Ancient Scribes and the WORD OF GOD
THE EARLY SCRIBAL PROFESSION
A PAPYRUS DOCUMENT
Matthew dates to about A.D. 350
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track
of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its
importance and status with the advent of printing. The work could involve copying books, including
sacred texts, or secretarial and administrative duties such as taking of dictation and the keeping of
business, judicial and historical records for kings, nobility, temples and cities. Later the profession
developed into public servants, journalists, accountants, typists, and lawyers. In societies with low
literacy rates, street corner letter-writers (and readers) may still be found providing a service.
Egyptian scribe with papyrus scroll
The Ancient Egyptian scribe, or sesh, was a person educated in the arts of writing (using both
hieroglyphics and hieratic scripts, and from the second half of the first millennium BCE the demotic
script, used as shorthand and for commerce) and dena (arithmetics). Sons of scribes were brought up
in the same scribal tradition, sent to school and, upon entering the civil service, inherited their fathers'
Much of what is known about ancient Egypt is due to the activities of its scribes. Monumental buildings
were erected under their supervision, administrative and economic activities were documented by
them, and tales from the mouths of Egypt's lower classes or from foreign lands survive thanks to scribes
putting them in writing.
Scribes were also considered part of the royal court and did not have to pay tax or join the military. The
scribal profession had companion professions, the painters and artisans who decorated reliefs and other
relics with scenes, personages, or hieroglyphic text. A scribe was exempt from the heavy manual labor
required of the lower classes, or corvee labor.
The hieroglyph used to signify the scribe, to write, and "writings", etc, is Gardiner sign Y3,
fromthe categoryof:'writings,,& music'.The hieroglyphcontainsthe scribe'sink-mixingpalette,avertical case
to hold writing-reeds, and a leather pouch to hold the colored ink blocks, mostly black and red.
An account of monthly barley rations issued to adults (30 or 40 pints) and children (20 pints) written in
cuneiform script on a clay tablet. Written in year 4 of King Urukagina (circa 2350 BCE). From Girsu, Iraq. British
The Mesopotamian scribe, or dubsar, received his education in the "tablet house," or é-dubba. As in
Egypt, he was generally male and belonged socially to an elite class. The youngest of the
Mesopotamian students typically received their first instruction from older students. The older
students appear to have been bribed into proffering preferential treatment, such as to avoid punishing
certain children. Excavations suggest that all the male children from the wealthier families of
Mesopotamia were educated.
Writing in early Mesopotamia seems to that the need to document economic transactions, and consisted
often in lists which scribes knowledgeable in writing and arithmetics engraved in cuneiform letters into
tablets of clay. Apart from administration and accountancy, Mesopotamian scribes observed the sky
and wrote literary works as well as the famous myth The Epic of Gilgamesh. They wrote on papyrus
paper as well as clay tablets. They also wrote and kept records. Scribe's writing tools were made of
reeds and were called a stylus.
Babylonian scribes concentrated their schooling on learning how to write both Akkadian and Sumerian,
in cuneiform, for the purposes of accountancy and contract dealings, in addition to interpersonal
discourse and mathematical documentations.
The Mesopotamian scribal profession was associated with the goddess Nisaba, who later would become
replaced by the god Nabu.
] Egyptian and Mesopotamian functions
Besides the scribal profession for accountancy, and 'governmental politicking' , the scribal professions
immediately branched-out into the socio-cultural areas of literature. The first stories probably related to
societal religious stories, and gods, but the beginning of literature genres were starting.
In ancient Egypt an example of this is the Dispute between a man and his Ba. Some of these stories, the
"wisdom literatures" may have just started as a 'short story', but since writing had only recently been
invented, it was the first physical recordings of societal ideas, in some length and detail. In
Mesopotamia, the Sumerians had one of the beginnings of this literature in the middle to late 3rd
millennium BC, and besides their creation stories, and religious texts, there is a series of debates. An
example from the small list of Sumerian disputations is the debate between bird and fish. In the other
Sumerian disputes, in the debate between Summer and Winter, summer wins. The other disputes are:
cattle and grain, the tree and the reed, Silver and Copper, the pickax and the plough, and millstone and
the gul-gul stone.
Scribes in Ancient Israel, as in most of the ancient world, were distinguished professionals who could
exercise functions we would associate with lawyers, government ministers, judges, or even financiers, as
early as the 11th century BCE. Some scribes copied documents, but this was not necessarily part of
The Jewish scribes used the following process for creating copies of the Torah and eventually other
books in the Tanakh.
1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
4. They must say each word aloud while they were writing.
5. Theymust wipe the penandwashtheirentire bodiesbefore writing the most Holy Name of God, YHVH
every time they wrote it.
6. There mustbe a reviewwithinthirtydays,andif asmany as three pagesrequiredcorrections,the entire
manuscript had to be redone.
7. The letters,words,andparagraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters
touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original
8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.).
9. As nodocument containing God's Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah.
Main article: Sofer (scribe)
A Sofer (Hebrew: סת”ם )סופר are among the few scribes that still ply their trade by hand. Renowned
calligraphers, they produce the Hebrew Torah scrolls and other holy texts by hand to this day. They
write on parchment.
Further information: Dead Sea Scrolls
Until 1948, the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible dated back to 895 A.D. In 1947, a shepherd boy
discovered some scrolls inside a cave West of the Dead Sea. These manuscripts dated between 100 B.C.
and 100 A.D. Over the next decade, more scrolls were found in caves and the discovery became known
as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Every book in the Hebrew Bible was represented in this discovery except
Esther. Numerous copies of each book were discovered, such as the 25 copies of Deuteronomy that were
While there are other items found among the Dead Sea Scrolls not currently in the Hebrew Bible, the
texts on the whole testify to the accuracy of the scribes copying down through the ages, though many
variations and errors occurred. The Dead Sea Scrolls are currently the best route of comparison to the
accuracy and consistency of translation for the Hebrew Bible, due to their date of origin being the oldest
out of any Biblical text currently known.
Inspired Writers and Competent Copyists
by Eric Lyons,M.Min.
If you were to open your Bible and read Mark 14:16, you would learn that Jesus’ disciples went into
Jerusalem to prepare the final Passover meal before His crucifixion. The wording of the verse is as
follows: “So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and
they prepared the Passover” (emp. added). The highlighted conjunction “and” (kai in Greek) is found in
the Greek manuscripts of Mark. It also appears in most English translations of the Bible. However, in
one particular copy of the Bible that I possess, the stem of the “d” in “and” is missing, causing the word
to be misspelled: “So His disciples went out, ano came into the city...” (emp. added).
Most people who read Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) learn of the king asking
one particular attendee a very specific question: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding
garment?” (vs. 12, emp. added). A colleague of mine has a reliable translation of the Bible that words
Jesus’ question as follows: “Friend, now did you come in here without a wedding garment?” Obviously,
the “now” should be “how” (Greek pos). Similar to how the “d” in “and” was skewed so as to look more
like an “o”, the “h” in “how” lost its stem, causing it to look more like an “n.” Question: Whose fault is
it that “and” has been incorrectly printed as “ano,” and “how” has been copied errantly as “now”?
Surely no one would blame such errors in a modern English copy of the Bible on God or His inspired
penmen (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Almost everyone recognizes that publishing companies are
responsible for such minute mistakes. Although the accurate reproduction of books nearly has been
perfected during the past few centuries (thanks in large part to the invention of the printing press), still,
for various reasons, slight errors can creep onto the printed page. God did not intervene and
miraculously keep the aforementioned errors from appearing in copies of His Word. Instead, He gave
humankind the ability and resources to understand that such errors can be resolved rationally without
assuming the inspired writers erred. We know that “ano” should be “and” in Mark 14:16 and “now”
should be “how” in Matthew 22:12 partly because millions of other copies of the Bible (in both English
and Greek) have the correct words “and” (kai) and “how” (pos), and also because we easily can see how
a printing press might occasionally leave off the stems of certain letters.
COMMON SENSE AND COPYISTS’ ERRORS
One of the most popular books of the 21st century has been Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.
Since 2003, some 50 million copies of this book have been sold worldwide (“The Official...,” n.d.).
