Which NT Manuscript is the Oldest?

The Bible is the most copied and re-copied book in history—and this is both a blessing and a curse. It means we have ample manuscript evidence for the Old and New Testaments; it also means we have ample textual variants we need to work through.

The ancient manuscripts upon which our modern printed Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament are based can be categorized in several ways: 1. by the location of their composition; 2. by their language; and 3. by the writing material used—and much more. With Logos, you can sort all the manuscripts according to these and other categories. You can quickly discover manuscripts of a certain type, style, or age without being an expert in the field of textual criticism. You can look at the very same evidence used by modern textual critics and Bible translators.

Learn how to search the vast array of existing NT manuscripts and organize them in useful ways—and make some fascinating discoveries!

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  1. William Matthews says

    Codex Siniaticus and Vaticanus do happen to be the oldest manuscripts in existence, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best or most reliable. Vaticanus was found in the Vatican library, (which is a good place to find any good Christian book!) No one outside the Vatican has ever seen this manuscript, the Catholic church won’t release them. They have only released photographs of them. Basically, half the argument for this manuscript is based on a slide show prepared by the Catholic Church.
    Codex Siniaticus was found in a waste basket, to be burned, in another Catholic edifice, St. Catherine’s Monastery on the slope of Mt. Sinai.
    If you could examine and compare the two you would find the two did not even agree with each other! In the 4 gospels alone there are over 3,000 discrepancies. That is over 19 per page. In Siniaticus there is between 10-40 words omitted or repeated on each page. That is like reading John 3:16 like this, “For God loved the world that he gave His only begotten for God loved the world that He gave His only begotten, that whosoever everlasting life.” There are either whole phrases repeated or missing.
    These are the two main manuscripts that all modern versions are based upon. Again, it is like 618 saying, “I saw him kill that person,” and one said, “No he did not, he was at lunch,” and another said, “No he wasn’t, he was at his mothers.” These two manuscripts disagree thousands of times, but are revered simply because of their age. They are older than the other 618 codices, therefore they must be closer to the originals. If it is not in Siniaticus or Vaticanus, then it could not have been in the original. Some scribe must have “accidentally” inserted them. Accidentally 618 times??!! It may be they are the oldest in existence is because they were recognized as untrustworthy and weren’t used.