Lesson Two: Presenting Some Basics
In our first lesson we began with a Biblical starting point for the study of textual criticism and a proper understanding of the doctrine of preservation. Our conclusion consequently agrees with the Psalmist in saying “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” (Ps. 119:140).
We can see this principle of preservation of both the text and the translation of the New Testament itself. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, the Apostle makes reference to the holy scriptures:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
Here, Paul tells Timothy that he has known the holy scriptures ever since he was a child. Yet, we must recognize that all Timothy had were copies and translations of the original Hebrew texts. Young Timothy did not have access to the original autographs of any of the Old Testament writers. In the preservation of God, Paul refers to these copies as holy scriptures. It would be unbiblical of us to think less of the word of God today.
How unfortunate that we find ourselves in a debate over this issuewith born-again Christian scholars and teachers. When we say, “Thy word is very pure,” the born-again translator says of translations, “None is perfect, but the poorest is better than none.” (Jack Lewis, The English Bible, 1981, p. 365).
The real difference lies in the approach taken. The passage in Timothy states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The tense of this verse demonstrates the difference between the Bible-believing Christian and modern scholarship. The Bible-believer agrees that all scripture IS given. The modern conservative scholar believes it WAS given. It is our conviction that God used the correct tense, and that the modern scholar is incorrect.
There are many issues which arise concerning the preservation of Scripture. Several of these will be covered in the upcoming lessons. We will look at the various lines of manuscripts and a history of both Biblical preservation and those who sought to correct it (2 Cor. 2:17). We will also note several of the differences between modern versions and the Authorized Version. We will discuss text types and bring to light the debate concerning the differences in texts. We will also observe some of the argumentation raised by modern scholars and address their concerns. However, we must first lay a foundation of basic understanding in regard to textual criticism. It is with that purpose in mind that we begin this lesson.
The Bible was not originally written in English. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. However, we no longer have any of these original manuscripts. The attempt to reconstruct what was originally given is the study of textual criticism.
There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient writing. To date, we have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, and over 9,000 manuscripts of ancient translations of the New Testament. Where these manuscripts disagree, it is called a textual variance. For the purpose of this class, we are concerned with the manuscripts and their variance as they relate to the New Testament.
It is important to make basic definitions of terms. This will allow the student to comprehend what is communicated and recognize when others are using terms improperly.
By originals or autographs we do not mean copies. We mean what was originally penned by the original writers of the Old and New Testaments. We no longer have any of these autographs. Only copies remain.
By manuscripts we mean handwritten copies of the originals or copies of copies. They are written by hand and thus called manuscripts. They may be whole books, portion of books, or fragments.
Greek Texts does not mean the original Greek nor does it mean the Greek manuscripts. It means a Greek New Testament that has been reconstructed by various manuscripts and other sources. Since manuscripts differ, and sources disagree, we have a variety of Greek Texts. Some of these are Stephanus Greek Text, Beza’s Greek Text, Elzevir’s Greek Text, Westcott and Hort Greek Text, Nestle’s Greek Text, and the United Bible Society’s Greek Text.
The history of New Testament manuscripts is divided, roughly, into three periods: papyrus, vellum, and paper. The manuscripts we have were written on one of these three, and often reflect the date of the manuscript.
Papyrus is made from the papyrus plants, which grew in abundance in Egypt. The inner bark of the plant was cut into thin strips and were laid side by side and then crossed with other strips. They were then pressed together and sun dried. The papyrus was, for the most part, written only on one side and bound together in rolls. The custom was to write in very narrow columns that had no separation of words, accents marks, or punctuation. So, Philippians 1:1-2 would read something like this:
(Just as a side note, one can see from this example that the early scribes were not concerned with making an easy to read translation or text of the Bible.)
Paragraphs were marked with a line in the margin of the text. A line in the margin meant a new paragraph was beginning. (The Greek word para means beside, and the Greek word graph means writing. Thus, paragraph.) The papyrus manuscripts are very fragile. Most of what we have are fragments. This period lasted until the seventh century.
Next, we have the manuscripts written on vellum (or in some cases on parchment). This covers the period from about the end of the third century to the fifteenth century. The narrow columns that were used in the papyrus manuscripts were maintained in the vellum manuscripts. Vellum are dried animal skins which were cut into leaves and formed into a book. In textual criticism, a book is called a codex. Some vellum manuscripts maintain the same style of writing used in papyrus manuscripts. This style is referred to as uncials, which consists of all capital letters written without accent marks, punctuation, or separation of words or sentences. Later, around the ninth century, the use of small letters with spacing between words was used. These manuscripts are referred to as minuscules or cursive.
