Early Christian Origins: Studies in Honor of Harold R. Willoughby

By Allen Wikgren | Go to book overview

XIII
THE ORIGIN OF TEXTTYPES OF NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

Ernest C. Colwell SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Recent finds of extensive early manuscript copies of New Testament books have made significant study of this topic possible. The Chester Beatty Papyri and the Bodmer Papyri--to mention no others-- take us at least a full century closer to the originals than the previous oldest copies did. The Beatty Gospels (p45), the Beatty Paul (p46), the Beatty Apocalypse (p47) and the Bodmer John (p66), while not complete, are extensive enough to establish the texttype they represent for these parts of the New Testament.1 In date they are close together--all but one in the early part of the third century, which is a long distance ahead of the great parchment codices, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, from the fourth century.

These four documents have revolutionized our understanding of the early history of the manuscript tradition of the Greek New Testament. Present day concepts of the great texttypes differ markedly from those held before the publication and study of these documents. The words "Caesarean," "Alexandrian," "Western,"-- and even "Byzantine" or "Syrian"--have changed their significance as labels for groups of manuscripts in the last twenty-five years.

But before we turn to a study of these changes, a clarification of terminology is essential as preface.2 By texttype I mean the largest

____________________
1
Frederic G. Kenyon, The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: Description and Texts of Twelve Manuscripts on Papyrus of the Greek Bible ( London, 1933); Victor Martin, Papyrus Bodmer II ( Geneva, 1956 and Supplement 1958).
2
See my discussion of terminology in "The Significance of Grouping of New Testament Manuscripts," NTS, IV ( 1958), 73-92.

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