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What we should know about the Critical Text

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  • Edgar A. Ibarra Jr.
    I found this breief article helpful: http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/ What today s Christian needs to know about The Greek New Testament G. W. Anderson,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2005
      I found this breief article helpful:


      What today's Christian needs to know about
      The Greek New Testament
      G. W. Anderson, Editorial Manager

      In recent years there has been much confusion concerning modern
      translations and editions of the Greek New Testament. Some people
      make claims regarding the Greek New Testament without having
      information and facts to support their claims. Many people claim
      that their translations are accurate because those translations are
      based upon the best available Greek texts. Some claim that their
      translations are better than the Authorised Version because the
      Authorised Version and its underlying Greek Textus Receptus add
      variants and extra readings to the text. Others, however, claim that
      the Greek text of the New Testament is not important because their
      favourite translation is better that any Greek text. Still others
      say that the Greek text is not important because most people cannot
      read the Greek of the New Testament era. However, the Greek text
      upon which a translation is based will have an impact upon both a
      Christian's reading of Scripture devotionally and the proclaiming of
      the Word of God in bearing witness to the saving grace of Jesus
      Christ. It is necessary that today's Christian understands the
      importance of the traditional Greek text in his Christian life.

      The Traditional Text

      First of all it is necessary to understand what is meant by the
      term 'traditional text'. During the 1st century following the
      resurrection of Christ, God moved men to pen His Word (2 Peter
      1.21). The result was a group of letters and books, written in Koine
      Greek (called the 'original autographs'). These letters and books
      were copied and recopied throughout the centuries and distributed
      throughout the world. These copies comprise the manuscripts of the
      New Testament. Over 5,000 of these Greek manuscripts have survived
      to this day. The great number of these Greek manuscripts supports
      what is called the Byzantine textual tradition, Byzantine because it
      came from all over the Greek-speaking world at that time. These
      Byzantine manuscripts make up what is called the Traditional Text of
      the New Testament. The best printed representation of this Byzantine
      text-type is the Textus Receptus (or Received Text). In addition to
      the manuscripts, we also have available many works in which numerous
      Church Fathers quoted from the manuscripts. The work of John Burgon
      has established that the basic text used by numerous Church Fathers
      is the same as the text now known as the Byzantine Text.

      The Textus Receptus was compiled from a number of Byzantine
      manuscripts by numerous editors from the early 1500s. There were
      editions from textual editors such as Erasmus, Stephens, Beza, the
      Elzevirs, Mill and Scrivener. These editions differ slightly from
      one another but still are regarded as the same basic text. Certain
      editions were popular in different countries and provided the basis
      for New Testament translations. The Textus Receptus (as it later
      became known) was the text used by Tyndale and in turn by the
      translators of the English Authorised (King James) Version of 1611
      and other Reformation era translations.

      The Critical Text

      During the 19th and 20th centuries, however, another form of Greek
      New Testament has come into the forefront and is used for most
      modern New Testament translations. This Critical Text, as it is
      called, differs widely from the Traditional Text in that it omits
      many words, verses and passages which are found in the Received Text
      and translations based upon it.

      The modern versions are based mainly upon a Greek New Testament
      which was derived from a small handful of Greek manuscripts from the
      4th century onwards. Two of these manuscripts, which many modern
      scholars claim to be superior to the Byzantine, are the Sinai
      manuscript and the Vatican manuscript (c. 4th century). These are
      derived from a text type known as the Alexandrian text (because of
      its origin in Egypt); this text type was referred to by the textual
      critics Westcott and Hort as the 'Neutral text'. These two
      manuscripts form the basis of the Greek New Testament, referred to
      as the Critical Text, which has been in widespread use since the
      late 19th century. In recent years there has been an attempt to
      improve this text by calling it an 'eclectic' text (meaning that
      many other manuscripts were consulted in its editing and evolution),
      but it is still a text which has as its central foundation these two

      Problems in the Critical Text

      There are many problems of omission which characterize this Greek
      New Testament. Verses and passages which are found in the writings
      of Church Fathers from around 200 to 300 A.D. are missing in the
      Alexandrian Text manuscripts which date from around 300 to 400 A.D.
      In addition, these early readings are found in manuscripts in
      existence from 500 A.D. onwards. An example of this is Mark 16.9-20:
      this passage is found in the writings of Irenaeus and Hippolytus in
      the 2nd century, and is in almost every manuscript of Mark's Gospel
      from 500 A.D. onwards. It is missing in two Alexandrian manuscripts,
      the Sinai and the Vatican.

