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Hebrew New Testament

The Greek New Testament

 

Scholars have discovered thousands of fragments and manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, some of the most highly regarded are:

 

The Chester Beatty Papyri  (Greek; the New Testament portions of which were copied in the 3rd century)
The Bodmer Papyri  (Greek and Coptic; the New Testament portions of which were copied in the third and 4th centuries)
Uncial 0171 (Greek; copied in the late-third or early 4th century)
Schøyen Manuscript 2560 (Coptic; copied in the 4th century)
Codex Vaticanus (Greek; copied in the 4th century)
Codex Sinaiticus (Greek; copied in the 4th century)

Codex Alexandrinus (Greek; copied in the 4th century)
 
Western scholars consider the Codex Vaticanus (B) (300-350 CE) to be the most reliable of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, it resides in the Vatican library and has done so since the middle ages.  The second most popular is the Codex Sinaiticus (Sin.) 350-400 CE, discovered at a Greek Orthodox monastery in the Sinai desert. The British Museum purchased the Sin. for 100,000 pounds where it remains on display to this day.  The Codex Alexandrinus (A), 450-500 CE, has resided in the British Library since the 17th century.  These Greek texts carry exotic and compelling names; Vaticanus, because it was "discovered" at the Vatican of course, let's also consider what the Vatican looked like around 300-350 CE.  It was during the glory days of Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (272-337), who many Christians affectionately refer to as "Saint" Constantine but we'll get to that in a bit, first let's look at how accurate this text really isn't.

 

Codex Vaticanus

 

The most widely sold editions of the Greek New Testament are largely based on the text of the Codex Vaticanus.  It is believed to have been written by 2 or 3 scribes and having two "correctors" who reviewed and corrected what the scribes had written.

 

John Mill (c. 1645 – 23 June 1707) was an English theologian who is noted for his critical edition of the Greek New Testament which included notes on many variant readings. In his work he noted over 30,000 discrepancies between some 100 extant Greek New Testament manuscripts.  His work was attacked by Daniel Whitby and Anthony Collins.  Whitby's Examen claimed that Mill had destroyed the validity of the text; Collins received a reply from Richard Bentley (Phileleutherus lipsiensis) where Bentley defended Mill noting essentially that... Mill was not responsible for the differences between the various MSS, he only pointed them out.  Bentley further noted that Christendom had indeed survived despite the errors, essentially asserting that Whitby's attacks were unfounded.

 

Bentley was stirred by Mill's claim of 30,000 variants in the New Testament and he wanted to reconstruct the text of the New Testament in its early form.  He felt that among the manuscripts of the New Testament, Codex Alexandrinus was "the oldest and best in the world".  Bentley understood the necessity to use manuscripts if he were to reconstruct an older form than that apparent in Codex Alexandrinus. He assumed, that by supplementing this manuscript with readings from other Greek manuscripts, and from the Latin Vulgate, he could triangulate back to the single recension which he presumed existed at the time of the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325).  Therefore he required a collation from Vaticanus. Unfortunately, the text of the collation was irreconcilable with Codex Alexandrinus and he abandoned the project.

 

Even if we postulated that Richard Bentley's work might have been confirmed and indeed he was able to triangulate the Greek New Testament texts back to the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD), let's consider what he might have accomplished.   At the time, Constantine was then the first Christian Roman Emperor, he and his mother Helena (of Bithynian Greek extraction) were responsible for the many official tasks of the empire including burning "renegade" Bibles and "renegade" Christians.  Constantine took official control over Christianity when he made it the state religion and he then set out to have one official authorized state controlled Bible, the version that suited his particular interests.  And so, it was at that time that the official Importantous Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus New Testamentos Biblios was born, sponsored by one of the worlds most wicked and corrupt politicians who had a propensity of murdering relatives who he thought could be hatching conspiracies to overthrow him.

 

It is believed that two or more "correctors" worked on the Codex Vaticanus manuscript.  On page 1512, next to Hebrews 1:3, the text contains an interesting marginal note, "Fool and knave, leave the old reading and do not change it!" – "ἀμαθέστατε καὶ κακέ, ἄφες τὸν παλαιόν, μὴ μεταποίει" which may suggest that inaccurate copying, either intentional or unintentional, was a recognized problem at the point of it being copied.

 

Codex Sinaiticus

 

The popular Codex Sinaiticus derives it's name from Mt. Sinai, though it was not even discovered at Mt. Sinai, but at Saint Catherine's Greek Orthodox monastery in the central Sinai Peninsula.  The monastery is one of approximately 23 locations all claiming to be the original Mt. Sinai.  As the crow flies the monastery is 81 miles west and a bit south of the most favored Jebel el Lawz1 in Saudi Arabia.  The codex is believed to be written in the 4th century, but only came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century?  Obviously it's importance had been extremely underrated by it's caretakers for hundreds of years.

