Back in the days of the first century or earlier, ancient manuscripts were written on animal skins like calf or sheep, they were either rolled up forming a scroll or laid flat with skins laid on top of each other simulating leaves or pages. forming a book like item.
A large reason for manuscripts not retaining an accurate completeness was what they were made from in that day and age, they didn’t last, they wore out. Nowadays we have excellent high grade paper that holds up under hard use and many times carelessness.
Manuscripts were also made of papyrus paper, the papyrus reed found along a marsh like wet land along a river bank, flattened and formed into a paper of the day. Better paper came along called parchment which began to replace papyrus in the 4th century. It wasn’t until the 12th century that paper (made from cotton or plant fibers became a much better paper for biblical manuscripts. Although papyrus has been dated to the 8th century).
Whole manuscripts from the first, second, and third century have been lost, but from the 5,850 fragments of the New Testaments, 1 and 2 Timothy said to be whole, plus so much more that we have in existence, scholars have been able to put together the many accurate translations we have today, into the billions, thus giving us a record of the biblical text that has been lost. Sources estimate an unbelievable four billion Bibles have been published worldwide.
It’s interesting and beneficial to become acquainted with ancient manuscripts or documents which has produced are present day translations.
Some Notes On Early Manuscripts
Part of an earliest piece of New Testament text is a business card sized fragment from the Gospel of John, Papyrus P52 and is in the John Rylands Library of Manchester, England. It dates to the first half of the 2nd century.
The first complete copies of single New Testament books appear around 200, and these papyrus fragments, parts and collections have all been discovered during modern archaeological digs or certain monasteries. There are a number of ancient manuscripts called codexes which reside in are present day museums, Copies were made from them and are available to the public. These original codexes aren’t able to be handled and studied as they’re fragile and would come apart with handling, so the copies let scholars examine and study them.
Some Notes on Remaining Codexes
Its name came from the circumstance that its earliest known location was the Egyptian city of Alexandria. This Codex is one of the three earliest and most important manuscripts of the entire Bible in Greek. It is therefore of enormous importance in establishing the biblical text. It is written on parchment. It contains all books of the New Testament but lacks some leaves of Matthew (25), John (2), and Second Corinthians. The Codex Alexandrinus resides in the British Museum.
The Codex Sinaiticus has a complete text of the New Testament, it has been dated to the second half of the 4th century.
This codex was found on Mount Sinai in a Monastery of Saint Catherine in 1859 by Count Tischendorf. He was presented with a large codex by one of the monks containing 400 pages about half of the Septuagint version Old Testament and the full New Testament. Incredibly Portions of the manuscript were found in the monastery dump.
Containing the Old and New Testament with noted places of parts missing, has through the comparison process of other text reflects its value. It has been a big help in influencing the translating of the many modern Bible versions.
Written on parchment (an improved paper), today, it is in the British Museum in London.
Codex Washingtonianus is a fourth or fifth century of the Gospels on parchment, containing 187 leaves, or pages. It is located in the Smithsonian Institution at the Freer Gallery of Art.
Codex Ephraemi according to a source says, has approximately 66 per cent of the New Testament. It’s now is in the National Library of Paris brought there early in the sixteenth century.
Codex Vaticanus was found in the Vatican library, comprised of 759 pages or leaves and containing almost all of the Old and New Testaments, but it lacks the four last books, and the Epistle to the Hebrews is not complete.
Included in a Vatican catalog listing in 1475 it has been dated to the middle of the 4th century. Codex Vaticanus was used as a source document by Erasmus in his work on the Textus Receptus.
Much can be learned by examining these and other ancient texts in authenticating our present day translations. And they should continue to be studied.
Scholars can vary in opinions, but even with their textual variations, God has preserved His Word through the ages.