A History of Biblical Transmission

PLEASE NOTE: "It is posited that the general transmission of God's revelations appear in every translation, but regrettably no single translation seems to exclusively or exhaustively contain all of the original Divine revelation beyond criticism. This writer believes that God always supersedes the faithfulness or frailty of the translator because the work of the Kingdom is too important to be halted for the whimsical propensity of one or several individuals. King Saul could have been the most glowing monarch of Israel, but due to his unapologetic dismissal of God's promptings, a new king was divinely prescribed (1 Samuel 16:1). In the field of biblical translation, this writer suggests that if one individual or a group of translators decides to unapologetically slant their work for undisclosed reasons, God will then encourage others to produce more faithful works. Therefore, accurate biblical translation depends on a simple two-fold process whereby God sovereignly preserves Divine revelations through devout men and women who are spiritually guided by their own pliability to Divine promptings". [For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the (sons-#5207=uhios) of God; Romans 8:14 KJV-mdw]

A History of Biblical Transmission

Written by Ronald J. Gordon Published: April, 1997 ~ Last Updated: May, 2016 ©
This document may be reproduced for non-profit or educational purposes only, with the
provisions that this document remain intact and full acknowledgement be given to the author.
If you would Like to download this in pdf Format Click Here
If you prefer a  MS WORD Format download Click Here

hile studying your Bible, how many times have you wondered how other translations might read? After comparing a few versions, did you notice the wide variance between the selections of words from version to version? If the words are so different, how can a person tell if they are accurate? This exercise was developed so that you may easily compare many different translations without the necessity of going to a religious bookstore and laboriously opening and searching through a multitude of different versions or editions in order to gain an understanding of how they read. It is also designed to give you a basic education in the many disciplines of translation, manuscript history, theories of transmission, textual criticism, and a few other fundamentals. Our inherent purpose is to make these often esoteric subjects very understandable for the average unenlightened reader. The language of this work endeavors to resist the complicated vocabulary of the scholar for that of the student. We are interested in balance, for there are many books and web sites offering information about translations of the Bible yet most, regrettably, do not give the visitor an opportunity to objectively review available translations in a side-by-side comparison.
Far too many web sites are enamored with proving or refuting different theories of textual transmission or advancing a preference for one particular translation. Many are polemic in nature while others are excessively hermeneutical or even pedantic. How often have you searched for a web site, hoping to discover an informative, concise, and balanced perspective of these subjects with the additional opportunity to actually compare several verses from currently available translations? Well, here is your opportunity. The next few sections are intended to give you an overview of the disciplines of textual transmission and translation, based on observations from many voices across the entire spectrum of textual theories and viewpoints.
This writer does not presume to be an expert on all facets of textual criticism, or possess an exhaustive understanding of all three declensions of the Greek language and the nuances of verb tense, although he has read and translated from several Greek texts for more than twenty-five years and scrupulously compared most currently available translations with those texts - verse by verse and word by word. His desire is to return the grace of his personal education for the benefit of the aspiring student who loves the Bible and needs an accurate, balanced, yet unsophisticated lift to their own literary advancement.

Since personal bias unfortunately weaves itself into even the most honest academic efforts, it is appropriate to momentarily pause, in order for this writer to explain his general view of Divine inspiration and textual transmission; thus, allowing the visitor to more properly appreciate the true energy behind this exercise, and to excuse the appearance of unintentional bias or academic predilection. Balance is an elusive quality, for when one desires to display perspectives equally, it usually involves the elevation of one position to achieve that intention. Hence, in the pursuit of balance, one may unintentionally appear to side with the opinion in ascendance. Even the usage or selection of words can impair ones quest of impartiality. For example, the Battle of Antietam is Union terminology because Union General McClellan's headquarters was immediately situated next to Antietam Creek, whereas the Confederacy called it the Battle of Sharpsburg because General Lee's headquarters was in the nearby town of Sharpsburg.

Additionally, the Union referred to this American tragedy as the Civil War but the Confederacy called it the War Between The States. How does the objective historian refer to this battle without seeming to favor one side from the outset? Genuinely capable writers are marked with bias from the mere choice of their words. Pronunciation and inflection can also reveal unintended nuances of a speaker. If the name of the 4th century bishop Augustine is pronounced as ahh-GUST-tun there is a very good chance that the speaker is Catholic, and if the name is pronounced AAH-gust-teen there is an above average chance that the speaker is Protestant. No swifter weapon can kill the genuine intent of a writer or speaker than the selection or inflection of his words. The following paragraph will demonstrate this principal, for the very first word has been used by many other writers to buttress an entirely different proposition than is the intention of this writer. This word is so volatile and over-used that most students immediately suffer a knee-jerk reaction and leap from its presence without regarding the possibility of a multifaceted definition.

Preservation is that word. Because this word has been repeatedly employed to buttress one particular view of textual transmission, its use by this writer may color his genuine intention. This writer believes that God exists in a personal, knowable form and has intentionally revealed attributes of the Divine nature and purpose, in two different economies represented respectively in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has preserved the transmission of these revelations in an early oral form and later in a written form that is yielded through various collections of manuscripts; in spite of invading armies, ecclesiastical ineptitude, Blatant Scribal Corruption, politically motivated early church bishops, over zealousness of Church Reformers, textual critics following herd-mentality, uniqueness of languages, and innovations in translation.

This belief rests upon a variety of scriptures such as the unambiguous statements of God that He will preserve His revelations by instructing persons to preserve His Words as in Jeremiah 36:28“Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.” Occasionally, God preserves His Words by instructing the writer to seal a work, such as in Daniel 12:4,9, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end ... Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”

This writer insists that a supernatural phenomenon has been invoked by God in this preservation process as clearly stated in John 14:26“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, * whatsoever I have said unto you.” See also Matthew 24:35, Deuteronomy 4:2, and Revelation 22:18-19. These passages reveal a Divine principle: What God does and says will be preserved, sealed, and remembered. If words have meanings, then God is continuously superseding the inarguable frailty of humankind and his poverty in communication by preserving these Divine revelations to the exclusion of inadvertent or intentional human error. Literature of human origin cannot claim preservation by Divine agency, for historical truthfulness has often been the predictable causality of literary revisionists that follow invading armies (history is written by the winners). Scripture originates with God and is preserved by God.

This writer believes that God is supervising a continuous process whereby Divine truths will always be preserved across generations, cultures, ethnic influence, and a multiplicity of languages, by holy men and women, inspired by God to safeguard the translation of Scripture into diverse cultures and languages. * [NOTE:  The word translated truth is alethia, Strong's #225 and means "NOT FORGETTING-Re-Membering-mdw]

It is posited that the general transmission of God's revelations appear in every translation, but regrettably no single translation seems to exclusively or exhaustively contain all of the original Divine revelation beyond criticism. This writer believes that God always supersedes the faithfulness or frailty of the translator because the work of the Kingdom is too important to be halted for the whimsical propensity of one or several individuals. King Saul could have been the most glowing monarch of Israel, but due to his unapologetic dismissal of God's promptings, a new king was divinely prescribed (1 Samuel 16:1).

