"Yea, hath God said?"

An Analysis of Contemporary Trends

In The Biblical Criticism Of

The New Testament



The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God's Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. "To the law and to the testimony," is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him. In looking carefully over the history of the times, and the movement of the times, of which we have written briefly, this fact is apparent: that where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way. But when, on the other hand, reason has been exalted above revelation, and made the exponent of revelation, all kinds of errors and mischief's have been the result, Shindler, Robert, The Down-Grade, The Sword and the Trowel, April 1887, 166.






Robert Paul Wieland

                                                                        BT501 Intro. to Reformed Theology

                                                                        Dr. C.W. Powell

                                                                        15 March 2006



To criticize the Word of God: In its plain sense this phrase appears arrogant, even scornful of God. How can a man, who is a mere grasshopper, even think to censure the very Word of the Living God? In the Genesis narrative it was the criticizing of God's command by the Devil that brought destruction and ruin on the whole of mankind. Not long after the Fall it was Adam himself who brought accusation against God, Gen. 3:12. Thus, showing the depths of arrogance and pride the sinful heart of man has attained. Recent developments in Biblical Criticism have turned in this direction. Men, who do not regard God in their lives, have wrested the Scriptures and sought to impose upon the Church their own understanding of what God has said in His Word.

            To criticize the Word of God: In another sense this phrase can be the expression of the most pious of Christian activities: To delve the depths and riches of God's Word, to study it more closely, to scrutinize its words and meanings in order to understand what God has said is the noblest exercise of the human soul.

            Textual Criticism is that discipline or study that seeks to answer the question: What is the Word of God? Taken in its ungodly sense this task can be used to destroy the Word of God, and render it vain and useless to the Church. Textual critics of this type are not interested in the text itself, but how they can use the principles of textual criticism in order to create a text that they want. In its godly sense: the textual critic is one who, using sound principles derived from both Scripture and reason, seeks to remove errors in transmission and allow the Word of God to emerge pure and undefiled. The scope of this paper will be to examine the history of Bible transmission, a review of the more ancient texts of the New Testament, an analysis of modern principles of textual criticism, and a look at the Johannine Comma as a means of evaluating the three major text-types of the Greek New Testament.


A Brief History of Bible Transmission


            The autographs of the New Testament writers have long since passed away. What has been handed down through all the ages are copies made of the Gospels and the Apostles. Nevertheless, the location as to where the autographs would be found should give some evidence as to where the best copies of the originals were made. This is found in the very words of Paul:

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.[1]


The Colossians were to send a copy of Paul's letter to Laodicea, and the Laodiceans were to make a copy of their letter and send it to the Colossians. This was a common practice in the first century where copies of the autographs were made and sent to different churches:

Let it be read in the Church of the Laodiceans. Hence, though it was addressed to the Colossians, it was, nevertheless, necessary that it should be profitable to others. The same view must be taken of all of the Epistles. They were, indeed, in the first instance, addressed to particular Churches, but, as they contain doctrine that is always in force, and is common to all ages, it is of no importance what title they bear, for the subject-matter belongs to us.[2]


Apparently, the apostle Peter received copies of Paul's letters for he mentions them in his epistle, 2 Pet. 3:15,16. As the Gospels and the Apostles were copied and distributed it would naturally follow that scribal errors would find their way into the text. Where would we find the originals in the first century?

            Matthew was written in Hebrew [Editor’s note: It is generally believed that the Gospel of Matthew in Greek was a separate production of the apostle. Cwp] and then transcribed into Greek either by Matthew himself or one of the disciples. It appears, then, that the book was written for the Jews, and, thus would likely find its origination in Jerusalem. The ancient tradition for the Book of Mark is that he wrote it for the Gentiles in Rome, and no reason has been given as to why this is not the case. Luke was written to the "most excellent Theophilus" of whom, by his Greek name, one may understand him to be a Gentile. Also, by the way Luke addresses Theophilus, the man must have been in high standing in society. The Book of John is thought to have been written by the apostle John in Ephesus around A.D. 85. Thus, the autographs of the Gospels would cover the geographical locations from Jerusalem, through Asia Minor, and up to Rome.

            The autographs of the Apostle Paul are more easily located in the churches throughout Asia minor. This would include John's Book of Revelation as well. Hebrews was most likely written for second generation Jews in Israel as a means for their comfort. Peter's letters were both written, "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," of which they are also located in Asia Minor. The Apostle John exercised pastoral care over several churches in Asia Minor. His letters were thought to have been written from Ephesus. The Book of James was written, "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad," and is the most Jewish of all of the New Testament writings. James was a leader in the Jerusalem church, Acts 15. It would be evident, then, that the autograph of James would be found in Jerusalem. There is no evidence as to where Jude was written. However, Jude "the brother of James" may very well have been a leader in the Jerusalem Church.

            Thus, the vast majority of autographs of the New Testament would be found in Asia Minor. The rest would be found in Rome and Israel.[3] After the splitting of the Roman Empire these locations would fall under the Eastern Empire also known as the "Greek Empire" or the "Byzantine Empire."[4]

            Very early in Church History there were false teachers who wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction.[5] Both Irenaeus and Tertulian would note that the Gnostics Marcion and Valentius would corrupt the Scriptures in order to promote their heresies.[6] In commenting on this F.F. Bruce writes:

Some light may be thrown on the question by a remark of Tertullian's. There are two ways, he says, of nullifying the scriptures. One is Marcion's way: he used the knife to excise from the scriptures whatever did not conform with his own opinion. Valentinus, on the other hand, 'seems to use the entire instrumentum' (which here means the New Testament), but perverts its meaning by misinterpreting it. Valentinus was contemporary with Marcion: he came from Alexandria in Egypt and lived in Rome from about AD 135 to 160.[7]


Not much is known concerning the transmission of the Scriptures through the first three centuries of the Church. The Scriptures tell us that the first century church was a large mixture of both Jews and Gentiles. The first three-thousand converts to Christianity were Jews, Acts 2:41. These Jews brought their traditions with them, and this caused a controversy in the Church. Cities such as Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, Philippi, Damascus, Corinth, and Rome[8] had large contingents of Jewish populations, and these Jews would also bring to the Church their high regard for the Word of God, and their method of transmitting Scripture.

