Note: This chapter uses the bwgrkl Greek font of Bible Works.

The logical place to start is with the possibility that the process of transmission of the text was normal.

Under normal circumstances the older a text is than its rivals, the greater are its chances to survive in a plurality or a majority of the texts extant at any subsequent period. But the oldest text of all is the autograph. Thus it ought to be taken for granted that, barring some radical dislocation in the history of transmission, a majority of texts will be far more likely to represent correctly the character of the original than a small minority of texts. This is especially true when the ratio is an overwhelming 8:2. Under any reasonably normal transmissional conditions, it would be . . . quite impossible for a later text-form to secure so one-sided a preponderance of extant witnesses.[1]

But were the transmissional conditions reasonably normal?

Were the N.T. Writings Recognized?

Naturalistic critics like to assume that the New Testament writings were not recognized as Scripture when they first appeared and thus through the consequent carelessness in transcription the text was confused and the original wording "lost" (in the sense that no one knew for sure what it was) at the very start. Thus Colwell says: "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'."[2]

And Hort had said:

Textual purity, as far as can be judged from the extant literature, attracted hardly any interest. There is no evidence to show that care was generally taken to choose out for transcription the exemplars having the highest claims to be regarded as authentic, if indeed the requisite knowledge and skill were forthcoming.[3]

Rather than take Hort's word for it, prudence calls for a review of the premises. The place to start is at the beginning, when the apostles were still penning the Autographs.

The apostolic period

It is clear that the apostle Paul, at least, considered his writings to be authoritative—see 1 Cor.14:37, Gal. 1:6-12, Col. 1:25-6, 1 Thess. 2:13, 2 Thess. 2:15 and 3:6-14. And it is reasonable to infer from Col. 4:16 and 1 Thess. 5:27 that he expected his writings to have a wider audience than just the particular church addressed. In fact, in Galatians 1:2 he addresses "the churches of Galatia." John also is plain enough—Rev. 1:1-3 and 21:5. Both Paul (Rom. 16:25-6, Eph. 3:4-5) and Peter (1 Pet. 1:12, 25; 2 Pet. 3:2) declare that a number of people are writing Scripture in their day, presumably including themselves. I take it that in 1:3 Luke claims divine authority—"having faithfully followed all things from above."[4]

In l Tim. 5:18 Paul puts the Gospel of Luke (10:7) on the same level as Deuteronomy (25:4), calling them both "Scripture." Taking the traditional and conservative point of view, 1 Timothy is generally thought to have been written within five years after Luke.[5] Luke was recognized and declared by apostolic authority to be Scripture as soon as it came off the press, so to speak.

In 2 Pet. 3:15-16, Peter puts the Epistles of Paul on the same level as "the other Scriptures." Although some had been out for perhaps fifteen years, the ink was scarcely dry on others, and perhaps 2 Timothy had not yet been penned when Peter wrote. Paul's writings were recognized and declared by apostolic authority to be Scripture as soon as they appeared.

Clement of Rome, whose first letter to the Corinthians is usually dated about A.D. 96, made liberal use of Scripture, appealing to its authority, and used New Testament material right alongside Old Testament material. Clement quoted Ps. 118:18 and Heb. 12:6 side by side as "the holy word" (56:3-4).[6] He ascribes 1 Corinthians to "the blessed Paul the apostle" and says of it, "with true inspiration he wrote to you" (47:1-3). He clearly quotes from Hebrews, 1 Corinthians and Romans and possibly from Matthew, Acts, Titus, James and 1 Peter. Here is the bishop of Rome, before the close of the first century, writing an official letter to the church at Corinth wherein a selection of New Testament books are recognized and declared by episcopal authority to be Scripture, including Hebrews.

The Epistle of Barnabas, variously dated from A.D. 70 to 135, says in 4:14, "let us be careful lest, as it is written, it should be found with us that 'many are called but few chosen.'" The reference seems to be to Matt. 22:14 (or 20:16) and the phrase "as it is written" may fairly be taken as a technical expression referring to Scripture. In 5:9 there is a quote from Matt. 9:13 (or Mark 2:17 or Luke 5:32). In 13:7 there is a loose quote from Rom. 4:11-12, which words are put in God's mouth. Similarly, in 15:4 we find: "Note, children, what 'he ended in six days' means. It means this: that the Lord will make an end of everything in six thousand years, for a day with Him means a thousand years. And He Himself is my witness, saying: 'Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years'."[7]

The author, whoever he was, is clearly claiming divine authorship for this quote which appears to be from 2 Pet. 3:8.[8] In other words, 2 Peter is here regarded to be Scripture, as well as Matthew and Romans. Barnabas also has possible allusions to 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 Peter.

The second century

The seven letters of Ignatius (c. A.D. 110) contain probable allusions to Matthew, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians (in his own letter to the Ephesians Ignatius says they are mentioned in "all the epistles of Paul"—a bit of hyperbole, but he was clearly aware of a Pauline corpus), and possible allusions to Luke, Acts, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus, but very few are clear quotations and even they are not identified as such.

Polycarp, writing to the Philippian church (c. 115 A.D.?) weaves an almost continuous string of clear quotations and allusions to New Testament writings. His heavy use of Scripture is reminiscent of Clement of Rome; however, Clement used mostly the Old Testament while Polycarp usually used the New. There are perhaps fifty clear quotations taken from Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1 John, and many allusions including to Mark, Hebrews, James, and 2 and 3 John. (The only NT writer not included is Jude!)

His attitude toward the New Testament writings is clear from 12:1: "I am sure that you are well trained in the sacred Scriptures, . . . Now, as it is said in these Scriptures: 'Be angry and sin not,' and 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.' Blessed is he who remembers this."[9]

Both parts of the quotation could come from Eph. 4:26 but since Polycarp split it up he may have been referring to Ps. 4:5 (LXX) in the first half. In either case he is declaring Ephesians to be "sacred Scripture." A further insight into his attitude is found in 3:1-2.

Brethren, I write you this concerning righteousness, not on my own initiative, but because you first invited me. For neither I, nor anyone like me, is able to rival the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, when living among you, carefully and steadfastly taught the word of truth face to face with his contemporaries and, when he was absent, wrote you letters. By the careful perusal of his letters you will be able to strengthen yourselves in the faith given to you, "which is the mother of us all," . . .[10]

(This from one who was perhaps the most respected bishop in Asia Minor, in his day. He was martyred in A.D. 156.)

The so-called second letter of Clement of Rome is usually dated before A.D. 150 and seems clearly to quote from Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, l Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter, with possible allusions to 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. After quoting and discussing a passage from the Old Testament, the author goes on to say in 2:4, "Another Scripture says: 'I came not to call the just, but sinners'" (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32). Here is another author who recognized the New Testament writings to be Scripture.

Two other early works, the Didache and the letter to Diognetus, employ New Testament writings as being authoritative but without expressly calling them Scripture.

The Didache apparently quotes from Matthew, Luke, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, and 1 Peter and has possible allusions to Acts, Romans, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Revelation.

The letter to Diognetus quotes from Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians while alluding to Mark, John, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter and 1 John.

Another early work—the Shepherd of Hermas—widely used in the second and third centuries, has fairly clear allusions to Matthew, Mark, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, and especially James.

From around the middle of the second century fairly extensive works by Justin Martyr (martyred in 165) have come down to us. His "Dialogue with Trypho" shows a masterful knowledge of the Old Testament to which he assigns the highest possible authority, evidently holding to a dictation view of inspiration—in Trypho 34 he says, "to persuade you that you have not understood anything of the Scriptures, I will remind you of another psalm, dictated to David by the Holy Spirit."[11] The whole point of Trypho is to prove that Jesus is Christ and God and therefore what He said and commanded was of highest authority.

In Apol. i.66 Justin says, "For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus handed down what was commanded them. . . ."[12] And in Trypho 119 he says that just as Abraham believed the voice of God, "in like manner we, having believed God's voice spoken by the apostles of Christ. . . ."

It also seems clear from Trypho 120 that Justin considered New Testament writings to be Scripture. Of considerable interest is an unequivocal reference to the book of Revelation in Trypho 81. "And further, there was a certain man with us whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believe in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem."[13]

Justin goes right on to say, "Just as our Lord also said," and quotes Luke 20:35, so evidently he considered Revelation to be authoritative. (While on the subject of Revelation, in 165 Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a commentary on the book.)

A most instructive passage occurs in Apol. i.67.

And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites us to the imitation of these noble things.[14]

Whether or not the order suggests that the Gospels were preferred to the Prophets, it is clear that they both were considered to be authoritative and equally enjoined upon the hearers. Notice further that each assembly must have had its own copy of the apostles' writings to read from and that such reading took place every week.

Athenagorus, in his "Plea," written in early 177, quotes Matt. 5:28 as Scripture: ". . . we are not even allowed to indulge in a lustful glance. For, says the Scripture, 'He who looks at a woman lustfully, has already committed adultery in his heart'" (32).[15] He similarly treats Matt. 19:9, or Mark 10:11, in 33.

Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, in his treatise to Autolycus, quotes 1 Tim. 2:1 and Rom. 13:7 as "the Divine Word" (iii.l4), quotes from the fourth Gospel, saying that John was "inspired by the Spirit" (ii.22); Isaiah and "the Gospel" are mentioned in one paragraph as Scripture (iii.l4), and he insists in several passages that the writers never contradicted each other: "The statements of the Prophets and of the Gospels are found to be consistent, because all were inspired by the one Spirit of God" (ii.9; ii.35; iii.l7).[16]

The surviving writings of Irenaeus (died in 202), his major work Against Heretics being written about 185, are about equal in volume to those of all the preceding Fathers put together.

His testimony to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture is clear and unequivocal. It pervades the whole of his writings; and this testimony is more than ordinarily valuable because it must be regarded as directly representing three churches at least, those of Lyons, Asia Minor, and Rome. The authoritative use of both Testaments is clearly laid down.[17]

Irenaeus stated that the apostles taught that God is the Author of both Testaments (Against Heretics IV. 32.2) and evidently considered the New Testament writings to form a second Canon. He quoted from every chapter of Matthew, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians, from all but one or two chapters of Luke, John, Romans, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus, from most chapters of Mark (including the last twelve verses), Acts, 2 Corinthians, and Revelation, and from every other book except Philemon and 3 John. These two books are so short that Irenaeus may not have had occasion to refer to them in his extant works—it does not necessarily follow that he was ignorant of them or rejected them. Evidently the dimensions of the New Testament Canon recognized by Irenaeus are very close to what we hold today.

From the time of Irenaeus on there can be no doubt concerning the attitude of the Church toward the New Testament writings—they are Scripture. Tertullian (in 208) said of the church at Rome, "the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles" (Prescription against Heretics, 36).

Were Early Christians Careful?

It has been widely affirmed that the early Christians were either unconcerned or unable to watch over the purity of the text. (Recall Hort's words given above.) Again a review of the premises is called for. Many of the first believers had been devout Jews who had an ingrained reverence and care for the Old Testament Scriptures which extended to the very jots and tittles. This reverence and care would naturally be extended to the New Testament Scriptures.

Why should modern critics assume that the early Christians, in particular the spiritual leaders among them, were inferior in integrity or intelligence? A Father's quoting from memory or tailoring a passage to suit his purpose in sermon or letter by no means implies that he would take similar liberties when transcribing a book or corpus. Ordinary honesty would require him to produce a faithful copy. Are we to assume that everyone who made copies of New Testament books in those early years was a knave, or a fool? Paul was certainly as intelligent a man as any of us. If Hebrews was written by someone else, here was another man of high spiritual insight and intellectual power. There was Barnabas and Apollos and Clement and Polycarp, etc., etc. The Church has had men of reason and intelligence all down through the years. Starting out with what they knew to be the pure text, the earliest Fathers did not need to be textual critics. They had only to be reasonably honest and careful. But is there not good reason to believe they would be especially watchful and careful?

The apostles

Not only did the apostles themselves declare the New Testament writings to be Scripture, which would elicit reverence and care in their treatment, they expressly warned the believers to be on their guard against false teachers—see Acts 20:27-32, Gal. 1:6-12, 2 Tim. 3:1-4:4, 2 Pet. 2:1-2, 1 John 2:18-19, 2 John 7-11, Jude 3-4, 16-19. Peter's statement concerning the "twisting" Paul's words were receiving (2 Pet. 3:16) suggests there was awareness and concern as to the text and the way it was being handled. I recognize that the Apostles were focusing on the interpretation rather than the copying of the text, and yet, since any alteration of the text may result in a different interpretation we may reasonably infer that their concern for the truth would include the faithful transmission of the text. Indeed, we could scarcely ask for a clearer expression of this concern than that given in Rev. 22:18-19. 2 Thess. 2:2 is evidently concerned with authenticity.

The early Fathers

The early Fathers furnish a few helpful clues as to the state of affairs. The letters of Ignatius contain several references to a considerable traffic between the churches (of Asia Minor, Greece, Rome) by way of messengers (often official), which seems to indicate a deep sense of solidarity binding them together, and a wide circulation of news and attitudes—a problem with a heretic in one place would soon be known all over, etc. That there was strong feeling about the integrity of the Scriptures is made clear by Polycarp (7:1), "Whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord . . . that one is the firstborn of Satan." Present-day critics may not like Polycarp's terminology, but for him to use such strong language makes clear that he was not merely aware and concerned; he was exercised.

Similarly, Justin Martyr says (Apol. i.58), "the wicked demons have also put forward Marcion of Pontus." And in Trypho 35 he says of heretics teaching doctrines of the spirits of error, that fact "causes us who are disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ to be more faithful and steadfast in the hope announced by Him."

It seems obvious that heretical activity would have precisely the effect of putting the faithful on their guard and forcing them to define in their own minds what they were going to defend. Thus Marcion's truncated canon evidently stirred the faithful to define the true canon. But Marcion also altered the wording of Luke and Paul's Epistles, and by their bitter complaints it is clear that the faithful were both aware and concerned. We may note in passing that the heretical activity also furnishes backhanded evidence that the New Testament writings were regarded as Scripture—why bother falsifying them if they had no authority?

Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth (168-176), complained that his own letters had been tampered with, and worse yet the Holy Scriptures also.

And they insisted that they had received a pure tradition. Thus Irenaeus said that the doctrine of the apostles had been handed down by the succession of bishops, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of the Scriptures, allowing neither addition nor curtailment, involving public reading without falsification (Against Heretics IV. 32:8).

Tertullian, also, says of his right to the New Testament Scriptures, "I hold sure title-deeds from the original owners themselves . . . I am the heir of the apostles. Just as they carefully prepared their will and testament, and committed it to a trust . . . even so I hold it."[18]


In order to ensure accuracy in transcription, authors would sometimes add at the close of their literary works an adjuration directed to future copyists. So, for example, Irenaeus attached to the close of his treatise On the Ogdoad the following note: "I adjure you who shall copy out this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his glorious advent when he comes to judge the living and the dead, that you compare what you transcribe, and correct it carefully against this manuscript from which you copy; and also that you transcribe this adjuration and insert it in the copy."[19]

If Irenaeus took such extreme precautions for the accurate transmission of his own work, how much more would he be concerned for the accurate copying of the Word of God? In fact, he demonstrates his concern for the accuracy of the text by defending the traditional reading of a single letter. The question is whether John the Apostle wrote cxV' (666) or ciV' (616) in Rev. 13:18. Irenaeus asserts that 666 is found "in all the most approved and ancient copies" and that "those men who saw John face to face" bear witness to it. And he warns those who made the change (of a single letter) that "there shall be no light punishment upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture" (xxx.1). Presumably Irenaeus is applying Rev. 22:18-19.

Considering Polycarp's intimacy with John, his personal copy of Revelation would most probably have been taken from the Autograph. And considering Irenaeus' veneration for Polycarp his personal copy of Revelation was probably taken from Polycarp's. Although Irenaeus evidently was no longer able to refer to the Autograph (not ninety years after it was written!) he was clearly in a position to identify a faithful copy and to declare with certainty the original reading—this in 186 A.D. Which brings us to Tertullian.


Around the year 208 he urged the heretics to

run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings (authenticae) are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of the apostles themselves).[20]

Some have thought that Tertullian was claiming that Paul's Autographs were still being read in his day (208), but at the very least he must mean they were using faithful copies. Was anything else to be expected? For example, when the Ephesian Christians saw the Autograph of Paul's letter to them getting tattered, would they not carefully execute an identical copy for their continued use? Would they let the Autograph perish without making such a copy? (There must have been a constant stream of people coming either to make copies of their letter or to verify the correct reading.) I believe we are obliged to conclude that in the year 200 the Ephesian Church was still in a position to attest the original wording of her letter (and so for the others)—but this is coeval with P46, P66 and P75!

Both Justin Martyr and Irenaeus claimed that the Church was spread throughout the whole earth, in their day—remember that Irenaeus, in 177, became bishop of Lyons, in Gaul, and he was not the first bishop in that area. Coupling this information with Justin's statement that the memoirs of the apostles were read each Sunday in the assemblies, it becomes clear that there must have been thousands of copies of the New Testament writings in use by 200 A.D. Each assembly would need a copy to read from, and there must have been private copies among those who could afford them.

We have objective historical evidence in support of the following propositions:

·The true text was never "lost".

·In A.D. 200 the exact original wording of the several books could still be verified and attested.

·There was therefore no need to practice textual criticism and any such effort would be spurious.

However, presumably some areas would be in a better position to protect and transmit the true text than others.

Who Was Best Qualified?

What factors would be important for guaranteeing, or at least facilitating, a faithful transmission of the text of the N.T. writings? I submit that there are four controlling factors: access to the Autographs, proficiency in the source language, the strength of the Church and an appropriate attitude toward the Text.

Access to the Autographs

This criterion probably applied for less than a hundred years (the Autographs were presumably worn to a frazzle in that space of time) but it is highly significant to a proper understanding of the history of the transmission of the Text. Already by the year 100 there must have been many copies of the various books (some more than others) while it was certainly still possible to check a copy against the original, should a question arise. The point is that there was a swelling stream of faithfully executed copies emanating from the holders of the Autographs to the rest of the Christian world. In those early years the producers of copies would know that the true wording could be verified, which would discourage them from taking liberties with the text.