In the field of biblical translation, this writer suggests that if one individual or a group of translators decides to unapologetically slant their work for undisclosed reasons, God will then encourage others to produce more faithful works. Therefore, accurate biblical translation depends on a simple two-fold process whereby God sovereignly preserves Divine revelations through devout men and women who are spiritually guided by their own pliability to Divine promptings. [For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the (sons-#5207=uhios) of God; Romans 8:14 KJV-mdw]

Additionally, proper understanding of these Divine revelations necessitates spiritual pliability on the part of the reader. Scripture will be studied by non-spiritual individuals in vain because it is the Holy Spirit who grants illumination and interpretation to God breathed words. Scholars may treat biblical manuscripts with commonness and mechanically [I call them "word-mechanics"-mdw] examine them as ancient classic texts, but as Christ stated, it is only the childlike who may understand the will of God. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a [little child-#3813=paidion-mdw], he shall not enter therein,” Mark 10:15. [It is the glory of God to conceal the word, and the glory of kings to search out the speech. Proverbs 25:2 Douay-Rheims Bible-mdw]

In other words, “spiritually yielded individuals” are “supernaturally guided” to understand biblical revelations in spite of how a variety of translations may read. Apostle Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 2:10“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” [Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me;  Psalms 42:7a KJV-mdw].  Contrary to the natural dependency on intellect, experience, whim, or colleagues to understand non-biblical literature, comprehension of the Bible is dependent on the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in measure to the yieldedness of the reader. This is a continuous process of Spirit-Led comparisons. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual, 1 Corinthians 2:13.

Translators can be friends or traitors 1 but God lovingly supersedes either predilection, according to God's own promise of Divine preservation for all believers in all places. Preservation is therefore an attribute of God and a faculty of the scribe and translator. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,” Isaiah 55:8-11. Devout men and women will always be inspired by God with a genuine quest to translate Scripture in ways that will more effectively convey God preserved revelations into the living languages of all nations and cultures.
Textual Considerations : Copying Uncials : Scribal Blunders : Manuscript Family : THE? Greek Text : Reading Critical Texts
Westcott & Hort : Herd Mentality : Literally Speaking : Equivalent Thinking : Counting the Words
Grammatical Analysis : Translations Compared : Footnotes : Bibliography

Special care has been exercised in the collecting of photographs and illustrations, to insure that private and intellectual property has been respected. Other than existing in the public domain, all images have been taken from resources which permit free use of their content to non-commercial organizations or private individuals.

Textual Considerations
requently one hears the terms Autographs or Originals. They are referring to the actual documents sent to the various churches or individuals by the biblical writers, and unfortunately, no longer exist. Only copies of these remain in several different forms. The earliest copies are Egyptian papyrus fragments dating from the second century, to Majuscules (large letters) or Uncials (tall) from the early to middle centuries, and Minuscules (smaller) or Cursives from the middle to later centuries. Naturally, there are a few early cursives and some late Uncials, but they generally hold to the former scheme. If each scribe produced a perfect copy each time, the entire discussion of textual criticism would be meaningless. But, this is just the problem, for well intending scribes repeatedly lost their place or unknowingly introduced words from a similar account, such as inadvertently incorporating Luke's description from memory while actually copying Matthew, or vice-versa.

Whole lines and paragraphs were often skipped because two lines started with the exact same construction of letters. Incorrectly copied Single Letters resulting in different words dramatically changed meanings as in this theological fiasco.

But errors of this type are not limited to early centuries, for modern typists can do the very same thing with computers since this type of error is occasioned by human inattentiveness. Also contributing to this problem was the fact that most early Uncials were written in large letters that were all bunched together in order to save paper, a very precious commodity. Review this Copying Example to see what this paragraph would have looked like to an early biblical scribe. You will notice how difficult it is to read, let alone copy. Because of the expectancy of scribal errors, a skilled Corrector would independently review finished works and make necessary changes; thus, the first correction of a manuscript quite often rendered - the proper document. E.C. Colwell writes in Scribal Habits in Early Papyri: “P66 has 54 leaps forward, and 22 backward; 18 of the forward leaps are haplography...P75 has 27 leaps forward, and 10 backward...P45 has 16 leaps forward, and 2 backward. From this it is clear that the scribe looking for his lost place looked ahead three times as often as he looked back. In other words, the loss of position usually resulted in a loss of text, an omission.”  2 

Colwell further states that P66 also has over 400 alterations made by later Correctors. In some areas, before the finality of canonization, bishops intentionally directed scribes to make “theological” changes that would incorporate local beliefs or traditions, hoping that quick dissemination of these copies would result in the ecclesiastical acceptance of local beliefs as the original. Bruce Metzger writes in The Text of the New Testament: “Church Fathers accused the heretics of corrupting the Scriptures in order to have support for their special views.”

3  In the Fourth century, Jerome complained that scribes “...write down not what they find but what they think is the meaning; and while they attempt to rectify the errors of others, they merely expose their own.”  4  Colwell further concludes in Origin of Text-types:“The overwhelming majority of (divergent) readings were created before the year 200 A.D.”  5  G.D. Kilpatrick and H. J. Vogels likewise affirm that “Most deliberate changes, if not all were made by 200.”  6  Frederick Scrivener writes in A Plain Introduction: “The worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed.”  7  Oxford scholar John William Burgon, the only person to catalog over 86,000 citings of the early Church Fathers writes in The Revision Revised: “Those of Asclepiades, at all events, will be found discordant from those of Theodotus ... With the foregoing copies again, those of Hermophilus will be found entirely at variance. As for the copies of Apollonides, they even contradict one another.”

 This mixture of good and bad manuscripts [tares?-mdw] has resulted in serious confusion and misunderstandings, for an early manuscript should not universally imply good, nor late always suggest bad. Colwell and Scrivener offer us the image of pollution entering a stream near its source, and naturally, the farther downstream from its source, the more diffused and clear the stream appears. Thus, a rogue manuscript from the second century is still a rogue, conversely, a good late document could faithfully preserve a significant part of the original transmission; and naturally, a late manuscript could exhibit a mixture from several pollutants. Copies were routinely produced from older manuscripts before the latter would suffer the ravages of being thumbed to pieces, and then respectfully burned. Usually, conventional wisdom assigns goodness to early documents, however, if an early manuscript has survived in pristine condition, it is appropriate to ask: “Why has it survived in such good condition? Why was it NOT thumbed to pieces? Was it not used?” Some later manuscripts display a variety of different text-types, and are valuable for just that reason, because they afford experts with a resource for calculating and presuming the journey of transmission for similar groups or text-types.

But not all textual experts agree on the weight that age should contribute to the general value of a document. Another school of thought prefers the difficult versus easy characteristic of an individual reading: proclivi lectioni praestat ardua (the harder reading is to be preferred) or lectio brevior lectio potior (the shorter reading is the more probable reading). It is contended by a significant number of textual experts that if a copyist elected to change a manuscript for purposes of style only, he would edit a difficult construction of words into an expression that would read more easily, rather than change an easy reading into a more obtuse construction of words. Usually this requires more words and therefore increases the length; thus, the earlier reading is most probably difficult and short. Although not easily provable, it is entirely logical and enjoys the contemporary measure of value by most textual scholars. It has been the work of devoted textual experts over many centuries, well disciplined in the various mechanics of criticism to retrieve, from all possible sources, what they deem most likely to have been the original transmission. But textual criticism is not an exact science, and frequently, even the best Critics have succumbed to bias and presumption. In too many cases, the latter has been extremely obvious, due unfortunately to such elements as herd mentality, theological affiliation, or positional entrenchment resulting from the heat of debate and speculative confrontation.

