2009-08-17 - The New Testament Background
Study on the Bible, Part 5
Before getting too technical, let me give a summary of the history of the
New Testament from The New Unger's Bible Handbook:
"The gospel (1 Cor 15:3-4) was first preached by word of mouth and interpreted
in the light of OT history and prophecy. Oral accounts of the life and work
of Christ were written down and finally gave way to the inspired synoptic
gospels sometime before ad. 70. The need for doctrinal interpretation of
Christ's person and work soon became a necessity, accentuated by the need
to define Christianity against such errors as legalism and antinomianism.
The Pauline and other epistles were written to meet this need. The demand
for a historical sketch of the development of the church was met by the book
of Acts. The Apocalypse was penned to consummate the revelation of God's
plan and purposes for time and eternity." 1
Now a bit more detail from Bruce:
"The NT documents were all written in Greek within the first century. Some
transmission of individual documents took place before they began to be collected
together. When, however, early in the second century the fourfold Gospel
and the Pauline corpus began to circulate as two collections, it was mainly
as collections that they were transmitted from then on. Somewhat later, Acts
and the catholic Epistles were commonly collected in a single codex; Revelation
occupied a slim codex by itself.
The earliest surviving Manuscripts of the NT belong to the second century.
The oldest is a fragment of a papyrus codex of John 18
dated c. A.D.
its main value is its witness to an early date for John. More
substantial are some NT papyri
from the late second and early third
centuries: a codex of John (P66), another containing the latter part of Luke
and the first thirteen or fourteen chapters of John (P75), and yet another
that is our oldest witness to the Greek text of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude (P72).
From the fourth century onwards we can distinguish types of NT text
associated with various geographical centers or areas: Alexandria , Caesarea,
Antioch , and the West.
The witnesses to the Greek NT text are commonly classified as manuscripts
in Greek, early versions in other languages, and citations in early Christian
writers. The manuscripts run to well over 5,000 in all, containing either
part or the whole of the NT. Even after the invention of printing in Western
Europe in the middle of the fifteenth century, the production of NT manuscripts
continued into the next century. The great majority of the manuscripts are
medieval, and exhibit what is commonly called the Byzantine type of text.
This is based on a fourth-century revision of the Greek text, incorporating
features from most of the already existing text types. The revision aimed
at producing a smoother and more lucid text, at combining variants from two
or more text types, and at harmonizing parallel passages. It was probably
produced in Syria , but from the late fourth century onward it was disseminated
from Constantinople or Byzantium , the new Eastern capital of the Roman Empire
, whence it has come to be known as the Byzantine text. Since it appears
in most of the later manuscripts, it is reproduced also in the earliest printed
editions of the Greek NT, and so is the parent of the Textus Receptus ("Received
Text" [TR]). This expression was used by the Leiden printing house of Elzevir
in 1633, to commend the second edition of its Greek NT, and has come to be
used of the text of the early printed editions in general." 2
Larson, Gary N., reviser, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Moody
Press, Chicago, IL, 1984, p. 679.
Bruce, F. F., "Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament,"
Revelation and the Bible, Edited by Carl Henry, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids
Comments or Questions?
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