Bible Texts and Versions

Please Support the Bible Translation Work of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV)


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

We must face the reality that while the original 39 OT manuscripts and 27 NT manuscripts were inspired by God [Lit. “God-breathed”] (1 Tim. 3:16), as the authors were moved along by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21), this was not the case with the copyists thereafter. Yes, hundreds of thousands of scribal errors crept into our manuscripts. Yet, there is solid evidence that the Bible, the inspired fully inerrant Word of God, has been accurately copied largely by professional, semi-professional, and literate copyists. Still being honest, at times even these ones took liberties with the text believing that they were correcting or enhancing it. Even so, we have 6,000+ Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts and over 5,898[1] Greek New Testament manuscripts have been cataloged 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and an additional 9,300 other manuscripts in such languages as Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian.

Original Writings—The original 39 OT Bible manuscripts and 27 New Testament Bible manuscripts were handwritten on perishable materials such as papyrus and vellum. We have no original manuscripts in existence today.

Copies—Hebrew or Greek—Not long after the originals manuscripts were written, copyists began producing copies. For the most part, the copyists took their assignment very seriously and used exceptional care in the transmission of the text, in an effort to make their copy an accurate reflection of their exemplar. The Masoretes even went so far as to count even the letters that they were copying.

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

Early Translations—Because Christianity and the Jewish religion were being taken up by other peoples who spoke other languages, the Bible was soon being made available in other languages. Today, we have early versions of what is known as the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, from the third and second centuries B.C.E.) and Jerome’s Vulgate (the principal Latin version of the Bible, prepared mainly by St. Jerome in c. 400 C.E.)

Master Texts (Critical Texts)—Textual scholars giving their entire lives to God’s Word, poured over hundreds of manuscripts in the 1700s and 1800s and eventually thousands of manuscripts in the 1900s up until today; these ones, having given us a restored text, what is known as a critical text (See below). In these critical texts, we have a restored text of what has been determined to be the original readings, with notes that draw attention to variants in other manuscripts. The Hebrew text was left the same by the Hebrew scholars known as the Masoretes (500-1000 C.E.) and they placed the corrections in the Masorah, the margins of the text. In modern times, the Hebrew Scriptures with comparative readings in footnotes were produced by such renowned Hebrew Old Testament scholars Ginsburg and Kittel.

Stylus: The stylus was used to write on a waxed codex tablet. The stylus could be made of bone, metal, or ivory. It would be sharpened at one end for the purpose of writing and have a rounded knob on the other for making corrections. The stylus could also be used to write on soft metal or clay.

Reed Pen: The reed pen was used with ink to write on papyrus or parchment manuscripts. Καλαμoς (kalamos) is the Greek word for “pen.” (2 John 12; 3 John 13) There is no doubt that all the early extant papyrus manuscripts were copied with a reed pen, which can produce an impressive and pleasing script.

Quill Pen: The quill[2] pen came into use long after the reed pen. Quill would have been unsatisfactory for writing on papyrus, but parchment would have been an excellent surface for receiving writing from a quill pen. Of course, history shows that as parchment more fully displaced papyrus, the quill pen likewise replaced the reed pen. The quill was sharpened for use much like the reed, by having the tip sharpened and slit.

First page, showing John 1:1-13 and the opening words of v.14

Papyrus: Papyrus was the writing material used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans that was made from the pith of the stem of a water plant. It was cut into strips, with one layer laid out horizontally and the other vertically. Sometimes it was covered with a cloth and then beaten with a mallet. Scholarship has also suggested that paste may have been used between layers, and then a large stone would be placed on top until the materials were dry. Typically, a sheet of papyrus would be between 6–9 inches in width and 12–15 inches long. These sheets were then glued end to end until scribes had enough length to copy the book they were working on. The writing was done only on the horizontal side, and it was rolled so that the writing would be on the inside. If one were to attempt to write across the vertical side, it would be difficult because of the direction of the papyrus fibers. The scribe or copyist would have used a reed pen to write on the papyrus sheets (cf. 3 John 13). Papyrus was the main material used for writing until about 300 C.E. It was used with a roll or scroll (a document that is rolled up into itself), as well as the codex (book) form.


Writing on the papyrus sheet, even the correct side, was no easy task by any means because the surface was rough and fibrous. “Defects sometimes occurred in the making through retention of moisture between the layers or through the use of spongy strips which could cause the ink to run; such flaws necessitated the remaking of the sheet.”[3] The back pain from long periods of sitting cross-legged on the ground bent over a papyrus sheet on a board, dealing with running ink, the reed pen possibly snagging and tearing the papyrus sheet, having to erase illegible characters, all were a deterrent from personally writing a letter.

Early papyrus manuscripts, such as P4/64/67 P32 P46 P52 P66 P75 P77/103 P101 P87 P90 P98 P104 P109 P118 P137, which date 100-150/175 C.E. Then we have P1 P5 P13 P20 P23 P27 P29 P30 P35 P38 P39 P40 P45 P47 P48 P49/65 P69 P71 P72 P82 P85 P95 P100 P106 P107 P108 P111 P110 P113 P115 P121 P125 P126 P133 P136, which date 175-250 C.E., to mention only a few. Then, the notable, renowned Codex Vaticanus (300-325 C.E.) and Codex Sinaiticus (325-350 C.E., were written on parchment: creamy or yellowish material made from dried and treated sheepskin, goatskin, or other animal hides.

One may wonder why more New Testament manuscripts have not survived. It must be remembered that the Christians suffered intense persecution during intervals in the first 300 years from Pentecost 33 C.E. With this persecution from the Roman Empire came many orders to destroy Christian texts. In addition, these texts were not stored in such a way as to secure their preservation; they were actively used by the Christians in the congregation and were subject to wear and tear. Furthermore, moisture is the enemy of papyrus, and it causes them to disintegrate over time. This is why, as we will discover, the papyrus manuscripts that have survived have come from the dry sands of Egypt. Moreover, it seems not to have entered the minds of the early Christians to preserve their documents because their solution to the loss of manuscripts was simply to make more copies. Fortunately, the process of making copies transitioned to the more durable animal skins, which would last much longer. Those that have survived, especially from the fourth century C.E. and earlier, are the path to restoring the original Greek New Testament.[4]

Animal Skin: About the fourth century C.E., Bible manuscripts made of papyrus began to be superseded by the use of vellum, a high-quality parchment made from calfskin, kidskin, or lambskin. Manuscripts such as the famous Codex Sinaiticus (01) and Codex Vaticanus (03, also known as B) of the fourth century C.E. are parchment, or vellum, codices. This use of parchment as the leading writing material continued for almost a thousand years until it was replaced by paper. The advantages of parchment over papyrus were many, such as (1) it was much easier to write on smooth parchment, (2) one could write on both sides, (3) parchment lasted much longer, and (4) when desired, old writing could be scraped off and the parchment reused.

Papyrus or Parchment?

The Hebrew Old Testament that would have been available to the early Christians was written on the processed hide of animals after the hair was removed, and the hide was smoothed out with a pumice stone.[5] Leather scrolls were sent to Alexandria, Egypt, in about 280 B.C.E., to make what we now know as the Greek Septuagint.[6] Most of the Dead Sea scrolls that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 are made of leather, and it is almost certain that the scroll of Isaiah that Jesus read from in the synagogue was as well. Luke 4:17 says, “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written.”


The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (1QIsa) dates to the end of the second century B.C.E., written on 17 sheets of parchment, one of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls that were first recovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1947. The Nash Papyrus is a collection of four papyrus fragments acquired in Egypt in 1898 by W. L. Nash, dating to about 150 B.C.E. It contains parts of the Ten Commandments from Exodus chapter 20, along with some verses from Deuteronomy chapters 5 and 6. It is by far one of the oldest Hebrew manuscript fragments.

A 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll. It matches closely the Masoretic text and what is in the Bible today

Both leather and papyrus were used before the first-century Christians. Vellum is a high-quality parchment made from calfskin, kidskin, or lambskin. After the skin was removed, it would be soaked in limewater, after which the hair would be scraped off, the skin then being scraped and dried, and rubbed afterward with chalk and pumice stone, creating an exceptionally smooth writing material. During the first three hundred years of Christianity, the secular world viewed parchment as being inferior to papyrus, it was relegated to notebooks, rough drafts, and other non-literary purposes.

