Textual Evidence

and John 8:1-11 (c. 200 A.D.)

The textual evidence provided by Bodmer Papyrus XIV, XV (180-220 C.E.)

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009

General Prologue: - Introduction to P75
    Identity: - contents, date, history for P75
    Description: - character of P75

Review: - P75 and John 8:1-11:
    Leaf 57 verso: John 7:50-8:22 - Photo & Text
    Leaf 57 verso: Page damage etc.
    Leaf 57 verso: Dot and "Space & Dot" markings
    Bibliography:- Resources for P75

Return to Index


Bodmer Papyrus XIV, XV
Border between Luke and John

Contains major portions of Luke and John, from Luke 3:18-end, John 1:1-15:10, with missing leaves. 102 pages (51 leaves), out of an original total of about 144 (72 leaves).

(From: Skypoint)

From Skypoint:

...the following has been exerpted/paraphrased from:
Skypoint- R. Waltz's Uncials List

Location/Catalog Number

Cologny (Geneva), Switzerland, Bodmer library. Bodmer Papyrus XIV, XV


Contains major portions of Luke and John: Luke 3:18-22, 3:33-4:2, 4:34-5:10, 5:37-6:4, 6:10-7:32, 7:35-39, 41-43, 7:46-9:2, 9:4-17:15, 17:19-18:18, 22:4-end, John 1:1-11:45, 11:48-57, 12:3-13:10, 14:8-15:10. The volume, despite loss of leaves, is in surprisingly good condition, we even have portions of the binding (which is thought to have been added later). We have all or part of 102 pages (51 leaves), out of an original total of about 144 (72 leaves). Generally speaking, the earlier leaves are in better condition; many of the pages in the latter part of John have gone to pieces and have to be reconstructed from fragments.


Dated paleographically to the third century (with most scholars tending toward the earlier half of that century); Martin and Kasser, who edited the manuscript, would have allowed a date as early as 175. The scribe seems to have been generally careful, writing a neat and clear hand (though letter sizes vary somewhat), and (with some minor exceptions) using a fairly consistent spelling. Colwell observed that the natural writing tendencies of the scribe were strongly restrained by the text before him, indicating a copy of very high fideily. The editors of the codex argued that the copyist was a professional scribe. We do note, however, that lines are of very variable length (25 to 36 letters per line), as are the pages (38 to 45 lines per page). As P75 is a single-quire codex of (presumably) 36 folios, it has been argued that the scribe was trying to get more text on a page to hold the codex to the available space.

Description and Text-type

The fact which has struck every examiner of P75 is its extremely close resemblance to B. A number of statistical studies to this effect have been made; as far as I know, however, all have been done by textual critics with weak mathematical backgrounds and with inadequate controls. Thus, none of their figures for agreements between manuscripts can be regarded as meaning much. Still, the result is unquestionable: P75 is closer to B than to any other manuscript, and vice versa. There are enough differences that P75 cannot be the parent of B, and is unlikely to be a direct ancestor, but P75 and B certainly had a common ancestor, and this ancestor must have been older than P75. Moreover, both manuscripts have remained quite close to this ancestral text. The mere fact that the two agree does not tell us how good this ancestral text is (most scholars would regard it as very good, but this is for other reasons than the closeness of the two manuscripts). But we are able to reconstruct this text with great accuracy.

Interestingly, there has been no systematic study examining the text of P75. The Alands, of course, list it as Category I, with a strict text, but this is based simply on the date and character of the manuscript; it is not really an examination of the text. Wisse, for some reason, did not profile P75, even though it is the only papyrus of Luke substantial enough to allow such an evaluation (at least of Chapter 10).

The discovery of P75 has had a profound effect on New Testament criticism. The demonstration that the B text is older than B seems to have encouraged a much stronger belief in its originality. The UBS committee, for instance, placed the Western Non-Interpolations back in their text based largely on the evidence of P75.

The irony, as E. C. Colwell pointed out in the essay "Hort Redivivus: A Plea and a Program" (p. 156 in the reprint in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament), is that P75 should have had no such effect. The existence of manuscripts such as P75 had never been questioned. The major Bodmer papyri (P66, P72, P74, and P75) are important and influential witnesses, but they should have little effect on our textual theory. The truly significant witnesses were the Beatty papyri -- P46, as Zuntz showed, should have completely altered our view of the text of Paul (but somehow it didn't); P47 perhaps should have a similar if less spectacular effect on our text of the Apocalypse; and P45 (as Colwell showed) allows us to see the sorts of liberties some copyists could take with the Biblical text.

