Lecture 14: Famous Manuscripts Papyri (Part 2) | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 14: Famous Manuscripts Papyri (Part 2)

Course: Textual Criticism

Lecture: Famous Manuscripts Papyri (Part 2)


1. Papyri (part 2)

a.) Bodmer Papyri 

Continuing on with famous papyri manuscripts, we want to look briefly at the Martin Bodmer Papyri, P66 and P75. These were purchased by Martin Bodmer of Geneva and housed in a small two-building museum on the shores of Lake Geneva. It was published by his associated in the 1950’s and 60’s. P66 was published first and then P75 was published a little later. P66 has most of John’s Gospel, the first fourteen chapters. It is virtually complete and dated about AD 175; some date it as early as AD 150 while others date it as late as AD 200. However, P75 has most of Luke and John and it is dated about AD 200 or a little later. Even though it is not as early as P66, what we will see is the fact that it is a significantly better manuscript than P66. But P66 isn’t a necessarily bad manuscript; it is just that P75 is a phenomenal manuscript. Remember in the last lecture, we saw that P52 was important because of how early it showed that John’s Gospel existed before the second half of the second century. P66 and P75 will show us the actual text of John and Luke and how some of the 4th-century manuscripts reflect the early texts.

P66: P66 doesn’t contain the pericope of the adulteress that was brought before Jesus to be judged, John 7:53-8:11. This is one of two disputed large passages in the New Testament in terms of its authenticity. This is, however, one of the most beloved passages of Scripture. For me, it is my most favorite passage not in the Bible. It’s one of these where we have a lot of emotional baggage associated with it. We want it to be part of the Bible and I have heard pastors preach on this passage even though it isn’t authentic. The earliest manuscript we have with this story is from the 5th century, but the vast majority of the manuscripts did not have this passage in it for the first eight centuries. It was only in the 9th century that is appears in the majority of readings. It is not even found in most lectionaries, nor do we have a church father quoting on the passage until the 12th century. It doesn’t fit into John’s vocabulary or his style; there are all sorts of reasons why it is not authentic. It was obvious that the scribes wanted this story to be part of the Scriptures. They weren’t sure where it went but they decided that it was a true story about Jesus putting it after John 7:52. It also goes in other places in John, at the end as a standalone story. It also goes between Luke and John, after Luke 21.38. It is what is called, a floating text. If you had never read this passage before in your life, I don’t think your faith would be any different. We see Jesus forgiving sinners elsewhere in the Gospels. So, is it canonical? Is it historical? We will deal with these two questions later. So P66 does not have this passage. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus don’t have this passage either. Codex Alexandrinus, a Byzantine manuscript, doesn’t have it. Interestingly the story is actually a Byzantine reading.

We see that the scribe of P66 was very concerned with calligraphy in the text. This was a professionally trained scribe. The letters of the text are more uniform in terms of the size; it is a handsome manuscript, well written. The scribe was very concerned with making pretty letters. And what is also interesting about this, is what he calls the Gospel of John. He lists it, ‘The Gospel, According to John.’ We will come back to this issue later when we look at the major majuscules. But what is important now; many manuscripts say ‘according to John’ but instead P66 calls it ‘the Gospel According to John.’ So late 2nd century is the date and it has the Gospel According to John.

P75: The other famous Bodmer Papyrus is P75. Like P66 it doesn’t have the story of the woman caught in adultery. It is also an important early manuscript of Luke and John. Next to the Codex Vaticanus, this is the most important manuscript we have for Luke and John. I would consider it to be probably 3rd most important New Testament manuscript in the world because of how carefully it was done. The scribe wasn’t a professional; probably he did this for personal use, yet he was faithful. It agrees with Codex Vaticanus more than any other early manuscript. These two manuscripts have the closest agreement of any two earlier manuscripts. It is very significant when we begin to think about that. The scribe copied one letter at a time, did a faithful copy with strict rigorous controls; it was a private copy. This manuscript was a gift to the Vatican in 2006 and has a curious twist in regards to the history. When I visited the Bodmer museum in 2003, it was being renovated and this had gone on for some time. For some reason, they decided to sell their most precious item in the entire museum, P75. I wanted to go there to see P75 and secondarily P66, the second most important item in the museum. Perhaps they ran out of money; I don’t know. They sold this manuscript so that they could renovate the museum further. In 2006 when they offered it to the world for sale, Yale University offered them fifty million dollars. They were turned down. It was donated to the Vatican by an anonymous donor who purchased it at an undisclosed price, presumably more than fifty million dollars.

We have Luke chapter 24 and John chapter 1. What they typical did on these manuscripts when they got to the end of the books, they would also repeat the name of it. So, it says, ‘The Gospel According to Luke’ and then the beginning of the next section, ‘The Gospel According to John.’ This is the oldest manuscript with the end of one Gospel and the beginning of another on the same page. What this tells us, we know in our earlier manuscripts, the order of the Gospels were Luke and then John, rather than John and then Luke. At the same time, we know of other early manuscripts that the order was John and Luke. The Western Order had Matthew, John, Luke and Mark. Whole dissertations have been done of the order of the books in the New Testament and why they were done in the way they were. The order we know being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but the Western order which may have been the original order of the earliest manuscripts. Just like in Codex P66, it is ‘The Gospel According to John.’