 

Herman Charles Hoskier (1864–1938), a biblical scholar and British textual critic discovered 3036 differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the Gospels alone:

 

MATTHEW 656
MARK 567
LUKE 791
JOHN 1022
TOTAL 3036

 

Between the 4th and 12th centuries, seven or more "correctors" re-worked this codex, making it one of the most corrected manuscripts in human history.  Tischendorf during his investigation in St. Petersburg enumerated 14,800 "corrections" in the two thirds portion he was able to examine, which implies that the full codex likely carries about 20,000 "fixes".

 

There is plenty of speculation about the manuscript's early history, according to Hort, it was written in the West, probably in Rome, suggested by the fact that the chapter division in the Acts common to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus occurs in no other Greek manuscript, but is found in several manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. Robinson suggests the systems of chapters was introduced into the Vulgate by Jerome himself, as a result of his studies at Caesarea.  Kenyon, Gardthausen, Ropes and Jellicoe thought it to have been written in Egypt. Harris, Streeter. Skeat, and Milne tended to think that it was produced in Caesarea.

A paleographical study at the British Museum in 1938 found that the first fixes to the text were done by several scribes even before the manuscript left the scriptorium.  In 1844, during his first visit to St. Catherine's Monastery, archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf noted that leaves of parchment had found their way into the waste-basket.  He stated they were "rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning it in the ovens of the monastery", the Monastery flatly denies such antics.
 

Codex Alexandrinus

 

Textual critics have had little success classifying the Codex Alexandrinus, it's relationship to other known texts and families is heavily disputed.  The Greek text of the codex is spurious, it represents Byzantine text-type in the Gospels and the Alexandrian text-type in the rest books of the New Testament, though with a few Western readings thrown in.  The Byzantine text of the Gospels has a number of Alexandrian features, it has some affinities with a variety of textual families though it is not a pure member of any family.

 

Alexandrinus follows the Alexandrian readings through the rest of the New Testament, however, the text goes from closely resembling Codex Sinaiticus in the Pauline epistles, to more closely resembling the text of a number of papyri (74 for Acts, 47 for the Apocalypse). The text of Acts frequently agrees with the biblical quotations made by St. Athanasius.  The gospels are cited as a "consistently cited witness of the third order" in the critical apparatus of the Novum Testamentum Graece, while the rest of the New Testament is of the "first order."  In Pauline epistles it is closer to Sinaiticus than to Vaticanus.  In General epistles it represents different subtype than Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  In the Book of Revelation it agrees with Codex Ephraemi against Sinaiticus and Papyrus 47.  In the Book of Revelation and in several books of the Old Testament, it has the best text of all manuscripts.  In the Old Testament its text often agrees with Codex Sinaiticus.

 

There is vast speculation on where the Codex Alexandrinus was originally written.  Traditionally Alexandria is cited as a place of its origin and it is the most probable hypothesis.  This view was based on an Arabic note from 13th or 14th century that reads: "Bound to the Patriarchal Cell in the Fortress of Alexandria. Whoever removes it thence shall be excommunicated and cut off. Written by Athanasius the humble."  Athanasius the humble is identified with Athanasius III, Patriarch of Alexandria from 1276 to 1316.

 

The manuscript had been found on Mount Athos in Northern Greece, and was considered to have been taken to Egypt by Cyril in 1616.  Nevertheless Burkitt pustulated that the additional Arabic writing could have been inserted between that date and 1621 when Cyril was elected Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. On that supposition "Athanasius the humble" might have been "some person of Cyril's staff who had charge of his library". According to Burkitt's view the codex was found on Athos, but it was written in Constantinople, because it represents a Constantinopolitan text, now known as the Byzantine text).

 

Frederic G. Kenyon opposed Burkit's view and argued that Cyril firmly believed in the Egyptian origin of the codex.  A. S. Fulton, the Keeper of the Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts (in British Museum), in 1938 re-examined the Athanasius note, and gave it as his opinion that on paleographical grounds it could be dated 13th to 14th century and that the 17th century was excluded.  In 1945 T. D. Moschonas published a catalogue of the library of the Patriarch of Alexandria, in which he printed two Greek notes, both from 10th century manuscripts of John Chrysostom, inserted by the Patriarch Athanasius III. The two notes must have been written between 1308 and 1316.  Although the note in the Codex Alexandrinus is entirely in Arabic, and therefore no identity of hand the Greek notes can be expected, the similarity of wording leaves no doubt that this also is the work of Athanasius III.

