Archaeology And The Text Of The New Testament -- By: Howard J. Vos
BSP 9:2 (Spring 1980) p. 51
Archaeology And The Text Of The New Testament
[Howard J. Vos is professor of history and archaeology at the King’s College, Briarcliffe Manor, New York. He is the author of a number of books on biblical archaeology, including Archaeology in Bible Lands from which this article was taken.]
Archaeological discoveries have revolutionized study of the New Testament text. They have pushed back the history of the text by hundreds of years and have provided an abundance of new material for assessment of the quality of the text and demonstration of its accuracy. As the New Testament documents have accumulated, even the philosophy of New Testament origins has been altered. Not only have more and more portions of the New Testament itself come to light, but contextual materials also have become available in increasing quantity, with the result that we have new perspectives on the nature of New Testament Greek, the meaning of individual words, and the development of New Testament concepts. For purposes of organization, attention focuses first on the great new uncial manuscripts (written in capital letters), then on the papyri, and finally on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
BSP 9:2 (Spring 1980) p. 52
The Uncial Manuscripts
If archaeology includes the study of ancient things lost and found again, and if it includes rummaging in wastebaskets, then the story of the recovery of the great Sinaiticus (Aleph1 ) manuscript of the New Testament is one of the most important in the annals of archaeology. In 1844 a German scholar, Constantine Tischendorf, was traveling in the Middle East in search of Greek manuscripts of the Bible and came to the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai. While working in the library there, he noticed a large wastebasket stuffed with leaves of manuscripts. Upon looking at them he quickly concluded that they were pages of the Septuagint (Old Testament translated into Greek) and that they were the oldest Greek writing he had ever seen. He was allowed to keep the forty-three leaves that he rescued because they were slated for the incinerator anyway. In fact, two basketfuls had already been burned. On further inquiry he learned that there were more leaves of this manuscript, but his questions had raised suspicion of their value, and he was not allowed to see them. Leaving the plea that the monks start their fires with something else, he presented his find (parts of 1 Chronicles, 2 Esdras, Tobit, and Jeremiah) to his patron, King Fredrick Augustus of Saxony. It was published under the title Codex Friderico-Augustanus and now resides in the Leipzig University Library.
When Tischendorf returned to the monastery in...
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