Byzantine? Alexandrian? Western? Caesarean?

re these new ice cream flavors? No. Each name is a Family of manuscripts that bears close similarities and represent one type or style of writing, thus, they are also called Text-Types. Many early churches also wanted copies of the Apostolic letters for their own edification, and handwritten reproductions inevitably contained accidental errors as a simple result of confusing words, letters, or as Jerome previously noted, scribes infusing their own guess work. As early congregations grew in the four distinctly Christian areas of the Roman Empire (Antioch, Alexandria, Carthage/Rome, Caesarea) their copies began to reflect the unique style and peculiar readings of their own location.

Just as children bear the genetic or facial markings of their parents, so did these manuscripts continue their own distinctive stylistic markings. These differences enable one to not only categorize them according to text-type, but to also presume reasonable components of their production. As all trees are identifiable from their bark, leaves, and form, one is enabled to speculate on the process of their growth according to local climate. Likewise, as one gains a reasonable degree of understanding of each manuscript family, noticeable differences in style and word predominance enable one to speculate on the process of their formation. This process is rarely grounded on scientific principles, but almost always predominated by one's own subjectivity. Textual critics must continuously guard against self-delusion for their best friend and worst enemy are quite often one and the same - presumption.

Byzantine Text: This is the largest family, or localized text-type, comprising about ninety-four percent of all Greek manuscripts. It originates from the empire of the same name which had sheltered its preservation for many centuries until threatened invasions from Ottoman Turks drove eastern Greek scholars towards the Latin Catholic West, taking along their Biblical manuscripts. Translators, especially during the Reformation, began using this new text-type and the Byzantine text became the underlying text for Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Theodore Beza. Its distinctive, slightly longer and editorially polished readings eventually supplanted the Latin Vulgate, and became the principal text-type of every major non-Catholic translation until the Nineteenth century. Bruce Metzger writes in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament“The framers of this text sought to smooth away any harshness of language, to combine two or more divergent readings into one expanded reading, and to harmonize parallel passages.”  9  Modern scholars are of the opinion that its longer readings are the result of conflating different sources into one. The following chart shows a phrase in John 10:19 which exhibits three different Greek word constructions along with their corresponding manuscript family.
SCHISMA PALIN division AGAIN ALEXANDRIAN (Modern Translations)
Experts describe the above as conflation (mixing two or more sources to form a new reading) where the Byzantine phrase is the longer reading; borrowing AGAIN from the Alexandrian text-type and THEREFORE from the Western. This theory of Byzantine conflation was postulated by Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort who contended that the Byzantine or King James text was a late text, specifically because it contained so many of these expanded readings (see later section). However, the theory of conflation is increasingly being challenged as more distinctive Byzantine readings are appearing in the Egyptian papyri which dates from the second and third centuries. Harry Sturz writing in The Byzantine Text-Type: New Testament Textual Criticism:“In the John 10:19 passage, while P45 and P75 support the Alexandrian reading, P66, the earliest papyrus, reads SCHISMA OUV PALIN.”  10 

In other words, the earliest known papyrus fragment agrees with the Byzantine. This does not conclusively prove an early date for the entire Byzantine text-type, but it does profoundly invalidate the conclusion that longer readings are always the result of conflation.
For it is entirely reasonable to suggest the exact opposite; instead of Byzantine conflation, the other texts experienced scribal omission. In this case the Western could have omitted PALIN (again,) and the Alexandrian could have omitted OUN (therefore). In any case, we are now presented with the question: What really happened in this verse, conflation or omission? Many translations routinely omitted parts of eight verses in Luke chapter 24 (3, 6, 9, 12, 36, 40, 51, 52) solely because they were also omitted by the Western family or text-type represented in Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D) while the Byzantine included all of them. Now that P75 has confirmed their early existence, the latest modern translations have now re-inserted them all (compare RSV-1948 with NRSV-1989).

Alexandrian Text: The second largest group houses about three to four percent of Greek manuscripts and originated in the Christian community of Alexandria, Egypt. (Metzger) - “Characteristics...are brevity and austerity. That is, it is generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not exhibit the degree of grammatical and stylistic polishing that is characteristic of the Byzantine...”  11  The two leading manuscripts of this family are Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (), both dated in the middle fourth century. They are similar in type, but have enormous divergences between themselves. Philip Mauro writes in True or False“In the Gospels alone Vaticanus has 589 readings quite peculiar to itself, affecting 858 words,  has 1460 such readings, affecting 2640 words...Codex Vaticanus differs from the Received Text in the following particulars: It omits at least 2,877 words; it adds 536 words; it substitutes 935 words; it transposes 2,098 words; and it modifies 1,132; making a total of 7,578 verbal divergences. But the Sinaitic Ms. is even worse, for its total divergences in the particulars stated above amount to nearly nine thousand.”  
12  Oxford scholar John William Burgon, the only individual to personally collate all five of the old Uncials asserted: “It is easier to find two consecutive verses in which B and  differ from each other than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.”  13  Herman C. Hoskier writes in Codex B and its Allies: “In the Gospels alone, B and  differ over 3,000 times without considering minor errors such as spelling.”  14  (There are 3,779 verses in the four Gospels.)

These variances between manuscript families, especially the monumental disagreements within the Alexandrian family have caused not a few heated discussions, since many words, e.g., Christ, appear with far less frequency in this text-type than in the Byzantine (e.g: Matthew 23:8, Luke 4:41, John 4:42, Acts 15:11, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 5:4, Galatians 3:17, Philippians 4:13, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Timothy 4:22, Hebrews 3:1, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 12:17). See also Ephesians 3:14 (Lord Jesus Christ). This has led King James Only voices to accuse modernists of “taking Christ out” of the New Testament, and have established numerous web sites containing extensive lists of all the words not appearing in modern translations. Regrettably, too many of these sites have become pulpits for the author to berate or accuse modern translators of heinous, devilish, or conspiratorial behavior. Although some misdeeds in modern translations have been carefully documented, one should exercise caution when judging the work of people who simply translated from a Greek text laying before them.

It is the underlying manuscripts that are the chief reason for the differences! In spite of the wide variance among Alexandrian manuscripts, they exhibit a “text-type” that appears to predate the Byzantine, even though the latter has now been found as “distinctive readings” among the earliest papyri. D.A. Carson, writes in The King James Debate: “The question is whether or not the Byzantine text-type existed before the fourth century, not whether or not Byzantine readings existed before the fourth century.”  15 

Western Text: This text group originates from the North African city of Carthage and its sister Rome, deriving its name from this area being farther to the “west” of the earliest missionary activities in the regions of Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Judea. (Metzger) - “The chief characteristic of Western readings is fondness for paraphrase. Words, clauses, and even whole sentences are freely changed, omitted, or inserted.”  16  The premier exhibits of the Western manuscript family (text-type) is Bezae Cantabrigiensis in the Gospels and Codex Claromontanus in Paul's letters.