A couple of myths should be dispelled before continuing. It is often remarked that papyrus is not a durable material. Both papyrus and parchment are durable under normal circumstances. This is not negating the fact that parchment is more durable than papyrus. Another often-repeated thought is that papyrus was fragile and brittle, making it an unlikely candidate to be used for a codex, which would have to be folded in half. Another issue that should be sidelined is whether it was more expensive to produce papyrus or parchment. Presently there is no data to aid in that evaluation. We know that papyrus was used for all of the Christian codex manuscripts up to the fourth century, at which time we find the two great parchment codices, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts. Parchment of good quality has been called “the finest writing material ever devised by man.” (Roberts and Skeat, The Birth of the Codex 1987, 8) Why then did parchment take so long to replace papyrus? This may be answered by R. Reed, in Ancient Skins, Parchments, and Leathers:

It is perhaps the extraordinary high durability of the product, produced by so simple a method, which has prevented most people from suspecting that many subtle points are involved…. The essence of the parchment process, which subjects the system of pelt to the simultaneous action of stretching and drying, is to bring about peculiar changes quite different from those applying when making leather. These are (1) reorganization of the dermal fibre network by stretching, and (2) permanently setting this new and highly stretched form of fibre network by drying the pelt fluid to a hard, glue-like consistency. In other words, the pelt fibres are fixed in a stretched condition so that they cannot revert to their original relaxed state.  (Reed 1973, 119-20)

Where the medieval parchment makers were greatly superior to their modern counterparts was in the control and modification of the ground substance in the pelt, before the latter was stretched and dried …. The major point, however, which modern parchment manufacturers have not appreciated, is what might be termed the integral or collective nature of the parchment process. The bases of many different effects need to be provided for simultaneously, in one and the same operation. The properties required in the final parchment must be catered for at the wet pelt stage, for due to the peculiar nature of the parchment process, once the system has been dried, and after-treatments to modify the material produced are greatly restricted.  (Reed 1973, 124)

This method, which follows those used in medieval times for making parchment of the highest quality, is preferable for it allows the grain surface of the drying pelt to be “slicked” and freed from residual fine hairs while stretching upon the frame. At the same time, any process for cleaning and smoothing the flesh side, or for controlling the thickness of the final parchment may be undertaken by working the flesh side with sharp knives which are semi-lunar in form…. To carry out such manual operations on wet stretched pelt demands great skill, speed of working, and concentrated physical effort.  (Reed 1973, 138-9)

Enough has been said to suggest that behind the apparently simple instructions contained in the early medieval recipes there is a wealth of complex process detail which we are still far from understanding. Hence it remains true that parchment-making is perhaps more of an art than a science.[7]

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Scroll or Roll: The scroll dominated until the beginning of the second century C.E., at which time the papyrus codex was replacing it. Papyrus enjoyed another two centuries of use until it was replaced with animal skin (vellum), which proved to be a far better writing material.

The writing on a scroll was done in 2- to 3-inch columns, which allowed the reader to have it opened, or unrolled, only partially. Although movies and television have portrayed the scroll as being opened while holding it vertically, this was not the case; scrolls were opened horizontally. For the Greek or Latin reader, it would be rolled to the left as those languages were written left to right. The Jewish reader would roll it to the right as Hebrew was written right to left.

The difficulty of using a scroll should be apparent. If one had a long book (such as Isaiah) and were to attempt to locate a particular passage, it would not be user-friendly. An ancient saying was, “A great book, a great evil.” The account in the book of Luke tells us:

Luke 4:16–21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll[8] of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. And he unrolled the scroll[9] and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news[10] to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set free those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll[11] and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Codex: The trunk of a tree that bears leaves only at its apex was called a caudex in Latin. This name–modified to codex–would be applied to a tablet of wood that had raised edges, with a coat of wax placed within those raised edges. The dried wax would then be used to receive writing with a stylus. We might compare it to the schoolchild’s slate such as seen in some Hollywood Western movies. Around the fifth century B.C.E., some of these were being used and attached by strings that were run through the edges. It is because these bound tablets resembled a tree trunk that they were to take on the name “codex.”

Codex Vaticanus (“Book from the Vatican”), Facsimile, Fourth century. It is one of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, which includes the Greek translation of the bulk of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as most of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

Codex Vaticanus (“Book from the Vatican”), Facsimile, Fourth century. It is one of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, which includes the Greek translation of the bulk of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as most of the Christian Greek Scriptures

As we can imagine, this bulky item also was not user-friendly! Sometime later, it would be the Romans who would develop a lighter, more flexible material, the parchment notebook, which would fill the need before the development of the later book-form codex. The Latin word membranae (skins) is the name given to such notebooks of parchment. In fact, at 2 Timothy 4:13 the apostle Paul requested of Timothy that he “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books [scrolls], and above all the parchments [membranas, Greek spelling].” One might ask why Paul used a Latin word (transliterated in Greek)? Undoubtedly it was due to the fact that there was no Greek word that would serve as an equivalent to what he was requesting. It was only later that the transliterated “codex” was brought into the Greek language as a reference to what we would know as a book.

The ink of ancient manuscripts was usually one of two kinds. There was ink made of a mixture of soot and gum. These were sold in the form of a bar, which was dissolved in water in an inkwell, and produced a very black ink. There was also ink made from nutgalls, which resulted in a rusty-brown color. Aside from these materials, the scribe would have had a knife to sharpen his reed pen, as well as a sponge to erase errors. With the semi-professional and professional scribe, each character was written with care. Thus, writing was a slow, tedious, and often difficult task.

‘I, Tertius, Greet You in the Lord’

Tertius is among the many greetings that we find at the end of the letter of Paul to the Romans, wherein he writes, “I am greeting you, I, Tertius, the one having written this letter, in the Lord.” (Rom. 16:22) Of Paul’s fourteen letters, this is the only occurrence where we find a clear reference to one of his secretaries.

Little is known of Tertius, who must have been a faithful Christian, based on the greeting “in the Lord.” He may have been a member of the Corinthian congregation who likely knew many Christians in Rome, which is suggested by the fact his name is Latin for “third.” Quartus for “fourth” is one of the other two who added their greetings: “Erastus the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus the brother, i.e., a member of the Corinthian congregation. (16:23b) Some scholars have suggested that Quartus could have been the younger brother of Tertius.[12] Others have suggested that Tertius was a slave or a freedman.[13] This is also suggested by his Latin name and the fact that slaves were commonly involved in scribal activity. From this we could conjecture that Tertius likely had experience as a professional scribe, who became a fellow-worker with the apostle Paul, helping compile the longest of Paul’s letters. It was common for Bible authors to use a scribe, as for example Jeremiah used Baruch in a similar way, just as Peter used Silvanus (Jer. 36:4; 1 Pet. 5:12). Of Paul’s fourteen letters, it is certain that six involved the use of a secretary: Romans (16:22), 1 Corinthians (16:21), Galatians (6:11), Colossians (4:18), 2 Thessalonians (3:17), and Philemon (19).


Old Testament Texts

The Old Testament, the inspired Word of God, how was it copied, maintained as to the textual reliability, and handed down throughout the past three thousand years?

It should be appreciated that what we possess today is nothing short of the Word of God that the Old Testament writers penned throughout a 1,600-year period, from the time of Moses to Malachi. While God did not personally preserve these documents in the same way that he miraculously inspired the Scriptures to be error-free; there is little doubt that he blessed the work of those who worked on the copies and has blessed our attempts at restoring the text. Skeptics would consider it as a mere coincidence that, we have a storehouse of manuscript treasure for both the Old Testament and New Testament documents while secular writings are nowhere near so fortunate. The secular writings of antiquity are reflected in but a handful of manuscripts for any given author. Moreover, they are hundreds of years removed from the date of the original copy, making them less trustworthy; while the Old Testament and New Testament are preserved in tens of thousands of manuscripts, with a number being within a century or two from the original copy[14] (especially the NT).

Isaiah 40:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. 