This is not to deny the great value of P75. Since P66 is a notably inaccurate copy, and P45 paraphrases (see Colwell, "Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75," pp. 196-124 in Studies in Methodology), P75 is the earliest substantial and careful manuscript of the Gospels. Most would also regard it as having the best text. It does have a few limitations, however. It has been accused of omitting minor words such as personal pronouns (see page 121 in the Colwell essay).

Return to Index


Exerpted From Comfort & Barrett:

A more detailed description of Papyrus P75
is found in the new printed edition of its text (collation), below.
A few additional notes have been added and highlighted in BLUE

The following has been exerpted/paraphrased from:
The Text of the Earliest NT Greek Manuscripts,
Edit. P.W. Comfort and D.P. Barrett, 2001, pg 501-506, on P75

"I would date it late 2nd century, possibly early 3rd. ...

The copyist of P75 was a professional, Christian scribe. The professionalism shows through in his tight calligraphy and controllled copyng. ..."elegant and well crafted, of the the type represented in the Oxyrhynchus papyrii..." The handwriting in these papyrii is typically called by paleographers "the common angular type of the late 2nd to early 3rd century". THe scribe's Christianity shows in his abbreviations of the nomina sacra, as well as in his abbreviation of the word "cross" (stauros). These are telltale signs of a scribe who belonged to the Christian community. Furthermore, the large typeface indicates that the manuscript was composed to be read aloud to a Christian congregation. The scribe even added a system of sectional divisions to aid any would-be Lector. Thus, we have a manuscript written by a Christian for other Christians.

...It is also well-known that the text of p75 was of the sort used in formulating Codex Vaticanus: the texts of P75 and B are remarkably similar, demonstrating about 85% agreement.

...many scholars were (previously) convinced that the 2nd and 3rd century papyrii displayed a text in flux, a text characterized only by individual independence. ... Kenyon conjectured the following:

'During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, a great variety of readings came into existance throughout the Christian world (!?). In some quarters considerable license was shown in dealing with the sacred text [i.e. Egypt!]; in others more respect was shown to the tradition. ...'

Much of what Kenyon said is accurate, especially about Alexandria preserving a relatively pure tradition. But Kenyon was wrong in thinking that Codex Vaticanus was the result of a scholarly rescension, resulting from editorial selection across the various textual histories. Kenyon can't be faulted [sic] for this because p75 had not yet been discovered...it is now quite clear that Codex Vaticanus was simply a copy (with some modifications) of a mss much like p75, not a 4th century recension.

Zuntz held an opinion similar to Kenyon's ...the point behind Zuntz's conjecture of a gradual Alexandrian recension was to prove that the Alexandrian text was the process beginning in the 2nd century and culminating in the 4th century with Codex Vaticanus. In this regard, Zuntz was incorrect. The 'Alexandrian' text already existed in the late 2nd century; it was not the culmination of a recension. [...right! it was the result of a conscious and clearly defined editorial practice...]

Kurt Aland's thinking was also changed by P75. He used to speak of the 2nd and 3rd century mss as exhibiting a text in flux or even a 'mixed' text, but not after the discovery of p75. He wrote, "P75 shows such a close affinity with Codex Vaticanus that the supposition of a recension of the text in the 4th century can no longer be held."

Of course, p75 is not flawless. The scribe of p75 shows a clear tendency to make grammatical and stylistic improvements in keeping with the Alexandrian scriptorial tradition, and the scribe had a tendency to shorten his text, particularly by dropping pronouns. However, his omissions of text hardly ever extend beyond a word or two, probably because he copied letter by letter and syllable by syllable. "

(ibid, page 501-506)

The General Meaning of P75

P75 is another early 'Lectionary' type text, designed for public reading, and so apparently skipping the section of the Pericope de Adultera (a very ancient practice). This seems to be just the type of manuscript John Burgon predicted would eventually be found...(now twice.)

