloof a accordant scattering of copies that are beyond than scraps.
25,000 New Testament manuscripts? Big deal.
It is absurdity abandoned which needs the abutment of government. Truth can angle by itself.— Thomas Jefferson
Photo credit: Wikipedia
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