The same extreme care which was devoted to the transcription of manuscripts is also at the bottom of the disappearance of the earlier copies. When a manuscript had been copied with the exactitude prescribed by the Talmud, and had been duly verified, it was accepted as authentic and regarded as being of equal value with any other copy. If all were equally correct, age gave no advantage to a manuscript; on the contrary, age was a positive disadvantage, since a manuscript was liable to become defaced or damaged in the lapse of time. A damaged or imperfect copy was at once condemned as unfit for use. Attached to each synagogue was a 'Geniza' (from a Hebrew word 'to hide', 'to store'), a sort of lumber room or cupboard in which worn or defective manuscripts or indeed any other documents containing the Divine Name were laid aside. Thus far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the more perfect, and free from damage. The older copies, once consigned to the Geniza, where they would be safe from profanation, were left until the room or cupboard was full, and were then removed and buried with elaborate ceremony.[9]


This is most likely why the autographs did not survive very long. Once they started to show their age an official copy was made, and the autograph was buried to protect it from profanation. What is eye-opening to those who hold to the modern view is that in the first century, and up until the 19th Century, the older manuscripts were considered inferior to the newer copies. John Owen writes:

We add, that the whole Scripture, entire as given out from God, without any loss, is preserved in the copies of the originals yet remaining; what varieties there are among the copies themselves shall be afterward declared. In them all, we say, is every letter and tittle of the word. These copies, we say, are the rule, standard, and touchstone of all translations, ancient or modern, by which they are in all things to be examined, tried, corrected, amended; and themselves only by themselves.[10]


The Providential Preservation of the Scriptures both Old and New is a doctrine that has been abandoned by the modern theories even though their own texts affirm it, 1 Pet. 1:24,25. However, this is getting ahead of the matter.

            Between the years 260 AD and 300 the Church enjoyed a short span of peace. According to Aland:

This period of peace was critical for the development of the New Testament text. In Antioch the early form was polished stylistically, edited ecclesiastically, and expanded devotionally. This was the origin of what is called the Koine text, later to become the Byzantine Imperial text. Fourth-century tradition called it the text of Lucian. At the same time another scholarly theologian working from a papyrus with an early text undertook a more thorough revision (probably of only the Gospels and Acts).[11] But in the fourth century the text of Lucian received strong support, while its rival text (a precursor of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis) was given no official support and was consequently preserved in only a few manuscripts.[12]


Emerging from this time are the two dominant text-types: The Alexandrian Texts edited by the pagan Hesychius and the Koine (or Byzantine) edited by the Martyr Lucian.[13]

            In 303 AD the Emperor Diocletian ordered a general persecution of the Christians with an especial order to burn all the Christian writings. This order would cause the Church to go completely underground and protect the sacred writings. Faithful copies would be cherished and hidden from the Roman authorities, and the older copies would most probably have been given up to the Romans for destruction. The Romans would be clearing out the "Geniza's" of the Church - not knowing that they were actually doing the Church a favor![14]

            In 313 the Emperor Constantine declared a general amnesty from persecution for the Church. Considering the severity of the persecutions that the Christians were under it would have been a great relief for the Church. What is most important to the history of textual transmission is that the Emperor Constantine would overturn the order of Diocletian to destroy the Christian writings. Constantine would go even farther than this and authorize 50 copies of the New Testament to be made and paid out of the Emperor's treasure. J. Harold Greenlee writes about this time:

When Christianity attained official status under Constantine, MSS of the NT needed no longer be kept concealed for safety. Very soon afterwards the emperor himself ordered fifty new copies of the Bible to be made for the churches of Constantinople. In this new position, there would soon arise both a greater opportunity for the official comparison of the text of various MSS and a more evident need for such comparison and for bringing together into a unified tradition the divergent streams of the local texts. Professional scribes could now be employed for copying the MSS ... With the rise of Constantinople as the center of the Greek-speaking church, it is not surprising that the local text in use there seems to have become the dominant text throughout most of the church. There was apparently some comparison of this text with other texts, resulting in something of a mixed type of text. ... The evidence of the MSS indicates that the processes of standardization of the text and consequent displacement of the older text-types continued from the fourth century until the eighth, by the end of which time the standardized or "Byzantine" text had become the accepted form of the text. ... Approximately 95 percent of the existing MSS of the NT are from the eighth and later centuries, and very few of these differ appreciably from the Byzantine text.[15]


It was during this Golden Age of copying that the Church was able to bring together and evaluate the two traditions of text-types formed earlier. According to all of the scholarly evidence, as exhibited by Dr. Greenlee's statement above, the Alexandrian text of  Hesychius was rejected as corrupt, and Lucian text was adopted as the accepted text. The lone dissenting scholar, Dr. Bruce Metzger, argues that "some scholars" say that the Alexandrian texts of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were actually among the 50 copies ordered by Constantine. If this is the case, then the scribes wrote very sloppy copies.[16]

            For over the next thousand years the Church would hold the Lucian/Byzantine MSS as the preserved copies of the autographs. The idea that Providence had preserved the copies though thick and thin is well attested throughout Church history. During this time the Greek text, though respected, was supplanted by Jerome's Latin text as the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. The Waldensians, on the other hand, preserved the Greek text, and were persecuted by the Roman Church for their efforts. The Greek Orthodox Church also held that their MSS were authentic copies of the originals. The copying of the Greek text would fall into the hands of the few. So jealous was the Latin Church in guarding its Latin text that when Wycliffe sought to translate into English from Jerome's Bible - the Papists would censure him for it.

            The Reformation would free the Universal Church from the tyranny of the Roman Basilica. Scholars such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and even Erasmus of Rotterdam would be free to peruse the Scriptures and uncover what Tertilian and Irenaeus called "The Rule of Faith." One of the criterion used by the Early Church Fathers in determining the Canon of Scripture was this Rule of Faith. Martin Luther would also use this principle when he sought to determine canonicity:

Luther judged that every book of the New Testament which inculcates or promotes (treiben, literally 'drives') Christ is apostolic, quite independent of its authorship: 'Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it. ... his most basic criterion of canonicity is a theological evaluation.[17]


It was the godly doctrine of the Scriptures that guided the Church in recognizing and determining the canon. This same principle would also be applied to determining the text of the Greek New Testament. A text that would promote a wrong or aberrant view of Christ and His teachings would be considered corrupt and discarded.[18] Because the Church started becoming more interested in the Rule of Faith it was also interested in the source documents of that Rule of Faith, i.e. the Greek New Testament.

The first printed edition of the Greek New Testament appeared on 10 January 1514. It was volume 5 of a polyglot Bible commissioned by the cardinal primate of Spain, Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros (1437-1517). Printed in the town of Alcala, called Complutum in Latin, the work came to be known as the Complutensian Polyglot Bible ... But although the Complutensian Bible contained the first Greek New Testament ever printed, it was not the first one to be published (i.e., both printed and put on the market). That honor belongs to the edition prepared by Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), a Dutch scholar from Rotterdam. Erasmus managed to complete the edition and have it out by 1516.[19]


The first edition of Erasmus is famous, or, rather infamous, for its many typographical errors. Dr. Metzger creates a great fuss about this fact, and he often associates this fact with the Textus Receptus. Even Erasmus' worst critic could only account for about 380 differences between his first and third edition. In contradistinction to this fact the third edition of the Critical Text differed from the first edition in over 500 different places:

As a result of the Committee's discussions, more than five hundred changes have been introduced into this Third Edition.[20]


The texts that Erasmus used for his first edition were: 1eap 1r 2e 2ap 4ap and 7p the oldest of which 7p dates to the 11th Century. None of which contain the last several verses of the Book of Revelation. Erasmus had to translate out of the Latin back into the Greek for the ending of Revelation. No translation of the Bible ever used the first edition of Erasmus. Luther used Erasmus' second edition as well as the Vulgate. By the time of the publishing of Stephens 1550 most of the errors were corrected.

Comparing the Stephens 1550 with Metzer's third edition at the ending of Revelation would open some eyes. From Rev. 22:6 to the end in verse 21 there are 358 words (counting both text-types). Of these 358 words they differ only 40 times. Many of these differences have no real effect on the text: "kai", "tous", "gar", "toi", "tou" count for about 18 differences. Where the Critical Text append words about it is done about 13 times. Where the Critical Text subtracts words it is done about 8 times. In verse 13 the Critical Text transposes two phrases - this is a difference only in the order of the words. Thus, Stephens 1550 and the Critical Text agree 88% of the time. If you take out the small words the agreement is about 94%. Considering the possibility that the Critical Text is wrong in some of its decisions, for example, the last word in the book of Revelation is omitted by the Critical Text, yet, the apparatus notes that it is included in the "oldest manuscript" the Sinaiticus! They give this omission a "C" rating indicating that their omission is not very reliable. The differences between the two are minute to say the least. One large difference between the two is found in verse 18:


Critical Text reads: Marturo ego panti...

Stephens 1550 reads: Summarturoumai gar panti...


Outside of cutting out important words, like "amen" mentioned above, this really is the only significant difference. The edition of Stephens has in its apparatus: Marturo ego.[21] Consequently, the Textus Receptus is far more accurate than Dr. Metzger would have us think.

            It is common knowledge that Erasmus had access to the Vaticanus (B) manuscript, but rejected it as corrupted.

The manuscript is first distinctly heard of (for it does not appear to have been used for the Complutensian Polyglot) thorough Sepulveda to whose correspondence with Erasmus attention has been seasonably recalled by Tregelles ... he furnishes Erasmus with 365 readings as a convincing argument in support of his statements.[22] It would probably be from this list that in his Annotations to the Acts, published 1535, Erasmus cites the reading kauda, ch xxvii. 16 ... from a Greek codex in the Pontifical Library, since for this reading Cod. B is the only known Greek witness, except for a corrector of Cod. Aleph.[23]


In his travels to Rome it is possible that he was able to see Codex B in the flesh.[24] The silence of Erasmus concerning Codex B - especially in the light that he was aware of the few MSS that were available to him - strongly indicates that he considered the text corrupt. This would not be surprising since from the Third century on the Church considered the Alexandrian variants corrupt.

            Tracing the history of textual transmission from the very earliest times up to the first printing of the Greek text it is clear that "younger" Lucian's Koine or Byzantine MSS were considered superior to the "older" Hesychius' Alexandrian variants. The Church was not unaware of the Alexandrian variants, but from the Edict of Milan up until the 19th Century they were not considered true apographia of the autographs. This would change with the finding of the Sinaiticus text.


An Analysis of the "Older" texts: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus


            Common to the argument for the Alexandrian variants is that in using them to modify the Greek text that there has been no new doctrine or change in doctrine made:

 Out of some eight hundred thousand various readings of the Bible that have been collated, about seven hundred and ninety-five thousand are of just about as much importance to the sense of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures as the question in English orthography is, whether the word honour should be spelled with a u or without it. Of the remainder, some change the sense of particular passages or expressions, or omit particular words or phrases, but no one doctrine of religion is changed, not one precept is taken away, not one important fact is altered by the whole of the various readings collectively taken.[25]


If the doctrines of the Church remain unchanged with the creation of a brand new Greek text, then there would be no need for a brand new text. Nevertheless, the proponents of the Critical Text have, in fact, contradicted one of the most important doctrines of the Church. We are told everywhere in the Bible that the Church is built upon the Word of God, Luke 6:47-49; Eph. 2:20; 1 Tim. 3:15. Thus, the creation of a different Bible will be the creation of a different Church. If the foundation changes, then it stands to reason that the building on which it stands will change as well. Tischendorf is quite clear that changing the text-type of the Church is exactly what he is aiming at:

Learned men have again and again attempted to clear the sacred text from these extraneous elements. But we have at last hit upon a better plan even than this, which is to set aside this textus receptus altogether, and to construct a fresh text, derived immediately from the most ancient and authoritative sources. This is undoubtedly the right course to take, for in this way only can we secure a text approximating as closely as possible to that which came from the Apostles.[26]


The reader can easily discern the naiveté of such a statement. Instead of looking over the centuries of Church History and regarding the testimony of the ancient and authoritative writers concerning the Byzantine text-type, Tischendorf argues that the oldest manuscripts should be considered the most authoritative - even if these "older" manuscripts have been consistently rejected by the Church through the ages. His argument hinges on the "oldness" of the Sinaitic version, and also its affinity to the Old Italic version:

Such a manuscript is before us in the Sinaitic copy, which more than any other is in closest agreement with the old Italic version. We do not mean that there are no other versions which agree as closely with the Sinaitic copy as the old Italic version, which the translator, who lived in North Africa, somewhere near our modern city of Algiers, had before him. For we find that the old Syriac version which has been recently found is quite as closely related as the Italic. The fathers of the Egyptian church of the second and third century, moreover, establish the trustworthiness of this Sinaitic text.[27]


Is the Sinaitic text a "trustworthy" text? It has been demonstrated that in the first century there were men who entered the Church and "wrested" the Scriptures to their own destruction. It has also been shown that in the second century Marcion and Valentius were also altering the New Testament texts according to their own presuppositions. Dr. Scrivener notes:

the willful corruptions introduced by heretics soon became a cause of loud complaint in the primitive ages of the Church. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, addressing the Church of Rome and Soter its Bishop (A.D. 168-176), complains that even his own letters had been tampered with ... Nor was the evil new in the age of Dionysius. Not to mention Asclepiades, or Theodotus, or Hermophylus, or Apolonides, who all under the excuse of correcting the sacred text corrupted it, or the Gnostics Basilides (A.D. 130?) and Valentinus (A.D. 150?) who published additions to the sacred text which were avowedly of their own composition, Marcion of Pontus, the arch-heretic of that period, coming to Rome on the death of the Bishop Hyginus (A.D. 142), brought with him that mutilated and falsified copy of the New Testament, against which the Fathers of the second century and later exerted all their powers.[28]


Is it at all possible that the Alexandrian variants were easily recognized in the early church as these corrupted texts made by heretics? Is there any evidence that shows the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus to be corrupted beyond repair? The first piece of evidence that we find in answering these questions can be found in Tishendorf's own narrative:

In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like this, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen.[29]


Two curious points jump out to the reader concerning Tischendorf's account of finding this "old" manuscript. The first is the question as to why, if the text is as old as reported, would a monk be burning a manuscript that is over 1500 years old? If the text had such an ancient reputation among the monks, then it would not have been so carelessly mistreated. This is especially true because Tischendorf describes the monk in the process of burning the manuscript, "was a man of information." The second point is the reference to the manuscript "moldering." A manuscript "moldering" for over 1500 years, despite the arid climate of the Sinai Peninsula, would not be in the good condition that Tischendorf found it. These questions, however, are only the tip of the iceberg.[30]

            Tischendorf noted that there were four redactors to the text. He later speculated that a fifth would be found. These editors would cross out words and write in their own interpretations. With all of these changes and omissions to the text Dr. Schaff noted:

in the Gospels alone, B (Vaticanus) omits at least 2877 words, adds 536, substitutes 936, transposes 2098, modifies 1132 (total changes, 7578; the corresponding figures in Aleph (Sinaiticus) being severally 3455, 839, 1114, 2299, 1265 (in all 8972).[31]


Dr. Schaff would dismiss these problems with the text by pointing out that these documents are being compared with the Byzantine text. The problem with this theory is that Aleph and B are being compared to their own redactors found in the texts themselves. To give one example of the problems with the texts:


Codex Vaticanus in Hebrews 1:3 reads: "Who manifesting, (phanerôn) the all by the Word of His power ...."[32]

The correct reading thus: "Who upholding (Greek: pherôn) all things by the Word of His power ...."


The difference seems slight. However, the use of the word "manifesting the all" lends itself to early Gnosticism, and especially the school Valentius.[33] The doctrine at stake is the fact that Jesus actually came in physical flesh. The Gnostics held that Jesus was simply a phantasm or ghostly manifestation on earth. This is not the only problem here. The redactor at this point writes in the margin:

"Why don't you leave the original alone and stop altering it?" (Greek: amathestate kai kake, aphes ton palaion, mê metapoiei.) The language indicates that the original scribe of the Vaticanus had altered other parts of the manuscript as well.


It does not seem reasonable to accept manuscripts as valid when they average about 8,000 errors, omissions, and corrections to its text.

Theodore Letis has come to the same conclusion about the Gnostic influences in the early manuscripts:

This would then also explain the older extant MS evidence, i.e. the Greek Egyptian MSS., as having been influenced regionally, perhaps first by an altered Coptic version used within a Gnostic community along side a Coptic Gnostic library such as was found at Nag Hammadi[34]


Yes, in fact, if such a manuscript were found among the Byzantine family, then most certainly it would be condemned as useless and corrupt. One can easily imagine Erasmus opening up to Hebrews 1:3 and reading the redactor's comments in the Vaticanus.

In his correspondence Erasmus shows a painful awareness of his lack of Greek manuscripts. A letter to Johann Reuchlin is telling on this matter:

They say that you have a very accurate copy, and if you will give Johann Froben access to it, you will do a service not only to me and to him but to all students of the subject.[35]


There is no evidence at all that he requested copies of the Vaticanus. Even though he dedicated his New Testament to Pope Leo X. During this time the Pope wrote two letters to Erasmus: One praising him as a good son of the Church and an excellent scholar. The other was a glowing letter of recommendation to the King of England.[36] Certainly, the good will of the Pope, and, the fact that Erasmus was to dedicate his text to the Pope, would have been enough to request the Vaticanus, or, even to have a copy made for him. But no such request was made by the scholar. Most certainly this was based on the idea that the Vaticanus was corrupted as illustrated above.

            It was the finding of the Sinaiticus that gave credibility to the Vaticanus. This credibility was built up in the 19th century on the sole basis of these texts being the "older" copies, and thus closer to the originals. The modern principals of textual criticism now come into the scope of the discussion.


An Analysis of the Modern Principles of Textual Criticism


            In the words of Kurt Aland quoted earlier there are only two "traditional" text-types from which we derive the New Testament: the Alexandrian and the Byzantine. How does one determine which text-type one should use? This paper has attempted to show that the correct method of determining the dominant text-type is to consider the Words of Scripture itself, 1 Peter 1:24, as well as the historical development of the text in light of its emendations over the years. From a historical perspective there is no indication that the Alexandrian variants were considered part of the sacred apographia. How, then did they come into vogue in modern times?

            From a reading of their own works it seems that modern textual critics reject the Byzantine text-type and accept the Alexandrian on the basis of one overriding principle: the older the text the more pure it is to the original.:

the first printed text was made from a mere handful of manuscripts, and those some of the latest and least trustworthy that existed. There was no thought of searching out the oldest manuscripts and trusting chiefly to them. The best manuscripts were still unknown to scholars or inaccessible, and the editors had to content themselves with using such later copies as were within their reach ... We do not find the fundamentals of our faith altered, but we find many variations in words and sentences, and are brought so much nearer to the true Word of God as it is written down in the first century by Evangelist and Apostle.[37]


As we have seen, however, the fact that the bulk of witnesses attest the Byzantine text is no sign of its superiority when it comes to establishing the original text. To that end, the earlier attested text forms, the Western and most especially the Alexandrian, are today considered by most critics to be far superior.[38]


It is not the accuracy of the copies or the attestation of the Church through the centuries that influences modern textual critics. It is the question as to how old a manuscript is that determines its accuracy.

The Rev. David Reese once commented that one of the reasons why the Byzantine had so many copies to it was that it was considered the reliable apographia. The Alexandrian texts were not considered as reliable. Thus, they were not copied as often.[39] This astute observation shows far more erudition than what Dr. Metzger wrote above.

The rise of the Critical Text was attributed by Kurt Aland to Karl Lachman, whose sole reason for preferring the Alexandrian is summed up in a rather strident fashion thus:

His program was first announced in 1830: "Down with the late text of the Textus Receptus, and back to the text of the early fourth-century church!" This slogan set the goal for the generations following.[40]


But we have at last hit upon a better plan even than this, which is to set aside this textus receptus altogether, and to construct a fresh text, derived immediately from the most ancient and authoritative sources.[41]


The "slogan" of Lachman seems more like an irrational scream. Since it has been abundantly shown that from the very first century on heretics have been redacting the text of the New Testament: it does not necessarily follow that an "older" text is better.

            Those who follow the Majority Text acknowledge many of the principles of Critical Text scholars. What they claim which differs from the Critical Text is that the Byzantine Text actually should have an impact on the text of the New Testament:

Being based primarily on transmissional factors, the Byzantine-priority theory continually links its internal criteria to external considerations. This methodology always asks the prior question: does the reading which may appear "best" on internal grounds (no matter how plausible such might appear) really accord with known transmissional factors regarding the perpetuation and preservation of texts? Such an approach parallels Westcott and Hort, but with the added caveat against dismissing the Byzantine Textform as a significant transmissional factor.[42]


The question in dispute with the Critical Text is not the essentials of their textual theory, but their unilateral dismissal of the Byzantine text-type without producing sound reasons for rejecting it. All of their arguments end with their assertion that the older manuscripts are better?


The Johannine Comma


            The fight for the Johannine Comma started anew when the modern critics started criticizing the Textus Receptus around the middle of the Nineteenth century. Both the Critical Text 3rd Edition and the Majority Text reject the Comma. The doctrines at stake are the Deity of Christ and the Trinity. Critics of the Comma are quick to point out that though they cut this portion out of the Bible the two doctrines of the Deity of Christ and the Trinity can be proved elsewhere. Consequently, it does not matter if the Comma stays or goes. What is important is whether or not the Comma was written by the Apostle John. Bruce Metzger gives the reasons why the Comma is left out of the Critical Text:

1. The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight...

2. The passage is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies (Sabellian and Arian)....

3. The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic)...

Internal Probabilities:

1. As regards transcriptional probability , if the passage were original, no good reason can be found to account for its omission, either accidentally or intentionally, by copyists of hundreds of Greek manuscripts, and by translators of ancient versions.

