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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Feb 14, 2017

In this episode Brother Jonathan discusses the Recension Theory, the Genealogical method, and the maxim "Ancient Evidence Only". Also, the marginal references to the "oldest and best" manuscripts are considered. Is there a text that is really "better"?

*The problems with the audio on the original ending of this episode have been fixed.

* Quotations in the notes are not in complete MLA format. For full citations please email: BrotherJon@remnantbiblefellowship.com

Here are the notes for this episode:

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Bible Versions Part 4: Textual Theory

  1. Intro
    1. In the last episode we discussed the differences between two methods of textual criticism, and with extensive quotes we showed that the majority view is based on nothing more than “conjectures”, “subjective judgment”, and the “individual mind of the critic”…those are their words and not mine. The view of taking the external evidence—Patristic quotations, lectionaries, other ancient versions—as the main witness of true readings is shown to be a common sense approach. The reason being obvious: if you have different manuscripts that say a verse should read two different ways there is no way for you to know for a fact why they are different. The issue isn’t even why they are different. The issue is only which is the correct reading. Without some outside source of evidence all you can do is guess. Some critics say, “Whichever reading is simpler is obviously the original—because scribes have a tendency to add things.” Other critics say, “Whichever reading is more complex is obviously the original reading—because scribes have a tendency to omit things.” The fact is there is no way to know for sure! You can’t make a broad sweeping generalization after either manner because there is no way to be sure. Some scribes, by sloppy copying, might have added some things. Other scribes, by sloppy copying, might have omitted some things. Another scribe could have done both! There is simply no way to know for sure without outside evidence.
    2. The task at hand is not to figure out how every single variant reading of the text of scripture occurred in the first place. There really is no purpose to that if that is your desire. The task at hand for these scholars should be to simply figure out which reading of a given text is the genuine one. Anything other than that is really just a waste of time.
    3. If we have a reading that has been witnessed to as genuine by Patristic quotations, lectionaries, and other versions that all pre-dated the manuscripts that we were examining we could make a very sure estimation couldn’t we? Whichever reading that would be supported by the most varied, reliable, and consistent evidence must surely contain the original reading. It’s pretty self-evident. It’s the difference between fact-based reasoning and assuming. If you’re simply looking at variants and trying to figure out which one originated first, and that’s all that you’re doing: you’re assuming.
    4. I mentioned last episode that one of the issues we were going to be focusing on in this episode is that very common marginal reference, “This verse is not in the oldest and best MSS.” I showed last time that the majority view of textual criticism is the “eclectic” method in some form or fashion. In like manner, the view that “oldest is best” is a prevailing view today amongst Bible scholars. This is the view that the oldest manuscript is obviously the one with the least amount of corruption from scribal errors, intentional changes, etc. I’ll tell you up front—all things being equal, it is a true statement. But, that statement depends on whether all things are truly equal. If you had two different manuscripts that had an equal quality of good copying, an equal reputation of good character, and equal outside witnesses to the readings that they contained by Patristic evidence, lectionaries, and other Versions—then you could safely assume that whichever is older is closer to the original reading. What you will find however is that the manuscripts to which people are referring are terrible witnesses to any reading. We’ll look at why in great detail.
    5. But there is a false representation of the state of things today. It is usually put forth as “tradition versus ancient evidence” or “old manuscripts versus new manuscripts”. As you’ll find out, the truth is not hard to find. Though, judging from some scholars’ beliefs and practices, it is for some reason hard to accept. But just as the “eclectic” method of textual criticism is shown to be unscientific and without factual evidence, the same can be said of this relatively modern view.
  2. Arguing about Terms
    1. It can be mind-numbing listening to textual critics argue. It really can be. I’m not trying to be mean or anything, but I do believe that it’s a correct statement. I said last episode that when you bring up certain things, like the idea of text-types and text-families, you get into an argument over semantics. People arguing over how to categorize groups of manuscripts. “This text is Caesarean.” “No, it’s distinctly Caesarean!” “This text is Byzantine.” “I believe it’s a neutral text.” Anyone who took a class on textual criticism thinks that they’re an expert. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but if you go on the forums and websites where these people congregate to argue all that you find is people arguing about what type of text a reading or MSS should be classified as, how did the changes originate, etc. It’s all just a waste of time.
    2. What you need to understand is that all of these terms are made-up. Someone somewhere just started lumping all of these groups of manuscripts together that shared a similar geographical origin. These groups of manuscripts usually, but not always, show a general commonality in traits. The groups that are commonly named today though, are: Western, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Neutral. Dr. Fenton J.A. Hort is the one name that is heard a lot in the conversation of the Biblical text. Before him there was Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Griesbach, along with Lachmann and Aland. These names, especially Aland and Lachmann, are had in great reputation today. Really, there has been no significant change in the realm of textual criticism in the last 140 years. We have more manuscripts now, a lot more. But the way in which people reason has not really changed at all.
    3. What you need to remember, is that these are all man-made terms. In much the same way that evolutionists say the word “species” most textual critics just argue about what text-type a manuscript is so that they can categorize it. An “eclectic” method is supposed to be better than just “lumping” because it looks at individual readings instead of whole manuscripts. The problem, as we saw last episode, is that for the most part critics just look at the two and “conjecture” (their word) about which one was first. We saw last episode that an “eclectic” text is just such a text—a text built upon conjectures. Also, by using quotes from the critics themselves I showed you that it must needs be that the majority of Bible versions made since the late 1800s have been built upon this “eclectic” method of assembling the underlying text for translation. This is the case because it’s been the majority view held by scholars since the late 1800s.
    4. But as I said last episode, even some critics who do look to outside evidence can come to the wrong conclusions by assuming one or two ideas that have no basis in fact. This is usually because these men are taught the same ideas at the same schools who read the same books. Certain notions will get you laughed out of some Bible schools and seminaries. I’ve heard of it happening to people personally. If you don’t go along with the majority view then you are laughed at and marginalized. It’s just the same regarding the text of the Bible as it is regarding the world pushing the idea of the big bang theory. And when the majority is proved to be incorrect people defend it for a time until it becomes ridiculous and then people move on to the next idea. As long as it stays away from that which will get you laughed at. So just as the evolutionists are moving away from the big bang theory to the multi-verse theory, even so all the critics have moved away from other older ideas that have been seen to be indefensible. Let’s consider two of them now.
  3. The Recension Theory
    1. Dr. F.J.A. Hort was the one to really push this idea to the extreme. It’s also referred to as the theory of conflation. What it states is that sometime in the fourth or fifth century there was a revision of the text of scripture throughout all Christendom to make a standardized text. It’s said that there is a text older than that supposed revised text that was not affected by the supposed revision and it is referred to hypothetically as the “neutral” text. You see how this idea is what strongly set forth the text-type names that are used. The so-called “conflated” (or “blown together”) text of this supposed revision was named by Dr. Hort as being the Byzantine text. For those of you who don’t know, the Byzantine text is also referred to as the Antiochan text, or the Traditional text. This was the text that underlies the King James Version of the Bible. According to Dr. Hort’s theory, the Western text was the text that prevailed in the western areas of Europe before the supposed revision; and (according to the theory) the Alexandrian text was the text that prevailed in the area around Egypt before the supposed revision.
    2. Dr. Hort argued that the Traditional text, which he also referred to as the Graeco-Syrian text, was the text that was the result of the supposed revision. He spent his time as a result trying to “find”, using an “eclectic” method of textual criticism, the theorized neutral text that had not been altered by the supposed revision. Now, why would Dr. Hort spend so much time and labor looking for that “neutral” text? What was the hard evidence that drove him to dismiss 80-90% of all available manuscript evidence in favor of a handful—yes, a handful—of manuscripts? Brace yourselves: it was because he didn’t think that 8 passages in the New Testament were supposed to be there. That’s it. He simply didn’t see why they belonged there. But on top of that, his two favorite manuscripts (Codex Aleph and codex B, called Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) differed than the traditional Byzantine text in these places.
