Dating Procedure: Some of the factors that help determine the age of a MS are:
John Rylands' MS (130 AD) is located in the John Rylands Library of Manchester, England (oldest extant fragment of the New Testament). "Because of its early date and location (Egypt), some distance from the traditional place of composition (Asia Minor), this portion of the Gospel tends to confirm the traditional date of the composition of the Gospel about the end of the first century."
Bruce Metzger speaks of defunct criticism: "Had this little fragment been known during the middle of the last century, that school of New Testament criticism which was inspired by the brilliant Tubingen professor, Ferdinand Christian Baur, could not have argued that the Fourth Gospel was not composed until about the year 160."
Bodmer Papyrus II (150-200 AD) is located in the Bodmer Library of World Literature and contains most of John.
Bruce Metzger says that this MS was "the most important discovery of the N.T. manuscripts since the purchase of the Chester Beatty papyri..."
In his article 'Zur Datierung des Papyrus Bodmer II (P66),' Anzeiger der osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist,kl., 1960, Nr. 4, p.12033, "Herbert Hunger, the director of the papyrological collections in the National Library at Vienna, dates 66 earlier, in the middle if not even in the first half of the second entury; see his article."
Chester Beatty Papyri (200 AD) is located in C. Beatty Museum in Dublin and part is owned by the University of Michigan. This collection contains papyrus codices, three of them containing major portions of the New Testament.
In The Bible and Modern Scholarship, Sir Frederic Kenyon says, "The net result of this discovery - by far the most important since the discovery of the Sinaiticus - is, in fact, to reduce the gap between the earlier manuscripts and the traditional dates of the New Testament books so far that it becomes negligible in any discussion of their authenticity. No other ancient book has anything like such early andplentiful testimony to its text, and no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound."
Diatessaron: meaning "a harmony of four parts." The Greek dia Tessaron literally means "through four." This wa a harmony of the Gospels done by Tatian (about 160 AD).
Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History, IV, 29 Loeb ed., 1,397, wrote: "...Their former leader Tatian composed in some way a combination and collection of the Gospels, and gave this the name of THE DIATESSARON, and this is still extant in some places..." It is believed that Tatian, an Assyrian Christian, was the first to compose a harmony of the Gospels; only a small portion is extant today.
Codex Vaticanus (325-350 AD), located in the Vatican Library, contains nearly all of the Bible.
Codex Sinaiticus (350 AD) is located in the British Museum. This MS, which contains almost all of the New Testament and over half of the Old Testament, was discovered by Dr. Constantin Von Tischendorf in the Mount Sinai monastery in 1859, presented by the Monastery to the Russian Czar and bought by the British Government and people from the Soviet Union for 100,000 pounds on Christmas Day, 1933.
The discovery of this manuscript is fascinating story. Bruce Metzger relates the interesting background leading to its discovery:
"In 1844, when he was not yet thirty years of age, Tischendorf, a Privatdozent in the University of Leipzig, began an extensive journey through the Near East in search of Biblical manuscripts. Whie visiting the monastery of St. Catharine at Mount Sinai, he chanced to see some leaves of parchment in a waste-basket full of papers destined to light the oven of the monastery. On examination these proved to be part of a copy of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, written in an early Greek uncial script. He retrieved from the basket no fewer than forty-three such leaves, and the monk casually remarked that two basket loads of similarly discarded leaves had already been burned up! Later, when Tischendorf was shown other portions of the same codex (containing all of Isaiah and I and II Maccabees), he warned the monks that such things were too valuable to be used to stoke their fires. The forty-three leaves which he was permitted to keep contained portions of I Chronicles, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Esther, and upon returning to Europe he deposited them in the university library at Leipzig, where they still remain. In 1846 he published their contents, naming them the codex. Frederico-Augustanus (in honour of the King of Saxony, Frederick Augustus, the discoverer's sovereign and patron)."
