THE FACTS OF NEW
TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM
James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills
Facts are the
temporal truths which God, the eternal Truth, establishes by His works of
creation and providence. God reveals facts to men through their thought
processes, and in and through the facts God reveals Himself. In the facts
of nature God reveals Himself as the almighty Creator God, in the facts of
Scripture God reveals Himself as the faithful Covenant God, and in the
facts of the Gospel God reveals Himself as the triune Saviour God.
Certainty is our clear perception of the clearly revealed facts.
Probability is our dimmer perception of the less clearly revealed facts.
Error is the sinful rejection of the facts, and especially of God's
revelation of Himself in and through the facts.
In New Testament textual criticism, therefore, we must start at the highest
point. We must begin with God, the supreme and eternal Truth, and then descend
to the lower, temporal facts which He has established by His works of creation
and providence. We must take all our principles from the Bible itself and borrow
none from the textual criticism of other ancient books. It is only by following
this rule that we will be able to distinguish facts from the fictions of
1. An Enumeration Of The New Testament Documents
For information concerning the vast fleet of documents which have transported
the New Testament text across the sea of time under the direction of God's
special providence let us apply to two of the leading experts in this field,
namely, Kurt Aland (1968), (1) who currently assigns official numbers to newly
discovered manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, and B. M. Metzger (1968), (2)
author of many books and articles concerning the New Testament text.
(a) The Greek New Testament Manuscripts
How many New Testament manuscripts are there? In order to answer this question
let us turn to the latest statistics as they are presented by Kurt Aland.
According to Aland, there are 5,255 known manuscripts which contain all or part
of the Greek New Testament. (3)
The earliest of these Greek New Testament manuscripts are the papyri. They are
given that name because they are written on papyrus, an ancient type of writing
material made from the fibrous pith of the papyrus plant, which in ancient times
grew plentifully along the river Nile. Eighty-one of these papyri have now been
discovered, many of them mere fragments. (4) The most important of these papyrus
manuscripts are the Chester Beatty Papyri and the Bodmer Papyri. The Chester
Beatty Papyri were published in 1933-37. They include Papyrus 45 ( Gospels and
Acts, c. 225 A.D. ), Papyrus 46 (Pauline Epistles, c. 225 A.D.), and Papyrus 47
(Revelation, c. 275 A.D. ). The Bodmer Papyri were published in 1956-62. The
most important of these are Papyrus 66 (John, c. 200 A.D.) and Papyrus 75 ( Luke
and John 1: 15, c. 200 A.D.).
All the rest of the Greek New Testament manuscripts are of velum ( leather),
except for a few late ones in which paper was used. The oldest of the velum
manuscripts are written in uncial (capital) letters. These uncial manuscripts
now number 267. (5) The three oldest complete (or nearly complete) uncial
manuscripts are B (Codex Vaticanus), Aleph (Codex Sinaiticus), and A (Codex
Alexandrinus). Codex B was written about the middle of the 4th century. It is
the property of the Vatican Library at Rome. When it arrived there is not known,
but it must have been before 1475, since it is mentioned in a catalogue of the
library made in that year. Codex Aleph was discovered by Tischendorf in 1859 at
the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. Tischendorf persuaded the monks
to give it as a present (requited with money and favors) to the Czar of Russia.
In 1933 it was purchased from the Russian government by the Trustees of the
British Museum. It is generally considered by scholars to have been written in
the second half of the 4th century. Codex A was for many years regarded as the
oldest extant New Testament manuscript. It was given to the King of England in
1627 by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, and is now kept in the British
Museum. Scholars date it from the first half of the 5th century. Other important
uncial manuscripts are W (Gospels, 4th or 5th century), D (Gospels and Acts, 5th
or 6th century), and D2 (Pauline Epistles, 6th century).
About the beginning of the 9th century minuscule (small letter) handwriting
began to be used for the production of books. Thus all the later New Testament
manuscripts are minuscules. According to Aland, 2,764 minuscules have been
catalogued. (6) These date from the 9th to the 16th century.
Another important class of Greek New Testament manuscripts are the lectionaries.
These are service books which contain in proper sequence the text of the
passages of Scripture appointed to be read at the worship services of the
Church. These lectionaries are of two kinds, the synaxaria, which begin the year
at Easter, and the menologia, which begin the year at September 1. Aland sets
the number of the lectionary manuscripts at 2,143. (7)
(b) Cataloguing the New Testament Manuscripts
To discover and catalogue all these manuscripts was the first task of New
Testament textual criticism. As early as 1550 Stephanus began to do this. This
scholarly printer placed in the margin of his 3rd edition of the Textus Receptus
variant readings taken from 15 manuscripts, which he indicated by Greek numbers.
One of these manuscripts was D and another L, and most of the rest have been
identified with minuscule manuscripts in the Royal (National) Library at Paris.
Stephanus' pioneer efforts were continued 100 years later by the English scholar
Brian Walton. In the 6th volume of his great Polyglot Bible (1657) he included
the variant readings of Stephanus and also those of 15 other manuscripts. These
were listed along with the libraries in which they were kept. In 1707 John Mill,
another English scholar, published his monumental edition of the New Testament
in which almost all the available evidence of the Greek manuscripts and the
early versions was presented. Scrivener (1883) gives a list of the 82 Greek New
Testament manuscripts which Mill knew and catalogued in his epoch making work.
The modern system of cataloguing the New Testament rnanuscripts was introduced
by J. J. Wettstein in his two volume edition of the New Testament, published at
Amsterdam in 1751-52. He designated the uncial manuscripts by capital letters
and the minuscule manuscripts by Arabic numerals. According to K. W. Clark
(1950), Wettstein catalogued about 125 Greek New Testament manuscripts. (9)
After the opening of the 19th century the process of cataloguing New Testament
manuscripts speeded up tremendously due to the improved means of travel and
communication. During the years 1820-36 J. M. A. Scholz listed 616 manuscripts
which had not previously been known. In the four editions of his Introduction to
the Criticism of the New Testament (1861-94) F. H. A. Scrivener extended the
catalogue to almost 3,000 manuscripts. Between the years 1884 and 1912 C. R.
Gregory enlarged this list to over 4,000 manuscripts. (10) After Gregory's death
in World War I, the task of registering newly discovered manuscripts was taken
over by von Dobschuetz, and then by Eltester, and is at present the
responsibility of K. Aland. As stated, he lists the total number of Greek New
Testament manuscripts at 5,255. In view of these large numbers, it may very well
be that almost all the extant New Testament manuscripts have now been discovered
(c) Collating the New Testament Manuscripts
After a manuscript is discovered and catalogued, it must be studied to find out
what it says, and its readings must be published. Usually this is done by
collating (comparing) the manuscript with some well known printed text and
noting the readings in regard to which the manuscript varies from this printed
text. If the collation is perfectly accurate, these variant readings, when again
compared with the printed text, will exhibit perfectly the text of the
manuscript which has been collated. Unfortunately, however, the collations of
the earlier New Testament scholars were not very reliable. It was not considered
necessary to record every variant of the manuscript that was being examined.
It was not until the 19th century that scholars began to aim at perfect accuracy
and completeness in the collation of New Testament manuscripts. The most famous
of these 19th century publishers and collators of New Testament manuscripts was
C. Tischendorf. The 8th edition of his Greek New Testament (1869) is still a
mine of information concerning the readings of the New Testament documents and
indispensable to the student who desires to examine these matters for himself.
Other eminent 19th century investigators of New Testament manuscripts were S. P.
Tregelles, F .H. A. Scrivener, and J. W. Burgon.
During the 20th century there have been many who have taken part in the work of
collating New Testament manuscripts. Included among these are C. R. Gregory, K.
Lake, H. C. Hoskier, and many contemporary scholars. One of the goals, as yet
unattained, of 20th century scholarship has been to produce a critical edition
of the New Testament which shall take the place of Tischendorf's 8th edition.
Von Soden attempted to supply this need in his monumental edition (1902-10), but
did not succeed, at least in the judgment of most critics. In 1935 and 1940 S.
C. Legg published critical editions of Mark and Matthew respectively, but
inaccuracies have also been found in his presentation of the evidence. In 1949
an international committee was formed of British and American scholars, and
since that time work on a critical edition of Luke has been in progress. Not
long ago (1966) a specimen of this committee's work was rather severely
criticized on various counts by K. Aland, who is now working with other European
scholars in yet another attempt to produce a new critical edition of the New
Such then are the impressive results of more than four centuries of New
Testament manuscript study. Thousands of manuscripts have been catalogued and
many of these manuscripts have been collated and studied. Myriads of facts have
been gathered. As believing Bible students we should seek to master these facts.
We must remember, however, that facts are never neutral. (12) All facts are
temporal truths which God establishes by His works of creation and providence.
Hence we must not attempt, as unbelievers do, to force the facts into an
allegedly neutral framework but should interpret them in accordance with the
divine Truth, namely, God's revelation of Himself in the pages of holy
Scripture. When we do this, the consistency of believing thought and the
inconsistency of unbelieving thought become evident also in the realm of New
Testament textual criticism.
(d) The Ancient New Testament Versions
When and where the New Testament was first translated into Latin has been the
subject of much dispute, but, according to Metzger, most scholars now agree that
the first Latin translation of the Gospels was made in North Africa during the
last quarter of the 2nd century. Only about 50 manuscripts of this Old Latin
version survive. These manuscripts are divided into the African Latin group and
the European Latin group according to the type of text which they contain. In
382 A.D. Pope Damasus requested Jerome to undertake a revision of the Old Latin
version. Jerome complied with this request and thus produced the Latin Vulgate,
the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. There are more than 8,000
extant manuscripts of the Vulgate. (13)
Of the Syriac versions the most important is the Peshitta, the historic Bible of
the whole Syrian Church, of which 350 manuscripts are now extant. The Peshitta
was long regarded as one of the most ancient New Testament versions, being
accorded a 2nd-century date. In more recent times, however, Burkitt (1904) and
other naturalistic critics have assigned a 5th-century date to the Peshitta.
(14) But Burkitt's hypothesis is contrary to the evidence, and today it is being
abandoned even by naturalistic scholars. (15) All the sects into which the
Syrian Church is divided are loyal to the Peshitta. In order to account for this
it is necessary to believe that the Peshitta was in existence long before the
5th century, for it was in the 5th century that these divisions occurred.
The Philoxenian Syriac version was produced in 508 A.D. for Philaxenus, bishop
of Mabbug, by his assistant Polycarp. In 616 this version was re-issued, or
perhaps revised, by Thomas of Harkel, who likewise was bishop of Mabbug. The
Philoxenian-Harclean version includes the five books which the Peshitta omits,
namely 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. (16)
The so-called "Old Syriac" version is represented by only two manuscripts, (17)
the Curetonian Syriac manuscript, named after W. Cureton who published it in
1858, and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, which was discovered by Mrs. Lewis in
1892 at the same monastery on Mount Sinai in which Tischendorf had discovered
Codex Aleph almost fifty years before. These manuscripts are called "Old Syriac"
because they are thought by critics to represent a Syriac text which is older
than the Peshitta. This theory, however, rests on Burkitt's untenable hypothesis
that the Peshitta was produced in the 5th century by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa.
The Egyptian New Testament versions are called the Coptic versions because they
are written in Coptic, the latest form of the ancient Egyptian language. The
Coptic New Testament is extant in two dialects, the Sahidic version of Southern
Egypt and the Bohairic version of Northern Egypt. According to Metzger, the
Sahidic version dates from the beginning of the 3rd century. The oldest Sahidic
manuscript has been variously dated from the mid-4th to the 6th century. The
Bohairic version is regarded as somewhat later than the Sahidic. It is extant in
many manuscripts, most of which are late. In the 1950's however, M. Bodmer
acquired a papyrus Bohairic manuscript containing most of the Gospel of John
which was thought by its editor, R. Kasser, to date from the mid-4th century.
In addition to the Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions, there are a number of
other versions which are important for textual criticism. The Gothic version was
translated from the Greek in the middle of the 4th century by Ulfilas, the
renowned missionary to the Goths. Of this version six manuscripts are still
extant. Of the Armenian version, 1,244 manuscripts survive. This version seems
to have been made in the 5th century, but by whom is uncertain. Whether it was
made from the Greek or from a Syriac version is also a matter of debate among
scholars. The Christians of Georgia, a mountainous district between the Black
and Caspian seas, also had a New Testament in their own language, several copies
of which are still extant. (19)
(e) The Quotations of the Church Fathers
The New Testament quotations found in the writings of the Church Fathers
constitute yet another source of information concerning the history of the New
Testament text. Some of the most important Fathers, for the purposes of textual
criticism, are as follows: the three Western Fathers, Irenaeus (c. 180),
Tertullian (150-220), Cyprian (200-258); the Alexandrian Fathers, Clement (c.
Origen (182-251); the Fathers who lived in Antioch and in Asia Minor, especially
Chrysostom (345-407). Another very important early Christian writer was Tatian,
who about 170 A.D. composed a harmony of the Four Gospels called the Diatessaron.
This had wide circulation in Syria and has been preserved in two Arabic
manuscripts and various other sources.
(f) Families of New Testament Documents
Since the 18th century the New Testament documents have been divided into
families according to the type of text which they contain. There are three of
these families, namely, the Western family, the Alexandrian family, and the
Traditional (Byzantine) family.
The Western family consists of those New Testament documents which contain that
form of text found in the writings of the Western Church Fathers, especially
Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian. A number of Greek manuscripts contain this
text, of which the most important are D and D2. Three other important witnesses
to the Western text are the Old Latin version, the Diatessaron of Tatian, and
the Curetonian and Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts.
