NT Textual Criticism

  • P21 page updated with new photos. (Papyrus MS of Matt. 12, = POxy 1227; see miniature at top of this page.)
  • NT Textual Criticism Reference Chart, v. 3.1 (Note: this is a revised, 3d ed. which includes some corrections [thanks to Wieland Willker for catching these] and expands the listings. If you downloaded an earlier edition, please replace it with this update.) (pdf file; Acrobat v. 5 or higher required) This is a 4-page reference chart designed to insert inside the cover of an NA27 Greek NT. It includes a variety of info, including MS groupings by both the more traditional text types and Aland’s alternate categorization. The print is small, but that’s necessary to squeeze in all the information. With some “tweaks” it will also fit a UBS Greek testament (easiest: photocopy or print at about 90% and trim margins close).
  • An Illustration of MS Transmission, v. 4 .pdf); this is a single page, color chart that attempts to illustrate some of the historical factors that account for the fragmentary state of the extant MS evidence. It does not profess to represent actual MSS or specific stemma, but it does illustrate well, I think, that the process of MS transmission was anything but “normal” (as some majority text advocates would argue). No documentation is included–for that, see Aland’s Text of the NT, 2d ed. (esp. pp. 49-64).

External Links

Some material re. the NT canon is also included.

The following links lead to helpful technical articles on matters related to the study of the New Testament. This page lists only content articles/pages. Links to other sites that contain links related to biblical studies, etc. are on my Links page. These links are not actively maintained and updated due to insufficient time to do so (and I’ve no help for this), so if you see one of your pages listed incorrectly or can offer the correct URL for a broken link, let me know.

The materials available for use in NT textual criticism are very extensive. The totals for each category of manuscripts given here are current as of Jan 18, 2002, courtesy of Michael Welte, Institut fur neutestamentliche Textforschung, Munster and David Parker, Centre for the Editing of Texts in Religion, University of Birmingham (England), updated for uncial count by Peter Head, 1/21/04 [update from Michael Holmes at the Perry Hall Textual Criticism Forum as of Jan. 2005 appended]:

  • Papyri, 116 [118]
  • Uncials, 315 [317]
  • Minuscules, 2,867 [2877]
  • Lectionaries, 2,417  [2433]
  • Totals: 5,715 [5,745]

It should be noted that the actual number of MSS in some cases are slightly less that this since some MSS originally cataloged separately have since been identified as belonging to the same MS. Also a few numbers in some of the sequences have not been used.

Checklist of Editions of Greek, Latin, Demotic and Coptic Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets. “The primary purpose of the Checklist … is to provide for scholars and librarians a ready bibliography of all monographic volumes, both current and out-of-print, of Greek, Latin, Demotic and Coptic documentary texts on papyrus, parchment, ostraca or wood tablets…. A second objective of the original Checklist was to establish a standard list of abbreviations for editions of Greek texts…. The Checklist also serves as the canon for the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri.”

Photo of the UBS committee in session (Martini, Aland, Wikgren, Metzger, Black, Junack)

NT Textual Criticism, etc.