Manuscripts written on paper cover from about the fourteenth century to the present. Up until this period, it was rare to have a complete Bible in one book. Most of the papyrus and vellum manuscripts are fragments, passages, or maybe a book of the New Testament. But, in the thirteenth century whole books containing all or most of the New Testament became common.
SOURCES FOR NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS:
There are three classes of evidence used by textual critics in the reconstruction of the New Testament. (I use the term reconstruction because it is a term used by textual critics. However, I personally do not believe the New Testament needs to be reconstructed in the common use of the word because I do not believe it was ever lost.)
First, the main source for reconstructing the New Testament comes from Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts exist in the forms listed above. There are variances in all Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts are classified into one of four families, or textual types.
1) The Byzantine Text. The name is derived from the Byzantine Empire because it is the type of text copied by Byzantine monks. Most manuscripts are of this family. In fact, there are far more manuscripts of this type than of the other three combined. For this reason the family is sometimes called the Majority Text. This line of manuscripts would also reflect the Greek Texts used to translate the King James Bible. This textual line is also called the Traditional Text.
2) The Alexandrian Text. The name comes from Alexandria, Egypt, where most of these texts were prepared by scribes. It is from this family of manuscripts most modern version are based. The three main manuscripts of this family are Alexandrinus (5th century), Sinaiticus (4th century), and Vaticanus (4th century).
3) The Western Text. There is a debate among scholars if this is a real family of manuscripts or not. Some believe it reflects a different family. Others believe the differences are so minor that they do not deserve a classification of their own.
4) The Caesarean Text. This family seems to be a mixture of the above family of manuscripts. Some believe it was derived in Egypt by Origen and brought to Caesarea. Because it is a mixture, some question if this also should be classified as a family.
For the most part, therefore, there are two main families of manuscripts. It is the differences between these two lines that make for the majority of the difference in modern translations and the King James Version. When one takes the Textus Receptus, which was based on the Byzantine line of manuscripts, and compares it with the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament, which was based on the Alexandrian line of manuscripts, there are close to 6,000 differences within the two Greek Texts. This is roughly 10% of the text.
The second source for making a Greek Text comes from ancient versions. Since these versions were translated from something, they are used as a source for establishing a Greek Text. Like the Greek manuscripts, there are a variety of ancient versions, and not all of these agree. Among these are the Old Latin versions (including both the Old Latin and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate), Syrian (including the Old Syriac and the Peshitta), Coptic (Egyptian), Gothic (early German), Armenian, Ethiopic, and others. These are useful because they not only had to have a source for their translation, but also show what the non-Greek reading world used.
The third source comes form the quotations of the early Church Fathers. These are called Patristic citations. When the theological writers of the first few centuries quoted scripture, their quotations are used. Again, we have a difference in several of the quotations, showing that from the very start there were differences in New Testament texts. More will be given about some of the early Church Fathers in later lessons.
Of course, this is something the Bible-believer recognizes. Paul warned that “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Cor. 2:17). And again, “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:2). There have always been those who sought to corrupt the incorruptible word of God. And, like Satan, questions and quotes scripture dishonestly for their own gain (Gen. 3:1; Matt. 4:6). This is not to say all the early church theologians or manuscripts are corrupt. It is to say that we can not trust any one of these sources as the final authority. Instead, we must depend upon the providence of God to preserve His words without error and then demonstrate where this preserved word is.
Other sources would be lectionaries and apocryphal writings. Lectionaries were books used by the early church which contained lessons and hymns. There were also citations from passages of scripture. These would show that certain scriptures were in use at a given time, and substantiate a questioned text.
Apocryphal writings would be citations from books contemporary with the New Testament but were not inspired. Often they quote scripture. Allow me to illustrate with a few examples.
The King James Bible reads, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10). Most modern versions read as the New American Standard Version: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians quotes the verse, “And must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (2:18). Rather Polycarp wrote this letter or not we do not know. We do know that manuscripts of the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians date to 150 AD. Thus we have a second century reading supporting the textual variant in favor of the Traditional Text and the Authorized Version of 1611.
The same is true of 1 John 4:3–“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” Modern versions leave out the phrase “is come in the flesh.” Again, in Polycarp to the Philippians 3:1 we read, “For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is antichrist.” We can see that the writer of this book agreed with the rendering of the King James Bible.
Another example using Polycarp comes form 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Modern versions read,”a root.” But Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, 2:5, reads, “But the love of money is the root of all evil.” There are many other examples, but these illustrate the point.
