Forgive my tardiness, but I thought that I'd finally report on a seminar at SNTS given by Lee Martin McDonald on "Ancient Manuscripts and the NT Canon". Here is the summary:
A. The New Testaments of the early church are very different from the one in use today. The differences include the actual number of the NT writings contained in most collections (e.g. rarely the whole NT) and the existence of non-canonical documents (e.g. Sherpherd of Hermas, 3 Corinthians, Acts of Paul, etc) in these collections. Some Christians may have adopted something like a "canon within the canon" by teaching and preaching from books that had more relevance to their communities.
B. From the very beginning persons within the early church were aware that they did not have access to the "originals" and were also aware of variations within the manuscript tradition.
C. Those churches that had their Scriptures in a translation generally had fewer books available than those who had their Scriptures in Greek. The churches resisted any proclivity to ascribe inspiration and authority to any one particular translation.
D. Since the church's theology was established without original manuscripts and without a full NT canon, how significant is it that early churches did not have all the Scriptures that the church has today?
E. No major teaching of the church hinges on a variant in a mansucript and most intentional changes moved towards orthodoxy, not heresy.
F. How did the lack of original texts and a complete Bible (as we know it) impact the life and theology of the church?
I think that McDonald raises some good questions here.