Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Significance of P45

The Chester Beatty papyrus codex of the Four Gospels and Acts (P 45 in the official list of New Testament papyri), usually considered to have been written about the middle of the 3rd century A.D., is still the earliest surviving manuscript to contain all four gospels, and as such is a unique monument of early Christian literature and a treasure of the Irish nation.
–T. C. Skeat, "A Codicological Analysis of the Chester Beatty Papyrus Codex of Gospels and Acts (P 45)," now in The Collected Biblical Writings of T. C. Skeat, 141.

The Chester Beatty Codex of the Gospels and Acts (P45) was a find of sensational importance for the textual history of the New Testament. Like a flare bursting over a night time battlefield, it cast light upon the previously darkened pre-Constantinian centuries of the textual history of the New Testament, forcing revisions of scholarly views on several major matters. In one giant step, P45 brought scholarship on the text of the Gospels from the mid-fourth century practically to the doorstep of the second century. First made available to the scholarly world in the 1933 edition by Frederic G. Kenyon, for New Testament scholars P45 is the jewel in the crown of the 12 Greek biblical manuscripts acquired by Alfred Chester Beatty about 1930.
Larry Hurtado, "P45 and the Textual History of the Gospel of Mark," in The Earliest Gospels: The Origins and Transmission of the Earliest Christian Gospels--The Contribution of the Chester Beatty Gospel Codex P45, 132.

James R. Royse's Technological Journey

In 2008, James R. Royse published Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri, which is a revised and updated version of his dissertation that he completed at the Graduate Theological Union in 1981 for the requirements of a Th.D.

In the preface he notes "one favorable aspect of the delay" of publication:
One favorable aspect of the delay is that the technological means at my disposal for producing the work have improved greatly. I was pleased in 1980-81 to be able to use an IBM Selectric typewriter with both Greek and Latin elements, to interchange continually the elements, and to write by hand letters from Hebrew (such as the ubiquitous Aleph) and other languages. The days of using such antique hardware for a work such as this seem now to lie closer to the days when one used papyrus for the writing material than to the present. The years of revision of the dissertation have permitted me to transfer the text into various forms, and I have produced the final version using Nota Bene 8.oc running on a PC with a 1.91 Ghz CPU (already outmoded hardware, I fear). Indeed, the ability to edit the text freely without laborious re-typing has perhaps made it possible for me to complete this work, and there can be no doubt that the accuracy of the work has been enhanced by such means.
–James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri, xiv-xv.