Forever Settled - Part4

Forever Settled
Part Four : A Survey of New Testament Documents

Compiled by Jack Moorman

Contents of Part Four : First Section - Page 75 to 128

XXII A Survey of the Papyrus Fragments
XXIII A Survey of the Uncial Manuscripts
XXIV A Survey of the Cursive (Miniscule) Manuscripts
XXV History's Witness to the Spread of the Greek Received Text Amid Corrupting Influence
XXVI A Survey of Early Versions

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We now come to a survey of the New Testament documents themselves. In our survey of the MSS, as explained above, it will often be a survey of corruption for many of the earlier MSS have remained solely because of their corruption and subsequent disuse by the early Christians.



Papyrus is the source of our word "paper" It was made from the papyrus plant which grew along the waters edge. It is to be distinguished from vellum or parchment which was made from animal skins, though Herodotus (484 - 425 BC) is quoted as saying that Parchment was papyrus. This, however, refers to what is called vegetable parchment. Though not cheap, it was a lot less expensive to use than vellum (the word for fine parchment).


Over the past one Hundred years, some eighty-eight papyrus fragments of the New Testament have been discovered in Egypt. Many of them were found at Oxyrhynchus, 120 miles south of Cairo in the Libyan Desert.

The following is a complete list taken originally from the 26th Edition of the Nestle-Alan Greek New Testament. (This appeared in the Truth About the King James Version Controversy by Stewart Custer)

  • Symbol Century City Contents
    P1 III Philadelphia Portions of Matthew
    P2 VI Florence Portions of John
    P3 VI/VII Vienna Portions of Luke
    P4 III Paris Portions of Luke
    P5 III London Portions of Luke
    P6 IV Strasbourg Portions of John
    P7 IV/VI(?) Kiev Portions of Luke
    P8 IV Berlin Portions of Acts
    P9 III Cambridge, Mass. Portions of I John
    P10 IV Cambridge. Mass. Portions of Romans
    P11 VII Leningrad Portions of I Corinthians
    P12 III New York Portions of Hebrews
    P13 III/IV London and Florence Portions of Hebrews
    P14 V Sinai Portions of I Corinthians
    P15 III Cairo Portions of I Corinthians
    P16 III/IV Cairo Portions of Philippians
    P17 IV Cambridge Portions of Hebrews
    P18 III/IV London Portions of Revelation
    P19 IV/V Oxford Portions of Matthew
    P20 III Princeton Portions of James
    P21 IV/V Allentown, Pa. Portions of Matthew
    P22 III Glasgow Portions of John
    P23 III Urbana Ill. Portions of James
    P24 IV Newton Center Mass. Portions of Revelation

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    P25 IV Berlin Portions of Matthew
    P26 ca. 600 Dallas Portions of Romans
    P27 III Cambridge Portions of Romans
    P28 III Berkeley Portions of John
    P29 III Oxford Portions of Acts
    P30 III Client Portions of I and II Thessalonians
    P31 VII Manchester Portions of Romans
    P32 ca. 200 Manchester Portions of Titus
    P33 VI Vienna Portions of Acts
    P34 VII Vienna Portions of I and II Corinthians
    P35 IV(?) Florence Portions of Matthew
    P36 VI Florence Portions of John
    P37 III/IV Ann Arbor. Mich. Portions of Matthew
    P38 ca. 300 Ann Arbor. Mich. Portions of Acts
    P39 III Chester, Pa. Portions of John
    P40 III Heidelberg Portions Romans
    P41 VIII Vienna Portions of Acts
    P42 VII/VIII Vienna Portions of Luke
    P43 VI/VII London Portions of Revelation
    P44 VI/VII New York Portions of Matthew and John
    P45 III Dublin Portions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts
    P46 ca. 200 Dublin Portions of Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians,Colossians, I Thessalonians and Hebrews
    P47 III Dublin Portions of Revelation
    P48 III Florence Portions of Acts
    P49 III New Haven, Conn. Portions of Ephesians
    P50 IV/V New Haven, Conn. Portions of Acts
    P51 ca. 400 Oxford Portions of Galatians
    P52 II Manchester Portions of John
    P53 III Ann Arbor Portions of Matthew and Acts
    P54 V/VI Princeton Portions of James
    P55 VI/VII Vienna Portions of John
    P56 V/VI Vienna Portions of Acts
    P57 IV/V Vienna Portions of Acts
    P59 VI New York Portions of John
    P60 VII New York Portions of John
    P61 ca. 700 New York Portions of Romans, I Corinthians, Philippians. Colossians. I Thessalonians, Titus and Philemon
    P62 IV Oslo Portions of Matthew
    P63 ca. 500 Berlin Portions of John
    P64 ca. 200 Oxford and Barcelona Portions of Matthew
    P65 III Florence Portions of I Thessalonians
    P66 ca. 200 Cologne Portions of John
    P68 VII(?) Leningrad Portions of I Corinthians
    P69 III Oxford Portions of Luke
    P70 III Oxford Portions of Matthew
    P71 IV Oxford Portions of Matthew
    P72 III/IV Cologne Portions of I and II Peter, and Jude
    P73 ? Cologne Portions of Matthew
    P74 VII Cologne Portions of Acts, I and II Peter, James, I, II and III John and Jude
    P75 III Geneva Portions of Luke
    P76 VI Vienna Portions of John
    P77 II/III Oxford Portions of Matthew
    P78 III/IV Oxford Portions of Jude
    P79 VII Berlin Portions of Hebrews
    P80 III Barcelona Portions of John
    P81 IV Barcelona Portions of I Peter
    P82 IV/V Strasbourg Portions of Luke
    P83 VI Louvain Portions of Matthew
    P84 VI Louvain Portions of Mark and John
    P85 IV/V Strasbourg Portions of Revelation
    P86 IV Cologne Portions of Matthew
    F87 III Cologne Portions of Philemon
    P88 IV Milan Portions of Mark

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The above gives the student a good overview of the date and location of the papyri. It has the disadvantage of giving the impression that these "portions" are farly sizable. In fact, in most cases, they are only fragments. For example, the Portions of John in P52 is only the one small fragment below.

[ picture: A small papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (p52). c. AD 125 (John. XVII: 31-33, 37-38).]

Therefore much of the papyri is often too fragmentary to show whether it supports the characteristic differences found in the Received Text or those found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (the two pillars of the revised text of Westcott and Hort). Given the close proximity of the papyri finds to Alexandria, where much of the early corruption of MSS took place, it is to be expected that this same corruptive influence is to be found in a number of the more substantial papyri portions. This is the case, but to the consternation of textual critics who would have us think that the TR is a late text, the papyri give quite a lot of support to the TR also.


In his desire to demonstrate early support for the Alexandrian text, Stewart Custer lists nine papyri which manifest that text

P20, 3rd century, James
P23, 4th century, James
P45, 3rd century, Acts
P46, 3rd century, Epistles of Paul
P47, 3rd century, Revelation
P50, 4th century, Acts
P52, 2nd century, John (see above)
P66, 2nd century, John
P75, 2nd or 3rd century, John

I find it remarkable that after listing the eighty-eight papyri, he is only prepared to list nine which support the Vaticanus kind of text (and when we use the word "support", please keep in mind what was said about the so-called "families".)

Many years ago, Kenyon made a similar list and to those of Custer he would add:

P4, 3rd century, 16 verses of Luke
P5, 3rd century, 30 verses of John
P 8, 4th century, 27 verses of Acts
P13, 3rd or 4th century, longer portions of Hebrews

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These MSS and those listed after P66 (the list in "Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts" goes to P66) apparently did not give enough firm support to the Vaticanus or Alexandrian type of MS for Custer to list them. But what I want the reader to see here is that 13 papyri out of 88 is hardly overwhelming support for that text type.

Among the above, those which are most important, and the ones which scholars spend most of their time with, and have had the greatest influence on the modern critical text of the New Testament are P45 and P46 (known as the Chester Betty papyri, their discoveries), P66 and P75 (known as "Bodmer Papyrus II", M. M. Bodmer was the owner).

But, upon examination of these four "most important" papyri, it is no wonder why they were left on the shelf and not used. In them we see a manifest example of the hand of Satan in corrupting the text in that part of the world (far off from the location of the autographs).

Refer back to Part Two, where the amount of agreement between these four papyri and Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and the TR was demonstrated. With regard to the distinctive differences of each, the four papyri gave greater support to the TR than to Vaticanus or Sinaiticus. By adding the figures we see the following instances of support.

Sinaiticus- 60 times
Vaticanus - 124 times
Received Text -139 times

Now, please remember these four papyri are the "favorite sons" of the modern textual critic (all were listed by Custer). Remember too, that they came from that part of the world where the forces of corruption were greatest. And then consider their dates - 3rd century, 200 AD, 200 AD, 3rd century, (thus the earliest of the papyri). Therefore, though marred, the traditional text base is clearly attested in the earlyest papyri of Egypt.


There are serious errors in Papyrus 66. For example, in John 19:5, Papyrus 60 omits the following famous sentence, "And he saith unto them, Behold the man." Four Old Latin manuscripts and one Coptic manuscript also omit this reading. This emission seems to be a mutilation of the sacred text at the hands of heretics, probably Gnostics. They seem to have disliked the idea that Christ, whom they regarded as exclusively a heavenly Being, actually became a man and was crucified.

John 1:34 "And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" P5 and P77 change this to read "God's chosen One".

John 3:13 "The Son of Man who is in heaven". Removed from P66 and P75.

John 6:69 "Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God". P75 changes to, "'The Holy One".

John 9:35 "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" P66 and P75 change to "Son of man".

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John 9: 38,39 "And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him." P75 omits.

John 1:18 "only begotten Son" P66 and P77 change to "only begotten God". This is a Gnostic perversion! They taught that there were various levels of Spiritual beings (i.e. lesser gods) between God and man.

There are many examples of this. See "200 Omissions in Modern Versions". Many of these can be traced back to the Egyptian Papyri.


In general, P75 copies letters one by one; P66 copies syllables, usually two letters in length;. P45 copies phrases and clauses.

The accuracy of these assertions can be demonstrated. That P75 copied letters one by one is shown in the pattern of the errors. He has more than sixty readings that involve a single letter, and not more than ten careless readings that involve a syllable. But P66 drops sixty-one syllables (twenty-three of them in "leaps") and omits as well a dozen articles and thirty short words. In P45 there is not one omission of a syllable in a "leap" nor is there any list of "careless" omissions of syllables, P45 omits words and phrases.

As an editor the scribe of P45 wielded a sharp ax. The most striking aspect of his style is it conciseness. The dispensable word is dispensed with. He omits adverbs, adjectives, nouns, participles, verbs, personal pronouns - without any compensating habit of addition. He frequently omits phrases and clauses. He prefers the simple to the compound word. In short, he favors brevity. He shortens the text in at least fifty places in singular readings alone. But he does not drop syllables or letters. His shortened text is readable.

Enough of these have been cited to make the point that P66 editorializes as he does everything else - in a sloppy fashion. He is not guided in his charges by some clearly defined goal which was always kept in view. If he has an inclination toward omission, it is not "according to knowledge," but is whimsical and careless, often leading to nothing but nonsense. (Colwell in INTT).

And yet this is the very kind of source material that modern "experts" would have us go back to in the "reconstruction" of the New Testament Text.

The image of the true text was marred in Egypt, but it cannot be emphasized too strongly that the distinctive TR readings abound in the papyri.


Quoting again from INTT.

Many other studies are available, but that of H. A. Sturz sums it up. He surveyed all the available papyri to discover how many papyrus-supported Byzantine readings exist. In trying to decide which were distinctively Byzantine, he made a conscious effort to err on the conservative side, so the list is shorter than it might be.

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He found and lists the evidence for more than 150 distinctive Byzantine readings that have early (before 300 AD) papyrus support. He found a further 700 Byzantine readings which had been altered by Western and Alexandrian influence.

The magnitude of this vindication can be more fully appreciated by recalling that only about 30 percent of the New Testament his early papyrus attestation, and much of that 30 percent has only one papyrus. Where more than one covers a stretch of text, each new MS discovered vindicates added Byzantine readings. Extrapolating from the behaviour of those in hand, if we had at least 3 papyri covering all parts of the New Testament, almost all the 5000+ Byzantine readings rejected by the critical (eclectic) texts would be vindicated by an early papyrus.

[picture: Chester Beatty Gospels Payprus-early third century. John X. 7-25]

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[picture: Chester Beatty Payprus of Pauline Epistles. Galatians VI. 10-Philippians I. 1.]



According to Kurt Aland, there are now 267 extant Uncial (large lettered) MSS dating from the 4th to 10th centuries. The later minuscule or small lettered MSS were used from the 9th to 16th centuries. As with the papyri, a number of the earlier ones survive solely through their lack of use because of a tampered text. Yet still the vast majority of uncial MSS support the TR against the other textual "types".

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The word "uncial" comes from "uncia", meaning the 12th part. Each letter would take up the 12th part of a column or 12 letters in each column. Further, there was generally no space between the words (GODSOLOVLDTHE).

Papyri was used until about the 3rd century. From the 4th to 14th centuries most surviving MSS are written on parchment - tanned animal skins. A finer kind of parchment was usually made from calfskin and known as vellum. Constantine had at least 50 official Bibles made on this high quality parchment or velum (perhaps Vaticanus and Sinaiticus). A palimpsest is a parchment that has been scraped and rewritten upon. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus is the earliest example.

Until about the 3rd century, the Scriptures were written on separate sheets which varied in size from 6" x 9" to 12" x 15". The sheets were then pasted together and made into rolls of 20 sheets each. One roll was called a "biblos". Several rolls were called a "tome". The roll was wound around a stick. For Greek and Latin it was unwound horizontally from left to right. For Hebrew it went from right to left. The longest books in the New Testament were from 30 - 35 feet.

Obviously the scroll was very awkward to use. Thus a proverb developed, "a great book is a great evil". Christianity and the desire to spread the Word was the greatest force that brought about the change from the scroll to the codex or book form. (The above is taken from Tom Strouse).

Peter Ruckman says "Papyri constituted a cheap paper, similar to modern day 'newsprint'. It is highly probable that the Codex (with papyri sheets) was invented by soul winning personal workers, who carried New Testaments with them." Then in his characteristically expressive, manner he says, "It is certain that no real 2nd century Christian would have been caught dead with "vellum scrolls" on him, or the high-class "Revised Versions" put out by Alexandra. Rather, the 1st and 2nd century Bible-Believing people used papyrus rolls and codices which they copied. This explains why few papyrus copies of the TR survived the first three centuries of Roman Persecution


Through there are now known to be 267 extent uncial MSS containing substantial portions of the NT, and several hundred more fragments the interest of scholars has been centered on "The five Old Uncials" which date back to the 4th 5th centuries. These are:

Aleph Sinaiticus IV London Gospels. Acts, Epistles, Revelation
A Alexandrinus V London Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation (minus portions of Matthew. John. II Corinthians)
B Vaticanus IV Rome Gospels. Acts. Epistles (minus portions of I Timothy-Philemon, Hebrews)
C Ephraemi Rescriptus V Paris Portions of all the books of the New Testament
D Bezae Cantabrigiensis V Cambridge Portions of the Gospels. Acts. James and Jude

These five are the primary reason why we have so many modern versions today "based on older and better manuscripts than the Authorized Version."

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[picture: Codex Sinaiticus-fouth century
British Museum]


Sinaiticus was written about 350 - 370 AD. It contains part of the OT and all of the NT plus the Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermes. It has four columns per page and forty-eight lines per column. It is written on vellum. This famous MS was discovered by Constantine Tischendorf in 1844 in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. It was found in a load of wastepaper about to be burned. Tischendorf suggested that it was one of 50 copies prepared by Constantine in 331 and sent by Justinian to this convent named after his mother. It was sold to the Russians and then to the British Museum in 1933. Its text is a mixture of Alexandrian and Western (Strouse).