VIEWS OF TEXTUAL CRITICISM:
For the purposes of this class, there are three main views concerning textual criticism. They are listed as follows. 1) Modern Textual Criticism. 2) The Traditional Text. 3) The King James Bible as the Preserved Word of God for the English-speaking people.
Modern Textual Criticism:
To say most textual critics hold to modern textual theories would be a vast understatement. Almost all who study textual criticism support the modern approach. Thus, this is the view of modern scholars, rather conservative, moderate, or liberal. Basically there are two fundamental principles to this approach of textual criticism; the age of known existing manuscripts and the use of eclecticism.
In the past 150 years several manuscripts have been found which pre-dated existing manuscripts. The famed manuscripts of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus date to the forth century. They were discovered and used in the 1800’s. Some papyrus date before the forth century. For example P52 dates to early second century, and P66 dates to around 200 AD.
Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are questionable as they have added passages and books to the contexts of both the Old Testament and New Testament, while omitting other portions of scripture. Sinaiticus contains most of the Old Testament and all of the New (except for Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; and some other verses). The Old Testament Apocrypha books are contained in Sinaiticus laced within the Testament as part of the sacred text. It also contains some New Testament Apocrypha books as part of the New Testament text. For example it contains the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermans as scripture. Vaticanus does likewise with Apocrypha books in both Testaments as part of the Biblical text. (Vaticanus has Matthew through Hebrews 9:14. The remainder of the NT is missing.)
Codex Bezae (which is also called D and dates between 450 to 550 AD) adds to the text. One, of the many exampes, is found in Luke 6:5, “On that day, seeing a certain man working on the Sabbath, he (i.e. Jesus) said to him, Man, if you know what you are doing, blessed are you. But if not, cursed are you and a transgressor of the law.” (Dr. Kenneth Clark, The Transmission of the New Testament as found in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12; 1980, p. 623). These type of additions are found throughout various manuscripts within the Alexandrian and Western line. And, it is from these manuscripts that many of the changes and revisions within both the Greek and English New Testament are based.
Age may not be the determining factor in the authenticity of a given manuscript. Manuscripts which are not used would naturally last longer than manuscripts where were used. Also, most of the papyrus manuscripts we have come from Egypt and reflect the Alexandrian Text. The climate of Egypt is more conducive than the climate of other places in the world for keeping old documents. Most of the Gnostic Gospels come from manuscripts found in Egypt. Many of the supporters of the Traditional Text (such as Edward F. Hills, Zane Hodges, Robert Wilson, Peter Ruckman, and David Otis Fuller) have stated or suggested that Gnosticism influenced the philosophy of the scribes copying the manuscripts in Egypt. Gnosticism is known as an ancient heresy, teaching that all that is spiritual is good and all that is physical is evil. The heresy also suggests that since Jesus was created, and all that is physical is evil, Christ was not coming back in the flesh. This is the false doctrine which John addresses in his first epistle. Thus manuscripts coming from Egypt are questionable.
The Traditional Text:
What has been called the Majority Text is based on this view of textual criticism, as is the Received Text (also called the Textus Receptus ). Until the publishing of textual scholars, such as Westcott and Hort, this view was the main view. In fact, one could argue until the early 1800’s it was the only view, at least where Protestant scholarship is concerned. Dr. Kurt Aland (of the Aland Greek NT and the Institute for NT Textual Research) wrote:
Finally it is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the ‘original text.’ Close beside it there was Luther’s translation of the New Testament which in practice frequently enjoyed the same esteem, although there were differences between its various editions, just as there were for the Greek text. (“The Text of the Church?” in Trinity Journal, Fall, 1987. p.131).
Critics of the Traditional Text cite that this lane of manuscripts is recent and not reflective of early manuscripts. It is true that the majority of all Greek manuscripts date after 1000 AD, but to insinuate that there is no textual support for this line before 1000 AD is absurd and without informative substance. The Chester Beatty Papyri (P. 45, 46, and 66) all have readings that reflect the Traditional Text against all other line of manuscripts. These papyri date to the early third century. Codex W dates from the fourth to early fifth century. It contains the Gospels, yet uses several of the various lines of manuscripts. While most of Mark and part of John reflect the Alexandrian and Western lines, “(all of) Matthew and Luke 8:13-24:25 are Byzantine (Traditional text)” (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 281). Even Codex A (i.e. Codex Alexandrinus, dating around 450 AD) reflects the Traditional Text in the Gospels, leaving the Epistles to reflect the Alexandrian line. And, of course, the early translations such as the Peshitta (second century) and the Gothic (dating around 350 AD) also reflect the Traditional Text over against the Alexrandian Text. In fact, Sir Fredric Kenyon, noted textual scholar, has stated that the Gothic version represents the type of text, “which is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts” (Handbook To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament by Kenyon, p. 240).