    3. Let me state up front that this hard evidence took Drs. Westcott and Hort a total of 30 years of laborious study to identify these 8 passages. If you go through their explanation and evidence for this theory you find nothing that is fact based. Absolutely nothing. In 130 years there has been absolutely nothing to substantiate this claim. Let’s put this into perspective:
      1. According to Dr. Hort, there was a massive collecting and changing of the text of the Bible wherein the notable scholars of the day would’ve been called on to “fix” the supposed textual problems. Yet, there is not one single reference to this Christendom-wide revision anywhere in existence. It exists only in the minds of them who came up with it. Do you really think that there could be a collecting and standardizing of the text of scripture on that kind of scale and no one would say anything about it?
    4. All of this theorizing and imagining was done by Dr. Hort and others to try to explain why the Traditional Text of the scriptures occupied 80-90% of all available manuscripts. The confusion comes because they openly said, as it is openly taught today, that the traditional text was based solely on “later manuscripts”. This was in contrast in their minds to those of a different text that were supposedly older which differed from the traditional text. How do you explain that the older manuscripts (supposedly) that are available contradict 80-90% of all manuscripts? Well, you simply make up a theory and run with it. Since, there hasn’t been one particle of evidence for this theory though it has been almost totally abandoned today. It’s kind of funny though when you look at the forums where these critics talk, and if you read their books, every reason given to try and explain why the Traditional text (or Byzantine, Syrian, etc.) is the text that makes up 80-90% of all manuscript evidence except the idea that maybe it is the text that is the original text. I read one scholar say, “We really don’t know why the text is so widespread as it is.” Can you not think of any reason?
    5. Edward Miller, who edited Dean Burgon’s work, did a thorough job of examining the evidence of this theory. He sought to see if there were any quotations from early church fathers or versions before the supposed 4th century revision that Hort said resulted in the Syrian/Byzantine/traditional text. Miller examined the Greek and Latin fathers who died before 400 A.D. and found them to support the Traditional text in 2,630 instances. Dean Burgon said:
      1. “As far as the Fathers who died before 400 A.D. are concerned, the question may now be put and answered. Do they witness to the Traditional Text as existing from the first, or do they not? The results of the evidence, both as regards the quantity and the quality of the testimony, enable us to reply, not only that the Traditional Text was in existence, but that it was predominant, during the period under review.” (Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 116)
      2. Miller’s examination that resulted in those numbers was actually only taking the gospels being quoted into consideration. It also excludes doubtful quotations and spelling errors. If there was a case that was doubtful he decided against the Received text, the traditional text.
    6. This alone disproves the supposed Recension theory. In fact, in examining this theory’s validity the Traditional text of the Bible (which underlies the King James Version) actually has been proved to have witness to its widespread acceptance and use as early as the 2nd century. This has been a well-known fact for over one hundred years. It’s odd, to say the least, that the majority of Bible translations in that length of time have all but totally rejected it.
  4. The Genealogical Method
    1. This view, also popularized by Dr. Hort, is also all but totally rejected today. Primarily because it proves to be impossible. Hort conjectured according to the idea that manuscripts could be mapped out like family trees. These two manuscripts put together created this one here, and so forth. This method actually is on its face an impossibility for a number of reasons:
      1. A manuscript’s history must be completely known before one can think of anything like genealogical evidence.
      2. If there has ever been any mixture of texts it proves to be impossible.
    2. The first point is manifestly true. If you don’t know anything about where a manuscript came from then you obviously cannot make a family-tree to show its history and origin. The second point, that if there is any mixture in the text the genealogical method is useless, Dr. Hort himself admits, and openly admits in his writing that there has indeed been mixture. The results were that he didn’t apply the genealogical method to his work in the NT. Even in his writings about the genealogical method Dr. Hort didn’t cite any actual manuscripts. He only used hypothetical illustrations, and made imaginary charts to illustrate his point. The reason being obvious—there wasn’t a single real example of it. Strange though, isn’t it? Why put forth a theory which you yourself also state to be useless?