  • Blog: Evangelical Textual Criticism is well worth reading regularly.
  • P46 at Univ. of Michigan, index page on Brandon Wason’s Novum Testamentum blog.
  • Center for the Study of NT MSS, includes many MS photos, including a complete copy of A/02 (Alexandrinus).
  • TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism (Some articles listed below from TC still have the old URL; you can find them via this address. Someday I must make time to get these updated!)
  • P21 (POxy 1227), Matthew 12:24-26, 32-33 and POxy 1077 (an amulet containing Matt. 4:23-24), photos and some brief description.
  • The Schoyen Collection in Oslo, Norway, which includes photos and detailed descriptions of many biblical manuscripts, both OT, NT, and LXX. (The collection is much larger in scope than biblical materials, including the history of the alphabet and paleography as well as other areas that are of interest to the NT student–and those are just a few of the other items included. Take time to browse. It’s well worth it.)
  • Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece, 8th major critical ed. (complete, high-quality, scanned images of this classic work) Volume 1 (Gospels)Volume 2 (Acts, Catholics, Paul, Revelation),Volume 3, part 1Volume 3, part 2 Note: userID and password required–but the dialog box does provide public access info (read the first line carefully!).
  • Hermann von Soden is now available on the TC Ebind page (complete, high-quality, scanned images):Griechishes Neues Testament: Text mit kurzem Apparat and Schriften des Neuen Testaments (his major critical edition): vol. 1 in 3 parts (Untersuchungen), vol. 2 (Text mit Apparat). Note: userID and password required–but the dialog box does provide public access info (read the first line carefully!).
  • Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, v. 2. Introduction (From the announcement on the tc-list: “This is an OCR text which has not been corrected. It has numerous errors, mainly where the source has Greek or sigla. Nevertheless, W & H’s argument can be followed well enough. We intend to scan images of the 1896 2nd ed. when we get a chance. In the mean time, this quick hack will have to do. Many thanks to Maurice Robinson, who supplied the OCR file.”) Note: userID and password required–but the dialog box does provide public access info (read the first line carefully!).
  • NT Textual Criticism Reference Chart, v. 3.1 (Note: this is a revised, 3d ed. which includes some corrections [thanks to Wieland Willker for catching these] and expands the listings. If you downloaded an earlier edition, please replace it with this update.) (194K .pdf file; Acrobat v. 5 or higher required) This is a 4-page reference chart designed to insert inside the cover of an NA27 Greek NT. It includes a variety of info, including MS groupings by both the more traditional text types and Aland’s alternate categorization. The print is small, but that’s necessary to squeeze in all the information. With some “tweaks” it will also fit a UBS Greek testament (easiest: photocopy or print at 93% and trim margins close).
  • Update to the Kurzgefasste Liste (.pdf format, 5 pgs.) Includes the KL listings for papyri (100-116), uncials (0307-0310), minuscules (2857-2867), and lectionaries (2404-2418).
  • Catalog of Medieval Manuscripts, Trinity College Cambridge.
  • Erwin Nestle, How to Use a Greek New Testament (full article as scanned images from The Bible Translator, 2.2 [Ap 1955] 49-55)
  • Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text (Daniel B. Wallace) <<<An important article!  
  • The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are they Identical? (Daniel B. Wallace) <<<An important article!
  • Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism (Daniel B. Wallace) from GTJ 12 (1991): 21–50; also published in New Testament Essays in Honor of Homer A. Kent, Jr ., edited by Gary T. Meadors (Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 1991).
  • New Testament and Papyrology (Peter M. Head) This page contains links to other pages which represent four lectures given at the Tyndale House Summer School during July 2001. Lecture 1: Papyrology an Introduction; Lecture 2: Texts & Resources; Lecture 3: Greek Letters; Lecture 4: NT & Papyrology General.