The Alexandrian family consists of those New Testament documents which contain
that form of text which was used by Origen in some of his writings and also by
other Church Fathers who, like Origen, lived at Alexandria. This family includes
Papyri 46, 47, 66, 75, B, Aleph., and about 25 other Greek New Testament
manuscripts. The Coptic versions also belong to the Alexandrian family of New
Testament documents. Westcott and Hort (1881) distinguished between the text of
B and the text of other Alexandrian documents. They called the B text Neutral,
thus indicating their belief that it was a remarkably pure text which had not
been contaminated by the errors of either the Western or Alexandrian texts. Many
subsequent scholars, however, have denied the validity of this distinction.
The Traditional (Byzantine) family includes all those New Testament documents
which contain the Traditional (Byzantine) text. The vast majority of the Greek
New Testament manuscripts belong to this family, including A (in the Gospels)
and W (in Matthew and the last two thirds of Luke). The Peshitta Syriac version
and the Gothic version also belong to the Traditional family of New Testament
documents. And the New Testament quotations of Chrysostom and the other Fathers
of Antioch and Asia Minor seem generally to agree with the Traditional text.
2. The Early History Of The Western Text
The Western text may actually have originated in the East, as Ropes (1926) (20)
and other noted scholars have believed, but if so it was probably taken to Rome
almost immediately and adopted by the Christian community of that great city as
its official text. Then from Rome the use of the Western text spread to all
parts of the civilized world, the prestige of the Roman Church securing for it a
favorable reception everywhere. As Souter (1912) observed, "The universal
diffusion of the Western text can best be explained by the view that it
circulated from Rome, the capital and centre of all things." (21)
(a) Western Additions to the New Testament Text
The Western text is singularly long in many places, containing readings which
are not found in the Alexandrian or Traditional texts. Some of the most
interesting of these Western additions to the New Testament text are as follows:
Matt. 3:15 To the account of Christ's baptism certain Old Latin manuscripts add,
and a great light shone around.
Matt. 20:28 After the familiar words, The Son of Man came not to be ministered
unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many, D and certain Old
Latin manuscripts add, But as for you, seek to increase from that which is
small, and from that which is greater to be come less. And when ye come in and
are invited to dine, do not sit at the best places; lest some one more honorable
than thou approach, and the host come and say to thee, Move farther down, and
thou be ashamed. But if thou sit down at the lower place, and some one less than
thou approach, the host also will say to thee, Move farther up, and this shall
be profitable for thee.
Luke 3:22 At Christ's baptism, according to D and certain Old Latin manuscripts,
the heavenly voice states, Thou art My Son. This day have I begotten Thee.
Luke 6:4 At the end of this verse D adds this apochryphal saying of Jesus. On
the same day, seeing a certain man working on the sabbath, He said to him, Man,
if thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed, but if thou
knowest not, thou art cursed and art a transgressor of the law.
Luke 23:53 After the words, wherein never man before was laid, D c Sahidic add,
And when He was laid there, he placed before the tomb a stone, which twenty men
could scarcely roll.
John 6:56 After Christ's solemn statement, He that eateth My flesh and drinketh
My blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him, D and the Old Latin add, according as the
Father is in Me and I in the Father. Verily, verily I say unto you, except ye
take the body of the Son of Man as the bread of life, ye have not life in Him.
Acts 15:20 To the apostolic decree D Sahidic Ethiopic add these words ( the
Golden Rule in negative form ), And whatsoever they do not wish to be done to
themselves, not to do to others.
Acts 23:24 Here the Old Latin and the Vulgate give an interesting explanation
why Claudius Lysias sent Paul away by night to Felix the governor, For he feared
lest the Jews should seize him and kill him and he meanwhile should be accused
of having taken a bribe.
These longer Western readings have found few defenders and are one of the many
indications that the Western New Testament text is a corrupt form of the divine
(b) The Westem Omissions
In the last portion of Luke there are eight readings which The Revised Standard
Version (R.S.V.) and The New English Bible (N.E.B.) remove from the text and
consign to the footnotes. These readings are usually called Western omissions,
because (with two exceptions) they are omitted only by a few manuscripts of the
Western group, namely, D, certain Old Latin manuscripts, and one or two Old
Syriac manuscripts. These Western omissions are as follows:
Luke 22:19-20 (the Lord's Supper) from which is given for you to is shed for
you, omitted by D and the Old Latin version.
Luke 24:3 (referring to Christ's body) of the Lord Jesus, omitted by D and the
Old Latin version.
Luke 24:6 (the angelic announcement) He is not here but is risen, omitted by D,
the Old Latin version, the Old Syriac version (?), and certain manuscripts of
Luke 24:12 (Peter's journey to the tomb) whole verse omitted by D, the Old Latin
version, and the Old Syriac version (?).
Luke 24:36 (salutation of the risen Christ) and saith unto them, Peace be unto
you, omitted by D, the Old Latin version and the Old Syriac version (?).
Luke 24:40 (proofs of Christ's resurrection) And when He had thus spoken, He
shewed them His hands and His feet, omitted by D and the Old Latin and Old
Luke 24:51 (the ascension of Christ) and was carried up into heaven, omitted by
Aleph, D, the Old Latin version and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript.
Luke 24:52 (recognition of Christ's deity) worshipped Him, and omitted by D, the
Old Latin version and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript.
The omission of these eight readings in the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. is certainly
not a matter that can be taken lightly, for it means, as far as these two modern
versions can make it so, that all reference to the atoning work of Christ has
been eliminated from Luke's account of the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:19-20) and
that the ascension of Christ into heaven (Luke 24:51) has been entirely removed
from the Gospels, Mark's account of the ascension having already been rejected
by the critics. Certainly no believing Bible student can remain indifferent to
this mutilation of the Gospel record.
In their Greek New Testament text (1881) Westcott and Hort placed these Western
omissions in double brackets, thus indicating their opinion that these readings
were interpolations which had been added to the text of Luke in all the New
Testament manuscripts except D and those few others mentioned above. But the
fact that all eight of these readings have recently been found to occur in
Papyrus 75 is unfavorable to their hypothesis that these readings are additions
to the text. For if this were so, it is hard to see how all these readings could
have made their way into so early a witness as Papyrus 75. Surely some of them
would have failed to do so and thus would be absent from this papyrus. Hort's
answer to objections of this sort was vague and scarcely satisfactory. He
believed that these readings were added to the text at a very early date just
after the Neutral text "had parted company from the earliest special ancestry of
the Western text," perhaps "at the actual divergence," (22) but where or by whom
this was done he didn't say.
Thus Westcott and Hort believed that in Luke's account of the Lord's Supper, for
example, all the extant New Testament manuscripts are in error except D and a
few Old Latin manuscripts. According to these two scholars and also Kilpatrick
(1946) (23) and Chadwick (1957), (24) the reading, which is given for you: this
do in remembrance of Me. Likewise the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the
new testament in My blood, which is shed for you, is an interpolation which some
very early scribe borrowed from Paul's account of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor.
