New Testament Manuscripts

Saint Paul's Cathedral, London

My comments are after the article.

Used by permission from

The Importance of Ancient Manuscripts

As seen in the section on Christian texts, the New Testament plays a very central role in Christianity. For most Christians, the New Testament is not only a precious record of the life of Jesus and the apostles, but a divine revelation to mankind on matters of salvation. Christians of all denominations consider the Bible to be the primary authority in determining doctrine, ethics, church structure, and all other religious issues.

This strong reliance on the New Testament is based in part on the religious belief that it was divinely inspired. But it also based on the belief that it is an accurate historical record written by eyewitnesses (and associates of eyewitnesses) who experienced the lives of Jesus and the apostles firsthand. But some have challenged this traditional view, arguing that it was written much later, long after Jesus' original followers were dead and Christianity had transformed into a different religion than the one taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

The debate really comes down to the question: When was the New Testament originally written? And this question leads to another important question: Even if it was written at an early date, how do we know the New Testament that exists today is the same as the original? How do we know the modern translations aren't full of human errors, additional content, or the interpretations of countless human scribes?

Both of these questions are answered within the fields of paleography and textual criticism, which seek to analyze ancient manuscripts of the New Testament to determine their date and accuracy.

The article that follows provides an overview of the most important New Testament manuscripts that have been discovered and outlines the process used to analyze those manuscripts.

The Role of Textual Criticism

No original manuscripts of the original Greek New Testament have been found. However, a large number of ancient manuscript copies have been discovered, and modern translations of the New Testament are based on these copies. As one would expect, they contain some scribal errors. In fact, "there is not a single copy wholly free from mistakes."

It is the task of textual criticism, therefore, to study and compare the available manuscripts in order to discern which of the variations conforms the closest to the original. Bruce Metzger of Princeton University, a prominent modern textual critic, describes the role of textual criticism this way:

The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another. The textual critic seeks to ascertain from the divergent copies which form of the text should be regarded as most nearly conforming to the original. In some cases the evidence will be found to be so evenly divided that it is extremely difficult to decide between two variant readings. In other instances, however, the critic can arrive at a decision based on more or less compelling reasons for preferring one reading and rejecting another.

Paleography: Dating Ancient Manuscripts

Of course, the reliability of a given manuscript is based in large part on its age: earlier manuscripts are more likely to be accurate reflections of the original, so they are given more weight than later copies. It is therefore important for textual critics to know the dates of the manuscripts they are analyzing.

Interestingly, carbon dating and other chemical methods are rarely used in determining the age of manuscripts. Instead, a paleographer analyzes the handwriting of the text, which yields a much more precise date than carbon dating would. A paleographer "cannot establish the exact date but he can confidently place one handwriting in the 30's and another in the 80's."

The Earliest Extant Manuscripts

Fortunately, textual critics and paleographers have a large number of ancient manuscripts at their disposal, many of which have been found within the last century. Nearly the entire New Testament exists in manuscripts dated to before 300 AD. Other important manuscripts date to the fourth and fifth centuries.

The manuscripts dating from 100 to 300 AD are almost entirely papyrus fragments. These fragments are named with a "P" followed by a number. The vast majority of them were found in Egypt in the twentieth century, and are now kept in various museums and libraries throughout the world, including at Dublin, Ann Arbor, Cologny (Switzerland), the Vatican and Vienna.

The earliest manuscript of the New Testament was discovered about 50 years ago. P52 is a small papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (18:31-33 on the front; 18:37-38 on the back), and it has been dated to about 125 AD. This makes it a very important little manuscript, because John has been almost unanimously held by scholars to be the latest of the four gospels. So if copies of John were in circulation by 125, the others must have been written considerably earlier. Moreover, the Gospel of John's greater theological development when compared with the other three gospels has led some scholars to conclude it was written as late as 120 or even 150 AD. The P52 fragment seems to make such late dates impossible.

In addition to the early papyrus fragments, a large number of parchment manuscripts have been found that date from 300 AD onward. These are usually named for the place in which they were discovered and are abbreviated by a letter or sometimes a number. The manuscripts A/02 (Codex Alexandrinus), B/03 (Codex Vaticanus), and Sin./01 (Codex Sinaiticus) contain nearly complete sets of the New Testament. By comparing these to the earlier papyrus fragments, they have been shown to be quite reliable.

