Were Distinctively Byzantine Readings In the Early Papyri New Testament Manuscripts?


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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 100 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

The King-James-Version-Only advocates are John William Burgon (1813–1888) and Edward Miller (1825–1901), both authoring The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels (1896) and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established (1896). Edward Miller alone authored A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1886). Miller was the assistant to Burgon, and he was not a genuine textual scholar. The King James version Onlyist love to use these men’s arguments to defend the corrupt Textus Receptus and the King James Version. Hills’ work, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED by Edward F. Hills. The King James Version Defended is used to have some kind of modern-day scholarly work to give credibility to their tired, old theories about Bible translations. Before we argue against these indefensible defenders, let’s set the stage a bit first.

Harry A. Sturz taught Greek and textual criticism at Biola University, La Mirada, California. He also helped to translate the New King James Version and is the author of The Byzantine text-type and New Testament Textual Criticism. In his publication, Sturtz claims that he has documented 150 distinctively Byzantine readings using the papyri. Sturz lists “150 distinctively Byzantine readings” found in the papyri. Included in his list are P13, P45, P46, P47, P49, P59, P66, P72, P74, and P75. This claim has opened up Pandora’s Box for the Byzantine text, the Majority Text, the Textus Receptus, and King James Version Only advocates.


Let’s start by saying that some very big named Bible scholars came through Sturz’s Greek and textual criticism courses at Biola University. Dr. Don Wilkins, Senior translator for the New American Standard Bible writes, “I was privileged to have a one-on-one grad course with Sturz at Biola. A very fine gentleman.” New Testament Scholar David L. Turner, author of Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) and Interpreting the Gospels and Acts: An Exegetical Handbook. Daniel Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and author of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says that “Harry Sturz was a godly man whose humility was attractive. I got into it because of him. My interest at the time was in Greek grammar, but Sturz got me to think about textual criticism as well.”


David Alan Black, Professor of New Testament and Greek, who specializes in New Testament Greek grammar, the application of linguistics to the study of the Greek New Testament, and New Testament textual criticism, author of over 20 books including It’s Still Greek to Me writes, “Harry Sturz had no personal ax to grind. He neither hoped for nor expected any professional advantages from his work on the Byzantine text. He had been a student of E. C. Colwell when the latter was still teaching at Claremont Graduate School in Southern California. Like Colwell, Sturz always presented his views in a scholarly yet humble way. His work was not a revelation from Mount Sinai but the considered judgment of an intelligent, hardworking scholar.” Black says, “Harry Sturz’s The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism is a magnificent tour de force. In my opinion, it seriously weakens the arguments of both those who elevate the Byzantine text to a position of unquestioned primacy and those who seek to relegate it to the academic rubbish heap.”

Based on his position of there being 150 “distinctively Byzantine readings” found in the early papyri, Harry A. Sturz saw the Alexanian, Western, and Byzantine text-types as being independent in their archetypes, the original text (in genealogical terms), from which a group of manuscripts ultimately derive. He believed that the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine text-types all originated from the second-century C.E. The problem with some in the Sturzian fold is that they have strong biases and it is quite difficult for them to see the evidence because many just do not want to see the evidence. Before delving into Sturz’s claims let’s take a brief excursion and look at the history of the early text of the New Testament.


From an Oral Gospel to the Written Record

Jesus had commanded his disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20, ESV) How then was this gospel (good news) to be made known?

During the forty-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension, Jesus instructed his disciples in the teaching of the gospel. Accordingly, he prepared them for the tremendous task that awaited them on and after Pentecost.[1]

There were only ten days after Jesus ascension to Pentecost, when “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus put it this way, in his words, it being only “a few days.” This time would have been filled with the process of replacing Judas Iscariot, prayer, and the established gospel message, which would be the official oral message until it was deemed necessary to have a written gospel some 10 to 15 years later. The gospel message was quite simple: ‘Christ died for our sins, was buried, and he was resurrected on the third day according to Scripture.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Now I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which I proclaimed to you, which you have also received, in which you also stand, by which you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the message I proclaimed to you, unless you believed in vain.

By the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus of Rome (70 C.E.), all of the books of the Greek New Testament had been written, with the exception of those penned by the apostle John. One account of the history of Christianity has the Gospel of Matthew being penned first, published between 44 and 50 C.E., with the Gospel of Luke coming about 56-58 C.E., and the Gospel of Mark between 60 to 65 C.E. These are known as the Synoptic Gospels, as they are similar in content, while John chose to convey other information, perhaps because he wrote his gospel to the second generation of Christians in about 98 C.E. Luke informs us of just how the very first Christians received the gospel message. Very few translations make explicit the exact process.


Luke 1:1-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)[2]

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been fulfilled  among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty concerning the things about which you were taught orally [Gr., katechethes].

Acts 18:24-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been orally [katechethes] instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John.

Galatians 6:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The one who is orally [katechethes] taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

We can see clearly from the above that both Theophilus and Apollos received the initial gospel message, just as all Christians did in the early years, and even after the written gospels were available, the gospel of Jesus was taught by oral instruction (katechethes). In time, it was deemed that there was a need for a written record, which is the reason Luke gives for his Gospel. This was not to discount what Theophilus had been orally taught, but rather to give credence to that oral message that he had already received. Of course, the New Testament was not limited to these gospels.

The publishing of these New Testament books in written form would have come about in the following stages:

  • the inspired author probably would have used a well-trusted, skilled Christian scribe to take down what he was inspired to convey, some believe by shorthand;[3]
  • The scribe would then make a rough draft if it had been taken by shorthand. If shorthand had not been used, this first copy would have been the rough draft;
  • this draft would then be read by both the scribe and author, making corrections because the copyist, though professional or at least skillful at making documents, was not inspired;
  • thereafter, the scribe would make what is known as the autograph, original, or initial text, to be signed by the author,
  • which would then be used as the official exemplar to make other copies.

Both Tertius and Silvanus were very likely skilled Christian scribes, who assisted the writers of the New Testament. (Rom. 16:22; 1 Pet. 5:12) It is unlikely that Paul personally wrote any of his letters that were of great length. It is clear that Peter used the trained Silvanus to pen his first letter, and likely, the second letter was possibly the result of Jude’s penman skills, as it is very similar in style to the letter by Jude. This may explain the differences in style between First and Second Peter. We should emphasize that it is not possible that the inspired author would give some latitude to his skilled Christian scribe to serve as a coauthor in regard to word choices, as some have suggested.

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The Spread of Christianity

The early Christian congregations were not isolated from one another. The Roman roads and maritime travel connected all the regions from Rome to Greece, to Asia, to Syria and Palestine, and Egypt.[4] Following the days of Pentecost 33 C.E., Jewish or Jewish proselyte Christians returned to Egypt with the good news of Christ (Acts 2:10). Three years after that, the Ethiopian eunuch traveled home with the good news as well (Acts 8:26–39). Apollos of Alexandria, Egypt, a renowned speaker, left Egypt with the knowledge of John the Baptizer and arrived in Ephesus in about 52 C. E. (Acts 18:24-25) The apostle Paul traveled approximately 10,282 miles throughout the Roman Empire establishing congregations.[5] The apostles were a restraint to the apostasy and division within the whole of the first-century Christian congregation (2 Thess. 2:6-7; 1 John 2:18). It was not until the second century that the next generation of Christian leaders gradually caused divisions.[6] However, the one true Christianity that Jesus started and the apostles established was strong, active, and able to defend against Gnosticism, Roman persecution, and Jewish opposition.

It is conceivable that by 55 C.E. there would have been a thriving congregation in Alexandrian Egypt, with its huge Jewish population.[7] “Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen went through as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews” (Acts 11:19). While this indicates a traveling north to Antioch, it does not negate a traveling south to Egypt. Antioch obviously is mentioned because it played a significant role as a commencement for first century Christianity, in particular for the apostle Paul.

The Coptic Church claims the Gospel writer Mark as its founder and first patriarch. Tradition has it that he preached in Egypt just before the middle of the first century. At any rate, Christianity spread to Egypt and North Africa at an early date. In fact, it became a prominent religious center, with a noted scholar named Pantaenus, who founded a catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt, about 160 C.E. In about 180 C.E. another prominent scholar, Clement of Alexandria, took over his position. Clement put this religious, educational institution on the map as a possible center for the whole of the Christian church throughout the Roman Empire. The persecution that came circa the year 202 C.E. forced Clement to flee Alexandria, but one of the most noted scholars of early Christian history, Origen, replaced him. In addition, Origen took this scholarly environment to Caesarea in 231 C.E. and started yet another prominent school and scriptorium (i.e. a room for copying manuscripts).

What does all this mean? While we cannot know absolutely, textual scholar Philip W. Comfort[8] and others believe that the very early Alexandrian manuscripts that we now possess are a reflection of what would have been found throughout the whole of the Greco-Roman Empire about 125–300 C.E. If we were to discover other early manuscripts from Antioch, Constantinople, Carthage, or Rome, they would be very similar to the early Alexandrian manuscripts. This means that these early manuscripts are a primary means of establishing the original text, and we are in a far better position today than were Westcott and Hort in 1881.

In addition, we can assume an effort on the part of copyists to preserve the originals unchanged, because the authors themselves spoke of their writings as being authoritative and said that no one should alter what they had published or taught. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that they should consider as “accursed” anyone (even angels) who proclaimed a gospel contrary to the one they had preached. (Gal. 1:6-9) Paul went on to write, “the gospel that was preached by me is not according to man [I.e., human origin]. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation [Lit., uncovering; disclosure] of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11-12) The apostle Paul charged that ‘the Corinthian Christians had put up with false teachers, readily enough, who proclaim another Jesus and another gospel.’ (2 Cor. 11:3-4) Paul and Silas wrote to the Thessalonians that they constantly thanked God that when the Thessalonians received the word of God, which they had heard from them, they accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really was, the word of God. (1Thess. 2:3) Paul then closed that letter by commanding them “by the Lord, have this letter read aloud to all the brothers.” (1 Thess. 5:27) In 2 Thessalonians Paul ‘requested that they not be quickly shaken from their composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a word or a letter as if from us.’ (2:2) Paul closed the letter with a greeting in his own hand, to authenticate it. (3:17) Lastly, John closed the book of Revelation with a warning to everyone about adding to or taking away from what he had written therein. (Rev. 22:18-19) The New Testament authors were well aware that future scribes could intentionally alter the Word of God, so they warned them of the consequences.

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Let’s look at yet another author of the New Testament. The apostle Peter wrote about 64 C.E.,

2 Peter 1:12-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle,[6] to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle[7]is soon,[8] just as also our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 So I will make every effort so that after my departure, you may be able to recall these things for yourselves.[9]

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming[10] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was brought[11] to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 and we ourselves heard this very voice brought from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Peter was making it clear that he was sharing firsthand accounts and not devised tales. Here again, like the other New Testament authors, Peter warned his readers of false teachers, who corrupted the truth and distorted the Scriptures, such as Paul’s letters. Like Paul and John, Peter warned that this would be done to the offenders’ own destruction.

2 Peter 3:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Yes, “It is especially interesting that Peter writes of the distortion of Paul’s letters along with ‘the other Scriptures.’ The implication is that the letters of Paul were already regarded as Scripture at the time Peter wrote.”[9] Verse 16 shows that Peter

…is aware of several Pauline letters. This knowledge again raises the dating issue. We know that Paul himself on one occasion had requested that churches share his letters: ‘After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you, in turn, read the letter from Laodicea’ (Col 4:16). However, it is a big jump in time from Colossians to the first concrete evidence we have of people who know more than one letter. This evidence shows up in 1 Clement, who not only knows Romans but can also write to the Corinthians, ‘Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul’ (1 Clem.[10] 47:1). It appears later in 2 Clement and in Ignatius’s Ephesians.[11] Thus, we are on solid ground when we accept that a collection of the Pauline letters existed by the end of the first century.[12] It is also likely that some Pauline letters circulated independently of a collection (which is what one would expect as one church hears that another has a letter that might prove helpful in their situation),[13] and that there were collections of a few Pauline letters before there was a collection of all of his letters.[14] All of this is quite logical since Paul was a valued teacher in his circle of communities and, as he left an area and especially as he died, his letters were his continuing voice. Thus churches would share letters and, as they obtained funds (a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars in today’s money), they would make copies. Copies would turn into collections, especially since it was possible to use one scroll for several of the shorter letters. Probably by the end of the first century, the complete collection (i.e., all extant letters) was circulating to at least a limited degree (remember, these copies did not come cheap). The issue is which stage in this process 2 Peter is indicating.[15]

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This author would argue that the stage Peter was referring to was the time when “there were collections of a few Pauline letters before there was a collection of all of his letters.” It is most likely that Peter’s first letter was written about 62-64 C.E., while Peter’s second letter was written about 64 C.E.[16] At the time Peter penned his second letter, several of Paul’s letters from the ’50s was available to Peter (Romans [56], 1 & 2 Corinthians [55], Galatians [50-52], and 1 & 2 Thessalonians [50, 51]). He could have had access to those from the early ’60s as well (Ephesians [60-61], Philippians [60-61], Colossians [60-61], Titus [61-64], Philemon [60-61], and Hebrews [61]). The only ones that were clearly unavailable would have been 1 & 2 Timothy [61, 64] and possibly Titus [61-64]. Thus, from Peter’s reference to “in all his [Paul’s] letters, speaking in them of these things,” we garner several insights. It highly suggests (1) there were collections of Paul’s letters, (2) Peter and the early church viewed them as “Scripture” in the same sense as the Old Testament Scriptures, (3) they were not to be changed, and (4) that apostolic authors’ written works were being collected and preserved for posterity.

Second-Century Manuscripts: Once we enter the second century almost all firsthand witnesses of Jesus Christ would have died, and most of the younger traveling companions, fellow workers and students of the apostles, would be advancing into old age. However, there were some, like Polycarp who was born to Christian parents about 69 C.E. in Asia Minor, in Smyrna. As he grew into a man, he became known for his kindness, self-discipline, compassionate treatment of others, and thorough study of God’s Word. Soon enough he became an elder in the Christian congregation at Smyrna. Polycarp was very fortunate to live in a time when he was able to learn from the apostles themselves. In fact, the apostle John was one of his teachers.

By any standard, Polycarp must be reckoned as one of the more notable figures in the early post-apostolic church. Already bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor when his friend and mentor, Ignatius of Antioch [c. 35 C.E. – c. 108 C.E.], addressed one of his letters to him (ca. A.D. 110; cf. above, p. 131), he died a martyr’s death (see the Martyrdom of Polycarp) several decades later at age eighty-six (ca. 155–160), having served as bishop for at least forty and possibly sixty or more years. Irenaeus (who met Polycarp as a child) and Eusebius both considered him a significant link in the chain of orthodox apostolic tradition. His life and ministry spanned the time between the end of the apostolic era and the emergence of catholic [i.e., universal] Christianity, and he was deeply involved in the central issues and challenges of this critical era: the growing threat of persecution by the state, the emerging Gnostic movement (he is particularly known for his opposition to one of the movement’s most charismatic and theologically innovative teachers, Marcion), the development of the monepiscopal form of ecclesiastical organization, and the formation of the canon of the New Testament. Polycarp’s only surviving document[17] is a letter to the Philippians, written in response to a letter from them (cf. 3.1; 13.1). It reveals, in addition to a direct and unpretentious style and a sensitive pastoral manner, a deep indebtedness to the Scriptures (in the form of the Septuagint) and early Christian writings, including 1 Clement (with which Polycarp seems to be particularly familiar).[18] While apparently no New Testament books are cited as ‘Scripture’ (the reference to Ephesians in 12.1 is a possible exception), the manner in which Polycarp refers to them indicates that he viewed them as authoritative documents.[19]

Christ “gave gifts to men.” “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:8, 11-13, NASB). The Father moved these inspired ones along by Holy Spirit, as they set forth God’s Word for the Christian congregation, “to stir [them] up by way of reminder,” repeating many things already written in the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:12-13; 3:1; Rom 15:15). Thus, we have internal New Testament evidence from Second Peter circa 64 C.E. that “there were collections of a few Pauline letters before there was a collection of all of his letters.” Outside of Scripture, we find evidence of a collection of at least ten Pauline letters that were collected together by 90-100 C.E.[20] We can be certain that the early Christians were collecting the inspired Christian Scriptures as early as the middle of the first century C.E. to the early second century C.E.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS Young Christians

Clement of Rome (c. 96 C.E.) was acquainted with Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth and said that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit. Thus, we have Clement of Rome (c. 30-100 C.E.), Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155 C.E.), and Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 C.E. – c. 108 C.E.), who wove Scripture of the Greek New Testament into their writings, showing their view of them as inspired Scripture. Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., used the expression “it is written” when quoting from Matthew. Theophilus of Antioch, who died about 181 C.E., declared “concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God.”[21] Theophilus then used such expressions as “says the Gospel” (quoting Matt, 5:28, 32, 44, 46; 6:3) and “the divine word gives us instructions, in order that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.”[22] And it teaches us to render all things to all,[23] “honour to whom honour, fear to whom fear, tribute to whom tribute; to owe no man anything, but to love all.”[24]

The Epistle to the Hebrews Paul PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

Once we reach the middle to the end of the second century C.E., it comes down to whether those who came before would stress the written documents as Scripture by

  • the apostles, who had been personally selected by Jesus (Matthew, John, and Peter),
  • Paul, who was later selected as an apostle by the risen Jesus himself,
  • the half-brothers of Jesus Christ (James and Jude),
  • as well as Mark and Luke, who were close associates and traveling companions of Paul and Peter.

We can see from the above that this largely was the case. We know that major church leaders across the Roman Empire had done just that. We know, for example, that Irenaeus of Asia Minor (180 C.E.) fully accepted 25 of 27 books of the New Testament but had some doubt about Hebrews and uncertainty about James. We know that Clement of Alexandria (190 C.E.) fully accepted 26 of 27 books of the New Testament but may not have been aware of 3 John. We know that Tertullian of North Africa (207 C.E.) fully accepted 24 of 27 books but may not have been aware of 2 and 3 John, or Jude. We know that Origen of Alexandria (230 C.E.) and Eusebius of Palestine (320 C.E.) fully accepted all 27 books of the New Testament. It has been estimated that by the close of the second century C.E., there were over 60,000 copies of major parts of the Greek New Testament in existence. This is an enormous number, even if it was only one in every fifty professing Christians who possessed a copy.

However, would there be evidence that these church leaders, going back to the days of the apostles, would influence the copyists? Moreover, were the copyists professionals? In other words, even if some of the copyists did not see the documents as Scripture, would the church leaders, and long-standing traditions, motivate them to copy the documents with accuracy? In addition, would the professional scribe copy accurately even if he did not view them as Scripture? And if the scribe did view the texts as Scripture, the inspired Word of God, was it plenary inspiration (every word), or that the meaning was inspired? Generally speaking, from what we know about the Alexandrian scribes, they would have sought to reproduce an accurate copy regardless of their views. We can say that there were other scribes, who saw the message as inspired; thus, their focus was not on retaining every single word, nor word order. It seems that they felt they could alter the words without damaging the intended meaning of the author. These copyists added and removed words here and there, rearranged words, and substituted words, presumably in the hope of improving the text but not intending to alter the meaning. It also has to be acknowledged that there were some untrained copyists who simply produced inaccurate copies, regardless of how they viewed the text.


Then, there were scribes who willfully altered the text, with the intention of improving it. Some were seeking to harmonize the gospel accounts. An extreme example would be Tatian, a noteworthy, apologetic writer of the second century C.E. In an account of his conversion to nominal Christianity, Tatian states, “I sought how I might be able to discover the truth,” which points to his intent. About 170 C.E., Tatian compiled a harmonized account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, combining the four Gospels into a single narrative (Diatessaron means “of the four”). Another who willfully revised the New Testament was Lucian of Antioch (c. 240-312 C.E.). Little is known of traditional founder of the school of Antioch, the martyr-priest Lucian (died 312). However, we do know that he was a learned biblical scholar, who revised the texts of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament, which created a tradition of manuscripts known as the Lucianic Byzantine, or Syrian text.

Lucian produced the Syrian text, renamed the Byzantine text. About 290 C.E. some of his associates made various subsequent alterations, deliberately combining elements from earlier types of text, and this text was adopted about 380 C.E. At Constantinople it became the predominant form of the New Testament throughout the Greek-speaking world. The text was also edited, with parallel accounts harmonized, grammar corrected, and abrupt transitions modified to produce a smooth text. As a result, this was not a faithfully accurate copy. However, others willfully altered the text to have it support their doctrinal position. Marcion (c. 85-c. 160 C.E.), a semi-Gnostic of the second century C.E., is a leading example. In fact, the idea of forming a catalog of authoritative Christian writings did not come to mind until Marcion. One such catalog was the Muratorian Fragment, Italy (170 C.E.) The list shows 24 books of the New Testament being accepted without question as Scriptural and canonical, some uncertainty about 2 Peter, and Hebrews and James were not listed, possibly unknown. In the end, we must admit that there were heretics who altered the text to make it align with their doctrinal positions, but also Orthodox Christians who also altered the text to strengthen their doctrinal positions.

Westcott and Hort and the Lucian Recension Origin

Let’s begin with the negative and the positive of it, “While most scholars continue to view the Majority text as late and secondary, Hort’s explanation of its origin is widely rejected. There is no direct evidence that Lucian ever worked on the New Testament text, nor can the Majority text any longer be traced back to a single event. In fact, ‘neither the origin of the Byzantine text viewed as entirety nor the origin of its various sub-forms in the course of history is known’. Thus, most textual critics are in the position of rejecting a key part of Hort’s argument while continuing to accept his results.” (The ‘Majority Text Debate, Michael W. Holmes, 15) What were Wescott and Hort’s view on the origin of the Syrian (Byzantine) text?

