PAPYRUS 75 (P75): The Manuscript that Changed the Thinking of Textual Scholars

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

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Edward D. Andrews
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 100 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

P75

Contents: Luke 3:18–22; 3:33–4:2; 4:34–5:10; 5:37–6:4; 6:10–7:32, 35–39, 41–43; 7:46–9:2; 9:4–17:15; 17:19–18:18; 22:4–24:53; John 1:1–11:45, 48–57; 12:3–13:1, 8–10; 14:8–29; 15:7–8. It does not contain the adulterous story found at John 7:53–8:11.[1]

Date: 175 – 225 C.E.

Discovered: in the 1950s in Pabau, Egypt

Housing Location: Cologne-Geneva, Switzerland: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana.

Physical Features:

Textual Character: P75 is Alexandrian text-type and the Alands have it as Category      I, strict text. The text is closer to Codex Vaticanus than to Codex Sinaiticus. It agrees with P111 (200-250).

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P75 (c.175–225) contains most of Luke and John and has vindicated Westcott and Hort for their choice of Vaticanus as the premium manuscript for establishing the original text. After careful study of P75 against Vaticanus, scholars found that they are just short of being identical. In his introduction to the Greek text, Hort argued that Vaticanus is a “very pure line of very ancient text.”[2] Of course, Westcott and Hort were not aware of P75 that would be published in 1961, about 80 years later.

The discovery of P75 proved to be the catalyst for correcting the misconception that early copyists were predominately unskilled. As we elsewhere on our blog earlier, either literate or semi-professional copyist produced the vast majority of the early papyri, and some copied by professionals. The few poorly copied manuscripts simply became known first, giving an impression that was difficult for some to discard when the enormous amount of evidence surfaced that showed just the opposite. Of course, the discovery of P75 has also had a profound effect on New Testament textual criticism because of its striking agreement with Codex Vaticanus.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Of course, P75 is not flawless. The scribe had to make several corrections (116 in Luke and John), but there was no attempt “to revise the text by a second exemplar, and indeed no systematic correction at all.”6 The scribe of P75 shows a clear tendency to make grammatical and stylistic improvements in keeping with the Alexandrian scriptorial tradition, and the scribe had a tendency to shorten his text, particularly by dropping pronouns. However, his omissions of text hardly ever extend beyond a word or two, probably because he copied letter by letter and syllable by syllable.

From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts

As was previously noted, Calvin Porter clearly established the fact that P75 displays the kind of text that was used in making codex Vaticanus. However, it is unlikely that the scribe of B used P75 as his exemplar, because the scribe of B copied from a manuscript whose line length was 12–14 letters per line. We know this because when the scribe of Codex Vaticanus made large omissions, they were typically 12–14 letters long.7 The average line length for P75 is about 29–32 letters per line. Therefore, the scribe of B must have used a manuscript like P75, but not P75 itself.[3]

The mirror-like closeness of P75 with Vaticanus tells us that Codex Vaticanus had its beginnings in the second century C.E. (125-200), at least. P75 validates itself through Vaticanus as an extremely trustworthy manuscript witness by a highly skilled professional scribe and P75 makes Codex Vaticanus an extremely more reliable witness that had been previously thought. P75 also was the catalyst that changed the hearts and minds of a generation of textual scholars. These textual scholars long believed that the early manuscripts were where most of the textual errors came from and that the scribes were free to take liberties with the text and untrained in the copying long texts.

Again, many textual scholars prior to 1961 believed that the early copyists of the New Testament papyri were among the untrained in making documents (P45, P46, P47; P66 and P72 in 2 Peter and Jude) and that the papyri were texts in flux.[8] It was not until the discovery of P75 and other papyri that textual scholars began to think differently. Nevertheless, the attitude of the 1930s through the 1950s is explained well by Kurt and Barbara Aland:

Of special importance are the early papyri, i.e., of the period of the third/fourth century. As we have said, these have an inherent significance for the New Testament textual studies because they witness to a situation before the text was channeled into major text types in the fourth century. Our research on the early papyri has yielded unexpected results that require a change in the traditional views of the early text. We have inherited from the past generation the view that the early text was a “free” text,[9] and the discovery of the Chester Beatty papyri seemed to confirm this view. When P45 and P46 were joined by P66 sharing the same characteristics, this position seemed to be definitely established. (Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament 1995, 93)

Before P75, scholars were under the impression that scribes must have used manuscripts of untrained copyists to make a recension (critical revision, i.e., revised text); and this, according to scholars prior to 1961, was how Codex Vaticanus (B) came about. In 1940, Kenyon inferred the following:

During the second and third centuries, a great variety of readings came into existence throughout the Christian world. In some quarters, considerable license was shown in dealing with the sacred text; in others, more respect was shown to the tradition. In Egypt, this variety of texts existed, as elsewhere; but Egypt (and especially Alexandria) was a country of strong scholarship and with a knowledge of textual criticism. Here, therefore, a relatively faithful tradition was preserved. About the beginning of the fourth century, a scholar may well have set himself to compare the best accessible representatives of this tradition, and so have produced a text of which B is an early descendant.[10]

PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

While Kenyon was correct about the manuscripts coming up out of Egypt being a reasonably pure text, he was certainly mistaken when he suggested that Codex Vaticanus was the result of a critical revision by early scribes. P75 put this theory to rest. The agreement between P75 and Codex B is 92% in John and 94% in Luke. However, Porter has it at about 85% agreement.  Zuntz, on the other hand, went a little further than Kenyon did. Kenyon believed that the critical text had been made in the early part of the fourth century, leading to Codex Vaticanus. Zuntz believed similarly but felt that the recension began back in the mid-second-century and was a process that ran up into the fourth-century. Zuntz wrote:

The Alexander correctors strove, in ever repeated efforts, to keep the text current in their sphere free from the many faults that had infected it in the previous period and which tended to crop up again even after they had been obelized [i.e., marked as spurious]. These labours must time and again have been checked by persecutions and the confiscation of Christian books and counteracted by the continuing currency of manuscripts of the older type. Nonetheless, they resulted in the emergence of a type of text (as distinct from a definite edition) which served as a norm for the correctors in provincial Egyptian scriptoria. The final result was the survival of a text far superior to that of the second century, even though the revisers, being fallible human beings, rejected some of its own correct readings and introduced some faults of their own.[11]

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS I AM John 8.58

P75, as we can see from the above, influenced the thinking of Kurt Aland. While he said, “We have inherited from the past generation the view that the early text was a ‘free’ text,” he was one of those saying that very thing. However, as he would later say, “Our research on the early papyri has yielded unexpected results that require a change in the traditional views of the early text.” P75 greatly affected the Alands: “P75 shows such a close affinity with the Codex Vaticanus that the supposition of a recension of the text at Alexandria, in the fourth century, can no longer be held.”[12] Gordon Fee clearly states that there was no Alexandrian recension prior to P75 (175-225 C.E.) and the time of Codex Vaticanus (350 C.E.), as he commented that P75 and Vaticanus “seem to represent a ‘relatively pure’ form of preservation of a ‘relatively pure’ line of descent from the original text.”[13] For many decades now, the New Testament textual scholarship has been aware that P75 is an extremely accurate copy. Of the copyist behind P75, Colwell said, “his impulse to improve style is for the most part defeated by the obligation to make an exact copy.”[14] Colwell went on to comment on the work of that scribe:

In P75 the text that is produced can be explained in all its variants as the result of a single force, namely the disciplined scribe who writes with the intention of being careful and accurate. There is no evidence of revision of his work by anyone else, or in fact of any real revision, or check.… The control had been drilled into the scribe before he started writing.[15]

We do not want to leave the reader with the impression that P75 is perfect, as it is not.

400,000 Textual Variants 02 400,000 Textual Variants 02 400,000 Textual Variants 02

Then, there is the fact that P75 contains Luke and John in that order Luke then John, which separates Luke from Acts. This offers us evidence that the canonical Gospels were being grouped together by the early church, and possibly even Acts. This indicates that the early Church of 125-200 C.E. recognized the authority and authenticity of all four canonical Gospels.

We also learn that there was a Christian community in Alexandria, Egypt by 125-200 C.E. that was large enough to use highly skilled professional scribes. Previous to P75, it was thought that this was not the case until the third-century C.E. So. P75 offers us credence to the Coptic Church tradition of a very early Christian community within Alexandria, Egypt. Prior to P75, we had very little evidence other than church tradition that suggested a significant presence of Christianity in Egypt until the third-century C.E. However, P75 suggests that they were there and the ability to possess highly skilled professional scribes tells us that it was a well-developed church at that time, which had reached into the educated classes.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

colophon

Early copyists often included notes in their manuscripts. A frequent colophon (comment at the end of a manuscript) was: “The hand that wrote [this] moulders in a tomb, but what is written abides across the years.”[14] Certainly. We value the tireless of the thousands of anonymous copyists. They worked on behalf of the true author of the Bible, who long ago wrote, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) Of course, we also appreciate the tireless efforts of the hundreds of textual scholars from Desiderius Erasmus to Daniel B. Wallace, Philip Comfort, and many others today.

DATING P75

Paleographer Philip W. Comfort Writes,

Victor Martin originally dated P75 to the early third century on the basis of its comparability with manuscripts such as P. Oxy. 2293, 2322, 2362, 2363, and 2370. Martin said these manuscripts, as with P75, all display the defined angular hand of the early third century. It should be noted, however, that the Oxyrhynchus editors said the date should be late second or possibly early third century for three of these manuscripts: P. Oxy. 2293, 2363, and 2370. Of these three, P. Oxy. 2293 and P. Oxy. 2452 are also very similar to P75. Furthermore, Martin indicates that the handwriting of P75 is comparable to P. Fuad XIX, a documentary text dated A.D. 145–46. I also note P75’s affinities with P. Michigan 3, dated firmly to the second half of the second century. Seider dates P75 “2nd/3rd century.” I would date it late second century, possibly early third.[1]

[1] Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts: Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2 Volume Set The (English and Greek Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019), 337-8.