We may pause and reflect on just how damning this evidence is for Codex Vaticanus.

While on the surface 'supporting' Codex Vaticanus, it in fact completely undermines it. Vaticanus is now shown to be a manuscript made from what is clearly an obvious Lectionary text from a known source, Egypt, and we can see the primitive forms and plain features of this same early lectionary (public reading lesson) system in the very act of its development. And lo and behold, the excision of the Pericope de Adultera is right there on the ground floor.

Vaticanus can no longer be viewed as an independent early witness to a primitive text. It turns out to be directly dependant upon an Egyptian (Alexandrian) artificial text-type, created and apparently circulating solely in this one small geographical area during the 2nd century. And we can actually watch the process of the Alexandrian text being formed right before our eyes, as the early 'professional' scribes follow their standardizing procedures and model master-copies for 'correction' purposes.

We now know pretty much exactly where the Codex Vaticanus came from (as to the text it contains): the early Egyptian Scriptoriums.

Return to Index

P75 and John 8:1-11
Photo and Text

Papyrus P75 Leaf 57 verso

Jn 7:50-8:22

Text of P75

Comfort and Barrett provide an accurate transcription of the text of the page in question (leaf 57b):

P75 Leaf 57 verso (back = left side: John 7:49-8:22)

7:49-50 απαρατοι* εισιν λεγει νει κοδημος err. επαρατοι
line 02 προς αυτους ο ελθων προς αυτον
7:51 προτερον εις  ων εξ αυτων   μη
line 04 ο νομος ημων κρινει  τον ανον = ( ανθρωπον)
line 05 εαν μη ακουση πρωτον παρ αυτου
7:52 και γνω τι π οιει   απεκριθησαν
line 07 και ειπαν αυτω μη και συ   εκ της
line 08 Γαλιλαιας ει εραυνησον και ιδε οτι
line 09 εκ της γαλιλαιας ο προφητης ουκ ε - def.art. uncertain
8:12 γειρεται   παλιν ουν αυτοις ελαλη
line 11 σεν ο ΙΣ λεγων εγω ειμι το φως του = ( Ιησους)
line 12 κοσμου ο ακολουθων μοι ου μη πε
line 13 ριπατηση εν τη σκοτια   αλλ εξει
8:13 το φως της ζωης   ειπον ουν αυτω
line 15 οι φαρισαιοι συ περι σεαυτου μαρτυ
line 16 ρεις η μαρτυρια σου ουκ εστιν αλη
8:14 θης   απεκριθη ΙΣ και ειπεν αυτοις
line 18 καν εγω μαρτυρω περι εμαυτου η
line 19 μαρτυρια μου αληθης εστιν οτι
line 20 οιδα ποθεν ηλθον και που υπαγω
line 21 υμεις  δε ουκ οιδατε ποθεν ερχο
8:15 μαι η   που   υπαγω υμεις   κατα
line 23 την σαρκα κρινετε εγω δε ου κρινω
8:16 ουδενα   και εαν κρινω δε εγω η κρι
line 25 σις η εμη αληθινη εστιν   οτι μονος
line 26 ουκ' ειμι αλλ εγω και ο πεμψας με πα
8:17 τηρ και εν τω νομω δε τω υμετε
line 28 ρω γεγραπται οτι   βανων η μαρ = ( ανθρωπων)
8:18 τυρια εστιν αληθης εγω ειμι ο μαρ
line 30 τυρων περι εμαυτου και "περι εμου" (corrected skip)
line 31 μαρτυρει περι εμου ο πεμψας με
8:19 πατηρ ελεγον ουν αυτω που εστιν
line 33 ο πατηρ sου απεκριθη ΙΣ ουδε εμε corr. ουτε
line 34 οιδατε ουτε τον ΠΡΑ μου ει εμε η = ( πατερα )
line 35 δειτε και τον πατερα μου αν ηδειτε
8:20 ταυτα τα ρηματα ελαλησεν εν τω
line 37 γαζοφυλακιω διδασκων εν τω
line 38 ιερω και ουδεις επιασεν αυτον ο
8:21 τι ουπω εληλυθει η ωρα αυτου ει
line 40 πεν ουν παλιν αυτοις   εγω υπαγω
line 41 και ζητησετε με και εν τη αμαρτια
line 42 υμων αποθανεισθε οπου εγω υπα
8:22 γω υμεις ου δυνασθε ελθειν   ελε
line 44 γον ουη οι Ιουδαιοι μητι αποκτε
Bottom margin:
mline 46ΤΟΝΥΟΝ ωC [κυριον?] ( written upside down)
mline 45ΑΠΟ ΤΗC Τ[ΡΑ]ΠΕΖ[ΗΣ?]

