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Chapter 10
The Minority Texts
and the Hort-Westcott Theory

Preface of New King James Version 1982

“Since the 1880’s most contemporary translations of the New Testament have relied upon relatiovely few manuscripts discovered chiefly in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. Such translations depend primarily on two manscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex sinaiticus, because of their greater age. The Greek text obtained by using these sources and the related papyri (our most ancient manuscripts) is known as the Alexandrian Text. However, some scholars have ground for doubting the faithfulness of Vaticanus and sinaiticus, since they often disagree with one another, and sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.”

In 1881, a text claiming to be holy scripture but able to claim only 1% agreement among the comparatively few extant texts of its type, supplanted the Majority Text that enjoys over 90% agreement among over 5000 extant texts of its type!

 

Although it is difficult to understand how such a thing could happen, it did—and the travesty took place as a result of the Hort-Westcott theory of textual criticism being widely accepted among the biblical scholars of that time.

 

**I remind you that Bishop Westcott was not even a believer in the resurrection of our Lord which resurrection the eternal life of every Christian is completely dependant upon.

 

The Hort-Westcott Theory

Westcott and Hort conjectured that, of all the extant manuscripts available, only two were worth considering as a primary basis for their text: the Sinaiticus (Aleph) and the Vaticanus (B). They said these were older and therefore more reliable than any of the others. The foundation of their work was based on the assumption that these two Codices were without error. Therefore, all variations including those contained in the 5,000+ manuscripts of the Majority Text must be copyist errors of one kind or another.

 

In addition to this, their theory dictates that when editing any text containing the Word of God, the texts were to be considered no different from any other ancient (ordinary) book.

 

The History of the Codices

Although the history of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (each called a codex) is a mystery, they are thought by experts to have been written about A.D. 340. It is believed the codices were commissioned (by Constantine I) as part of an order for fifty copies. It is also believed they were transcribed in Alexandria, Egypt during the 4th century.

       “Constantine applied to Eusebius for fifty handsome copies, amongst which it is not improbable that the manuscripts . . B and Aleph were to be actually found.” Burgon, Traditional Text, p. 163.

 

Tischendorf also believed that this was how the Sinaiticus originated.

       “Is it possible that this Bible, Aleph, could be one of the 50 copies which Emperor Constantine ordered Eusebius to place in Constantinople, his new capital.” Tischendorf, quoted in Beale, Pictoral History, p. 54.

 

According to the Oxford Dictionary:

       “Most scholars believe that, like the Vaticanus, it [the Sinaiticus] was written in Alexandria, Egypt . . The New Testament text of the codex is closely allied to that of the Vaticanus, together with which it is the chief witness to the ‘Neutral Text.’ Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 310.

 

Neither Vaticanus nor Siniaticus (which form the basis for the New Testament for virtually all modern translations) is an original or even a copy of an original.

 

It is accepted that both are recencions. K.W. Clark pointed that out when he wrote:

       “All are found on the same Egyptian recension.” K.W. Clark, Today’s Problems with the Critical Text of the New Testament, published in Transitions in Biblical Scholarship, ed. by J.C.R. Rylaarsdam, p. 166.

 

Exactly what is a “recension?”

 

It is a “revision”—no more no less.

 

So what two unregenerate men managed to foist upon the Body of Christ as the most accurate text available, what all previous scholarship and scripture texts (prior to the late 1800’s) were rejected in favor of… are nothing more than versions which have been translated from yet another version (Hort-Westcott’s) of someone else’s revision (Egyptian/Alexandrian scholars) of the originals!

 

The Quality of the Codices:

The quality of the Codex Sinaiticus was denounced by Dr. Scrivner:

       “It must be confessed, indeed, that the Codex Sinaiticus abounds with similar errors of the eye and pen, to an extent unparalleled, but rather unusual in documents of first rate importance; so that Tregelles has freely pronounced that ‘the state of the text, as proceeding from the first scribe, may be regarded as very rough.’” Scrivener, Plain Introduction, p. 267.