However, with regard to its place of origin, Kenyon says: "Caesarea, Rome, southern Italy, have all been advocated, but the preponderance of opinion is in favor of Egypt. Every detail in its writing can be paralleled in Egyptian papyri... Its kinship in text with Vaticanus, which also has instances of these peculiar forms, and with the Coptic versions is a further argument for an Egyptian origin; and if Egypt, then Alexandria is the most probable home for so splendid (!!) a piece of book Production."

It is commonly said to be the only uncial MSS which contains the entire NT.

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But it must be remembered that it omits John 5:4; 8:1-14; Matthew 16:2,3; Romans 16:24; Mark 16:9-20 and hundreds of other words and phrases which are commonly removed from the Alexandrian Text. As with other corrupted MSS, it still shows its Received Text base and in a number of cases, agrees with the TR against the Vaticanus. (Based on Ruckman).

Hort conceded that the scribe of Vaticanus "reached by no means a high standard of accuracy." "Sinaiticus is acknowledged on every side to be worse than B in every way". (INTT).

Using the TR as a basis of comparison, Burgon found that Sinaiticus in the four Gospels alone omitted 3,455 words, added 839, substituted 1114, transposed 2299, modified 1265. Thus in all 8972 words are affected. (D. A. Waite in An Answer to Stewart Custer).

Waite says further, "it is found that at least ten revisers, between the 4th and the 12th centuries busied themselves with the task of correcting its many and extraordinary perversions of the truth of Scripture."

Yet this is one of the two main pillars of our modern versions.


This is the chief pillar of our modern critical Greek Testaments - whether they be called Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Nestle-Aland, United Bible Society, etc. It is common today to read that a given modern translation (see NIV preface) or Greek text is based on an "eclectic" text. This is to give the impression that the "best readings" from many sources were used including the TR. This must be exposed is being totally misleading. When the critical text was first produced by Westcott and Hort, so also today the primary pillar is Codex B and it is only departed from with the greatest reluctance.

[picture: Codex Vaticanus-fouth century
Vatican Library]

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Vaticanus was also written around 350 - 370 AD and has been in the Vatican Library since 1481. It contains most of the OT, and most of the NT, except for part of Hebrews, the Pastoral Epistles and Revelation. Strouse says its text is mixed but in the main Alexandrian.

It survived those eleven centuries before being placed in the Vatican Library because Christians didn't use it. Its reading in John 1:18 "only begotten god" showed every Christian exactly what it was - a Gnostic perversion. It contains the "Epistle to Barnabas" and the OT Apocrypha. Tischendorf claimed it was copied by the same man as Sinaiticus (doubtful considering the differences). The Pope insisted that it must be earlier than Sinaiticus, because of the way divisions are placed in the Gospels.

Scholars have called it ''the best text", "the most perfectly preserved text", "a remarkably pure text", "a beautifully preserved text", "highly legible", etc. According to Westcott and Hort it was written in Italy. They called it a "neutral text preserved on an island of purity". (How Italy fits this description is a little difficult to see!). However, modern scholars have abandoned the theory that Vaticanus was written there, as they also have that it was written by or copied from Eusebius in Caesarea. (Ruckman).

On this last point, Kenyon said, "Hort was inclined to assign it to Rome, and others to southern Italy or Caesarea; but the association of its text with the Coptic (Egyptian) Versions and with Origen, and the style of writing (notably the Coptic forms used in some of the titles), point rather to Egypt and Alexandria." (The Text of the Greek Bible).

The writing is small and neat, but its appearance has been spoilt by a later scribe, who finding the ink faded went over every letter, except those which he thought incorrect. (Kenyon).

Again using the Received Text as the basis of comparison, in the four Gospels; B is found to omit at least 2877 words, to add 536, to substitute 935, to transpose 2098 and to modify 1132 - for a total of 7578 words that have in some way been altered. (Waite quoting Burgon).

With primarily Vaticanus followed by Sinaiticus, you have the "two main pillars" of the modern Greek Text, and yet not only have they departed from the Received Text, but also there is the sharpest disagreement between them. Herman Hoskier in "Codex B and its Allies" said, "There are over 3000 real differences between Aleph and B in the Gospels alone!" This is the kind of "foundation" that one has in the new versions.

Burgon, who spent years examining both MSS said, "It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two MSS differ, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.''

And yet these arc the two MSS on which Westcott and Hort and all subsequent editors - Nestle, Aland, Souter and the United Bible Society text put their greatest reliance. (Waite).

The reader will begin to see the frequent omissions in these two manuscripts (actually the tip of the iceberg) by looking at our paper "'Two Hundred Omissions in Modern Versions"

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[picture: Codex Alexandrinius-fifth century
British Museum]

Kenyon says it was written early in the 5th century with the writing being later in character than B or Aleph. It is missing much of Matthew and part of John and II Corinthians. It attaches the two "Epistles of Clement" to the end of the canonical books. With regard to its place or origin, everything points to Alexandria Egypt. (Kenyon) .

It his the Byzantine Text in the Gospels and the Alexandrian elsewhere (Strouse). Kenyon is typical of scholars who are uncomfortable with this Byzantine presence and says, "In the Gospels it shows signs of the Antiochan revision." (!!)

Though not relied upon as heavily as Aleph and B, the arrival of this text in Europe sixteen years after the publication of the Authorized Version - gave the first stimulus towards the criticism of the text. (Kenyon). The naturalistic critic considers this a tragedy that "it arrived sixteen years too late." However, in this the Bible believer can see the providence of God denying its arrival until the Authorized Version was safely in the hands of His people.

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[picture: Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus - fifth century
Biblioeque Nationale, Paris]

Written originally in the 5th century and containing the whole of both Testaments it was in the 12th century converted into a palimpsest. That is, the original writing was washed out, and some works of a certain Ephraim Syrus were written over it. Many leaves also were thrown away. It now contains parts of all the NT books except for II Thessalonians and II John. Much of the original writing has been discerned. (Kenyon). Strouse says the text is mixed but pro-Byzantine. Kenyon (as we would expect) speaks of this Byzantine presence being due to "its correctors."

Burgon would rank this codex behind Alexandrinus as having the fewer corruptions among the "five old uncials".


This is the worst of the lot. It is the reason, and practically the only reason (there is nothing else quite like it, except a few Old Latin MSS. INTT) why the so-called Western Text is said to be an expansion of the original text. Kenyon calls it the chief representative of the Western Text. Unlike the usual Alexandrian MS which abbreviates, this one in the most curious of ways enlarges the text. It is placed in either the 5th or 6th centuries.

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[picture: Codex Beze - sixth century
Cambridge University Library]

It was presented to Cambridge by the great Reformation Scholar Theodore Beza. But it is a case of a good man with a very bad MS.

Kenyon says, "Codex Bezae is the most peculiar Manuscript of the New Testament, showing the widest divergences, both from the Alexandrian and Received type text."

Its format is different than the others above. The page size is much smaller, measuring 10 by 8 inches. And then it is the first extant example of a NT being written in two languages - Greek and Latin.

It only contains the Gospels and Acts and III John 11-15. The Gospels are arranged in what Kenyon calls, "the order common in the Western Church - Matthew, John, Luke, Mark."

The existence of a Latin text is sufficient proof by itself that the manuscript was written in the West of Europe, where Latin was the language of literature and daily life.

The extent of its corruption can be seen in the ways that it agrees with Aleph and B (against the TR), in omitting key passages, but then expanding passages in many other places.

As one example, notice its addition between Matthew 20:28 and 29 -

"But seek ye to increase from that which is small, and to become less from that which is greater. When ye enter into a house and are summoned to dine, sit not down in the highest places, lest perchance

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a more honorable man than thou shall come in afterwards, and he that bade thee come and say to thee, go down lower; and thou shall be ashamed. But if thou sittest down in the worst place, and one worse than thee come in afterwards, then he that bade thee will say to thee, go up higher; and this shall be advantageous for thee."


Here then are the "five old uncials" that modern scholarship would have us base Our Bibles upon.

Burgon gives the following summary

The serious deflections from the Received Text in:

Alexandrinus - 842
Ephraemi Rescriptus - 1798
Vaticanus - 2370
Sinaiticus - 3392
Bezae - 4697

Each deflection may include anything from one word, to a phrase, to a verse, to several verses, etc. In the previous comparison between B, Aleph and the TR, the total number of words were counted. Also as each of these uncials do not have in every instance the same portion of Scripture remaining; the comparison is drawn only from those portions where all are extant.

