Studying Earliest Christian Manuscripts
Having uploaded the updated list of copies of texts in earliest Christian manuscripts leads me to underscore a couple of points that I tried to make in my book, The Earliest Christian Artifacts.
First, we NT scholars (especially textual critics) have tended to focus on the NT manuscripts, often with insufficient attention to the wider body of texts and manuscripts of early Christian provenance. But even if the transmission of the NT is one’s prime concern, there is much to be gained in perspective and useful knowledge from acquaintance with this wider body of data. E.g., the almost total preference for the codex bookform takes on added significance when one notes that Christians seem much more ready to use the bookroll for non-scriptural texts.
And that leads me to my second point, which is that the physical features of earliest Christian manuscripts comprise a body of important data too. In addition to the text, the physical features (size of manuscript, quality of writing, presence/absence of any “readers’ aids”, etc.) all provide valuable data that apply to wider historical questions about the development of early Christianity. We can’t (and needn’t) all become papyrologists, but those interested in the origins and early development of Christianity can harvest these data from those colleagues whose specialist knowledge has enabled them to make the data available to us.