So, quite often, one must rely heavily on other literary “hands” in manuscripts that have themselves been dated by palaeographical comparison.
There are books containing photos of many papyri of various dates that one can consult to help in this.
Also (and this is actually encouraging), sometimes a given expert can change his/her mind, revising an earlier judgement in the light of further reflection on the data. And, contrary to one reported statement by a scholar not himself a palaeographer, it’s not all “bullshit.” Typically, people today will call for carbon-14 testing.
But, as is evident from recent examples, carbon-14 testing can’t really do more than offer a certain probability for a timeframe of approximately a century or so: about the same timeframe that palaeographers can offer.
Forming part of what later became known as the Sinaitic Manuscript (Codex Sinaiticus), the parchments have been dated to the fourth century C. The Sinaitic is just one of thousands of ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures that make up a truly vast reservoir for scholars to study.
Dating ancient Greek handwriting, for example, requires making comparisons with other dated manuscripts, and over the past several decades especially (as more and more papyri has come into view) palaeographers have tried to develop a broad sense of developments in Greek handwriting across several centuries (from the Ptolemaic period, from which our earliest papyri comes, to “late antiquity” or the Byzantine period).Despite the many challenges, however, dates have been assigned to a number of important Bible manuscripts. Dating Key Greek Bible Manuscripts The Alexandrine Manuscript (Codex Alexandrinus), now held in the British Library, was the first of the major Bible manuscripts made available to scholars. IN 1844, Bible scholar Konstantin von Tischendorf visited St.Catherine’s monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt.Further to my recent posts about recent proposals for the dating of certain NT papyri, let me briefly clarify the process of dating papyri, which might well seem a mystery to those not familiar with it.