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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Words of the Bible

Don Stewart :: Where Can We Find the Biblical Manuscripts That Still Exist?

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Where Can We Find the Biblical Manuscripts That Still Exist?

The Words of the Bible – Question 13

There are many manuscripts (hand-written copies) of Scripture that still exist. Indeed, thousands of Old Testament manuscripts survive, while upwards of thirty thousand New Testament manuscripts are known to exist. These manuscripts can be found today in museums, private collections and libraries around the world—there is no central place where all of them are kept.

Listings Can Be Found of the Major Manuscripts

There are certain reference works that list where the major manuscripts of the Bible are kept. This is true for manuscripts of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. A list of the biblical manuscripts can be found in the following sources:

1. Some Lists of Existing Old Testament Manuscripts

A list of important Hebrew manuscripts can be found in the latest edition of BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia). This is the standard Hebrew text of the Old Testament. BHS lists the major Hebrew manuscripts and where they can be found. In addition, Claremont Graduate School, in Claremont, California, has an archive of biblical manuscripts which include both Old and New Testament.

2. Some Lists of Existing New Testament Manuscripts

A listing of some of the important New Testament manuscripts and their present location can be found in the latest edition of the Greek New Testament that is published by the United Bible Society; The Greek New Testament, corrected 4th edition, edited by Barbara Aland and others, United Bible Society, 1994.

A similar listing can also be founded in the latest edition of Novum Testamentum Graece. This edition of the New Testament contains the same text as the one printed by the United Bible Society. They differ in the way the text is punctuated as well as their listing of the textual notes. Currently, Barbara Aland is also the editor of this volume. Previously, editors included Eberhard Nestle his son Erwin Nestle and Kurt Aland.

The work of Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, translated by Errol F. Rhodes, 2nd Edition, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1989, also lists the location of a number of biblical manuscripts.

There is also a book that lists 69 of the earliest New Testament manuscripts (65 papyri and 4 parchment fragments). This work is called The Text of the Earliest Greek Manuscripts, edited by Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett, Revised Edition, Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale Publishers, 2001. There are photographs of most of these fragments as well as Greek transcriptions of the text. However, the Greek has not been translated into English. Under each fragment, the place where it is housed today is listed in this helpful reference work.

This gives a small sampling of some of the places where the one can find where the various biblical manuscripts are housed.

Summary – Question 13
Where Can We Find the Biblical Manuscripts That Still Exist?

There are many thousands of manuscripts that still exist which contain part of the biblical text. For example, thousands of Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament are in existence today. In addition, over 5,500 Greek manuscripts still exist. Add to this over 24,000 copies of versions, or translations, of Scripture are still in existence. These manuscripts can be found in various places around the world including museums, libraries and private collections.

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