11:24-25). The scribe's motive, these scholars claim, was to make Luke agree
with Matthew and Mark in having the cup come after the bread. This
interpolation, these scholars believe, was so extraordinarily successful that it
is found today in all the extant New Testament manuscripts except D and those
The R.S.V. and the N.E.B. are certainly to be condemned for using such doubtful
speculations as a basis for their alterations of the Lucan account of the Lord's
Supper. For this theory is rejected even by many liberal scholars. As Kenyon and
Legg (1937) and Williams (1951) (25) have pointed out, no scribe would have
tried to harmonize Luke's narrative with that of Matthew and Mark by borrowing
from 1 Cor. 11:24-25. For this would make the supposed contradiction worse.
There would then be two cups where before there had been only one.
The ascension of Christ into heaven is another important Western omission which
the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. have wrongly relegated to the footnotes. The words and
was carried up into heaven are found not in "some" documents or "many"
documents, as these two modernistic versions misleadingly state in their
footnotes, but in all the New Testament documents except those few mentioned
above. Westcott and Hort believed that these words were not originally a part of
Luke's Gospel but were inserted by a scribe who thought that the ascension was
implied by the preceding words, He was parted from them. According to Westcott
and Hort, Luke did not intend even to hint at the ascension in his Gospel but
was saving his account of it for the first chapter of Acts. (26) But, as Zahn
(1909) pointed out, this theory is contradicted by the opening verses of Acts,
which make it clear that Luke thought that he had already given an account of
the ascension in the last chapter of his Gospel. (27)
It is much more reasonable to suppose with Streeter (1924), (28) Williams 1951),
(29) and other scholars that the ascension into heaven was omitted by some of
the early Christians in order to avoid a seeming conflict with the first chapter
of Acts. The account in Luke may have seemed to them to imply that the ascension
took place on the very day of the resurrection, and this would seem to be out of
harmony with the narrative in Acts, which plainly states that the ascension
occurred forty days after the resurrection. In order to eliminate this
difficulty they may have omitted the reference to the ascension in Luke 24:51.
This drastic remedy, however, was in no wise necessary. For, contrary to the
opinion of Streeter and Williams, there is no real contradiction between the
Gospel of Luke and Acts in regard to the ascension of Christ. The Gospel of Luke
need not be regarded as teaching that the resurrection and ascension of Christ
took place on the same day.
Because these eight omitted readings have been found to occur in Papyrus 75,
critics are now changing their minds about them. Kurt Aland (1966), for example,
has restored these Western omissions to the text of the Nestle New Testament.
(30) Hence the R.S.V., the N.E.B., and the other modern versions which omit them
are already out of date. And this rapid shifting of opinion shows us how
untrustworthy naturalistic textual criticism is. Christians who rely upon it for
their knowledge of the New Testament text are to be pitied. Surely they are
building their house upon the sands.
(c) The Westem and Caesarean Texts in Egypt
The Western text circulated not only in the East and in Italy and North Africa
but also in Egypt. This was first proved in 1899 by P. M. Barnard in a study
entitled The Biblical Text of Clement of Alexandria. (31) Barnard analyzed
Clement's quotations from the Four Gospels and Acts and found them to be of a
fundamentally Western character. Then in 1926 Papyrus 37, a 3rd-century fragment
of Matthew, was shown by H. A. Sanders to be Western in its text, (32) and again
in the following year Sanders showed the same thing to be true of Papyrus 38, a
3rd or 4th-century fragment of Acts. (33)
During the 1920's and 30's another type of New Testament text was discovered to
have circulated in Egypt, namely, the Caesarean text. This text occurs in
certain late manuscripts (e.g., Theta 1 13 28 565 700) in places in which these
manuscripts do not agree with the Traditional (Byzantine) text. In 1924 Streeter
gave this newly discovered text the name Caesarean because he believed that
Origen used this type of text in Caesarea after he had fled there from
Alexandria in 231 A.D. (34) In 1928, however, Kirsopp Lake brought out the
possibility that the Caesarean text was an Egyptian text. According to Lake,
when Origen first moved to Caesarea, he used the Alexandrian text, not switching
to the Caesarean text until later. This might mean that he found the Alexandrian
text in Caesarea and used it only temporarily until the Caesarean text could be
sent to him out of Egypt. (35) Then, finally, in 1933-37 F. G. Kenyon published
the newly discovered Chester Beatty Papyri. In Acts, the Pauline Epistles and
Revelation he found them to possess an Alexandrian type of text, but in the
Gospels, and especially in Mark, he discovered them to be Caesarean. (36) This
discovery provided one more link in the chain binding the Caesarean text to
Thus these discoveries and these researches into the New Testament text of
ancient Egypt are unfavorable to the theory of Westcott and Hort that the
Alexandrian text, and especially the text of B. represents the pure original New
Testament text. For, as Kenyon pointed out, the evidence shows that the
Alexandrian text was not dominant even in Egypt. Clement never used it, and
Origen used it only some of the time. (37) Clearly it is wrong to suppose that
the Alexandrian text enjoyed an official status that kept it pure.
3. The Early History Of The Alexandrian Text
Concerning the relationship of the Alexandrian New Testament text to the Western
New Testament text there has been a difference of opinion dating back to the
early days of New Testament textual criticism. Some critics have believed that
the Western text was the earlier and that the Alexandrian text came into being
as a refinement of this primitive Western text. Among those who have thought
this are Griesbach (1796), Hug (1808), Burkitt (1899), A. C. Clark (1914),
Sanders (1926), Lake (1928), Glaue (1944), and Black (1954) . Other critics have
regarded the Alexandrian text as prior and have looked upon the Western Text as
a corruption of this purer Alexandrian text-form. Some of those who have held
this view are Tischendorf (1868), Westcott and Hort (1881), B. Weiss (1899),
Ropes (1926), Lagrange (1935), and Metzger (1964). In the paragraphs that follow
we shall bring forth evidence to show that neither of these positions is
(a) Early Alterations in the Alexandrian Text
At a very early date the Alexandrian text was altered in many places. The
following are some of these alterations occurring in B. which Westcott and Hort
(WH) regarded as the purest of all extant manuscripts, and also in the Chester
Beatty Papyri and the Bodrner Papyri.
Luke 10:41-42 One thing is needful. Traditional Text, Pap 45 (dated 225 A.D.)
Pap 75 (dated 200 A.D.).
Few things are needful, or one. B Aleph WH & footnotes of R.V., A.S.V., R.S.V.,
N.E.B. This Alexandrian alteration makes Jesus talk about food rather than
Luke 12:31 Seek ye the kingdom of God. Traditional Text, Pap 45.
Seek ye the kingdom. Pap 75.
Seek ye His kingdom. B Aleph, WH, R.V., A.S.V., R.S.V., N.E.B.
A similar Alexandrian alteration is made in Matt. 6:33, where B alters the text
still further into, But seek ye first His righteousness and His kingdom.
Luke 15:21 B Aleph D add Make me as one of thy hired servants. As Hoskier
observes, (38) this tasteless Alexandrian addition (accepted by WH and placed in
the footnotes of modern versions) spoils the narrative. In the true text the
prodigal never pronounces the words which he had formulated in vs. 19. As soon
as he beholds his father's loving face, they die on his lips. This addition is
not found in Pap 75.
Luke 23:35 saying, He saved others, let him save himself, if this is the Christ,
the chosen of God. Traditional Text. they said to Him, Thou savedst others, save
thyself, if thou art the Son of God, if thou art Christ, the chosen.
D c aeth.
saying, He saved others, let him save himself, if this is the Christ, the Son of
God, the chosen. Pap 75.
saying, He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Son, the Christ of
God, the chosen. B.
We see here that the Traditional Text was altered by the Western text at a very
early date. Then this alteration was adopted in part by Pap 75 and then in still
a different form by B.
Luke 23:45 And the sun was darkened. Here Pap 75, Aleph B C L Coptic, WH, R.V.,
A.S.V., R.S.V., N.E.B., read, the sun having become eclipsed. This rationalistic
explanation of the supernatural darkness at the crucifixion is ascribed to the
Jews in the Acts of Pilate and to a heathen historian Thallus by Julius
Africanus, but, as Julius noted, it is impossible, because at Passover time the
moon was full. (39)
John 1:15 John bare witness of Him and cried, saying, This was He of whom I
spake, He that cometh after me etc. Traditional Text, Pap 66 (dated 200 A.D.),
Pap 75. John bare witness of Him and cried, saying (this was he that said) He
that cometh after me etc. B WH & footnotes of R.V., A.S.V. This Alexandrian
alteration, this was he that said, makes no sense. It had already been stated
that John was speaking.
John 8:39 If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
Traditional Text. If ye are Abraham's children, do the works of Abraham. Pap 66
B. WH, R.V., A.S.V., and footnotes of N.E.B.
If ye are Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. Pap 75 Aleph D.
Here we see that the Traditional Text has the original reading. This was altered
at a very early date by Pap 66, who was followed by B and, in modern times, by
WH, R.V., A.S.V., and N.E.B. (footnotes). Then, also at a very early date, the
scribe of Pap 75 combined the first two readings in an ungrammatical way, and he
was followed by Aleph and D.
John 10:29 My Father, who gave them to Me, is greater than all. Traditional
Text, Pap 66, Pap 75.
That which My Father hath given unto Me is greater than all. B Aleph, WH &
footnotes of R.V., A.S.V., R.S.V., N.E.B.
This alteration is of great doctrinal importance, since it makes the
preservation of the saints depend on the Church rather than on God. So Westcott
expounds it, "The faithful, regarded in their unity, are stronger than every opposing power." (40)
(b) The Alexandrian Text Influenced by the Sahidic (Coptic) Version
Coptic is the latest form of the language of ancient Egypt. At first it was
written in native Egyptian characters, but after the beginning of the Christian
era Greek capital letters were mainly employed. At least a half a dozen
different Coptic dialects were spoken in ancient Egypt, but the most important
of these were the Sahidic dialect spoken in southern Egypt and the Bohairic
dialect spoken in northern Egypt. At a very early date the Greek New Testament
was translated into Sahidic, and some of the distinctive readings of this
Sahidic version are found in Papyrus 75, thus supporting the contention of
Hoskier (1914) that the Alexandrian text was "tremendously influenced" by the
Sahidic version. (41)
For example, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19) Papyrus 75
says that the Rich Man's name was Neves. The Sahidic version says that the Rich
Man's name was Nineve. Why was the Rich Man given this name? Metzger (1964) says
that it was because there was a wide-spread tradition among the ancient
catechists of the Coptic Church that the name of the Rich Man was Nineveh a name
which had become the symbol of dissolute riches. (42) Grobel (1964), on the
other hand, argues that this name was derived from an old Egyptian folk-tale and
that the name Nineve in Sahidic means Nobody. (43) But, however this may be, it
is obvious that this reading was taken early into the text of Papyrus 75 from
the Sahidic version.
Another Sahidic reading that found its way into the text of Papyrus 75 occurs in
John 8:57. Here the majority of the New Testament documents read, Hast thou seen
Abraham? But Papyrus 75, Aleph, T. Sahidic, Sinaitic Syriac read Hath Abraham
In John 10:7 Papyrus 75 agrees with the Sahidic version in reading, I am the
shepherd of the sheep, instead of, I am the door of the sheep.
In John 11:12 Papyrus 75 agrees with the Sahidic version against all the rest of
the New Testament documents. In the other documents the disciples say (referring
to Lazarus), Lord, if he hath fallen asleep, he will be saved. Papyrus 75 and
the Sahidic version, however, read, he will be raised.
(c) Have True Readings Been Hiding for Centuries in the Papyri?
In John 7:52, according to the Traditional Text, the chief priests and Pharisees
say to Nicodemus, Search and look: for out of Galilee hath arisen no prophet. In
the early 19th century the rationalists Bretschneider and Baur insisted that
these Jewish rulers could not have said this because they would have known that
several prophets, e. g., Elijah, Nahum, Hosea, Jonah, were of Galilean origin.
(44) More recently Bultmann (1941) and others have suggested that the true
reading is the Prophet, referring to the great Prophet whose coming had been
foretold by Moses long ago (Deut. 18:18). (45) Still more recently this
suggested reading, the Prophet, has been found to occur in Papyrus 66 and is
regarded by J. R. Michaels (1957) and others as "almost certainly" correct. (46)
For support appeal is made to Luke 7:39 where B similarly adds the before
prophet. But this appeal cuts both ways, for this B reading is accepted only by
WH and the footnotes of R.V. and A.S.V. Hence if B is wrong in Luke 7:39, it is
reasonable to suppose that Papyrus 66 is wrong in John 7:52. And as Fee (1965)
observes, (47) a correction appears in this verse in Papyrus 66 which may
indicate that even the scribe who wrote it may not, on second thought, have
approved of the novelty which he had introduced into the text. Certainly there
is no need to change the text to answer the criticism of Bretschneider and Baur.
We need only to suppose that the Jewish rulers were so angry that they forgot
their biblical history.
