LAYING THE FOUNDATION
FOR THE TRUE GREEK NT
We have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, from various parts of
the Roman world of the time. Some of these manuscripts have
certain things in common with each other, and so as the Textual
critics study them it is like dividing a whole bunch of apples.
There are many types of apples, there is the "delicious" and
there is the "macintosh" or the "spartan" etc. Having to sort
out a huge bin full of apples would mean you would soon recognize
and put together all the "delicious" in one basket and all the
"macintosh" into another basket. Well so it is with sorting out
all the huge box full of Greek manuscripts. The Textual scholars
notice the ones that are obviously from the same family and put
them together. Hence we have the Greek manuscripts divided up
Here is what Lightfoot says, ".....Further study of these
manuscripts shows that some habitually agree in their readings.
They are evidently derived from a common ancestor and are called
a 'family.' These families of manuscripts have arisen at
different times and under varying conditions. Within certain
limits, their origins can be traced back to different quarters of
the world: some to Alexandria in Egypt and are known as
'Alexandrian' ; others to Antioch of Syria, designated as
'Syrian' or 'Byzantine' ; and still others to Western Europe,
which are termed 'Western' ; and so on. Since these various
groups represent the wide range of textual variants, it is safe
to conclude that whenever several important families agree on a
given reading, this amounts to textual certainty" (How We Got the
The last sentence by Lightfoot is important. If you have
"families" of manuscripts agreeing on a reading, then you have
MAJORITY claim for that reading being the true and original
reading. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER AS WE CONTINUE IN OUR
STUDY. With all the thousands of Greek manuscripts of the NT it
should be logical that if the majority agree(crossing all family
bounds), then it would be safe to conclude we have the true text,
and the true words of God as preserved in the Greek language.
This form of Textual Criticism is called today the MAJORITY TEXT
and is really the only true way to examine and correctly decide
upon the original words of the Greek NT.
From what we have seen so far in our study of the
preservation of the NT, this is how the Eternal God had decided
to preserve His NT word, with thousands of Greek copies from the
originals, with MAJORITY evidence from the manuscripts, from
other versions in other languages of those copies, from men who
quoted in their writings much of the NT Scriptures(so-called
"church fathers"), and so the true words of God as given
in the writing of the NT would be established. In this
particular case, God was seeing to it that the MAJORITY would
rule and have the final say. The Lord had decided He would
not leave the NT words in the hands of one man or a few men in
the Church of God to hold them and preserve them. The NT
Scriptures were not given per se to the Church of God to
preserve. They were preserved in the thousands of Greek
manuscripts, but some CHAFF crept in among the WHEAT, and that
chaff must be found and thrown out so only the pure wheat - the
bread of life - can remain to be eaten.
Four "family" groups of the Greek manuscripts
It will be helpful to outline the four basic family groups
that Textual scholars talk about the most. To do this I will
quote from the book "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New
Testament" by Bruce M. Metzger. From his "introduction" we read:
".......The ALEXANDRIAN TEXT......Characteristics of the
Alexandrian text are brevity and austerity. That is, it is
generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not
exhibit the degree of grammatical and stylistic polishing that is
characteristic of the Byzantine and, to a lesser extent, of the
Caesarean type text. Until recently the two chief witnesses to
the Alexandrian text were codex VATICANUS and codex SINAITICUS
parchment manuscripts dating from about the middle of the fourth
(Note: This is the family group that contains these two
infamous manuscripts that Westcott and Hort idolized so much, and
which most of the modern NT translations are based upon, when
there is a difference from them and the majority texts. These
two manuscripts are so worshipped by many modern textual critics
they often say as does Metzger in his book, "is usually
considered to be the best and most faithful in preserving
the original." We shall see later that NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER
FROM THE TRUTH as that idea penned by Metzger and repeated by
others continually. We shall have much to say concerning those
two famous manuscripts later - Keith Hunt).
.......The WESTERN TEXT, which was widely current in Italy and
Gaul as well as in North Africa and elsewhere (including
Egypt)......The most important Greek manuscript that present a
Western type of text are codex Bezae of the fifth
century......codex Claromontanus of the sixth century.....codex
Washingtonianus of the late fourth or early fifth century.
Likewise the Old Latin versions are noteworthy witnesses to a
Western type of text......The chief characteristic of Western
readings is fondness to PARAPHRASE. WORDS, CLAUSES, and even
WHOLE SENTENCES are FREELY CHANGED, OMITTED, or INSERTED....In
the book of Acts the problems raised by the Western text
become most acute, for the western text of Acts is nearly TEN
PERCENT LONGER than the form which is commonly regarded to be the
original text of the book.......