Codex Vaticanus (B), the earliest of the great parchment manuscripts at about 300 AD, has resided in the Vatican since the middle ages and remains there today. It is one of the most important manuscripts for textual criticism.

Codex Sinaiticus (Sin.) dates to about 350 AD. It was discovered in 1844 in a monastery on Mount Sinai by a Russian. After some resistance, he persuaded the resident monks to allow him to take it to St. Petersburg. On Christmas Eve, 1933, the Soviet government sold it to the British Museum for 100,000 pounds. It was put on permanent display in the British Library, where it still resides, along with other early biblical manuscripts.

Codex Alexandrinus (A), dating to circa 450 AD, was transferred from the Christian library in Alexandria to the British Library in the seventeenth century, where it still resides today. The Catholic Encyclopedia details its history:

Codex A was the first of the great uncials to become known to the learned world. When Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Alexandria, was transferred in 1621 to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he is believed to have brought the codex with him. Later he sent it as a present to King James I of England; James died before the gift was presented, and Charles I, in 1627, accepted it in his stead. It is now the chief glory of the British Museum in its manuscript department and is on exhibition there.

British Museum Pamphlet on the Codex Sinaiticus
Philip W. Comfort, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts.
C.C. Edgar, Select Papyri.
Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1992). Full text is available online at Questia Online Library.
Bruce M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Paleography.
E.G. Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (1987).
G. Cavallo & H. Maehler, Greek bookhands of the early Byzantine period, A.D. 300-800 (1987).
Leighton Reynolds, Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature.
C.H. Roberts, Greek Literary Hands (1956). On the dating of manuscripts with the aid of contemporary documents.
J. Finegan, Encountering New Testament Manuscripts: A Working Introduction to Textual Criticism (1974). W.H.P. Hatch, The Principal Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament (1939).
H.J.M. Milne & T.C. Skeat, Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus (1938).
D.C. Parker, Codex Bezae: An Early Christian Manuscript and its Text (1992). On the idiosyncratic manuscript D.
C.H. Roberts, Manuscript Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt (1979).
G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles (1956): on P46

This article is helpful as it provides a scholarly, objective perspective on the issue of New Testament manuscripts. I am a philosophical theologian working on finishing his PhD, and I do not claim to be an expert of the origin of New Testament texts, however, here are some of my thoughts based on this article.

The divine inspiration of Scripture was noted as important. The New Testament is not full of mythological stories of clearly fictional characters, but actual people that existed. The same group of people discussed within the New Testament, is also the group that produced the Scripture. Therefore, the New Testament is historically grounded on eyewitness testimony, and associates of eyewitnesses.

Since every manuscript contains scribal errors, we can conclude the copies are not equal to the original inspired letters. This does not mean that we have to abandon the Biblical idea of inspired Scripture. I firmly hold to the concept of 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is inspired by God for teaching, and training. I think we can deduce that scribal errors do not equate with theological errors, and therefore scribal errors do not eradicate or change the New Testament’s essential doctrines. There are enough New Testament documents extant that scholars would know if certain schools of manuscripts contained serious differences in theology from other schools. This is why as Christians we do not need to take seriously the claims of critics that state that lost or hidden New Testament era documents from the group of eyewitnesses contradict the ones found in the New Testament. The manuscript evidence supports the fact that there are scribal errors in the documents, but does not support the idea of major theological differences between different groups of manuscripts.

My theory of inspiration would include the idea that God inspired the original New Testament documents written by those within the group of Christ and the Apostles. Since the documents would eventually physically disintegrate, God would have to use supernatural means to maintain the original documents. The idea of God using some kind of supernatural force field to maintain the documents as good as new does not seem in line with how God works in our world over a long period, and so it is not surprising that God allowed the originals to be destroyed or lost, and instead maintained his Scripture through copying. The copying mistakes did not affect any major doctrine, but we do have related issues like with the ending of Mark.

Mark 16: 9-20 does not appear in Codex Vaticanus (B),or Codex Sinaiticus (Sin), the two oldest groups of manuscripts. Marlowe (2006: 1). The manuscripts have Mark ending at 16: 8. However, 16: 9-20 does appear in Codex Alexandrinus (A), which is a slightly newer manuscript. Miller (2005: 1).

