NT in the Second Century
In the “Essays etc” page of this site, I’ve uploaded the manuscript (PDF) of an essay in which I discuss some key dynamics and developments that shaped the transmission/copying of the NT writings in the second century. I’m interested in pushing our limited evidence to try to engage questions about this crucial early period. I also identify some future research projects that might be of interest to PhD students!
My main point, I guess, is that the second century was a period of varying copyist tendencies, some tending toward a somewhat freer approach involving various “improvements” (as they saw them) such as harmonizations of Gospel accounts, stylistic changes, sometimes narrative embroiderments, and even the occasional doctrinal-oriented variant. But the evidence also indicates that other copyists seem to have followed a much stricter approach.
I also argue that (contra my late sparring partner, Bill Petersen) it’s simplistic to take the use of NT texts in early church writers as privileged evidence of the state of the NT texts at the time. Citation practices & conventions clearly differed from copying conventions. Our best evidence remains actual copies of texts, and it’s exciting that in the last 100 yrs or so we’ve continued to accumulate manuscript evidence that takes us back to the second century (though the amount remains frustratingly small).