An overview of how some manuscripts were discovered.
Today archeology are finding many more documents than even 20-30 years ago.
Archeological excavations find manuscripts all the time in the desert but some are found in some very unlikely places.
Jn.18:31-37 130 AD There are no original autographs because papyrus did not last more than a century. Only recently have we made paper that can outlast this, in my library I have books well over 125 years old. They could have been kept better but they are still in good condition.
Codex Vaticanus is now in the Vatican was written in 340 ad. It includes most of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament in Greek.
. Napoleon had taken it when he exiled the Pope to Savonna, Italy he confiscated the entire Pope’s library and brought it back to France. When he fell the Pope said he wanted them back to Rome (this is vellum calf skin) again the entire bible. Tregalles in 1843 asked the Pope to look at it. He agreed but he could not bring any paper or pen. So he went in every day studied it every day memorizing it. He published it and in 1859 and the Pope agreed for the copies to be spread. His memorization was uncanny and was very close to the Vaticanus.
Codex Aleaxandrias Egypt 400 Ad. in 1621 a man name Cyril Lucre was the head of the Greek orthodox church and transferred it to Constantinople. In 1627 they presented this manuscript to the king of England King James. Now the King James Bible had just been completed. He did not have this manuscript.
Efreme Rescriptus meaning Ephraim wrote over it. In 16th century 1553 father Ephraim was facing a paper shortage and he was a prolific writer. He found this old parchment and erased it and wrote over it with his own sermons. In 1844 a student of theology did a thesis on Father Ephraim’s writings he went into the library to see the manuscripts. The light from the window came on them that he saw impressions of something underneath the writings. Asked what this is? They went to see what this was, and found one of the finest Bible manuscripts of all time.
Onirincus in 1900 Dr. Glenfeld went to Egypt for buried treasure. They found ancient artifacts but were disappointed of only pottery and mummified crocodiles. One of the workers as they were transporting them dropped one and out came numerous manuscripts. Grammar scrolls and biblical manuscripts dated back to the 2nd century. This helped them understand the syntax from the Koine Greek.
Codex Siniaticus written 330 -450 Ad contains almost all the New Testament in Greek (vellum, flat paper, not a scroll). Many consider it to be the most important text because of its antiquity, accuracy, and lack of omissions.
Count Tishendorf at the age of 19 was able to speak in numerous dialects at 26 he got a professorship at the university of Lipseig. At 27 he wrote an entire volume of the Geek New Testament. In 1844 He went on a trip to a monastery at Mt. Sinai as he was visiting the Middle East. As he was touring the place he saw a waste basket in the corner filled with old documents. As he was looking through he asked what these are for? The monk said we start fires with these papers. Imagine hearing that. He immediately recognized the value of these parchments and did not hide his feelings about them, and wanted to take them. They refused. He then asked if he could stay to read through them and they agreed. So he started to copy the pages and by the end he was allowed to take 43 of the 129 pages he found. They had already burnt up the entire Old Testament as well as some of the New.
In 1853 he went back to recover the rest of the manuscripts, but found no any trace of them. In 1859, under the patronage of Tsar Alexander II., of Russia, he was once more at Mt. Sinai for a few days. As he was leaving he had a conversation with the steward of the monastery regarding his edition of the Septuagint. The steward said that he too had a copy of the Septuagint, and brought out a copy which included the Greek Scriptures in their entirety, wrapped up in a napkin.
The rest of manuscripts were given by the monks to the Russian government, taken to the Russian Imperial Library, in St. Petersburg, where it remained. On Dec. 25, 1933 the British museum bought the entire collection of manuscripts for 100,000 sterling ponds $1,500. this now is preserved in the British museum.
1931 Chester Beatty heard that some papyri was for sale he was charged an exorbitant amount as they saw him as a rich man. It contained all the Pauline epistles the 4 gospels and some missing pages of the Old Testament from the Codex Sinaticus that Count Tishendorf discovered.
Carston Theide (Nestle Aland lists this as fragment p64) The gospel of Matthew 26 dating back to 200 A.D or even earlier. The scraps are from a page of what was once a papyrus copy of the Gospel of Matthew, and they are currently in the Magdalen College's library at Oxford University given in 1909 by an former student of the college who acquired them in Upper Egypt near Luxor.
Thiede is a scholar at the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Germany. His article on these three small scraps and their significance will appear in the German "Journal for Papyrology and Epigraphics." These scraps had earlier been studied and dated at ca. 200 AD, but Thiede argues that the style and script used to write these papyrus fragments clearly dates them in the last quarter of the First Century AD Thiede told "The Times", "Even a hesitant approach to the questions of dating would...seem to justify a date in the first century about a hundred years earlier than was previously thought." Thiede went on to say that the dating of these three small fragments to 75-100 AD "would mean that the original Gospel would be earlier still, since these are copies."
Before this we have a fragment of Johns gospel 18 dating 125, LD. http://www.bible-researcher.com/papyrus.52.html
Papyrus p66 dates back to around 200-300 A.D. which contains a large portion of the Gospel of John.http://gospelsmuseum.div.ed.ac.uk/exhibits/show/papyrus-66/the-significance-of-papyrus-66Probably the most challenged of the manuscripts is Papyrus p75 from the early 3rd cent. contained sections of John and Luke. http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2016/07/news-papyrus-75-is-online.html http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-new-name-for-p75.html
Many still debate the dating of these and others ancient manuscripts. What matters is their accuracy as much as the time written https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/a-challenge-to-the-dating-of-p75/