It is possible a scribe or scribes added 16: 9-20, which became part the majority of New Testament texts, but it does not change the essential message of the Gospel or New Testament. We have copies from the two older groups of manuscripts which allow scholars to speculate that it is possible that Mark 16: 9-20 was not written by Mark, but written by a scribe at a later date. God has therefore not allowed a corruption of New Testament theology at its core even if he did allow an uninspired scribe to write 16: 9-20 and allowed it to become part of the majority text. It is also possible that Mark died and God inspired an associate who had known Mark to complete the book which appears in the majority text.

My essential Christian theology is not changed whether or not Mark ends at 16: 8 or 16: 9-20. If Mark died and the book ended at 16: 8, I do not see any need to place demands upon the Markan text and state that it had to have contained an actual resurrection appearance. The ending of the book does make it clear that Christ was no longer in the tomb and was resurrected. The tomb was empty, and a man, likely of supernatural origin in 16: 6-7 made it clear that Christ had risen. My hope is that a scribe or scribes did not think that the lack of a resurrection appearance and an abrupt ending meant that another ending had to be created. My New American Standard Bible has two different additional endings after 16: 8. However, if endings were added by scribes, God has still provided the Church with evidence of this from Codex Vaticanus (B),and Codex Sinaiticus (Sin). The Church could therefore take anything stated in these verses as less than Biblically authoritative, but these verses do not influence major Christian doctrines. I therefore can view our present New Testament as an essentially accurate copy of the original inspired word of God.

Marlowe, Michael D. (2006) ‘Mark 16: 9-20’,, Ohio.

Miller, Dave (2005) ‘Is Mark 16: 9-20 Inspired?’, Apologetics, Montgomery, Alabama.

Exit Stage Left medley

Rush performing

By-Tor & Snow Dog/In The End/In The Mood/2112 Grand Finale

Exit Stage Left, The Forum in Montreal, Quebec on March 27, 1981

The medley itself is one of my favourite pieces of music, and is also featured on the Red Barchetta unofficial CD. I especially appreciate the guitar solos on By-Tor and Grand Finale which are very impressive. I like the rhythmic nature of the Grand Finale solo which is played fast, but still slower than the version on All the World's a Stage, the official live album from 1976. The red star in the video is one of the band's logos and is not directly related to the occult, but rather is the Red Star of the Solar Federation from the 2112 album. It must be mentioned that symbols and words should always be understood in their context.

According to:

In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. The world is controlled by the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who determine all reading matter, songs, pictures . . . everything connected with life during the year 2112 ("The Temples of Syrinx").

Kim Jong Il and martial arts bodyguards

I have worked out in the martial arts for around twenty years with the martial arts bag and some sparring which includes weapons defence, and some judo and grappling, but I have never done anything like in the video. I am not sure how much breaking bricks will help one in a fight, but the ability to take physical punishment and pain is beneficial for bodyguard work I suppose. However, if North Korea ever does use a nuclear weapon against the West, martial arts will not do them much good I would think.

Romans, Chapter 13:1-4 in the New American Standard Bible states that every person should be under subjection to the authorities, which have been given power by God. These authorities have the right to use the sword, or force for the purpose of maintaining the good, which would be law and order. Romans 13 is likely primarily speaking in terms of maintaining internal law and order, but I think that a state or states would have the right to protect citizens from external evils as well. The West has the right to defend itself against North Korea if in the end it is a legitimate military threat, and that would include if it is a legitimate nuclear threat.

One Hundred Thousand

On Wednesday I met with my surgeon that performed my two sleep apnea related surgeries. In March I had my uvula and tonsils removed which is known as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, and in July I had nasal reconstruction called Septal and tip reconstruction, right turbinate debridement. As noted in 'The Bionic Man?' article these surgeries bring me to a 70% cure.

My surgeon had stated before that there was jaw surgery available for a few thousand dollars which included the need for dental work, but this week he informed me that if I really wanted my sleep apnea potentially cured, I would have to go to Stanford University and pay $100,000 for perhaps two jaw surgeries which move the jaw forward. These are known as maxillomandibular osteotomy or advancement (MMO or MMA) and the two-part inferior sagittal mandibular osteotomy and genioglossal advancement with hyoid myotomy and suspension (GAHM). My surgeon did not recommend that I save up for these operations as he thought it was really people that drove around in Ferraris that could afford that kind of medical work done. Oh well, I guess a 70% cure is a good as I am going to get.