Imagine for a moment the potential differences in the millions of copies of The Da Vinci Code if, instead
of being printed on a press, they all were reproduced by hand. No doubt, many copyists’ errors would
have been made. Occasionally, names would have been misspelled, numbers would have been inverted,
and there would have been the occasional duplication or omission of words or entire lines. However, if
several million copies of The Da Vinci Code were retrieved from all over the world, and then compared,
contrasted, and critiqued by hundreds of scholars over several decades in an effort to recover the precise
wording of Dan Brown’s original manuscript, the text, in effect, would be restored to its original
condition. Most copyists’ errors would be weeded out. Through textual criticism, the text of The Da
Vinci Code eventually would be restored.
Whether one is referring to secular works or the Bible, prior to the invention of the printing press, copies
of books were made by hand, and thus were susceptible to errors. In the 19th century, respected
Christian scholar J.W. McGarvey noted: “There is not a writing of antiquity which has come down to
our age without many such changes” (1886, 1:7-8). In fact, “[a] large part of the labor of the editors of
Greek and Latin classics consists in correcting as best they can the erroneous readings thus introduced
into these works” (McGarvey, 1:8). Take, for instance, the comedies of Terence (c. 190-158 B.C.).
Seventeenth-century English scholar Richard Bentley noted how Terence’s works were some of the
better preserved classical texts, yet Bentley testified that he had witnessed “twenty thousand various
lections [readings—EL] in that little author, not near so big as the whole New Testament” (as quoted in
“The Text...,” 1822, 15(37):476; see also McGarvey, 1886, 1:8). Consider also the writings of Tacitus.
They are known to contain at least one numerical error that Tacitean and classical scholars have
acknowledged as a copyist’s mistake (Holding, 2001). Scholars recognize that, at some point in history,
a copyist accidentally changed a number (from CXXV to XXV). Although such copyists’ errors are
known to exist, historians around the world cite such ancient works as Herodotus, Josephus, Pliny,
Tacitus, Suetonius, etc., and consider them trustworthy, educational, and worthy of study.
If scholars defend the integrity of ancient authors partly by acknowledging that many of the mistakes
contained within their writings are the result of copyists’ errors, it is only reasonable for these same
scholars (whether atheists, agnostics, skeptics, or Christians) to recognize that alleged problems within
the biblical text may be the result of scribal errors rather than mistakes on the part of one or more of the
original Bible writers. Just as those who copied secular historical documents sometimes made mistakes
(e.g., misspelling names, omitting words, etc.), scribes who copied the Bible from earlier texts also had
the opportunity to err. As Gleason Archer observed: “Even the earliest and best manuscripts that we
possess are not totally free of transmissional errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of
proper names is occasionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that
appear in other ancient documents as well” (1982, p. 27).
Norman Geisler and William Nix have mentioned several ways that a scribe might accidentally change
the biblical text, including: (1) omissions or repetitions of letters, words, or lines; (2) reversals
(transpositions) of letters or words; (3) divisions of words in the wrong places (since words in the early
manuscripts were not divided by spaces); (4) errors of hearing (such as when scribes copied the
Scriptures by listening to someone read them); (5) trusting in memory instead of relying on exactly what
the text says; (6) errors of judgment (possibly caused by insufficient lighting or poor eyesight); (7) poor
penmanship; etc. (1986, pp. 469-475). Recently, I wrote a note asking an assistant to send a package to a
Mrs. Ward. Unfortunately, the package got mislabeled “Mrs. Word,” either because my handwriting was
too poor to distinguish adequately between an “a” and an “o,” or the assistant simply misread the name.
This example shows how easily copyists’ mistakes can occur, even in modern times.
How many Bible students have memorized passages of Scripture and quoted them for months or even
years without realizing that at some point in time they mistakenly changed, added, or omitted a word
from the text. I once memorized 2 Peter 3:9 (“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some
count slackness...,” emp. added), only to find, several years later, that at some point I had incorrectly
made “promise” plural, and had quoted it that way for months. One of the occasional mistakes copyists
made was to trust too much in their own memory. Instead of carefully noting every letter in every word
on every line, some copyists might have memorized too much at a time without looking back at the text.
Keep in mind that scribes did not have computer keys that made the same letters every time, or that
allowed them to copy and paste a paragraph of text with the push of a few buttons. Copying the Bible in
ancient times was a painstaking, tedious job that required constant attention and care even in the best of
CAINAN, SON OF ARPHAXAD: A CASE STUDY IN COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Luke 3:36 is the only verse in the Bible where one can read of the patriarch Arphaxad having a
son named Cainan. Although another Cainan (the son of Enosh) is mentioned seven times in
Scripture (Genesis 5:9-10,12-14; 1 Chronicles 1:2; Luke 3:37), outside of Luke 3:36, Cainan, the
son of Arphaxad, never is mentioned. He is omitted in the genealogies of Genesis 10 and 11, as
well as in the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1:1-28. When the son of Arphaxad is listed in these
genealogies, the name always given is Salah (or Shelah), not Cainan.
One important thing we learn from the various genealogies in Scripture is that sometimes they
contain minor gaps—gaps that are both intentional and legitimate (see Matthew 1:1; see also
Thompson, 1989, 9:17-18). Thus, just because Luke 3 contains a name that is not recorded in
Genesis 10 or 11, or in 1 Chronicles 1, does not have to mean that someone made a mistake. The
fact is, terms such as “begot,” “the son of,” and “father”—often found in genealogies—
occasionally have a much wider connotation in the Bible than might be implied when such words
are used in modern-day English (cf. Genesis 32:9; John 8:39). Simply because one genealogy has
more (or fewer) names than another genealogy, does not mean that the two genealogies are in
Still, the insertion of the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 most likely has a far different explanation—
one that may be more plausible, yet at the same time is more complicated to explain, and thus
less popular. It is very likely that the “Cainan problem” is the result of a scribal error made when
copying Luke’s gospel account.
Realizing that the New Testament originally was written in Greek without punctuation or spaces
between words, the insertion of the name Cainan easily could have crept into Luke’s genealogy.
Notice in the following chart, what the original text (in agreement with Genesis 10:24, 11:12,
and 1 Chronicles 1:18,24) might have said:
If a scribe happened to glance at the end of the third line at toukainan, he easily could have
written it on the first line as well as the third. Hence, instead of reading only one Cainan, what
we read today is two Cainans:
As you can see, it would be easy for a weary scribe to copy “Cainan” inadvertently from Luke
3:37 as he was copying 3:36 (see Sarfati, 1998, 12:39-40; Morris, 1976, p. 282).
Although some apologists reject the idea that the insertion of Cainan in Luke 3:36 is a copyist’s
error, the following facts seem to add much credence to this proposed explanation.
As statedearlier,thispartof Luke’s genealogy also is recorded in Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and in 1
Chronicles1:18,24. All of these OldTestamentpassages,however,omitthe Cainan of Luke 3:36.
In fact, Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old
Cainanisomittedfromall of the followingancientversionsof the OldTestament:the Samaritan
Pentateuch,the Syriac,the Targum(Aramaictranslationsof the OldTestament),andthe Vulgate
(a Latintranslationof the Bible completed between A.D. 382 and 405) (see Hasel, 1980, 7(1):23-
Cainan’s name is absent from Flavius Josephus’ patriarchal listing in his historical work,
Antiquities of the Jews (see 6:1:4-5).
The third-century Christian historian, Julius Africanus, also omitted Cainan’s name from his
chronology of the patriarchs, and yet he had copies of the gospels of both Luke and Matthew
The earliestknowncopyof Luke (a papyruscodex of the Bodmer Collection dated between A.D.
175 and 225) does not contain this Cainan (see
Some are quick to point out that the Septuagint (the
Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament)
mentions the name Cainan, and thus verifies that he
was the son of Arphaxad, just as Luke 3:36 indicates.
The problem with this line of defense is that the oldest
Septuagint manuscripts do not include this reference
to Cainan (Sarfati, 1998, 12:40). Patrick Fairbairn
indicated in his Bible encyclopedia that this Cainan
does “not appear to have been in the copies of the
Septuagint used by Theophilus of Antioch in the
second century, by Africanus in the third, or by
Eusebius in the fourth” (1957, 2:351). He further
stated that this Cainan also was left out of the Vatican
copy of the Septuagint (2:351). That “Cainan” was a
later addition to the Septuagint (and not a part of it
originally) also is evident from the fact that neither
Josephus nor Africanus mentioned him, and yet all
indications are that they both used the Septuagint in
their writings. They repeat too many of the same
numbers of the Septuagint not to have used it. Thus,
Larry Pierce stated: “It appears that at the time of
Josephus, the extra generation of Cainan was not in
the LXX [Septuagint—EL] text or the document that
Josephus used, otherwise Josephus would have included it!” (1999, 13:76). As Henry Morris
concluded in his commentary on Genesis: “[I]t is altogether possible that later copiers of the
Septuagint (who were not as meticulous as those who copied the Hebrew text) inserted Cainan
This manuscript of a portion of
Matthew dates to about A.D. 350.
