THE PRESERVATION OF SCRIPTURE: EARLY TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND ITS EFFECT ON THE PRESERVATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXT

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

THE PRESERVATION OF SCRIPTURE: EARLY TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND ITS EFFECT ON THE PRESERVATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXT

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT

OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY I

THEO 525-B12

BY

JEFFREY S. KRAUSE

OCTOBER 10, 2012

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

CT …………………………………………… Critical Text

ESV ………………………………………….. English Standard Version

GNT …………………………………………. Greek New Testament

Jn …………………………………………….. John

Kindle ……………………………………….. Kindle Location(s) in lieu of page numbers

Lk ……………………………………………. Luke

M …………………………………………….. Majority Text

Matt ………………………………………….. Matthew

MS …………………………………………… Manuscript

MSS ……………………….…………………. Manuscripts

NET …………………………………………… New English Translation

NT ……………………………………………. New Testament

OT ……………………………………………. Old Testament

P ……………………………………………… Papyri MS

TT …………………………………………….. Textual Transmission

INTRODUCTION

     Throughout the centuries, one constant that has transcended western culture is the validity and authoritative nature of texts of the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Scriptures; both of which helped to lay the foundation of modern society. Unfortunately, popular opinion and sound bite criticism from modern culture now attempts to shed doubt on the reliability of these texts, and one need not look far for documentation of this truth. For example, there are the words of popular author and novelist Dan Brown, who in his work The Da Vinci Code, penned the following words, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”[1] Likewise, Bart Ehrman, textual critic and historian from the University of North Carolina, has helped to popularize his radical skepticism of the New Testament (NT) text, claiming in his New York Times best seller, Misquoting Jesus, “What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired?  We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of way.” [2] Ehrman goes on to say in a later section that, “There are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.”[3]

In the case of the former of these challenges to the NT text, there is no validity at all, with Brown’s words amounting to little more than ignorant conjecture regarding the subject matter. In the case of the latter, Ehrman is indeed correct in his assessment of the NT text. However, he also fails to add critical information regarding this topic that places his thesis in serious doubt. The critical information that Ehrman omits from the textual transmission (TT) discussion will be the main goal of this essay. Hence, the task of this study is to demonstrate that the method of textual transmission utilized by the infant church throughout the early centuries of the critical transmission period served to preserve the readings of the original autographs, despite the existence of textual variations in the manuscript (MS) tradition. This will be accomplished by careful evaluation and description of the following topics: (1) the method of early textual transmission and its uncontrolled nature, (2) the spread of the NT documents by the common hand and common man within the early centuries of the transmission process, to include the historical factors involved in early transmission (3) a description of the nature of textual variation in the MS tradition, (4) text-types and (5) the tenacity of the text of the NT. Also, this study will be limited to the text of the NT, focusing only on its transmissional truths. In the end, it will be demonstrated that evidence outweighs presumption regarding the NT text and that the Christian can rest assured that they have the “preserved” words of God before them in the modern translations.

NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND A PRESERVED TEXT

     Preservation is defined in modern times as “The act of preserving . . . state of being preserved.”[4] Interestingly, when one considers the issue of textual variation in the NT TT tradition in light of the presented definition, it is the method of transmission that caused textual variation that insures preservation, thus insuring a preserved and intact text.

TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND THE INFANT CHURCH

     In the early centuries, the transmission of the autographs[5] of the NT was of an uncontrolled nature. What this means is that there was little to no regulation over whom and how the autographic NT documents were copied and where they were transported to. Colin Smith explains;

As a result of persecution and oppression during the first few centuries of the church, the various books of the New Testament were usually hastily copied, either by tradesmen or by churches as they had opportunity. The rapid growth of the church also generated a great demand for copies of the Scriptures. As the church expanded its borders beyond Palestine, her Scriptures traveled with her. Wherever churches were planted and wherever Christian merchants traveled, copies of the various New Testament books made their way into different parts of the world.[6]

