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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

German for “copy, duplicate,” and used to refer to manuscripts that are copies of other
manuscripts. Normally symbolized by the superscript abbreviation abs. Thus 205abs is a
copy of 205, and Dabs1 (Tischendorf's E) and Dabs2 are copies of D/06. Only about a
dozen manuscripts are known to be copies of other manuscripts, though more might be
recognized if all manuscripts could be fully examined (it is unlikely that there are any
other papyrus or uncial manuscripts which are copies of other manuscripts, but few
minuscules have been examined well enough to test the matter, and the number of
lectionaries so examined is even smaller.)
Archetypes and Autographs
It is customary to say, in performing textual criticism, that we seek the “original text.” But
what is the “original text”? Take, say, Shakespeare. Is the original text the manuscript he
wrote? Or is it what the actors actually spoke when the plays were ?rst performed? For
an examination of this question, see the section on the Archetypes of Elizabethan
Such problems occur throughout the ?eld of textual criticism. We should always keep in
mind what we are trying to reconstruct. Although we strive to recreate the autograph,
the author's original writing, what we actually are working on is the archetype, the
earliest common ancestor of all surviving copies.
The Autograph
“Autograph” is the accepted term for the original edition of a particular work, written or
dictated by the author. It is the earliest copy from which all later copies are ultimately
descended (note that it may not be the latest copy from which the manuscripts
descend). Thus in most instances it is what the textual critic would like to reconstruct
(there are exceptions — as, e.g., when an author later edits his work). This is not
always possible, however; in many cases, all we can reconstruct is the archetype.
It should be noted that not all documents have an autograph. As shown in the section
on Archetypes of Elizabethan Dramas; Shakespeare's plays probably don't, in a pure
sense; there was no document that represented Shakespeare's “?nal draft.” In the case
of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde it is widely (though not universally) believed that
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism