It is said (from what I've read), from a few Google searches related to "when was the new testament first written", that the New Testament was written down somewhere between 30CE and 150CE, rough ballpark. Wikipedia says the phrase "New Testament" in Koine Greek (the original Greek dialect it was written in) is pronounced "Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη", which was used "to describe a collection of first and second-century Christian Greek scriptures ... traced back to Tertullian in his work Against Praxeas." By the 4th century, there was a canonical collection of the New Testament texts collected. By the 5th century, a Latin translation of the New Testament was created. These first complete Bibles were written in the Uncial Script.

By my question is what happened between 30CE and 300-400CE? What were all these fragments of Christianity referred to casually as the "New Testament" written in? What sort of punctuation and formatting did they use? Was it all in Koine Greek? Even so, what did it look like is my main question. Was it all written by scribes who used the Uncial style? Or did the scribes have other fonts/typographic styles they used?

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    I edited this to cut out some of the sub questions which were getting away from the core question. Please ask follow up questions about further issues, although if they're as broad as the ones I cut out they're likely to be closed.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 2:56
  • An excellent textbook on looking at the ancient manuscripts, what they were like, scribal practices, and textual history is available as a free pdf, The Text of the NT: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 3:06

3 Answers 3


The earliest Biblical manuscripts were almost certainly written on papyrus. We know of over 130 Biblical papyri dating from the second to the eighth century. These were written in majuscule case, and I think usually without spaces or much punctuation. They were not written in the uncial script as it was developed only in the fourth century for use on parchment and vellum, not papyrus.

  • Could you define the difference between uncial and majuscule, please ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:02
  • @Nigel Majuscule is what we'd call upper case, although originally it was the only case. Uncial is a particular writing style that people liked on parchment but was apparently not really practical to write on papyrus. It's more like a font, but for handwriting, and also used majuscule letters.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:41
  • @curiousdannii I am looking through the over 130 papyri but so far they all appear to use Uncial script, e.g. 200-300CE. Can you (a) outline what "font" would most closely resemble pre-uncial scripts, or if not a specific font/style name, (b) an example manuscript in your link which captures the essence of the font?
    – Lance
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 23:44
  • @Lance they're majuscules, not uncials. So from what I've read the 0-200CE texts would also have been written in very similar majuscules.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 1:39

The books are the record of the new Testament.

The New Testament is the New Covenant, and that is described explicitly in Luke 22: 19-20

19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.

What is behind this answer? In Koine Greek (diatheke) and in the Aramaic / Hebraic languages used at the time, the terms that we render in English as "Testament" and "Covenant" are equivalent terms.

So one answer to What did it look like is: the New Covenant, the New Testament, looked red - like wine and / or blood.

The record of the New Testament was, as @curiousdanni mentions, mostly written on papyrus.

This answer is informed by Theologian Scott Hahn's various CD's and writings on the Last Supper and its significance in Christianity.

diatheke (Greek) testament

{snip legal definition} either of the two major portions of the Bible: the Mosaic or old covenant or dispensation, or the Christian or new covenant or dispensation. {snip} a covenant, especially between God and humans.


What did the original manuscripts look like? Here's a link to a digital library.
Center for the study of NT manuscripts

  • YouTube talks by Daniel B. Wallace. You will not be disappointed.
    – Lionsden
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 16:28
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    You need to give an complete answer that can be read here without following links. Links are supplementary, not the whole deal.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 21:58

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