Return to Index

Page Damage
and Defacement

A Unique Defacement!

This manuscript, and this particular page have yet one more surprising feature. Comfort and Barrett tell us:

"A different scribe has written two lines of large letters upside down (!) in the lower margin, probably

τονυον ως [κ]υριο[ν],
απο της τ[ρα]πεζ[ης].

As if there weren't enough strangeness surrounding this particular page...

Unusual Page Damage:

Next we want to note the coloring of the various parts of the text. The explanation is as follows: Comfort and Barret follow the standard practice of indicating letters that have been 'restored' one of two ways.

Letters that are damaged, but not difficult to determine are marked with a dot underneath them in the apparatus. This indicates that the value of the letter is not in serious dispute, at least according to the editors. For our purposes, we have indicated these letters with a lighter gray text on the same light brown background.

Letters which are entirely missing, but have been conjectured (based upon the surrounding context) have been placed in square [ ] brackets. For our purposes, we have indicated these letters with a dark grey background and light grey text.

The missing letters are a result of either actual missing papyrus (deteriorated or broken off and lost) or of a surface completely rotted or turned to dust, or suffering from abrasion and wear to such an extent that the writing has been worn off.

Those familiar with the forensics of ancient manuscripts will recognise many easily explained areas in the chart immediately. For instance, the upper right betrays a crack in the papyrus with some lost letters along the eroded crack. The lower left, a common place where hands grab the page to turn it, has been broken off and has fallen to pieces from wear and tear.

But what is of special interest to us is the unusual hole in the middle of the page, between line 9 and line 12. Here of course is the very part of the manuscript if intense interest to us, and we find a gaping hole right at the point of the text where the passage was omitted!

Those who have pursued the story of the Pericope de Adultera will immediately sigh, "Not Again!" It seems everytime we want to examine an actual important or interesting manuscript with something to say about the passage, we come across the most bizzare and extreme acts of vandalism and inexplicable phenomenae. Sometimes a page is erased. Sometimes a page is replaced. Sometimes a page or even two or three are just torn completely out and apparently the evidence burned.

So it although perhaps frustrating, we cannot say we are really surprised to find what might be yet another case of ancient (or subsequent) sabotage or vandalism. Yet this might not really be the whole case.

Interpreting the Damage to this Page:

The manuscript shows the typical pattern of damage for most of the leaves: that is, the first and last, the outer edges, the least-well protected pages, these suffer the most damage. And typically, the damage is around the edges of just about every page, not in the center.

P75 in fact is not even a complete manuscript. it consists of some passages from Luke and some passages from John. Many pages are completely missing. Notably those at one end or the other, but also a few pages from the inside, as though they had fallen out.

The only thing that can be called 'random' about wear and tear is the bookworms. They actually have random tunnelling patterns which aren't predictable (except as to range or extent) other than a certain 'fractal' sizing and change of direction.

Other types of wear and tear, such as that caused by handling and usage conforms to simple and straightforward laws of physics and laws of probability.

For instance, the front and back, the outside pages, the exposed edges of an ancient papyrus book will suffer the most damage, due to exposure to air (oxidizing agents like oxygen, causing a slow deterioration from the outside in).

Next comes factors like 'wear and tear', that is actual usage. In this respect our manuscript (P75) is no different than any others. The frontal edges (the vertical edge of a page which faces outward toward the reader) suffer the most damage, being buffeted and subjected to human touch by far the most.

As a matter of fact, the pattern of damage for the page under examination above is quite easy to interpret generally:

(1) At the upper-right, a crack in the papyrus has caused the loss of a column of letters along the crack-line. These can nonetheless be restored with near-certainty.

(2) At the lower-left, the outer corner of the page (its the verso or left-hand page we are looking at) has been broken off, due to it being the the most common point by which a page is grabbed and turned.

