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The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts

Read the same "Bible" that the first believers in the New Testament church read!

Containing transcriptions of the sixty-nine earliest New Testament manuscripts ever discovered, this book provides a representative sample of the New Testament that was read by Christians in the earliest centuries of the church. These manuscripts were the "Bible" they read and revered; to them, these manuscripts were the New Testament text.

Superb documentation. Painstaking accuracy. That's what makes this work an invaluable reference for serious Bible students. Contains the text of all the earliest New Testament Greek manuscripts that have been found to date. Intended for scholars and students who are interested in the original text of the Greek New Testament. This is an accessible and accurate collection, invaluable in determining the original text of the New Testament.

Use this resource alongside Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament or the critical apparatus in Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible to see for yourself what a cited papyrus really says!

Benefits of the Logos Bible Software Edition

The electronic edition of Comfort & Barrett's Manuscripts provides a number of key benefits not realized with the print edition. The entire text is searchable, so the user can look for inflected forms or combinations of inflected forms throughout. Right-click on a Greek word in a manuscript and find every instance of that word. Pause the mouse pointer over a footnote or abbreviation and see it in a temporary pop-up. Link the longer manuscripts with whatever "eclectic" Greek text you may own to scroll them synchronously (view screenshot).

In addition to the main volume, containing all the manuscripts found in the print edition, the transcription of each manuscript has also been placed in a separate resource, allowing for easier comparison of manuscripts and better results when searching or using Bible-based reports. Better searching results can be obtained by creating and searching a collection containing all the separate transcription volumes, rather than searching the main volume, because any given verse in the NT might exist in more than one manuscript. Links to the separate transcription volumes are found at the beginning of each transcription in the main volume, and the separate volume of each transcription contains a link to its introductory material in the main volume and, where applicable, links to other papyri fragments believed to be from the same manuscript.

Due to licensing restrictions, the Logos edition does not include the sample photographs of papyri that appear in the print edition. Many photos of papyri are available on the web, which can be located and viewed to get a sense of the various ancient writing styles. One way to locate images is to use Google Image Search to search for a papyrus by name (e.g., Bodmer Papyri).

Additional Details

The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts
A Corrected, Enlarged Edition of The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts

  • Editors: Philip Wesley Comfort, David P. Barrett
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
  • Published 1999; second edition copyright 2001
  • 697 pages

Fully revised and updated from its original publication, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts presents fresh transcriptions of the sixty-nine earliest Greek papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament--all produced before A.D. 325. Along with revised transcriptions, this volume includes:

  • Introductions: Each manuscript is preceded by a concise introduction that provides such essential information as contents, date of writing, provenance, housing location, bibliography, physical features, and textual character.
  • Margin Notes: Significant differences between the text presented in this volume and the text presented in the editiones principes are noted in the margin.

No other resource bring together such an accessible and accurate collection of the text of the earliest New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Numerous updates and improvements to the first edition include: over a hundred corrections to the Greek texts; the addition of underdots beneath uncertain letters; hundreds of improvements to the introductions and reconstructed portions of the text; the addition of pertinent texts from P100-P115; and the citation of significant differences from the editiones principes in the margin.

Praise for the Print Edition

"In its conception, scope, and usefulness the first edition was already a monumental achievement. Now the accuracy of the original has been refined, and the newest finds from Oxyrhynchus have been treated—presenting the advanced student of the New Testament text with what is likely to become an essential tool of the trade. The independent judgments of the editors on matters of dating and textual character, while perhaps not the last word on the subjects, are always well considered and, when the least bit controversial, well documented. The introductory treatments of the larger codices P45, P46, P75, and particularly P66, are alone worth the price of the book."

—C. E. Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Many will be grateful to the two compilers of this useful volume for their labor in providing the Greek text, along with many paleographical annotations, of sixty-five papyri and four parchment fragments dated prior to A.D. 300."

—Bruce Metzger, Princeton Theological Seminary

[Of the first edition] "If the editors succeed in stimulating a wider appreciation and further study of the text of these manuscripts, their task will have been amply rewarded. I wish them well in their endeavor!"

—J. K. Elliott, University of Leeds

Selection from the Introduction to the Print Edition

This book provides transcriptions of sixty-nine of the earliest New Testament manuscripts up to and including P115, the most recently published early New Testament manuscript. All of the manuscripts are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300). We chose A.D. 300 as our terminus ad quem because New Testament manuscript production changed radically after the persecution under Diocletian (A.D. 303-305) and especially after Constantine declared Christianity to be a legal religion in the empire. Many of these manuscripts are nearly two hundred years earlier than the well-known uncials codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus. These early manuscripts, containing about two-thirds of the New Testament text, were discovered (most in the twentieth century), disbursed to various museums throughout the world, and subsequently published in transcriptional form in various books and journals (with editorial comments in several different languages). Since it is exceedingly difficult for most individuals to observe the actual manuscripts or even see photographs, let alone collect the editio princeps of each manuscript, our goal has been to publish a fresh transcription of these manuscripts in one volume and thereby provide students, scholars, and translators with easier access to the manuscripts themselves. Furthermore, several manuscripts have been published in progressive phases, as new portions were identified in various museums. This book presents for the first time a unified transcription of all portions of the manuscript, and for certain manuscripts, new portions are presented. This is especially true of P4/P64/P67, P30, P40, P45, P46, P49, and P66.