Metzger writes in his Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism (Eerdmans; 1st edition, 1963) “The critical principles and methods which Lucian followed in making his recension of the Old Testament are plainly observable in the Antiochian text of the NT. Indeed, Ropes declares, ‘There is not one of the well-known characteristics of the Antiochian New Testament which cannot be illustrated from the Old Testament of Lucian.” Hort‘s comprehensive and elegant summary of these characteristics is a classic description”:

D. 187. Syrian characteristics

187. The qualities which the authors of the Syrian text seem to have most desired to impress on it are lucidity and completeness. They were evidently anxious to remove all stumbling-blocks out of the way of the ordinary reader, so far as this could be done without recourse to violent measures. They were apparently equally desirous that he should have the benefit of instructive matter contained in all the existing texts, provided it did not confuse the context or introduce seeming contradictions. New omissions accordingly are rare, and where they occur are usually found to contribute to apparent simplicity. New interpolations, on the other hand, are abundant, most of them being due to harmonistic or other assimilation, fortunately, capricious and incomplete. Both in matter and in diction the Syrian text is conspicuously a full text. It delights in pronouns, conjunctions, and expletives and supplied links of all kinds, as well as in more considerable additions. As distinguished from the bold vigour of the ‘Western’ scribes, and the refined scholarship of the Alexandrians, the spirit of its own corrections is at once sensible and feeble. Entirely blameless on either literary or religious grounds as regards vulgarised or unworthy diction, yet shewing no marks of either critical or spiritual insight, it presents the New Testament in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force, more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation than for repeated and diligent study. (Westcott & Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, 1882, pp. 134)

A. 188–190. The two stages of the Syrian text

188. We have thus far found it conducive to clearness to speak of the Syrian (Byzantine) text in the singular number. Two stages of it, however, can be traced, which may have been separated by an interval of some length. At an early period of modern textual criticism it was perceived that the Vulgate Syriac version differed from early versions generally, and from other important early documentary authorities, in the support which it frequently gave to the common late Greek text: and as the version enjoyed a great traditional reputation of venerable antiquity, the coincidence attracted much interest. Eventually, as has been already noticed (§ 118), it was pointed out that the only way of explaining the whole body of facts was to suppose that the Syriac version [a branch of Aramaic that was similar to Hebrew], like the Latin version, underwent revision long after its origin, and that our ordinary Syriac MSS represented not the primitive but the altered Syriac text: and this explanation has been signally confirmed in our own day by the discovery of part of a copy of the Gospels in which the national version is preserved approximately in its Old or unrevised state. Two facts render it highly probable that the Syriac revision was instituted or sanctioned by high authority, personal or ecclesiastical; the almost total extinction of Old Syriac MSS [there are two extant MSS of this version (containing the Gospels): Curetonian and the Sinaitic Syriac, 4th and 5th centuries respectively], contrasted with the great number of extant Vulgate Syriac MSS; and the narrow range of variation found in Vulgate Syriac MSS, so far as they have yet been examined. Historical antecedents render it tolerably certain that the locality of such an authoritative revision, accepted by Syriac Christendom, would be either Edessa [center of Syriac-speaking Christianity] or Nisibis, great centers of life and culture to the churches whose language was Syriac, but intimately connected with Antioch [Syria, Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire], or else Antioch itself, which, though properly Greek, was the acknowledged capital of the whole Syrian population of both tongues. When therefore we find large and peculiar coincidences between the revised Syriac text and the text of the Antiochian Fathers of the latter part of the fourth century, and strong indications that the revision was deliberate and in some way authoritative in both cases, it becomes natural to suppose that the two operations had some historical connection.

189. Nevertheless, the two texts are not identical. In a considerable number of variations the Vulgate Syriac sides with one or other of the Pre-Syrian texts against the Antiochian Fathers and the late Greek text, or else, as we have already found (§§ 134, 143), has a transitional reading, which has often, though not always, some Greek documentary attestation. These lesser irregularities shew that the Greek Syrian revision in its ultimate form, the only form adequately known to us, and the Syriac revision, though closely connected in origin, cannot both be due to a single critical process performed once for all. The facts would, we believe, be explained by the supposition, natural enough in itself, that (1) the growing diversity and confusion of Greek texts led to an authoritative revision at Antioch, which (2) was then taken as a standard for a similar authoritative revision of the Syriac text, and (3) was itself at a later time subjected to a second authoritative revision, carrying out more completely the purposes of the first; but that the Vulgate Syriac text did not undergo any corresponding second revision. The revision apparently embodied in the Harklean Syriac will be noticed further on.

190. The final process was apparently completed by 350 or thereabouts. At what date between 250 and 350 the first process took place, it is impossible to say with confidence; and even for conjecture, the materials are scanty. There can be little doubt that during the long respite from persecution enjoyed by the Church in the latter half of the third-century multiplication of copies would be promoted by the increase of converts and new security of religious use and confusion of texts by more frequent intercourse of churches. Such a state of things would at least render textual revision desirable, and a desire for it might easily arise in a place where a critical spirit was alive. The harmony between the characteristics of the Syrian revision and the well-known temper of the Antiochian school of critical theology in the fourth century, at least on its weaker side, is obvious; and Lucianus the reputed founder of the school, himself educated at Edessa, lived in the latter part of the third century, and suffered martyrdom in 312. Of known names his has a better claim than any other to be associated with the early Syrian revision; and the conjecture derives some little support from a passage of Jerome, which is not itself discredited by the precariousness of modern theories which have been suggested by it. When he says in his preface to the Gospels “Praetermitto eos codices quos a Luciano et Hesychio nuncupatos paucorum hominum adserit perversa contentio”, he must have had in view some definite text or texts of the Gospels or the New Testament generally, appealed to by some definite set or sets of men as deriving authority from names honoured by them. Jerome’s antagonism to Antiochian theology would readily explain his language, if some Antiochian Father had quoted in controversy a passage of the New Testament according to the text familiar to him, had been accused of falsifying Scripture, and had then claimed for his text the sanction of Lucianus. Whether however, Lucianus took a leading part in the earlier stage of the Syrian revision or not, it may be assigned with more probability either to his generation or to that which immediately followed than to any other; and no critical results are affected by the presence or absence of his name.

B. 191–193. Mixture in the fourth century

191. Two successive external events which mark the opening years of the fourth century, the terrible persecution under Diocletian and his colleagues and the reaction under Constantine, doubtless affected the text not less powerfully than the Canon of the New Testament. The long and serious effort of the imperial government to annihilate the Scriptures could not be otherwise than unequally successful in different places; and thus while throughout whole regions all or nearly all existing MSS would perish without leaving their text transmitted through fresh copies, the vacant places would presently be filled, and more than filled, by transcripts which would import the texts current in more fortunate lands. Thus whatever irregularities in the geographical distribution of texts had grown up in the earlier centuries would be suddenly and variously multiplied. Moreover, the tendency of the changes brought about in that century of rapid innovation by the new relations between the Church and the empire, and by the overwhelming influence of theological controversies, was unfavourable to the preservation of local peculiarities of any kind. It is, therefore, no wonder that the ancient types of text now lose themselves in a general medley, not indeed vanishing entirely from view, but discernible only in fragments intermingled with other texts. Whatever may be the causes, mixture prevails everywhere in the fourth century: almost all its texts, so far as they can be seen through the quotations of the Fathers, are more or less chaotic.

192. The confusion was naturally most extensive in the Greek texts; but the versions did not altogether escape it. Enough is already known of the Latin texts to enable us to see what kind of processes were at work. Along with the old Western licence as to diction, in which Latin scribes must have long continued to indulge, we find not only indigenous mixture, the combination of diverging or possibly of independent Latin types, but also mixture with Greek texts. Combinations of this latter kind were in fact more or less rude revisions, not differing in essential character from the Hieronymic revision to which the Vulgate is due. As in that better known case, they proceeded from a true feeling that a Greek MS as such was more authentic than a Latin MS as such, uncontrolled by any adequate sense of the difference between one Greek MS and another. As was to be expected, the new Greek elements of these revised Latin MSS came from various sources, now Pre-Syrian with or without the specially Alexandrian corruptions, now distinctly Syrian, Greek readings of this last type being however almost confined to the Italian and Hieronymic revisions. How far the mixture perceptible in Egyptian texts should be referred to this time, it is not as yet possible to say.

193. Exact knowledge of the patristic texts of the fourth century is much impeded by the uncritical manner in which the works of most of the Greek Fathers have been edited. But wherever firm ground can be reached, we find essentially the same characteristics; almost total absence of all the ancient texts in approximate integrity, and infinitely varying combinations of them, together with an increasing infusion of the later Syrian readings. The most remarkable fact, standing out in striking contrast to the previous state of things, is the sudden collapse of the Western text after Eusebius: a few writers offer rare traces of the expiring tradition in occasional purely Western readings which subsequently vanish; but even this slight and sporadic testimony is exceptional. On the other hand elements derived from Western texts entered largely into most of the mixtures which encounter us on every side. A similar diffusion of large elements derived from the Alexandrian text, discernible in the patristic evidence, is still better attested by versions or revisions of versions in this and the next following period, and apparently by the phenomena of subsequent Greek MSS. At Alexandria itself the Alexandrian tradition lives on through the fourth century, more or less disguised with foreign accretions, and then in the early part of the fifth century reappears comparatively pure in Cyril. On the growing influence of the Syrian texts throughout this time enough has already been said.

C. 194, 195. Final supremacy of the Syrian text

194. The history of the text of the New Testament in the following centuries is obscure in details; but the facts which stand out clearly are sufficient for the purposes of criticism. The multiplicity of texts bequeathed by the fourth century was of long continuance. If passing over the four great early Bibles א B A C, and also the Græco-Latin and Græco-Egyptian MSS, we fix our attention on what remains to us of purely Greek MSS down to the seventh or eighth century, we cannot but be struck by the considerable though unequal and on the whole decreasing proportion in which Pre-Syrian readings of all types are mingled with Syrian. On the other hand before the close of the fourth century, as we have said, a Greek text not materially differing from the almost universal text of the ninth century and the Middle Ages was dominant, probably by authority, at Antioch, and exercised much influence elsewhere. It follows that, however great and long continued may have been the blending of texts, the text which finally emerged triumphant in the East was not a result of any such process, in which the Antiochian text would have been but one factor, however considerable. With one memorable exception, that of the Story of the Woman taken in Adultery, there is evidence of but few and unimportant modifications of the Antiochian text by the influence of other ancient texts before it became the current text of the East generally.

195. Two classes of causes were at work to produce this singular result. On the one hand Greek Christendom became more and more contracted in extent. The West became exclusively Latin, as well as estranged from the East: with local exceptions, interesting in themselves and valuable to us but devoid of all extensive influence, the use and knowledge of the Greek language died out in Western Europe. Destruction of books, which had played so considerable a part in textual history at the threshold of the Constantinian age, was repeated again and again on a larger scale, with the important difference that now no reaction followed. The ravages of the barbarians and Mahometans annihilated the MSS of vast regions, and narrowly limited the area within which transcription was carried on. Thus an immense number of the MSS representing texts furthest removed in locality from Antiochian (or Constantinopolitan) influence perished entirely, leaving no successors to contribute readings to other living texts or to transmit their own texts to the present day. On the other hand Greek Christendom became centralised, and the centre, looked up to increasingly as such while time went on, was Constantinople. Now Antioch is the true ecclesiastical parent of Constantinople; so that it is no wonder that the traditional Constantinopolitan text, whether formally official or not, was the Antiochian text of the fourth century. It was equally natural that the text recognised at Constantinople should eventually become in practice the standard New Testament of the East. (Westcott & Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, 1882, pp. 135–143)

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Separated Into Families

We have textual traditions or families of texts, which grew up in a certain region. For example, we have the Alexandrian text-type, which Westcott and Hort called the Neutral text that came from Egypt. Then, there is the Western text-type, which came from Italy and Gaul as well as North Africa and elsewhere. There was also the Caesarean text-type, which came from Caesarea and is characterized by a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings (B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 1994, Page xxi). The Byzantine text-type, also called Majority Text, came from Constantinople (i.e., Byzantium).

In short, early Christianity gave rise to what are known as “local texts.” Christian congregations in and near cities, such as Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Carthage, or Rome, were making copies of the Scriptures in a form that would become known as their text-type. In other words, manuscripts grew up in certain areas, just like a human family, becoming known as that text-type, having their own characteristics. In reality, it is not as simple as this because there are mixtures of text-types within each text-type. However, generally, each text-type resembles itself more than it does the others. It should also be remembered that most of our extant manuscripts are identical in more than seventy-five percent of their texts. Thus, it is the twenty-five percent of variation that identifies a manuscript as a certain text-type, i.e., what one could call “agreement in error.”

Therefore, the process of classifying manuscripts for centuries was to label them a certain text-type, such as Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean, or Byzantine. Just how did the families develop?


The Growth of the Manuscript Families

Seeing that the copyist was not inspired as was the original author, so, as it was, human imperfection brought about scribal errors more and more over time as they were being copied and recopied. The type of variants was common among the family of manuscripts depending on where they developed over the years, and they became known as “text-types.” As a copyist who was using an exemplar that had previous scribal errors was going to inevitably repeat those same mistakes.  We definitely do not intend to send the wrong message that the copyist errors were on such a level and continuous that the early manuscripts were not trustworthy and later manuscripts extremely unreliable. Some of the earliest manuscripts that we now have evidence that a professional scribe copied them. Many of the other papyri confirm that a semiprofessional hand copied them, while most of these early papyri give evidence of being produced by a copyist who was literate and experienced. Therefore, either literate or semiprofessional copyist did the vast majority of the early extant papyri, with some being done by professionals. The later manuscripts after the fourth century saw some scribal errors, which were the result of a given scribe who affected one manuscript or even a few manuscripts. More on this in a moment.


True History Illustrated

Now, let us now take a moment and look at how these families of manuscripts or “text-types” came to be. Keeping it simply and hypothetical, let us suppose that we have one copy of a manuscript in Italy, Gaul, and North Africa (referred to as the Western family from here forward), another copy grew up in Antioch, Syria and then was taken to Constantinople (referred to as the Byzantine family from here forward),  another copy in Caesarea, and yet another copy in Alexandria, Egypt. Now, each of these copies was initially made from the same exemplar (trusted copy a scribe made copies from or used for correcting) and are now being copied in these four regions. As they are being copied over time they will come to have their own distinct differences from that initial copy. As each copy is being made in these areas, the copyists will continue to perpetuate the same copy mistakes. Yes, the copyist himself or the corrector of a scriptorium might catch an error here and there, making corrections. Nevertheless, as time passes, each of these areas families of manuscripts (“text-types) will come to be more like the manuscripts of that region and less like the initial copy that all had received.

However, say our codex in each was the four Gospels (64,767 Words) and the book of Acts (18,450 Words) being copied as one codex. That is a total of 83,217 words. The Western Codex of the Gospels and Acts, after 600 years of copying, there are on average 1,583 scribal variant units, that is, variant places or places where there are variants in their codex of  83,217 words. Some of these were an accident; other words, clauses, and even whole sentences were intentionally changed. Nevertheless, all of these are different than the other three regions. The Byzantine Codex of the Gospels and Acts, after 1,200 years of being copied, there are 7,197 scribal variant places but they are different than the other three areas. These variants were an intentional effort at clarifying things, grammatical and stylistic, as the copyists felt to be wrong as well as scribal errors too. The Caesarean Codex of the Gospels and Acts, after 900 years of being copied, they contained 3,122 scribal variants and they were actually a combination of Western and Alexandrian variants. The Alexandrian Codex of the Gospels and Acts, after 400 years of being copied, had a total of 484 textual variants, all of them differing from the other three areas. These copyists had no desire to expand or paraphrase, so the readings were shorter. At the time of the printing press in 1455 and the first printed Greek text by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516, it can be said of all the text-types of all the extant manuscripts of today, they are at a minimum of 85% identical and the vast majority of the variants are word order, spelling and the like. The closer manuscript family texts have been copied to one another in time the more alike they are to each other. So, two Byzantine texts copied in the fifth century will be more alike than a ninth-century copy that had a ninth-century exemplar, that is, a master manuscript that a scribe was tasked to copy. the master text used to produce another text. (The number of errors herein are for illustration purposes only)

The Epistle to the Hebrews The Epistle to the Hebrews The Epistle to the Hebrews

The Publishing of The New Testament Books

Most people today would not imagine the ancient world’s having a large publishing industry, yet this was the case. The ancient writings of famous authors were great pieces of literature that were highly sought after from the moment they were penned, much as today. Thus, there was a need for the scriptorium[25] to fill orders for both pagan and civil literature, as well as the Bible books. There was a need for hundreds of copies, and as Christianity displaced paganism, the need would grow exponentially.

The Autograph (“self-written”) was the text actually written by a New Testament author, or the author and scribe as the author dictated to him. If the scribe was taking down dictation (Rom. 16:22; 1 Pet. 5:12), he may have done so in shorthand.[26] Whether by shorthand or longhand, we can assume that both the scribe and the author would check the scribe’s work. The author would have authority over all corrections since the Holy Spirit did not inspire the scribe. If the inspired author wrote everything down himself as the Spirit moved him, the finished product would be the autograph. This text is also often referred to as the Original. Hence, the terms autograph and original are often used interchangeably. Sometimes textual critics prefer to make a distinction, using “original” as a general reference to the text that is correctly attributed to a biblical author.  This designation does not focus on the process of how a book or letter was written.

The original can also be referred to as the first Authorized Text (Archetypal Manuscript), i.e., the text first used to make other copies. We should also point out that some textual critics debate whether the original or autograph of any given book was actually the first text used to make copies, and they prefer to call the latter the Initial Text instead, not requiring that it actually be the autograph. Conservative critics would maintain that they are the same. Neither term should be confused with what is known as an ordinary Exemplar, any authorized text of the book from which other copies were made. The original text necessarily was the very first exemplar used to make copies, but after that other copies of high quality were used as exemplars. We will frequently use this term to refer to any copy that a scribe employed as his text for making another copy. Usually, a scribe would have a main or primary exemplar from which he makes most of his copy and one or more secondary exemplars with which to compare what he found in his main exemplar. As we will see, scribes sometimes substituted text from other exemplars for what they found in their main exemplars.

We have mentioned the Scriptorium, a room where multiple scribes or even one scribe worked to produce the manuscript(s). A lector would read aloud from the exemplar, and the scribe(s) would write down his words. The Corrector was one who checked the manuscripts for needed corrections. Corrections could be by three primary persons: (1) the copyist himself, (2) the official corrector of the scriptorium, or (3) a person who had purchased the copy. When textual scholars speak of the Hand, this primarily refers to a person who is making the copy, distinguishing his level of training. Paleographers have set out four basic levels of handwriting. First, there was the common hand of a person who was untrained in making copies. Second, there was the documentary hand of an individual who was trained in preparing documents. The third level was the reformed documentary hand of a copyist who was experienced in the preparation of documents and copying literature; and fourth was the professional hand, the scribe experienced in producing literature.[27]

We must keep in mind that we are dealing with an oral society. Therefore, the apostles, who had spent three and a half years with Jesus, first published the Good News orally. The teachers within the newly founded Christian congregations would repeat this information until it was memorized. Thereafter, those who had heard this gospel would, in turn, share it with others (Acts 2:42, Gal 6:6). In time, they would see the need for a written record so Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John would pen the Gospels, and other types of New Testament books would be written by Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. We can see from the first four verses of Luke that Theophilus[28] was being given a written record of what he had already been taught orally. In verse 4, Luke says to Theophilus, “[My purpose is] that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

The appearance of the written record did not mean the end of oral publication. Both oral and written would be used together. Most did not read the written records themselves, as they would hear them read in the congregational meetings by the lector. Paul and his letters came to be used in the same way as he traveled extensively but was just one man and could only be in one place at a time. It was not long before he took advantage of the fact that he could be in one place and dispatch letters to other locations through his traveling companions. These traveling companions would not only deliver the letters but would know the issues well enough to address questions that might be asked by the leaders of the congregation to which they had been dispatched. In summary, 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 44 and 98 C.E. A group of the apostle Paul’s letters and the gospels were copied and published between 90 to 125 C.E. The entire 27 books of the New Testament were not published as a whole until about 290 to 340 C.E.

Thus, we have the 27 books of the New Testament that were penned individually in the second half of the first century. Each of these would have been copied and recopied throughout the first century. Copies of these copies would, of course, be made as well. Some of the earliest manuscripts that we now have indicate that a professional scribe copied them. Many of the other papyri provide evidence that a semi-professional hand copied them, while most of these early papyri give evidence of being made by a copyist who was literate and experienced at making documents. Therefore, either literate or semi-professional copyists produced the vast majority of our early papyri, with some being made by professionals.

While we do not have all of the details, from what we do have, it seems that very early on the New Testament books that were written; they were delivered to their respective recipients and then  being copied in Palestine, while other copies were being taken to the different regions of the Roman Empire: Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. As can be expected, so began the copying process in these areas. These copies as was mentioned above contained different variant readings from the other areas. However, the manuscripts had an immense agreement otherwise. These families of manuscripts would eventually be labeled text-types: the Alexandrian text, the Byzantine text (Constantinople), the Western text (for Italy, Gaul, and North Africa), and the Caesarean text (for the city of Caesarea in Palestine).

