The Text of the New Testament


#1

Hi Guys,

I wanted to ask sort of a theological question in this thread revolving around the text of the New Testament. There are three different text types in the following order of reliability:

  1. Alexandrian
  2. Western
  3. Byzantine

Now the problem is that for a very long time (well over 1,000 years) the vast majority of the church used the Byzantine form of the text, which is actually the least reliable. The KJV is based off of the Byzantine text-type, and if you set it side by side with an NASB, for example, you’ll notice many differences (albeit minor).

Here’s the question: Why would God allow the text of his word to be preserved so long by the most inaccurate text-type as opposed to the most accurate text-type?


#2

Can you give an example of errors in the Byzantine versions that have led Christians away from God?

I stand to be corrected but I think a text-type is a type of genre like poetry, report, story, discussion, play etc. I do not think the examples given are different text types.

Another question might be why God allowed the shroud of Turin to be hidden for so long.


#3

All texts have errors. 1, 2, and 3.

I think God allows it because it is not really a problem. To put it another way, if every bible in the world was instantly destroyed, the Catholic Church would still be able to teach the authentic Faith, because we have it captured in our Sacred Tradition through practices, sacraments, liturgy, art, architecture, music, apostolic sucession/authority, etc. This is because the Deposit of Faith is composed of both Scripture and Tradition where Scripture is merely a subset of Tradition put to writing. The bible only based Churches would likely cease to exist or at least have any substantive foundation in such a situation. But God created a Church and not a NT Bible. So if the Church He created taught errors in Faith, that would be a problem. So God allows errors in the papyri because it doesn’t matter to the grand scheme as much as the adherents to sola scriptura think it does.


#4

I have heard many accusations of errors in the Byzantine texts, but I haven’t seen any (aside from spelling/grammatical errors).

For those that don’t know the difference, there are 2 major families of manuscripts. The major two are Alexandrian and Byzantine (Antiochian). In general, the Alexandrian are fewer and older (mostly from the 300-500 AD). The well known Alexandrians are Vaticanus and Siniaticus. The Antiochian family is much much much larger. There are several thousand manuscript fragments that are in this family. They are younger than Alexandrian (typically 700-900 AD); though they do have some old non-Greek cousins that could precede Vaticanus and Siniaticus (late 200s/early 300s).

The other families are mostly hybrids of Alexandrian and Antiochian. Egyptian is mostly Alexandrian with some Antiochian, and Western typically refers to mostly Antiochian with some Alexandrian. Ecclecisal takes a bit of everything.

Some people argue that the oldest Greek texts are best, perfectly preserved words of God. The other camp says that the sheer volume of Antiochian manuscripts, along with the fading occurrence of Alexandrian in later centuries, that the Antiochian is right.


#5

The way I’ve learned the text-types is a bit different from TxGodfollower.

When Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort published The New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881, they classified existing manuscripts of the NT into four text-types: the Neutral, the Alexandrian, the Syrian, and the Western. Eventually it was recognized that ‘Neutral’ and ‘Alexandrian’ are the same thing (specifically, two phases of the same text), and the ‘Syrian’ text was relabelled, thereby giving us the three versions of NT manuscripts that we know today: the Alexandrian, the Byzantine (Westcott-Hort’s ‘Syrian’ text), and the Western. (Some scholars have also proposed a fourth text, the Caesarean, but its very existence soon came into question by others.)

The Alexandrian text is associated with Egypt and is the one that predominates in most of the earliest surviving manuscripts (many of which admittedly came from Egypt, where hot and dry conditions helped preserve ancient texts which would normally have rotted away) and in Coptic versions. It was also the version used by the Alexandrian fathers such as Origen, Clement, St. Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, and St. Cyril. Out of the textual versions the Alexandrian is the most restrained: its readings tend to be shorter, and have a lower tendency to expand or paraphrase.

The Western text is mainly associated with the Latin West (north Africa, Italy, Gaul), although some manuscripts and versions exhibiting this text have also been found in the East such as Egypt and Syria. The version is apparent in the gospels, Acts, and the Pauline epistles; general epistles and Revelation probably did not have a Western form of text. In Greek, the text is found chiefly in manuscripts that also contain the text in Latin (such as Codex Bezae and [Codex Claromontanus](“Codex Claromontanus”); cf. also the later Augiensis and Boernerianus). In Latin, it is attested in Vetus Latina translations as well as Latin writers (such as Marcion, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Pelagius; but cf. also Justin Martyr). One of the definingcharacteristics of this version is how it plays loose with the text, favoring extensive paraphrase and expansion.

The Byzantine text is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts, though not in the oldest: there are six manuscripts earlier than the 9th century which conform to the Byzantine text, but in most instances they only attest to the version in the gospels (cf. Codex Alexandrinus). The first writers to have cited the Byzantine text substantial New Testament quotations is St. John Chrysostom (ca. 349-407) and the Arian Asterius the Sophist (died ca. 341), although some Byzantine readings could already be found among earlier witnesses (who otherwise followed other text-types or none). This version seems to also underlie the Gothic translation by Ulfilas (d. 383) and the Syriac Peshitta (ca. 5th century), although both also exhibit Alexandrian and/or Western readings. The Byzantine text is a smooth combination of the characteristics of the Alexandrian and the Western texts. Byzantine readings tend to show a greater tendency toward smooth and well-formed Greek and display fewer instances of textual variation between parallel synoptic passages, being less likely to present difficult passages and more likely to harmonize.

The Caesarean text is a bit sketchy because there are no ‘pure’ Caesarean texts; instead what we have are manuscripts which display a consistent pattern of variant readings that are not found in other text-types but which otherwise ‘belong’ to the other texts. The existence of the Caesarean text is based mainly on the testimony of Origen (who settled in Caesarea after he was banished from Alexandria), who wrote about manuscripts of Matthew available to him in Caesarea reading “Jesus Barabbas” instead of simply “Barabbas” (which I’ve talked about in an earlier post). Otherwise the Caesarean readings have a mildly paraphrastic tendency that seems to place them between the more concise Alexandrian and the more expansive Western texts. Since we have no evidence for any common distinctive readings in the other books of NT, the Caesarean - if it does exist - might be limited only to the gospels.

BTW, TxGodfollower, where did you get the ‘Antiochian’ and the ‘Egyptian’ and the ‘Ecclesial’ texts from?


#6

(Sorry, your post was too long to quote and still reply)

Pretty good summary. A little biased, in some of the wording, but overall pretty good.:thumbsup:

Trying to remember where I got those from. Antiochian is what I’ve nearly always heard Byzantine referred to; perhaps its a geographical preference or maybe a Catholic/non-Catholic thing? Egyptian was one I heard about recently, but it may have just been a term used by the guy I was listening to. Made sense; it was close to Alexandrian but broader. Ecclesial might be another term for Caesarean; I have heard about that family too, but they seem to best be known for their lack of defining characteristics.

I find it interesting how of the three major families, most people reject the Western manuscripts as being the perfect word of God; given their pretty clear added exposition. The Byzantine and Alexandrian seem to be the preferred sources, depending on who you talk to. Some have a strong belief that the Alexandrian is right and the Byzantine manuscripts have added text; others belief equally strongly that the Byzantine manuscripts are right and that the Alexandrians are either corrupted or incomplete; most have no clue what your talking about.

There are differences in the texts, but the majority of them are minor details. There are some that could lead to questions on the inspiration of the text, but I don’t feel like borrowing this thread to get into that debate.


#7

This is kind of incidental, but do you know about the Western text of Acts?

P.S. Here’s what I found. ‘Antiochian’, ‘Koine’, ‘Syrian’, ‘Constantinopolitan’, ‘Ecclesiastical’, ‘Traditional’ or ‘Majority’ is essentially just the Byzantine text, yes. The Alexandrian is at times called ‘Egyptian’, ‘Neutral’ (as I mentioned in the last post, ‘Neutral’ was originally considered a separate category from ‘Alexandrian’ until scholars discovered that they’re really just the same text) or ‘B-text’ (‘B’ referring to Codex Vaticanus). You’ll encounter most of these terms more frequently in older books; AFAIK many people just say ‘Byzantine’ or ‘Alexandrian’ now. (What is confusing is, there are times when ‘Egyptian’ was apparently used as a subcategory of Alexandrian: Alexandrian texts that show Byzantine influence. But I don’t know if this category is still used today.)


