The King James Bible Defended

by Edward F. Hills





       The Bible is the Book of the Covenant. Its origin is eternal, its inspiration infallible, its preservation providential and sure. In it God reveals Himself as the almighty Creator God, the faithful Covenant God, and the triune Saviour God. In it Christ reveals Himself to sinners as Prophet, Priest, and King. Hence the Bible is unique! divine! No other book is like the Bible. And because this is so, we must reject every type of naturalistic Bible study, every tendency to deal with the Bible as other ancient books are dealt with. Above all we must be alert to the dangers of naturalistic New Testament textual criticism. For this is naturalistic Bible study of a most insidious sort. It begins by persuading an unsuspecting Christian to ignore God's providential preservation of the Scriptures and then leads him on to ignore other divine aspects of the Bible until almost before he knows it he finds himself bereft of faith and almost completely modernistic in outlook.

Therefore, as Bible-believing Christians, we reject all forms of naturalistic New Testament textual criticism and adopt and advocate in their place a consistently Christian method which derives all its principles from the Bible itself and none from the textual criticism of other ancient books. And because this consistently Christian approach leads us to accept the Traditional New Testament Text, found in the vast majority of the manuscripts, as a trustworthy reproduction of the divinely inspired Originals, we shall now endeavor to defend this Traditional Text against the attacks of naturalistic critics and especially of Westcott and Hort. Such a defense may possibly contribute to the beginning of a new Reformation.


1. The Traditional Text Not The Invention Of Editors

Although naturalistic textual critics differ from one another in regard to many matters, they all agree in regarding the Traditional Text, found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, as a late invention. They believe that there were editors who deliberately created the Traditional Text by selecting readings (words, phrases, and sentences) from the various texts already in existence and then recombining these readings in such a way as to form an altogether new text. This naturalistic view, however, is contrary to the evidence, as we shall endeavor to show in the following paragraphs.

(a) The Evidence of Codex W

In demonstrating the antiquity of the Traditional Text it is well to begin with the evidence of Codex W, the Freer Manuscript of the Gospels, named after C. L. Freer of Detroit, who purchased it in 1906 from an Arab dealer at Gizeh, near Cairo. It is now housed in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In 1912 it was published under the editorship of H. A. Sanders. (1) It contains the Four Gospels in the Western order, Matthew, John, Luke, Mark. In John and the first third of Luke the text is Alexandrian in character. In Mark the text is of the Western type in the first five chapters and of a mixed "Caesarean" type in the remaining chapters. The especial value of W, however, lies in Matthew and the last two thirds of Luke. Here the text is Traditional (Byzantine) of a remarkably pure type. According to Sanders, in Matthew the text of W is of the Kappa 1 type, which van Soden (1906) regarded as the oldest and best form of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. (2)

The discovery of W tends to disprove the thesis of Westcott and Hort that the Traditional Text is a fabricated text which was put together in the 4th century by a group of scholars residing at Antioch. For Codex W is a very ancient manuscript. B. P. Grenfell regarded it as "probably fourth century." (3) Other scholars have dated it in the 5th century. Hence W is one of the oldest complete manuscripts of the Gospels in existence, possibly of the same age as Aleph. Moreover, W seems to have been written in Egypt, since during the first centuries of its existence it seems to have been the property of the Monastery of the Vinedresser, which was located near the third pyramid. (4) If the Traditional Text had been invented at Antioch in the 4th century, how would it have found its way into Egypt and thence into Codex W so soon thereafter? Why would the scribe of W, writing in the 4th or early 5th century, have adopted this newly fabricated text in Matthew and Luke in preference to other texts which (according to Hort's hypothesis) were older and more familiar to him? Thus the presence of the Traditional Text in W indicates that this text is a very ancient text and that it was known in Egypt before the 4th century.

(b) The Evidence of Codex A

Another witness to the early existence of the Traditional Text is Codex A (Codex Alexandrinus). This venerable manuscript which dates from the 5th century, has played a very important role in the history of New Testament textual criticism. It was given to the King of England in 1627 by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, and for many years was regarded as the oldest extant New Testament manuscript. In Acts and the Epistles Codex A agrees most closely with the Alexandrian text of the B and Aleph type, but in the Gospels it agrees generally with the Traditional Text. Thus in the Gospels Codex A testifies to the antiquity of the Traditional Text. According to Gregory (1907) and Kenyon (1937), Codex A was probably written in Egypt. If this is so, then A is also another witness to the early presence of the Traditional Text upon the Egyptian scene.

(c) The Evidence of the Papyri

When the Chester Beatty Papyri were published (1933-37), it was found that these early 3rd century fragments agree surprisingly often with the Traditional (Byzantine) Text against all other types of text. "A number of Byzantine readings," Zuntz (1953) observes, "most of them genuine, which previously were discarded as 'late', are anticipated by Pap. 46." And to this observation he adds the following significant note, "The same is true of the sister-manuscript Pap. 45; see, for example, Matt. 26:7 and Acts. 17:13." (5) And the same is true also of the Bodmer Papyri (published 1956-62). Birdsall (1960) acknowledges that "the Bodmer Papyrus of John (Papyrus 66) has not a few such Byzantine readings." (6) And Metzger (1962) lists 23 instances of the agreements of Papyri 45, 46, and 66 with the Traditional (Byzantine) Text against all other text-types. (7) And at least a dozen more such agreements occur in Papyrus 75.

