The processes that
gradually produced both the concept and the physical reality
of “the Bible” in Christian history, as well as (somewhat
differently) in Judaism, were extremely complex. The
technology that permitted “the (plural) scriptures” to be
gathered between one set of covers matured only in the 4th
century of the common era. The very idea of a special “canon”
of authoritative writings also developed over time in
different community contexts with different concepts of what
was considered “authoritative” and why. This presentation
explores the preserved evidence relating to these events.
Estimated number of physical scrolls (46) needed to cover the
traditional Greek Christian Bible canon
|Scriptural Books with
probable number of scrolls needed (46)
The order followed is roughly that of Athanasius
05 Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses)
|?? [29, 34]
|03 Esther, Tobit,
|04 1-2 Maccabees,
3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
|02 Wisdom of
|01 "the Twelve"
|46.3r-49.7r, xx, xx
| 01 General
|02 Epistles of
8 leaves (16pp) to a quire, 95+ quires [ca 2-3 scrolls / quire]
(Vaticanus has 10 leaves (20pp) per quire)
(Athanasius) http://www.bible-researcher.com/athanasius.html [39th
Differences between Vaticanus,
Sinaiticus, and Athanasius:
Inclusion of Maccabees books (Sinaiticus);
not Vaticanus, not mentioned by Athanasius
Inclusion of Esther (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus);
from main list (Athanasius)
Inclusion of Tobit & Judith (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus);
excluded from main list (Athanasius)
Inclusion of Barnabas and Hermas (Sinaiticus);
Vaticanus or Athanasius
Inclusion of Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus);
Location and order of the Jewish prophets
Location and order of NT epistles, Acts
Festal/Easter Letter (367 ce)
4. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in
number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the
number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and
names being as follows.
The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that
Numbers, and then Deuteronomy.
Following these there is Joshua the son of Nun, then Judges, then
And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second
being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as
And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as
Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book.
After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next
Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.
Job follows, then the Prophets, the Twelve ["Minor Prophets"] being
reckoned as one book.
Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch,
Lamentations and the Epistle,
afterwards Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes
the Old Testament.
5. Again, it is not tedious to speak of the books of the New
Testament. These are:
the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
After these, The Acts of the Apostles, and the seven epistles called
Catholic: of James, one; of Peter, two, of John, three; after these,
one of Jude.
In addition, there are fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle,
written in this order: the first, to the Romans; then, two to the
Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians,
then, to the Philippians; then, to the Colossians; after these, two
of the Thessalonians; and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to
Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon.
And besides, the Revelation of John.
7. But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing
under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these,
indeed not received as canonical
but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just
approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and
that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the
Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the
Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a
mention of secret [apocryphal] writings. But such are the invention
of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish, bestowing
upon them their approval, and assigning to them a date, that so,
using them as if they were ancient writings, they find a means by
which to lead astray the simple-minded.
Josephus, Against Apion 1.38-41:
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among
us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the
Greeks have], but only twenty-two
books, which contain all the records of all the past
times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them
five belong to Moses,
which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of
mankind till his death…
who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times
in thirteen books.
The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct
of human life.
Use of General Categories:
by the law
and the prophets, and
by others that have
followed their steps ... the law itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books
Dead Sea Scrolls, Manual of
as he commanded through
Moses and all his
servants the prophets
the book of Moses and
the books of
the prophets and
the Law of Moses
and the prophets and
Melito's canon is found in Eusebius EH 4.26.13–14:
Accordingly when I went East and came to the place
where these things were preached and done, I learned
accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to
you as written below. Their names are as follows:
of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy;
Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth;
of Kings, four books;
of Chronicles, two;
the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also,
Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job;
of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah;
of the twelve prophets,
one book ;
Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras.
From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.
Costs of scrolls and codices
From the 4th century CE, there is some evidence of the prices
of papyri, parchment, and skilled copying.
Bagnall, Early Christian
Books in Egypt (Princeton University Press 2009) 62ff
(after extensive calculations on the costs of materials and
Let us imagine a reader [an official in a church] ... who
received 10 solidi per year. A complete Bible would cost him
half a year's income. Such a purchase would have been entirely
out of reach. Even an unbound short book, a single gospel on
papyrus of the sort that cost a third of a solidus ... would
amount to one-thirtieth of a year's income.... People at that
sort of incom level do not buy books at that price. Even the
best paid academics do not buy many books at that price. ...
Now it is not a new observation that ancient books were
expensive relative to incomes. ...
Books required a lot of skilled labor, and their raw materials
were also expensive. ...
The Earliest Surviving
non-Christian non-wooden Codices (Bagnall 87-88), 1st - 2nd
Unidentified Latin Historical text [LDAB 4293]
Technical Manuals (astrological , lexica & grammar
[296, 1515, 7989], medicine )
Music treatise 
Hexameters (unidentified authorship) 
Origen, Comm. in Matt.
The differences among
the manuscripts have become great, either through negligence of
some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they
to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of
checking, they make
additions or deletions as they please.
Ecclesiastical History 3.3: The
Epistles of the Apostles.
epistle of Peter, that called the first, is
acknowledged as genuine. And this the ancient elders used freely
in their own writings as an undisputed work. But we have learned
that his extant second
Epistle does not belong to the canon; yet, as it has
appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other
2. The so-called Acts of Peter, however, and the Gospel which bears his name,
and the Preaching
and the Apocalypse,
as they are called, we know have not been universally accepted,
because no ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern, has made
use of testimonies drawn from them.
. . . .
5. Paul’s fourteen epistles are well known and
undisputed. It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle
to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the
church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul.
But what has been said concerning this epistle by those who
lived before our time I shall quote in the proper place. In
regard to the so-called Acts
of Paul, I have not found them among the undisputed
6. But as the same apostle, in the salutations
at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, has made mention among
others of Hermas, to whom the book called The Shepherd is ascribed, it
should be observed that this too has been disputed by some, and
on their account cannot be
placed among the acknowledged books; while by others it
is considered quite indispensable, especially to those who need
instruction in the elements of the faith. Hence, as we know, it
has been publicly read in churches, and I have found that some
of the most ancient writers used it.
Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent
The Fourth Session
Celebrated on the eighth day of the month of
April, in the year 1546.
English translation by James Waterworth
Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures
. . . .
(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox
Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of
piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the
New Testament—seeing that one God is the author of both —as
also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith
as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own
word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the
Catholic Church by a continuous succession.
. . . . Of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit,
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue,
Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the
first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled
Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter,
consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom,
Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel,
Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos,
Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus,
Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first
and the second.
Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke
the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one)
to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians,
to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two
to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to
Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of
John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the
apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.
. . . .
as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their
parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic
Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate
Martial's Epigrams 14, on bookish
|Tablets/notebooks of citrus
|Esse puta ceras, licet haed
|Suppose it to be wax, though
it is called parchment
|delebis, quotiens scripta
|You will erase whatever you
want to write anew.
|Vitellian tablets [for love
|The same [requesting money]
|Large sheets of papyrus
|Papyrus sheets for letters
|Homer's "Battle of Frogs and Mice"
Priami regnis inimicus
and Ulysses, enemy of
pariter condita pelle
together, preserved in many
folds of skin
||Vergil on parchment
|Quam brevis inmensum
cepit membrana Maronem!
||How small a quantity of
parchment has comprised vast
|Ipsius vultus prima
||The first leaf bears his
|Menandrou Qais [Greek]
||Cicero on parchment
|Si comes ista tibi fuerit
||If this parchment will be
your companion, suppose
|Carpere te longas cum
||yourself to be making a
long journey with Cicero
|The "Monobiblos" of Propertius
||Titus Livius in
||Titus Livy on parchment.
exiguis artatur Livius
|Compressed in tiny skins vast Livy,
mea non totum bibliotheca
||for whom complete my library has not room.
