At 12:31 PM 3/9/01 -0800, Jack Kilmon wrote:
>...It appears to me that Alexandria or Egypt has connections to every one
>of the early sects associated with Jewish AND Gentile Christianity. ...
>I have a lot of questions and I often wonder if Egypt is not the real
>"birthplace" of "Orthodox" Christianity as well as a breeding ground for
>many forms of "heresies."
Here's some ammo for your speculations. There are two keys:
1. The papyrus fragments -- if that ain't a characteristic medium for
Egypt, what is?
They also represent the oldest fragments of the NT presently known.
2. Text "families".
Here's what I mean.
Manuscripts of the NT tend to fall into a limited number of text families
such that, regardless of the date of a particular text, each family
contains distinctive readings shared by texts in that family that differ
from readings in other text families.
The earliest manuscripts, of course, are the Papyri-- of which hundreds
have now been published (see the Early New Testament Manuscript Project at
Next come the uncials, including the famous text
types that you know so well.
E.J.Epp has published a series of very useful articles on textual
criticism, including a review of the earliest manuscripts; see for example
. 1989a. Textual Criticism. Pp. 75126 in The New Testament and Its Modern
Interpreters, ed. E. J. Epp and G. W. MacRae. The Bible and Its Modern
Interpreters 3. Philadelphia and Atlanta.
. 1989b. The New Testament Papyrus Manuscripts in Historical Perspective.
Pp. 26188 in To Touch the Text: Biblical and Related Studies in Honor of
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, ed. M. P. Horgan and P. J. Kobelski. New York.
. 1989c. The Significance of the Papyri for Determining the Nature of the
New Testament Text in the Second Century: A Dynamic View of Textual
Transmission. Pp. 71103 in Gospel Traditions in the Second Century:
Origins, Recensions, Text and Transmission, ed. W. L. Petersen.
Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity 2. Notre Dame.
Epp, E. J., and Fee, G. D., eds. 1981. New Testament Textual Criticism.
Conveniently, a long article on Textual Criticism by Eldon Jay Epp, ca.
1990 may be found on the web at
Most of what I summarize below is from his article, plus
which contains an article on Dating the Oldest New Testament Manuscripts
by Peter van Minnen.
Basically, according to Epp, one of the most ancient mss. families is the
one he calls Alexandrian:
>(1) First, the clearest cluster can be identified in the P75-Codex B line
>(with P66, Sinaiticus, and, e.g., the later L, 33, 1739), namely, an
>Alexandrian kind of text, which might be called the B text group.
"P66 has 104 pages of Johns gospel (1:16:11; 6:3514:15), plus fragments of
46 other pages (14:2621:9, with lacunae)." It is one of the earliest
papyrus codices (ca. 200).
"P75 retains 102 of its original 144 pages and preserves chaps. 617 and
2224 of Luke, as well as portions of chaps. 35 and 18; in addition, it has
virtually all of John 112 and portions of 1315. P75 is the oldest known
copy of Luke, and its text (of both Luke and John) is extraordinary for its
close similarity to that of Vaticanus" (= Codex B.) It dates around 250.
>(2) Second, three or four papyruses and one uncial prior to the 4th
>century (P29, P48, P38, 0171, and perhaps P29) form a cluster that can be
>related to Codex D (and later with 1739 in Acts, and 614, 383), namely,
>what has long been called though incorrectly in the geographical sense the
>Western kind of text, which might better be designated the D text group.
Codex D is, of course, "Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D) [which] contains,
on Greek and Latin facing pages, the four gospels (in the order Matthew,
John, Luke, Mark), Acts nearly complete, and a small portion of 3 John. Its
date is 5th century, or possibly late 4th. It is written in one column, but
in sense lines rather than in the usual fashion of simply filling the
lines. Bezae, with many striking additions to the text (and some
omissions), is the major Greek representative of the so-called Western type
of text, which some have considered the earliest form of the NT text, but
which others have viewed as a later, derivative development."
P29 and P48 date around 250, so this family has ancient roots in Egypt, too.
>(3) Third, a cluster can be identified in P45 and Codex W (with, e.g.,
>f13), which might be called the C text group because it stands midway
>between the B and D text groups (but no longer to be called Caesarean).
"P45 contains 30 leaves of an original codex containing the four gospels
and Acts in perhaps 220 leaves. Now surviving are 61 verses of Matthew
(20:2430; 21:1319; 25:4126:39); about 6 chapters of Mark (4:369:31;
11:2712:28); more than 5 chapters of Luke (6:317:7; 9:2614:33); most of
John 10 and 11; and 13 chapters of Acts (4:2717:17)." It dates about 250 C.E.
"Codex Washingtonianus (W), also known as the Freer Gospels (for C. L.
Freer of Detroit, who acquired it in 1906), has the four gospels virtually
complete (though in the order of Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark) and dates
from the early 5th century. Its text is of mixed character, with various
sections of varying length representing rather different textual types:
Byzantine in Matthew and most of Luke; Alexandrian in the rest of Luke and
most of John; and so-called Western in Mark 1:15:30, but like the text of
P45 in 5:3116:20. It may be best known for the material it inserts into the
already longer ending to Mark (16:920) that it shares with other witnesses:
it adds at 16:14 a paragraph that includes an excuse by the disciples in
response to the risen Christs chiding of them for unbelief. "
These three text families (or 2 families and a hybrid thereof) have
Egyptian roots and are older than the Majority (Byzantine) text family, the
earliest exemplar of which is Codex A (Alexandrinus):
>(4) In addition, though not among the early clusters and therefore with no
>early papyrus representatives, there is the later Majority or Byzantine
>text group, whose earliest major witness is Codex A (though only in the
>Gospels). Therefore, this might be called the A text group in recognition
>of Codex Alexandrinus. This cluster does have supporting witnesses among
>the papyruses, but only from the 6th (P84), 7th (P68, perhaps P74), and
>7th/8th centuries (P42).
So essentially all of the earliest text traditions had their roots in Egypt.
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