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Category: New Testament Manuscript Evidence

John Rylands Papyrus

John Rylands Papyrus

The John Rylands papyrus (pS2) is the oldest copy yet discovered of any portion of the New Testament, dating back to the first half of the second century A.D. A tiny fragment of a codex (a leaf-form text, like a modern book, in contrast to a scroll) of the Gospel of John, it contains parts of John 18:31-33 on one side and verses 37-38 on the other. It was acquired in Egypt in 1920 and now resides in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.

Despite its tiny size (less than 3.5 in. [9 cm] from top to bottom), this papyrus fragment is highly significant. It testifies that by the first half of the second century the Gospel of John was already being read in Egypt, far from Ephesus in Asia Minor, the most likely place of its composition. It seems unlikely that John’s Gospel could have been composed much later than the end of the first century, since it would have taken time for it to have been accepted and dis­seminated so far from its place of origin. The manuscript of which pS2 is a fragment may have been copied within 25 to 30 years of the composition of the Gospel itself. If we take into account that in some pieces of Greek or Latin literature the oldest manu­script available is dated to over a thousand years after the composition of the original text, that is in reality an extremely short period of time. An enormous number of Greek New Testament texts exist, and they give us good reason to be confident that the New Testament we read today accurately reflects what was in the original manu­scripts. read more

The New Testament Texts

The New Testament Texts

No other ancient text is substantiated by such a wealth of ancient textual witnesses as is the New Testament, roughly 5,500 separate manuscripts are available, variously con­taining anything from the entire New Testament corpus to a slight fragment of a single verse. There are also hundreds of copies of ancient translations (or versions) of the New Testa­ment that reveal the form of the text known to their translators, as well as numerous New Testament quotations in the writings of the early church fathers that disclose the form of the particular texts known to them. read more