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Biblical criticism

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page with text beginning "Histoire Critique du vieux testament par Le R. P. Richard Simon"
Title page of Richard Simon's Critical History (1685), an early work of biblical criticism

Biblical criticism is the use of critical analysis to understand and explain the Bible. During the eighteenth century, when it began as historical-biblical criticism, it was based on two distinguishing characteristics: (1) the scientific concern to avoid dogma and bias by applying a neutral, non-sectarian, reason-based judgment to the study of the Bible, and (2) the belief that the reconstruction of the historical events behind the texts, as well as the history of how the texts themselves developed, would lead to a correct understanding of the Bible. This sets it apart from earlier, pre-critical methods; from the anti-critical methods of those who oppose criticism-based study; from later post-critical orientation, and from the many different types of criticism which biblical criticism transformed into in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Most scholars believe the German Enlightenment (c. 1650 – c. 1800) led to the creation of biblical criticism, although some assert that its roots reach back to the Reformation. German pietism played a role in its development, as did British deism, with its greatest influences being rationalism and Protestant scholarship. The Enlightenment age, and its skepticism of biblical and church authority, ignited questions concerning the historical basis for the human Jesus separately from traditional theological views concerning his divinity. This quest for the historical Jesus began in biblical criticism's earliest stages, and has remained an interest within biblical criticism, on and off, for over 200 years.

Historical-biblical criticism includes a wide range of approaches and questions within four major methodologies: textual, source, form, and literary criticism. Textual criticism examines biblical manuscripts and their content to identify what the original text probably said. Source criticism searches the text for evidence of their original sources. Form criticism identifies short units of text seeking the setting of their origination. Redaction criticism later developed as a derivative of both source and form criticism. Each of these methods was primarily historical and focused on what went on before the texts were in their present form. Literary criticism, which emerged in the twentieth century, differed from these earlier methods. It focused on the literary structure of the texts as they currently exist, determining, where possible, the author's purpose, and discerning the reader's response to the text through methods such as rhetorical criticism, canonical criticism, and narrative criticism. All together, these various methods of biblical criticism permanently changed how people understood and saw the Bible.

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, biblical criticism was influenced by a wide range of additional academic disciplines and theoretical perspectives which led to its transformation. Having long been dominated by white male Protestant academics, the twentieth century saw others such as non-white scholars, women, and those from the Jewish and Catholic traditions become prominent voices in biblical criticism. Globalization brought a broader spectrum of worldviews into the field, and other academic disciplines as diverse as Near Eastern studies, psychology, cultural anthropology and sociology formed new methods of biblical criticism such as social scientific criticism and psychological biblical criticism. Meanwhile, post-modernism and post-critical interpretation began questioning whether biblical criticism had a role and function at all. With these new methods came new goals, as biblical criticism moved from the historical to the literary, and its basic premise changed from neutral judgment to a recognition of the various biases the reader brings to the study of the texts.


Daniel J. Harrington defines biblical criticism as "the effort at using scientific criteria (historical and literary) and human reason to understand and explain, as objectively as possible, the meaning intended by the biblical writers."[1] The original biblical criticism has been mostly defined by its historical concerns. Critics focused on the historical events behind the text as well as the history of how the texts themselves developed.[2]: 33  So much biblical criticism has been done as history, and not theology, that it is sometimes called the "historical-critical method" or historical-biblical criticism (or sometimes higher criticism) instead of just biblical criticism.[2]: 31  Biblical critics used the same scientific methods and approaches to history as their secular counterparts and emphasized reason and objectivity.[2]: 45  Neutrality was seen as a defining requirement.[3][2]: 27 

By 1990, new perspectives, globalization and input from different academic fields expanded biblical criticism, moving it beyond its original criteria, and changing it into a group of disciplines with different, often conflicting, interests.[4]: 21, 22  Biblical criticism's central concept changed from neutral judgment to beginning from a recognition of the various biases the reader brings to the study of the texts.[4]: 21, 22  Newer forms of biblical criticism are primarily literary: no longer focused on the historical, they attend to the text as it exists now.[4]: 21, 22 


Eighteenth century[]

In the Enlightenment era of the European West, philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677), and Richard Simon (1638–1712) began to question the long-established Judeo-Christian tradition that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch.[5][6] Spinoza wrote that Moses could not have written the preface to the fifth book, Deuteronomy, since he never crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There were also other problems such as Deuteronomy 31:9 which references Moses in the third person. According to Spinoza: "All these details, the manner of narration, the testimony, and the context of the whole story lead to the plain conclusion that these books were written by another, and not by Moses in person".[7]

Jean Astruc, often called the "Father of Biblical criticism", at  [fr]

Jean Astruc (1684–1766), a French physician, believed these critics were wrong about Mosaic authorship. According to Old Testament scholar Edward Young (1907–1968), Astruc believed that Moses assembled the first book of the Pentateuch, the book of Genesis, using the hereditary accounts of the Hebrew people.[8] Biblical criticism is often said to have begun when Astruc borrowed methods of textual criticism (used to investigate Greek and Roman texts) and applied them to the Bible in search of those original accounts.[9]: 204, 217  Astruc believed that, through this approach, he had identified the separate sources that were edited together into the book of Genesis. The existence of separate sources explained the inconsistent style and vocabulary of Genesis, discrepancies in the narrative, differing accounts and chronological difficulties, while still allowing for Mosaic authorship.[9]: xvi [10] Astruc's work was the genesis of biblical criticism, and because it has become the template for all who followed, he is often called the "Father of Biblical criticism".[9]: 204, 217, 210 

The questioning of religious authority common to German Pietism contributed to the rise of biblical criticism.[11]: 6  Rationalism also became a significant influence:[12][13]: 8, 224  Swiss theologian Jean Alphonse Turretin (1671–1737) is an example of the "moderate rationalism" of the era. Turretin believed that the Bible was divine revelation, but insisted that revelation must be consistent with nature and in harmony with reason, "For God who is the author of revelation is likewise the author of reason".[14]: 94, 95  What was seen as extreme rationalism followed in the work of Heinrich Paulus (1761–1851) who denied the existence of miracles.

Johann Salomo Semler (1725–1791) had attempted in his work to navigate between divine revelation and extreme rationalism by supporting the view that revelation was "divine disclosure of the truth perceived through the depth of human experience".[14]: 201, 118  He distinguished between "inward" and "outward" religion: for some people, their religion is their highest inner purpose, while for others, religion is a more exterior practice – a tool to accomplish other purposes more important to the individual, such as political or economic goals. Recognition of this distinction now forms part of the modern field of cognitive science of religion.[13]: 43 [15] Semler argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions, giving historical criticism its nonsectarian character. As a result, Semler is often called the father of historical-critical research.[13]: 43  "Despite the difference in attitudes between the thinkers and the historians [of the German enlightenment], all viewed history as the key ... in their search for understanding".[11]: 214 

Communications scholar James A. Herrick (b. 1954) says that even though most scholars agree that biblical criticism evolved out of the German Enlightenment, there are some historians of biblical criticism that have found "strong direct links" with British deism. Herrick references the German theologian Henning Graf Reventlow (1929–2010) as linking deism with the humanist world view, which has been significant in biblical criticism.[16][17]: 13–15  Matthew Tindal (1657–1733), as part of British deism, asserted that Jesus taught an undogmatic natural religion that the Church later changed into its own dogmatic form. Tindal's view of Christianity as a "mere confirmation of natural religion and his resolute denial of the supernatural" led him to conclude that "revealed religion is superfluous".[18] British deism was also an influence on the philosopher and writer Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768) in developing his criticism of revelation.[17]: 13 

The biblical scholar Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) advocated the use of other Semitic languages in addition to Hebrew to understand the Old Testament, and in 1750, wrote the first modern critical introduction to the New Testament.[19][20] Instead of interpreting the Bible historically, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752–1827), Johann Philipp Gabler (1753–1826), and Georg Lorenz Bauer (1755–1806) used the concept of myth as a tool for interpreting the Bible. Rudolf Bultmann later used this approach, and it became particularly influential in the early twentieth century.[21]

George Ricker Berry says the term "higher criticism", which is sometimes used as an alternate name for historical criticism, was first used by Eichhorn in his three-volume work Einleitung ins Alte Testament (Introduction to the Old Testament) published between 1780 and 1783. The term was originally used to differentiate higher criticism, the term for historical criticism, from lower, which was the term commonly used for textual criticism at the time.[22] The importance of textual criticism means that the term 'lower criticism' is no longer used much in twenty-first century studies.[4]: 108 

A twenty–first century view of biblical criticism's origins, that traces it to the Reformation, is a minority position, but the Reformation is the source of biblical criticism's advocacy of freedom from external authority imposing its views on biblical interpretation.[23]: 297–298 [2]: 189  Long before Richard Simon, the historical context of the biblical texts was important to Joachim Camerarius (1500–1574) who wrote a philological study of figures of speech in the biblical texts using their context to understand them.[24] Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) paved the way for comparative religion studies by analyzing New Testament texts in the light of Classical, Jewish and early Christian writings.[25]: 140 

Historical Jesus: the first quest[]

The first quest for the historical Jesus is also sometimes referred to as the Old Quest.[26]: 888  It began with the publication of Hermann Samuel Reimarus's work after his death. G. E. Lessing (1729–1781) claimed to have discovered copies of Reimarus's writings in the library at Wolfenbüttel when he was the librarian there.[26]: 862  Reimarus had left permission for his work to be published after his death, and Lessing did so between 1774 and 1778, publishing them as Die Fragmente eines unbekannten Autors (The Fragments of an Unknown Author).[27] Over time, they came to be known as the Wolfenbüttel Fragments. Reimarus distinguished between what Jesus taught and how he is portrayed in the New Testament. According to Reimarus, Jesus was a political Messiah who failed at creating political change and was executed by the Roman state as a dissident. His disciples then stole the body and invented the story of the resurrection for personal gain.[17]

Albert Schweitzer in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, acknowledges that Reimarus's work "is a polemic, not an objective historical study", while also referring to it as "a masterpiece of world literature."[28]: 22, 16  According to Schweitzer, Reimarus was wrong in his assumption that Jesus's end-of-world eschatology was "earthly and political in character" but was right in viewing Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher, as evidenced by his repeated warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of time. This eschatological approach to understanding Jesus has since become universal in modern biblical criticism.[28]: viii, 23, 195  Schweitzer also comments that, since Reimarus was a historian and not a theologian or a biblical scholar, he "had not the slightest inkling" that source criticism would provide the solution to the problems of literary consistency that Reimarus had raised.[28]: 15 

Reimarus's controversial work garnered a response from Semler in 1779: Beantwortung der Fragmente eines Ungenannten (Answering the Fragments of an Unknown).[29] Schweitzer records that Semler "rose up and slew Reimarus in the name of scientific theology".[28]: 25  Respect for Semler temporarily repressed the dissemination and study of Reimarus's work, but Semler's response had no long-term effect.[28]: 25, 26  Reimarus's writings, on the other hand, did have a long-term effect. They made a lasting change in the practice of biblical criticism by making it clear it could exist independently of theology and faith.[13]: 46 [28]: 23–26  His work also showed biblical criticism could serve its own ends, be governed solely by rational criteria, and reject deference to religious tradition.[13]: 46–48  Reimarus's central question, "How political was Jesus?", continues to be debated by theologians and historians such as  [de], Gerd Theissen and Craig S. Keener.[30][31][32]

In addition to overseeing the publication of Reimarus's work, Lessing made contributions of his own, arguing that the proper study of biblical texts requires knowing the context in which they were written. This is now the accepted scholarly view.[13]: 49 

Nineteenth century[]

Professors Richard Soulen and Kendall Soulen write that biblical criticism reached "full flower" in the nineteenth century, becoming the "major transforming fact of biblical studies in the modern period".[4]: 79  The height of biblical criticism's influence is represented by the history of religions school [note 1] a group of German Protestant theologians associated with the University of Göttingen.[4]: 161  In the late nineteenth century, they sought to understand Judaism and Christianity within the overall history of religion.[33] Other Bible scholars outside the Göttingen school, such as Heinrich Julius Holtzmann (1832–1910), also used biblical criticism. Holtzmann developed the first listing of the chronological order of the New Testament texts based on critical scholarship.[4]: 82 

Many insights in understanding the Bible that began in the nineteenth century continue to be discussed in the twenty-first; in some areas of study, such as linguistic tools, scholars merely appropriate earlier work, while in others they "continue to suppose they can produce something new and better".[14]: xiii  For example, some modern histories of Israel include historical biblical research from the nineteenth century.[34]: 23  In 1835, and again in 1845, theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur postulated the apostles Peter and Paul had an argument that led to a split between them thereby influencing the mode of Christianity that followed.[35][36]: 91–95  This still occasions widespread debate within topics such as Pauline studies, New Testament Studies, early-church studies, Jewish Law, the theology of grace, and the doctrine of justification.[35]: 286–287  Albrecht Ritschl's challenge to orthodox atonement theory continues to influence Christian thought.[14]: 92 

Nineteenth-century biblical critics "thought of themselves as continuing the aims of the Protestant Reformation".[37]: 89  According to Robert M. Grant and David Tracy, "One of the most striking features of the development of biblical interpretation during the nineteenth century was the way in which philosophical presuppositions implicitly guided it".[38]: 91 fn.8  Michael Joseph Brown points out that biblical criticism operated according to principles grounded in a distinctively European rationalism. By the end of the nineteenth century, these principles were recognized by Ernst Troeltsch in an essay, Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology, where he described three principles of biblical criticism: methodological doubt (a way of searching for certainty by doubting everything); analogy (the idea that we understand the past by relating it to our present); and mutual inter-dependence (every event is related to events that proceeded it).[39]

Biblical criticism's focus on pure reason produced a paradigm shift that profoundly changed Christian theology concerning the Jews.  [de] uses the legal meaning of emancipation, as in free to be an adult on their own recognizance, when he says the "process of the emancipation of reason from the Bible ... runs parallel with the emancipation of Christianity from the Jews".[40]: 22  In the previous century, Semler had been the first Enlightenment Protestant to call for the "de-Judaizing" of Christianity. While taking a stand against discrimination in society, Semler also wrote theology that was strongly negative toward the Jews and Judaism.[40]: 25, 27  He saw Christianity as something that 'superseded' all that came before it.[40]: 39, 40  This stark contrast between Judaism and Christianity produced increasingly antisemitic sentiments.[40]: 228  Supersessionism, instead of the more traditional millennialism, became a common theme in Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780–1849), Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860), David Strauss (1808–1874), Albrecht Ritschl (1822–1889), the history of religions school of the 1890s, and on into the form critics of the twentieth century until World War II.[40]: vii–xiii 

Historical Jesus: the lives of Jesus[]

The late-nineteenth century saw a renewed interest in the quest for the historical Jesus which primarily involved writing versions of the life of Jesus. Important scholars of this quest included David Strauss (1808–1874), whose Life of Jesus used a mythical interpretation of the gospels to undermine their historicity. The book was culturally significant because it contributed to weakening church authority, and it was theologically significant because it challenged the divinity of Christ.[41] In The Essence of Christianity (1900), Adolf Von Harnack (1851–1930) described Jesus as a reformer.[42] William Wrede (1859–1906) rejected all the theological aspects of Jesus and asserted that the "messianic secret" of Jesus as Messiah emerged only in the early community and did not come from Jesus himself.[43] Ernst Renan (1823–1892) promoted the critical method and was opposed to orthodoxy.[44] Wilhelm Bousset (1865–1920) attained honors in the history of religions school by contrasting what he called the joyful teachings of Jesus's new righteousness and what Bousset saw as the gloomy call to repentance made by John the Baptist.[45] While at Göttingen, Johannes Weiss (1863–1914) wrote his most influential work on the apocalyptic proclamations of Jesus.[46]

In 1896, Martin Kähler (1835–1912) wrote The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ. It critiqued the quest's methodology, with a reminder of the limits of historical inquiry, saying it is impossible to separate the historical Jesus from the Jesus of faith, since Jesus is only known through documents about him as Christ the Messiah.[47]: 10 

The Old Quest was not considered closed until Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) wrote Von Reimarus zu Wrede which was published in English as The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1910. In it, Schweitzer scathingly critiqued the various books on the life of Jesus that had been written in the late-nineteenth century as reflecting more of the lives of the authors than Jesus.[48] Schweitzer revolutionized New Testament scholarship at the turn of the century by proving to most of that scholarly world that the teachings and actions of Jesus were determined by his eschatological outlook; he thereby finished the quest's pursuit of the apocalyptic Jesus.[37]: 173 [49]: 2–4  Schweitzer concluded that any future research on the historical Jesus was pointless.[47]: 10 

Twentieth century[]

In the early twentieth century, biblical criticism was shaped by two main factors and the clash between them. First, form criticism arose and turned the focus of biblical criticism from author to genre, and from individual to community. Next, a scholarly effort to reclaim the Bible's theological relevance began.[4]: 20  Karl Barth (1886–1968), Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), and others moved away from concern over the historical Jesus and concentrated instead on the kerygma: the message of the New Testament.[4]: 20 [50]

Most scholars agree that Bultmann is one of the "most influential theologians of the twentieth-century", but that he also had a "notorious reputation for his de-mythologizing" which was debated around the world.[51][52] Demythologizing refers to the reinterpretation of the biblical myths (stories) in terms of the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976).[53] Bultmann claimed myths are "true" anthropologically and existentially but not cosmologically.[54] As a major proponent of form criticism, Bultmann "set the agenda for a subsequent generation of leading NT [New Testament] scholars".[4]: 21 

Around the midcentury point the denominational composition of biblical critics began to change. This was due to a shift in perception of the critical effort as being possible on the basis of premises other than liberal Protestantism.[4]: 21  Redaction criticism also began in the mid-twentieth century. While form criticism had divided the text into small units, redaction emphasized the literary integrity of the larger literary units instead.[55][56]: 443 

The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran in 1948 renewed interest in archaeology's potential contributions to biblical studies, but it also posed challenges to biblical criticism.[57]: 9, 149  For example, the majority of the Dead Sea texts are closely related to the Masoretic Text that the Christian Old Testament is based upon, while other texts bear a closer resemblance to the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew texts) and still others are closer to the Samaritan Pentateuch.[57]: 241, 149 [58] This has raised the question of whether or not there is such a thing as an "original text". If there is no original text, the entire purpose of textual criticism is called into question.[13]: 82 

New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias (1900–1979) used linguistics, and Jesus's first-century Jewish environment, to interpret the New Testament.[56]: 495  The biblical theology movement of the 1950s produced debate between Old Testament and New Testament scholars over the unity of the Bible. The rise of redaction criticism closed this debate by bringing about a greater emphasis on diversity.[59] The New quest for the historical Jesus began in 1953 and was so-named in 1959 by James M. Robinson.[26]: 34 

After 1970, biblical criticism began to change radically and pervasively.[4]: vii, 21  New criticism, which developed as an adjunct to literary criticism, was concerned with the particulars of style.[60] New historicism, a literary theory that views history through literature, also developed.[61] Biblical criticism began to apply new literary approaches such as structuralism and rhetorical criticism, which concentrated less on history and more on the texts themselves.[62] In the 1970s, the New Testament scholar E. P. Sanders (b. 1937) advanced the New Perspective on Paul, which has greatly influenced scholarly views on the relationship between Pauline Christianity and Jewish Christianity in the Pauline epistles.[63][64] Sanders also advanced study of the historical Jesus by putting Jesus's life in the context of first-century Second-Temple Judaism.[49]: 13–18  In 1974, the theologian Hans Frei published The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, which became a landmark work leading to the development of post-critical interpretation.[65] The third period of focused study on the historical Jesus began in 1988.[66]

By 1990, biblical criticism as a primarily historical discipline changed into a group of disciplines with often conflicting interests.[4]: 21, 22  New perspectives from different ethnicities, feminist theology, Catholicism and Judaism offered insights previously overlooked by the majority of white male Protestants who had dominated biblical criticism from its beginnings.[4]: 21 [note 2] Globalization also brought different worldviews, while other academic fields such as Near Eastern studies, sociology, and anthropology became active in expanding biblical criticism as well. These new points of view created awareness that the Bible can be rationally interpreted from many different perspectives.[4]: 22  In turn, this awareness changed biblical criticism's central concept from the criteria of neutral judgment to that of beginning from a recognition of the various biases the reader brings to the study of the texts.[4]: 22 

Historical Jesus: the New quest into the twenty-first century[]

painting of three crosses with Jesus in the center and women at his feet
Ernst Hildebrand's 1910 painting Kreuzigung Christi depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. The crucifixion is widely regarded by historians as a historical event.[68][69]

There is no general agreement among scholars on how to periodize the various quests for the historical Jesus. Most scholars agree the first quest began with Reimarus and ended with Schweitzer, that there was a "no-quest" period in the first half of the twentieth century, and that there was a second quest, known as the "New" quest that began in 1953 and lasted until 1988 when a third began.[26]: 697  However, Stanley E. Porter (b. 1956) calls this periodization "untenable and belied by all of the pertinent facts",[26]: 697, 698  arguing that people were searching for the historical Jesus before Reimarus, and that there never has been a period when scholars weren't doing so.[26]: 698, 699 

In 1953, Ernst Käsemann (1906–1998), gave a famous lecture before the Old Marburgers, his former colleagues at the University of Marburg, where he had studied under Bultmann.[70] In this stronghold of support for Bultmann, Käsemann claimed "Bultmann's skepticism about what could be known about the historical Jesus had been too extreme".[47]: 10  Bultmann had claimed that, since the gospel writers wrote theology, their writings could not be considered history, but Käsemann reasoned that one does not necessarily preclude the other.[47]: 10, 11 [71] James M. Robinson named this the New quest in his 1959 essay "The New Quest for the Historical Jesus".[26]: 34  This quest focused largely on the teachings of Jesus as interpreted by existentialist philosophy. Interest waned again by the 1970s.[26]: 668 [47]: 11 

N. T. Wright asserts that the third quest began with the Jesus Seminar in 1988. By then, it became necessary to acknowledge that "the upshot of the first two quests ... was to reveal the frustrating limitations of the historical study of any ancient person".[47]: 12  According to Ben Witherington, probability is all that is possible in this pursuit.[47]: 12  Paul Montgomery in The New York Times writes that "Through the ages scholars and laymen have taken various positions on the life of Jesus, ranging from total acceptance of the Bible to assertions that Jesus of Nazareth is a creature of myth and never lived."[72]

Sanders explains that, because of the desire to know everything about Jesus, including his thoughts and motivations, and because there are such varied conclusions about him, it seems to many scholars that it is impossible to be certain about anything. Yet according to Sanders, "we know quite a lot" about Jesus.[73] While scholars rarely agree about what is known or unknown about the historical Jesus, according to Witherington, scholars do agree that "the historic questions should not be dodged".[47]: 271 

Major methods[]

Theologian David R. Law writes that biblical scholars usually employ textual, source, form, and redaction criticism together. The Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible), and the New Testament, as distinct bodies of literature, each raise their own problems of interpretation - the two are therefore generally studied separately. For purposes of discussion, these individual methods are separated here and the Bible is addressed as a whole, but this is an artificial approach that is used only for the purpose of description, and is not how biblical criticism is actually practiced.[13]: viii–ix 

Textual criticism[]

Textual criticism involves examination of the text itself and all associated manuscripts with the aim of determining the original text.[74]: 47  It is one of the largest areas of biblical criticism in terms of the sheer amount of information it addresses. The roughly 900 manuscripts found at Qumran include the oldest extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. They represent every book except Esther, though most books appear only in fragmentary form.[75] The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian texts. The dates of these manuscripts are generally accepted to range from c.110–125 (the