Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts

Brent Nongbri, 'God's Library The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts'
In this bold and groundbreaking book, Brent Nongbri provides an up-to-date introduction to the major collections of early Christian manuscripts and demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about these books and fragments is mistaken. While biblical scholars have expended much effort in their study of the texts contained within our earliest Christian manuscripts, there has been a surprising lack of interest in thinking about these books as material objects with individual, unique histories. We have too often ignored the ways that the antiquities market obscures our knowledge of the origins of these manuscripts. Through painstaking archival research and detailed studies of our most important collections of early Christian manuscripts, Nongbri vividly shows how the earliest Christian books are more than just carriers of texts or samples of handwriting. They are three-dimensional archaeological artifacts with fascinating stories to tell, if we’re willing to listen.

From Candida Moss's Daily Beast review (Almost Everything We Know About the Earliest Copies of the New Testament Is Wrong):
None of this is good news for those who, for religious reasons, want to use the existence of early manuscripts of the New Testament as evidence for the accuracy of scripture, the life of Jesus, or the status of the Bible in the first centuries of the Common Era. Anyone who previously thought that the manuscripts of the New Testament proved anything about the accuracy or authenticity of God’s message should read Nongbri’s book. What Nongbri ultimately wants, however, is for people to care about the manuscripts on their own terms: “For too long, we have tended to view early Christian manuscripts almost exclusively as carriers and preservers of texts…But these manuscripts are archaeological artifacts that have their own stories… The first step toward the production of reliable knowledge about early Christian manuscripts really is just being honest about what we don't know. From there, we can build sound hypotheses based on actual evidence rather than wishful thinking.”
Vignette: are you sure?

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