The Bible reader has every right to ask if the book that he carries has been tainted throughout the centuries of copying and recopying. What we possess today, is it a complete reflection of what was penned so many centuries ago? Does the evidence suggest that the manuscripts have been transmitted faithfully from the original-language texts so that the reader of God’s Word can feel safe that the Bible is trustworthy? We know that scribal errors have crept into the text, after centuries of copying by hand. But have the textual scholars been able to ascertain what the original text was?  There are many excellent books that cover the trustworthiness of the text of the Old and New Testaments; we will not be able to go into great detail herein, because of limited space, but we can lay an excellent foundation, and suggest further reading.  However, what is covered will be highly informative and beneficial to examine.[15]

Men that were chosen by God penned the original manuscripts in Hebrew and a very small portion in Aramaic languages. Moses was the first in the late 16th-century B.C.E.,[16] who wrote the first five books of the Bible, down to about 443 B.C.E., with Malachi penning the book that bears his name, and Nehemiah writing the book that bears his name, totaling 39 canonical books for the Hebrew Old Testament. There are no original manuscripts in existence today. Around 642 B.C.E., in the time of King Josiah, Hilkiah, the high priest “found the Book of the Law” of Moses, very likely the original copy, which had been stored away in the house of God. At this point, it had survived for some 871 years. Jeremiah was so moved by the particular discovery that he wrote about the occasion at 2 Kings 22:8-10. About 180 years later, in 460 B.C.E., Ezra wrote about the same incident as well. (2 Chron. 34:14-18) Ezra was extremely interested in this, not only because of the importance of the event itself but he “was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which Jehovah, the God of Israel, had given.” (Ezra 7:6, UASV) Considering Ezra’s position, the fact he was a historian, a scribe, he would have had access to all of the scrolls of the Old Testament that had been copied and handed down up to his time. In some cases, some were likely the inspired originals from the authors themselves. It would seem that Ezra was well qualified to be the custodian of the manuscripts in his day. – Nehemiah 8:1-2


Period of Manuscript Copying

In the days of Ezra and beyond, there would have been an increasing need of copying the Old Testament manuscripts. As you may recall from your personal Bible study, the Babylonians took the Jews into captivity for seventy years. Most of the Jews did not return upon their release in 537 B.C.E., and after that. Tens of thousands stayed in Babylon while others migrated throughout the ancient world, settling in the commercial centers. However, the Jews would pilgrimage back to Jerusalem several times each year, for religious festivals. Once there, they would be reading from the Hebrew Old Testament and sharing in the worship of God. Over a century later in Ezra’s day, the need to travel back to Jerusalem was no longer a concern, as they carried on their studies in places of worship known as synagogues, where they read aloud from the Hebrew Scriptures and discussed their meaning. As one might imagine, the scattered Jewish populations throughout the ancient world would have been in need of their own personal copies of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Within the synagogues, there was a storage room, known as the Genizah.[17] Over time, manuscripts would wear out to the point of tearing. Thus, it would have been placed in the Genizah and replaced with new copies. Before long, after the old manuscripts were built up in the Genizah, they would eventually need to be buried in the earth. They performed this duty, as opposed to just burning them, so the holy name of God, Jehovah (or Yahweh), would not be desecrated. Throughout many centuries, many thousands of Hebrew manuscripts were disposed of in this way. Gratefully, the well-stocked Genizah of the synagogue in Old Cairo was saved from this handling of their manuscripts, perhaps because it was enclosed and overlooked until the middle of the 19th century. In 1890, as soon as the synagogue was being restored, the contents of the Genizah were checked, and its materials were gradually either sold or donated. From this source, manuscripts that were almost complete and thousands of fragments have found their way to Cambridge University Library and other libraries in Europe and America.

Throughout the world, scholars have counted and cataloged about 6,300 manuscripts of all or portions of the Hebrew Old Testament. Textual scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures, for the longest time, had to be content with Hebrew manuscripts that only went back to the tenth century C.E. This, of course, meant that the Hebrew Old Testament was about 1,400 hundred years removed from the last book that had been penned. This, then, always left the question of the trustworthiness of those copies. However, all of that changed in 1947, in the area of the Dead Sea, there was discovered a scroll of the book of Isaiah. In the following years more of these precious scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures were found as caves in the Dead Sea area yielded an enormous number of manuscripts that had been concealed for almost 1,900 years. Specialists in the area of paleography[18] have now dated some of these as far back as the third and second-century B.C.E. The Dead Sea Scrolls as they have become known, vindicated the trust that had been placed in the Masoretic texts[19] that we have possessed all along. A comparative study of the approximately 6,000 manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures gives a sound basis for establishing the Hebrew text and reveals faithfulness in the transmission of the text.

The Hebrew Language

Hebrew is the language in which the thirty-nine inspired books of the Old Testament were penned, apart from the Aramaic sections in Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26; Dan. 2:4b–7:28; Jer. 10:11, as well as a few other words and phrases from Aramaic and other languages. The language is not called “Hebrew” in the Old Testament. At Isaiah 19:18 it is spoken of as “the language [Literally “lip”] of Canaan.” The language that became known as “Hebrew” is first shown in the introduction to Ecclesiasticus, an Apocrypha[20] book. Moses, being raised in the household of Pharaoh, would have been given the wisdom of Egypt, as well as the Hebrew language of his ancestors. This would have made him the perfect person to look through any ancient Hebrew documents that may have been handed down to him, giving him the foundation for the book of Genesis.

Later, in the days of the Jewish kings, Hebrew came to be known as “Judean” (UASV) that is to say, the language of Judah (Neh. 13:24; Isa. 36:11; 2 Ki. 18:26, 28). As we enter the period of Jesus, the Jewish people spoke an expanded form of Hebrew, which would become Rabbinic Hebrew. Nevertheless, in the Greek New Testament, the language is referred to as the “Hebrew” language, not the Aramaic. (John 5:2; 19:13, 17; Acts 22:2; Rev. 9:11) Therefore, for more than 2,000 years, Biblical Hebrew served God’s chosen people, as a means of communication.

However, once God chose to use a new spiritual Israel, made up of Jew and Gentile, there would be difficulty within the line of communication as not all would be able to understand the Hebrew language. It became evident, 300 years before the rise of Christianity; there was a need for the Hebrew Scriptures to be translated into the Greek language of the day, because of the Jewish diaspora who lived in Egypt. According to Ethnologue, there are currently 7,106 living languages in the world. “As of 2020, the full Bible has been translated into 704 languages. The New Testament has been translated into 1,551 languages and parts of the Bible have been translated into 1,160 additional languages.” – The International Bible Society.

Even the Bible itself expresses the need of translating it into all languages. Paul, quoting Deuteronomy 32:43, says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles [“people of the nations”], with his people.” And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’” (Rom 15:10) Moreover, all Christians are given what is known as the Great Commission, to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt 28:19-20) In addition, Jesus stated, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” (Matt 24:14) All of the above could never take place without translating the original language into the languages of the nations. What is more, ancient translations of the Bible that are extant (still in existence) in manuscript form have likewise aided in confirming the high degree of textual faithfulness of the Hebrew manuscripts.


The Sopherim

The Sopherim (scribes) were copyists from the days of Ezra down to the time of Jesus. While they were very serious about their task as copyists, they did take liberties in making textual changes at times. Whether this was what Jesus had in mind cannot be known for certain, but Jesus condemned these scribes, for assuming powers that did not belong to them.–Matthew 23:2, 13.

“A note in the Massorah against several passages in the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible states: ‘This is one of the Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim,’ or words of that effect.” The intentions of these scribes were good, as they felt the passages were showing irreverence for God or one of his representatives here on earth. “These emendations were made at a period long before Christ before the Hebrew text had obtained its present settled form, and these emendations affect the Figure called Anthropopatheia.”

“The following is a list of the eighteen ‘Emendations,’ together with eight others not included in the official lists. Particulars will be found on consulting the notes on the respective passages.”

