Instead, a paleographer analyzes the handwriting of the text, which yields a much more precise date than carbon dating would.
A paleographer "cannot establish the exact date but he can confidently place one handwriting in the 30's and another in the 80's." Fortunately, textual critics and paleographers have a large number of ancient manuscripts at their disposal, many of which have been found within the last century.
In other instances, however, the critic can arrive at a decision based on more or less compelling reasons for preferring one reading and rejecting another.
### Paleography: Dating Ancient Manuscripts Of course, the reliability of a given manuscript is based in large part on its age: earlier manuscripts are more likely to be accurate reflections of the original, so they are given more weight than later copies.
For most Christians, the New Testament is not only a precious record of the life of Jesus Christ and the apostles, but a divine revelation to mankind on matters of salvation.
This is what makes the Green Collection policy so useful, not only for their own items, but also for the fields of papyrology and palaeography more widely.It is the task of textual criticism, therefore, to study and compare the available manuscripts in order to discern which of the variations conforms the closest to the original.Bruce Metzger of Princeton University, a prominent modern textual critic, describes the role of textual criticism this way: The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another.The textual critic seeks to ascertain from the divergent copies which form of the text should be regarded as most nearly conforming to the original.In some cases the evidence will be found to be so evenly divided that it is extremely difficult to decide between two variant readings.
It is therefore important for textual critics to know the dates of the manuscripts they are analyzing.