1. How do we know 5800 is a correct figure if we can't even locate these manuscripts?
  2. How reliable is this figure?
  3. Which libraries in which countries in the world hold these manuscripts?
  4. Who first found out and established that it was 5800 copies?
  • 1
    Assumes facts not in evidence. – KorvinStarmast Jun 3 '18 at 1:06

Who said we can't locate these manuscripts?!

Wikipedia actually has a pretty thorough set of lists of NT manuscripts:

The lectionaries list is the least complete here, only having a few hundred out of the 2453 it says have been categorised by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF). You could I'm sure get their full list, but you might have to pay for it, and it might be in German.

Add up the papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries and you get 5822, which is likely the source of the 5800 that you've been seeing. But any total number like this will only be a rough estimate. Our knowledge of manuscripts is constantly changing. Wikipedia notes that 47 new manuscripts were discovered in Albania in 2008, and the number can decrease as well: as scholars discover that partial manuscripts which had been categorised separately are actually parts of one manuscript.

For most scholars however the data is considered pretty reliable, as minuscules and lectionaries play a smaller role in their studies than the papyri and uncials because of their later date. Wikipedia gives a table showing the dating of the manuscripts by century. The dominant position of textual critics is that the earlier manuscripts provide stronger witnesses to the original texts. However should a new papyrus be discovered, of which we currently only know of 136, you can be sure that Biblical scholars will pay close attention to what it says.

  • Wow! Thanks a LOT for this reply. So these lists are the 'actual' manuscript copies of the Greek NT of the 5800? THE manuscript copies? I can't believe wikipedia has them! But as you can see we can only trace like about 2100~ manuscript copies; not the whooping 5800. I just think this number should not be thrown around carelessly if it is not true. – Katherine Jun 1 '18 at 7:47
  • Wikipedia says: "The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian". How do we locate the 10,000 latin manuscripts and the other 9300? How does wikipedia boldly state these numbers with what reference? – Katherine Jun 1 '18 at 7:51
  • The data is considered pretty liable...not sure about this. It's certainly doesn't look like it's 5800 copies of Greek and the rest of the numbers, how do we know these figures to be true? Who recorded these numbers so that it's been widely known that 5800 are the greek copies? – Katherine Jun 1 '18 at 7:51
  • No, it's 136 papyri + 322 uncials + 2911 minuscules + 2453 lectionaries = 5822 manuscripts. But the true number is likely considerably less because of split up manuscripts, ie., someone has the front half and someone has the back half and they received separate catalogue numbers before scholars realised they were the same manuscript. – curiousdannii Jun 1 '18 at 8:23
  • I don't know who is tracking the Latin + other language manuscripts, probably the INTF. Maybe if you explore its website you'll be able to find a full list, or a shop where you could buy it. – curiousdannii Jun 1 '18 at 8:26

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