Credit: The Schøyen Collection MS 2650
into their manuscripts on the basis of certain copies of Luke’s Gospel to which they then had
access” (1976, p. 282, parenthetical comment in orig.). Although it is possible that “Cainan” in
Luke 3:36 merely supplements the Old Testament genealogies, when all of the evidence is
gathered, a better explanation is that the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 is the result of a copyist’s
MORE EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Jehoiachin’s Age When He Began to Reign
In 2 Kings 24:8, we read that Jehoiachin succeeded his father as the 19th king of Judah at the age
of eighteen. However, 2 Chronicles 36:9 informs us that he was “eight years old when he
became king.” Fortunately, there is enough additional information in the biblical text to prove the
correct age of Jehoiachin when he began his reign over Judah.
There is little doubt that Jehoiachin began his reign at eighteen, not eight years of age. This
conclusion is established by Ezekiel 19:5-9, where Jehoiachin is described as going up and down
among the lions, catching the prey, devouring men, and knowing the widows of the men he
devoured and the cities he wasted. As Keil and Delitzsch observed when commenting on this
passage: “The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a
young man of eighteen” (1996). Furthermore, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old child would be
described as one having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:9).
The simple answer to this “problem” is that a copyist, not an inspired writer, made a mistake.
A scribe simply omitted a ten (the Hebrew numeral letter ח [yod], which made Jehoiachin eight
(Hebrew )י [heth]) instead of eighteen (Hebrew .)חי This does not mean the inspired penmen
erred. Rather, it indicates that minor scribal errors have slipped into some copies of the Bible.
Indeed, if you ever have seen the Hebrew alphabet, you doubtless recognize that the Hebrew
letters (which also were used for numbers) could be confused quite easily.
The Spelling of Hadadezer
Should the king’s name be spelled with a “d” (2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 11:23) or an “r” (2 Samuel
10:16; 1 Chronicles 18:3; KJV and ASV)? It would appear that the difference in spelling came
about through the mistake of a scribe. Most likely Hadadezer (with a “d”) is the true form since,
“Hadad was the chief idol, or sun-god, of the Syrians” (Barnes, 1997; cf. Benhadad and Hadad of
1 Kings 15:18; 11:14; etc.). As William Arndt stated, “D and R may be distinct enough in
appearance in English, but in Hebrew they are vexingly similar to each other” (1955, p. xv). The
Hebrew daleth = ,ד while resh = .ר There should be little doubt in our minds that Hadarezer
simply is a corrupted form of Hadadezer. One can see how easily a copyist could have made this
When Did Absalom Commit Treason?
When David’s son Absalom finally returned after killing his half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 15:7
indicates that “after forty years” passed, Absalom left home again and committed treason.
Anyone who knows much Israelite history quickly realizes that Absalom most certainly did not
spend 40 years at home during this time, for David’s entire reign was only 40 years (2 Samuel
5:4). The number given in 2 Samuel 15:7 likely should be four years, which is more in keeping
with the lifetime of Absalom, who was born in Hebron after David’s reign as king began (2
Samuel 3:3). The number “four” also agrees with such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the
Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate. There is little question that the number “forty” represents a
Although scribes are mentioned in the Bible as far back as 1000 B.C. (e.g., Samuel 8:17), history
records three general periods of Jewish scribal tradition: (1) the period of Sopherim (from Ezra
until c. A.D. 200); (2) the Talmudic period (A.D. 100–c. 500); and (3) the period of the Massoretes
(c. 500–c. 950) (Geisler and Nix, 1986, p. 502). Jewish copyists were aware of the importance of
their work and took it very seriously. They were not flawless in their transcription work (as noted
above), but the evidence shows that they were very conscientious. Infinitely more important than
students copying spelling words, cooks copying recipes, or secretaries copying a boss’s memo,
scribes understood that they were copying the Word of God. Even the important work of medical
transcriptionists cannot compare with the copyists of old. McGarvey noted how copyists in the
Talmudic period “adopted for themselves very minute regulations to preserve the purity of the
sacred text” (1886, 1:9). Later, the Massoretes took even more stringent steps to insure top-
quality manuscripts. With a deep reverence for the Scriptures, they went above and beyond the
“call of duty,” laboring under ultra-strict rules in order to make the most accurate copies
possible. In his Introduction to the Old Testament, Professor R.K. Harrison addressed the
approach of the Massoretes to the Scriptures and their professionalism, saying:
They concerned themselves with the transmission of the consonantal text as they had received it
[Hebrew has no vowels—EL], as well as with its pronunciation, on the basis that the text itself
was inviolable and every consonant sacred.
The detailed statistical work that the Massoretes undertook on each book included the counting
of verses, words, and letters, establishing the middle of the book (a procedure which was useful
in the case of bifid, or two-part, compositions) noting peculiarities of style, and other similar
matters (1969, pp. 212-213, parenthetical item in orig.).
By taking such precautions in the copying of letters, words, and verses (by sections and books),
it could be known if a word or letter had been omitted or added. Indeed, as Eddie Hendrix
affirmed: “Such minute checks contributed to a high degree of copying accuracy” (1976,
93:5). No other group of ancient copyists is more renowned than those of the Old Testament.
Although much less is known about New Testament copyists, according to Philip Comfort, who
wrote The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament, paleographic evidence has revealed
that “several of the early manuscripts were copied carefully with precision and acumen...,” no
doubt “by educated and professional scribes” (1992, p. 51,50). New Testament copyists also had
grave motivation to copy the Scriptures with care. Although not typically quoted with copyists in
mind, consider the words of Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to
these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes
away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book
of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
In the second century A.D., Irenaeus applied this condemnation to copyists who knowingly
contribute to the initiation and perpetuation of textual errors (5:30:1). Undoubtedly, due to the
grace of God and the conscientiousness of copyists, “[t]he New Testament...has not only
survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in purer
form than any other great book” (Geisler and Nix, p. 475).
NO AUTOGRAPHS? NO PROBLEM.
Some may wonder how Christians can be confident that we have God’s Word today, when the
original manuscripts (called autographs) are no longer available for our viewing. How can one
know the Truth, if the Truth comes from copies of copies of copies...of the autographs, many of
which contain various minute transcriptional errors? Should we simply give up and declare that
attempts at finding the Truth are futile?
It is highly unreasonable to think that truths can be learned only from autographs. Learning and
forming beliefs based on reliable copies of various written documents, objects, etc. is a way of
life. To conclude that a driver in a particular state could not learn to drive adequately without
having in hand the original driving manual produced by the state years earlier is absurd. To
assert that no one could measure the length of one yard without having the standard yard in hand
from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is ridiculous. Even if the standard yard
was lost, the millions of copies of the yard in existence today would be sufficient in finding (or
measuring) exactly what a yard is. Consider also McGarvey’s example of an autograph, which
eventually was destroyed.
A gentleman left a large estate entailed to his descendants of the third generation, and it was not
to be divided until a majority of them should be of age. During the interval many copies of the
will were circulated among parties interested, many of these being copies of copies. In the
meantime the office of record in which the original was filed was burned with all its contents.
When the time for division drew near, a prying attorney gave out among the heirs the report that
no two existing copies were alike. This alarmed them all and set them busily at work to ascertain
the truth of the report. On comparing copy with copy they found the report true, but on close
inspection it was discovered that the differences consisted in errors in spelling or grammatical
construction; some mistakes in figures corrected by the written numbers; and some other
differences not easily accounted for; but that in none of the copies did these mistakes affect the
rights of the heirs. In the essential matters for which the will was written the representations of
all the copies were precisely the same. The result was that they divided the estate with perfect
satisfaction to all, and they were more certain that they had executed the will of their grandfather
than if the original copy had been alone preserved; for it might have been tampered with in the
interest of a single heir; but the copies, defective though they were, could not have been (1:17).