(d) Traditional (Byzantine) Readings in Origen

One of the arguments advanced by Westcott and Hort and other naturalistic critics against the early existence and thus against the genuineness of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text is the alleged fact that "distinctively" Traditional readings are never found in the New Testament quotations of Origen and other 2nd and 3rd-century Church Fathers. In other words, it is alleged that these early Fathers never agree with the Traditional Text in places in which it stands alone in opposition to both the Western and Alexandrian texts. For example, in Matt. 27:34 the Traditional Text tells us that before the soldiers crucified Jesus they gave Him vinegar mingled with gall, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 69:21. Hort thought this to be a late reading suggested by the Psalm. The true reading, he contended, is that found in Aleph B D etc., wine mingled with gall. Burgon (1896), however, refuted Hort's argument by pointing out that the Traditional reading vinegar was known not only to Origen but also to the pagan philosopher Celsus (c. 180), who used the passage to ridicule Jesus. (8) In his treatise Against Celsus Origen takes note of this blasphemy and reproves it, but he never suggests that Celsus has adopted a false reading. "Those that resist the word of truth," Origen declares, "do ever offer to Christ the Son of God the gall of their own wickedness, and the vinegar of their evil inclinations; but though He tastes of it, yet He will not drink it." (9)

Hence, contrary to the assertions of the naturalistic critics, the distinctive readings of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text were known to Origen, who sometimes adopted them, though perhaps not usually. Anyone can verify this by scanning the apparatus of Tischendorf. For instance, in the first 14 chapters of the Gospel of John (that is, in the area covered by Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75) out of 62 instances in which the Traditional Text stands alone Origen agrees with the Traditional Text 20 times and disagrees with it 32 times. These results make the position of the critics that Origen knew nothing of the Traditional Text difficult indeed to maintain.

Naturalistic critics, it is true, have made a determined effort to explain away the "distinctively" Traditional readings which appear in the New Testament quotations of Origen (and other early Fathers). It is argued that these Traditional readings are not really Origen's but represent alterations made by scribes who copied Origen's works. These scribes, it is maintained, revised the original quotations of Origen and made them conform to the Traditional Text. The evidence of the Bodmer Papyri, however, indicates that this is not an adequate explanation of the facts. Certainly it seems a very unsatisfactory way to account for the phenomena which appear in the first 14 chapters of John. In these chapters 7 out of 20 "distinctively" Traditional readings which occur in Origen occur also in Papyrus 66 and/or in Papyrus 75. These 7 readings at least must have been Origen's own readings, not those of the scribes who copied Origen's works, and what is true of these 7 readings is probably true of the other 13, or at least of most of them. Thus it can hardly be denied that the Traditional Text was known to Origen and that it influenced the wording of his New Testament quotations.

(e) The Evidence of the Peshitta Syriac Version

The Peshitta Syriac version, which is the historic Bible of the whole Syrian Church, agrees closely with the Traditional Text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Until about one hundred years ago it was almost universally believed that the Peshitta originated in the 2nd century and hence was one of the oldest New Testament versions. Hence because of its agreement with the Traditional Text the Peshitta was regarded as one of the most important witnesses to the antiquity of the Traditional Text. In more recent times, however, naturalistic critics have tried to nullify this testimony of the Peshitta by denying that it is an ancient version. Burkitt (1904), for example, insisted that the Peshitta did not exist before the 5th century but "was prepared by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa (the capital city of Syria) from 411-435 A.D., and published by his authority." (10)

Burkitts's theory was once generally accepted, but now scholars are realizing that the Peshitta must have been in existence before Rabbula's episcopate, because it was the received text of both the two sects into which the Syrian Church became divided. Since this division took place in Rabbula's time and since Rabbula was the leader of one of these sects, it is impossible to suppose that the Peshitta was his handiwork, for if it had been produced under his auspices, his opponents would never have adopted it as their received New Testament text. Indeed A. Voobus, in a series of special studies (1947-54), (11) has argued not only that Rabbula was not the author of the Peshitta but even that he did not use it, at least not in its present form. If this is true and if Burkitt's contention is also true, namely, that the Syrian ecclesiastical leaders who lived before Rabbula also did not use the Peshitta, then why was it that the Peshitta was received by all the mutually opposing groups in the Syrian Church as their common, authoritative Bible? It must have been that the Peshitta was a very ancient version and that because it was so old the common people within the Syrian Church continued to be loyal to it regardless of the factions into which they came to be divided and the preferences of their leaders. It made little difference to them whether these leaders quoted the Peshitta or not. They persevered in their usage of it, and because of their steadfast devotion this old translation retained its place as the received text of the Syriac-speaking churches.

(f) Evidence of the Sinaitic Syriac Manuscript

The Sinaitic Syriac manuscript was discovered by two sisters, Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, hence the name. It contains a type of text which is very old, although not so old as the text of the Peshitta. Critics assign an early 3rd-century date to the text of the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript. If they are correct in this, then this manuscript is remarkable for the unexpected support which it gives to the Traditional Text. For Burkitt (1904) found that "not infrequently" this manuscript agreed with the Traditional Text against the Western and Alexandrian texts. (12) One of these Traditional readings thus supported by the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript is found in the angelic song of Luke 2:14. Here the Traditional Text and the Sinaitic Syriac read, good will among (toward) men, while the Western and Alexandrian texts read, among men of good will.

(g) The Evidence of the Gothic Version

The Gothic version also indicates that the Traditional Text is not a late text. This New Testament translation was made from the Greek into Gothic shortly after 350 A.D. by Ulfilas, missionary bishop to the Goths. "The type of text represented in it," Kenyon (1912) tells us, "is for the most part that which is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts." (13) The fact, therefore, that Ulfilas in A.D. 350 produced a Gothic version based on the Traditional Text proves that this text must have been in existence before that date. In other words, there must have been many manuscripts of the Traditional type on hand in the days of Ulfilas, manuscripts which since that time have perished.

(h) The "Conflate Readings"

Westcott and Hort found proof for their position that the Traditional Text was a "work of attempted criticism performed deliberately by editors and not merely by scribes" in eight passages in the Gospels in which the Western text contains one half of the reading found in the Traditional Text and the Alexandrian text the other half (14) These passages are Mark 6:33; 8:26; 9:38; 9:49; Luke 9:10; 11:54, 12:18, 24:53. Since Hort discusses the first of these passages at great length, it may serve very well as a sample specimen.

Mark 6:33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran together there on foot out of all the cities,

(Then follow three variant readings.)

(1) and came before them and came together to Him. Traditional Reading.

(2) and came together there. Western Reading.

(3) and came before them. Alexandrian Reading.

Hort argued that here the Traditional reading was deliberately created by editors who produced this effect by adding the other two readings together. Hort called the Traditional reading a "conflate reading," that is to say, a mixed reading which was formed by combining the Western reading with the Alexandrian reading. And Hort said the same thing in regard to his seven other specimen passages. In each case he maintained that the Traditional reading had been made by linking the Western reading with the Alexandrian. And this, he claimed, indicated that the Traditional Text was the deliberate creation of an editor or a group of editors.

Dean Burgon (1882) immediately registered one telling criticism of this hypothesis of conflation in the Traditional Text. Why, he asked, if conflation was one of the regular practices of the makers of the Traditional Text, could Westcott and Hort find only eight instances of this phenomenon? "Their theory," Burgon exclaimed, "has at last forced them to make an appeal to Scripture and to produce some actual specimens of their meaning. After ransacking the Gospels for 30 years, they have at last fastened upon eight.'' (15)

Westcott and Hort disdained to return any answer to Burgon's objection, but it remains a valid one. If the Traditional Text was created by 4th-century Antiochian editors, and if one of their habitual practices had been to conflate (combine) Western and Alexandrian readings, then surely more examples of such conflation ought to be discoverable in the Gospels than just Hort's eight. But only a few more have since been found to add to Hort's small deposit. Kenyon (1912) candidly admitted that he didn't think that there were very many more (16) And this is all the more remarkable because not only the Greek manuscripts but also the versions have been carefully canvassed by experts, such as Burkitt and Souter and Lake, for readings which would reveal conflation in the Traditional Text.

Moreover, even the eight alleged examples of conflation which Westcott and Hort did bring forward are not at all convincing. At least they did not approve themselves as such in the eyes of Bousset (1894). This radical German scholar united with the conservatives in rejecting the conclusions of these two critics. In only one of their eight instances did he agree with them. In four of the other instances he regarded the Traditional reading as the original reading, and in the three others he regarded the decision as doubtful. "Westcott and Hort's chief proof," he observed, "has almost been turned into its opposite." (17)

In these eight passages, therefore, it is just as easy to believe that the Traditional reading is the original and that the other texts have omitted parts of it as to suppose that the Traditional reading represents a later combination of the other two readings.

(i) Alleged Harmonizations in the Traditional Text

According to the naturalistic critics, the Traditional Text is characterized by harmonizations, especially in the Gospel of Mark. In other words, the critics accuse the Traditional Text of being altered in Mark and made to agree with Matthew. Actually, however, the reverse is the case. The boldest harmonizations occur not in the Traditional Text but in the Western and Alexandrian texts and not in Mark but in Matthew. For example, after Matt. 27:49 the following reading is found in Aleph B C L and a few other Alexandrian manuscripts: And another, taking a spear, pierced His side, and there flowed out water and blood. Because this reading occurs in B, Westcott and Hort were unwilling to reject it completely, (18) but less prejudiced critics admit that it is a harmonization taken from John 19:34.

A similar harmonization occurs in Matt. 24:36. Here Aleph B D Theta and a few other manuscripts read: But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. The Traditional text, however, omits, neither the Son. Naturalistic critics say that this omission was made by orthodox scribes who were loath to believe that Christ could be ignorant of anything. But if this were so, why didn't these scribes omit this same reading in Mark 13:32? Why would they omit this reading in Matthew and leave it stand in Mark? Obviously, then, this is not a case of omission on the part of the Traditional Text but of harmonization on the part of the Western and Alexandrian texts, represented by Aleph B D Theta etc.

There is no evidence, therefore, to prove that the Traditional Text is especially addicted to harmonization.

(j) Why the Traditional Text Could Not Have Been Created by Editors

Thus discoveries since the days of Westcott and Hort have continued steadily to render less and less reasonable their hypothesis that the Traditional Text was created by editors. For if it originated thus, then it must consist of readings taken not only from the Western and Alexandrian texts but also many others, including the "Caesarean," the Sinaitic Syriac, Papyrus 45, Papyrus 46, Papyrus 66, and even Papyrus 75. In short, if the Traditional Text was created by editors, then we must agree with Hutton (1911) that it is a magpie's nest. The Traditional Text, he asserted, "is in the true sense of the word eclectic, drawing 'Various readings' of various value from various sources. Often times it picked up a diamond, and sometimes a bit of broken glass, sometimes it gives us brass or lacquer without distinction from the nobler metal. It was for all the world like a magpie, and the result is not unlike a magpie's nest." (19) But was Hutton really reasonable in supposing that the Traditional Text was created by editors who went about their work in the same irrational manner in which a magpie goes about selecting materials for her nest? Surely the hypothesis that the Traditional Text was created by editors breaks down if it is necessary to assume that those who performed this task were as whimsical as that witless bird.

And in the second place, to create the Traditional (Byzantine) Text by blending three or four or five older texts into one would be an amazingly difficult feat. It would be hard to do this even under modern conditions with a large desk on which to spread out your documents and a chair to sit on. Modern scholars who attempt this usually construct a critical apparatus by comparing all the documents with one standard, printed text and noting the variant readings. Ancient scribes, however, would be laboring under great disadvantages. They would have no printed text to serve as a standard of comparison, no desks, and not even any chairs! According to Metzger (1964), they sat on stools or on the ground and held the manuscripts which they were writing on their knees. (20) Under such conditions it would surely be difficult to be continually comparing many documents while writing. It seems unlikely that ancient scribes would be able to work with more than two documents at once. A scribe would compare his manuscript with another manuscript and write in some of the variant readings, usually in the margin. Another scribe would copy this corrected manuscript and adopt some of the corrections. Hence the mixture would be sporadic and unsystematic and not at all of the kind that would be required to produce the Traditional (Byzantine) New Testament Text.

Thus the theory that the Traditional Text was created by editors breaks down when carefully considered. No reason can be given why the supposed editors should have gone about their tremendous task in the irrational manner that the alleged evidence would require.


2. The Traditional Text Not An Official Text

Why is it that the Traditional (Byzantine) Text is found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts rather than some other text, the Western text, for example, or the Alexandrian? What was there about the Traditional (Byzantine) Text which enabled it to conquer all its rivals and become the text generally accepted by the Greek Church?

(a) Westcott and Hort's Theory of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text

The classic answer to this question was given by Westcott and Hort in their celebrated Introduction (1881). They believed that from the very beginning the Traditional (Byzantine) Text was an official text with official backing and that this was the reason why it overcame all rival texts and ultimately reigned supreme in the usage of the Greek Church. They regarded the Traditional Text as the product of a thorough-going revision of the New Testament text which took place at Antioch in two stages between 250 A.D. and 350 A.D. They believed that this text was the deliberate creation of certain scholarly Christians at Antioch and that the presbyter Lucian (d. 312) was probably the original leader in this work. According to Westcott and Hort, these Antiochian scholars produced the Traditional Text by mixing together the Western, Alexandrian, and Neutral (B-Aleph) texts. "Sometimes they transcribed unchanged the reading of one of the earlier texts, now of this, now of that. Sometimes they in like manner adopted exclusively one of the readings but modified its form. Sometimes they combined the readings of more than one text in various ways, pruning or modifying them if necessary. Lastly, they introduced many changes of their own where, so far as appears, there was no previous variation.'' (21)

What would be the motive which would prompt these supposed editors to create the Traditional New Testament Text? According to Westcott and Hort, the motive was to eliminate hurtful competition between the Western, Alexandrian, and Neutral (B-Aleph) texts by the creation of a compromise text made up of elements of all three of these rival texts. "The guiding motives of their (the editors') criticism are transparently displayed in its effects. It was probably initiated by the distracting and inconvenient currency of at least three conflicting texts in the same region. The alternate borrowing from all implies that no selection of one was made, —indeed it is difficult to see how under the circumstances it could have been made, — as entitled to supremacy by manifest superiority of pedigree. Each text may perhaps have found a patron in some leading personage or see, and thus have seemed to call for a conciliation of rival claims." (22)

In other words, Westcott and Hort's theory was that the Traditional Text was an official text created by a council or conference of bishops and leading churchmen meeting for the express purpose of constructing a New Testament text on which all could agree, and in their discussion of the history of the Traditional Text they continue to emphasize its official character. This text, they alleged, was dominant at Antioch in the second half of the 4th century, "probably by authority." (23) It was used by the three great Church Fathers of Antioch, namely, Diodorus (d. 394), Chrysostom (345-407), and Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428). Soon this text was taken to Constantinople and became the dominant text of that great, imperial city, perhaps even the official text. Then, due to the prestige which it had obtained at Constantinople, it became the dominant text of the whole Greek-speaking Church. "Now Antioch," Westcott and Hort theorized, "is the true ecclesiastical parent of Constantinople; so that it is no wonder that the traditional Constantinopolitan text, whether formally official or not, was the Antiochian text of the fourth century. It was equally natural that the text recognized at Constantinople should eventually become in practice the standard New Testament of the East." (24)

(b) Westcott and Hort's Theory Disproved

Thus Westcott and Hort bore down heavily on the idea that the Traditional (Byzantine) Text was an official text. It was through ecclesiastical authority, they believed, that this text was created, and it was through ecclesiastical authority that this text was imposed upon the Church, so that it became the text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. This emphasis on ecclesiastical authority, however, has been abandoned by most present-day scholars. As Kenyon (1912) observed long ago, there is no historical evidence that the Traditional Text was created by a council or conference of ancient scholars. History is silent concerning any such gathering. "We know," he remarks, "the names of several revisers of the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and it would be strange if historians and Church writers had all omitted to record or mention such an event as the deliberate revision of the New Testament in its original Greek." (25)

Recent studies in the Traditional (Byzantine) Text indicate still more clearly that this was not an official text imposed upon the Church by ecclesiastical authority or by the influence of any outstanding leader. Westcott and Hort, for example, regarded Chrysostom as one of the first to use this text and promote its use in the Church. But studies by Geerlings and New (1931) (26) and by Dicks (1948) (27) appear to indicate that Chrysostom could hardly have performed this function, since he himself does not seem always to have used the Traditional Text. Photius (815-897) also, patriarch of Constantinople, seems to have been no patron of the Traditional Text, for according to studies by Birdsall (1956-58), he customarily used a mixed type of text thought to be Caesarean. (28) The lectionaries also indicate that the Traditional Text could not have been imposed on the Church by ecclesiastical authority. These, as has been stated, are manuscripts containing the New Testament Scripture lessons appointed to be read at the various worship services of the ecclesiastical year. According to the researches of Colwell (1933) and his associates, the oldest of these lessons are not Traditional but "mixed" in text. (29) This would not be the case if Westcott and Hort's theory were true that the Traditional Text from the very beginning had enjoyed official status.

(c) The True Text Never an Official Text

Thus recent research has brought out more clearly the fact that the true New Testament text has never been an official text. It has never been dependent on the decisions of an official priesthood or convocation of scholars. All attempts to deal with the New Testament text in this way are bound to fail, for this is a return to Old Testament bondage. Nay, this is worse than Old Testament bondage! For God appointed the priests of the Old Testament dispensation and gave them authority to care for the Old Testament Scriptures, but who appointed the priests and pundits of our modern ecclesiastical scene and gave them the right to sit in judgment on the New Testament text? It was not in this way that the New Testament text was preserved but rather through the testimony of the Holy Spirit operating in the hearts of individual Christians and gradually leading them, by common consent, to reject false readings and to preserve the true.


3. Have Modern Studies Disintegrated The Traditional Text?

In the more recent years certain scholars have been saying that modern studies have disintegrated the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. Not only (so they say) has its use by Chrysostom been disproved but also its uniformity. Birdsall (1956) expresses himself on this head as follows: "Since the publication of Hort's Introduction in 1881 it has been assumed in most quarters, as handbooks reflect, that the text was uniform from the time of John Chrysostom and that this uniform text (called by a variety of names, and here Byzantine) is to be found in his quotations.... However, more recent investigation has questioned both the uniformity of the Byzantine text and its occurrence in Chrysostom's citations." (30) And earlier Colwell (1935) gave voice to the same opinion and appealed for support to the investigations of von Soden and Kirsopp Lake. "This invaluable pioneer work of von Soden greatly weakened the dogma of the dominance of a homogeneous Syrian (Traditional) text. But the fallacy received its death blow at the hands of Professor Lake. In an excursus published in his study of the Caesarean text of Mark, he annihilated the theory that the middle ages were ruled by a single recension which attained a high degree of uniformity.'' (31)

Have the studies of von Soden and Lake disintegrated the Traditional (Byzantine) Text, or is this a misinterpretation of the researches of the two scholars? This is the question, which we will consider in the following paragraphs.

(a) The Researches of von Soden

Von Soden (1906) made the most extensive study of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text that has ever yet been undertaken. (32) He called the Traditional Text the Kappa (Common) text, thereby indicating that it is the text most commonly found in the New Testament manuscripts. He divided the Traditional manuscripts into three classes, Kappa 1, Kappa x, and Kappa r. The manuscripts in the Kappa 1 class (as the numeral 1 implies) he regarded as containing the earliest form of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. Among the best representatives of this class he placed Omega (8th century), V (9th century), and S (10th century). In 1912, as has been stated, Sanders found that Codex W contained the Kappa 1 text in Matthew.

Von Soden considered the Kappa r text to be a revision of the Traditional Text (the letter r signifying revision). In between the Kappa 1 manuscripts and the Kappa r manuscripts in respect to time van Soden located the great majority of the Traditional (Byzantine) manuscripts. These he named Kappa x (the letter x signifying unknown) to indicate that the small differences which distinguish them from each other had not yet been thoroughly studied. And in addition von Soden distinguished several other families of manuscripts the texts of which had originated in the mixture of the Traditional and Western texts. One of the earliest of these was the Kappa a family, the chief representatives of which are Codex A (5th century) and K and Pi (both 9th century).

Thus von Soden divided the vast family of Traditional (Byzantine) manuscripts (which he called the Kappa manuscripts) into three main varieties. Unlike Colwell, however, he did not regard this variety as affecting the essential agreement existing between the Traditional manuscripts, i.e., the uniformity of their underlying text. "The substance of the text," he wrote, "remains intact throughout the whole period of perhaps 1,200 years. Only very sporadically do readings found in other text-types appear in one or another of the varieties." (33)

(b) The Researches of Kirsopp Lake

Von Soden's conclusions have, in general, been confirmed by the researches of Kirsopp Lake. In 1928 Lake and his associates published the results of a careful examination which they had made in the 11th chapter of Mark of all the manuscripts on Mt. Sinai, at Patmos, and in the Patriarchal Library and the collection of St. Saba at Jerusalem. (34) On the basis of this examination Lake was even more disposed than von Soden to stress the unity of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text, going even so far as to deny that the Kappa 1 text and the Kappa r text were really distinct from the Kappa x text (which Lake preferred to call the Ecclesiastical text). "We cannot," he wrote, "at present distinguish anything which can be identified with von Soden's Kappa r nor do we feel any confidence in his Kappa 1 as a really distinct text." (35)

In a later study (1940), however, Lake agreed with von Soden that the Kappa I and Kappa x manuscripts are distinguishable from each other even though they differ from each other very little. "Kappa 1 and Kappa x," he reported, "each show a certain amount of individual variation, by which they can be identified—but it is surprisingly little. The scribes who were responsible for the variations in the Byzantine text introduced remarkably few and unimportant changes, they shunned all originality." (36)

Thus Lake came to the same conclusions as von Soden in regard to the uniformity of text exhibited by the vast majority of the New Testament manuscripts. Both these noted scholars discovered that in spite of the divisions which exist among these manuscripts they all have the same fundamental text. This agreement, however, is not so close as to indicate that these manuscripts have been copied from each other. On this point Lake (1928) is very explicit. "Speaking generally," he says, "the evidence in our collations for the grouping of the codices which contain this text is singularly negative. There is extraordinarily little evidence of close family relationship between the manuscripts even in the same library. They have essentially the same text with a large amount of sporadic variation." (37)

And the more recent studies of Aland (1964) have yielded the same result. He and his associates collated 1,000 minuscule manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in 1,000 different New Testament passages. According to him, 90% of these minuscules contain the Traditional (Byzantine) text, which he calls, `'the majority text." (38)

(c) The God-guided Usage of the Church

We see, then, that Birdsall and Colwell are quite mistaken in suggesting that modern studies have "disintegrated" (so Birdsall) the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. Certainly von Soden and Lake themselves entertained no such opinion of the results of their work. On the contrary, the investigations of these latter two scholars seem to have established the essential uniformity of the Traditional (Byzantine) text on a firmer basis than ever. They have shown that the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts exhibit precisely that amount of uniformity of text which one might expect the God-guided usage of the Church to produce. They agree with one another closely enough to justify the contention that they all contain essentially the same text, but not so closely as to give any grounds for the belief that this uniformity of text was produced by the labors of editors, or by the decrees of ecclesiastical leaders, or by mass production on the part of scribes at any one time or place. It was not by any of these means that the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts came to agree with each other as closely as they do, but through the God-guided usage of the Church, through the leading of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individual believers.


4. Why Did The Traditional Text Triumph?

In the eyes of many naturalistic critics the history of the Traditional (Byzantine) New Testament Text has become a puzzling enigma that requires further study. "It is evident," says Birdsall (1956), "that all presuppositions concerning the Byzantine text— or texts—except its inferiority to other types, must be doubted and investigated de novo." (39) One wonders, however, why Birdsall makes this single exception. Every other presupposition concerning the Traditional (Byzantine) Text must be doubted. But there is one presupposition, Birdsall says, which must never be doubted, namely, the inferiority of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text to all other texts. Yet it is just this presupposition which makes the history of the Traditional Text so puzzling to naturalistic textual critics. If the Traditional Text was late and inferior, how could it have so completely displaced earlier and better texts in the usage of the Church. Westcott and Hort said that this was because the Traditional Text was an official text, put together by influential ecclesiastical leaders and urged by them upon the Church, but this view has turned out to be contrary to the evidence. Why, then, did the Traditional Text triumph?

Naturalistic textual critics will never be able to answer this question until they are ready to think "unthinkable thoughts." They must be willing to lay aside their prejudices and consider seriously the evidence which points to the Traditional (Byzantine) Text as the True Text of the New Testament. This is the position which the believing Bible student takes by faith and from which he is able to provide a consistent explanation of all the phenomena of the New Testament.

(a) The Early History of the True Text

If we accept the Traditional Text as the True New Testament Text, then the following historical reconstruction suggests itself:

Beginning with the Western and Alexandrian texts, we see that they represent two nearly simultaneous departures from the True Text which took place during the 2nd century. The making of these two texts proceeded, for the most part, according to two entirely different plans. The scribes that produced the Western text regarded themselves more as interpreters than as mere copyists. Therefore they made bold alterations in the text and added many interpolations. The makers of the Alexandrian text, on the other hand, conceived of themselves as grammarians. Their chief aim was to improve the style of the sacred text. They made few additions to it. Indeed, their fear of interpolation was so great that they often went to the opposite extreme of wrongly removing genuine readings from the text. Because of this the Western text is generally longer than the True Text and the Alexandrian is generally shorter.

Other texts, such as the Caesarean and Sinaitic Syriac texts, are also best explained as departures from the True, that is to say, the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. This is why each of them in turn agrees at times with the Traditional Text against all other texts. No doubt also much mixture of readings has gone into the composition of these minor texts.

As all scholars agree, the Western text was the text of the Christian Church at Rome and the Alexandrian text that of the Christian scribes and scholars of Alexandria. For this reason these two texts were prestige-texts, much sought after by the wealthier and more scholarly members of the Christian community. The True Text, on the other hand, continued in use among the poorer and less learned Christian brethren. These humble believers would be less sensitive to matters of prestige and would no doubt prefer the familiar wording of the True Text to the changes introduced by the new prestige-texts. Since they were unskilled in the use of pen and ink, they would be little tempted to write the variant readings of the prestige-texts into the margins of their own New Testament manuscripts and would be even less inclined to make complete copies of these prestige-texts. And since they were poor, they would be unable to buy new manuscripts containing these prestige-texts.

For all these reasons, therefore the True Text would continue to circulate among these lowly Christian folk virtually undisturbed by the influence of other texts. Moreover, because it was difficult for these less prosperous Christians to obtain new manuscripts, they put the ones they had to maximum use. Thus all these early manuscripts of the True Text were eventually worn out. None of them seems to be extant today. The papyri which do survive seem for the most part to be prestige-texts which were preserved in the libraries of ancient Christian schools. According to Aland (1963), (40) both the Chester Beatty and the Bodmer Papyri may have been kept at such an institution. But the papyri with the True Text were read to pieces by the believing Bible students of antiquity. In the providence of God they were used by the Church. They survived long enough, however, to preserve the True (Traditional) New Testament Text during this early period and to bring it into the period of triumph that followed.

(b) The Triumph of the True New Testament Text (300-1000 A.D.)

The victorious march of the True New Testament Text toward ultimate triumph began in the 4th century. The great 4th-century conflict with the Arian heresy brought orthodox Christians to a theological maturity which enabled them, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, to perceive the superior doctrinal soundness and richness of the True Text. In ever increasing numbers Christians in the higher social brackets abandoned the corrupt prestige-texts which they had been using and turned to the well worn manuscripts of their poorer brethren, manuscripts which, though meaner in appearance, were found in reality to be far more precious, since they contained the True New Testament Text. No doubt they paid handsome sums to have copies made of these ancient books, and this was done so often that these venerable documents were worn out through much handling by the scribes. But before these old manuscripts finally perished, they left behind them a host of fresh copies made from them and bearing witness to the True Text. Thus it was that the True (Traditional) Text became the standard text now found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.

(c) Lost Manuscripts of the Traditional Text

During the march of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text toward supremacy many manuscripts of the Traditional type must have perished The investigations of Lake (1928) and his associates indicate that this was so. "Why," he asked, "are there only a few fragments (even in the two oldest of the monastic collections, Sinai and St. Saba) which come from a date earlier than the 10th century? There must have been in existence many thousands of manuscripts of the gospels in the great days of Byzantine prosperity, between the 4th and the 10th centuries. There are now extant but a pitiably small number. Moreover, the amount of direct genealogy which has been detected in extant codices is almost negligible. Nor are many known manuscripts sister codices." (41)

As a result of these investigations, Lake found it "hard to resist the conclusion that the scribes usually destroyed their exemplars when they copied the sacred books." (42) If Lake's hypothesis is correct, then the manuscripts most likely to be destroyed would be those containing the Traditional Text. For these were the ones which were copied most during the period between the 4th and the 10th centuries, as is proved by the fact that the vast majority of the later Greek New Testament manuscripts are of the Traditional type. The Gothic version moreover, was made about 350 A.D. from manuscripts of the Traditional type which are no longer extant. Perhaps Lake's hypothesis can account for their disappearance.

By the same token, the survival of old uncial manuscripts of the Alexandrian and Western type, such as Aleph, B. and D, was due to the fact that they were rejected by the Church and not read or copied but allowed to rest relatively undisturbed on the library shelves of ancient monasteries. Burgon (1883) pointed this out long ago, and it is most significant that his observation was confirmed more than 40 years later by the researches of Lake.

(d) The Church as an Organism

When we say that the Holy Spirit guided the Church to preserve the True New Testament Text, we are not speaking of the Church as an organization but of the Church as an organism. We do not mean that in the latter part of the 4th century the Holy Spirit guided the bishops to the True Text and that then the bishops issued decrees for the guidance of the common people. This would have been a return to Old Testament bondage and altogether out of accord with the New Testament principle of the universal priesthood of believers. Investigations indicate that the Holy Spirit's guidance worked in precisely the opposite direction. The trend toward the True (Traditional) Text began with the common people, the rank and file, and then rapidly built up such strength that the bishops and other official leaders were carried along with it. Chrysostom, for example, does not seem to have initiated this trend, for, as stated above, studies by Geerlings and New and by Dicks indicate that Chrysostom did not always use the Traditional Text.

There is evidence that the triumphal march of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text met with resistance in certain quarters. There were some scribes and scholars who were reluctant to renounce entirely their faulty Western, Alexandrian, and Caesarean texts. And so they compromised by following sometimes their false texts and sometimes the True (Traditional) Text. Thus arose those classes of mixed manuscripts described by von Soden and other scholars. This would explain also the non-Traditional readings which Colwell and his associates have found in certain portions of the lectionary manuscripts. (43) And if Birdsall is right in his contention that Photius (815-897), patriarch of Constantinople, customarily used the Caesarean text, (44) this too must be regarded as a belated effort on the part of this learned churchman to keep up the struggle against the Traditional Text. But his endeavor was in vain. Even before his time the God-guided preference of the common people for the True (Traditional) New Testament Text had prevailed, causing it to be adopted generally throughout the Greek-speaking Church.



5. The Ancient Versions And The Providence of God

It was the Greek-speaking Church especially which was the object of God's providential guidance regarding the New Testament text because this was the Church to which the keeping of the Greek New Testament had been committed. But this divine guidance was by no means confined to those ancient Christians who spoke Greek. On the contrary, indications can be found in the ancient New Testament versions of this same God-guided movement of the Church away from readings which were false and misleading and toward those which were true and trustworthy. This evidence can be summarized as follows:

(a) The Providence of God in the Syrian Church

In the Syrian Church this God-guided trend away from false New Testament texts and toward the True is clearly seen. According to all investigators from Burkitt (1904) to Voobus (1954), (45) the Western text, represented by Tatian's Diatessaron (Gospel Harmony) and the Curetonian and Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts circulated widely in the Syrian Church until about the middle of the 4th century. After this date, however, this intrusive Western text was finally rejected, and the whole Syrian Church returned to the use of the ancient Peshitta Syriac version, which is largely of the Traditional (Byzantine) text-type. In other words, the Syrian Church as well as the Greek was led by God's guiding hand back to the True Text.

(b) The Providence of God in the Latin Church

Among the Latin-speaking Christians of the West the substitution of Jerome's Latin Vulgate for the Old Latin version may fairly be regarded as a movement toward the Traditional (Byzantine) Text. The Vulgate New Testament is a revised text which Jerome (384) says that he made by comparing the Old Latin version with "old Greek" manuscripts. According to Hort, one of the Greek manuscripts which Jerome used was closely related to Codex A, which is of the Traditional text-type. "By a curious and apparently unnoticed coincidence the text of A in several books agrees with the Latin Vulgate in so many peculiar readings devoid of Old Latin attestation as to leave little doubt that a Greek manuscript largely employed by Jerome in his revision of the Latin version must have had to a great extent a common original with A." (46)

In this instance, Hort's judgment seems undoubtedly correct, for the agreement of the Latin Vulgate with the Traditional Text is obvious, at least in the most important passages, such as, Christ's agony (Luke 22:43-44), Father forgive them (Luke 23:34), and the ascension (Luke 24:51). Kenyon (1937) (47) lists 24 such passages in the Gospels in which the Western text ( represented by D, Old Latin) and the Alexandrian text (represented by Aleph B) differ from each other. In these 24 instances the Latin Vulgate agrees 11 times with the Western text, 11 times with the Alexandrian text, and 22 times with the Traditional Text (represented by the Textus Receptus). In fact, the only important readings in regard to which the Latin Vulgate disagrees with the Traditional New Testament Text are the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:13), certain clauses of the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:2-4), and the angel at the pool (John 5:4). In this last passage, however, the official Roman Catholic Vulgate agrees with the Traditional Text. Another telltale fact is the presence in the Latin Vulgate of four of Hort's eight so-called "conflate readings." Although these readings are not at all "conflate", nevertheless, they do seem to be one of the distinctive characteristics of the Traditional Text, and the presence of four of them in the Latin Vulgate is most easily explained by supposing that Jerome employed Traditional (Byzantine) manuscripts in the making of the Latin Vulgate text.

There are also a few passages in which the Latin Vulgate has preserved the true reading rather than the Greek Traditional New Testament Text. As we shall see in the next chapter, these few true Latin Vulgate readings were later incorporated into the Textus Receptus, the first printed Greek New Testament text, under the guiding providence of God.

(c) The Providence of God in the Coptic (Egyptian) Church

Thus during the 4th and 5th centuries among the Syriac-speaking Christians of the East, the Greek-speaking Christians of the Byzantine empire, and the Latin-speaking Christians of the West the same tendency was at work, namely, a God-guided trend away from the false Western and Alexandrian texts and toward the True Traditional Text. At a somewhat later date, moreover, this tendency was operative also among the Coptic Christians of Egypt. An examination of Kenyon's 24 passages, for example, discloses 12 instances in which come of the manuscripts of the Bohairic (Coptic) version agree with the Textus Receptus against Aleph B and the remaining Bohairic manuscripts. This indicates that in these important passages the readings of the Traditional Text had been adopted by some of the Coptic scribes.

(d) The Trend Toward the Orthodox Traditional Text — How to Explain It?

During the Middle Ages, therefore, in every land there appeared a trend toward the orthodox Traditional (Byzantine) Text. Since the days of Griesbach naturalistic textual critics have tried to explain this fact by attributing it to the influence of "monastic piety." According to these critics, the monks in the Greek monasteries invented the orthodox readings of the Traditional Text and then multiplied copies of that text until it achieved supremacy. But if the Traditional (Byzantine) Text had been the product of Greek monastic piety, it would not have remained orthodox, for this piety included many errors such as the worship of Mary, of the saints, and of images and pictures. If the Greek monks had invented the Traditional Text, then surely they would have invented readings favoring these errors and superstitions. But as a matter of fact no such heretical readings occur in the Traditional Text.

Here, then, we have a truly astonishing fact which no naturalistic historian or textual critic can explain. Not only in the Greek Church but also throughout all Christendom the medieval period was one of spiritual decline and doctrinal corruption. But in spite of this growth of error and superstition the New Testament text most widely read and copied in the medieval Greek Church was the orthodox, Traditional (Byzantine) Text. And not only so but also in the other regions of Christendom there was a trend toward this same Traditional Text. How shall we account for this unique circumstance? There is only one possible explanation, and this is found in God's special, providential care over the New Testament text. All during this corrupt medieval period God by His providence kept alive in the Greek Church a priesthood of believers characterized by a reverence for and an interest in the holy Scriptures. It was by them that most of the New Testament manuscripts were copied, and it was by them that the Traditional New Testament Text was preserved. In this Traditional Text, found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, no readings occur which favor Mary worship, saint-worship, or image-worship. On the contrary, the Traditional Text was kept pure from these errors and gained ground everywhere. Was this not a manifestation of God's singular care and providence operating through the universal priesthood of believers?

(e) The Protestant Reformation—A Meeting of East and West

In spite of the corruption of the medieval Greek Church, the True Text of the Greek New Testament was preserved in that Church through the God-guided priesthood of believers. These were pious folk, often laymen, who though sharing in many of the errors of their day, still had a saving faith in Christ and a reverence for the holy Scriptures. But, someone may ask, if there were such a group of believers in the Medieval Greek Church, why did not this group finally produce the Protestant Reformation? Why did the Protestant Reformation take place in Western Europe rather than in Eastern Europe in the territory of the Roman Church rather than in that of the Greek Church?

This question can be answered, at least in part, linguistically. From the very beginning the leaders of the Greek Church, being Greeks, were saturated with Greek philosophy. Hence in presenting the Gospel to their fellow Greeks they tended to emphasize those doctrines which seemed to them most important philosophically and to neglect the doctrines of sin and grace, a neglect which persisted throughout the medieval period. Hence, even if the Greek Church had not been overrun by the Turks at the end of the Middle Ages it still could not have produced the Protestant Reformation, since it lacked the theological ingredients for such a mighty, spiritual explosion

In the Western Church the situation was different. Here the two theological giants, Tertullian and Augustine, were Latin-speaking and not at home, apparently, in the Greek language. Consequently they were less influenced by the errors of Greek philosophy and left more free to expound the distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith. Hence from these two great teachers there entered into the doctrinal system of the Roman Church a slender flame of evangelical truth which was never entirely quenched even by the worst errors of the medieval period and which blazed forth eventually as the bright beacon of the Protestant Reformation. (48) This occurred after the Greek New Testament Text had finally been published in Western Europe. Hence the Protestant Reformation may rightly be regarded as a meeting of the East and West.

(f) A New Reformation—Why the Ingredients Are Still Lacking

The length to which Hort would go in his rejection of the Traditional Text is seen in his treatment of Mark 6:22. Here the Western manuscript D agrees with the Alexandrian manuscripts B Aleph L Delta 238 565 in relating that the girl who danced before Herod and demanded the Baptist's head as payment for her shameful performance was not the daughter of Herodias, as the Traditional Text (in agreement with all the other extant manuscripts and the ancient versions) states, but Herod's own daughter named Herodias. Hort actually adopted this reading, but subsequent scholars have not approved his choice. As M. R. Vincent (1899) truly remarked concerning this strange reading, " . . . it is safe to say that Mark could not have intended this. The statement directly contradicts Josephus, who says that the name of the damsel was Salome, and that she was the daughter of Herod Philip, by Herodias, who did not leave her husband until after Salome's birth. It is, moreover, most improbable that even Herod the Tetrarch would have allowed his own daughter thus to degrade herself." (49) And even Goodspeed (1923), who usually follows Hort religiously, here reads with the Traditional Text, "Herodias' own daughter."

Thus even Hort's disciples and admirers have admitted that here in Mark 6:22 he by no means exhibits that "almost infallible judgment" which Souter (1912) attributed to him. (50) Isn't it strange therefore that for almost one hundred years so many conservative Christian scholars have followed the Westcott and Hort text so slavishly and rejected and vilified the text of the Protestant Reformation? Unless this attitude is changed, the ingredients of a new Reformation will still be lacking.