Christian Cyclopedia

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Manuscripts of the Bible.

1. Old Testament. The original OT MSS are lost. Copies (rolls or scrolls, Jer 36:2; Lk 4:17), handwritten on parchment derived from clean animals, were made for private individuals and religious services. One large book (e.g., Is) or a combination of several small ones was written on a single roll. OT ;Heb. was originally written with consonants only, no punctuation marks, and perhaps no spaces bet. words. Division into pars. seems ancient. Proper pronunciation was orally preserved. Loss of Jerusalem as religious center of Judaism* made it necessary to add vowel points and accents to indicate and fix, as far as possible, proper reading and intonation. Another mark indicated verse division. These marks were gradually introd. under guidance of Masoretes (see Masora[h]). Extraordinary care was exercised in copying. There are practically no important textual differences. MSS used in synagogs met esp. rigid standards. A complete copy of Is and fragments of other OT books were discovered 1947 among the Dead* Sea Scrolls. Chap. divisions were marginally indicated at least as early as the 14th c.

2. New Testament.

a. NT autographs, written in nonliterary Hellenistic Gk. on parchment or papyrus* (2 Ti 4:13; 2 Jn 12), seem to have disappeared very early. But many copies were made. The writing was at first in majuscules (large letters [as capitals or uncials]), with no separation of words, no breathings, accents, or distinction of initial letters, and few, if any, punctuation marks.

b. There are many allusions to and quotations from Scripture in patristic writings beginning with the Apostolic* Fathers. The Muratorian* Fragment shows that there was an almost complete collection of apostolic writings ca. the middle of the 2d c.

c. The external hist. of the NT text for ca. 1,000 yrs. before the invention of printing can be traced by MSS Some MSS from the 4th–5th c. include noncanonical writings. In course of time parchment (or vellum, a high-quality parchment) replaced papyrus and the book form replaced rolls. But since parchment was often scarce, old MSS were sometimes reused after the old writing was erased or washed off. Some Bible MSS were treated thus to make room for other writing. Such MSS are called codices palimpsesti (palimpsests) or rescripti. Chemicals and ultraviolet-ray photography have been used to determine the original text. See also Codex.

3. a. K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments (Berlin, 1963), pp. 29–33, lists 76 papyrus MSS Of these, P52, in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, Eng., is the oldest, dated by Aland beginning of the 2d c. Of the Chester Beatty papyri (named after Alfred Chester Beatty [1875–1968]; b. NYC; educ. Princeton U.; mining engineer; industrialist; collector of Oriental MSS; naturalized Englishman 1933) Aland assigns P46 to ca. 200, P45 to the 3d c., P47 to the end of the 3d c.; they contain large portions of the gospels, Acts, the Pauline epistles, and Rv Of the Bodmer papyri (named after Martin Bodmer [b. 1899], Swiss industrialist, who secured them for his private library in Cologny, near Geneva, Switz.) Aland assigns P66 (large portions of Jn) to ca. 200, P75 (Lk and Jn) to the beginning of the 3d c.

There are ca. 250 4th–10th c. uncials. The most important: Codex Sinaiticus (�), complete NT, 4th c., discovered (1844 and 1859) by L. F. K. v. Tischendorf* in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, formerly in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), since 1933 in the Brit. Museum, London; Codex Vaticanus (B), 4th c., in Vatican Library, Rome; Codex Alexandrinus (A; called Alexandrinus from its supposed origin at Alexandria, Egypt), 5th c., in the Brit. Museum; Codex Ephraemi (C; called Ephraemi because some writings of Ephraem* were superimposed on the text), 5th c., rewritten upon probably in the 12th c., in Bibliothèque National, Paris, Fr.; Codex Bezae (D; named after T. Beza*), 5th or 6th c., in University Library, Cambridge, Eng..

b Beginning in the 9th c. the uncial form of writing changed to the cursive, or minuscule, of which there are many MSS There are perhaps ca. 200,000 variant readings in NT MSS, depending on how the count is made, but in nearly all cases the correct reading is not hard to est., and in nearly all other cases the variants are of no importance as affecting the sense. EL, FWD

See also Amiatinus, Codex; Bible Versions, I; Chapters and Verses of the Bible; Codex Fuldensis.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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