Origin of the New Testament

Origin of the New Testament

There are of two families to its origin:

1. The Byzantine family (also known as the Traditional or Majority Text, Ecclesiastical Text, Constantinopolitan Text, Antiocheian Text or Syrian Text), was the text used and preserved by the Greek Church from the time of the apostles until the era of movable type printing. It is from this family that the manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus (also known as the Received or Stephens Text) were produced. The Textus Receptus was the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version and others.

The Textus Receptus – from Wikipedia

The first printed edition of the Greek New Testament was completed by Erasmus and published by Johann Froben of Basel on March 1, 1516 (Novum Instrumentum omne). Due to the pressure of his publisher to bring their edition to market before the competing Complutensian Polyglot, Erasmus based his work on around a half-dozen manuscripts, all of which dated from the twelfth century or later; and all but one were of the Byzantine text-type.

Six verses that were not witnessed in any of these sources, he back-translated from the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus also introduced many readings from the Vulgate and Church Fathers. This text came to be known as the Textus Receptus or received text after being thus termed by Bonaventura Elzevir, an enterprising publisher from the Netherlands, in his 1633 edition of Erasmus’ text.

The New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible was translated from editions of what was to become the Textus Receptus. The different Byzantine “Majority Text” of Hodges & Farstad as well as Robinson & Pierpont is called “Majority” because it is considered to be the Greek text established on the basis of the reading found in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts. The Textus Receptus differs from the Majority Text in 1,838 Greek readings, of which 1,005 represent “translatable” differences.

2. The Alexandrian Text manuscript family is composed of texts that were generally circulated in the region of Alexandria. The family of this Alexandrian Text essentially disappeared for centuries after 500 AD, but claimed to be found again in the mid-1800s. Although these manuscripts are quite old, they often disagree with one another and show significant signs of grammatical revision. It is from this family that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts are produced.

Two Cambridge professors, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, preferred to label the ancestor of the Alexandrian text type the “Neutral text,” meaning that it was relatively unchanged and successively became the more corrupt type of text that they identified as the Alexandrian text. The so-called Neutral text, chiefly represented by the fourth-century codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, formed the basis of their The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881). This edition—which in Westcott and Hort’s view represented the most accurate and authentic version of the New Testament in the original language available in their day—furnished the death blow to the traditional text published by Erasmus in 1516, also known as Textus Receptus (the “received text”), which had dominated Greek editions and, indirectly, Bible translations (most famously the King James Version) for hundreds of years.

Modern critical texts – from Wikipedia

Karl Lachmann (1850) was the first New Testament textual critic to produce an edition that broke with the Textus Receptus, relying mainly instead on manuscripts from the Alexandrian text-type. Although the majority of New Testament textual critics now favor a text that is Alexandrian in complexion, especially after the publication of Westcott and Hort’s edition, there remain some proponents of the Byzantine text-type as the type of text most similar to the autographs. These critics include the editors of the Hodges and Farstad text (cited below), and the Robinson and Pierpont text. Depending on which modern critical text is taken as an exemplar of the Alexandrian text-type, then this will differ from the Hodges and Farstad text in around 6,500 readings (Wallace 1989).

To give a feel for the difference between the Byzantine form of text and the Eclectic text, which is mainly Alexandrian in character, of 800 variation units in the Epistle of James collected by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, the Byzantine and Eclectic texts are in agreement in 731 of the places (a rate of 92.3%). Many of the 69 disagreements involve differences in word order and other variants that do not appear as translatable differences in English versions. According to the preface to the New King James Version of the Bible, the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian text-type and the Byzantine text-type are 85% identical (that is, of the variations that occur in any manuscript, only 15% actually differ between these three).

The Byzantine type is also found in modern Greek Orthodox editions. A new scholarly edition of the Byzantine Text of John’s gospel, (funded by the United Bible Societies in response to a request from Eastern Orthodox Scholars), was begun in Birmingham, UK. and in 2007, as a result of these efforts, The Gospel According to John in the Byzantine Tradition was published.

Q. Which text to use?

Now to the question about what is the best English Bible to use for our primary studies. It is suggested one that uses the Masoretic text for its Old Testament translation base and the tried and true Textus Receptus (Received Text) manuscripts as the basis for its New Testament. Scriptures based on these manuscripts include the King James Versions.

If you are a more mature Christian and you prefer to compare texts then do so, but just remember translators take a lot of license as some idiomatic and figurative phrases do not readily translate out into the English language well.

Many of the newer versions have stopped using the Received Text for their New Testaments and are instead using the Vaticanus manuscripts with their many errors. It pays to be careful in selecting a new copy of God’s word. Not only are ministers preaching unscriptural doctrines the very Scriptures themselves are being corrupted as well. We must be very aware of these facts in order to discern God’s truth from lies. Thank you for submitting your question about what is the most accurate Bible translation.

Question: “What is the Majority Text?”