(Note: Ah, this family of texts contains that also infamous
codex "Bezae." Earlier in a study in this series we saw how that
codex contains some really strange and off the wall sentences.
So this family of texts looks like it contains more chaff than it
does wheat - Keith Hunt).
......The CAESAREAN TEXT, which seems to have originated in
Egypt.....was brought, perhaps by Origen, to Caesarea, where it
was used by Eusebius and others. From Caesarea it was carried to
Jerusalem, where it was used by Cyril and by Armenian.......Thus
it appears that the Caesarean type of text has had a long and
checkered career.......is characterized by a DISTINCT MIXTURE OF
WESTERN READINGS AND ALEXANDRIAN READINGS.......
(Note: If you know the truth about the fellow called Origen,
then the use of this family of texts by him would make it
questionable to begin with, then add that it is a mixture of both
the Western and Alexandrian type texts and you really have a
bunch of chaff worthy in the most part to be blown away from the
wheat - Keith Hunt).
.......The BYZANTINE TEXT, otherwise called the SYRIAN
text.....the KOINE text.....the ECCLESIASTICAL text.....and the
ANTIOCHIAN text.....is, on the whole, the latest of the several
distinctive types of text of the NT. It is characterized chiefly
by LICIDITY and COMPLETENESS......produced perhaps at Antioch in
Syria, was taken to Constantinople, whence it was distributed
widely throughout the Byzantine Empire. It is best represented
today by codex Alexandrinus......the later uncial manuscripts,
and the GREAT MASS OF MINUSCULE manuscripts. Thus......during the
period from about the sixth or seventh century down to the
invention of printing with moveable type(A.D.1450-56), the
Byzantine form of text was GENERALLY REGARDED AS THE
AUTHORITATIVE FORM OF TEXT AND WAS THE ONE MOST WIDELY CIRCULATED
AND ACCEPTED.....The first edition of the printed Greek
Testament, issued at basel in 1516, was prepared by Desiderius
Erasmus......(Note: Metzger goes on to show what Erasmus based
his Greek on, and how he had to depend on Jerome's Latin Vulgate
for certain parts. As he shows the end result is that some verses
of Erasmus' Greek have never been found in any Greek manuscript.
And this error has been re-produced over the centuries by
claiming and printing Erasmus' Greek as the "Textus Receptus"
which it really is not - Keith Hunt).
.......In 1550 Stephanus published at Paris his third
edition......It is the first printed Greek testament to contain a
critical apparatus: on the inner margins of its pages Stephanus
entered variant readings from fourteen greek manuscripts, as well
as readings from another printed edition, the Complutensian
Polyglot. Stephanus' fourth edition (Geneva, 1551).....contains
two Latin versions (the Vulgate and that of Erasmus)......
Theodore Beza published no fewer than nine editions of the
Greek Testament between 1565 and 1604, and a tenth edition
appeared posthumously in 1611......The translators of the
authorized or King James Bible of 1611 made large use of Beza's
editions of 1588-89 and 1598.......
(Note: The popular so-called Textus Receptus that first
appeared under Erasmus was not the full received text as those in
the Byzantine Empire had preserved and used for centuries. Some
minor changes were made from time to time after the days of
Erasmus, but even to this day in many editions of the KJV the
complete corrections have not been made. The large part of
Erasmus' Greek Testament was taken from the manuscripts of the
Byzantine family, but not all, and he did resort to Jerome's
Vulgate, and so many of those weak and "not founded on any Greek
manuscript" words, found themselves carried over into the KJV of
1611, and so even to this day. The KJV is not without its errors,
but as we shall see it was still based upon more reliable
manuscripts than today's modern translations that comes from the
Alexandrian family which house the Vaticanus and Sinaitic
manuscripts - Keith Hunt).
Where are we today?
So we have 5,000 plus Greek manuscripts, most of them come
under the Byzantine family house, which were the accepted and
received text of those in the Byzantine Empire for centuries.
Then we have the Erasmus Greek Testament, which used the Vugate,
but became known as the "Textus Receptus" and even found its way
into the KJV of 1611, so it's not 100% pure. Then you have many
of the modern translations based upon the two manuscripts of the
Vaticanus and Sinaitic from the Alexandrian family, which I shall
show are two of the most untrustworthy Greek manuscripts around.
So where do we stand? Textual Criticism by the scholars HAS
BEEN and STILL IS ......MOVING.......the word of God was there in
the accepted Greek manuscript texts under the Byzantine Empire,
it encountered the slipping in of errors under Erasmus and others
following, some were corrected in the process of time, but the
correction is still taking place today under the MAJORITY TEXT.
As all this has been going on there was in the late 19th
century a movement by many into the narrow clutches of the
Vaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts, but now there is a growing
scholastic movement away from this narrow mind-set view, as many
begin to realize more and more the real truth of the matter
concerning these two very questionable manuscripts.
Here is what the Personal Study Edition (1990, 1995) of the
NKJV has to say on all this:
The NT Text
There is more manuscript support for the NT than for any
other body of ancient literature. Over five thousand Greek, eight
thousand Latin, and many more manuscripts in other languages
attest the integrity of the NT.......The King James NT was based
on the traditional text of the Greek-speaking churches, first
published in 1516 and later called the Texus Receptus or Received
Text (Note: We have seen above some of the details concerning
this "received text" and that it was based also upon the Vulgate
- Keith Hunt).
....In the late nineteenth century, B.Wescott and F.Hort
taught that this text had been officially edited by the
fourth-century church, but a TOTAL LACK OF HISTORICAL
EVIDENCE for this event has forced a revision of the theory.
(Note: Let me explain exactly what is being said here. The
Vaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts were discovered in the 19th
century, and Westcott and Hort began to worship at their feet.
They claimed these were earlier dated than the other manuscripts
preserved by the Greek church, and should then be taken as more
correct. Hence they taught the Greek manuscripts had been
officially edited, shorted, with many words and verses taken out,
by the fourth-century church. They claimed these manuscripts were
then the official Greek text. As there has never been any
historical evidence from anywhere to back such a statement by
Westcott and Hort, a revision to the contrary has been forced on
the theory. We shall look at Westcott and Hort later and discover
more of their wild crazy theological theories and beliefs - Keith
It is now WIDELY HELD that the Byzantine Text that largely
support the Textus Receptus has as much right as the Alexandrian
or any other tradition to be weighed in determining the text of
Since the 1800's MOST of the contemporary translations of
the NT have relied upon a RELATIVELY FEW manuscripts DISCOVERED
chiefly in the LATE nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Such translations DEPEND primarily on TWO manuscripts, Codex
Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.....The Greek text obtained by
using these sources and the related papyri.....is known as the
Alexandrian Text. HOWEVER, some scholars have grounds for
DOUBTING the faithfulness of Vanticanus and Sinaiticus, since
they OFTEN DISAGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER, and Sinaiticus exhibits
EXCESSIVE OMISSIONS (Note: I will give you more detail in the
next article on the huge unfaithfulness of these two manuscripts
- Keith Hunt).
A THIRD viewpoint of the NT scholarship (Note: the first
being the texts used by Erasmus and those after him, the second
being the texts of Wescott and Hort in the late 19th century -
Keith Hunt) holds that the BEST TEXT IS BASED ON THE CONSENSUS
OF THE MAJORITY OF EXISTING GREEK MANUSCRIPTS. This text is
called the Majority Text. MOST OF THESE manuscripts are in
substantial AGREEMENT. Even though many are late, and none is
earlier than the fifth century, USUALLY their readings are
VERIFIED by papyri, ancient versions, quotations from the early
church fathers, or a combination of these. The MAJORITY TEXT is
SIMILAR to the Textus Receptus, but it CORRECTS those readings
which have little or no support in the Greek manuscript
tradition (Note: This would correct those words or verses that
came into the KJV via the Vulgate of Jerome through Erasmus and
others who copied him - Keith Hunt).
TODAY, scholars agree that the science of NT textual
criticism is in a STATE OF FLUX. Very few scholars still favor
the Textus Receptus as such.......For about a century most have
followed a Critical Text......which depends heavily upon the
Alexandrian type text (Note: The Westcott and Hort text). MORE
RECENTLY many have abandoned this Critical Text(which is quite
similar to the one edited by Westcott and Hort) for one that is
more ECLECTIC(CHOOSING FROM VARIOUS SOURCES, not following one
system but selecting and using what seems best from all systems).
FINALLY, a small but GROWING number of scholars prefer the
Majority Text, which is CLOSE to the TRADITIONAL text except in
End of quote from NKJV, Personal Study Bible, section "Preface."
In the next article on this subject of HOW we got the Bible,
I will take you behind the scenes, what most do not know, and
what most are never told about those "come-along lately"
manuscripts of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and the two fellows who
pushed them on to the Christian world, Westcott and Hort. You
will be surprised at their theological views.
To be continued
Written January 1998