Ancient Faith, Ancient Literature, and Ancient Manuscripts

In the prior post, Pastor Barnes briefly mentioned the ancient manuscripts that are at back English translations of the Bible, as well as the controversies surrounding textual criticism of ancient manuscripts of the Bible. I want to reiterate that believers should receive the various ancient manuscripts and trust the God-fearing scholars and textual critics that day in and day out labor in their highly specialized and scientific vocations and draw conclusions based on these ancient manuscripts. Because of their labors we now know things like this:

Today, in Greek alone, more than 5,600 handwritten New Testament documents are known to exist. Many of these are fragmentary of course, especially the older ones, but the average Greek New Testament manuscripts is more than 450 pages long. Altogether, there are more than 2.6 million pages of text, leaving hundreds of witnesses for every book of the New Testament (Daniel B. Wallace, “Has the New Testament Been Hopelessly Corrupted?” in In Defense of the Bible, eds. Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder, 146).

If we can envision the New Testament as a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up alien elements through the centuries [e.g. scribal errors, dittography, haplography, etc.], it is remarkable that it only picks up 2 percent more material over fourteen hundred years. That is an extraordinarily stable transmissional history. Although the New Testament text has grown over time, it has grown very little. Since the earliest texts that we have agree substantially with the later ones, the changes from the autographs [original manuscripts] to the earliest copies would be miniscule if we were to project backward to the original (148).

That is encouraging, indeed.

If you are interested in learning more about ancient manuscripts and textual criticism, then I encourage you to lookup   The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Consider the CSNTM’s “History” and “Mission.”

On 13 September 2002, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace founded the Center to utilize emerging technologies to preserve and study Greek New Testament manuscripts. During its brief history, CSNTM has collaborated with more than 40 institutions on 4 continents to produce more than 350,000 images of New Testament manuscripts. In the process, the Center has discovered more than 90 New Testament manuscripts. View these images at CSNTM’s digital library.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM), under the umbrella of The Center for the Research of Early Christian Documents (CRECD), exists for the following purposes:

  1. To make digital photographs of extant Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.
  2. To utilize developing technologies (OCR, MSI, etc.) to read these manuscripts and create exhaustive collations.
  3. To analyze individual scribal habits in order to better predict scribal tendencies in any given textual problem.
  4. To publish on various facets of New Testament textual criticism.
  5. To develop electronic tools for the examination and analysis of New Testament manuscripts.
  6. To cooperate with other institutes in the great and noble task of determining the wording of the autographa of the New Testament.
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