      This is but one of many examples of this problem. There are many
      words, verses and passages which are omitted from the modern
      versions but which are found in the Traditional or Byzantine Text of
      the New Testament, and thus in the Textus Receptus. The Critical
      Text differs from the Textus Receptus text 5,337 times, according to
      one calculation. The Vatican manuscript omits 2,877 words in the
      Gospels; the Sinai manuscript 3,455 words in the Gospels. These
      problems between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text are very
      important to the correct translation and interpretation of the New
      Testament. Contrary to the contention of supporters of the Critical
      Text, these omissions do affect doctrine and faith in the Christian

      Several examples of doctrinal problems caused by the omissions from
      the Critical Text follow. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
      The modern reconstructed Critical Text

      omits reference to the Virgin Birth in Luke 2.33
      omits reference to the deity of Christ in 1 Timothy 3.16
      omits reference to the deity of Christ in Romans 14.10 and 12
      omits reference to the blood of Christ in Colossians 1.14
      In addition, an error is created in the Bible in Mark 1.2; in this
      passage in the Critical Text Isaiah is made the author of the book
      of Malachi. In numerous places in the New Testament the name of
      Jesus is omitted from the Critical Text; seventy times 'Jesus' is
      omitted and twenty-nine times 'Christ' is omitted.(1)

      Another problem with the modern Critical Text is that the two main
      manuscripts upon which this text is constructed, the Sinai and the
      Vatican, disagree between themselves over 3,000 times in the Gospels
      alone. Thus, the Alexandrian text presents itself as a text type
      which is characterized in many places by readings which are not
      common to the manuscripts of their own tradition. The Critical Text
      is characterized by wording which in the original language is
      difficult, abrupt or even impossible. It appears that no matter how
      peculiar or aberrant the variant reading is, it must have been in
      the original autographs because (as is sometimes claimed) a scribe
      would never make a change which disagrees with other manuscripts; he
      would, instead, make a change which would make a passage read more

      Much is said about the Alexandrian manuscripts being very old. This
      is true, but the emphasis in the study of textual criticism should
      not be upon how old the manuscript is but upon how many copies
      removed from the original it is. A manuscript which is dated as
      having been copied during the 10th century could have been the fifth
      in a line of copies originating with the original autograph, whilst
      a manuscript dated as having been copied during the 3rd century
      could have been the one hundredth in the line of copies. Since it is
      difficult to tell the genealogy, the family of any given manuscript,
      it is important to note that age is relative in the sense that you
      could have a corrupt 3rd century manuscript or a faithful 10th
      century manuscript.

      A good illustration would be to suppose that, in the year 3000, a
      copy of the English Bible was found which dated from the 1970s.
      Suppose this Bible happened to be the oldest existing Bible
      available, and this Bible happened to differ in hundreds of places
      from the Bible that was in use by Christians in the year 3000. One
      could well imagine the scientific critics, with their methodology,
      extolling the virtues of the ancient age of this Bible, the page
      design showing quality, careful care in the layout and the paper of
      this particular volume, the binding and so on. But their arguments
      would tend to fall apart when, after beginning to translate Bibles
      into modern languages on the basis of this ancient book, Christians
      discovered that this version of the Scriptures was the New World
      Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

      Providential Preservation

      The Traditional Text of the New Testament is understood by
      conservative Bible-believing Christians to have been providentially
      preserved by God. God has promised in His Word that He would not
      only preserve His Word for generations to come, but that His Word
      was permanent and would be kept free from corruption.

      Matthew 5.18 states "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and
      earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the
      law, till all be fulfilled".

      Isaiah 59.21 says "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith
      the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put
      in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the
      mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith
      the LORD, from henceforth and for ever".