Angry Professor? Do you agree with his actions?

Proverbs 14:17: A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.

Ephesians 4:31: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be out away from you, along with all malice.

From the New American Standard Bible (1984)

Yes, a man of evil devices was perhaps hated in this clip;).

This clip is available in many places on the net. I did not see anything posted to definitively show that the incident was theatrics, so perhaps it was actually non-fictional. For the sake of discussion, assuming the event was non-fictional, I disagree with how the professor acted, as it was very unprofessional and he lacked composure. As well he should have to pay for a new phone if needed and, in my view the professor should be criticized by the head of the academic institution.

I can see the humourous and satirical side of this clip as it could represent a backlash against our technological culture where many people spend so much time on the phone, internet, video games and in front of the TV that face to face human dialogue is often neglected. I realize that it can be irritating trying to have a discussion with someone who keeps yakking away on their phone. However, even if the professor and academic institution had warned students to have cell phones turned off while in class previously the professor simply could have stood in front of the student on the phone and asked him to turn the phone off in a loud and firm voice.

I admit that I have a healthy, but controlled temper, but once my PhD is completed and by God's will I become a professor, I will definitely not want my anger demonstrated in an uncontrolled violent manner. We are all angry at times and think this should be respectfully shared with God, but I think that it is dangerous to unleash it on others in public as it creates relationship difficulties and other potential problems. Comments?

The Bionic Man?

With all my surgeries the last few years, including three this year so far, a few of my friends such as Bobby Buff, Richard X, and Dallas N, and others perhaps, have called me "The Bionic Man". These clips are my response! I have to admit that my health problems and surgeries have had me down mentally many times, and there are still some things bothering me that I would like to have dealt with. However, God has been good in the healing provided so far. I realize from a Christian perspective that this is a fallen world (Genesis 3), and that I will suffer and die like everyone else. There is no room for arrogance on my part, since as a human being I can neither significantly heal my spirit or body. The resurrection described in 1 Corinthians 15 is my only ultimate hope from these annoying sufferings, as a perfected immortal spiritual body is provided. I did have life threatening sleep apnea, but that has been approximately 70% cured this year. Other than that I have some annoying problems, but I understand that many people in this world suffer with greater health problems than I do.