This book provides a representative sample of the New Testament that was read by Christians in the earliest centuries of the church. These manuscripts were the "Bible" they read and revered; to them, these manuscripts were the New Testament text. Today's Greek New Testaments are critical editions produced by the eclectic method, where the preferred reading is determined on a case-by-case basis from among the many variants offered by the early manuscripts and versions. These critical editions of the Greek New Testament do not completely replicate the evidence of any one manuscript. Using the critical apparatus, one can attempt to piece together the text of a particular manuscript, but it requires great skill and much labor. Thus, it is our desire to present the complete text of each early manuscript so that readers can study them for themselves.

The papyrus manuscripts are among the most important witnesses for reconstructing the original text of the New Testament. It is not the material on which they are written (papyrus) that makes them so valuable, but the date when they were written. Several of the most significant papyri date from the middle of the second century. These manuscripts, therefore, provide the earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs. Among the extant New Testament papyrus manuscripts, three groups are worthy of mention: the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Chester Beatty/Michigan Papyri, and the Bodmer Papyri.

Beginning in 1898, Grenfell and Hunt discovered thousands of papyrus fragments in the ancient rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. This site yielded volumes of papyrus fragments containing all sorts of written material (literature, business and legal contracts, letters, etc.) as well as more than thirty-five manuscripts containing portions of the New Testament. Some of the more noteworthy biblical papyrus manuscripts are P1 (Matt. 1), P5(John 1, 16, 20), P13 (Heb. 2-5, 10-12), P22 (John 15-16), P90 (John 18-19), P101-4 (Matt. 3-4, 13-14, 21, 23), and P115 (Rev. 2-15).

The Beatty Papyri were purchased from a dealer in Egypt during the 1930s by Chester Beatty and by the University of Michigan. Three of the New Testament manuscripts in this collection are very early and contain a large portion of the New Testament text. P45 (ca. 200) contains portions of all four Gospels and Acts, P46 (second century) has almost all of Paul's epistles and Hebrews, and P47 (third century) contains Revelation 9-17.

The Bodmer Papyri (named after the owner, M. Martin Bodmer) were purchased from a dealer in Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s. The three important papyri in this collection are P66 (second century, containing almost all of John), P72 (late third or early fourth century, having all of 1-2 Peter and Jude), and P75 (ca. 175-200, containing large parts of Luke 3-John 15).

This book provides a fresh transcription of each early New Testament manuscript. For the work of making new transcriptions we observed the following actual manuscripts: P1, P4/P64/P67, P9, P20, P24, P37, P38, P39, P46, P66 (in part), P69, P70, P72 (in part), P75 (in part), P77, P78, P90, P100, P101, P102, P103, P104, P105, P106, P107, P108, and P109. [...]

As we studied these manuscripts and photographs, we always compared our work with that found in the editio princeps (noted with an asterisk * in the bibliography for each manuscript) and other published transcriptions. In the process of doing this work, we often trusted the judgment of the original editors with respect to their readings of broken letters along the margins of manuscripts inasmuch as manuscripts often break off along the edges in the process of handling them or mounting them. Thus, a manuscript in its present condition may not preserve the lettering the first editors saw. Our transcriptions, therefore, should reflect the most pristine condition of the text and not the condition of the text as it presently stands in storage. A photograph taken soon after the time of discovery usually provides documentation of the most pristine form. Often when this photograph is compared to a manuscript in its present "museum" form, it is manifest that certain fragments of the manuscript have been lost over time. This is true, for example, for P1 and P49 (see notes there). In any event, we have noted all significant (indicated by the symbol ?) differences between our transcription and that found in the editio princeps (abbreviated as ed pr).

We have attempted to reconstruct the beginning and ending of several manuscripts, wherever we could determine original margins. These reconstructions, indicated by opening and closing square brackets, are conjectural. Bracketed portions within the transcriptions represent letters or words most likely to have been in the original manuscript. The supplied letters and words often, but not always, accord with the text printed in the twenty-seventh edition of Nestle-Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece. Differences are most pronounced when the text of a manuscript is Western (e.g., P29, P38, and P48). Double square brackets enclose scribal erasures. Arabic numerals indicating chapter and verse divisions have been inserted in the transcriptions as an aid to the reader. Neither the numerals nor the gaps they create in the transcriptions appear in the original manuscripts. Page and paragraph breaks present in the original manuscripts are clearly indicated in the transcriptions.

In the transcriptions, we have represented the text of the manuscripts as they actually read; we have not corrected scribal errors of any kind. For the sake of our readers, we have noted several scribal errors (indicated by an asterisk), but only those that would be considered bad misspellings or "nonsense" readings. We have done our best to provide an accurate transcription, always recognizing that our work may need emendation. We welcome any comments that will help make this book better. This volume includes all manuscripts made available to the public by the summer of 1999. We hope to expand this collection as more evidence becomes available.

About the Editors

Philip W. Comfort (Ph.D., D. Litt. et Phil.) is a professor of Greek and New Testament at Trinity Episcopal Seminary, visiting professor at Wheaton College, and senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers. He completed his second doctorate under the noted textual critic Jacobus H. Petzer at the University of South Africa. In addition to his many books, Dr. Comfort has written articles for New Testament Studies, Tyndale Bulletin, Notes on Translation, and The Bible Translator.

David P. Barrett did undergraduate work in Bible and ancient languages before pursuing theological studies at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the editor of Bibles and Reference for Tyndale House Publishers.

Sample Screenshots from the Electronic Edition

P46, left, which contains most of Paul's epistles, is set to scroll synchronously with NA27, right.

Sample Page Scans from the Print Edition


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