Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Original Manuscripts of the New Testament

We do not have the original manuscripts of the New Testament. What we have today are  copies of the copies of the copies of the autographs. Why?

Συντετέλεσται δῆτα καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς ἅπαντα, ὁπηνίκα τῶν μὲν προσευκτηρίων τοὺς οἴκους ἐξ ὕψους εἰς ἔδαφος αὐτοῖς θεμελίοις καταρριπτουμένους, τὰς δ᾿ ἐνθέους καὶ ἱερὰς γραφὰς κατὰ μέσας ἀγορὰς πυρὶ παραδιδομένας αὐτοῖς ἐπείδομεν ὀφθαλμοῖς τούς τε τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν ποιμένας αἰσχρῶς ὧδε κἀκεῖσε κρυπταζομένους, τοὺς δὲ ἀσχημόνως ἁλισκομένους καὶ πρὸς τῶν ἐχθρῶν καταπαιζομένους,

All these things were fulfilled in us, when we saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and the shepherds of the churches basely hidden here and there, and some of them captured ignominiously, and mocked by their enemies. (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book 8, Chapter 2)


In other instances stiffer resistance is offered when believers were asked to give up their Christian books. In the account of the martyrdom of Agape, Irene, and Chione, at successive hearings the three women were interrogated by the prefect Dulcitius of Thessalonica, who inquired, ‘Do you have in your possession any writings, parchments, or books (ὑπομνήματα ἢ διφθέραι ἢ βιβλία) of the impious Christians?’ Chione replied, ‘We do not, Sir. Our present emperors have taken these  from us’. On the next day Irene was once again brought before the court, the prefect asked, ‘Who was it that advised you to retain these parchments and writings (τὰς διφθέρας ταύτας καὶ τὰς γραφάς) up to the present time?’ ‘It was almighty God’, Irene replied, ‘who bade us love him unto death. For this reason we did not dare to be traitors, but we chose to be burned alive or suffer anything else that might happen to us rather than betray them’ (προδοῦναι αὐτάς, i.e. the writings).

After sentencing the young woman to be placed naked in the public brothel, the prefect gave orders that the writings (τὰ γραμματεῖα) in the cabinets and chests belonging to her were to be burned publicly. The account concludes by describing how, in March and April of the year 304, the three became martyrs for their faith by being burned at the stake. (The Canon of the New Testament, Bruce M. Metzger, page 108)