Posts Tagged ‘manuscripts’

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 2.48.45 PM.pngThe earliest fragment of the gospel of Mark has been published.  Elijah Hixson, adjunct lecturer at Edinburgh Bible College and a regular contributor to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, wrote for Christianity Today on May 30, 2018 that “Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus” and “that the manuscript was written in the range of A.D. 150–250. The manuscript itself is tiny, only 4.4 x 4 cm. It contains a few letters on each side from verses 7–9 and 16–18 of Mark 1.”

There has been much speculation about this manuscript of the years (namely that it was possibly from the first century), but nevertheless, this is an incredible publication.  For more about the sensationalism and speculation about this small fragment you can read my blog entry titled: “First Century Manuscript, Mummy Masks, Hobby Lobby, The Museum of the Bible, and waiting! [UPDATE: and . . . not first century].” That aside, the publication of this fragment is important:

  1. Likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark
  2. It dates between A.D. 150-250
  3. Excavated from a garbage dump next to the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1903
  4. Contains Mark 1:7-9 and 16-18
  5. Presents no new variants showing stability of the New Testament text over time

It is designated P137 because it is the 137th fragment of the New Testament written on papyrus (the writing material of the early copies of the New Testament), while the Egyptian Exploration Society (who is responsible for publishing the finds from Oxyrhynchus for the past century) has designated it as P.Oxy. 83.5345.  The latter designation (P.Oxy.83.5345) is a reference to Oxyrhynchus fragments discovered in the late 19th and early 20th century in which many Old Testament, New Testament, and other fragments where discovered.

A great interview of Dr. Daniel Wallace, New Testament textual critic and scholar of Dallas Theological Seminary and director of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, on Veracity Hill (the first 20 minutes).

The EES has made the publication, including images of P137, available here.

Sources:

First-Century Mark Fragment Update” by Daniel Wallace | DanielBWallace March 23, 2018

Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet” by Elijah Hixson | Christianity Today March 30, 2018

First-Century Mark,” Published at Last?” by Elijah Hixson | Evangelical Textual Criticism May 23, 2018

Was One of World’s Oldest Bible Passages Found in a Garbage Dump?” by Candida Moss and Joel Baden | The Daily Beast May 25, 2018

 

 

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f2-largeOne of the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament was revealed by researchers at the University of Kentucky.  This scroll, which contains portions of the book of Leviticus, was discovered in 1970, but was unreadable because it suffered from fire damage 1,500 years ago.  Modern technology made it possible to scan and “virtually” unwrap it without actually touching it and destroying it in its fragile state.  This video from the Wall Street Journal explains the process:

 

Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University explains its importance,”For scholars, the scroll brings the good news that the text has not changed for 2,000 years.”

Breaking News Israel reports:

This week, incredible cutting-edge technology allowed archaeologists to finally read the contents of a burned 1,500-year-old scroll found near the Dead Sea in 1970. The remarkable discovery of verses from the Book of Leviticus, which matched, letter for letter, the Hebrew text still in use today, is the first instance of one of the Five Books of Moses ever found in a Holy Ark.

On Wednesday, researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem announced in the Science Advances journal the success of new technology called ‘virtual unwrapping’. A complicated and difficult process based on the technology used in medical CT scans, researchers said it “represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis”.

The technique allowed scientists to read the Ein Gedi Scroll, a charred, ancient parchment discovered in an ancient destroyed synagogue on the shores of the Dead Sea more than forty years ago which has sat on a shelf, untouchable and indecipherable, ever since.

The scroll contains the first eight verses of Leviticus and dates from either the 1st or 2nd century CE and when compared to the Torah used today it is identical.  This is the earliest discovery of an Old Testament manuscript since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

Articles/Videos:

“Researchers Reconstruct Early Version of Old Testament Text From Burned Scroll,” Robert Lee Hotz | Wall Street Journal, Sept 21, 2016

“Burned Mystery Scroll Digitally Unraveled Reveals Bible Unchanged for 2,000 Years,” Adam Berkowitz | Breaking Israel News, Sept 21, 2016

“Computers Decipher Burnt Scroll Found in Ancient Holy Ark,” Michael Greshko | National Geographic,  Sept 21, 2016

“Scientists Use ‘Virtual Unwrapping’ to Read Ancient Biblical Scroll Reduced to ‘Lump of Coal’ “ Ian Sample | The Guardian, Sept 22, 2016

“From Damage to Discovery Via Virtual Unwrapping,” William B Seales, et. al | Science Advances, Sept 21, 2016

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

 

 

This past weekend I had the honor of attending a fundraising banquet for The Center for20160423_185827 the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).  CSNTM was formed in 2002 by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace.  It was started to preserve and study Greek New Testament manuscripts.  It has collaborated with more than 40 institutions on 4 continents to produce more than 350,000 images of the New Testament manuscripts.  Remarkably, in this endeavor, they have discovered more than 90 New Testament manuscripts.

logoCSNTM’s goal is to photograph digitally all the existing Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.  In short, Dr. Wallace travels the world to take pictures of the New Testament manuscripts in order for them to be preserved and available for scholars across the world.

Manuscripts – There are no original documents (called “autographs”) of any book of the New Testament.  In order to reproduce what was in the original you have to compare and contrast the varied manuscripts (handwritten copies).  The more manuscripts you have the better you can reproduce the original autograph.

This video introduces Dr. Wallace as a Greek scholar and the work he is doing with CSNTM:

 

This video is a news report from ABC news local affiliate WFAA about CSNTM:

 

Here is Dr. Wallace (on the left) preparing a manuscript for photographing and (on the right) his team taking photographs of a manuscript:

Read our BlogSupport CSNTM

It is arduous work.  Photographing is at times in confined spaces such as a basement and the pressure of not damaging these rare artifacts adds the the stress.  Their most recent expedition has been to the National Library of Greece which contains one third of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts (mss).  This process is important because of the nature of textual critical studies of the New Testament.  Since we do not have the autographs (i.e. original documents), scholars have to compare mss. to reproduce the original.  This might sound disconcerting, but we don’t have the autographs of any ancient document such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, etc.  All ancient documents are in the same boat.  So, the more you have, the more you can compare and the New Testament is doing rather well in their mss. count: 5,800+.  This far outstrips any other ancient document in mss. count.  Homer’s Iliad has the second best mss. count with only 1,757.

The reason I put the number of NT mss. as 5,800+ is because Dr. Wallace and his team keeping finding new mss.  At the National Library of Greece this past year alone they found 20 new mss. that are not catalogued by the University of Munster (which keeps the official count of NT mss).

Here is a quick example of how we compare and contrast mss. to reproduce the original:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 6.15.23 PM.png

You can obviously reconstruct the original wording from the mss. that were copied: “Jesus Christ” (the # represents a tear, hole, or damage to the manuscript).  In fact, there is no doubt in the original wording.  The same principle applies to the NT.  Dr. Wallace in Reinventing Jesus states that “The vast majority of NT scholars would say that there are absolutely no places where conjecture is necessary. Again, this is because the manuscripts are so plentiful and so early that in every instance the original NT can be reconstructed from the available evidence.”

 

 

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Of the one hundred thirty-eight thousand words of the original text, only one or two might have no manuscript support. There is virtually no need for conjecture, as we already have pointed out. And even if there were, this would not mean that we would have no idea what the original text said. Instead, precisely because almost all the possible variants are already to be found in the manuscripts, there is a rather limited number of options that scholars have to contend with.” (Daniel Wallace, Reinventing Jesus)

“The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” (Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus)

“In contrast with these figures [of other ancient works], the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by a wealth of material. Furthermore, the work of many ancient authors has been preserved only in manuscripts that date from the Middle Ages (sometimes the late Middle Ages), far removed from the time at which they lived and wrote. On the contrary, the time between the composition of the books of the New Testament and the earliest extant copies is relatively brief. Instead of a lapse of a millennium or more, as is the case of not a few classical authors, several papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament are extant that were copied within a century or so after the composition of the original document.” (Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed.)

Books/Articles/Etc.:

“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then” by Daniel Wallace Bible.org

“‘Misquoting’ Jesus? Answering Bart Erhman” Greg Koukl in Solid Ground (pdf)

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. Craig L. Blomberg (IVP Academic, 2007)

Can We Trust the Gospels? Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Mark D. Roberts (Crossway, 2007)

Reinventing Jesus, Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace (Kregel, 2006)

“The Bibliographical Test Updated,” Clay Jones in Christian Research Journal volume 35, number 03 (2012)