Kurt and Barbara Aland Categories of New Testament Manuscripts

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

New Testament manuscripts in Greek are categorized into five groups,[1] according to a scheme introduced in 1981 by Kurt and Barbara Aland in The text of the New Testament. The categories are based on how each manuscript relates to the various text-types. Generally speaking, earlier Alexandrian manuscripts are category I, while later Byzantine manuscripts are category V. Aland’s method involved considering 1000 passages where the Byzantine text differs from non-Byzantine text. The Alands did not select their 1000 readings from all of the NT books; for example, none were drawn from Matthew and Luke.[2]

Description of Categories

The Alands’ categories do not simply correspond to the text-types; all they do is demonstrate the ‘Byzantine-ness’ of a particular text; that is, how much it is similar to the Byzantine text-type, from least (Category I) to most similar (Category V). Category V can be equated with the Byzantine text-type, but the other categories are not necessarily representative of a text-type. Even though most texts in Category I agree with the Alexandrian text-type, they are not necessarily Alexandrian themselves; they are just very non-Byzantine.[3]

The Alands introduced the following categories (Aland & Aland category description according to the 1989 English translation, p. 106, between quotation marks):

Category I: “Manuscripts of a very special quality which should always be considered in establishing the original text.” This category includes almost all manuscripts before the 4th century. These manuscripts have almost no Byzantine influence, and often agree with the Alexandrian text-type (but are not necessarily Alexandrian themselves, for example P45, P46, B, and 1739). Some 4th-century and earlier papyri and uncials are in this category, as are manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type. The manuscripts in this category are important when considering textual problems and are considered by many scholars to be a good representation of the autograph, due to their early dating.

Category II: “Manuscripts of a special quality but distinguished from manuscripts of Category I by the presence of alien influences.” The manuscripts in this category are similar to category I manuscripts and are important in textual consideration of the autograph. However, the texts usually contain some alien influences, such as those found in the Byzantine text-type. Egyptian texts fall in this category.

Category III: “Manuscripts of a distinctive character with an independent text… particularly important for the history of the text.” The manuscripts in category III are important when discussing the history of the textual traditions and to a lesser degree for establishing the original text. The manuscripts usually contain independent readings and have a distinctive character. f1, f13 are examples of manuscript families that fall within this category. Manuscripts of this category usually present mixed or eclectic text-type.

Category IV: “Manuscripts of the D text.” Category IV contains the few manuscripts that follow the text of the Codex Bezae (D). These texts are of the Western text-type.

Category V: “Manuscripts with a purely or predominantly Byzantine text.” This category may be equated with the Byzantine text-type. Byzantine and mostly Byzantine texts fall under this category.

Uncategorized: Some manuscripts studied by the Alands were not categorized, for example because they were too short to determine which group they belonged to or fell somewhere in between. The unclassified manuscript could be representative of the Western text-type, the “Caesarean text-type” (a term proposed by certain scholars to denote a consistent pattern of variant readings of the four Gospels), or anything else.

Limitations

This system of classification prefers the Alexandrian text-type Manuscripts that represent the Western text-type are classified as Category IV in Gospels, and Category II/III in the Pauline Letters. This is significant because some scholars believe that some or all of the Minuscule text or the Western texts are closer to the original texts. Some manuscripts are not classified. Uncial 055 is not because it is a commentary, and according to some specialists, written in a minuscule hand. 𝔓7, 𝔓89, 𝔓121, Uncial 080, Uncial 0100, Uncial 0118, 0174, 0230, 0263, 0264, 0267, 0268 are too brief to classify. Uncial 0144 and 0196 are not accessible. 𝔓25 is not classified because of the Diatessaric character of text (i.e. the four Gospels combined into a single narrative).

𝔓5 was classified to Category I, but it is not a representative of the Alexandrian text-type. According to Philip Comfort (2001) it is “a good example of what Kurt and Barbara Aland call “normal” (i.e. a relatively accurate text manifesting a normal amount of error and idiosyncrasy).[4]

Waltz (2013) stated:

As a classification scheme, [Aland & Aland’s] attempt was at once a success and a failure. A success, in that it has conveniently gathered data about how Byzantine the various manuscripts are. A failure, because it has not been widely adopted, and in any case does not succeed in moving beyond Byzantine/non-Byzantine classification.

Distribution of Greek Manuscripts by Century and Category

Aland, Kurt and Aland, Barbara. The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Second revised edition. Translated by Erroll F Rhodes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995, pp. 159–162.

