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Major Critical Texts of the New Testament
Byz RP: 2005 Byzantine Greek New Testament, Robinson & Pierpont
TR1550: 1550 Stephanus New Testament
Maj: The Majority Text (thousands of minuscules which display a similar text)
Gries: 1774-1775 Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testament
Treg: 1857-1879 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Greek New Testament
Tisch: 1872 Tischendorf’s Greek New Testament
WH: 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament
NA28: 2012 Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
UBS5: 2014 Greek New Testament
NU: Both Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society
SBLGNT: 2010 Greek New Testament ()
THGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
GENTI: 2020 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
Matthew: The Greek name rendered “Matthew” is likely a shortened form of the Hebrew name rendered “Mattithiah” (1 Chron. 15:18, 21; 25:3, 21), which means “Gift of Jah.”
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 1:1 Westcott-Hort New Testament (WHNU)
1:1 Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυεὶδ υἱοῦ ᾿Αβραάμ.
According to Matthew
None of the four Gospel writers named themselves in their accounts, and titles were seemingly not part of the original text. For evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the authors of the Gospels, see here. And here.
In the WH NU א B, the title appears as kata maththaion (κατα μαθθαιον) “According to Matthew,” whereas in variant 1 Paris Papyrus D W f13 33 Maj the title appears as euaggelion kata maththaion (ευαγγελιον κατα μαθθαιον) “Gospel according to Matthew.” In variant 2 the TR M f the title appears as agion euaggelion kata maththaion (αγιον ευαγγελιον κατα μαθθαιον) “Holy Gospel according to Matthew” (KJV), while variant 3 𝔓1 is untitled.
We cannot say with absolute certainty when a title was added or began to be used. It is likely sometime in the second century C.E. since we have examples of the longer title in Gospel manuscripts that have been dated to the end of the second century to the early part of the third century (175-225 C.E.). Some scholars have argued that the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, (“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” may have been the driving force as to why the term “good news” (Gospel) came into use as a description of the Gospels. The use of both the titles and the name of the author may have simply come about because of practical reasons, giving the readers a means of identifying the authors of the Gospels.
What we can infer is that in the original penned by Matthew himself and at the very earliest stage of copying the Gospels, the first verse of Matthew’s Gospel served as the unnamed title or the opening words of the manuscript. 𝔓1 (c. 225 C.E.) is a reflection of this early stage. The text according to comfort, “βιβλος γενεσεως ι̅υ̅ χ̅υ̅ υ̅υ̅ δαυιδ [υιου] αβρααμ.”
An image of Papyrus 1 (verso), showing Matthew 1:1-9, 12
On the verso side of 𝔓1 we have Matthew 1:1 and there it can be seen that the upper margin is almost completely whole and undamaged. In the image above, the only writing above the first verse of Matthew is the letter “α,” which is the mark for the first page. We notice that there is no title. In a different hand, on the recto side of 𝔓1, we have a later scribe who added only three words, which are incomplete, and could be a description.
In variant 1 Paris Papyrus D W f13 33 Maj the title appears as euaggelion kata maththaion (ευαγγελιον κατα μαθθαιον) “Gospel according to Matthew.” This is the beginning stage of giving the Gospels an inscription. In the beginning, each of the Gospels was copied separately, and so they were titles separately. This stage would be expanded on in the next stage of copying, like what we have in variant 2 the TR M f, where the title appears as agion euaggelion kata maththaion (αγιον ευαγγελιον κατα μαθθαιον) “Holy Gospel according to Matthew” (KJV). We enter into another stage of titling the Gospels, which was likely influenced by Codex Vaticanus, a time when the Gospels were published together into one codex: κατα μαθθαιον (According to Matthew).
Recto: fragment of a flyleaf
In short, the first century saw the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as his death, resurrection, and ascension. After that, his disciples spread this gospel orally for at least 15 years before Matthew penned his gospel. The written was used in conjunction with the oral message.