The results of this uncontrolled manner of copying were multi-fold. First, as Smith points out, it was often the commoner who reproduced the text of the NT. Because of this, the text of the NT was reaching the people, both Jew and Gentile alike, which was the purpose of this uncontrolled methodology. The words that the spokespersons of God where penning were the words of eternal life and it was the goal of the infant church to get these soul preserving words into the hands of the known world as rapidly as possible. Hence, it must be noted that a perfectly copied text, which would take time and careful planning, was not a luxury the early church was afforded. Rather, time was of the essence and the rapidly growing church, which was quickly spreading over the known world in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, was eager and willing to share the truth about the resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. This methodology is in direct antithesis to the reproduction and transmission of the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures, which was controlled and regulated as pointed out by Ellis R. Brotzman when he states, “It is generally accepted that the Old Testament was copied more carefully than the New.”[7] Next, unlike OT MS reproduction, which was largely but not always reproduced in non-hostile conditions, the early NT documents were reproduced in hostile conditions, under severe persecution and often under candle light. All of these factors contribute to (1) an early first and second century witness of the NT texts and (2) variations within that witness; a point that will be touched on later. However, simply stating that the NT text was reproduced in an uncontrolled fashion does not mean that it was copied sloppily. In fact, the early Christians were quite concerned with accuracy, as noted by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger, “We have little reason to think that early Christianity was a movement of illiterate peasants that would have been unable to reliably transmit their own writings.”[8] Kostenberger and Kruger go on to state that early Christianity “was a religion concerned with books”[9] and was “distinguished from the surrounding religions . . . by its prolific production of literature and its commitment to an authoritative body of Scripture as its foundation.”[10] Hence, while early Christians were concerned with accuracy, this concern coincided with the need for speedily copied documents. The result of this process was accurate copies that contain errors via the transmissional process.

POLITICAL AND HISTORICAL FACTORS IN TRANSMISSION

     Politically speaking, Christianity was a targeted religion the first three-hundred years of its early existence, not being made legal until 313 A.D. and the Edict of Milan where, “Constantine entered into an agreement with Licinius at Milan . . . extending free exercise of religion to ‘Christians and all others.’”[11] Arthur Patzia states on this point, “The development from original to local to mixed text was stalled during the intense persecutions of the church under the Roman Emperors Decius (A.D. 249–251), Valerian (A.D. 253–260) and Diocletian (A.D. 284–305). Under Diocletian, for example, a systematic attempt was launched to persecute the Christian church by destroying manuscripts, church buildings and ecclesiastical offices.”[12] Hence, any reproduction of the NT documents was at the risk of life and livelihood. Thus, as already stated, this uncontrolled reproduction was done hastily and in quick fashion, often not by trained scribes but rather, by commoners who would reproduce the autographs or early copies for personal use, or, for use in their local assemblies.

Also, the faithfulness of the early church during this time period is clearly seen historically. Despite the hardships associated with early church allegiance and the destruction of their founding documents, the early church remained steadfast in their goal of spreading the words of eternal life. Daniel B. Wallace explains, “When it comes to manuscript production and preservation from the first three centuries, the Christian documents were at a decided disadvantage because the political cards were stacked against them. Yet, remarkably, the New Testament manuscripts are more plentiful during this era than are copies of any other ancient literature.”[13] In noting Wallace, the scribes and copyists of the early church were dedicated and resultant, producing and preserving MSS despite the aforementioned persecution. Yet, they were also fallible humans who felt the pressure and hatred of both the Jews and Romans alike, who were decidedly against their new religion. This resulted in errors in the MS tradition, as is common with any hand copied document. Better known as textual variants, the NT MSS, as Ehrman rightly states, are filled with these errors in transmission. Yet, a closer look at the impact or quality of textual variation relays a story which is quite different than what Ehrman attempts to relay in his popular writings.

TEXTUAL VARIATION IN THE MANUSCRIPT TRADITION

TEXTUAL DATA

         As previously noted, the NT manuscript tradition is littered with what scholars call textual variants. A textual variant is, “any place among the manuscripts of the New Testament where there is not uniformity of wording.”[14]  Simply put, “this term indicates a particular difference or variation found in manuscripts.”[15] As of the date of this essay, there are 5824 documented NT MSS,[16] with the GNT containing roughly 138,000 words. Within this tradition, there are by some counts 400,000 textual variants which exist between MSS; a nearly 3:1 ratio. Put another way, for every word in the GNT, there is between 2.5 – 3 textual variants; a point that critics and skeptics of the NT focus upon. However, when the nature or quality of variation is considered, a much different picture begins to emerge.

THE FOUR TYPES OF VARIANTS AND THEIR ESSENCE AND NATURE

     There are four types of variants present within the MSS tradition, the first of which being “spelling errors or nonsense readings.” For example, when one compares the 1550 Textus Receptus (TR) up and against Tregelles Critical GNT in Jn 1:6, the TR spells John’s name with one nu (Ἰωάνης > Ioanes), while Tregelles provides the rendering with two (Ἰωάννης > Ioannes). This is the nature of the first class of variants, which have no impact on the text and which do not change the referent of the verse, John. The most common variant in this category is what is known as the “movable nu.” Komoszewski, Sewyer and Wallace explain; “The Greek letter nu (n) can occur at the end of certain words when they precede a word that starts with a vowel. This is similar to the two forms of the indefinite article in English: a or an. But whether the nu appears in these words or not, there is absolutely no difference in meaning. It is so insignificant that most textual critics simply ignore the variants involving a movable nu . . . It affects nothing.”[17] Seventy percent[18] of all textual variants fall into this first category[19] and as previously observed, there is no impact on the text of Scripture, as noted by Wallace when he states, “Of the hundreds of thousands of textual variants, the majority are spelling differences that have no impact on the meaning of the text.”[20]

The next class of textual variants or the second largest class is known as “minor differences that do not affect translation or that involve synonyms.”[21] The words “Jesus loves Paul” are an excellent case study regarding this second class. In Greek, word order is of little importance in regards to the meaning of a sentence, being reserved only for emphasis. Rather, the inflected endings of the word via its suffix’s determine the subject and direct object.[22]Hence, one could take the phrase “Jesus loves Paul” and transpose (known as transposition) or rearrange the words sixteen different ways and still achieve the same meaning. The literal word order rendering of the following phrases are as follows; (1) ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον (Iesous agapa Paulon > “Jesus loves Paul”), (2) ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον (Iesous agapa ton Paulon > “Jesus loves the Paul”) and (3) Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ (Paulon Iesous agapa > “Paul Jesus loves”). While word order is different in the cited examples, the exact same meaning is derived, “Jesus” (᾿Ιησοῦς in the nominative > subject) loves “Paul” (Παῦλον in the accusative case > direct object). And, while each reading would count as a variant reading, thus adding into the 400,000 variants already cited, there is no practical or functional difference between the different renderings; meaning, there is zero impact on the text.

Moreover, at times, the authors and copyists added the definite article before proper nouns, creating a reading of “the Jesus” or “the Paul,” while at other times, the article was left off, giving the reading of “Jesus,” and “Paul,” as is common in English. Regardless of the inclusion or non-inclusion of the article, the same individual is in view and there is no impact on the meaning or translation of the verse. There are also issues involving synonyms, where the copyists, often under the influence of the lectionaries, would transport proper names into the text in place of personal pronouns. Again, Wallace explains;

[I]n in the heart of Mark’s Gospel, for the space of eighty-nine verses (Mark 6:31-8:26), Jesus is never identified by name or title. . . The pronouns are the only indications to go on that tell who is in view. Because of the influence from the lectionaries, most manuscripts add nouns here and there to identify the person in view. In these eighty-nine verses in Mark, for example, the majority of later manuscripts add “Jesus” in 6:34; 7:27; 8:1, and 17. These variants certainly affect the translation, but the referent (Jesus) is still the same either way. [23]

Again, it is noted that this second class of variant has no impact on the meaning of the NT text and when this class of variant is coupled with the first, up to ninety percent[24] or greater of all textual variants are accounted for, with no change in the Biblical message.

The third most prevalent class of variants are classified as “meaningful variants that are not viable,” which address readings “found in a single manuscript or group of manuscripts that, by themselves, have little likelihood of going back to the wording of the original text.”[25] For example, in 1 Thess 2:9, the majority of MSS read, “the gospel of God,” with one late MS reading “the gospel of Christ.”[26] While there is a meaningful difference in the wording of the passage via the variant reading, there is little to no chance that this variant goes back to the original text, thus its non-viability.

Also falling into this category of variation is Harmonization; which are errors of copying or combining one section of text with another independent section. For example, Matt 9:11 reads, “And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matt 9:11, ESV). In this verse, there are a handful of MSS that read “Why does your teacher eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners” (emphasis added). But the “and drink” addition is the rendering from Lk 5:30, which was inserted into the text most likely by mistake, if the scribe was used to copying the text of Luke, or, to correct what the scribe thought was an erroneous reading. Purposeful harmonization was also common in copied MSS, where scribes would at times attempt “to bring one Gospel in line with another.”[27] However, regardless of scribal intent, the message of the text does not change, nor is foreign information being added into the NT corpus when one considers that harmonization took place with previously existing NT information that was already present in the MS TT. Also, because of the vast wealth of NT MS evidence, harmonizations are able to be detected and corrected in the modern, Critical Text of the GNT, as noted by Wallace with these words, “when such non-harmonizations are found in earlier manuscripts, the evidence that there is no harmonization is convincing that these readings are authentic.”[28] Hence, when all the evidence is considered concerning this third class of textual variants, it is appropriate to state that no damage is done to the NT message by their existence and while meaningful, there is little change to the NT text; with identification of these variants being made possible via the great number of MSS within the TT tradition.[29]

The fourth and final category of textual variants is “variants that are both meaningful and viable.” Consisting of one percent or less of all textual variants,[30] this class of textual variation “changes the meaning of the text to some degree,”[31] thus casting doubt on a minute portion of the autographic reading as penned by the original author. One of the most well-known meaningful and viable variants consists of the long ending of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:9-20), which is thought to be a later addition to the MS tradition. Excellent and early witness (such as א B 304 sys sams armmss Eus Eusmss Hiermss)[32] attest to the shorter ending of the Gospel (at verse 8), which leads some scholars to conclude that “All of this evidence strongly suggests that as time went on scribes added the longer ending, either for the richness of its material or because of the abruptness of the ending at v. 8 . . . Because of such problems regarding the authenticity of these alternative endings, 16:8 is usually regarded as the last verse of the Gospel of Mark.”[33] However, others fight for the validity of the longer reading, proclaiming its authenticity via other textual data, and the debate goes on.

Another example of this class of variant readings is found in Rev 13, where the text reads, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Rev 13:18, ESV). While it is common practice in Christendom to see the “number of the beast” as 666, some MSS, to include both the earliest MS and one of the best attested to MS (P115, C)[34] place the number of the beast as 616. While not considered a legitimate reading with its origins reaching back to the original autograph, it is still both meaningful and viable and must be considered when the reconstruction of the NT text is considered.

When this final class of textual variants is considered, it must be recognized that “Only about 1 percent of all textual variants fit this category.”[35] Put another way, textual variants in this category consist of a maximum of 4,000 of the previously mentioned 400,000 variants in the MS tradition; with this number considered on the high end by some scholars.[36] This point is admitted by Ehrman in his work, Misquoting Jesus, when he states, “Most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology.  Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple — slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort of another.”[37] Perhaps this point is most clearly annunciated by Gregory Koukl when he states, “What can we conclude from the evidence? Virtually all of the 400,000 differences in the New Testament documents—spelling errors, inverted words, non-viable variants and the like—are completely inconsequential . . . This means that our New Testament is over 99% pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.”[38] Thus, while the sheer number of variants in the TT tradition may at first seem daunting to the student of the NT Scriptures, when all is considered, this number is reduced to a rather insignificant number in comparison to the whole, with little doubt existing regarding the original reading of the NT originals in respect to our modern texts.

TEXT-TYPES, CONFLATION AND EXPANSION AND TEXTUAL TENACITY

TEXT-TYPES CONFLATION AND EXPANSION

     The rapid spread of NT documents in the early centuries of TT produced families of manuscripts based in geographic region. Better known as text-types, there are three prominent text-type groups. The first of these families of MSS is the Alexandrian type, hailing from Alexandria, Egypt. David A. Black states that the Alexandrian text provides “readings that are generally shorter and more difficult”[39] as well as providing “the majority of papyri”[40] within the MS tradition. Typically the oldest MSS, the Alexandrian family supplies a critical witness as to the nature of the original NT text.

The next family or text-type originates from the area of Byzantium and is known as the Byzantine text. Often referred to as the Majority Text, the Byzantine textual platform provides the great majority of Greek MSS, but often of later penning. Black states of this family of MSS, “Because of the influence of Wescott and Hort, the Byzantine text is now considered to be the least valuable text-type.”[41] Interestingly, the Byzantine textual platform shows signs of an inflated text, demonstrating an “expansion of piety”[42] and a mixture of other textual readings, also known as Conflation. James R. White explains this point when he states, “Most . . . believe the Byzantine represents a later period in which readings from other text-types were put together (conflated) into the Byzantine readings. This is not to say the Byzantine does not contain some distinctive and very ancient readings, but rather, that the readings unique to that text-type are generally secondary or later readings.”[43] Typically 1.75 percent fuller, this family of MSS will often expand titles of deity. For example, in 1 Cor 16:22, the NA27/UBS4th Edition gives a reading of “the Lord,” while the Majority Text (M), which “is mainly Byzantine in character,”[44] provides the reading “the Lord Jesus Christ,” thus expanding the deity.

A third family of MSS is known as the Western text-type, which originates from the areas surrounding Rome. This text-type is “represented by uncial D, the Old Latin, the Old Syriac and a few other witnesses”[45] and “is characterized by haramonistic tendencies and additions.”[46]

What is interesting to note when all of these text-type families are considered, is the multiple streams of witness that are existent in the TT MS tradition. At no point in the history of TT was the text of the NT ever localized. Meaning, there has never been a period of time where all of the MSS were gathered into one place. This point is critical when one considers the subject of preservation, and the results of this are twofold. First, never being localized, the message of the NT could never have been changed, because changing the message of the NT documents would have required that all of the MSS be gathered up and changed wholesale; an impossible task when one considered the geographic and historical circumstances surrounding such an endeavor. Also, the changing of the MSS in only one region would conflict with readings from the other text families, which is simply not the case when the evidence is evaluated.

In short, despite Dan Brown’s claim of the editing of the NT documents, the different lines of transmission prevented such editing, thus making it impossible that an individual or group could have changed the NT message. As White states, “there was never a time where anyone or any group could gather up all the manuscripts and make extensive changes in the text itself, like cutting out Christ’s deity or inserting some foreign doctrine or concept . . . such a thing did not and could not, happen.”[47] Second, these different lines of transmission, all of which contain textual variation, also agree with each other as to the nature, wording and message of the NT witness. Meaning, the different text-type families, while each carrying with them specific nuances in the rendering of the text (expansion, shorter readings, conflation, variation), provide the careful textual critic with a historical chain of text reaching back to at least the second century,[48] to include P4, P64, and P67 (which are all existent in one MS), P32, P46, P52, P66, P75, P77, P87, P90, P98, P104, P108 and P109, with the “papyrus manuscript designated P52, dated around 110–125.” [49] White, in speaking about MSS P66 and P75, states the following on this topic, “The fact that their text is nearly identical to even the most Byzantine manuscript of a millennium later is testimony to the overall purity of the New Testament text.” In short, the NT MS tradition has a line of pedigree that is attested to in at least the second century and by a later and ongoing multiple lines of transmission; thus insuring its accuracy, validity and ultimately, its preservation.

TEXTUAL TENACITY

     There is also the issue of the tenacity of the text of the NT, which is defined by Kurt Aland as “a stubborn resistance of the readings and the text types to change.”[50] The importance of this principle cannot be overlooked in regards to the preservation of the NT message, as White explains, “Why is this so important? Because readings just don’t ‘disappear’ in the New Testament. And this means we still have the original readings of the New Testament works.”[51] Black agrees with both Aland and White when he states that the “sheer number” of NT MS witnesses “makes it virtually certain that the original text has been preserved somewhere among the extant witnesses.”[52]

With tenacity in mind, it is helpful to note that the NT MS tradition does not suffer from a lack of the original reading, as if the autographic message had been lost in the many centuries of copying. Rather, the NT MS tradition suffers from the exact opposite, containing more information than was previously recorded in the autographic text. When viewed in this light, the NT documents contain 110 percent information (the original writings and subsequent textual variants which caused additions over the centuries), when it should only contain 100 percent; yet, because of tenacity, the original reading remains. In conclusion, when textual tenacity and the whole of the textual tradition are considered, the student of the NT is assured of reading the original words of the NT authors, either by way of proper textual discussions via the critics or within the footnotes of the Critical Text. Regardless, the original readings are preserved in the NT TT tradition.

CONCLUSION

     What conclusions can be gathered from the current study? First, as noted, the method of uncontrolled transmission of the NT documents in the early centuries spread the NT texts into different geographical regions of the known world, thus placing the MSS in the hands of the common man. Second, the early copyist’s and scribes were dedicated Christians, risking their life to preserve and accurately transmit the message of the Gospel to the world. Third, historical and political factors highly influenced TT, with oppression and persecution requiring rapid reproduction of the NT MSS in what was often dismal conditions, producing textual variations, while also producing widespread geographical distribution.

Next, textual variation, while being quantitatively large in number, plays little to no role in the reconstruction of the original text of the NT on the whole, with the quality of variants that are both meaningful and viable accounting for one percent or less of all textual variation. Moving on, the different lines or families of TT, known as text-types, provide a consistent and independent witness to the NT message; a witness which correlates one with another, despite textual variation. Also, these different text-types when combined with the early geographical distribution of the MSS, makes it impossible that an individual or group changed the NT message. Moreover, textual tenacity insures that the original wording of the inspired autographs is still existent in the MSS tradition, thus insuring that the original wording of the NT documents has been preserved.

Finally, when textual variation and the issue of preservation of the text is considered, it is essential to note that no essential Christian doctrine is in jeopardy because of errors introduced into the MS tradition. Wallace makes this point clear when he proclaims that “no cardinal doctrine depends on any plausible variant,”[53] which is a point of agreement via Ehrman when he states, “The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”[54] Or, as Wayne Grudem proclaims;

For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts. Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99 percent of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are exact copies of the original. Furthermore, we know where the uncertain readings are…Thus, our present manuscripts are for most purposes the same as the original manuscripts, and the doctrine of inerrancy therefore directly concerns our present manuscripts as well.[55]

In closing, when one takes into account the evidence of NT transmission, it is justified to proclaim that the NT text has been preserved. Does this mean that the current readings in the published scholarly texts are fully correct? Not at all, as noted with the small amount of variants which do cast doubt on the original readings. However, when one considers the whole of the TT tradition, the message of the original text remains and it is the goal of scholarship to shed greater light on the minutia of areas where doubt exists. It is in this sense that God in His providence has preserved His word and therefore, the Christian is correct to proclaim that they possess the very words of God.


APPENDIX A

EARLY TEXTUAL TRANSMISSION AND ITS TOOLS

    In the early centuries of textual transmission (TT),[56] the original autographs and manuscripts were written on a paper-like material known as papyrus. In the process of preparing the papyrus plant for transformation into a writing surface, “the stalk was removed and cut into strips that were laid side by side . . . A second layer was then laid across it to a sheet ranging in size from 6 to 9 inches to 12 by 15 inches.”[57] The oldest of the dated manuscripts in existence, known as P52 (A.D. 125),[58] is a small section of the Fourth Gospel consisting of Jn 18:31-33, 37-38[59] and is preserved on papyri. Although small in size, P52[60] provides the textual community with a second century attestation of the New Testament (NT) documents and their early development; a critical point when one considers the overall history of TT and its challenges.

By the third and fourth centuries, the use of papyrus gave way to a material known as parchment. Also known as vellum, this material consisted of dried and stripped animal skins and was the material of choice for earlier writers because of its practicality (it could be rolled into scrolls) and its durability (it did not break down and age like papyrus). David A. Black states that, “Practically all surviving manuscripts of the Greek New Testament are written on parchment. Only the very earliest New Testament manuscripts were written on papyrus.”[61]

In early transmission, there was also a difference in the type of script that was utilized. In mid-early TT (fourth century), uncial font was the preferred form of transmission. Uncial’s were block script letters that were given a prefix in order to categorize them, as Black explains,  “Uncial manuscripts date from the fourth to tenth century and are designated in two ways; by capital letters . . . and by Arabic numbers with a zero prefixed (e.g. 02).”[62] Uncial’s later gave way to a more free form or “running” form of text known as the minuscule, which was a cursive type of writing that allowed for a more rapid reproduction of the Greek text.[63] Regarding this topic, David Ewert states, “This kind of handwriting not only increased the speed of writing but made it possible to pack much more material into one page, making books more economical.”[64]

In Ewert’s above statement, he mentions that the minuscule made “books” much more economical. Ewert’s words reflect the early Christian practice of forming “Codexis” out of the minuscule manuscripts. The codex, which is in essence, a series of manuscripts that are bound together with a front and back cover and spine, were first popularized by the church in the early second century[65] and replaced the scroll by the ninth century. James R. White explains, “Christians charted a new course almost from the very beginning. They utilized the ‘book’ or ‘codex’ style of manuscript, on which the copyist would write on both sides of a papyrus sheet and would bind these sheets together.”[66] The convenience of the codex was unsurpassed, allowing for the reader to easily transport large volumes of writings and also allowing the reader to locate specific passages with much more ease.[67] The most famous of the Codexis comes by way of Codex Sinaiticus (א), which “contains the vast majority”[68] of the GNT with the addition of the Greek version of the OT Scriptures known as the Septuagint (LXX). Penned in the fourth century, Sinaiticus and her cousin manuscript, Codex Vaticanus (B > dated 325-350) are vital early witnesses of NT reliability states Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger, because early existent manuscripts, “gives us access to the New Testament text at a remarkably early stage, making it very unlikely that the textual tradition could have been radically altered prior to this time period without evidence for those alterations still being visible within the manuscript tradition.”[69]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Wallace, D. (Performer). (2012). An Embarrassment of Riches: The Number of Variants and Manuscripts, Part 1. J. B. Conference.

Aland, Kurt, and Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing., 1995.

Black, David A. New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994.

Bortzman, Ellis R. Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994.

Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. New York, NY. Doubleday, 2003.

Comfort, Philip, W. The Complete Guide to Bible Versions. Wheaton, IL. Living Books, 1991.

Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible. San Francisco, CA. HaperCollins Publishers, 2007.

Ewert, David. A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1990.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Kindle. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1994.

Komoszewsk, Ed, Sawyer James M, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006.

Kostenberger, Andreas J., and Michael J Kruger. The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. Kindle. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2010.

Koukl, Gregory. “Misquoting Jesus? Answering Bart Ehrman.” Stand to Reason (Stand to Reason), Sept/Oct 2010.

Oxford American Minidictionary. New York, NY. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Patzia, A. G. The Making of the New Testament: Origin, collection, Text & Canon. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 1995.

Smith, Colin. An Introduction to Textual Criticism: Part 2–The Writing and Transmission of Ancient Documents. Mar 03, 2008. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2581.

Wallace, Daniel B, ed. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscripts, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2011.

—. “The Number of the Beast.” Parchment and Pen. 04 29, 2007. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/04/the-number-of-the-beast/ (accessed 10 11, 2012).

White, James R. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? 2nd. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009.


[1] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, (New York, NY. Doubleday, 2003), 231.

[2] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, (San Francisco, CA: HaperCollins Publishers, 2007), 7.

[3] Ibid., 90.

[4] Oxford American Minidictionary, (New York, NY. Oxford University Press, 2004), 436.

[5] As previously defined by Bart Ehrman’s quote as the “original’s” or the original writings which were penned by the apostles or the original authors of the NT documents.

[6] Colin Smith, An Introduction to Textual Criticism: Part 2–The Writing and Transmission of Ancient Documents. Mar 03, 2008. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2581 (accessed Oct 07, 2012).

[7] Ellis R Bortzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 18

[8] Andreas J Kostenberger, Michael J Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2010), 3987-3988, Kindle.

[9] Ibid, 3902-3903.

[10] Ibid., 3913-3915.

[11] Everett Ferguson, Church History Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 3447-3448, Kindle.

[12] A. G. Patzia, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995) Logos.

[13] Ed Komoszewsk, James M. Sawyer, Daniel B Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006), 643-647, Kindle

[14] Ibid.,  461-462.

[15] Ibid., Patzia, Making of the NT, 115.

[16] Wallace, Daniel B. An Embarrassment of Riches: The Number of Variants and Manuscripts, Part 1. 2012 John Bunyan Conference. (09/14/2012)

[17] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 481-484.

[18] Ibid., Wallace, An Embarrassment of Riches.

[19] Or, 280,000 of the previously mentioned 400,000 textual variants.

[20] Ibid, Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 478-479.

[21] Ibid., 477.

[22] For example, in John 1:1b, two persons are in view, the Word Jesus and the God (the Father). John 1:1b reads “και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον. (“and the word was with the God”). In this clause, λογος (logos) is in the nominative which denotes that it is the subject of the clause, while θεον (theon) is in the accusative, which places it as the direct object of the clause.

[23] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 512-516.

[24] Up to or greater than 360,000 of the 400,000 textual variants have now been accounted for via these first two categories of variant classes.

[25] Ibid., 517.

[26] Ibid., 518.

[27] David Ewert, A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1990), 154.

[28] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus,, 523-534.

[29] This third class of variants places the total of textual variants which are accounted for at 99% or greater of all variation. Put another way, of the 400,000 textual variants present in the MSS tradition, at least 396,000 of these variants fall into the first three categories previously described. Also, this is a generous figure, with scholars such as Wallace stating in his lectures that this figure is upward of 99.75% of all variants, which if true, would place the total number of variants at 399,000, thus leaving about 1000 meaningful and viable variants that text scholars are wrestling with in regards to the original text. For a fuller discussion of this topic, see Wallace, An Embarrassment of Riches: The Number of Variants and Manuscripts, parts 1 and 2, available at www.sermonaudio.com.

[30] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 566.

[31] Ibid., 528.

[32] NET Bible® footnotes, copyright (c) 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from http://bible.org.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Daniel Wallace, “The Number of the Beast.” Parchment and Pen. 04 29, 2007. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/04/the-number-of-the-beast/ (accessed 10 11, 2012).

[35] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 530-531.

[36] See Daniel B. Wallace’s audio lecture on this subject, “Is What We Have Now What They Had Then?”  http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/08/dan-wallace-mp3-audio-is-what-we-have.html

[37] Ibid., Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 55.

[38] Gregory Koukl, “Misquoting Jesus? Answering Bart Ehrman.” (Stand to Reason, Sept/Oct 2010), 264-266, Kindle.

[39] David A Black, New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 32-33.

[40] Ibid., 32.

[41] Ibid., 33

[42] James R White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009), 72.

[43] Ibid., 71-72.

[44] Ibid., 74.

[45] Ibid., Black, NT Textual Criticism, 33.

[46] Ibid. Some scholars have in view a fourth text-type, known as the Caesarean text family. This type of MS family, to which “today there is little consensus” (Ibid., Black, 33) as to its validity, is often rejected scholars such as White, listing it with the qualification that this “family” is “disputed by some.” Ibid., White, 74.

[47] Ibid., White, KJV Only, 78.

[48] There has also been a recent discovery of a MS from the Gospel of Mark, which was announced in Daniel Wallace’s debate with Bart Ehrman at the University of North Carolina in January of 2012. By all indications, this MS dates to the first century, as dated by a leading, yet unnamed secular Paperoligist. For more information, see Daniel B. Wallace, Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? Feb 2012, 10. www.csntm.org/.

[49] Philip W. Comfort, The Complete Guide to Bible Versions, (Wheaton, IL: Living Books, 1991), Logos.

[50] Kurt Aland, Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing., 1995), 69.

[51] Ibid., White, KJV Only, 78.

[52] Ibid., Black, NT Textual Criticism, 24.

[53] Ibid., Kostenberger, Kruger, Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 1128-1129.

[54] Daniel B Wallace, ed. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscripts, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2011), 55.

[55] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1994), 96.

[56] This section is reproduced from Jeffrey S. Krause, The Reliability of New Testament Transmission and Its Manuscripts, (LBST, 2012), 2-4.

[57] David A Black, New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 14-15

[58] Daniel Wallace states; “The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.” Daniel B. Wallace, Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? Feb 2012, 10. http://www.csntm.org/ (accessed Aug 06, 2012).

[59] However, the textual world is on edge regarding the announcement of a newly found manuscript of the Gospel of Mark, which has been, according to Daniel B. Wallace, dated to the first century by a leading secular Paperologist. For more information on this, see Daniel B. Wallace, Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? Feb 2012, 10. http://www.csntm.org/ (accessed Aug 06, 2012).

[60] Also known as Rylands Library Papyrus P52

[61] Ibid., Black, 16.

[62] Ibid., 19.

[63] Ibid., 20.

[64] David Ewert, A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1990), 137.

[65] Ibid., 136.

[66] James R White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009), 53.

[67] Ibid., Ewert, 136.

[68] Ibid., White, 56

[69] Andreas J Kostenberger, Michael J Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2010), 4602-4604, Kindle.