Everyday, all around the world, individuals, groups, businesses, schools, etc. operate with the
conviction that autographs are unnecessary to learn the truths within them. Copies of wills,
articles, books, etc., can be gathered, inspected, and scrutinized until new copies are published
that virtually are identical to the original. “[A]ccurate communication is possible despite
technical mistakes in copying” (Archer, 1982, p. 29). So it is with the Bible. Even though
copyists were imperfect in their transcription work, more than enough copies of the Scriptures
have survived so that, as Sir Fredric Kenyon remarked, “it is practically certain that the true
reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities.
This can be said of no other ancient book in the world!” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 204).
EVIDENCE OF RELIABLE BIBLE TRANSMISSION
The Old Testament
The Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. In
1947, a number of ancient documents were found by accident in a cave on the northwest side of
the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls,
was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in
earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and
a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have
been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts
were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees);
others often are grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry,
commentary, etc.). The most notable and pertinent group of documents found in the caves of
Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the
Hebrew Bible was accounted for
among the scrolls except the
book of Esther.
The Dead Sea Scrolls serve as
strong evidence for the integrity
of the Old Testament text. Prior
to 1947, the earliest known Old
Testament manuscripts went
back only to about A.D. 1000.
With the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have
been able to compare the present
day text with the text from more
than 2,000 years ago. Textual
critics have found that these
ancient copies of Old Testament
books are amazingly similar to the Massoretic text. Indeed, they serve as proof that the Old
Testament text has been transmitted faithfully through the centuries. As Rene Paché concluded:
“Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the Old Testament was accurately transmitted for
the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the
beginning” (1971, p. 191). What’s more, if copies of the Old Testament in the first century were
sufficiently accurate for Jesus and the apostles to quote them and teach from them, and we
possess Old Testament manuscripts that date back to (or before) the time of Christ, then
Christians should feel extremely confident about the condition of the Old Testament in the 21st
century—at least as confident as was Jesus (cf. Matthew 22:31).
The New Testament
How confident can Christians be that the text of the New Testament is essentially the same today
as it was in the first century? Could it be that one of the central tenets of Christianity (e.g., Jesus’
deity) is the result of a person’s manipulation of the New Testament text centuries ago, as is
alleged in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003, pp. 233-234)? Did someone come
along in the Middle Ages and drastically change the text of the New Testament? Just what
evidence do we have for the reliability of the New Testament?
One of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
Twenty-first-century Christians can be confident that the New Testament has been transmitted
faithfully through the centuries in large part because of the vast amount of manuscript evidence
in existence today, some of which goes back to the early second century A.D. When F.F. Bruce
published the sixth edition of his classic book The New Testament Documents—Are They
Reliable? in 1981, he noted that “there are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New
Testament in whole or in part” (p. 10). Nearly 25 years later, Michael Welte of the Institute for
New Testament Textual Research in Munster, Germany, indicated that the number of Greek
manuscripts stood at 5,748 (2005). This number represents a far greater body of manuscripts than
is known to exist for any other ancient volume (cf. Westcott and Hort, 1964, p. 565; Ewert, 1983,
p. 139; Kenyon, 1951, p. 5). For example, The Histories of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and
the Annals of Tacitus, three well-known and oft’-quoted ancient historical works, are backed by
a combined total of 38 manuscripts (Geisler and Nix, p. 408). The most documented book of
antiquity next to the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad. Some 643 manuscripts of the Iliad are in
existence today (p. 475), which is still 5,000 less than the number of extant copies of the New
Equally impressive as the number of manuscripts of the New
Testament in existence is the age of the manuscripts. Whereas the extant
copies of Plato, Thucydides, Herodotus, Tacitus, and many others are
separated from the time these men wrote by 1,000 years, manuscript
evidence for the New Testament reaches as far back as the early second
century, and possibly earlier. In The Text of the Earliest New Testament
Greek Manuscripts, a 700-page volume edited by Philip Comfort and
David Barrett, more than 60 of the earliest Greek New Testament
manuscripts are transcribed (2001). Many photographs of these early
manuscripts (the originals of which are housed in museums throughout
the world) also are contained in the book. In the introduction, Comfort
and Barrett state: “All of the manuscripts [contained in the book—EL]
are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth
(A.D. 100-300)” (p. 17). In fact, “[s]everal of the most significant papyri
date from the middle of the second century” and thus “provide the
earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs” (p. 18). They
even suggest that “it is possible that some of the manuscripts thought to
be of the early second century are actually manuscripts of the late first”
(p. 23). Thus, we can have great confidence in the transmission of the
New Testament, not only because of the great number of extant copies,
but because of how closely these manuscripts date to the time when the
autographs were written.
But, that’s not all. To the manuscript evidence, one also can add the
ancient versions of the New Testament (e.g., Old Syriac, Old Latin,
Coptic, etc.), as well as the “more than 36,000 patristic citations
containing almost every verse of the New Testament” (Geisler and Nix,
p. 467). Non-inspired Christian writings from the first few centuries (by
men such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr,
Irenaeus, and many others) are saturated with quotations from the New
Testament apostles and prophets. “Indeed, so extensive are these citations,” wrote the eminent
New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, “that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of
the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically
the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86). These witnesses, along with the ancient versions, speak
voluminously on behalf of the integrity of the Bible’s transmission.
Old, worn page of a
Is there ample evidence from surviving manuscripts, versions, and early quotations of the New
Testament documents that indicates the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in
the first century? Most certainly. The former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic
Kenyon, summed up the matter: “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say
without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential
loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p.
Considering the potential over the past 1,900 years for the text of the Bible to be grossly corrupted, and
the fact that such did not occur, Christians can be confident that God, though not inspiring the copyists
in their transmission of His Word, used them in His providential preservation of it. Isaiah assured his
listeners 2,700 years ago of the permanence of God’s Word, saying, “The grass withers, the flower
fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6). Then, after more than seven centuries of
transmission, the apostle Peter echoed Isaiah’s sentiments, describing the Word of God as
“incorruptible,” and that which “lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
1. Africanus, Julius (1971 reprint), “The Extant Writings of Julius Africanus,” Ante-Nicene Fathers
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
2. Archer, Gleason L. (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
3. Arndt, William (1955), Does the Bible Contradict Itself? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
4. Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
5. Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
6. Bruce, F.F. (1981), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans), sixth edition.
7. Comfort, Philip (1992), The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids,
8. Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek
Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
9. Ewert, David (1983), From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonder-
10. Fairbairn, Patrick (1957 reprint), “Genealogies,” Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible
Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
11. Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago,
IL: Moody), revised edition.
12. Hasel, Gerhard F. (1980), “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronologies in the Biblical History of
Beginnings,” Origins, 7:23-37, [On-line], URL: http://www.ldolphin.org/haselgeneal.html.
13. Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
14. Hendrix, Eddie (1976), “What About Those Copyist Errors?” Firm Foundation, 93:5, April
15. Holding, James Patrick (2001), “Copyist Errors,” [On-line], URL:
16. Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids,
17. Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the
Jews, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
18. Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
(Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
19. Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1951 reprint), Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), second edition.
20. Lightfoot, Neil (2003), How We Got the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), third edition.
21. McGarvey, J.W. (1886), Evidences of Christianity (Cincinnati, OH: Guide Printing).
22. Metzger, Bruce (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University
23. Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
24. “The Official Website of #1 National Bestselling Author Dan Brown” (no date), [On-line], URL:
25. Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
26. Pierce, Larry (1999), “Cainan in Luke 3:36: Insight from Josephus,” CEN Technical Journal,
27. Sarfati, Jonathan D. (1998), “Cainan of Luke 3:36,” CEN Technical Journal, 12:39-40.
28. Sarfati, Jonathan D. (no date), “How do You Explain the Difference between Luke 3:36 and
Genesis 11:12?” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3748.asp.
29. “The Text of the New Testament” (1822), The North American Review, 15(37):460-487,
October, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
30. Thompson, Bert (1989), “Are the Genealogies of the Bible Useful Chronologies?” Reason and
Revelation, 9:17-18, May.
31. Welte, Michael (2005), personal e-mail to Dave Miller, Institute for New Testament Textual
Research (Munster, Germany), [On-line], URL: http://www.uni-muenster.de/NTTextforschung/.
32. Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New
Inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible
by Matt Slick
The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. This means that God is
the one who moved through the writers to communicate to us the words which God wanted
us to hear. This inspiration, however, is not a dictation, but a movement of God's spirit
through the writer, utilizing the personality and style of the writer. Inerrancy means that all
that is written in the inspired documents is without error. Now, there is a comment worth
mentioning here. Inspiration and inerrancy applies to the original writings, not to the copies.
In other words, it is the original writings that are without error. The copies, sadly, have copyist errors in
Therefore, when critics of the Bible point out apparent contradictions, what they are doing is either
failing to understand the context of the passages they are examining, or they have encountered a scribal
copying error. The fact is that there are indeed copyist errors on the biblical documents and they account
for many alleged contradictions. Remember, it is the autographs (original writings) that are inspired and
inerrant, not the copies. The copies we have now are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not
themselves "inspired;" that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. Does this then mean
that we can't trust the Bible? Not at all. The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are
98.5% textually pure. The 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and
occasional word omissions like the words "the," "but," etc. This reduces any serious textual issues to a
fraction of the 1.5%. Nevertheless, nothing affects doctrinal truths. In fact, nothing in ancient history
even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents. If the New Testament is disallowed,
then all other documents of ancient history (Plato, Aristotle, Homer, etc.), must also be disallowed
because the biblical documents are far superior in their copying accuracy than any other ancient
literature in existence. See the chart below for further information on this.
Nevertheless, following is a list of the types of errors that have crept into the Bible:
Dittography - Writing twice what should have been written once.
o A good example would be writing "latter" instead of "later." "Latter" means nearest the
end. "Later" means after something else.
Fission - Improperly dividing one word into two words.
o Example: "nowhere" into "now here."
Fusion - Combining the last letter of one word with the first letter of the next word.
o "Look it is there in the cabinet... or Look it is therein the cabinet."
Haplography - Writing once what should have been written twice.
o A good example would be "later" instead of "latter." "Later" means after something else.
"Latter" means nearest the end.
Homophony - Writing a word with a different meaning for another word when both words have
the exact same pronunciation.
o Meat and meet have the exact same sound but different meanings. Also, there and their
and they're are another example.
Metathesis - An improper exchange in the order of letters.
o Instead of writing "mast," someone writes "mats," or "cast" and cats."
Does this mean that the Bible we hold in our hand is not inspired? Not at all. Inspiration comes from
God and when He inspired the Bible, it was perfect. Our copies of the original documents are not
perfect, but they are very close to being so. The critics often mistakenly assume that even the copies are
supposed to be perfect. But when I point out that God never said the copies would be perfect, they then
ask how can the Bible be trusted at all? Quite simply, it is redundant in its facts and information
sufficiently to guarantee accuracy.
Compared to other ancient documents, the New Testament, for example, has far more textual evidence
in its favor than any other ancient writing. Please consider the chart below.
Author When Written Earliest Copy Time Span No. of Copies
Homer (Iliad) 900 BC 400 BC 500 years 643
Ceasar (The Gallic Wars) 100 - 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10
Plato (Tetralogies) 427 - 347 BC 900 AD 1,200 years 7
Aristotle 384 - 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 49
Herodotus (History) 480 - 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8
Euripedes 480 - 406 BC 1,100 AD 1,500 years 9
New Testament 50 - 90 A.D. 130 AD 30 years 24,000
This chart was adapted from charts in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, 1979,
pages 42 and 43.
If the Bible cannot be trusted as being reliable because it has only a small percentage of copyist errors,
then neither can the above documents be trusted that have far less textual support.
Therefore, we can see that the Bible is an ancient document that has withstood thousands of years of
transmission with remarkable accuracy and clarity. We can trust it to be what it says it is: the word of
The Earliest Skilled Christian Copyist and Their Work
Today there are almost two billion people that call themselves Christian, who carry a little black book
around with them: the Bible. Most are unaware of just how that book came down to them, yet they
would be the first to claim that it is inspired of God, and possesses no errors, mistakes, or contractions.
Herein, we will take a brief look at how the early Christians went about the work of making copies of
what would become known as New Testament books, books that they felt were Scripture, just like the
inspired Hebrew Scriptures. Such background information will not only build confidence that you have
been carrying the very Word of God, but it also affords you the opportunity to ‘be prepared to make a
defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.’ (1 Pet 3:15) One might say that
the 127 Greek New Testament papyrus manuscripts that have survived up unto today, is hardly a
notable amount. As you will see below that is hardly the case, but first, let us take a look at the process.
Papyrus is writing material used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans that was made from the
pith of the stem of a water plant. It was cut in strips, with one layer being laid out horizontally and the
other vertically. Scholarship has suggested that paste may have been used between layers as a type of
adhesive, placing a large stone on top until dry, creating a sheet of papyrus paper between 6–9 inches in
width and 12–15 inches long. These sheets would then be glued from end to end until they had enough
length to copy the book they were working on. Writing was done only on the horizontal side and it was
rolled so that the writing would be on the inside. As you can visualize, there would be great difficulty, if
one were to attempt writing across the vertical side because of the fibers of the papyrus. The scribe or
copyist would have used a reed pen to write on the papyrus sheets. (3 John 13) The papyrus plant was
the main product used to receive writing until about 300 C.E. It was used with the roll, as well as the
With an introductory book on New Testament textual criticism, the Bible student will discover that the
early papyrus manuscripts, such as P45, P46, P47, P52, P66, P73 and P75 (to mention just a few, all date
before 300 C.E., from as early as 110 C.E. On the other hand, the manuscripts, like codex Sinaiticus and
Vaticanus from about 350 C.E. were made with parchment, a creamy or yellowish material made from
dried and treated sheepskin, goatskin, or other animal hide.
One may wonder why more New Testament manuscripts have not survived. It must be remembered that
the Christians suffered horrible moments of persecution throughout the first 300 years from Pentecost 33
C.E. With this persecution from the Roman Empire came many orders to destroy their texts. In addition,
these texts were not stored in such a way as to secure their preservation; they were used by the
Christians and in the congregation, and were subject to wear and tear. Furthermore, moisture is the
enemy of papyrus, causing them to disintegrate over time. This is why you will discover that the
manuscripts that have survived have come from the dry sands of Egypt. Lastly, it never entered the
minds of those early Christians to preserve their documents, for their solution was just to make another
copy. This coupled with the transition of making copies with a more durable animal skin, which would
last much longer. Of those that have survived, especially those from 300 C.E. and earlier, are the path to
restoring the original Greek New Testament.
From an Oral Gospel to the Written Record
Jesus had commanded his disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20, ESV)
Nevertheless, how was this good news to be made known?
During the forty-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension, Jesus instructed his disciples
in the teaching of the gospel. Accordingly, he prepared them for the tremendous task that awaited them
on and after Pentecost.
There was only ten days after Jesus ascension and Pentecost, when “they were all filled with the Holy
Spirit.” Jesus put it this way, in his own words, it being only “a few days.” This time would have been
filled with the process of replacing Judas Iscariot, prayer, and the established gospel message, which
would be the official oral message, until it was deemed necessary to have a written gospel some 10 to 15
years later. The gospel message was quite simple: ‘Christ died for our sins according to Scripture, was
buried, and he was resurrected on the third day according to scripture.’―1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you
stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you
believed in vain.
From Pentecost 33 C.E. up unto the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 C.E., 22 books of the Greek
New Testament were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, Paul, James and Jude. The five exceptions
being those penned by the apostle John: his gospel, 3 letters and the book of Revelation. All of the books
by John were completed toward the end of the first century, 96 - 98 C.E. Reliable history of Christianity
has the Gospel of Matthew being penned first, in about 41 C.E., with the Gospel of Luke coming about
56-58 C.E., and the Gospel of Mark between 60 to 65 C.E. These are known as the synoptic Gospels, as
they are similar in content, while the Gospel of John chose to convey other information, being that he
wrote his gospel to the second generation of Christians in about 98 C.E. Luke informs us of just how the
very first Christians received the gospel message. Very few translations make explicit the exact process.
Luke 1:1-4 Amplified Bible (AMP)
SINCE [as is well known] many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [thorough] narrative of
the surely established deeds which have been accomplished and fulfilled in and among us, Exactly as
they were handed down to us by those who from the [official] beginning [of Jesus' ministry] were
eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ
of salvation in the kingdom of God], It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined]
also after having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course
from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most
excellent Theophilus, [My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty
and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been
informed and in which you have been orally [katechethes] instructed.