Caesarean Text: This is really a sub-group of Alexandrian manuscripts with a garnish of Western influence. It was the text of Eusebius and Cyril of Jerusalem. Metzger describes it as “characterized by a distinctive mixture of Western readings and Alexandrian readings. One may also observe a certain striving after elegance of expression.”  17  The principal exhibit of the Caesarean text is THETA, a Ninth century Uncial. In 1924, B.H. Streeter gave this newly discovered family the name Caesarean because he believed that the ancient scholar Origen used this text in Caesarea after he had fled there in 231 A.D. from Alexandria.  18 

Qumran Text, more commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, are mostly fragmented sections from eleven caves that offer us a great treasure of knowledge about culture, language, theology, and paleography in ancient Judea. However, only in the narrow field of translation, their importance is over rated and little is gained for these reasons; (1) there is no irrefutable evidence of the presence of the New Testament, (2) although their literature is all religious in nature, only about fourteen percent is entirely biblical, (3) the Old Testament, as yet reconstructed, shows marginal divergence from the standard Masoretic Hebrew Text. Excusing the spelling and transposition of words, one is hard pressed to show an entirely “new” biblical concept heretofore unknown in historic rabbinical tradition that is worthy of inclusion in a modern translation. Cave's One and Eleven offered the best preservation but unfortunately, most scrolls were deposited in Cave Four which experienced the greatest destruction from the effects of weather. So, what then is all the fuss about? It is largely the other eighty-six percent of their literature that is causing most of the headlines, for it raises perplexing questions about our current understanding of both Christianity and Judaism, especially involving perceptions of the Messiah, for these authors were expecting two: a Priestly Messiah and a Kingly Messiah.

In a nutshell, a Wicked Priest is responsible for a persecution, which leads a few saintly people to conclude that priestly governance of Temple rituals has become defiled. They leave Jerusalem for the desert in order to pursue an isolated communal life that is strictly dedicated to God. Shortly, a leader called the Righteous Teacher explains how to faithfully serve God through discipline. Ultimately, they view themselves as the only true Sons of God, the true Israel. Only they were faithful to the Law. Most of their lives were consumed with the anticipation of a future struggle between the forces of good (Sons of Light) and evil (Sons of Darkness).

Pere Roland de Vaux was the first to excavate the site (1949) and the first to associate the Essene sect with this community. Some authorities now dispute this claim and suggest a Sadducean group wrote the manuscripts elsewhere, that the site never was a monastery but perhaps a customs house, and that the ink wells of de Vaux's scriptorium were more properly associated with tax receipts and bills of laden. Others contend that a Roman fortress or quasi-military colony better explains the presence of the large military tower, something which does not harmonize well with a peaceful religious sect. And still others plead that there is too much conflicting evidence to properly explain the settlement of Qumran.

THE??? Greek Text
here is no such thing as THE Greek text, anymore than there could be THE manuscript. Readers should be intellectually alert when they encounter terms such as original Greek, original Hebrew, “the” Greek, or Autographs because none of these exist and promotional literature frequently boasts how translators referred to the original Greek and Hebrew. It would be permissible for one to refer to original languages of the Bible, however, too many translators and marketing representatives utilize this opportunity to allow readers to believe that they have access, not to original language, but to original words! This is simply fallacious, because no one is able to produce any original biblical work.

Translators use “a” Greek text and rarely, if ever, look at manuscripts or photocopies. Textual experts have been reviewing thousands of manuscripts over many centuries, especially noting their agreements and differences, categorizing them according to text-type, and compiling their findings into “A” Greek text. Because of this constant process of evaluation, Greek texts, themselves, are in a continuous state of revision. The Nestle Greek Text began in the 1880's by Eberhard Nestle, his son Erwin continued the work of his father beginning with the Thirteenth edition in 1927, and more recently, Kurt and Barbara Aland contributed to its preservation with a Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Seventh edition; thus, it is presently called, the Nestle-Aland Greek Text. Upon the passing of the late Kurt Aland, it would appear that Barbara is now continuing the work herself.

In former centuries, other scholars, such as Erasmus, Griesbach, Beza, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles have, likewise, produced more than one edition of “a” Greek text. The King James Version is principally based on Beza's 1589 and Stephanus' 1550, 1551 editions. Modern translators rarely, if ever, look at manuscripts or even photographic copies. They use “A” Greek text which usually contains the scriptural text with notes directing the user to the Manuscript Apparatus at the bottom of the page, such as the very popular 3rd and 4th editions of the Greek New Testament by the United Bible Societies. Nonetheless, all such productions are simply nothing more than “A” continuously evolving Greek text.

It is entirely presumptuous for the informed to misdirect the uninformed by suggesting: “Let's check the original Greek” when there exists no such opportunity. Conversely in the interest of balance, there are passages which read exactly the same in almost all known manuscripts (John 1:1). Is it then permissible to conclude that these instancies are faithful reproductions of the original composition? The point attempted herein to be made is simply that unless one actually possesses the Original of any copied work (legal, diplomatic, or biblical), one should refrain from denouncing with ontological certitude the exact nature of the unseen progenitor. Words have clear definable meanings and original does not mean similar -- it means original.

In the early 1800's, J.M.A. Scholz listed about 600 manuscripts, toward the latter part of the century, F.H.A. Scrivener catalogued almost 3,000 manuscripts, and C.R. Gregory increased this list to more than 4,000. The late Kurt Aland had been responsible for assigning official numbers to all newly discovered manuscripts and listed total of 5,255 Greek manuscripts in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 87, p. 184.

Papyrus Fragments are usually incomplete portions of the New Testament written on papyrus that have been unearthed from the sands of Egypt within the last one hundred and fifty years. One of the first exploratory digs commissioned by the Egyptian Exploration Society yielded a multitude of non-biblical fragments from a town called Oxyrhynchus (OX-ee-RIN-chuhs) home of the “sharp-nosed fish.” Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt began unearthing this city in 1896, and it soon yielded an unbelievable treasure of ancient papyri: school exercises, bills of laden, tax receipts, grocery lists, and even a possible list of undocumented sayings by Jesus (OXY 654). These discoveries are a treasury of everyday life, which has given researchers a much better understanding of early Egyptian language and customs. Once the third most important city in Egypt, Oxyrhynchus has been called the "Wastepaper City" because of its astonishing yield of documents.

Biblical fragments also began showing up, here and in many other Egyptian digs. New significant biblical finds were given a "P" number. Used for identification purposes only, these numbers do not chronologically infer their antiquity. John Rylands acquired P52 after it was unearthed from an Egyptian tomb dating to about 115-120 AD. Allowing 20-30 years for such a copy to arrive in Egypt from the original place of writing (Ephesus?), it would validate the traditional date of 95 AD for the writing of the forth Gospel by Apostle John. Despite its small size, this portion of the Gospel of John (18:31-33 and 37-38) is currently the earliest known documentation of the Bible. Many fragments are small and contain little text but some are large and comprise many New Testament books. British mining engineer Alfred Chester Beatty acquired several fragments in 1930-31: P45 (Gospels & Acts), P46 (Pauline Epistles & Hebrews), and P47 (much of Revelation). Swiss collector Martin Bodmer acquired several fragments and published them in 1955-56: P66 (John), P72 (1-2 Peter & Jude). P74, and P75 (much of Luke & John).

The Bodmer and Beatty manuscripts combined, permit us to reconstruct nearly 90% of the New Testament from the 2nd to 3rd centuries. (Excluded will be Philemon, Titus, 1-2 Timothy, James, and 1-2-3 John). Because many fragments exhibit a mixture of text-types, Philip Comfort writes in Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament: “...P66 Is not fully Alexandrian nor fully Western nor fully Byzantine. Scholars are hard pressed to give P66 a fitting label” (see more detailed note below). Papyrologists (people who study papyri) are knowing their finest hour.