World-Renowned Textual Scholars Date P75 Early

  • 200-225 Kurt and Barbara Aland
  • 175-225 Victor Martin
  • 175-225 Rodolphe Kasser
  • 150-175: Philip W. Comfort
  • 175-225 Bruce M. Metzger

The New Uncertain and Ambiguous Minded Textual Scholars Date P75

  • 250-325 Pasquale Orsini
  • 300-400 Brent Nongbri

SEE ALSO PAPYRUS 52 (P52) THE “AMBIGUITY AND UNCERTAINTY” OF MODERN-DAY EVANGELICAL BIBLE SCHOLARS

Recent Efforts to Reconstruct Early Christianity on the Basis of Its_Papyrological Evidence [9789004234161 – Christian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture]

Daniel B. Wallace writes in the foreword of MYTHS AND MISTAKES In New Testament Textual Criticism that “The new generation of evangelical scholars is far more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty than previous generations.” (Page xii). This is certainly the case. However, this trend has been a long time coming. In the 1800s into the early 1900s, Higher Criticism (biblical Criticism) ruled the day wherein liberal to moderate Bible scholars dissected the Word of God until it became the word of man and a garbled word at that. A few positions of these scholars would be that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible, Job was not a real historical person, the prophet Isaiah of the eight-century B.C.E. and Daniel the prophet of the sixth-century B.C.E. did not write the books that bear their name, Jesus did not say everything recorded that he said in his famous Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus did not say that the Pharisees were snakes and vipers in Matthew 23, it was Matthew who said these things because he hated the Jews.

Then, in the middle of the twentieth century, we from literal Bible translations (what God said by way of his human authors) and entered into the era of interpretive translations (i.e., dynamic or formal equivalent), wherein the translators give the reader what they think the authors meant by their words. The last few decades textual scholars have refocused their objectives and goals from attempting to ascertain the original words of the original text to getting back to the earliest text possible. More recently, there his been a concerted effort to reset the dates of our earliest manuscripts to later dates.

Comfort W. Comfort is one of few who has actually examined and published major works in which he has examined the entire range of early New Testament manuscripts, and he is constantly under attack by the new wave of textual scholars that favor ambiguity and uncertainty and are seeking to redate our early papyrus manuscripts to later dates. If they can undermine the credibility of this one man who is standing in their way; then, they will control the narrative.

One thing I loved/love about the late Norman L. Geisler was/is that he did not worry about what man thought, his first concern as always what God thought about him. John Macarthur comes from the same mindset. This author believes that New Testament textual criticism, formerly constructive, has joined higher criticism (biblical criticism), as well as interpretive translation movement, and now has become destructive. If any conservative, evangelical textual scholar wants to maintain a stream of New Testament textual criticism that is constructive, do not hesitate to contact Christian Publishing House at support@christianpublishers.org or call Edward D. Andrews at 866-580-6125, ext. #1.

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[1] The manuscripts Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and P66 support this omission.

[2] B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction [and] Appendix, Vol. 2 of New Testament in the Original Greek (London: Macmillan and Company, 1881), 251.

[3] Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 502–507.

4 Victor Martin and Rodolphe Kasser, Papyrus Bodmer XIV–XV: Evangiles de Luc et Jean, vol. 1, Papyrus Bodmer XIV: Evangile de Luc chap. 3–24 (Cologny-Geneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1961), 13.

5 C. Porter, “Papyrus Bodmer XV (P75) and the Text of Codex Vaticanus.” Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 363–376.

6 James Ronald Royse, “Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri” (Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 1981), 538–39.

7 Brooke F. Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper & Bros., 1882; reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 233–34.

[8] Kurt and Barbara Aland write, “By the 1930s the number of known papyri had grown to more than forty without any of them arousing any special attention, despite the fact that many of them were of a quite early date. (Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament 1995, 84)

[9] Early manuscripts (from before the fourth century) are classified by the Alands as “strict,” “normal,” or “free.” The “normal” text “transmitted the original text with the limited amount of variation.” Then, there is the “free” text, “characterized by a greater degree of variation than the ‘normal’ text.” Finally, there was the “strict” text, “which reproduced the text of its exemplar with greater fidelity (although still with certain characteristic liberties), exhibiting far less variation than the ‘normal’ text.” (Aland 1987, 93)

[10] F. Kenyon, “Hesychius and the Text of the New Testament,” in Memorial Lagrange (1940), 250.

[11] G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles (1953), 271–272.

[12] Kurt Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for New Testament Research” in The Bible in Modern Scholarship (1965), 336.

[13] Gordon Fee, “P75, P66, and Origen: The Myth of Early Textual Recension in Alexandria” in New Dimensions in New Testament Study (1974), 19–43.

[14] Ernest C. 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), 121.

[15] Ibid., 117

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