Timeline of Christianity

York Minster Cathedral

Used by permission from

c. 4 BC Birth of Jesus
c. 26 AD John the Baptist begins ministry
c. 27 AD Jesus begins ministry
c. 30 AD Crucifixion of Jesus
c. 35 Conversion of Paul
c. 44 Martyrdom of James
c. 46-48 Paul's first missionary journey
c. 49 Council of Jerusalem
c. 50-52 Paul's second missionary journey
c. 51-52 First and Second Thessalonians written
c. 53-57 Paul's third missionary journey
c. 57 Letter to the Romans written
c. 59-62 Paul imprisoned in Rome
c. 60 Andrew martyred by crucifixion in Achaia (Greece).
c. 66-67 Second Timothy written
c. 68 Martyrdom of Paul
70 Fall of Jerusalem
c. 90-95 John exiled on island of Patmos
c. 95 Book of Revelation written
c. 96 Clement of Rome's Letter to the Corinthians written
c. 120 Didache written
202 Christians persecuted under Septimus Severus
211 Christians tolerated under Emperor Antoninus Caracalla
222 Christians favored Emperor Alexander Severus
230 Origen's On First Principles
235 Christians persecuted under Emperor Maximin the Thracian
238 Christians tolerated under Emperor Gordian III
244 Christians favored under Emperor Philip the Arabian
251 Cyprian's Unity of the Catholic Church
254 Death of Origen
303 Diocletian orders burning of Christian books and churches
312 Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity
313 Edict of Milan establishes official toleration of Christianity
325 Council of Nicea
336 Death of Constantine
354 Birth of Augustine
367 Athanasius lists all 27 books of NT
379 Basil the Great dies
380 Christianity made official religion of Roman Empire
381 Council of Constantinople
386 Augustine converts to Christianity
389 Gregory of Nazianzus dies
395 Gregory of Nyssa diesc.
400 Jerome's Vulgate (translation of the Greek Bible into Latin)
407 John Chrysostom dies
411 Council of Carthage condemns Donatists
417 Pope Innocent I condemns Pelagianism
420 Death of Jerome430 Death of Augustine
431 Council of Ephesus
451 Council of Chalcedon
787 Second Council of Nicea
950 Olga of Russia converts to Christianity
1054 Great Schism between East and West
1093 Anselm becomes Archbishop of Canterbury
1095 Council of Clermont: Pope Urban II proclaims First Crusade
1098 Crusaders take Antioch from Turks
1099 Crusaders recapture Jerusalem from Turks
1122 Concordat of Worms1141 Peter Abelard condemned
1144 Fall of Edessa (crusader state)
1187 Fall of Jerusalem to Turks
1215 Fourth Lateran Council1309 "Babylonian Captivity" (until 1377)
1337 Hundred Years' War (until 1453)
1378 Great Western Schism (until 1423)
1409 Council of Pisa1413-14 Lollard rebellion
1415 Council of Constance. Martyrdom of Jan Hus.
1420 Crusade against Hussites
1431 Joan of Arc martyred
1431-49 Council of Basel
1438-45 Council of Ferrara-Florence
1453 Fall of Constantinople to Turks
1478 Spanish Inquisition founded by Ferdinand and Isabella
1483 Birth of Martin Luther
1492 Expulsion of Jews from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella
1505 Luther becomes a monk
1517 Luther posts 95 Theses
1521 Luther excommunicated
1530 Augsburg Confession
1534 Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy
1536 Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion
1541 Colloquy of Regensburg
1555 Peace of Augsburg
1559 Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity
1590 Michelangelo completes the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
1609 Baptist Church founded by John Smyth
1611 King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible produced
1729 Beginnings of Methodism, led by John Wesley
1738 John Wesley feels his "heart strangely warmed" during a reading of Luther's preface to Romans on Aldersgate Street in London
1775 American Wars of Independence begin
1783 America wins independence from Britain
1793 Louis XVI executed
1797 Second Awakening begins
1798 Pope Pius VI is prisoner of France
1799 Schleiermacher writes Speeches
1801 Cane Ridge Revival
1804 Napoleon becomes emperor
1807 Hegel writes Phenomenology of the Spirit
1808 French occupy Rome
1810 Mexico wins independence
1812-14 British-American War
1814 Reorganization of the Jesuits
1816 American Bible Society established
1822 Schleiermacher writes Christian Faith
1826 American Society for the Promotion of Temperance founded
1830 Joseph Smith produces Book of Mormon
1834 Spanish Inquisition officially abolished
1838 Abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean
1841 David Livingstone to Africa
1845 Methodists and Baptists split over the issue of slavery
1846 Pope Pius IX (until 1878)
1854 Dogma of Immaculate Conception of Mary
1859 Darwin publishes Origin of the Species
1861-65 American Civil War
1861 Presbyterians divide over the issue of slavery
1869 First Vatican Council1870 Dogma of Papal Infallibility
1872 Moody begins preaching
1875 Mary Baker Eddy writes Science and Health
1882 Neitzsche declares "God is dead"
1895 Five Fundamentals
1900 Freud's Interpretation of Dreams
1906 Azusa Street revival
1908 Henry Ford introduces the Model T
1910 World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh
1914 Assemblies of God founded
1914-18 World War I
1917 Russian Revolution
1919 Prohibition passed into law
1925 Scopes "Monkey" trial
1932 Barth's Church Dogmatics
1939 Hitler invades Poland and sparks WWII
1945 Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt; US drops atomic bombs on Japan
1947 India wins independence from U.K.
1948 World Council of Churches founded
1950 Papal encyclical Humani generis
1956 First issue of Christianity Today
1960 Birth control pill approved by FDA
1961 First human in space; Papal encyclical Mater et Magistra
1962-65 Second Vatican Council
1963 MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech
1968 Papal encyclical Humanae vitae
1969 First man on the moon
1971 Intel introduces the microprocessor
1973 Roe vs. Wade
1987-88 Televangelist scandals
1989 First woman ordained in an apostolic-succession church (the Protestant Episcopal church). Fall of the Berlin Wall.
1997 Birth of the internet

Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries (Zondervan, 1996).
Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity (Prince Press, 1999).
Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: to A.D. 1500 (4th ed., Prince Press, 2000).
Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004