A Letter to a Majority-Text Type Supporter

By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

I wrote the following letter in response to a paper which I found on a web page but which is no longer extant. The information contained in the following is very important, however, and so I provide the text of my letter, below, for your information.

The King James Only Movement is one of the most destructive cultic movements in the Church today. It majors in attacking the faith of millions, sowing seeds of fear among many who don't know the history of their Bibles. The claim of the movement is that the King James Version of the Bible should be accepted as the ONLY Inspired Word of God. Any other translation, based upon any group of manuscripts other than those that are behind the KJV, is understood to be the product of Satan, a "New Age Bible,"and certainly not "The Word of God."

One branch of this movement -- one which is less destructive, but still troublesome -- is known as the Majority-Priority Movement, and it argues that the KJV is an excellent Bible for English speakers, but that the manuscripts behind the KJV -- representatives of the Byzantine Type of New Testament Text -- should be accepted as reflecting the original New Testament Text. The following letter was written in response to such a supporter.


My Dear Brother In Christ,

I'm sorry I've taken longer to get back to you than I would have liked. I've been busy, as I indicated I would be. Nevertheless, I've been thinking about how to address our discussion, and I've decided, rather than dealing with the conversations that Jodi and I had, I would go straight to your paper on the Majority vs critical text. I'll not address every point you make, but I'll try to hit the high points on the problems that I have.


First, let me address the usage of words and terms like:

"CORRUPT BYZANTINE form of text"
"CORRUPTED Egyptian manuscripts"

. . . are all unfortunately pejorative and I would rather not deal with them. Indeed, I shall attempt to curb their appearance in what I shall write, for I find their use to be always suspect of a predetermined bias. Put simply, the Byzantine Text type is not horrible, evil, "disfigured," or "irrelevant," and the pejorative connotations of "CORRUPT" are plain to see. It is my personal opinion that such statements from textual-critical scholars are quite unfortunate. Likewise, the Alexandrian Text Type is not "CORRUPTED" or "GNOSTIC" or "HERETICAL" in nature; if it were, these manuscripts would have all or at least some of the characteristics of gnostic productions like the "Gospel of Thomas." They don't have them. IF they are a gnostic production, the gnostics who commissioned their production should sue the scribes for failure to deliver. Seriously, however, while the Alexandrian Type has fewer affirmations of orthodox doctrine than the Byzantine Type, it neither lacks orthodox doctrine nor does it promote Gnosticism. It is simply a less elaborate version of the Greek New Testament Text.

1) The VAST MAJORITY OF GREEK MANUSCRIPTS reflect the Byzantine text-type. And CT proponents readily admit this. Aland writes, "A great number of uncials (especially those of later centuries) actually preserve little more than a purely or predominantly Byzantine Majority text."

The above is misleading, for it implies that Aland is asserting that the "vast majority" of UNCIALS are Byzantine. The quote you used is found on p 103 of my copy of the Aland text (an exact page notation for each citation is always helpful), and comes from a portion of Aland's address on the Uncials in which he is attempting to point out that, while the Uncials have dominated textual-criticism in the late 19th and 20th centuries, their dominance has been "eroded" by the discovery of the papyri and by a certain group of Minuscules that has been determined to contain a text that is quite a bit more primitive than what is contained on many of the Uncials. I, myself, have addressed Aland's whole point in an earlier correspondence by illustrating the relative quality of text from generation to generation, and of how a later Uncial or even a Minuscule can actually preserve a primitive form of the text ... and, hence, this illustrates why AGE is not ALWAYS the most important factor. Indeed, that is one of the misnomers of the entire debate; a manuscript's age is not automatically the most important factor. If anything, it would be more correct to say that "generational distance from the text to the originals" is what is important when it comes to a manuscript's age. The fewer copy-generations removed from the originals the better. Again, even THAT is not an automatic factor, but it is a more accurate way of stating the critical principle.

But, let's get back to the use of Aland's quote. I put it to you: what was Aland saying? Was he "admitting" that the majority of Uncials are Byzantine Type? The way you quote his statement clearly leaves the reader with that impression, but Aland's text is clear that such was not what he was saying. He stated "A great number,..." and that does not mean "majority." I've counted the number of Uncials listed as Category V (purely or predominately Byzantine) or which may be Category V. According to the Aland list, 54 are unquestioned as being Category V and 4 are questioned and may not be Category V. Let us be optimistic, and say that there are 58 Uncials that contain a text which is purely or predominately Byzantine. That sounds like a large number, right? Well, at the time Aland wrote his book there were 299 Uncials then-known. 58 of 299 is a bit less than 1/5th. In other words, the majority of Uncials are NOT Byzantine. This is why I have asserted that you have misused Aland's statement. The dating and categories of the extant Uncials do NOT reflect a majority-Byzantine Type ... rather, Alexandrian, Western, and mixed Text Types (Categories I - III, with a bit of IV) are those which are heavily represented in the Uncial body of the textualcopia.

You continue:

And, in reference to the minuscules, Aland writes, "... more than 80 percent of the manuscripts contain exclusively the Majority text." But the Alexandrian is represented in only "almost 10 percent" (Aland, pp.102, 128).

That is correct. The Minuscules are heavily Byzantine, a fact that has never been disputed. However, the numerical preponderance of the Byzantine Type is not much help since the majority of these are late in the textual witness, and reflective of the later stages of the evolution of the Byzantine Type.

2) Byzantine texts were MORE WIDELY DISTRIBUTED AND ACCEPTED than those reflecting an Alexandrian text-type. Again, the CT people acknowledge this. Aland says the Byzantine text-type, "... became widely disseminated even in the fourth century" and it became "the dominant text of the Byzantine church."

The above-use of quoted material is problematic. You note what Aland says about the dissemination of the Koine Text, but you are incorrectly applying it to the Byzantine Imperial Text as if it and the Koine Text were one-in-the-same. They are not. True, the Byzantine-Imperial Text would eventually evolve FROM the Koine Text -- the text extant and dominant at Antioch at the beginning of the 4th century -- but the Koine Text was quite a bit LESS like the Byzantine Imperial Text (the Text found in the Minuscules and the TR) and quite a bit MORE like the "free" or "normal" text of the first 3 centuries (and, hence, somewhat more similar to the Alexandrian Text, which is, itself, similar to but not identical with the "strict" text) than most Byzantine-Priority folk would like to admit.

For an example of this, let's take a look at Codex Alexandranus, which in the Gospels is heavily Byzantine, but due to the primitive character of these Byzantine readings it is classified as Category III in Aland's list on page 160. In the rest of its New Testament, Alexandranus is heavily Category I, with a significant number of Alexandrian and Strict Text readings. The best way to identify text-type is by doing a comparative cross-check of key variant readings. The number of Byzantine-like readings is compared with the number of readings that are reflective of either a strict or normal text reading (and, hence, basically "pre-Alexandrian" to full-blown Alexandrian -- this is also usually the reading of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition, by the way) and the number of readings that are unique to any given manuscript. Key variant-comparison checks have identified Alexandranus' Gospels-section as having 151 agreements with readings that are particular to the Byzantine Type, which comes out to be 56.3% of the key variant readings. That sounds pretty large, but it is of particular note that the Gospels section of Alexandranus has 102 agreements with readings that are strict or normal text in character (Aland often calls them "Original," but Fee and several others currently tend to use the term "strict text"), which comes out to be 38% of the key variant readings. Of these "strict" and "normal" text readings, a large number of them (84 readings) agree, in one way or another, with readings that are found IN, but not characteristics OF, the Byzantine Type, and it is this point of agreement that many scholars identify as being endemic of the "Koine" character. Yes, they agree with the "normal" text (usually), but they also show signs of being in some ways "proto-Byzantine," and hence Koine, in nature. They are NOT, however, characteristically "Byzantine."

There are many other examples of this kind of thing in Category III and and in early Category V Uncials. See, particularly, N, O, P(e), and especially Sigma (042). Sigma is particularly interesting because of the distribution of its Key Variant readings: 140 Byzantine (53%), 98 "original" text (37%), and 25 (10%) unique to Sigma. Of the 98 that are classified by Aland as being "original," the vast majority (83) are "free" text in character, and hence very much like the Koine form, while a smaller number (15) are strict text. These "free" text readings are often found IN other Byzantine texts, but are NOT characteristic of the "Byzantine Type." If one adds the high number of Byzantine readings to the high number of "free" readings, it looks like this a "Byzantine Text." However, doing so is highly misleading, for it should be noted that only 53% of the readings are purely Byzantine Imperial in character, while 47% are NOT Byzantine Imperial in character. The 83 readings that may be found in the Byzantine Type but which are "free text" in character are NOT characteristic of the Byzantine Imperial type, and hence should NOT be used for padding the Byzantine count (that would be like saying that, since southerners are citizens of the United States of America it should be appropriate to call them "Yankees!").

Now, compare these two examples (Alexandranus and Sigma) to a fairly typical late (9th century) Byzantine Uncial, like Codex 049: 75% purely Byzantine, 21% Free Text, 1% Strict and 2% Unique readings. Any analysis of the character of the readings in the Category V manuscripts illustrates that, as the centuries passed, the readings became increasingly Byzantine and decreasingly free or strict. The more "free" text a manuscript is, combined with the presence of Byzantine-like readings, the more "Koine" it is. The fewer "free" readings, combined with an increasing number of purely Byzantine readings, the more "Byzantine Imperial" it is. And, it is crucial to note that the increasingly Byzantine character is tied to the passage of time and copy-generations removed from the time of the originals.

Aland CLEARLY and CORRECTLY differentiates between the two texts, and almost never confuses them as you have when you caused his quote regarding the dissemination of the Koine Text to be applied to the Byzantine Text. In other words, Aland is NOT saying that the text which we know of as the Byzantine Imperial Text -- the text found in the Minuscules and in the TR -- was "widely disseminated even in the fourth century." No, Aland is saying that the Koine Text was widely disseminated in the fourth century, and he gives the following reason reason why:

[Following the end of the Diocletianic persecution, in which many copies of the New Testament books were destroyed] .... there .... followed a sudden demand for large numbers of New Testament manuscripts in all provinces of the empire. Privately made copies contributed significantly, but they were inadequate to satisfy this growing need, which could be met only by large copying houses. Bishops were no longer prevented from opening their own scriptoria: any text used as the exemplar in such a production center would naturally be widely distributed and wield a dominant influence. The exegetical school of Antioch, where students of Origen's theology and Arians maintained a well-organized center, provided bishops for many dioceses throughout the East (with the support of the court bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia; here again a knowledge of church history is indispensable for understanding the history of the text). Each of these bishops took with him to his diocese the text he was familiar with, that of Lucian (i.e., the Koine text), and in this way it rapidly became very widely disseminated even in the fourth century. (p. 65)

In other words, the Koine Text (an intermediate-stage evolution from the early "free" and/or "normal" Text) quickly became dominant in the Imperial East for 2 basic reasons: (1) there was a great need for new copies due to the loss of many old copies in the violence of the persecution, and (2) the choice of text was made under the political influence of the court bishop of the Eastern Roman Empire. This text, under the influence of the Imperial Scriptoriums, evolved, based upon a pattern of elaboration, into what we know of as the Byzantine Imperial Text which, by the Ninth century, made up the majority of the manuscripts. This evolution can be seen in the Uncial record. While it was wide spread in the North-Eastern Part of the Empire (Greece and Asia Minor, where Greek was still the spoken language), it was dominant due to the political influence of the secular Imperial power. As such, I find appeals to its distribution or predominance to be suspect of a failure to recognize that secular politics played at least as much, if not quite a bit more, of a role in it's rise to dominance than did any activity of the Holy Spirit.

On a related point, it is important to note that the Byzantine Text would evolve FROM the Koine Text, but that the Byzantine Text (as we know it) had yet to come into full existence by the beginning of the 4th century. Hence, I put it to you: how could Aland POSSIBLY be asserting that, in the 4th century, the Byzantine Type had already been accepted widely when he, elsewhere, clearly asserts that:

The text of the early period prior to the third/fourth century was, then, in effect, a text not yet channeled into types, because until the beginning of the fourth century the churches still lacked the institutional organization required to produce one. (p. 64)

The "free text" of the early period was not the only text; in the Papyri record we have clear evidence that there was a "strict text" and a "normal text," both of which stayed fairly close to the proposed "original" text, and then there was also a paraphrastic text which diverged quite a bit more from the original with extended interpretation being quite common (in some respects, similar to the "Living Bible"). These early forms of the text DO NOT represent the principles and programs of various scriptoria but, rather, the character of a particular scribe and the scribe's purpose in making the copy. Some scribes were exceedingly careful in making their copies, some a bit-less, and some still more less-careful. However, these kinds of text clearly reflect that the New Testament Text had already begun to diverge in the independent copying period (prior to and, in part, due to the Diocletianic persecutions), but the divergence was not yet as highly pronounced or as "planned" as it would become during the Text-Type period.

You stated:

Meanwhile, the church in Egypt, "led an independent life" from the rest of the church, and, "From the fourth century it had a well defined text (known as the Alexandrian text type) because the administration of the Alexandrian patriarchs was effectively centralized."

Your selective quotation implies that the Alexandrian Church was neither well-connected to the rest of the Church, nor influential outside its boundaries. Neither implication is correct. Allow me to quote, again, from Aland:

Athanasius, the powerful bishop of Alexandria, whose authority was felt far beyond the borders of Egypt as early as 328, governed his church with a tight centralized administrative structure. We do not know precisely what manuscript he designated for use as a model, but it must have been of the type represented by Codex Vaticanus or P75.(p. 65)

About the exemplar texts in the Alexandrian Church much needs to be said, but I'll address that below when you address the character of the Papyri. Suffice it to say that the Byzantine type evolved through the Koine type from the Early ("free" and "normal") Text, proliferated and became dominate in the North-eastern Mediterranean region due to Imperial political influence, and that the Alexandrian text evolved from what has generally been considered to be "strict-text" exemplars in an ecclesiastical environment which didn't promote an elaboration of the scriptural text.

So the Alexandrian text was only used in Egypt. But despite this, Aland states even the Egyptian text was later subjected to the "corrosive effects" of the Byzantine text-type (Aland, pp.65,56).

I'm sorry, but the conclusion is false. The Alexandrian Text -- or, certainly, it's root in the Early "normal" text -- was the basis for the theoretical Caesarean text (of which Jerome writes), and the equally theoretical "Western Text" also exhibits influences from either the Alexandrian text or the Early "normal" and free texts. And, the very fact that even some European Uncials and Minuscules show signs of Strict and Normal Text readings, and as such reflect Alexandrian tendencies, illustrates that it was NOT only used in Egypt. It was promoted by the Egyptian Church's scriptoria, but that wasn't the only place it was used or even transmitted. The production of Alexandranus (part early Byzantine and part Alexandrian) is a good example of this.

But note, nowhere does he say the Alexandrian text had a "corrosive effect" on the Byzantine. So scribes in the Egyptian church eventually tried to bring their text into conformity with the Byzantine text, but the reverse did not happen.