When Constantine the Great recognized Christian as being the means of making the Roman Empire united again, he legalized Christianity and stopped the persecution. This allowed segments of Christianity to now copy manuscripts freely and gave them access to professional; scribes. Alexandria did not face the same level of persecution early on because of being so far removed from Rome, so professional scribes and the copying of manuscripts was not as impacted as other regions of the empire. After Constantine, the Christians began to note the differences in the manuscripts from different regions. There was a half-hearted attempt at creating a standardized text by making changes in some of the existing manuscripts and those that were being copied as well. Because the region of Constantinople was now the head of the empire and it was the center of the Greek-speaking church, it is not surprising, the readings from these manuscripts were given preference over others.

Over the next three centuries or more these changes continued to be made with the readings that were characteristic of Constantinople (Byzantine) now becoming the standard form of the Greek New Testament text, while readings from the other regions were being excluded. From the eighth century forward, the Byzantine text was all that was being copied, so it is not surprising that eighty to ninety percent of the manuscripts that we presently have are of the Byzantine text. Therefore, some might reason that because the vast majority of our Greek New Testament manuscripts are of the Byzantine text, it must be more correct, a closer reflection of the original. Yet, it is only the chance and an unforeseen occurrence of being the text that was being copied at the right time and place that made this text the preferred text. In anything in life, it is not the majority that makes something correct; otherwise, we would be using the Latin Vulgate. It is the weightiest manuscripts that carry the day. End of Excursion.


Defenders of the Byzantine Text

While Karl Lachmann was the one to overthrow the Textus Receptus, it would be B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort in 1881 who would put the nails in the coffin of the Textus Receptus. The 1881 British Revised Version (RV), also known as the English Revised Version (ERV) of the King James Version, and the 1881 New Testament Greek text of Westcott and Hort did not sit well with the King-James-Version-Only[29] advocate John William Burgon (1813–1888) and Edward Miller (1825–1901), both authoring The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels (1896) and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established (1896). Edward Miller alone authored A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1886). Miller was the assistant to Burgon, he was not a genuine textual scholar.

Many King James Version and Textus Receptus advocates want to claim F. H. A. Scrivener (1813–1891) and Herman C. Hoskier (1864-1938), two genuine scholars. Scrivener was a textual scholar, who was on the English New Testament Revision Committee which produced the English Revised Version of the Bible. Scrivener was a loyal and committed critic of Hort on the Bible Revision Committee. Hoskier was a textual scholar, who generally supported the Byzantine text-type against the Alexandrian text-type but not entirely. Hoskier compared Codex Vaticanus with Codex Sinaiticus to see just how many significant differences there were in the best Alexandrian witnesses. Both Scrivener and Hoskier neither fully supported the textual arguments of Wescott and Hort or fully supported the textual theories of Burgon either. Unlike Edward Miller, bother Scrivener and Hoskier were genuine textual scholars.

Thus, it took seventy-years from the death of Burgon before we would see another actual textual scholar, Edward F. Hills (1912-1981), support the traditional (Byzantine) text. Hills authored The King James Version Defended (1956, 1984 4th ed.). The King James Version Onlyist would certainly argue that Hills was the greatest 20th Century Traditional (Byzantine) Text and Textus Receptus defender. Hills Graduated summa cum laude (with the highest distinction) at Yale University (1934), Th.B. from Westminster Theological Seminary (1938), Th.M. from Columbia Theological Seminary, Th.D. in New Testament textual criticism from Harvard (1946) under the supervision of Henry J. Cadbury, Kirsopp Lake as one of the readers. Hills dissertation at Harvard was on textual criticism where he failed to proffer any kind of value or defense for the Byzantine text. Why? He realized that unless he accepted that the Byzantine text was late and had no real value, he was not going to be accepted into the textual criticism community of scholars. Once he was in the textual criticism community of scholars, a few short years later (1952), he was able to return to the fold of defending the traditional (Byzantine) text and the Textus Receptus. The thing is, Hills had never really left the traditional (Byzantine) text and the Textus Receptus.[30] In fact, Hills in his The King James Version Defended, he was a more ardent defender from providential preservation than Burgon had, for according to Hills it was the Textus Receptus that was closest to the original not the Byzantine manuscripts. He even went so far as to say that Erasmus was divinely guided when he added Latin Vulgate readings into the Greek text. (King James Version Defended, 2)

Many who reject the traditionalist (Byzantine) views have confused the Textus Receptus with the Majority Text. Therefore, it should be noted that the Majority Text is “a text of the NT in which variant readings are chosen that are found in the majority of all Greek NT manuscripts (Byzantine Family). One could consider this external (objective) evidence and maintain that it is the leading criterion for establishing the text. Credit for this text is due primarily to Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad, though the latter once humbly told me (Wilkins) that the text was mainly Hodges’ work. Hodges maintained that mathematical probabilities pointed to the text with the greatest number of surviving manuscripts as the one closest to the original. Thus the name is an accurate description, though Hodges’ theory about the text’s relation to the original is arguable at best. Of greater value and importance, the Majority Text has essentially purged the Byzantine text of its negative association with the Textus Receptus. Nevertheless, most textual critics maintain that those favoring the MT rely heavily on theological arguments and thin objective evidence in their defense of the text. In particular, easier readings tend to prevail over harder in the MT and BT.” (The Text of the New Testament, 555)

Almost all defenders of the Byzantine Text family, the Majority Text, and the Textus Receptus, as well as the King James Bible today,  rely on Burgon to explain their arguments. Therefore, before focusing our attention on the 150 distinctively Byzantine readings that appear in early papyri by Sturz, we must briefly examine Burgon’s views. The fundamental principle of Burgon’s textual arguments was his inferred position on verbal-plenary inspiration, that is, providential preservation. (Traditional Text, 9, 11-12) It is on this basis that we get four arguments that are used by the Byzantine, Majority Text, and Textus Receptus supporters.

Bible scholar David Fuller brings us the first argument in his book, Which Bible, where he writes, “Burgon regarded the good state of preservation of B (Codex Vaticanus) and ALEPH (Codex Sinaiticus) in spite of their exceptional age as proof not of their goodness but of their badness. If they had been good manuscripts, they would have been read to pieces long ago. We suspect that these two manuscripts are indebted for their preservation, solely to their ascertained evil character …. Had B (Vaticanus) and ALEPH (Sinaiticus) been copies of average purity, they must long since have shared the inevitable fate of books which are freely used and highly prized; namely, they would have fallen into decadence and disappeared from sight. Thus, the fact that B and ALEPH are so old is a point against them, not something in their favour. It shows that the Church rejected them and did not read them. Otherwise, they would have worn out and disappeared through much reading.”

The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2 The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2 The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2

Thus, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, leading representatives of the Alexandrian family of manuscripts, are in such great condition because they are full of errors, alterations, additions, and deletions so they would have had little chance of wear and tear, never having been used by true believers. This argument is simply the weakest and most desperate that this author has ever heard. First, many of the papyrus Alexandrian manuscripts are in terrible shape, some being 200 years older than codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which would mean that they must have been read very often by true believers. Second, a number of old Byzantine and Western manuscripts are in good condition as well, which by this argument would indicate that they are also guilty of never having been read because they were full of errors, alterations, additions, and deletions so they would have had little chance of wear and tear. Third, the size of Sinaiticus with the Old Testament, the New Testament, and apocryphal books, among other books would have weighed about 50+ lbs. This book was not read in the same manner that Christians would read their Bibles today. The same would be true of Codex Vaticanus as well. Fourth, both were written on extremely expensive and durable calfskin. Fifth, the period of copying the Byzantine text-type was c. 430 – 1453 C.E. and it progressed into the most corrupt period for the Church (priests to the popes: stealing, sexual sins, torture, and murder); so much so, it ends with the Reformation. Thus, the idea of true believers wearing out manuscripts is ludicrous. Sixth, the Bible was locked up in Latin. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, produced in the 5th century to make the Bible accessible to all, became a means of keeping God’s Word hidden. Almost all Catholic priests were biblically illiterate, so one wonders who these so-called true believers were and how were they reading God’s Word to the point of wearing it out. For centuries, manuscripts were preserved, even when the Catholic priests could no longer understand them.

Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener in their second argument maintained that the Byzantine text was used by the church for far more centuries, which proved its integrity, as God would never allow the church to use a corrupt text. B. F. Westcott wrote, “A corrupted Bible is a sign of a corrupt church, a Bible mutilated or imperfect, a sign of a church not yet raised to complete perfection of the truth.” (The Bible in the Church, 1864, 1875) The reader can determine for himself or herself if it is mere coincidence that as the church grew corrupt, the most corrupt manuscript of all grew right along with it for a thousand years.

As was stated earlier, Lucian produced the Syrian text, renamed the Byzantine text. About 290 C.E., some of his associates made various subsequent alterations, which deliberately combined elements from earlier types of text, and this text was adopted about 380 C.E. At Constantinople, it became the predominant form of the New Testament throughout the Greek-speaking world. The text was also edited, with harmonized parallel accounts, grammar corrections, and abrupt transitions modified to produce a smooth text. This was not a faithfully accurate copy. As we had just learned earlier under the corruption period, after Constantine legalized Christianity, giving it equal status with the pagan religions, it was much easier for those possessing manuscripts to have them copied. In fact, Constantine had ordered 50 copies of the whole of the Bible for the church in Constantinople. Over the next four centuries or so, the Byzantine Empire and the Greek-speaking church were the dominant factors as to why this area saw their text becoming the standard. It had nothing to do with it being the better text, i.e., the text that more accurately reflected the original. From the eighth century forward, the corrupt Byzantine text was the standard text and had displaced all others; it makes up about 95 percent of all manuscripts that we have of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener in their third argument continued with the belief that it would be foolish to set aside thousands of manuscript witnesses (the Byzantine text-type) for a few supposedly early manuscript witnesses (the Alexandrian text-type). But in truth, the majority of anything does not automatically mean that it is the best or even correct. Today, we can easily produce thousands of copies of a faulty manuscript with a machine, and every copy displays the same errors. If we were to hand-copy the same manuscript a thousand times, obvious errors probably would be corrected in many copies, but new errors would be introduced, many of them probably the result of a well-intended “correction.” A textual criticism principle that has been derived from this observation is that manuscripts should be weighed (i.e. for value), not counted.