Answer: The Majority Text, also known as the Byzantine and Ecclesiastical Text, is a method of determining the original reading of a Scripture by discovering what reading occurs in a majority of the manuscripts. As the Greek New Testament was copied hundreds of times over 1500 years, the scribes, as careful as they were, occasionally made mistakes. The vast majority of these mistakes are in misspellings, or in whether “the” or a preposition occurs. It is important to remember, though, that no doctrine of the Christian faith is put into doubt by these textual questions. The testimony of the thousands of manuscripts over 1500 years is entirely consistent on all the key issues of the Christian faith.

It is vital, though, that our Bibles are as accurate as possible. The accuracy of the manuscripts plays a large role in determining the accuracy of the translation. While the presence of a the is not usually vital to the meaning of a verse, there are times when it can be. This is where the science of “textual criticism” comes in. The goal of textual criticism is to examine all of the available manuscripts, and by comparison and contrast, to determine what the original text truly was.

The Majority Text method within textual criticism could be called the “democratic” method. Essentially, each Greek manuscript has one vote, all the variants are voted on by all the manuscripts, and whichever variant has the most votes wins. At first glance, the Majority Text method would seem to be the most likely to result in the correct original reading. The problem is that the Majority Text method does not take into account two very important factors: (1) The age of the manuscripts, and (2) the location of the manuscripts.

(1) The age of the manuscripts. The more times a manuscript is copied, the more likely it is that errors will occur. A first-generation copy—one that was copied directly from the original—is very likely to be closer to the original than a tenth-generation copy (a copy that was copied from a copy, from a copy . . . from the original). Manuscripts from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries should be far closer to the originals than manuscripts from the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries.

The problem is that the majority of the manuscripts are from the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. To illustrate, let’s say there is a man named James Smith. Let’s say you are attempting to discover James Smith’s middle name. Who would be a better source, James Smith’s one thousand great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren, or James Smith’s son? Of course it would be James Smith’s son. Similarly, a 2nd- or 3rd-generation copy of the New Testament is far more likely to be correct than a 12th- or 13th-generation copy.

(2) The location of the manuscripts. The vast majority of Christians through the centuries have lived in western and eastern Europe. For cultural, theological, and political reasons, the western and eastern churches split. The western church became the Roman Catholic Church while the eastern church became the Orthodox Church.

A few centuries after the start of Christianity, the western church began using Latin as its primary language. The eastern church continued using Greek as its primary language for another thousand years (and in some places, even to today). Textual critics have discovered that the manuscripts discovered in one part of the world tend to be very similar to other manuscripts from that part of the world, likely due to originating from the same source.

Since the eastern church continued using Greek as its primary language for 1000+ years longer than the western church, there are significantly more Greek manuscripts that were discovered in eastern Europe than in western Europe. And, these eastern Greek manuscripts (the Byzantine manuscripts) are all very similar to each other.

When the Majority Text is applied, this results in the eastern manuscripts having far greater weight than the western manuscripts. However, if the thousands of Latin manuscripts from the western church were thrown into the Majority Text “equation,” the results of the voting would be far more balanced, and would actually tilt away from the eastern / Byzantine reading.

Perhaps another illustration will help. Let’s say that there are two copies of a document, document A and document B, with minor differences between them due to copying mistakes. Document A is copied 100 times, while Document B is copied three times. If you used the Majority Text method, the Document A copies would have 100 votes, while the Document B copies would only have 3 votes. The Document A copies would win every vote. However, since Document A and Document B are both first-generation copies of another document, Document A and Document B and their “descendants” should be given equal weight in determining the most likely original reading.

The principles of age and location, then, result in “the majority rules” not being the best method in textual criticism. What, then, is the best method? The best method would seem to be taking into account all factors: majority, age, location, difficulty of the reading, and which variant best explains the origin of the other variants. This method is known as the “Eclectic Text” or “Critical Text.” Other than the King James Version and New King James Version, all of the modern English translations are based on the Eclectic Text. Most assume that the King James Version and New King James Version are based on the Majority Text. This is not correct.

The King James Version and New King James Version are based on the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus is very similar to the Majority Text, but there are in fact hundreds of differences between the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus was compiled and edited by Erasmus in the 16th century. Erasmus used several Greek manuscripts, which were eastern / Byzantine in nature. This explains why the Textus Receptus is very similar to the Majority Text.

However, Erasmus by no means had access to all of the Greek manuscripts, so there was no way he could develop a true Majority Text. The Textus Receptus is based on a very limited number of manuscripts, all of them eastern, and all of them dating to around the 12th century. As a result, compared to the Majority Text, the Textus Receptus is far less likely to have the most accurate reading.

To summarize, the Majority Text is a method within textual criticism that uses the “majority rules” to determine which variant is most likely to be original. While the Majority Text method does result in the most likely original reading in most instances, it should not be employed universally or exclusively. There are many other important factors in determining which variant is most likely to be original.

