The great number of New Testament manuscripts makes that task of citing evidence in text-critical studies appear to be overwhelming. Since it is not practical to cite all of the manuscript evidence, scholars have attempted to find representative texts. Long ago they noted that many of the manuscripts were related, i.e., certain groups of manuscripts share certain combinations of variants, probably because members of the groups are “descendants” of the same manuscripts. The profile method is Professor Frederik Wisse's attempt to establish “an accurate and rapid procedure for the classification of the manuscript evidence of any ancient text with large manuscript attestation, and to present an adequate basis for the selection of balanced representatives of the whole tradition.”
Wisse begins with a discussion of the role in New Testament text criticism of the manuscripts written in cursive script, the minuscules. Because of their late date and large number, minuscules are often given secondary consideration, but Wisse contends that they “can and should figure prominently” in text criticism. He then examines previous attempts to classify New Testament manuscripts, including the work of H. F. von Soden, K. Aland, and E. C. Colwell. The weaknesses of these attempts demonstrate the need for a better method. Wisse next outlines how he arrived at the profile method. While working on the International Greek New Testament Project he realized the need for a method that could both rapidly test all known groups and spot their most representative members and also be an objective standard for evaluating the text of the many minuscules that did not fit into known groups. The Project had collated all the manuscript evidence on Luke and for Luke 1 had all the existing variants, even the most minute, typed out with supporting manuscript evidence. It became clear that the essential ingredients for group definition are all the variants in a passage that have the support of one or more groups.
Using tentative group definitions (from suggestions by earlier scholars), Wisse made a selection of test probability of showing group affiliation. The manuscripts can be profiled by noting their agreements with the chosen variants against the Textus Receptus. The qualifications for a group are a large degree of internal agreement among members and a group profile that differs significantly from profiles of other proposed groups. In order to insure a fair sample, Wisse examined three chapters from Luke (1, 10, and 20). The results of his sampling are given in comprehensive lists and charts that classify the manuscripts of Luke and show the groups and clusters. He concludes by showing briefly how the profile method can be used with other texts that have a large manuscript attestation.