    3. Drs. Westcott and Hort plainly show why they would do something so strange. The genealogical method, as described by them, shows in their minds how that if you have 995 manuscripts that agree, and 5 that don’t agree with the majority, and you were able to prove that the 995 came from the same source, that the 995 should be taken to represent only a single witness as opposed to a majority of witnesses. The problems with this view are obvious when considering the original copies of scripture being a single manuscript themselves by which all copies must trace their origin ultimately.
    4. But you see easily what the goal is of even putting forth a notion in the first place which you must remember they themselves also admitted as being invalid and did not practice. It does away with a majority versus a minority of manuscript testimony. Think about it, if you put forth a notion that genealogical “proof” should take a majority of witnesses as one if you could show a common manuscript source, and at the same time said that there was a major revision of the text that created that majority in the first place, what would obviously be your goal? The underlying goal would be to supplant the majority with the minority. It’s important to remember that both these points put forth by Drs. Westcott and Hort have been disproven for over 120 years.
    5. This is plainly seen in their writings that at the end of 52 pages of discussing the genealogical method, which begins on page 39, on page 92 we read the following assertion, “The fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochan or Graeco-Syrian Text of the second half of the fourth century.” So by putting forth this statement Drs. Westcott and Hort actually state that the Traditional Text underlying the King James Bible actually was the dominant text of the second half of the fourth century. That is, that it was the most widely accepted and most widely used text of the scriptures. They then put forth a genealogical method which is designed to undo a majority versus minority of witnesses. Can their motive be any less clear? Their desire was to undermine the Traditional Text of the scriptures. This is actually a fact which is generally accepted by most textual critics regardless of their own views.
  5. “Most ancient evidence only”
    1. One of the best passages to turn to in order to see all the different ways that the phrase “the oldest and best manuscripts don’t have this passage” is stated is Mark 16:9-20. Perhaps in the conclusion to this series I’ll go over the supposed issues around that passage. But in my copy of the NLT the margin says, “The most reliable early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8.” In my copy of the ESV the margin says this, “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8.” In my copy of the CEB the margin says this, “In most critical editions of the Gk New Testament, the Gospel of Mark end at 16:8.” In the NASB the passage is in brackets. In my copy of the NIV, the 2008 edition, they don’t even try to hide anything. It says in the margin, “Serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style, and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark. His Gospel probably ended at 16:8, or its original ending has been lost.”
    2. That’s quite a statement! Now, what is all this based on? If someone reads that statement that the ’08 NIV has it seems to paint the picture that it’s all said and done right? Well, the NKJV’s marginal note is a little more honest. It says referring to verses 9-20, “They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.” That puts it in perspective doesn’t it! Two manuscripts are enough to throw doubt on a passage of scripture 12 verses long? Out of thousands of manuscripts, patristic quotations, lectionaries, and early versions of scripture dating to the second century—two manuscripts are enough to convince a body of scholars? Is this even conceivable? Well, maybe these are two really great manuscripts of such impeccable quality that their witness must be taken as fact.
    3. This is just one example of the idea that “oldest is best”. They refer to these two old manuscripts as “the most reliable early manuscripts” and “important early manuscripts”. Other people refer to them as “the oldest and best manuscripts”. James White refers to them as “great” in his description of them. When these two manuscripts agree that a passage of scripture is not supposed to be there you will find most critics will quickly agree with them. They are esteemed to be that important. Usually, that marginal reference that says, “This verse isn’t supposed to be there,” is usually based on these two manuscripts. Oftentimes, it is only these two manuscripts, or sometimes only one of them by itself, that will be taken as absolute in making such comments or changes. But what is it that puts that authority on them?
    4. In actuality, it is their age. For the longest time these two codices were the oldest manuscripts in existence. Now we have a few partial manuscripts that are estimated to be older. Also, the weight of these two is seen in that not only are they old, but they contain a larger part of the new testament than most other manuscripts. Both are estimated to have originated in the mid to late 4th century.