In the first-century C.E., the Bible books were being copied individually. In the late first century or the beginning of the second century, they began to be copied in groups. At first, it was the four gospels and then the book of Acts with the four gospels, as well as a collection of the Apostle Paul’s writings. Each of the individual books of the New Testament were penned, edited, and published between 50 and 100 C.E. A group of the apostle Paul’s letters and the gospels were copied and published between 90 and 125 C.E. The entire 27 books of the New Testament were not published as a whole until about 290 to 340 C.E.
MATTHEW 1:1: NOMINA SACRA
Matthew 1:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Nomina Sacra (singular: nomen sacrum from Latin sacred name): In early Christian scribal practices, there was the abbreviation of several frequently occurring divine names or titles within the Greek manuscripts. Both Jesus ι̅ς̅ and χ̅ς̅ Christ are written as nomina sacra in the early MSS. P1 dating to about 200 C.E. has son of David υ̅υ̅ δαυιδ as a sacred name. Codex Sinaiticus א also has son of David as a sacred name.
These sacred names are abbreviated or contracted by keeping the first letter or two and the last letter. Another important feature is the horizontal bar placed over these letters [ι̅υ̅ χ̅υ̅ υ̅υ̅] to help the reader know that they are dealing with a contraction. The early Christian writers had three different ways that they would pen a sacred name: (1) suspension, (2) contraction, and (3) longer contraction. The suspension is accomplished by writing only the first two letters of such sacred names as Jesus (ιησους) = (ι̅η̅) and suspending the remaining letters (σους). The contraction is accomplished by writing only the first and last letter of say Jesus (ιησους) = (ι̅ς̅) and removing the remaining letters (ησου).
The longer contraction would simply keep the first two letters instead of just one, as well as the last letter (χ̅ρ̅ν̅ ι̅η̅ν̅ ι̅η̅υ̅ χ̅ρ̅υ̅). After penning the suspension or contraction, the scribe would place a bar over the name. This practice of place a bar over the name was likely a carried over from the common practice of scribes placing bars above contractions, especially numbers, which were represented by letters, ΙΑ = eleven.
These nomina sacra are found only in Christian manuscripts. This is not to say that non-Christians did not use abbreviations and contractions. However, the abbreviations and contractions that the non-Christians used served a purpose of saving space in their manuscripts (in other words no specific words), and the horizontal bar was used in their abbreviations as well, especially numbers.
Let us note that “the nomina sacra for Lord, Jesus, Christ, God, and Spirit are present in all extant second-century New Testament manuscripts where one or more of these nomina sacra are extant. The following second-century manuscripts that clearly show these nomina sacra are as follows:
- P4+P64+P67—Matthew, Luke
- P46—Paul’s Epistles
- P75—Luke, John
P4+P64+P67 dates to (150-175 C.E.), P32 dates to (150-200 C.E.), P46 dates to 150 C.E.), P66 dates to about (150 C.E.), P75 dates to about (175 C.E.), and P90 dates to (150-200 C.E.). This means that the nomina sacra for Lord, Jesus, Christ, God, and Spirit are standard by 150 C.E., which would suggest that, after the death of the last apostle John died in about 100 C.E. the implementation of the nomina sacra began shortly thereafter.
We cannot know what the authors penned in their autographs, nor the first generation of copyists, based on mid-late second-century manuscripts. Why? The phenomena of the standardization of the nomina sacra only need about fifty-years to take place. Of course, John wrote his Gospel and three letters between 96-98 C.E. so we can say that his writings would have been closest. The other books all date prior to 70 C.E.
It should be noted that to see the nomina sacra in both orthodox and unorthodox Christian writings, as well as biblical and non-biblical Christian writings across the Roman Empire, demonstrates a standardization, by 150-175 C.E., which we do not find in any other aspect. This is not like today’s internet, where a word or phrase goes viral, meaning hundreds of millions are using it instantly, and the next year, it is added to our dictionaries. As was state above, you would need a minimum of 50-years to have such a standardization to take place. However, while Hurtado loves to use the word “earliest” in describing the introduction of the nomina sacra, the evidence takes us no earlier than 125 to 175 C.E. for an introduction date, to standardization.