There is no compelling reason, therefore, to conclude that in John 7:52 the true
reading has been hiding for centuries in Papyrus 66 and has just now come to
light. And such a conclusion is contrary to the doctrine of the special
providential preservation of the Scriptures, since no one knows where Papyrus 66
comes from. As its name implies, this manuscript is the property of the Bodmer
Library in Geneva, Switzerland. According to Kurt Aland (1957), it is part of a
collection of more than fifty papyrus documents which was purchased in 1954 by
the Bodmer Library from E. N. Adler of London. (48) And to this information
Mile. O. Bongard, secretary of the Bodmer Library, adds little. "We can only
tell you," she writes (1957), "that it was purchased at Geneva by M. Bodmer. The
numerous intermediaries are themselves ignorant of the exact source. And so we
ourselves have given up looking for it." (49)
The Chester Beatty Papyri, which are housed in the Beatty Museum in Dublin, are
in no better position. According to the information which Prof. Carl Schmidt
obtained from the dealer, they were found in a pot on the east bank of the Nile
south of Cairo. (50) Aland (1963) believes that there may be a connection
between the Chester Beatty Papyri and the Bodmer Papyri. According to Aland,
"the Bodmer Papyri seem to have been found in one place and to have come from an
important Christian educational center, which was very old and which flourished
for a long time." (51) Aland thinks it possible that the Chester Beatty Papyri
also came from this same place. The reason for supposing this lies in the fact
that a fragment of Bodmer Papyrus 66 (from chapter 19 of John) has been found
among the Chester Beatty Papyri in Dublin. (52)
But however all this may be, it is evident that as Bible-believing Christians we
cannot consistently maintain that there are true readings of the New Testament
text which have been hiding in papyri for ages, enclosed in pots, waiting for
the light of day, and just now discovered. If we thought this, our faith would
be always wavering. We could never be sure that a dealer would not soon appear
with something new from somewhere. Thank God that He has not preserved the New
Testament text in this secret way but publicly in the usage of His Church and in
the Traditional Text and the Textus Receptus which reflect this usage.
(d) Christ's Agony and Bloody Sweat
Luke 22:43-44 "And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven strengthening
Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were
great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
The evidence for these precious verses may be briefly summed up as follows: They
are found in the vast majority of the New Testament manuscripts, including
Aleph, D, and L. They are also found in the Old Latin versions and in the
Curetonian Syriac. They occur also in the Peshitta and Palestinian Syriac
versions and in certain manuscripts of the Armenian and Coptic versions.
The evidence against Luke 22:43-44 is as follows: These verses are omitted by
Papyrus 75, B. A, N. R, T. W. and a group of later manuscripts called Family 13,
which contain the Caesarean text. They are also omitted by one Old Latin
manuscript, the Sinaitic Syriac, and Harclean Syriac margin, and the Coptic and
On the strength of this negative evidence Westcott and Hort decided that the
account of Christ's agony and bloody sweat was not part of the original Gospel
of Luke but a bit of oral tradition which was inserted into the sacred text
somewhere in the western part of the Roman empire. "These verses," they
concluded, "and the first sentence of 23:34 (Christ's prayer for His murderers)
may safely be called the most precious among the remains of this evangelic
tradition which were rescued from oblivion by the scribes of the second
In arguing for this theory, however, Westcott and Hort ran into an insoluble
difficulty. They insisted that this alleged interpolation was a distinctive
feature of the Western text. The early Fathers who cited this reading, they
maintained, were all Westerners. "The early patristic evidence on its behalf is
purely Western." (54) But if this had been so, how did these verses find
acceptance in the 4th century among Eastern Fathers such as Epiphanius, Didymus,
Eusebius, and Gregory Nazianzus? For then the Arian controversy was at its
height and orthodox Christians were on their guard against anything which
detracted from Christ's deity. The account of the Saviour's bloody sweat and of
the ministering angel seems, at first sight, to do this, and therefore it would
never have been accepted as Scripture by 4th-century Christians if it had come
to them as something new and not previously a part of their Bible. According to
Epiphanius, precisely the opposite development had taken place. Arius had used
these verses to support his low view of Christ, and for this reason some of the
orthodox Christians had removed them from their Gospel manuscripts. (55)
In more recent years the genuineness of Luke's account of Christ's agony and
bloody sweat has been defended by such well known scholars as Streeter (1924),
(56) Goguel, Williams (1951), (57) and especially Harnack (1931). (58) Harnack
defended the Lucan authorship of these verses on linguistic grounds. "In the
first place," he wrote, "this short passage bears the stamp of the Lucan
viewpoint and speech so distinctly that it is in the highest degree mistaken to
explain it as an interpolation." Harnack gives two reasons why this passage was
offensive to orthodox Christians of the 2nd century and therefore might have
been omitted by some of them. "In the first place, it was offensive that an
angel strengthened the Lord—especially offensive in the earliest period, when,
beginning with the epistles to the Colossians and the Hebrews, it was necessary
to fight for the superiority of Jesus over the angels. In the second place, the
agony with its bloody consequences was also offensive.... The more one
emphasized against the Jews and heathen that the Lord endured suffering of His
own free will (see Barnabas and Justin), so much the more strange must this
fearful soul-struggle have appeared."
The fact that Luke 22:43-44 does not occur in Papyrus 75 indicates that Harnack
was right in supposing that it was during the 2nd century that these verses
began to be omitted from certain of the New Testament manuscripts. It is not
necessary to suppose, however, that this practice originated among orthodox
Christians. It may be that the docetists were the first ones to take the
decisive step of omitting these verses. These heretics would be anxious to
eliminate the account of Christ's agony and bloody sweat, since this passage
refuted their contention that Christ's human nature was merely an appearance
(phantom) and was one of the biblical texts which Irenaeus (c. 180) (59) and
other orthodox writers were urging against them. The easiest way for the
docetists to meet this orthodox appeal to scripture was to reject Luke 22:43-44
altogether. And when once this omission was made, it would be accepted by some
of the orthodox Christians who for various reasons found these verses hard to
reconcile with Christ's deity.
