Thanks to Vincent Broman and Maurice Robinson for their replies on MS
copying parameters. A few more thoughts:
Firstly, the critical time for development of variants is said to be the
first two hundred years of transmission i.e. 100 to 300 AD. We have a few
MSS from this era, mainly papyri from Egypt. (On this point, while vellum
is more durable than papyrus, papyri, nevertheless, can have a lifetime of
far more than 30 to 40 years. Take P46 for example.) Is there historical,
psychological and statistical data that can inform us of likely copying
frequencies, practices and habits of that time?
As Vincent noted, population statistics for this era are important.
Studies have been made on this, and the Alands mention one in their _Text
of the New Testament_ (off the top of my head, I think that it was by
Harnack, early this century). I have come across an estimate of the number
of MSS made based on the number of churches (referred to in Amphoux' book
on the Text. Sorry about these vague references - I'm not at
the library.) I also have a vague recollection of seeing a reference to a
paper in a statistical journal that addressed such problems. Most
unfortunately, I did not write it down at the time.
Returning to my call for data rather than speculations, I don't want to
stifle discussion. Certainly not -- this can lead us to new discoveries!
But I would like to have a good set of references which give solidly based
answers to these questions, if such are possible. James Adair is setting
up a tc bibliography accessible via the tc web page. Perhaps he could
include a section called
History, Statistics and Psychology of (early) MS copying
So if you do come across a good, relevant reference, don't be like me and
assume that you will be able to find it again: write it down and send it
to this list (with a summary?)
I would like to say that the idea of discovering the psychology of early
scribes is not mine: it was mentioned to me by researchers at the Institute
for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) in Muenster.
To finish, as far as I know, the only cases of extant copies of extant MSS
are the two copies of Codex Claromontanus. This would indicate that we
have but a small number of the total ever made surviving. Assuming that
copyists did not destroy their exemplars (remembering that a decree was
once made that forbade the cleaning of Biblical MSS for other writings --
another reference I should have written down), can you think of how to
arrive at an estimate of the total number of uncials from this fact?
Have a good weekend,
Baptist Theological College
of Western Australia