Date (CE) I II III IV V
150 𝔓52𝔓90𝔓104
200 𝔓32𝔓46𝔓64/67𝔓66𝔓75𝔓77, 0189,
250 𝔓1𝔓4𝔓5𝔓9𝔓12𝔓15𝔓20𝔓22𝔓23𝔓27𝔓28𝔓29𝔓30𝔓39𝔓40𝔓45𝔓47𝔓49𝔓53𝔓65𝔓70𝔓80𝔓87, 0220 0212 𝔓48𝔓69
300 𝔓13𝔓16𝔓18𝔓37𝔓72𝔓78, 0162, 𝔓115 𝔓38, 0171
350 𝔓10𝔓24𝔓35, 01, 03 𝔓6𝔓8𝔓17𝔓50𝔓62𝔓71𝔓81𝔓86, 0185 𝔓88, 058 (?), 0169, 0188, 0206, 0207, 0221, 0228, 0231, 0242
400 057 𝔓19𝔓51𝔓57𝔓82𝔓85, 0181, 0270 𝔓21, 059, 0160, 0176, 0214, 0219
450 02 (except Gospels), 0254 𝔓14040160290480770172017301750201024002440274 02 (Gospels), 03206206806901630165 (?), 0166018202160217021802260227023602520261 05 026061
500 𝔓5607107608802320247 𝔓54𝔓63072017001860213
550 𝔓330608073081085087089091093 (1 Peter), 0940184022302250245 𝔓2𝔓36𝔓76𝔓83𝔓8406015035040060066067070078079082086014301470159018701980208022202370241025102600266 022023024027042043064065093 (Acts), 024602530265 (?)
600 𝔓26 𝔓43𝔓44𝔓55, 083 𝔓3, 0164, 0199
650 𝔓74, 098 𝔓11𝔓31𝔓34𝔓7901020108011102040275 𝔓59𝔓68096097099010601070109014501670183020002090210023902590262 𝔓73010301040211
700 𝔓42𝔓61 𝔓60
750 01901010114015602050234 𝔓410950126012701460148016102290233023802500256 07047054 (?), 01160134
800 044 (Catholic epistles) 044 (except Catholic epistles)
850 33 (except Gospels) 010, 038, 0155, 0271, 33 (Gospels), 892, 2464 012, 025 (except Acts, Rev), 037, 050, 0122, 0128, 0130, 0131, 0132, 0150, 0269, 565 09, 011, 013, 014, 017, 018, 020, 021, 025 (Acts, Rev), 030, 031, 034, 039, 041, 045, 049, 053 (?), 063, 0120, 0133, 0135, 0136 (?), 0151, 0197, 0248, 0255, 0257, 0272, 0273 (?), 461
900 1841 0115, 1424 (Mark) 1424 (except Mark), 1841
950 1739 (Catholic epistles, Paul) 0177, 0243 (?), 1739 (Acts), 1891, 2329 051, 075, 0105, 0121a, 0121b, 0140, 0141, 0249, 307, 1582, 1836, 1845, 1874, 1875, 1912, 2110, 2193, 2351 028, 033, 036, 046, 052, 056, 0142, 1874, 1891
1050 1175, 1243, 2344 81323, 945, 1006, 1854, 1962, 2298 28104181323398424431436451459623700788, 1243, 1448, 1505, 1838, 1846, 1908, 2138, 2147, 2298, 2344, 2596 (?) 103104181 (Rev), 398431451459, 945, 1006, 1448, 1505, 1846, 1854, 2138, 2147, 2298
1100 256, 1735 1735, 1910 256
1150 1241 (Catholic epistles) 36, 1611, 2050, 2127 1 (Gospels), 368894 (?), 157326330346378543610826828917, 983, 1071, 1241 (Gospels, Acts, Paul), 1319, 1359, 1542b, 1611, 1718, 1942, 2030, 2412, 2541, 2744 1 (except Gospels), 180189330378610911917, 1010, 1241, 1319, 1359, 1542b (?), 2127, 2541
1200 1573 1573 (?)
1250 2053, 2062 442579, 1292, 1852 6 (Catholic epistles, Paul), 1394180206218 (epistles), 263365441614720915, 1398, 1563, 1641, 1852, 2374, 2492, 2516, 2542, 2718 (?) 6 (Gospels, Acts), 94 (?), 180206218 (except epistles), 263365597, 720, 1251 (?), 1292, 1398, 1642, 1852, 2374, 2400, 2492 (?), 2516
1300 1342
1350 1067, 1409, 1506, 1881 5209254429 (except Paul), 453621629630, 1523, 1534, 1678 (?), 1842, 1877, 2005, 2197, 2200, 2377 5 (?), 189209254429 (Paul), 1067, 1409, 1506, 1523, 1524, 1877, 2200
1400 2495
1450 322 69205322467642, 1751, 1844, 1959, 2523, 2652 69181205429 (Rev.), 467642886, 2523, 2623, 2652 (?)
1500 61 (epistles, Rev), 522918, 1704, 1884 61 (Gospels, Acts), 522918, 1704
1550- 849, 2544 (Paul) 2544 (except Paul)

Number of manuscripts by century and category

Century Category I Category II Category III Category IV Category V
II 3
II/III 6
III 25 1 2
III/IV 8 2
IV 5 8 10
IV/V 1 7 7
V 2 16 19 1 2
V/VI 6 6
VI 15 31 12
VI/VII 1 4 3
VII 2 8 17 4
VII/VIII 2 1
VIII 6 12 5
VIII/IX 1 1
IX 3 7 12 5
IX/X 1 2 2
X 1 5 18 10
XI 3 7 24 16
XI/XII 2 2 1
XII 1 5 24 16
XII/XIII 1 1
XIII 2 4 21 18
XIII/XIV 1
XIV 1 4 17 12
XIV/XV 1
XV 1 11 9
XVI 5 4
XVI/XVII 2 1

[1] Aland: 106f, 332-337.

[2] Wisse, Frederik (1982). The Profile Method for the Classification and Evaluation of Manuscript Evidence, as Applied to the Continuous Greek Text of the Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 21. ISBN 0-8028-1918-4.

[3] Waltz, Robert B. (2013). The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism. p. 116–133. Retrieved 8 September 2021.

[4] Philip Comfort, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Tyndale House Publishers 2001, pp. 73–74.

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