Johann Jakob Wettstein (also Wetstein; 1693 –1754) was a Swiss theologian, best known as a New Testament Textual Scholar. Note especially the BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE section toward the end.
Youth and Study
Johann Jakob Wettstein was born in Basel. Among his tutors in theology was Samuel Werenfels (1657–1740), an influential anticipator of modern critical exegesis. While still a student, Wettstein began to direct his attention to the special pursuit of his life, the text of the Greek New Testament. A relative, Johann Wettstein, who was the university librarian, gave him permission to examine and collate the principal manuscripts of the New Testament in the library, and he copied the various readings which they contained into his copy of Gerard of Maastricht’s edition of the Greek text.
In 1713 in his public examination he defended a dissertation entitled De variis Novi Testamenti lectionibus, and sought to show that variety of readings did not detract from the authority of the Bible. Wettstein also paid great attention to Aramaic and Talmudic Hebrew. In the spring of 1714, he undertook an academic tour, which led him to Paris and England, the great object of his inquiry everywhere being to examine manuscripts of the New Testament. In 1716, he made the acquaintance of Richard Bentley at the University of Cambridge; Bentley took great interest in his work and persuaded him to return to Paris to collate carefully the Codex Ephraemi, Bentley having then in view a critical edition of the New Testament.
In July 1717, Wettstein returned to take the office of a deacon at large (diaconus communis) at Basel, a post which he held for three years, after which he became his father’s colleague and successor in the parish of St. Leonard’s. At the same time he pursued his favorite study and gave private lectures on New Testament exegesis. Then, he decided to prepare a critical edition of the Textus Receptus (Greek New Testament). He had in the meantime broken with Bentley, whose famous Proposals appeared in 1720, based upon methodological issues.
Doubts had been swirling about Wettstein’s orthodoxy as early as the publication of his thesis in 1713, and he ultimately fell under suspicion of Socinianism when he was unwilling to defend the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. In 1728 his one-time friend and mentor Johann Ludwig Frey accused Wettstein of using textual criticism to advance Socinian theology, which was investigated by a committee of clergy at Basel. The charge was formally upheld and he was ultimately dismissed, in 1730, from his position at St. Leonhard’s.
He then moved from Basel to Amsterdam, where another relative, Johann Heinrich Wettstein (1649–1726), had an important printing and publishing business. Here editions of the classics were being published, as well as Gerard of Maastricht’s edition of the Greek Testament. Wettstein had begun printing an edition of the Greek Testament, but this was suddenly stopped for unknown reasons. As soon as he reached Amsterdam, in 1730, he published anonymously the Prolegomena ad Novi Testamenti Graeci editionem, which he had proposed should accompany his Greek Testament, and which was later republished by him, with additions, in 1751. The next year (1731) the Remonstrants offered him the chair of philosophy in their college at Amsterdam, vacated by the illness of Jean Leclerc, on condition that he clear himself of the suspicion of heresy. He returned to Basel and received a reversal (22 March 1732) of the previous decision, and re-admission to all his clerical offices. But, on his becoming a candidate for the Hebrew chair at Basel, his orthodox opponents blocked his appointment, and he retired to Amsterdam.
At length, he was allowed to instruct the Remonstrant students in philosophy and Hebrew on certain humiliating conditions. For the rest of his life, he continued as professor in the Remonstrant college, declining in 1745 the Greek chair at Basel. In 1746 he once more visited England and collated Syriac manuscripts for his final, great work. At last, this appeared in 1751–1752, in two folio volumes, under the title Novum Testamentum Graecum editionis receptae cum lectionibus variantibus codicum manuscripts, etc. He did not venture to put new readings in the body of his page but consigned them to a place between the Textus Receptus and the full list of various readings. Beneath the latter, he gave a commentary, consisting principally of a mass of valuable illustrations and parallels drawn from classical and rabbinical literature, which has formed a storehouse for all later commentators. In his Prolegomena he gave an admirable methodical account of the manuscripts, the versions and the readings of the fathers, as well as the troubled story of the difficulties with which he had had to contend in the prosecution of the work of his life. He was the first to designate uncial manuscripts by Roman capitals and cursive manuscripts by Arabic figures. He did not long survive the completion of this work. He died in Amsterdam.
Wettstein rendered service to textual criticism through his collection of various readings and his methodical account of the manuscripts and other sources.
Through his laborious study of Codex Alexandrinus, he believed he found misinterpretations or calculated mistakes in the New Testament written in Greek. He came under particular fire for disputing the passage of 1 Timothy 3:16, believing the original reading to be “which was manifest in the flesh” rather than “God was manifest in the flesh.” (More on this below) Through his studies he developed an increasingly critical attitude on textual matters and their relationship to doctrinal issues. Yet during the latter years of his life, he adopted the position that the oldest extant Greek manuscripts had been corrupted by the influence of the Latin, resulting in his loss of confidence in those ancient copies, including Alexandrinus. Between 1751 and 1752 his Prolegomena and Novum Testamentum Graecum was published. Its base text was the 1624 version of the Elzevir Textus Receptus, with minor changes, with his preferred reading noted in the apparatus.
Some opponents considered his work to be less valuable because of his prejudice against the Latin version and the principle of grouping manuscripts in families which had been recommended by Richard Bentley and J. A. Bengel.
Collations and Editions of Codex Alexandrinus
The Epistles of Clement of the codex was published in 1633 by Patrick Young, the Royal Librarian. A collation was made by Alexander Huish, Prebendary of Wells, for the London Polyglot Bible (1657). The text of the manuscript was cited as footnotes.[Bruce M. Metzger (1991). Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Palaeography. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 86.] Richard Bentley made a collation in 1675.
The Old Testament was edited by Ernst Grabe in 1707–1720, [Frederic G. Kenyon, “Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament”, London², 1912, p. 73.], and New Testament in 1786 by Carl Gottfried Woide, in facsimile from wooden type, line for line, without intervals between the words, precisely almost as in original. [T. H. Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, (New York, 1852), vol. 1852, p. 224.] In 1 Timothy 3:16, he edits ΘΣ ἐφανερόθη, and combats in his prolegomenon the opinion of Wettstein, [ J. J. Wetstein, Novum Testamentum Grecum, Amsterdam 1751, vol. 1, p. 8-22; also Bianchini, Evangeliarium quadruplex, Rome 1749, 1. part, vol. 2, pp. CDXCVIb-CIXCIXb] who maintained that ΟΣ ἐφανερόθη was the original reading and that the stroke, which in some lights can be seen across part of the Ο, arose from part of a letter visible through the vellum. According to Wettstein, part of the Ε on the other side of the leaf does insert the O. [S. P. Tregelles (1856). An Introduction to the Critical study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. London. p. 156.] Wettstein’s assertion was also disputed by F. H. Scrivener, who found that “Ε cut the Ο indeed . . . but cut it too high to have been reasonably mistaken by a careful observer for the diameter of Θ.” [Scrivener, Frederick Henry (1861). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co. pp. 453, 454.]
Woide’s edition contained some typesetting errors, such as in the Epistle to Ephesians – ἐκλήθηθε for ἐκλήθητε (4:1) and πραόθητος for πραότητος (4:2). [S. P. Tregelles (1856). An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. London. p. 156.] These errors were corrected in 1860 by B. H. Cowper, and E. H. Hansell, with three other manuscripts, in 1860. [C. R. Gregory, “Textkritik des Neuen Testaments”, Leipzig 1900, vol. 1, p. 29.] The Old Testament portion was also published in 1816-1828 by Baber, in three folio volumes. [Eberhard Nestle and William Edie, “Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament”, London, Edinburgh, Oxford, New York, 1901, p. 58.] The entire manuscript was issued in photographic facsimile by the British Museum, under the supervision of E. M. Thompson in 1879 and 1880. [hompson, Edward Maunde (1879–1883). Facsimile of the Codex Alexandrinus (4 vols.). London.] Frederic G. Kenyon edited a photographic facsimile of the New Testament with a reduced size in 1909. The text of the Old Testament followed four parts in 1915. [Milne H. J. M. and T. C. Skeat, The Codex Sinaiticus, and the Codex Alexandrinus (London, 1951, 1963).]
According to Bentley, this manuscript is “the oldest and best in the world”. Bentley assumed that by supplementing this manuscript with readings from other manuscripts and from the Latin Vulgate, he could triangulate back to the single recension which he presumed existed at the time of the First Council of Nicaea. Wettstein highly esteemed the codex in 1730, but he changed his opinion in 1751 and was no longer a great admirer of it. He came to the conviction that Athos was the place of its origin, not Alexandria. [Wettstein, J. J. (1751). Novum Testamentum Graecum editionis receptae cum lectionibus variantibus codicum manuscripts. Amsterdam: Ex Officina Dommeriana. p. 10.] Michaelis also did not esteem it highly, either on account of its internal excellence or the value of its readings. The principal charge which has been produced against the manuscript, and which had been urged by Wettstein, is it’s having been altered from the Latin version.[T. H. Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, (New York, 1852), vol. 1852, p. 224.] Michaelis countered that the transcriber who lived in Egypt would not have altered the Greek text from a Latin version, because Egypt belonged to the Greek diocese, and Latin was not understood there. Woide, who defended the Greek manuscripts in general, and the Codex Alexandrinus in particular, from the charge of having been corrupted from the Latin,[IBID., p. 224] discerned two hands in the New Testament.[Codex Alexandrinus at the Catholic Encyclopedia.]
Griesbach agreed with Woide and expanded on Michaelis’ point of view. If this manuscript has been corrupted from a version, it is more reasonable to suspect the Coptic, the version of the country in which it was written. There is a remarkable coincidence between this manuscript and the Coptic and Syriac versions. [T. H. Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, (New York, 1852), vol. 1852, p. 224.] According to Griesbach, the manuscript follows three different editions: the Byzantine in the Gospels, the Western in the Acts and General epistles, and the Alexandrian in the Pauline epistles. Griesbach designated the codex by letter A. [IBID., p. 224.]
Tregelles explained the origin of the Arabic inscription, on which Cyril’s statement appears to rest, by remarking that the text of the New Testament in the manuscript begins with Matthew 25:6, this lesson (Matthew 25:1-13) being that appointed by the Greek Church for the festival of St. Thecla. [Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose; Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. 1. London: George Bell & Sons. p. 102.]
Importance of Codex Alexandrinus
It was the first manuscript of great importance and antiquity of which any extensive use was made by textual critics, [Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (London 1939).] but the value of the codex was differently appreciated by different writers in the past. Wettstein created a modern system of catalogization of the New Testament manuscripts. Codex Alexandrinus received symbol A and opened the list of the NT uncial manuscripts. Wettstein announced in his Prolegomena ad Novi Testamenti Graeci (1730) that Codex A is the oldest and the best manuscript of the New Testament, and should be the basis in every reconstruction of the New Testament text.[Marvin R. Vincent, A History of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (The Macmillan Company: New York, 1899), p. 91.] Codex Alexandrinus became a basis for criticizing the Textus Receptus (Wettstein, Woide, Griesbach).
Early on, Johann Jakob Wettstein (1693-1754) noted that ΘC originally looked like OC, but felt that a horizontal stroke had faintly shown through the other side of the uncial manuscript page, indicating a later hand adding a horizontal line to OC and giving us the contraction ΘC (“God”). However, this author believes that Comfort made a valid point above, looking at his words more fully, “It is difficult to imagine how several fourth- and fifth-century scribes, who had seen thousands of nomina sacra, would have made this mistake. It is more likely that the changes were motivated by a desire to make the text say that it was “God” who was manifested in the flesh.” (P. W. Comfort 2008, 663) If we believe that doctrinal considerations were not behind the scribal changes, all we have to do is investigate what took place when it was understood that the actual reading was “He who was manifested in the flesh,” as opposed to “God was manifested in the flesh.” The battle in the nineteenth century was as though the loss of the reading in the Textus Receptus (θeός KJV) would undermine the doctrine of the Trinity. Doctrinal motivations have always played a role in the copying of the Bible, but the truth is that these are actually few in number. Considering the number of manuscripts that were copied, if these kinds of changes were a major problem, we should see more of them.
THE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE
Johann Jakob Wettstein was one textual scholar involved in this long battle for the Bible. Let us take but a moment to consider how he played his part in our struggle to have a more accurate text of the New Testament.
Wettstein was born in Basel, Switzerland. He was a Protestant Swiss New Testament theologian. A relative, Johann Wettstein, who was the university librarian, gave him permission to examine the manuscripts. He spent many long hours in the University library, as he was extremely fascinated by the Bible manuscripts. However, immediately it caught his attention that the manuscripts contained different readings. Therefore, Hey decided that he was going to base his theses for appointment as a minister on the subject of textual criticism.
Let’s jump back a couple of centuries before to Basel, Switzerland, Erasmus was about to be hassled by the printer Johannes Froben. Froben was alerted that Cardinal Ximenes of Toledo, Spain, had been putting together a Greek and Latin Testament in 1514. However, he was delaying publication until he had the whole Bible completed. The first printed Greek critical text would have set the standard, with the other being all but ignored. Erasmus published his first edition in 1516, while the Complutensian Polyglot (many languages) was not issued until 1522
The fact that Erasmus was rushed to no end resulted in a Greek text that contained hundreds of typographical errors alone. In fact, his copy of Revelation being incomplete, Erasmus simply retranslated the missing verses from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek. Textual scholar Scrivener once stated: ‘[It] is in that respect the most faulty book I know,’ (Scrivener 1894, 185) This comment does not even take into consideration the blatant interpolations (insert readings) into the text that were not part of the original. Erasmus was not lost to the typographical errors, which corrected a good many in later editions. This did not include the textual errors. It was his second edition of 1519 that Martin Luther used in his German translation and William Tyndale’s English translation. This is exactly what Erasmus wanted, writing the following in that edition’s preface: “I would have these words translated into all languages. . . . I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows his plough.”
Sadly, the continuous reproduction of this debased Greek New Testament, gave rise to it becoming the standard, being called the Textus Receptus (Received Text), taking over 400 years before it was dethroned by the critical Text of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort in 1881. Regardless of its imperfection, the Erasmus critical edition began the all-important work of textual criticism, which has only brought about a better critical text and more accurate Bible translations. The Textus Receptus had been venerated by the church as the received text for a couple centuries up until the days of Wettstein. On this Metzger writes, “The preface to the second edition [of Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir (Erasmus’ text)], which appearing in 1633, which appeared in 1633 makes the boast that ‘the reader has the] text now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.’ Thus, from what was from a more or less casual phrase advertising the edition …, there arose the designation the ‘Textus Receptus,’ or commonly received text. Partly because of this catchword, the form of the Greek text incorporated in the editions of Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevirs published exceeding in establishing itself as ‘the only true text’ of the New Testament and was slavishly reprinted in hundreds of subsequent editions. It lies as the basis of the King James Version and all the principal Protestant translations in the languages of Europe prior to 1881. So superstitious has been the reverence accorded the Textus Receptus that in some cases attempts to criticize it or amended it Have been regarded akin to sacrilege. Yet, its textual basis is essentially a handful of late haphazardly collected minuscule manuscripts, and in a dozen passages It’s renderings are supported by no known Greek witnesses.” (Metzger & Ehrman, 1964, 1968, 1992, 2005, p. p. 152) Metzger adds more insight,
Returning to Johann Jakob Wettstein (1693-1754), we find him spending long hours in the University library. His being aware that the man U scripts contain different readings was an act of bravery on his part when he spoke out in the thesis, attacking those who made the claim that any textual scholar attempting to alter the existing text of the Greek New Testament (i.e., the Textus Receptus, that is, the Received Text) was tampering with the Word of God.
Before taking up his appointment as a minister, Wettstein asked for time to travel. He had the idea and the hope of examining as many Bible manuscripts as he possibly could. So, in 1714 he set out on his journey, visiting Zurich, Geneva, Paris, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Leiden, and Heidelberg. Wettstein made complete collations (namely, a critical comparison, recording the differences), frequently for the first time, of the most outstanding Greek and Latin manuscripts of his day of the Bible. Richard Bentley of the University of Cambridge made his acquaintance in 1716; where he took a great interest and his work, at which point he persuaded Wettstein to return to Paris so they could carefully collate the Codex Ephraemi, as Bentley at this time had in mind a critical edition of the Greek New Testament.
In 1751, textual scholar Johann Jakob Wettstein was aware of only twenty-three uncial codices of the Greek New Testament. A little over 100 years later, in 1859, renowned textual scholar Constantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874) had brought the number of uncial codices to sixty-four. Some sixty years later, in 1909, Caspar René Gregory (1846-1917) identified 161 uncial codices. Some 210 years from Wettstein, in 1963, Kurt Aland (1915-1994) increased the count to 250 uncial codices. In the 1989, second edition of Kurt and Barbara Alands publication The Text of the New Testament, the authors listed 299 uncial codices.
Wettstein gave us one of the modern methods of classifying these uncial codices. He used the Latin capital letters to identify the uncials. For example, Codex Alexandrinus was given the letter “A,” Codex Vaticanus was designated “B,” with Codex Ephraemi being given the designation “C,” and Codex Bezae was classified with “D.” The last letter to be used by Wettstein in the classification uncial codices was “O.” As time passed, the number of uncial manuscripts became larger than the Latin alphabet, so future textual scholars exhausted the Greek and Hebrew alphabets. Caspar René Gregory moved on to assign manuscripts numerals that began with an initial 0. Codex Sinaiticus received the number 01, Alexandrinus received 02; Vaticanus was given 03, Ephraemi was designated with 04, and Bezae received the number 05, to mention just a few. By the time of Gregory’s death in 1917, the number had reached 0161, with Ernst von Dobschütz increasing the number of uncials codices to 0208 by 1993. As of June 1, 2010, the number of codices had reached 0323 in the Gregory-Aland system, a forgotten 4th– or 5th-century Greek fragment of the Gospel of John in the Syrus Sinaiticus,* dating paleographically to 300-499 C.E., cataloged by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) in Münster, Germany. [http://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/liste/]
* “That the famous Syrus Sinaiticus contains not only the Old Syriac Gospels but also other palimpsest leaves, among them four leaves of a Greek codex of John’s Gospel, is not a secret. Nevertheless, for 120 years, this Greek fragment, though probably contemporary with the great uncials, was not registered in any list of NT manuscripts and, as a result, completely neglected.” –
Wettstein Research Causes Problems
Wettstein was examining the Alexandrine Manuscript in London. Codex Alexandrinus (02, A) contains a complete text of the New Testament, minus Matthew 1:1-25:6; John 6:50 -8:52; and 2 Corinthians 4:13-12:6, dating to about 400-440 C.E. Alexandrinus is one of the four Great uncial codices. It is one of the earliest and most complete uncial manuscripts, along with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. It has a Byzantine text-type in Gospels, Alexandrian in the rest of the New Testament.* In his examination of examination the Alexandrine Manuscript. Wettstein made a shocking discovery. Up until that time, according to the Textus Receptus in the King James version of 1611 com first Timothy 316 was rendered “God was manifested (θεος εφανερωθη) in the flesh.” And, of course, this rendering was reflected in most other Bible translations in use. However, to Wettstein surprise, he noticed that the Greek word translated God, which was abbreviated to ΘC, in Codex Alexandrinus (400-440 C.E.) had originally looked like the Greek word OC, which means “who.” However, a horizontal stroke ΘC showed through slightly from the other side of the vellum page. Moreover, a later hand had added a line across the top, which had, in essence, turned the word OC (“who”) into the nomen sacrum (sacred name) contraction ΘC (“God”).
* Codex Alexandrinus resided in Alexandria for a number of years, the city from which it received its name. Thereafter, in 1621, Patriarch Cyril Lucar took it to Constantinople. It would later be given to Charles I of England in 1627, which was too late for it to be used in the 1611 King James Version. In 1757, George II presented it to the National Library of the British Museum. Alexandrinus was the best manuscript in Britain until 1933 when the British government purchased א for the British Museum for £100,000. Of possibly 820 original leaves of Alexandrinus, 773 have been preserved, 639 of the Old Testament and 134 of the New.
ΠΡΟΣ ΤΙΜΟΘΕΟΝ Α΄ 3:16 (WH NU) [BRD] All modern-day translations
16 καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· Ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.
א* A* C* F G 33 Didymus
variant 1 ὃ εφανερωθη
“which was manifested”
variant 2/TR θεος εφανερωθη
“God was manifested”
אc Ac C2 D2 Ψ 1739 Maj
|1 Timothy 3:16 King James Version||1 Timothy 3:16 Updated American Standard Version||1 Timothy 3:16 English Standard Version||1 Timothy 3:16 Christian Standard Bible|
|16 … God was manifest in the flesh, …||16 … He was manifested in the flesh, …||16 … He was manifested in the flesh, …||16 … He was manifested in the flesh, …|
“who [or he who] was manifested in the flesh” was the original reading based on the earliest and best manuscripts (א* A* C*), as well as F G 33 Didymus. There are two other variant readings, “which” (D*) and “God” (אc Ac C2 D2 Ψ 1739 Maj). Using Comfort’s system, “A superscript c or numbers designate corrections made in the manuscript. An asterisk designates the original, pre-corrected reading.” The witnesses (manuscripts) that support “who” or “he who”is very weighty. We can see from the above that many manuscripts made what they perceived to be a correction in their manuscript, which clearly comes across as a scribal emendation. Certainly, the pronoun “who” is a reference to Jesus Christ.
This simply solved textual issue caused many problems in the nineteenth century and really with the King James Version Onlyists, it still does today. The Bible scholars entered the fray because they thought the textual scholars were undermining their doctrinal position that God became man. The early argument by some textual scholars as to how the variant 2/TR came about was that the Greek word translated “God,” which was abbreviated to the nomen sacrum (sacred name) ΘC, had initially looked like the Greek word OC, which means “who” or “he who.” They argued that a horizontal stroke showed faintly through from the other side of the vellum manuscript page, and a later hand added a line across the top, which turned the word OC (“who”) into the nomen sacrum contraction ΘC (“God”). However, it seems highly unlikely as comforted commented: “how several fourth- and fifth-century scribes, who had seen thousands of nomina sacra, would have made this mistake.” We would agree with Comfort that it was clearly a doctrinal motivation, wanting it to read, “God was manifest in the flesh.”
Codex Alexandrinus, 1 Timothy 3:16-4:3 theos
Metzger rates “He was manifested in the flesh” as certain, saying,
The reading which, on the basis of external evidence and transcriptional probability, best explains the rise of the others is ὅς. It is supported by the earliest and best uncials (א* A*vid C* Ggr) as well as by 33 365 442 2127 syrhmg, goth ethpp Origenlat Epiphanius Jerome Theodore Eutherius Cyril Cyrilacc. to Ps-Oecumenius Liberatus. Furthermore, since the neuter relative pronoun ὅ must have arisen as a scribal correction of ὅς (to bring the relative into concord with μυστήριον), the witnesses that read ὅ (D* itd, , , vg Ambrosiaster Marius Victorinus Hilary Pelagius Augustine) also indirectly presuppose ὅς as the earlier reading. The Textus Receptus reads θεός, with אe (this corrector is of the twelfth century) A2 C2 Dc K L P Ψ 81 330 614 1739 Byz Lect Gregory-Nyssa Didymus Chrysostom Theodoret Euthalius and later Fathers. Thus, no uncial (in the first hand) earlier than the eighth or ninth century (Ψ) supports θεός; all ancient versions presuppose ὅς or ὅ; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century testifies to the reading θεός. The reading θεός arose either (a) accidentally, through the misreading of ος as ΘΣ, or (b) deliberately, either to supply a substantive for the following six verbs, or, with less probability, to provide greater dogmatic precision.
Wettstein took notice of another interpolation that had entered into the text of the New Testament, 1 John 5:7-8. The King James Version reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” The words that are bold here, Wettstein had noticed they have been added to later manuscripts, or they were not found and any of the early Greek manuscripts that he had examined. With many other manuscripts now confirming Wettstein’s readings, we now have far more accurate modern translations.
|1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one
|1 John 5:7-8 (UASV)
7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
|1 John 5:7-8 (ESV)
7 For there are three that testify:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
|1 John 5:7-8 (CSB)
7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement.
A New Testament textual scholar is one who goes through the process of comparing all of the manuscripts of the New Testament in order to determine the original wording of the original text. Without the work of hundreds of textual scholars, including Johann Jakob Wettstein (1693-1754), we could not have an accurate text of the New Testament, which means that we would not have accurate translations. Wettstein’s work as a textual scholar has long been surpassed, overtaken by continual progress of hundreds of other textual scholars in the past 260 years, from Johann Jacob Griesbach (1745-1812), to Karl Lackmann (1793-1851), to Friedrich Constantin Von Tischendorf (1815-1974), to Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), to Eberhard Nestle (1851-1913), to Erwin Nestle (1883-1972) to Kurt Aland (1915-1994) and Barbara Aland (1937- ), and Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007). Trust me when I say this list could run for pages, and many of those named here gave their entire lives to their work in textual criticism. Thus, Wettstein had a dream of one day of having an accurate text of the New Testament, which is now a reality. This text is not shaped by theological bias, but has been constructed on sound textual principles. So, today when you pick up any literal translation except for the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which has retained the interpolations of the Textus Receptus for fear of losing sales to the King James Version readers, you can be confident that it has as its basis a text (NA 28th and UBS 5th) that truly presents us with the wording of the original text (99.99%) from which our Christian teachings can be derived. But only by studying the history of how the Greek text came down to us will you come to have the same respect for it that Wettstein had and be thoroughly convinced that it is the final authority, the inspired by, fully inerrant Word of God.
It is only reasonable to assume that the original 27 books written first-hand by the New Testament authors have not survived. Instead, we only have what we must consider being imperfect copies. Why the Holy Spirit would miraculously inspire 27 fully inerrant texts and then allow human imperfection into the copies is not explained to us in Scripture. We do know that imperfect humans have tended to worship relics that traditions hold to have been touched by the miraculous powers of God or to have been in direct contact with one of his special servants of old. Ultimately, though, all we know is that God had his reasons for allowing the New Testament autographs to be worn out by repeated use. From time to time, we hear of the discovery of a fragment possibly dated to the first century, but even if such a fragment is eventually verified, the dating alone can never serve as proof of an autograph; it will still be a copy in all likelihood.
As for errors in all the copies we have, however, we can say is that the vast majority of the Greek text is not affected by errors at all. The errors occur in the form of variant readings, i.e., portions of the text where different manuscripts disagree. Of the small amount of the text that is affected by variant readings, the vast majority of these are minor slips of the pen, misspelled words, etc., or intentional but quickly analyzed changes, and we are certain what the original reading is in these places. A far smaller number of changes present challenges to establishing the original reading. It has always been said and remains true that no major doctrine is affected by a textual problem. Only rarely does a textual issue change the meaning of a verse.[*] Still, establishing the original text wherever there are variant readings is vitally important. Every word matters!
[*] Leading textual scholar Daniel Wallace tells us, after looking at all of the evidence, that the percentage of instances where the reading is uncertain and a well-attested alternative reading could change the meaning of the verse is a quarter of one percent, i.e., 0.0025%
Wettstein gives an account of his labours and trials in his Nov. Test. i.: 1751. Novum Testamentum Græcum editionis receptæ, cum Lectionibus Variantibus Codicum MSS., Editionum aliarum, Versionum et Patrum, necnon Commentario pleniore ex Scriptoribus veteribus, Hebræis, Græcis, et Latinis, historiam et vim verborum illustrante, in two volumes. Amsterdam: Amstelædami. Reprinted in 1962 by Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt.
- Wettstein, J. J.; Wetstein, Rudolph; Wetstein, Jacobus (1730). Prolegomena ad Novi Testamenti Graeci editionem accuratissimam, e vetustissimis codd. mss. denuo procurandam. Amstelaedami: apud R. & J. Wetstenios & G. Smith.
- ——— (1751). Novum Testamentum Graecum editionis receptae cum lectionibus variantibus codicum manuscripts. Amsterdam: Ex Officina Dommeriana.
- ———; Bengel, Johann Albrecht; Ridley, Glocester; Michaelis, Johann David; Semler, Joh Salomo (1766). Libelli ad crisin: atque interpretationem Novi Testamenti. Halae Magdeburgicae: Ioann. Godofred. Trampe.
Attribution: This article incorporates some text from the public domain: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and Edward D. Andrews
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 McDonald, Grantley (2016). Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe : Erasmus, the Johannine comma, and Trinitarian debate. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 245, 246.
 Hull, Robert F. (2010). The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. p. 63.
 McDonald, Grantley (2016). Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe : Erasmus, the Johannine comma, and Trinitarian debate. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 245, 246.
 Hull, Robert F. (2010). The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. p. 50.
 “Novum Testamentum Graecum editionis receptae cum lectionibus variantibus codicum manuscripts”. 1751.