I want to make mention of two posts discussing early biblical manuscripts:
(1) Craig A. Evans contributed a short piece to The Bible and Interpretation in which he argues that ancient manuscripts could remain in circulation for a few centuries. He asks how this impacts the relationship between the earliest manuscripts we have available (e.g. p45, p46, p66) and the original autographs or earliest copies. Furthermore, he wonders aloud whether this says anything about early Christian collections and libraries. The article is titled, “How Long were Biblical Manuscripts in Use?”
One comment already asks a few questions including this one regarding “the nature of the scriptural copyists in the second century”: “Were they a well-disciplined group of professionals or a mixed lot of literate Christians?”
(2) This leads me to a post by Matthew R. Malcolm on his blog titled, “Textual Criticism: How do we know the earliest copyist were Christian?” wherein he discusses the recent work of Alan Mugridge. Mugridge wanted to know if (A) early copyist of biblical manuscripts were Christians and (B) if they were unskilled. In order to examine this he compared manuscripts from pre- and post- Constantine eras. He concludes that “the vast majority of early Christian manuscripts were copied by trade scribes.”
The conversations aren’t very lengthy yet, but if textual critical issues are of interest to you, then you may want to take some time read these post, especially since they address similar subjects.
This does look interesting. I wonder if motivation to debunk Ehrman created any bias in his interpretive work? I’m referring to the Mugridge (sp?) paper/diss. Ultimately I would say it shouldn’t matter if the copyists were Christian or non; since the bias inherent to both types could be spun either way by later parties (like Ehrman or Fundy Christians etc.). Nevertheless, it’s an interesting question.
I’m not sure that Ehrman was an influence on Mugridge (on the other hand, Evans does mention him in his article), but it does seem motivated by presuppositions thrown out there by people like Ehrman.
Oh, yeah, maybe that was just Malcolm referencing Ehrman; applying the results of Mugridge to that. In fact, now that I look back at Matt’s post that’s the case.
Great thoughts from Evans, especially pointing to the DSS which we know were in use for 150+ years before the romans sacked the place. The popular idea that a manuscript was written, read two or three times in a church, and then somehow forgotten is absurdly silly. These were sacred texts preserved by believing communities for centuries. Christian origins is fun!! It will be interesting to see where Evans’ thoughts on this issue take our understanding of Canon. Especially as we think of early christian texts as ‘libraries and collections’.
@Jess: I’ll be interested to see where he goes with it as well as regards canon.
Comments are closed.