#8

Here are a few examples. The KJV uses the Byzantine text type while new versions of the Bible (like the NASB) use the Alexandrian as their dominant version:

“8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8 (KJV)

“8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who [f]is to come, the Almighty.”” Rev. 1:8 (NASB)

“13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” Rev. 8:13 (KJV)

“13 Then I looked, and I heard [g]an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”” Rev. 8:13 (NASB)

There are also many other examples.


#9

Here’s an example where fasting is added in the Byzantine text-type:

"28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Mk. 9:28-29 (KJV)

“28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”” Mk. 9:28-29 (NASB)


#10

Achilles, thank you very much for your reply. I have seen that type of argument many times, from both sides of the aisle.

Pro-Alexandrian people say the Byzantine text added the words.
Pro-Byzantinean people say the Alexandrian text took the words out.

Since we don’t have access to the original hand written (either by the apostle or dictated by them) documents, we have no way of proving this type of case one way or the other. It is true that the oldest known Greek NT manuscripts don’t have these words. However, there are older NT manuscripts in other languages that do and agree to a large degree with the Byzantine Greek Manuscripts.

Here is one point you may want to look at. Please find this statement in Isaiah in any Bible:
“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way;
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.’”

I know it is in Isaiah, because the NASB and Alexandrian texts flat out say so: “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:” (Mark 1:1-3, NASB. Emphasis added by me).

I can’t say I have Isaiah memorized, but I can’t find it. I can only find part of it in Isaiah. The Byzantine texts and translations from them don’t have this situation, because verse 2 starts out with: “As it is written in the prophets,” (Mark 1:2a, KJV. Emphasis added by me).

This is one of the reasons I don’t believe the Alexandrian texts. If you could find where I overlooked the statement in Isaiah, or similar problems with Byzantine texts, I would greatly appreciate it and would study it diligently.


#11

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=12556583&postcount=26

Actually, that is incorrect. The LXX, or Septuagint (also known as the Alexandrian), is the OT Canon handed on to The Apostles and continually used from the time of Christ down to our very time by The Catholic Church… The Pharisees, Sadducee, Essenes and other groups of Hebrews all used differing groups of OT Scripture. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint, Michael A. Knibb, Ed., London: T&T Clark, 2004)

The most widely used list of Sacred Books was the Septuagint which includes was used from the 3rd Century BC on. This translation is quoted in the New Testament, The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen.
(Source "“Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 2012.)

The Pauline quotations from OT Scripture, are all taken from the Greek Septuagint version. (From “Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. February 2012.)

The Septuagint books were use by the preponderance of Jews from the 3rd Century until the 1st Century and by All Christians until the 16th Century,.
In the 16th Century some men in Western Europe, following their own false, man made doctrines, decided to remove some books from the Bible.
Sadly, many have chosen to follow the teachings of those men.

I invite you to prayerfully consider these things and enter into full Communion with the Church founded by Jesus Christ, The Catholic Church.

Here is a site that might help you:
calledtocommunion.com/media/CPC1.mp3
calledtocommunion.com/
calledtocommunion.com/media/indexofmedia.html

May God richly bless you in your Faith journey.


#12

If the Alexandrian manuscripts were maintained as the standard, how come there were only a handful of copies made for hundreds of years? As Christianity spread, there would be need for more copies of the NT for churches, and yet archeologist findings show that Alexandrian manuscripts from after the first few centuries of Christianity are few and far between.


#13

Can you specify how many this ‘handful’ and ‘few’ is, and which manuscripts we’re talking about? Also, can you specify the time period: are we talking about the 2nd-3rd century here, or the whole span of antiquity?


#14

I think the passage comes from two places. The second part seems to come from Isaiah 40:3: The voice of him that cries in the wilderness
Prepare you the way of the LORD
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. The first part seems to come from Malachi 3:1: I will send my messenger,
who will prepare the way before me. I think it can be reasonable to identify a passage as coming from one book even if part of it comes from another book.


#15

Actually, that is incorrect. The LXX, or Septuagint (also known as the Alexandrian), is the OT Canon handed on to The Apostles and continually used from the time of Christ down to our very time by The Catholic Church… The Pharisees, Sadducee, Essenes and other groups of Hebrews all used differing groups of OT Scripture. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint, Michael A. Knibb, Ed., London: T&T Clark, 2004)

The most widely used list of Sacred Books was the Septuagint which includes was used from the 3rd Century BC on. This translation is quoted in the New Testament, The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen.
(Source "“Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 2012.)

The Pauline quotations from OT Scripture, are all taken from the Greek Septuagint version. (From “Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. February 2012.)

The Septuagint books were use by the preponderance of Jews from the 3rd Century until the 1st Century and by All Christians until the 16th Century,.
In the 16th Century some men in Western Europe, following their own false, man made doctrines, decided to remove some books from the Bible.
Sadly, many have chosen to follow the teachings of those men.

I invite you to prayerfully consider these things and enter into full Communion with the Church founded by Jesus Christ, The Catholic Church.

Here is a site that might help you:
calledtocommunion.com/media/CPC1.mp3
calledtocommunion.com/
calledtocommunion.com/media/indexofmedia.html

May God richly bless you in your Faith journey.

If the Alexandrian manuscripts were maintained as the standard, how come there were only a handful of copies made for hundreds of years? .
[/quote]

I don’t believe that is correct. How many exactly do you mean when you say ‘handful’, and which manuscripts are you talking about?

Every copy of the OT from 300’s until the 16th Century in Western Europe contained the LXX. Additionally, since The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New and The Pauline quotations from OT Scripture are all taken from the Greek Septuagint, every copy of the NT books and Pauline Epistles contained citations from the OT contained text from the Greek Septuagint.


#16

I don’t think that’s quite true, or perhaps I am misunderstanding something. Wasn’t the Vulgate translated in the 300s, and wasn’t it translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic?


#17

The issue being discussed is not what languages they were translated into.
To understand the discussion you need to follow the thread. It will help if you go back to the OP and reread it and my and my correspondents posts related to this conversation.The issue is not whether there were Armenian, Syrian, Coptic or other languages but what text was used as the basis of the OT. The question being discussed is whether the basis of the text of the Bible is:

  1. Alexandrian
  2. Western
  3. Byzantine

There are then several posts in my conversation that set the foundation for the discussion. I assume you already know that The basis of the Vulgate OT is the LXX Alexandrian Canon.

So, based on All of the translations, as I pointed out, in Western Europe, were based on the LXX Alexandrian Canon. It does not matter whether they were translated intoLatin, Armenian, Syrian, German, Celtic or some other language. That is not the issue being discussed. They were based on the LXX.

As further evidence, the vast preponderance of the citations of Old Testament text in the New Testament and all of the citations in the Pauline letters were from the Septuagint.


#18

I think I understand better now. I had been reading the prior comments, by the way, but I thought you were saying that all translations between 300 and 1600, including the Vulgate, were translated from the LXX into whatever target language. Now, unless I’m misunderstanding you again, I think you’re just saying they used the Canon of the LXX, even though some of them used non-LXX manuscripts to translate from. Am I more on target this time, or am I still misreading you?


#19

Here’s my original post on the subject (note I included pertinent references).

The LXX, or Septuagint (also known as the Alexandrian), is the OT Canon handed on to The Apostles and continually used from the time of Christ down to our very time by The Catholic Church… The Pharisees, Sadducee, Essenes and other groups of Hebrews all used differing groups of OT Scripture. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint, Michael A. Knibb, Ed., London: T&T Clark, 2004)

The most widely used list of Sacred Books was the Septuagint which includes was used from the 3rd Century BC on. This translation is quoted in the New Testament, The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen.
(Source "“Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 2012.)

The Pauline quotations from OT Scripture, are all taken from the Greek Septuagint version. (From “Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. February 2012.)

The Septuagint books were use by the preponderance of Jews from the 3rd Century until the 1st Century and by All Christians in Western Europe until the 16th Century.
In the 16th Century some men in Western Europe, following their own false, man made doctrines, decided to remove some books from the Bible.
Sadly, many have chosen to follow the teachings of those men.


#20

Yes, I was familiar with what you had written previously. Perhaps my confusion only arises because I am not used to referring to the LXX as a Canon, but as an Old Testament. To me, there is a big difference: a Canon is a list of books, unless I’ve misunderstood something, and the LXX is a Greek translation of those books. Thus, when I interpreted you as saying that the LXX was used in every translation of the Bible from 300 to 1500, that seems very different from the position that the LXX Canon was used in all such bibles, because by my definition, to use the LXX is to use its Greek text as the basis of translation, not just its Canon as the basis for the Vulgate’s Canon. That’s where I think my confusion came from, but I don’t think it really matters, because it’s a question of words, and not, I think, of any substantial disagreement.


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