Were Almost All Greek New Testament Manuscript Textual Variants [Errors] Created Before 200 A.D.?

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 120 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

The Trustworthiness of Early Copyists

Helmut Loester, ‘The Text of the Synoptic Gospels In the Second Century.’ in Gospel Traditions in the Second Century: Origins, Recensions, Text, and Transmission, ed. William L. Peterson (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), 19-37, contended that the second century period was nothing but a bunch of wild variations until we get to about 200 C.E., and then he suggest that a recension  (a revised edition of the text) was begun, which is where all of our extant (still in existence; surviving) New Testament manuscripts came from. From this mindset, comes the mistaken view from a number of scholars that the early Christians did not place any value in the Scriptures, that is, they did not possess any Scriptural significance.

E. C. Colwell in his Methods in Establishing the Nature of Text-Types, 55, notes: “the overwhelming majority of readings were created before the year 200. But very few, if any, text-types were established by that time.” G. D. Kilpatrick in his The Bodmer and Mississippi Collection, 42 says, “Apart from errors which can occur anywhere as long as books are copied by hand, almost all variants can be presumed to have been created by A.D. 200.” And Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 295 says, “practically all the substantive variants in the text of the New Testament are from the second century …”


Lee McDonald states,

“Many mistakes in the manuscripts were made and subsequently transmitted in the churches. This suggests that these documents were not generally recognized as Scripture until the end of the second century C.E. Scribal attempts at improvements in the text occurred regularly, and apparently no attempts were made to stop this activity until the fourth century, when more stability in the text of the NT began to take place.”[*]

Throughout much of the twentieth century, it was common to form three conclusions about the earliest copyists and their work:

  • The first three centuries saw copyists who were semiliterate and unskilled in the work of making copies.
  • Copyists in these early centuries felt as though the end was nigh, so they took liberties with the text in an attempt to strengthen orthodoxy.
  • In the early centuries, manuscripts could be described as “free,” “wild,” “in a state of flux,” “chaotic,” “a turbid textual morass,” i.e., a “free text” (so the Alands).

The first in the above would undoubtedly lead to many unintentional changes while the second would escalate intentional changes. J. Harold Greenlee had this to say:

In the very early period, the NT writings were more nearly “private” writings than the classics . . . the classics were commonly, although not always, copied by professional scribes, the NT books were probably usually copied in the early period by Christians who were not professionally trained for the task, and no corrector was employed to check the copyist’s work against his exemplar (the MS from which the copy was made) …. It appears that a copyist sometimes even took liberty to add or change minor details in the narrative books on the basis of personal knowledge, alternative tradition, or a parallel account in another book of the Bible …. At the same time, the importance of these factors in affecting the purity of the NT text must not be exaggerated. The NT books doubtless came to be considered as “literature” soon after they began to be circulated, with attention to the precise wording required when copies were made.[1] (Bold mine)

Greenlee had not changed his position 14 years later when he wrote the following:

The New Testament, on the other hand, was probably copied during the earliest period mostly by ordinary Christians who were not professional scribes but who wanted a copy of the New Testament book or books for themselves or for other Christians.[2]

The Alands in their Text of the New Testament saw the New Testament books as not being canonical, i.e., not viewed as Scripture in the first few centuries, so the books were subject to changes. They wrote, “not only every church but each individual Christian felt ‘a direct relationship to God.’ Well into the second century Christians still regarded themselves as possessing inspiration equal to that of the New Testament writings which they read in their worship service.” Earlier they wrote, “That was all the more true of the early period when the text had not attained canonical status, especially in the early period when Christians considered themselves filled with the Spirit.” They claimed that “until the beginning of the fourth century the text of the New Testament developed freely.” (Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament 1995, 295, 69)


Generally, once an established concept is set within the world of textual scholars, it is not easily displaced. During the start of the 20th century (1900–1940), there was a handful of papyri discovered that obviously represented the work of a copyist who had no training. It is during this time that Sir Frederic Kenyon, director and principal librarian of the British Museum for many years, said,

The early Christians, a poor, scattered, often illiterate body, looking for the return of the Lord at no distant date, were not likely to care sedulously for minute accuracy of transcription or to preserve their books religiously for the benefit of posterity.[3]

The first papyri discovered (P45, P46, P66) showed this possibly could be the case. P46 and P66 were copied by professional scribes. P45 contains much of Gospels and Acts and it varies with each biblical book. On P45 Comfort writes that “professionals—at least, they display the reformed documentary hand.” (Comfort and Barret, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts 2001, 159) However, Barbara Aland says that “P45 has a great number of singular readings.” (The Earliest Gospels, 2004. 110) On the origin of these singular readings, E. C. Colwell comments:

As an editor the scribe of P45 wielded a sharp axe. The most striking aspect of his style is its conciseness. The dispensable word is dispensed with. He omits adverbs, adjectives, nouns, participles, verbs, personal pronouns—without any compensating habit of addition. He frequently omits phrases and clauses. He prefers the simple to the compound word. In short, he favors brevity. He shortens the text in at least fifty places in singular readings alone. But he does not drop syllables or letters. His shortened text is readable. (Scribal Habits in the Early Papyri, 1965, 383)


So, it would seem that P45, which came to light when it was purchased from some dealer in 1930-31, was the predominant factor for the negative view of the copyist in early Christianity. However, as more papyri became known, especially after the discovery of P75 in the 1950s in Pabau, Egypt, it proved to be just the opposite. P75 is generally described as “the most significant” (Aland and Aland. 1986, 244) papyrus of the Greek New Testament to be discovered. These new discoveries prompted Sir Frederic Kenyon to write,