In comparing P66 to P75, you will see that we are dealing with something that is pretty ugly. This shows us that professional scribes aren’t always the most faithful scribes. When Bart Ehrman argued with me in our second debate at SMU, that the earlier scribes were not professionally trained, and therefore they made a lot of mistakes. Those two points don’t necessarily go together. P75 was not a professional scribe and yet he was one of more careful scribes we have of all our New Testament manuscripts. There are seventeen early papyri that are not professionally done but have very good quality texts. So, there is no direct correspondence between the quality of a scribe’s professional training and quality of his text. Those two things are hit and miss.

One last textual problem: We have talked about the title, the story of the woman caught in adultery and now we will look at a textual problem in John chapter 1. In John 1:18 in the Kings James Bible, it says, ‘no man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.’ In the original King James Bible, the word ‘him’ at the end is put in italics. Then the Net Bible, a modern translation that I was a senior editor for, says ‘no one has ever seen God, the only one himself God who is in closest fellowship with the Father has made him known.’ The changing of the ‘only begotten’ to ‘only one’, the Greek seems to mean, ‘the unique one’ rather than ‘the only begotten one.’ The only other difference here, really, is in the Greek word after ‘begotten’ or ‘only one.’ So is it ‘Son’ or is it ‘God?’ Those two words are what are at debate here. The King James has ‘the only begotten Son.’ We see this again in John 3:16 and John uses this as it is one of his favorites usage. Do we see, ‘the unique one, himself, God’ anywhere else in John’s Gospel? It doesn’t occur in John’s Gospel and nowhere in the New Testament does it occur. So the question is what is likely to have happened here? Did the scribes change ‘Son’ to ‘God’ where nowhere else in the New Testament do you have that expression? Or did they see God in text and decided to change it to ‘Son’. I take it that the second thing is exactly what happened. What is significant in the manuscripts, P66 and P75 and other early Alexandrine manuscripts have the unique one or the only one, himself, God. That suggests that this is what the original text says.

I also mentioned the word ‘him’ in italics. The King James Bible follows the tradition that was started with the Geneva Bible in 1560 of putting words in italics that was not in the original language. We use italics today to emphasize something, something that is really strong. It is emphatic in the original. There is one translation, a modern translation that still uses, or did until very recently, italics to indicate it is absent in the original. That is the New American Standard Bible, but I’m perplexed by this. This Bible is supposed to be a revision of the King James and the two things it does, it puts words in italics that should probably be put in brackets instead. The other thing, it begins each verse in a new paragraph. Now, later additions of the NASB allow larger paragraphs. But having each verse as a new paragraph encourages people not to read verses within their context. We need to read the Bible within their paragraph in order to understand what it is saying within context. The reason why the NASB does it that way; in 1551, Robert Stephanus produced a Greek New Testament which was called the fourth edition; it was the first New Testament ever to have verse numbers in it. He had the Greek text of Erasmus, the Latin Vulgate and then Erasmus’s Latin translation. In order for people to see where these verses lined up, he actually gave them numbers for the first time. The chapters had already been done by a scholar several centuries before they had these verse numbers. When he did this, he started each new verse and indented it like it was a new paragraph. The first translation that used verse numbers was the Geneva Bible in 1560, indenting each verse making it a new paragraph. The King James did this as well. The various forms of the Word of God have influenced how people read it. If we read this as emphatic because it is in italics, we see something that is much stronger than what the original text says. In reading verses in isolation rather than within their own paragraph, we are wrenching them from their own context that makes claims that may not be true. So this influences how Scripture is being interpreted.

I think that these early papyri represent the original wording of John 1:18. More than likely someone changed the word for God to Son because that was what he was used to and consequently the King James Version doesn’t affirm the deity of Christ quite as strongly as modern translations do in this verse. Some claim that modern translations strip out the deity of Christ. But I think they are only trying to be faithful to what the text says. There are two other places where modern translations affirm the deity of Christ where the King James doesn’t. This is on the basis of Greek grammar. In being honest with the text, this affirms clearly the deity of Christ.

2. Summary

Papyri are extraordinarily important for the text of the New Testament. We have half of the New Testament from these papyri manuscripts. They especially tell us what the scape of that text looks like at that time in history. And compared to the fully later manuscripts, they confirm the text of the better manuscripts. They are our majuscules of 4th century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus which most scholars would regard as being the two most important New Testament manuscripts that we have as of now. The readings of those manuscripts are confirmed by what these papyri say. In conclusion, Hort of the Westcott Hort duo found a number of places in Luke and John where he felt that the text of Codex Vaticanus had the original wording where no other manuscripts has. When P75 was discovered and published in 1961, scholars began to realize P75 also had that same wording as Codex Vaticanus in several of those places, thus confirming that the way Hort was doing textual criticism was absolutely valid.