Archive for October 21st, 2012

Lesson 3: The Canon of the New Testament in Church History : The Early Circulation of the Writings, Lesson 3

I have titled this section, The Science of PaleographyThis section includes an analysis of handwriting.  This is important—perhaps the most important means of dating ancient documents.  Because of  its importance, we will examine the major styles of handwriting found in the NT mss.[1]

A.  The Unical Style:

The unical letters resembled “capital letters” in ancient times.  The capital letters were chiseled in stone.  The capitals that were found in inscriptions have been discovered.  The unical letters were square and upright, but they were not as square or upright as the capitals.  Moreover, the letters were not connected with one another.  This type of writing was found in the earliest parchment of codices of the NT.  Also this type of style was also the dominant, but not the exclusive style in the earliest papyrus mss.  In terms of its usage in history, we must note the early centuries of the Christian era.  There is perhaps the first four to five that gave us mss.  These mss. were written in this manner, which is particularly in the literary or formal type of writings.  Here is an example of uncial handwriting that resembles the upper case printed in Greek letters of modern times:[2]

Luke 11, 2 in Codex Sinaiticus

B.  The Cursive Style,

Gradually the cursive handwriting developed from the unical style.  Now, however, the letters were connected together in a sort of running handwriting.  This permitted greater speed in copying.  There also began to be some letters which projected above and/or below the rest of the letters.  This style became characteristic particularly in non-literary or more informal types of writings.  Generally speaking, the cursive style belongs to the middle centuries of the first millennium A.D., until around the ninth century.”[3]

C.  The Minuscule Style,

The minusule handwriting borrowed characteristics from both the unical and the cursive.  It had the beauty of the uncial and the flowing quality of the cursive.  The letters are smaller, and some letters consistently extended above or below the line of the rest of the letters.  This type permitted speed in copying and also provided for a conservation of space.  It came into use in private documents during the ninth century, and from the tenth century on, it was popular for literary purposes also.  Our modern printed Greek New Testaments resemble this style more than any other.”[4]

[1] Dr. Thomas, Class Lecture, pp. 5.

[2] Dr. Thomas, Class Lecture, pp. 5.

[3] Dr. Thomas, Class Lecture, pp. 5.

[4] Dr. Thomas, Class Lecture, pp. 5-6.


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