Written by: John Sernaque
This will be the eighth 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 Revision Committee
The Anglican Church leaders decided to form a committee to revise the Bible- at the very time that the Westcott-Hort Greek Text was being completed. The committee was highly influenced by Hort, Westcott, Bishop Lightfoot, and also a fourth man named Smith. Smith, a pastor of St. Stephen’s Gate Unitarian Church, totally denied the divinity of Christ. Because of this, a resolution was requested to remove Smith from the committee. But Westcott declared that he would leave the committee if Smith was removed. So, Smith was kept on. Each member was provided with a private copy of Westcott and Hort’s Greek Text. The members were vowed to secrecy. Before each meeting, Westcott, Hort, and Lightfoot met for consultation. They used the word “scheme” as a code word to describe their plan to replace the King James Bible. The English scholars were not qualified to carry out such a revision. One of the few advocates for the King James Bible and English expert in Greek manuscripts at the time was Frederick Henry A. Scrivener. The other was John William Burgon. They were the two most forceful opponents of Westcott and Hort to ruin the King James Version. Edward Miller was also a Greek expert and editor of Scrivener’s book Plain Introduction. If it were not for Scrivener, Burgon, and Miller, the history of what happened back then would have been covered over and forever lost to us. Scrivener was the most competent New Testament scholar on the revision committee. At the meetings, Hort pushed everyone around. So, Scrivener became the chief spokesman for the minority party. Scrivener presented facts from the manuscripts while Hort came with hunches and theories. Hort contended that he could always identify the correct reading because it had the “ring of genuineness.” Hort would talk until he got his way. He overwhelmed everyone with it. As a result, most of the members of the committee would say nothing or end up quitting.
Much that followed in 20th century Protestant Bible history has been based on a theory they devised. Before Westcott and Hort, all translations of the Bible had been made from the Majority Text (also known as the Received Text, or Textus Receptus family of manuscripts). Because of their influence, all translations from 1881 onward have been based on the Sinaiticus/Vaticanus family. The Sinaiticus/Vaticanus family is claimed to have been written prior to the others, but that is an error. Because that family is smaller, its excessive mutually exclusive variants are not trustworthy.
Textus Receptus is the name for the 3rd edition of the Greek Text, of which nearly all Reformation era Bibles were translated from, and all English Bibles. The Textus Receptus (the Received Text) is the Majority Text, which has been rejected by 20th century translators. The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus contain many, many errors but it is the excessive admiration from the modern translators in preferring them to the Majority Text that is the problem. There are very few copyist errors in the Majority Text because those manuscripts were prepared by faithful followers of Christ, and scholars compared manuscript with manuscript of the many in the Majority Text so they could easily weed out any errors.
It has been said that Erasmus’ Greek Text was inferior because he only had access to the Majority Text and not the Vaticanus. The fact is that he was the first to reject the Vaticanus as a source. He wanted nothing to do with papal documents.
The Lucian Recension Theory
This is the second part of the Westcott and Hort theory. Because so many manuscripts disagree with their theory, they invented the Lucian Recension Theory. Their theory was that Lucian, a Christian in Asia Minor, tried to produce a unified text including all the Old and New Testament. Lucian, with a friend or two, worked on this project. Later he was martyred under Emperor Maximus in AD 312. Westcott and Hort expanded this history into a fabulous tale that the Emperor commanded Lucian to do his work and that it must be made the standard New Testament text of the Roman Empire. These ideas Westcott and Hort learned at their seances with the devil, and worldly scholars accepted it as the truth. According to this theory, this is the reason why there are so many thousands of manuscripts in the Majority Text. Westcott and Hort developed this theory to refute the fact that those thousands of manuscripts all came in separate streams from the originals. The Lucian Recension Theory is erroneous as there is no evidence that such an edict was ever issued. Also, a large number of the manuscripts, lectionaries, quotations, and translations (which support the Majority Text) date as early and even earlier than Lucian’s project. Bruce Metzger assigned the origin of the Majority Text to Lucian of Antioch. Bruce Metzger is one of the three editors who decided which readings would be accepted or rejected in the Nestle-Aland and UBS Greek texts used by all translators of the 20th century Bibles. Ernest C. Colwell wrote that the Majority Text had no such single focus as the Latin had in Jerome. Many scholars recognize that the Majority Text is the result of a process rather than a single event in textual history. Its origins go back to the autographs (the originals). It was the Western Church at Rome that adopted the Latin Vulgate. Even if the theory were correct, the theory would date the Majority Text at an earlier date than the Sinaiticus/Vaticanus. According to the Westcott and Hort Lucian Recension Theory, the basis of the Majority Text was prepared at Antioch between AD 250 and 350. Since the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are dated at approximately AD 340, that would make the Majority Text earlier than them.
