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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

Books and Bookmaking
It is often stated that textual criticism of the Bible ends when the era of printed books
begins; from that time on, there is no new evidence available. This is largely true — but
not entirely. It is true enough that the ?rst printed New Testament, Erasmus's edition
which eventually led to the Textus Receptus, is derived from manuscripts we know, and
thus it has no value. The earliest printed Latin Bible is almost equally useless; while the
source manuscripts are not known, the text is late.
And yet, there are occasional reasons to care about printed editions, sometimes of the
Bible and more often of other ancient writings. Early editions of works such as Josephus
or Chaucer frequently take us back to manuscripts we no longer have. Indeed, even the
Textus Receptus had value of this sort for a time; 1r, the manuscript used to compile the
Apocalypse, was lost for many years. In addition, some of the early critical editions refer
to manuscripts which are now lost — some of them, indeed, quite interesting, such as
1518 (a member of Family 2138, which has probably but not certainly been recovered)
or the Latin codex Demidovianus (never recovered).
Plus there is the matter of patristic and versional sources. If the Textus Receptus
became the New Testament, making it effectively impossible to create another edition
based on other manuscripts, there was no such restriction on the editing of other
materials, such as the Church Fathers. For these, the early editions can be a key raw
material for the compiling of critical editions; they too are are based on manuscripts we
no longer have available. (See the appendix at the end of this entry for a list of some
important works for which this is true.)
It should be kept in mind that the making of printed books was actually the result of a
converging of technologies, none of them suf?cient on their own.
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism