Is there an "official" Orthodox New Testament? (the TR?) On what authority is it based?

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?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Vulgate
The Greek Vulgate is a version of the Bible written in Biblical Greek. Its text is from the Septuagint for most of the Old Testament with the version of Theodotion used for the Book of Daniel. Its New Testament text is the Greek New Testament, typically the Majority or Byzantine Text. The Greek Vulgate is the de facto standard Biblical text used in the Divine Liturgy, Horologion, and other rites in all Greek-Language Eastern Churches - the Greek Orthodox Church: including the Church of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Church of Cyprus - as well as the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church.

The term Greek Vulgate is commonly used in the West to refer to the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, although the Textus Receptus is not the common edition used in the Greek churches.

My apologies for misdirecting you.

The TR and translations based on it will usually (from the Orthodox perspective at least) be more accurate than many modern translations, because aside from places where Erasmus back-translated missing passages from the Vulgate, the TR was based on texts which were part of the same manuscript tradition (late Byzantine text-type) which we continue to use (in the form of the 1904 New Testament approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate), whereas modern translations are often very eclectic in their choice of sources, which creates a monster, not representative of any living tradition of Greek biblical texts.

To tie this back into the original thread, the verse in question (Mark 9:29) demonstrates this problem rather well. Modern translators seem to show a preference for removing the word ‘fasting’ from the text, despite the fact that the Textus Receptus, the Byzantine Majority Text, and the 1904 New Testament of the Ecumenical Patriarchate agree that it is by ‘prayer and fasting,’ and not just ‘prayer,’ that demons are driven out (and I cannot help but think that this preference shown for manuscripts without the word ‘fasting’ is not completely accidental, given the religious affiliation of many of these translators). In this case (and in many others like it), one would be better off throwing the NIV, NSAB and others like them in the trash and reading the KJV (of course to me, the best would be to read the 1904 Greek New Testament of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but then I am biased ;)).

I think it is also worth pointing out that liturgically speaking, the Orthodox Church does not have a bible.

We have the Gospels (Evangelio) which is encased in gem encrusted silver and placed on the altar and venerated by the people. The Gospel readings are read by the Priest or Bishop from this book.
Then there is the Acts and Epistles (Praxapostolos) which lives on the Chanters stand. Also on the Chanters stand is the Psalter (Psalms) as well as other books containing hymns for the various saints and feast days as well as readings from the Old Testament and the lives of the saints.

Compiling the Old Testament and New Testament in one volume called the Bible is actually a significant break from Church Tradition where the books of the Bible were primarily for use in the Liturgy.

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