Ever wondered about where we get our Bibles from? It is imperative that we can know and believe that the Bible in our own language is truth and not riddled with error as some people openly say! Please read this excellent compilation by Lee Brainard!

I. Textual Critical Notes

A. It is often asserted that the King James Bible is based on inferior manuscripts and that the modern versions, as the NASB and the NIV, are based on superior manuscripts. This is simply not true.

B. It is often asserted that the modern versions, as the NASB and the NIV, are based on the oldest manuscripts. This is misleading. They are based on the readings of the oldest uncials. They are not based on the oldest textual evidence. The earliest evidence, the early versions and the early fathers, favor the manuscript tradition behind the King James Bible.

C. There are three main schools of textual criticism:

1) The “Revisers” school (sometimes called the “Egyptian” school)

a. Represented in the UBS (United Bible Society) Greek New Testament and modern versions like NASB and NIV.

b. Advocated in the works of WH (Westcott and Hort) and numerous modern authors.

c. Heavily favors five old uncials—À (Aleph), A, B, C, D—at the expense of other evidence.

d. À and B are treated as virtually infallible. When these two agree, or when one is joined by any other uncial, the reading is generally adopted.

e. The spirit of this school is looking for any excuse to adopt readings outside the traditional Byzantine text.

f. Sometimes readings found only in À, B, or D are received as the true reading. This is not textual criticism but a subtle divination of the text.

g. Sometimes the vagaries of scribes are regarded as legitimate variant readings.

h. Differences between these five texts are studiously ignored, especially when some of them side with the Byzantine reading.

i. This is not textual criticism that candidly weighs evidence. It is prejudice that cannot candidly weigh evidence.

j. The Westcott and Hort approach is the “politically correct” position of the day.

2) The Byzantine textual tradition school

a. Represented in the Majority Text edition of the Greek New Testament and in Robinson and Pierpont’s Byzantine Majority edition of the Greek New Testament.

b. Advocated in the works of Dean Burgon and Wilbur Pickering.

c. Looks for the majority reading of all ancient evidence, including all mss, fathers, and translations.

d. Argues that the best mss. were read until tattered and then replaced, and that this is why there are so few early Byzantine mss., and why existing Byzantine mss. tend to be later.

e. The early fathers and the early version tend to support the readings of the Byzantine tradition. This validates the theory that the missing early Byzantine mss. were read until they were tattered and tossed.

e. The canons of this school: antiquity, number, catholicity (same reading from various families), weight or respectability of witnesses, continuity, context, internal evidence.

f. This textual approach defends almost every disputed passage and word in the King James which is rejected by the Revisers (past and present) and the modern versions.

3) The Textus Receptus (King James Only) school

a. Represented in the Textus Receptus editions of the Greek New Testament and the King James Bible.

b. Advocated in the works of David Otis Fuller, D. A. Waite, etc. (They often quote Burgon, and claim him for their position, but they are mistaken, as can be verified by anyone who candidly reads Burgon.)

c. Based on a small subgroup of texts in the Byzantine tradition. In the first edition of the TR, represented by Erasmus’ 1516 text, the text was collated from 5 mss.

d. Portions of Revelation in Erasmus’ original TR were translated from the Latin Vulgate into Greek because they were missing in his mss.

e. The small collection of texts the TR is based on are more closely related to the mss. tradition behind the Latin Vulgate than the Byzantine texts in general. Because of this the TR shares several unique readings with the Latin Vulgate, primarily 1 John 5:7 and several passages in Revelation, that are not found in the main body of the Byzantine texts. Some of these Latin Vulgate family readings are also shared with the Revisers.

f. There are over 60 different editions of the TR with numerous differences. Many vagaries in the early editions were emended in the later editions.

g. The TR school and the Byzantine school stand shoulder to shoulder against the corruptions of the Greek Text introduced by the Revisers (past and present) except in the matter of the few Vulgate family readings that the TR embraces and the Byzantine rejects.

D. How well established is the text of the NT?

1) Less than one percent of the text is involved in any significant textual question.

2) Vast majority of textual variations are minutiae with no difference in meaning: spelling, de, and word order.

3) Text of the NT 10 times better established than Josephus, Aristotle or Homer.

4) There are less than 3 dozen verses of the NT that are not found cited in the early fathers.

5) In the Byzantine tradition the variations between the earliest mss and the later mss are relatively and surprisingly few. 

E. Actual character of À, A, B, C, D.

All. Filled with blunders, perversions, and interpolations. As much discord with each other as with any Byzantine text. In no disputed passage are all 5 texts in agreement. Typically some of them agree with the Byzantine text.