Genesis 18:22. Numbers 11:15. 12:12. 1 Samuel 3:13. 2 Samuel 12:14. 16:12. 1 Kings 12:16. 21:10. 21:13. 2 Chronicles 10:16. Job 1:5. 1:11. 2:5. 2:9. 7:20. Psalm 10:3. 106:20. Ecclesiastes 3:21. Jeremiah 2:11. Lamentations 3:20. Ezekiel 8:17. Hosea 4:7. Habakkuk 1:12. Zechariah 2:8 (12). Malachi 1:13. 3:9[21]


The Masora

The Masoretes are early Jewish scholars, the successors to the Sopherim, in the centuries following Christ, who produced what came to be known as the Masoretic text. The Masoretes were well aware of the alterations made by the earlier Sopherim. Rather than simply remove the alterations, they chose to note them in the margins or at the end of the text. These marginal notes came to be known as the Masora.  The Masora listed the 15 extraordinary points of the Sopherim, namely, 15 words or phrases in the Hebrew text that had been marked by dots or strokes. A number of these extraordinary points have no effect on the English translation or the interpretation. However, others do and are of importance. The Sopherim had a superstitious fear of pronouncing the divine name of God, Jehovah (Yahweh). Therefore, they altered it to read Adonai (Lord) at 134 places and to read Elohim (God) in some cases. The Masora lists these changes. The Sopherim or early scribes are also guilty of making 18 emendations, what they thought were helpful corrections, according to a note in the Masora. It appears that there were even more. It seems that these emendations were not done with bad intentions, as the Sopherim simply felt the text at these places was showing irreverence or disrespect for God or his human representatives.

Genesis 18:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 and said, “Jehovah[22] if I have found favor in your eyes do not pass by your servant.

Genesis 16:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your bosom, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. May Jehovah judge between you and me.”[23]

Genesis 18:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
 22 And the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood before Jehovah.[24]

The Consonantal Text

The Hebrew alphabet consists of 23 consonants, with no vowels. Unlike English though, Hebrew was not written from left to right but right to left. In the beginning, the reader had to supply the vowel sounds from his knowledge of the language. This would be like our abbreviations within the English language, such as “ltd” for limited. The Hebrew originally consisted of words made up only of consonants. Hence, “consonantal text” means the Hebrew text without any vowel markings. The consonantal text of the Hebrew manuscripts come to be fixed in form between the first and second centuries C.E., even though manuscripts with variants within the text continued to be produced for some time. Changes were no longer made, unlike the previous period of the Sopherim.


The Masoretic Text

Between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E., the Masoretes set up vowel points, and an accent mark system. This would help the reader to pronounce the vowel sounds properly, meaning that there would be a standard, and no need to have the pronunciation handed down by oral tradition. Because the Masoretes saw the text as sacred, they made no changes to the text itself but chose to record notes within the margins of the text. Unlike the Sopherim before them, they did not take any textual liberties. Moreover, they drew attention to any textual issues, correcting them within the margins.

The devotement of the vocalizing and accent marking of the Masoretic text throughout this period was done by three different schools, that is, the Babylonian, Palestinian, and Tiberian. The Hebrew text that we now possess in the printed Hebrew Bibles is known as the Masoretic Text, which came from the Tiberian school. The Masoretes of Tiberias, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, established this method.

Unlike the Tiberian school, which placed their vowel signs below the consonants, the Palestinian school positioned the vowel signs above the consonants. Only an insignificant number of such manuscripts came down to us from the Palestinian school, showing that this system of vocalization was flawed. The Babylonian method of vowel pointing was likewise placed above the consonants. A manuscript possessing the Babylonian pointing is the Petersburg Codex of the Prophets, of 916 C.E., preserved in the Leningrad Public Library, U.S.S.R. This codex contains the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, as well as the “minor” prophets, with marginal notes. Textual scholars have readily studied this manuscript and compared it with the Tiberian text. While it uses the system of vocalization that places the vowels above the text, it follows the Tiberian text as regards the consonantal text and its vowels and Masora. The British Museum has a copy of the Babylonian text of the Pentateuch, which is substantially in agreement with the Tiberian text.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

In the spring of 1947, a Bedouin shepherd threw a stone into a cave, marking an event that would be heard around the world, making the name “Dead Sea Scrolls” more known than any other associated with archaeology. As he released one of his rocks into the cave, the sound of a breaking earthenware jar came back at him. Upon further examination, he discovered the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They date to about 250 B.C.E to 70 C.E. There are about 40,000 fragments from 600 – 1,000 scrolls. 200 of these are the Old Testament.

The discovery of the scroll’s rise to fame has been partly fueled by controversy among scholars and the media. Sadly, this has left a public scandal, where those, not in the know, are thrown back and forth by confusion and misinformation. Stories have spread about an enormous conspiracy, driven by anxiety that the scrolls disclose details that would damage the faith of Christians and Jews as well. Nevertheless, what is the real importance of these scrolls? More than 63 years have now gone by; is it possible that the facts can be known?

The Dead Sea Scrolls: What are They?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts of the Old Testament. Many of them are in Hebrew, with some being in Aramaic and a small number in Greek. Many of these scrolls and fragments date to the third and second Century B.C.E., almost 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. There were seven lengthy manuscripts in various stages of deterioration that had been acquired from the Bedouin. Soon other caves were being searched, with new discoveries of scrolls and fragments in the thousands. A total of eleven caves near Qumran, by the Dead Sea, were discovered between 1947 and 1956.

Since, it has been determined that there are 800 manuscripts, once all the scrolls and fragment are considered. About 200 manuscripts, or about twenty-five percent, are copies of portions of the Old Testament. The other seventy-five percent, or 600 manuscripts, belong to ancient non-Biblical Jewish writings, divided between Apocrypha[25] and Pseudepigrapha.[26]

Various scrolls that produced the greatest interest for the scholars were formerly unknown texts. Among these were the interpretations on matters of the Jewish law, detailed instructions for the community of the Qumran sect, eschatological works that disclose interpretations about the outcome of Bible prophecy and the end times, as well as liturgical poems and prayers. Among them too were unique Bible commentaries, the oldest examples of verse-by-verse[27] commentary on Biblical passages.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Who Wrote Them?

After carefully dating these fragile documents, it has been determined that they were copied or composed sometime between the third century B.C.E and the first century C.E. A handful of scholars have suggested that these scrolls were hidden in the caves by Jews that fled just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. However, the vast majority of scholars find this to be mere speculation because the content of the scrolls tells something quite different. For example, many scrolls reveal an outlook and customs that were in conflict with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Dead Sea Scrolls disclose a community that held the belief that God did not approve of the priests and temple service in Jerusalem. On the other hand, they believed that God saw their form of worship in the desert as a substitute temple service until the return of the Messiah. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the authorities at Jerusalem’s temple would be in possession of such scrolls.

The Qumran community likely had a scriptorium (a room in a monastery for storing, copying, illustrating, or reading manuscripts); it is probable that people who became a part of the community brought scrolls in with them when they joined. Therefore, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a broad library collection.  As applies to an extensive collection of books, the subject matter will be a wide range of thought, which will not reflect the thinking or religious worldview of any given reader within the community. Nevertheless, those texts, which encompass numerous copies, are more likely to take into account the general beliefs of the Qumran community as a whole.

Young Christians

The Qumran Residents: Were they Essenes?

Now that we have determined that, the Dead Sea Scrolls were the library of the Qumran community, who were its people? Early on, in 1947 Professor Eleazar Sukenik obtained three scrolls from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; after that, suggesting that these scrolls had belonged to The Essene Community.

First-century writers Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and Pliny, the elder, are our primary source of information for this Jewish sect, the Essenes. There is no real consensus on their origin, but most scholars agree that they seem to have arisen following the Jewish Maccabean revolt in the second-century B.C.E. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus described their existence during that period as he sketched their religious views as opposed to the Pharisees and Sadducees. On the other hand, Pliny talks about the whereabouts of a community of Essenes by the Dead Sea between Jericho and Engedi.

Professor James VanderKam, a Dead Sea Scroll scholar, suggests, “The Essenes who lived at Qumran were just a small part of the larger Essene movement,”[28] which Josephus numbered to about four thousand. While this certainly does not perfectly fit the picture, what comes from the Qumran texts appears to match the Essenes better than any other known Jewish group in that period.