We must be content to know that the general authenticity of the New Testament text has been remarkably supported by the modern discoveries which have so greatly reduced the interval between the original autographs and our earliest extant manuscripts, and that the differences of reading, interesting as they are, do not affect the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.[4]

4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2

Even though many textual scholars were crediting the Alands’ The Text of the New Testament with their description of the text as “free,” that was not the entire position of the Alands. True, they spoke of the different text styles such as the “normal,” “free” “strict” and the “paraphrastic.” However, like Kenyon, they saw a need based on the evidence, which suggested a rethinking of how the evidence should be described:

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, 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. P75 appeared in contrast to be a loner with its “strict” text anticipating Codex Vaticanus. Meanwhile the other witnesses of the early period had been ignored. It is their collations which have changed the picture so completely.[5]

While we have said this previously, it bears repeating once again that some of the earliest manuscripts we now have indicate that a professional scribe copied them.[6] Many of the other papyri confirm that a semi-professional hand-copied them, while most of these early papyri give evidence of being produced by a copyist who was literate and experienced. Therefore, either literate or semi-professional copyists did the vast majority of our early papyri, with some being done by professionals. As it happened, the few poorly copied manuscripts became known first, establishing a precedent that was difficult for some to discard when the enormous amount of evidence came forth that showed just the opposite.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Distribution of Papyri by Century and Type



P52 P32 P46 P66 P75 P77/103 P87 P90 P104 P137 0 0



P4/64/67 P13 P23 P29 P30 P39 P45 P66 0189 P29 P38 0



P1 P5 P9 P12 P15 P16 P18 P20 P22 P27 P28 P37 P40 P47 P49/65 P53 P65 P70 P72 P78 P80 P101 P102 P104 P106 P107 P108 P109 P111 P113 P114 P115 P118 P119 P121 P125 P129 P130 P131 P132 P133 0220 P48 P69 0171 0



P6 P7 P8 P10 P17 P19 P21 P24 P25 P38 P50 P57 P62 P71 P81 P82 P85 P86 P88 P110 P117 P120 P122 P123 P126 P21 P88 0


The Epistle to the Hebrews Paul PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

Also, as we noted earlier, textual scholars such as Comfort[7] and others believe that the very early Alexandrian manuscripts that we now possess are a reflection of what would have been found throughout the whole of the Greco-Roman Empire from about 85–275 C.E. So these early papyri can play a major role in our establishing the original readings. While this is true, it might not be in the way that one might think. Have the early papyri made a difference in the critical text of the New Testament? Maurice A. Robinson has estimated that the current Nestle-Aland 28th edition of 2012 is 99.5 percent the same as the 1881 Westcott and Hort’s edition of the Greek New Testament. From the Westcott and Hort Greek text of 1881 to the 25th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament Text of 1963 was essentially based on the accumulated evidence from the days of Desiderius Erasmus in 1516, 1522 up unto the 19th/early 20th century, that is, the codices manuscripts, with Codex Vaticanus (c. 300–325 C.E.) and Codex Sinaiticus (c. 330–360) leading the way. Again, there were no major changes from 1881 to the 2012 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Text. However, that is, in fact, what makes the early papyri majorly important, extremely significant, very consequential, considerable evidence for establishing the original Greek New Testament. It simply gives validity to those who had placed much trust in the great majuscules.

However, Epp asks, “If Westcott-Hort did not utilize papyri in constructing their NT text, and if our own modern critical texts, in fact, are not significantly different from that of Westcott-Hort, then why are the papyri important after all?”[8] From there, Epp goes on to strongly advise that the papyri should play an essential role in three areas: (1) “to isolate the earliest discernable text-types, (2) assisting “to trace out the very early history of the NT text,” and, (3) “Finally, the papyri can aid in refining the canons of criticism―the principles by which we judge variant readings―for they open to us a window for viewing the earliest stages of textual transmission, providing instances of how scribes worked in their copying of manuscripts.”[9] We should add that the early papyri have changed the decisions of textual scholars and committees so that they have not retained the readings of Westcott and Hort at times. So, even though there has been little change between the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament of 1881 and the 2012 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, (1) the early papyri have reinforced what we already knew to be original and (2) helped us to improve the critical text ever slightly.


To offer just one example, both Metzger and Comfort inform us that it was the external evidence of the papyri that resulted in the change in the NU text adopting the reading that was also in the Textus Receptus, as opposed to what was in the Westcott and Hort text.