While such is a marginally correct conclusion regarding the lack of strong Alexandrian effects upon the Byzantine Type, and while it is true that many Alexandrian texts fell prey to the editorial "corrections" of various scribes, such a generalization doesn't particularly reflect the actual state of the transmission of the New Testament Text well into the Minuscule period. One of the reasons the Byzantine Text wasn't more visibly effected by the Alexandrian Text was due to the Byzantine Text's Imperial backing. It was, after all, the text of the Imperial capital, and hence of the Empire, and as such it eventually became dangerous to challenge it. Nevertheless, periodically challenged it WAS, as is evidenced by the continued tenacity of the Alexandrian type up through the Minuscule period, to as late as the ninth century and Minuscule 33, which is heavily Alexandrian, particularly in the Pauline Epistles. Indeed, the reality of textual diversity even to as late as the fourteenth century can be seen illustrated in the significant number of minuscules which Aland catalogs on pps. 129 - 138, many of which exhibit Category III, II, and even occasionally Category I characteristics.

3) EARLY TRANSLATIONS OF THE NT into other languages of the time generally reflect a Byzantine text-type.

According to Aland, these includes the following (with dates of original translation in parentheses): the Syriac Peshitta (c.400), the Syriac
Harkelensis (616), the Palestinian Syriac Version (c.400), the Armenian version (c.400), the Gothic version (c.341), and the Old Church Slavonic version (c.850).

Regarding the Peshitta:

According to Aland:

The very presence of Old Syriac readings in the Peshitta proves that it was not a new version but the result of a revision (or revisions) of a form of the Old Syriac text following an exemplar of a (mainly) Koine type text. (p. 197)

In other words, Aland is asserting that the Peshitta is a reworking of the Old Syriac, in which a mostly Koine (and not, strictly speaking, a Byzantine Imperial Type of text -- he would have said such, otherwise) was used in the revising process. This means that the Peshitta depends upon its Old Syriac base at least as often as upon its Koine revision guide. So, what does Aland have to say about the Old Syriac version? He doesn't say much, but what he does say indicates that be believes there is a great degree of uncertainty about the character of the Greek text; in general, it appears to have been anything but a standard Koine text, however.

What does Bruce Metzger say about the Old Syriac and the Peshitta? In his academic standard: The Early Versions of the New Testament. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977; pp 39-43), he provides a catalog of several dozen textual variants that are common to the two extant editions of the Old Syriac, and concludes:

From the preceding examples it is obvious that the Old Syriac manuscripts preserve many noteworthy readings, some of which are not witnessed elsewhere. In general the type of text represented in the two manuscripts belongs to the so-called Western type, though they also preserve many typically Alexandrian readings. (pp 42-43)

In other words, for the most part the Old Syriac is dependent NOT upon Koine type text exemplars, but upon Alexandrian and "Western" types. That means that the Peshitta should (and, in fact, DOES) exhibit significant Western and Alexandrian characteristics. Metzger states:

It has been frequently stated that the type of text represented by the Peshitta is what Hort designated the Syrian text and Ropes the Antiochian -- a form of text which also appears in the writings of John Chrysostom and which eventually developed into the Byzantine Textus Receptus. Nevertheless, in a considerable number of readings the Peshitta agrees with one or other of the pre-Syrian Greek texts [by which, Metzger means Alexandrian and "Western"], against the Antiochian Fathers and the late Greek text [ie, the Byzantine Type]. (Metzger, Early Versions, p. 61)

This means, point-blank, that while there are distinctively Koine (and, indeed, even "Byzantine") readings to be found in the Peshitta, there are just as many distinctively non-Koine readings. Indeed, an analysis of Mark in the Peshitta produces a result that is not at all uncharacteristic for the Peshitta: 49% Koine and 51% Alexandrian/"Western"/and Other. And, this is the MOST Koine of the New Testament books in the Peshitta. The percentages are even worse for the Koine type in some other books.

According to Metzger this condition is the result of the use of the Old Syriac as the translation-base, supplemented through the use of several different, textually diverse manuscripts as the revision-guides. I'm sorry, but the best evidence indicates that the Peshitta, like the Old Syriac, is not particularly Byzantine, though it does contain a significant number of Byzantine-like readings. Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to call it "Byzantine." The Peshitta's textual root is mixed.

Regarding the other two Syriac texts you reference:

The Syriac Harkelensis version appears to be Byzantine in character, but that is not the case with the Palestinian Syriac Version. Metzger puts it thusly:

...the text of the Palestinian Syriac version agrees with no one type of text, but embodies elements from quite disparate families and texts. (Metzger, Early Versions, p. 82)

And, in general agreement (though a "bit" more friendly to the Koine type), Aland states:

Its textual character is for the most part a normal Koine type with occasional [Metzger asserts "frequent"] Alexandrian readings, showing agreements with Codex Vaticanus in particular. (p. 199)

Aland's point is notable, for it does agree -- essentially -- with what Metzger asserts: specifically, that the textual character of the Palestinian Syriac version is quite mixed, reflecting a Koine base (perhaps) but with significant [according to Metzger] Alexandrian readings. In other words, in the end equation, none of the Syriac versions are really as easy to classify as they may appear to be on the surface. Even where they are Koine in character, there are nevertheless clear signs of extensive influence from both the Old Syriac and the even the Diatesseron.

You continue:

As for the most important early version, the Latin Vulgate, Carson claims this version was based on "a western textual tradition" (Carson, p.56). But Aland refutes this idea and states, ".. the consensus today favors the view that Jerome used a contemporary manuscript of the early Koine (Byzantine) type."

Firstly, Aland didn't say "Byzantine" here, for he doesn't confuse the later evolution of the Byzantine type from the earlier Koine type. The Koine type was clearly present at the time of Jerome, but the Byzantine Imperial type was not yet fully formed. You should have put the word "Byzantine" in brackets, as is standard procedure for editorial additions to quotes (see my procedure). However, I would really hope that you wouldn't do so, for it is a misrepresentation of what Aland is saying. He does NOT say that Jerome was using a Byzantine text. He states Jerome was using a Koine text. That Metzger often confuses the two (at least in the 1968 edition of the his text, which is what I have) doesn't mean that Aland does.

Secondly, I'm sorry to say that you are misleading your reader, again, through selective quotation. The simple fact is that what Aland is speaking of here when he references the Koine text is NOT the translation base for the Vulgate, but the REVISION base. The consensus is, indeed, that Jerome used a manuscript that was "of an early Koine type" (p. 192) to produce his REVISION of the Old Latin base. Note what Aland says, prior to what you quote:

The Vulgate is generally regarded as the work of Jerome. But this is not true for the New Testament, where he merely revised the text of the Old Latin Gospels..... The Vulgate text of the New Testament beyond the Gospels is not found until the early fifth century in the writings of Pelagius and his followers [and, hence, it wasn't done by Jerome at all]. Further, the work of revision [again, of the Old Latin] was done more carefully and consistently than in the Gospels. (p. 191-192)

In other words, to say that Jerome translated the Vulgate from a Koine Greek text is quite misleading. It would be accurate, rather, to state that Jerome utilized a Koine text to guide in his REVISION of the Old Latin base.

Which brings us to the Old Latin, which you didn't address. Unfortunately, Aland doesn't give us a conclusion as to what the textual exemplar might have been, but Metzger does. Going out the gate, it should be noted that the Old Latin is a exceedingly varied text. Indeed, as has been joked about for centuries, there were probably nearly as many Old Latin versions as there were people who could translate the Bible from Greek into Latin! As a result, while standard forms eventually evolved, nevertheless there is no single authoritative form of the text. Nevertheless, even given the great diversity of translation bases with which to contend, a basic form of a Greek exemplar is discernible under nearly all Old Latin copies:

The textual affinities of the Old Latin versions are unmistakably with the Western type of text. Not infrequently[,] noteworthy Old Latin readings agree with the Greek text of Codex Bezae and the Old Syriac. On the whole the African form of the Old Latin presents the larger divergences from the generally received text, and the European the smaller.(Metzger, Early Versions, p. 323)

You stated:

Moreover, none of the early versions Aland discusses are said to reflect an Alexandrian text type (Aland, pp.181-210).

