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Abbreviations and Introduction to Principal Manuscript Evidence for the Greek New Testament (As found in the NET Bible footnotes)

As found on the Lumina Study Tool.

No ancient literature has survived in its original form; everything we have is derived from copies of the originals. The NT is no exception. However, in comparison with any other ancient literature, the NT is without a peer—both in terms of the chronological proximity and the surviving number. Several ancient authorities are preserved in only a handful of manuscripts. Not so with the NT. There are approximately 5,500 Greek witnesses, ranging in date from the second century AD into the middle ages. Besides the Greek evidence, there are nearly 30,000 versional copies (e.g., Latin, Coptic, and Syriac), and over 1,000,000 quotations from the NT in the church Fathers. NT textual criticism has always had an embarrassment of riches unparalleled in any other field.

The Greek Witnesses

The Greek witnesses are by far the most important, since in large measure they represent some of our earliest witnesses and since they involve direct reproduction from Greek to Greek. There are four kinds of Greek witnesses: papyri, uncials (or majuscules), minuscules (or cursives), and lectionaries. The first three are important enough to warrant some discussion here.

Papyri

These documents are written on the cheap writing materials of the ancient world that were roughly equivalent to modern paper. Literally thousands of papyrus fragments have been found of which approximately 100 contain portions of the New Testament. Actually, taken together, these 100 fragments constitute over half of the New Testament and all but four are in the form of codices (i.e., four are scrolls rather than the book-form [codex]). All NT papyri were written with uncial or capital letters. They range in date from the early second century through the eighth century. About 50 of them are to be dated before the fourth century. Though many of them are somewhat fragmentary, and at times the copying was looser than one would like (i.e., they were done before the canon was officially recognized), they are nevertheless extremely important for establishing the text of the New Testament—if for no other reason than the fact that they represent some of the most ancient witnesses we possess. Five important papyri are illustrated in the chart below. The symbol for each papyrus is Ì followed by a number (e.g., Ì45). The most important papyri cited in the NET NT footnotes are as follows:

Papyri

Name

Date

NT Books
Covered

General Characteristics

Ì45

Chester Beatty papyrus

3rdcentury AD

Gospels, Acts 4-17

Mark (Caesarean); Matt, Luke, John (intermediate between Alexandrian and Western texttypes)

Ì46

Chester Beatty papyrus

ca. AD 200

10 Pauline Epistles (all but Pastorals) and Hebrews

Overall closer to Alexandrian than Western

Ì47

Chester Beatty papyrus

3rdcentury AD

Revelation 9:10-17:2

Alexandrian; often agrees with Sinaiticus (Í)

Ì66

Bodmer Papyrus

ca. AD 200

John

Mixed text between Western and Alexandrian

Ì75

Bodmer papyrus

early 3rd century

Luke and John

Alexandrian, often agrees with B

 

Uncials

There are approximately 300 uncials known to exist today that contain portions of the New Testament and one uncial that contains the entire NT. Like the papyri, these manuscripts were written with uncial or capital letters, but unlike the papyri they were written on animal skins or vellum. For the most part they are beautiful manuscripts, elegantly written and routinely done in scriptoria and often for special purposes. Generally speaking, they range in date from the fourth through the ninth centuries. Our oldest complete copy of the NT is an uncial manuscript, Í (see chart below). The symbol for each uncial is either a capital letter (in Latin or Greek letters [though one ms has a Hebrew letter, Í]) or a number beginning with 0 (e.g., 01, 0220, etc.). The most important uncials cited in the NET NT footnotes are as follows:

Uncial

Name

Date (approx.)

NT Books Covered

General Characteristics

Í (01)

Aleph or

Sinaiticus

4thcentury

The entire NT

Alexandrian; best in epistles

A (02)

Alexandrinus

5thcentury

Most of the NT

Important in the Epistles and Revelation

B (03)

Vaticanus

4thcentury

Most of NT except Hebrews 9:14ff, the Pastorals, Phlm, Rev

Alexandrian; best in Gospels

C (04)

Ephraemi 
Rescriptus

5thcentury

Portions of every book except 2 Thess and 2 John

mixed

D (05)

Bezae/
Cantabrigiensis

5thcentury

Gospels and Acts

Western

D (06)

Claromontanus

6thcentury

Pauline Epistles and Hebrews

Western

F (010)

Augiensis

9thcentury

Pauline Epistles

Western

G (012)

Boernerianus

9thcentury

Pauline Epistles

Western

L (019)

Regius

8thcentury

Gospels

Often agrees with Vaticanus

W (032)

Washingtonianus

early 5th century

Gospels

mixed; earliest representation of Byzantine texttype. Alexandrian in John 5:12-21:25.