Matthew 26:20 (WH)
20 μετα των δωδεκα μαθητων
With the twelve disciples
Matthew 26:20 (TRNU)
20 μετα των δωδεκα
With the twelve

Metzger writes, “As is the case in 20:17,[10] the reading μαθηταί after οἱ δώδεκα is doubtful. In the present verse [26:20] the weight of the external evidence seems to favor the shorter reading.” (B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 1994, 53) Comfort in his New Testament Text and Translation writes, “Even though both P37 and P45 are listed as ‘vid,’ it is certain that both did not include the word μαθητων because line spacing would not accommodate it. P37 has the typical abbreviation for ‘twelve,’ as ̅ιβ; and P45 has it written out as [δω]δεκα. P64+67 is less certain, but line lengths of the manuscript suggest that it reads ̅ιβ (see Texts of Earliest MSS, 69).” Comfort more explicitly explains what Metzger hinted at; “The testimony of the papyri (with B and D) created a change in the NU text. Prior to NA26, the NU text included the word μαθητων (“disciples”). But the early evidence shows that this must have been a later addition.” Comfort continues, “Such an addition is not necessary in light of the fact that Jesus’ closest followers were often designated by the gospel writers as simply “the twelve.” (P. W. Comfort 2008, 77)

Again, many textual scholars before 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.[11] 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,[12] 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 and other early papyri, 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.[13]

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.[14]


P75 and other early papyri 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.”[15] 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.”[16] For many decades now, 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.”[17] 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.[18]

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

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.’[19] 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.[20]

As the early Nestle Greek text moved from edition to edition, the influence of the New Testament papyri increased. It was the son of Eberhard Nestle, Erwin, who added a full critical apparatus in the thirteenth edition of the 1927 Nestle Edition. It was not until 1950 that Kurt Aland began to work on the text that would eventually become known as the Nestle-Aland text. He would begin to add even more evidence from papyri to the critical apparatus of the twenty-first edition. At Erwin Nestle’s request, he looked over and lengthened the critical apparatus, adding far more manuscripts. This ultimately led to the 25th edition of 1963. The most significant papyri and recently discovered majuscules, (i.e., 0189), a few minuscules (33, 614, 2814), and rarely also lectionaries were also considered. However, while the critical apparatus was being added to and even altered, the text of the Nestle-Aland was not changed until the 26th edition (1979). Many of these changes to the text were a direct result of the papyri. In the 2012 28th edition of the Nestle Aland Greek Text, there were only 34 changes to the text, all of which were in the General Epistles (James-Jude). The 27th edition of the NA was the same at the 26th edition of 1979, which would mean that in 33 years up unto 2012, with many new manuscript discoveries and much research, very little has needed to be changed, even very little change with the 1881 WH Greek New Testament text.

The Holy Spirit_02 THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

The First Century

The writers of the 27 books comprising the Christian Greek Scriptures were Jews.[21] (Romans 13:1-2) Either these men were apostles, intimate traveling companions of the apostles, or were picked by Christ in a supernatural way, such as the apostle Paul. Being Jewish, they would have viewed the Old Testament as being the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Paul said, “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). These writers of the 27 New Testament books would have viewed the teachings of Jesus, or their books expounding on his teachings, as Scripture as well as the Old Testament. The teachings of Jesus came to most of these New Testament writers personally from Jesus, being taught orally; thereafter, they would be the ones who published what Jesus had said and taught orally. When it came time to be published in written form, it should be remembered that Jesus had promised them “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:26

The early first-century Christian copyists were very much aware of the traditions that the Jewish scribes followed in meticulously copying their texts. These copyists would have immediately understood that they were copying sacred texts. In fact, the early papyri show evidence of shared features with the Jewish Sopherim, men who copied the Hebrew Scriptures from the time of Ezra in the fifth-century B.C.E. to Jesus’ day and beyond. They were extremely careful and were terrified of making mistakes.[22] We will find common features when we compare the Jewish Greek Old Testament with the Christian Greek Scriptures, such things as an enlarged letter at the beginning of each line, and the invention of the nomen sacrum[23] to deal with God’s personal name. Marginal notes, accents, breathing marks, punctuation, corrections, double punctuation marks (which indicate the flow of text)–all of these show adoptions of scribal practices of the Sopherim by Jewish Christian writers and scribes.

There are, unfortunately, fierce critics who reject any claims of veracity for these early manuscripts. Former evangelical Christian, now agnostic New Testament Bible scholar, Dr. Bart Ehrman writes,

Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later—much later. In most instances, they are copies made many centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places. As we will see later in this book, these copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are. Possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms: there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament. (B. D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why 2005, 10) (Bold mine)

As we read these remarks, it is easy to get a sense of hopelessness because “all feels lost, for there is certainly no way to get back to the originals.” Correct? Ehrman has had a long history of creating hopelessness for his readers, as he carries on his alleged truth quest. He asserts that even in the very few numbers of places that we might be sure about the wording, we cannot be certain about the meaning.


Blinded by Misguided Perceptions

Ehrman clearly has been immensely impacted by the fact that we do not have the originals or immediate copies. Here we have a world-renowned textual and early Christianity scholar who is emphasizing that we do not have the originals, nor the direct copies, and since there are so many copyist errors, it is virtually impossible to get back to the Word of God at all. Even if by some stroke of fortune, we could, we cannot know the meaning with assurance. Ehrman is saying to the lay reader: we can no longer trust the text of the Greek New Testament as the Word of God. If so, we would have to conclude that all translations are untrustworthy as well.

Ehrman has exaggerated the negative to his readers to the detriment of the positive in New Testament textual criticism. Mark Minnick assesses the latter nicely: “Doesn’t the existence of these variants undermine our confidence that we have the very words of God inspired? No! The fact is that because we know of them and are careful to preserve the readings of every one of them, not one word of God’s word has been lost to us.”[24] The wealth of manuscripts that we have for establishing the original Greek New Testament is overwhelming, in comparison to other ancient literature. We can only wonder what Ehrman does with an ancient piece of literature that has only one copy, and that copy is hundreds or even over a thousand years removed from the time of the original.