 

Burgon had this to say about the impure condition of both Codices:

       “On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament.” Dean Burgon, Causes and Corruption of the Traditional Text, p. 128.

 

       “Between the first two [Sinaiticus and Vaticanus] there subsists an amount of sinister resemblance, which proves that they must have been derived at no very remote period from the same corrupt original. Tischendorf insists that they were partly written by the same scribe. Yet they vary repeatedly from one another on every page; as well as differing widely from the commonly Received [Majority] Text, with which they have been carefully collated. On being referred to this standard, in the Gospels alone, B is found to omit at least 2,877 words: to add, 536: to substitute, 935: to transpose, 2,098: to modify, 1,132 (in all 7,578)—the corresponding figures for being severally 3,455, 839, 1,114, 2,299, 1,265 (in all 8,972). And be it remembered that the omissions, additions, substitutions, transpositions, and modifications, are by no means the same in both. It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two manuscripts differ the one from the other than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.” Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 12.

 

Scrivner concurred:

       “That no small proportion of these are mere oversights of the scribe seems evident from the circumstance that this same scribe has repeatedly written words and clauses twice over.” Philip Scrivener, Plain Introduction, Vol. 1, p. 120.

 

       “The impurity of the text exhibited by these codices is not a question of opinion but of fact. . . In the Gospels…Codex B [Vaticanus] leaves out words or clauses…It bears traces of careless transcription on every page.” Burgon, quoted in Scrivener, Vol. 1, p. 120.

 

It is no wonder reputable scholars have consistently questioned the fitness and integrity of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as well as the men who promoted them.

 

4th century Alexandria Egypt was noted for its mixture of pagan philoshophy and Christianity. The Codices in question (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) have also been linked with the notable Christian apostate, Origen:

       “Yet I venture also to think that it was in a great measure at Alexandria that the text in question was fabricated. My chief reasons for thinking so are the following: (1) There is a marked resemblance between the peculiar readings of Vaticanus / Sinaiticus and the two Egyptian versions—the Bohairic or Version of Lower Egypt especially. (2) No one can fail to have been struck by the evident sympathy between Origen,—who at all events had passed more than half his life at Alexandria....” Burgon, Traditional Text, pp. 234-235.

 

Another link between the Codices and Origen can be found through Jerome and his Vulgate. Fredrick Nolan saw the connection:

       “The striking coincidence of the Greek of the Vatican manuscript with the Latin of the Vulgate leads to the establishment of the same conclusion. This version received the corrections of St. Jerome during his abode in Palestine; it is thus only probable that the Greek copies, after which he modeled it, were those, which far from being current in Palestine, were used in the monastery into which he had retired: but these he assures us were of the edition of Eusebius. For this edition he had imbibed an early partiality, through Gregory of Nazianzum, who first put the Scriptures into his hands, who had been educated at Caesarea in Palestine.” Frederick Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament, pp. 83-84.

 

Jerome admitted his familiarity with the manuscripts of Pamphilus and Origen. He said he relied on these documents as his unquestioned model when translating the Catholic Latin Vulgate from a Greek Manuscript—see Scrivener, Plain Introduction, Vol. 2, p. 226).

 

The Codex Sinaiticus is riddled with corrections, and its early dating has been called into question with very good reason:

       “Since this document was first inscribed, it has been made the subject of no less than ten different attempts of revision and correction [by later scribes]. The number of these attempts is witnessed by the different chirographies [handwriting styles] of the revisers, and the centuries in which they were respectively made can be approximated by the character of the different handwritings by which the several sets of corrections were carried out…Many of these corrections were contemporaneous with the first writer [copyist], but far the greater part belonging to the 6th or 7th century.” Scrivener, Plain Introduction, p. 267.

 

Yet in spite of evidence to the contrary, Westcott and Hort  maintained that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were “pure texts,” and that all others were partly corrupt—especially the ones used in the preparation of the King James Bible.

