Re: all punctuation secondary, part 2

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Mon Apr 06 1998 - 00:51:46 EDT

At 1:54 PM -0600 4/3/98, Perry L. Stepp wrote:

>3. Can we categorically state that there was no punctuation in the
>earliest texts of the NT? The fact that papyri copied under certain
>circumstances for certain purposes don't consistently or frequently use
>punctuation doesn't add up to "no punctuation in the earliest texts of the

No. We cannot CATEGORICALLY state that there was NO punctuation in the
earliest texts of the NT (even though this statement is made in one form or
another in most introductory works on textual criticism, and it is probably
true of the original texts--texts which must now be reconstructed from the
copies we have available to us, some of which have minimal punctuation). I
have seen some minimal punctuation in several quite early manuscripts, but
such punctuation is sporadic and inconsistent. It is quite clear that there
was no SYSTEM of punctuation which was generally followed in the first few
centuries CE. There are also occasional spaces between phrases or clauses,
but again there is no consistency. I don't have copies of any of the
manuscripts available to me at home right now, so I can't cite examples.

What we CAN say is that there was no punctuation in the vast majority of
places where punctuation is needed in virtually any modern language and
that there were genearlly no spaces between the words. We can also say
there is no punctuation at all in many manuscripts and no spaces in many of
the same manuscripts. The preponderance of the evidence suggests that there
was no punctuation in the original texts.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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