I'm trying to figure out what are the oldest complete manuscripts of the Gospel of John in Greek.

New Testament (Wikipedia)

For example, papyrus 66

They say 66 is the oldest and nearly complete; but the trouble is I don't want anything that was DISCOVERED in 1952… even though it was dated as the earliest, I want there to be a historical record of the manuscripts existence since ancient times.

And I'm not researching any other books of the bible, I'm just concerned with finding an old source for the gospel of John. Thanks

Codex Bezae

The manuscript is believed to have been repaired at Lyon in the ninth century, as revealed by a distinctive ink used for supplementary pages. It was closely guarded for many centuries in the monastic library of St Irenaeus at Lyon.

I found Codex Bezae: there are records that people were familiar with it around the 10th century; and scientific dating places its creation in the year 400.

Vaticanus was created in 300, but discovered in 1516. this isn't old enough for me

Sinaiticus was created in 330, but discovered in 1844... definitely not old enough.

Textus Receptus was critical collation created in 1516 by Erasmus. That's great but I'm interested in seeing his raw sources; not his expert opinion on the best combination of sources.

Any others? I like to get the two oldest and compare them.

  • 1
    I wonder why you ask specifically about the history of the manuscript since it was written. If I have two books, dated 1920 and 1940, I assume the 1920 one was written first. If I know where the 1940 one was from the time it was written, I might be more confident that it was really written in 1940. But if I can find other evidence that the 1920 book was really written in 1920, and hasn't been changed since, then I will probably accept it as older.
    – Bit Chaser
    Feb 12 '18 at 20:30
  • Why the "date of discovery" hangup. The dead sea scrolls (3rd century BCE) were discovered in 1947. Are their integrity suspect or is it more of a chain of custody type thing that the cave overcomes? Nov 26 '21 at 14:35

My hunch is that you'll find older manuscripts in religious institutions rather than academic libraries. Those housed in national or academic libraries were frequently purchased by archaeologists, travelers etc. in the past few hundred years (e.g. the Oxyrhynchus Papyri or Bodmer Papyri). But you can't "discover" something if the institution never forgot they had it.

I'd wager the Codex Vercellensis is your best bet. It's been housed in the Capitulary Library of Vercelli (continuously?) since the 4th century, when it was commissioned by St. Eusebius of Vercelli.

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