Consider a few examples. Before beginning, it should be noted that some of the classical authors are centuries, some are many centuries before the first century New Testament era, which is a somewhat unfair comparison. See the chart below.[25]

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

The New Testament Compared to Classical Literature

Author Work Writing Completed Earliest


Years Removed Number of MSS
Homer Iliad 800 B.C.E. 3rd century B.C.E.[26] 500 1,757
Herodotus History 480–425 B.C.E. 10th cent. C.E. 1,350 109
Sophocles Plays 496–406 B.C.E. 3rd cent. B.C.E.[27] 100-200 193
Thucydides History 460–400 B.C.E. 3rd cent. B.C.E.[28] 200 96
Plato Tetralogies 400 B.C.E. 895 C.E. 1,300 210
Demosthenes Speeches 300 B.C.E.


Fragments from 1st cent. B.C.E. 1,000 340
Caesar Gallic Wars 51-46 B.C.E. 9th cent. C.E. 950 251
Livy History of Rome 59 B.C.E.–17 C.E. 5th cent. C.E. 400 150
Tacitus Annals 100 C.E. 9th-11th cent. C.E. 750–950 33
Pliny, the Elder Natural History 49–79 C.E. 5th cent. C.E. fragment 400 200
Eight Greek NT Authors 27 Books 50 – 98 C.E. 110-125 C.E. 12-27 5,898

The Greek New Testament evidence, as we’ve mentioned previously, is over 5,898+ Greek NT manuscripts (140 papyri, 323 majuscules, 2,951 minuscules, and 2,484 lectionaries) that have been cataloged,* over 9,284 versions, and over 10,000 Latin manuscripts, not to mention an innumerable amount of church fathers’ quotations. This places the Greek New Testament in a class by itself, because no other ancient document is close to this. However, there is even more. There are 60 Greek papyri, along with five majuscule manuscripts that date to the second and third centuries C.E. Moreover, these early papyri manuscripts are from a region in Egypt that appreciated books as literature, and were copied by semi-professional and professional scribes, or at least highly skilled copyists. This region produced what are known as the most accurate and trusted manuscripts.

* Without going into the details, while the number as of 2020 is 5,898, the number is likely a little lower. One cannot simply count the number cataloged because manuscripts that are discovered at different times and when examined, are found to be the same, they still receive different catalog numbers. For example, P64/P67 are the same and this is true of P11/P14, P33/P58, P49/P65, and P77/P103. Thus, the total number of the papyri is not 140 but rather 135. Now, imagine the 2,951 minuscules and the 2,484 lectionaries. So, we can safely say there are about 5,800 manuscripts. Of course, this does not impact the point being made above in comparison to the secular books.


Were the Scribes in the Early Centuries Amateurs?

We could go on nearly forever talking about specific places in which the texts of the New Testament came to be changed, either accidentally or intentionally. As I have indicated, the examples are not just in the hundreds but in the thousands. The examples given are enough to convey the general point, however: there are lots of differences among our manuscripts, differences created by scribes who were reproducing their sacred texts. In the early Christian centuries, scribes were amateurs and as such were more inclined to alter the texts they copied—or more prone to alter them accidentally—than were scribes in the later periods who, starting in the fourth century, began to be professionals. (B. D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why 2005, 98) [Bold mine]

Let us take just a moment to discuss Ehrman’s statement, “in the early Christian centuries, scribes were amateurs….” In this article and in THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, we established just the opposite. Literate or semi-professional copyists did the vast majority of our early papyri, with some being done by professionals. As it happened, the few poorly copied manuscripts became known first, establishing a precedent that was difficult for some to discard when the truckload of evidence came forth that showed just the opposite. (P. Comfort 2005, 18-19)

Ehrman is misrepresenting the situation to his readers when he states, “We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals.” The way this is worded, he is saying that we do not have copies that are three or four generations removed from the originals. Ehrman cannot know this because we have 18 copies that are 20 to 150 years removed from the death of the apostle John in 100 C.E. There is the possibility that any of these could be only third or fourth generation removed copies. Furthermore, they could have been copied from a second or third generation. Therefore, Ehrman is misstating the evidence.

Let us do another short review of two very important manuscripts: P75 and Vaticanus 1209 (B). P75 is also known as Bodmer 14, 15. As has already been stated, papyrus is writing material used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans that was made from the pith of the stem of a water plant. These are the earliest witnesses to the Greek New Testament. P75 contains most of Luke and John, dating from 175 C.E. to 225 C.E Vaticanus is designated internationally by the symbol “B” (and 03) and is known as an uncial manuscript written on parchment. It is dated to the mid-fourth-century C.E. [c. 350] and originally contained the entire Bible in Greek. At present, Vaticanus’ New Testament is missing parts of Hebrews (Hebrews 9:14 to 13:25), all of First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. Originally, this codex probably had approximately 820 leaves, of which 759 remain.

What kind of weight or evidence do these two manuscripts carry in the eyes of textual scholars? Vaticanus 1209 is a key source for our modern translations. When determining an original reading, this manuscript can stand against other external evidence that would seem to the non-professional to be much more significant. P75 also is one of the weightiest manuscripts that we have and is virtually identical to Vaticanus 1209, which dates 175 to 125 years later than P75. When textual scholars B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort released their critical text in 1881, Hort said that Vaticanus preserved “not only a very ancient text but a very pure line of a very ancient text.” (Westcott and Hort 1882, 251) Later scholars argued that Vaticanus was a scholarly recension: a critical revision or edited text. However, P75 has vindicated Westcott and Hort because of its virtual identity with Vaticanus; it establishes that Vaticanus is essentially a copy of a second-century text, and likely, a copy of the original text, with the exception of a few minor points.

THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST by Stalker-1 The TRIAL and Death of Jesus_02 THE LIFE OF Paul by Stalker-1

Kurt Aland[30] wrote, “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.”[31] David C. Parker[32] says of P75 that “it is extremely important for two reasons: “like Vaticanus, it is carefully copied; it is also very early and is generally dated to a period between 175 and 225. Thus, it pre-dates Vaticanus by at least a century. A careful comparison between P75 and Vaticanus in Luke by C.M. Martini demonstrated that P75 was an earlier copy of the same careful Alexandrian text. It is sometimes called proto-Alexandrian. It is our earliest example of a controlled text, one which was not intentionally or extensively changed in successive copying. Its discovery and study have provided proof that the Alexandrian text had already come into existence in the third century.” (Parker 1997, 61) Let us look at the remarks of a few more textual scholars: J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace.

Even some of the early manuscripts show compelling evidence of being copies of a much earlier source. Consider again Codex Vaticanus, whose text is very much like that of P75 (B and P75 are much closer to each other than B is to [Codex Sinaiticus]). Yet the papyrus is at least a century older than Vaticanus. When P75 was discovered in the 1950s, some entertained the possibility that Vaticanus could have been a copy of P75, but this view is no longer acceptable since the wording of Vaticanus is certainly more primitive than that of P75 in several places.’ They both must go back to a still earlier common ancestor, probably one that is from the early second century. (Komoszewski, M. Sawyer and Wallace 2006, 78)

Comfort comments on how we can know that Vaticanus is not a copy of P75: “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.[33] 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.”[34]


Ehrman suggests that the early Christians were not concerned about the integrity of the text, its preservation of accuracy. Let us consult the second-century evidence by way of Tertullian.[35]

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones[36] of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places,[37] in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally.[38] (Bold mine)

What did Tertullian mean by “authentic writings”? If he was referring to the Greek originals–and it seems that he was, according to the Latin–it is an indication that some of the original New Testament books were still in existence at the time of his penning this work. However, let us say that it is simply referring to copies that were well-preserved. In any case, this shows that the Christians valued the preservation of accuracy.

We need to visit an earlier book by Ehrman for a moment, Lost Christianities, in which he writes, “In this process of recopying the document by hand, what happened to the original of 1 Thessalonians? For some unknown reason, it was eventually thrown away, burned, or otherwise destroyed. Possibly, it was read so much that it simply wore out. The early Christians saw no need to preserve it as the `original’ text. They had copies of the letter. Why keep the original?” (B. D. Ehrman 2003, 217)

Here Ehrman is arguing from silence. We cannot read the minds of people today, let alone read the minds of persons 2,000 years in the past. It is a known fact that congregations valued Paul’s letters, and Paul exhorted them to share the letters with differing congregations. Paul wrote to the Colossians, and in what we know as 4:16, he said, “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” The best way to facilitate this would be to send someone to a congregation, have them copy the letter and bring it back to their home congregation. On the other hand, someone could make copies of the letter in the congregation that received it and deliver it to interested congregations. In 1 Thessalonians, the congregation that Ehrman is talking about here, at chapter five, verse 27, Paul says, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.” What did Paul mean by “all the brothers”? It could be that he meant it to be used like a circuit letter, circulated to other congregations, giving everyone a chance to hear the counsel. It may merely be that, with literacy being so low, Paul wanted a guarantee that all were going to get to hear the letter’s contents, and he simply meant for every brother and sister locally to have a chance to hear it in the congregation. Regardless, even if we accept the latter, the stress that was put on the reading of this letter shows the weight that these people were placed under concerning Paul’s letters.[39] In addition, Comfort comments on how Paul and others would view apostolic letters:

Paul knew the importance of authorized apostolic letters, for he saw the authority behind the letter that came from the first Jerusalem church council. The first epistle from the church leaders who had assembled at Jerusalem was the prototype for subsequent epistles (see Acts 15). It was authoritative because it was apostolic, and it was received as God’s word. If an epistle came from an apostle (or apostles), it was to be received as having the imprimatur [approval/authority] of the Lord. This is why Paul wanted the churches to receive his word as being the word of the Lord. This is made explicit in 1 Thessalonians (2:13), an epistle he insisted had to be read to all the believers in the church (5:27). In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul indicated that his epistles carry the same authority as his preaching (see 2:15). Paul also told his audience that if they would read what he had written, they would be able to understand the mystery of Christ, which had been revealed to him (see Eph. 3:1–6). Because Paul explained the mystery in his writings (in this case, the encyclical epistle known as “Ephesians”), he urged other churches to read this encyclical (see Col. 4:16). In so doing, Paul himself encouraged the circulation of his writings. Peter and John also had publishing plans. Peter’s first epistle, written to a wide audience (the Christian diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia—see 1 Pet. 1:1), was a published work, which must have been produced in several copies from the onset, to reach his larger, intended audience. John’s first epistle was also published and circulated—probably to all the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. First John is not any kind of occasional epistle; it is more like a treatise akin to Romans and Ephesians in that it contains John’s full explanation of the Christian life and doctrine as a model for all orthodox believers to emulate. The book of Revelation, which begins with seven epistles to seven churches in this same province, must have also been inititally published in seven copies, as the book circulated from one locality to the next, by the seven “messengers” (Greek anggeloi—not “angels” in this context). By contrast, the personal letters (Philemon, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 John, 3 John) were not originally “published”; therefore, their circulation was small. Second Peter also had minimal circulation in the early days of the church. Because of its popularity, the book of Hebrews seemed to have enjoyed wide circulation—this was promoted by the fact that most Christians in the East thought it was the work of Paul and therefore was included in Pauline collections (see discussion below). The book of Acts was originally published by Luke as a sequel to his Gospel (see Acts 1:1–2). Unfortunately, in due course, this book got detached from Luke when the Gospel of Luke was placed in one-volume codices along with the other Gospels.[40]

