There are many English Bible Versions today, differing in style and content. As an example, in Luke 2:33 the King James Version says: "JOSEPH and his mother..." The NIV, NASV, NRSV, etc. read, "The CHILD'S FATHER and mother". The word "father", normally means biological father. The Bible teaches elsewhere that Jesus did not have a biological father, so this difference is significant. As another example, Colossians 1:14 reads "In whom we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, even the forgiveness of sins:" (KJV). The NIV, NASV, RSV, and NRSV read, "In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
These examples are by no means isolated. Moreover, the differences have doctrinal implications. Given the importance of every word that proceeds from God (Matthew 4:4, Psalm 11:3, Psalm 138:2) and the authority that the Bible demands, the text of the Bible is extremely important.
Now, which of these sources should we trust? To answer this question, consider the following points:
These factors point to one conclusion: The Masoretic text is the text through which God has preserved the Old Testament.
The following are the sources for the New Testament Text:
First let us consider the NT Greek manuscript families:
The Codex Vaticanus is a copy of the Greek New Testament. It was hidden or lost in the Vatican library for perhaps about 1000 years before it was rediscovered in the 15th century. After a lot of begging and cajoling, the Pope made the contents public. P75 was discovered in Egypt in 1952 and is dated to about 250 AD. Another prominent Alexandrian manuscript, the Codex Sinaiticus, was found in a trash can in St Catherine's monastery (Mt Sinai) by the German scholar Constantin Tischendorf in 1844. It dates to the fourth century AD.There are also manuscripts in other languages:
God has preserved the New Testament through the Textus Receptus, which represents the Byzantine (Majority) Text. The following are my reasons for this position:
1. The same distortion in a manuscript, whether intentional or not, is not easy to propagate in a large body of manuscripts having considerable geographical or chronological spread. Thus, the majority is likely to be correct.
2. Saints will have more long term motivation to propagate the truth than heretics will have to propagate falsehood. Thus, the saintly reading is likely to be more widespread chronologically and geographically than a heretical one. Therefore, the Byzantine, which has a larger geographical and chronological spread than the Alexandrian, is the true text.
3. Heretics will no doubt attempt to change the Bible, but there is no reason for multiple heretics to make the same distortions (the same applies for careless mistakes). Since the Byzantine manuscripts agree much better with each other than the Alexandrian do with themselves, it follows that the Byzantine manuscripts are products of care and sincerity.
4. The oldest papyri originate in Egypt and are Alexandrian overall, yet have some distinctly Byzantine readings. This again suggests that the Alexandrian manuscripts are products of corruption, a corruption that began no later than the second century (the date of the oldest papyri) and evolved up to at least the fourth century. The John Rylands papyrus P52 (see image) is the oldest surviving Bible text.
5. In the Bible, Egypt is almost always portrayed in a negative light. Why should we rely on Egyptian manuscripts for our Bible?
7. The book of Acts presents Antioch, in Syria, as a large center of Biblical Christians from where missionaries like Paul and others went in different directions. Therefore, the Byzantine/Syrian text (for they agree) is God's pick.
8. In contrast to Antioch, Alexandria was a center of pagan philosophy and intellectualism and these were corrupting influences on Christianity there. Therefore, there is every reason to suspect anything that comes from the first few centuries AD from Alexandria. "In fact to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant sect was represented in second century Egypt...What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known." [Metzger, The Early versions of the New Testament, Clarendon Press, 1977, p101].
9. The Alexandrian Text is associated with counterfeit Christianity. Codex Vaticanus belongs to the Vatican Library. Sinaiticus was found in an Orthodox monastery. The Latin Vulgate was the Catholic Bible of the Dark Ages. Both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy preach a false gospel and have done untold evils against Biblical Christians and others. Next to the communists, the Roman Catholic Church has been the largest destroyer of Bibles. Why should God allow His word to be lost for centuries in the facilities of these false churches, and then discovered by explorers like Tischendorf?
10. Till about 1900, Bible believing Christians were using the Received Text. Missionaries took the same text all over the world. If the Alexandrian text, which was "lost" for about 1500 years, is the true text, it would mean that God has been unfaithful. Note that God has promised to preserve His word (Psalm 12:6-7, 1 Peter 2:25)
11. Origen, a third century scholar in Alexandria, Egypt, testifies to the mischief going on around him: "...the differences among the manuscripts [of the Gospels] have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they lengthen or shorten, as they please." [Quoted in Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd ed. (1991), pp. 151-152].
