Tag Archives: New Testament Manuscripts

Wallace-Ehrman debate on the reliability of the text of the New Testament

The following announcement comes from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts web site here:

On October 1, 2011 Dr. Bart D. Ehrman and CSNTM’s Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, debated the reliability of the text of the New Testament at Southern Methodist University. This was the largest debate over the text of the New Testament in history. A professional film crew recorded the debate, which is now available to you. In this exciting dialogue you have the opportunity to listen to two leading scholars talk about this issue from opposing viewpoints. Can we trust the text of the New Testament? You decide.

The DVD is priced at only $15.50 plus shipping and handling. Currently only the USA format (NTSC) is available. Pick yours up today.

The DVD is copyrighted by CSNTM; please do not replicate or distribute it.

Click here to order the DVD.

The historical credibility of the Gospel of John

Over at Parchment and Pen, Dan Wallace has written on “The Gospel of John and Historical Realibility – Part 1. Already I am looking forward to Part 2+. Wallace says,

In 1844, the Tübinger Jahrbuch published an essay by F. C. Baur to the effect that John’s Gospel should be dated no earlier than AD 160, and probably closer to 170.

Everyone who has studied New Testament introduction knows that this view was dominant for nearly a century. Wallace tells what rocked Baur’s view:

Ninety years after Baur first published his thesis on John, a young doctoral student studying at Manchester University came across a scrap of papyrus in the John Rylands Library. Colin H. Roberts was intrigued by the papyrus fragment, which had been excavated decades earlier from rubbish heaps in Egypt. It was only 2 & ½ inches by 3 & ½ inches, but its importance far outweighed its size. Roberts immediately recognized it as a fragment of John’s Gospel—chapter 18, verses 31 to 33 on one side, and chapter 18, verses 37 and 38 on the other, to be exact. He sent the photographs of the fragment to three of the leading papyrologists in Europe. Each one reported independently that this fragment should be dated, on paleographical grounds, between AD 100 and AD 150. A fourth scholar disagreed, arguing that the fragment should be dated in the 90s of the first century!

This tiny fragment of John’s Gospel rocked the scholarly near-consensus on the date of John, for it is impossible for a copy to be written before the original text is produced. It effectively sent two tons of German scholarship to the flames. As one wag put it, “This manuscript must have been written when the ink on the original text was barely dry.”

A number of years ago, while leading a tour of the British Isles, I called the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester to ask if I could see the Rylands Fragment. After being assured that I could, I took the train from York to Manchester. At the time, the little fragment was between two pieces of glass taped around the edge. There is only one piece of the fragment, but the image below (from a library slide) shows both sides.

We think the Gospel of John was written by John in Ephesus sometime during the 80s, but this manuscript is thought to have originated in Egypt between A.D. 100 and 150 (or earlier?). This is a small illustration of the rapid spread and copying of the Gospel.

The John Rylands Library has a page devoted to the fragment here.

Greek NT Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

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!”