  • [BROKEN] A Hand-List of the Greek Palimpsests in Cambridge Libraries (Natalie Tchernetska) “Chapter 1 of my PhD thesis Greek palimpsests in Cambridge, submitted 1 July 2001 and examined 6 December 2001.” (See also Dr. Tchernetska’s [BROKEN] Digital image enhancement applied to manuscripts: a bibliography.)
  • Two well-executed animations/explanations of how a palimpsest is created and then later read by modern scholars. The MS illustrated is of Archimedes, not a NT MS, but the process is the same. These demos are on the NOVA/PBS site.
  • Vaticanus resource page (Wieland Willker)
  • Textual Commentary on the Gospels (Wieland Willker)
  • The Text of the New Testament [K. & B. Aland]: A Review Article (Daniel B. Wallace) from GTJ 9 (1988) 279-85.
  • Erasmus and the Textus Receptus” (Bill Combs) DBSJ 1 (1996): 35-53. (.pdf file) new URL
  • Erasmus, His Greek Text, and His Theology (Douglas K. Kutilek)
  • The Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript (Constantin von Tischendorf) This is C.vT.’s personal account of his discovery; written in 1864.
  • New Testament Stemmatics: A Phylogenetic Approach to N.T. Textual Criticism (Stephen C. Carlson) There is also a glossary of terms from textual criticsm on Carlson’s site.
  • The Ancient Witnesses of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Timothy J. Finney) PhD diss, Murdoch Univ., 1999. Link is to a page from which the entire dissertation can be downloaded in .rtf format.
  • [BROKEN] HexaplaMuratorian FragmentNash PapyrusCodex SinaiticusUncial (James R. Adair, Jr.) These brief articles are expanded versions of articles which will appear in the new edition of the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.
  • [BROKEN] Text and Tradition: The Role of New Testament Manuscripts in Early Christian Studies, The Kenneth W. Clark Lectures, Duke Divinity School, 1997 (Bart D. Ehrman) Part 2: Text and Transmission: The Historical Significance of the “Altered” Text
  • [BROKEN] The Neglect of the Firstborn in New Testament Studies (Bart D. Ehrman) Presidential Lecture, Society of Biblical Literature, SE Region, March 1997 [This is an assessment of the current state of textual criticism among both NT scholars and the untrained. The “firstborn” is the discipline of textual criticism. The article includes an extended discussion of the textual variants at Luke 22:19-20.]
  • Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Sir Frederick Kenyon (1939)
  • [BROKEN] The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism (A. E. Housman)
  • An Illustration of MS Transmission (Rodney J. Decker; large file, 338K, v. 4 .pdf; on this site); this is a single page, color chart that attempts to illustrate some of the historical factors that account for the fragmentary state of the extant MS evidence. It does not profess to represent actual MSS or specific stemma, but it does illustrate well, I think, that the process of MS transmission was anything but“normal” (as some majority text advocates would argue). No documentation is included–for that, see Aland’s Text of the NT, 2d ed. (esp. pp. 49-64).
  • Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture” (Rolland McCune) .pdf file [not presently available?] (Contains Detroit Baptist Seminary’s statement on preservation–relevant in light of the noise being made on this subject by PCC in recent years.)
  • The Oldest Extant Editions of the Letters of Paul (David Trobisch) A slightly edited version of the author’s first chapter of Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1994).New URL as of May 2006.
  • New Testament Canon, Text and Versions (general article from the Encyclopedia Britannica).
  • Two separate critiques of Carsten Thiede’s dating of the Magdalen papyrus (P64) (Sigrid Peterson)
  • The Date of the Magdalen Papyrus of Matthew (P. Magd. Gr. 17 = P64): A Response to C.P. Thiede (Peter Head) formerly published in Tyndale Bulletin 46 (1995): 251-285. Summary from the art.: “This article considers Carsten P. Thiede?s arguments concerning the date of P64 and suggests that he has both over-estimated the amount of stylistic similarity between P64 and several Palestinian Greek manuscripts and under-estimated the strength of the scholarly consensus of a date around AD 200. Comparable manuscripts are adduced and examined which lead to the conclusion that the later date is to be preferred.”
  • An article by Thiede that includes a nice color photo of 7Q5. (This is a very small papyrus fragment that some think, probably wrongly, is from Mark’s gospel.)

