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

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

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

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

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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