The Majority Text/Byzantine Text vs the Modern Critical Text With Another Look at the King James Version by Heinz Schmitz
See also 175 Books on New Testament Textual Criticism on DVDrom and Learn New Testament Bible Greek - 200 Books on DVDrom (+ Greek Testaments)
In a discussion with someone on the possibility of Jesus being the archangel Michael, up popped Hebrews 2:16 in the King James Version (hereafter, KJV). It states, "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels." I explained that my New American Standard Bible does not have this reading, instead, "He does not give help to angels." The answer: "Well, my reading (KJV) is in the majority of manuscripts, the Majority Text." What does he mean?
The Majority Text comes mainly from the Byzantine Text. "It has, in addition to 'Byzantine,' been called 'Antiochian,' after the supposed place of its origin, and the 'Lucian Recension,' after its supposed editor. It is Semler's 'Oriental,' Bengel's 'Asiatic,' Griesbach's 'Constantinopolitan,' Westcott and Hort's 'Syrian,' and Burgon's 'Traditional.' Other designations of the same text include: von soden and Merk's 'K,' standing for 'Koine" or 'Common' text, Lagrange's 'A,' and Kenyon's 'Alpha.' It is laregely the text which lies behind the Textus Receptus and the King James Version."
The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism by Harry A. Sturz, p.13
It means that there are readings in the majority of available manuscripts that are not used in modern Bibles like the RSV/NRSV/NIV/NAB/NASB/NWT etc(i.e., John 7:53-8:11, the longer ending to the Lord's prayer at Matt 6 amongst others). But if they are in the majority of manuscripts, should we therefore not accept them? Let us take a look at some facts:
There was a time back about the 4th century when Greek ceased to be the lingua franca in the West, instead the Latin was adopted. However, the eastern Byzantine continued to use and write in the Greek. Hence, there are more Byzantine Greek manuscripts by virtue of all the copying done at a later date. So should we use this later text, which resembles the text (Textus Receptus) the King James translators used, rather then the older texts like the Codex Alexandrinus (A), Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) and the Vatican Manuscript 1209 (B)? We find that these older manuscripts differ in certain aspects than the later Byzantine texts, as mentioned above.
Scholars who work in the area of textual criticism have recognized that manuscripts fall into groups that are known as text-types or families. These families arose because a certain original, or few originals, were the basis for copies of the texts. Readings in those orginals where passed on the copies made from them. Because of the development of the Church into certain geographical groupings, these families tend to fall into certain geographical patterns.
There are four main text-types that are recognized:
The Alexandrian text-type is so named because it is generally associated with the Church at Alexandria. Most of the papyri manuscripts, and the uncial (meaning all capital letter) manuscripts are representative of this Alexandrian text-type. The oldest manuscripts reflect this text-type. Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus(B) are two of the most important mss. of the Alexandrian type, and often the brunt of the KJV only debate.
TheWestern text-type is so named because it was the text-type prevalent in the Western church.
It is found in Greek manuscripts and in the Latin translations used by the Western church.
The Byzantine text-type is so named because of its association with the Byzantine empire. This text type is also refered to as the Majority Text because the majority of the surviving manuscripts are of this type.
The Caesarean text-type is associated with the Church at Casearea. If is represented by what is known as "Family 1" and papryus 45. There is considerable debate about whether this should be treated as a separate text-type.
You can see some of these differences by noting the footnotes in your Bible. You will find many notes that say something like "some MSS read. . ." Unfortunately, too few Bibles tell you which MSS these really (the New World Translation Reference Edition excepted).
What are the Rules of Textual Criticism?
1. The older reading is to be preferred. (This rule assumes that the closer the manuscript is to the autograph the more likely it is to be correct.)2. The more difficult reading is to be preferred over the easier reading. (This is based on the tendency to simplify difficult words or phrases in the process of copying.)These are not always perfect rules, but they have proven themselves for the most part thus far. KJVO people do not like this, because alot of this comes from Westcott and Hort. In 1881, these two British scholars, Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort published an edition of the Greek New Testament which was based heavily upon the readings of Alexandrian MSS Aleph and B. The full theory of Westcott and Hort regarding manuscript transmission and their relation to the text is complex, the basic premise can be summed up as the older manuscripts are more likely to reflect the original reading. This has brought a torrent of ad hominem attacks on these two. But what is often not known is that S. P. Tregelles (Tregelles was premillennial and wrote a famous commentary defending the Book of Daniel), who was a British scholar affiliated first with the Plymouth Brethren and reportedly later with the Baptists(See Schaff-Herzog, vol. IV, p. 2388, and Life and Letters of John A. Broadus, p. 352.) produced a revised Greek text (1857- 1879) before the Westcott-Hort text was issued (1881).