On a related note: Gordon Fee presented a paper at the NT textual criticism section at the Nov. 98 SBL meeting on another of Thiede’s arguments that 7Q5 is to be identified as part of Mark’s gospel–and thus that Mark was a very early document that was known and read at Qumran (it would also mean that we would have a pre-70 AD MS fragment of the NT). It was a particularly devastating critique based on several critical assumptions in O’Callahan’s and Theide’s work. Fee argues that 7Q5, along with 7Q3 and 7Q4 are Jewish Greek documents (prob. fragments of the same MS) and not related to the NT at all. I hope that he publishes it somewhere in the near future. (BTW, for clarity, this is a different papyrus fragment than P64 with which Peterson and Head deal in the links above.) There is an excellent, close-up/magnified photo on the web of the disputed section (actually: ‘letter’!) in 7Q5. You might also be interested in a [BROKEN] popular-level, generally sympathetic account of the events surrounding the O’Callahan/Thiede proposals (Antonio Gaspari).]

  • Errata for Reuben Swanson’s NT Greek Manuscripts (G. Dykes)
  • Info on obtaining microfilm copies of NT manuscripts (with addresses, some prices, and advice) (G. Dykes) (New URL.)
  • Key to Von Soden’s Apparatus for the Praxapostolos* and Revelation  [* = Acts, Catholic Epistles, and Pauline Epistles] (G. Dykes) (New URL.)
  • Ligatures and Tachygraphy (G. Dykes) (New URL.)
  • Barbara Aland, General Editor of the ECM, “Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: Presentation of the First Part: The Letter of James” (updated/corrected URLs 6/04)
  • Changes in ECM from UBS4/NA27 (Wieland Willker) Lists the changes in the new ECM (Editio Critica Maior) vols from the previous editions (UBS4/NA27). Only James and Peter have been published at this point.
  • The Oxyrhynchus Fragment. A lecture delivered at Cambridge, July 29, 1897, to the Summer Meeting of Clergy by H. B. Swete. The Expository Times 8 (1897) 540-550.568.
  • The New Oxyrhynchus Sayings. A Tentative Interpretation. A lecture delivered at the Divinity School, Cambridge on July 7, 1904, by H. B. Swete, The Expository Times 15 (1904) 488.
  • New Testament Greek continuous-text MSS ordered by century (Compiled by Maurice Robinson)  [updated URL Je 04]
  • [BROKEN] ENTMP New Testament Manuscript Catalogue (Tim Seid, Vincent Broman, Tim Finney and James Tauber) Derived from the work of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research at Munster/Westphalia (with permission of Barbara Aland). Catalogs all papyri and uncial NT MSS; also allows a textual search to determine which MSS contains any specific part of the NT. [Original URL appears to have been hijacked; the one given here is now correct, but I’m not sure how one is to access the catalog list from this page–which does refer to it.]
  • PAPYRUS EGERTON 2 (Wieland Willker) Although not “NT” per se, this page contains photos and numerous articles on the so-called “Unknown Gospel” which is part of the NT apocryphal writings. It is of interest for textual criticism in that it is extant in several papyrus fragments dating from ca. AD 200.
  • Multivariate Statistical Analysis for Manuscript Classification (J. C. Thorpe) from: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, v. 7 (2002).
  • Review of A History of the Debate over 1 John 5:7-8 by Michael Maynard. Tempe, Ariz.: Comma Publications, 1995. (Doug Kutilek) As I See It, v. 3.10, October 2000.
  • The Preservation of Scripture (Doug Kutilek) “The basic premise that there is a Divine promise to infallibly preserve Scripture from any alterations of whatever sort in the copying and translating process is defective.”
  • Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism (Rich Elliott)
  • The Development of the Canon of the New Testament (Glenn Davis)
  • Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts Web (Timothy W. Seid) URL updated 4/30/2002
  • Byzantine Priority Hypothesis (Robert Waltz; favors a “Sturtz-type” approach giving equal weight to Byz. text)
  • Introduction to Robinson/Pierpont’s The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine / Majority Textform
  • Interview with Maurice Robinson re. his Byzantine Priority position; part 2 of interview
  • The Identity of the NT Text II (Wilbur Pickering) This is the “3d ed” of Pickering’s book that argues for a majority text position (one of the few that has some academic credibility). The first (1977) and 2d (1980) eds. were published by Nelson. This revision appears to be from the late 1990s, but no date is given.
  • An Annotated Bibliography of the History of Textual Criticism (Michael D. Marlowe)
  • Ad fontes: Gewinn durch die Konsultation von Originalhandschriften am Beispiel von P. Vindob. G 31974, Biblica, 82 (2001): 1-16 (T. J. KRAUS) Biblica abstract: “By examining only one page of the famous papyrus codex P. Beatty I (P45), namely the recto side of the Vienna Fragment P. Vindob. G 31974, we show that manuscripts possess a relevance that goes beyond the mere reconstruction of the most probable original text of the New Testament when they are considered as unique fingerprints of their age and of the people who produced them. Through precise observations on the fragment itself, in particular of its writing and of the way the page is arranged, we attempt to draw cautious conclusions of a socio-cultural nature to bring into view the people behind P. Vindob. G31974 by reflecting on its function and purpose, in this way also demonstrating that it is indispensable to consult an original manuscript.”
  • An English Guide to the Various Readings of the Greek New Testament as Adopted by Stephens, Beza, Elzevir, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Wordsworth, Westcott & Hort, Nestle-Aland, and Hodges & Farstad Compared with the King James Version (Michael D. Marlowe) Originally an MA thesis at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1994.
  • The Canon and Versions of Scripture (Michael D. Marlowe) Written “for an adult Sunday-school course in 1996.”
  • The Controversy over the Alexandrian Text—Chapter 2 from “The Influence of Alexandria on the Early Textual Tradition of Luke” (Mike Stallard; STM Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984).[Note: Mike–one of my theology colleagues at BBS–argues a majority text position with which I do not agree, though I do respect the academic integrity of the position as Mike (and a few others) nuance it. The thesis as a whole makes a good contribution to the discussion and disproves some of the wild claims that some make against the “Alexandrian text.” I’ve appended Mike’s brief abstract of his thesis here.]