Former Director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic G. Kenyon concludes in The Bible and Archaeology“The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New testament may be regarded as finally established.” The late Kurt Aland listed 84 such P numbered fragments but there are now well over a hundred. See List 1, List 2, and List 3.

Patristic Citations are numerous quotations of scripture by early church leaders, bishops, and
dignitaries who wrote extensively and cited scripture quite frequently. These numerous mentions of scripture in their sermons and letters are extremely valuable in the course of trying to reconstruct the original form of the New Testament. If all known manuscripts were to disappear, it would be possible to use these Citations alone to reassemble nearly 80% of the New Testament. Their use of scripture appears in sermons, commentaries, and personal letters to each other. Some of the most recognized are: Athanasius, Polycarp, Tertullian, Chrysostom (John), Origen, Jerome, Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Ambrose, Hyppolytus, Irenaeus, and Augustine. Complicating a more clear understanding of the text-type of these Church Fathers are the many slight divergences from known text-types of the period.
Further disheartening to the skillful researcher is the fact that a bishop might quote the same verse in two or three different ways, to which one might ask: "Was he quoting from memory? Was he copying directly from a manuscript? Was he merely alluding to scripture? Were these men as concerned about exactitude as the modern student?" For this reason, their citations are not commonly referenced except in the scholarly arena. In fact, some textual critics have been charged with appealing to Patristic Citations, only when a quotation “matches” the argument of that researcher. Oxford scholar John William Burgon is the only person to catalog over 86,000 quotations of the early Church Fathers. His monumental work remains unpublished in the British Museum.

Uncials/Majuscules is a class of early manuscripts having near complete portions of the New
Testament, and written in what appears to be large capital letters with most lines not containing spaces or punctuation between letters. Slowly chiseled Roman square inscription letters gradually evolved into the Uncial form that could be written much quicker, a necessity of the scribe. Biblical Uncials (Latin: unci᫩s - tall), also called Majuscules (Latin: mᨵsculus - large letters), date from about the Third century to around the Ninth. Most are in codex form (stitched and glued as modern books) and each one is identified with a single capital letter just like vitamins are similarly labeled at the drug store: A=Alexandrinus, B=Vaticanus, C=Ephraemi Rescriptus, D=Bezae Cantabrigiensis, E to Z (skipping J), and,  (1st Hebrew letter)=Sinaiticus.

This labeling scheme of identifying manuscripts began when Brian Walton assigned the letter A to Alexandrinus in his six volume London Polyglot (1655) because this Uncial was the first to be known in the scholarly world. Some of the more professionally copied works had the same number of columns and lines per page, and usually the same count of letters per line; such as Codex Sinaiticus (above right) which was produced about 350-370 AD in Saint Catherines Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It is on a thinner vellum than most Uncials and the only one to include nearly all of the New Testament.

There are 346½ delicate leaves with four columns of 48 lines on each 15" x 13½" page. German scholar Constantine Tischendorf discovered the first forty-three of its pages in the monastery wastebasket in 1844 but was denied the remainder by the skeptical monks, who also resisted his pleas on a return trip in 1853. Finally, under the patronage of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, patron of the Greek Orthodox Church, Tischendorf was able to convince the monks to donate the manuscript to the Tsar (head of the Greek Church) for safe keeping. In 1933, the Soviet government sold it to the British Museum for £100,000. He judged that four separate individuals contributed to writing the basic text, and that seven later Correctors placed their alterations on its face (currently deemed to be nine).

Tischendorf further stated that these alterations involved a total of over 15,000 changes, including multiple changes in the same place. It is the most textually blighted manuscript in existence. Since most manuscripts have incurred some type of correction and often by multiple scribes, identification methods (sigla) are used by Committees producing Greek Texts to distinguish the original scribe from the Corrector(s). Before the ascendancy of the Papyri in New Testament scholarship, textual critics of previous generations most often appealed to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus for determining the selection of readings. In the days of Westcott & Hort, these two Uncials became touchstones for deciding which readings most closely resembled the originals. Although the Big Five Uncials have enjoyed a prestigious niche in the history of Textual Criticism, it may be confidently stated that there are more textual disagreements among these Five Uncials in just the four Gospels, than all the hundreds of Byzantine Cursives combined, in all twenty-seven books of the New Testament - a glaring testimony to the difficulty of Copying Uncial Manuscripts. With the rise in importance of the Papyri, the reverence for this type of manuscript has greatly diminished. Kurt Aland lists 267 numbered Uncials.

Cursives/Minuscules is a class of later biblical manuscripts stretching from about the Ninth century
into the Fifteenth century. In order to both improve communication and produce a greater number of
biblical manuscripts, the church decided to reform its writing about 790 AD. The scholar Alcuin of York, an English abbot in the monastery at Tours, France, developed a systematic approach to writing that included a hand or font known as the Caroline Miniscule. Biblical manuscripts from this period are generally called Minuscules (Latin: minusculus - smaller) or Cursives (Latin: cursivus - to run) because letters are formed in such a way as to appear to run together. Uncials and Minuscules co-existed for about two centuries with the gradual disappearance of the former. Alcuin further increased legibility by incorporating punctuation in manuscripts and subdividing the text into paragraphs and sentences, with capital letters at the beginning of each sentence. Unlike square-rigid monospaced capital lettered sentences, words now began to stand out as a series of subconnections. Multi-colored “Illumination” was added to the more professionally crafted manuscripts, which included huge ornately fashioned dropped capitals, or intricately designed pictures that interpreted the accompanying scripture. This innovation especially flourished during the Gothic period (13th-15th). Each of these developments in writing styles also contributed to better dating manuscripts. These documents comprise the bulk of all manuscripts, and closely resemble the Byzantine text-type. Aland lists 2,764 Cursives or Minuscules.

Lectionary comes from a Latin root word meaning to read. Most eastern churches used the same passage of scripture or liturgy on a certain Sunday or ecclesiastical holiday each year, and rather than
carry the entire Bible in manuscript form to the pulpit, these repeatedly used scriptures or lections were housed in a specially constructed book called a Lectionary. These works are extremely important because if all other manuscripts were suddenly lost, nearly 90% of the New Testament could be reconstructed from these Lectionaries alone. Because this text was repeatedly heard by congregations, year after year, it is an important source to measure textual transmission and mixture. Unfortunately, of all the textual sources available to the New Testament translator and student, the Lectionaries are the least studied and understood. Nestle did not cite witnesses until the 27th Edition and Von Soden made no reference to them at all. A complete and thorough examination of their text-type has never been done. What little is known about them is that their text most closely resembles the Byzantine text-type, and the UBS Greek Texts almost always cites them in company with the Byzantine variant. Aland lists 2,143 Lectionaries.

Early Versions: (Waltz)(Cath. Ency) In the first several centuries, the Bible was translated into several other languages, and many of these translations or Versions still exist. In the last quarter of the
second century appeared the first Latin translation which was called the Old Latin. Then came the Syriac Versions (Peshitta, Curetonian, Philoxenian), the Egyptian Coptic Versions (Sahidic in the south, Bohairic from the north), the Gothic in the middle of the 4th century, the Armenian of the 5th century, and the Ethiopic of the 6th. There are nearly 2,900 Versions representing these various languages. Although not as significant as individual Greek manuscripts, nonetheless, they are additional witnesses to transmission and are routinely documented in the Manuscript Apparatus of most Greek Texts.