While dismissed by most scholars, a few have suggested that Christianity grew up out of the Qumran community. However, the differences between these two communities are far too great, even to take seriously such suggestions. For example, the Qumran writing contains an ultra-strict Sabbath regulation and an almost fanatical obsession with ceremonial purity. (Matthew 15:1-20; Luke 6:1-11) This would hold true as well with the Essenes’ isolation from society, their position on the immortality of the soul, the stress they place on celibacy, and spiritual concepts about sharing with angels in their worship. All of this puts them at odds with Jesus and the early Christian congregation. – Matthew 5:14-16; John 11:23, 24; Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

Why Should the Dead Sea Scrolls be of Interest to Us?

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest manuscripts of the Old Testament were dated to about the ninth and tenth centuries C.E., known as the Masoretic texts (MT).[29] The Hebrew Old Testament was complete in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E., over 1,400 years earlier than these MT. Therefore, the question begs to be asked, ‘can we trust this MT as really being the Word of God?’ A member of the international team of editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor Julio Trebolle Barrera, states: “The Isaiah Scroll [from Qumran] provides irrefutable proof that the transmission of the biblical text through a period of more than one thousand years by the hands of Jewish copyists has been extremely faithful and careful.” (F. Garcia Martinez, Martinez and Barrera 1995, p. 99)

The Isaiah scrolls identified as “IQisaa” and “IQIsab” are complete copies of the book of Isaiah, but the latter is the earliest known copy of a complete Bible book. Both are from cave 1. Gleason Archer had this to say about the two Isaiah scrolls that “proved to be word for word identical with the standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.” (Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction 1994, p. 19) Up to now, over 200 Biblical manuscripts have come out of the Qumran caves: representing portions of every Old Testament book except Esther. The Isaiah scrolls of Cave 1 are an exception to the rule, as most of the others are mere fragments, containing less than 10% of any given book. The books that are the most often quoted in the New Testament are, in fact, the most popular among the Qumran community: Psalms (36 copies), Deuteronomy (29 copies), and Isaiah (21 copies).

Aside from establishing that the Hebrew Old Testament has not undergone some radical changes over the last 1,400 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls also reveals two other important pieces to some long-standing questions. They provide evidence that there were different versions of the Hebrew Bible texts used by the Jews in the Second Temple period (537 B.C.E to 70 C.E.), each one of them contains its own variations. Of the scrolls, not all are identical in spelling and wording to the MT. Some of them are more in line with the Greek Septuagint,[30] also known by the Roman numerals for seventy, LXX.[31] It had been thought by scholars prior to 1947 that the differences in the LXX were the result of errors on the part of the scribes, even possibly intentional alterations by the translators. When the Dead Sea Scrolls became known, it was revealed that these differences were due to the variations of the different Hebrew versions. Further, this could possibly explain why writers from the New Testament quote from the Hebrew Bible texts using wording different than the MT. – Exodus 1:5; Acts 7:14.

Hence, the storehouse of thousands of fragments and Biblical scrolls affords the textual scholar an excellent basis in their studying the transmission of the Hebrew Bible text. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls have established the worth of both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch for textual comparison. As all modern Bible are based on the Masoretic Text, they also provide added bases for these translation committees to consider emending (correcting) their translations and the MT.

It has long been held that there was not just one form of Judaism in the first century C.E. The portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls that describe the rules and beliefs of the Qumran community further validate that position. The Pharisees and Sadducees were far different from the Qumran sect.[32] Some extreme differences are likely, what led the sect to withdrawal into the wilderness. They saw themselves as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3,

Isaiah 40:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
 3 A voice of one calling out,
In the wilderness, “prepare the way of Jehovah;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Numerous scroll fragments state that the Messiah’s coming was imminent. Bible students should find this interesting as Luke commented that “the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ [Messiah].”–Luke 3:15, ESV.

The Dead Sea Scrolls also help us better understand the historical setting in the life and times of Jesus Christ. They are also beneficial in the comparative study of Bible texts and ancient Hebrew. Nevertheless, not all of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been analyzed. Therefore, more light may come out of the wilderness. Absolutely, these scrolls were one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, which remains to motivate both scholars and Bible students as we have now entered into the 21st century.


Leningrad Codex: The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete Masoretic manuscript, which is the basis for both the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta, dating to about 1008 C.E. It is a representative of the Ben Asher tradition.

Aleppo Codex: The Aleppo Codex (Hebrew: כֶּתֶר אֲרָם צוֹבָא‎ Keter Aram Tzova or Crown of Aleppo) is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the city of Tiberias in the 10th century C.E. under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate and was endorsed for its accuracy by Maimonides. Together with the Leningrad Codex, it contains the Ben-Asher Masoretic tradition, but the Aleppo Codex lacks most of the Torah section and many other parts.

Codex Cairensis: The Codex Cairensis (also: Codex Prophetarum CairensisCairo Codex of the Prophets) is a Hebrew manuscript containing the complete text of the Hebrew Bible’s Nevi’im (Prophets). It has long been referred to as “the oldest dated Hebrew Codex of the Bible which has come down to us.” Its colophon reveals that it was completed in about 895 C.E. by the renowned Masorete Moses ben Asher of Tiberias. However, relatively recent research suggests an 11th-century date instead of 895 C.E.  It contains Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the book of the Twelve Minor Prophets). It includes 575 pages, plus 13 carpet pages.

Samaritan Pentateuch: The Samaritan Pentateuch, also known as the Samaritan Torah (Hebrew: תורה שומרונית‎ torah shomronit), is a text of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, written in the Samaritan script and used as scripture by the Samaritans. It constitutes their entire biblical canon. It is not a translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch. It is a transliteration of Hebrew Pentateuch into Samaritan characters, combined with Samaritan idioms. The Samaritan Pentateuch was produced about the fourth century B.C.E. It was produced separately from the Masoretic Text. It differs in about 6,000 places between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Hebrew texts, many of which are not important. It provides some added details, harmonizations, and sectarian theology. Not Many of the extant manuscripts are older than the 13th-century C.E.

Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, (p. 23)

New Testament Texts

At present here in 2020, 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. The text was produced in several different text-types, that is families of manuscripts that grew up in certain regions. The Alexandrian is oldest and closest to the original, followed by the Western, Caesarean, and the Byzantine or Koine is a corrupt text that was produced from the late 5th century C.E. up unto the time of the printing press.

Papyri The Papyrus is a copy of a portion of the New Testament made on papyrus. At present, we have 147 cataloged New Testament papyri, many dating between 110-350 C.E., but some as late as the 6th century C.E. The papyri contain an incredibly early and accurate text. Many date to the mid-second and third centuries. Some important papyrus manuscripts include:

Distribution of Papyri by Century and Type






100-150/175 C.E.

7Q4? 7Q5? P4/64/67 P32 P46 P52 P66 P75 P77/103 P87 P90 P98 (bad shape, differences) P101 P109 (too small) P118 (too small) P137 0189

P. Oxyrhynchus 405
P. Egerton 2




175-250 C.E.

P1 P5 P13 P20 P23 P27 P30 P35 P39 P40 P45 P47 P49/65 P71 P72 P82 P85 P95 P100 P106 P108 P110 P111 P113 P115 P121 (too small) P125 P126 (too small) P133 P136 P141 0220 0232
P. Oxyrhynchus 406 
P. Egerton 3

P29 (Metzger Western & Aland Free; too small to be certain) P38 P48 P69 0171 0212 (mixed) P107 (Independent)



250-300 C.E.

P8 P9 P12 P15 P16 P17 P18 P19 P24 P28 P50 P51 P53 P70 P78 P80 P86 P88 P89 (too small) P91 P92 P114 P119 P120 P129 (too small) P131 P132 too small) P134 0162 0207 0231
P. Antinoopolis 54

P37 (Free, mostly Western)



290-390 C.E.

P3 P6 P7 P10 P21 P54 P62 P81 P93 P94 P102 (too small) P117 (too small) P122 (too small) P123 P127 P130 (too small) P139 (too small) 057 058 059 / 0215 071 0160 0163 0165 0169 0172 0173 0175 0176 0181 0182 0185 0188 0206 0214 0217 0218 0219 0221 0226 0227 0228 0230 0242 0264 0308 0312
P. Oxyrhynchus 4010
P. Oxyrhynchus 5073

P21 (mixed) P25 (independent) P112 (independent) P127 (independent; like no other)



4th / 5th Century C.E.

