word "manuscript," as used here, means an ancient hand-written
copy of any of the books of any of the Bibles or a text composed of a
combination of one or more books. The
ancient manuscripts may have been written in any of the following
languages: Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, or Coptic.
The manuscripts are divided into two categories: papyrus and
manuscripts are made of strips of pith taken from the stem of papyrus,
the Egyptian water-plant. Papyrus
is very fragile and becomes brittle in air.
Over time these manuscripts crumbled with use and could not
resist the damage caused by moisture.
Therefore, the majority of surviving papyrus have been discovered
in very dry locations, like those of Upper and Middle Egypt.
Papyrus was the common writing material of the Roman Empire.
scrolls were used in Egypt until after the eighth century AD.
Vellum had been used before the time of Jesus, but in the third
century it began to gain more popularity than papyrus.
In the early part of the fourth century vellum and the codex
(book-form vs scroll), gained complete victory over papyrus and the
roll-form. Roman Emperor
Constantine ordered Eusebius to have fifty manuscripts of the Bible made
on vellum for use in the churches of Byzantium.
Vellum was a much more durable material than papyrus, therefore,
our greatest collection of the
earliest extant Biblical manuscripts of anything but fragmentary size
were copied in the fourth century AD.
of the most important vellum manuscripts are called
"palimpsests," which means "scraped again."
These are manuscripts that were long ago scraped a second time
with pumice-stone (erased) so that another message could be written.
Using modern technology we can now retrieve the original message
in many cases.
Manuscripts of the New Testament
Second Through the Tenth Centuries CE
& % of Verses With Differences