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

Peter, as we have seen, also had this to say about Paul’s letters: “there are some things in them [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Pet 3:16) Peter viewed Paul’s letters as being on the same level as the Old Testament, which was referred to as Scripture. In the second century (about 135 C.E.), Papias, an elder of the early congregation in Hierapolis, made the following comment.

I will not hesitate to set down for you, along with my interpretations, everything I carefully learned then from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. In addition, if by chance someone who had been a follower of the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders–what Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and abiding voice.[41]

As an elder in the congregation at Hierapolis, in Asia Minor, Papias was an unrelenting researcher, as well as a thorough compiler of information; he exhibited intense indebtedness for the Scriptures. Papias determined properly that any doctrinal statement of Jesus Christ or his apostles would be far more appreciated and respected to explain than the unreliable statements found in the written works of his day. We can compare Jude 1:17, where Jude exhorts his readers to preserve the words of the apostles.

Therefore, the notion that the “early Christians saw no need to preserve it as the ‘original’ text,” is far too difficult to accept when we consider the above. Moreover, imagine a church in middle America being visited by Billy Graham. Now imagine that he wrote them a warm letter, but one also filled with some stern counsel. Would there be little interest in the preservation of those words? Would they not want to share it with others? Would other churches not be interested in it? The same would have been even truer of early Christianity receiving a letter from an apostle like Peter, John, or Paul. There is no doubt that the “original” wore out eventually. However, they lived in a society that valued the preservation of the apostle’s words, and it is far more likely that it was copied with care, to share with others, and to preserve. Moreover, let us acknowledge that their imperfections took over as well. Paul would have become a famous apostle who wrote a few churches, and there were thousands of churches toward the end of the first century. Would they have not exhibited some pride in the fact that they received a letter from the famous apostle Paul, who was martyred for the truth? Ehrman’s suggestions are reaching and contrary to human nature. It is simply wishful thinking on his part.


However, Ehrman may not have entirely dismissed the idea of getting back to the original if he agreed with Metzger in their coauthored fourth edition of The Text of the New Testament. Metzger’s original comments from previous editions are repeated there as follows.

 Besides textual evidence derived from New Testament Greek manuscripts and from early versions, the textual critic compares numerous scriptural quotations used in commentaries, sermons, and other treatises written by early church fathers. Indeed, so extensive are these citations that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament. (Metzger and Ehrman 2005, 126)

How are we to view the patristic citations? Let us look at another book for which Ehrman was coeditor and a contributor with other textual scholars: The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research (1995). The following is from Chapter 12, written by Gordon Fee (The Use of the Greek Fathers for New Testament Textual Criticism).

In NT textual criticism, patristic citations are ordinarily viewed as the third line of evidence, indirect and supplementary to the Greek MSS, and are often therefore treated as of tertiary importance. When properly evaluated, however, patristic evidence is of primary importance, for both of the major tasks of NT textual criticism: in contrast to the early Greek MSS, the Fathers have the potential of offering datable and geographically certain evidence. (B. D. Ehrman 1995, 191)

To conclude, we have established that Ehrman has painted a picture that is not quite the truth of the matter for the average churchgoer while saying something entirely different for textual scholars. Moreover, he does not help the reader to appreciate just how close the New Testament manuscript evidence is to the time of the original writings, in comparison to manuscripts of other ancient works, many of which are few in number and hundreds, if not a thousand years removed.

In addition, Ehrman has exaggerated the variants in the Greek New Testament manuscripts by not qualifying the level of variants. In other words, he has not explained how he counts them to obtain such high numbers. Moreover, Ehrman’s unqualified statement, “In the early Christian centuries, scribes were amateurs,” has been discredited as well. Either literate or semi-professional copyists did the vast majority of the early papyri, with some being done by professionals.

I AM John 8.58 I AM John 8.58 I AM John 8.58

As mentioned earlier, E. C. Colwell states: “the overwhelming majority of readings were created before the year 200. But very few, if any, text-types were established by that time.” G. D. Kilpatrick says, “Apart from errors which can occur anywhere as long as books are copied by hand, almost all variants can be presumed to have been created by A.D. 200.” And Kurt and Barbara Aland, say, “practically all the substantive variants in the text of the New Testament are from the second century …”

I do not see how this is even possible to make such claims. That would mean the Byzantine readings, almost all of them as the above scholar’s claim are before 200 A.D. Even James R. Royse in his Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri quotes these comments without denying the possibility. (p. 20 ftn. 68) Wouldn’t the following papyri pre-200 A.D. (P52 P32 P46 P66 P75 P77/103 P87 P90 P104 P137) have to contain almost all of these variant readings (hundreds of thousands) to make such claims. When looking at three biggest pre-200 A.D. papyri (P46 P66 P75) two were done by professional scribes. Everyone knows about (P75) and Zuntz said that (P46) was a representative of “a text of the superior, early-Alexandrian type.” (Zuntz, Text of the Epistles, 25) “According to recent studies done by Berner[42] and Comfort,[43] it seems evident that P66 has preserved the work of three individuals: the original scribe, a thoroughgoing corrector (diorthōtēs), and a minor corrector.”[44] The Alands list P66 as Category I, which means it is important when considering textual problems and viewed by many scholars to be a good representation of the autograph, based on the early dating. P66 is very close to P75, B, and 016.