The Manuscript Family Theory
In an attempt to arrive at some order, five primary manuscript families have been accepted by modern scholars. These families are also known as texts. Westcott and Hort used the terms Western and Syrian (Antiochian) for two of the groups and divided the third into Alexandrian and Neutral. Hort was the principal member who devised their theory of families. The two 20th century critical Greek Texts (the Nestle-Aland and the UBS) are almost entirely based on the Westcott-Hort theory. In 1898, Eberhard Nestle in Germany published an inexpensive Critical Greek text for the Stuttgart Bible Society. The text was primarily based on the Westcott-Hort. In 1904, the British and Foreign Bible Society stopped using the Erasmus Greek text and began using the Nestle Text instead. The Nestle Text became the translation standard as Bible translators went to the Bible societies for the Greek texts they were to use. In 1950, custody was transferred to Kurt Aland and he, with others, produced a Greek text sponsored by the United Bible Society. It is now generally called the UBS Text. The UBS or United Bible Societies is often used and is basically the same as the Nestle Text. In the Nestle-Aland Greek text, 5,604 alterations from the Received Text are found. Nearly all 20th century translations into English and other languages are made from one or the other of those critical Greek Texts. Hort considered the Neutral Family the purest extant form and thought it to be free from corruption. According to Hort, its best representative was the Vaticanus, with the Sinaiticus second best. The Alexandrian Family originated in Alexandria. Hort’s reasoning for separating it from his Neutral was to keep his family separate from Origen and Alexandria, though he freely admitted that his Neutral also came from Egypt. The Western Family include Greek Texts which originated in central Italy, not to be confused with Old Latin. The Syrian Family Hort considered to be worthless is the Majority Text, which the King James Bible and other Reformation Bibles were translated from. The Syrian Text, also called the Byzantine or Antiochian Family, is also referred to as the Traditional Text. Another name for it is the Received Text or Textus Receptus but its most descriptive name is the Majority Text. Hort considered it worthless as he declared it to be later than other families, even though he admits that the Syrian Family (Majority Text) was as old as his Neutral Family.
In 1943, the Papal encyclical called for an ecumenical Bible. Jesuit scholars became editors in the previously Protestant Journal of Biblical Literature. The Catholic New American Bible was translated directly from UBS/Nestle rather than from the Catholic Latin Vulgate. Both the Catholic and “New” Protestant Bibles are based on the same identical critical Greek Texts, the UBS/Nestle texts, which in turn are based on the same 1% minority Greek manuscripts, the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Modern translators rely on the critical Greek Text rather than doing their own research into the ancient manuscripts. The translation committees recognized that this joint Catholic-Protestant cooperation on new versions would help the denominations move toward a union with one another, and ultimately with Rome.
Kittel’s Greek Dictionary
Gerhard Kittel’s ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Greek Dictionary is the standard reference work used in the New Testament Greek word studies. Modern translators rely on it. Kittel’s work began in Germany when he became a Gestapo agent for Adolf Hitler. He gave Hitler his “Christian philosophy” for destroying the Jewish race. Kittel called himself the first authority in the scientific conclusion of racial science. Kittel was eventually tried, convicted, and imprisoned for his part in the extermination of two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Yet, his 10- volume dictionary continues to be sold. All new Bible versions, including the New King James Version, have abandoned the traditional Old Testament Hebrew Text and are using Biblia Hebraica, the critical Hebrew Text prepared by Gerhard Kittel’s father, Rudolph Kittel, who lived in 19th century Germany during the time when German higher criticism was tearing the Old Testament apart. The Biblia Hebraica has become the standard critical Hebrew Text of the Old Testament. The Jesuits founded the Collegium Germanicum in Rome to train secret agents who would enter Germany and labor there for the pope.
Johann Adam Mohler (1796-1838), a Catholic priest and professor of history and theology in Munich, helped coordinate the attack on the Bible. At that time, Munich was called the “German Rome.”
Only a 1% Minority Support the modern versions. This small handful not only disagree with the Majority as to what the New Testament says but also disagree among themselves. These include Vaticanus (B), Sinaiticus (Aleph), Bezae (D), Papyrus 75 and some others. Of the four mentioned, all of the four differ not only from the 99% but even from one another. Amazingly, in 1881, this 1% supplanted the Majority Text. A “new” Greek text based on the Vaticanus was introduced by Westcott and Hort. It has been used as the Greek text in all subsequent versions. No 20th century scholar or Bible translator dare oppose Westcott and Hort. World recognized scholar of his day, Frederic Kenyon, said that either the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus had been deliberately altered or the Majority Text had. He pointed out that it could not have been the Majority Text, for there were too many manuscripts containing its readings.
Ninety percent of the extant manuscripts belong to the Majority Text, while the remaining 10% do not represent one single competing form. These minority manuscripts disagree with each other as much, or even more, than they do with the majority. So, in actuality, the number is more like 97% and 3%. Of this, 1% represents only a small and most corrupt locality, Alexandria Egypt. This is in contrast with the Majority Text, which come from manuscripts from Greece, Constantinople, Asia Minor, Syria, Africa, Gaul, South Italy, Sicily, England, and Ireland. The great majority of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus scribal changes in the text were not copied by the scribes, as they recognized that these two codices were flawed. They represent a textual tradition pertaining only to that geographic region. So, modern editors have followed one narrow section of non-Western old uncials. K.W. Clark stated that “all are found on the same Egyptian recension.” A recension is a revision. The NASV refers to its “Greek Text” as a recension. The original is what you get in the Bible that is translated from the Majority Text. Even Hort admitted in a letter he wrote to Wescott that the Alexandrian manuscripts were not very good. Of the four types of corruptions that can occur in a text (omissions, additions, substitutions, and transpositions i.e. reversing the word order) omissions are the largest while additions are the smallest. With these manuscripts from Egypt, it is found that corruption is the rule and not the exception. The five old uncials, Sinaiticus (aleph), Vaticanus (B), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi (C), and Bezae (D) falsify the Lord’s Prayer. They have six different combinations and are never able to agree among themselves. Also, in Mark 2: 1-12, there are 60 variations of reading, rendering inconsistent testimony in every verse. Even Kurt Aland, the editor-in-chief of the Nestle and UBS Texts, which all modern versions are translated from, said of the five ancient uncials that they do not necessarily contain the best text and are certainly not the best. Hort himself said that of these manuscripts, no two have the same text in all places. What we can conclude here is that the 10% of those manuscripts with all those errors were either made in Egypt or they were made by copyists who were paid by kings and popes and cared little for the quality of their work. Whereas the manuscripts copied by the faithful produced thousands of copies which agreed almost perfectly. They were concerned with doing it very carefully. This caution was in reaction to the onslaught of heretical corruption which began so quickly. Having copied the very prophecies of the enemy’s approach, they were confronted by their fulfillment as they learned of the heresies and poorly made copies down in Alexandria.
With the passing of centuries, the bishop (pope) of Rome demanded that all the local churches bow down to him in submission. This accelerated the scattering of the faithful into the wilderness as prophesied in Revelation 12. They took with them the pure Biblical manuscripts.
It is evident that the Greek manuscripts favor the Majority Text, which is the basis for the King James Version. Yet, the Majority Text has been rejected by all 20th century Bible translations. The Majority Text contains the purest, most accurate, and earliest Greek manuscripts. Wilber Pickering, with a PhD in linguistics wrote: progress of the past hundred years has been in the wrong direction as modern and critical texts are found to differ from the Original in some six thousand places, many being serious differences. Much of this work is flawed. Scholar William Palmer stated in his book: “Ordinary Christians have little idea [concerning the new Greek text] … it rests in many cases on quotations which are not genuine … on passages when which collated with the original, are proved to be wholly inefficacious as proofs.” Palmer, quoted in op. Cit., p. 265.
To be continued in the next article, Part 9.