Written by: John Sernaque
This will be the first part of a series of articles outlining the history of the Bible. These articles will point you to the most accurate translation of the Bible, and will help you to avoid the many spurious translations which exist today. This series of articles are based on the book “The King James Bible and Modern Translations” written by Vance Ferrell.
The Early Centuries
The Greek word for science is gnosis. Gnosis means knowledge. During Paul’s time, a group arose called Gnostics. They sprang up a revival which aspired to a higher degree of knowledge than was revealed in the Gospels, and that this was higher than Christianity and above paganism. After the 5th century, there were no more Gnostic sects as they and other pagan and heathen religions had been absorbed into the Roman system. Scripture calls this Babylon, confusing pagan error. During this time, God preserved the Bible manuscripts known as the Majority Text, as faithful Christians were preparing these Bible copies. We know this because the Bibles translated into English were translated from the Majority Text, they do not have Gnostic, atheistic, or Catholic teachings in them. This does not include the Catholic Bibles as they are based on the Latin Vulgate and have Catholic concepts interwoven into it. Let’s dig a little deeper.
There were 4 types of early copies of New Testament portions:
1) Greek Manuscripts- The New Testament manuscripts are in Greek and the Old Testament is in Hebrew. There are over 5,000 surviving manuscripts of the Bible. There were 2 types of Greek manuscripts:
a) The Uncials (Majuscules)- uncials were written in capital letters without any spaces or punctuations. Over 200 uncials from the 2nd to 9th century. About 100 papyri and ostraca (clay tablets).
b) The Cursives (Minuscules)- cursives were written in the lower-case running hand and look like the Greek letters in all New Testament Greek texts. Approximately 3,000 cursives are dated from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Though theoretically dated as later, they match the readings found in the early “fathers,” lectionaries, and translations – which were earlier than the codices. They support the Majority Text.
Portions of the New Testament were written on ancient paper we know as papyrus. They are among the very oldest manuscripts of the New Testament. Because they were written in Egypt, they frequently have some corrupt Alexandrian readings, yet much of the time they agree with Majority Text readings, which the codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus reject. Papyri were found and preserved in Egypt since it has a climate dry enough to preserve them. Early papyri (AD 300 or earlier) vindicates some Byzantine (Majority Text) readings. H.A. Sturz research studies showed that the Majority Text was quoted more often by the papyri than any other manuscript family. He surveyed all the available papyri and each manuscript discovered vindicated Byzantine (Majority Text) readings. Yet modern editors continue to reject these readings as being late, for which they have no argument. A.F.J. Klijn compared Sinaiticus Aleph A and Vaticanus B (both 4th century) with the papyri (2nd century) and found that the papyri were closer to the Majority Text. Papyrus Bodmer II shows some Syrian readings to be earlier than Sinaiticus Aleph A and Vaticanus B readings. He has proved that Byzantine readings to be early readings. Biblical scholars state that the papyri do not support the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus text, but instead they support the Majority Text. Several of the early papyri are related to later manuscripts of the 4th century and beyond. However, as early as A.D. 200, there was evidence of tampering with the manuscripts. Men
were already trying to change the Majority Text into something else. This is but only 100 years after the death of the Apostle John. The most incomplete and fragmentary papyri were copied in Egypt and include the errors found in the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which were also copied there.
2) Quotations- quotations and comments by early church “fathers”. The early “fathers” quoted extensively from the Bible. Many of the church “fathers” writings pre date the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus by many years. When they quote the New Testament, they quote it accurately in accordance to the manuscripts they had available to them. This is a valuable witness as to what the Bible text was in their day. The “fathers” revealed the corruption that prevailed in the first ages but the pure Majority Text prevailed. Five of the early writers (Tertullian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, and Clement) provided us with 30,147 Scripture citations and a great majority of their quotations agree with the Majority Text. All five of these men died between 20 and 150 years before the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were copied and before the Lucian recension could have been made. The origin and history of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are unknown, but with the “fathers” we not only know the actual dates of their testimony but also the very diocese of Christendom they were from. These are the periods in which these fathers lived and their geographical area; (Western, Alexandrian, and Antiochian):
· Apostolic (AD 75- 150): Clement of Rome (AD 30-100)-Western
· Ante-Nicene (AD 150- 325): Irenaeus (AD 120-192)-Western; Hippolytus (AD 170-235)-Western; Tertullian (AD 160-225)-Western; Origen (AD 185-254)-Alexandrian
· Post-Nicene (AD 325- 500): (not of the five mentioned above but of the most pertinent fathers) Augustine (AD 354-430)-Western; Athanasius (AD 293-373)-Alexandria; Chrysostom (AD 347-407)-Antiochian.
The majority of the early fathers quoted from the Majority Text, the basis for the King James Bible.
3) Lectionaries- of the more than 5,000 manuscripts, 2,143 of them are lectionaries. The lectionary was important in each local church for use in public readings during church services. Many are dated very early and favor the Majority Text. Copyists arranged many choice passages into books and used them for church readings. Lectionaries are manuscripts containing the New Testament Scripture lessons to be read at the various worship services.
4) Translations- to carry the message of salvation to all the world required translations into other languages. Modern Bible translations are based on the wrong ones.
1) Syrian- there were at least 4 major versions, one of which is the Peshitta (AD 145), which was translated only about 50 years after the last book in the Bible was written. Peshitta means straight or rule. It set the standard for purity of text due to its early translation and closely agrees with the Majority Text, and is evidence for its accuracy. This translation was 2 centuries earlier than the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, yet liberal scholars went against this known fact and changed the translation date of the Peshitta to AD 415.
2) Gothic- the first translation of a purely European language prepared in AD 330 by the evangelist Ulfilas. It was prepared approximately 10 years before the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and closely agrees with the Majority Text. Ulfilas’ translation has the traditional ending in Matthew 6:13, which the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and the modern versions omit: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
3) Armenian- evangelists Mesrob and Sahak translation was in about AD 400, and it closely matches the readings in the Majority Text. There are 1,244 copies still in existence. Therefore, scholars call it the “Queen of the Versions.”
4) Georgian- the Georgian version arose in the 5th century and was prepared for the people between the Black and Caspian Seas of southern Russia. It also supports the Majority Text.
5) Coptic- these are Egyptian translations divided into 2 main versions. Since these are Egyptian, they do not agree with the Majority Text. Egypt is where the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus came from. Also, because of its close proximity to Alexandria, is where many liberal and heretics were located. The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were produced in Alexandria. At that time, the university of Alexandria was the largest in the world and contained the most paganized Christians.
a) Sahidic- used in the southern part of Egypt about the beginning of the 3rd century.
b) Bohairic- used in the northern part of Egypt as late as the 6th century, about 100 years after the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
6) Ethiopian- this translation was prepared in the country closest to Egypt and is corrupt just like the Coptic. It contains 14 non-canonical books.
a) The Italia (Old Latin)- the first was made no later than AD 157, approximately 60 years after the last book of the Bible was written, for the young churches in the Italian Alps. It closely agrees with the Majority Text. It was a full century before the Lucian Recension and 2 full centuries before the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and long before Peter Waldo, (which Catholic legend claims to have been the first Waldensian), who lived around A.D. 1175. The Waldensian Bible was either produced from this Italia translation or from the Majority Text Greek manuscripts. These faithful Latin speaking believers in the hills of Italy continued to use the Italia translation, and its successor-the Waldensian Bible through the centuries and ignored the Vulgate. It held its own for 900 years after the Vulgate appeared. The common people wanted the Old Latin, and not the pope’s Vulgate. The Vulgate was issued about AD 397, and 900 years brings us to approximately AD 1280. It was in AD 1229 that the pope issued orders to begin the crusade against the Albigenses of southern France and the Waldenses of northern Italy. Christians were forced to retreat into the mountains. The Italia manuscripts were brought to the island of Iona where Columba, Patrick, and their helpers made copies and sent out missionaries throughout Europe. Columba, from Ireland, made Iona the center of their missionary work. Among these evangelists was an observer of the Bible Sabbath, who introduced this truth to the people. A school was established at Iona from which missionaries went out to Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The church in the wilderness continued to use the Majority Text, even though it may have been translated into Syrian, Gothic, Armenian, or Old Latin. The Old Latin was used the longest by Eastern Christians and the Italia translation is preferred to the others.
b) The Latin Vulgate- In AD 382, Bishop Damascus of Rome commissioned Jerome, a Catholic monk, to make a new and “improved” edition of the Old Latin. Jerome produced what is called the Latin Vulgate. Jerome became a close friend of Pope Damascus. While living in Antioch and Constantinople, he learned the latest philosophies. By AD 383, he had completed the translation of the New Testament. From AD 390-404, he translated the Old Testament and part of the Apocrypha. In AD 580, Pope Gregory praised this translation, and the Vulgate has always been near and dear to the hearts of the pontiffs. The Vulgate is still the official Psalter in St Peters in Rome. The Vulgate was used by Rome to withstand Protestant Bibles. It was first used to destroy the effect of the Waldensian Bible. After the reformation began, translations into English and other languages were used to withstand the Protestant European and English Bibles. The Rheims-Douai was translated from the Vulgate to overcome the King James Bibles. More on this later.
As far as the quality and quantity of the evidence, the New Testament is by far the best-preserved ancient document in the world. These early 4 sources support the Majority Text when they are early. The Majority Text is the basis for the Kings James Bible. Many foreign language translations were made in the 2nd century. Dean John Burgon analyzed and compared over 87,000 manuscripts and citations. He acknowledged that the King James Bible was founded on the very best manuscripts and an overwhelming majority of these agree with each other as to the readings of the New Testament. Burgon called the Majority Text the Traditional Text. It is also called: the Syrian Text, the Byzantine Text, the K (Kappa) Text, the Common Text, the Received Text, or the Textus Receptus. This text type is available today only in the Authorized Version or the King James Version.
To be continued on next article, Part 2.