Is the Byzantine Greek Text, that underlies the King James Bible, a "late" or recent text?
I often hear advocates of the modern versions, which are usually based on the Westcott-Hort Greek text, affirm that the New Testament text upon which the KJB is based represents a later text and not the earliest one. They must be listening to men like James White and erroneously concluding that James actually knows what he is talking about.
James White, in his book The KJV Controversy, says on pages 152-153 "Every one of the papyrus manuscripts we have discovered has been a representative of the Alexandrian, not the Byzantine text type" and "The early Fathers who wrote at this time did not use the Byzantine text-type" and "the early translations of the New Testament reveals that they were done on the basis of the Alexandrian type manuscripts, not the Byzantine text-type" and "the early church fathers who wrote during the early centuries give no evidence in their citations of a familiarity with the Byzantine text-type".
I frankly was dumbfounded that Mr. White actually wrote this. People who read his book would automatically assume he is right. After all, he has been to seminary and is an authority on such matters, isn't he?. Well, let's take a look at what other scholars who are just as qualified have to say regarding the antiquity of the Traditional Text, the church Fathers and the ancient versions, shall we?
Dr. Hort himself, who introduced the Alexandrian Greek text now used by most modern versions and which changes some 5000 words - mostly omissions - in the New Testament of the KJB, writes:
"The fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian Text of the second half of the 4th century." (Hort, The Factor of Geneology, pg 92---as cited by Burgon, Revision Revised, pg 257).
Dean Burgon immediately comments: “We request, in passing, that the foregoing statement may be carefully noted. The Traditional Greek Text of the New Testament, - the TEXTUS RECEPTUS, in short - is, according to Dr. Hort, ‘BEYOND ALL QUESTION the TEXT OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE FOURTH CENTURY.’
According to Bruce Metzger the AV translators made large use of Beza's editions as well as Erasmus'. Mr. Metzger also states: "In a period when the Textus Receptus held sway and when only occasionally an independent spirit ventured to question its authority....the Greek text incorporated in the editions of Stephanus, Beza and Elzevirs had published succeeded in establishing itself as 'the only true text' of the New Testament, and was slavishly (thanks Mr. Metzger for inserting your biased opinion) reprinted in hundreds of subsequent editions. It lies at the basis of the King James Version and of all principle Protestant translations in the languages of Europe prior to 1881." The Text of the New Testament Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd edition, Bruce M. Metzger, pg. 95-118.
What a confession! Modern Textual Critics REJECT that text which was recognized by the Reformers (Protestants) as the only true text. Onlyism before 1900!
The Antiquity of the Received Text, from the booklet titled The Providential Preservation of the Greek Text of the New Testament, by Rev. W. MacLean, M.A.
Mr. MacLean quotes Bishop Ellicot, who worked on the Revised Version of 1881 and was by no means a King James Onlyist. "The fact is admitted by Bishop Ellicot the chairman of the revisers in his pamphlet, "The Revisers and the Greek text of the N.T. by two members of the N.T. Company," pages 11-12. "The manuscripts which Erasmus used differ, for the most part only in small and insignificant details from the great bulk of the cursive MSS. The general character of their text is the same. By this observation the pedigree of the Received Text (which underlies the King James Bible) is carried up beyond the individual manuscripts used by Erasmus...That pedigree stretches back to remote antiquity. The first ancestor of the Received Text was at least contemporary with the oldest of our extant MSS, if not older than any one of them."
Mr. MacLean continues: "It must be emphasized that the argument is not between an ancient text and a recent one, but between two ancient forms of the text, one of which was rejected and the other adopted and preserved by the Church as a whole and remaining in common use for more than fifteen centuries. The assumptions of modern textual criticism are based upon the discordant testimony of a few specimens of the rejected text recently disinterred from the oblivion to which they had been deliberately and wisely consigned in the 4th century."
In the preface of the NKJV 1982 edition, the following words are found on page vii. Keep in mind that these men have the same seminary training and information as James White, and several of the NIV translators also worked on the NKJV, yet they completely contradict what James White says in his book.
"The manuscript preferences cited in many contemporary translations are due to recent reliance on a relatively few manuscripts discovered in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dependence on these manuscripts, especially two, the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts, is due to the greater age of these documents.