      John 10.35 says "and the scripture cannot be broken".

      These verses demonstrate that God has not left His church for
      centuries without an authoritative copy of the Word of God, but that
      God's people down through the ages have faithfully copied and
      recopied copies of the original autographs. The church all over the
      world has used the Traditional Text in all of its various forms, and
      God has seen fit to multiply multitudes of copies and has brought
      salvation to many generations through this preservation process.
      This doctrine of providential preservation is succinctly stated in
      the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, paragraph VIII:

      The Old Testament in Hebrew, which was the native language of the
      people of God of old, and the New Testament in Greek, which at the
      time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations,
      being immediately inspired by God and by His singular care and
      providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as,
      in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal
      unto them.
      This precious doctrine of the providential preservation of the
      Scriptures has been all but forgotten by modern textual scholars.
      Many of them treat the Word of God as just another book that can be
      submitted to the whims and changing norms of modern scientific
      methods. Many of the destructive forms of higher criticism of the
      19th century have come from a lack of belief that the Bible is a
      supernatural book. The Bible has the marks of inspiration which
      clearly can be seen by believing eyes, but which can be trampled
      under the feet of men rushing headlong toward destruction. But, in
      spite of this, God has raised up His people who love and cherish His
      Word and recognize the marks of inspiration that the early believers
      recognized, and that these copies which have been handed down
      through the ages represent well what God has intended to be used.
      This does not mean that any particular printed edition of the Greek
      New Testament today is perfect, but what it does mean is that the
      New Testament that we have today is essentially the same as that
      passed down through the ages through various groups of believers who
      have loved and kept His Word.

      The strength of this preservation in the Old Testament comes in the
      quality of scribe that copied the Old Testament Hebrew. In the New
      Testament this is seen in the abundance of manuscripts which we
      possess today. This has been God's method for keeping His Word pure.
      This preservation provides that no one local text, such as the one
      from Alexandria, Egypt, would become the dominant text. It took
      liberalism and unbelief to challenge this preservation process. It
      has never been proven that these few Alexandrian manuscripts ever
      existed outside of Alexandria, Egypt. Many of God's people around
      the world reject the Critical Text in all of its forms. The
      practical application of providential preservation is that the
      believer today must choose between a modern reconstructed text based
      essentially upon two manuscripts from the 4th century, which omits
      the deity of Christ in many places and is estimated by some to leave
      out approximately 200 verses (the equivalent of 1 and 2 Peter), or
      that he must choose as a text one which God has used through the
      centuries. Do we use the text which God has blessed, and which best
      honours and glorifies the Lord Jesus, or do we not?

      The printed editions of the Greek New Testament which were published
      during the 1500s and 1600s were produced by men who understood what
      the glory of God meant and the importance of having accurate copies
      of the Bible. From the work known as the Complutensian Polyglot to
      the various editions of Erasmus, to the four editions of Robert
      Stephens (the best known of which is the 1550 text and which is the
      basis for what is called the Berry Interlinear or the Englishman's
      Greek New Testament), to the work of the great critic Theodore Beza
      in his five editions, to the editions of the Elzevirs in 1624 and
      1633, and ultimately to the work of F. H. A. Scrivener in the 1870s
      and '80s, we have scholarship in textual criticism and the most
      faithful and careful attitude toward the manuscripts that one can
      imagine. The Traditional Text of the New Testament was the text of
      the Reformation period, so that whether it was the work of Erasmus
      or of Stephens, Luther's own translation or that of the heirs of the
      Reformation such as the Westminster Divines and the translators of
      the Authorised Version in English, this text has been widely used
      and tremendously blessed by God.

