(46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament: Wikipedia)

According to Tertullian were some NT Autographs still in existence late in the 2nd century?

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace explores what Tertullian had to say about them in 180 C.E./AD in an article-  “Did the Original New Testament Manuscripts still exist in the Second Century?”

From the article:

There are two or three places that address whether the originals survived into the second century. Tertullian, writing in c. 180 CE, said, “Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over [to] the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally”1 The key term here is authenticae (‘authentic’).   …

Tertullian goes on to discuss each of these ‘authentic writings’ as being found in the very churches to which they were written. He mentions Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and Rome. He urges his reader to visit these sites to check out these authentic writings. This seems to suggest that he believed that these documents were the autographs. In the least, it suggests that by his day carefully done copies of the originals were considered important for verifying what the apostles meant, and such copies had a strong connection to the churches to which they were originally written. One still has to wonder why Tertullian focuses on the very churches which received the originals if he didn’t mean by the comment that these churches still preserved the autographs.  …


Early on in the 2nd and 3rd century according to Dr. Wallace, Christian scholars were concerned about variant readings and obtaining the most accurate NT manuscript readings as possible. Sometimes that meant a trip to where the writings originated from in order to find the oldest and most accurate copies. That was what Tertullian was suggesting at the very least in his writing from 180 C.E./AD.

But he also seemed to suggest that some of the original autographs were still available in his day.

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