    5. Before I continue, there is some misinformation about the codex Sinaiticus. Some people openly state that it was found in a trash can at St. Catherine’s monastery about to be burned. That’s not entirely accurate. It was Tischendorf who found the codex Sinaiticus when he was visiting St. Catherine’s monastery. During his first trip there he saw monks burning copies of the Septuagint. He was able to look at them after rebuking the monks for burning them. Later, on a second trip there, he spoke to an authority in the monastery that brought the Sinaiticus manuscript out of his closet wrapped in a red cloth. What is interesting to note is the belief by some people like Bart Erhman that St. Catherine’s Monastery is actually a “manuscript gravesite” and not a library. He believes it is actually a place where manuscripts that were known to be corrupted were sent to be stored and disposed of. Now, even though Erhman himself is an apostate who has turned away from Christianity, his point still stands. The fact is that even Tischendorf himself actually stated that he saw the monks there burning copies of scripture. Just because a monastery houses something doesn’t make it authoritative. St. Catherine’s Monastery also houses a copy of the Ashtiname of Muhammad, which is the prophet of Islam.
    6. The question at hand is, are these two manuscripts of such an impeccable character that they should be given such prominence? Codex Aleph is called Sinaiticus, and codex B is called Vaticanus. Let’s consider some things about these two manuscripts that are fact:
      1. Neither manuscript was brought to light until about 1500 years after their supposed original dates.
      2. Sinaiticus (Codex Aleph) was kept in a monastery, and Vaticanus (Codex B) was kept on a library shelf, and neither was esteemed to be of any importance at all until they were “discovered” there.
      3. Aleph is esteemed to be Alexandrian in text-type, and B was esteemed by Dr. Hort to be “neutral” according to his own definition.
      4. Philip Mauro said about these two manuscripts, “It should be observed, before we proceed with this question, that the agreeing testimony (where they do agree) of the Vatican and Sinaitic MSS cannot be properly regarded as having the force of two independent witnesses; for there are sufficient evidences, both internal and external, to warrant the conclusion that these two Codices are very closely related, that they are, in fact, copies of the same original, itself a very corrupt transcript of the New Testament.” (Mauro, Which Version?, as edited by Fuller in True or False, p. 82)
      5. Dean Burgon, who spent five and a half years collating all five of the old uncial manuscripts stated, “So manifest are the disfigurements jointly and exclusively exhibited by the two codices (Vatican and Sinaitic) that, instead of accepting them as two independent witnesses to the inspired original, we are constrained to regard them as little more than a single reproduction of one and the same scandalously corrupt and comparatively late copy.” (Burgon, as quoted in True or False?, p. 74)
      6. Dr. F.H.A Scrivener published a full collation of the Codex Sinaiticus in 1864. In it he stated: “…the Codex is covered with such alterations brought in by at least ten different revisers, some of them systematically spread over every page, others occasional, or limited to separate portions of the MS, many of these being contemporaneous with the first writer, but for the greater part belonging to the sixth or seventh century.” (Mauro, Which Version?, as edited by Fuller in True or False?, p. 75)
      7. Philip Mauro, commenting on Dr. Scrivener’s statement just read, said this: “But more than that, Dr. Scrivener tells us that the evident purpose of the thorough-going revision which he places in the 6th or 7th century was to make the Ms conform to manuscripts in vogue at that time which were “far nearer to our modern Textus Receptus.” The evidential value of these numerous attempts at correcting the Sinaitic Codex and of the plainly discernible purpose of the most important of those attempts is such that, by all the sound rules and principles of evidence, this “ancient witness,” so far from tending to raise doubts as to the trustworthiness and textual purity of the Received Text, should be regarded as affording strong confirmation thereof. From these facts, therefore, we deduce: first that the impurity of the Codex Sinaiticus, in every part of it, was fully recognized by those best acquainted with it, and that from the very beginning until the time when it was finally cast aside as worthless for any practical purpose; and second that the Text recognized in those days as the standard Text, and by which the defective Codex now so highly rated by scholars was corrected, was one that agreed with our Textus Receptus.” (ibid. p. 76)
