In 1905, E.W. Bullinger said that portions of Matthew 28:19 are not found in all Greek manuscripts. Is it true that there is no surviving copy of Matthew 28 before the 3rd century? Was this ending added later?

  1. Are there surviving copies of Matthew 28 before 3rd century?
  2. If not why?

The oldest surviving copies of the New Testament date to the 4th century, after Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Of all the manuscripts made prior to that, only fragments survive.

For the Gospel of Matthew, the oldest surviving fragments are Papyrus 77, containing part of Matthew 23; Papyrus 103, parts of Matthew 13 and 14 (and possibly from the same maunscript as Papyrus 77); Papyrus 104, part of Matthew 21; and the Magdalen Papyrus (formerly identified as P64 and P67), a couple verses from Matthew 3.

The 4th century complete manuscripts (Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) contain Matthew 28 but do not contain Mark 16:9-20.

So although it's true that we have no surviving evidence of Matthew 28 from prior to the 3rd century, we also have no evidence of it being omitted.

  • Why very few of of Matthew gospel survive? If so, how do we know that matthew is written before 3rd century? – user4951 Jan 9 '14 at 17:57
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    @JimThio Very few copies of any ancient biblical text come from before the third century. The earliest copy of the gospel of John comes from about 125 AD, and it's just a fragment of the whole book. But no one thinks that means only that section of text was written before the third century. I suggest you find a book on the subject of manuscript transmission, because it's such a basic part of biblical studies and it appears you're not aware of how it happens. – user2910 Jan 9 '14 at 18:05
  • @JimThio Before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 4th century, Christians did not have the resources to make durable copies of their sacred writings. Early manuscripts were written on papyrus, a thin paper-like substance that is not made to last 2000 years. After Constantine's conversion, the church was able to afford parchment (calfskin) which is much more durable. – Bruce Alderman Jan 9 '14 at 18:17
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    The DSS survived as well as they did because they were kept in very ideal conditions for preservation: in dry air, in dark caves, inside of jars. They are still very damaged simply from the aging process, but the fact that they weren't being used allowed for their safety. – user2910 Jan 9 '14 at 19:30
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    @MarkEdward Yes, that's a big factor. The Nag Hammadi library (papyrus codices) was preserved in similar conditions. – Bruce Alderman Jan 9 '14 at 19:35

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