The point is clear: all throughout the Christian church in its early centuries, New Testament texts displayed the nomina sacra. Special notice was given to “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “God,” and “Spirit.” Whether we accept Hurtado’s hypothesis as to the how and why of the rise of the nomina sacra, or we go with other suggestions, we cannot make the connection back to the originals 27 New Testament manuscripts, or the first generation of copyists. Some would suggest Lord (κυριος, kurios), written as ΚΣ was first in the line of the nomina sacra (as Philip Comfort would suggest), or Jesus (ιησους, Iēsous), written as ΙΗ (as Larry Hurtado suggests). I would tend to agree with Comfort, and for the same reason, he offers as well.
It would seem to this writer; the best suggestion is the desire of the second century C.E. Christianity and Pharisaic Judaism to separate themselves from each other. For example, you have the Judaism abandoning the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, even though; just a few decades earlier they were espousing it to be inspired. Why? The Christians had adopted the Septuagint as their evangelism tool because the de facto language of the Roman Empire was Koine Greek.
Jews did things differently for one divine name and one divine name only: Yahweh. Jewish scribes would frequently write this in its Hebrew contracted form (even in paleo-Hebrew letters) and then continue on with the Greek text. Christians used κυριος (kurios = Lord) in place of Yahweh (YHWH) and wrote it in nomen sacrum form.
Here we can see second-century Christianity in their move to distance themselves from Judaism, by not adopting the same practice, even though it is likely that many of the Christian copyists were Jewish. In other words, “a scribe or scribes (whether Jewish Christian or Gentile Christian) created a nomen sacrum form for kurios (Lord), reflecting knowledge of and purposeful distinction from the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH.” At the beginning of the second century C.E., there were a number of things beginning to take place. (1) Judaism wanted to separate itself from Christianity. (2) Christianity wanted to distance itself from Judaism. (3) The Jews were starting to replace the Tetragrammaton (יהוה, JHVH) with ’Adhonai´ (Lord), as they felt the divine name was too sacred to pronounce. (4) Christians began the transition of Lord (κυριος, kurios), written as ΚΣ being first in the line of the nomina sacra that was to come.
TERMS AS TO HOW WE SHOULD OBJECTIVELY VIEW THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY FOR THE READING ACCEPTED AS THE ORIGINAL
The modal verbs are might have been (30%), may have been (40%), could have been (55%), would have been (80%), must have been (95%), which are used to show that we believe the originality of a reading is certain, probable or possible.
The letter [WP] stands for Weak Possibility (30%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading might have been original in that it is enough evidence to accept that the variant might have been possible, but it is improbable. We can say the reading might have been original, as there is some evidence that is derived from manuscripts that carry very little weight, early versions, or patristic quotations.
The letter [P] stands for Plausible (40%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading may have been original in that it is enough to accept a variant to be original and we have enough evidence for our belief. The reading may have been original but it is not probably so.
The letter [PE] stands for Preponderance of Evidence (55%), which indicates that this is a higher-level proof that the reading could have been original in that it is enough to accept as such unless another reading emerges as more probable.
The letter [CE] stands for Convincing Evidence (80%), which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise.
The letter [BRD] stands for Beyond Reasonable Doubt (95%), which indicates that this is the highest level of proof: the reading must have been original in that there is no reason to doubt it. It must be understood that feeling as though we have no reason to doubt is not the same as one hundred percent absolute certainty.
NOTE: This system is borrowed from the criminal just legal terms of the United States of America, the level of certainty involved in the use of modal verbs, and Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), who borrowed his system from Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734). In addition, the percentages are in no way attempting to be explicit but rather they are nothing more than a tool to give the non-textual scholar a sense of the degree of certainty. However, this does not mean the percentages are not reflective of certainty.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)
- Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994),
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), Matt. 6:8.
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
- Philip Wesley Comfort, A COMMENTARY ON THE MANUSCRIPTS AND TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015).
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008).
- Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts: Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2 Volume Set The (English and Greek Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019)
- Rick Brannan and Israel Loken, The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
- Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).
- Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
- Wilker, Wieland (n.d.). Retrieved from An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/index.html
 c. for “circa,” or “about.”
 Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), Mt 1:1.
 Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 200.
 Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 202.