3. The shorter reading is to be preferred over the longer reading. (Copyists tended to add material to make the text easier to understand. Of course this rule does not apply if there is evidence of an error, such as described above, that results in the loss of text.)
4. The reading that explains all the variants is most likely the original one.
5. The reading with the widest geographical support is to be preferred over one that
predominates only within a single region or single manuscript.
6. The reading that most closely conforms to the style, diction, or viewpoint of the author in the rest of the book is to be preferred. (Of course, critics often disagree on which variant best fits this criteria.)
7. A reading that displays no doctrinal bias on the part of the copyist is to be preferred over one that betrays a partisan bias.
Tregelles' text was the result of decades of laborious and exacting personal inspection of
manuscripts. There is very little difference in substance between his text and the later text of
Westcott and Hort. Few would find problems with Tregelles as he was considered "orthodox."
(The same line of argument could be pursued using another 19th century Greek text editor, Constantine Tischendorf).
There is a movement right now that is promoting the longer readings in the Textus Receptus. Their proof? Readings in the Textus Receptus are in the majority of manuscripts, therefore the majority text is the original. To conclude that this makes it the "preserved" word of God is no more logical than walking into a Bible bookstore today and concluding that the New International Version is the preserved word of God because it is in the majority. Or that the predominant life on earth would be anaerobic bacteria, and the human race would have originated in China. What are some other facts:
So Where does the Majority Text differ from the Textus Receptus (Received Text, TR) that the KJV uses?
Among extant Greek manuscripts, what is today the majority text did not become a majority until the ninth century. As far as the extant witnesses reveal, the majority text did not exist in the first four centuries. For the letters/epistles of Paul, not even one majority text manuscript exists from before the ninth century. The early Church Fathers almost always use the older Alexandrian text type. In fact, Gordon Fee, who is one of the leading patristic authorities, wrote, "Over the past eight years I have been collecting the Greek patristic evidence for Luke and John for the International Greek New Testament Project. In all of this material I have found one invariable: a good critical edition of a father's text, or the discovery of early MSS, always moves the father's text of the NT away from the TR and closer to the text of our modern critical editions. In other words when critical study is made of a church father's text or when early copies of a church father's writings are discovered, the majority text is found wanting. The early fathers had a text that keeps looking more like modern critical editions and less like the majority text." as quoted in Daniel Wallaces' The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical? The Textus Receptus differs from the Byzantine/Majority in almost 1900 places--and in fact has several readings that have "never been found in any known Greek manuscript," and perhaps hundreds of readings that depend on only a handful of very late manuscripts.Many of these passages are theologically significant texts.
Here is a sampling:
Matthew 27:35 -- The Majority Text deletes the following words: "that might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots."
Mark 15:3 -- The Majority Text does not have: "but he answered nothing."
Luke 7:31 -- The Majority Text does not have: "And the Lord said"
Luke 9:1 -- The Majority Text does not have: "his disciples"
Luke 17:36 -- The Majority Text does not have: "Two men shall be in the field; the one shall betaken, and the other left."
Luke 20:19 -- The Majority Text does not have: "the people"
John 6:70 -- The Majority Text does not have the word "Jesus"
John 10:8 -- The Majority Text does not have "before me"
Acts 7:37 -- The Majority Text does not have: "him shall ye hear"
Acts 8:37 -- The Majority Text does not have the entire verse: "And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
Acts 9:5,6 -- The Majority Text does not have: "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
Acts 9:17 -- The Majority Text does not have "Jesus"
Acts 10:6 -- The Majority Text does not have: "he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do"
Acts 10:21 -- The Majority Text does not have: "which were sent from him from Cornelius"
Acts 15:11 -- The Majority Text does not have"Christ"
Acts 15:34 -- The Majority Text does not have the entire verse: "Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still."
Acts 20:21 -- The Majority Text does not have the word: "Christ"
Acts 24:6-8 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, Commanding his accusers to come unto thee"
Romans 13:9 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "Thou shalt not bear false witness"
2 Corinthians 8:4 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "that we would receive"
1 Thessalonians 2:19 -- The Majority Text does not have the word "Christ"
2 Timothy 2:19 -- The Majority Text does not have the word "Christ"
Hebrews 11:13 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "and were persuaded’
Hebrews 12:20 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "or thrust through with a dart’
1 John 5:7,8 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth"
Revelation 1:8 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "the beginning and the ending"
Revelation 1:11 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "1 am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and"
Revelation 2:3 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "hast laboured"
Revelation 5:4 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "and to read"
Revelation 5:7 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "the book"
Revelation 5:14 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "four and twenty"
Revelation 5:14 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "him that liveth forever and ever"
Revelation 7:5-8 -- -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "were sealed" from 10 of the 12 references
Revelation 8:7 -- The Majority Text does not have the word "angel"
Revelation 11:1 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "and the angel stood"
Revelation 11:17 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "and art to come"
Revelation 12:12 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "to the inhabiters"
Revelation 12:17 -- The Majority Text does not have the word "Christ"
Revelation 14:1 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "forty and four"
Revelation 14:3 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "forty and four"
Revelation 14:5 -- The Majority Text does not have the words: "before the throne of God"
Also, the Hodges & Farstad edition of the Majority Text disagrees significantly with Robinson & Pierpont's edition.