However, in spite of their age, some scholars have reason to doubt their faithfulness to the autographs, since they often disagree with one another and show other signs of unreliability.
On the other hand, the great majority of existing manuscripts are in substantial agreement. Even though many are late, and none are earlier than the fifth century, MOST OF THEIR READINGS ARE VERIFIED BY ANCIENT PAPYRI, ANCIENT VERSIONS, AND QUOTATIONS OF THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS. This large body of manuscripts is the source of the Greek text underlying the King James Bible. It is the Greek text used by Greek-speaking churches for many centuries, presently known as the Textus Receptus, or Received Text, of the New Testament."
Dr. Kurt Aland and Dr. Barbara Aland calculated that all the variants between all of the New Testament manuscripts calculated to a 37.1% difference. (Dr. Kurt Aland and Dr. Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 29.) That means that over a third of the New Testament has meaningful variants.
The Alexandrian Family is what underlies most of the modern versions of the Bible (NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT, etc.). The Alexandrian text is full of variants and makes up most of the 37.1% difference between all the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Early church father Origen (who lived in Alexandria) said about the local Bible copiers, “…the differences among the manuscripts [of the Gospels] have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they lengthen or shorten, as they please.” (Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd ed. (1991), pp. 151-152.)
(For examples of early Patristic citations of some of the disputed readings, see Scott Jones' article here:
Another site that documents early church "Fathers" quoting the texts found in the King James Bible as opposed to the modern versions that omit or change them can be seen here:
Then on page 1231 the NKJV editors say: "The Byzantine Text. This text was largely preserved in the area of the old Byzantine Empire, the area which is now Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia. OVER EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT of the extant manuscripts belong to the Byzantine text type. Also, from the oldest to the most recent manuscripts of this type, there is greater homogeneity than among the manuscripts of any other text type. The King James Version is based largely on a Byzantine type Greek text."
Dr. Thomas Holland addressing the common criticism that the Byzantine text is of late or recent origin.
Objection: "Did you know that the Textus Receptus, from which the KJV was translated, was based on half a dozen small manuscripts, none earlier than the 10th century?
Dr. Holland replies: This is yet another misrepresentation of the facts. The Textus Receptus and the KJV reflect the Byzantine line of manuscripts, also called the Traditional Text. The question leaves the impression that there is no textual support for the KJV before the 10th century. This, however, is not the case.
From the 9th century we have Codex Boreelianus (09), Codex Seidelianus (011), Codex Seidelianus (013), Codex Cyprius (017), Codex Mosquensis (018), Codex Angelicus (020) and Codex Campianus- all of which are Byzantine type manuscripts and support the TR and KJV. And there are many, many more besides these.
From the 8th and 7th centuries we have Codex Basilensis, Princeton's 047, and the Institute for Manuscripts' 0211 located in Germany. These are Byzantine type manuscripts.
From the 6th century we find Codex Petropolitanus Purpuresus (022), Codex Sinopensis (023), Codex Guelferbytanus A (024), Codex Nitriensis (027), Codex Rossanensis (042), Codex Beratinus (043), and 0253 (formerly of Damascus), just to name a few which are Byzantine.
And even from the 5th century we have Codex Guelferbytanus B (026) which is likewise Byzantine. Not to mention the Byzantine readings we find in other manuscripts and Byzantine type readings found among the early papyri manuscripts. (see Aland, pp. 107-128).
Here are a few selected portions from the excellent article by Dr. Edward F. Hills from his book The King James Version Defended showing the antiquity of the Byzantine text.
"Between 18 and 24 of the 27 New Testament books were written originally to cities in Asia Minor and Greece. None were written to Alexandria. But it was precisely in these Western and Alexandrian areas that corrupted pretenders to the true text became prominent.
What, in the meantime, is to be thought of those blind guides, those deluded ones, who would now persuade us to go back to those same codices, of which the Church hath already purged herself.
During the march of the Traditional (Byzantine) text toward supremacy many manuscripts of the Traditional type must have perished. The investigations of Lake (1928) and his associates indicate that this was so. "Why", he asked, "are there only a few fragments (even in the two oldest of the monastic collections, Sinai and St. Saba) which come from a date earlier than the 10th century". There must have been in existence MANY THOUSANDS OF MANUSCRIPTS (caps are mine) of the gospels in the great days of Byzantine prosperity, between the 4th and the 10th centuries.