 

For this they have, rightly, been called unfit for the work of translating the Word of God:

       “Behold then the provision which the Author of Scripture has made for the effectual conservation in its integrity of this portion of His written Word! Upwards of 1,800 years have run their course since the Holy Ghost, by His servant Paul, rehearsed ‘the Mystery of Godliness,’ declaring this to be the great foundation fact, namely, that ‘God was manifest in the flesh.’ And lo! Out of 254 copies of St. Paul’s Epistles, no less than 252 are discovered to have preserved that expression. The copies whereof we speak were procured in every part of Christendom, being derived in every instance from copies older than themselves; which again were transcripts of copies older still. They have since found their way, without design or contrivance, into the libraries of every country in Europe, where they are jealously guarded…We submit, as a proper and just conclusion from these facts, that men who, in view of the evidence before them, would cast out of the Scripture at this vital point, the word ‘God’ and replace it by ‘he who’ have thereby demonstrated their unfitness for the work of revising the Greek text of the New Testament.” Burgon, quoted in Fuller, True or False? p. 98.

 

How has it happened that corrupt Codices, championed by corrupt men, have formed the basis for virtually all 20th century Bible translations?

 

The Preface of the New King James Version has this to say about the Egyptian/Minority Texts which were used almost exclusively by Hort and Westcott in editing their Greek text:

       “Since the 1880’s most contemporary translations of the New Testament have relied upon relatively few manuscripts discovered chiefly in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. Such translations depend primarily on two manscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, because of their greater age. The Greek text obtained by using these sources and the related papyri (our most ancient manuscripts) is known as the Alexandrian Text. However, some scholars have ground for doubting the faithfulness of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, since they often disagree with one another, and Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.

 

Frederic Kenyon, the late Director of the British Museum and author of very widely used textbooks on textual criticism, wrote this about the Minoroty Text:

       “[This New Minority-type Greek text] predominantly used…Aleph and B [Sinaiticus and Vaticanus] type readings…[The changes] amount to an extensive modification of the text. It has been the dominating influence in all modern critical editions... It is clear that... deliberate alteration…has been at work on a large scale in one text or the other...” Frederick Kenyon, Text of the Greek New Testament, pp. 197-204, 224, 231.

 

Wilber Pickering, author and Dallas Seminary Alumnus says this about the Minority Text:

       “The minority manuscripts disagree as much (or more) among themselves as they do with the majority. We are not judging between two text forms, one representing 90% of the manuscripts and the other 10%. Rather we have to judge between 90% and a fraction of 1% (comparing the Majority Text with P75 and B text form for example). Or to take a specific case, in 1 Timothy 3:16, over 300 Greek manuscripts read ‘God’ [KJV]…Greek manuscripts read ‘who’ [NIV, NASV, etc.] So we have to judge between 97% and 2%…”

       “It really does seem that those scholars who reject the Majority Text are faced with a serious problem… They are remnants reflecting ancient aberrant forms. It is a dependence on such aberrant forms that distinguishes contemporary critical editions of the New Testament…I submit that due process requires us to receive as original that form of the text which is supported by the majority of witnesses. To reject their testimony in favour of our own imagination as to what a reading ought to be is manifestly untenable.” Wilbur Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, pp. 114-120, 25, 149, 150, 237.

 

Even Hort admitted the Alexandrian manuscripts were not very good. In a letter to Westcott, he wrote:

       “Inaccuracy may in certain men or at certain periods run into a laxity which is careless about words though supposing itself faithful to sense, and which draws no sharp line between transcribing and editing, i.e. mending or completing. This last characteristic naturally belongs to the early period.” A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of F.J.A. Hort, Vol. 2., p. 228.

 

Dr. Edward Hills, author and graduate of Yale and Westminister Theological Seminary, with a Th.M. from Columbia Seminary and a Th.D. from Harvard says this:

       “But this suggestion leads to conclusions which are extremely bizarre and inconsistent. It would have us believe that during the manuscript period orthodox Christians corrupted the New Testament text, that the text used by the Protestant Reformers was the worst of all, and that the true text was not restored until the nineteenth century, when Tregelles brought it forth out of the Pope’s library, when Tischendorf rescued it from a wastebasket on Mt. Sinai, and when Westcott and Hort were providentially guided to construct a theory of it which ignores God’s special providence and treats the text of the New Testament like the text of any other ancient book...” Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, pp. 110-111.

