Biblical Manuscript - New Testament Manuscripts - Cataloging


Desiderius Erasmus compiled the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, basing his work on several manuscripts because he did not have a single complete work and because each manuscript had small errors. In the 18th century, Johann Jakob Wettstein was one of the first biblical scholars to start cataloging biblical manuscripts. He divided the manuscripts based on the writing used (uncial, minuscule) or format (lectionaries) and based on content (Gospels, Pauline letters, Acts + General epistles, and Revelation). He assigned the uncials letters and minuscules and lectionaries numbers for each grouping of content, which resulted in manuscripts being assigned the same letter or number.

For manuscripts that contained the whole New Testament, such as Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C), the letters corresponded across content groupings. However, for a significant, early manuscript such as Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 (B), which did not contain Revelation, the letter B was also assigned to a later 10th century manuscript of Revelation, thus creating confusion. Constantin von Tischendorf found one of the earliest, nearly complete copies of the Bible, Codex Sinaiticus, over a century after Wettstein's cataloging system was introduced. Because he felt the manuscript was so important, Von Tischendorf assigned it the Hebrew letter aleph (א). Eventually enough uncials were found that all the letters in the Latin alphabet had been used, and scholars moved on to first the Greek alphabet, and eventually started reusing characters by adding a superscript. Confusion also existed in the minuscules, where up to seven different manuscripts could have the same number or a single manuscript of the complete New Testament could have 4 different numbers to describe the different content groupings.

Read more about this topic:  Biblical Manuscript, New Testament Manuscripts

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