Early Christians Pioneered the Codex
The early Christians used every progressive means possible to spread the good news of God’s kingdom. They, then, were the ones who pioneered the modern form of book. Sir Frederic Kenyon, writing in this regard in The Bible and Archaeology, says:
“Thanks to the discoveries of the last fifty years, we know exactly what a Greek book looked like from the third century B.C. onwards. The material was papyrus, formed from the pith of the water plant of that name which grew in the Nile. . . . A Greek roll rarely, if ever, exceeded a length of 30-35 feet, and about 9 or 10 inches was a usual height. Such a roll, with ordinary handwriting, would suffice for a text of the length of a single Gospel or the Acts. . . .
“Discoveries, however, made within the present century and especially within the last ten years, have shown that the Christian community at a very early date realized the advantage of making up papyrus in what is known as the ‘codex’ form, which is simply the modern form of book, with leaves made up in quires, any number of which may be fastened together to form a volume of the required size. To do this the sheets of papyrus as originally manufactured, instead of being fastened together side by side to make a roll, were laid one on top of another and then folded once vertically. . . .
“That the codex form of papyrus book, if not actually invented by the Christians, was first exploited by them is clear from the evidence from Egypt. In the case of non-Christian literature no codex has been found earlier than the third century and in the third century not more than 5 percent of the discovered fragments come from codices. The papyrus roll, therefore, was dominant until the beginning of the fourth century.
“In the case of Christian literature, on the other hand, the large majority of third-century papyri are codices, and examples are known, . . . which go back to the first half of the second century. By this adoption of the codex form it was possible to bring together a much larger quantity of matter than could be contained in a roll.”