Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Thinking About Originals, Copies, And Editions Of The Greek New Testament (Part 1)
AP: First, let's talk about how we date manuscripts in general. Basically there are two criteria that we use: (1) the study of writing, of which we know a lot about how writing developed and evolved over time; (2) Carbon 14 dating, which can only give us an approximate date, somewhere within fifty years of the actual date of the manuscript.
Now we can turn to the matter of the manuscripts that we do and don't have. We do not have the originals when we're talking about the literature of the New Testament. We have the text as it looked around the year A.D. 200. We also have the writings of some earlier writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, who died before A.D. 119 and knows 1 Corinthians very well, and Justin Martyr, etc. You can also see the Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 130) and compare it to see that the texts match.
P52 is an early papyri text that contains a portion of the Gospel of John. It's possible that it is original. You could say that. But it is almost certainly a copy. We can tell by the kind of writing we see that it should date somewhere between A.D. 125-175. And it just seems to me that such a late date would not correspond for the original.
Bibles today are almost entirely based on the text developed after an analysis of approximately 5,000 New Testament manuscripts. There is an Institute of the University of Münster that is dedicated solely to the task of working with and analyzing these manuscripts. In fact, they have already published twenty-eight editions of the Greek New Testament. And we can expect future editions as their study expands in the future.