12. The Byzantine Text is smooth and harmonious (among the gospels). The Alexandrian Text is abrupt and less harmonious. The Byzantine Text is more Christ-honoring than the Alexandrian. In Mark 1:2, Mark quotes Malachi, but the Alexandrian Text states that he quotes Isaiah (the Byzantine says "prophets"). The Gnostic and Arian heresies of the early Christian centuries downplayed the role of Jesus Christ. These observations point to the Byzantine as God's preserved text. Heretics evidently tarnished the text as they tried to modify it to suit their tastes and/or handled it carelessly. Regarding John 7:52-8:11, which is in the Byzantine manuscripts but not the Alexandrian, fourth century theologian Augustine says: "Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin." [Augustine, De Adulterinis Conjugiis 2:6–7. Cited in Wieland Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels, Vol. 4b, p. 10.]
13. The Received Text is stained with the blood and sacrificial effort of true Christians. Erasmus was poor and hoped that his Greek NT would provide a much needed reformation to the "church" (He was trained as a Catholic priest - his writings, ruthlessly critical of the RCC, suggest that he may have had saving faith). William Tyndale was murdered by the RCC for his translation of the Received Text to English. Medieval Italian Christians, users of the Old Latin, were ruthlessly persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. Then there are the untold hardships of pioneering missionaries who tried to translate the Received Text while living in hostile, New World lands.
14. A tree is known by its fruit. The printing of the Received Text was followed by the great spread of Christianity all over the world. The shift to the Alexandrian Text towards the end of the 19th century was followed by the decline of Biblical Christianity.
15. Received Text portions that are not present in the Alexandrian manuscripts are well attested in the writings of church fathers predating the Alexandrian manuscripts. Cyprian of Carthage, martyred in 238 AD (see image), cites Acts 8:37 and 1 John 5:7-8, two passages present in the Received Text, but not in the Alexandrian manuscripts.
The following are some arguments from advocates of the Alexandrian Text and my responses:
1. The original Bible text must have been abrupt, not so laudatory of Christ and non-harmonious. The Byzantine must be the result of Christians trying to harmonize and smooth out the text, and make it fit with their belief in Christ's deity. Thus, the Alexandrian must be closer to the original text. The ideas that 1) the original Bible text was rough or disharmonious and 2) Christians, not heretics, would change the Bible 3) Christ's deity was a later innovation; are special pleading that smacks of infidel, anti-Christian, anti-Bible bias.
2. Alexandrian Manuscripts are much older than Byzantine ones, and therefore, closer to the original text. This argument is faulty because
3. Byzantine Greek manuscripts outnumber Alexandrian ones only because Latin replaced Greek in Western Europe and North Africa. The Byzantine readings of the Old Latin refute this argument.
4. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are of a high quality. If high quality means high fidelity to the originals, this is a case of begging the question. If high quality refers to the physical quality (both these manuscripts are made of vellum, high quality animal skin), it is hardly remarkable for authenticity - any rich heretic can supply vellum and ink.
As an explanation for the failure of the Alexandrian Text to persist beyond the fourth century, one explanation offered by its advocates, Westcott and Hort, is: Somebody must have produced and enforced the Byzantine Text in the fourth century. Surely such a major recension of the text, if it had occurred, would have been documented in church history. This is especially so, as major doctrinal issues of that period are recorded in considerable detail, e.g. the Council of Nicea 325 AD which dealt with the Arian heresy. History is silent about any revision of the Text in Syria, Antioch or Constantinople! Another scholar, John Burgon, responds that if at all the Syrians met together, they would have brought together all the manuscripts at their disposal, knowing the particulars of each. Taking everything into account, they rejected the Alexandrian text. What does Hort know that they didn't?
We now turn to the question of translation methodology. The two methodologies are:
Note the following.
Conclusion: Formal equivalence is right and dynamic equivalence is wrong.
Next comes the nature of the translators and others involved in the making of the Bible version. The issues are:
|Version|| Source Texts || Translation Philosophy |
|KJV, NKJV, MKJV, LITV, YLT, VW Edition|| Masoretic Text, Textus Receptus || Formal Equivalence |
| NET Bible, The Message||Masoretic Text+, Critical Text|| Dynamic Equivalence|
|NIV, NLT, HCSB, CEB|| Masoretic Text+, Critical Text || Mixed|
| NASV, ESV, NRSV||Masoretic Text+, Critical Text||Formal Equivalence|
Burgon, John W, 1990. Unholy hands on the Bible. An Introduction to Textual Criticism, ed. Jay Green. Sovereign Grace Trust Fund.
"I want to know one thing — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a Book. O give me that Book! At any price, give me the Book of God!" — John Wesley