(e) Christ's Prayer His Murderers
Luke 23:34a "Then said Jesus, Father forgive them, for they know not what they
This disputed reading is found in the vast majority of the New Testament
manuscripts, including Aleph, A, C, L, N. and also in certain manuscripts of the
Old Latin version, in the Curetonian Syriac manuscript and in the Peshitta,
Harclean, and Philoxenian versions. It is also cited or referred to by many of
the Church Fathers, including the following: in the 2nd century, Tatian (60)
Irenaeus; (61) in the 3rd century, Origen; in the 4th century, Basil, Eusebius,
and others. The reading is omitted, on the other hand, by the following
witnesses: Papyrus 75, B. D, W. Theta, 38, 435, certain manuscripts of the Old
Latin version, the Sinaitic manuscript of the Old Syriac version, and the Coptic
versions (with the exception of certain manuscripts). Cyril of Alexandria is
also listed as omitting the reading, but, as Hort admitted, this is only an
Not many orthodox Christians have agreed with Westcott and Hort in their
rejection of this familiar reading which has become hallowed by many centuries
of tender association. But these critics were nevertheless positive that this
petition ascribed to Christ was not part of the original New Testament text but
was interpolated into the Western manuscripts early in the 2nd century. This
prayer of our Saviour for His murderers, they insisted, like the agony and
bloody sweat, was "a fragment from the traditions, written or oral, which were,
for a while at least, locally current beside the canonical Gospels, and which
doubtless included matter of every degree of authenticity and intrinsic
value.... Few verses of the Gospels," they continued, "bear in themselves a
surer witness to the truth of what they record than this first of the Words from
the Cross: but it need not therefore have belonged originally to the book in
which it is now included. We cannot doubt that it comes from an extraneous
Westcott and Hort's theory, however, is a most improbable one. This prayer of
Christ would be interpreted as referring to the Jews and, thus interpreted,
would not be something likely to have been added to the Gospel narrative by
2nd-century Christian scribes. For by that time the relationship between Jews
and Christians had hardened into one of permanent hostility, and the average
Christian would not have welcomed the thought that the Jews ought to be forgiven
or that the Saviour had so prayed. Certainly the general tone of the 2nd-century
Christian writers is markedly anti-Jewish. The Epistle of Barnabas, written
about 130 A.D. reveals this emphasis. "In no other writing of that early time,"
Harnack tells us, "is the separation of the Gentile Christians from the
patriotic Jews so clearly brought out. The Old Testament, he (Barnabas)
maintains, belongs only to the Christians. Circumcision and the whole Old
Testament sacrificial and ceremonial institution are the devil's work." (63)
For these reasons Harnack (1931) was inclined to accept Luke 23:34a as genuine
and to believe that this prayer of Christ for His murderers was omitted from
some of the manuscripts because of the offense which it occasioned many segments
of the early Christian Church. "The words," he observed, "offered a strong
offense to ancient Christendom as soon as they were related to the Jews
generally. Indeed the connection, viewed accurately, shows that they apply only
to the soldiers; but this is not said directly, and so, according to the
far-sighted methods of the exegesis of those days, these words were related to
the enemies of Jesus, the Jews generally. But then they conflicted not only with
Luke 23:28 but also with the anti-Judaism of the ancient Church generally....
The verse ought in no case to be stricken out of the text of Luke; at the very
most it must be left a question mark." (64)
Streeter also and Rendel Harris (65) were friendly to the supposition that
Christ's prayer for His murderers was purposely deleted from Luke's Gospel by
some of the scribes due to anti-Jewish feeling. But again it is not necessary to
imagine that orthodox Christian scribes were the first to make this omission. It
may be that Marcion was ultimately responsible for this mutilation of the sacred
text. For, as Williams observes, "Marcion was anti-Jewish in all his
sentiments." (66) It is true that, according to Harnack's analysis, Marcion
still included this prayer of Christ in his edition of Luke's Gospel (probably
relating it to the Roman soldiers), (67) but some of his followers may have
referred it to the Jews and thus come to feel that it ought to be deleted from
the Gospel record.
(f) The Only Begotten Son Versus Only Begotten God
John 1:18 "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in
the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."
This verse exhibits the following four-fold variation:
(1) the only begotten Son, Traditional Text, Latin versions, Curetonian Syriac.
(2) only begotten God, Pap 66, Aleph B C L, WH.
(3) the only begotten God, Pap 75.
(4) (the) only begotten, read by one Latin manuscript.
The first reading is the genuine one. The other three are plainly heretical.
Burgon (1896) long ago traced these corruptions of the sacred text to their
source, namely Valentinus. (68) Burgon pointed out that the first time John 1:18
is quoted by any of the ancients a reference is made to the doctrines of
Valentinus. This quotation is found in a fragment entitled Excerpts from
Theodotus, which dates from the 2nd century. R. P. Casey (1934) translates it as
The verse, "in the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the
Logos was God," the Valentinians understand thus, for they say that "the
beginning" is the "Only Begotten" and that he is also called God, as also in the
verses which immediately follow it explains that he is God, for it says, "The
Only-Begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." (69)
This passage is very obscure, but at least it is clear that the reading favored
by Valentinus was precisely that now found in Papyrus 75, the only begotten God.
What could be more probable than Dean Burgon's suggestion that Valentinus
fabricated this reading by changing the only begotten Son to the only begotten
God? His motive for doing so would be his apparent desire to distinguish between
the Son and the Word (Logos). According to the Traditional reading, the Word
mentioned in John 1:14 is identified with the only begotten Son mentioned in
John 1:18. Is it not likely that Valentinus, denying such identification, sought
to reinforce his denial by the easy method of altering Son to God (a change of
only one letter in Greek) and using this word God in an inferior sense to refer
to the Word rather than the Son? This procedure would enable him to deny that in
John 1:14 the Word is identified with the Son. He could argue that in both these
verses the reference is to the Word and that therefore the Word and the Son are
two distinct Beings.
Thus we see that it is unwise in present-day translators to base the texts of
their modern versions on recent papyrus discoveries or on B and Aleph. For all
these documents come from Egypt, and Egypt during the early Christian centuries
was a land in which heresies were rampant. So much was this so that, as Bauer
(1934) (70) and van Unnik (1958) (71) have pointed out, later Egyptian
Christians seem to have been ashamed of the heretical past of their country and
to have drawn a veil of silence across it. This seems to be why so little is
known of the history of early Egyptian Christianity. In view, therefore, of the
heretical character of the early Egyptian Church, it is not surprising that the
papyri, B. Aleph, and other manuscripts which hail from Egypt are liberally
sprinkled with heretical readings.
(g) Son of God Versus Holy One of God
John 6:68-69 "Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou
hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God."
This verse exhibits the following four-fold variation:
the Christ, the Son of the living God, Traditional Text, Peshitta Syriac,
Harclean Syriac, Old Latin (some mss.).the Holy One of God, Papyrus 75, Aleph B C D L W. Sahidic, WH, R.V., A.S.V.,
the Christ, the Holy One of God, Papyrus 66, Sahidic (some mss) Bohairic.
(4) the Christ, the Son of God, Theta, 1 33 565, Old Latin, Vulgate, Sinaitic
According to the critics, reading (2) the Holy One of God was the original
reading. This was changed to reading (3) and then to reading (4) and then
finally to reading (1). By these easy stages, the critics maintain, John 6:69
was harmonized to Matt. 16:16, which reads, "And Simon Peter answered and said,
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
But internal evidence forbids us to adopt this critical conclusion. For if as
Bible-believing Christians we regard Matt.16:16 and John 6:69 as actually spoken
by Peter, then it is difficult to explain why on two similar occasions he would
make two entirely different affirmations of his faith in Jesus, in one place
confessing Him as the Christ, the Son of God and in the other as the Holy One of
God. For in the other Gospels only the demons address Jesus as the Holy One of
God. (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). And even if we should adopt a modernistic approach
to John 6:69 and regard it as put in the mouth of Peter by the Gospel writer,
still it would be difficult to receive Holy One of God as the true reading. For
in John 20:31 the evangelist states that his purpose in writing his Gospel is
that his readers may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Such
being his intention, he surely would not have made Peter confess Jesus as the
Holy One of God rather than as the Christ the Son of the living God.