P11 P14 P33/P58 P56 P57 P63 P105 (too small) P124 0254



P. Oxyrhynchus 1077?

P52: The oldest fragment of the Greek NT, dating to about 110–150 C.E.). It is also known as the St John’s fragment and with an accession reference of Papyrus Rylands Greek 457.[33] It measures only 3.5 by 2.5 inches (8.9 by 6 cm) at its widest (about the size of a credit card) and conserved with the Rylands Papyri at the John Rylands University Library Manchester, UK. The front (recto) contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38.

P45, P46, P47: The Chester Beatty Papyri (published between 1930–1931). Having 30 leaves (early third century), P45 has 30 leaves and has been paleographically dated to about 175-225 CE. It contains the texts of Matthew 20-21 and 25-26; Mark 4-9 and 11-12; Luke 6-7 and 9-14; John 4-5 and 10-11; and Acts 4-17. P46 dates to about 125-150 C.E. It has 86 leaves, all of them slightly damaged.  It is “a single-quire papyrus codex, measuring originally about 11 by 6 inches, which contained on 104 leaves ten Epistles of Paul in the following order: Romans, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. … Today, portions of Romans and 1 Thessalonians as well as 2 Thessalonians in its entirety are lacking. The Pastoral Epistles were probably never included in the codex, for there does not appear to be room for them on the leaves missing at the end.”[34] P47 is a papyrus manuscript of the Book of Revelation which contains Rev. 9:10-11:3; 11:5-16:15; 16:17-17:2. It dates to 200-250 C.E.

P66, P72, P74, P75: The M. Martin Bodmer Papyri, published 1956–1962. P66, dates 125-150 C.E., contains most of John. P72, dates to 200-250 C.E., contains 1–2 Peter and Jude. P74, dates to about 650 C.E., contains portions of Acts, James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, and Jude. P75 dates to 175-225 C.E., contains extensive portions of John 1–15 and Luke 3–24. 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 copyists produced most of the early papyri, and some copied by professionals. The few poorly copied manuscripts simply became known first, giving the 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.

Uncials The Majuscule or Uncial is a script of large letters commonly used in Greek and Latin manuscripts written between the 3rd and 9th centuries C.E. that resembles a modern capital letter but is more rounded. At present, we have 323 cataloged New Testament Majuscule manuscripts. Important Uncials include:

Codex Sinaiticus (a, 01): Codex Sinaiticus (01, א) alone has a complete text of the New Testament. It is dated to c. 330–360 C.E. The codex is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in uncial letters on parchment in the 4th century. Scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of the New Testament, along with the Codex Vaticanus. Until Constantin von Tischendorf’s discovery of the Sinaiticus text, the Codex Vaticanus was unrivaled. The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although parts of the codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript is held today in the British Library in London, where it is on public display. Since its discovery, the study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be useful to scholars for critical studies of the biblical text.

Codex Vaticanus (B, 03): Codex Vaticanus (03, B) contains the Gospels, Acts, the General Epistles, the Pauline Epistles, the Epistle to the Hebrews (up to Hebrews 9:14, καθα[ριει); it lacks 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. It is written on 759 leaves of vellum and is dated to c. 300–325 C.E. Codex Vaticanus is the most valuable of all manuscripts, which contained the entire Bible at one time. As is indicated by its name, it is housed in the Vatican Library at Rome, first becoming known in 1475. It too was penned in Greek uncials on 759 leaves of parchment. Today, it still contains most of the Old Testament, except most of Genesis, and part of Psalms. It is missing some portions of the New Testament as well. It is dated to about 300–325 C.E. It is viewed as belonging to the earlier part of the fourth century as it lacks the Eusebian Canons mentioned above.  P75 contains most of Luke and John, dating from 175 C.E. to 225 C.E. P75 is Alexandrian text-type. After careful study of P75 against Vaticanus, scholars found that they are just short of being identical. The discovery of P75 proved to be the catalyst for correcting the misconception that early copyists were predominately unskilled.

Codex Alexandrinus (A, 02): The Codex Alexandrinus (London, British Library, Royal MS 1. D. V-VIII; Gregory-Aland no. A or 02, Soden δ 4) is a fifth-century Christian manuscript of a Greek Bible, containing the majority of the Greek Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. It is one of the four Great uncial codices. Along with the Codex Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, it is one of the earliest and most complete manuscripts of the Bible. Alexandrinus is Byzantine text-type in Gospels, Alexandrian in rest of NT. It is one of the best texts of Revelation.

Minuscules The Minuscule is a small cursive style of writing used in manuscripts from the 9th to the 16th centuries, now having 2,951 Minuscule manuscripts cataloged.

Family 1: Family 1 is a group of Greek Gospel manuscripts, varying in date from the 12th to the 15th century. The group takes its name from the minuscule codex 1, now in the Basel University Library. The family Consists of four 12th–14th century manuscripts (1, 118, 131, 209, 205, 205abs, 872 [in Mark only], 884 [in part], 1582, 2193, and 2542 [in part]), Family 1 is representative of a Caesarean text of the third-fourth centuries.

Family 13: Family 13, also known Ferrar Group (f13, von Soden calls the group Ii), is a group of Greek Gospel manuscripts, varying in date from the 11th to the 15th century, which displays a distinctive pattern of variant readings — especially placing the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery in the Gospel of Luke, rather than in the Gospel of John 7:53-8:11. Text of Luke 22:43-44 is placed after Matt 26:39. The text of Matthew 16:2b–3 is absent. They are all thought to derive from a lost majuscule Gospel manuscript, probably dating from the 7th century. The group takes its name from minuscule 13, now in Paris. It is comprised of about 12 (minuscules 13, 69, 124, 346, and others) 11th–15th-century manuscripts. Family 13 has similarities to the Caesarean text-type.

Minuscule 33: MS 33 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), δ 48 (Soden), before the French Revolution was called Codex Colbertinus 2844. It is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament on parchment, dated palaeographically to the 9th century. The manuscript is lacunose.[35] It has marginalia. According to textual critics, it is one of the best minuscule manuscripts of the New Testament.

Minuscule 81: MS 81 (1044 C.E.) In the Gregory-Aland numbering, or α162 (in the Soden numbering), it is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament, on a parchment. It is dated by a colophon to the year 1044. Formerly it was labeled by 61a and 61p (Gregory). The manuscript is lacunose. It was adapted for liturgical use. It contains Acts and the Pauline epistles. It is an Alexandrian text-type.

Minuscule 1739: MS 1739 (10th century) In the Gregory-Aland numbering, α 78 (per von Soden), it is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament, on 102 parchment leaves (23 cm by 17.5 cm). It is dated paleographically to the 10th century. It contains Acts, the general epistles, and Pauline epistles. The Greek text of this codex is representative of the Alexandrian text-type. The Alands placed the text of the Epistles in Category I, but the text of the Acts in Category II.

Lectionaries The Lectionary is a schedule of readings from the Bible for Christian church services during the year, in both majuscules and minuscules, dating from the 4th to the 16th centuries C.E., now having 2,484 Lectionary manuscripts cataloged.


Old Testament and New Testament Versions

Septuagint (LXX)

The Septuagint is the common term for the Old Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The word means “seventy” and is frequently shortened by using the Roman numeral LXX, which is a reference to the tradition 72 Jewish translators (rounded off), who are alleged to have produced a version in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.E.). The first five books of Moses being done around 280 B.C.E., with the rest being completed by 150 B.C.E.  As a result, the name Septuagint came to denote the complete Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek. The first books completed were more of a literal translation, while the later ones were more interpretive. The LXX is commonly accepted as the most important witness for the OT after the Hebrew witnesses. It usually represents the Masoretic text. However, there are several differences, at times significant, especially in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. There are many textual differences in 1st and 2nd Samuel. Nevertheless, Samuel and Kings preserve a more accurate text at times than the Masoretic.

There are currently over 2000 classified manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint. The Septuagint is the oldest translation from the original language of biblical Hebrew, and it has more significant deviations from the Masoretic Text (MT) than all other versions combined. The Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) was translated first between 280-240 B.C.E. The rest of the books were translated between 240-150 C.E. Later translators used that OG Original Greek Pentateuch as a sort of lexicon to have Greek equivalents for certain Hebrew words. If you see the siglum OG Original Greek, this is scholars trying to distinguish between the original translation of the Septuagint (280-150 B.C.E.) from the later translations and revisions. The name Septuagint can refer to the original translation from the Hebrew into Greek and sometimes the term is used to refer to all later Greek translations and revisions. Some making translations of the Hebrew text into Greek had access to the OG translation and were aware of the differences with the standardized Hebrew text, and so, some endeavored to make corrections in the Greek text to bring it in alignment with the protomasoretic text. Others, instead, attempted to do what they felt was a better translation than the translators of the OG translation.

