Why are the Alexandrian texts better than the Majority?


#1

The majority of NT manuscripts are similar to/the same as the Textus Receptus (what most old Bibles used as the source for translation, namely the KJV, Vulgate is similar, Douay-Rheims is therefore also similar).

Modern Bible translations have now turned to the newer discoveries of the Alexandrian text-types, namely the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus.

Is the only reason these are seen as more reliable is because they date back to an earlier time? Why does age necessarily indicate how accurate/reliable the texts are? Does this mean the Church had a slightly imperfect Bible for much of its history, until we discovered these Alexandrian texts in the 18th century?

Is there more to the reliability/accuracy of the Alexandrian texts than this, other than age?


#2

I suggest you read the Wikipedia article on “Textual criticism


#3

The texts used in the Textus Receptus were from the Byzantine stream and ranged from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. They are not that removed in general from the Textus Alexandrinus and Syniaticus, which is pretty miraculous. However, they are much more removed from the original texts, as there would have to have been several more generations of copies, and copyist error was ever present.

Keep in mind that the reason for Saint Jerome to translate the Vulgate was that there was a plethora of different translations by the fourth century of Christianity.

The earlier manuscripts may not necessarily be “better”, however you define it, but they are certainly closer to the original texts and thus may be less likely to contain copyist errors.


#4

How do you know they are much more removed from the originals?

Keep in mind that the reason for Saint Jerome to translate the Vulgate was that there was a plethora of different translations by the fourth century of Christianity.

The earlier manuscripts may not necessarily be “better”, however you define it, but they are certainly closer to the original texts and thus may be less likely to contain copyist errors.

How do you know the earlier manuscripts are “certainly” closer to the original texts? Purely because of age?


#5

Many scholars come to the conclusion that the older manuscripts are closer to the original because they are a product that has gone through less hands of copiers and in turn less errors made by accident or on purpose. Personally I dont think that that is a foolproof theory, though in theory it is very logical. But I personally feel that since the manuscripts that are 1st and 2nd century are so very old, I believe that there are so many that have never been discovered nor survived the test of time, that that we have so little evidence to rely on to really know for sure. Whose to say that the “Alexandrian” text types are not condensed versions of a text type closer to the Byzantine? To say that the Church relied on an inferior Bible for centuries based on a theory of textual criticism is just not likely to me. Only a translation adopted and altered by heretical sects would I consider inferior.


#6

In case you didn’t catch it, as the link I posted previously suggests, the earlier manuscripts are thought to be closer to the originals than the later manuscripts used to create the Textus Receptus because the earlier manuscripts contain “readings that are often terse, shorter, somewhat rough, less harmonised, and generally more difficult,” whereas the later manuscripts contain " the most harmonistic readings, paraphrasing and significant additions."


#7

Sultan of Swing, the useful life of a manuscript was found to be between 70 to 100 years. Synagogues had rooms that held scrolls that had gotten to old and worn to be used. Some of these rooms have yielded old copies. They are usually quite worn and may have worm holes and other damage so that parts of the text is missing.

The second question is an interesting one. A quick answer would be yes, but there are numbers of manuscripts where the marginalia ended up as part of the text in the next version. Manuscripts were not professionally copied until the fourth century, so “amateur” errors crept in. Even the professional scriptoria produced errors, since one scribe often read from a “master copy”. Greek, like other languages, had homonyms, and the other scribes were prone to boredom, tiredness, and difficulty hearing.

Again, I must emphasize that the accuracy over generations of copies, translations into different languages, etc. the accuracy of the transmission of Scripture is miraculous. The Iliad was produced over a much shorter period of time, in one language, and was a smaller work. The extant copies are in slightly over 50% agreement, while the Bible is way over 95%. Work of the Spirit? You decide.


#8

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