I'm sorry, but as I have shown Aland does make reference to Alexandrian readings present in the background of the Palestinian Syriac version. And, as the references to Metzger's "Early Versions" have indicated, there was a great diversity of Greek Text Types cited both in the various revisions and in the out-right translations; some were Koine, others were not.

You write:

So how did the Byzantine text-type originate? "The theory advanced by B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort to account for these facts is that the Byzantine text was formed as a conflation (revision) between A.D. 250 and 350" (Carson, pp.44,45).

As should already be clear from my preceding arguments, I am in general agreement with Dr. Pickering (as well as with Carson, Aland, and Fee) when he asserts (in his: The Identity of the New Testament Text, Nashville: Nelson, 1977) that few current scholars accept Westcott and Hort's theory of a Lucianic recension as form the root of the Byzantine Text Type. While there certainly was some sort of conflation process under way in the early stages of the evolution of the Koine type, the simplicity of the Hortian formulation of the theory has been thrown out.

The evolution of the Text-Types, including the Koine pre-form of the Byzantine Type, is to some degree covered above. Suffice it to say that the process of their development was far more evolutionary than specifically intentional, and while it was once thought that the Alexandrian Text Type was one of the roots from which the Byzantine was produced, such is no LONGER maintained by a large percentage of active critical scholars. Indeed, the discovery of the Papyri has made it very clear that the "missing textual root-links" between the Text-types must be traced back to the early period, and the varying "free," "normal," and "strict" texts (see previous quotes from Aland on the issue of the channeling of the Early Text into the different Text-Types, which occurred, in part, due to the effects of persecution on the Church).

On the other hand, the CT people point to several second and third century papyri which reflect the Alexandrian text-type (Metzger, p.xxix).

Harry Sturz discusses this subject in his book, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism. He writes, "Although the reasoning of Westcott and Hort seemed sound at the time they wrote, discoveries since then have undermined the confident appraisal that characteristically Syrian (Byzantine) readings are necessarily late" (p.55).

That is essentially correct, as far as it goes, but it doesn't imply what you seem to think it implies. It is absolutely true that some characteristically Byzantine readings can be found all the way back into the early text which we now identify as usually "free" or "normal," but even sometimes "strict," and hence it is reasonable to say that there are, indeed, some Byzantine readings that are not only very ancient but may, in fact, be original. Aland himself makes this assertion. It is NOT correct, however, to either assert or imply that, because the Papyri contain certain characteristically Byzantine readings, they are, in fact, Byzantine. In other words: "a few readings do NOT a Text-type make."

This point was made abundantly clear in Dr. Daniel Wallace's 1994 review of Dr. Sturz's approach (Daniel Wallace, "The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1994):

The difference between a reading and a text-type is the difference between a particular variant and a pattern of variation. For example, although both the NIV and KJV have identical wording in John 1:1, the pattern of variation of the NIV found over a whole paragraph will differ from the KJV. No one would argue that a handwritten copy of John 1:1 from c. AD 1775 was taken from the NIV -- even though its wording would be identical with the wording of the NIV from that verse. Yet this is the same kind of argument that MT defenders use for the primitiveness of the Byzantine text. (p. 209)

The point is clear. These readings are particulate in nature ... they are not reflective of a tendency or a pattern, which is what is normally meant by a "text-type," but, rather, of isolated examples of specific, particular readings. The similarity and/or actual identical quality of particular readings does not prove that a full-blown text-type existed at any given time any more than does the existence of a hypothetical hand-written copy of John 1:1 from the Revolutionary War period prove that the NIV existed in 1775. IF, however, one were to have a paragraph or two or three or more of contextualized, not particulate, readings, that reflected the NIV's specific translation of crucial, variant-rich sections of a Gospel or New Testament letter, then YES ... one might be able to claim that the NIV existed in 1775. What we have in these Papyri are particulate, isolated, unconnected, usually rather limited examples of Byzantine readings, distributed over paragraphs and chapters of text. No pattern exists in these examples, only evidence of the early existence of certain readings.

As Wallace puts it:

Simply because isolated Byzantine readings are found before the fourth century is no argument that the Byzantine text existed before the fourth century. They [Majority Text proponents] have confused reading with text. (ibid)

Wallace's final point is precisely correct. Various dispersed readings, some more Byzantine than others, most less Byzantine than the norm but nevertheless reflecting Byzantine Imperial characteristics, do not constitute proof of the Byzantine Imperial TYPE of text. Rather, they reflect the undisputed fact that some characteristically Byzantine-LIKE readings may very well extend back to the originals. Unfortunately, that is NOT the kind of argument that most MT proponents are willing to accept. Rather, they usually wish to push the evidence into proving that a full-blown Byzantine Imperial Text existed prior to the fourth century, and that simply isn't supported by the textual evidence in the Papyri. Indeed, as will be seen below, the very CHARACTER of the citations are damaging to the claim of antiquity for the Byzantine Imperial Text. They begin few in number and LESS-Byzantine than later examples, and grow in frequency and in relative similarity to the Byzantine Imperial Text over centuries of transmission. THAT, in and of itself, indicates that the Byzantine Type of text EVOLVED over time.

The most important of these discoveries was several Egyptian papyri. Sturz lists "150 distinctively Byzantine readings" found in these papyri. Included in his list are papyri numbers 13, 45, 46, 47, 49, 59, 66, 72, 74, and 75 (pp.61, 145-159).

The above kind of observations are often interpreted by non-scholars to mean that the Papyri are Byzantine in character. And, at first glance, this appears to be what is being said. After all, "150 distinctively Byzantine readings" is quite a lot! Or is it?

I cannot begin to number all the KJV-Only advocates, and the occasional MT advocates, who have thrown this one at me, confident that such proves that the Papyri support the Byzantine Text Type's originality. It is such a misunderstood issue, however, that any attempt to try and shed light on it is usually entirely rejected. In the interest of a full accounting on this topic, I shall try, here, to illustrate the fallacy in the often-made-claim that the Papyri prove the existence of the Byzantine Type in the early period.

I will say it again: the Papyri do contain occasional readings that are, indeed, characteristically Byzantine. They do not, however, therefore reflect a text that is characteristically Byzantine. Let me select a few of those Papyri that Sturz lists and give the variant-reading statistics, for it is in THIS way that a Text Type can be most accurately determined.


This is among the most important early manuscripts of the New Testament, for it contains some of the earliest and most complete copies of the Pauline Letters. The traditional date (assigned by Dr. F. G. Kenyon) cited for this papyrus is 200 AD, which is extremely early. However, recent paleographic studies on this manuscript by Dr. Young Kyu Kim (see his article "Palaeographical Dating of p46 to the Later First Century" in Biblica Magazine, Vol. 69, No. 2, 1988) have sparked a fresh debate on the dating of many of the New Testament Papyri in the Textual-Critical community. While still not fully accepted, Dr. Kim's re-dating of P46 to the end of the first century (ca 85 - 90 AD) is promoting significant debate on how we date the Papyri, and I suspect that we will see even more debate in this area in the coming century.

According to Aland, P46 is a "Free Text" manuscript, and thus is certainly Category I. This means that, while its readings are going to diverge from the precise wording of the theoretical original, it is nevertheless going to preserve a highly accurate text relative to the later text-types. This is reflected in the comparative statistical break-down according to the Pauline Letter's variant-readings. In P46 there are 16 readings that are characteristically Byzantine, but 127 readings that are "original" Text (of which 22 may ALSO be found in the Byzantine Type but which are NOT characteristically Byzantine!). There are also 43 readings that are unique to P46. In other words, this Papyrus contains 68.3% "Original" readings, 8.6% Byzantine readings, and 23.1% unique readings.

Based upon the above, is it reasonable for us to claim that P 46 reflects a Byzantine Text, or supports the existence of the Byzantine Text Type in either 200 AD or (if Dr. Kim is right) in 90 AD? No, of course not. Does this illustrate that there are some distinctively Byzantine readings that may be found in the originals? Yes, of course ... a point that Aland, Metzger, Carson, Fee, White, and many many others all recognize, AND a fact which is reflected in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland (a good example of this is Philippians 1:14). However, as the extremely low number of Byzantine readings in this papyrus should illustrate, the number of characteristically Byzantine readings in the originals (as opposed to other kinds of readings) is going to be quite LOW.


This Papyrus is an extremely important 3rd century collection of several New Testament and Early Christian works. Its New Testament works are the earliest extant copies of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude. Metzger identifies it as Alexandrian, and Aland says 1 and 2 Peter are Normal Text while Jude is Free Text, and hence both are Category I. It contains 3 readings that are characteristically Byzantine, 26 readings that are "Original" [ie, normal or free text] (of which 2 are also found in the Byzantine Text but which are NOT characteristic of the Byzantine Text Type) and 9 readings that are unique to P72. Statistically, these counts break down to 68.4% of the readings being Original and 7.9% Byzantine. If one drops out Jude and only counts the variants in the "normal" text of 1 and 2 Peter, the statistics are even MORE telling as to the difference between "normal" and "free" text. When this is done, 92.4% of the readings are "Original" and NONE are characteristically Byzantine.

I put it to you: is P72 a Byzantine Text, or does it reflect the early 3rd century existence of the Byzantine Text Type? Of course not. All it does is verify something that P46 illustrated: that some occasional, characteristically Byzantine, readings can be traced back to a period of time only one to two hundred years removed from the original (and, hence, that some of these Byzantine readings may well be original).


This is an interesting example of one of the later Papyri (seventh century) which, nevertheless, is an outstanding example of the early type of New Testament Text. It contains parts of Acts and the Catholic Epistles. Metzger identifies it as agreeing, in many places, with the Alexandrian Text, and Aland classifies it as a Category I "Egyptian Text" (by which he means that it is "late" Alexandrian). It has 3 readings that are characteristically Byzantine, 93 readings that are "Original" (of which a whopping 26 are also found in the Byzantine Text but which are NOT reflective of a Characteristically Byzantine reading) and 10 are unique to P74. Statistically, this means that P74 is 87.8% "Original," 2.8% Byzantine, and 9.4% unique. It think these figures speak for themselves.


This is an exceedingly important Papyrus manuscript, containing a significant percentage of Luke and John, and has been dated to the third century. In its surviving text it is so very much like Codex Vaticanus that Aland asserts, several times, that it might even have been the exemplar from which Vaticanus was copied. Metzger references it as an Alexandrian manuscript, and Aland says that it is a "Strict" Category I. It contains 4 readings that are characteristically Byzantine, 56 readings that are "Original" text (of which 3 are also found in the Byzantine Text but which are NOT reflective of a characteristically Byzantine reading), and 9 that are unique to P75. The statistics on these readings are as follows: 81.1% "Original Text" [MOSTLY strict readings], 5.9% Byzantine, and 13% other.

What are we to conclude from the above examples of the text? Again, I submit that these papyri, when combined with the Uncial record, illustrate the evolutionary character of the Koine/Byzantine Texts, with more and more Byzantine readings appearing as copy-generations move us away from the time of the originals. However, it should also illustrate that there are still some characteristically Byzantine readings that may very well be original. It is this point that is often glossed over, though Aland actually recognizes it and such is clearly reflected in some of the variant choices in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland. The reasons for glossing over the point are understandable: (1) how does one determine which of those few Byzantine readings in the Early period go back to the originals? and (2) there are so FEW of these characteristically Byzantine readings in the Early period that it seems more reasonable to focus on the majority of readings that reflect the "Strict," "Normal," and "Free" forms of the text as the source from which the "original" is most likely to be reconstructed. I personally believe that occasional exceptions should probably be made, and that the Byzantine Type should NOT be "bad mouthed," as it has been by some scholars, but I DO agree with their basic conclusions regarding the superior character of the Early Text forms and the Alexandrian Type.

Sturz believes it is "more logical" these Western/ Byzantine alignments, "... originated early in Antioch (an eastern city) and found their way to Egypt and into early copies of manuscripts there" since Antioch was "the missionary church" (see Acts 13:1-4). And, "Such readings were then buried with the papyri in Egypt because they were rejected by the Alexandrian editors" (pp.68,69).

Setting aside the ridiculous idea of Antioch being "the missionary Church," as if it were the only one, let's look at some of the reasons why this above conclusion is not tenable. This idea fails to account for: (1) all the MANY agreements to be found between the Byzantine Type and the Early Text which are not, themselves, CHARACTERISTIC of the Byzantine Type; and, (2) the occasional Byzantine readings to be found EVEN IN the full-blown Alexandrian Type. Combine this observation with the even more damaging one of the evolution of the Byzantine Type from the Koine type readings, and you really have a problem.

In other words, consider the problem from this perspective. IF the Byzantine Imperial readings BEGAN more numerous in the Papyri and then DECLINED in number and affinity for the Byzantine Imperial Type as they filtered into the Alexandrian Type, then your theory would hold water. However, since the Byzantine readings in the early texts are far more sporadic and contain somewhat LESS affinity for the Byzantine Imperial Type, and only later do they begin to increase in number and affinity for the Byzantine Imperial Type, the idea you've presented really cannot stand.

Sturz concludes, "In view of the above, it is concluded that the papyri supply valid evidence that distinctively Byzantine readings were not created in the fourth century but were already in existence before the end of the second century and that, because of this, Byzantine readings merit serious consideration" (p.69).

1. That certain distinctively Byzantine Imperial readings existed prior to the fourth century is no longer contested.

2. That some of them may be original is also no longer contested.

3. That such is an indicator that the Byzantine TYPE (which is how the above conclusion is usually understood) should receive more serious consideration is NOT a valid conclusion. Sturz doesn't appear to say it from the material you've cited, and I would challenge you to recognize that there IS a radical difference between a READING and a TYPE of Text. Do certain early Byzantine readings deserve serious consideration?? YES. Have they received that consideration? YES, they have. Examples can be found throughout the Nestle-Aland's 27th Edition of early, characteristically Byzantine, readings that have been restored to the text due to the strong support for them from the early papyri.

As for Westcott and Hort's claim as to how the Byzantine text-type originated, Sturz writes, "HISTORY IS COMPLETELY SILENT with regard to any revision of the Byzantine text. Furthermore, "There is NOT A SHRED OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that such a recension was made" (pp.122,126).

