Important NT Manuscripts

Given what I said about TC in the first post, the key to the whole discipline is all about the manuscripts. If you have ever picked up a critical edition of the Greek New Testament (whether NA or UBS) you will have seen the strangely garbled code at the bottom of the page. These are all reference to which manuscripts contain which variations and which ones the editors think carries more weight.

So, here’s a list of ten of the most significant NT manuscripts (not necessarily in order):

  • Codex Sinaiticus (א or 01) is a copy of the whole bible (OT/LXX and NT) and is dated to the 4th century AD.
  • Codex Alexandrinus (A or 02) is later than א and B – dated 400-440, but is still considered an early and almost complete Greek bible and has a number of corrections in the margins, showing some ancient practices of TC.
  • Codex Vaticanus (B or 03) is one of the oldest Greek Bibles (dated c.325-350).
  • Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C or 04)

These first four are recognised as the four great uncial codies. Uncials are manuscrips written ALLINCAPITALLETTERSUSUALLYWITHOUTANYSPACESBETWEENWORDS. Codies are early forms of books (pages written on both sides and bound together).

As well as uncials, there are a number of significant papyri (which are named because of the material they are written on rather than the style in which they are written):

  • P52 is one of the earliest NT manuscripts. It is dated to about 125AD. It’s only small, containing just a few verses from John’s Gospel, but the early date makes it very significant.
  • P45 and P46 are two more early papyri (200-250AD) and contain much of Paul’s writings.
  • P75 is an early and important manuscript for the gospels containing much of Luke and John (175-225AD)

The other main group of NT manuscripts are called minuscules and are written in small, cursive writing:

  • 33 and 16 are two early minuscules containing parts of the gospels.

As well as ancient manuscripts written in Greek (like all those mentioned above) there are other ancient version. These are translations from Greek into various other languages (e.g. Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic etc.), but they are significant because many of them are old. Also, some of the writing of the Church Fathers are significant for NT TC because they frequently cite verses from the NT.

Next post, we’ll talk about some OT manuscripts.

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