The external evidence also is against the critical hypothesis that the Holy One
of God is the original reading of John 6:69. For some of the documents which
favor this reading have quite evidently gone astray in John 1:34. Here instead
of the Son of God (which is the reading of most of the New Testament documents)
Papyrus 5, Aleph 77 218, Old Latin (some mss), Curetonian Syriac read the Chosen
One of God. This reading is accepted by N.E.B. and placed in the margin by WH,
but most critics reject it as false. And if Chosen One of God is a false reading
in John 1:34, then it is surely reasonable to conclude that Holy One of God is a
false reading in John 6:69. Both readings are used as substitutes for the
reading Son of God and both seem to be supported by the same class of documents.
The Gnostic papyri discovered in 1945 at Nag-Hammadi in Egypt seem to indicate
that these 2nd-century heretics regarded the term Son of God as a mystic name
which should not be pronounced except by the initiated, and so it may have been
they who introduced these substitutes Chosen One of God and Holy One of God into
the text of John. (72)
(h) Other Heretical Readings in the Alexandrian Text
Other examples of heretical readings in the Alexandrian New Testament text are
(1) In Mark 1:1 the Traditional Text reads with B and most other manuscripts,
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Aleph, Theta, 28
and several other documents omit the Son of God. This seems to be the work of
heretics unfriendly to Christ's deity.
(2) In Luke 23:42, according to the Traditional Text and the Old Latin and the
Sinaitic Syriac, the prayer of the dying thief was, Lord, remember me when Thou
comest in Thy kingdom. But according to the Alexandrian text (represented by
Papyrus 75, Aleph B C L, and the Sahidic), the thief said, Jesus, remember me
when Thou comest in Thy kingdom. Modern critics insist that this latter reading
is the original one, but is this at all a reasonable hypothesis? The dying thief
recognizes Jesus as the messianic King; he is praying to Him for pardon and
mercy. Would it be at all natural for the thief to address his new found King
rudely and familiarly as Jesus? Surely not. Surely he must have commenced his
dying prayer with the vocative, Lord! In the Alexandrian text this prayer has
been tampered with by the docetists, who believed that the divine "Christ"
returned to heaven just before the crucifixion, leaving only the human Jesus to
suffer and die. In accordance with this belief they made the thief address the
Saviour not as Lord but as Jesus.
(3) In John 3:13 the Traditional Text reads with the Old Latin and the Sinaitic
Syriac, No man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven,
even the Son of Man who is in heaven. But the Alexandrian text (represented by
Papyri 66 and 75, Aleph B etc.) omits the clause who is in heaven. This
mutilation of the sacred text ought also, no doubt, to be charged to heretics
hostile to the deity of Christ.
(4) In John 9:35, according to the Traditional Text and the Old Latin version,
Jesus asks the blind man, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? But according to
the Western and Alexandrian texts (represented by Papyri 66 and 75, Aleph B D,
the Sinaitic Syriac), Jesus' question is, Dost thou believe on the Son of Man?
Tischendorf and von Soden reject this Western-Alexandrian reading. Very probably
it represents an attempt on the part of heretics to lower Christ's claim to
(5) John 9:38-39 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him. And Jesus
said . . . These words are omitted by Papyrus 75, Aleph W. Old Latin manuscripts
b 1, and the 4th-century Coptic manuscript Q. This confession of the blind man
can scarcely have been left out accidentally. Its absence from these documents
goes far toward proving that this passage was tampered with in ancient times by
(6) In John 19:5 Papyrus 66 omits the following famous sentence, And he saith
unto them, Behold the Man. Four Old Latin manuscripts and the Coptic manuscript
Q also omit this reading. This omission seems to be a mutilation of the sacred
text at the hands of heretics, probably Gnostics. They seem to have disliked the
idea that Christ, whom they regarded as exclusively a heavenly Being, actually
became a man and was crucified.
(7) In Rom. 14:10 the Traditional Text speaks of the judgment seat of Christ,
implying that Christ is that Jehovah spoken of in Isa. 45:23, to whom every knee
shall bow. This Traditional reading is also found in Polycarp, Tertullian, and
Marcion. But the Western and Alexandrian texts (represented by Aleph B D2 etc.)
take away this testimony to Christ's deity by substituting judgment seat of God
for judgment seat of Christ. It is difficult to believe that this substitution
was not also made by heretics.
(8) In 1 Tim. 3:16 the Traditional Text reads, God was manifest in the flesh,
with A (according to Scrivener), C (according to the "almost supernaturally
accurate" (73) Hoskier), (Ignatius), (Barnabas), (Hippolytus), Didymus, Gregory
of Nyssa, and Chrysostom. The Alexandrian text (represensed by Aleph) reads, who
was manifest in the flesh, and the Western text (represented by D2 and the Latin
versions) reads, which was manifest in the flesh. Undoubtedly the Traditional
reading, God was manifest in the flesh, was the original reading. This was
altered by the Gnostics into the Westem reading, which was manifest in the
flesh, in order to emphasize their favorite idea of mystery. Then this Western
reading was later changed into the meaningless Alexandrian reading, who was
manifest in the flesh.
Since Westcott and Hort, critics have adopted the Alexandrian reading and have
translated the word who as He who insisting that Paul is here quoting a fragment
of an early Christian hymn. But what could Paul have meant by this quotation?
Did he mean that the mystery of godliness was the fact that Christ was manifest
in the flesh? If he did why then did he not make his meaning plain by
substituting the word Christ for the word He who, making the quotation read,
Christ was manifest in the flesh, etc.? Did he mean that Christ was the mystery
of godliness? Why then did he not place the word Christ in apposition to the
word who, making the quotation read, Christ, He who was manifest in the flesh,
etc.? But, according to the critics, Paul did neither of these two things.
Instead he quoted an incomplete sentence, a subject without a predicate, and
left it dangling.
The makers of the R.S.V. adopt the Alexandrian reading and
translate it, He was manifested in the flesh, etc., and then place under it a
note, Greek, who. But if the Greek is who how can the English be He? This is not
translation but the creation of an entirely new reading. The change, therefore,
that the translators felt compelled to make from who to He comes as a belated
admission that the reading, who was manifest in the flesh, cannot be interpreted
satisfactorily. And ought not unprejudiced students of the problem to regard
this as proof that Paul never wrote the verse in this form but rather as it
stands in the Traditional Text, God was manifest in the flesh?
Two other erroneous Alexandrian readings should also be mentioned:
In Mark 9:29, Acts 10:30 and 1 Cor.7:5 Aleph B and their allies omit fasting.
These omissions are probably due to the influence of Clement of Alexandria and
other Gnostics, who interpreted fasting in a spiritual sense and were opposed to
literal fasting (Strom. 6:12, 7:12).
In 1 Cor.11:24 Aleph B and their allies read, This is My body which is for you,
omitting broken, either for Gnostic reasons or to avoid a supposed contradiction
with John 19:33ff. Many denominations have adopted this mutilated reading in
their communion liturgies, but it makes no sense. Even Moffatt and the R.S.V.
editors recognized this fact and so retained the traditional reading, broken for
DEAN BURGON AND THE