(3) On the right near the lower middle, there is another crack, caused by flexing, and an imbalance or imperfection in the binding and sewing, resulting in another fault-line of lost letters, this time on an angle upward to the left across the page. It is actually in our interest, to identify as much as possible of the damage that can be accounted for by accidental or expected causes. This leaves us with a much smaller residue of damage to account for in other ways.

So a lot can be ascertained from a basic knowledge of manuscript forensics, and some accurately collated data, even without a photograph of the page in hand. The collation itself acts like a 'fingerprint', describing unique features of wear and tear, however in this case, all the wear and tear has rational explanations and physical causes. Nothing is random here; its all Newtonian mechanics after all.

We have quite reasonably and successfully accounted for the 'normal' and expected damage to the manuscript, around the exposed edges and in regions of heavy contact and use, like the bottom left corner. To this we can add the 'theta' in line 17 as another example of edge-wear.

The 'Normal' Condition for an Internal Page in the Book

Next we can accept small random examples of damage, such as the lost 'omicron' (short 'o') in line 06 and the faded 'zeta' in line 14 and the 'tau' in line 38, as well as the 'eta' in line 42.

This group of minor imperfections and faded letters is a combination of surface deterioration and perhaps copying variations.

But what it does provide us is a base in conjunction with the undamaged background surface area, to give an overall expected state of preservation for the areas of the page which have not suffered special wear, and which have been protected by being pressed inside the outer pages of the book. This is the 'best case' state of the page.

The 'epsilon' in line 32 and 'omicron' in line 33 might also fall into this category. We can take those faded/damaged letters and get a rough estimate of the damaged/undamaged area ratio.

Taking the left half of the page from line 30 to 34 as a sample, we have 14 letters by 5 lines = 70 characters versus 3 damaged, i.e. less than 3% of the textual surface. Similar estimates come from the lower right section from line 37 to 44.

These are large sections of the surface area of the page, and are therefore good samples of 'best' condition of the page.

The Remaining Sections

Now we need to account for why there is a huge 'hole' in the upper center of the manuscript. thankfully there is a very typical and common cause for such deteriorations, and its mechanisms are well known.

Its called erasure. In an erasing procedure, a scribe essentially uses an abrasive (like sand, or a rubbing stick), with or without a liquid (water or vinegar or some vegetable-based cleaner) to remove a word, or a line or two, to start again.

But what is important for forensics, is that the physical treatment of the surface flexes and weakens the fibres a significant amount, as well as embedding fragments of papyrus and grit into the surface.

The result is that although the manuscript appears to be 'normal', and often shows no signs of erasure, the area of the surface that has been weakened and pulverized loses particles more quickly, and the fibres holding it together break more frequently. Eventually, writing over this area begins to fade and fall apart at a much quicker rate than the rest of the page.

Not only can areas of a page which have suffered erasure or similar treatment become easier to detect with time, due to uneven aging and deterioration, but also other accompanying side-effects are well known and easy to spot also.

Tentative Conclusions

For instance, in our manuscript, there is obviously a large area that has apparently suffered erasure and re-writing (between line 09 and line 13).

But re-enforcing and confirming this diagnosis is the naturally accompanying wear-mark below this area, between line 18 and 22, where the heel of the hand rested heavily during the erasure, and where the copyist's hand rested again for the second copying session. This area, although undergoing less contact and abuse than the erased area, still suffers some damage, by absorption of moisture, natural oils and dead skin from the hand of the workman.

The result after a thousand years, is that each of the two remaining areas of the manuscript undergo accelerated deterioration through Ph imbalance (acidic substances in the papyrus, like sweat and bacteria) and oxidation, in spite of this page being protected by being sandwiched in the center and covered over from the elements.

In summary then, the forensic evidence also indicates that the page was probably tampered with to some extent, and it cannot now be ascertained exactly what went on at this critical point in the manuscript.

Return to Index

Dot and
"Space & Dot"

Space and Dot: A Familiar Phenomenon

One of the first things you may note, since we've highlighted them in red in the text-collation, are the "Dot and Space" marks sprinkled across the page. These are recorded without comment by Comfort and Barrett, but much needs to be said.

