Written by: John Sernaque
This will be the seventh 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. Let’s pick up where we left off.
The Westcott-Hort Theory
Westcott and Hort’s Theory was, that of the 5,000 Bible manuscripts, only the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus should be given preference, because they said, these two manuscripts were older, and that all of the other 5,000 manuscripts must be copyist errors. They worked on it, on and off, for three decades. As it was Hort that developed the underlying theory, textual scholars call it the “Hort Theory.” Hort’s theory is that the manuscripts did not exist before his preferred family of texts or before any of the other families. But the quoted Scriptures found in the early Christian writings disprove the Westcott-Hort theory. The Majority Text represents the earliest Greek manuscripts, but Westcott and Hort were ignorant of church history and the transmission of the Greek text. In Hort’s day, early papyri were not available. The Hort theory, from which all modern Bible translations are founded, states that the “Neutral” text was the purest extant form, that its best representative was Codex Vaticanus and its second best was Sinaiticus, claiming that these were derived independently from a common original at no great distance from the autographs. The “Neutral” were those in Alexandria, Egypt, which is where came the most unorthodox, heretical teachings in all Christendom at that time in the 4th century A.D. What Westcott and Hort did to prepare their Greek text was to take the Vaticanus Text and underlined everything which was basically the same in the Sinaiticus. That was the basic text. Whenever the two disagreed, they considered only readings from the Neutral, Alexandrian, or Clement and Origen. The Majority Text was totally rejected.
The Codex Sinaiticus is designated by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph. This Codex is thought by the experts to have been written about AD 340. We have already learned that the Majority Text, the basis for the Kings James Bible, goes back to an earlier date. Frederick Scrivener examined the Sinaiticus and concluded that it had been corrected repeatedly because of copyist errors and that it was not of an early date but of a late date. This document had no less than 10 attempts of revision and correction and the greater part was in the 6th or 7th century. Those in possession of it deemed it to be so impure and full of copyist errors as to require correction in every part. Dr. Scrivener concluded the Sinaiticus abounds with errors and regarded the text as very rough. The Sinaiticus frequently disagrees with all the other codices. Greek scholar Dean Burgon examined the Sinaiticus and wrote about the carelessness of its copyists: “On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament.”--- Dean Burgon, Causes and Corruption of the Traditional Text, p.128.
The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were both sloppily prepared. Copyists were men paid by Constantine to do the job and were hired through Eusebius, who was a confidant of Pope Sylvester. The scribes did not care about the quality of their workmanship. Yet the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, according to Westcott and Hort’s Theory, has become the basis for all 20th century Bible translations.
The Codex Vaticanus (B) is the most complete manuscript of the Greek Bible; it includes much of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament, breaking off at Hebrews 9:14. It was brought to the Vatican Library by Pope Nicholas V and was listed in the first Library catalog in 1475. Everything about it- the age of the vellum skin, the lettering, the type of ink, etc. identifies it as having been written at about the same time as the Sinaiticus. It was likely an ancient copy of the Bible, and Rome did not want the world to know about it. They did not like Bibles being made available to people. Had it not been for the Reformation, the people would still have no Bibles. It was first made known in 1533. No Protestant was allowed to study the book until the middle of the 19th century. When Napoleon invaded Italy, it was taken to Paris, where it was carefully examined in 1809. In 1815, it was restored to Rome, where once again it was hidden. For centuries, the Catholic Church tried to destroy every copy of the book it could find. Those it did not burn, it chained to dark corners of monasteries. In 1843, Tischendorf was allowed to look at it for 6 hours. In 1845, the English scholar Tregelles, was not allowed to copy a word of it and if he looked at a page for too long, two attendants standing over his shoulders would turn the page. The Vatican feared that any scholar looks at this codex. This ancient codex was written in capital letters without spaces or periods so no Catholic scholar could learn nor understand it as all they knew was their Latin. The Vatican feared what truths may be found in it. The Vatican hired some common folk to make a copy for publication but since no one in Italy cared about the Bible, the work was very sloppy and full of errors. Under Cardinal Angelo Mai, the work was completed between 1828 and 1838. It was finally taken for printing in 1857 and was published in 5 volumes. European scholars immediately recognized it to be an inferior copy of the original. In 1866, Tischendorf was allowed to look at the codex again, under supervision, for 3 hours a day. By the end of the 8th day, he actually managed to copy 20 pages from the original. The Vatican officials were furious. They wanted to throw him out of town but it would not have looked right as by this time Tischendorf had become world-famous. Grudgingly they allowed him 6 more days, and as he had a near photographic memory, in 1867 he was able to publish the best edition of the text up to that time. The Vatican then published a 6- volume edition from 1868-1881. The Westcott-Hort Theory was based on that edition. The Codex Vaticanus (B) is dated in the first half of the 4th century, about the year AD 340, the same time that the Sinaiticus was copied. Tischendorf was certain that the scribe of the New Testament portion was the same one that prepared a part of the Codex Sinaiticus. The Codex Vaticanus (B) originally contained the entire Greek Bible. After centuries of it going from place to place, it lacks Genesis 1:1 to 46:28; Psalms 106-138; and everything after Hebrews 9:14. Dr. Scrivener found the Vaticanus to be no better than the Sinaiticus. The same scribe repeatedly wrote words and clauses twice over. The 2 codices made such mistakes repeatedly. Also, the Vaticanus leaves out words or clauses. Dr. Scrivener wrote that the great number of omissions characterizes it as “an abbreviated text of the New Testament” as it leaves out words in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and other epistles- 2,556 times in all. Burgon recognized a common flow of errors in the 2 codices pointing to an underlying attempt to insert errors. In the gospel, B is found to omit, add, substitute, transpose, and modify 8,972 words in all, and these are not the same in both codices. They disagree with one another over 3,000 times in only 4 books.
As the evidence proves, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not as old as the Majority Text. They originated in Alexandria, Egypt, which was full of pagan Christian error. They were influenced by the Alexandrian heretic, Origen. Constantine commissioned 50 copies which were believed to have been transcribed in Alexandria, Egypt. Fourth century Alexandria was known for its mixture of pagan philosophy with Christianity and its “textual criticism,” trying to change the Word of God. The apostate Origen was there. It was also the center of Arianism heresy, the teaching that Christ was a created being. Both Constantine and Eusebius leaned towards Arianism. Westcott and Hort convinced the Revision Committee of 1871-1881 to change 1 Timothy 3:16 from “God was manifest in the flesh” to “he who was manifest in the flesh.” They used the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus to support this change. Westcott and Hort maintained that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were “pure texts” and that all others were partly corrupt. The liberal scholars acknowledge that these two codices were produced in Alexandria. However, they care not that this is where the deepest heresies in Christianity came from. Burgon points out that 1) there is a marked resemblance between the Sinaiticus/Vaticanus and the two Egyptian versions – the Bohairic and Version of Lower Egypt 2) there is evident sympathy between Origen, who passed half his life in Alexandria, and the text 3) Nonnus also exhibits sympathy with the text 4) The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in a monastery in Alexandria 5) Alexandria was the apparent final source of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus text 6) Cyril’s Homiles on John is similar to B-Aleph and was the effect of the school of Alexandria 7) Dionysius of Alexandria complained of the corrupt codex’s of his day 8) Clement used copies of a similar kind, he too was from Alexandria.
There is a link between the Sinaiticus/Vaticanus and Jerome’s Catholic translation into the Latin Vulgate. There are traceable similarities between Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and Origen. Jerome chose the Pamphilus’ library as his source for translation. This library was the main depository of Origen’s writings. Greek and Latin scholar, Dr. Frederick Nolan, found that the Vaticanus and the Vulgate contained a number of remarkable similarities. Jerome said that he relied on those documents as his unquestioned model. Not only is the style of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus like that of Origen’s writings, but the content also agrees with them.
To be continued in the next article, Part 8.