If we set aside the Aland “substantive variants” because we do not know what he means by “substantive.” Nevertheless, in the case of all three quotes (Colwell, Kilpatrick, and the Alands) combined with Royse not rejecting it after having quoted them as well, they seem to simply be saying almost all textual variants were in existence prior to 200 A.D. It would seem that there would have to be some manuscript evidence to make such a claim, as this would mean that we would have many, many thousands of Byzantine readings in our Alexandrian papyri prior to 200 A.D.

On this Jacob W. Peterson in his chapter in MYTHS AND MISTAKES IN NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM writes,

There are two ways to interpret the number of manuscripts responsibly when it comes to the reliability of the New Testament text. On the one hand, a large majority of manuscripts are text-critically unnecessary for establishing the original text, producing no more noticeable effect than a pebble dropped in the ocean.* On the other hand, it is precisely this lack of effect that is important when judging reliability. If the bulk of the papyri discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century and all other manuscripts since then have not resulted in major revisions of our critical editions, then this attests to a remarkably stable text that can reliably be reconstructed even without them. The typical newly discovered manuscript is therefore likely to be both statistically insignificant and confirmatory of a reliable text. It is important to note that confirming a text as reliable is distinct from making it more reliable. [This is true, finding more evidence that John Smith murdered his wife does not make him more guilty of murdering his wife. It just makes you more certain of that guilt or relieved that your conclusions were correct. – Andrews]

* This is why the Byzantine manuscripts can usually be represented as a single whole in, say, the NA28 or UBS5. There is no need to cite thousands of manuscripts individually when they agree most of the time with one another. The point is not that their shared text does not matter but that their shared text does not improve simply by virtue of being found in so many manuscripts. (Pages 67-8)

NOTE 01: Of the 5,898 Greek NT manuscripts 83 percent of them date after 1000 C.E., with 17% (889 manuscripts) dating from the second to the tenth century. Between the second to the tenth century we find in whole or in part 365 Gospels, 112 Acts and Catholic Epistles, 158 Epistles of Paul, 33 Revelation, and 313 lectionaries. The Gospel of Mark is the least attested prior to the fourth century, with chapters 2, 3, 10, and 13-16 having no representation at all. The Gospel of Mark is only represented in (P45), but about 78% of the Gospel is missing, and the fragment P137, a codex, written on both sides with text from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark; verses 7-9 on the recto side and 16-18 on the verso side. The Gospel of John on the other hand, prior to the fourth century it is very well attested, with only 14 verses not being covered between chapters 16 and 20. The Gospel of John is found in some of the earliest and most significant manuscripts (P45 P66 P75).

NOTE 02: While at present here late in 2019, 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 / ehrmanproject.com/), 5,800 manuscripts (Porter 2013, 23), it is still a truckload of evidence far and above the dismal number of ancient secular author books.

The Epistle to the Hebrews The Epistle to the Hebrews The Epistle to the Hebrews

Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and author of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, writes in his article, The Majority Text Theory, that “Sturz pointed out 150 distinctively Byzantine readings found in the papyri. This claim that the Byzantine text is early because it is found in the papyri (Sturz’s central thesis) has become the basis for hyperbolic claims by MT advocates. Cf. Hodges, “Defense,” 14; Pickering, Identity, 41-42; Willem Franciscus Wisselink, Assimilation as a Criterion for the Establishment of the Text: A Comparative Study on the Basis of Passages from Matthew, Mark and Luke (Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok 1989), 32-24; Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform (Atlanta: Original Word, 1991), xxiv-xxvii. But the evidence that Sturz presents is subject to three criticism: (1) Many of his readings have substantial support from other text types and are thus not distinctively Byzantine (cf. Fee’s review of Sturz [240-41]; conceded by Sturz [personal conversation, 1987]), (2) the existence of a Byzantine reading in early papyri does not prove the existence of the Byzantine text type in early papyri, and (3) whether the agreements are genetically significant or accidental is overlooked (as even Wisselink admits [Assimilation, 33]). In my examination of Sturz’s list, I found only eight Byzantine-papyrus alignments that seemed to be genetically significant; six were not distinctively Byzantine (Luke 10:21; 14:3, 34; 15:21; John 10:38; 19:11). Sturz’s best case was in Phil 1:14 (the omission of του θεου)–a reading adopted in NA27/UBSGNT4. When these factors are taken into account, the papyrus-Byzantine agreements become an insufficient base for the conclusions that either Sturz or the MT advocates build from it. For a balanced review of Sturz, see Michael W. Holmes, TrinJ n.s. 6 (1985): 225-228.—The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research Author: Daniel B. Wallace, note is #35 on pp. 718-19.