In their fourth argument, Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener maintained that the Byzantine text-type was actually older and superior to the Alexandrian text-type. To refute this, we can go back to our patristic quotations, which reveal the Alexandrian text-type as earlier than the Byzantine text-type. Greenlee writes, “The fallacy in this argument was that the antiquity of a ‘Syrian’ (i.e., Byzantine) reading could be shown only when the Byzantine text was supported by one of the pre-Byzantine texts, which proved nothing in favor of the Byzantine, since WH maintained that Syrian readings were largely derived from the pre-Syrian texts. That the traditional text was intrinsically superior was more nearly a matter of subjective opinion; but an extensive comparison of text-types has left most scholars convinced that the late text [Byzantine] is in general inferior, not superior.”[31]

The Challenge Of Translating Truth The Challenge Of Translating Truth The Challenge Of Translating Truth

Westcott and Hort Establish that the Syrian [i.e., Byzantine] Text Is of a Secondary In Origin

The Textus Receptus was a more corrupt form of the Syrian [i.e., Byzantine] text. Dr. Bruce M. Metzger offers us a brief overview of how the corrupt Byzantine text and the error-ridden Textus Receptus was dethroned so we will quote them at length. “It was the corrupt Byzantine form of text that provided the basis for almost all translations of the New Testament into modern languages down to the nineteenth century. During the eighteenth century scholars assembled a great amount of information from many Greek manuscripts, as well as from versional and patristic witnesses. But, except for three or four editors who timidly corrected some of the more blatant errors of the Textus Receptus, this debased form of the New Testament text was reprinted in edition after edition. It was only in the first part of the nineteenth century (1831) that a German classical scholar, Karl Lachmann, ventured to apply to the New Testament the criteria that he had used in editing texts of the classics. Subsequently other critical editions appeared, including those prepared by Constantin von Tischendorf, whose eighth edition (1869–72) remains a monumental thesaurus of variant readings, and the influential edition prepared by two Cambridge scholars, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort (1881). It is the latter edition that was taken as the basis for the present United Bible Societies’ edition. During the twentieth century, with the discovery of several New Testament manuscripts much older than any that had hitherto been available, it has become possible to produce editions of the New Testament that approximate ever more closely to what is regarded as the wording of the original documents.”[32]

Westcott and Hort Arguments

  • Posteriority of Syrian [i.e., Byzantine] (δ) to ‘Western’ (β) and other (neutral, α) readings shown (1) by analysis of Conflate Readings
  • Posteriority of ‘Syrian’ to ‘Western’ and other (neutral and ‘Alexandrian’) readings shown (2) by Ante-Nicene Patristic evidence
  • Posteriority of Syrian to Western, Alexandrian, and other (neutral) readings shewn (3) by Internal Evidence of Syrian readings[33]

We continue with Westcott and Hort’s (WH from here) arguments that the Syrian (Byzantine) text is of a secondary origin, which led to it, in the form of the Textus Receptus, being overthrown for their critical text of 1881. We will offer the reader an overview of these arguments from their Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek.

Conflated Readings: WH cites eight conflation instances in from Mark and Luke (Mark 6:33; 8:26; 9:38; 9:49; Luke 9:10; 11:54; 12:18; 24:53). Here WH point out that the neutral text (Alexandrian text primarily represented by B א) and the Western texts both have short readings. The copyists of the Syrian (Byzantine) text conflated these two different short readings by combining them. “To the best of our belief the relations thus provisionally traced are never inverted. [bold mine] We do not know of any places where the α [Neutral/Alexandrian] group of documents supports readings apparently conflate from the readings of the β [Western] and δ [Syrian/Byzantine] groups respectively, or where the β [Western] group of documents supports readings apparently conflate from the readings of the α [Neutral/Alexandrian] and δ [Syrian/Byzantine] groups respectively. Hence it is certain not only that the δ [Syrian/Byzantine] readings were always posterior [later] in date to the α [Neutral] and the β [Western] readings in variations illustrating the relation between these three groups by means of conflation, but also that the scribes or editors who originated these δ [Syrian/Byzantine] readings made use in one way or another of one or more documents containing these α [Neutral/Alexandrian] readings, and one or more documents containing these β [Western] readings; that is, they either wrote with documents of both classes before them, or wrote from documents of one class which had readings from the other class written in the margin, or wrote from documents of one class while carrying in their own minds reminiscences from documents of the other class of which they had had knowledge at some previous time.”[34]

WH: “Accordingly the balance of Internal Evidence of Readings, alike from Transcriptional and from Intrinsic Probability, is decidedly in favour of the derivation of δ [Syrian/Byzantine] from α [Neutral/Alexandrian] and β [Western] rather than of α [Neutral/Alexandrian] and β [Western] from δ [Syrian/Byzantine]; so that, as far as can be judged without the aid of other passages, the common original of the documents attesting α [Neutral/Alexandrian] and the common original of the documents attesting β [Western] must both have been older than the common original of the documents attesting δ [Syrian/Byzantine]. … Now it is morally impossible that their use of documents of either or both classes should have been confined to those places in which conflation enables us to detect it in actual operation. … But the proved actual use of documents of the α [Neutral/Alexandrian] and β [Western] classes in the conflate readings renders their use elsewhere a vera causa [Latin, vera (“true”) + causa (“cause”)] in the Newtonian sense.”[35]

King James Bible King James Bible King James Bible

WH Genealogical Argument

WH: 54. It is hardly necessary to point out the total change in the bearing of the evidence here made by the introduction of the factor of genealogy. Apart from genealogy, the one MS becomes easily overborne by the nine; and it would be trusted against their united testimony only when upheld by strong internal evidence, and then manifestly at great risk. But if it is found that the nine had a common original, they sink jointly to a numerical authority not greater than that of the one; nay rather less, for that one is known absolutely, while the lost copy is known only approximately. Where for want of sufficiently clear evidence, or for any other reason, the simplification of pedigree cannot be carried thus far, still every approximation to an exhibition of their actual historical relations presents them in a truer light for the purposes of textual criticism than their enumeration in their existing form as so many separate units. It enables us on the one hand to detect the late origin and therefore irrelevance of some part of the prima facie documentary evidence, and on the other to find the rest of it already classified for us by the discovered relations of the attesting documents themselves, and thus fitted to supply trustworthy presumptions, and under favourable circumstances much more than presumptions, as a basis for the consideration of other classes of evidence.

55. It would be difficult to insist too strongly on the transformation of the superficial aspects of numerical authority thus effected by recognition of Genealogy. In the crude shape in which numerical authority is often presented, it rests on no better foundation than a vague transference of associations connected with majorities of voices, this natural confusion being aided perhaps by the application of the convenient and in itself harmless term ‘authorities’ to documents. No one doubts that some documents are better than others, and that therefore a numerical preponderance may have rightly to yield to a qualitative preponderance. But it is often assumed that numerical superiority, as such, among existing documents ought always to carry a certain considerable though perhaps subordinate weight, and that this weight ought always to be to a certain extent proportionate to the excess of numbers. This assumption is completely negatived by the facts adduced in the preceding pages, which shew that, since the same numerical relations among existing documents are compatible with the utmost dissimilarity in the numerical relations among their ancestors, no available presumptions whatever as to text can be obtained from number alone, that is, from number not as yet interpreted by descent.

56. The single exception to the truth of this statement leaves the principle itself untouched. Where a minority consists of one document or hardly more, there is a valid presumption against the reading thus attested, because any one scribe is liable to err, whereas the fortuitous concurrence of a plurality of scribes in the same error is in most cases improbable; and thus in these cases the reading attested by the majority is exempt from the suspicion of one mode of error which has to be taken into account with respect to the other reading. But this limited prima facie presumption, itself liable to be eventually set aside on evidence of various classes, is distinct in kind, not in degree only, from the imaginary presumption against a mere minority; and the essential difference is not altered by the proportion of the majority to the minority.

57. Except where some one particular corruption was so obvious and tempting that an unusual number of scribes might fall into it independently, a few documents are not, by reason of their mere paucity, appreciably less likely to be right than a multitude opposed to them. As soon as the numbers of a minority exceed what can be explained by accidental coincidence, so that their agreement in error, if it be error, can only be explained on genealogical grounds, we have thereby passed beyond purely numerical relations, and the necessity of examining the genealogy of both minority and majority has become apparent. A theoretical presumption indeed remains that a majority of extant documents is more likely to represent a majority of ancestral documents at each stage of transmission than vice versa. But the presumption is too minute to weigh against the smallest tangible evidence of other kinds. Experience verifies what might have been anticipated from the incalculable and fortuitous complexity of the causes here at work. At each stage of transmission the number of copies made from each MS depends on extraneous conditions, and varies irregularly from zero upwards: and when further the infinite variability of chances of preservation to a future age is taken into account, every ground for expecting a priori any sort of correspondence of numerical proportion between existing documents and their less numerous ancestors in any one age falls to the ground. This is true even in the absence of mixture; and mixture, as will be shown presently (§§ 61, 76), does but multiply the uncertainty. For all practical purposes the rival probabilities represented by relative number of attesting documents must be treated as incommensurable.[36]


WH Version Evidence

WH: The Syriac versions are, strictly speaking, three in number. The principal is the great popular version commonly called the Peshito or Simple. External evidence as to its date and history is entirely wanting: but there is no reason to doubt that it is at least as old as the Latin version. Till recently it has been known only in the form which it finally received by an evidently authoritative revision, a Syriac ‘Vulgate’ answering to the Latin ‘Vulgate’. The impossibility of treating this present form of the version as a true representation of its original text, without neglecting the clearest internal evidence, was perceived by Griesbach and Hug about the beginning of this century: it must, they saw, have undergone subsequent revision in conformity with Greek MSS. In other words, an Old Syriac must have existed as well as an Old Latin. Within the last few years the surmise has been verified. An imperfect Old Syriac copy of the Gospels, assigned to the fifth century, was found by Cureton among MSS brought to the British Museum from Egypt in 1842, and was published by him in 1858. The character of the fundamental text confirms the great antiquity of the version in its original form; while many readings suggest that, like the Latin version, it degenerated by transcription and perhaps also by irregular revision. The rapid variation which we know the Greek and Latin texts to have undergone in the earliest centuries could hardly be absent in Syria; so that a single MS cannot be expected to tell us more of the Old Syriac generally than we should learn from any one average Old Latin MS respecting Old Latin texts generally. But even this partially corrupted text is not only itself a valuable authority but renders the comparatively late and ‘revised’ character of the Syriac Vulgate a matter of certainty. The authoritative revision seems to have taken place either in the latter part of the third or in the fourth century. Hardly any indigenous Syriac theology older than the fourth century has been preserved, and even from that age not much available for textual criticism. Old Syriac readings have been observed as used by Ephraim and still more by Aphraates: but at present there are no means of supplying the lack of Old Syriac MSS to any appreciable extent from patristic quotations. Of the Old Syriac Acts and Epistles nothing as yet is known. The four minor Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse, not being included in the Canon of the Syrian Churches, form no part of the true Syriac Vulgate, but are extant in supplementary versions. None of the editions of the Syriac Vulgate come up to the requirements of criticism: but considerable accessions to the evidence for the Greek text arc hardly to be looked for from this source.