 

In the following statement, Wilber Pickering  questions how these flawed texts have been so widely accepted:

       “The distressing realization is forced upon us that the ‘progress’ of the past hundred years has been precisely in—the wrong direction—our modern versions and critical texts are found to differ from the Original in some six thousand places, many of them being serious differences…[They] are several times farther removed from the originals than are the A.V. and TR [King James Version and its foundation, the Greek Textus Receptus]. How could such a calamity have come upon us? …Much of the work that has been done is flawed.” Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, pp. 149-150, 237.

 

Dean John Burgon, the scholar who collated the earliest New Testament documents—including codices, cursive Manuscripts, papyri, lectionaries, quotations by early "fathers" (87,000 in all)—wrote this about the changes being made in Greek texts and Bible translations:

       “Ordinary readers…will of course assume that the changes result from the reviser’s skill in translating—advances which have been made in the study of Greek. It was found that they had erred through defective scholarship to an extent and with a frequency, which to me is simply inexplicable…Anything more unscientific…can scarcely be conceived, but it has prevailed for fifty years. We regret to discover that… their work is disfigured throughout by changes which convict a majority of their body alike of an imperfect acquaintance with the Greek language.” Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 54, xi, 270, 277.

 

The modern speech revisionists have been declared to be fraudulent, unscholarly and unscientific in their methods:

       “Monstrously unscientific, if not dangerously obscurantist. The average well-taught Bible-believing Christian has often heard the error that the King James Version is corrected on the basis of better manuscripts or older authorities.” Hodges, quoted in Pickering, Identity of the New Testament Text, p. 160.

 

       "Lacking any kind of technical training in this area, the average believer probably has accepted such explanations from individuals he regards as qualified to give them.” Hodges, quoted in D.O. Fuller, Which Bible? p. 25.

 

Why does there seem to be so little concern displayed by the average Christian today about something that matters so much?

Hort claimed that that the two manuscripts he chose for his revision were “pure” and that all others that disagreed with them were full of copyist errors.

 

In light of the tremendous weight of evidence to the contrary, how could he even have been taken seriously, much less been such a prevailing force in the rejection of the Majority Text unless it was, somehow a pre-curser of the great delusion which the Bible says will sweep the world unchecked in days to come?

 

This is what Mauro had to say:

       “Here is a document which the [1870-1881] revisers have esteemed (and that solely because of its antiquity [said to be in the 4th century]) to be so pure that it should be taken as a standard whereby all other copies of the Scriptures are to be tested and corrected. Such is the estimate of certain scholars of the 19th century…But it bears upon its face the proof that those in whose possession it had been, from the very first, and for some hundreds of years thereafter, esteemed it to be so impure [so full of copyist errors] as to require correction in every part…Considering the great value to its owner of such a manuscript (since it is on vellum of the finest quality) and that he would be most reluctant to consent to alterations in it except the need was clearly apparent, it is plain that this much admired codex bears upon its face the most incontestable proof of its defective character…But, more than that, Dr. Scrivener tells us that the evident purpose of the thorough-going revision which he places in the 6th or 7th century was to make the manuscript conform to manuscripts in vogue at that time which were ‘far nearer to our modern Textus Receptus.’” Mauro, quoted in D.O. Fuller, True or False? p. 75.

 

Modern translators have tried to distance themselves from the Hort-Westcott Greek Text. They tend to favor the United Bible Society or Nestle-Aland Greek texts; both of which favor the same Egyptian Minority Texts; which are virtually identical (85%) to Westcott and Hort’s.

 

In summary, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not as old as the Majority Text. The Majority Text has been found in diverse geographical locations worldwide, throughout many time periods, and can also be traced to Apostolic origins, while the Codices Aleph and “B” (designated “Neutral Texts” by Hort and Westcott) can only be traced one time period, and one location—mid-4th century Egypt.

 

Woe to the rebellious children saith the Lord…that walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth….

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