The kaige revision, or simply kaige, is the group of revisions to the Septuagint made in order to more closely align its translation with the proto-Masoretic Hebrew. … The individual revisions characteristic of kaige were first observed by Dominique Barthélemy in the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever. The kaige revision wrote out the Tetragrammaton, God’s personal name (JHVH) in Paleo-Hebrew script. The kaige revision is, at times, also called kaige-Theodotion because it has shared readings with Theodotion. This is a good place to explain that the Jews loved the Greek Septuagint and they initially saw it as being just as inspired as the original Hebrew books were. However, the Christians were drawn to the Septuagint as well. In the late first century and second century, these Christians used the Greek Septuagint apologetically in debates with Jews. Well, the Jews grew suspicious of the Greek Septuagint that they once saw inspired. They dropped the Greek Septuagint and returned to their Hebrew text, which ended up being a good thing. This also brought about three different Greek translations that rival each other.

Aquila of Sinope was a translator of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, a Jewish proselyte, and a disciple of Rabbi Akiva. Aquila, also called Akilas, (flourished 2nd-century C.E.), a scholar who in about 150 C.E. completed an extremely literal translation into Greek of the Old Testament; it replaced the Septuagint (q.v.) among Jews and was used by the Church Fathers Origen in the 3rd century and St. … Jerome in the 4th and 5th centuries. It was so literal that he would use the same Greek word for the same Hebrew word in every instance even if the context demanded otherwise. Without having knowledge of the Hebrew text that lies behind it it is very much difficult to understand.

Symmachus (/ˈsɪməkəs/; Greek: Σύμμαχος “ally”; fl. … late 2nd century) was a Samaritan that converted to Judaism, who would then translate the Old Testament into Greek. His translation was included by Origen in his Hexapla and Tetrapla, which compared various versions of the Old Testament side by side with the Septuagint. It is thought that he used Aquila in his efforts to make his translation but unlike Aquila, he sought to be more varied in his use of the vocabulary to communicate more clearly in Greek.

Theodotion (/ˌθiːəˈdoʊʃən/; Greek: Θεοδοτίων, gen.: Θεοδοτίωνος; died c. 200) was a Hellenistic Jewish scholar, perhaps working in Ephesus, who in c. 150 CE translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. … In the 2nd century, Theodotion’s text was quoted in The Shepherd of Hermas and in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. The literalness of his version was between Aquila and Symmachus. He left some difficult Hebrew words untranslated. Many believe that he was also using the kaige revision, mention above because many of his readings were actually known before he lived.

Origen (184-253 C.E.) brings us to the next stage in the history of the Greek OT. The Hexapla (Ancient Greek: Ἑξαπλᾶ, “sixfold”) is the term for a critical edition of the Hebrew Bible … Origen’s eclectic recension of the Septuagint had a significant influence on the Old Testament text in several important manuscripts, such as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. The original work, which is said to have had about 6000 pages (3000 parchment sheets) in 15 volumes and which probably existed in only a single complete copy, seems to have been stored in the library of the bishops of Caesarea for some centuries, but it was destroyed during the Muslim invasion of 638 at the latest. The first column was the Hebrew text. The second column was a transliteration of the Hebrew text in Greek letters. The third column contained Aquila’s version, the fourth Symmachus’s, the fifth Origen’s own revision of the Septuagint text, and the final column Theodotion’s version. Origen’s fifth column contained obelus symbols in the text to mark readings that were found in the Greek version but not the Hebrew, and asterisk symbols for omissions from the Greek that were in the Hebrew. This revision of the Greek text was so significant that it “dominated the subsequent history of the [Septuagint].” In spite of the importance of Origen’s work, today we only have fragments of partial copies. 19 It can be consulted in the classic edition by Frederick Field.[36]

Ellis Brotzman Chart On History of Greek Septuagint, p. 71.

Lucian of Antioch (240-312 C.E.) is credited with a critical recension of the text of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament, which was later used by Chrysostom and the later Greek fathers, and which lies at the basis of the textus receptus. “This revision was a stylistic update of an existing Greek text that was not Origen’s edition in the fifth column of the Hexapla. Like Theodotion, it contains distinctive readings that were known long before Lucian lived in the fourth century. We call this earlier Greek text proto-Lucian. The Lucianic revision tends to fill in gaps in the Greek text (in comparison with the Hebrew MT), adds clarifying elements, and corrects grammatical difficulties. It is a full text, and less woodenly literal than the previous translations and revisions.”[37]

Ellis R. Brotzman,

Therefore, there were five stages in the development of the Septuagint as a group of Greek translations. First, there was an original translation (Old Greek) of the Pentateuch and then the rest of the OT. Second, there were early revisions of the Greek text (proto-Lucian and kaige-Theodotion). Third, the translations/ revisions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion were completed. Fourth, Origen included the preceding work along with his own revision in the Hexapla. Finally, Lucian completed a new revision (see image above). The Septuagint “was produced by many people unknown to us, over two or three centuries, and almost certainly in more than one location. Consequently, the Greek OT does not have the unity that the term the Septuagint might imply.”[38]

The collection of compositions commonly known as the Septuagint is an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish Scriptures, into Greek. Although there are many English translations of the Bible, only a few English translations of the Septuagint exist. Most English translations of what Protestant Christians call the “Old Testament” are translations from Hebrew and Aramaic, because these are the languages in which these books of the Bible were originally written. By contrast, the Septuagint is, for the most part, itself a translation of these Hebrew and Aramaic biblical books into Greek.

Aramaic Targumstargum (Aramaic: תרגום‎ ‘interpretation, translation, version’) was an originally spoken translation of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Tanakh) that a professional translator (מְתוּרגְמָן mǝturgǝmān) would give in the common language of the listeners when that was not Hebrew. This had become necessary near the end of the first century B.C.E. (BC), as the common language was Aramaic and Hebrew was used for little more than schooling and worship. The translator frequently expanded his translation with paraphrases, explanations, and examples, so it became a kind of sermon. The Syriac Peshitta largely follows the Masoretic text in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Peshitta follows various text types. The New Testament contains 22 books of the 27. It excludes 2 Peter, 2–3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Syriac Peshitta Syriac is one of the dialects of Aramaic, which was the official language of the Persian Empire. It was the language of ancient Syria, spoken in northern Mesopotamia and around ancient Antioch, a western dialect of Aramaic in which many important early Christian texts are preserved, and which is still used by Syrian Christians. When it comes to the Old Testament Scriptures, Syriac came into broad use in the second or third century C.E. and the New Testament became a standard by the early fifth century C.E. The Peshitta is one of the earliest and most valuable witnesses to the early transmission of the Bible text.

The Peshitta (Classical Syriac: ܦܫܺܝܛܬܳܐ‎ or ܦܫܝܼܛܬܵܐ pšīto) is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition, including the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhiyoor Church), the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syro Malabar Catholic Church.

Latin Vulgate The Latin Vulgate (Vulgata Latina) is a version of the entire Bible by one of the foremost Biblical scholars of all time, Jerome ([c.346–420 C.E.] Latin: Eusebius Hieronymus). Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian, and historian, who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia. His parents were prosperous, and he felt the benefits of money at an early age, receiving an education in Rome under the well-known grammarian Donatus. Jerome demonstrated himself to be an exceptional student of grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. Throughout this period, he also studied Greek. He is most famously known for his translation of the Bible from the original languages of Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) into Latin (the Vulgate), and his list of works is extensive.

Coptic There has been many Coptic versions of the Bible, including some of the earliest translations into any language. Several different versions were made in the ancient world, with different editions of the Old and New Testament in five of the dialects of Coptic: Bohairic (northern), Fayyumic, Sahidic (southern), Akhmimic, and Mesokemic (middle). Biblical books were translated from the Alexandrian Greek version. The Sahidic was the leading dialect in the pre-Islamic period, after the 11th century Bohairic became dominant and the only used dialect of the Coptic language.