However, it should be noted that Bibles that use the Majority Text (New King James, World English Bible) still have some of the readings above, like Rev 1:11 and of course, I John 5:7,8 (the Comma Johanneum), even though it is not in the majority of manuscripts (in fact, it is in only about 8 of them).
The Greek manuscript evidence and the evidence from early translations and church fathers (ANF) overwhelmingly declare that the trinitarian text is not an original or genuine part of 1 John, and has no legitimate place in the text of the New Testament, as anyone can see by examining the evidence in, for instance, the commentaries of Adam Clarke [Vol. VI, pp. 927-933], Henry Alford [Vol. IV, pp. 503-505], and B. F. Westcott [pp. 202-209], Scrivener's Introduction [pp. 8, 149-150, 457-463], and Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [pp. 716- 718].) Luther never included the passage in his own German translation. Both Tyndale and Coverdale indicated that they thought the suspect words were spurious. Even Erasmus rejected 1 John 5:7 as not being an original part of 1 John. In this, all Greek New Testament editions (other than mere reprints of Erasmus' text) agree, including The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text of Hodges and Farstad. Erasmus also surmised that the doxology to the Lord's Prayer in Matt. 6:13, "for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen," was a later liturgical addition to Matthew, and formed no original part of that Gospel (Bainton, p. 137). In this virtually all Greek New Testament editors agree. Further, Erasmus doubted that Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 formed an original part of those Gospels (ibid., p. 136). On the basis of available evidence, most New Testament editors agree with the judgement of Erasmus (the evidence on these disputed passages can be readily found in Alford's commentary or Metzger's Textual Commentary). All in all, Erasmus believed "the only way to determine the true text is to examine the early codices" (Bainton, p. 135). It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that, were Erasmus alive today, he would use a Greek text like that of Nestle or the United Bible Societies' text.
In fact, the reading, "he took not on him the nature of angels" mentioned above, is not supported in any Greek manuscript. Even the KJV has this in italics to let you know that it is an interpolation. What it comes down to is this: Majority Text supporters are usually KJV supporters, and are really not concerned with the facts, they simply want to be able to buttress their arguments for their support of the deity of Christ.
One argument that usually arises is in support for the reading, "God was manifest in the flesh."
Supporters of this text will argue that some early Church Fathers used this scripture, and they will put forward quotes like:
"There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; GOD EXISTING IN FLESH; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord."--Ignatius (100 AD), Ephesians (shorter), Chapter 7These are not quotes from the Bible, in fact, the closest that resembles anything like the scripture in 1 Timothy 3:16 comes from Chrysostom (347- 407), but it does not appear any earlier than this. After carefully investigating the Gospel quotations of Didymus, a fourth-century Egyptian writer, Ehrman concludes:
"These findings indicate that no 'proto-Byzantine' text existed in Alexandria in Didymus' day or, at least if it did, it made no impact on the mainstream of the textual tradition there." Bart D. Ehrman, Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), p. 260
"It (QEOS in 1 Tim 3:16) does not appear in any manuscript before this time, nor was it used in the Arian controversy of the same time...The earliest church father to use the Byzantine text was the heretic Asterius, a fourth-century writer." Daniel WallaceIn a critique of W. N. Pickering's The Identity of the New Testament Text (Pickering is a Majority/Byzantine Text advocate), Carson takes note that Pickering does raise some valid historical questions relating to the Byzantine text. But he concludes that Pickering is historically naive in failing to take into account:
- the professed conversion of Constantine,
- the immense influence of Chrysostom in the eastern empire,
- the rise of monarchical bishops and their pressure for textual uniformity,
- the division of the Roman Empire
- and the demise of the Greek language (and the resulting preeminence of Latin) throughout the Mediterranean world, Byzantium excepted. (Latin texts resemble the older Alexandrian texttype)
OS: Aleph* A* C* F G 33 365 442 1175 2127
QEOS: Aleph** A** C** D** K L P Psi 075 0150
6 81 (88 O QEOS) 104 263 330 424 436 451 629 630 1241 1319
1505 1739 1881 1962 2492 2495 Byz
geo2 slav OS QEOS: 256 (conflation)
O: D* (a b d f m vg "quod," i.e. O on its face but possibly
a grammatical correction for OS)
O or OS: most other versions except as cited.
It looks on the surface that QEOS has the advantage. But why do most Bible versions reject that reading? Because OS has the best support, being supported by all the Alexandrian manuscripts with the addition of some "Western" witnesses. "QEOS," except for the members of Family 1739, is purely Byzantine (we can ignore the corrections in Aleph, A, C, etc.; those are Byzantine also). "O" is supported only by a subset of the "Western" witnesses.
"OS" is the reading which best explains the others in several senses. First, the best witnesses all support a relative pronoun (either O or OS). This is much the more difficult reading(see above for rules of textual criticism). So surely a relative pronoun is correct, and OS is better attested.
OS is also the middle reading. To get from OS to O requires a change of only one letter; similarly, to get from OS to QEOS requires only one letter (remember that QEOS was written QS). To get from O to QEOS or vice versa is a larger change. So OS could be preferred as the middle reading.
Even Sir Isaac Newton commented on this scripture where he showed how, by a small alteration in the Greek text, the word "God" was inserted to make the phrase read "God was manifest in the flesh." He demonstrated that early Church writers in referring to the verse knew nothing of such an alteration.
Summing up both passages, Newton said: "If the ancient churches in debating and deciding the greatest mysteries of religion, knew nothing of these two texts, I understand not, why we should be so fond of them now the debates are over."
An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, by Sir Isaac Newton, Edition of 1830, London
see also The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, edited by H. W. Turnbull, F.R.S., Cambridge 1961, Vol. 1, p. XVII.
On the flip-side, Scrivener, whose Greek text carries alot of weight with the MT/Byzantine/TR crowd finds for the reading QEOS, though with much hesitation, but Edward Miller who edited the posthumous work, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament 4th ed. vol 2. pages 390-395 attempts to make a more definite case than Scrivener did.
All of this is neither here nor there to most of us. I still use the King James and the New King James Versions. All texts and Bibles agree at least 98.5%. The reason for this page is due to the sad fact that many are ready to condemn modern Bibles simply because they believe that the King James Bible is the best and has the support of God. This is unfortunate, and dangerous, and displays a limited grasp of the issues at hand. The same goes for those who are to quick to condemn the New World Translation.
There are over 5,300 surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. These range from
small fragments to almost the entire New Testament. The earliest of these manuscripts are
known as papyri because they are written on papyrus. The papyri are from the second and third centuries. Some of them are listed below:
P87(3), containing a few verses of Philemon, (c. 125)
P77, containing a few verses of Matthew 23, ( c. 150)
P45, (the Chester Beatty Papyrus 1), containing portions of all Gospels and Acts, (c. 150)
P32, containing portions of Titus, (c 175)
P90, containing a portion of John 18, (c. 150)
P52, containing a few verses of John 18, (c. 150, many scholars date it c. 125)
P4/64/67, containing portions of Matthew and Luke, (c. 200; grouped together because they are
now considered parts of the same manuscript)
P1, containing Matthew 1, (c. 200)
P13, containing Hebrews 2-5, 10-12, (c. 200)
P27, containing a portion of Romans 8, (c. 200)
P66, containing most of John, (c. 175, although some scholars have dated c. 125-150)
P75, containing most of Luke and John (c. 200)
P46, containing all of Paul's letters except the Pastorals. (traditionally dated c. 200) In 1988
Young Kyu Kim published an article proposing a date prior to the reign of Domitian (A.D.
81-96). In The Origin of the Bible, New Testament scholar Philip W. Comfort argues that even
if this date is not true then at least it provides a convincing argument to push the date back at maybe A.D.150.
In addition to the above listing, there are 33 papyri from the 3rd century.
The other major group of early manuscripts are known as uncials, because of the style of writing
(a Greek handwriting similar to printing with all capitals in English). Some uncial fragments are
dated as early as 250, but the most significant to the textual critic are from the fourth through
sixth centuries. Some of the more important ones are:
Codex Sinaiticus (designated by the Hebrew letter Aleph), containing the whole New Testament, (c.350)
Codex Vaticanus (designated B), containing almost the whole New Testament, (c. 325)
Codex Alexandrinus (designated A), containing most of the New Testament (5th century)
Codex Bezae (designated D), containing the Gospels and Acts (6th century)
Codex Claromotanus (designated DPAUL), containing the Pauline epistles and Hebrews (6th
Codex Freerianius, or Washingtonensis (designated W), containing the New Testament (4th or
For a list of all of my disks and ebooks (PDF and Amazon) click here