The Early Bible
For the first three centuries Christianity was largely an illegal religion, and… Satan was still hard at work trying to destroy the Word of God (Diocletian slide). In 303 A.D., the Roman emperor Diocletian instituted the “Great Persecution.” He decreed that every manuscript of the Bible was to be seized and destroyed. Fortunately, Diocletian did not prevail. God was still in the business of preserving His written Word.
In the fourth and fifth centuries Christianity became a legal religion and lots of copies and translations were made. It was during this time that the Catholic Church came to power in Rome. From the sixth century onward monks collected, copied and preserved New Testament manuscripts in the monasteries.
This lovely prayerbook leaf was handwritten on vellum in a French scriptorium
ca. 1390 A.D.
Unfortunately, the monks were not as careful as the Jewish scribes, and often they made mistakes in copying the manuscripts. What is remarkable is that in spite of man’s clumsiness, 97-99 percent of the text we have today is certain beyond any reasonable doubt. No doctrine of the Christian faith hangs on any disputed text. God has taken care to make sure that we have His Word and His truths to read today.
It may not be immediately obvious in this gorgeous, mid-thirteenth century manuscript at left, but the outlined block of text at the bottom was accidently left out of the left-hand column above. In the margin at left, you see a rope attached to the missing portion with three scribes pulling it into its proper place!
Photo of CCC MS 1 fol. 215v, used by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UK.
This manuscript was produced in England, probably in Oxford, in the middle of the 13th century, ca. 1250-60