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[*] L. M. McDonald, The Biblical Canon (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007), 359. A similar argument is made by G. M. Hahneman, The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 96; D. W. Riddle, ‘Textual Criticism as a Historical Discipline’, ATR 18 (1936): 227; and Parker, The Living Text, 202–5.

[1] J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Revised Edition, 1995), 51–52.

[2] J. Harold Greenlee, The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (2008), 37.

[3] F. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1895), 157.

[4] F. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1962), 249.

[5] (Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament 1995, 93-5)

[6] Some may argue that we can only be confident that we have good manuscripts of an “early” form of the text but not necessarily of the originally published text. This hypothesis cannot be disproven. However, I think it is highly doubtful for four reasons: (1) The intervening time between the publication date of various New Testament books (from AD 60–90) and the date of several of our extant manuscripts (from AD 100–200) is narrow, thereby giving us manuscripts that are probably only three to five “manuscript generations” removed from the originally published texts. (2) We have no knowledge that any of these manuscripts go back to an early “form” that postdates the original publications. (3) We are certain that there was no major Alexandrian recension in the second century. (4) Text critics have been able to detect any other second-century textual aberrations, such as the D-text, which was probably created near the end of the second century, not the beginning. Thus, it stands to reason that these “reliable” manuscripts are excellent copies of the authorized published texts.” (P. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism 2005, 269)

[7] Philip W. Comfort, The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1992).

[8] The New Testament Papyrus Manuscripts in Historical Perspective, in To Touch the Text: Biblical and Related Studies in Honour of Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J. (ed. Maurya P. Horgan and Paul J. Kobelski; New York: Crossroad, 1989), 285 (there italicized) repr. in Epp, Perspectives, 338.

[9] Ibid., 288

[10] 20:17 τοὺς δώδεκα [μαθητάς] {C}

Although copyists often add the word μαθηταίto the more primitive expression οἱ δώδεκα (see Tischendorf’s note in loc. and 26.20 below), a majority of the Committee judged that the present passage was assimilated to the text of Mark (10:32) or Luke (18:31). In order to represent both possibilities it was decided to employ square brackets. (B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 1994, 42)

On 20:17, Comfort writes, “Either reading could be original because they both have good support and because the gospel writers alternated between the nomenclature ‘the twelve disciples’ and ‘the twelve.’” (P. W. Comfort 2008, 60)

[11] 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)

[12] 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)

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

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

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

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

[17] 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.

[18] Ibid., 117

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

[20] (Comfort and Barret, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts 2001, 506)

[21] Some believe that Luke was a Gentile, basing this primarily on Colossians 4:11, 14. Because Paul first mentioned “the circumcision” (Col 4:11) and thereafter talked about Luke (Col 4:14), the inference is drawn that Luke was not of the circumcision and therefore was not a Jew. However, this is by no means decisive. Romans 3:1-2 says, “Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.” Luke is one of those to whom such inspired revelations were entrusted.

[22] It is true that they took some liberties with the text, but these few places were the exception to the rule. They intentionally altered some passages that appeared to show irreverence for God or one of his spokespersons.

[23] Nomina sacra (singular: nomen sacrum) means “sacred names” in Latin, and can be used to refer to traditions of abbreviated writing of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in early Greek manuscripts, such as the following:

Lord ( ), Jesus ( , ), Christ ( , , ), God ( ), and Spirit ( ).

[24] Mark Minnick, “Let’s Meet the Manuscripts,” in From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman’s Guide to How We Got Our Bible, eds. James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor (Greenvill, SC: Ambassador-Emerald International, 1999), p. 96.

[25] The concept of this chart is taken from The Bibliographical Test Updated – Christian Researchhttp://www.equip.org/article/the-bibliographical-test-updated/ May 04, 2017. However, some adjustments have been made as well as footnotes added.

[26] There are a number of fragments 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.

[27] Most of the 193 MSS date to the tenth century C.E., with a few fragments dating to the third century B.C.E.

[28] Some papyri fragments date to the third century B.C.E.

[30] (1915 – 1994) was Professor of New Testament Research and Church History. He founded the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster and served as its first director for many years (1959–83). He was one of the principal editors of The Greek New Testament for the United Bible Societies.

[31] K. Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for New Testament Research,” 336.

[32] Professor of Theology and the Director of the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham. Scholar of New Testament textual criticism and Greek and Latin paleography.

[33] 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.

[34]  (Comfort and Barret, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts 2001)

[35] Tertullian (160 – 220 C.E.), was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.

[36] Cathedrae

[37] Suis locis praesident.

[38] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 260.

[39] The exhortation ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς (“I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read aloud to all the brothers [and sisters]”), is stated quite strongly. ἐνορκίζω takes a double accusative and has a causal sense denoting that the speaker or writer wishes to extract an oath from the addressee(s). The second accusative, in this case τὸν κύριον (“the Lord”), indicates the thing or person by whom the addressees were to swear. The forcefulness of this statement is highly unusual, and in fact it is the only instance in Paul’s letters where such a charge is laid on the recipients of one of his letters.―Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1990), 208-09.

[40] (P. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism 2005, 17)

[41] (Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations 2007, 565)

[42] Karyn Berner, “Papyrus Bodmer II, P66: A Reevaluation of the Correctors and Corrections,” (master’s thesis, Wheaton College, 1993).

[43] Philip W. Comfort, “The Scribe as Interpreter: A New Look at New Testament Textual Criticism according to Reader-Reception Theory” (D.Litt. et Phil. diss., University of South Africa, 1996).

[44] Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 376.

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