220. Enough has already been said (§§ 158–162) on the texts which can be recognised in the extant remains of the several Ante-Nicene Greek Fathers. A few supplementary remarks must however be inserted here on the peculiar nature of the textual evidence furnished by Greek works preserved, wholly or in great part, only in ancient translations. In the quotations found in these works the texts of Versions and Fathers are variously blended together, so that their testimony needs to be examined with special care, while it is often too valuable to be neglected. Irenæus furnishes the most prominent example. Of his great treatise against heresies, which is extant in a Latin translation, no Greek MS is known to exist. Epiphanius however, writing about 375, has transcribed into his own principal work the greater part of the first of the five books. Other Greek writers and compilers, from Eusebius onwards, have preserved many short fragments, a few being likewise extant in a Syriac or Armenian dress. Secure knowledge of the character of the text of the New Testament used by Irenæus himself can of course be obtained only from the Greek extracts and from such readings extant only in Latin as are distinctly fixed by the context; and it is solely from these materials that we have described his text as definitely Western. In the use of the Greek extracts the age and other circumstances of the several sources from which they are derived have to be considered. The Greek transmission is independent of the Latin transmission, but not always purer. Greek corruptions absent from the Latin version, due either to the use of degenerate MSS of Irenæus by late writers or to degenerate transmission of the works of these writers themselves, can often be detected in the language of Irenæus himself, and might therefore be anticipated in his quotations. But these individual ambiguities do not disturb the general results. The passages subject to no reasonable doubt render it certain that the translator largely modified biblical quotations in conformity with an Old Latin text familiar to him, but perhaps unconsciously, certainly irregularly and very imperfectly. We thus learn what antecedents to the Latin readings we have to take into account as possible where the Greek has perished, aided by the fact that passages quoted several times exhibit a text sometimes identical, sometimes modified in various degrees. Occasionally, with the help afforded by the other Old Latin evidence, we can arrive at moral certainty that the translator has faithfully reproduced his author’s reading: but more commonly the two alternatives have to be regarded as equally possible. Both texts are Western; and the evidence is valuable, whether it be that of Irenæus or virtually of a fresh Old Latin MS, though in the former case it is much more valuable. Were indeed Massuet’s commonly accepted theory true, that the Latin version of Irenæus was used by Tertullian, the biblical text followed by the translator would take precedence of all other Old Latin texts in age. We are convinced, however, not only by the internal character of this biblical text but by comparison of all the passages of Irenæus borrowed in substance by Tertullian, that the Greek text alone of Irenæus was known to him, and that the true date of the translation is the fourth century. The inferior limit is fixed by the quotations made from it by Augustine about 421.[37]

Many of the so-called distinctively Byzantine (Syrian) readings of Harry A. Sturz are found to be no such thing at all but rather a Western reading or an Alexandrian reading that has merely been modified in some way, which, in essence, is a corruption of the original text.

English Bible Versions English Bible Versions English Bible Versions

WH: 163. The Syrian conflate readings have shown the Syrian text to be posterior to at least two ancient forms of text still extant, one of them being ‘Western’, and also to have been, at least in part, constructed out of both. Patristic evidence has shewn that these two ancient texts, and also a third, must have already existed early in the third century, and suggested very strong grounds for believing that in the middle of the century the Syrian text had not yet been formed. Another step is gained by a close examination of all readings distinctively Syrian in the sense explained above, comparing them on grounds of Internal Evidence, Transcriptional and Intrinsic, with the other readings of the same passages. The result is entirely unfavourable to the hypothesis which was mentioned as not excluded by the phenomena of the conflate readings, namely that in other cases, where the Syrian text differs from all other extant ancient texts, its authors may have copied some other equally ancient and perhaps purer text now otherwise lost. In themselves Syrian readings hardly ever offend at first. With rare exceptions they run smoothly and easily in form, and yield at once to even a careless reader a passable sense, free from surprises and seemingly transparent. [bold mine] But when distinctively Syrian readings are minutely compared one after the other with the rival variants, their claim to be regarded as the original readings is found gradually to diminish, and at last to disappear. Often either the transcriptional or the intrinsic evidence is neutral or divided, and occasionally the two kinds of evidence appear to be in conflict. But there are, we believe, no instances where both are clearly in favour of the Syrian reading, and innumerable where both are clearly adverse to it.

164. The testimony of the simpler variations in which the other ancient texts are united against the Syrian reading is remarkably confirmed by that of many of those variations in which they are divided among themselves. Here one of the readings has to approve itself on transcriptional grounds by its fitness to give rise not to one but to two or more other readings, that is either to each independently or to one which will in like manner account naturally for the third (or the rest); and the failure of the Syrian reading to fulfil this condition is usually manifest. The clearest cases are those in which the immediate parent of the Syrian reading is seen to be itself in turn derived from another, so that the two steps of the process illustrate each other: not a few distinctively Syrian readings are in reality Western or Alexandrian readings, somewhat trimmed and modified.

165. To state in few words the results of examination of the whole body of Syrian readings, distinctive and non-distinctive, the authors of the Syrian text had before them documents representing at least three earlier forms of text, Western, Alexandrian, and a third. Where they found variation, they followed different procedures in different places. Sometimes they transcribed unchanged the reading of one of the earlier texts, now of this, now of that. Sometimes they in like manner adopted exclusively one of the readings, but modified its form. Sometimes they combined the readings of more than one text in various ways, pruning or modifying them if necessary. Lastly, they introduced many changes of their own where, so far as appears, there was no previous variation. When the circumstances are fully considered, all these processes must be recognised as natural. [italics mine]

166. Thus not only do the relations disclosed by the conflate Syrian readings reappear conspicuously in the much larger field of distinctively Syrian readings generally, but no fresh phenomenon claims to be taken into account, unless it be the existence of the Alexandrian text, which has its own extant attestation apart from the Syrian text. Taking these facts in conjunction with the absence of distinctively Syrian readings from the patristic evidence of the Origenian and Ante-Origenian periods, while nevertheless distinctive readings of all the texts known to have been used in the production of distinctively Syrian readings abound in the Origenian period, as also, with the possible exception of distinctively Alexandrian readings, in the Ante-Origenian period, we are led to conclude that the hypothesis provisionally allowed must now be definitively rejected, and to regard the Syrian text as not only partly but wholly derived from the other known ancient texts. It follows that all distinctively Syrian readings may be set aside at once as certainly originating after the middle of the third century, and therefore, as far as transmission is concerned, corruptions of the apostolic text.

167. The same facts lead to another conclusion of equal or even greater importance respecting non-distinctive Syrian readings, which hold a conspicuous place by their number and often by their intrinsic interest. Since the Syrian text is only a modified eclectic combination of earlier texts independently attested, existing documents descended from it can attest nothing but itself: the only authority which they can give to readings having other documentary attestation, that is to readings Syrian but not distinctively Syrian, is the authority of the Syrian text itself, which resolves itself into that of a lost ancient MS of one or possibly more of those older texts from which the Syrian text was in any given variation derived. Accordingly a reading supported both by the documents belonging to the Syrian group and by those belonging to e.g. the Western group has no appreciably greater presumption in its favour than if it were supported by the Western group alone: the only accession is that of a lost Western MS not later in date than the time when the Syrian text was formed; and in almost all cases this fact would add nothing to our knowledge of the ancestry of the reading as furnished by the Non-Syrian documents attesting it.

168. If our documents were free from all mixture except that contained in the Syrian text, that is, if no document of later origin itself combined elements from different texts, the application of this principle would be always clear and certain. Since however most of the more important documents are as a matter of fact affected by later mixture, the origin of any given reading in them can only be determined by grouping; and since grouping is sometimes obscure, a greater or less degree of doubt about the antecedents of a non-distinctive Syrian reading may in such cases remain. Thus it may be clear that a reading was first Western and then Syrian, while yet there may be a doubt whether certain of the attesting documents derived it from a Syrian or from an earlier source. If from the former, the reading must be held to be in effect distinctively Western: if from the latter, the possibility or probability of its having existed not only in the Western but in a Non-Western Pre-Syrian text has to be taken into account. These occasional ambiguities of evidence do not however affect the force or the ordinary applicability of the principle itself: and in practice the doubt is in most cases removed by Internal Evidence of Groups.[38]

“Finally, it is argued by the Byzantine protagonists that the early papyri show the local text of Egypt and not that of the other countries, especially in the Aegean Area. (Cf. §2.2.2 Robinson, “Byzantine Priority,” 569-571.)  But contrary to this hypothesis, it is evidenced that the early Egyptian papyri reflected virtually all textual clusters except the Byzantine, which has only been evidenced from the sixth and seventh centuries.[39] This perfectly fits the picture of the late origination of the Byzantine text.”

Eight Supposed Exceptions to the Rule?

Wallace in his article, The Majority Text Theory, says that “Sturz pointed out 150 distinctively Byzantine readings found in the papyri. This claim that the Byzantine text is early because it is found in the papyri (Sturz’s central thesis) has become the basis for hyperbolic claims by MT advocates. Cf. Hodges, “Defense,” 14; Pickering, Identity, 41-42; Willem Franciscus Wisselink, Assimilation as a Criterion for the Establishment of the Text: A Comparative Study on the Basis of Passages from Matthew, Mark and Luke (Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok 1989), 32-24; Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform (Atlanta: Original Word, 1991), xxiv-xxvii. But the evidence that Sturz presents is subject to three criticism: (1) Many of his readings have substantial support from other text types and are thus not distinctively Byzantine (cf. Fee’s review of Sturz [240-41]; conceded by Sturz [personal conversation, 1987]), (2) the existence of a Byzantine reading in early papyri does not prove the existence of the Byzantine text type in early papyri, and (3) whether the agreements are genetically significant or accidental is overlooked (as even Wisselink admits [Assimilation, 33]). In my examination of Sturz’s list, I found only eight Byzantine-papyrus alignments that seemed to be genetically significant; six were not distinctively Byzantine (Luke 10:21; 14:3, 34; 15:21; John 10:38; 19:11). Sturz’s best case was in Phil 1:14 (the omission of του θεου)–a reading adopted in NA27/UBSGNT4. When these factors are taken into account, the papyrus-Byzantine agreements become an insufficient base for the conclusions that either Sturz or the MT advocates build from it. For a balanced review of Sturz, see Michael W. Holmes, TrinJ n.s. 6 (1985): 225-228.—The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research Author: Daniel B. Wallace, note is #35 on pp. 718-19.

An Analogy and Observation

Suppose you are walking down a beach and in one place you find a dime, in another place you find a quarter and a nickel, and in six other place you find a couple of coins, would this lead you to think there was a bank on the beach at one time? Let us suppose that there are eight supposed exceptions to Sturz’s 150. We are talking about finding a phrase and at most a few words out of 138,000 words. Is that enough to say the Byzantine text was early in the second century? Here is the marker for plagiarism.  There is the “five (consecutive) word” rule, which holds that, if there are five consecutive words identical to someone else’s writing, then you are guilty of plagiarism.

Remember, Wallace above says that “best case was in Phil 1:14 (the omission of του θεου).” The omission of “the God” really? Out of eight that Wallace found, six of them are not even distinctively Byzantine as claimed. Below are a few other supposed examples that the later Byzantine text preserves a reading that dates from the 2nd or 3rd century and for which there supposedly had been no other early witness. Notice that under basic plagiarism rules, this would not constitute Byzantine being in any of the papyri.

