OMISSIONS or ADDITIONS?: Why Are Thousands of Variant Readings Missing from the Modern Bible Translations?

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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).

WHY IS IT THAT OMISSIONS AS OPPOSED TO ADDITIONS SEEM TO DISTINGUISH THE WH NU TEXTS FROM THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS (RECEIVED TEXT)?

The Byzantine text family that makes up the Textus Receptus, which is behind the KJV, and the NKJV is 80-85% in agreement with the Alexandrian text family that is behind almost all modern translations. The King James Version Onlyists (KJVOists) & the Textus Receptus Onlyists (TROists) call the differences omissions in the Westcott & Hort 1881 Greek New Testament (WH) and the Nestle-Aland 28th edition Greek New Testament (NA). They would argue that many of the differences are actually additions to the original texts, which have now been restored to their original form by removing spurious interpolations? Who is correct?

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The Byzantine copyists (5th century to the 12th century) were prone to add to the Greek NT text, to elaborate, and to paraphrase. The Textus Receptus that was made from a handful of 12th-century Byzantine manuscripts, has 2,877 additions to the Codex Vaticanus (300-325 C.E.). KJVOists & TROists decry this, saying they are omissions instead of additions. The Alexandrian copyists (125 C.E. to the 9th century) do not contain these additions. The Alexandrian text-type “is generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not exhibit the degree of grammatical and stylistic polishing that is characteristic of the Byzantine type of text.”[1] If the Byzantine text-type (5th-12th cent.) was reflective of the original would it not have been what we found in the papyri manuscripts that date to (125-350 C.E.) that were discovered throughout the 1930s to the 1950s?

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Of course, if one is of the KJVOists & TROists view because he or she was first acquainted with the Textus Receptus (Received Text) as a reader of the King James Bible only, these 2,877 variants would seem to be omissions from the Wescott & Hort 1881 Greek New Testament (WH) and the Nestle-Aland 28th edition Greek New Testament. However, if they can see that we have discovered over 85 Greek NT papyri manuscripts in the 20th/21st centuries that date centuries before the Byzantine text and all of them are of the Alexandrian text-type. And contrary to the KJVOists & TROists Harry Sturz, there no “distinctively Byzantine” readings in these early papyri. Sturz lists “150 distinctively Byzantine readings” found in these papyri. Included in his list are papyri numbers P13, P45, P46, P47, P49, P59, P66, P72, P74, and P75.[2] Before answering that issue, let’s take a moment to look at Sturz.

Harry A. Sturz taught Greek and textual criticism at Biola University, La Mirada, California. He also helped to translate the New King James Version and is the author of The Byzantine text-type and New Testament Textual Criticism. In his publication, Sturtz claims that he has documented 150 distinctively Byzantine readings using the papyri. Sturz lists “150 distinctively Byzantine readings” found in the papyri. Included in his list are P13, P45, P46, P47, P49, P59, P66, P72, P74, and P75. This claim has opened up Pandora’s Box for the Byzantine text, the Majority Text, the Textus Receptus, and King James Version Only advocates.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Let’s start by saying that some very big named Bible scholars came through Sturz’s Greek and textual criticism courses at Biola University. Dr. Don Wilkins, Senior translator for the New American Standard Bible writes, “I was privileged to have a one-on-one grad course with Sturz at Biola. A very fine gentleman.” New Testament Scholar David L. Turner, author of Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) and Interpreting the Gospels and Acts: An Exegetical Handbook. Daniel Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and author of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, says that “Harry Sturz was a godly man whose humility was attractive. I got into it because of him. My interest at the time was in Greek grammar, but Sturz got me to think about textual criticism as well.”

David Alan Black, Professor of New Testament and Greek, who specializes in New Testament Greek grammar, the application of linguistics to the study of the Greek New Testament, and New Testament textual criticism, author of over 20 books including It’s Still Greek to Me writes, “Harry Sturz had no personal ax to grind. He neither hoped for nor expected any professional advantages from his work on the Byzantine text. He had been a student of E. C. Colwell when the latter was still teaching at Claremont Graduate School in Southern California. Like Colwell, Sturz always presented his views in a scholarly yet humble way. His work was not a revelation from Mount Sinai but the considered judgment of an intelligent, hardworking scholar.” Black says, “Harry Sturz’s The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism is a magnificent tour de force. In my opinion, it seriously weakens the arguments of both those who elevate the Byzantine text to a position of unquestioned primacy and those who seek to relegate it to the academic rubbish heap.”

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Based on his position of there being 150 “distinctively Byzantine readings” found in the early papyri, Harry A. Sturz saw the Alexanian, Western, and Byzantine text-types as being independent in their archetypes, the original text (in genealogical terms), from which a group of manuscripts ultimately derive. He believed that the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine text-types all originated from the second-century C.E. The problem with some in the Sturzian fold is that they have strong biases and it is quite difficult for them to see the evidence because many just do not want to see the evidence.

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Eight Supposed Exceptions to the Rule?

Wallace in his article, The Majority Text Theory, says that “Sturz pointed out 150 distinctively Byzantine readings found in the papyri. This claim that the Byzantine text is early because it is found in the papyri (Sturz’s central thesis) has become the basis for hyperbolic claims by MT advocates. Cf. Hodges, “Defense,” 14; Pickering, Identity, 41-42; Willem Franciscus Wisselink, Assimilation as a Criterion for the Establishment of the Text: A Comparative Study on the Basis of Passages from Matthew, Mark and Luke (Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok 1989), 32-24; Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform (Atlanta: Original Word, 1991), xxiv-xxvii. But the evidence that Sturz presents is subject to three criticism: (1) Many of his readings have substantial support from other text types and are thus not distinctively Byzantine (cf. Fee’s review of Sturz [240-41]; conceded by Sturz [personal conversation, 1987]), (2) the existence of a Byzantine reading in early papyri does not prove the existence of the Byzantine text type in early papyri, and (3) whether the agreements are genetically significant or accidental is overlooked (as even Wisselink admits [Assimilation, 33]). In my examination of Sturz’s list, I found only eight Byzantine-papyrus alignments that seemed to be genetically significant; six were not distinctively Byzantine (Luke 10:21; 14:3, 34; 15:21; John 10:38; 19:11). Sturz’s best case was in Phil 1:14 (the omission of του θεου)–a reading adopted in NA27/UBSGNT4. When these factors are taken into account, the papyrus-Byzantine agreements become an insufficient base for the conclusions that either Sturz or the MT advocates build from it. For a balanced review of Sturz, see Michael W. Holmes, TrinJ n.s. 6 (1985): 225-228.—The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research Author: Daniel B. Wallace, note is #35 on pp. 718-19.

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Remember, Wallace above says that “best case was in Phil 1:14 (the omission of του θεου).” The omission of “the God” really? Out of eight that Wallace found, six of them are not even distinctively Byzantine as claimed. Below are a few other supposed examples that the later Byzantine text preserves a reading that dates from the 2nd or 3rd century and for which there supposedly had been no other early witness. Notice that under basic plagiarism rules, this would not constitute Byzantine being in any of the papyri.

Luke 11.33 for φως in א B D Θ fam 1 fam 13 pm φεγγος is read by P45 Koine 33 al.
John 10.29 for ομειζον in B latt boοςμειζων is read by P66 Koine fam 1 fam 13 al.
John 11.32 for προς in א B C* D L Xεις is read by P66 Koine pm.
John 13.26 for βαψας in א B C L X 33και εμβαψας is read by P66c A Θ al.
Acts 17.13 παρασσοντες is omitted by P45 Koine E al.
I Cor. 9.7 for καρπον in א* A B D* G Pεκ του καρπου is read by P46 Koine pl.
Eph. 5.9 for φωτος in א A B D* G Pπνευματος is read by P46 Koine pm.

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The Textus Receptus Is Dethroned

From 1516 to 1796 New Testament textual scholars would find themselves enslaved to the Greek text of Desiderius Erasmus, which would become known as the Textus Receptus (Received Text), abbreviated as the TR. Erasmus had produced his Greek text with a handful of 12th-century Byzantine manuscripts. In time older and more accurate manuscripts came to light, wherein textual scholars[1] took note of defects in the Textus Receptus. Instead of simply correcting the Textus Receptus’ main text, they would call attention to these flaws in the introductions, margins, and footnotes. In 1734, J. A. Bengel of Tübingen, Germany, made an apology for again printing the Received Text, doing so only “because he could not publish a text of his own. Neither the publisher nor the public would have stood for it,” he complained. (Robertson 1925, 25)

The first one to break free from this enslavement to the Textus Receptus, in the text itself, was Bible scholar J. J. Griesbach (1745-1812). His principal edition comes to us in three volumes, the first in Halle in 1775-7, the second in Halle and London in 1796-1806, and the third at Leipzig in 1803-7. However, Griesbach did not fully break from the Textus Receptus. Nevertheless, Griesbach is the real starting point in the development of classifying the manuscripts into families, setting down principles and rules for establishing the original reading, and using symbols to indicate the degree of certainty as to its being the original reading. We will examine his contributions in more detail below.

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Karl Lachmann (1793-1851) was the first scholar fully to get out from under the influence of the Textus Receptus. He was a professor of ancient classical languages at Berlin University. In 1831, he published his edition of the Greek New Testament without any regard to the Textus Receptus. As Samuel MacAuley Jackson expressed it: Lachmann “was the first to found a text wholly on ancient evidence; and his editions, to which his eminent reputation as a critic gave wide currency, especially in Germany, did much toward breaking down the superstitious reverence for the textus receptus.”  Bruce Metzger had harsh words for the era of the Textus Receptus as well:

So superstitious has been the reverence accorded the Textus Receptus that in some cases attempts to criticize it or emend it has been regarded as akin to sacrilege. Yet its textual basis is essentially a handful of late and haphazardly collected minuscule manuscripts, and in a dozen passages its reading is supported by no known Greek witnesses. (Metzger and D 1964, 1968, 1992. 2006, 106)

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Subsequent to Lachmann came Friedrich Constantine von Tischendorf (1815-74), best known for his discovery of the famed fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus manuscript, the only Greek uncial manuscript containing the complete Greek New Testament. Tischendorf went further than any other textual scholar to edit and made accessible the evidence contained in leading as well as less important uncial manuscripts. Throughout the time that Tischendorf was making his valuable contributions to the field of textual criticism in Germany, another great scholar, Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-75) in England made other valued contributions. Among them, he was able to establish his concept of “Comparative Criticism.” That is, the age of a text, such as Vaticanus 1209, may not necessarily be that of its manuscript (i.e. the material upon which the text was written), which was copied in 350 C.E., since the text may be a faithful copy of an earlier text, like the second-century P75. Both Tischendorf and Tregelles were determined defenders of divine inspiration of the Scriptures, which likely had much to do with the productivity of their labors. If you take an opportunity to read about the lengths to which Tischendorf went in his discovery of Codex Sinaiticus, you will be moved by his steadfastness and love for God’s Word.

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

The Climax of the Restored Text

The critical text of Westcott and Hort of 1881 [(FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT (1828 – 1892) and BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT (1825 – 1901)] has been commended by leading textual scholars over the last one hundred and forty years, and still stands as the standard. Numerous additional critical editions of the Greek text came after Westcott and Hort: Richard F. Weymouth (1886), Bernhard Weiss (1894–1900); the British and Foreign Bible Society (1904, 1958), Alexander Souter (1910), Hermann von Soden (1911–1913); and Eberhard Nestle’s Greek text, Novum Testamentum Graece, published in 1898 by the Württemberg Bible Society, Stuttgart, Germany. The Nestle in twelve editions (1898–1923) to subsequently be taken over by his son, Erwin Nestle (13th–20th editions, 1927–1950), followed by Kurt Aland (21st–25th editions, 1952–1963), and lastly, it was coedited by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland (26th–28th editions, 1979, 1993, 2012).

Many of the above scholars gave their entire lives to God and the Greek text. Each of these could have an entire book devoted to them and their work alone. The amount of work they accomplished before the era of computers is nothing short of astonishing. Rightly, the preceding history should serve to strengthen our faith in the authenticity and general integrity of the Greek New Testament. Unlike Bart D. Ehrman, men like Sir Frederic Kenyon have been moved to say that the books of the Greek New Testament have “come down to us substantially as they were written.” And all this is especially true of the critical scholarship of the almost two hundred years since the days of Karl Lachmann, due to which all today can feel certain that what they hold in their hands is a mirror reflection of the Word of God that was penned in twenty-seven books, some two thousand years ago.

See Related PDF Articles Below

The Origin of the Byzantine Text The New Perspective
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[1] Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xix.

[2] Harry A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism (Nashville, TNN: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1984), 61, 145-159

[3] Brian Walton (1600-61), Dr. John Fell (1625-86), John Mill 1645-1707), Dr. Edward Wells (1667-1727, Richard Bentley (1662-1742), John Albert Bengel (1687-1752), Johann Jacob Wettstein (1693-1754), Johann Salomo Semler (1725-91), William Bowyer Jr. (1699-1777), Edward Harwood (1729-94), and Isaiah Thomas Jr. (1749-1831)

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