Short Post: Useful Catalog
This index on wikipedia is an excellent catalog of copies of New Testament texts. These valuable papyri are the earliest known copies of New Testament manuscripts.
You may be wondering why I care. I started reading Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. His whole thesis is that biblical literalism is pointless because we don’t have the original bible — even laying aside that the bible was composed out of a much larger set of Christian texts in the 4th century, AD. In other words, even if the New Testament was the literal truth (also putting aside its contradictions), the closest copies we have to the originals are more than a century more recent than Christ, and only about half of the copies we have predate the compilation of the first set of New Testament books as we know them. The rest are more recent, and the men and women copying the books in ancient times frequently added, changed and removed things.
Having a list helps me follow along with my own thoughts. For instance, I find it interesting that we have earlier copies of parts of Revelation than we do of Luke 2 (the Betheleham / manger story). And John was illiterate to start with? No wonder he’s not one of the synoptic gospels. I can draw no conclusions, but it’s interesting. Ideas are a-brewin’.