Westcott & Hort
or more than a hundred years, these two British professors from Cambridge University have been severely censured, rebuked, profaned, and demonized by the more conservative or evangelical wing of Christianity. Most of what they believed has now been largely discounted, but they still get the credit (or blame) for changing the path of religious history in the field of textual criticism. Although they continued the same textual theories of Griesbach and Lachmann, Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort remain the centerpiece because of the unique task that was assigned to them and more importantly, how they went about processing that charge. Brooke Foss Westcott was born on January 12, 1825 in Birmingham, England. He studied at Trinity College in Cambridge, England, and completed graduate school in 1851, afterwhich he began teaching at Harrow School. Westcott gradually received church appointments, eventually arriving to one of the thirty-six honorary chaplains to the King of England.

Fenton John Anthony Hort was born on April 23, 1828 in Dublin, Ireland, and also studied at Trinity College in Cambridge. In the course of time, they became colleagues and started working together in 1853 on their own theory of New Testament textual criticism. Each man publically disdained the Received Text and mutually observed glaring differences between Lachmann and Tischendorf.
Seriously threatened by the advance of the Ottoman Turks during the early 15th Century and the subsequent fall of their capital at Constantinople in 1453, scholars fled the eastern Byzantine Empire and brought along their biblical manuscripts; hence, it has been called the Byzantine text-type. This new text was noticeably different from the Alexandrian Text of the western Roman Catholic Church. Most of the Reformers used this new text, especially Luther in his German translation and Tyndale in his English. It was fresh, exciting - not in the staid Latin of the period but in Greek - the very language of the Gospels.

Other eastern literature gave new understanding to the events of the past, because most literature of the western Roman Empire was destroyed by invading nomadic tribes. In many instances, all that is known of certain particulars of ancient Rome is due solely to this eastern literature that traveled with escaping scholars and merchants. So widespread was the demand for all this new eastern literature, that the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg became a necessity - not a novelty. This surge for learning was the very fuel of the Renaissance. The Byzantine Text became the text-type of English Bibles, including the King James Version of 1611. Several editions of this version have been issued (technically not revisions - please see next paragraph) and the present issue is actually the 1769 edition, following King George's command for the translators to take the 1701 and the 1611 and make them one and the same. This writer possesses a special reprint of the actual 1611 with its majestic woodblock cuts and peculiar spellings. It is slightly different (mostly spellings) from the 1769 which modern readers enjoy, but not very much.

The well known phrase, Textus Receptus or Received Text, is a special product of Abraham and Bonaventure Elzevir (1624, first edition) and is not a complete representation of the entire Byzantine text, anymore than Jerome's Latin Vulgate (405) may be considered a faithful representation of all Old Latin manuscripts. Received Text is a term that originated from a Latin phrase in their second edition of 1633: “textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum...” (the text that you have is now received by all). Because of these close textual relationships, many biblical students innocently conclude that Received Text, Erasmus, Stephanus, King James Bible, and Byzantine all mean the same thing. There are some differences between each, but interpretively, they all posture on the same side of the aisle.

In 1870, the Upper House of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury of the Church of England appointed a Revision Committee to make the first genuine revision of the Authorized Version and both Westcott and Hort were appointed. Although Bishop Ellicott was chairman, he was no match for Hort in Textual Criticism and Hort gradually displaced the other committee members in prominence, to become the main voice of the Revisionists. The Revised Version was issued in 1881 (New Testament) and 1884 (Old Testament). It was passionately literal, interpretatively rigid, hopelessly preferential, and just plain hard to read, which explains why its verses are rarely, if ever, quoted in any literary work. It was the first major English translation to break with the Textus Receptus following the massive influx of Byzantine manuscripts from the East.

Several previous editions of the King James Version had been issued but were not actually revisions in the truest sense, because no attempt had been made to significantly alter the text from that of the original printing in 1611. Most editions were issued to correct printing errors. The original 1611 contained the Old Testament Apocrypha because the government required publishing firms to include it, and its removal thus necessitated still another edition. The first true revision of the King James Version began in 1871 with a translation committee being convened to produce the Revised Version. They were charged with several tasks, principally the specific instruction to make as “few changes” as necessary, and to place the “reason for each change” in the margin. What actually transpired was totally unexpected and far beyond the original commission, for Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort used the committee to produce an entirely “new” translation based on their own recently compiled Greek Text from the Alexandrian text-type used by the Roman Catholic Church.

It was not a revision but a creation. In fact, Hort was unabashedly enamored with the Vatican's own manuscript - Vaticanus B. According to notes of the proceedings, he would summarily dismiss most readings that did not match this Uncial or its near relative Sinaiticus. Hort called the Syrian text (his term for the Byzantine) a late text because its only manuscripts dated from later centuries.

Many British scholars were in an uproar over this departure from the traditional Byzantine family. They disagreed with its unwarranted textual manipulations and feared that it would bring about a renewal of Catholicism in England. Leading the charge was Oxford scholar John William Burgon who scathingly chastised Fenton Hort in his monumental refutation, The Revision Revised. If Burgon was so skillful at Textual Criticism, why then is he so neglected or defamed by modern authorities? It may be for the very same reason that he also lacked ecclesiastical promotion during his life time - he rocked too many boats. Burgon wrote forcefully with a confidence that often came across to his contemporaries as intemperate defiance, and perhaps even elitist.

If one is able to intellectually disassociate Burgon's personality from his writing, many of his arguments are quite reasonable. For example, modern scholars have now generally dispensed with Hort's 4th Century Lucian of Antioch Recension Theory as the source of the Byzantine Text, not because early Church Councils and Church Fathers are completely silent on the matter, but rather because too many distinctive Byzantine readings have now been cataloged in the Papyri, predating Lucian by almost two centuries. Additionally, Lucian accepted the heresy of Arius and it would be incredible to believe that the entire Athanasian Church would accept a recension written by an Arian heretic.

Could one political party accept a convention platform document written by a rival party? Would the Democratic National Committee accept a platform written by conservative Republicans? Logically, this theory is profoundly flawed. The entire theory was without evidence from the beginning and the more that distinctive Byzantine readings appear in early Papyri only contribute to the growing assessment that it never could have taken place. No matter how one desires to frame the discussion, Burgon was entirely correct on this point. F.F. Bruce writes in History of the Bible in English: “Some scholars did attempt to reply to Burgon -- competently, like Professor William Sanday of Oxford ... and less competently, like Bishop Ellicott, chairman of the Revisers, who was no match for Burgon in textual criticism ... The one scholar who could have answered Burgon conclusively -- Dr. Hort, chose to say nothing.”  19 

In his refutation, considering Hort's suggestion of a fourth century recension to account for the creation of the Byzantine text, Burgon writes, “(Hort) ... invites us to believe that the mistaken textual judgment pronounced at Antioch in A.D. 350 had an immediate effect on the text of Scripture throughout the world. We are requested to suppose that it resulted in the instantaneous extinction of codices like B (Vaticanus),  (Sinaiticus), wherever found; cause codices of the A type (Byzantine) to spring up like mushrooms in their place, and that, in every library of ancient Christendom. We are further required to assume that this extraordinary substitution of new evidence for old ... fully explains why Irenaeus and Hippolytus, Athanasius ... Chrysostom, and the two Cyrils ... show themselves strangers to the text of B and . We read and marvel.”  20  In other words, although no definite proof exists of a recension of the Byzantine text in the Fourth century, even if it had occurred, how could this new text-type immediately appear everywhere throughout Christendom and immediately supplant the Alexandrian Type in such a way that many early church writers had no familiarity with it?