Θ(038)

Koridethi

9thcentury

Gospels

The text of Mark is similar to that used by Origen and Eusebius in the third and fourth centuries at Caesarea

Ψ(044)

Athous Laurae

8th/ 9th century

Gospels/Acts/

Paul/General Epistles

Contains Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine influences

 

Minuscules

There are approximately 2,813 NT Greek minuscule manuscripts known to us today. These copies range in date from the ninth to sixteenth centuries, were produced on vellum or paper, and were written in cursive or a lower-case, flowing hand. They are the best representatives of the medieval ecclesiastical text, that is, the Byzantine text. There are approximately 150-200 that deviate from the Byzantine standard, almost always representing an earlier transmissional stream and hence quite important for NT textual criticism. The symbols for the minuscules are of three kinds: (a) Arabic numbers (e.g., 1, 565, 1739), each of which represents one manuscript; (b) “family 1,” [Ë1] “family 13” [Ë13] (involving a group of closely associated manuscripts); (c) Byz(involving the majority of Byzantine minuscules). The following are among the more important witnesses cited in the NET NT notes:

Minuscule

Date (approx.)

NT Books Covered

General Characteristics

33

9thcentury

Gospels, Acts, Paul, Catholic Epistles

Alexandrian

81

AD 1044

Acts, Paul, Catholic Epistles

Very important for establishing the text of Acts. Agrees substantially with the Alexandrian texttype.

1739

10thcentury, but probably goes back to a late 4th century ms

Acts, Paul, Catholic Epistles

Alexandrian

Family 1 (Ë1)

12th-14thcenturies

Gospels

Caesarean (of the 3rd or 4th centuries)

Family 13 (Ë13)

11th-15thcenturies

Gospels

Important in the discussion of the authenticity of thepericope adulterae (i.e., John 7:53-8:11)

 

Versional Evidence

Versions were initially prepared for missionary purposes. The history and transmission of versions are often quite complex, and scholars often do not agree on or do not know the particular dates or characteristics of the versions. The chart below contains the major versions cited in the notes; the most important abbreviations are listed, but not all abbreviations are indicated. For more information on the versional evidence for the NT, consult B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (3d ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 67-86; B. M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977); and B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes, eds., The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (Studies and Documents 46; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 75-187.

Version

Abbreviations

Date (approx.)

General Characteristics

Vulgate and part of the Itala witnesses

lat

2nd to 3rd century

Western, Alexandrian, and others

Itala

it

3rdcentury

Western

Vulgate

vg

4thcentury and later

extensive cross-contamination of texttypes

Syriac

syr

2nd to 6th centuries

Old Syriac (syrcand syrs) is generally Western. The Peshitta (syrp) has a mixed text in Gospels and Epistles, Western in Acts. The Harclean version (syrh) of Acts is Western. The Palestinian Syriac (syrpal) is generally Caesarean.

Coptic

cop

3rd and 4th centuries (Sahidic dialect is 4thto 5thcenturies; Bohairic dialect is 9thcentury)

generally Alexandrian in the entire tradition; Sahidic (sa) and Bohairic (bo) are Alexandrian with numerous Western readings

Armenian

arm

5thcentury

generally Caesarean but sections are Byzantine, and the mss of Paul show strong Alexandrian affinities

Georgian

geo

5thcentury

mixed texttypes; generally Caesarean, but becoming strongly Byzantine in later mss

Ethiopic

eth

exact date unknown, but most likely within the 4th to 5thcenturies

mixed text, but generally early Byzantine

Slavonic

slav

9thcentury

Byzantine

 

Patristic Evidence

A tremendous source for evidence of the Greek NT are citations found in early Church Fathers. They help to locate and date various readings and texttypes found in the manuscripts and versions. This field is quite complex for two broad reasons: (1) It is often difficult to determine if what the Father actually wrote has been preserved in the extant manuscripts or if corruption has occurred. (2) It is often difficult to determine if a Father is citing a text verbatim, paraphrasing it, or alluding to it. All of the Fathers cited in the notes are listed below. For more information on the patristic evidence for the NT, consult B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (3d ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 86-92; and B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes, eds.,The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (Studies and Documents 46; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 189-236.

Ambrose of Milan, d. 397

Ambrosiaster of Rome, active 366-384

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, d. 373

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, d. 430

Chromatius, d. 407

Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, d. 407

Clement of Alexandria, d. before 215

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, d. 258

Cyril of Alexandria, d. 444

Cyril-Jerusalem, d. 386

Didymus of Alexandria, d. 398

Ephraem the Syrian, d. 373

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, d. 403

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, d. 339 or 340

Hesychius of Jerusalem, d. after 451

Hilary of Poitiers, d. 367

Hippolytus of Rome, d. 235

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, d. ca. 202

Jerome, d. 420

Justin Martyr, d. ca. 165

Marcion of Rome, 2nd century

Origen of Alexandria and Caesarea, d. 254

Pseudo-Athanasius, dates unknown

Serapion, d. after 362

Severian, d. after 408

Tertullian of Carthage, d. after 220

Theodore of Mopsuestia in Cilicia, d. 428

Victorinus-Pettau, d. 304

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