As I have already stated and illustrated above, the pure Hortian formulation for the origination of the Byzantine Type has been essentially dropped by most Textual scholars. Specifically, neither the simplicity of the Hortian diagram found on p. 134, nor the slightly more accurate Streeter chart on p. 171, of Metzger's The Text of the New Testament, can possibly be accepted today. If anything, attempting to chart the early history and evolution of the New Testament Text is far MORE complex than either of these two diagrams indicates. Streeter's construction is closer, but greater integrity should be given to the Byzantine Text than Streeter's charting allows. Put simply, instead of the Lucian conflation of the Alexandrian, Antiochian, and Western Types, what we find is a Lucian "standardization" of the Koine text in the early 300s based upon the Early Text's "Normal," "Free," and "Strict" forms of text. This standardization (what Aland calls the "channeling of the Early Text into the Text Types") occurred based upon different categories of importance in BOTH Antioch and Alexandria. The Koine Text, which resulted in Antioch, eventually evolved into the Byzantine Imperial Text, with the variants within the Byzantine Imperial Text being, in part, traceable to the variable assimilation of the Koine text into the different regions of the Eastern Roman Empire.

And it needs to be mentioned, Sturz is NOT a supporter of the MT. He takes a middle position in this debate. He simply believes, "... the Byzantine text should be recognized as having an important and useful place in textual criticism because it is an independent witness to an early form of the New Testament text" (p.23).

I would entirely agree that there are Byzantine readings to be found in the earliest forms of the New Testament Text, but I disagree with the conclusion which Sturz appears to be drawing from that fact. In essence, I assert that it is very MUCH an overstatement to conclude that the Byzantine Imperial Text is a "witness to an early form of the New Testament text." Most certainly, it contains particular readings that do reflect readings in the early text, but its distinctive characteristics are simply unknown in any manuscript prior to the fourth century.

Again, I'm not saying that readings which are characteristically Byzantine are not found in prior to the fourth century. Quite the contrary, there are some Byzantine-like readings -- indeed, there are occasional uniquely Byzantine readings -- to be found in the Early Text! What I am saying is that these readings do not constitute conclusive evidence that the Byzantine Imperial Text Type existed prior to the fourth century.

As for there being several early papyri reflecting the Alexandrian text, this is true. But a word needs to be said about the preservation and location of the early papyri. Aland says all but one of the these early papyri, "... are from Egypt where the hot, dry sands preserved the papyri through the centuries." Meanwhile, in Asia Minor and Greece (eastern areas), "... the climate in these regions has been unfavorable to the preservation of any papyri from the early period" (pp.59,67).

So it is not surprising many early papyri have been found which reflect the Alexandrian text since this text existed in Egypt. But even some of these Egyptian papyri, as mentioned above, reflect the Byzantine and even the Western text-type.

Meanwhile, papyri used in the east would not have survived due to the unfavorable climatic conditions. So what text was used in these regions in the second and third centuries cannot be determined by specific manuscript evidence.

It is not just the climatic conditions which have resulted in a loss of many early manuscripts. The areas of greatest persecution would have been in the Northern Mediterranean basin (hence, Greece and Asia Minor). Hence, if the climate didn't get a manuscript, persecution probably would. However, it should be noted that even given the poor climatic conditions and persecution, we do have some early manuscripts from areas which almost certainly cannot be Egyptian in origin. And, it would be radically incorrect to assume that a papyrus FOUND in Egypt must have come from Egypt. That kind of thinking flows from an assumption that, in the early years, the various regions Church were cut off from one another. As Carson says:

...we have too often neglected the mobility of the first century. Roman roads and imperial peace meant movement; and just as the overlooking of these factors has contributed to a proliferation of theories concerning "Matthean theology" over against the theology of the "Pauline churches" over against the theology of the "Johannine circle," as if the various groups were almost hermetically sealed off from one another, so also I suspect that early textual history involves more borrowing and cross-fertilization than is often recognized.(D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979. p. 109-110)

You state:

However, what is known is all of the autographs, except two, were sent to eastern churches. The only exceptions are Romans and Mark which were sent to Rome. But NONE were sent to Egyptian churches (Green, Unholy, Vol.II, p.613).

And the point of this is??? The problem I have with such points is that it is stated as if transportation across the empire wasn't possible. A copy of Mark's Gospel could have been in Egypt within a year of its having been written, and if Dr. Kim's redating of P46 is correct, and ASSUMING that P46 is Egyptian in origin (something that is by no means certain), then a copy of a collection of Paul's letters must have made it to Egypt as early as 90 AD.

Moreover, starting in the fourth century, parchment began to be used. This material is much more durable than papyri (Aland, p.76). This accounts for why the number of known manuscripts begin to proliferate starting with this century. And the vast majority of these later manuscripts reflect the Byzantine text.

Be VERY careful with the conclusions drawn from this observation; they may come back and bite you. Parchment manuscripts are certainly more durable than papyri, but they were also considerably more expensive to produce. How much more expensive? That's hard to tell, but here's one example. According to Rendel Harris (See Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p. 15), based upon the stipulated per-line compensation rates for scribes in the second and third centuries, Codex Sinaiticus would have cost about 30,000 denarii. How much money was that? Well, your average Roman soldier earned about 750 denarii a year, which means that it would have taken 40 years for a soldier to have saved up enough to commission to production Codex Sinaiticus! That's expensive -- too expensive for a dynamic proliferation of manuscripts to the extent that you suggest.

For nearly 500 years (from the fourth century to the beginning of the ninth century) parchment manuscripts cost a great deal, indeed, and the kind of script used to write the text didn't help matters any. Uncial script took up a great deal of parchment. When the conversion to Minuscule script occurred, toward the beginning of the ninth century, the cost of parchment manuscripts dropped dramatically. According to Metzger:

The advantages of using minuscule script are obvious. Minuscule letters, as their name suggests, are smaller than uncial, and thus the writing is more compact. Hence, when the minuscule hand was used, less parchment was required and therefore the book was more economical. Furthermore, a literary work could be produced which was less bulky and therefore easier to handle than a larger manuscript. Moreover, it was possible to write minuscule letters more rapidly than uncials, and consequently books could be produced more quickly and more cheaply. (Metzger, pp. 10-11)

The sharp decline in the cost of manuscript production which resulted from the development of the minuscule script should not be underestimated. Metzger certainly doesn't minimize it:

The minuscule manuscripts of the New Testament outnumber the uncial manuscripts by more than ten to one, and although one must make allowance for the greater antiquity of the uncial style..., very much of the disparity in the number of the survivors must be due to the increased ease with which the minuscule copies could be produced. (Metzger, p. 12)

In other words, the overabundance of the Byzantine Type is, in part, due to the relative ease and inexpensiveness of minuscule manuscript production compared with the cost of producing the uncial manuscript. And, let us not forget that the VAST majority of Uncial manuscripts are NOT Byzantine, but Alexandrian in Type. Indeed, it is truly interesting to note that it wasn't until the Ninth century, and in invention of the minuscule script, that the Byzantine Type began to outnumber the Alexandrian type. The majority of the extant pre-ninth century manuscripts are, after all, non-Byzantine.

In sum, the east held the autographs. In the second and third centuries, the Byzantine AND Alexandrian text existed in Egypt. And from the fourth century on the east utilized the Byzantine text.

As I have demonstrated, the Byzantine type didn't exist in the second and third centuries (or, in the very least, it didn't exist in the form that we know of it in the MT). Your conclusions are faulty.

Furthermore, papyri has, "... a useful library life of several decades" (Aland, p.75). So the east could still appeal to the autographs, or at least direct copies of them, well into the second century. Meanwhile, Egypt only had copies of copies.

This argument is both entirely speculative, and it fails to recognize that the Byzantine Type found, for example, in the Gospels of Alexandranus, simply didn't YET exist in the second century! Were there occasional readings known in the second century? Yes. But the Type had yet to evolve.

So, if the CT people are correct, despite this advantage, the east, sometime during the second or third centuries and for some unknown reason, abandoned the best text-type in favor of an inferior one. But the Egyptian churches were able to retain the text which reflected the autographs, despite the fact they never saw them.

I'm sorry, but your conclusions are flawed.

