Thursday, February 07, 2013

Earliest Christian Manuscripts project

Larry Hurtado writes about A Substantial Study of Early Christian Manuscripts that is attempting “to provide a well-founded answer to some key questions about how earliest Christian Greek manuscripts were copied”:

More specifically, his question was how much these manuscripts were copied ad hoc (so to speak) and “in house” informally, by amateur/inexperienced copyists, and how much by trained/experienced copyists. The larger issues involve the culture and setting of earliest Christian book-production, how they regarded, handled, and transmitted their scriptural texts. To answer these questions, Mugridge examined with impressive care the physical and visual features of 516 manuscripts, which amount to every published copy of a Christian literary text from the first four centuries CE.

In the heart of his thesis (“Part B”), Mugridge analyses the 516 manuscripts according to a very wide list of features, showing that the great majority exhibit features that reflect trained, experienced and skilled copyists….

His key conclusion is that the great majority of early Christian literary texts were copied by experienced, trained copyists, although often not those of highest calligraphic abilities. This is not really a new view, but Mugridge provides by far the most thorough-going accumulation of data in defence of it.

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