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DURING the forty-three years that have elapsed since the first publication of this work, great additions have been made to the evidence bearing on the history of the Bible text. Some of this evidence is direct, in the form of newly discovered manuscripts of portions of the Bible. In particular, a whole new section-has been added to the story by the discovery of Biblical papyri in Egypt. In 1895 only one Biblical text on papyrus was known, and that of quite late date. Now the papyri have gone far to fill the gap between the dates when the New Testament books were written and the earliest extant vellum manuscripts. The recently discovered papyrus manuscripts in codex form have supplied a new chapter in the history of book production, and their contents have thrown much light on the conditions under which the New Testament Scriptures circulated in the earliest times. Further, new vellum manuscripts of importance have been brought to light, such as the Freer manuscripts of both Old and New Testament at Washington, or the Koridethi Gospels at Tiflis. Much work has meanwhile been done on textual theory, notably by von Soden, Streeter, Burkitt, Lake and dark, and while the controversy between Hort and Burgon over the merits of the "received" Byzantine text has receded into the background, the character of the so-called "Western" text has been the subject of much study, and its problems have been elucidated, though not finally solved.
But in addition to this purely textual matter there have been great increases in the indirect evidence, the archaeological data which form the background of the Bible story, and particularly of the Old Testament. The spade has been busy, both in Palestine itself and in the surrounding countries, in Syria, in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. References (necessarily brief) will be found to the recent discoveries at Jericho, Lachish and elsewhere, and especially to the very remarkable results of the excavations at Ras-Shamra. These enable us to appreciate much better the surroundings among which the books of the Old Testament came into being. In particular we know far more than ever before about the origins of writing and the forms in which books were written and circulated in the Near East during the centuries in which those books were produced.
It has been necessary, therefore, largely to rewrite or rearrange the introductory chapters of the previous editions. In their original form a start was made from the existence of "various readings," and the book was planned to explain the existence of such variants and the means of judging between them. At that date the controversies arising out of the appearance of the Revised Version were still fresh, and formed a sufficient basis for such a volume. Now the point of view has somewhat changed, and it seems desirable to widen the basis. The Bible student wants to know something more about the origin of the Scriptures, before considering the details of the text. It is matter of general knowledge that there have of late been many discoveries which affect, in greater or less degree, the history of the Bible as a book, and the non-specialist reader, for whom this work is intended, may (and indeed should) wish to know something of the nature of these discoveries and of the opinions held about them by scholars. The attempt is therefore made in the early chapters of this new edition to lay the foundations of the history of the Bible according to the present state of our knowledge; after which the manner of the tradition of the record will be pursued as before, the discoveries which have been so plentiful in the last half-century being worked in, in their proper places.
In the Introduction to the first edition I acknowledged, as in duty bound, that I had been indebted to the labours of others at every turn; and though the work of forty-three years may have enabled me to add something from my own knowledge, nevertheless the statement remains essentially true. In addition to the scholars then named, I have derived much from those mentioned in the first paragraph of this Introduction; and for information and many courtesies I am indebted to Professors Campbell Bonner and H. A. Sanders, of the University of Michigan; to the late Cardinal Gasquet, Cardinal Mercati, and Dom H. Quentin, of the Vatican; to Drs. Nestle (father and son), von Dobschutz, Lietzmann, Rahlfs, and Kappler, of Germany; and others whom I have mentioned in the text. It is the results of their labours that I am trying to bring to the knowledge of the ordinary student of the Bible. I have also to thank the Librarian and Trustees of the John Rylands Library, Messrs. Emery Walker, and Prof. H. A. Sanders and the Trustees of the Freer Collection for the new illustrations added to this edition.
I hope that a new Appendix will be useful in enabling the reader to appreciate
the meaning and character of the "various readings" that are found
in manuscripts of the Bible, and to realise that, interesting and important
as they are, they do not affect the fundamental doctrines of Christianity,
nor the general authenticity and integrity of the records, which, on the contrary,
have been notably confirmed by the discoveries of the last forty-three years.
F. G. K. December, 1938.