The best manuscripts are the ones which have been traditionally used by Bible believing Christians throughout the years, and the vast majority of all existing manuscripts reflect this type of manuscript. These manuscripts were used to produce the King James Bible and reflects the history of early Protestantism and Reformation. Additionally, many of the old early translations agree with this line of manuscripts, as do some very early papyrus manuscripts.
The question has been asked, why would God allow the majority of manuscripts to be of this line if it is incorrect, while only a handful of manuscripts reflect the views of modern textual critics? (Such was the question raised by Dr. John Burgon). We would also ask; If this line is the wrong line of manuscripts, why would God allow born-again Christians to use this line and suffer persecution, while giving to those who were persecuting the true Church the correct line? Is that consistent with the nature of God? If those who were persecuting the Church had the correct line of manuscripts, why did they prohibit it from being translated for so many years, even hiding it from their own people? If the Traditional line of manuscripts is not the correct line, why has God so greatly blessed this line and the translations of the Traditional Text throughout the history of the Church? Would not God bear witness to which is good and which is corrupt? (Matt. 7:15-20)
The King James Version View:
This view draws most of its textual support form the Traditional Text, since the Greek Text which underlined the King James Version came from the Traditional Text.
The view covers preservation, final authority, and the Sovereignty of God. The view states that the Authorized Version is the preserved word of God for the English-speaking people. It stands as the final authority for all matters of faith and practice without any proven error. The Sovereign hand of God can be seen in using this version to bring revival and reform.
This view begins with a basis of Scriptural promises. Namely, that God would keep and preserve His words. (Psalm 12:6-7; Matt. 4:4; 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23). Preservation would mean more than a general term. It would mean that God kept all of His words without error, and that these words are preserved in a book which can be read and tested. Throughout church history God has kept His words, and since 1611 for English-speaking people, it is found in the Authorized Version.
The information in this lesson will provide the student with a basic munderstanding of some of the terms used in the study of textual criticism, and in our study of the King James Bible and its text. Additional information will be provided in time as we look more closely at opposing views in this study. In our next lesson we will cover some of the differences in the Greek texts as reflected in various English translations.
QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS:
In our first lesson, I called this section Problem Passages. I think it would be better to call this section Questions From Students, in that some of the questions received deal with areas other than problem passages. Such is the following question.
“I love the KJV of the Bible and it’s all I use. My one question would be about the new KJ21 … do you know about it … what do you think … are there any specific problems with it? Thank you.”
All I can offer is my opinion. I do not own a copy of the KJ21, so I had to borrow one from my library. My observations, therefore, are not in-depth. KJ21 stands for the 21st Century King James Version. It was published in 1994 by Deuel Enterprises, Inc. in Gary, SD. This is not a new translation or revision of the King James Bible. Instead, it takes the text of the KJV and seeks to update some of the words considered outdated. This was the same thing Porter Barrington did with his Christian Life New Testament.Words like minish become diminish and prevent become precede.It keeps archaic words which are still understandable to modern readers, such as “thee, thou, hath, art, cometh, and hast.”
The text is not presented in column verse form as most King James Version’s of the Bible are. Instead it is presented in paragraph form like many modern versions have been. Some verses are placed in bold print because they denote “the most powerful, most familiar, best loved, and most often quoted and memorized.” (from KJ21, p. v). It also contains an appendix which I was glad to see. The KJ21 has added the original Preface to the KJV entitled The Translators to the Reader (presented in an updated and abridged form).
The editors of the KJ21 states:
For your ease of reading, we have replaced obsolete and archaic words by the most exact modern synonyms, painstakingly chosen so as to insure no change in meaning. For example, the word gins has been replaced by traps; bewray by betray; stablish by establish; dehort by dissuade; reins by inmost being; minish by diminish; wist by knew; listed by pleased; carefully by intricately. These are only a few examples among many. (Preface, p. ix)
I can say that this statement, and the examples used, cause me some alarm. First, if these are “only a few examples among many” I wonder what the other changes are. What are the “many”? It is my nature to be skeptical when men take it upon themselves to alter God’s word. Even when the motivation is to clarify, sometimes context is compromised. In times past, I have been told that modern version simply revise the “obsolete and archaic words” in the Authorized Version; only to find that the text has been changed or words and verses omitted. I was told the New Scofield Reference Bible simply updated many of the “archaic words” of the King James, but did not change the text; then discovered that this was not true. (Such as in Daniel 3:25 where the KJV states “and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The NSRB reads “a son of the gods,” thus taking Christ out of the fiery furnace). And so it was with the New King James Version, changing the text while claiming it was a King James Bible. I alway become skeptical when I am lied to.