Acts 18:24-25 English Standard Version (ESV)
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man,
competent in the Scriptures. He had been [orally, katechethes] instructed in the way of the Lord. And
being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only
the baptism of John.
Galatians 6:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
One who is [orally, katechethes] taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
We can see clearly from the above that Both Theophilus and Apollos received the initial gospel
message, just as all Christians did in the early years, and even after the written gospels were available,
being taught the gospel of Jesus by oral instruction (katechethes). In time, it was deemed that there was a
need for a written record, which is the reason Luke gives for his Gospel. This was not to discount what
Theophilus had be orally instructed about, but to give credence to that oral message that he had received.
Of course, the New Testament was not limited to these gospels.
The publishing of these New Testament books in written form would have come about in the following
(1) the inspired author would have used a well trusted, skilled Christian scribe, to take down what they
had to say, by shorthand;
(2) the scribe would then make a rough draft;
(3) which would then be read by both the scribe and author, making corrections;
(4) thereafter, the scribe would make what is known as the authorized text, to be signed by the author;
(5) which would then be used to make other copies.
Romans 16:22 English Standard Version (ESV)
I Tertius [Paul's scribe], who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 3:17 English Standard Version (ESV)
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it
is the way I write. [Paul's comments infer that he only wrote the greeting, the rest by a scribe]
1 Peter 5:12 English Standard Version (ESV)
By Silvanus [a scribe], a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and
declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
Both Tertius and Silvanus were skilled Christian scribes, who assisted the writers of the New Testament.
It is unlikely that Paul literally penned any of his letters that were of great length. It is clear that Peter
used the trained Silvanus to pen his first letter, and likely the second letter was the result of Jude’s
penman skills, as it is very similar in style to the letter by Jude. This may explain the differences in style
between First and Second Peter. As an aside, it is very likely that the inspired author would give some
latitude to their skilled Christian scribe and coauthor, as to word choices. While we know that Mark was
used to pen his gospel, it is likely that he wrote as Peter spoke. It is Silvanus (Silas), who penned the
letter from the elders in Jerusalem, to the congregation in Antioch, which we find in Acts chapter 15.
Papyrus or Parchment
The Hebrew Old Testament that would have been available to the early Christians was written on the
processed hide of animals with the hair removed, and smoothed out with a pumice stone. It was leather
scrolls that were sent to Alexandria, Egypt in about 280 B.C.E., to make what we now know as the
Greek Septuagint. Most of the Dead Sea scrolls that were discovered between 1947 to 1956 are made
of leather, and it is almost certain that the scroll of Isaiah that Jesus read from in the synagogue was all
Luke 4:17 English Standard Version (ESV)
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where
it was written,
The oldest extant leather scrolls date to about 1,500 years before Jesus was born. Both leather and
papyrus was used down to the first-century Christians. Vellum is a high quality parchment made from
calfskin, kidskin, or lambskin. After the skin was removed, it would be soaked in limewater, after which
the hair would be scraped off, the skin then being scraped and dried, being rubbed afterwards with chalk
and pumice stone, creating a fine smooth writing material. During the first three hundred years of
Christianity, the secular world viewed parchment as being inferior to papyrus, it being relegated to
notebooks, rough drafts, and other non-literary purposes.
A couple myths should be dispelled before moving on. It is often repeated that papyrus is not a durable
material. Both papyrus and parchment are durable under normal circumstances. Another often repeated
thought is that papyrus was fragile and brittle, making it an unlikely candidate to be used for a codex,
which would have to be folded in half. Another argument that should be sidelined is, 'which was more
expensive to produce, papyrus or parchment?' Presently there is no data to aid in that evaluation. We
know that papyrus was used for all of the Christian codex manuscripts up unto the fourth-century, at
which time you find the two great parchment codices, the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus manuscripts.
Parchment of good quality has been called “the finest writing material ever devised by man.” (Roberts
and Skeat, The Birth of the Codex 1987, 8) Why then did parchment take so long to replace papyrus.
This may be answered by some quotations from R. Reed in Ancient Skins, Parchments and Leathers:
It is perhaps the extraordinary high durability of the product, produced by so simple a method, which
has prevented most people from suspecting that many subtle points are involved… The essence of the
parchment process, which subjects the system of pelt to the simultaneous action of stretching and
drying, is to bring about peculiar changes quite different from those applying when making leather.
These are (1) reorganization of the dermal fibre network by stretching, and (2) permanently setting this
new and highly stretched form of fibre network by drying the pelt fluid to a hard, glue-like consistency.
In other words, the pelt fibres are fixed in a stretched condition so that they cannot revert to their
original relaxed state. (Reed 1973, 119-20)
Where the medieval parchment makers were greatly superior to their modern counterparts was in the
control and modification of the ground substance in the pelt, before the latter was stretched and dried…
The major point, however, which modern parchment manufacturers have not appreciated, is what might
be termed the integral or collective nature of the parchment process. The bases of many different effects
need to be provided for simultaneously, in one and the same operation. The properties required in the
final parchment must be catered for at the wet pelt stage, for due to the peculiar nature of the parchment
process, once the system has been dried, and after-treatments to modify the material produced are
greatly restricted. (Reed 1973, 124)
This method, which follows those used in medieval times for making parchment of the highest quality,
is preferable for it allows the grain surface of the drying pelt to be “slicked” and freed from residual fine
hairs while stretching upon the frame. At the same time, any process for cleaning and smoothing the
flesh side, or for controlling the thickness of the final parchment may be undertaken by working the
flesh side with sharp knives which are semi-lunar in form… To carry out such manual operations on wet
stretched pelt demands great skill, speed of working, and concentrated physical effort. (Reed 1973, 138-
Enough has been said to suggest that behind the apparently simple instructions contained in the early
medieval recipes there is a wealth of complex process detail which we are still far from understanding.
Hence it remains true that parchment-making is perhaps more of an art than a science. (Reed 1973, 172)
The Christian Codex
Going back to the first-century once again, let us take a moment to deal with the invention of the codex.
Was it the first-century Christians, who invented the codex, or at least put it on the stage of the world
The writing tablet of ancient times was made from two flat pieces of wood, held together by a thong
hinge, which looks something like our modern book. It had its limits, because of the impracticalness of
fastening more than a few such tablets together. The center of the tablet pages would have been slightly
hollowed, to receive a wax coating. A stylus is a common instrument used to write on these waxed
tablets. The stylus was made of metal, ivory or bone, and was sharpened to a point on one side, while
having a rounded knob on the other, for erasing, to make corrections. This is the oldest form of writing
of the Greeks, who borrowed it from the Hittites. History and evidence credits the Romans with
replacing the wooden tablet with the parchment notebook. The apostle Paul is the only Greek writer of
the first-century C.E. to mention the parchment notebook.
2 Timothy 4:13 English Standard Version (ESV)
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the
parchments [membranai, parchment notebooks].
However, it should be recognized that the parchment notebook was not used for literature in the first two
centuries before the Christian era (B.C.E.), this went to the roll or scroll. Even though the codex was
commonly used for books, the first indication that it was going to displace the roll came toward the end
of the first-century C.E. (Roberts and Skeat, The Birth of the Codex 1987, 24) Thus, again, the Jews of
the late first-century C.E. and thereafter, used scrolls, while the Christians on the other hand used
codices. One must consider that many of the first Christians were Jewish, and likely read their Old
Testament from a scroll. Before becoming a Christian, the apostle Paul was a Pharisee and would have
use scrolls. However, he also made a transition to the codex after his conversion to Christianity.
Only a handful of manuscripts of the New Testament that are still in existence, were written on scrolls.
(P13, P18, and P98) However, these were written on the back of other writings, so they were not really
composed in the scroll form. P22 was written on the roll, and we await more research there, as it is an
peculiarity among the group of papyri. All other New Testament manuscripts were written on codices.