 

Burnett Hillman Streeter proposed Caesarea or Beirut for three reasons: it contains, after the New Testament, the two Epistles of Clement; it represents an eclectic text in the New Testament, Antiochian in the Gospels and Alexandrian in the Acts and Epistles, it suggests some place where the influence of Antioch and of Alexandria met; the text of the Old Testament appears to be a non-Alexandrian text heavily revised by the Hexapla, the Old Testament quotations in New Testament more often than not agree with Alexandrinus against Vaticanus.

 

According to Skeat the note in the codex indicated that the manuscript had not previously been in the Patriarchal Library in Alexandria. The manuscript was carried from Constantinople to Alexandria between 1308 and 1316, together with two mentioned above manuscripts of Chrysostom. It remained in Alexandria until 1621, when Cyril removed it once to Constantinople. Whether was originally written, in Constantinople or in Alexandria, is another question. Skeat did not try to give the answer on this question ("if any future scholar wishes to claim a Constantinopolitan origin for the Codex Alexandrinus, it is at least open to him to do so"). This view was supported by McKendrick, who proposes Ephesian provenance of the codex.

 

A 17th century Latin note on a flyleaf (from binding in a royal library) states that the manuscript was given to a patriarchate of Alexandria in 1098 (donum dedit cubicuo Patriarchali anno 814 Martyrum), although this may well be "merely an inaccurate attempt at deciphering the Arabic note by Athanasius" (possibly the patriarch Athanasius III).

 

Textus Receptus

 

A majority of textual critical scholars since the late 19th Century prefer to consult as many Greek New Testament manuscripts as possible, in order to plot their way back to the most likely readings; with the most weight given to the earliest extant manuscripts which tend mainly to be Alexandrian in character.  However, the resulting eclectic Greek text departs from the Textus Receptus in about 6,000 readings.  A minority of textual scholars, maintain the priority of the Byzantine text-type; and consequently prefer what they refer to as the "Majority Text".  There are currently no schools of textual scholarship that will defend the priority of the Textus Receptus.  However, there is a movement who refer to themselves as King-James-Only, and other Protestant groups who reject such textual criticism and comparisons, these groups are suspicious of any sort of departure from their Reformation traditions.

 

Conclusions

 

Certainly there is a wealth of Latin and Greek New Testament texts to consult and compare, however, within each family of texts and between the families of texts the variances and inconsistencies are staggering.  The opposing ideas and readings these texts produce is overwhelming.  What is even more overwhelming is when we compare the Aramaic New Testament family to the Greek New Testament family.  The Aramaic texts have a breathtaking accuracy spanning nearly 1800 years.  Within the Eastern Aramaic family are 360 manuscripts, all beautifully written and consistent with each other.  In hundreds of verses the Aramaic clearly shows itself to predate the Greek New Testament.  In dozens of readings the Aramaic clearly shows how two different Greek readings were derived from an Aramaic original.

 

Anyone who has ever been frustrated when trying to make sense of all the Greek translations deserves the opportunity to experience the Aramaic English New Testament, after all, the words of Y'shua and the original Apostles that we are learning of are words of Life.  There is nothing more important in this life than for each of us to experience Mashiyach (Messiah) to the fullest potential.

 

 

 

1 Josephus Mattathias states that; "Mount Sinai is the highest of the mountains in the region of the city of Madian."  Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archeology Review editor says, "Jebel el Lawz is the most likely site for Mount Sinai."  Newsweek, February 23, 1998.  A Red Sea survey plate in Saudi Arabia marks the location where archeologists believe the Israelites landed on the east side of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.  Google Earth shows a likely place for Elim where there were 12 wells and 70 palm trees, the wells are there to this day.  The wilderness of Sin lies between Elim and Mt. Sinai, which can be seen via Google Earth.  At the base of the mountain today are a guardhouse, fence and big blue sign on authority of Royal Saudi Decree that reads:  ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA  WARNING  IT IS UNLAWFUL TO TRESPASS... STIPULATED IN THE ANTIQUITIES REGULATIONS.  There is a burned and blackened peak on Jebel el Lawz as a result of; "so I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire" (Deut. 9:15).  Google Earth shows an area 2 X .75 miles immediately to the north of Jebel el Lawz, there are structures of antiquity that include an alter and numerous pillars (Exodus 24:4) at that encampment.  Jebel el Lawz in Arabic means "the mountain of Moses".

 
 
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© 2015  Netzari Press • All Rights Reserved
© 2015  Netzari Press • All Rights Reserved
 
© 2015  Netzari Press • All Rights Reserved