In the ongoing debates about the reliability of early Christian manuscripts, and whether they have been transmitted with fidelity, it is often claimed that early Christian scribes were amateurs, unprofessional, and some probably couldn’t even read.
In Michael Satlow’s book, How the Bible Became Holy (Yale, 2014), this same sort of argument appears (for my full review, see here). Satlow’s book argues that both the OT and NT canons were late bloomers, and that they bore no real authority until the third or fourth century CE. And part of the evidence for this claim comes from Satlow’s assessment of the NT manuscripts. He states:
The copies of early Christian manuscripts from around the second century CE were utilitarian. They were generally on papyrus rather than the more expensive and durable parchment. They lack the signs both of being written by a professional scribe and of being intended for public recitation (255).
There are a lot of claims in this brief couple of sentences. Unfortunately, virtually every one of them is mistaken. Let’s take them one at a time: [Read more…]