A second visit to the monastery by Tischendorf in 1853 produced no new manuscripts because the monks were suspicious as a result of the enthusiasm for the MS displayed during his first visit in 1844. During a third visit in 1859 under the direction of the Czar of Russia, Alexander II, shortly before leaving, Tischendorf gave the steward of the monastery an editon of the Septuagint that had been published by Tischendorf in Leipzig. "Thereupon the steward remarked that he too had a copy of the Septuagint, and produced from a closet in his cell a manuscript wrapped in a red coth. There before the astonished scholar's eyes lay the treasure which he had been longing to see. Concealing his feelings, Tischendorf casually asked permission to look at it further that evening. Permissio was granted, and upon retiring to his room Tischendorf stayed up all night in the joy of studying the manuscript - for, as he declared in his diary (which as a scholar he kept in Latin), quippe dormire nefas videbatur ('it really seemed a sacrilege to sleep')! He soon found that the document contained much more than he had even hoped; for not only was most of the Old Testament there, but also the New Testament was intact and in excellent condition, with the addition of two early Christian works of the second century, the Epistle of Barnabas (previously known only through a very poor Latin translation) and a large portion of the Shepherd of Hermas, hitherto known only by title."
Codex Alexandrinus (400 AD) is located in the British Museum; Encyclopaedia Britannica believes it was written in Greek in Egypt. It contains almost the entire Bible.
Codex Ephraemi (400's AD) is located in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that "its 5th century origin and the evidence it supplies make it important for the text of certain portions of the New Testament."
Every book is represented in the MS except II Thessalonians and II John.
Codex Bezae (450 AD plus) is located in the Cambridge Library and contains the Gospels and Acts not only in Greek but also in Latin.
Codex Washingtonensis (or Freericanus) (ca 450) contains the four Gospels.
Codex Claromontanus (500/s AD) contains the Pauline Epistles. It is a bilingual MS.
MANUSCRIPT RELIABILITY SUPPORTED BY VARIOUS VERSIONS
Another strong support for textual evidence and accuracy is the ancient versions. For the most part, "ancient literature was rarely translated into another language."
Christianity from its inception has been a missionary faith.
"The earliest versions of the New Testament were prepared by missionaries to assist in the propagation of the Christian faith among peoples whose native tongue was Syriac, Latin, or Coptic."
Syriac and Latin versions (translations) of the New Testament were made around 150 AD. This brings us back very near to the time of the originals.
Old Syriac Version contains four Gospels, copied about the fourth century. It needs to be explained that "Syriac is the name generally given to Christian Aramaic. It is written in a distinctive variation of the Aramaic alphabet."
Theodore of Mopsuestia (fifth century) wrote, "It has been translated into the tongue of the Syrians."
Syriac Peshitta. The basic meaning is "simple". It was the standard version, produced around 150-250 AD. There are more than 350 extant MSS today from the 400's.
Palestinian Syriac. Most scholars date this version at about 400-450 AD (fifth century).
Philoxenian (508 AD). Polycarp translated a new Syriac New Testment for Philoxenas, bishop of Mabug.
Harkleian Syriac. 616 AD by Thomas of Harkel.
Old Latin. There are testimonies from the fourth century to the thirteenth century that in the third century an "old Latin version circulated in North Africa and Europe..."
African Old Latin (Codex Babbiensis) 400 AD. Mestzger says that "E. A. Lower shows palaeographical marks of it having been copied from a second century papyrus."
Codex Corbiensis (400-500 AD) contains the four Gospels.
Codex Vercellensis (360 AD).
Latin Vulgate (meaning "common or popular"). Jerome was the secretary of Damasus, who was the Bishop of Rome. Jerome accomplished the bishop's request for a version between 366-384.
Coptic (or Egyptian) versions
F. F. Bruce writes that it is probable that the first Egyptian version was translated in the third or fourth century.
Sahidic. Beginning of the third century.
Bohairic The editor, Rodalphe Kasser, dates it about the fourth century.
Middle Egyptian Fourth or fifth century.
Other early versions
Armenian (400+ AD). Seems to have been translated from a Greek Bible obtained from Constantinople.
Gothic. Fourth century.
Georgian. Fifth century.
Nubian. Sixth century.
MANUSCRIPT RELIABILITY SUPPORTED BY EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: "When the textual scholar has examined the manuscripts and the versions, he still has not exhausted the evidence for the New Testament text. The writing of the arly Christian fathers often reflect a form of text differing from that in one or another manuscript...their witness to the text, especially as it corroborates the readings that come from other sources, belongs to the testimony that textual critics must consult before forming their conclusions."
J. Harold Greenlee says that the quotations of the Scripture in the works of the early Christian writers "are so extensive that the N.T. could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts."
Bruce Metzger reiterates the above, in reference to the quotations in the commentaries, sermons, etc., by saying: "Indeed, so extensive are these citations that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament."
Sir David Dalrymple was wondering about the preponderance of Scripture in early writing when someone asked him, "Suppose that the New Testament had been destroyed, and every copy of it lost by the end of the third century, could it have been collected together again from the writings of the Fathers of the second and third centuries?"
After a great deal of investigation Dalrymple concluded:
"Look at those books. You remember the question about the New Testament and the Fathers? That question roused my curiosity, and as I possessed all the existing works of the Fathers of the second and third centuries, I commenced to search, and up to this time I have found the entire New Testament, except eleven verses."
A Precaution: Joseph Angus in The Bible Handbook, p. 56, gives several limitations of the early patristic writings:
Clement of Rome (AD 95). Origen in De Principus, Book II, Chapter 3, calls him a disciple of the apostles.
Tertullian in Against Heresies, Chapter 23, writes that he [Clement] was appointed by Peter.
Irenaeus continues in Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 3, that he "had the preaching of the Apostles still echoing in his ears and their doctrine in front of his eyes."
He quotes from:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, I Corinthians, I Peter, Hebrews and Titus
Ignatius (AD 70-110) was the Bishop of Antioch and was martyred. He knew well the apostles His seven epistles contain quotations from:
Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Galatians, Colossians, James, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, and I Peter
Polycarp (AD 70-156), martyred at 86 years of age, was Bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostle John.
Among others who quoted from the New Testament were Barnabus (ca AD 70), Hermas (ca AD 95), Tatian (ca AD 170), and Irenaeus (ca AD 170).
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-212). 2,400 of his quotes are from all but three books of the New Testament.
Tertullian (AD 160-220) was a presbyter of the Church in Carthage and quotes the New Testament more than 7,000 times, of which 3,800 are from the Gospels.
Hippolytus (AD 170-235) has more than 1,300 references.
Justin Martyr (AD 133) battled the heretic Marcion.
Origen (AD 185-253 or 254). This vociferous writer compiled more than 6,000 works. He lists more than 18,000 New Testament quotes.
Cyprian (died AD 258) was bishop of Carthage. Uses approximately 740 Old Testament citations and 1,030 from the New Testament.
Geisler and Nix rightly conclude that "a brief inventory at this point will reveal that there were some 32,000 citations of the New Testament prior to the time fo the Council of Nicea (325). These 32,000 quotations are by no means exhaustive, and they do not even include the fourth century writers. Just adding the number of references used by one other writer, Eusebius, who flourished prior to and contemporary with the Council of Nicea will bring the total citations of the New Testament to over 36,000."
To all the above you could add Augustine, Amabius, Laitantius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gaius Romanus, Athanasius, Ambrose of Milan, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephraem the Syrian, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nyssa, etc., etc., etc.
Leo Jaganay, writing of the patristic quotations of the New Testament, writes: "Of the considerable volumes of unpublished material that Dean Burgon left when he died, of special note is his index of New Testament citations by the church fathers of antiquity. It consists of sixteen thick volumes to be found in the British Museum, and contains 86,489 quotations."
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