Metamorphosis in membranis.
of Ovid on parchment
multiplici quae structa est
that has been built up for you
with multifold tablets
Nasonis quinque decemque
fifteen lays of Naso
|Calvi de aquae frigidae usu
|Calvus "On the Use of Cold Water"
Ulpian, writing between C.E. 211 and 217 is reported to have
the heading "books" (librorum) all volumes (volumina)
are included, whether they are made of papyrus (in
charta), of parchment (in membrana),
or of any other material whatsoever; but even if they are
written on wood-slabs (in philyra) (as
is sometimes done), or upon any kind of prepared skins (in
alio corio), they come under the same
appellation. If, however, they are codices of parchment (in
codicibus sint membraneis), or papyrus (vel
chartaceis), or even ivory (vel etiam
eboreis), or any other material, or are
composed of wax tablets (in ceratis codicillis),
let us determine whether they ought to be included? Gaius
Cassius writes that where books (libris) are
bequeathed, the parchments (membranas) are
also included. Hence, it follows that everything relating
to them will be included if the intention of the testator
was not otherwise.
discussing the question whether a bequest of libri
[books] covers unwritten papyrus rolls (chartae) and
unwritten parchments (membranae), Ulpian
[211-217 ce] adds (Digest
when books (libri) are bequeathed, the question
is not inappropriately asked whether those are included
which are not yet written upon (nondum perscripti). I do not think they
are included, any more than cloth which is not yet
entirely woven is included under the heading
"clothing." But books which
been written (perscripti libri), but have not
yet been beaten or ornamented [??], are included in such a
legacy, as well as such as are not glued together, or
corrected [repaired?], and also parchments (membranae)
which are not sewed, are also included.
Paulus, who succeeded Ulpian as Praetorian Prefect in
223 writes (Sententiae 3.6.87):
(libris) are bequeathed, volumes of
papyrus (chartae volumina) , or of
parchment (vel membranae) and wood-slabs (et
philyrae) are included, and codices, as well
By the designagtion "books" (librorum) not
merely volumes of papyrus (volumina chartarum),
but also any kind of writing which is contained in anything
Also from Ulpian (Digest
If a hundred
books (libri) are
bequeathed, we must
deliver to the
legatee a hundred
volumes (volumina), and not a
hundred parts which
anyone may select as
he wishes, each of
which constitutes a
written book (ad libri
hence, when the
works of Homer are
all contained in a
single volume (in
uno volumine), we do not
count them as
forty-eight books (libros), but the
entire volume of
Homeri volumen) should be
constitute a "book"
Christian codices dated to 2nd century [from Roberts & Skeat]
- P.Ryl. 3.457. John. Van
Haelst 462. Typology P52. ii.
4.56. Exodus, Deuteronomy. Van
Haelst 33. Typology OT 24. (ii ed.; late ii
- P. Yale
Genesis. Van Haelst 12. Typology OT 7. ii/iii
(E.G.T.; C.E. 90
VI. Numbers, Deuteronomy.\109/ Van Haelst 52. Typology OT
36. ii/iii (E.G.T., A.S. Hunt; ii F. G. Kenyon, U. Wilcken).
1.7. Psalms. Van Haelst 179. Typology OT 120.
ii/iii (E.G,T.; ed., ii H.I.Bell).
Inv. 170. Psalms. Van Haelst
224. Typology OT 151 iii (ii C.H.R.)
Bodleian MS. Gr. bibl. g. 5 (P) Psalms. Van Haelst 151.
Typology OT 97 A. ii/iii (E.G.T.; ii ed.).
Inv. 1 + Magdalen College, Oxford,
Gr. 18 + Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale, Suppl. Gr. 1120. Matthew,
Van Haelst 336, 403. Typology
P4, P64, P67. iii or
iii/iv (P4), ii (P64, P67).
1.5. Titus. Van Haelst 534. Typology P32.
iii (ii Bell-Skeat).
34.2683. Matthew. Van Haelst 372. Typology P77.
50.3523. John. ii. Not in Typology.
Harry Y. The
and Readers in
Yale UP 1995)
Colin H. The
of the British
(Roberts &) Skeat
OF THE CODEX (London 1983)
40 label of codex fragment as Christian
Suetonius, Divus Julius 56.6
describes the form of Julius Caesar's despatches to the Senate in
the following words:
Some letters of his to the senate
are also extant, and he seems to have been the first to
convert such documents to pages and the format of a memorandum
book, whereas previously consuls and generals did not send
their reports except (on sheets) written against the papyrus
Epistulae quoque eius ad Senatum
extant, quas primum videtur ad paginas et formam memorialis
libelli convertisse, cum antea consoles et duces non nisi
transversa charta scriptas mitterent.
bibliog and sites