In a previous thread, I asked Forum Member “prodromos,” who identifies as Orthodox, if there was an “official” Greek version of the New Testament (comparable to the Latin Vulgate for Western Catholics). He kindly replied in that thread, and I have opened this thread to discuss his reply, because the conversation is off-topic in the original discussion.
For background: I had asserted that modern translations of the New Testament are better than anything we have ever had. That’s because modern textual scholars have access to a vast electronic corpus of ancient texts and possess sophisticated computer tools to “mine” these texts, and compare indicators (syntax, dialect, etc) to determine which portions of the texts are likely authentic and which are “glosses” added later.
This is part of prodromos’s response:
That’s interesting, and has allowed me to research this subject.
However, the Wikipedia article does not agree. According to the article, the TR was originally compiled by a Western (Latin) priest named Fr. Desiderius Erasmus (published in 1516) as a basis for producing an updated version of the Latin Vulgate. It is unclear why he also published the Greek (his goal was to produce better Latin), but it is speculated that he did so to simply validate the Latin translation. It was certainly never his intention to publish a NT compilation for use in Orthodox Churches, so the later use of the TR is apparently accidental.
According to the article:
Erasmus had been studying Greek New Testament manuscripts for many years, in the Netherlands, France, England and Switzerland, noting their many variants, but had only six Greek manuscripts immediately accessible to him in Basel. They all dated from the 12th Century or later, and only one came from outside the mainstream Byzantine tradition. Consequently, most modern scholars consider his text to be of dubious quality.
Furthermore, a textual scholar later did a study of the TR:
John Mill (1645–1707), collated textual variants from 82 Greek manuscripts. In his Novum Testamentum Graecum, cum lectionibus variantibus MSS (Oxford 1707) he reprinted the unchanged text of the Editio Regia, but in the index he enumerated 30,000 textual variants.
So the TR was compiled from just six Greek manuscripts (12th Century or later) by a Latin priest. A later scholar compared the TR with 82 Greek manuscripts and found 30,000 differences.
Upon what basis could an Orthodox Christian possibly assert that the TR has been “handed down by the Church” and is a reliable scholarly compilation?