Characteristics of the Alexandrian text-type

All extant manuscripts of all text-types are at least 85% identical and most of the variations are not translatable into English, such as word order or spelling. When compared to witnesses of the Western text-type, Alexandrian readings tend to be shorter; and are commonly regarded as having a lower tendency to expand or paraphrase. Some of the manuscripts representing the Alexandrian text-type have the Byzantine corrections made by later hands (Papyrus 66, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Ephraemi, Codex Regius, and Codex Sangallensis). When compared to witnesses of the Byzantine text type, Alexandrian manuscripts tend:

  • to have a larger number of abrupt readings — such as the shorter ending of the Gospel of Mark, which finishes in the Alexandrian text at Mark 16:8 (“.. for they were afraid.”) omitting verses Mark 16:9-20; Matthew 16:2b–3, John 5:4; John 7:53-8:11; — Walter Veith: the papacy do not believe in the appearances of the Risen Lord
  • Omitted verses: Matt 12:47; 17:21; 18:11; Mark 9:44.46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29.
  • In Matthew 15:6 omitted η την μητερα (αυτου) (or (his) mother) — א B D copsa;
  • In Mark 10:7 omitted phrase και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου (and be joined to his wife), in codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Athous Lavrensis, 892, 48, syr, goth.
  • Mark 10:37 αριστερων (left) instead of ευωνυμων (left), in phrase εξ αριστερων (B Δ 892v.l.) or σου εξ αριστερων (L Ψ 892*);
  • In Luke 11:4 phrase αλλα ρυσαι ημας απο του πονηρου (but deliver us from evil) omitted. Omission is supported by the manuscripts: Sinaiticus, B, L, f1, 700, vg, syrs, copsa, bo, arm, geo.
  • In Luke 9:55-56 it has only στραφεις δε επετιμησεν αυτοις (but He turned and rebuked them) — P {\displaystyle {\mathfrak {P}}} 45 P {\displaystyle {\mathfrak {P}}} 75 א B C L W X Δ Ξ Ψ 28 33 565 892 1009 1010 1071 Byzpt Lect
  • to display more variations between parallel synoptic passages — as in the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2), which in the Alexandrian text opens “Father.. “, whereas the Byzantine text reads (as in the parallel Matthew 6:9) “Our Father in heaven.. “;
  • to have a higher proportion of “difficult” readings — as in Matthew 24:36 which reads in the Alexandrian text “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”; whereas the Byzantine text omits the phrase “nor the Son”, thereby avoiding the implication that Jesus lacked full divine foreknowledge. Another difficult reading: Luke 4:44.

The above comparisons are tendencies, rather than consistent differences. Hence there are a number of passages in the Gospel of Luke where the Western text-type witnesses a shorter text — the Western non-interpolations. Also there are a number of readings where the Byzantine text displays variation between synoptic passages, that is not found in either the Western or Alexandrian texts — as in the rendering into Greek of the Aramaic last words of Jesus, which are reported in the Byzantine text as “Eloi, Eloi..” in Mark 15:34, but as “Eli, Eli..” in Matthew 27:46.

Now on to Westcott and Hort’s Magic Marker Binge!

(Part 1: Matthew – John)

1:25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
5:44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
6:13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
6:33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
8:29And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
9:13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
12:35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
13:51Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
15:8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
16:3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
16:20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
17:21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
18:11For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
19:9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
19:17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
20:7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
20:16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
20:22But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
23:14Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
25:13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
27:35And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
28:9And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
1:31And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
2:17When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
6:11And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
6:16But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
7:8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
7:16If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
9:24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
9:42And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
9:44Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
9:46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
9:49For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
10:21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
11:10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
13:14But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
13:33Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
14:68But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
15:28And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
16:9-20              Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.(typically marginalized or set in brackets. Footnotes in NIV are patently false.)
1:28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
4:4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
4:8And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
4:41And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
7:31And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
9:54-56And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
11:2-4And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
11:29And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
17:36Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
21:4For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
22:31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
22:64And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?
23:17(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
23:38And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
23:42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
24:6He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
24:40And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
24:49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
24:51And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
1:27He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
3:13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
3:15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
4:42And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
5:3-4In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
6:47Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
6:69And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
11:41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
16:16A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
17:12While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.


What do the footnotes in the NJKV mean?

These notations are meant to identify the original manuscript source of Bible passages. Here are more details from the New King James Version preface:

Where significant variations occur in the New Testament Greek manuscripts, textual notes are classified as follows:


These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian or Egyptian type of text [the oldest, but questionable text]. They are found in the Critical Text published in the Twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Society’s third edition (U), hence the acronym “NU-text.”


This symbol indicates points of variation in the Majority Text from the Byzantine traditional text [a consensus of most Greek manuscripts]. It should be noted that M stands for whatever reading is printed in the published Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, whether supported by overwhelming, strong, or only a divided majority textual tradition.

~ by Joel Huan on June 27, 2022.

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