2. As regards intrinsic probability, the passage makes an awkward break in the sense.[43]


The first point brought out by Dr. Metzger is that there are only 8 manuscripts that have the Comma in it, therefore, the Comma should not be allowed. However, in 1 John 1:7, the Critical Texts changes the Iesou Christou of the Received Text to Iesou, yet this change is supported in only 24 out of 501 manuscripts of 1 John which contain this passage. Also, in Matthew 11:19, the phrase "wisdom is justified of her children" is altered to "wisdom is justified of her works" on the emendation of a mere three Greek mss., versus an overwhelming host of both Greek and external evidences. Inconsistency in applying sound principles of textual criticism is an indication of a bias rather than scholarly neutrality.

 Recently, the number of manuscripts containing the Comma have increased. D.A. Waite claims to identify the Comma in manuscripts #634 and Omega 110.[44] Robert Lewis Dabney argues that Codex Wizanburgensis, "which Lachmann reckons of the eighth century," as containing the Comma.[45]

            Codex Wizanburgensis is most telling concerning the textual nature of the Comma. While it is true that all but around 10-20 of the Greek texts contain the Comma, and most of these are late, the vast bulk of those without the Comma are also late, by the standards of the United Bible Society. Around 95% of these Comma-deleted texts are "late" by these standards (post-9th century). Wizanburgensis, predates all but five of the non-Comma bearing texts, and is roughly contemporaneous with another one. Given the fact that out of the 5,000 odd Greek texts currently known only 501 of these texts contain 1 John, it then follows that the textual support has increased dramatically.

            Concerning the lack of citation of patristic writers it is interesting to note Jerome's comments concerning the Comma:

Irresponsible translators left out this testimony in the Greek codices[46]


Tertulian in his Against Praxeas alludes to the Comma, and this is used to explain and defend the doctrine of the Trinity. Cyprian writes:

He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one;' and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one.',[47]


Athanasius is said to have referred to the verse. Augustine as well when he writes:

But if we will inquire into the things signified by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the One, Only, True, Supreme God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of whom it could most truly be said, "There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One.[48]


Whereas the evidence for the existence of the Johannine Comma in the Greek tradition is weak, and the evidence often circumstantial, the same can not be said for the verse in other ancient versions. The Trinitarian rendering of 1 John 5:7-8 finds much firmer attestation in other versions tracing clear back to the middle of the 2nd century. Some Critical Text scholars claim that the Comma was not in Jerome's Bible - even though Jerome complains about redactors who are changing the text! The Comma can be found in the Old Latin.

            The claim that the Comma "does not appear in the Syriac" is in the very least rendered questionable on the basis of fact. There is evidence that the verse appeared in Syriac readings, and Jacob of Edessa, a Syriac Father, makes a clear reference to the verse around 700 AD.[49] The Syriac edition of Giles Gutbier from Hamburg 1664, produced from the collation of two Syriac manuscripts, contains the verse.[50]

            If the Comma was in the original why is it missing in so many manuscripts? One explanation can be found in that during the "Trinitarian Controversy" heretics would change the text in order to proclaim their views as authentic. We have seen that even as late as Jerome such emendations to the text were made. The Comma would survive in those texts that were kept most pure by the Church.

            The final objection raised by Dr. Metzger is that the grammar does not support the Comma. The facts are just the opposite. The grammatical difficulty which is found in this passage if the Comma is deleted rests on a rule of Greek grammar (as well as in many other languages) which demands gender agreement among parts of a sentence. If the Comma is left in place, the masculine article, participle, and number in the apodosis of verse 7 then agree with the two masculine (Father, Word) and one neuter (Spirit) nouns in the protasis. This agreement is made by means of the principle of attraction, a rule of Greek syntax by which a masculine noun in a series of nouns within the same clause determines, or "attracts" to itself, the gender for the series as a whole. This gender of the clause, usually subordinate, agrees with the predicate of the preceding clause within that sentence. Hence, the two masculine nouns in the protasis force the whole list to take on a de facto masculine gender, which is then in agreement with the masculine predicate in the apodosis. The problem for those who support the deletion of the Comma is that, if the Comma does not appear in the text, then the masculine predicate in the apodosis of verse 7 is mated with the three neuter nouns (water, blood, spirit) found in verse 8 (which then becomes the subordinate clause), a serious grammatical error. The problem disappears with the Comma in place, because not only does verse 7 agree throughout in gender via the attraction principle, but the mating of the three neuter nouns in verse 8 with the masculine Treis Marturountes (three witnesses) in verse 8 is then also explained by the attraction principle by, as Dabney says,

...the fact that the pneuma, the leading noun of this second group, and next to the adjectives, has just had a species of masculiness superinduced upon it by its previous position in the masculine group[51]


The Critical scholars have pointed out that in other passages written by John there is a similar complex grammatical structure. This, however, does not prove their point, because in those other passages of John there is no textual history as to words that fill in the structure. In 1 John 5 there is such a textual tradition.

            The Majority Text follows the Critical Text in omitting the Johannine Comma simply on the grounds of majority principle. This, of course, is rejected by the scholars of the Textus Receptus.

The arguments of the Critical Text scholars have been shown to be less then what they make of them. It then follows that there are no real objections to the inclusion of the Johannine Comma to the Greek Text. Consequently, the Textus Receptus, having doggedly retained the Comma, despite objections to the contrary, has shown itself to be the purest form of the Greek New Testament available.




            The Textus Receptus has been handed down to us though the Church from the originals of the Apostles. This history has been carefully traced: from the Apostles, to the Churches in Asia Minor (where the majority of the autographs would have been deposited), to the Martyr Lucian, to the 50 copies of Constantine, to the preservation of it in the Waldensian Church, and down to Erasmus and Stevens 1550. It has also been shown that the texts upon which the Critical Text is based - primarily Aleph and B - have not only been consistently rejected by the Church, but have also been found to be defective in over 8,000 different places in the New Testament. The claim by such scholars that the Alexandrian variants are "more pure" simply because they are "older" has been investigated and denied. The Critical Text scholars also reject 1500 years of Church history in order to support their hypothesis. Such scholars have lost their credibility.

            The Textus Receptus is not perfect. Some problems with the text have been duly noted. However, these problems do not necessitate a new and completely different Greek Text such as the Critical or the Majority. The utilization of accepted methods of Biblical Criticism within the context of the Ecclesiastical/Byzantine Text Tradition can easily correct these errors.

            Thus, there is no reason for the Critical Text to be accepted as an authorized apographia of the New Testament. The Textus Receptus still retains its place as the Greek New Testament of the Church.



Aland, Kurt and Aland, Barbara, The Text of The New Testament,Wm. B. Eerdman's, Grand Rapids, MI.


Berry, George Ricker, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987.


Brown, R.E.,  ed.,The Anchor Bible, 1995.


Bruce, F.F., The Canon of Scripture, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il., 2005.


Calvin, John, Commentaries, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI. 1994.


Carson, D.A., and Moo, Douglas, An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005.


Dabney, Robert Lewis, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1982.


Easton, B.S., ed, The Abingdon Bible Commentary:First John, 1997.


Erasmus, Desiderius, The Correspondence of Erasmus, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, 1976, Vol. 3.


Greenlee, J. Harold, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism Revised Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.


Kenyon, Sir Frederick, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Harper & Row Publishers, 1965.


Letis, Theodore, The Ecclesiatical Text, Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, Philadelphia, PA, 1997.


Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, New York, NY, 1994.


Metzger, Bruce, The Canon Of The New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1997.


Metzger, Bruce, The Greek New Testament Third Edition Corrected: Preface, United Bible Societies, 1983


Owen, John, Works, Banner of Truth Trust, 1995, Vol. 16.


Robinson, Maurice A., and, Pierpont, William G., The New Testament In The Original Greek, Chilton Book Publishing, Southborough, MA 2005.


Schaff, Philip, A Companion to The Greek Testament and The English Version,Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, New York, NY, 1892.


Scrivener, Frederick Henry, A Plain Introduction To The Criticism of the New Testament, Wipf & Stock, Eugene OR, 1997.


Schindler, Robert, The Down-Grade, The Sword and the Trowel, April 1887.


Tischendorf, Constantin, When Were Our Gospels Written?, American Tract Society, New York, NY, 1866.


Waite, Donald A., Defending the King James Bible, Collingswood, New Jersey, U.S.A: The Bible for Today Press, 1996.

[1] Colossians 4:16.

[2] Calvin, John, Commentaries, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; vol. 21, pg. 230. F.F. Bruce writes: "What is important is this: from the early second century onward Paul's letters circulated not singly, but as a collection. It was as a collection that Christians of the second century and later knew them, both orthodox and heterodox. The codex into which the letters were copied by their first editor constituted a master-copy on which all subsequent copies of the letters were based," Bruce, F.F., The Canon of Scripture, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il; pg. 130.

[3] Aland, Kurt and Aland, Barbara, The Text of The New Testament,Wm. B. Eerdman's, Grand Rapids, MI; pg. 53,54.

[4] The Goths would conquer Rome and the Western Empire in 475. In 552 the Greek Empire would re-conquor Rome and Italy.

[5] 2 Peter 3:16.

[6] Tertulian, Against Marcion, 4.4,9; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:11:9.

[7] Bruce, F.F., The Canon of Scripture, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL; pg. 145.

[8] .  "The gnostic schools maintained that it was they who best preserved the original teaching of the apostles ... Irenaeus set himself to examine such claims and to establish the content of the genuine apostolic tradition. This tradition was maintained in living power, he argued, in those churches where were founded by apostles and in which there had been a regular succession of bishops or elders since their foundation," Bruce, F.F., ibid., pg. 171, 172.

[9] Kenyon, Sir Frederick, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Harper & Row Publishers, 1965, pg. 70. He is describing how the Jews transmitted their Scriptures. Since there were such large contingents of Jews in the 1st and 2nd century it is not surprising that their theory of textual transmission filtered into the Church.

[10] Owen, John, Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text, Banner of Truth Trust, 1995, Vol. 16, pg. 357. Owen's article is a reaction against the publishing of the London Polyglot. The polyglott was the first to include the Alexandrian variants in its apparatus. The concern that Owen expressed is that placing all these variants into the apparatus would cause one to question as to whether or not the true Greek text is expressed in the body of the work. In the statement quoted he reaffirms that the Greek text which is in use at his time (the so-called TR) are the "preserved copies of the originals." This statement would find acceptance in the universal church up until the 19th century. The TR was based on younger mss and not the older.

[11] How can this be a "thorough revision" if it only included the Gospels and Acts? It seems that the "Aland bias" is peeking through here.

[12] Aland, Kurt, Aland, Barbara, ibid., pg. 64,65. Even in this early period of Textual scholarship the Alexandrian variants were being rejected by the Church. They write, quoting Jerome, "in Constantinople and as far as Antioch copies made by the martyr Lucian are regarded as authoritative; the provinces between these two read the Palestinian manuscripts prepared by Origen and widely promoted by Eusebius and Pamphilus," pg. 66. Who would know best what copies were closest to the autographs then those churches that had actually possessed the autographs?