      8. Dean Burgon summed up the state of these “old uncials” very succinctly. Remember that he had collated all five of the old uncials himself, and was not taking any information from secondary sources, but indeed from his own personal examination. He had this to say of the earliest four of them: “Singular to relate, the first, second, fourth, and fifth of these codices (B, Aleph, C, and D), but especially B and aleph, have within the last twenty years established a tyrannical ascendency over the imagination of the Critics, which can only be fitly spoken of as blind superstition. It matters nothing that all four are discovered on careful scrutiny to differ essentially, not only from ninety-nine out of a hundred of the whole body of extant MSS besides, but even from one another. This last circumstance, obviously fatal to their corporate pretensions, is unaccountably overlooked. And yet it admits of only one satisfactory explanation: [viz.] that in different degrees they all five exhibit a fabricated text. Between the first two (B and aleph) there subsists an amount of sinister resemblance, which proves that they must have been derived at no very remote period from the same corrupt original. Tischendorf insists that they stand asunder in every page; as well as differ widely from the commonly received Text, with which they have been carefully collated. On being referred to this standard, in the Gospels alone, B is found to omit at least 2877 words: to add, 536: to substitute, 935: to transpose, 2098: to modify, 1132 (in all 7578):--the corresponding figures for aleph being severally 3455, 839, 1114, 2299, 1265 (in all 8972). And be it remembered that the omissions, additions, substitutions, transpositions, and modifications, are by no means the same in both. It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two MSS differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 11-12)
      9. In commenting on the lack of Patristic evidence as to the existence of codices Vatican and Sinaitic, Burgon points out that: “…Irenaeus and Hippolytus, Athanasius and Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil and Ephraem, Epiphanius and Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Isidore of Pelusium, Nilus and Nonnus, Proclus and Severianus, and the two Cyrils and Theordoret—one and all—show themselves strangers to the text of B and aleph…We read and marvel.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 290-91)
      10. Some may assert that the differences between these two manuscripts are nothing more than the result of scribal errors and time. Regarding this thought, Dean Burgon stated: “That they exhibit fabricated Texts is demonstrable. No amount of honest copying—persevered in for any number of centuries—could by possibility have resulted in two such documents. Separated from one another in actual date by 50, perhaps by 100 years, they must needs have branched off from a common corrupt ancestor, and straightway become exposed continuously to fresh depraving influences.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 318)
        1. Consider Burgon’s statement there for a minute. Contrast this with the fact that the Traditional Text, even if only measured from the 4th century, has come down to us with little variation at all over that time span of 1500 years. Dr. Hort himself admitted that the text dominant in the 4th century was essentially the Textus Receptus—the text underlying the King James Bible. You know, that text he tried to supplant.
      11. Speaking of the character of these two famous codices, Burgon states: “The impurity of the text exhibited by these codices is not a question of opinion but of fact…In the Gospels alone Codex B (Vatican) leaves out words or whole clauses no less than 1491 times. It bears traces of careless transcription on every page. Codex Sinaiticus ‘abounds with errors of the eye and pen to an extent not indeed unparalleled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-rate importance.’ On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament.” (Burgon, as quoted by Mauro, True or False?, p. 77)
      12. Now, reconsider the statements made by scholars about these “oldest and best”, “most reliable”, and “important early” manuscripts. James White is actually completely aware of all these defects, and comments in one of his books something to the effect of ‘every old manuscript is going to gather some corrections along the way’. He still refers in the appendix of that book that these two manuscripts are “great”. Could there even be a more ridiculous casting aside of reality?
      13. If these two manuscripts were witnesses to a murder that were called on to give their testimonies in a court of law, they would be excused as witnesses. Contradicting each other endlessly, changing their own testimony ten times, and showing collusion between themselves when they do agree to statements wholly contrary to every other particle of objective fact. No lawyer in their right mind would allow such terrible witnesses on the stand. Somehow though the same kind of testimony is accepted as gospel truth by scholars for over the last 100 years. It is truly remarkable to consider.