Gnostic Corruptions

Gordon Fee, a CT supporter, claims, "For the New Testament, the better external evidence was preserved in Egypt" (p.32). But is this claim true? Do manuscripts discovered in Egypt necessarily "better" reflect the autographs? The answer to this question requires a look at the religious situation in Egypt in the early centuries....


....So in addition to the providence of God, on the human level, the vast superiority of the Byzantine text-type in the manuscript evidence could be do to Christian scribes simply knowing which manuscripts were the best ones to copy and which ones needed to be avoided.

Egypt had its problems with Gnostics. Asia Minor and Greece had its problems with Arians, Nestorians, Sebellians, Apolonarians, and Marcionites. If the Byzantine Type could evolve without being made heretical by the very presence of these heretical groups in the midst of the orthodox Church which produce it, then the same must be granted to the Alexandrian Type. Otherwise, you will simply have to admit that your conclusion is entirely bias.

I'll put it to you. Demonstrate that the Alexandrian Type contains gnostic teachings. Until such can be demonstrated, the claim is empty.

And the CT scholars in general agree Aleph and Beta are "the most reliable manuscripts." A few years ago, this writer studied textual criticism in seminary. The class was taught by a professor who ascribed to the CT. He taught us that IF Aleph and Beta agree, then that is the reading to follow.

An oversimplification and, indeed, an outright error. It certainly doesn't reflect current thought (and I'm not exactly current myself ... its been nearly 10 years since I formally studied Textual criticism, but such was never taught to me).

What he didn't teach us was that "if" is a very big "if." As J.P. Green writes, "... there can scarcely be found three verses in a row which are the same in Aleph and Beta ... in fact there are more than 3,000 differences between them in the Gospels of the New Testament alone" (Unholy, Vol.II, p.321).

This essentially correct. The same, however, could be said of many of the Byzantine (Category V) Uncials and Minuscules, hence the criticism is invalid (unless you're going to apply it to the Byzantine Imperial Type).

Another problem with these manuscripts is they both have "correcting" hands on them. There is five "correcting" hands on Aleph. In other words, five different scribes made changes in the manuscript. Most likely, they were trying to bring it in conformity with other manuscripts they had which they considered to be more reliable.

1. ALL (every single extant) manuscript, regardless of text type, have "correcting" hands upon them. Hence, if this is a problem for Sinaiticus or Vaticanus, it is a problem for every single Byzantine Imperial Type manuscript you would like to point to.

2. The reasons for the many scribal corrections is up for debate. One hand is clearly the original scribe's hand, several others are contemporary with that scribe and are editorial in nature. Another layer of scribal "corrections" can be dated to about the sixth or seventh centuries, was executed (according to the editor's note) in Caesarea, and include a large number of additions to both the Old and New Testaments which were based upon manuscripts which came from the library of Pamphilius of Caesarea. A final layer is generally dated to the 12th century. Interesting ... doesn't sound to me like it's rotting away in some basement!

Eventually, Aleph was discarded in the basement of a monastery on Mount Sinai. It laid there forgotten for centuries until Constantine von Tischendorf discovered it in the late 1800s and proclaimed it "the critical standard for establishing the text." Aland claims, "Pride of discover was not the only factor here" (pp.11-14).

Might I suggest that you read Metzger's account of the history of Codex Sinaiticus? You'll find it on pages 42-46 of his book The Text of the New Testament. I'm pleased to note that you don't perpetuate the often told fairy tale (so popular in KJV-Only circles) about how it was in the process of being burned when Tischendorf was shown it, although I'd love to find out where you got that bit about it being "discarded in the basement of a monastery."

So the early scribes tried to "fix" Aleph by bringing it into conformity with Byzantine texts and eventually discarded it (because they realized it was a hopeless case?). But today's CT scholars are doing the exact opposite! Beta also had a couple of "correcting" hands on it.

Again, your interpretation of the "corrections," and the motivation behind them is highly suspect of bias. And, remember, correctors notices are to be found on EVERY extant manuscript. NO manuscript was ever copied without at least a FEW errors having been made and CAUGHT and CORRECTED. Such is simply the nature of hand-copying.

Moreover, both of these manuscripts have origins near Egypt. Above it was mentioned that Gnostics "dominated" Egypt in early Church history. So it is possible these two Uncials were influenced by heretical corruptions.

And, it is EQUALLY possible that the Byzantine Type was influenced by Arian, Nestorian, Apolonarian, and Marcionite heretical corruptions. Do you see why such arguments are simply irrelevant and, indeed, just as DANGEROUS to the Byzantine type?

I shall again put it to you. IF the Alexandrian Text Type were influenced by Gnostic heretical tendencies then they should contain clear affirmations of Gnostic doctrine. If such affirmations are lacking, then I again submit that the scribes who produced these manuscripts failed in their job and the Gnostics who paid for their commissioning should sue.

But despite these problems, the CT scholars still believe these two Uncials are the "two most reliable manuscripts." The reason for this is they are the two earliest, complete manuscripts. Both date to the early 300s.

I generally call the above kind of argument a "Saber tooth Tiger argument." In other words, your argument was fashioned to combat a position that scholarship NO LONGER holds. The Papyri now hold a position of great importance among current Critical scholars ... at least as important as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Given the degree to which you appear to have read the Critical Scholarship, I am surprised that you would attempt to argue this way.

Furthermore, Aleph and Beta are only the earliest COMPLETE manuscripts. By "complete" is meant they contain all, or at least almost all, of the 27 books of the NT. But, there are many papyri containing portions of the NT which predate these two Uncials.

And, as I have demonstrated, they are predominately Alexandrian or Early Text in Character.

Metzger outlines these "Transcriptional Probabilities"
1. In general, the MORE DIFFICULT READING is to be preferred....

A general, but not hard-and-fast rule. At least, not in my opinion. It is often more easy to identify an original reading using this principle, but sometimes a more difficult reading is the result of scribal error. This principle should be applied on a case-by-case basis, and only as a supportive argument when the other textual criteria are already pointing in this direction. Hence, I sometimes (though not always) disagree with conclusions that are based heavily upon this principle. For an example, see the John 7:8 variant.

2. In general the SHORTER READING is to be preferred....

Again, a general, but not hard-and-fast rule. Put simply, sometimes a longer reading has greater textual strength. The shorter reading principle is often applied (now days) as supportive but not determinative.

3. Since scribes would frequently bring DIVERGENT PASSAGES INTO HARMONY with one another, in parallel passages.... that reading which involves VERBAL DISSIDENCE is usually to be preferred to one which is verbally concordant.

This tends to be true, unless other factors are involved.

4. Scribes would sometimes: a) REPLACE an unfamiliar word with a more familiar synonym. b) ALTER a less refined grammatical form or less elegant expression IN ACCORD WITH CONTEMPORARY ATTICIZING PREFERENCES; or c) ADD pronouns, conjunctions, and expletives TO MAKE A SMOOTHER TEXT (pp. xxvi, xvii).


1) Metzger claims "framers" produced the Byzantine text "perhaps at Antioch." Earlier, Harry Sturz was quoted as declaring, "There is not a shred of historical evidence that such a recension was made" (p.126). But despite this fact, CT people continue to repeat this supposed origin of the Byzantine text.

See my above address to this issue.

2) The assumption seems to be Christian scribes were in the habit of
deliberately altering the text in order to "improve" it.

Well ... yes, that's clearly what happened. :-) Isn't that what you, yourself, have argued happened relative to Codex Sinaiticus??

Furthermore, in his book, Metzger never mentions the possibility of a variant being the result of a heretic writing a corrupted manuscript.

