The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview
Save to active project

14 The New Testament Text

Marcion had put a critical question about the integrity of transmission of texts which in and soon after his time were in process of being formed into the New Testament. A major objection to his view that these documents had been interpolated in a pro-Judaistic sense consisted in the total lack of manuscript authority for his drastically expurgated form of text. No autograph existed then (as now, of course); but autographs of ancient documents other than letters and documents of daily life preserved on papyrus are extremely rare. About the middle decades of the second century a scribe of Gospels and Acts produced a copy which came to enjoy a famous descendant in the late fourth-century Codex Bezae from Lyon, a bilingual manuscript presented by the Calvinist Beza to Cambridge University to encourage Reformed sympathies. Here there is mild enhancement of words or phrases critical of Judaism. But the principal families of ancient manuscripts, numbering several thousand, offer forms of text where differences are numerous but not often deeply significant theologically. Scribes wanted to harmonize Gospels or to clarify a sentence by paraphrase. Naturally the majority of variants were created by scribes' mistakes. It has never been easy to transcribe a substantial text by hand without a single slip.

The numerous manuscripts can be subjected to ordered classification in families, i.e. groups which share the same variants or other idiosyncrasies. These originally arose from differing local usages—Egyptian churches followed Alexandria, Jerusalem and Palestinian churches followed Caesarea the metropolis, where Origen and later Eusebius and his master Pamphilus were much interested in variant texts. A very early manuscript of the Caesarean family is preserved on papyrus in the Chester Beatty collection, containing the Pauline epistles with Hebrews but without the letters to Timothy and Titus. The handwriting is not later than ad 200. One scrap of St John's Gospel at Manchester (Rylands papyrus 457) is in a hand unlikely to be later than 135. Experts in ancient handwriting can offer decisive judgements about the approximate dating of a text on papyrus or parchment. Naturally a form of text does not enjoy superior authority because it happens to have been preserved on papyrus. It is a rule of good textual criticism of all ancient writings that an early manuscript is not necessarily superior to one written later

-108-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 730

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?