Secondly, I have noticed that when others care for my “ease of reading” and revise the text with “no change in meaning,” that it does in fact change. Even though it may surprise some, God is not concerned with my “ease of reading.” Instead, He expects me to study and search it out for myself (2 Tim. 2:15; Prov. 25:2; John 5:39). Otherwise, our Lord never would have taught in parables. He did not do so to make it easy or to illustrate, He did it, “because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matt. 13:13 and context).
Thirdly, once the words have been changed, the meaning is changed. We approach our study of the Bible with the attitude of “what does it mean?”. God’s attitude in scripture has always been, “what does it say.” What God says is more important than what we think it means.
Finally, once you change the words, you have destroyed the cross-reference. We study and understand scripture in light of scripture. The word sheds light on the word. If words are replaced with modern words, our cross-reference has been rendered ineffective. One of the examples given by the editors of the KJ21 is that reins has been changed to inmost being. The word reins appears 15 times in the KJV. Of these, only 6 times has it been changed to inmost being (Ps. 26:2; 73:21; Prov. 23:16; Jer. 12:2; 17:10; 20:12. Instead it appears as loins (Job 16:13), heart (Job 19:27), souls (Ps. 7:9), inner self (Ps. 16:7), reins (Ps. 139:13; and Isa.11:5), passions (Jer. 11:20), inmost parts (Lam. 3:13), and thoughts (Rev. 2:23). One could argue that these words mean the same thing most of the time. But then we are back to “what it means” instead of “what it says.” If I want to see how God uses the English word reins in His Book, I will have trouble doing so in the KJ21.
Another concern is found in Acts 7:45. The King James Bible reads, “Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;” Here, the KJ21 has changed the text to read “which also our fathers, who came later, brought with Joshua into the territory of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David.”
This is an example of the editors disregarding what the text says, and translating what they think it means. This is not updating “obsolete and archaic words,” unless they think Jesus is either obsolete or archaic in this passage. Nor is this a clarification of Greek. The Greek word used is Iesou (which is the genitive form of Iesous; the Greek word for Jesus. ) If one is reading the Greek text (any Greek text) it would read just as the King James Bible reads. Nor, is the KJ21 consistent in its changing of the text when the editors believe the word Iesou should be Joshua. In Hebrews 4:8 the same Greek word is used and revised as Joshua in modern versions of the Bible (such as the NASV, NIV, and NRSV). Yet, the KJ21 renders the passage “For if Jesus had given them rest, then He would not afterwards have spoken of another day.” If Iesou in Acts 7:45 means Joshua, then why not translate it as Joshua in Hebrews 4:8? (The real truth is that the Holy Spirit, in Greek or in the English of the KJV, shows no difference because Joshua of old is a picture of Jesus; in that Joshua is a type of the second coming of Jesus Christ leading the nation of Israel into the promised land).
I am sure there are other examples and passages where the KJ21 falls short of its predecessor. However, that will be up to the student to research and locate additional examples.
I am not sure that the KJ21 will make a great deal of difference. Those who wish to revise or change the Authorized Version are never satisfied with what they have accomplished. This is why we have had so many versions and revisions over the past one hundred years. We have been told that some versions are given to make the Bible stronger in its text. So out comes the RV, ASV, RSV, ASV, Amp., NASV, and so on, only to fall out of favor within a few years and replaced with a newer version or revision. We have also been told that some versions are given to simplify the meaning of the Bible. So out comes the TEV, NIV, NRSV, TLB, Phillips, and so on. One wonders how many times it needs to be made simple.
I do not believe the KJ21 will be effective. Those who stand for the preservation of the word of God will not use it as their main Bible. Those wishing for an easy to read version will still use the NIV (which is revised every five years) or one of its kind. Sooner or later we will begin to understand that the Bible is God’s Book, and if there is to be any revision or retranslating, it will be up to God to bring it to pass. And if He ever does, He will testify to it as He has the Authorized Version for the past four hundred years.
Until later, God bless as you labor for Him.
Yours in Christ Jesus,