This recension theory is no longer plausible. F.G. Kenyon writes in Handbook To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament: “There is no historical evidence that the Traditional Text was created by a council or conference of ancient scholars. History is silent concerning any such gathering ... it would be strange if historians and Church writers had all omitted to record or mention such an event as the deliberate revision of the New Testament in its original Greek.”  21  Gradually distancing themselves from the Hort recension (artificial creation) theory, modern experts now admit their uncertainty of the true origin of the Byzantine text-type because (1) its longer, editorially polished readings suggest a later date, but (2) many of those readings now appear in the early papyri, yet (3) it also displays a mixture of readings from the other text-types. Philip Comfort writes in Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament: “The textual critic today cannot adopt a reading just because it is supported by Codex Vaticanus as did Westcott and Hort or just because it is supported by an early papyrus MS or two. The situation is too complex for such a simplistic approach; there is too much evidence that must be weighed .... For example, P66 is not fully Alexandrian nor fully Western nor fully Byzantine. Scholars are hard pressed to give P66 a fitting label.”  22  This fragment may be the earliest dated papyrus fragment, if not P52.

Because the Revisers discarded the traditional Byzantine text for the Alexandrian, other textual experts and especially more conservative scholars joined the bandwagon, positing a veritable flood of good and bad arguments in opposition of Westcott & Hort. Most are credible, some hopeless. Following is a very brief sampling of their more interesting questions/positions:
  • Lucian (Westcott & Hort's recension theory) followed the heresy of Arius. Would the entire Athanasian church accept a newly created Bible that was written by a heretic?
  • Since the Alexandrian text originated in Egypt and those scribes began with copies of the “northern” originals, were their copies faithful reproductions of the originals in the first place?
  • The heat of Egypt is unique for preservation. It is not reasonable to expect early manuscripts to have been preserved in northern humid climates which were the recipient of Paul’s letters.
  • Is not the entire Alexandrian cause resting upon a monumental presumption of agreement with “northern” originals?
  • Is the Byzantine text-type a late text “only” because the paper is late?
Recently many of these distinctly Byzantine readings have been clearly documented in papyrus fragments of the early 2nd and 3rd centuries by several different researchers. Harry Sturz has exhaustively listed distinctive Papyrus Byzantine readings in each of these four different categories:  23 
  1. Byzantine Alignments Opposed by Western, Alexandrian, and Westcott/Hort
  2. Byzantine-Western Alignments Opposed by Alexandrian and Westcott/Hort
  3. Byzantine-Alexandrian Alignments Followed by Westcott/Hort BUT Opposed by Western
  4. Byzantine with Varying Support from Western/Alexandrian BUT Opposed by Westcott/Hort
Papyrus comparisons have urged at least a few textual scholars to remark that the wholesale disregard for all Byzantine or Antiochian readings is no longer wise, as Bruce Metzger, “The lesson to be drawn from such evidence, however, is that the general neglect of the Antiochian readings which has been so common among many textual critics is quite unjustified.”  24 Although not conclusive, this is also a serious challenge to the Difficult-Short theory. Sturz further makes the reasonable conclusion, “With so many distinctively Byzantine readings attested by early papyri, doubt is now cast over the 'lateness' of other Antiochian readings.”  25 

In other words, since all Byzantine readings were thought to be late simply because of their length, polish, and late paper but now that some have clearly been shown to be early, is it wise to continue assuming that length, textual polish, and paper automatically suggests lateness? This re-evaluation of the Byzantine text has forced many scholars to reject Westcott & Hort's major position. Kurt Aland, perhaps the most qualified manuscript expert, writes in Significance for the Papyri: “It is impossible to fit the papyri, from the time prior to the fourth century, into these two text-types [Alexandrian and Byzantine]...The increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort's conception.”  26 

It comes as no surprise that in the Introduction to the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek Text (which formerly used Vaticanus as a touchstone) we read: “Neither Codex Vaticanus nor Codex Sinaiticus (nor even P75 of two hundred years earlier) can provide a guideline we can normally depend on for determining the text. The age of Westcott-Hort and of Tischendorf is definitely over.”  27  The brilliant scholar Gunther Zuntz exhibits a steadfast preference for the “text of the papyri” and questions both the origin of the Byzantine and the neutrality of the Alexandrian which he frequently regards as a mixture of sources. He does not revere Burgon or show himself a friend to King James voices, but interestingly writes in The Text of the Epistles:“...a number of Byzantine readings, most of them genuine, which previously were discarded as late, are anticipated in P46...we are now warned not to discard the Byzantine evidence en bloc...the extant Old Uncials and their allies cannot be relied upon to furnish us with a complete picture of the textual material which the fourth and fifth centuries inherited from earlier times...P46 has given us proof of that.”  28 

Herd Mentality
onetheless, the Alexandrian text-type has survived as the foundation of almost every translation since 1881. The reader may now wonder that if much of Westcott-Hort's position has been disproved and discarded (especially a 4th century recension which created the Byzantine Text), why then are modern translations still predominately using this Alexandrian text. The answer is simple, as Philip Comfort stated above. Although distinctly Byzantine readings have been documented in the papyri, it is only here-and-there readings, not significant portions or whole manuscripts bearing unquestionable identity to the Byzantine text-type. For this reason alone, many scholars are hesitant to switch back to a text that does not precede the fourth century, as a distinct text-type. Other reasons also prevail. Even though scholars Metzger and Zuntz see the papyri devoid of a uniform text-type, it marginally exhibits greater support for the Alexandrian text-type, especially in the gospel of John. The fragment P75, a late second century or early third century witness of only the four gospels, bears a distant resemblance to Vaticanus so as to be labeled its direct progenitor by some. The entire verse of John 5:4 is omitted or doubtfully placed in the margin by current translations principally because of its attestation joined by P66, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus. These main players also omit John 7:53-8:11, the story of the women caught in adultery, hence modern translations or The HERD follow suit.

When there is any departure among these witnesses (see also Burgon), P75 generally stays with Vaticanus, and P66 mostly shows itself a friend to Sinaiticus,  29  although the latter occasionally split. Although modern translators generally prefer the Alexandrian text-type, not all modern versions have always chosen the earliest readings, for P66 and Sinaiticus (earliest) often agree with the Byzantine against P75 and Vaticanus (later), as in John 8:38 where the former read “you have seen” and the latter “you have heard.” It would appear that The Herd prefers the earliest selections of readings, UNLESS they are too closely aligned with Byzantine variations.