Notice how the above graphically proves not only their conflict with the TR but also with each other.

Burgon's comment on that evidence sums up the sordid state of affairs that modern textual criticism has brought us to.

"We venture to assure you, without a particle of hesitation, that Aleph, B and D are three of the most scandalously corrupt copies extant. They have become the depositories of the largest amount of fabricated readings, ancient blunders, and intentional perversions of truth, which are discoverable in any known copies of the word of God."

How does Stewart Custer's statement "the Alexandrian text is older and better attested than the others (namely the TR) square with the above evidence ?


Sir Frederick Kenyon's "Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts" is an authoritative presentation of the transmission of Scripture from the naturalistic position. It first came out in 1895 and has gone through a number of revisions and editions. The copy that I am referring to is the fifth edition that was revised and enlarged by A. W. Adams D. D. in 1958. Along with its sister volume "The Text of the Greek Bible", it is the classic text book on the subject.

The Bible believer will be very interested to hear what Kenyon (or his reviser) has to say on Page 213. After discussing in detail "the five old uncials", he first discusses three others:

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1) Claromontanus (D2), 6th century. It has the epistles of Paul in Greek and Latin. Containing as it does the Latin, it falls into the Western camp, but does not hive the striking type of additions that Bezae does.

2) Basiliensis (E), 8th century, 4 Gospels, Byzantine (Received) Text.

3) Laudianus (E2), 7th century, Acts in Greek and Latin, the Greek is Byzantine.

We now come to the statement:

"Of the remaining manuscripts, we shall notice only those which have some value or interest. Many of them consist of fragments only, and their texts are, for the most part less valuable. Most of them contain texts of the Syrian (Received) type, and are of no more importance than the great mass of cursives. They prove that the Syrian text was predominant in the Greek world…"

Despite his bias against the Received Text ("less valuable", "not important"), he is forced to concede that "most" of the uncials are of that kind of text. In fact, of the 267 extant uncials, it is overwhelmingly so.

To be more specific, in surveying both of Kenyon's books I could only find that the following MSS were said by him to be of the Alexandrian type (i.e. in basic alignment with Aleph, B, or A).

  1. Aleph, Sinaiticus, 4th century.
  2. B, Vaticanus, 4th century.
  3. A, Alexandrinus, 5th century, Epistles, Gospels are TR.
  4. I , Washingtonianus, 7th century, Fragments of Epistles, "Agrees with Aleph and A more than B. "
  5. L, Regius, 8th century, Gospels, "Often agrees with B."
  6. R, Nitriensis, 6th century, Palimpsest of half of Luke, "Akin in character to Aleph and B."
  7. T, Borgianus, 5th century, Portions of Luke and John, "Closely associated with Aleph and B."
  8. Z, Dublinensis 6th century, Palimpsest containing 295 verses of Matthew, "many agreements with Aleph."
  9. Xi , Zacynthius, 8th century, Palimpsest containing most of Luke 1 - 11 "Its text is akin to B."

Now there may be others and there were one or two instances where a smaller portion of a MS had some Alexandrian readings (i.e. Codex Laurensis). But out of well over two hundred uncials, these were all that Kenyon and his later revisers were prepared to mention. Further, the very marked conflict between Aleph, B and A is magnified much further when support is sought from these other six uncials.

Nine conflicting MSS, which early Christians didn't bother to use, out of over two hundred uncials doesn't present any stronger use than the nine papyri that Custer mentions, or the eight conflations that Hort talks about.

At Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Chicago (1984), Dr. Custer said that God preserved His Word "in the sands of Egypt." No! God did not preserve His Word in the sands of Egypt, or on a library shelf in the Vatican Library, or in a wastepaper bin in a Catholic Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God did not preserve His Word in the "disusing" but in the "using". He did not preserve the Word by it being stored away or buried, but rather through its use and transmission in the hands of humble believers. The good copies were

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worn out, the corrupted ones were put on the shelf. And to repeat what Kirsopp Lake said, "It is hard to resist the conclusion that the scribes usually destroyed their exemplars when they had copied the sacred books."

