Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Long Were Biblical Manuscripts in Use?

I speculated that if the Gospel of Matthew were published and circulated in 75 CE and if it and some of the first copies of it were in use as long as the manuscripts in the collections and libraries studied by Houston were in use, then some of these manuscripts could still have been in circulation, being read, studied, and copied, as late as the end of the second century and perhaps even on into the third century.  This means that New Testament autographs and first copies could still have been available when our oldest extant papyri manuscripts (e.g., P45, P46, P66) were produced.  If still in circulation and being read and copied, the autographs and first copies would have continued to give shape to the text.  In a sense, then, the gap between autograph and extant manuscript is bridged.
Pastoral Musings has a post linking to an interesting piece by Craig A. Evans on the possible longevity and use of the New Testament autographs.  The argument bolsters a defense against the attacks of those like Bart Ehrman who purport alterations and sloppy copying.  In addition there are real implications for the King-James-Only adherents who insist that only their textual family is correct.

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