I would imagine that Dr. Metzger would, like myself, assume that any such variant would be tailored to support heretical doctrine. Since such simply don't exist (as a pattern) in any extant manuscript, the question is at best a theoretical speculation, and a worse an intentional obfuscation.

But this is the exact opposite of the known evidence as indicated by the above extended quote and other statements of the Church Fathers.

We have manuscripts that are "Christian" in character but, undeniably, very Gnostic in nature. These texts are SO heretical, SO gnostic, that they practically jump off the parchment and dance a gnostic jig right in front of us! They are SO gnostic that they cannot be possibly missed as being the result of heretical production. That the Alexandrian Type doesn't have these characteristics is a clear and undeniable strike against your claim that they reflect heretical tampering. IF the scribes who produced Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were heretics, then they VERY INEFFECTIVE heretics; they utterly FAILED to produce heretical manuscripts! Couldn't they have, in the very least, gotten just ONE SINGLE heretical doctrine into their productions? Why aren't there any references to the non-physical nature of Jesus? Why are there references to the Jewish ancestry of Jesus? Why is there an OLD TESTAMENT in Sinaiticus??? I'm sorry, your whole argument is absolutely empty.

3) It is claimed, "the shorter reading is to be preferred." The reason for this is the assumption that a scribe, if he had two manuscripts before him with two different readings, would combine them.

That's not the only reason. Errors tend to compound errors.

But, Clark relates in this regard, "Having suffered at the hands of typists, I cannot accept this criteria. They more often omit words and phrases than make additions. The critics will reply: The typist copies only one manuscript; those who copied manuscripts have several copies in front of them. Did they? Maybe sometimes. Maybe not. Who knows?" (pp.16, 23).

Did you you ever type an idea in which you didn't notice that you had typed the idea, or or a word, more than than once? I do it quite often, and have to back up and make a correction. But, this point aside, it is not a valid comparison. A manuscript is hand copied, which is a significantly SLOWER process than typing.

4) Another assumption running through these quotes seems to be that the autographs were written in a difficult style of Greek, one with "verbal dissidence." But later (Byzantine) scribes would "smooth away any harshness of language." The result would be a text with a "contemporary Attic" ("Koine") style of Greek. In fact, Metzger says another name for the Byzantine text is "the Koine text" (p.xx).

But wait a minute! Ever since this writer has been attending evangelical circles (over a decade) he has been told the NT was written in Koine Greek, the language of the people.

Koine Greek is the "common" form of Attic Greek.

But now it appears this is not really so. According to the CT people, the Byzantine text cannot be the best text because it has a "smoother text" than the Alexandrian. Yet Kurt Aland, a CT advocate, says, "The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the Greek of daily conversation" (p.52).

You are confusing an academic term for a Text Type with the common term for a form of Attic Greek. "Koine" Greek was the name given to the version of Attic Greek that was spoken in the first century and was the kind of Greek that the New Testament was written in. It is not, however, correct to then connect this kind of Attic Greek directly and exclusively with the Koine Text Type. Fundamentally, the kind of Attic Greek in the Alexandrian Type is identical to the kind of Attic Greek in the Byzantine, and earlier Koine, Type (it has an identical vocabulary and an identical grammar), and to attempt to make Metzger and Aland say that the kind of Greek was changed from the Alexandrian to the Byzantine Text Type is incorrect. No ... the form of Attic Greek wasn't change, it was simply made more "elaborate," more "smooth."

5) Is assumed the NT originally had "divergent passages" which were "harmonized" by scribes to eliminate the supposed contradictions. But, as Gordon Clark writes, "No evidence supports this conjecture." Moreover, "Indeed, there is no evidence that any copyist assimilated anything to anything. The critic's argument is mainly unsupported speculation" (pp. 34, 28).

Nice try, but no cigar. Firstly, it is NOT assumed that the NT originally had "divergent passages." Rather, it is assumed that the NT diverged and then an attempt was made to bring them back together. Secondly, Clark is simply wrong when he says that there is no evidence of this, something you should realize. It was yourself, after all, who cited an example of exactly this kind of harmonizing process in process when you cited Codex Sinaiticus' correctors notices. This was particularly true in the 12th century additions to that manuscript. I can provide a list of other examples of this process in extant manuscripts, if you wish. Some of them are rather blatant.

6) Combining the last two points, the CT scholars seem to assume the autographs were written in a difficult language style and had contradictions in them, but Christian scribes later tried to "fix" these problems.

You exaggerate. Its language wasn't different, just a bit less "polished." And, as for contradictions ... yes, there were some which were "corrected."

But there is two other possibilities, neither of which would impinge on the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture as the scenario of the CT
people does.

And there sits the bear. The question of the doctrine of the Inspiration of the Scriptures. Sorry, but for the most part the doctrine of the Inspiration of the Scriptures isn't at all effected UNLESS one assumes that the last generation of the evolution of the Text is the Inspired one! I take the position that, to the extent that ALL the manuscripts reflect the original, they share in the original's inspiration. To the extent that they diverge, their nature as inspired becomes relative to the nature of the divergence. In most places, it's irrelevant. The only way it could truly matter is if one had a digital, rather than analog, understanding of the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

First, these problems could simply be due to accidental, scribal mistakes. As Clark writes about a scribe, "But it is also possible, for a number of reasons, - fatigue, brilliance [bad lighting?], the mispronunciation of a reader - that he changed an easy reading into something more difficult" (p.16).>>

Simple mistakes produced errors either way. That's clear in nearly EVERY extant manuscript. Indeed, MANY Byzantine manuscripts have clearly evident scribal errors of this nature. They stand out like sore thumbs, and for the most part don't cause us trouble.

The other possibility is maybe the heretics, who were known to write corrupted manuscripts, purposely tried to introduce contradictions into the Scriptures and make them difficult to read? Metzger never mentions this possibility. But this scenario concurs better with the known historical facts than the one posed by the CT people.

Aside from the fact that this idea violates the principle of parsimony, and also aside from that fact that it is one of the funniest things I've ever seen written, it is an unworkable and indemonstrable theory. IF heretical scribes were going to do something like this, they must have had a VERY well planned and HIGHLY coordinated plan for introducing such changes while NOT, at the same time, introducing blatant heresy. I'm sorry, I cannot imagine any true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool heretics applying their skills to make orthodox readings more difficult but NOT also taking the opportunity to introduce supports for heretical doctrines.

Grace and Peace,


The following is a partial list of the sources I've cited, referenced, or consulted in the process of writing the above. I may have missed a few.

Aland, Kurt. "Der neue `Standard-Text' in seinem Verhaltnis zu den fruhen Papyri und Majuskein," pp. 257-275 in New Testament Textual Criticism, Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Bruce M. Metzger. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee, (eds.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Aland, Kurt & Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987.

Carson, D.A. The King James Version Debate. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.

Comfort, Philip W. Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990.

Fee, Gordon D. "P75, P66, and Origen: The Myth of Early Textual Recension in Alexandria." in New Dimensions in New Testament Study, Richard Longenecker and Merrill Tenney, (eds). Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1974.

Finegan, Jack Encountering New Testament Manuscripts: A Working Introduction to Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1974.

Greenlee, J. Harold. An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964.

James, Kevin. The Corruption of the Word: The Failure of Modern New Testament Scholarship. Williamsburg, N.M.: Micro-Load Press, 1990.

Kenyon, F.G. The Text of the Greek Bible, Third Edition. London: Duckworth Publishing, 1975.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Early Versions of the New Testament: their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

Metzger, Bruce M. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Second Edition. New York: New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Pickering, Wilbur N. The Identity of the New Testament Text. Nashville: Nelson, 1977.

Daniel Wallace, "The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, No. 37, June 1994

© 1999 Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from Amazon.com.