The Basic Approach

Should the New Testament be treated just like any other book? Will the procedures used on the works of Homer or Aristotle suffice? If both God and Satan had an intense interest in the fate of the New Testament text, presumably not. But how can we test the fact or extent of supernatural intervention? Happily we have eyewitness accounts to provide at least a partial answer. Hort said that "there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes," but the early Church Fathers disagree. Metzger states:

Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Eusebius, and many other Church Fathers accused the heretics of corrupting the Scriptures in order to have support for their special views. In the mid-second century, Marcion expunged his copies of the Gospel according to Luke of all references to the Jewish background of Jesus. Tatian's Harmony of the Gospels contains several textual alterations which lent support to ascetic or encratite views.[1]

Gaius, an orthodox Father who wrote between A.D. 175 and 200, names Asclepiades, Theodotus, Hermophilus, and Apollonides as heretics who prepared corrupted copies of the Scriptures and who had disciples who multiplied copies of their fabrications.[2]

Surely Hort knew the words of Origen.

Nowadays, as is evident, there is a great diversity between the various manuscripts, either through the negligence of certain copyists, or the perverse audacity shown by some in correcting the text, or through the fault of those, who, playing the part of correctors, lengthen or shorten it as they please (In Matth. tom. XV, 14; P. G. XIII, 1293).[3]

Even the orthodox were capable of changing a reading for dogmatic reasons. Epiphanius states (ii.3b) that the orthodox deleted "he wept" from Luke 19:41 out of jealousy for the Lord's divinity.[4]

Subsequent scholarship has tended to recognize Hort's mistake. Colwell has done an instructive about-face.

The majority of the variant readings in the New Testament were created for theological or dogmatic reasons.

Most of the manuals and handbooks now in print (including mine!) will tell you that these variations were the fruit of careless treatment which was possible because the books of the New Testament had not yet attained a strong position as "Bible." The reverse is the case. It was because they were the religious treasure of the church that they were changed.[5]

The New Testament copies differ widely in nature of errors from copies of the classics. The percentage of variations due to error in copies of the classics is large. In the manuscripts of the New Testament most variations, I believe, were made deliberately.[6]

Matthew Black says flatly:

The difference between sacred writings in constant popular and ecclesiastical use and the work of a classical author has never been sufficiently emphasized in the textual criticism of the New Testament. Principles valid for the textual restoration of Plato or Aristotle cannot be applied to sacred texts such as the Gospels (or the Pauline Epistles). We cannot assume that it is possible by a sifting of 'scribal errors' to arrive at the prototype or autograph text of the Biblical writer.[7]

H.H. Oliver gives a good summary of the shift of recent scholarship away from Hort's position in this matter.[8]

The fact of deliberate, and apparently numerous, alterations in the early years of textual history is a considerable inconvenience to Hort's theory for two reasons: it introduces an unpredictable variable which the canons of internal evidence cannot handle, and it puts the recovery of the Original beyond reach of the genealogical method.[9]

To illustrate the second point, Hort's view of early textual history may be represented by figure A whereas the view suggested by the Church Fathers may be represented by figure B. The dotted lines in figure B represent the fabrications introduced by different heretics (as the early Fathers called them).

Genealogy cannot arbitrate the conflicting claims posed by the first line of descendants in Figure B.[10] Further, in Colwell's words, this method (genealogy)

rested on identity in error as the clue to common ancestry. These errors were unintentional changes which can be identified objectively as error. Agreement in readings of this kind seldom occurs by chance or coincidence. The New Testament copies differ widely from copies of the classics at this point. The percentage of variations due to error in copies of the classics is large. In the manuscripts of the New Testament, on the other hand, scholars now believe that most variations were made deliberately.[11]

The reconstruction of family trees is seriously complicated by the presence of deliberate alterations. And those are not the only difficulties under which genealogy labors.


We have already noted Hort's definition and supposed use of genealogy. However, scholars have so far isolated only a few parent-child sets among all 5,000 plus manuscripts.[12] How then did Hort go about plotting the genealogical descent of the extant MSS? M.M. Parvis answers: "Westcott and Hort never applied the genealogical method to the NT MSS, . . ."[13] Colwell agrees.

That Westcott and Hort did not apply this method to the manuscripts of the New Testament is obvious. Where are the charts which start with the majority of late manuscripts and climb back through diminishing generations of ancestors to the Neutral and Western texts? The answer is that they are nowhere. Look again at the first diagram, and you will see that a, b, c, etc. are not actual manuscripts of the New Testament, but hypothetical manuscripts. The demonstrations or illustrations of the genealogical method as applied to New Testament manuscripts by the followers of Hort, the "Horticuli" as Lake called them, likewise use hypothe-tical manuscripts, not actual codices. Note, for example, the diagrams and discussions in Kenyon's most popular work on textual criticism, including the most recent edition. All the manuscripts referred to are imaginary manuscripts, and the later of these charts was printed sixty years after Hort.[14]

How then could Hort speak of only "occasional ambiguities in the evidence for the genealogical relations,"[15] or say: "So far as genealogical relations are discovered with perfect certainty, the textual results which follow from them are perfectly certain, too, being directly involved in historical facts; and any apparent presumptions against them suggested by other methods are mere guesses against knowledge"[16] when he had not demonstrated the existence of any such relations, much less with "perfect certainty"?

Another challenge to genealogy is "mixture."

The second limitation upon the application of the genealogical method to the manuscripts of the New Testament springs from the almost universal presence of mixture in these manuscripts. . . .

The genealogical diagram printed above (p. 110) from Westcott and Hort shows what happens when there is no mixture. When there is mixture, and Westcott and Hort state that it is common, in fact almost universal in some degree, then the genealogical method as applied to manuscripts is useless.

Without mixture a family tree is an ordinary tree-trunk with its branches—standing on the branches with the single trunk—the original text—at the top. The higher up—or the further back—you go from the mass of late manuscripts, the fewer ancestors you have!

With mixture you reverse this in any series of generations. The number of possible combinations defies computation, let alone the drawing of diagrams.[17]

Other scholars have agreed that the genealogical method has never been applied to the New Testament, and they state further that it cannot be applied. Thus, Zuntz says it is "inapplicable,[18] Vaganay that it is "useless,"[19] and Aland that it "cannot be applied to the NT."[20] Colwell also declares emphatically "that it cannot be so applied."[21] In the light of all this, what are we to think of Hort when he asserts:

For skepticism as to the possibility of obtaining a trustworthy genealogical interpretation of documentary phenomena in the New Testament there is, we are persuaded, no justification either in antecedent probability or in experience. . . . Whatever may be the ambiguity of the whole evidence in particular passages, the general course of future criticism must be shaped by the happy circumstance that the fourth century has bequeathed to us two MSS of which even the less incorrupt must have been of exceptional purity among its own contemporaries.[22]?

After demolishing the genealogical method, Colwell concludes his article by saying, "yet Westcott and Hort's genealogical method slew the Textus Receptus. The a priori demonstration is logically irrefutable."[23] However, the a priori demonstration cannot stand in the face of an a posteriori demonstration to the contrary. Colwell himself, some twelve years prior to this statement, recognized that the "a priori demonstration" to which he here refers has been refuted.

The universal and ruthless dominance of the middle ages by one texttype is now recognized as a myth. . . .

The complexities and perplexities of the medieval text have been brought forcibly to our attention by the work of two great scholars: Hermann von Soden and Kirsopp Lake. . . .

This invaluable pioneer work of von Soden greatly weakened the dogma of the dominance of a homogenous Syrian text. But the fallacy received its death blow at the hands of Professor Lake. In an excursus published with his study of the Caesarean text of Mark, he annihilated the theory that the middle ages were ruled by a single recension which attained a high degree of uniformity.[24]

Actually, Hort produced no "demonstration" at all­—just assumptions. Since the genealogical method has not been applied to the MSS of the New Testament it may not be used as an integral part of a theory of NT textual criticism. If it was Hort's genealogical method that "slew the Textus Receptus" then the TR must still be alive and well—the weapon was never used. But Hort claimed to have used it, and the weapon was so fearsome, and he spoke of the "results" with such confidence, that he won the day.

Since Westcott and Hort, the genealogical method has been the canonical method of restoring the original text of the books of the New Testament. It dominates the handbooks. Sir Frederic Kenyon, C.R. Gregory, Alexander Souter, and A.T Robertson are a few of the many who declare its excellence.[25]

The situation is essentially the same today, and the warning Colwell gave in 1965 is still valid.

Many years ago I joined others in pointing out the limitations in Hort's use of genealogy, and the inapplicability of genealogical method—strictly defined—to the textual criticism of the NT. Since then many others have assented to this criticism, and the building of family trees is only rarely attempted. Therefore we might assume that the influence of Hort's emphasis upon genealogical method is no longer a threat. But this assumption is false.

Hort`s brilliant work still captivates our minds. So when confronted by a reading whose support is minimal and widely divorced in time and place, we think first and only of genealogical relationships. Hort has put genealogical blinders on our eyes. . . .[26]

Present-day scholars, exegetes, and translators continue to act as though the genealogical method not only can be, but has been, applied to the NT MSS, and to base their work on the supposed results. But what about those "results"?

Text-types and Recensions

Although Hort claimed absolute certainty for the results of genealogical evidence as described by him, it is clear that the "results" were a fabrication. How could there be results if the method was never applied to the MSS? A contemporary of W-H protested that such claims would only be allowable if the textual critic had first indexed every principal Church Father and reduced MSS to families by a laborious process of induction.[27]

Still, Hort's "results" became accepted as fact by many—George Salmon spoke of "the servility with which his [Hort] history of the text has been accepted, and even his nomenclature adopted, as if now the last word had been said on the subject of New Testament criticism. . . ."[28]

Subsequent scholarship

Subsequent scholars have been obliged to reconsider the matter by the discovery of the Papyri and closer looks at MSS previously extant. Parvis complains:

We have reconstructed text-types and families and sub families and in so doing have created things that never before existed on earth or in heaven. We have assumed that manuscripts reproduced themselves according to the Mendelian law. But when we have found that a particular manuscript would not fit into any of our nicely constructed schemes, we have thrown up our hands and said that it contained a mixed text.[29]

Allen Wikgren shows that sweeping generalizations about text-types in general and the "Byzantine" text and Lectionaries in particular, should not be made.[30] Colwell affirms:

The major mistake is made in thinking of the "old text-types" as frozen blocks, even after admitting that no one manuscript is a perfect witness to any text-type. If no one MS is a perfect witness to any type, then all witnesses are mixed in ancestry (or individually corrupted, and thus parents of mixture).[31]

After careful study of P46, Zuntz makes certain observations and concludes:

One would like to think that observations like these must put an end to time-honoured doctrines such as that the text of B is the 'Neutral' text or that the 'Western' text is 'the' text of the second century. If the factors of each of these equations are meant to be anything but synonyms, they are wrong; if they are synonyms, they mean nothing.[32]

Klijn doubts "whether any grouping of manuscripts gives satisfactory results,"[33] and goes on to say:

It is still customary to divide manuscripts into the four well-known families: the Alexandrian, the Caesarean, the Western and the Byzantine.

This classical division can no longer be maintained. . . .

If any progress is to be expected in textual criticism we have to get rid of the division into local texts. New manuscripts must not be allotted to a geographically limited area but to their place in the history of the text.[34]

After a long discussion of the "Caesarean" text, Metzger says by way of summary that "it must be acknowledged that at present the Caesarean text is disintegrating."[35] Two pages later, referring to the impact of P45, he asks, "Was there a fundamental flaw in the previous investigation which tolerated so erroneous a grouping?" Evidently there was. Could it be the mentality that insists upon thinking in terms of text-types and recensions as recognized and recognizable entities?[36] Those few men who have done extensive collations of manuscripts, or paid attention to those done by others, as a rule have not accepted such erroneous groupings.[37]

H. C. Hoskier, whose collations of NT MSS are unsurpassed in quality and perhaps in quantity, commented as follows after collating Codex 604 (today's 700) and comparing it with other MSS:

I defy anyone, after having carefully perused the foregoing lists, and after having noted the almost incomprehensible combinations and permutations of both the uncial and cursive manuscripts, to go back to the teaching of Dr. Hort with any degree of confidence. How useless and superfluous to talk of Evan. 604 having a large "Western element," or of its siding in many places with the "neutral text." The whole question of families and recensions is thus brought prominently before the eye, and with space one could largely comment upon the deeply interesting combinations which thus present themselves to the critic. But do let us realize that we are in the infancy of this part of the science, and not imagine that we have successfully laid certain immutable foundation stones, and can safely continue to build thereon. It is not so, and much, if not all, of these foundations must be demolished.[38]

The "text-types" themselves

To take the "text-types" one by one, Kenyon says of the "Western" text:

What we have called the d-text, indeed, is not so much a text as a congeries of various readings, not descending from any one archetype, but possessing an infinitely complicated and intricate parentage. No one manuscript can be taken as even approximately representing the d-text, if by "text" we mean a form of the Gospel which once existed in a single manuscript.[39]

Colwell observes that the Nestle text (25th edition) denies the existence of the "Western" text as an identifiable group, saying it is "a denial with which I agree."[40] Speaking of von Soden's classification of the "Western" text, Metzger says: "so diverse are the textual phenomena that von Soden was compelled to posit seventeen sub-groups of witnesses which are more or less closely related to this text."[41] And Klijn, speaking of "a 'pure' or 'original' Western Text" affirms that "such a text did not exist."[42] K. and B. Aland speak of "the phantom 'Western text'" and replace it with "D text", referring to Codex Bezae.[43] In fact, it has been many decades since any critical apparatus used a cover symbol for the so-called "Western" text.

As for today's "Alexandrian" text, which seems essentially to include Hort's "Neutral" and "Alexandrian," Colwell offers the results of an interesting experiment.

After a careful study of all alleged Beta Text-type witnesses in the first chapter of Mark, six Greek manuscripts emerged as primary witnesses: À B L 33 892 2427. Therefore, the weaker Beta manuscripts C D 157 517 579 1241 and 1342 were set aside. Then on the basis of the six primary witnesses an 'average' or mean text was reconstructed including all the readings supported by the majority of the primary witnesses. Even on this restricted basis the amount of variation recorded in the apparatus was dismaying. In this first chapter, each of the six witnesses differed from the 'average' Beta Text-type as follows: L, nineteen times (Westcott and Hort, twenty-one times); Aleph, twenty-six times; 2427, thirty-two times; 33, thirty-three times; B, thirty-four times; and 892, forty-one times. These results show convincingly that any attempt to reconstruct an archetype of the Beta Text-type on a quantitative basis is doomed to failure. The text thus reconstructed is not reconstructed but constructed; it is an artificial entity that never existed.[44]

Hoskier, after filling 450 pages with a detailed and careful discussion of the errors in Codex B and another 400 on the idiosyncrasies of Codex À, affirms that in the Gospels alone these two MSS differ well over 3,000 times, which number does not include minor errors such as spelling, nor variants between certain synonyms which might be due to "provincial exchange."[45] In fact, on the basis of Colwell's suggestion that a 70% agreement be required so as to assign two MSS to the same text-type, Aleph and B do not qualify. The UBS and Nestle texts no longer use a cover symbol for the "Alexandrian" text-type.

Of the "Byzantine" text, Zuntz says that "the great bulk of Byzantine manuscripts defies all attempts to group them."[46] Clark says much the same.

The main conclusion regarding the Byzantine text is that it was extremely fluid. Any single manuscript may be expected to show a score of shifting affinities. Yet within the variety and confusion, a few textual types have been distinguished. . . . These types are not closely grouped like the families, but are like the broad Milky Way including many members within a general affinity.[47]

Colwell's emphatic statement to the same effect has been given above. The work of Lake referred to by Colwell was a collation of Mark, chapter eleven, in all the MSS of Mt. Sinai, Patmos, and the Patriarchal Library and collection of St. Saba at Jerusalem. Lake, with R. P. Blake and Silva New, found that the "Byzantine" text was not homogeneous, that there was an absence of close relationship between MSS, but that there was less variation "within the family" than would be found in a similar treatment of "Neutral" or "Caesarean" texts. In their own words:

This collation covers three of the great ancient collections of MSS; and these are not modern conglomerations, brought together from all directions. Many of the MSS, now at Sinai, Patmos, and Jerusalem, must be copies written in the scriptoria of these monasteries. We expected to find that a collation covering all the MSS in each library would show many cases of direct copying. But there are practically no such cases. . . . Moreover, the amount of direct genealogy which has been detected in extant codices is almost negligible. Nor are many known MSS sister codices. The Ferrar group and family 1 are the only reported cases of the repeated copying of a single archetype, and even for the Ferrar group there were probably two archetypes rather than one. . . .

There are cognate groups—families of distant cousins—but the manuscripts which we have are almost all orphan children without brothers or sisters.

Taking this fact into consideration along with the negative result of our collation of MSS at Sinai, Patmos, and Jerusalem, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the scribes usually destroyed their exemplars when they had copied the sacred books.[48]

J.W. Burgon,[49] because he had himself collated numerous minuscule MSS, had remarked the same thing years before Lake.

Now those many MSS were executed demonstrably at different times in different countries. They bear signs in their many hundreds of representing the entire area of the Church, except where versions were used instead of copies in the original Greek. . . . And yet, of multitudes of them that survive, hardly any have been copied from any of the rest. On the contrary, they are discovered to differ among themselves in countless unimportant particulars; and every here and there single copies exhibit idiosyncrasies which are altogether startling and extraordinary. There has therefore demonstrably been no collusion—no assimilation to an arbitrary standard—no wholesale fraud. It is certain that every one of them represents a MS, or a pedigree of MSS, older than itself; and it is but fair to suppose that it exercises such representation with tolerable accuracy.[50]

Kurt Aland[51] sums it up:

P66 confirmed the observations already made in connection with the Chester Beatty papyri. With P75 new ground has been opened to us. Earlier, we all shared the opinion, in agreement with our professors and in accord with NT scholarship, before and since Westcott and Hort, that, in various places, during the fourth century, recensions of the NT text had been made, from which the main text-types then developed. . . . We spoke of recensions and text-types, and if this was not enough, we referred to pre-Caesarean and other text-types, to mixed texts, and so on.

I, too, have spoken of mixed texts, in connection with the form of the NT text in the second and third centuries, but I have always done so with a guilty conscience. For, according to the rules of linguistic philology it is impossible to speak of mixed texts before recensions have been made (they only can follow them), whereas, the NT manuscripts of the second and third centuries which have a "mixed text" clearly existed before recensions were made. . . . The simple fact that all these papyri, with their various distinctive characteristics, did exist side by side, in the same ecclesiastical province, that is, in Egypt, where they were found, is the best argument against the existence of any text-types, including the Alexandrian and the Antiochian. We still live in the world of Westcott and Hort with our conception of different recensions and text-types, although this conception has lost its raison d'être, or, it needs at least to be newly and convincingly demonstrated. For, the increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort's conception.[52]

(I have quoted men like Zuntz, Clark and Colwell on the "Byzantine" text to show that modern scholars are prepared to reject the notion of a "Byzantine" recension, but the main lesson to be drawn from the variation among "Byzantine" MSS is the one noted by Lake and Burgon—they are orphans, independent witnesses; at least in their generation. The variation between two "Byzantine" MSS will be found to differ both in number and severity from that between two "Western" MSS or two "Alexandrian" MSS—the number and nature of the disagreements between two "Byzantine" MSS throughout the Gospels will seem trivial compared to the number (over 3,000) and nature (many serious) of the disagreements between Aleph and B, the chief "Alexandrian" MSS, in the same space.)

A recent return

Both Colwell[53] and Epp[54] take issue with Aland, claiming that the papyri fit right in with Hort's reconstruction of textual history. But the existence of an affinity between B and P75 does not demonstrate the existence of a text-type or recension. We have just seen Colwell's demonstration and declaration that an "Alexandrian" archetype never existed. Epp himself, after going on to plot the early MSS on three trajectories ("Neutral," "Western," and "midway"), says:

Naturally, this rough sketch should not be understood to mean that the manuscripts mentioned under each of the three categories above necessarily had any direct connections one with another; rather, they stand as randomly surviving members of these three broad streams of textual tradition.[55]

The point is, although different manuscripts exhibit varying affinities, share certain peculiarities, they each differ substantially from all the others (especially the earlier ones) and therefore should not be lumped together. There is no such thing as the testimony of a "Western" or "Alexandrian" text-type (as an entity)—there is only the testimony of individual MSS, Fathers, Versions (or MSS of versions).

In disagreeing with Aland (see notes 52 and 54), Epp declared that our extant materials reveal "only two clear textual streams or trajectories" in the first four centuries of textual transmission, namely the "Neutral" and "Western" text-types.[56] He also suggested that P75 may be considered as an early ancestor for Hort's "Neutral" text, P66 for Hort's "Alexandrian" text, and P45 for Hort's "Western" text.

But he himself had just finished furnishing counter evidence. Thus, with reference to 103 variation units in Mark 6-9 (where P45 is extant), Epp records that P45 shows a 38 percent agreement with Codex D, 40 percent with the Textus Receptus, 42 percent with B, 59 percent with fl3, and 68 percent with W.[57] How can Epp say that P45 is a "Western" ancestor when it is closer to chief representatives of every other "text-type" than it is to D? In Mark 5-16, Epp records that Codex W shows a 34 percent agreement with B, 36 percent with D, 38 percent with the Textus Receptus, and 40 percent with À.[58] To which "textual stream" should W be assigned?

Both P66 and P75 have been generally affirmed to belong to the "Alexandrian text-type."[59] Klijn offers the results of a comparison of À, B, P45, P66 and P75 in the passages where they are all extant (John 10:7-25, 10:32-11:10, 11:19-33 and 11:43-56). He considered only those places where À and B disagree and where at least one of the papyri joins either À or B. He found eight such places plus 43 where all three of the papyri line up with À or B. He stated the result for the 43 places as follows (to which I have added figures for the Textus Receptus, BFBS 1946):

P45 agrees with À 19 times, with B 24 times, with TR 32 times,

P66 agrees with À 14 times, with B 29 times, with TR 33 times,

P75 agrees with À 9 times, with B 33 times, with TR 29 times,

P45,66,75 agree with À 4 times, with B 18 times, with TR 20 times,

P45,66 agree with À 7 times, with B 3 times, with TR 8 times,

P45,75 agree with À 1 time, with B 2 times, with TR 2 times,

P66,75 agree with À 0 times, with B 8 times, with TR 5 times.[60]

As for the eight other places,

P45 agrees with À 2 times, with B 1 time, with TR 1 time,

P66 agrees with À 2 times, with B 3 times, with TR 5 times,

P75 agrees with À 2 times, with B 3 times, with TR 4 times.[61]

(Each of the three papyri has other readings as well.)

Is the summary assignment of P66 and P75 to the "Alexandrian text-type" altogether reasonable?

G.D. Fee goes to considerable lengths to interpret the evidence in such a way as to support his conclusion that "P66 is basically a member of the Neutral tradition,"[62] but the evidence itself as he records it, for John 1-14, is as follows: P66 agrees with the TR 315 times out of 663 (47.5%), with P75 280 out of 547 (51.2%), with B 334 out of 663 (50.4%), with À 295 out of 662 (44.6%), with A 245 out of 537 (45.6%), with C 150 out of 309 (48.5%), with D 235 out of 604 (38.9%), with W 298 out of 662 (45.0%).[63]

Does this evidence really suggest "two clear textual streams"?

In these third-century manuscripts, whose evidence takes us back into the mid-second century at least, we find no pristine purity, no unsullied ancestors of Vaticanus, but marred and fallen representatives of the original text. Features of all the main texts isolated by Hort or von Soden are here found—very differently 'mingled' in P66 and P45.[64]

The classifying of MSS

A serious part of the problem is the manner in which MSS have been assigned to one "text-type" or another. For example, the editors of P1 (Oxyrh. 2), Grenfell and Hunt, stated that "the papyrus clearly belongs to the same class as the Sinaitic and Vatican codices, and has no Western or Syrian proclivities." The papyrus contains only Matt.1:1-9a,12b-20 (not all of it legible) but C.H. Turner declared that it agrees closely with the text of B and "may be fairly held to carry back the whole B text of the Gospels into the third century."[65] To this day P1 is assigned to the "Alexandrian text-type."[66] It evidently agrees with B seven times, against the TR, but four of those variants have some "Western" support; however it disagrees with B ten times, albeit supporting the TR in only two of those.[67] Is it really reasonable to lump P1 and B together?

For a clear demonstration of the folly of characterizing a manuscript on the basis of just one chapter (or even less!) the reader is referred to the study of P66 by Fee. He plots the percentage of agreement between P66 and the T.R., P75, B, À, A, C, D, and W respectively, chapter by chapter, throughout the first 14 chapters of John.[68] For each of the documents the graph bounces up and down from chapter to chapter in an erratic fashion. All of them show a range of variation in excess of 30%—e.g. Codex B goes from 71.1% agreement with P66 in chapter 5 to 32.3% agreement in chapter 7.

It has already been noted that B and Aleph disagree well over 3,000 times just in the Gospels. (Their agreements are fewer.)[69] Should they be lumped together? It is not enough to notice only the shared peculiarities between two MSS; the extent of disagreement is equally germane to any effort at classification.[70]

Rather than lining up in "clear streams" or "text-types" (as objectively defined entities) the earliest manuscripts are dotted helter-skelter over a wide spectrum of variation. Although varying degrees of affinity exist between and among them, they should be treated as individuals in the practice of textual criticism. Until such time as the relationships among the later manuscripts are empirically plotted, they also should be treated as individuals. To dump them into a "Byzantine" basket is untenable.

Since genealogy has not been (and cannot be?) applied to the MSS, the witnesses must be counted, after all—including many of the later minuscules, which evidently had independent lines of transmission (cf. quotes 47 and 49). It will immediately be protested that "witnesses are to be weighed, not counted." Because of the importance of this question I will discuss it in some detail, in its turn.[71] But first, we must continue our evaluation of the W-H theory and for that purpose I will still speak of "text-types" in Hort's terms.


Hort's whole case against the Textus Receptus, under this heading was based upon just eight examples, taken from two Gospels (Mark and Luke). To characterize a whole text for the whole New Testament on the basis of eight examples is foolish. Colwell states the problem well.

No text or document is homogeneous enough to justify judgment on the basis of part of its readings for the rest of its readings. This was Hort's Achilles' heel. He is saying here that since these eight conflate readings occur in the Syrian text that text as a whole is a mixed text; if a manuscript or text lacks these readings, it is in its other readings a witness to a text antecedent to mixture. . . .

Westcott and Hort state this fallacy very clearly in their argument for the importance of the evidence of a document as over against readings:

"Where then one of the documents is found habitually to contain these morally certain or at least strongly preferred readings, and the other habitually to contain their rejected rivals, we can have no doubt, first, that the text of the first has been transmitted in comparative purity, and that the text of the second has suffered comparatively large corruption; and, next, that the superiority of the first must be as great in the variations in which Internal Evidence of Readings has furnished no decisive criterion as in those which have enabled us to form a comparative appreciation of the two texts." [Emphasis his.]

This would be true if we knew that there was no mixture involved and that manuscripts and texts were rigorously homogeneous. Everything we have learned since Hort confirms the opposite position.[72]

It has been generally supposed and stated that there are many other examples. Thus Harrison says, "Another objection was the paucity of examples of conflation. Hort cited only eight, but he could have given others."[73] Kenyon and Lake made the same claim,[74] but where are the "other" examples? Why does not Harrison, or Kenyon, or Lake produce them? Because there are very few that have the required phenomena. Kenyon does refer in passing to An Atlas of Textual Criticism by E. A. Hutton (London: Cambridge University Press, 1911) which he says contains added examples of conflation.

Upon inspection, the central feature of the 125-page work proves to be a purportedly complete list of triple variant readings in the New Testament where the "Alexandrian," "Western," and "Byzantine" texts are pitted against each other. Hutton adduces 821 instances exhibiting the required phenomena. Out of all that, a few cases of possible "Syrian conflation," aside from Hort's eight, may be culled—such as in Matt. 27:41, John 18:40, Acts 20:28 or Rom. 6:12. Fifty years ago a Hortian might have insisted that John 10:31 also has a "Syrian conflation," but now that P66 moves the "Syrian" reading back to 200 A.D. a different interpretation is demanded.

Hutton's list may well be open to considerable question, but if we may take it at face value for the moment it appears that the ratio of "Alexandrian-Western-Byzantine" triple variants to possible "Syrian conflations" is about 100:1. In other words, for every instance where the "Syrian" text is possibly built on the "Neutral" and "Western" texts there are a hundred where it is not.

That raises another problem. If the "Syrian" text is eclectic, where did it get the material that is its private property? As Burgon observed at the time: "It is impossible to 'conflate' in places where B, À and their associates furnish no materials for the supposed conflation. Bricks cannot be made without clay. The materials actually existing are those of the Traditional Text itself."[75]

But there is another consideration which is fatal to Hort's purpose. He claimed that inversions do not exist; but they do. He himself cited one of each kind; D conflates in John 5:37 and B conflates in Col. 1:12 and 2 Thess. 3:4.[76] Further, there are a number of other conflations, not only on the part of D, B, and Aleph, but also the "Western" and "Alexandrian" text-types. Please see Appendix D for examples and evidence. Marcion (2nd century) conflates the "Byzantine" and "Neutral-Western" readings in 1 Corinthians 14:19!

Bodmer II shows some "Syrian" readings to be anterior to corresponding "Neutral" readings around 200 A.D.

The Bodmer John (P66) is also a witness to the early existence of many of the readings found in the Alpha text-type (Hort's "Syrian"). Strangely enough to our previous ideas, the contemporary corrections in that papyrus frequently change an Alpha-type reading to a Beta-type reading (Hort's "Neutral"). This indicates that at this early period readings of both kinds were known, and the Beta-type were supplanting the Alpha-type—at least as far as this witness is concerned.[77]

Hoskier, after his thorough (450 pages) study of Codex B, offered this verdict: "the maligned Textus Receptus served in large measure as the base which B tampered with and changed."[78]

It is clear that Hort's characterization of the "Syrian" text as eclectic and secondary, as posterior to and building upon the "Western" and "Neutral" texts, does not square with the evidence. But while we are on the subject, what of Hort's eight examples; do they lend themselves to his interpretation? We must ask whether they really qualify as possible conflations and then consider the reverse explanation, namely that the shorter forms are independent simplifications of the original long form.

Burgon examined the eight at length and observed that most of them simply do not exhibit the required phenomena.[79] The reader may see for himself by consulting any reasonably complete apparatus criticus (all are included in Appendix D). Whatever explanation may be given of the origin of the "Byzantine" readings in Mark 8:25, Luke 11:54, and Luke 12:18, they are not "conflations" of the "Neutral" and "Western" readings. The same thing may be said, though not so emphatically, about Mark 6:33 and Luke 9:10.

In almost every case the witnesses within the "Neutral" and "Western" camps are divided among themselves, so that a somewhat arbitrary choice has to be made in order to give the "Neutral" or "Western" reading. Hort approached his discussion of the eight examples of conflation he adduced "premising that we do not attempt to notice every petty variant in the passages cited, for fear of confusing the substantial evidence."[80]

But in a question of this sort the confusion must be accounted for. If the "Neutral" witnesses disagree among themselves, what credence can we give to the "Neutral" testimony as a whole?

Given an instance, such as Luke 24:53, where the required phenomena for a conflation are present, it must be demonstrated that the two shorter readings did not arise through independent omissions of different parts of the longer reading before it can be asserted that conflation took place. Apart from such demonstration it is not fair to assume a conflation and then build a theory upon it. Hort's total demonstration relative to Luke 24:53 is, "This simple instance needs no explanation."[81]

Burgon (who personally collated D) observed that in the last chapter of Luke the Received Text has 837 words—of these D omits 121, or one word in seven.[82] To someone using Nestle's Text (24th) D omits 66 out of 782, or one in twelve (Nestle has omitted thirty-eight words from the Greek text of Luke 24 on the sole Greek authority of D, and another five on D and À alone).

In the face of such an inveterate propensity for omission, it is not unreasonable to suspect that in verse 53 D has omitted "and blessing" from the original "praising and blessing" rather than that the reading of all but six of the extant Greek MSS is a conflation. Furthermore, the reading of D may easily have arisen from the "Byzantine" by homoioteleuton (OYNTEC--OYNTEC). Kilpatrick is among the most recent of a number of scholars who have argued that at least some of Hort's "Syrian conflations" are the original reading.[83]

K. Lake spoke of the problem of deciding which interpretation to take.

The keystone of their [W-H] theory is in the passages where we get this triple variation, and the point of the argument lies in the assumption that the longer reading is made by uniting the two shorter ones—not the two shorter by different dealings with the longer. This point can be tested only by an appeal to Patristic evidence and general probability.

The latter argument is precarious because subjective, so that the ultimate and decisive criterion is Patristic evidence.[84]

It appears, according to Lake, that patristic evidence is to decide the issue. But neither Lake nor anyone else has produced any Patristic citations of these passages in the first three centuries. The few citations available after that time all support the Byzantine readings.[85]

Actually, the whole matter of "conflation" is a pseudo-issue, a tempest in a teapot. There simply are not enough putative examples to support generalizations. Such evidence as there is, however, is certainly not unfavorable to the "Syrian" text. As Zuntz says, the idea that the late text was derived from the two earlier "recensions" combined is erroneous.[86]

"Syrian" Readings Before Chrysostom

Hort's statements concerning the nature of the ante-Nicene patristic testimony are still widely believed. Thus, Chrysostom is widely affirmed to have used the "Byzantine" text.[87] But, Lake has stated:

Writers on the text of the New Testament usually copy from one another the statement that Chrysostom used the Byzantine, or Antiochian, text. But directly any investigation is made it appears evident, even from the printed text of his works, that there are many important variations in the text he quotes, which was evidently not identical with that found in the MSS of the Byzantine text.[88]

Metzger calls attention to the work of Geerlings and New.

It has often been stated by textual scholars that Chrysostom was one of the first Fathers to use the Antiochian text. This opinion was examined by Jacob Geerlings and Silva New in a study based on evidence which, in default of a critical edition; was taken from Migne's edition of Chrysostom's opera. Their conclusions are that "Chrysostom's text of Mark is not that of any group of manuscripts so far discovered and classified. . . . His text of Mark, or rather the text which can faintly be perceived through his quotations, is a 'mixed text' combining some of the elements of each of the types which had flourished before the end of the fourth century."[89]

They say further: "No known manuscript of Mark has the text found in Chrysostom's homilies, or anything approaching it. And probably no text which existed in the fourth century came much nearer to it."[90] They did a collation of Chrysostom's text and observe concerning it: "The number of variants from the Textus Receptus is not appreciably smaller than the number of variants from Westcott and Hort's text. This proves that it is no more a typical representative of the late text (von Soden's K) than it is of the Neutral text."[91]

What about Origen; does he really represent the "Neutral" text?

It is impossible to reproduce or restore the text of Origen. Origen had no settled text. A reference to the innumerable places where he is upon both sides of the question, as set forth in detail herein, will show this clearly. Add the places where he is in direct opposition to Àand B, and we must reconsider the whole position.[92]

Zuntz agrees.

The insuperable difficulties opposing the establishment of 'the' New Testament text of Origen and Eusebius are well known to all who have attempted it. . . . Leaving aside the common difficulties imposed by the uncertainties of the transmission, the incompleteness of the material, and the frequent freedom of quotation, there is the incontestable fact that these two Fathers are frequently at variance; that each of them quotes the same passage differently in different writings; and that sometimes they do so even within the compass of one and the same work. . . . Wherever one and the same passage is extant in more than one quotation by Origen or Eusebius, variation between them is the rule rather than the exception. [93]

Metzger affirms: "Origen knows of the existence of variant readings which represent each of the main families of manuscripts that modern scholars have isolated."[94] (That includes the "Byzantine.") Edward Miller, in his exhaustive study of the Fathers, found that Origen sided with the Traditional Text 460 times while siding with the "Neologian" text 491 times.[95] (The "Neologian"[96] text, as Miller used the term, includes both "Neutral" and "Western" readings; while "Traditional Text" is his term for Hort's "Syrian" text.) How then could Hort say of Origen, "On the other hand his quotations to the best of our belief exhibit no clear and tangible traces of the Syrian text"?[97]

What about Irenaeus; does he really represent the "Western" text? Miller found that Irenaeus sided with the Traditional Text 63 times and with the "Neologian" text 41 times.[98] He said further:

Hilary of Poictiers is far from being against the Traditional Text, as has been frequently said: though in his commentaries he did not use so Traditional a text as in his De Trinitate and his other works. The texts of Hippolytus, Methodius, Irenaeus, and even of Justin, are not of that exclusively Western character which Dr. Hort ascribes to them. Traditional readings occur almost equally with others in Justin's works, and predominate in the works of the other three.[99]

Hoskier adds a word concerning Hippolytus.

Let us take another most interesting witness, viz. Hippolytus, who, like Lucifer, frequently quotes at such length from both Old and New Testaments that it is absolutely beyond question that he was copying from his exemplar of the Scriptures.

Hippolytus cites 1 Thess. iv.13-17, 2 Thess. ii.1-12, in full. In the face of these quotations it is seen how loosely Turner argues when he says "Hort was the last and perhaps the ablest of a long line of editors of the Greek Testament, commencing in the eighteenth century, who very tentatively at first, but quite ruthlessly in the end, threw over the LATER in favor of the EARLIER Greek MSS, and that issue will never have to be tried again."

But permit me to ask what Mr. Turner means by this lighthearted sentence. What does he mean by earlier and later Manuscripts? He cannot mean that Hippolytus' manuscript was later than that of B? Yet, allow me to state that in these long passages, comprising twelve consecutive verses from one epistle and four from the other, Hippolytus' early third-century MS is found generally on the side of what Turner would call the "later" MSS.[100]

According to Miller's study, the advantage of the Traditional Text over the "Neologian" before Origen was actually 2:1, setting aside Justin Martyr, Heracleon, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. If these four are included, the advantage of the Traditional Text drops to 1.33:1 since the confusion which is most obvious in Origen is already observable in these men. From Origen to Macarius Magnus the advantage of the Traditional Text drops to 1.24:1 while from Macarius to 400 A.D. it is back up to 2:1.[101] Please note that the Traditional Text was always ahead, even in the worst of times.

Miller vs. Kenyon

Because of the importance of Miller's study, already cited, I will now consider it more in detail along with Kenyon's answer. Miller saw clearly the crucial nature of Hort's proposition.

It is evident that the turning point of the controversy between ourselves and the Neologian school must lie in the centuries before St. Chrysostom. If, as Dr. Hort maintains, the Traditional Text not only gained supremacy at that era but did not exist in the early ages, then our contention is vain. . . . On the other hand if it is proved to reach back in unbroken line to the time of the Evangelists, or to a period as near to them as surviving testimony can prove, then Dr. Hort's theory of a 'Syrian' text formed by recension or otherwise just as evidently falls to the ground.[102]

Miller, posthumous editor to Burgon, probed the question of ante-Nicene testimony exhaustively, making full use of Burgon's massive index of patristic citations (86,489 of them) from the New Testament. He deserves to be heard, in detail.

As to the alleged absence of readings of the Traditional Text from the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Dr. Hort draws largely upon his imagination and his wishes. The persecution of Diocletian is here also the parent of much want of information. But is there really such a dearth of these readings in the works of the Early Fathers as is supposed?[103]

I made a toilsome examination for myself of the quotations occurring in the writings of the Fathers before St. Chrysostom, or as I defined them in order to draw a self-acting line, of those who died before 400 A.D., with the result that the Traditional Text is found to stand in the general proportion of 3:2 [this is 60%, precisely as Peter Johnston verified—see footnote 101] against other variations, and in a much higher proportion upon thirty test passages. Afterwards, not being satisfied with resting the basis of my argument upon one scrutiny, I went again through the writings of the seventy-six Fathers concerned (with limitations explained in this book), besides others who yielded no evidence, and I found that although several more instances were consequently entered in my notebook, the general results remained the same. I do not flatter myself that even now I have recorded all the instances that could be adduced:—any one who is really acquainted with this work will know that such a feat is absolutely impossible, because such perfection cannot be obtained except after many repeated efforts. But I claim, not only that my attempts have been honest and fair even to self-abnegation, but that the general results which are much more than is required by my argument, as is explained in the body of this work, abundantly establish the antiquity of the Traditional Text, by proving the superior acceptance of it during the period at stake to that of any other.[104]

Kenyon acknowledged Miller's work and stated the results correctly.

Here is a plain issue. If it can be shown that the readings which Hort calls "Syrian" existed before the end of the fourth century, the keystone would be knocked out of the fabric of his theory; and since he produced no statistics in proof of his assertion [!], his opponents were perfectly at liberty to challenge it. It must be admitted that Mr. Miller did not shirk the test. A considerable part of his work as editor of Dean Burgon's papers took the form of a classification of patristic quotations, based upon the great indices which the Dean left behind him, according as they testify for or against the Traditional Text of the Gospels.

The results of his examination are stated by him as follows. Taking the Greek and Latin (not the Syriac) Fathers who died before A.D. 400, their quotations are found to support the Traditional Text in 2,630 instances, the "neologian" in 1753. Nor is this majority due solely to the writers who belong to the end of this period. On the contrary, if only the earliest writers be taken, from Clement of Rome to Irenaeus and Hippolytus, the majority in favour of the Traditional Text is proportionately even greater, 151 to 84. Only in the Western and Alexandrian writers do we find approximate equality of votes on either side. Further, if a select list of thirty important passages be taken for detailed examination, the preponderance of early patristic evidence in favour of the Traditional Text is seen to be no less than 530 to 170, a quite overwhelming majority.

Now it is clear that if these figures were trustworthy, there would be an end to Hort's theory, for its premises would be shown to be thoroughly unsound.[105]

Before proceeding to Kenyon's rebuttal it will be well to pause and review the implications of this exchange. Hort, and the many like Kenyon who have repeated his words after him, have asserted that not a single "strictly Byzantine" reading is to be found in the extant works of any Church Father who dates before Chrysostom (d. 407). To disprove Hort's assertion, it is only necessary to find some "strictly Byzantine" readings before the specified time, since the question immediately in focus is the existence of the "Byzantine" readings, not necessarily their dominance. Miller affirms that the Byzantine text not only is to be found in the writings of the early Fathers, but that in fact it predominates.

As far as the Fathers who died before 400 A.D. are concerned, the question may now be put and answered. Do they witness to the Traditional Text as existing from the first, or do they not? The results of the evidence, both as regards the quantity and the quality of the testimony, enable us to reply, not only that the Traditional Text was in existence, but that it was predominant, during the period under review. Let any one who disputes this conclusion make out for the Western Text, or the Alexandrian, or for the Text of B and À, a case from the evidence of the Fathers which can equal or surpass that which has been now placed before the reader.[106]

No one has ever taken up Miller's challenge.

As quoted above, Kenyon recognized that if Miller's figures are right then Hort's theory is at an end. But Kenyon continued:

An examination of them however, shows that they cannot be accepted as representing in any way the true state of the case. In the first place, it is fairly certain that critical editions of the several Fathers, if such existed, would show that in many cases the quotations have been assimilated in later MSS to the Traditional Text, whereas in the earlier they agree rather with the "Neutral" or "Western" witnesses. For this defect, however, Mr. Miller cannot be held responsible. The critical editions of the Greek and Latin Fathers, now in course of production by the Academies of Berlin and Vienna, had covered very little of the ground at the time when his materials were compiled, and meanwhile he might legitimately use the materials accessible to him; and the errors arising from this source would hardly affect the general result to any very serious extent.[107]

After raising the "quibble" about critical editions he admitted that "the errors arising from this source would hardly affect the general result." However, Kenyon's suggestion that "in many cases the quotations have been assimilated in later MSS to the Traditional Text" gives the essence of a contention widely used today to parry the thrusts of the mounting evidence in favor of an early "Byzantine" text. To this we must presently return.

Kenyon proceeded:

The real fallacy in his statistics is different, and is revealed in the detailed examination of the thirty select passages. From these it is clear that he wholly misunderstood Hort's contention. The thirty "traditional" readings, which he shows to be so overwhelmingly vindicated by the Fathers, are not what Hort would call pure "Syrian" readings at all. In nearly every case they have Western or Neutral attestation in addition to that of the later authorities.[108]

He then referred briefly to specific instances in Matt. 17:21, Matt. 18:11, Matt. 19:16, Matt. 23:38, Mark 16:9-20, Luke 24:40, and John 21:25 and continued:

In short, Mr. Miller evidently reckoned on his side every reading which occurs in the Traditional Text, regardless of whether, on Hort's principles, they are old readings which kept their place in the Syrian revision, or secondary readings which were then introduced for the first time. According to Hort, the Traditional Text is the result of a revision in which old elements were incorporated; and Mr. Miller merely points to some of these old elements, and argues therefrom that the whole is old. It is clear that by such argumentation Hort's theory is untouched.[109]

It is hard to believe that Kenyon was precisely fair here. He had obviously read Miller's work with care. Why did he not say anything about "to repentance" in Matt. 9:13 and Mark 2:17,[110] or "vinegar" in Matt. 27:34,[111] or "from the door" in Matt, 28:2,[112] or "the prophets" in Mark 1:2,[113] or "good will" in Luke 2:14,[114] or the Lord's prayer for His murderers in Luke 23:34,[115] or "an honeycomb" in Luke 24:42,[116] or "whom" in John 17:24?[117]

These instances are also among "the thirty." They would appear to be "strictly Syrian" readings, if there really is such a thing. Why did Kenyon ignore them? The cases Kenyon cited fell within the scope of Miller's inquiry because they are Traditional readings; whatever other attestation they may also have, and because the English Revisers of 1881 rejected them. (Please note that since Hort et al. rejected the non-Byzantine witnesses that agree with the Byzantine text, in those places, they must be viewed as having departed from the "norm" that he chose. If they assimilated to the Byzantine text they may not reasonably be adduced as evidence against that text.) Kenyon asserted that Miller's figures "cannot be accepted as representing in any way the true state of the case," but he has not shown us why. Kenyon said nothing about the alleged "secondary readings" that have early Patristic support.

Miller's figures represent precisely what he claimed that they represent "the true state of the case" is that the Traditional Text ("Byzantine") receives more support from the early Church Fathers than does the critical text (essentially W-H) used by the English Revisers. It should be noted that there are doubtless numerous so-called "Western" and "Alexandrian" readings[118] to be found in the early Fathers which are not included in Miller's figures because the Revisers rejected them. If they were all tabulated the "Byzantine" readings would perhaps lose the absolute majority of early patristic attestation but they would still be present and attested, from the very first, and that is the question just now in focus.

Pure "Syrian" readings

Kenyon's statement contains another problem. He referred to "pure 'Syrian' readings" and in effect denied to the "Syrian" text any reading that chances to have any "Western" or "Alexandrian" attestation (which attestation has been arbitrarily pigeon-holed according to the presuppositions of the theory). But just which are those late or "pure Syrian" elements?

E. F. Hills evidently conducted a search for them. He observes:

The second accusation commonly urged against the Byzantine text is that it contains so many late readings. A text with all these late readings, it is said, must be a late text. But it is remarkable how few actually were the Byzantine readings which Westcott and Hort designated as late. In his Notes on Select Readings Hort discussed about 240 instances of variation among the manuscripts of the Gospels, and in only about twenty of these instances was he willing to characterize the Byzantine reading as a late reading. Thus it would seem that even on Hort's own admission only about ten percent of the readings of the Byzantine text are late readings, and since Hort's day the number of these allegedly late Byzantine readings has been gradually dwindling.[119]

(And yet Hort wrote off the whole "Syrian" witness as late.)

It seems clear that the "Byzantine" text cannot win in a court presided over by a judge of Kenyon's bent. Whenever an early witness surfaces it is declared to be "Alexandrian" or "Western" or "Caesarean" and thereupon those "Syrian" readings which it contains cease to be "pure Syrian" and are no longer allowed as evidence. Such a procedure is evidently useful to defenders of Hort's theory, but is it right?

It is commonplace among the many who are determined to despise the "Byzantine" text to dodge the issue, as Kenyon did above. The postulates of Hort's theory are assumed to be true and the evidence is interpreted on the basis of these presuppositions. Apart from the imaginary nature of the "Alexandrian" and "Western" texts, as strictly definable entities, their priority to the "Byzantine" text is the very point to be proved and may not be assumed. Kirsopp Lake's statement is representative. Taking Origen, Irenaeus, and Chrysostom as representatives of the "Neutral," "Western," and "Byzantine" texts respectively, he asserted:

Though Chrysostom and Origen often unite in differing from Irenaeus, and Chrysostom and Irenaeus in differing from Origen, yet Chrysostom does not differ from them both at once. And this is almost demonstrative proof that his text, characteristically representative of the later Fathers, versions and MSS, is an eclectic one.[120]

Even if Lake's description of the phenomena were true (but remember what he himself said about scholars copying from each other, regarding Chrysostom), there is another perfectly adequate interpretation of such phenomena. In Hill's words,

There is surely a much more reasonable way of explaining why each non-Byzantine text (including Papyrus Bodmer II) contains Byzantine readings not found in other non-Byzantine texts. If we regard the Byzantine text as the original text, then it is perfectly natural that each non-Byzantine text should agree with the Byzantine text in places in which the other non-Byzantine texts have departed from it.[121]

Also, given the priority of the "Byzantine" text, the places where all the divergent texts happened to abandon the "Byzantine" at the same time would be few. To arbitrarily assign Fathers and manuscripts and versions to the "Alexandrian" and "Western" families and then to deny to the "Byzantine" text readings which one or more of these arbitrarily assigned witnesses happen also to support seems neither honest nor scholarly.

A biased expedient

Before closing this section, it remains to take up the expedient, alluded to earlier, whereby many seek to evade the ante-Nicene patristic evidence for the "Byzantine" text. Vincent Taylor states the expedient as baldly as anyone. "In judging between two alternative readings [of a given Father in a given place] the principle to be adopted is that the one which diverges from the later ecclesiastical text (the TR) is more likely to be original."[122]

This expedient is extended even to cases where there is no alternative. The allegation is that copyists altered the Fathers' wording to conform to the "Byzantine," which the copyists regarded as "correct."[123] It is obvious that the effect of such a proceeding is to place the "Byzantine" text at a disadvantage. An investigation based on this principle is "rigged" against the TR.[124]

Even if there appear to be certain instances where this has demonstrably happened, such instances do not justify a widespread generalization. The generalization is based on the pre-supposition that the "Byzantine" text is late—but this is the very point to be proved and may not be assumed.

If the "Byzantine" text is early there is no reason to suppose that a "Byzantine" reading in an early Father is due to a later copyist unless a clear demonstration to that effect is possible. Miller shows clearly that he was fully aware of this problem and alert to exclude any suspicious instances from his tabulation.

An objection may perhaps be made, that the texts of the books of the Fathers are sure to have been altered in order to coincide more accurately with the Received Text. This is true of the Ethica, or Moralia, of Basil, and of the Regulae brevius Tractatae, which seem to have been read constantly at meals, or were otherwise in continual use in Religious Houses. The monks of a later age would not be content to hear every day familiar passages of Holy Scripture couched in other terms than those to which they were accustomed and which they regarded as correct. This fact was perfectly evident upon examination, because these treatises were found to give evidence for the Textus Receptus in the proportion of about 6:1, whereas the other books of St. Basil yielded according to a ratio of about 8:3. [But might it possibly be the case that, precisely because of the "continual use in Religious Houses" (the more so if that use began early on), the 6:1 ratio reflects a pure/faithful transmission while "the other books" suffered some adulterations?]

For the same reason I have not included Marcion's edition of St. Luke's Gospel, or Tatian's Diatessaron, in the list of books and authors, because such representations of the Gospels having been in public use were sure to have been revised from time to time, in order to accord with the judgment of those who read or heard them. Our readers will observe that these were self-denying ordinances, because by the inclusion of the works mentioned the list on the Traditional side would have been greatly increased. Yet our foundations have been strengthened, and really the position of the Traditional Text rests so firmly upon what is undoubted, that it can afford to dispense with services which may be open to some suspicion. (Yet Marcion and Tatian may fairly be adduced as witnesses upon individual readings.) And the natural inference remains, that the difference between the witness of the Ethica and Regulae brevius Tractatae on the one hand, and that of the other works of Basil on the other, suggests that too much variation, and too much which is evidently characteristic variation, of readings meets us in the works of the several Fathers, for the existence of any doubt that in most cases we have the words, though perhaps not the spelling, as they issued originally from the author's pen. Variant readings of quotations occurring in different editions of the Fathers are found, according to my experience, much less frequently than might have been supposed. Where I saw a difference between MSS noted in the Benedictine or other editions or in copies from the Benedictine or other prints, of course I regarded the passage as doubtful and did not enter it. Acquaintance with this kind of testimony cannot but render its general trustworthiness the more evident.[125]

After this careful screening Miller still came up with 2,630 citations, from 76 Fathers or sources, ranging over a span of 300 years (100-400 A.D.), supporting readings of the "Byzantine" text as opposed to those of the critical text of the English Revisers (which received 1,753 citations). Will anyone seriously propose that all or most of those citations had been altered? What objective grounds are there for doing so?

Hills discusses the case of Origen as follows:

In the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John (that is, in the area covered by Papyrus Bodmer II) out of 52 instances in which the Byzantine text stands alone Origen agrees with the Byzantine text 20 times and disagrees with it 32 times. Thus the assertion of the critics that Origen knew nothing of the Byzantine text becomes difficult indeed to maintain. On the contrary, these statistics suggest that Origen was familiar with the Byzantine text and frequently adopted its readings in preference to those of the Western and Alexandrian texts.

Naturalistic critics, it is true, have made a determined effort to explain away the "distinctively" Byzantine readings which appear in the New Testament quotations of Origen (and other ante-Nicene Fathers). It is argued that these Byzantine readings are not really Origen's but represent alterations made by scribes who copied Origen's works. These scribes, it is maintained, revised the original quotations of Origen and made them conform to the Byzantine text. The evidence of Papyrus Bodmer II, however, indicates that this is not an adequate explanation of the facts. Certainly it seems a very unsatisfactory way to account for the phenomena which appear in the first fourteen chapters of John. In these chapters, 5 out of the 20 "distinctively" Byzantine readings which occur in Origen occur also in Papyrus Bodmer II. These 5 readings at least must have been Origen's readings, not those of scribes who copied Origen's works, and what is true of these 5 readings is probably true of the other 15, or at least of most of them.[126]

This demonstration makes it clear that the expedient deprecated above is in fact untenable.

The testimony of the early Fathers

To recapitulate, "Byzantine" readings are recognized (most notably) by the Didache, Diognetus, and Justin Martyr in the first half of the second century; by the Gospel of Peter, Athenagorus, Hegesippus, and Irenaeus (heavily) in the second half; by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Clementines, Hippolytus, and Origen (all heavily) in the first half of the third century; by Gregory of Thaumaturgus, Novatian, Cyprian (heavily), Dionysius of Alexandria, and Archelaus in the second half; by Eusebius, Athanasius, Macarius Magnus, Hilary, Didymus, Basil, Titus of Bostra, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, Apostolic Canons and Constitutions, Epiphanius, and Ambrose (all heavily) in the fourth century. To which may be added the testimony of the early Papyri.

The testimony of the early Papyri

In Hort's day and even in Miller's the early Papyri were not extant—had they been the W-H theory could scarcely have appeared in the form that it did. Each of the early Papyri (300 A.D. or earlier) vindicates some "Byzantine" readings. G. Zuntz did a thorough study of P46 and concluded:

To sum up. A number of Byzantine readings, most of them genuine, which previously were discarded as 'late', are anticipated by P46. . . . How then—so one is tempted to go on asking—where no Chester Beatty papyrus happens to vouch for the early existence of a Byzantine reading? Are all Byzantine readings ancient? In the cognate case of the Homeric tradition G. Pasquali answers the same question in the affirmative.[127]

Colwell takes note of Zuntz's statement and concurs.[128] He had said of the "Byzantine New Testament" some years previous, "Most of its readings existed in the second century."[129]

Hills claims that the Beatty papyri vindicate 26 "Byzantine" readings in the Gospels, 8 in Acts and 31 in Paul's epistles.[130] He says concerning P66:

To be precise, Papyrus Bodmer II contains thirteen percent of all the alleged late readings of the Byzantine text in the area which it covers (18 out of 138). Thirteen percent of the Byzantine readings which most critics have regarded as late have now been proved by Papyrus Bodmer II to be early readings.[131]

Colwell's statement on P66 has already been given.

Many other studies are available, but that of H. A. Sturz sums it up.[132] He surveyed "all the available papyri" to discover how many papyrus-supported "Byzantine" readings exist. In trying to decide which were "distinctively Byzantine" readings he made a conscious effort to "err on the conservative side" so that the list is shorter than it might be (p. 144).

He found, and lists the evidence for, more than 150 "distinctively Byzantine" readings that have early (before 300 A.D.) papyrus support (pp. 145-59). He found 170 "Byzantine-Western" readings with early papyrus support (pp. 160-74). He found 170 "Byzantine-Alexandrian" readings with early papyrus support (pp.175-87). He gives evidence for 175 further "Byzantine" readings but which have scattered "Western" or "Alexandrian" support, with early papyrus support.[133] He refers to still another 195 readings where the "Byzantine" reading has papyrus support, but he doesn't bother to list them (apparently he considered these variants to be of lesser consequence).[134]

The magnitude of this vindication can be more fully appreciated by recalling that only about 30 percent of the New Testament has early papyrus attestation, and much of that 30 percent has only one papyrus. Where more than one covers a stretch of text, each new MS discovered vindicates added Byzantine readings. Extrapolating from the behavior of those in hand, if we had at least 3 papyri covering all parts of the New Testament, almost all the 6000+ Byzantine readings rejected by the critical (eclectic) texts would be vindicated by an early papyrus.

It appears that Hort's statement or treatment of external evidence has no basis in fact. What about his statement of internal evidence?

Internal Evidence of Readings

We have already noted something of the use Hort made of internal evidence, but he himself recognized its weaknesses. He said: "In dealing with this kind of evidence [Intrinsic Evidence of Readings] equally competent critics often arrive at contradictory conclusions as to the same variations."[135]

And again, four pages later: "Not only are mental impulses unsatisfactory subjects for estimates of comparative force; but a plurality of impulses recognized by ourselves as possible in any given case by no means implies a plurality of impulses as having been actually in operation."[136]

Exactly! No twentieth century person confronting a set of variant readings can know or prove what actually took place to produce the variants.

Again Hort's preaching is better than his practice:

The summary decisions inspired by an unhesitating instinct as to what an author must needs have written, or dictated by the supposed authority of "canons of criticism" as to what transcribers must needs have introduced, are in reality in a large proportion of cases attempts to dispense with the solution of problems that depend on genealogical data.[137]

If we but change the words "genealogical data" to "external evidence" we may agree with him. Unfortunately, however, the fine sentiments quoted above were but a smoke screen. As Fee says:

The internal evidence of readings was also the predominant factor in the choice of his "Neutral" text over the "Western" and "Alexandrian" texts . . . and his choice of B. . . .

The point is that Hort did not come to his conclusion about the Byzantines and B by the genealogical method, . . .[138]

The precarious and unsatisfactory nature of internal evidence has already received some attention in the discussion of eclecticism. Colwell says specifically of the use of intrinsic and transcriptional probability: "Unfortunately these two criteria frequently clash in a head-on collision, because ancient scribes as well as modern editors often preferred the reading which best fits the context."[139] "If we choose the reading that best explains the origin of the other reading, we are usually choosing the reading that does not fit the context. The two criteria cancel each other out."[140] And that leaves the scholar "free to choose in terms of his own prejudgments."[141]

Burgon said of internal considerations: "Often they are the product of personal bias, or limited observation: and where one scholar approves, another dogmatically condemns. Circumstantial evidence is deservedly rated low in the courts of justice: and lawyers always produce witnesses when they can."[142]

We venture to declare that inasmuch as one expert's notions of what is 'transcriptionally probable' prove to be the diametrical reverse of another expert's notions, the supposed evidence to be derived from this source may, with advantage, be neglected altogether. Let the study of Documentary Evidence be allowed to take its place. Notions of 'Probability' are the very pest of those departments of Science which admit of an appeal to Fact.[143]

He also called attention to a danger involved in the use of a system of strict canons. "People are ordinarily so constituted, that when they have once constructed a system of Canons they place no limits to their operation, and become slaves to them."[144] (Gordon Fee's use of ardua lectio potior seems to me to be a case in point.)[145]

The shorter reading

Perhaps the canon most widely used against the "Byzantine" text is brevior lectio potior—the shorter reading is to be preferred. As Hort stated the alleged basis for the canon, "In the New Testament, as in almost all prose writings which have been much copied, corruptions by interpolation are many times more numerous than corruptions by omission."[146] Accordingly it has been customary since Hort to tax the Received Text as being full and interpolated and to regard B and Aleph as prime examples of non-interpolated texts.[147]

But is it really true that interpolations are "many times more numerous" than omissions in the transmission of the New Testament? B.H. Streeter thought not.

Hort speaks of "the almost universal tendency of transcribers to make their text as full as possible, and to eschew omissions"; and infers that copyists would tend to prefer an interpolated to an uninterpolated text. This may be true of some of the local texts of the second century; it is the very opposite of the truth where scribes or editors trained in the tradition of Alexandrian textual criticism are concerned. The Alexandrian editors of Homer were as eagle-eyed to detect and obelise "interpolations" in Homer as a modern critic. . . .

That Christian scholars and scribes were capable of the same critical attitude we have irrefragable evidence. . . . The notion is completely refuted that the regular tendency of scribes was to choose the longer reading, and that therefore the modern editor is quite safe so long as he steadily rejects. . . .

Now, whoever was responsible for it, the B text has been edited on the Alexandrian principle.[148]

The whole question of interpolations in ancient MSS has been set in an entirely new light by the researches of Mr. A. C. Clark, Corpus Professor of Latin at Oxford. . . . In The Descent of Manuscripts, an investigation of the manuscript tradition of the Greek and Latin Classics, he proves conclusively that the error to which scribes were most prone was not interpolation but accidental omission. . . . Hitherto the maxim brevior lectio potior . . . has been assumed as a postulate of scientific criticism. Clark has shown that, so far as classical texts are concerned, the facts point entirely the other way.[149]

Burgon had objected long before.

How indeed can it possibly be more true to the infirmities of copyists, to the verdict of evidence on the several passages and to the origin of the New Testament in the infancy of the Church and amidst associations which were not literary, to suppose that a terse production was first produced and afterwards was amplified in a later age with a view to 'lucidity and completeness,' rather than that words and clauses and sentences were omitted upon definitely understood principles in a small class of documents by careless or ignorant or prejudiced scribes.[150]

Leo Vaganay also had reservations concerning this canon.

As a rule the copyist, especially when at the work of revision, is inclined to amplify the text. . . . But the rule suffers many exceptions. . . . Distraction of the copyist, . . . intentional corrections. . . . And finally, . . . the fundamental tendency of some recension, of which a good example is the Egyptian recension. . . . And also we must not forget that the writers of the New Testament were Orientals, who are more given to length than to brevity.[151]

Kilpatrick actually suggests that a substitute canon, "the longer reading is preferable," would be no worse. He concludes:

On reflection we do not seem able to find any reason for thinking that the maxim lectio brevior potior really holds good. We can only hope that a fuller acquaintance with the problems concerned will enable us increasingly to discern reasons in each instance why the longer or the shorter reading seems more probable.[152]

Colwell has published a most significant study of scribal habits as illustrated by the three early papyri P45, P66, and P75. It demonstrates that broad generalizations about scribal habits should never have been made and it follows that ideas about variant readings and text-types based on such generalizations should be reconsidered. It will be well to quote Colwell at some length.

The characterization of these singular readings can go on further until the individual scribes have been characterized. Their peculiar readings are due to their peculiarities. This has been well said by Dain. He reminds us that although all scribes make mistakes and mistakes of the same kind, yet each scribe has a personal coefficient of the frequency of his mistakes. Each has his own pattern of errors. One scribe is liable to dittography, another to the omission of lines of text; one reads well, another remembers poorly; one is a good speller; etc., etc. In these differences must be included the seriousness of intention of the scribe and the peculiarities of his own basic method of copying.[153]

In general, P75 copies letters one by one; P66 copies syllables, usually two letters in length. P45 copies phrases and clauses.

The accuracy of these assertions can be demonstrated. That P75 copied letters one by one is shown in the pattern of the errors. He has more than sixty readings that involve a single letter, and not more than ten careless readings that involve a syllable. But P66 drops sixty-one syllables (twenty-three of them in "leaps") and omits as well a dozen articles and thirty short words. In P45 there is not one omission of a syllable in a "leap" nor is there any list of "careless" omissions of syllables. P45 omits words and phrases.[154]

As an editor the scribe of P45 wielded a sharp axe. The most striking aspect of his style is its conciseness. The dispensable word is dispensed with. He omits adverbs, adjectives, nouns, participles, verbs, personal pronouns—without any compensating habit of addition. He frequently omits phrases and clauses. He prefers the simple to the compound word. In short, he favors brevity. He shortens the text in at least fifty places in singular readings alone. But he does not drop syllables or letters. His shortened text is readable.[155]

Enough of these have been cited to make the point that P66 editorializes as he does everything else—in a sloppy fashion. He is not guided in his changes by some clearly defined goal which is always kept in view. If he has an inclination toward omission, it is not "according to knowledge," but is whimsical and careless, often leading to nothing but nonsense.[156]

P66 has 54 leaps forward, and 22 backward; 18 of the forward leaps are haplography.

P75 has 27 leaps forward, and 10 backward.

P45 has 16 leaps forward, and 2 backward.

From this it is clear that the scribe looking for his lost place looked ahead three times as often as he looked back. In other words, the loss of position usually resulted in a loss of text, an omission.[157]

The tables have been turned. Here is a clear statistical demonstration that interpolations are not "many times more numerous" than omissions. Omission is more common as an unintentional error than addition, and P45 shows that with some scribes omissions were deliberate and extensive. Is it mere coincidence that Aleph and B were probably made in the same area as P45 and exhibit similar characteristics? In any case, the "fullness" of the Traditional Text, rather than a proof of inferiority, emerges as a point in its favor.

The harder reading

Another canon used against the "Byzantine" text is proclivi lectioni praestat ardua—the harder reading is to be preferred. The basis for this is an alleged propensity of scribes or copyists to simplify or change the text when they found a supposed difficulty or something they didn't understand. But where is the statistical demonstration that warrants such a generalization? Probably, as in the case of the canon just discussed, when such a demonstration is forthcoming it will prove the opposite.

Vaganay said of this canon:

But the more difficult reading is not always the more probably authentic. The rule does not apply, for instance, in the case of some accidental errors. . . . But, what is worse, we sometimes find difficult or intricate readings that are the outcome of intentional corrections. A copyist, through misunderstanding some passage, or through not taking the context into account, may in all sincerity make something obscure that he means to make plain.[158]

Have we not all heard preachers do this very thing?

Metzger notes Jerome's complaint: "Jerome complained of the copyists who 'write down not what they find but what they think is the meaning: and while they attempt to rectify the errors of others, they merely expose their own.'"[159] (Just so, producing what would appear to us to be "harder readings" but which readings are spurious.)

After recounting an incident at an assembly of Cypriot bishops in 350 A.D. Metzger concludes:

Despite the vigilance of ecclesiastics of Bishop Spyridon's temperament, it is apparent from even a casual examination of a critical apparatus that scribes, offended by real or imagined errors of spelling, grammar, and historical fact, deliberately introduced changes into what they were transcribing.[160]

Would not many of these changes appear to us to be "harder readings"?

In any case, the amply documented fact that numerous people in the second century made deliberate changes in the text, whether for doctrinal or other reasons, introduces an unpredictable variable which invalidates this canon. Once a person arrogates to himself the authority to alter the text there is nothing in principle to keep individual caprice from intruding or taking over—we have no way of knowing what factors influenced the originator of a variant (whoever he was) or whether the result would appear to us to be "harder" or "easier." This canon is simply inapplicable.[161]

Another problem with this canon is its vulnerability to the manipulation of a skillful and determined imagination. With sufficient ingenuity, virtually any reading can be made to look "convincing." Hort is a prime example of this sort of imagination and ingenuity. Zuntz has stated:

Dr. Hort's dealing with this and the other patristic evidence for this passage [1 Cor.13:3] requires a word of comment. No one could feel greater respect, nay reverence, for him than the present writer; but his treatment of this variant, in making every piece of the evidence say the opposite of its true meaning, shows to what distortions even a great scholar may be driven by the urge to square the facts with an erroneous, or at least imperfect theory. Souter, Plummer, and many others show the aftereffect of Dr. Hort's tenacity.[162]

Salmon has noted the same thing: "That which gained Hort so many adherents had some adverse influence with myself—I mean his extreme cleverness as an advocate; for I have felt as if there were no reading so improbable that he could not give good reasons for thinking it to be the only genuine."[163]

Samuel Hemphill wrote of Hort's role in the New Testament Committee that produced the Revised Version of 1881:

Nor is it difficult to understand that many of their less resolute and decided colleagues must often have been completely carried off their feet by the persuasiveness and resourcefulness, and zeal of Hort, . . . In fact, it can hardly be doubted that Hort's was the strongest will of the whole Company, and his adroitness in debate was only equaled by his pertinacity.[164]

(It would appear that the composition of the Greek text used by the English Revisers—and consequently for the RSV, NASB, etc.—was determined in large measure by Hort's cleverness and pertinacity, inspired by his devotion to a single Greek manuscript.)

Hort's performance shows the reasonableness of Colwell's warning against "the distortion of judgment which so easily manipulates the criteria of internal evidence."[165]


It is widely asserted that the "Byzantine" text is characterized by harmonizations, e.g. Metzger: "The framers of this text sought . . . to harmonize divergent parallel passages."[167] By the choice of this terminology it is assumed that the diverse readings found in the minority of MSS are original and that copyists felt impelled to make parallel accounts agree. Perhaps it is time to ask whether it ever has been or can be proved that such an interpretation is correct. Jakob Van Bruggen says of Metzger's statement, "this judgment has not been proven, and can not be proven."[168]

1) Van Bruggen

Because Van Bruggen's valuable work may not be available to many readers, I will quote from his treatment of the subject in hand at some length. His reaction to Metzger's statement continues:

Often illustrative examples are given to support this negative characterization of the Byzantine text. But it would not be difficult to "prove", with the aid of specially chosen examples from other text-types, that those types are also guilty of harmonizing, conflating readings and smoothing the diction.[169]

Kilpatrick, using strictly internal evidence, concludes that, "though the Syrian text has its share of harmonizations, other texts including the Egyptian have suffered in this way. We cannot condemn the Syrian text for harmonization. If we do, we must condemn the other texts too on the same grounds."[170]

Van Bruggen continues:

Here illustrations do not prove anything. After all, one could without much difficulty give a large number of examples from the Byzantine text to support the proposition that this text does not harmonize and does not smooth away. In commentaries the exegete is often satisfied with the incidental example without comparing it to the textual data as a whole. Yet a proposition about the Byzantine type should not be based on illustrations, but on arguments from the text as a whole. Whoever wishes to find such arguments will meet a number of methodical problems and obstacles which obstruct the way to the proof. Here we can mention the following points:

1. Methodically we must first ask how a "type" is determined. This can not be done on the basis of selected readings, because then the selection will soon be determined by what one is trying to prove. You can only speak of a text-type if the characteristics which must distinguish the type are not incidental but are found all along, and if they do not appear in other types from which the type must be distinguished. The criteria must be distinctive and general. As far as this is concerned, suspicion is roused when Hort remarks that the harmonizing and assimilating interpolations in the Byzantine text are "fortunately capricious and incomplete" (Introduction, p. 135). Did Hort then indeed generalize and make characteristics of some readings into characteristics of the text-type? This suspicion becomes certainty when Metzger in his Textual Commentary has to observe more than once that non-Byzantine readings, for example, in the Codex Vaticanus, can be explained from the tendencies of scribes to assimilate and to simplify the text.[171]

In a footnote, Van Bruggen cites Metzger's discussion of Matthew 19:3 and 19:9, John 6:14, James 2:3, 4:14, 5:16, and 5:20, where harmonization and other smoothing efforts are ascribed to Codex B and its fellow-travelers. His discussion proceeds:

What is typical for the Byzantine text is apparently not so exclusive for this text-type! But if certain phenomena seem to appear in all types of text, then it is not right to condemn a type categorically and regard it as secondary on the ground of such phenomena.

2. Moreover, it is methodically difficult to speak of harmonizing and assimilating deviations in a text, when the original is not known. Or is it an axiom that the original text in any case was so inharmonious, that every harmonious reading is directly suspect? Hort lets us sense that he personally does not prefer a New Testament "more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation than for repeated and diligent study" (Introduction, p. 153). Yet who, without the original at his disposal, can prove that this original had those characteristics which a philologist and a textual critic considers to be most recommendable?[172]

P. Walters comments upon Hort's sense of style as follows:

Hort's sense of style, his idea of what was correct and preferable in every alternative, was acquired from a close acquaintance with his "neutral" text. It did not occur to him that most of its formal aspects tallied with his standards just because these were taken from his model. So far his decisions are in the nature of a vicious circle: We today who live outside this magic circle, which kept a generation spellbound, are able to see through Hort's illusion.[173]

Van Bruggen continues:

4. If editors of the Byzantine text would have been out to harmonize the text and to fit parallel passages of the Gospels into each other, then we must observe that they let nearly all their opportunities go by. . . . In addition, what seems to be harmonization is in a different direction often no harmonization. A reading may seem adjusted to the parallel passage in an other Gospel, but then often deviates again from the reading in the third Gospel. A reading may seem borrowed from the parallel story, yet at the same time fall out of tune in the context of the Gospel itself. Here the examples are innumerable as long as one does not limit himself to a few texts and pays attention to the context and the Gospels as a whole.[174]

With reference to giving due attention to the context, Van Bruggen reports on a study wherein he compared the TR with Nestle25 in fourteen extended passages to see if either one could be characterized as harmonizing or assimilating.

The comparison of the edition Stephanus (1550) with Nestle-Aland (25th edition) led to the result that the dilemma "harmonizing/not harmonizing" is unsuited to distinguish both of these text-editions. We examined Matthew 5:1-12; 6:9-13; 13:1-20; 19:1-12; Mark 2:18-3:6; Luke 9:52-62; 24:1-12; John 6:22-71; Acts 18:18-19:7; 22:6-21; 1 Corinthians 7; James 3:1-10; 5:10-20; Revelation 5. In the comparative examination not only the context, but also all the parallel passages were taken into account. Since the Stephanus-text is closely related to the Byzantine text and the edition Nestle-Aland is clearly non-Byzantine, the result of this investigation may also apply to the relation between the Byzantine text and other text-types: the dilemma "harmonizing/not harmonizing" or "assimilating/not assimilating" is unsound to distinguish types in the textual tradition of the New Testament.[175]

One is reminded of Burgon's observation that decisions based on internal considerations are often "the product of personal bias, or limited observation."[176] In this connection it will be well to consider some examples.

2) Examples

Mark 1:2—shall we read "in Isaiah the prophet" with the "Alexandrian-Western" texts or "in the prophets" with the "Byzantine" text? All critical editions follow the first reading and Fee affirms that it is "a clear example of 'the most difficult reading being preferred as the original.'"[177] I would say that Fee's superficial discussion is a "clear example" of personal bias (toward the "harder reading" canon) and of limited observation. The only other places that Isaiah 40:3 is quoted in the New Testament are Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4, and John 1:23. The first two are in passages parallel to Mark 1:2 and all three are identical to the LXX. The quote in John differs from the LXX in one word and is also used in connection with John the Baptist. The crucial consideration, for our present purpose, is that Matthew, Luke, and John all identify the quote as being from Isaiah (without MS variation). It seems clear that the "Alexandrian-Western" reading in Mark 1:2 is simply an assimilation to the other three Gospels. It should also be noted that the material from Malachi looks more like an allusion than a direct quote. Further, although Malachi is quoted (or alluded to) a number of times in the New Testament, he is never named. Mark's own habits may also be germane to this discussion. Mark quotes Isaiah in 4:12, 11:17, and 12:32 and alludes to him in about ten other places, all without naming his source. The one time he does use Isaiah's name is when quoting Jesus in 7:6.[178] It is the "Byzantine" text that has escaped harmonization and preserves the original reading.

All critical editions follow the first reading in Mark 10:47 and interpret the "Byzantine" reading as an assimilation to Luke 18:37 (where they reject the reading of D). It should be observed, however, that everywhere else that Mark uses the word the -arhn- form occurs. Is it not just as possible that Codex B and company have assimilated to the prevailing Markan form?[179]

All critical editions follow the first reading in Mark 9:31 and 10:34 and interpret the "Byzantine" reading as an assimilation to Matthew, in both cases. But why, then, did the "Byzantines" not also assimilate in Mark 8:31 where there was the pressure of both Matthew and Luke? Is it not more likely that the "Alexandrians" made Mark consistent (note that Matthew is consistent) by assimilating the latter two instances to the first one? Note that in this example and the preceding one it is Codex D that engages in the most flagrant assimilating activity.[180]

Mark 13:14—shall we read "spoken of through Daniel the prophet" with the "Byzantine" text or follow the "Alexandrian-Western" text wherein this phrase is missing? All critical editions take the second option and Fee assures us that the "Byzantine" text has assimilated to Matthew 24:15 where all witnesses have the phrase in question.[181] But let us consider the actual evidence:

Matt 24:15 -- to rhqen dia Danihl tou profhtou

Mark 13:14 -- to rhqen upo Danihl tou profhtou

If the "Byzantines" were intent on copying from Matthew, why did they alter the wording? If their purpose was to harmonize, why did they disharmonize, to use Fee's expression? Furthermore, if we compare the full pericope in both Gospels, Matthew 24:15-22 and Mark 13:14-20, using the "Byzantine" text, although the two accounts are of virtually equal length, fully one third of the words are different between them. The claim that the "Byzantines" were given to harmonizing becomes silly. Still further, there appear to be three clear assimilations to Mark on the part of the "Alexandrian-Western" witnesses, and one to Matthew—epi to eiV in Matthew 24:15, katabainetw to katabatw in Matthew 24:17, ta imatia to to imation in Matthew 24:18, and the omission of wn in Mark 13:16—plus three other "Western" assimilations—ta to ti in Matthew 24:17, kai to oud in Mark 13:19, and de added to Matthew 24:17. But, returning to the first variant, why would the "Alexandrians" have omitted the phrase in question? A comparison of the LXX of Daniel with the immediate context suggests an answer. Mark's phrase, "where he ought not," is not to be found in Daniel. That some people felt Mark's integrity needed protecting is clear from the remedial actions attempted by a few Greek and version MSS. The Alexandrian omission may well be such an attempt.[182]

To conclude, it is demonstrable that all "text-types" have many possible harmonizations. It has not been demonstrated that the "Byzantine" text has more possible or actual harmonizations than the others. It follows that "harmonization" may not reasonably or responsibly be used to argue for an inferior "Byzantine" text type.


Hort did not offer a statistical demonstration in support of his characterization of the "Byzantine" text.[183] Metzger refers to von Soden as supplying adequate evidence for the characterization. Upon inspection of the designated pages,[184] we discover there is no listing of manuscript evidence and no discussion. His limited lists of references purportedly illustrating addition or omission or assimilation, etc., may be viewed differently by a different mind. In fact, Kilpatrick has argued for the originality of a considerable number of Byzantine readings of the sort von Soden listed.[185]

The length of the lists, in any case, is scarcely prepossessing. No one has done for the "Byzantine" text anything even remotely approximating what Hoskier did for Codex B, filling 450 pages with a careful discussion, one by one, of many of its errors and idiosyncrasies.[186] As we have already noted, Hort declared the Textus Receptus to be "villainous" and "vile" when he was only twenty-three years old—before he had studied the evidence, before he had worked through the text to evaluate variant readings one by one. Do you suppose he brought an open mind to that study and evaluation?

Elliott and Kilpatrick profess to do their evaluating with an open mind, with no predilections as to text-types, yet inescapably use the ambiguous canons of internal evidence. What do they conclude? Elliott decided the "Byzantine" text was right about as often as Aleph and D, the chief representatives of the "Alexandrian" and "Western" texts (in the Pastorals).[187] Kilpatrick affirms:

Our principal conclusion is that the Syrian text is frequently right. It has avoided at many points mistakes and deliberate changes found in other witnesses. This means that at each variation we must look at the readings of the Byzantine manuscripts with the possibility in mind that they may be right. We cannot dismiss their characteristic variants as being in principle secondary.[188]

The basic deficiency, both fundamental and serious, of any characterization based upon subjective criteria is that the result is only opinion; it is not objectively verifiable. Is there no better way to identify the original wording of the New Testament? I believe there is, but first there is one more tenet of Hort's theory to scrutinize.

The "Lucianic Recension" and the Peshitta

Burgon gave the sufficient answer to this invention.

Apart however from the gross intrinsic improbability of the supposed Recension,—the utter absence of one particle of evidence, traditional or otherwise, that it ever did take place, must be held to be fatal to the hypothesis that it did. It is simply incredible that an incident of such magnitude and interest would leave no trace of itself in history.[189]

It will not do for someone to say that the argument from silence proves nothing. In a matter of this "magnitude and interest" it is conclusive. Kenyon, also, found this part of Hort's theory to be gratuitous.

The absence of evidence points the other way; for it would be very strange, if Lucian had really edited both Testaments, that only his work on the Old Testament should be mentioned in after times. The same argument tells against any theory of a deliberate revision at any definite moment. We know the names of several revisers of the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and it would be strange if historians and Church writers had all omitted to record or mention such an event as the deliberate revision of the New Testament in its original Greek.[190]

Colwell is blunt: "The Greek Vulgate—the Byzantine or Alpha text-type—had in its origin no such single focus as the Latin had in Jerome."[191] F.C. Grant is prepared to look into the second century for the origin of the "Byzantine" text-type.[192] Jacob Geerlings, who has done extensive work on certain branches of the "Byzantine" text-type, affirms concerning it: "Its origins as well as those of other so-called text-types probably go back to the autographs."[193]

In an effort to save Hort's conclusions, seemingly, Kenyon sought to attribute the "Byzantine" text to a "tendency."

It seems probable, therefore, that the Syrian revision was rather the result of a tendency spread over a considerable period of time than of a definite and authoritative revision or revisions, such as produced our English Authorised and Revised Versions. We have only to suppose the principle to be established in Christian circles in and about Antioch that in the case of divergent readings being found in the texts copied, it was better to combine both than to omit either, and that obscurities and roughnesses of diction should be smoothed away as much as possible.[194]

But what if we choose not "to suppose" anything, but rather to insist upon evidence? We have already seen from Hutton's Atlas that for every instance that the "Syrian" text possibly combines divergent readings there are a hundred where it does not. What sort of a "tendency" is that? To insist that a variety of scribes separated by time and space and working independently, but all feeling a responsibility to apply their critical faculties to the text, should produce a uniformity of text such as is exhibited within the "Byzantine" text seems to be asking a bit much, both of them and of us. Hodges agrees.

It will be noted in this discussion that in place of the former idea of a specific revision as the source-point for the Majority text, some critics now wish to posit the idea of a "process" drawn out over a long period of time. It may be confidently predicted, however, that this explanation of the Majority text must likewise eventually collapse. The Majority text, it must be remembered, is relatively uniform in its general character with comparatively low amounts of variation between its major representatives. No one has yet explained how a long, slow process spread out over many centuries as well as over a wide geographical area, and involving a multitude of copyists, who often knew nothing of the state of the text outside of their own monasteries or scriptoria, could achieve this widespread uniformity out of the diversity presented by the earlier forms of text. Even an official edition of the New Testament—promoted with ecclesiastical sanction throughout the known world—would have had great difficulty achieving this result as the history of Jerome's Vulgate amply demonstrates. But an unguided process achieving relative stability and uniformity in the diversified textual, historical, and cultural circumstances in which the New Testament was copied, imposes impossible strains on our imagination.[195]

An ordinary process of textual transmission results in divergence, not convergence. Uniformity of text is usually greatest near the source and diminishes in transmission.

The accumulating evidence seems not to bother Metzger. He still affirmed in 1968 that the "Byzantine" text is based on a recension prepared by Lucian.[196] There is an added problem with that view.

Lucian was an Arian, a vocal one. Does Metzger seriously invite us to believe that the victorious Athanasians embraced an Arian revision of the Greek New Testament?

As to the Syriac Peshitta, again Burgon protested the complete lack of evidence for Hort's assertions.[197] A. Vööbus says of Burkitt's effort:

Burkitt has tried to picture the lifespan of Bishop Rabbula as a decisive period in the development of the New Testament text in the Syrian church.

Regardless of the general acceptance of the axiom, established by him, that "the authority of Rabbula secured an instant success for the new revised version . . ." and that "copies of the Peshitta were rapidly multiplied, it soon became the only text in ecclesiastical use"—this kind of reconstruction of textual history is pure fiction without a shred of evidence to support it.[198]

Vööbus finds that Rabbula himself used the Old Syriac type of text. His researches show clearly that the Peshitta goes back at least to the mid-fourth century and that it was not the result of an authoritative revision.[199]

Here again there is an added historical difficulty.

The Peshitta is regarded as authoritative Scripture by both the Nestorians and the Monophysites. It is hard to see how this could have come to pass on the hypothesis that Rabbula was the author and chief promoter of the Peshitta. For Rabbula was a decided Monophysite and a determined opponent of the Nestorians. It is almost contrary to reason, therefore, to suppose that the Nestorian Christians would adopt so quickly and so unanimously the handiwork of their greatest adversary.[200]

It is hard to understand how men like F.F. Bruce, E.C. Colwell, F.G. Kenyon, etc. could allow themselves to state dogmatically that Rabbula produced the Peshitta.


And that completes our review of the W-H critical theory. It is evidently erroneous at every point. Our conclusions concerning the theory of necessity apply also to any Greek text constructed on the basis of it, as well as to those versions based upon such texts (and to commentaries based upon them).

K.W. Clark says of the W-H text: "The textual history postulated for the textus receptus which we now trust has been exploded."[201] Epp confesses that "we simply do not have a theory of the text."[202] The point is that "the establishment of the NT text can be achieved only by a reconstruction of the history of that early text. . . ."[203] Colwell agrees: "Without a knowledge of the history of the text, the original reading cannot be established."[204]

In Aland's words, "Now as in the past, textual criticism without a history of the text is not possible."[205] Or as Hort himself put it, "ALL TRUSTWORTHY RESTORATION OF CORRUPTED TEXTS IS FOUNDED ON THE STUDY OF THEIR HISTORY."[206]

As already noted, one of the fundamental deficiencies of the eclectic method is that it ignores the history of the text. Hort did not ignore it, but what are we to say of his "clear and firm view"[207] of it? What Clark says is:

The textual history that the Westcott-Hort text represents is no longer tenable in the light of newer discoveries and fuller textual analysis. In the effort to construct a congruent history, our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break through.[208]

(The evidence before us indicates that Hort's history never was tenable.)

The crucial question remains-‑what sort of a history does the evidence reflect? The identity of the New Testament text, our recognition of it, hinges upon our answer!

[1]Metzger, The Text, p. 201. For actual examples from Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, and Eusebius, please see Sturz (pp. 116-19), who also has a good discussion of their significance. As he says, "While scribal blunders were recognized by them as one cause of variation, the strongest and most positive statements, by the Fathers, are in connection with the changes introduced by heretics" (p. 120). H.A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984).

[2]J.W. Burgon, The Revision Revised (London: John Murray, 1883), p. 323.

[3]Colwell, "The Origin of Textypes of New Testament Manuscripts." Early Christian Origins, ed. Allen Wikgren (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961), p. 130.

[4]J.W. Burgon, The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, arranged, completed and edited by Edward Miller (London: George Bell and Sons, 1896), pp. 211-12. Cf. Martin Rist, "Pseudepigraphy and the Early Christians," Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature, ed. D.E. Aune (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972), pp. 78-79.

[5]Colwell, What is the Best New Testament? (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. 53. Observe that Colwell flatly contradicts Hort. Hort said there were no theologically motivated variants; Colwell says they are in the majority. But, in the next quote, Colwell uses the term "deliberately," without referring to theology (both quotes come from the same work, five pages apart). What is Colwell's real meaning? We may no longer ask him personally, but I will hazard the following interpretation on my own.

The MSS contain several hundred thousand variant readings. The vast majority of these are misspellings or other obvious errors due to carelessness or ignorance on the part of the copyists. As a sheer guess I would say there are between ten thousand and fifteen thousand that cannot be so easily dismissed—i.e., a maximum of five percent of the variants are "significant". It is to this five percent that Colwell (and Kilpatrick, Scrivener, Zuntz, etc.) refers when he speaks of the "creation" of variant readings. A fair number of these are probably the result of accident also, but Colwell affirms, and I agree, that most of them were created deliberately.

But why would anyone bother to make deliberate changes in the text? Colwell answers, "because they were the religious treasure of the church." Some changes would be "well intentioned"—many harmonizations presumably came about because a zealous copyist felt that a supposed discrepancy was an embarrassment to his high view of Scripture. The same is probably true of many philological changes. For instance, the plain Koine style of the New Testament writings was ridiculed by the pagan Celsus, among others. Although Origen defended the simplicity of the New Testament style, the space that he gave to the question indicates that it was a matter of some concern (Against Celsus, Book VI, chapters 1 and 2), so much so that there were probably those who altered the text to "improve" the style. Again, their motive would be embarrassment, deriving from a high view of Scripture. Surely Colwell is justified in saying that the motivation for such variants was theological even though no obvious doctrinal axe is being ground.

To judge by the emphatic statements of the early Fathers, there were many other changes that were not "well intentioned." It seems clear that numerous variants existed in the second century that have not survived in any extant MS. Metzger refers to Gwilliam's detailed study of chapters 1-14 of Matthew in the Syriac Peshitta as reported in "The Place of the Peshitta Version in the Apparatus Criticus of the Greek N.T.," Studia Biblica et Ecclesiastica V, 1903, 187-237. From the fact that in thirty-one instances the Peshitta stands alone (in those chapters), Gwilliam concluded that its unknown author "revised an ancient work by Greek MSS which have no representative now extant (p. 237)" (The Early Versions of the New Testament, Oxford, 1977, p. 61). In a personal communication, Peter J. Johnston, a member of the IGNT editorial panel working specifically with the Syriac Versions and Fathers, says of the Harklean Version: "Readings confidently referred to in the Harklean margin as in 'well-approved MSS at Alexandria' have sometimes not come down to us at all, or if they have, they are found only in medieval minuscule MSS." In commenting upon the discrepancies between Jerome's statements of MS evidence and that extant today, Metzger concludes by saying, "the disquieting possibility remains that the evidence available to us today may, in certain cases, be totally unrepresentative of the distribution of readings in the early church" ("St. Jerome's explicit references to variant readings in manuscripts of the New Testament," Text and Interpretation: Studies in the New Testament presented to Matthew Black, edited by Best and McL. Wilson, Cambridge: University Press, 1979, p. 188).

Some of my critics seem to feel that the extant evidence from the early centuries is representative (cf. Fee, "A Critique," p. 405). However, there is good reason for believing that it is not, and in that event the extant MSS may preserve some random survivors from sets of alterations designed to grind one doctrinal axe or another. The motivation for such a reading in isolation would not necessarily be apparent to us today.

I would go beyond Colwell and say that the disposition to alter the text, even with "good motives," itself bespeaks a mentality which has theological implications.

(Those who are prepared to take the Sacred Text seriously would do well to ponder the implications of Ephesians 2:2, "the spirit [Satan] presently at work in the sons of disobedience," not only during the first 200 years of the Church but also during the last 200.)

[6]Colwell, What is the Best New Testament?, p. 58.

[7]M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 214.

[8]H.H. Oliver, "Present Trends in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament," The Journal of Bible and Religion, XXX (1962), 311-12. Cf. C.S.C. Williams, Alterations to the Text of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1951), pp. 14-17.

[9]The "inconvenience" referred to is virtually fatal to the W-H theory, at least as formulated in their "Introduction." The W-H theory is much like a multistoried building—each level depends on the one below it. Thus, Hort's simplistic notion of "genealogy" absolutely depends upon the allegation that there was no deliberate alteration of the Text, and his notion of "text-types" absolutely depends upon "genealogy," and his arguments concerning "conflation" and "Syrian" readings before Chrysostom absolutely depend upon those "text-types." The foundation for the whole edifice is Hort's position that the New Testament was an ordinary book that enjoyed an ordinary transmission. With its foundation removed, the edifice collapses.

Fee seems to miss the point when he says, "if the 'foundation' is found to be secure, then the superstructure may only need some reinforcing, not demolition" ("A Critique," p. 404). The removal of any of the intervening floors as well will 'destroy the building,' that is, invalidate Hort's conclusions. It seems to me that the first three floors of Hort's building, at least, are beyond restoration.

Fee claims that I confuse "deliberate" and "dogmatic" changes and in consequence my critique of Hort's foundation fails ("A Critique," pp. 404-8). In his own words, "The vast majority of textual corruptions, though deliberate, are not malicious, nor are they theologically motivated. And since they are not, Pickering's view of 'normal' transmission (which is the crucial matter in his theory) simply disintegrates" (p. 408).

Fee fastens upon my use of the term "malicious," which I use only in discussing the abnormal transmission. I nowhere say that a majority of variants are malicious. The clear testimony of the early Fathers indicates that some must be, and I continue to insist that Hort's theory cannot handle such variants. (Fee seriously distorts my position by ignoring my discussion of the abnormal transmission. It would appear that the distortion was deliberate since he cites my pp. 104-110 for the "normal" transmission, whereas pp. 107-110 contain my treatment of the abnormal transmission.) But what are the implications of Fee's admission that the vast majority of textual corruptions are "deliberate"? Setting aside the question of theological motivation, can the canons of internal evidence really handle "deliberate" variants?

In Appendix E van Bruggen shows that supposed harmonizations may reasonably have other explanations. Fee himself recognizes this possibility ("Modern Text Criticism and the Synoptic Problem," J.J. Griesbach: Synoptic and Text-Critical Studies 1776-1976, ed. B. Orchard and T.R.W. Longstaff, Cambridge: University Press, 1976, p. 162). On the next page Fee recognizes another problem.

It should candidly be admitted that our predilections toward a given solution of the Synoptic Problem will sometimes affect textual decisions. Integrity should cause us also to admit to a certain amount of inevitable circular reasoning at times. A classic example of this point is the well-known 'minor agreement' between Matt. 26:67-8 and Luke 22:64 (//Mark 14:65) of the 'addition' tiV estin o paisaV se. B.H. Streeter, G.D. Kilpatrick, and W.R. Farmer each resolve the textual problem of Mark in a different way. In each case, a given solution of the Synoptic Problem has affected the textual decision. At this point one could offer copious illustrations.

Fee's ("Rigorous") debate with Kilpatrick ("Atticism") demonstrates that possible philological changes are capable of contradictory interpretations on the part of scholars who both use internal evidence. In sum, I reiterate that the canons of internal evidence cannot give us dependable interpretations with reference to deliberate variants. Those who use such canons are awash in a sea of speculation.

[10]Further, if a genealogical reconstruction ends up with only two immediate descendants of the Original, as in Hort's own reconstruction, then the genealogical method ceases to be applicable, as Hort himself recognized. Westcott and Hort, p. 42.

[11]Colwell, What is the Best New Testament?, p. 49.

[12]Codex Claromontanus apparently has a "child" three centuries younger than it (also, minuscule 205 may have been copied from 208). Codices F and G containing Paul's Epistles appear to be almost twin brothers, and groups like family 1 and family 13 are clearly closely related. Also, in the Apocalypse Hoskier has identified a number of related groups, which include a few sets.

[13]Parvis, p. 611. Fee says much the same. "Properly speaking, genealogy must deal with the descent of manuscripts and must reconstruct stemmata for that descent. This Hort never did; rather he applied the method to text-types, and he did so not to find the original text, but to eliminate the Byzantine manuscripts from further consideration" ("Modern Text Criticism," pp. 155-56).

[14]Colwell, "Genealogical Method," pp. 111-12.

[15]Westcott and Hort, p. 63.


[17]Colwell, "Genealogical Method," p. 114. The sort of genealogical diagram that one always sees is like a family tree that shows only male parents. Because of mixture the diagrams should be like a family tree that shows both parents, at every level—the farther back you go the more hopelessly complicated it gets.

[18]Zuntz, p. 155.

[19]L. Vaganay, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, translated by B.V. Miller (London: Sands and Company, 1937), p. 71.

[20]Aland, "The Significance of the Papyri," p. 341.

[21]Colwell, "External Evidence," p. 4.

[22]Westcott and Hort, p. 287.

[23]Colwell, "Genealogical Method," p. 124.

[24]Colwell, "The Complex Character of the Late Byzantine Text of the Gospels," Journal of Biblical Literature, LIV (1935), 212-13.

[25]Colwell, "Genealogical Method," p. 109.

[26]Colwell, "Scribal Habits," pp. 370-71.

[27]Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 358. Burgon's own index of the Fathers is no doubt still the most extensive in existence—it contains 86,489 quotations.

[28]G. Salmon, Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London, 1897), p. 33.

[29]M.M. Parvis, "The Nature and Task of New Testament Textual Criticism," The Journal of Religion, XXXII (1952), 173.

[30]A. Wikgren, "Chicago Studies in the Greek Lectionary of the New Testament," Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey, ed. J.N. Birdsall and R.W. Thomson (New York: Herder, 1963), pp. 96-121.

[31]Colwell, "The Origin of Texttypes," p. 135.

[32]Zuntz, p. 240.

[33]Klijn, p. 36.

[34]Ibid., p. 66.

[35]Metzger, Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), p. 67.

[36]Klijn seems to be of this opinion (pp. 33-34). Not so D.A. Carson. He refers to my position here as "a basic flaw in Pickering's overarching argument" (The King James Version Debate, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, p. 108). After a confused discussion wherein he misrepresents my position (one of at least ten misrepresentations) Carson concludes by saying: "On the face of it, because one manuscript was copied from another or from several others, genealogical relationships must exist. The only question is whether or not we have identified such relationships, or can identify them" (p. 109). Exactly. Of course genealogical relationships must exist, or must have existed, but the whole question is "whether or not we have identified" them. I take it that Aland, Colwell, Klijn, Parvis, Vaganay, Wikgren, Zuntz, etc. are saying that such relationships have in fact not been identified. That is my point! And I insist that until such relationships are empirically demonstrated they may not legitimately be used in the practice of NT textual criticism. (Some of the above named scholars go on to affirm that we cannot identify such relationships, at least by direct genealogy—almost all the links are missing.)

The concepts of "text-type" and "recension", as used by Hort and his followers, are demonstrably erroneous. It follows that the conclusions based upon them are invalidated. But it remains true that community of reading implies a common origin, and agreement in error convicts the participants of dependence. Carson wishes to retain the term "text-type" to refer to "types of text as indexed by several remarkable extremes" (p. 109). That is fine with me, just so it is made clear to all that the term is not being used in the Hortian sense. For statements of evidence, however, I believe the editors of the UBS editions have set the correct example—no cover symbols for "text-types" are used except for "Byz", which refers to the Byzantine manuscript tradition.

[37]Cf. Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 380.

[38]H.C. Hoskier, A Full Account and Collation of the Greek Cursive Codex Evangelium 604 (London: David Nutt, 1890), Introduction, pp. cxv-cxvi.

[39]Kenyon, Handbook, p. 356. Whereas Hort used "d group" to refer to his "Syrian" text, Kenyon uses "d text" to refer to the "Western" text.

[40]Colwell, "The Greek New Testament with a Limited Critical Apparatus: its Nature and Uses," Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature, ed. D.E. Aune (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972), p. 33.

[41]Metzger, The Text, p. 141.

[42]Klijn, p. 64.

[43] K. and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp. 55, 64.

[44]Colwell, "The Significance of Grouping of New Testament Manuscripts," New Testament Studies, IV (1957-1958), 86-87. Cf. also Colwell, "Genealogical Method," pp. 119-123. Colwell follows Kenyon and uses "Beta text-type" to refer to today's "Alexandrian" text, whereas Hort used "b group" to refer to his "Western" text.

[45]H.C. Hoskier, Codex B and its Allies (2 vols.; London: Bernard Quaritch, 1914), II, 1.

[46]Zuntz, "The Byzantine Text in New Testament Criticism," The Journal of Theological Studies, XLIII (1942), 25.

[47]Clark, "The Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament," New Testament Manuscript Studies, ed. M.M. Parvis and A.P. Wikgren (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950), p. 12.

[48]K. Lake, R.P. Blake and Silva New, "The Caesarean Text of the Gospel of Mark," Harvard Theological Review, XXI (1928), 348-49. The more recent work of Frederick Wisse furnishes a strong objective demonstration of the diversity within the "Byzantine" textform. The Profile Method for Classifying and Evaluating Manuscript Evidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), is an application of the "Claremont Profile Method" to 1,386 MSS in Luke 1, 10 and 20. He isolated 15 major groupings of MSS (which sub-divide into at least 70 subgroups), plus 22 smaller groups, plus 89 "mavericks" (MSS so mixed that they neither fit into any of the above groupings nor form groupings among themselves). One of the 15 "major" groups is the "Egyptian" ("Alexandrian")—it is made up of precisely four (04) uncials and four (04) cursives, plus two more of each that were "Egyptian" in one of the three chapters. If I understand him correctly he considers that virtually all the remaining MSS fall into the broad "Byzantine" stream. In other words, when we talk of examining the "Byzantine" text there are at least 36 strands of transmission that need to be considered!

[49]John William Burgon was Dean of Chichester from 1876 until his death in 1888. His biographer declared him to be "the leading religious teacher of his time" in England (E.M. Goulburn, Life of Dean Burgon, 2 Vols.; London: John Murray, 1892, I, vii). Clark lists Burgon along with Tregelles and Scrivener as "great contemporaries" of Tischendorf, whom he calls "the colossus among textual critics" ("The Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament," p. 9). As a contemporary of Westcott and Hort, Burgon strenuously opposed their text and theory and is generally acknowledged to have been the leading voice in the "opposition" (cf. A.F. Hort, II, 239).

[50]J.W. Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established, arranged, completed, and edited by Edward Miller (London: George Bell and Sons, 1896), pp. 46-47.

[51]Kurt Aland, former Director of the Institut fur neutestamentliche Textforschung at Munster, was perhaps the leading textual critic in Europe until his death (1995). He was a co-editor of both the most popular editions of the Greek N.T.—Nestle and U.B.S. He was the one who cataloged each new MS that was discovered.

[52]Aland, "The Significance of the Papyri," pp. 334-37.

[53]Colwell, "Hort Redivivus," pp. 156-57.

[54]Epp, pp. 396-97.

[55]Ibid., p. 398.

[56]Ibid., p. 397.

[57]Ibid., pp. 394-96.


[59]Cf. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971), p. xviii.

[60]Klijn, pp. 45-48.

[61]Ibid. I have used Klijn's study with reference to the existence of texttypes, but his material also furnishes evidence for the antiquity of the "Byzantine" text. Summing up the evidence for the 51 instances Klijn discusses,

P45 agrees with Aleph 21 times, with B 25 times, with TR 33 times,

P66 agrees with Aleph 16 times, with B 32 times, with TR 38 times,

P75 agrees with Aleph 11 times, with B 36 times, with TR 33 times;

or to put it another way,

all three papyri agree with Aleph 4 times, with B 18 times, with TR 20 times,

any two of them agree with Aleph 8 times, with B 13 times, with TR 15 times,

just one of them agrees with Aleph 36 times, with B 62 times, with TR 69 times,

for a total of 48 times, 93 times, 104 times.

In other words, in the area covered by Klijn's study the TR has more early attestation than B and twice as much as Aleph—evidently the TR reflects an earlier text than either B or Aleph!

[62]G.D. Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II (P66): Its Textual Relationships and Scribal Characteristics (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1968), p. 56.

[63]Ibid., p. 14.

[64]J.N. Birdsall, The Bodmer Papyrus of the Gospel of John (London, 1960), p. 17.

[65]C.H. Turner, "Historical Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament," Journal of Theological Studies, Jan. 1910, p. 185.

[66]Metzger, The Text, p. 247; Epp, "Interlude," p. 397.

[67]Hoskier, Codex B, p. xi.

[68]Fee, Bodmer II, pp. 12-13.

[69]A hurried count using Nestle's (24th) critical apparatus (I assume that any agreement of À and B will infallibly be recorded) shows them agreeing 3,007 times, where there is variation. Of these roughly 1,100 are against the "Byzantine" text, with or without other attestation, while the rest are against a small minority of MSS (several hundreds being singular readings of Codex D, one of the papyri, etc.). It appears that B and Aleph do not meet Colwell's requirement of 70 percent agreement in order to be classified in the same text-type.

[70]This is one of the central features in the method proposed by Colwell and E.W. Tune in "The Quantitative Relationships between MS Text-Types," Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey, eds. J.N. Birdsall and R.W. Thomson (Frieberg: Herder, 1963).

[71]See the section with that heading in Chapter 6.

[72]Colwell, "Genealogical Method," p. 118. In spite of this demonstrably correct statement by Colwell, Bart Ehrman, in his M.Div. thesis at Princeton, 1981, virtually repeats Hort's words:

. . . two points must constantly be kept in mind. First, if a reading were proved to be a conflation, then the documents containing it—to a greater or lesser extent—would preserve a text that is mixed (by definition). This is true, that is to say, if only one proved instance of conflation should be found in these documents. And since most mixing would have resulted in non-conflated readings, i.e. in the arbitrary or intentional choice by a transcriber of one manuscript's reading over another's, then the solitary proven case of mixture would indicate that more numerous instances exist which cannot be so readily demonstrated. Second, the textual character of groups of documents can be fairly assessed by ascertaining the degree to which they contain conflations. If, for example, there are two groups of documents that never contain conflated readings, and one that sometimes does, then clearly the latter group must represent a mixed text. Whether the other groups do or not is indeterminable by this criterion. But the point is that even isolated instances of mixture do show that a text is mixed, and hence both late and secondary in its witness to the true text. Hort's contention was that the Syrian text, and the Syrian alone, contained conflations. Whether it contained eight or eight hundred would be immaterial on this score. The simple presence of conflations of any number prove the text to be mixed ("New Testament Textual Criticism: Quest for Methodology," pp. 55-56).

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that the textual quality of a MS may change significantly from chapter to chapter, let alone from book to book. A proved conflation does indeed convict its MS of mixture at that point, but only at that point. Ehrman's statement about "eight or eight hundred" is simply stupid. Even the eight examples that Hort adduced have all been challenged, and by scholars with differing presuppositions.

[73]Harrison, p. 73.

[74]Kenyon, Handbook, p. 302; Lake, p. 68. Ehrman states that "it is significant that other examples can be found with little difficulty. Hort provided four examples of conflation from Mark and four from Luke; the following examples complement his list, four being from Matthew and four from John" (Ibid., p. 56). He gives examples from Matt. 10:3, 22:13, 27:23, 27:41 and John 5:37, 9:25, 10:31, 17:23. All these may be found in Appendix D except for John 9:25, because the "Western" reading has no Greek attestation and is therefore not valid for the present purpose. Ehrman misstates the evidence for John 5:37, giving a false impression. In Appendix D I speak to all these examples, plus all of Hort's eight.

[75]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 229.

[76]Westcott and Hort, p. 94 and pp. 240-41. (Since Hort regarded D and B as adequate to represent the "Western" and "Neutral" texts elsewhere, he should not object here.) But Ehrman favors us with the following:

What is most noteworthy is that the significance of such 'inversions' is rarely explained by advocates of the Majority text. Pickering, for instance, is content to list the inverted conflations, apparently assuming that this alone negates Hort's contention. But there are two considerations that obviate any appeal to these inversions for the purpose of critiquing Hort's basic position on the late and secondary nature of the Syrian text. In the first place, most of the instances that have been granted as genuine inversions occur in isolated members of a text-type, but not throughout the larger grouping itself. [He had finished his thesis before he saw my Appendix D, which was not in the first edition.] In other words, the three cases of conflation in Codex B do not indicate that the Alexandrian text-type is mixed, but only that B is. And the fact that B was transcribed in the 4th century would suggest that in some cases it might be expected to contain evidence of mixture from prior texts. [An interesting admission.] This can hardly vitiate Hort's proof, since he himself acknowledged the presence of conflations in both D and B, in the latter case, especially in the Pauline epistles.[!]

Secondly, by adducing this kind of argument against Westcott and Hort, the advocates of the Majority text have placed themselves on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if they choose to deny the validity of Hort's assertion—that a text containing conflations is secondary, and that the more conflations it contains the less it is a trustworthy witness to the original text—then an appeal to inverted conflations is no argument at all. If conflations do not show that a text is secondary, then why point to them? In such a case, contrary examples would only show Hort's error in assuming that Syrian texts alone contain conflations, but would indicate absolutely nothing about the character of the respective text-types. Thus, clearly, the argument is viable only if Hort's premise is accepted.

But, on the other hand, by accepting this premise, the advocates of the Majority text are faced with a serious problem. If the Alexandrian and Western text-types contain conflations, then all three texts are late and secondary (Ibid., pp. 60-61).

Either Ehrman misses the point or he is being duplicitous. Of course we advocates of the Majority text recognize that a conflation is a secondary reading, of necessity. If all three text-types contain conflations, "then all three texts are late and secondary". Just so! And that invalidates Hort's use of "conflation" to disqualify the "Syrian" text. Since the "Alexandrian" and "Western" texts both contain evident conflations, they are both secondary. If Hort had only admitted that at the outset, a great deal of needless debate would have been spared. However, I have yet to see any putative "Byzantine" conflation that impresses me as really being one—Appendix D gives numerous examples with 2nd or 3rd century attestation; if any is a conflation it is an early one. (Of course, a genuine conflation is by definition secondary even if created in A.D. 100!)

[77]Colwell, "The Origin of Texttypes," pp. 130-31.

[78]Hoskier, Codex B, I, 465.

[79]Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 257-65.

[80]Westcott and Hort, p. 95.

[81]Ibid., p. 104.

[82]Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 264.

[83]G.D. Kilpatrick, "The Greek New Testament Text of Today and the Textus Receptus," The New Testament in Historical and Contemporary Perspective, H. Anderson and W. Barclay, eds. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), pp. 190-92. Cf. Bousset, TU, vol. 11 (1894), pp. 97-101, who agreed with Hort on only one of the eight.

[84]Lake, p. 68.

[85]Victor of Antioch for Mark 8:26, 9:38 and 9:49; Basil for Mark 9:38 and Luke 12:18; Cyril of Alexandria for Luke 12:18; Augustine for Mark 9:38.

[86]Zuntz, The Text, p. 12. Sturz (pp. 70-76) has a chapter entitled, "Byzantine-Western Alignments Go Back Into The Second Century Independently And Originate In The East—Not In The West." He makes heavy use of Zuntz' work and concludes that

. . . his findings deal a devastating blow to WH's basic theory of the history of the text, i.e. they destroy the supposed partial dependence of the K-text on Western sources.

If this dependence in K-Western alignments must be reversed as Zuntz demonstrates, then one half of the support for Hort's basic theory of conflation collapses immediately! But, not only does the WH theory fail at this point, it is changed into the opposite! This is more than the "general consensus of scholarship" can concede. It is an intolerable thought and too revolutionary to acknowledge that the Antiochian text may have been the source rather than the recipient of the common material in such Byzantine-Western alignments (p. 76).

I have not knowingly misrepresented Zuntz, or Colwell, Metzger, Aland, etc., in quoting from their works. I take it that Colwell does reject Hort's notion of genealogy, that Aland does reject Hort's notion of recensions, that Zuntz does reject Hort's notion of "Syrian" conflation, and so on. However, I do not mean to imply and it should not be assumed that any of these scholars would entirely agree with my statement of the situation at any point, and they certainly do not agree (so far as I know) with my total position.

[87]Westcott and Hort, p. 91.

[88]Lake, p. 53.

[89]Metzger, Chapters, p. 21.

[90]J. Geerlings and S. New, "Chrysostom's Text of The Gospel of Mark," Harvard Theological Review, XXIV (1931), 135.

[91]Ibid., p. 141.

[92]Hoskier, Codex B, I, ii-iii.

[93]Zuntz, The Text, p. 152.

[94]Metzger, "Explicit References in the Works of Origen to Variant Readings in N.T. MSS.," Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey, ed. J.N. Birdsall and R.W. Thomson (New York: Herder, 1963), p. 94.

[95]Burgon, The Traditional Text, pp. 100, 121.

[96]To be precise, the Greek text used by the English Revisers in 1881 is meant here, or rather those places where it differs from the TR.

[97]Westcott and Hort, p. 114.

[98]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 99.

[99]Ibid., p. 117.

[100]Hoskier, Codex B, I, 426-27.

[101]Burgon, The Traditional Text, pp. 99-101. Fee calls my use of Miller's figures "absurd" and rejects them in sweeping terms ("A Critique," pp. 419 and 422). However, Peter J. Johnston (personal communication) gives the following report on an independent check of early Fathers, using critical editions. Checking six from the 3rd century (Irenaeus, Clement Alex., Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian), five from the 4th century (Aphraates, Ephraem Arm., Ephraem Syr., Gregory Naz., Gregory Nys.) and seven from the 5th century (Chrysostom, Pelagius, Niceta, Theodore Mop., Augustine, Cyril Alex., Faustus), in the Gospels, he found them siding with the Majority Text "approximately 60%" of the time, where there is variation. This is very close to the results stated by Miller!

[102]Burgon, The Causes of the Corruption, pp. 2-3.

[103]E. Miller, A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: George Bell and Sons, 1886), p. 53.

[104]Burgon, The Traditional Text, pp. ix-x. Miller's experiment pitted the Received Text against the Greek text pieced together by the body of revisers who produced the English Revised Version of 1881, which Miller aptly styles the "Neologian." He used Scrivener's Cambridge Greek Testament of 1887 which gives the precise Greek text represented by the E.R.V. but prints in black type the places that differ from the Received Text. Miller limited the investigation to the Gospels. He said that he discarded doubtful quotations and mere matters of spelling, that in doubtful cases he decided against the Textus Receptus, and that in the final tabulation he omitted many smaller instances favorable to the Textus Receptus (Ibid., pp. 94-122).

[105]Kenyon, Handbook, pp. 321-22. Both Hort and Kenyon clearly stated that no strictly "Syrian" readings existed before the end of the 4th century. It is encouraging to see that both Carson (p. 111) and Fee ("A Critique," p. 416) have retreated to the weaker statement that it is all such readings together or the whole "text-type" that had no early existence.

[106]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 116.

[107]Kenyon, Handbook, pp. 322-23.

[108]Ibid., p. 323.


[110]Supported by Barnabas (5), Justin M. (Apol. i.15), Irenaeus (III. v. 2), Origen (Comment. in Joh. xxviii. 16), Eusebius (Comment. in Ps. cxlvi), Hilary (Comment. in Matt. ad loc.), Basil (De Poenitent. 3; Hom. in Ps. xlviii. 1; Epist. Class. I. xlvi. 6). The evidence cited in footnotes 110-117 was taken from Burgon, The Traditional Text.

Among the numerous dubious affirmations with which Fee favors us, none is more startling than his charge that "Burgon's and Miller's data are simply replete with useless supporting evidence" ("A Critique," p. 417). Anyone who studies their works with care (as I have) will come away convinced that they were unusually thorough, careful and scrupulous in their treatment of Patristic evidence. Not so Fee. Of the reading "vinegar" in Matt. 27:34 he says, "I took the trouble to check over three-quarters of Burgon's seventeen supporting Fathers and not one of them [emphasis Fee's] can be shown to be citing Matthew!" (pp. 417-18). Since he affirms that he did check the Fathers himself, the most charitable construction that can be placed on Fee's words is that the check was hasty and careless. (Please turn to footnote 3 in chapter 7 for a refutation of Fee's statement.) With reference to the Patristic evidence for "to repentance" in Matt. 9:13 and Mark 2:17, the concerned reader will be well advised to check the sources for himself.

[111]Supported by Gospel of Peter (5), Acta Philippi (26), Barnabas (7), Irenaeus (pp. 526, 681), Tertullian, Celsus, Origen, Eusebius of Emesa, ps-Tatian, Theodore of Heraclea, Ephraem, Athanasius, Acta Pilati.

[112]Supported by Gospel of Nicodemus, Acta Phillipi, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, Eusebius (ad Marinum, ii. 4), Gregory Nyss. (De Christ. Resurr. I. 390, 398), Gospel of Peter.

[113]Supported by Irenaeus (III. xvi. 3), Origen, Porphyry, Eusebius, Titus of Bostra.

[114]Supported by Irenaeus (III. x. 4), Origen (c. Celsum i. 60; Selecta in Ps. xlv.; Comment. in Matt. xvii.; Comment. in Joh. i. 13), Gregory Thaumaturgus (De Fid. Cap. 12), Methodius (Serm de Simeon. et Anna), Apostolic Constitutions (vii. 47; viii. 12), Diatessaron, Eusebius (Dem. Ev. pp. 163, 342), Aphraates (i. 180, 385), Jacob-Nisibis, Titus of Bostra, Cyril of Jerusalem (p. 180), Athanasius, Ephraem (Gr. iii. 434).

[115]Supported by Hegesippus (Eus. H.E. ii. 23), Marcion, Justin, Irenaeus (c. Haer. III. xviii. 5), Archelaus (xliv), Hippolytus (c. Noet. 18), Origen (ii. 188), Apostolic Constitutions (ii. 16; v. 14), Clementine Homilies (Recogn. vi. 5; Hom. xi. 20), ps-Tatian (E. C. 275), Eusebius (canon x), Hilary (De Trin. 1. 32), Acta Pilati (x. 5), Theodore of Heraclea, Athanasius (i. 1120), Titus of Bostra, Ephraem (ii. 321).

[116]Supported by Marcion (ad loc.), Justin M. (ii. 240, 762), Clement Alex. (p. 174), Tertullian (i. 455), Diatessaron, Athanasius (i. 644), Cyril of Jerusalem (iv. 1108), Gregory Nyss. (i. 624).

[117]Supported by Irenaeus (c. Haeres. IV. xiv. 1), Clement Alex. (Paed. i. 8), Cyprian (pp. 235, 321), Diatessaron, Eusebius (De Eccles. Theol. iii. 17--bis; c. Marcell. p. 292), Hilary (pp. 1017, 1033), Basil (Eth. ii, 297), Caelestinus (Concilia iii. 356).

[118]Again we are faced with the question-begging of Hort and many subsequent writers. Irenaeus, for instance, is arbitrarily declared to be a witness to the "Western text-type" and then any reading he has is thereupon declared to be "Western." Even if we granted the existence of such entities as the "Western" and "Alexandrian" text-types (for the sake of the argument), if the requirement were imposed that only those readings which are supported by a majority of the witnesses assigned to a text-type may be claimed for that text-type then the number of "Western," "Alexandrian," and "Caesarean" readings would shrink drastically. By contrast, the number of "Byzantine" readings would remain about the same.

There is a further detail that, I think, has not received sufficient attention. Miller pitted the Traditional Text against the "Neologian" (W-H) because it represented the Revisers' judgment as to what was the original text. It follows that any "Western" and, especially, "Alexandrian" witnesses that attested something else were rejected, at each point. So presumably any rejected "Alexandrian" witnesses would no longer be "Alexandrian", at that point—or were there several "Alexandrian" text-types? On what basis can those rejected "Alexandrian" witnesses (rejected by Hort and the Revisers) be used to invalidate "Byzantine" readings?

[119]E.F. Hills, The King James Version Defended! (Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1956), p. 73. Carson continues to beg the question (p. 111). If the present trend continues until all "purely Byzantine" readings have early attestation he will not be disturbed since he will continue to arbitrarily declare such readings to be "Western" or "Alexandrian". May I respectfully submit that the generally accepted norms of scholarship do not permit the continued begging of this particular question.

[120]Lake, p. 72. On the contrary: such a situation reflects three independent lines of transmission. If Chrysostom is never alone then his is clearly the best line.

[121]J.W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Saint Mark (Ann Arbor, Mich.: The Sovereign Grace Book Club, 1959), p. 55. This reprint of Burgon's 1871 work contains an Introduction by E.F. Hills occupying pages 17-72.

[122]Taylor, p. 39. Fee continues to vigorously propound this expedient. "My experience is that in every instance a critical edition of the Father moves his New Testament text in some degree away from the Byzantine tradition" ("Modern Text Criticism," p. 160). He has recently observed that "all of Burgon's data . . . is suspect because of his use of uncritical editions" ("A Critique," p. 417).

But there is reason to ask whether editors with an anti-Byzantine bias can be trusted to report the evidence in an impartial manner. Certainly a critical edition of Irenaeus prepared by Fee could not be trusted. In discussing the evidence for "in the prophets" versus "in Isaiah the prophet" in Mark 1:2 ("A Critique," pp. 410-11) Fee does not mention Irenaeus under the Majority Text reading, where he belongs, but says "except for one citation in Irenaeus" under the other reading. He then offers the following comment in a footnote: "Since this one citation stands alone in all of the early Greek and Latin evidence, and since Irenaeus himself knows clearly the other text, this 'citation' is especially suspect of later corruption." He goes on to conclude his discussion of this passage by affirming that the longer reading is "the only reading known to every church Father who cites the text." By the end of his discussion Fee has completely suppressed the unwelcome testimony from Irenaeus.

But is the testimony of Irenaeus here really suspect? In Adv. Haer. III.10.5 we read: "Mark . . . does thus commence his Gospel narrative: 'The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in the prophets, Behold, . . [the quotations follow].' Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him . . . whom they confessed as God and Lord." Note that Irenaeus not only quotes Mark 1:2 but comments upon it, and in both quote and comment he supports the "Byzantine" reading. But the comment is a little ways removed from the quote and it is entirely improbable that a scribe should have molested the comment even if he felt called upon to change the quote. Fair play requires that this instance be loyally recorded as 2nd century support for the "Byzantine" reading.

Another, almost as unambiguous, instance occurs in Adv. Haer. III.16.3 where we read: "Wherefore Mark also says: 'The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets.' Knowing one and the same Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was announced by the prophets . . . ." Note that again Irenaeus not only quotes Mark 1:2 but comments upon it, and in both quote and comment he supports the "Byzantine" reading.

There is also a clear allusion to Mark 1:2 in Adv. Haer. III.11.4 where we read: "By what God, then, was John, the forerunner . . . sent? Truly it was by Him . . . who also had promised by the prophets that He would send His messenger before the face of His Son, who should prepare His way . . . ." May we not reasonably claim this as a third citation in support of the "Byzantine" reading? In any case, it is clear that Fee's handling of the evidence from Irenaeus is disappointing at best, if not reprehensible.

While on the subject of Fee's reliability, I offer the evaluation given by W.F. Wisselink [cf. footnote 167, below] after a thorough investigation of some of his work.

While studying Fee's account ["P75, P66, and Origen: The Myth of Early Textual Recension in Alexandria," New Dimensions in New Testament Study, ed. R.N. Longenecker and M.C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974), pp. 42-44] it became apparent to me that it is incomplete and indistinct, and that it contains mistakes. Fee gives account of his investigation in a little more than one page. He introduces this account as follows: "The full justification of this conclusion will require a volume of considerable size filled with lists of data. Here we can offer only a sample illustration with the further note that the complete data will vary little from the sampling" (Fee, 1974, 42).

Therefore I called upon Fee for the complete data. I received six partly filled pages containing the rough data about the assimilations in Luke 10 and 11. After studying these rough data I came to the conclusion that the rough data as well are incomplete and indistinct, and contain mistakes. So question marks can be placed at the reliability of the investigation which those rough data and that account have reference to. [Wisselink, p. 69.]

Wisselink then proceeds to document his charges on the next three pages.

I repeat that a critical edition of Irenaeus prepared by Fee could not be trusted, and I begin to wonder if any edition prepared by someone with an anti-Byzantine bias is to be trusted. This quite apart from their fallacious starting point, namely that the "Byzantine" text is late.

The three quotations from Irenaeus are taken from A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1973, Vol. I, pp. 425-26 and 441, and were checked for accuracy against W. W. Harvey's critical edition (Sancti Irenaei: Episcopi Lugdunensis: Libros Quinque Adversus Haereses, Cambridge: University Press, 1857). I owe this material on Irenaeus to Maurice A. Robinson.

[123]Of course this principle is also applied to the Greek MSS, with serious consequences. A recent statement by Metzger gives a clear example.

It should be observed that, in accord with the theory that members of f1 and f13 were subject to progressive accommodation to the later Byzantine text, scholars have established the text of these families by adopting readings of family witnesses that differ from the Textus Receptus. Therefore the citation of the siglum f1 and f13 may, in any given instance, signify a minority of manuscripts (or even only one) that belong to the family. (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [companion to UBS3], p. xii.)

Such a procedure misleads the user of the apparatus, who has every right to expect that the siglum will only be used when all (or nearly all) the members agree. A distorted view of the evidence is created—the divergence of f1 and f13 from the "Byzantine" text is made to appear greater then it really is, and the extent of variation among the members is obscured. Greenlee's study of Cyril of Jerusalem (p. 30, see next footnote) affords another example. Among other things, he appeals to "the well-known fact that all the Caesarean witnesses are more or less corrected to the Byzantine standard, but in different places, so that the groups must be considered as a whole, not by its [sic] individual members, to give the true picture." Would not the behavior of the individual MSS make better sense if viewed as departing from the Byzantine standard?

[124]I believe J.H. Greenlee's study of Cyril of Jerusalem is an example. The Gospel Text of Cyril of Jerusalem (Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1955).

[125]Burgon, The Traditional Text, pp. 97-98. I believe that Suggs tends to agree with Miller that the assimilating proclivity of medieval scribes can easily be overestimated ("The Use of Patristic Evidence," p. 140). The Lectionaries give eloquent testimony against the supposed assimilating proclivity. After discussing at some length their lack of textual consistency, Colwell observes: "Figuratively speaking, the Lectionary is a preservative into which from time to time portions of the living text were dropped. Once submerged in the Lectionary, each portion was solidified or fixed" (Colwell and Riddle, Prolegomena to the Study of the Lectionary Text of the Gospels, p. 17). Similarly, Riddle cites with favor Gregory's estimate: "He saw that as a product of the liturgical system they were guarded by a strongly conservative force, and he was right in his inference that the conservatism of the liturgy would tend frequently to make them media for the preservation of an early text. His analogy of the Psalter of the Anglican church was a good one" (Ibid., pp. 40-41). Many of the lessons in the Anglican Prayer Book are much older than the AV but have never been assimilated to the AV. In short, we have good reason to doubt that medieval copyists were as addicted to assimilating the text as scholars such as Taylor would have us believe.

[126]Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses, p. 58. Sturz lists a number of further "Byzantine" readings that have had early Patristic support (Clement, Tertullian, Marcion, Methodius) and which now also have early Papyrus support (pp. 55-56). Here again it will no longer do to claim that the Fathers' MSS have been altered to conform to the "Byzantine" text.

[127]Zuntz, The Text, p. 55.

[128]Colwell, "The Origin of Texttypes," p. 132.

[129]Colwell, What is the Best New Testament?, p. 70.

[130]Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses, p. 50. (Hills wrote the Introduction.)

[131]Ibid., p. 54.

[132]H.A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism.

[133]Pp. 188-208. Sturz remarks that a number of readings (15 from this list) really should be considered as "distinctively Byzantine" but one or another so-called "Western" or "Alexandrian" witness also has them and so. . . .

Sturz draws the following conclusions from the evidence he presents: 1) "Distinctively Byzantine" readings are found in early papyri (p. 55). 2) Such readings are therefore early (p. 62). 3) Such readings cannot be the result of editing in the 4th century (p. 62). 4) The old uncials have not preserved a complete picture of the textual situation in the 2nd century (p. 62). 5) The "Byzantine" texttype has preserved some of the 2nd century tradition not found in the others (p. 64). 6) The lateness of other "Byzantine" readings, for which early papyrus attestation has not yet surfaced, is now questionable (p. 64). 7) "Byzantine-Western" alignments go back into the 2nd century; they must be old (p. 70).

(Fee speaks of my "misrepresentations of the papyrus evidence" and says with reference to it that I have "grossly misinterpreted the data" ("A Critique," p. 422). I invite the reader to check the evidence presented by Sturz and then to decide for himself whether or not there has been misrepresentation and misinterpretation.)

[134]P. 189. This means that the early Papyri vindicate "Byzantine" readings in 660 (or 885) places where there is significant variation. One might wish that Sturz had also given us the figures for "distinctively Western" and "distinctively Alexandrian" readings, but how are such expressions to be defined? Where is an objective definition for "Western reading," for example?

[135]Westcott and Hort, p. 21.

[136]Ibid., p. 25. Fee criticizes me rather severely for my "agnosticism" ("A Critique," p. 409), but my statement is scarcely stronger than Hort's.

[137]Ibid., p. 286.

[138]Fee, "Modern Text Criticism and the Synoptic Problem," J.J. Griesbach: Synoptic and Text-Critical Studies 1776-1976, ed. B. Orchard and T.R.W. Longstaff (Cambridge: University Press, 1978), p. 156.

[139]Colwell, "The Greek New Testament," p. 37.

[140]Colwell, "External Evidence," p. 4.

[141]Ibid., p. 3.

[142]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 67.

[143]Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 251.

[144]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 66.

[145]Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II.

[146]Westcott and Hort, p. 235.

[147]Actually, a look at a good apparatus or at collations of MSS reveals that the "Byzantine" text-type is frequently shorter than its rivals. Sturz offers charts which show that where the "Byzantine" text with early papyrus support stands against both the "Western" and "Alexandrian" it adds 42 words and omits 36 words in comparison to them. The "Byzantine" comes out somewhat longer but the picture is not lopsided. Among the added words are 9 conjunctions and 5 articles but among the omitted are 11 conjunctions and 6 articles, which would make the "Byzantine" less smooth than its rivals. (Sturz, p. 229.)

[148]B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (London: Macmillan and Co., 1930), pp. 122-24. For a more recent discussion of critical activity at Alexandria, see W.R. Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), pp. 13-22.

[149]Ibid., p. 131. I am aware that Kenyon and others have criticized Clark's treatment of this maxim, but I believe that it has sufficient validity to be worth taking into account.

[150]Burgon, The Causes of the Corruption, p. 156.

[151]Vaganay, pp. 84-85.

[152]Kilpatrick, p. 196.

[153]Colwell, "Scribal Habits," p. 378.

[154]Ibid., p. 380.

[155]Ibid., p. 383.

[156]Ibid., p. 387.

[157]Ibid., pp. 376-77.

[158]Vaganay, p. 86.

[159]Metzger, The Text, p. 195.

[160]Ibid., p. 196.

[161]To anyone who feels that we are obligated to explain the origin of any or every peculiar variant reading, even if found in only one or two copies—especially if the copies happen to be B, Aleph or one of the Papyri—Burgon calls attention to the far greater correlative obligation. "It frequently happens that the one remaining plea of many critics for adopting readings of a certain kind, is the inexplicable nature of the phenomena which these readings exhibit. 'How will you possibly account for such a reading as the present,' (say they,) 'if it be not authentic?' . . . They lose sight of the correlative difficulty:—How comes it to pass that the rest of the copies read the place otherwise?" (The Causes of the Corruption, p. 17.)

[162]Zuntz, The Text, p. 36.

[163]Salmon, pp. 33-34.

[164]S. Hemphill, A History of the Revised Version (London: Elliot Stock, 1906), pp. 49-50.

[165]Colwell, "External Evidence," p. 2. The application is mine. Colwell would perhaps not have agreed with it.

[166]My critics graciously called attention to some genuine weaknesses in my treatment of this topic in the first edition. For the second edition the section was rewritten and considerably enlarged. For this considerable revision we now have access to W.F. Wisselink's massive four-volume evaluation of this question. His work deprives the opponents of the Byzantine text of this their last argument.

[167]Metzger, A Textual Commentary, p. xx.

[168]Jakob Van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New Testament (Winnipeg: Premier, 1976), p. 30. Cf. W.F. Wisselink, Assimilation as a Criterion for the Establishment of the Text, 4 vols. (Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok, 1989). Wisselink concludes: "Assimilations occur in all manuscripts. Even in manuscript B there is a question of assimilation in 31 percent of the 1489 variations that have been investigated. In P75 the number of assimilations is: 39 percent of the 165 variations that have been investigated" (p. 87). Maurice A. Robinson contributes the following relevant questions:

1)    Why did not the Byzantine Textform develop as it should have [by the Hortian hypothesis], and move more consistently toward harmonization of all passages?

2)    Why do we instead find as many or more possible harmonizations among the minority texttypes as is alleged to have occurred in regard to the Byzantine Textform?

3)    Further, why did the keepers and guardians of the Byzantine tradition correctly reject the vast bulk of such harmonizations? Most harmonizations never gained more than a slight foothold which could not and did not endure.

4)    Why also—if harmonization were so common, as well as a popular tendency within a growing and continuing process—did not the plain and clear "early harmonizations" among representatives of the Alexandrian and Western texttypes endure as the text progressed into the Byzantine era?

5)    Why, especially, were pre-existing harmonizations as found in the Western and Alexandrian traditions de-harmonized by the scribes of the Byzantine era, since this was precisely the opposite of what should have occurred?

Robinson, "Two Passages in Mark: A Critical Test for the Byzantine-Priority Hypothesis," presented to the forty-sixth annual meeting of the E.T.S., Nov., 1994, p. 25. The interested reader would do well to read pp. 24-34 of this paper—Robinson makes a number of telling points.

[169]Ibid. Cf. E.F. Hills, "Harmonizations in the Caesarean Text of Mark," Journal of Biblical Literature, 66 (1947), 135-152.

[170]Kilpatrick, p. 193.

[171]Van Bruggen, pp. 30-31.

[172]Ibid., pp. 31-32.

[173]P. Walters, The Text of the Septuagint. Its Corruptions and their Emendation, ed. D.W. Gooding (Cambridge: University Press, 1973), p. 21. (Cited by van Bruggen.)

[174]Van Bruggen, pp. 32-33.

[175]Ibid., p. 33.

[176]Burgon, The Traditional Text, p. 67.

[177]Fee, "A Critique of W.N. Pickering's The Identity of the New Testament Text: A Review Article," The Westminster Theological Journal, XLI (Spring, 1979), p. 411.

[178]I owe the material in the above discussion to Maurice A. Robinson.

[179]This discussion is adapted from Van Bruggen, pp. 33-34.

[180]This discussion is adapted from Van Bruggen, p. 34. I suspect that a thorough check will reveal that it is the "Western" text that leads all others in harmonization, not the "Byzantine". Wisselink confirms this, "D especially has been assimilated" (p. 87). Here is his conclusion.

With rather great certainty we can come to this conclusion: Assimilation is not restricted to a single group of manuscripts, neither to a single gospel; assimilation has not taken place to any one gospel to a strikingly high degree.

So if an assimilation is signalized, nothing can be concluded from that regarding the age of any variant or the value of any text-type. (Wisselink, p. 92.)

[181]Fee, "A Critique," pp. 411-12.

[182]I owe the material used in the above discussion to Robinson.

[183]Hort's characterization is similar to contemporary descriptions of Koine Greek in New Testament times.

Non-biblical sources attest that there was such a simple and plain style of Greek writing and speaking stemming from the earliest New Testament times. Such sources as the non-biblical papyri and the Discourses of Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, attest this style. In addition, there is a formal delineation of what the plain style ought to be, which has been dated at approximately the same time in which the New Testament was being written. Demetrius, On Style, names "the plain style" . . . as one of four which he describes and discusses. . . . parts of his treatment of this subject tend to remind one of descriptions of the Koine of the Hellenistic period and the kind of Greek supposed to characterize the New Testament. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In spite of the known existence of such a plain style as set forth by Demetrius and found in Epictetus, there were those in the early period of the Church and its writings who scoffed at the plain style and spoke contemptuously of it as it is found in the Scriptures. One of these was the pagan Celsus, who sought to refute the Christian faith in a literary attack penned sometime between 161-180 A.D. Origen indicates that Celsus ridiculed the Scriptures by holding them up to unfavorable comparison with the writings of the philosophers in places where there seemed to be some parallel (Sturz, pp. 112-13).

[184]H.F. von Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments (2 Vols.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1911), Vol. 1, part ii, pp. 1456-1459 (cf. 1361-1400), 1784-1878.

[185]Kilpatrick, Op. Cit.

[186]Hoskier, Codex B, Vol. I. I fail to see how anyone can read this work of Hoskier's with attention and still retain a high opinion of Codices B and Aleph.

[187]Elliott, pp. 241-43.

[188]Kilpatrick, p. 205.

[189]Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 293.

[190]Kenyon, Handbook, pp. 324-25.

[191]Colwell, "The Origin of the Texttypes," p. 137.

[192]F.C. Grant, "The Citation of Greek Manuscript Evidence in an Apparatus Criticus," New Testament Manuscript Studies, ed. M.M. Parvis and A.P. Wikgren (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950), pp. 90-91.

[193]J. Geerlings, Family E and Its Allies in Mark (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1967), p. 1.

[194]Kenyon, Handbook, p. 325.

[195]Hodges, "A Defense of the Majority Text," p. 42. For a further discussion of the problems confronting the "process" view see the section headed "Objections" in Appendix C.

[196]Metzger, The Text, (2nd ed., 1968), p. 212. In 1972 he wrote "Whether it really was Lucian . . . ," so he may now be retreating from that position. "Patristic Evidence and the Textual Criticism of the New Testament," New Testament Studies, XVIII (1972), p. 385.

[197]Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 276-77.

[198]A. Vööbus, Early Versions of the New Testament (Stockholm: Estonian Theological Society in Exile, 1954), p. 100.

[199]Ibid., pp. 100-102. Carson chides me for failing to mention "Matthew Black's decisive critique of Vööbus" (p. 112). Well, Metzger evidently does not regard it to be "decisive". "The question who it was that produced the Peshitta version of the N. T. will perhaps never be answered. That it was not Rabbula has been proved by Vööbus's researches" (Early Versions of the New Testament [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977], pp. 57-61).

[200]Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses, p. 56. Metzger recognizes the force of this circumstance (Loc. Cit.).

[201]Clark, "Today's Problems," p. 162.

[202]Epp, p. 403.

[203]Ibid., p. 401.

[204]Colwell, "The Greek New Testament with a Limited Apparatus," p. 37. This theme pervades his "Hort Redivivus."

[205]Aland, "The Present Position," p. 731.

[206]Westcott and Hort, p. 40.

[207]Epp, "Interlude," pp. 391-92.

[208]Clark, "Today's Problems," p. 161.

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