As a result of these investigations, Lake found it "hard to resist the conclusion that the scribes usually destroyed their exemplars when they copied the sacred books." If Lake's hypothesis is correct, then the manuscripts most likely to be destroyed would be those containing the Traditional text. For these were the ones which were copied most during the period between the 4th and the 10th centuries, as is proved by the fact that the vast majority of the later Greek New Testament manuscripts are of the Traditional type.
By the same token, the survival of old uncial manuscripts of the Alexandrian and Western type, such as Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and D, was due to the fact that they were rejected by the Church and not read or copied but allowed to rest relatively undisturbed on the library shelves of ancient monasteries.
Dr. Zane Hodges remarks: "Herein lies the greatest weakness of contemporary textual criticism. Denying to the TR any claim to represent the actual form of the original text, it is nevertheless unable to explain its rise, its comparative uniformity, and its dominance in any satisfactory manner."
Mr. Hodges adds: "The existence in early times of this text (the Alexandrian) outside of Egypt is unproved...on the other hand, witnesses to the Majority Text came from all over the ancient world." (The Greek N.T. According to the Majority Text).
The Syriac Peshitta Version
Dr. Edward Hills also comments on the usual accusation that Erasmus had only 6 Greek manuscripts to work from. He says: "Did Erasmus use other manuscripts beside these five in preparing his Textus Receptus? The indications are that he did. According to W. Schwarz (1955), Erasmus made his own Latin translation of the New Testament at Oxford during the years 1505 6....Presumably therefore he brought these notes with him to Basel along with his translation and his comments on the New Testament text. It is well known also that Erasmus looked for manuscripts everywhere during his travels and that he borrowed them from everyone he could. Hence although the Textus Receptus was based mainly on the manuscripts which Erasmus found at Basel, it also included readings taken from others to which he had access."
Erasmus and his "only 6 manuscripts" lie. For some excellent information that refutes the oft repeated lie about Erasmus's knowledge of the Scriptures being limited to only 6 partial manuscripts when he made up his Greek text, please see the following site:
Dr. Hills also discusses The Evidence of the Peshitta Syriac Version -
The Peshitta Syriac version, which is the historic Bible of the whole Syrian Church, agrees closely with the Traditional Text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Until about one hundred years ago it was almost universally believed that the Peshitta originated in the 2nd century and hence was one of the oldest New Testament versions. Hence because of its agreement with the Traditional Text the Peshitta was regarded as one of the most important witnesses to the antiquity of the Traditional Text. In more recent times, however, naturalistic critics have tried to nullify this testimony of the Peshitta by denying that it is an ancient version.
The fickleness and trickery of Dr. Westcott.
In his book on the N.T. Canon (1855), Westcott himself saw "no reason to desert the opinion which has obtained the sanction of the most competent scholars, that the formation of the Peshitto Syriac was to be fixed withing the first half of the second century. The very obscurity which hangs over its origin is proof of its venerable age, because it shows that it grew up spontaneously among Christian congregations...Had it been a work of later date, of the 3rd or 4th century it is scarcely possible that its history should be so uncertain as it is."
In the "Introduction to the N.T. Greek," 1882, Westcott contradicted himself on all these points and contended that Curetonian Syriac was of greater antiquity, and that the Peshitto was an authoritative revision in the latter part of the 3rd or 4th centuries.!!!
The commonly accepted English translation of the Syriac Peshitta is that of Lamsa's translation of the Syriac.
The NASB complete New Testament was first published in 1960. It bracketed 14 entire verses in the New Testament, thus indicating they were of questionable authority. They continued doing this through the 1977 edition - but they still left out some large portions of several verses and a couple whole verses in Luke 24. Then in 1995, the new update NASB omitted over 7000 words from their previous 1977 edition but they also added most portions of the verses back to Luke 24 which all the previous NASBs had omitted.
Likewise the NASBs of 1960-1972 omitted all the words in Acts 24:6b through 8a: "and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, Commanding his accusers to come unto thee." (These words are found in the Syriac Peshitta, as well as the KJB, NKJV) Then in 1977 and again in 1995 the NASB put all these words back in the text, but in brackets this time. The NIV , RSV, ESV continue to omit all these words. So it might well be asked, "Which of all these conflicting NASBs was the real words of God?"