  6. The “oldest”?
    1. Now, do you remember what the issue is? “Oldest is best” right? That’s why these two manuscripts are held in such high esteem right? But is that really true? If you noticed, I have referred to a particular statement from Drs. Westcott and Hort. Let me restate it now:
      1. “The fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochan or Graeco-Syrian Text of the second half of the fourth century.”
    2. That title, the Antiochan or Graeco-Syrian Text, is what Hort called the Byzantine/Traditional Text. Notice that he says that the “fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS is beyond all question identical” with it. In other words, the Textus Receptus, which is reputed as being “only based on later manuscripts”, Dr. Hort is here admitting that it is identical with the text in question. In fact he states that it was the dominant Text of the second half of…which century? The 4th century. Now why is that interesting? It’s very interesting because Codices Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph) are dated only to the 4th century themselves. To show you that I’m not alone in putting this together, here are some quotes:
      1. “And not only so, but, at the time of the appearance of the R.V. Drs. Westcott and Hort put forth an elaborate explanation of the principles adopted by them in the making of their “New Greek Text” (which up to that time had been privately circulated among the Revisionists, and under injunctions of strictest secrecy) and in it they admitted that the Textus Receptus is substantially identical with the Text used in the Churches of Syria and elsewhere in and prior to the fourth century.” (Mauro, as quoted in True or False?, p. 67)
      2. “In this connection it should be always borne in mind that those text-makers who profess to adopt as their controlling principle the acceptance on disputed points of the testimony of ‘the most ancient manuscripts,’ have not acted consistently with that principle. For the fact is that, in the compilation of their Greek Texts they have not really followed the most ancient manuscripts, but have been controlled by two manuscripts only. Those two are followed even against the counter evidence of all other available manuscripts, amounting to over a thousand [now thousands], some of which are practically of equal age, and against the evidence also of Versions and of quotations from the writings of ‘fathers’ much older than the two Codices referred to.” (ibid. p. 73)
      3. “It is admitted on all hands that the Text used as the basis of the Authorized Version correctly represents a Text known to have been widely (if not everywhere) in use as early as the second century (for the Peschito and Old Latin Versions, corroborated by patristic quotations afford ample proof of that). On the other hand it is not known that the two Codices we are discussing represent anything but copies of a bad original, made worse in the copying.” (ibid. p. 82)
      4. “My thesis is then that it was B (Vaticanus) and Aleph (Sinaiticus) and their forerunners with Origen who revised the ‘Antioch’ text.” (Fuller, Which Bible?, pp. 66-7)
    3. The witnesses for the Traditional Text, which underlies the King James Bible, go back to the second century. It has widespread witness varying in time, region, reliability, and continuity down through 1800 years of transmission. It was the textual family trusted by the Reformers. Whereas, the two great uncials Codices B and Aleph, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus respectively, have come to us with no known history, readings unique to themselves, readings which regularly contradict each other, belonging to the textual family propagated by Roman Catholicism (hence the name Vaticanus for B), little to no patrisitic support, little to no lectionary support, little to no early version support, dating no earlier than the 4th century, and not held in any importance until the mid-19th century when they were discovered sitting on a shelf and sitting in an obscure monastery’s closet.
    4. I have too much reverence for God’s Word to entertain the silliness of accepting such manuscripts as codices B and Aleph as reliable witnesses to anything but their own corruption.
    5. So take your pick as to which kind of text you’d like. People who spend their time looking into the divining cup of eclecticism and textual criticism rarely come out unscathed in their faith. Listen to the names of these noted textual critics:
      1. “As early as 1908 Rendell Harris declared that the New Testament text had not at all been settled but was more than ever, and perhaps finally, unsettled.”
      2. “Two years later Conybeare gave it as his opinion that ‘the Ultimate’ (New Testament) text, if there ever was one that deserves to be so called, is forever irrecoverable.”
      3. “And in 1941 Kirsopp Lake, after a lifetime spent in the study of the New Testament text, delivered the following judgment: ‘In spite of the claims of Westcott and Hort and of von Soden, we do not know the original form of the Gospels, and it is quite likely that we never shall.”