As there is evidence that the second century Christians were trying to set themselves apart from the
Jews, so they likely made the transition in part, because they wished to be different. We say in part,
because it is quite evident that the first Christians grouped their writings together, the gospels, and
Paul’s letters. The codex afforded them the means of doing this, while a scroll of the gospels would be
far too long and bulky. In addition, locating a portion of desired text, would be near impossible. For
example, P46 dating to about 150 C.E., contained ten of Paul’s letters. P45 dates to about 225 C.E. and
originally contained all four Gospels and the book of Acts. In the end, it can be said that the Christians
adopted the codex (1) to be different from the Jews, (2) to have the Gospels and the Apostle Paul’s
letters all in one book, (3) because of the ease of being able to find a portion of text, and this made the
spread of the good news much more convenient.
We do learn quite a bit from the New Testament. The apostle Peter writes, “. . . just as our beloved
brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he
speaks in them of these matters. . .” (2 Pet 3:15-16, about 64 C.E.) This shows the earliness of having
Paul’s letters together. The apostle John wrote, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not
use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
(2 John 12, about 98 C.E.) This shows that John used papyrus in writing to a sister congregation. The
Greek word chartou means “papyrus,” “a sheet of paper.” The apostle Paul wrote Timothy and asked
him, “when you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books [likely scrolls of
OT books], and above all the parchments [codices].” (2 Tim 4:13, about 65 C.E) While it is thought by
most scholars that Paul was talking about two different items here, it is very possible; he was referring to
only one, which is Skeat’s position. Let us look at the verse again:
2 Timothy 4:13 English Standard Version (ESV)
When you come, bring . . . the books, and above all the parchments.
When you come, bring . . . the books, that is my parchment notebooks.
If the second version above is true, Paul was looking to get some of his notebooks, possible rough drafts
that he had left behind. The Old Testament books could have been located right where he was, but he
would have been highly interested in unpublished works that he wanted to get out before his execution.
Of course, this latter thought is the formation of judgments based on incomplete or inconclusive
information. However, one thing is certain, that Paul was asking for either codices in complete book
form, or in notebook form. This tells us that Paul was the first to have his books collected into codex
form. We can draw some conclusions, even on our limited evidence:
(1) The codex was being used by the end of the first-century C.E.
(2) The Christians were using the codex at the end of the first-century C.E.
(3) Point 2 is because all extant (still in existence) early Christian manuscripts were written on the
The Greek New Testament
The Old Testament for Christian use
Noncanonical (not authorized or not inspired) writings
The Church Fathers
Other theological writings
Were the Early Copyist Trained?
The perception that early Christianity was isolated and used untrained copyists is a long held belief that
is mistaken. The early Christian congregations were not isolated from one another. The Roman roads
and maritime travel connected all the regions from Rome to Greece, to Asia, to Syria and Palestine and
Egypt, from the days of Pentecost onward, Jewish or Jewish proselyte Christians returned to Egypt
with the good news of Christ. (Acts 2:10) Three years thereafter, the Ethiopian eunuch traveled home
with the good news as well. (Acts 8:26–39). Apollos of Alexandria, Egypt, a renowned speaker, came
out of Egypt with the knowledge of John the Baptizer, and arrived in Ephesus in about 52 C.E. (Acts
18:24, 25) The apostle Paul traveled over 20,000 miles throughout the Roman Empire establishing
congregations. The apostles were a restraint to the apostasy and division within the whole of the 1st
century Christian congregation. (2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7; 1 John 2:18) It was not until the 2nd century
that the next generation of religious leaders gradually moved left of center. Conservative Christianity
was strong and centered against Gnosticism, Roman persecution, and Jewish hatred.
It is conceivable that by 55 C.E. there would have been a thriving congregation in Alexandrian, Egypt,
with its huge Jewish population. (Acts 11:19, ESV) “Now those who were scattered because of the
persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the
word to no one except Jews.” While this indicates a traveling north to Antioch, it does not negate a
traveling south to Egypt. Antioch is obviously mentioned because it played the major role as a
commencement for first-century Christianity, especially for the apostle Paul.
The Coptic Church claims the Gospel writer Mark as its founder and first patriarch. Tradition has it that
he preached in Egypt just before the middle of the first-century. At any rate, Christianity spread to Egypt
and North Africa at an early date. In fact, it became a prominent religious center, with a noted scholar
named Pantaenus, who founded a catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt, about 160 C.E. In about 180
C.E. another prominent scholar, Clement of Alexandria, took over his position. Clement really put this
religious educational institution on the map as the possible center for the whole of the Christian
congregation throughout the Roman Empire. The persecution that came about the year 202 C.E. forced
Clement to flee Alexandria, but one of the most noted scholars of early Christian history, Origen,
replaced him. In addition, Origen took this scholarly environment to Caesarea in 231 C.E. and started
yet another prominent school and scriptorium.*
* A scriptorium is a place where manuscripts were copied by multiple copyists as a lector read aloud.
What does all of this mean? Of course, we cannot know absolutely, but textual scholars Philip W.
Comfort, Larry W. Hurtado, and Eldon Jay Epp believe that the very early Alexandrian manuscripts
that we now possess are a reflection of what would have been found throughout the whole of the Greco-
Roman Empire from about 85–275 C.E. In other words, if we were to discover early manuscripts from
other regions (Rome, Greece, Asia, and Palestine), they would be very similar to the early Alexandrian
manuscripts. This means that these early papyri are the means of establishing the original text, and we
are in a far better position today than were Westcott and Hort.*
* B. F. Westcot and F. J. A. Hort were two Cambridge Uiversities scholars that produced a master Greek
text, which was published in 1881, a text that displaced the corrupt Textus Receptus that had dominated
for hundreds of years. The Textus Receptus (Received Text) is the name given to a master Greek text of
1516 that was produced by a Dutch Scholar Desiderus Erasmus. There was a succession of edited
versions of this text, but the main point is that it is the text behind the English William Tyndale
translation of 1535 and the 1611 King James Version, really all English translations until 1881.
Those who have abandoned all hope of establishing the original text would argue differently, saying that
‘oldest is not necessarily best.’ For these scholars, the original reading could be found in any
manuscript. They continue with the approach that the reading that produced the other readings is likely
the original. While on the surface this sounds great, it is not as solid a principle as one might think. On
this issue, Comfort writes:
For example, two scholars, using this principle to examine the same variant, may not agree. One might
argue that the variant was produced by a copyist attempting to emulate the author’s style; the other could
claim the same variant has to be original because it accords with the author’s style. Or, one might argue
that a variant was produced by an orthodox scribe attempting to rid the text of a reading that could be
used to promote heterodoxy or heresy; another might claim that the same variant has to be original
because it is orthodox and accords with Christian doctrine (thus a heterodoxical or heretical scribe must
have changed it). Furthermore, this principle allows for the possibility that the reading selected for the
text can be taken from any manuscript of any date. This can lead to subjective eclecticism.
Either reasoned eclecticism or the local-genealogical method will lean more heavily on internal
evidence, setting off external evidence as being of less importance. However, as Ernest Colwell
suggested in 1968, we need to get back to the principles of Westcott and Hort. Hort wrote in his 1882
Introduction: “Documentary attestation has been in most cases allowed to confer the place of honour as
against internal evidence.”
Trustworthiness of Early Copyists
It has become common to suggest that the earliest copyists were of two sorts: (1) semiliterate and
unskilled in the work of making copies; (2) feeling the end was nigh and therefore taking liberties with
the text in an attempt to strengthen orthodoxy. The former would undoubtedly lead to many
unintentional changes, while the latter would certainly escalate intentional changes. J. Harold Greenlee
had this to say:
In the very early period, the NT writings were more nearly “private” writings than the classics . . . the
classics were commonly—although not always—copied by professional scribes, the NT books were
probably usually copied in the early period by Christians who were not professionally trained for the
task, and no corrector was employed to check the copyist’s work against his exemplar (the MS from
which the copy was made). . . . It appears that copyist sometimes even took liberty to add or change
minor details in the narrative books on the basis of personal knowledge, alternative tradition, or a
parallel account in another book of the Bible. . . . At the same time, the importance of these factors in
affecting the purity of the NT text must not be exaggerated. The NT books doubtless came to be
considered as “literature” soon after they began to be circulated, with attention to the precise wording
required when copies were made.
Greenlee had not changed his position 14 years later, when he wrote the following:
The New Testament, on the other hand, was probably copied during the earliest period mostly by
ordinary Christians who were not professional scribes but who wanted a copy of the New Testament
book or books for themselves or for other Christians.
