Chapter

Indicators of ‘Catholicity’ in Early Gospel Manuscripts

Scott Charlesworth

in The Early Text of the New Testament

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566365
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740985 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199566365.003.0003
Indicators of ‘Catholicity’ in Early Gospel Manuscripts

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Two characteristics of early gospel manuscripts – the use of standard‐sized codices and wholesale or systematic contraction of nomina sacra – show that Christians arrived at a ‘consensus’ about standardizing some aspects of gospel manuscript production in the second century. Since the Egyptian evidence is probably representative, the ‘consensus’ appears to have been ‘catholic’. But the terms ‘catholic’ and ‘catholicity’ as used here have no reference to later periods. The same manuscripts indicate that standardization developed via informal collaboration and not hierarchical imposition. In terms of history, these indications of ‘catholicity’, which continue throughout the third century, pose a very significant problem for the ‘heterodox’‐dominant view of early Christianity.

Keywords: codex; nomina sacra; readers’ aids; textual standardization; catholicity; scribes; scribal culture; New Testament papyri

Chapter.  6382 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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