N.T. Manuscripts

Branches of NT Manuscripts – Greek manuscripts and other early witnesses

I have found that there is quite a demand for a web page that lists the names, branch, and dates of all the Greek manuscripts and other ancient witnesses to the New Testament text.  So I compiled this page, attempting to pass on to you what is as close to a consensus as possible on the names, families, and dates, particularly of early Greek manuscripts and early translations. This page lists witnesses only through the seventh century.  Some witnesses are listed more than once, because in some books they are of one branch but in other books a different branch.  For example, A, Codex Alexandrinus, is Byzantine in the gospels, but Alexandrian elsewhere. 

There has recently been a trend toward earlier dating of papyri.  Earlier dates here are those based on the authority of papyrologists such as Orsolina Montevecchi, Carsten P. Thiede, Philip Comfort, and Herbert Hunger.  The earlier, more controversial dates will be shown in parentheses, following the more widely accepted ones.  For example, Roberts, Bell, Skeat and Turner give Papyrus 64/67 the date of c200.

Regarding the document from Qumran, 7Q5, which Jose O’Callaghan and Carsten Thiede say is part of the gospel of Mark, 6:52-53, see this link, which says it is part of Enoch.  See also Daniel B. Wallace’s page on this question, and Wieland Willker.

Note that the Byzantine classification does not show up much before the 6th century.  The reason for the proliferation of Byzantine branch Greek manuscripts later, is that the Byzantine church was the only one that spoke and read Greek, and so was the only branch of the church that needed to reproduce Greek Bibles.  Thus the fact that there are a greater number of Greek manuscripts in the Byzantine branch is not considered significant for purposes of finding the original reading. This is not Westcott and Hort.  It is just common sense.

The Alexandrian branch is characterized as: Conservative. Relatively free of harmonization and paraphrase. Short. Willing to accept difficult readings. In regard to its shortness, however, its archetype appears to have many relatively harmless omissions due to homoioteleuton.

The Byzantine branch is characterized as: Widespread. Regarded by many text critics in the 20th century to be far-removed from the original documents, but worthy of detailed study because of the influence it has had on mixed manuscripts. Marked by smooth and easy readings and by harmonizations, but rarely indulges in paraphrase or the major expansions seemingly found in the “Western” text. It had been widely regarded as derived from other text-types; and usually preserving the easiest reading. It rarely creates readings. However, the most current studies show that many individual Byzantine READINGS are as ancient as any other.

The Caesarean branch is characterized as: Mildly paraphrastic, so as to give an appearance of falling between the Alexandrian and “Western” texts. Since no pure manuscripts are known, most other descriptions of the type have been conjectural. To date found only in the gospels.

The Western branch is characterized as: Marked by paraphrase, occasional expansion, and possible additions from oral sources. Fond of striking and abrupt readings. Reaches its most extreme form in D (05, Codex Bezae); the “Western” text of Paul (found in D 06) is a much more restrained text.

Go to the Table of N.T. Greek Manuscripts Listed by Date.

I have also made a table of every one of the Greek manuscripts containing any part of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The table also gives the manuscript’s date, content, and how they are classified by von Soden (and Pickering in a separate table). The table gives the Tischendorf and Scrivener numbers for each manuscript.  In addition, there is now a table translating H. C. Hoskier’s manuscript numbers to Gregory numbers.  The table is in the back of documents I have uploaded to this site, my new translation of the Apocalypse. To view or download the PDF zip file of the version with the ancient Greek text, with 353 footnotes right-click this link then choose “save as.” To download the PDF listing 1 John manuscripts, right-click this link then choose “save as.” Want to read cursive N.T. manuscripts (minuscules), but you don’t know the ligatures? Get a quick-reference Greek ligature guide here. Download a Swanson-style table of 62 manuscripts of the Epistle of Jude here.

Greek manuscripts


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