Daniel B. Wallace reports on the discovery of what is being called a “treasure trove” of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Wallace heads up the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org). Last summer a team went to the National Archive in Tirana, Albania, to photograph some manuscripts.
According to Wallace, there are now 5752 New Testament manuscripts known and catalogued. These range from the small John Rylands fragment of the Gospel of John to complete manuscripts of the New Testament.
Seventeen formerly lost manuscripts were found to be in the Albanian archive. This was not the most exciting part of the discovery in Albania. Wallace explains,
This was not the only good news of the day, nor even the most momentous. The catalog revealed several other Greek New Testament manuscripts that had never been catalogued by western scholars. Simple arithmetic told us this: There were forty-seven Greek New Testament manuscripts listed in the National Archive catalog, while the K-Liste noted only thirty in Albania (thirteen plus the seventeen that had been presumed lost). Thus, Tirana was housing at least seventeen manuscripts unknown to western scholarship and as many as thirty-four! Since the dawn of the 21st century, an average of two or three Greek New Testament manuscripts is brought to light each year. A cache of 17 to 34 manuscripts is a remarkable find, regardless of the age and pedigree of the manuscripts.
Codex Beratinus from the 6th century was the oldest manuscript in the Archive.
The oldest manuscript in the collection is Codex Beratinus, a codex that had been dyed in purple, with silver and gold letters written on it. Containing only Matthew and Mark today, this codex, written in the sixth century, is very rare because it is a royal codex. Only a handful of purple biblical codices still exist.
You may read the complete account here.
Wallace mentions one of the manuscripts that does not contain the account of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). He gives us a good discussion of how textual critics deal with this question.
The Parchment and Pen blog has carried a series of articles on textual criticism. To find all of these worthwhile articles scroll down and look for Dan Wallace Contra Mundane in the left column. Click here and look for these good articles.
Back to travel. The whole issue of determining the original text of the New Testament comes down to some practical issues. A visit to Israel and Jordan might include the following places:
- Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28). Or should it be Bethabara?
- The Pool of Betheda (John 5:2). Or should it be Bethzatha, Bethsaida, or Belzetha? And should that verse (4) about the stirring of the water even be in the text?
- The country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Or should it be Gergesenes or Gerasenes?
A news release about the Albanian manuscript discovery may be read here. A PDF copy is available here.
Added Note: Video report. WFAA, Dallas, aired a brief report about Dr. Wallace and the Albanian discovery. I could not get it to work in Firefox, but it is o.k. in Explorer. Click here. I wish TV and newspaper reporters could think of something better than “a modern Indiana Jones!”