      4. “In 1937, for example, F.G. Kenyon revived Griesbach’s contention that the text of the New Testament had not been as accurately preserved as the texts of other ancient books.”
      5. “As G. Zuntz (1953) remarks, ‘the optimism of the earlier editors has given way to that [skepticism] which inclines towards regarding ‘the original text’ as an unattainable mirage.’ H. Greeven (1960) also has acknowledged the uncertainty of the naturalistic method of New Testament textual criticism. ‘In general,’ he says, ‘the whole thing is limited to probability judgments; the original text of the New Testament, according to its nature, must be and remain a hypothesis.”
      6. “And R.M. Grant (1963) expresses himself still more despairingly. ‘The primary goal of New Testament textual study,’ he tells us, ‘remains the recovery of what the New Testament writer wrote. We have already suggested that to achieve this goal is well nigh impossible.”
    6. Do some homework into textual criticism and you will find that its origins are had in Roman Catholicism as a means of undermining the scriptural authority propagated by the Reformers. It was also greatly influenced by German rationalism and naturalism. You go down through the list of noted textual critics and these end up rejecting any idea that the Bible came from anywhere other than the minds of men. What do you expect when you enter into a system that offers you nothing but conjecture? Established facts being traded in for subjective judgments: because that’s all that eclectic textual criticism offers you.
    7. Do you not think that those subtle marginal notes affect people’s faith? A man named Craig Thompson wrote an autobiography of his growing up in a supposed Evangelical Christian home. It was ranked by Time magazine as number one on its best comics list in 2003, and number eight on its list of best comics of the decade. It was written as his way of coming out to his parents as no longer being a Christian. Throughout the work he details abuse, his own sexual misconduct, and plenty of references to Church, and he actually begins studying to enter ministry. It’s clear from the work that he heard a false gospel of “go to heaven, it’s a lot better than hell, don’t you want to be happy!” The Gospel should not be presented like a Prozac commercial. But what is notable is that he mentions, and pictures, the marginal notes in an NIV Bible. He has a discussion with his pastor about the book of Ecclesiastes, and it ends with this:
      1. “[Pastor] Frankly, it may be that scribes “tacked” their own comments on to the original text over centuries of transcribing. But don’t let that discredit God’s Word. Instead, recognize this as a growth process of the Bible.”
      2. “[Craig is thinking] Growth process? This I couldn’t accept. I had been taught the words of the Bible came straight from the mouth of God. If indeed they were subtly modified by generations of scribes and watered down by translations, then—for me—truth was cancelled out.”
    8. The whole book seems designed to slander Biblical Christianity and overthrow the faith of young Christians. Because who reads graphic novels? Young people read graphic novels. The pastor in the book gives a typical response from the school of textual criticism: “Scribes tacked stuff on.” The young man’s response was, “If indeed they were subtly modified by generations of scribes and watered down by translations, then—for me—truth was cancelled out.” I do wonder how many youth groups teach out of study Bibles that give those same marginal references and comments.
  7. In closing
    1. In closing, I’ll just end with the concluding paragraphs from Wilbur Norman Pickering’s excellent work on John William Burgon and the New Testament:
      1. “When all the evidence has been fully assimilated so as to make possible a definitive decision for each variant, the Textus Receptus will probably be found to need correction in between 500 and 1,000 places throughout the whole New Testament, the great majority of the errors being of a minor sort—many of them would not make a difference in a translation. By contrast, any of the ‘critical’ editions will be found to differ some 5,000 times from the Traditional Text—a large number being serious differences. And so I venture to hold, now that the question has been raised, both the learned and the well-informed will come gradually to see, that no other course respecting the Words of the New Testament is so strongly justified by the evidence, none so sound and large-minded, none so reasonable in every way, none so consonant with intelligent faith, none so productive of guidance and comfort and hope, as to maintain against all the assaults of corruption the Traditional Text.” (Pickering, as quoted in True or False?, p. 305)