Dating greek manuscripts
A paleographer "cannot establish the exact date but he can confidently place one handwriting in the 30's and another in the 80's." Fortunately, textual critics and paleographers have a large number of ancient manuscripts at their disposal, many of which have been found within the last century.
Nearly the entire New Testament exists in manuscripts dated to before 300 AD.
The article that follows provides an overview of the most important New Testament manuscripts that have been discovered and outlines the process used to analyze those manuscripts.
No original manuscripts of the original Greek New Testament have been found.
The earliest manuscript of the New Testament was discovered about 50 years ago.
P52 is a small papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (-33 on the front; -38 on the back), and it has been dated to about 125 AD.
However, a large number of ancient manuscript copies have been discovered, and modern translations of the New Testament are based on these copies.
As one would expect, they contain some scribal errors.
This strong reliance on the New Testament is based in part on the religious belief that it was divinely inspired.
How do we know the modern translations aren't full of human errors, additional content, or the interpretations of countless human scribes?
Both of these questions are answered within the fields of paleography and textual criticism, which seek to analyze ancient manuscripts of the New Testament to determine their date and accuracy.
This makes it a very important little manuscript, because John has been almost unanimously held by scholars to be the latest of the four gospels.
So if copies of John were in circulation by 125, the others must have been written considerably earlier.
### Paleography: Dating Ancient Manuscripts Of course, the reliability of a given manuscript is based in large part on its age: earlier manuscripts are more likely to be accurate reflections of the original, so they are given more weight than later copies.