However, distance would presumably be a factor—for someone in north Africa to consult the Autograph of Ephesians would be an expensive proposition, in both time and money. I believe we may reasonably conclude that in general the quality of copies would be highest in the area surrounding the Autograph and would gradually deteriorate as the distance increased. Important geographical barriers would accentuate the tendency.

So who held the Autographs? Speaking in terms of regions, Asia Minor may be safely said to have had twelve (John, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, 1 Peter, 1 and 2 and 3 John, and Revelation), Greece may be safely said to have had six (1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Titus in Crete), Rome may be safely said to have had two (Mark and Romans)—as to the rest, Luke, Acts, and 2 Peter were probably held by either Asia Minor or Rome; Matthew and James by either Asia Minor or Palestine; Hebrews by Rome or Palestine; while it is hard to state even a probability for Jude it was quite possibly held by Asia Minor. Taking Asia Minor and Greece together, the Aegean area held the Autographs of at least eighteen (two-thirds of the total) and possibly as many as twenty-four of the twenty-seven New Testament books; Rome held at least two and possibly up to seven; Palestine may have held up to three (but in A.D. 70 they would have been sent away for safe keeping, quite possibly to Antioch); Alexandria (Egypt) held none. The Aegean region clearly had the best start, and Alexandria the worst—the text in Egypt could only be second hand, at best. On the face of it, we may reasonably assume that in the earliest period of the transmission of the N.T. Text the most reliable copies would be circulating in the region that held the Autographs. Recalling the discussion of Tertullian above, I believe we may reasonably extend this conclusion to A.D. 200 and beyond. So, in the year 200 someone looking for the best text of the N.T. would presumably go to the Aegean area; certainly not to Egypt.

Proficiency in the source language

As a linguist (PhD) and one who has dabbled in the Bible translation process for some years, I affirm that a 'perfect' translation is impossible. (Indeed, a tolerably reasonable approximation is often difficult enough to achieve.) It follows that any divine solicitude for the precise form of the NT Text would have to be mediated through the language of the Autographs—Greek. Evidently ancient Versions (Syriac, Latin, Coptic) may cast a clear vote with reference to major variants, but precision is possible only in Greek (in the case of the N.T.). That by way of background, but our main concern here is with the copyists.

To copy a text by hand in a language you do not understand is a tedious exercise—it is almost impossible to produce a perfect copy (try it and see!). You virtually have to copy letter by letter and constantly check your place. (It is even more difficult if there is no space between words and no punctuation, as was the case with the N.T. Text in the early centuries.) But if you cannot understand the text it is very difficult to remain alert. Consider the case of P66. This papyrus manuscript is perhaps the oldest (c. 200) extant N.T. manuscript of any size (it contains most of John). It is one of the worst copies we have. It has an average of roughly two mistakes per verse—many being obvious mistakes, stupid mistakes, nonsensical mistakes. From the pattern of mistakes it is clear that the scribe copied syllable by syllable. I have no qualms in affirming that the person who produced P66 did not know Greek. Had he understood the text he would not have made the number and sort of mistakes that he did.

Now consider the problem from God's point of view. To whom should He entrust the primary responsibility for the faithful transmission of the N.T. Text? If the Holy Spirit is going to take an active part in the process, where should He concentrate His efforts? Presumably fluent speakers of Greek would have the inside track, and areas where Greek would continue in active use would be preferred. For a faithful transmission to occur the copyists had to be proficient in Greek, and over the long haul. So where was Greek predominant? Evidently in Greece and Asia Minor; Greek is the mother tongue of Greece to this day (having changed considerably during the intervening centuries, as any living language must). The dominance of Greek in the Aegean area was guaranteed by the Byzantine Empire for many centuries; in fact, until the invention of printing. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453; the Gutenberg Bible (Latin) was printed just three years later, while the first printed Greek New Testament appeared in 1516. (For those who believe in Providence, I would suggest that here we have a powerful case in point.)

How about Egypt? The use of Greek in Egypt was already declining by the beginning of the Christian era. Bruce Metzger observes that the Hellenized section of the population in Egypt "was only a fraction in comparison with the number of native inhabitants who used only the Egyptian languages."[21] By the third century the decline was evidently well advanced. I have already argued that the copyist who did P66 (c. 200) did not know Greek. Now consider the case of P75 (c. 220). E.C. Colwell analyzed P75 and found about 145 itacisms plus 257 other singular readings, 25% of which are nonsensical. From the pattern of mistakes it is clear that the copyist who did P75 copied letter by letter![22] This means that he did not know Greek—when transcribing in a language you know you copy phrase by phrase, or at least word by word. K. Aland argues that before 200 the tide had begun to turn against the use of Greek in the areas that spoke Latin, Syriac or Coptic, and fifty years later the changeover to the local languages was well advanced.[23]

Again the Aegean Area is far and away the best qualified to transmit the Text with confidence and integrity. Note that even if Egypt had started out with a good text, already by the end of the 2nd century its competence to transmit the text was steadily deteriorating. In fact the early papyri (they come from Egypt) are demonstrably inferior in quality, taken individually, as well as exhibiting rather different types of text (they disagree among themselves).

The strength of the Church

This question is relevant to our discussion for two reasons. First, the law of supply and demand operates in the Church as well as elsewhere. Where there are many congregations and believers there will be an increased demand for copies of the Scriptures. Second, a strong, well established church will normally have a confident, experienced leadership—just the sort that would take an interest in the quality of their Scriptures and also be able to do something about it. So in what areas was the early Church strongest?

Although the Church evidently began in Jerusalem, the early persecutions and apostolic activity caused it to spread. The main line of advance seems to have been north into Asia Minor and west into Europe. If the selection of churches to receive the glorified Christ's "letters" (Rev. 2 and 3) is any guide, the center of gravity of the Church seems to have shifted from Palestine to Asia Minor by the end of the first century. (The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome's armies in A.D. 70 would presumably be a contributing factor.) Kurt Aland agrees with Adolf Harnack that "about 180 the greatest concentration of churches was in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast of Greece." He continues: "The overall impression is that the concentration of Christianity was in the East. . . . Even around A.D. 325 the scene was still largely unchanged. Asia Minor continued to be the heartland of the Church."[24] "The heartland of the Church"—so who else would be in a better position to certify the correct text of the New Testament?

What about Egypt? C.H. Roberts, in a scholarly treatment of the Christian literary papyri of the first three centuries, seems to favor the conclusion that the Alexandrian church was weak and insignificant to the Greek Christian world in the second century.[25] Aland states: "Egypt was distinguished from other provinces of the Church, so far as we can judge, by the early dominance of gnosticism."[26] He further informs us that "at the close of the 2nd century" the Egyptian church was "dominantly gnostic" and then goes on to say: "The copies existing in the gnostic communities could not be used, because they were under suspicion of being corrupt."[27] Now this is all very instructive—what Aland is telling us, in other words, is that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted. Aland's assessment here is most probably correct. Notice what Bruce Metzger says about the early church in Egypt:

Among the Christian documents which during the second century either originated in Egypt or circulated there among both the orthodox and the Gnostics are numerous apocryphal gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses. . . . There are also fragments of exegetical and dogmatic works composed by Alexandrian Christians, chiefly Gnostics, during the second century. . . . In fact, to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant Christian sect was represented in Egypt during the second century; Clement mentions the Valentinians, the Basilidians, the Marcionites, the Peratae, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimetites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known.[28]

It is almost enough to make one wonder whether Isaiah 30:1-3 might not be a prophecy about N.T. textual criticism!

But we need to pause to reflect on the implications of Aland's statements. He is a champion of the Egyptian ("Alexandrian") text-type, and yet he himself informs us that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted and that by 200 the use of Greek had virtually died out there. So on what basis can he argue that the Egyptian text subsequently became the best? Aland also states that in the 2nd century, 3rd century, and into the 4th century Asia Minor continued to be "the heartland of the Church." This means that the superior qualifications of the Aegean area to protect, transmit and attest the N.T. Text carry over into the 4th century! It happens that Hort, Metzger and Aland (along with many others) have linked the "Byzantine" text-type to Lucian of Antioch, who died in 311. Now really, wouldn't a text produced by a leader in "the heartland of the Church" be better than whatever evolved in Egypt?

Attitude toward the Text

Where careful work is required, the attitude of those to whom the task is entrusted is of the essence. Are they aware? Do they agree? If they do not understand the nature of the task, the quality will probably do down. If they understand but do not agree, they might even resort to sabotage—a damaging eventuality. In the case of the N.T. books we may begin with the question: "Why would copies be made?"

We have seen that the faithful recognized the authority of the N.T. writings from the start, so the making of copies would have begun at once. The authors clearly intended their writings to be circulated, and the quality of the writings was so obvious that the word would get around and each assembly would want a copy. That Clement and Barnabas quote and allude to a variety of N.T. books by the turn of the 1st century makes clear that copies were in circulation. A Pauline corpus was known to Peter before A.D. 70. Polycarp (XIII) c. 115, in answer to a request from the Philippian church, sent a collection of Ignatius' letters to them, possibly within five years after Ignatius wrote them. Evidently it was normal procedure to make copies and collections (of worthy writings) so each assembly could have a set. Ignatius referred to the free travel and exchange between the churches and Justin to the weekly practice of reading the Scriptures in the assemblies (they had to have copies).

A second question would be: "What was the attitude of the copyists toward their work?" We already have the essence of the answer. Being followers of Christ, and believing that they were dealing with Scripture, to a basic honesty would be added reverence in their handling of the Text, from the start. And to these would be added vigilance, since the Apostles had repeatedly and emphatically warned them against false teachers. As the years went by, assuming that the faithful were persons of at least average integrity and intelligence, they would produce careful copies of the manuscripts they had received from the previous generation, persons whom they trusted, being assured that they were transmitting the true text. There would be accidental copying mistakes in their work, but no deliberate changes. It is important to note that the earliest Christians did not need to be textual critics. Starting out with what they knew to be the pure text, they had only to be reasonably honest and careful. I submit that we have good reason for understanding that they were especially watchful and careful—this especially in the early decades.

As time went on regional attitudes developed, not to mention regional politics. The rise of the so-called "school of Antioch" is a relevant consideration. Beginning with Theophilus, a bishop of Antioch who died around 185, the Antiochians began insisting upon the literal interpretation of Scripture. The point is that a literalist is obliged to be concerned about the precise wording of the text since his interpretation or exegesis hinges upon it.

It is reasonable to assume that this "literalist" mentality would have influenced the churches of Asia Minor and Greece and encouraged them in the careful and faithful transmission of the pure text that they had received. For example, the 1,000 MSS of the Syriac Peshitta are unparalleled for their consistency. (By way of contrast, the 8,000 MSS of the Latin Vulgate are remarkable for their extensive discrepancies, and in this they follow the example of the Old Latin MSS.) It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Antiochian antipathy toward the Alexandrian allegorical interpretation of Scripture would rather indispose them to view with favor any competing forms of the text coming out of Egypt. Similarly the Quarto-deciman controversy with Rome would scarcely enhance the appeal of any innovations coming from the West.

To the extent that the roots of the allegorical approach that flourished in Alexandria during the third century were already present, they would also be a negative factor. Since Philo of Alexandria was at the height of his influence when the first Christians arrived there, it may be that his allegorical interpretation of the O.T. began to rub off on the young church already in the first century. Since an allegorist is going to impose his own ideas on the text anyway, he would presumably have fewer inhibitions about altering it—precise wording would not be a high priority.

The school of literary criticism that existed at Alexandria would also be a negative factor, if it influenced the Church at all, and W.R. Farmer argues that it did. "But there is ample evidence that by the time of Eusebius the Alexandrian text-critical practices were being followed in at least some of the scriptoria where New Testament manuscripts were being produced. Exactly when Alexandrian text-critical principles were first used . . . is not known."[29] He goes on to suggest that the Christian school founded in Alexandria by Pantaenus, around 180, was bound to be influenced by the scholars of the great library of that city. The point is, the principles used in attempting to "restore" the works of Homer would not be appropriate for the NT writings when appeal to the Autographs, or exact copies made from them, was still possible.


What answer do the "four controlling factors" give to our question? The four speak with united voice: "The Aegean area was the best qualified to protect, transmit and attest the true text of the N.T. writings." This was true in the 2nd century; it was true in the 3rd century; it continued to be true in the 4th century. And now we are ready to answer the question, "Was the transmission normal?", and to attempt to trace the history of the text.

Was the Transmission Normal?

Was the transmission normal? Yes and no. Assuming the faithful were persons of at least average integrity and intelligence they would produce reasonable copies of the manuscripts they had received from the previous generation, persons whom they trusted, being assured that they were transmitting the true text. There would be accidental copying mistakes in their work, but no deliberate changes. But there were others who expressed an interest in the New Testament writings, persons lacking in integrity, who made their own copies with malicious intent. There would be accidental mistakes in their work too, but also deliberate alteration of the text. I will trace first the normal transmission.

The normal transmission

We have seen that the faithful recognized the authority of the New Testament writings from the start—had they not they would have been rejecting the authority of the Apostles, and hence not been among the faithful. To a basic honesty would be added reverence in their handling of the text, from the start. And to these would be added vigilance, since the Apostles had repeatedly and emphatically warned them against false teachers.

With an ever-increasing demand and consequent proliferation of copies throughout the Graeco-Roman world and with the potential for verifying copies by having recourse to the centers still possessing the Autographs, the early textual situation was presumably highly favorable to the wide dissemination of MSS in close agreement with the original text. By the early years of the second century the dissemination of such copies can reasonably be expected to have been very widespread, with the logical consequence that the form of text they embodied would early become entrenched throughout the area of their influence.

The considerations just cited are crucial to an adequate understanding of the history of the transmission of the text because they indicate that a basic trend was established at the very beginning—a trend that would continue inexorably until the advent of a printed N.T. text. I say "inexorably" because, given a normal process of transmission, the science of statistical probability demonstrates that a text form in such circumstances could scarcely be dislodged from its dominant position—the probabilities against a competing text form ever achieving a majority attestation would be prohibitive no matter how many generations of MSS there might be. (The demonstration vindicating my assertion is in Appendix C.) It would take an extraordinary upheaval in the transmissional history to give currency to an aberrant text form. We know of no place in history that will accommodate such an upheaval.

The argument from probability would apply to secular writings as well as the New Testament and does not take into account any unusual concern for purity of text. I have argued, however, that the early Christians did have a special concern for their Scriptures and that this concern accompanied the spread of Christianity. Thus Irenaeus clearly took his concern for textual purity (which extended to a single letter) to Gaul and undoubtedly influenced the Christians in that area. The point is that the text form of the N.T. Autographs had a big advantage over that of any secular literature, so that its commanding position would become even greater than the argument from probability would suggest. The rapid multiplication and spread of good copies would raise to absolutely prohibitive levels the chances against an opportunity for aberrant text forms to gain any kind of widespread acceptance or use.[30]

It follows that within a relatively few years after the writing of the N.T. books there came rapidly into existence a "Majority" text whose form was essentially that of the Autographs themselves. This text form would, in the natural course of things, continue to multiply itself and in each succeeding generation of copying would continue to be exhibited in the mass of extant manuscripts. In short, it would have a "normal" transmission.

The use of such designations as "Syrian," "Antiochian," and "Byzantine" for the Majority Text reflects its general association with that region. I know of no reason to doubt that the "Byzantine" text is in fact the form of the text that was known and transmitted in the Aegean area from the beginning.

In sum, I believe that the evidence clearly favors that interpretation of the history of the text which sees the normal transmission of the text as centered in the Aegean region, the area that was best qualified, from every point of view, to transmit the text, from the very first. The result of that normal transmission is the "Byzantine" text-type. In every age, including the second and third centuries, it has been the traditional text.

So then, I claim that the N.T. text had a normal transmission, namely the fully predictable spread and reproduction of reliable copies of the Autographs from the earliest period down through the history of transmission until the availability of printed texts brought copying by hand to an end.

The abnormal transmission[31]

Turning now to the abnormal transmission, it no doubt commenced right along with the normal. The apostolic writings themselves contain strong complaints and warning against heretical and malicious activity. As Christianity spread and began to make an impact on the world, not everyone accepted it as "good news". Opposition of various sorts arose. Also, there came to be divisions within the larger Christian community—in the N.T. itself notice is taken of the beginnings of some of these tangents. In some cases faithfulness to an ideological (theological) position evidently became more important than faithfulness to the N.T. Text. Certain it is that Church Fathers who wrote during the second century complained bitterly about the deliberate alterations to the Text perpetrated by "heretics". Large sections of the extant writings of the early Fathers are precisely and exclusively concerned with combating the heretics. It is clear that during the second century, and possibly already in the first, such persons produced many copies of N.T. writings incorporating their alterations.[32] Some apparently were quite widely circulated, for a time. The result was a welter of variant readings, to confuse the uninformed and mislead the unwary. Such a scenario was totally predictable. If the N.T. is in fact God's Word then both God and Satan must have a lively interest in its fortunes. To approach the textual criticism of the N.T. without taking due account of that interest is to act irresponsibly.

1) Most damage done by 200 A.D.

It is generally agreed that most significant variants existed by the end of the second century. "The overwhelming majority of readings were created before the year 200," affirms Colwell.[33] "It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed," said Scrivener decades before.[34] Kilpatrick comments on the evidence of the earliest Papyri.

Let us take our two manuscripts of about this date [A.D. 200] which contain parts of John, the Chester Beatty Papyrus and the Bodmer Papyrus. They are together extant for about seventy verses. Over these seventy verses they differ some seventy-three times apart from mistakes.

Further in the Bodmer Papyrus the original scribe has frequently corrected what he first wrote. At some places he is correcting his own mistakes but at others he substitutes one form of phrasing for another. At about seventy-five of these substitutions both alternatives are known from other manuscripts independently. The scribe is in fact replacing one variant reading by another at some seventy places so that we may conclude that already in his day there was variation at these points.[35]

Zuntz also recognized all of this. "Modern criticism stops before the barrier of the second century; the age, so it seems, of unbounded liberties with the text."[36]

Kilpatrick goes on to argue that the creation of new variants ceased by about 200 A.D. because it became impossible to "sell" them. He discusses some of Origen's attempts at introducing a change into the text, and proceeds:

Origen's treatment of Matt. 19:19 is significant in two other ways. First he was probably the most influential commentator of the Ancient Church and yet his conjecture at this point seems to have influenced only one manuscript of a local version of the New Testament. The Greek tradition is apparently quite unaffected by it. From the third century onward even an Origen could not effectively alter the text.

This brings us to the second significant point—his date. From the early third century onward the freedom to alter the text which had obtained earlier can no longer be practiced. Tatian is the last author to make deliberate changes in the text of whom we have explicit information. Between Tatian and Origen Christian opinion had so changed that it was no longer possible to make changes in the text whether they were harmless or not.[37]

He feels this attitude was a reaction against the rehandling of the text by the second-century heretics. Certainly there had been a great hue and cry, and whatever the reason it does appear that little further damage was done after A.D. 200.

2) The aberrant text forms

The extent of the textual difficulties of the 2nd century can easily be exaggerated. Nevertheless, the evidence cited does prove that aberrant forms of the N.T. text were produced. Naturally, some of those text forms may have acquired a local and temporary currency, but they could scarcely become more than eddies along the edge of the "majority" river. Recall that the possibility of checking against the Autographs must have served to inhibit the spread of such text forms.

For example, Gaius, an orthodox Father who wrote near the end of the second century, named four heretics who not only altered the text but had disciples who multiplied copies of their efforts. Of special interest here is his charge that they could not deny their guilt because they could not produce the originals from which they made their copies.[38] This would be a hollow accusation from Gaius if he could not produce the Originals either. I have already argued that the churches in Asia Minor, for instance, did still have either the Autographs or exact copies that they themselves had made—thus they knew, absolutely, what the true wording was and could repel the aberrant forms with confidence. A man like Polycarp would still be able to affirm in 150 A.D., letter by letter if need be, the original wording of the text for most of the New Testament books. And presumably his MSS were not burned when he was.

Not only would there have been pressure from the Autographs, but also the pressure exerted by the already-established momentum of transmission enjoyed by the majority text form. As already discussed, the statistical probabilities militating against any aberrant text forms would be overwhelming. In short, although a bewildering array of variants came into existence, judging from extant witnesses, and they were indeed a perturbing influence in the stream of transmission, they would not succeed in thwarting the progress of the normal transmission.

The Stream of Transmission

Now then, what sort of a picture may we expect to find in the surviving witnesses on the assumption that the history of the transmission of the New Testament Text was normal? We may expect a broad spectrum of copies, showing minor differences due to copying mistakes but all reflecting one common tradition. The simultaneous existence of abnormal transmission in the earliest centuries would result in a sprinkling of copies, helter-skelter, outside of that main stream. The picture would look something like Figure C.

The MSS within the cone represent the "normal" transmission. To the left I have plotted some possible representatives of what we might style the "irresponsible" transmission of the text—the copyists produced poor copies through incompetence or carelessness but did not make deliberate changes. To the right I have plotted some possible representatives of what we might style the "fabricated" transmission of the text—the scribes made deliberate changes in the text (for whatever reasons), producing fabricated copies, not true copies. I am well aware that the MSS plotted on the figure above contain both careless and deliberate errors, in different proportions (7Q5,4,8 and P52 are too fragmentary to permit the classification of their errors as deliberate rather than careless), so that any classification such as I attempt here must be relative and gives a distorted picture. Still, I venture to insist that ignorance, carelessness, officiousness and malice all left their mark upon the transmission of the New Testament text, and we must take account of them in any attempt to reconstruct the history of that transmission.

As the figure suggests, I argue that Diocletian's campaign had a purifying effect upon the stream of transmission. In order to withstand torture rather than give up your MS(S), you would have to be a truly committed believer, the sort of person who would want good copies of the Scriptures. Thus it was probably the more contaminated MSS that were destroyed, in the main, leaving the purer MSS to replenish the earth (please see the section, "Imperial repression of the N.T." in Chapter six).

Another consideration suggests itself—if, as reported, the Diocletian campaign was most fierce and effective in the Byzantine area, the numerical advantage of the "Byzantine" text-type over the "Western" and "Alexandrian" would have been reduced, giving the latter a chance to forge ahead. But it did not happen. The Church, in the main, refused to propagate those forms of the Greek text.

What we find upon consulting the witnesses is just such a picture. We have the Majority Text (Aland), or the Traditional Text (Burgon), dominating the stream of transmission with a few individual witnesses going their idiosyncratic ways. We have already seen that the notion of "text-types" and recensions, as defined and used by Hort and his followers, is gratuitous. Epp's notion of "streams" fares no better. There is just one stream, with a number of small eddies along the edges.[39] When I say the Majority Text dominates the stream, I mean it is represented in about 95% of the MSS.[40]

Actually, such a statement is not altogether satisfactory because it does not allow for the mixture or shifting affinities encountered within individual MSS. A better, though more cumbersome, way to describe the situation would be something like this: 100% of the MSS agree as to, say, 50% of the Text; 99% agree as to another 40%; over 95% agree as to another 4%; over 90% agree as to another 2%; over 80% agree as to another 2%; only for 2% or so of the Text do less than 80% of the MSS agree, and most of those cases occur in Revelation.[41] And the membership of the dissenting group varies from reading to reading. (I will of course be reminded that witnesses are to be weighed, not counted; I will come to that presently, so please bear with me.) Still, with the above reservation, one may reasonably speak of up to 95% of the extant MSS belonging to the Majority text-type.

I see no way of accounting for a 95% (or 90%) domination unless that text goes back to the Autographs. Hort saw the problem and invented a revision. Sturz seems not to have seen the problem. He demonstrates that the "Byzantine text-type" is early and independent of the "Western" and "Alexandrian text-types," and like von Soden, wishes to treat them as three equal witnesses.[42] But if the three "text-types" were equal, how ever could the so-called "Byzantine" gain a 90-95% preponderance?

The argument from statistical probability enters here with a vengeance. Not only do the extant MSS present us with one text form enjoying a 95% majority, but the remaining 5% do not represent a single competing text form. The minority MSS disagree as much (or more) among themselves as they do with the majority. For any two of them to agree so closely as do P75 and B is an oddity. We are not judging, therefore, between two text forms, one representing 95% of the MSS and the other 5%. Rather, we have to judge between 95% and a fraction of 1% (comparing the Majority Text with the P75,B text form for example). Or to take a specific case, in 1 Tim. 3:16 some 600 Greek MSS (besides the Lectionaries) read "God" while only seven read something else. Of those seven, three have private readings and four agree in reading "who."[43] So we have to judge between 99% and 0.6%, "God" versus "who." It is hard to imagine any possible set of circumstances in the transmissional history sufficient to produce the cataclysmic overthrow in statistical probability required by the claim that "who" is the original reading.

It really does seem that those scholars who reject the Majority Text are faced with a serious problem. How is it to be explained if it does not reflect the Original? Hort's notion of a Lucianic revision has been abandoned by most scholars because of the total lack of historical evidence. The eclecticists are not even trying. The "process" view has not been articulated in sufficient detail to permit refutation, but on the face of it that view is flatly contradicted by the argument from statistical probability.[44] How could any amount of "process" bridge the gap between B or Aleph and the TR?

But there is a more basic problem with the process view. Hort saw clearly, and correctly, that the Majority Text must have a common archetype. Recall that Hort's genealogical method was based on community of error. On the hypothesis that the Majority Text is a late and inferior text form, the large mass of common readings which distinguish it from the so-called "Western" or "Alexandrian text-types" must be errors (which was precisely Hort's contention) and such an agreement in error would have to have a common source. The process view fails completely to account for such an agreement in error (on that hypothesis).

Hort saw the need for a common source and posited a Lucianic revision. Scholars now generally recognize that the "Byzantine text-type" must date back at least into the second century. But what chance would the original "Byzantine" document, the archetype, have of gaining currency when appeal to the Autographs was still possible?

Candidly, there is only one reasonable explanation for the Majority Text that has so far been advanced—it is the result of an essentially normal process of transmission and the common source for its consensus is the Autographs. Down through the centuries of copying, the original text has always been reflected with a high degree of accuracy in the manuscript tradition as a whole. The history of the text presented in this chapter not only accounts nicely for the Majority Text, it also accounts for the inconsistent minority of MSS. They are remnants of the abnormal transmission of the text, reflecting ancient aberrant forms. It is a dependence upon such aberrant forms that distinguishes contemporary critical/eclectic editions of the Greek New Testament, and the modern translations based upon them.

What Is the Actual Evidence?

The Uncials

In The Text of the New Testament[45] K. Aland offers a summary of the results of a "systematic test collation" for the more important uncials from centuries IV-IX. He uses four headings: "Byzantine", "original", "agreements" between the first two, and "independent or distinctive" readings. Since by "original" he seems to mean essentially "Egyptian" (or "Alexandrian") I will use the following headings: Egyptian, Majority ("Byzantine"), both ("agreements") and other ("independent"). I proceed to chart each MS from the IV through IX centuries for which Aland offers a summary:

By way of explanation: "cont." stands for content, e = Gospels (but Aland's figures cover only the Synoptics), a = Acts, p = Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) and c = Catholic Epistles; "Cat." refers to Aland's five categories (The Text, pp. 105-6) and "class." stands for a classification devised by me wherein E = Egyptian, M = Majority and O = other. It has the following values, which are illustrated with M:

I assume that Aland will agree with me that E + M is certainly original, so the "both" column needs to be disregarded as we try to evaluate the tendencies of the several MSS. Accordingly I considered only the "Egyptian", "Majority" and "other" columns in calculating percentages.

Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

B-03    IV      e      196        54     9        72     331    E+        I
                a      72         22     2        11     107    E++       I
                p      144        31     8        27     210    E++       I
                c      80         8      2        9      99     E++       I

À-01    IV      e      170        80     23       95     368    E         I
                a      67         24     9        17     117    E+        I
                p      174        38     76       52     340    E         I
                c      73         5      21       16     115    E         I


Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

W-032   V       e      54         70     118      88     330    M-        III

A-02    V       e      18         84     151      15     268    M++       III
                a      65         22     9        12     108    E+        I
                p      149        28     31       37     245    E+        I
                c      62         5      18       12     97     E+        I

C-04    V       e      66         66     87       50     269    M-        II
                a      37         12     12       11     72     E         II
                p      104        23     31       15     173    E+        II
                c      41         3      15       12     71     E         II

D-05    V       e      77         48     65       134    324    O-        IV
                a      16         7      21       33     77     O-        IV

I-016   V       p      15         1      2        6      24     E         II

Q-026   V       e      0          5      5        2      12     M+        V

048     V       p*     26         7      3        4      40     E+        II

0274    V       e      19         6      0        2      27     E+++      II


Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

D-06    VI      p      112        29     137      83     361    M-        II

E-08    VI      a      23         21     36       22     102    M-        II

H-015   VI      p      11         0      5        1      17     E         III

N-022   VI      e      8          48     89       15     160    M+        V

O-023   VI      e      0          4      9        3      16     M+        V

P-024   VI      e      3          16     24       0      43     M++       V

R-027   VI      e      0          4      11       5      20     M+        V

Z-035   VI      e      11         5      3        2      21     E+        III

X-040   VI**    e      8          2      2        3      15     E         III

S-042   VI      e      15         83     140      25     263    M+        V

F-043   VI      e      11         83     131      18     243    M++       V


Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

0211    VII     e      10         101    189      23     323    M++       V


Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

E-07    VIII    e      1          107    209      9      326    M++++     V

L-019   VIII    e      125        75     52       64     316    E         II

047     VIII    e      6          96     175      21     298    M++       V

0233    VIII    e      3          23     47       5      78     M++       III

Y-044   VIII    e      52         21     40       19     132    E-        III
                a      22         25     43       15     105    M         III
                p      38         42     135      33     248    M         III
                c      54         8      21       14     97     E         II


Codex   Date    cont.  Egyptian   both   Majority other  total  class.    Cat.

F-09    IX      e      0          78     156      11     245    M+++      V

F-010   IX      p      91         12     41       69     213    E-        III

G-011   IX      e      4          87     176      21     288    M++       V

G-012   IX      p      91         12     43       66     212    E-        III

H-013   IX      e      2          82     174      7      265    M++++     V

H-014   IX      a      2          22     48       1      73     M+++      V

K-017   IX      e      8          107    197      15     327    M++       V

K-018   IX      p      8          32     154      8      202    M+++      V
                c      4          9      77       6      96     M++       V

L-020   IX      a      1          23     51       3      78     M+++      V
                p      5          44     188      4      241    M++++     V
                c      5          9      78       3      95     M+++      V

M-021   IX      e      7          106    202      12     327    M+++      V

P-025   IX      a      1          29     70       0      100    M++++     V
                p      87         31     87       31     236    E/M       III
                c      26         6      46       9      87     M         III

U-030   IX      e      1          38     105      11     155    M++       V

V-031   IX      e      8          101    192      17     318    M++       V

Y-034   IX      e      4          95     192      6      297    M++++     V

D-037   IX      e      69         88     120      47     324    M         III

Q-038   IX      e      75         59     89       95     318    O-        II

L-039   IX      e      010        41     2        53     M++++  V

P-041   IX      e      11         104    190      18     323    M++       V

W-045   IX      e      3          104    208      10     325    M+++      V

049     IX      a      3          29     69       3      104    M+++      V
                p      0          34     113      3      150    M++++     V
                c      1          9      82       4      96     M+++      V

063     IX      p      0          3      15       0      18     M+++++    V

0150    IX      p      65         34     101      23     223    M         III

0151    IX      p      9          44     174      7      234    M+++      V

33      IX      e      57         73     54       44     228    E-        II
                a      34         19     21       11     85     E         I
                p      129        35     47       36     247    E         I
                c      45         3      21       14     83     E         I

461     835     e      3          102    219      5      329    M++++     V


(*Aland shows ap, but gives no figures for a. **UBS3 has VIII.)

So, what can we learn from this chart? Perhaps a good place to begin is with a correlation between "Cat." and "class." in terms of the values we have each given to specific MSS:

Categories I, IV and V are reasonably consistent, but how are we to interpret II and III? This is bothersome because in Aland's book (pp. 156-59) a very great many MSS are listed under III and not a few under II. It might be helpful to see how many MSS, or content segments, fall at the intersections of the two parameters:

0274 and 063 are fragmentary, which presumably accounts for their exceptional scores, E+++ and M+++++ respectively; if they were more complete they would probably each come down a level. Out of 45 M segments 31 score above 80%, while 9 are over 95% 'pure'. It should be possible to reconstruct a "Byzantine" archetype with tolerable confidence. But one has to wonder how Aland arrived at the "Egyptian" norm in the Gospels since the best Egyptian witness (except for the fragmentary 0274, which has less than 10% of the text but scores 90%), Codex B, barely passes 70%. (In The Text, p. 95, Aland gives a summary for P75 in Luke—it scores 77%.) Further, besides B and 0274, P75 and Z (both also fragmentary) are the only Greek MSS that score so much as an E+ in the Gospels. One is reminded of E.C. Colwell's conclusion after attempting to reconstruct an 'average' or mean Alexandrian text for the first chapter of Mark. "These results show convincingly that any attempt to reconstruct an archetype of the Beta [Alexandrian] 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."[46]

For the other content areas the situation is not much better. Only P74 (86%), B (85%) and 81 (80%) rate an E++ in a; apart from them only A and Aleph manage even an E+. Codex B is the only E++ (80%) in p, and only P46, A, C, 048 and 1739 manage an E+. Aside from B's 88% in c, only P74, A and 1739 manage even an E+. How did Aland arrive at his "Egyptian" norm in these areas? Might that "norm" be a fiction, as Colwell affirmed?

Codex Ae is 82% Byzantine and must have been based on a Byzantine exemplar, which presumably would belong to the IV century. Codex W in Matthew is also clearly Byzantine and must have had a Byzantine exemplar. The sprinkling of Byzantine readings in B is sufficiently slight that it could be ascribed to chance, I suppose, but that explanation will hardly serve for Aleph. At least in p, if not throughout, Aleph's copyist must have had access to a Byzantine exemplar, which could have belonged to the III century. But Asterius offers much stronger evidence: he died in 341, so presumably did his writing somewhat earlier; it seems likely that his MSS would be from the III century—since he shows a 90% preference for Byzantine readings those MSS must have been Byzantine. (Using my classification, Asterius would be M++, the Byzantine preference being 83%. On a percentage basis Asterius is as strongly Byzantine as B is Egyptian.) Adamantius died in 300, so he did his writing earlier. Might his MSS have been from the first half of the III century? Since he shows a 52% preference for Byzantine readings (or 39%, using my classification) at least some of his MSS were presumably Byzantine. For that matter P66 has so many Byzantine readings that its copyist must have had access to a Byzantine exemplar, which would necessarily belong to the II century! The circumstance that some Byzantine readings in P66* were corrected to Egyptian readings, while some Egyptian readings in P66* were corrected to Byzantine readings, really seems to require that we posit exemplars of the two types—between them the two hands furnish clear evidence that the Byzantine text, as such, existed in their day. (For evidence from the early Fathers, Papyri and Versions please see the section, "But There Is No Evidence of the Byzantine Text in the Early Centuries", in Chapter six.)

Returning to the chart of the uncials above, in the IV century E leads in all four areas, although in Aleph E is weak and M is gaining. If W is IV century M has gained even more. I remind the reader that I am referring only to the information in the chart given above. In reality, I assume that the IV century, like all others, was dominated by Byzantine MSS. Being good copies they were used and worn out, thereby perishing. Copies like B and Aleph survived because they were "different", and therefore not used. By "used" I mean for ordinary purposes—I am well aware that Aleph exercised the ingenuity of a number of correctors over the centuries, but it left no descendants. In the V century M takes over the lead in e while E retains apc (it may come as a surprise to some that Ce is more M than anything else). In the VI century M strengthens its hold on e and moves in on a (it may come as a surprise to some that Dp is more M than anything else). After the V century, with the sole exception of the fragmentary Z, all the "Egyptian" witnesses are weak—even the "queen of the cursives," 33, does not get up to an E+. Of X century uncials for which Aland offers a summary, all are clearly Byzantine (028, 033, 036, 056, 075 and 0124) except for 0243, which scores an E.[47]

The Cursives

When we turn to the cursives, Aland offers summaries for 150, chosen on the basis of their "independence" from the Byzantine norm. He lists 900 MSS only by number because "these minuscules exhibit a purely or predominantly Byzantine text," and therefore he considers that "they are all irrelevant for textual criticism" (The Text, p. 155). To do for the 150 "independent" cursives what I did for the uncials would take too much space, so I will summarize Aland's statistics in chart form, using my classification:

Even among these "independent" cursives there are two content segments that actually score 100% Byzantine! (Just imagine how many more there must be among the 900 that are so Byzantine that Aland ignored them.) The best Egyptian representative is 81 in Acts, with an even 80%. 1739 scores 70% (E+) in c and 68% (E+) in p. These are the only three segments that I would call "clearly Egyptian". There are sixteen segments that score between 50 and 66% (E). Pitting M through M+++++ against E through E++ we get 344 to 19, and this from the "independent" minuscules. If we add the 900 "predominantly Byzantine" MSS, which will average over two content segments each, the actual ratio is well over 100 to one. I assume that almost all of these 900 will score at least M++, and most will doubtless score M+++ or higher. If we were to compute only segments that score at least 80%, the Byzantine:Egyptian ratio would be more like 1,000 to one—the MSS that have been classified by Aland's "test collation", as reported in his book, represent perhaps 40% of the total (excluding Lectionaries), but we may reasonably assume that most of the "independent" ones have already been identified and presented. It follows that the remaining MSS, at least 1,600, can only increase the Byzantine side of the ratio. If the Byzantine text is the "worst", then down through the centuries of manuscript copying the Church was massively mistaken!

The MSS discussed in Aland's book (first edition) reflect the collating done at his Institute as of 1981. Many more have doubtless been collated since, but the general proportions will probably not change significantly. Consider the study done by Frederik Wisse. He collated and compared 1,386 MSS in Luke 1, 10 and 20, and found only four uncials (out of 34) and four cursives (out of 1,352) that displayed the Egyptian text-type, plus another two of each that were Egyptian in one of the three chapters.[48]

Concluding Remarks

In his book Aland's discussion of the transmission of the NT text is permeated with the assumption that the Byzantine text was a secondary development that progressively contaminated the pure Egyptian ("Alexandrian") text. But the chief "Alexandrian" witnesses, B, A (except e) and À (The Text, p. 107), are in constant and significant disagreement among themselves; so much so that there is no objective way of reconstructing an archetype. 150 years earlier the picture is the same; P45, P66 and P75 are quite dissimilar and do not reflect a single tradition. In A.D. 200 "there was no king in [Egypt]; everyone did what was right in his own eyes," or so it would seem. But what if we were to entertain the hypothesis that the Byzantine tradition is the oldest and that the "Western" and "Alexandrian" MSS represent varying perturbations on the fringes of the main transmissional stream? Would this not make better sense of the surviving evidence? Then there would have been no "Western" or "Egyptian" archetypes, just various sources of contamination that acted in such a random fashion that each extant "Western" or "Egyptian" MS has a different 'mosaic'. In contrast, there would indeed be a "Byzantine" archetype, which would reflect the original. In fact, virtually perfect exemplars exist in our day, as illustrated by 1841 for the pauline corpus and 424 for the general epistles.

Aland seems to grant that down through the centuries of church history the Byzantine text was regarded as "the text of the church", and he traces the beginning of this state of affairs to Lucian.[49] He makes repeated mention of a "school of/at Antioch" and of Asia Minor. All of this is very interesting, because in his book he agrees with Adolf Harnack that "about 180 the greatest concentration of churches was in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast of Greece".[50] This is the area where Greek was the mother tongue and where Greek continued to be used. It is also the area that started out with most of the Autographs. But Aland continues: "Even around A.D. 325 the scene was still largely unchanged. Asia Minor continued to be the heartland of the Church." "The heartland of the Church"—so who else would be in a better position to identify the correct text of the New Testament? Who could 'sell' a fabricated text in Asia Minor in the early fourth century? I submit that the Byzantine text dominated the transmissional history because the churches in Asia Minor vouched for it. And they did so, from the very beginning, because they knew it was the true text, having received it from the Apostles. The Majority Text is what it is just because it has always been the Text of the Church.

[1]Z.C. Hodges, "A Defense of the Majority Text" (unpublished course notes, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975), p. 4.

[2]Colwell, What is the Best New Testament?, p. 53.

[3]Westcott and Hort, p. 9. Cf. p. 7. It is clear that Hort regarded the "extant literature" as representative of the textual picture in the early centuries. This gratuitous and misleading idea continues to be an important factor in the thinking of some scholars today.

[4]The normal, basic meaning of anwqen is "from up/above"; since that meaning fits here perfectly well I see no reason to posit a different meaning

[5]For a statement of my presuppositions see Appendix A.

[6]I am aware that it could be Prov. 3:12 (LXX) rather than Heb 12:6. Clement quotes from both books repeatedly throughout the letter, so they are equal candidates on that score. But, Clement agrees verbatim with Hebrews while Proverbs (LXX) differs in one important word. Further, the main point of Clement's chapter 56 is that correction is to be received graciously and as from the Lord, which is also the point of Heb. 12:3-11. Since Clement evidently had both books in front of him (in the next chapter he quotes nine consecutive verses, Prov. 1:23-31) the verbatim agreement with Hebrews is significant. If he deliberately chose the wording of Hebrews over that of Proverbs, what might that imply about their rank?

[7]I have used the translation done by Francis Glimm in The Apostolic Fathers (New York: Cima Publishing Co., Inc., 1947), belonging to the set, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Ludwig Schopp.

[8]J.V. Bartlet says of the formulae of citation used in Barnabas to introduce quotations from Scripture, "the general result is an absolute doctrine of inspiration," but he is unwilling to consider that II Peter is being used. Oxford Society of Historical Research, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 2, 15.

[9]See footnote 6.

[10]See footnote 6.

[11]I have used the translation in Vol. I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed., A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956).

[12]I have used the translation by E.R. Hardy in Early Christian Fathers, ed., C.C. Richardson (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953).

[13]See footnote 10.

[14]See footnote 11. His careful study of the early Christian literary papyri has led C.H. Roberts to conclude: "This points to the careful and regular use of the scriptures by the local communities" (Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt [London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979], p. 25). He also infers from P. Oxy. iii. 405 that a copy of Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses, written in Lyons, was brought to Oxyrhynchus within a very few years after it was written (Ibid., pp. 23, 53), eloquent testimony to the extent of the traffic among the early churches.

[15]See footnote 11, except that Richardson is the translator here.

[16]Taken from G.D. Barry, The Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture (New York: The McMillan Company, 1919), p. 52.

[17]Ibid., p. 53.

[18]Prescription against Heretics, 37. I have used the translation done by Peter Holmes in Vol. III of The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

[19]Metzger, The Text, p. 21.

[20]Prescription against Heretics, 36, using Holmes' translation.

[21]Metzger, Early Versions, p. 104.

[22]Colwell, "Scribal Habits," pp. 374-76, 380.

[23]K. and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), pp. 52-53.

[24]Ibid., p. 53.

[25]Roberts, pp. 42-43, 54-58.

[26]K. and B. Aland, p. 59.

[27]K. Aland, "The Text of the Church?", Trinity Journal, 1987, 8NS:138.

[28]Metzger, Early Versions, p. 101.

[29]W.R. Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Cambridge: University Press, 1974), pp. 14-15. He cites B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 1924, pp. 111, 122-23.

[30]I have avoided introducing any argument based on the providence of God because not all accept such argumentation and because the superiority of the Traditional Text can be demonstrated without recourse to it. Thus, I believe the argument from statistical probability given above is valid as it stands. However, while I have not argued on the basis of Providence, I wish the reader to understand that I personally do not think that the preservation of the true text was so mechanistic as the discussion above might suggest. From the evidence previously adduced, it seems clear that a great many variant readings (perhaps most of the malicious ones) that existed in the second century simply have not survived—we have no extant witness to them. We may reasonably conclude that the early Christians were concerned and able watchdogs of the true text. I would like to believe that they were aided and abetted by the Holy Spirit. In that event, the security of the text is considerably greater than that suggested by probability alone, including the proposition that none of the original wording has been lost.

[31]I have been accused of inconsistency in that I criticize W-H for treating the NT like any other book and yet myself claim a "normal transmission" for the Majority Text. The crucial point is that I also recognize an "abnormal transmission," whereas W-H did not. Fee seriously distorts my position by ignoring my discussion of the abnormal transmission ("A Critique," pp. 404-08) and mis-stating my view of the normal transmission (Ibid., p. 399). I hold that 95% of the variants, the obvious transcriptional errors, belong (for the most part) to the normal transmission, whereas most of the remaining 5%, the "significant" variants, belong to the abnormal transmission.

[32]Burgon, The Revision Revised, pp. 323-24.

[33]Colwell, "The Origin of Texttypes," p. 138.

[34]F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth edition edited by E. Miller (2 Vols.; London: George Bell and Sons, 1894), II, 264.

[35]G.D. Kilpatrick, "The Transmission of the New Testament and its Reliability," The Bible Translator, IX (July, 1958), 128-29.

[36]Zuntz, The Text, p. 11.

[37]Kilpatrick, "Atticism and the Text of the Greek New Testament," Neutestamentliche Aufsatze (Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1963), pp. 129-30.

[38]Cf. Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 323.

[39]One might speak of a P45,W eddy or a P75,B eddy, for example.

[40]Although I have used, of necessity, the term "text-type" throughout the book, I view the Majority Text as being much broader. It is a textual tradition which might be said to include a number of related "text-types," such as von Soden's Ka, Ki, and Kl. I wish to emphasize again that it is only agreement in error that determines genealogical relationships. It follows that the concepts of "genealogy" and "text-type" are irrelevant with reference to original readings—they are only useful (when employed properly) for identifying spurious readings. Well, if there is a family that very nearly reflects the original its "profile" or mosaic of readings will distinguish it from other families, but most of those readings will not be errors (the competing variants distinctive of other families will be errors).

[41]I am not prepared to defend the precise figures used, they are guesses, but I believe they represent a reasonable approximation to reality. I heartily agree with Colwell when he insists that we must "rigorously eliminate the singular reading" ("External Evidence," p. 8) on the altogether reasonable assumption (it seems to me) that a solitary witness against the world cannot possibly be right.

[42]Sturz, Op. Cit. A text produced by taking two "text-types" against one would move the UBS text about 80% of the distance toward the Majority text.

[43]The readings, with their supporting MSS, are as follows:

o - D

w - 061

oV QeoV - one cursive (and one Lectionary)

oV - À,33,442,2127 (three Lectionaries)

QeoV - A,Cvid,F/Gvid,K,L,P,Y, some 600 cursives (besides Lectionaries) (including four cursives that read o QeoV and one

Lectionary that reads Qeou).

It will be observed that my statement differs from that of the UBS text, for example. I offer the following explanation.

Young, Huish, Pearson, Fell, and Mill in the seventeenth century, Creyk, Bentley, Wotton, Wetstein, Bengel, Berriman, and Woide in the eighteenth, and Scrivener as late as 1881 all affirmed, upon careful inspection, that Codex A reads "God." For a thorough discussion please see Burgon, who says concerning Woide, "The learned and conscientious editor of the Codex declares that so late as 1765 he had seen traces of the Q which twenty years later (viz. in 1785) were visible to him no longer" (The Revision Revised, p. 434. Cf. pp. 431-36). It was only after 1765 that scholars started to question the reading of A (through fading and wear the middle line of the theta is no longer discernible).

Hoskier devotes Appendix J of A Full Account (the appendix being a reprint of part of an article that appeared in the Clergyman's Magazine for February 1887) to a careful discussion of the reading of Codex C. He spent three hours examining the passage in question in this MS (the MS itself) and adduces evidence that shows clearly, I believe, that the original reading of C is "God." He examined the surrounding context and observes, "The contracting-bar has often vanished completely (I believe, from a cursory examination, more often than not), but at other times it is plain and imposed in the same way as at 1 Tim. iii.16" (Appendix J, p. 2). See also Burgon, Ibid., pp. 437-38.

Codices F/G read OC wherein the contracting-bar is a slanting stroke. It has been argued that the stroke represents the aspirate of oV, but Burgon demonstrates that the stroke in question never represents breathing but is invariably the sign of contraction and affirms that "oV is nowhere else written OC in either codex" (Ibid., p. 442. Cf. pp. 438-42). Presumably the cross-line in the common parent had become too faint to see. As for cursive 365, Burgon conducted an exhaustive search for it. He not only failed to find it but could find no evidence that it had ever existed (Ibid., pp. 444-45).

(I took up the case of 1 Tim. 3:16, in the first edition of this book, solely to illustrate the argument from probability, not as an example of "how to do textual criticism" [cf. Fee, "A Critique," p. 423]. Since the question has been raised, I will add a few words on that subject.)

The three significant variants involved are represented in the ancient uncial MSS as follows: O, OC, and QC, meaning "which," "who," and "God" respectively. In writing "God" a scribe's omitting of the two lines (through haste or momentary distraction) would result in "who." Codices A, C, F, and G have numerous instances where either the cross-line or the contracting-bar is no longer discernible (either the original line has faded to the point of being invisible or the scribe may have failed to write it in the first place). For both lines to fade away, as in Codex A here, is presumably an infrequent event. For a scribe to inadvertently omit both lines would presumably also be an infrequent event, but it must have happened at least once, probably early in the second century and in circumstances that produced a wide ranging effect.

The collocation "the mystery . . . who" is even more pathologic in Greek than it is in English. It was thus inevitable, once such a reading came into existence and became known, that remedial action would be attempted. Accordingly, the first reading above, "the mystery . . . which," is generally regarded as an attempt to make the difficult reading intelligible. But it must have been an early development, for it completely dominates the Latin tradition, both version and Fathers, as well as being the probable reading of the Syrp and Coptic versions. It is found in only one Greek MS, Codex D, and in no Greek Father before the fifth century.

Most modern scholars regard "God" as a separate therapeutic response to the difficult reading. Although it dominates the Greek MSS (over 98 percent), it is certainly attested by only two versions, the Georgian and Slavonic (both late). But it also dominates the Greek Fathers. Around A.D. 100 there are possible allusions in Barnabas, "IhsouV . . . o uioV tou Qeou tupw kai en sarki fanerwqeiV" (Cap. xii), and in Ignatius, "Qeou anqrwpinwV faneroumenou" (Ad Ephes. c. 19) and "en sarki genomenoV QeoV" (Ibid., c. 7). In the third century there seem to be clear references in Hippolytus, "QeoV en swmati efanerwqh" (Contra Haeresim Noeti, c. xvii), Dionysius, "Qeoj gar efanerwqh en sarki" (Concilia, i. 853a) and Gregory Thaumaturgus, "kai estin QeoV alhqinoV o asarkoV en sarki fanerwqeiV" (quoted by Photius). In the 4th century there are clear quotes or references in Gregory of Nyssa (22 times), Gregory of Nazianzus, Didymus of Alexandria, Diodorus, the Apostolic Constitutions, and Chrysostom, followed by Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, and Euthalius in the fifth century, and so on (Burgon, Ibid, pp. 456-76, 486-90).

As for the grammatically aberrant reading, "who," aside from the MSS already cited, the earliest version that clearly supports it is the gothic (fourth century). To get a clear Greek Patristic witness to this reading pretty well requires the sequence musthrion oj efanerwqh since after any reference to Christ, Savior, Son of God, etc. in the prior context the use of a relative clause is predictable. Burgon affirmed that he was aware of no such testimony (and his knowledge of the subject has probably never been equaled) (Ibid., p. 483).

It thus appears that the "Western" and "Byzantine" readings have earlier attestation than does the "Alexandrian." Yet if "which" was caused by "who", then the latter must be older. The reading "who" is admittedly the most difficult, so much so that to apply the "harder reading" canon in the face of an easy transcriptional explanation [the accidental omission of the two lines] for the difficult reading seems unreasonable. As Burgon so well put it:

I trust we are at least agreed that the maxim "proclivi lectioni praestat ardua," does not enunciate so foolish a proposition as that in choosing between two or more conflicting readings, we are to prefer that one which has the feeblest external attestation,—provided it be but in itself almost unintelligible? (Ibid., p. 497).

[44]For further discussion see the final pages of Appendix C.

[45]K. and B. Aland (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp. 106-125.

[46]"The Significance of Grouping of New Testament Manuscripts," New Testament Studies, IV (1957-1958), 86-87.

[47]In February, 1990 I debated Daniel Wallace at the Dallas Theological Seminary, where he was teaching. He used a graph purporting to show the distribution of the Greek MSS from the III to the IX centuries according to the three main "text-types" (a graph that he was using in the classroom). He has since used the same graph in a paper presented to the Evangelical Theological Society. The graph is very seriously misleading. I challenge Wallace to identify the MSS that the graph is supposed to represent and to demonstrate that each one belongs to the "text-type" that he alleged. It was stated that the extant MSS do not show the Byzantine text in the majority until the IX century, but according to Aland's statistics the Byzantine text took the lead in the Gospels in the V century, and kept it.

But let us consider the MSS from the IX century. Out of 27 Byzantine MSS or content segments (Gospels, Pauline corpus, etc.), eight are over 95% 'pure', ten are over 90% pure, and another six are over 80% pure. Where did these 24 MSS or segments get their Byzantine content? Since they are all distinct in content they were presumably copied from as many separate exemplars, exemplars of necessity earlier in date and also Byzantine. And what were those exemplars copied from? Evidently from still earlier Byzantine MSS, etc. Hopefully Wallace will not attempt to argue that all those IX century MSS were not copied from anything, but were independently created from nothing by each scribe! It follows that a massive majority in the IX century presupposes a massive majority in the VIII, and so on. Which is why scholars from Hort to Aland have recognized that the Byzantine text dominated the transmission from the IV century on.

Textual scholars of all persuasions, down through the years, have recognized that the extant witnesses from the early centuries are not necessarily representative of the actual state of affairs in their day. To insist that the extant witnesses are the whole story is unreasonable and begs the question.

[48]The Profile Method for the Classification and Evaluation of Manuscript Evidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982).

[49]K. Aland, "The Text of the Church?", Trinity Journal, 1987, 8NS:131-144 [actually published in 1989], pp. 142-43.

[50]The Text of the New Testament, p. 53.

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