In the middle of the 20th century, the leading German textual critic Kurt Aland succeeded Ernst von Dobschütz as keeper of the authoritative list of manuscripts, whose first report appeared in 1950 (ThLZ 75). Aland was efficient in keeping the list up to date, publishing numerous supplements in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. What is immediately evident from these articles is that Kurt Aland did not continue registering amulets or ostraka, as his predecessor von Dobschütz had done. Thus, Aland’s omission of these materials marks the turning point in the classification of non-continuous manuscripts. In fact, the previously registered amulets and ostraka were suddenly and without explanation removed from the list by Aland and they were never to appear again; my attempts to find a reason early on in the literature for their removal from the list have been unsuccessful. In Aland’s Kurzgefaßte Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments—the first edition appearing in 1963 and the second in 1994—Gregory’s 0152 and 0153 are bracketed, indicating that they are to be removed from the authoritative list of manuscripts. Moreover, in the second edition, Aland states explicitly in the footnotes to 0152 and 0153 that these categories were not continued: “[D]ie Liste der Talismane (fortgeführt bis T9…) wurde nicht fortgesetzt…[D]ie Liste der Ostraka, geführt von O1-25…) wurde nicht fortgesetzt” (Kurzgefasste Liste, 33 nn. 2-3). Likewise, in Kurt and Barbara Aland’s handbook on New Testament textual criticism, in which a version of the Liste appears, 0152 and 0153 are listed as follows (Text of the New Testament, 123):
0152 = Talisman. (Delete from list)
0153 = Ostracon. (Delete from list)
In that same book, Aland and Aland list multiple registered papyri that they claim should be removed from the Liste, since they are non-continuous:
"Among the ninety-six items which now comprise the official list of New Testament papyri there are several which by a strict definition do not belong there, such as talismans (P50, P78), lectionaries (P2, P3, P44), various selections (P43, P62), songs (P42), texts with commentary (P55, P59, P60, P63, P80), and even writing exercises (P10) and occasional notes (P12). The presence of lectionaries may be explained as due to a structural flaw in the overall system, the inclusion of commented texts to the lack of an adequate definition for this genre (probably akin to the popular religious tracts of today which feature selected scripture verses with oracular notes), and the other examples are due to the occasionally uncritical attitude of earlier editors of the list (85)."
It is clear, therefore, that when Aland took over the Liste the non-continuous text materials that von Dobschütz had registered were removed and his categories “Talismans” and “Ostraka” were altogether discontinued. But, surprisingly, no explanation for the removal of these materials was ever given. Kurt Aland’s wife, Barbara Aland, succeeded him as director of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster (where the Liste is maintained), and she served in this position until 2004, at which time Holger Strutwolf took over as director. From the time of Kurt Aland’s initial appointment as keeper of the Liste until the present time, the non-continuous New Testament textual materials have had no place within text-critical research. As a general rule—a rule that is strictly enforced by the Institute in Münster—non-continuous text manuscripts are prohibited from being registered in the official Liste. It is not clear when this rule was actually formalized, but it was apparently established during the tenure of Kurt Aland.
This rule has commanded almost absolute allegiance within the discipline of New Testament textual criticism, yet it is interesting that no full discussion of it was ever provided by Aland. The immediate effect of the decision to restrict non-continuous materials was that when new non-continuous manuscripts of the New Testament were discovered, there was no way to classify them; as a result, most of these materials quietly faded into obscurity. Joseph van Haelst’s Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens and Kurt Aland’s Repertorium der griechischen christlichen—both published in 1976—improved the situation in some measure in that both catalogues listed some non-continuous texts (of particular importance is van Haelst’s section on amulets). The main problem is that neither of these catalogues is comprehensive, and, furthermore, Aland’s catalogue covers only those texts written on papyrus. But no real discussion of the potential value of non-continuous manuscripts would appear until the turn of the century.
The transmission of the text of the Greek New Testament represents a historical process that is highly complex, and when bits of the textual tradition become utilized for various purposes within the life of the church and its constituents, sometimes that tradition is reshaped. There are, of course, examples of non-continuous witnesses that yield no support for the wider tradition and are less relevant for the business of textual criticism. But for these manuscripts, which “form the dangling ends of branches that go no further” (Head 2013, 430), the story only just begins. These texts extend the evidence of Christian literature and yield historical information that provide the historian with a better glimpse into the everyday lives of Christians within Late Antiquity. For the most part, textual critics have stopped just shy of pursuing these historical phenomena, which is in part the result of the restrictions that are imposed onto the discipline. It is now time for these materials to be considered once and for all.