A total of 5,366 manuscripts of all or part of the Greek New Testament survive from antiquity, but of this total, only 35 preserve substantially the entire New Testament.

In these manuscripts are many variant readings of the New Testament. In the parchment page reproduced here, from a codex, or leaf-book, dating to the late fourth or early fifth century, we see a unique example of such a variant reading. The complete manuscript, called Codex Washingtonianus because it is part of the Freer Collection in Washington, D.C., contains the four Gospels except Mark 15:13–38 and John 14:25–16:7. This page from Mark, following 16:14 is one-of-a-kind—it contains an additional 16 lines of text that do not occur in any of the other surviving Greek Bible manuscripts. However, St. Jerome in the fourth century included part of this addition in Latin in one of his writings and stated that the passage was present “in certain copies and especially in Greek codices.”a In the Codex Washingtonianus we have confirmation of the accuracy of Jerome’s observation.

The additional passage describes an event that occurs after Jesus has been crucified, has risen from the dead and has appeared to several of his followers. The passage follows Mark 16:14, which reads:

“Afterwards while the Eleven were at table he appeared to them and reproached them for their incredulity and dullness, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he was raised from the dead.”

Metzger translates the addition, lines 9–24 of this Codex Washingtonianus page:

“And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, who does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now’—thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more; that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.’”

In his discussion accompanying this Codex Washingtonianus page, Metzger illuminates its palaeography as well as the unique value of its text. “The writing of the major portion of the manuscript is a graceful, sloping uncial of small size. It was evidently written with ease and rapidity. The letters r and u are usually about twice the height, and f and y nearly three times the height of the other letters.”