      The Responsibility of Believers Today

      The textual critic J. Harold Greenlee has said, "New Testament
      textual criticism is, therefore, the basic Biblical study, a
      prerequisite to all other Biblical and theological work".(2) This is
      not an overstatement of the importance of this issue. As believers
      we have the responsibility in our day and age of proclaiming the
      Gospel, the pure Gospel, the undiluted Gospel. We also have the
      right and privilege of being the next in the line of protecting
      God's Word and proclaiming it. Each individual Christian will make a
      decision on this matter, of which text is correct. Unmistakably,
      this decision will be made, consciously or unconsciously, by every
      single believer. This decision is made when the believer decides
      which edition of the Bible he will use to read and study; and if he
      chooses a translation based upon corrupted manuscripts which reflect
      views which omit the deity of Christ, His blood atonement, His
      virgin birth, then the decision has been made to extend this error
      to the next generation. If, however, today's Christian chooses a
      translation of the Word of God which is translated from the
      Traditional Text of the New Testament, the decision has been made to
      continue to see God working through His providence in providing His
      Word in its complete form, for not only this generation but for
      those to come.




      See "The Great Omission", The Quarterly Record (London, England: The
      Trinitarian Bible Society, no. 524, July-September 1993).


      J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism
      (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964),
      p. 17.


      A Bibliography In Support of The Traditional Text of the New

      "The Ancient Manuscripts of the New Testament", Quarterly Record
      London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, no. 510, January-
      March 1990.

      Anderson, G. W. and D. E. A Textual Key to the New Testament.
      London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, 1992.

      "The Authenticity of the Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according
      to Mark demonstrated by the evidence of the ancient manuscripts",
      Article No. 16. London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.

      "The Authorised Version: What today's Christian needs to know about
      the AV", Article no. 75. London, England: The Trinitarian Bible
      Society, n.d.

      Burgon, John William. The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional
      Text of the Holy Gospels. London: George Bell and Sons, 1896.

      ________. The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark.
      Oxford: J. Parker and Co., 1871.

      ________. The Revision Revised. Fort Worth, TX, USA: A. G. Hobbs
      Publications, 1983.

      ________. The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels. London: George
      Bell and Sons, 1896.

      Clark, Gordon H. Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism. Jefferson,
      MD. USA: The Trinity Foundation, 1986.

      Dabney, Robert L. "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New
      Testament Greek", Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 1.
      Carlisle, PA, USA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967.

      ________. "The Revised Version of the New Testament", Discussions of
      Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 1. Carlisle, PA, USA: The Banner of Truth
      Trust, 1967.

      "The English Bible: Its Origin, Preservation and Blessing", Article
      no. 101. London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.

      Fuller, David Otis. Counterfeit or Genuine. Grand Rapids, MI, USA:
      Grand Rapids International Publications, 1978.

      ________. True or False. Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Grand Rapids
      International Publications, 1983.

      ________. Which Bible? Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Grand Rapids
      International Publications, 1970.

      "God was Manifest in the Flesh", Article No. 103. London, England:
      The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.

      Hills, Edward Freer. The King James Version Defended. DesMoines, IO,
      USA: The Christian Research Press, 1984.

      "The New International Version: What today's Christian needs to know
      about the NIV", Article no. 74. London, England: The Trinitarian
      Bible Society, n.d.

      The New Testament, The Greek Text Underlying the English Authorised
      Version of 1611 (Textus Receptus). London, England: The Trinitarian
      Bible Society, n.d.

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

      Scrivener, F. H. A. The Authorised Edition of the English Bible
      (1611): Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives.
      Cambridge, England: The University Press, 1884.

      ________. A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament
      for the Use of Biblical Students, third edition. Cambridge, England:
      Deighton, Bell and Co., 1883.

      Sturz, Harry A. The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual
      Criticism. Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984.

      van Bruggen, Jakob. The Ancient Text of the New Testament. Winnipeg,
      Ont., Canada: Premier, 1976.

      ________. The Future of the Bible. Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson
      Publishers, 1978.

      "What is Wrong With the Modern Versions of the Holy Scriptures?"
      Article No. 41. London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.

      "Why 1 John 5 vs. 7-8 is in the Bible", Article No. 102. London,
      England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.

      Wisse, Frederik, The Profile Method for Classifying and Evaluating
      Manuscript Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans
      Publishing Co., 1982.

      "The Word of God Among All Nations: An Introduction to the Society's
      Principles". London, England: The Trinitarian Bible Society, n.d.
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