Many voices repeatedly pointed to Matthew 5:22 where Jesus interprets anger “without cause” as sin. Why is this important to the discussion of textual criticism? Because out of fifty-three hundred Greek manuscripts, every one that contains this verse also contains the Greek word EIKE (without justifiable reason) except three: P67, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus.  30  Only these three witnesses out of 5,600 manuscript sources! Granted, there are many different criteria for the final selection of a reading, but number of witnesses continues to be a prime consideration. We should additionally pause on these factors; (1) Leading experts such as Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland have disowned Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as reliable witnesses alone, (2) P67 is an obscure 3rd century fragment containing only the Gospels which is rarely given evidence in the Manuscript Apparatus of most Greek Texts until this point, and (3) the patristic witnesses are inconclusive since Irenaeus, Origen, and Eusebius all quote it each way. This is remarkable but certainly not the only example of the preponderance of reasonable evidence being rejected for the momentary elevation of an obscure rarely cited witness, along with two others that have generally been disowned.

Why is it that all other manuscripts, of all four text-types, of all categories which agree with the Byzantine are now discarded for the elevation of an obscure, rarely cited 3rd century fragment? The Western text of Bezae Catabrigensis (D) accords with the Byzantine reading, along with the third Corrector of Sinaiticus, plus all the church Lectionaries, and most of the early Versions. Is it not easier to believe that three witnesses omitted one word than to defend the tenuous position that multiplied thousands of scribes added it? If these scribes were influenced by an earlier progenitor what is it? Modern textual criticism is certainly not free of academic bias, for the Western manuscript Bezae is routinely given preeminence when it “disagrees” with the Byzantine, yet quietly discarded to the margin when it agrees. This and other similar circumstances may suggest that evidence alone, frequently takes a backseat to predilection or HERD mentality. If the earliest witnesses agree with the Byzantine they are discarded or marginalized. If a clear majority of all witnesses from all text families of all text types agree with the Byzantine, they are discarded or marginalized for the elevation of a few or a single obscure witness. In other words, if evidence clearly, predominately, or suggestively points toward the acceptance of a distinct Byzantine reading (and the subsequent implications and consequences), follow The HERD instead.

Another example of HERD mentality is use of the King James Version to buttress the validation of a new modern translation, without fully explaining the difference in underlying text-types. The reader is allowed to believe that the King James Version is only being updated, when in fact the new version is based on an entirely different family of manuscripts. Why is it necessary to even mention the KJV in a Preface or Introduction to the Reader?

Perception is the key - not factual statements, and lest the visitor presume that this writer is taking cheap shots at the two following translations, it is necessary to momentarily divulge that these two versions are components of a select few translations that are regularly used by this writer during personal Bible reading.
“We owe to it [KJV] an incalculable debt. Yet the King James Version has serious defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the King James Version was based made it apparent that these defects were so many as to call for revision. The task was begun by authority of the Church of England ... and the American Standard Version ... was published in 1901.”
In 1928 the copyright of the latter was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education and thus associated in this Council through their boards of education and publication. The Council appointed a committee of scholars to have charge of the text of the revision. After studying the questions...in 1937 the Council authorized a revision.”
“In the history of the English Bible translations, the King James Version is the most prestigious. This time-honored ... became the basis for the English Revised Version appearing in 1881... The American counterpart of this last work was published in 1901 as the American Standard Version. Recognizing the values of the American Standard Version, the Lockman Foundation felt an urgency to update by incorporating recent discoveries of Hebrew and Greek textual sources and by rendering it into more current English.”
Perception, not true and factual statements is the issue. A textual expert will read the above introductions and understand them quite differently from the casual Bible student. Does the latter clearly understand from these Introductions that the KJV is based on an entirely different family of manuscripts than the modern translation being offered? Will the reader understand that the former is based on 94% of all Greek manuscripts and the latter is based on about 4%? Why does the KJV need to be referenced at all? Does the average reader seeing the word “revision” (NRSV) on three separate occasions in two different paragraphs, clearly understand that the word revision actually refers to the 1901 ASV - not the KJV?

There is a definite connectedness in each of the above, for the translators start by mentioning the KJV and then end with their own new version. A natural flow of logic permits even the serious reader to conclude from the above that the KJV was acceptable for its time but that the translation committee is only revising it for the convenience of modern readers. This is not the case at all.

Why make reference to the KJV in the first place? Why does the KJV need to somehow be 'connected' with any current translation process? Why not just be completely honest with the reader and fully explain the whole manuscript family scheme? The important word here is perception - not facts.

For all the good that modern translators have accomplished in educating the readership, and bringing many passages alive with freshness, they need to be honest and divulge their use of the Alexandrian text-type, even if it does comprise only three to four percent of all Greek manuscripts and early Christian resources. Why is there such boldness to defend the Alexandrian text-type in scholarly circles, yet undeniable reluctance to inform the buying public? It would not be intemperate to suggest that publishers stand close to the King James for reasons of marketability, but corporately discard its textual transmission for reasons of peer scholarship. Bible readers should have the right to fully understand the background of what they are reading.

Some Final Notes

alance is an elusive quality, for when one desires to display perspectives equally, it usually means elevating one position to achieve that intention. Hence, in the pursuit of literary balance, one unintentionally appears to side with the opinion in ascendance. It is not the desire, within this exercise to elevate the Byzantine text above its undue position in the scheme of manuscript evaluation or theories of transmission, only to illustrate that determined efforts by modernists to completely discard it from any consideration is intellectually unjustified. As previously indicated by Aland, Metzger and Zuntz, the appearance of heretofore presumed late Byzantine readings in the papyri is worthy of notice, especially as the number of these findings increases, because this leans toward invalidating the opinion that “all” longer, polished constructions are the result of time and modification.

Additionally, the Byzantine comprises several identifiable sub-groups which is priceless for determining the route of text-type transmission, now that Aland (see above) has indicated the lack of text-type distinctiveness in the papyri before the Fourth century. In order to preserve balance, one must also be allowed to observe the enormous divergency of readings and disagreements in the Alexandrian text among its premier witnesses, but not so as to also denigrate its contribution to the study of textual transmission.

Many recent translations exhibit more careful appreciation for modern readers who desire short sentences, unsophisticated vocabulary, and smoother construction. Word selection is generally found near the sixth grade level, and some interpretative efforts have improved the comprehension of more difficult passages where ambiguity remains from a literal rendering. This obvious remanufacturing of the basic text requires discipline, for innovation predictably invites the inclusion of personal ideas of the translators. Awareness of these inclusions has prompted the demonization of their efforts or charges of conspiratorial behavior by some voices. For example, best selling author Gale Riplinger has linked their individual accomplishments to a monumental New Age cabal, wherein translation committees are directly accused of satanic manipulation, in order to promulgate New Age bibles for the religion of the end-time, one world system. But most of the evidence that has been presented is clearly more reflective of the difference in text-type and sub-grouping among manuscript families which has been known for nearly two centuries. Frederick Scrivener and E.C. Colwell (see above) have indicated that the greatest number of textual variants were introduced within two hundred years of the originals.

Perhaps an argument could be successfully made for a scribal conspiracy, but there simply appears no convincing evidence that modern translators have conspired together under the influence of satanic voices. (See opinions from both sides in the Bibliography: Riplinger)

Most scholars have generally dismissed the conclusions of Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort, and both have virtually become straw men for the missiles of the extreme conservative position and King James Only voices. But Hort was, at least, right about one thing; textual criticism not being an exact science “... is entirely subjective.”

To Read the Rest of this Article Click Here

Ascension Hill Ministries Home Click Here
Ascension Hill Blog Click Here

Saved by His Life (Zoe)