Generally, once an established concept is set within the world of textual scholars it is not so easily
displaced. During the start of the 20th century (1900–1930), there were a handful of papyri discovered
that obviously were the work of a copyist who had no training in making copies. It is during this time
that Sir Frederic Kenyon, director and principal librarian of the British Museum for many years, said:
The early Christians, a poor, scattered, often illiterate body, looking for the return of the Lord at no
distant date, were not likely to care sedulously for minute accuracy of transcription or to preserve their
books religiously for the benefit of posterity.
The first papyri discovered showed this to be the case. However, as more papyri came to light, it proved
to be just the opposite, prompting Sir Frederic Kenyon to write:
We must be content to know that the general authenticity of the New Testament text has been
remarkably supported by the modern discoveries which have so greatly reduced the interval between the
original autographs and our earliest extant manuscripts, and that the differences of reading, interesting as
they are, do not affect the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
Some of the earliest manuscripts that we now have show that they were copied by a professional scribe.
Many of the other papyri give evidence that they were copied by a semiprofessional hand, while most of
these early papyri give evidence of being done by a copyist that was literate and experienced. Therefore,
the vast majority of our early papyri were done by either literate or semiprofessional copyists, with some
being done by professionals. As it happened, the few poorly copied manuscripts came to light first,
establishing a precedent that was difficult for some to shake when the truckload of evidence came forth
that showed just the opposite.
The writers of the 27 books comprising the Christian Greek Scriptures were Jews. (Romans 13:1, 2)
These men were either apostles, intimate traveling companions of the apostles, or picked by Christ in a
supernatural way, such as the apostle Paul. Being Jewish, they would have viewed the Old Testament as
being the inspired, inerrant Word of God. When Paul said that “all Scripture is inspired of God,” he was
likely referring to the Septuagint as well as the Hebrew Old Testament. These writers of the 27 New
Testament books would have viewed the teachings of Jesus, or their books expounding on his teachings,
as Scripture as well as the Old Testament. The teachings of Jesus came to most of these New Testament
writers personally from Jesus, being taught orally; thereafter, they would be the ones who published
what Jesus had said and taught orally. When it came time to be published in written form, it should be
remembered that Jesus had promised them: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in
my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John
The early first-century Hebrew Christian [or Gentile] copyists were very much aware of the traditions
that the Jewish scribes followed in meticulously copying their texts. These copyists would have
immediately understood that they were copying sacred texts. In fact, our early papyri show evidence of
shared features with the Jewish Sopherim, those men who copied the Hebrew Scriptures in Jesus’ day.
You will find common features when you compare the Jewish Greek Old Testament and the Christian
Old Testament with the Christian Greek Scriptures: such things as an enlarged letter at the beginning of
each line, and the invention of the nomen sacrum to deal with God’s personal name. Instead of penning
the Tetragrammaton* from the Greek Septuagint in front of them, the copyists invented the nomen
sacrum KC. Marginal notes, accents, breathing marks, punctuation, corrections, double punctuation
marks (which indicate the flow of text); all of this indicates an adoption of scribal practices of the
Sopherim by Jewish Christian writers and scribes.
* Tetragrammaton is from Greek tetra-, meaning “four,” and gram′ma, “letter”. These four letters
(written from right to left) are transliterated into English as YHWH (or, JHVH).
With the exception of Matthew, all writers of the New Testament published their books in koine, the
common Greek of the day. Matthew initially published his Gospel in Hebrew, and shortly thereafter in
koine Greek. In his work Concerning Illustrious Men, chapter III, Jerome says: “Matthew, who is also
Levi, and who from a publican came to be an apostle, first of all composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea
in the Hebrew language and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed.”
Early in the 3rd century, Origen, in discussing the Gospels, is quoted by Eusebius as saying that the
“first was written . . . according to Matthew, . . . who published it for those who from Judaism came to
believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language.” Initially, the primary focus of the first seven
years of Christianity was to bring in fellow Jews; thereafter, the Gentile population became more the
target audience. Therefore, we see that Matthew’s publishing of his Gospel in two languages was simply
responding to two audience needs.
We might ask if these writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures were bringing their material to their
audience in any way different from the other writers of their time. The Apostle Paul’s formal letters
were styled after such Greek notables as Isocrates and Plato. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John followed
the form of the Greek historian Herodotus. Many of these New Testament writers used professional
scribes to bring their works to market: Tertius with Paul, Silas with Peter, Silas composing the letter
from the governing body of elders in Jerusalem to Antioch, Theophilus funding Luke’s two productions.
Philip Comfort helps us to appreciate the following:
As recorded by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3:24:5–7), Irenaeus tells us that Mark and Luke
“published their Gospels” using the Greek word ekdosis, the standard term for the public dissemination
of any writing. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3:1:1) also said, “John, the disciple of the Lord, he who had
leaned on his breast, also published [ekdoke] the Gospel, while living at Ephesus in Asia.” For John to
publish his Gospel means that he (with the help of the Johannine community) made a distribution of
multiple copies of his Gospel.
1. Colwell, Ernest C. Scribal Habits in Early Papyri: A Study in the Corruption of the Text. Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.
2. Comfort, Philip. Encounterring the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography
and Textual Criticism. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005.
3. Comfort, Philip Wesley. The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament. Eugene: Wipf
and Stock, 1992.
4. Greenlee, J Harold. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. Peabody: Hendrickson,
5. —. The Text of the New Testament. Peabody: Henrickson, 2008.
6. Kenton, F. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts . London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1895.
7. Metzger, Bruce M. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and
Transmission. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, 1968, 1992.
8. Reed, R. Ancient Skins, Parchments and Leathers. New York: Academic Press Inc, 1973.
9. Roberts, Colin H. Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt. London: Oxford
University Press, 1979.
10. Roberts, Colin H., and Theodore C. Skeat. The Birth of the Codex. London: Oxford University
 First, there are close to one million papyrus fragments in various libraries throughout the world that
have not been published. Since only about one percent of all papyri have been published (about 10,000),
there is a very high degree of probability that some of the remainder will be NT fragments. The last NT
papyrus to be published was papyrus 127 or P127, a fifth century fragment of Acts. It was discovered in
2009. Therefore, when you speak of how many have "survived," you can understand that the question is
not that easy to answer.
NT scholars use the term "extant" to describe MSS that have survived. It means that some have survived
and are known to exist. With that definition, you might think that 127 is the number. However, there is a
slight problem with that, too. Some fragments, such as P64 and P67, were later determined to belong to
the same manuscript. This happens a few times for NT MSS, but mostly for minuscules (of which we
now have extant about 2900). However, most scholars don't wrestle with such details. Therefore, 127 is
the answer you are looking for.
As for dates, the papyri range in date from early second century to early seventh century. I have worked
up a chart of all NT MSS through the 8th century: as much as 43% of all the verses of the NT are
attested by the end of the third century in the extant papyri.―Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of The Center for
the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
 Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of
the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001),
 A very light porous rock formed from solidified lava, used in solid form as an abrasive and in
powdered form as a polish.
 A Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible started in about 280 and completed about 150 B.C.E. to
meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine.
 A codex is a collection of ancient manuscript texts, especially of the Biblical Scriptures, in book
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000),
 People of the first three centuries sent and received letters and books from all over the Roman
Empire. To give just two examples: the Shepherd of Hermas was written in Rome and found its way to
Egypt within a few decades; Irenaeus’ Against Heresies was written in Gaul and made it to Egypt
(Oxyrhynchus) within short order.
 Macquarie University, Ancient History Documentary Research Center (AHDRC), Papyri from the
Rise of Christianity in Egypt (PCE), http://www.anchist.mq.edu.au/doccentre/PCEhomepage.html.
 Philip W. Comfort, The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf
and Stock Publishers, 1992).
 Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006).
 P. W. Comfort (1992), 38–39.
 This method holds that a variant can be established as original and can come from any given
 Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, Vol. 2: Introduction, Appendix,
 J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Revised Edition, 1995), 51–
 J. Harold Greenlee, The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (2008),
 F. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1895), 157.
 F. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1962), 249.
 Translation from the Latin text edited by E. C. Richardson and published in the series “Texte und
Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur,” Leipzig, 1896, Vol. 14: 8–9.
 The Ecclesiastical History, VI, XXV, 3–6.
 P. W. Comfort (1992), 45.