First of all, these are really marks on the manuscript. Comfort and Barrett (C&B) have done a careful and thorough collation. Indeed the marks are there, both in the photo and in C&B's text, in the same place. So we have some confidence in their collation of the important markings of the manuscript.

Second, one may notice that unlike the same marks in earlier manuscripts (like P66), these appear to be uncannily spaced almost according to modern verse numbers. This is indeed a remarkable coincidence, since verse numberings weren't invented until the Middle Ages. However, the correspondence isn't actually that accurate. Here on this page it seems high, but on other pages the match isn't so hot.

Yet this does seem to indicate a new use for the 'Dot and Space' marks. Indeed, they could be something like 'pause' marks for public reading in this case (P75). P75 is estimated to be about 50 years newer than P66, so its quite possible that the symbol was appropriated or even misunderstood and extended to meet a need in organized worship.

Again we note however, that there is at least one 'Dot and Space' at the point of interest, namely point where John 7:53-8:11 would have been inserted or deleted. Indeed the connection between chapter 7 and 8 without the passage is certainly 'abstract', if not completely mythical. Yet the previous history of P66 and its use of this mark in this place should be taken into account in any thorough evaluation of the mark here in P75.

For the moment we simply note that P75, just like all the other known manuscripts in existance, whether early or late, is not a simple or clean copy of the text minus the passage. P75 has a complicated appearance, and comes complete with some important marks, suspiciously similar to the marks found in other early manuscripts.

Comfort and Barrett's Dots

Even a cursory examination reveals that not all of these cases are equally convincing, nor should they all be necessarily lumped together.

Comfort and Barrett attempted to be exhaustive, and presumably used better photo fascimiles than above.

Nonetheless, the next important step must be to categorize all the probable 'dots' and/or 'dot & space' combinations, to see if they can be separated into meaningful groups.

If these are indeed early 'text-critical' marks, similar to the umlauts on Codex Vaticanus, then the near random scattering on the page may simply reflect textual variants the 2nd or 3rd century scribe faced in contemporary copies, now long lost. In that case, we should expect that only a handful of currently known variants (those that survived the correction process) will illuminate the marks on P75.

On the other hand, if several distinguishable purposes are at work (e.g. variants or omissions, or liturgical/public reading instructions), then we can hope to nail down specific instances with more confidence.

Preliminary examination of the leaves of P75 suggest to us at least two distinct purposes at work.

(1) Simple dots, either by a second hand, or simply without any significant space provided, are probably minor indicators for either the next copyist or more probably the overseer or corrector of the production process.

(2) Dot and Space combinations, which seem to emphasize a point in the text, appear to indicate more serious or major locations where either an important textual variant occurred or perhaps a special liturgical direction was indicated.

One can imagine for instance, at advanced underground Christian meetings, where the participants were well advanced, and intimately known, that a pastor or reader might pull out a second book or scroll with special teaching or hidden passages to read from at key points in the regular text. In this way, Christians could advance in their own teachings, while minimizing risk from curiosity seekers, outsiders, new recruits, and perhaps also authorities examining books or spies sent to infiltrate and easedrop on proceedings.

The Pericope de Adultera may well have been a political "hot potatoe" of concern to Jewish authorities or even Roman investigators trying to determine if the Christian "cult" was undermining Law and Order or provoking populations under occupation (like the Jews in Palestine) to revolt.

We have early notice that Greek speaking Jews and Aramaic speaking Jews strongly disagreed on the canonicity of the Story of Susanna for instance, in the Greek version of Daniel, very popular among the Greek speaking Jews and Christians.

And similarly, we seem to find that all Aramaic versions of the story (and there must have been at least some targums etc.) have been destroyed, while Greek copies of Daniel retain it.

The authenticity of Susanna is not as germaine to this question of textual alteration as the preferences of various competing religious groups.

Return to Index


Bibliography for P75

Collations & Plates:
Rudolf Kasser and Victor Martin, Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV. Two volumes; Volume I contains the Lukan material, Volume II the Johannine. Supplementary portions of the text are found in Kurt Aland, "Neue neutestamentliche Papyri III," New Testament Studies #22.

Philip Comfort & David Barrett, The Text of the Earliest NT Greek Manuscripts, (Tyndale 2001)

Return to Index