[13] See, Aland, Kurt, Aland, Barbara, ibid., pg. 66. That Hesychius was a pagan is mentioned in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesychius_of_Alexandria.

[14] In a strange turn of events it was Diocletian who elevated Constantine's father to that of Caesar. Diocletian had in mind the creation of a tetrarchy - a four headed empire. After the deaths of his father, Diocletian, and Galerius Constantine would win a battle against the tyrant Maxentius that would be ascribed "to the Christian God." Shortly afterward Constantine would declare a general amnesty for the Christian Church: The Edict of Milan, 313 AD. Thus, overturning the persecutions of Diocletian and Galerius.

[15] Greenlee, J. Harold, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism Revised Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, 2005, pg. 54.

[16] See, Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman Bart, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2005, pg. 15,16. Dr. Metzger's bias is a well established fact in scholarly circles. An evaluation of the two texts will comprise a separate section of this paper.

[17] Metzger, Bruce, The Canon Of The New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1997, pg. 243.

[18] This would be common sense: See, the Westminster Confession, Ch. 1, Sect. 4.

[19] Carson, D.A., and Moo, Douglas, An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005, pg. 25, 26.

[20] Metzger, Bruce, The Greek New Testament Third Edition Corrected: Preface, United Bible Societies, 1983, pg.  viii. Dr. Metzer is fond of calling the Textus Receptus "corrupted" based on two criteria: the first is his criticism of Erasmus' first edition as full of errors, the second is that the TR does not use ancient MSS now available. His opinion that the "older is better" will be examined shortly. This blindness he shows with his first edition of the Critical Text illustrates his bias.

[21] Berry, George Ricker, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1897, pg. 669

[22] That Erasmus used one variant out of a possible 365 in his Fifth Edition does not mean he accepted the Vaticanus. It does show that he was aware of the manuscript. His Fifth Edition was never used by anyone. It was his Third Edition that had influence over the Textus Receptus.

[23] Scrivener, Frederick Henry, A Plain Introduction To The Criticism of the New Testament, Wipf & Stock, Eugene OR, 1997,  vol. 1, pg. 109.

[24] Scrivener, Frederick Henry, Ibid., vol. 2, pg. 184. He specifically mentions Erasmus' Annotations on Heb 1:3. Erasmus was in and out of Rome between 1506 and 1510.

[25] Tischendorf, Constantin, When Were Our Gospels Written?, American Tract Society, New York, NY, 1866, pg. 21. Robert Lewis Dabney does a masterful job in pointing out that doctrinal changes have occurred because of Aleph and B. See, Dabney, Robert Lewis, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek," Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1982, Vol. 1, pp. 372-375. The threat is real.

[26] Tischendorf, Constantin, Ibid., pg. 21,22.

[27] Tischendorf, Constantin, Ibid., pg. 128.

[28] Scrivener, Fredrick Henry, ibid., vol. 2, pg. 259,260.

[29] Tischendorf, Constantin, Ibid., pg. 28.

[30] Robert Lewis Dabney also questions the dating of the Sinaiticus, and does so very ably, in: "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek," Dabney, Robert Lewis, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1982, Vol. 1, pp. 368-371.

[31] Schaff, Philip, A Companion to The Greek Testament and The English Version, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, New York, NY, 1892, pg. 119 Note.

[32] Taken from a photocopy of Vaticanus at Hebrews 1.

[33] There is no history as to where the Vaticanus originated. Valentinus is said to have lived in Rome. That the manuscript shows signs of tampering by someone of the persuasion of Valentinus is a clear indication of the origin of the text.

[34] Letis, Theodore, The Ecclesiatical Text, Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, Philadelphia, PA, 1997, pg. 130,131. Dr. Letis came to the same conclusion by discussing a different text, John 1:18.

[35] Erasmus, Desiderius, The Correspondence of Erasmus, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, CA, 1976, Vol. 3, pg. 7,8.

[36] Erasmus, Desiderius, Ibid., pg. 139-143.

[37] Kenyon, Sir Frederick, ibid., pg. 162.

[38] Metzger, Bruce and Ehrman, Bart, ibid., pg. 280.

[39] From a private conversation.

[40] Aland, Kurt, and Aland, Barbara, ibid., pg. 11.

[41] Tischendorf, Constantan, ibid., pg 21,22.

[42] Robinson, Maurice A., and, Pierpont, William G., The New Testament In The Original Greek, Chilton Book Publishing, Southborough, MA 2005, pg. 545.

[43] Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, New York, NY, 1994, pg. 647-649.

[44] Waite, Donald A., Defending the King James Bible Collingswood, New Jersey, U.S.A: The Bible for Today Press, 1996. Dr. Waite claims to have found the comma in about 20 MSS, however, there is no outside confirmation of this statement.

[45] Dabney, Robert Lewis, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek," Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1982, Vol. 1,  pg. 381.

[46] Jerome, Prologue to the Canonical Epistles.

[47] Cyprian, De Unit. Eccl., cap. vi

[48] Augustine, Contra Maximinium, Lib. II, cap. xxii.3; also cited by J.H. Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 422-423 who gives Augustine as quoting this verse.

[49] Jacob of Edessa, On the Holy Mysteries, in The Anchor Bible, ed. R.E. Brown, Epistles of John, p. 778.

[50] Easton, B.S. ed, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, First John, p. 1357.


[51] Dabney, Robert Lewis, ibid., pg. 377ff. The above Greek assessment of the grammatical syntax of 1 John 5 is based on Dabney, and Burgeon.