The Freer Manuscripts
These old parchment manuscripts were found, probably in a grave, in Egypt by unknown persons early in 1906. They were sold to an Arab dealer named Ali, in Gizeh near Cairo, for some fifteen hundred dollars, according to report. The four manuscripts were offered by Ali first to the Royal Library in Berlin and later to the British Museum at a price of a thousand pounds, but no encouragement was given the dealer at that price. Both the English and the Germans thought the price too high, as not much was expected textually from parchment manuscripts.
On December 19, 1906, Mr. Charles L. Freer of Detroit visited the dealer Ali and bought many art objects. He was then shown the manuscripts and presumably the same price was asked. He had little desire to purchase, though he admired the writing of one of the manuscripts. Finally, urged by Dr. Mann, who was traveling with him, he offered one-half the price asked. It was accepted, and the manuscripts were sent to Detroit. There they remained unnoticed in a vault until the fall of 1907, when Professors Kelsey, D'Ooge, and Sanders of the University were asked to examine them. Their great value textually was at once recognized, and the task of editing was assigned to Professor Sanders; Mr. Freer assumed the expense of publishing.
Manuscript I is of the fifth century A.D. and contains Deuteronomy and Joshua. It once contained the whole Hexateuch, but the first four books are entirely lost. The Septuagint Greek text is found in the manuscript, and it is quite free from the errors generally referred to the influence of the Hexapla edition of Origen.
Manuscript II is a psalter of the fifth century but very fragmentary. No Psalm is complete, though parts of 151 Psalms and one Ode are preserved. It is a text of the Septuagint and of the psalter type, of which it is the oldest example.
Manuscript III is of the fourth century and contains all of the four Gospels except for three missing leaves. It is thus one of the three oldest known parchment manuscripts of the Gospels and has, besides, a most interesting text. The whole of Matthew and most of Luke are from an older Antiochian text, while the first eight chapters of Luke and most of John are of the Alexandrian type. The first quire of John (1-5.11) is in a different hand and of disputed age, yet textually it is Egyptian but uninfluenced by the Alexandrian edition. The first five chapters of Mark belong to the so-called Western text of the North African variety. The rest of Mark is closely allied to the text of Caesarea. Near the end of Mark a new saying of Jesus is added. So mixed a text has had a marked influence on the views of New Testament scholars.
Manuscript IV once contained all of the Epistles of Paul, but it is so badly decayed that only parts of eighty-four leaves were recovered, giving 165 legible fragments. The manuscript belongs to the sixth century and has a characteristic Egyptian text of that time. All four of these manuscripts were published in Volumes VIII and IX of the Humanistic Series.
Some later additions to his Biblical collection were made by Mr. Freer, of which the most important is No. V, a third-century papyrus codex of the Minor Prophets in Greek. This is the oldest and best manuscript of that part of the Bible. It was published in Volume XXI of the Humanistic Series.
Page 612Manuscripts I, III, and V have been published in facsimile by the University. At present all of the manuscripts are in the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.