Luke 11.33 for φως in א B D Θ fam 1 fam 13 pm φεγγος is read by P45 Koine 33 al.

John 10.29 for ο…μειζον in B latt boος…μειζων is read by P66 Koine fam 1 fam 13 al.

John 11.32 for προς in א B C* D L Xεις is read by P66 Koine pm.

John 13.26 for βαψας in א B C L X 33και εμβαψας is read by P66c A Θ al.

Acts 17.13 παρασσοντες is omitted by P45 Koine E al.

I Cor. 9.7 for καρπον in א* A B D* G Pεκ του καρπου is read by P46 Koine pl.

Eph. 5.9 for φωτος in א A B D* G Pπνευματος is read by P46 Koine pm.


That simply is not true. First, there is no Byzantine text until the fifth century forward. We have the Apostolic Fathers of the late first and early second centuries A.D. (e.g., Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas, and Papias) They do not have NT quotes that are of the Byzantine family, the longer version. We also have the Apologists of the early to late second century A.D. (e.g., Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian) They do not have NT quotes that are of the Byzantine family, the longer version. More specifically to our discussion, we have the prominant Church Fathers of the fourth to the fifth centuries A.D. [e.g., Cyprian of Carthage (210-258), Arnobius (died c. 330), Athanasius I of Alexandria (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373), Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313 – 386), Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444)] And yet, we have none from these.


Notice the dates

Sign Name Date Content
A (02) Codex Alexandrinus 5th Gospels
C (04) Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus 5th Gospels (mixed Byzantine/Alexandrian)
W (032) Codex Washingtonianus 5th Matt 1-28; Luke 8:13–24:53
Q (026) Codex Guelferbytanus B 5th Luke–John
061 Uncial 061 5th 1 Tim 3:15-16; 4:1-3; 6:2-8
P73 Papyrus 73 7th Matthew 25:26


  • Basil the Great of Cæsarea. d. 379. (SOME CLAIM)
  • John Chrysostom. (c. 349 – 407)
  • Cyril of Alexandria (376 – 444)
  • Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386)
  • Epiphanius of Constantia (c. 310–320 – 403)
  • Andreas of Cæsarea (c. 520 and c. 600)

SOME make the claim that the earliest Church Father to witness a Byzantine text-type in substantial New Testament quotations is John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) HOWEVER, he often departs from the developed Byzantine text of later centuries, possibly in the direction of the “Western” text.


Is the claim correct that many early translations and writings of the church fathers show they are in support of the Byzantine text?


Irenaeus (c. 130-202), a very early writer, was a Christian theologian and minister who spent his adult life defending orthodoxy and fighting heresies, writes in Against Heresies 3.10.6:“Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel Mark says: ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God’ (Mark 16:19) confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your foes Your footstool.’ (Psalm 110:1) Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein.”

Clearly Irenaeus, living about 200 years before Sinaiticus or Vaticanus were copied, KNEW the Long Ending of Mark and quotes a verse from it. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), one of the first and best apologists for the faith, in his First Apology uses words in Mark 16:20 as a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy in his examination of Psalm 110. His pupil Tatian the Syrian (c.120-180), writer and theologian, in his Diatessaron (Harmony of the Gospels) incorporates material from all the four Gospels and includes Mark 16:9-20. Hippolytus (170-235 A.D.) was a contemporary of Irenaeus. He was bishop of Portus near Rome from 190-227 A.D. In his writings in one of the fragments he quotes Mark 16:17,18 and when speaking of Christ has reference to Verse 19.

THEY GIVE Irenaeus (c. 130-202) Against Heresies 3.10.6:“Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel Mark says: ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God’ (Mark 16:19)

So, first, let’s just establish that Mark 16:9-20 is a scribal interpolation from the second century.

Bruce Metzger write, “The earliest patristic witnesses to part or all of the long ending are Irenaeus and the Diatessaron. It is not certain whether Justin Martyr was acquainted with the passage; in his Apology (I.45) he includes five words that occur, in a different sequence, in ver. 20 (τοῦ λόγου τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ ὃν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ οἱ ἀπόστολοι αὐτοῦ ἐξελθόντες πανταχοῦ ἐκήρυξαν).”[1]

Michael D. Coogan: 16:9–20 The longer ending. Possibly written in the early second century and appended to the Gospel later in the second century. These sentences borrow some motifs from the other Gospels and contain several unusual apocryphal elements.

  • 16:9–10 Mary is alone in Jn 20:1–2, 11–19. Seven demons, Lk 8:2.
  • 16:11 Lk 24:11, 22–25; Jn 20:19–29.
  • 16:12–13 Lk 24:12–35.
  • 16:13 Cf. Lk 24:34.
  • 16:14–18 Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47.
  • 16:16 Acts 2:37–42; 10:47–48; Rom 10:9.
  • 16:17–18 Exorcisms, Acts 8:6–7; 16:18; 19:11–20; new tongues, Acts 2:4–11 [note]; 10:46; 19:6; and possibly 1 Cor 12:10, 28; 14:2–33; snakes and drinking poison lack New Testament parallels.
  • 16:19–20 Jesus’ exaltation, Phil 2:9–11; Heb 1:3; taken up, Acts 1:2, 11, 22; right hand of God, Ps 110:1; Acts 7:55; Heb 1:3.[2]

The manuscript evidence shows that the Gospel originally ended at 16.8, but that the longer ending was developed by a charismatic community in the second century and  century and later added to the Gospel in the second century,  which was then included in the Vulgate growing widely accepted throughout the 5th century

NTTC MARK 16:9-20: Were These Twelve Verses Written by Mark?

CODEX SINAITICUS: End of Mark’s Gospel

CODEX VATICANUS: End of Mark’s Gospel

The Byzantine Kr/family 35 Text-Form (1261-1453 C.E.)

[1] 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), 103–104.

[2] Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford University Press, 2007), Mk 16:9–20.

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[1] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 47-48.

[2] The Updated American Standard Version (UASV) is under production by Christian Publishing House. It is by permission that we use these next few verses before it is published, as their rendering better conveys the original Greek.

[3] “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.” (Rom. 16:22) “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” (1 Pet. 5:12)

[4] People of the first three centuries sent and received letters and books from all over the Roman Empire. Hurtado has given us two examples: the Shepherd of Hermas was written in Rome and found its way to Egypt within a few decades; Irenaeus’ Against Heresies was written in Gaul and made it to Egypt (Oxyrhynchus) within short order.

[5] http://orbis.stanford.edu/

[6] This apostasy and divisiveness did not just come into the Christian congregation from nowhere. It started developing in the first century, but was restrained by apostolic authority.

[7] Macquarie University, Ancient History Documentary Research Center (AHDRC), Papyri from the Rise of Christianity in Egypt (PCE),


[8] Philip W. Comfort, The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1992).

[9] Allen Black and Mark C. Black, 1 & 2 Peter, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub., 1998), 2 Pe 3:16.

[10] 1 Clem. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

[11] Ignatius, Eph. 12:2, refers to Paul, “who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.” (Although one wonders how Ignatius thought the Ephesians were mentioned in every Pauline letter he knew.) On the evidence for 2 Clement’s knowledge of a collection, see Karl P. Donfried, The Setting of Second Clement in Early Christianity (NovTSup 38; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974), 93–95.

[12] Jack Finegan, “The Original Form of the Pauline Collection,” HTR 49 (1956) 85–104. See also Walter Schmithals, “Zur Abfassung und ältesten Sammlung der pauli nischen Hauptbriefe” [“On the Composition and Earliest Collection of the Major Epistles of Paul”], ZNW 51 (1960) 225–45.

[13] Harry Gamble, “The Redaction of the Pauline Letters and the Formation of the Pauline Corpus,” JBL 94 (1971) 403–18.

[14] Mary Lucetta Mowry, “The Early Circulation of Paul’s Letters,” JBL 63 (1944) 73–86.

[15] Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006), 302–303.

[16] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Hebrews to Revelation., vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 153.

[17] The attempt by H. von Campenhausen (“Polykarp und die Pastoralen,” repr. Aus der Frühzeit des Christentums [Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1963], 197–252) to show that Polycarp also authored the pastoral Epistles has met with little acceptance.

[18] Schoedel (Polycarp, 4–5) suggests that it is “fairly certain” that the letter “reflects more or less direct contact” with the following writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Tobit, Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1–2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1–2 Timothy, 1 John, 1 Peter, and 1 Clement. Metzger (Canon, 61–62) adds to the New Testament list 2 Thessalonians and Hebrews while deleting Acts and 2 Corinthians.

[19] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 272–273.

[20] Jack Finegan, “The Original Form of the Pauline Collection,” HTR 49 (1956) 85–104. See also Walter Schmithals, “Zur Abfassung und ältesten Sammlung der pauli nischen Hauptbriefe” [“On the Composition and Earliest Collection of the Major Epistles of Paul”], ZNW 51 (1960) 225–45.

[21] Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 114.

[22] 1 Tim. 2:2

[23] Rom. 13:7, 8

[24] Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 115.

[25] A scriptorium was a room for storing, copying, illustrating, or reading manuscripts.

[26] “The usual procedure for a dictated epistle was for the amanuensis (secretary) to take down the speaker’s words (often in shorthand) and then produce a transcript, which the author could then review, edit, and sign in his own handwriting. Two New Testament epistles provide the name of the amanuensis: Tertius for (Romans 16:22) and Silvanus (another name for Silas) for 1 Peter 5:12” Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 06.

[27] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 17-20.

[28] Theophilus means “friend of God,” was the person to whom the books of Luke and Acts were written (Lu 1:3; Ac 1:1). Theophilus was called “most excellent,” which may suggest some position of high rank. On the other hand, it simply may be Luke offering an expression of respect. Theophilus had initially been orally taught about Jesus Christ and his ministry. Thereafter, it seems that the book of Acts, also by Luke, confirms that he did become a Christian. The Gospel of Luke was partially written to offer Theophilus assurances of the certainty of what he had already learned by word of mouth.

[28] 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), 545.

[29] A connected group of Christians promotes the King James Only movement. It is their position that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations and that all English translations based on the Westcott and Hort text of 1881 (foundation text of UBS5 and NA28) are corrupt due to the influence of the Alexandrian Greek manuscripts.

[30] Letis, Theodore P. “Edward Freer Hills’s Contribution to the Revival of the Ecclesiastical Text.” Th.M. thesis, Candler School of Theology, 1987, 150-151.

[31] (Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism 1995, 76-7)

[32] B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882), 93, 107-115, 115-119.

[33] 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), xxiv.

[34] B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882), 106.

[35] IBID., 43–46.

[36] IBID., 99. 106–107.

[37] IBID., 84-85, 159–160.

[38] IBID., 1882), 115–119.

[39] Textual Clusters: Their Past and Future in New Testament Textual Criticism in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research Author: Eldon Jay Epp, pp. 541, 543.

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