Armenian The Armenian Version of the Bible designated by (arm) dates from the early fifth century C.E., which includes all of the New Testament and was likely, prepared from both Greek and Syriac texts. It is often called the “queen of the versions,” and many regard it as both beautiful and accurate. The New Testament is a very literal translation, which, of course, is quite helpful to textual criticism. The Armenian Bible is due to Saint Mesrob’s early-5th-century translation. The first monument of Armenian literature is the version of the Holy Scriptures. Isaac, says Moses of Chorene, made a translation of the Bible from the Syriac text about 411. This work must have been considered imperfect, for soon afterward John of Egheghiatz and Joseph of Baghin were sent to Edessa to translate the Scriptures. They journeyed as far as Constantinople and brought back with them authentic copies of the Greek text. With the help of other copies obtained from Alexandria, the Bible was translated again from the Greek according to the text of the Septuagint and Origen’s Hexapla. This version, now in use in the Armenian Church, was completed about 434 C.E.

Gothic The Goths were a group of loosely allied Germanic tribes, most likely beginning in Scandinavia. In the first few centuries after Jesus Christ’s life and death, they migrated as far south as the Black Sea and the Danube River, to the very outposts of the Roman Empire. The Gothic Bible was the first literary work in any Germanic tongue. Ulfilas (c. 311–383 C.E.) was the missionary translator, who was also known by his Gothic name Wulfila (“Little Wolf”).  

Attribution: This appendix includes information from Edward D. Andrews, Philip W. Comfort, Bruce M. Metzger, J. Harold Greenlee, R. Ellis Brotzman, Eric J. Tully, Ernst Wurthwein, and Alexander Achilles Fischer, as well as the public domain: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2
The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II


How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1
israel against all odds ISRAEL AGAINST ALL ODDS - Vol. II


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


The Epistle to the Hebrews Paul PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL
Young Christians


9798623463753 Machinehead KILLER COMPUTERS


Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Understaning Creation Account
Homosexuality and the Christian second coming Cover Where Are the Dead
Human Imperfection HUMILITY




Powerful Weapon of Prayer Power Through Prayer How to Pray_Torrey_Half Cover-1


THERE IS A REBEL IN THE HOUSE thirteen-reasons-to-keep-living_021 Waging War - Heather Freeman
Young Christians DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)
Homosexuality and the Christian THE OUTSIDER RENEW YOUR MIND


ADULTERY 9781949586053
APPLYING GODS WORD-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person
Abortion Booklet Dying to Kill The Pilgrim’s Progress
ARTS, MEDIA, AND CULTURE Christians and Government Christians and Economics


Book of Philippians Book of James Book of Proverbs Book of Esther
40 day devotional (1) Daily Devotional_NT_TM Daily_OT
DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)


The Church Community_02 THE CHURCH CURE Developing Healthy Churches

Apocalyptic-Eschatology [End Times]

Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Identifying the AntiChrist second coming Cover
ANGELS AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY_ ezekiel, daniel, & revelation


Oren Natas_JPEG Sentient-Front Seekers and Deceivers
Judas Diary 02 Journey PNG The Rapture

[1] While at present here in 2020, 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 /, 5,800 manuscripts (Porter 2013, 23), it is still a truckload of evidence far and above the dismal number of ancient secular author books.

[2] The quill pen was the principal writing instrument in the Western world from the 6th to the 19th centuries C.E.

[3] Nabia Abbot, STUDIES IN ANCIENT ORIENTAL CIVILIZATIONS (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1938), 11.

[4] Cf. J. H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), 11.

[5] A very light porous rock formed from solidified lava, used in solid form as an abrasive and in powdered form as a polish.

[6] A Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible started in about 280 and completed about 150 B.C.E. to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine.

[7] R. Reed, Ancient skins, parchments and leathers (Studies in Archaeological Science) Cambridge, MA: Seminar Press, 1973, 172.

[8] Or a roll

[9] Or roll

[10] Or the gospel

[11] Or roll

[12] Chad Brand et al., eds., “Tertius,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1573.

[13] When the Roman Empire was in power, one who was released from slavery was called a “freedman” (Gr apeleutheros), while a “freeman” (Gr eleutheros) was free from birth, having full citizenship rights, as was the case with the apostle Paul – Ac 22:28 (Balz and Schneider 1978, Vol. 1, P 121).

[14] When we use the term “original” reading or “original” text in this publication, it is a reference to the exemplar manuscript by the New Testament author (e.g., Paul) and his secretary (e.g., Tertius) from which other copies was made for publication and distribution into the Christian communities. It should be noted that the author likely penned some books without the use of a secretary, such as the apostle John in First and Second John.

[15] FROM SPOKEN WORDS TO SACRED TEXTS: Introduction-Intermediate New Testament Textual Studies by Edward D. Andrews, ISBN-13: 978-1949586985

[16] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

[17] The Genizah was storehouse for Hebrew books: a repository for Hebrew documents and sacred books that were no longer in use, e.g., because they are old and worn, but must not be destroyed.

[18] Paleography is the study of ancient writings: the study of ancient handwriting and manuscripts

[19] Hebrew Bible: the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible revised and annotated by Jewish scholars between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E.

[20] The Old Testament Apocrypha are unauthentic writings: writings or reports that are not regarded as authentic.

[21] Appendix 33 from the Companion Bible:

[22] This is the first of 134 places where the Jewish Sopherim changed JHVH to Adonai. This replacement was made out of misplaced veneration of God’s name.

[23] “And you!” in the Masoretic text, is marked with extraordinary points by the Sopherim (scribes) to show that the reading “and you” is uncertain and should read, “and her.”

[24] This is the first of the Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim, the only one in Genesis. An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition reads “but Jehovah remained standing before Abraham.” Masoretic text, “but as for Abraham, he was still standing before Jehovah.” The Sopherim might see have perceived this as Jehovah standing before Abraham, as showing irreverence or disrespect for God because it would appear to put Jehovah in a subservient position. Our Creator, sovereign of the universe, does not need to deliver a message to humans here on earth. In the Old Testament, we find many occasions where He has sent an angelic messenger in his stead.

[25] “The Protestant designation for the fourteen or fifteen books of doubtful authenticity and authority that are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament but are in manuscripts of the LXX; most of these books were declared canonical by the Roman Catholic church at the Council of Trent in 1546, and they call these books deuterocanonical (second canon).”―Geisler 1986, 637.

[26] “A word meaning “false writings” and used to designate those spurious and unauthentic books of the late centuries b.c. and early centuries a.d. These books contain religious folklore and have never been considered canonical by the Christian church.”―Geisler 1986, 642.

[27] Of course, there were no verses in the ancient texts, as they were simply running text. It was Rabbi Isaac Nathan, while working on a concordance, numbered the Bible into verses in 1440 C.E. Robert Estienne (Stephanus) introduced his system for dividing the Bible’s text into numbered verses in 1550 C.E., which we still use today.

[28] James VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 127.

[29] Hebrew Bible: the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible, revised and annotated by Jewish scholars between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E.

[30] Greek version of Hebrew Bible: a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made between 280 and 150 B.C.E. to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine.

[31] Because of the tradition about 72 translators, this Greek Bible translation came to be known as the Septuagint, based on a Latin word meaning “Seventy.”

[32] Actually, there were more forms of Judaism. There were the Herodians, who were Jewish partisans or party followers of the Herodian dynasty. In addition, there were the Zealots, who advocated a Jewish kingdom completely independent of Roman control.

[33] THE P52 PROJECT: Is P52 Really the Earliest Greek New Testament Manuscript? – May 26, 2020 by Edward D. Andrews,

[34] Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of New Testament 4th Edit (New York, Oxford University Press), p 54.

[35] A lacuna (pl. lacunae or lacunas) is a gap in a manuscript, inscription, text, painting, or musical work.

[36] R. Ellis Brotzman; Eric J. Tully, Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction (pp. 70-71). Baker Publishing Group.

[37] R. Ellis Brotzman; Eric J. Tully, Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction (pp. 70-71). Baker Publishing Group.

[38] IBID.


Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: