Biblical Archaeology Review 40:2, March/April 2014

Biblical Views: Text Archaeology: The Finding of Lightfoot’s Lost Manuscripts

By Ben Witherington III

When we think of archaeology, we think of digging in the ground—of trowels, spades, measuring lines and the like. We think of hot sweaty work in the sun during the summer digging season. While this image is certainly a prevalent and correct one up to a point, at its core archaeology is about studying ancient cultures by what they have left behind. This brings me to the subject of text archaeology—the study of unknown, lost or missing texts.

Texts, like the famous Codex Sinaiticus, are often discovered in existing buildings. The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert. No digging was required, just sorting through a pile of papyri.

This brings me to J.B. Lightfoot, without much dispute the most famous New Testament scholar in the English-speaking world in the 19th century. Lightfoot was especially well known for his commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles and on the Apostolic Fathers.

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