I wrote a paragraph on the question here:

Finney, Timothy J., "Manuscript Markup" in _The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove_ ed. Larry W. Hurtado; SBLTCS 6 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature), 284.

There is also this:

http://purl.org/TC/downloads/simulation/ReadMe.html

Paragraphs 6 and 7 talk about my preferred way of estimating the number of MSS at a particular date (i.e. logistic function; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistic_function ).

This may be more helpful:

http://www.tfinney.net/Hebrews/index.html

Part 1 of the lectures ("History: How did we get Hebrews?") is based on one set of guesses concerning numbers. Here, I assume that there was one copy of Paul's letters per church, 1000 Christians per church, a Christian population of 5000 in 33 CE, 5 million in 300 CE (i.e. 10% of the Empire's population), and a growth rate of 5% per year.

After doing some more work with the logistic equation, I now think that the average growth rate would have been just over 2% per year. I haven't moved much from the guess of a 10% Christian component at 300 CE. That doesn't mean that I am sure of it, just that roughly half of the people I ask think it is too high and the other half think it is too low (with due weight given to whether they know what they're talking about). Some even guess 10% when I ask. The initial population is not terribly critical: halving or doubling it doesn't make much difference to the resulting estimated total number of MSS. What does make a big difference is the guess concerning the average number of Christians per church. I don't know whether it should be 50, 500, or some other number. The estimated total is directly related to this number, meaning that my estimates could easily be out by a factor of ten.

I think I may have talked about numbers of copies on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog once.

One of these days I plan to write another copying simulation, this time using the R statistical programming language. It will be associated with chapter six of my "Analysis of Textual Variation" book:

http://purl.org/tfinney/ATV/

I need to revise chapter five first, partly because of new insights gained by the multivariate analysis results presented here:

http://purl.org/tfinney/Views/

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to write the discussion section of the "Views" article yet but you can get an idea of my current thinking in the note at the end of section 2.11, here:

http://www.tfinney.net/General/intro.html

Best,

Tim Finney

--- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Mike Holmes <holmic@...> wrote:

>

> Colleagues,

> I have a vague recollection of having once read an article in which the author attempted to estimate how many NT MSS may have existed in antiquity. At present, however, I am unable to locate it. Does anyone know of such an article, or a discussion of this topic?

> thanks,

> Michael

>