The Early Text of the New Testament and the Usefulness of Papyri MSS

I’m currently reviewing The Early Text of the New Testament. I couldn’t help but stop to interact and briefly summarize the first chapter by Charles Hill and Michael Kruger (blog). Below is a brief summary and personal interaction on the first chapter (“Introduction: In Search of the Earliest Text of the New Testament”). Much of the documentation is Hill and Kruger’s research and I provided it to supplement the summary. If you are able, any NT and Early Patristic student or professor ought to own this and digest its findings.

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As new generations of text-critical scholars have surfaced in the past decade or so, it appears to come with a new set of text-critical questions and conclusions. When trying to state what “text criticism” is trying to accomplish, there are various and competing ideas. Are we trying to find the “original” (however that is defined)?[1] Or are there other textual concerns driving the discipline? “It is by no means self-evident that this ought to be the goal of the discipline,” Bart Ehrman asserts, “there may indeed be scant reason to privilege the ‘original’ text over forms of the text that developed subsequently.”[2] As text-critics look at the process of the early MSS tradition, some are moving far away from attempting to determine the “original” text, but are seeing “text” as a process. Consequently, multiple MSS, even with their variants, are traditions and “Scripture” to multiple early Christian communities. Therefore, there is no pressing need to locate the “original”.[3]

Regardless of these suppositions, each textual critic must interact with the early texts of the New Testament as they appear in codices and papyri. At the turn of the 20th century, there were only 9 papyri MSS documented. As of now, there are 127.[4] Therefore, the conversations of the early text a century ago are much different than current discussions. In 20th century textual scholarship, Bruce Metzger, Continue reading