The Words Used Concerning the Books Found
in the History of the Bible.
When we look at the different books, or parts of books, or even scraps of "paper" which all are mentioned as we go through the History of the Bible, it helps very much if we know what certain words mean! Therefore, here are some of those words most used (not necessarily on these pages, but throughout any study of the History of the Bible); their definitions, and a bit of information about each:WITNESSES--This is a name given to manuscripts that contain any part of Scripture on it . . . from entire books of the Bible, to simple quotations of a sentence or two. There are many different witnesses, all of which were used to determine which books, what scripture, should be canonized, or accepted in the Bible as the Word of God.
CODEX--Manuscripts that were bound into a book form. The Book form itself is called a "codex." Manuscripts were usually bound either in a book form (codex, plural "codices") or sewn together and rolled into a scroll.
CURSIVES--These are writings similar to Minuscules (below), yet written in longhand, cursive lettering. They generally came to be, at later dates than Minuscules, and so are the more commonly found manuscripts out of all the others because they are "newer." These are designated simply by numbers: 427, 283, etc.
MINUSCULE(S)--This is the term given to manuscripts which were written in all lowercase letters and are more common than the Majuscules/Uncials. These were printed, not in cursive handwriting.
MAJUSCULE(S)--Nearly the opposite of Minuscules, Majuscules were written in all uppercase lettering, and was usually squarish and boxed, formal in type. Still hand-printed and not in cursive . . .
UNCIAL(S)--Uncials, are virtually the same as Majuscules. The only difference is that Uncials, are written with a bit more rounded lines than the very boxed-like writing of the Majuscules. Despite this, Uncials and Majuscules are generally the same and interchangeable. Uncials were mostly written on Vellum, and are designated by a Number with a ZERO in front (012, 0227). They are also named by a simple letter, capitalized just the same: A, B, C, and so on.
VELLUM--This is the term for skins. Usually young calf skins, Vellum was very expensive, so not used by the common people. Therefore we know also that Uncials/Majuscules were not written in the "common" writing of the people, but they were written by and in the type of writing of the "higher learning." Vellum, was very durable, especially compared to the more common papyrus.
PAPYRUS--This is the writing material made from the stalks of reeds. They were more widely used for writing materials of the common, as it was inexpensive. However, not as durable as vellum, this was close to the equivalent of newsprint paper. Papyrus manuscripts are named and designated by a number, with the letter "p" in front of it (p75, p31, etc.) [Concerning Papyrus and Vellum, writing materials were not easily attainable, so were in short supply. For this reason, writings were, at the earliest, without spaces and even without most vowels. I have been told in the past, the lie that Vowels were simply not part of the Hebrew Language, but truly, Hebrew and Greek do contain vowels. In the earliest writings, because of the lack of writing materials, certain common words such as "GOD" and "JESUS" and "JEHOVAH," were written without vowels, to preserve writing space. There also were no spaces between the words. And they were definitely not separated into chapter and verse markings. Example: John 1:1 (in minuscule form) would look like this "nthbgnnngwsthwrdndthwrdwswthgdndthwrdwsgd" compared to "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Later on, as writing material became more available, spaces were introduced, and so were the complete words with the vowels.]
LECTIONARY(IES)--Lectionaries are another type of "witness" as the above term. These are pretty much simply Biblical quotations used in letters and sermons used by Christians in the Early Church. They may be a few verses of scripture, or simply a few words of a particular scripture. These are important in figuring the true preserved Word of God, and the canonized books of the Bible, and which manuscripts are true compared to those which have been tampered with. This is because, for example, if one manuscript says one thing, then it can be compared to some lectionaries to determine what indeed was known to be the Right Scripture during that time . . . one manuscript leaves out 1 John 5:7, yet looking at many lectionaries that include it in a sermon, shows that 1 John 5:7 indeed is part of the Word of God. Lectionaries are designated by a number, with a lowercase l (for Lectionary) in front of it (l 171, l 738, l 266, etc.)
VERSIONS--When regarding Bible History, versions does not mean different types of the same book, within the same language (as we have many English Versions of the Bible). Rather, the word Versions here, means a translation of the Original Greek and Hebrew, into another language. These are important also, because we have some versions, which are older than the oldest manuscripts (minuscules, Uncials, Codices, and Scrolls) we have. This is helpful in determining also, what the Word of God says, by reading those very old versions, to know what they say. A version is designated usually by its very name, or an abbreviation of its Name (Peshitto, which is a Syrian Translation/Version, is known as "syp"--for Syrian, and Peshitto. The Old Latin Vulgate, often referred to as the "Italic", is known as "it.")
Something that must be noted though, is that in dealing with Manuscripts and books and such scripture throughout History, many scholars go by the rule "Oldest is Best and Most Reliable." I must make the claim, that this is a completely false belief, and honestly has no true "scholarly" intelligence behind it. For very easily could I and someone else have read a book 15 years ago. Then Two Months after we both read it, I could have written something about the book that was completely wrong--a complete lie. Whereas the other person years later decides to write something, and it is exactly true about the book. By default of this "Oldest is Best" rule, I would be true and the other a liar, even though the opposite is fact. Oldest is not always necessarily best! Rather the rule is, to test it against many witnesses to see if it is in disagreement or even if it contradicts itself!Oldest is not always Best!