For my article dealing with Luke 24 in the ever changing NASB, see this site.
The NIV as well as the RSV, ESV continue to omit these 14 verses. In fact, the RSV, NRSV go even further than these 14 verses and also omit Matthew 12:47, 21:44, Luke 22:20, 24:12, and 24:40. The RSV also omitted large sections of Luke 24:3,6 and 12, but then the NRSV put them back in again. The new ESV revision still omits Matthew 12:47 "Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.", but it went ahead and put the other four verses back in! This is the kind of "scholarship" followed by today's Bible of the Month Club members.
Modern scholarship is focused on man and his abilities to restore what God supposedly lost, rather than first looking to God Himself and His promises to preserve His words till heaven and earth pass away. The result is over 100 conflicting English versions and uncertainty as to what God has said.
The following list shows the verses omitted by bible versions based on the Westcott-Hort texts, but they are all in the Byzantine texts, the KJB and in the Syriac Peshitta which dates to at least 100 years before Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
Matthew 17:21 "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting", 18:11 "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost", 23:14 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."
These verses are all found in the Syriac and the ending of the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:13 is also there - "for thine in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen" . The NIV, NASB, ESV omit these words precious words of our Lord.
Mark 7:16 "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear", 9:44,46 "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"; 11:26 "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses"; 15:28 "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors."
All these verses are omitted by the NIV, RSV, ESV and bracketed in the NASB. All are found in the Byzantine texts and the Syriac Peshitta.
Luke 9:55, 56 "and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." 17:36 "Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left"; 23:17 "For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast."
John 3:13 "even the Son of man which is in heaven", John 5:4 "waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had." Also the whole section dealing with the woman taken in adultery in John 8:1-11 is included in the Syriac but is omitted by both the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts.
Acts 8:37 "And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God"; 9:5-6 "And the Lord said,... it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him..."; 15:34 "Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still."; 24:6b-8a "and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, Commanding his accusers to come unto thee" and 28:29 "And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves."
Romans 16:24 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
All of these verses are omitted in the NASB or in brackets, and omitted from the texts of the NIV, ESV, RSV and Jehovah Witness versions, but they are included in the Authorized King James Bible, Tyndale, Geneva Bible, NKJV and in the three Syriac translations.
So much for the modern version proponents like James White who says: "no early translation was based on the readings found in the Byzantine manuscripts."
Early Church Fathers and the Byzantine Text
As a result of his research, Dr. Dean Burgon compiled an index of sixteen folio volumes of more than 86,000 quotations of or allusions to Scripture which were used by the Church Fathers. They are presently in London's British Museum. These are very valuable indexes, but as yet are unpublished.
Who were some of the Church Fathers? This is another name for the leaders of the early church, whether pro-Textus Receptus or not. They were men such as Origen, Jerome, Athanasius, Cyprian, Clement of Alexander, Augustine, Tertullian, and Eusebius.
In the writings of the Church Fathers whom Burgon researched, he found that these early leaders quoted from various Greek and Latin texts of Scripture. There were approximately seventy-six Church Fathers who died before 400 A.D. whose writings made frequent reference to the New Testament. Not only did quotations of these seventy-six Church Fathers from the Textus Receptus prior to 400 A.D. exist, but these Textus Receptus quotations were in the Majority.
The testimony of Dr. Scrivener who worked on the committee of the Revised Version of 1881: "It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed; that Irenaeus and the African Fathers and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syriac church used far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephen, thirteen centuries after, when molding the Textus Receptus…” Introduction to the New Testament by F.H.A. Scrivener.
Dear Christian reader, these are the facts. God has kept His promises to preserve His inspired words of truth to all generations. God's pure, infallible words have been placed for the last 400 years in the Authorized King James Holy Bible. Men like James White do not have any bible they consider to be the complete, inspired words of God. Mr. White now works for the NASB committee, yet he himself disagrees both with the text and translation of the NASB in several places. He and all other modern version promoters set up their own minds as being the final authority. If they do happen to speak of the Bible as being the inspired word of God, they are not referring to anything you can buy, hold in your hands, read, memorize and believe with all your heart. Instead, they are referring to a mystical bible that not only does not exist now, but never did exist in one Book.
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16
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