D. (Codex Bezae) Most depraved text by far, filled with interpolations found nowhere else, not in the mss, nor in the editions, nor in the fathers. Compares to the NT text in much the same way that the Chaldee Targums (loose interpretative paraphrases of the OT) compare to the Hebrew text of the OT.

À. (Codex Sinaiticus) Next most depraved text. Shows the hands of atleast ten correctors who made corrections towards the Byzantine. Rescued from the trash bin of a convent at the foot of Mt. Sinai (in the Sinai Peninsula) by Tischendorf where it was no doubt tossed because the correctors finally gave up on it. Has 1460 readings peculiar to itself in the Gospels alone. Contains apocryphal books.

B. (Codex Vaticanus) A depraved text not far behind À. Anciently relegated to a forgotten shelf in the Vatican. Has 589 readings peculiar to itself in the Gospels alone. Two correctors made extensive corrections towards the Byzantine.

C. (Ephraim Rescriptus) This text is a palimpsest (erased and recopied). It was erased and written over with the works of Ephraem the Syrian. This indicates that the underlying NT text was not valued by the early church.

A. (Alexandrian Codex) Least corrupted of the five, though still a depraved text. Contains apocryphal books.

F. The believer’s responsibility in textual criticism is that of jury not expert witness. We have the ability, with a few evenings of study and thought, comparing the claims of the Revision advocates, the Byzantine advocates, and the TR advocates, to form an intelligent assessment of the major points of the dispute and come to reasonable conclusions.

G. Many of the unique variant readings preserved in À, A, B, C, D can be traced to dubious sources which abounded in the 4th and 5th centuries.

a. Heretics like Marcion, Valentinus, and Basilides intentionally perverted the Greek text, much like the Watchtower intentionally perverts the English to defend their heresies.

b. Tatian created confusion with his Diatessaron, by which verses from one Gospel were assimilated into another.

c. The conservatives purged these interpolations and changes from the text between the 4th and the 8th centuries.

H. 1 Timothy 3:16, qeoV ejanerwqh en sarki, “God was manifest in the flesh”

1) The early manuscripts were uncials. This means they were written in all capital letters.

2) “God” was often written in the abbreviated form qS with a contraction line over the top, e.g. qS. This was very similar to OS “who.” In the uncials the theta q and the omicron O were often of a similar diameter unlike the fatter omicron in this Greek font. 

3) The entire Byzantine majority M has “God” in 1 Tim. 3:16 while only the Latin and the eclectic text Є of the UBS Greek Text has “which” or “who.” (Є in 1 Timothy is À, A, and C)

4) Moreover, the eclectic text Є does not actually have this reading:

a. A was observed by over a dozen competent scholars between 1628 and 1741 to have a theta with a clear diameter. As late as 1861 Scrivener, who examined A 20 times, still saw the faint diameter. Moreover, a missing diameter in A means nothing. A regularly has faint or missing theta diameters so that theta that cannot be told from omicron except by context.

b. C has the contraction line over the two letters, indicating that qS “theos” and not OS “os” is to be understood, though the diameter in the theta q is no longer visible.

c. The original hand of À had “who” but it was corrected to “God” by a later hand.

d. The original hand of D had “which” but it was corrected to “God” by a later hand.

e. F and G, cited in modern Greek editions as “who” evidence, had the contraction line over the qS, in other words, they actually support the reading “God.”

f. The manuscripts of 1 Timothy are 125 to 1 in favor of “God.”

g. The citations of the early fathers are almost unanimously in favor of “God manifest in the flesh.”

h. This appears to be an ancient confession of faith—“Great is the mystery of [true] religion, God was manifest in the flesh…”

i. The relative pronoun doesn’t make sense in the context. What follows is then grammatical jarble. The spiritual minded man can still catch the true drift of the argument, but the argument is marred.

I. The longer ending of Mark—16:9-20

1) Only two mss leave out, À and B.

2) 18 uncials, 600 cursives, every known lectionary of the East, 10 ancient versions, and citations from 19 fathers all defend the authenticity and integrity of this passage.

3) The passage is historical fact. These signs did follow the original believers in the early church who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by supernatural sign gifts (not to be confused with spiritual edification gifts). These supernatural signs will again follow believers in the 70th week when the prophecy of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Joel, etc.) is exhaustively fulfilled.

Material compiled primarily from the works of Dean John William Burgon, arguably the greatest textual scholar of all time.

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