Lucian of Antioch (c. 240-312 C.E.): the Path to the Byzantine Text

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 120 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Lucian of Antioch, (born c. 240, Samosata, Commagene, Syria [now Samsat, Turkey]—died January 7, 312, Nicomedia, Bithynia, Asia Minor [now İzmit, Turkey]), Christian theologian-martyr who originated a theological tradition at Antioch that was noted for biblical linguistic scholarship and for a rationalist approach to Christian doctrine.

In his principal work, Lucian analyzed the Greek text of both the Old and New Testaments, creating a tradition of manuscripts known as the Lucianic Byzantine, or Syrian, text. Until the development of 19th-century biblical criticism, its clarity made it the common text. By a comparative study of the Greek and Hebrew grammatical styles in their Semitic background, Lucian proposed to limit the symbolical interpretation characteristic of the Alexandrian (Egyptian) allegorical tradition by emphasizing the primacy of the literal sense, whether expressed directly or metaphorically.

Such analytical methods influenced Antiochene theological formulations by Lucian’s students and colleagues relative to doctrines on Christ and the divine Trinity. Later critics, including Alexander of Alexandria, during the Council of Nicaea in 325, associated Lucian’s school with the condemned theological revisions of Arius and his attack on the absolute divinity of Christ. Lucian, in 269, had also been implicated with the denounced teachings—known as Monarchianism—of the Antiochene bishop Paul of Samosata. Church authorities subsequently accepted Lucian’s conciliatory statement of belief in 289 and, posthumously, in 341 at a church council in Antioch. Lucian’s influence permanently oriented Christian theology toward a historical realist approach in its debate with classical non-Christian thought.

The P52 PROJECT THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS 4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS

Lucian produced the Syrian text, renamed the Byzantine text. About 290 C.E., some of his associates made various subsequent alterations, which deliberately combined elements from earlier types of text, and this text was adopted about 380 C.E. At Constantinople, it became the predominant form of the New Testament throughout the Greek-speaking world. The text was also edited, with harmonized parallel accounts, grammar corrections, and abrupt transitions modified to produce a smooth text. This was not a faithfully accurate copy. As we had just learned earlier under the corruption period, after Constantine legalized Christianity, giving it equal status with the pagan religions, it was much easier for those possessing manuscripts to have them copied. In fact, Constantine had ordered 50 copies of the whole Bible for the church in Constantinople. Over the next four centuries or so, the Byzantine Empire and the Greek-speaking church were the dominant factors as to why this area saw their text becoming the standard. It had nothing to do with it being the better text, i.e., the text that more accurately reflected the original. From the eighth century forward, the corrupt Byzantine text was the standard text and had displaced all others; it makes up about 95 percent of all manuscripts that we have of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Westcott and Hort proposed that Lucian of Antioch (d. AD 312) was responsible for the recension that we now know as the Byzantine text by combining readings from earlier text-types. [1] Although few have held to this theory, it has recently been revived as a means of accounting for earlier readings in the Byzantine text-type that do not require the existence of an independent text-type.[2] The great preacher and writer John Chrysostom arrived in Constantinople from Antioch in AD 398 and brought with him the form of the New Testament text used in Antioch that we would now identify as the Byzantine text-type. Largely through his influence, the Byzantine text-type began to gain widespread currency in the Byzantine Empire. Increased institutionalization of religion in the empire, including the copying and preservation of manuscripts, led to less freedom and more rigidity in the Byzantine textual tradition.[3] Rather than there being more diffuse readings with increased copying, as we find in the Alexandrian tradition, the Byzantine text-type tends toward homogenization.[4]

Recension is a revised edition of a text; an act of making a revised edition of a text.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Lucian’s edition contributed significantly to the Syrian recension used by Chrysostom and the later Greek fathers and mentioned by Jerome in De Viris Illustribus (III. I, xxvii Praef. ad Paralip.Adversus Rufium xxvi, Epistle, 106). In addition to Lucian’s recension of the Bible, Jerome (De Vir. Ill. # 77) refers to “Libelli de Fide;” neither are extant. Jerome mentions that copies were known in his day as “exemplaria Lucianea,” but in other places, he speaks rather disparagingly of the texts of Lucian.—
https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lucian_of_Antioch

Lucian’s martyrdom by torture and starvation for refusing to eat meat ritually offered to the Roman gods during the early-4th-century persecution of the Roman emperor Maximinus elicited praise from his antagonists.

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CONCLUSION

It has long been held by textual scholars up unto the days of Bruce M. Metzger (THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, p. 215, 4th ed. 2006) that Lucian of Antioch began what became known as the Lucianic recension to explain the origin of the Byzantine text. Metzger writes concerning the work of the British biblical scholar and textual critic, B. H. Streeter (1874 – 1937), who “agreed with Westcott and Hort that the Syrian text, which he renamed the Byzantine text, arose during the fourth century through the recensional activity of Lucian of Antioch and was adopted about 380 at Constantinople. This text became the prevailing ecclesiastical form of the New Testament throughout the Greek-speaking world and eventually constituted the basis of the Textus Receptus” that would be the foundational text for the King James Version 1611. Metzger was in agreement with this position in 2006 and never adopted another before his death in 2007. Let us not be dogmatic in the extreme and say that critics are correct and that it was not Lucian who gave rise to the Syrian text (Byzantine text), this does not remove the fact the Byzantine text-type was not in existence 4th/5th centuries and that it was standardized early on and developed at the outset of the Byzantine Empire (395–1453) and primarily the only text to be copied throughout. In addition, the earliest Church Father to witness to a Byzantine text-type in substantial New Testament quotations is John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407).

Jerome mentions that copies of his work on the Greek Old Testament were known in his day as “exemplaria Lucianea” but in other places, he speaks rather disparagingly of the texts of Lucian. Jerome also wrote: “This (Testament) certainly differs in our language and is led in the way of different streams; it is necessary to seek the single fountainhead. I pass over those books which are called by the name of Lucian and Hesychius, for which a few men wrongly claim authority, who anyway were not allowed to revise either in the Old Instrument after the Seventy Translators, or to pour out revisions in the New; with the Scriptures previously translated into the languages of many nations, the additions may now be shown to be false.” In the absence of definite information, it is impossible to decide the merits of Lucian’s critical labors.

He believed in the literal sense of the biblical text and thus laid stress on the need of textual accuracy. He undertook to revise the Septuagint based on the original Hebrew and the resulting manuscript was popular in Syria and Asia Minor.

The Byzantine Text Led to the Textus Receptus, the Textus Receptus Became the Foundation Textus Until 1881

In Biblical textual criticism, the Byzantine text-type (also called Majority Text, Traditional Text, Ecclesiastical Text, Constantinopolitan Text, Antiocheian Text, or Syrian Text) is one of several text-types of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts. Something that is seldom talked about is the fact that the earlier Byzantine text is near to the Alexandrian text in that it differs from the later Byzantine text in roughly 3000 places. It is the later Byzantine text (12-century manuscripts) that would be the texts behind the Textus Receptus.

The Textus Receptus

In Christianity, the term Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”) designates all editions of the Greek texts of the New Testament from the Novum Instrumentum omne established by Erasmus in 1516 to the 1633 Elzevier edition; the 1633 Elzevier edition is sometimes included into the Textus Receptus. It was the most commonly used text type for Protestant denominations.

The first printed edition of the Greek New Testament was completed by Erasmus and published by Johann Froben of Basel on March 1, 1516 (Novum Instrumentum omne). Due to the pressure of his publisher to bring their edition to market before the competing Complutensian Polyglot, Erasmus based his work on around a half-dozen manuscripts, all of which dated from the twelfth century or later; and all but one were of the Byzantine text-type. Six verses that were not witnessed in any of these sources, he back-translated from the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus also introduced many readings from the Vulgate and Church Fathers. This text came to be known as the Textus Receptus or received text after being thus termed by Bonaventura Elzevir, an enterprising publisher from the Netherlands, in his 1633 edition of Erasmus’ text. The New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible was translated from editions of what was to become the Textus Receptus. The different Byzantine “Majority Text” of Hodges & Farstad, as well as Robinson & Pierpont, is called “Majority” because it is considered to be the Greek text established on the basis of the reading found in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts. The Textus Receptus differs from the Majority Text in 1,838 Greek readings, of which 1,005 represent “translatable” differences.

Michael D. Marlowe statesyet it differs from the Received Text in about a thousand places, most of them being trivial. while Daniel B. Wallace Archived 2007-08-05 at the Wayback Machine has counted 1,838 differences between it and the Textus Receptus.

Michael D. Marlowe – What is the Difference between
the Majority Text and the Received Text?

The “Received Text” is also not a single text. It is a tradition of printed texts published during the time of the Protestant Reformation, that is, the 1500’s and early 1600’s. It includes the editions of Erasmus, Estienne (Stephens), Beza, and Elzevir. These texts are closely allied, and are all mostly derived from Erasmus 1516. They are based upon a small number of late medieval manuscripts. The King James Version is based upon the Received Text. The Majority Text is derived from the plurality of all existing Greek manuscripts; but because most of these manuscripts are late medieval manuscripts, there is a family resemblance between the Received Text and the Majority Text. They agree with one another much more than either of them agree with the critical Greek texts published by scholars in the past two hundred years. These critical texts are based upon the oldest manuscripts and versions (from the 100’s to the 600’s), and agree with one another much more than any of them agree with the Received Text or the Majority Text. And so it is appropriate to say that the texts in question fall into two groups: (1) The kind of text found in the majority of medieval manuscripts (often called the Byzantine text-type); and (2) the ancient type of text which is exhibited in our oldest available manuscripts (often called the “Alexandrian” text-type). I personaly do not put much store by the terms “Byzantine” and “Alexandrian,” because I think that these terms are prejudicial. They imply that the texts are local products of Byzantium or Alexandria, and this cannot be proven in either case.

For a complete list of differences between the Robinson-Pierpont text (representing the majority of manuscripts) and the text underlying the King James Version, see the collation posted here.

On another page on this website, I have presented an elaborate statistical comparison of the various texts, showing their degrees of affinity. It is probably more than anyone really wants to know, but readers may now go to that page by clicking here. For our present discussion the most relevant statistics are the number of translatable disagreements of the texts from the Received text:

 Hodges-Farstad (Majority Text) 1005
 Tregelles (critical text) 3095
 Nestle-Aland (critical text) 3323
 Tischendorf (critical text) 3498
 Westcott-Hort (critical text) 3618

And so the Majority Text has a little less than a third as many differences from the Received text as do any of the critical texts. It does not stand halfway between the Received Text and the critical texts; it is definitely closer to the Received Text — and yet it differs from the Received Text in about a thousand places, most of them being trivial. For those who wish to examine the differences, they are all translated and listed in the collation of majority text readings on this site. The Majority Text readings are indicated by the sign “HF” (Hodges-Farstad) in the collation.

These statistics do not however tell the whole story. That is because the Majority Text happens to agree with the Received Text in some very significant verses. By way of example, I would mention the “Story of the Adulteress” in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, and the phrase “God was manifest” in 1 Timothy 3:16, both of which are often treated as key texts in preaching from the King James Version. But when the Story of the Adulteress is referred to in a modern version based upon a critical text, one encounters brackets and footnotes warning the reader that it is a later addition to the Gospel; and at 1 Tim 3:16 one encounters a decidedly weaker text, “He who was manifested.” Other examples could be given, but this would take us into a very long excursion here. The point is, many people who are used to the King James Version and who compare it with the Majority Text are pleased to find the agreement in such passages, and this has been no small factor in the popularity of the Majority Text among users of the King James Version.

KJVOists, TROists, BTOists, MTOists Questions

There is a common phrase, the King James Version Onlyists who are a part of King James Version-Onlyism. The KJV Onlyist movement claims its loyalty to be to the Textus Receptus, a Greek New Testament manuscript compilation completed in the 1500s. There are possibly tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of KJV Onlyist Believers in the world, and we even have a new generation that is taking over the movement.

The Gospel Coalition writes,

KJV-only views tend to fall between two poles. One extreme makes strident claims for the absolute perfection of the KJV, viewing it as the perfect product of divine (re)inspiration. The other pole prefers the KJV out of an aesthetic sense or the belief that valuable, unifying traditions shouldn’t be given up lightly. More than likely, the KJV-only brothers and sisters you’ll run into are between these poles: they’re part of the mainstream King-James-only movement—which means, if you’ll listen to them, you’ll find they’re not technically KJV-only. The mainstream KJV-only movement insists that its ultimate concern is not actually the KJV. It’s the full “preservation” of the Greek and Hebrew texts from which the KJV was translated, namely the Masoretic Hebrew Text and the Greek Textus Receptus, or “TR.” KJV-onlyism is actually, officially, TR-onlyism. Evangelical biblical scholarship looks at all the differences among Greek New Testament manuscripts and, in textual criticism, takes up the complicated challenge of culling out copyist errors. KJV-onlyism looks at those same differences and feels them to be a threat to the stability of Christian faith. So it adopts the TR and rejects modern textual criticism.

Almost all KJVOist have taken the time to learn the very minimum when it comes to Koine Greek. They have not even read some 150-page introductory book that might give them just enough understanding to actually examine the evidence. They have not even bought small books of 150-200 page introductions to New Testament  Textual Criticism by Harold Greenless. Instead, most almost all KJVOists in the church have formed their textual studies views secondhand from misinformed so-called authorities they trust implicitly and unquestionably. As Dr. Daniel B. Wallace has many times stated, only a tiny percentage of textual differences are both meaningful and viable. This includes “the Tiny Percentage Fallacy, that an amount or action that is quite significant in and of itself somehow becomes insignificant simply because it’s a tiny percentage of something much larger.”  Let’s take the small number of terrorist bombers that blew up the twin towers and took over three planes on 911 2001, and then make the claim that the number of terrorists who have caused meaningful havoc in America over the past 40 years is very tiny in comparison to how many have been caught and stopped. It now sounds idiotic. When we turn to chapter 22 verses 18-19 of Revelation, we are told that if anyone adds or takes away from the book of Revelation, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. The warning not to add not take away is found in several other places in the Bible as well. We can note that there is no qualifying number adding or taking away or any level of significance. Note that they do not say, do not add, or take away many things, as though a low number would be fine. Note that they do not say, do not add, or take away meaningful things, as though a low-level significant addition or removal would be fine.

Let’s compare this to complicity in a crime. If John Smith and Jim Jones rob a bank, with Jim Jones believing they were using guns with no bullets and that no one would be hurt, yet John Smith shoots and kills the bank teller. They are both going to receive the death penalty for first-degree capital murder. If ancient copyists commit the sin of adding or removing material from God’s Word, God will add to them the plagues described in the book of Revelation. If the textual scholars know that something has been added or removed and they retain that corruption in their critical master Greek text because of theological reasons or simply tradition, God will add to them the plagues described in the book of Revelation. If the translator and the publisher willfully know that the critical text he has chosen willfully retained things that have been added or removed, God will add to them the plagues described in the book of Revelation. If the pastor willfully knows that the translation they have chosen for their church retains things that have been added or removed, God will add to them the plagues described in the book of Revelation. If the churchgoer willfully knows that the Bible he or she has chosen has things that have been added or removed, God will add to them the plagues described in the book of Revelation.

So, now, let’s look at some basic questions that KJVOists, TROists, BTOists, MTOists cannot answer.

(1) If God’s Word is only found in the 1611 KJV, where was God’s Word from 100 A.D. – 1610 A.D.?

(2) How many textual errors (differences) are in the Byzantine manuscripts used to make the Textus Receptus, which is behind the KJV?

(3) How many textual errors (differences) are in the handful of Byzantine manuscripts used to make the Textus Receptus, which is behind the KJV?

(4) If there are no textual differences in the 4,000 Byzantine texts (which there are), what was the Word of God before the fifth-century Byzantine text of Codex Alexandrinus (400-440 A.D.)? Only the Western and the Alexandrian family texts existed in the third and fourth centuries and only the Alexandrian in the second century. So, God allowed errors by the copyists of the Alexandrian and Western manuscripts but miraculously inspired the thousands of Byzantine copyists from 400 -1455 A.D.?

(5) The Byzantine Advocates (the text behind the TR) acknowledge there are differences between the Byzantine text and the Textus Receptus and Textus Receptus Advocates believe there are differences between the TR and the Byzantine text. So, where is the miraculous preservation of Scripture?

(6) The TRIST and the KJVOIST argue that the New Testament original is found in the majority of the manuscripts, which is the Byzantine. However, there is a problem, there was no Byzantine text for the first four centuries, and the Byzantine text did not become the majority of the manuscripts until the 9th century. So, what was the New Testament Text before the 9th century when the Byzantine came to be the majority and up until that time the Alexandrian was the majority?

(7) Which is inerrant the Latin Vulgate Erasmus used to make some of the Textus Receptus or the Byzantine texts?

(8) What was the inerrant word of God in the second and third centuries AD before the development of the Byzantine text?

(9) You say scribes/copyists do not make changes to the text intentionally and unintentionally, so how do you explain the copyists who write in the margins that a previous copyist made changes? How do you explain the differences in the manuscripts?

(10) Speaking of the Textus Receptus, which of the four editions by Desiderius Erasmus do you prefer (1519, 1522, 1527, 1535), or the four editions of Robert Estienne (Stephanus) (1503– 1559), or the nine editions by Théodore Beza (1519– 1605)? How did the term Textus Receptus come about? How did the Greek text develop from Desiderius Erasmus to Robert Estienne to Théodore Beza, and did any of the editions have a critical apparatus with variants, and did any of these men consult any Alexandrian manuscripts?

(11) If the KJVOist advocates are correct and the copyists for the Byzantine text DID NOT make all of the additions to the Greek text but rather the Alexandrian copyists removed them, why do the 100+ papyri manuscripts discovered in the 1930s – the 1950s date with decades of the originals, 200 years before the 4th-century Alexandrian Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and 350 years before the earliest 5th-century Byzantine text looks just like the Alexandrian of manuscripts?

(12) THE PREFACE to the 1611 KJV by the translators says the KJV was a revision of the 16t century translations of Coverdale, Tyndale, the Great Bibles, and others. The translators said that they expect new revisions of their KJV translation when more manuscripts come to light and a better understanding of Hebrew and Greek, there should be revisions. Were those translators wrong?

(13) What do you do with the fact that the KJV has 1,000 different words that do not mean today what they meant in 1611, even having the opposite meaning? The understanding of Hebrew and Greek has astronomically improved since 1611, and the 1611 KJV translators said in the 1611 PREFACE that a new revision should be made upon such circumstances. So, why reject efforts to do so with the 1881 English Revised Version (ERV), the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV), the 1952 Revised Standard Version (RSV), the 1995 New American Standard Bible (NASB), the 2001 English Standard Version (ESV), and the forthcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV)? Are not these revisions simply following the instructions of the 1611 KJV translators?

(14) Why is the earlier Byzantine text more similar to the Alexandrian text in that it differs from the later Byzantine text in roughly 3000 places?

“The manuscript evidence, as found in the major majuscule codexes [Vaticanus and Sinaiticus], and then confirmed by early papyri [esp. P66 (150 C.E.) and P75 (175-225 C.E.)], points to the Alexandrian text-type as the earliest (and a very stable) textual witness.” Stanley E. Porter. How We Got the New Testament (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) (p. 64). Baker Publishing Group.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Edward D. Andrews & Britannica

[1] B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882), 138.
[2] Petzer, “History,” 17.
[3] Gordon D. Fee, “Modern Textual Criticism and the Revival of the Textus Receptus,” JETS 21 (1978): 19– 33, summarized in Carson, King James Version Debate, 51.
[4] Stanley E. Porter, How We Got the New Testament (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) (pp. 60-61). Baker Publishing Group.

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