Fragments of Truth
by Glenn Smith
I saw a new documentary titled Fragments of Truth (see here). It features Dr. Craig Evans, who leads us through a series of locations, libraries, and archaeological digs to tell a story of early Bible manuscripts. The film also includes some top scholars such as Daniel Wallace and the keepers of the libraries which house the most important Bible documents.
The scholars in the film maintain that that they’ve proven that the papyri lasted much longer than what most people originally thought. Papyrus was a relatively cheap form of paper made from plant fibers, which compared to parchment, which was made from animal skins. The common modern myth has been that the papyri only lasted a few years, maybe 20 or so, and that in the early centuries the NT was copied many times over lots of iterations…..a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. But scholars in the film maintain that the average life of a papyrus was about 150 years, with many of them in use for 200 and some even 300. This is significant, for it could be that two copies from the autographs lasted until 500 or 600 AD.
Next, they now know that a good number of the early NT manuscripts were from secular, professional scribes, getting paid by the line. They would have no reason to redact the text, nor is their work as sloppy as many think.
Further, it would have been common for Paul or Luke or John to make several originals; keep one and send a few originals to different churches. Thus more than one autograph probably existed…