    “After the chapter linked above, the thesis investigates whether the Christian School of Alexandria (Origen the leading proponent who died in 254 A.D.) purposefully altered the text either for theological or linguistic reasons. The Gospel of Luke was chosen as the test case for the study. Peculiar teachings of the Alexandrians (such as Origen’s alleged universalism in salvation) are investigated to see if these men altered the text of Luke to fit their theological leanings. The conclusion was that they did not alter the text to fit any preconceived theology. Also, the thesis investigated the possibility that these men introduced more classical Greek (Attic) readings as opposed to the Koine Greek of the first century in order to enhance the perceived literary quality of the text. Again, the conclusion was that they did not alter the text to fit any Attic tendencies. In summary, the Alexandrians cannot be blamed for the defection of the Alexandrian text-type from some original source of purity. This counters the claim of some like Peter Ruckman who continue to advance the idea that the Alexandrians deliberately corrupted the biblical text.”

KJV Issues

(For majority text and other matters that pertain to textual criticism, per se, see the main section above. This section lists items related primarily to the “KJV Only” position or its variations.)

Bible Translation Theory & Issues (into English for the most part)

Note: Both of the above articles by Dr. Thomas attempt to defend a fairly strict formal equivalence model of translation with which I do not agree. They are posted here to provide an alternative perspective that may be useful for balance.

  • Bible Translation FAQ (Henry Neufeld)
  • How We Got our English Bible (Ron Reitveld) From the ISV (International Standard Version) site.
  • The Poetry of the International Standard Version New Testament (David Alan Black) From the ISV (International Standard Version) site.
  • TNIV (Today’s New International Version) website. And my preliminary observations/assessment of the TNIV.
  • NASB web site at Lockman Foundation; ; contains a number of documents detailing the history and translation philosophy of the NASB, including the 1995 update edition of the NASB.
  • Restating the Obvious about Bible Translations (Doug Kutilek) “The sole justification for producing and publishing any Bible translation is so that those who do not understand the words in the original languages can nevertheless gain access to them through words they do understand in their own language . . . The degree to which an English Bible translation fails to accurately, clearly, and fully convey the meaning and content of the originals, to that degree it FAILS to attain to its very reason for existence.”
  • “God Forbid!” A Study in Bible Translation Methodology (Doug Kutilek) ‘The phrase “God forbid” occurs some 24 times in the King James Version of the Bible…. It is a close English equivalent except for two facts 1. the word “God” is not found in the original text; and 2. neither is the word “forbid.” Other than that, it is a fine representation of the original!…. It is our aim to examine the words of the original, their force and meaning, trace the origin of the common English rendering as far as possible, and compare this with translations in other languages, and in more recent English versions.’

Bibles on-line with significant value for technical NT study

  • NET Bible, New English Translation: This is a fascinating project that provides on the web a fully accessible translation of the NT (the OT is nearly finished) with extensive translator’s notes. The printed version of the NT as well as a Logos-format CD was released in Nov. 1998. The translation is well done, employing functional equivalence in the text with formal equivalents in the notes–a happy marriage in this instance as the strengths of both approaches has been combined. It will be too bulky to become a “carry to church” Bible or even a pew Bible (unless they release a text-only edition that omits the thousands of notes–16,025 notes in the NT to be exact!), but for serious study, it is a major contribution.
  • On-Line Bible (Biola University) searchable text of the Greek New Testament (UBS 3d ed.) that uses the “Symbol” font so you can read the Greek text on-screen. You can search the Hebrew Bible,  Septuagint,  Latin Vulgate and  French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Norwegian, and Italian translations (even Tagalog!), as well as the NASB and KJV. You can also view three parallel versions of a passage simultaneously.