Yet despite this, there is the same clear evidence from the earlier Uncials as there is from the Papyri. Kenyon's books list the following pre-7th century MSS as being on the side of the Received Text. Though as his statements show, he doesn't seem to be very happy to admit it.

1) A, Alexandrinus, 5th century, "'The Gospels," says Kenyon, "show signs of the Antiochan revision." (!!)

Hills says, "Another witness to the early existence of the Traditional text is Codex A (Codex Alexandrinus). This venerable manuscript, which dates from the fifth 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."

2) C, Ephraemi, 5th century, Strouse speaks of its mixed text, but also describes it as being "pro-Byzantine". Kenyon speaks of its Byzantine portions as being due to its "correctors".

3) W, Washingtonianus, 4th or 5th centuries.

It is now housed in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 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 von Soden (1906) regarded as the oldest and best form of the Traditional (Byzantine) text.

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 fourth century by a group of scholars residing it Antioch. For Codex W is a very ancient manuscript. B. P. Grenfell regarded it as "probably fourth century." 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. 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. (Hills).

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4) N, Purpureus, 6th century, Portions of the four Gospels, "The text is of Byzantine type, in a rather early stage of its evolution". (Kenyon)

5) O, Sinapensis, 6th century, Matthew 13 - 24, Byzantine, "Akin to N."

6) Signa, Rossanensis, 6th century, Matthew and Mark, Byzantine, "A sister V6 of N."

7) Phi, Beratinus, 6th century, Matthew and Mark, Byzantine.

To these we may add the vast majority of the remaining uncial MSS (latest total number is 267) and most of several hundreds of uncial fragments. I believe the number was 320 in 1980.

[picture: Washington of Gospels - late fourth or fifth century
Freer Collection, Washington]

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In the 9th century, Greek began to be written in a small-lettered script. In the study of how God transmitted and preserved the Greek New Testament, there is an important consideration at this point which is usually overlooked.

Dr. Jakob van Bruggen (quoted in INTT) says :

"In the codicology the great value of the transliteration-process in the 9th century and thereafter is recognized. At that time the most important New Testament manuscripts written in majuscule script were carefully transcribed into minuscule script. It is assumed that after this transliteration-process the minuscule was taken out circulation. The importance of this datum has not been taken into account enough in the present New Testament textual criticism. For it implies, that just the oldest, best and most customary manuscripts come to us in the now uniform of the minuscule script, does it not? This throws a totally different light on the situation that we are confronted with regarding the manuscripts. Why do the surviving ancient manuscripts show another text type? Because they are the only survivors of their generation, and because their survival is due to the fact that they were of a different kind. Even though one continues to maintain that the copyists it the time of the transliteration handed down the wrong text-type to the Middle Ages, one can still never prove this codicologicilly with the remark that older majuscules have a different text. This would be circular reasoning. There certainly were majuscules just as venerable and ancient as the surviving Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, which, like a section of the Alexandrinus, presented a Byzantine text. But they have been renewed into minuscule script and their majuscules-appearance has vanished.

At latest count, there were 2764 Cursive MSS. Kenyon says, "Only a small minority of these contain the complete New Testament and those of the four Gospels are by far the most numerous... An overwhelming majority contain the common ecclesiastical text" (one of his names for the Received Text).

Reverting to the classic means of attempted escape from this evidence, Kenyon says, "... the common ecclesiastical text, which, originating in a revision which seems to have begun in Syria at the end of the 4th century, was generally adopted throughout the Church."

He then seeks to try and list these cursive MSS which "appear to have in some degree escaped this revision!"

In 1948 he said that the number of minuscules were 2401. He then lists those which "in some degree" differ from the Received Text.

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picture: Cursive Greek MS. - 1054
British Museum

Below are those which would give some support to the Alexandrian text:

  1. 1 and its allies 118, 131, 209. "They are now recognized as the Caesarean text type."
  2. The Ferrar group, 13, 69, 124, 346. And 543, 713, 788, 826, 828, 983 "have been shown to have traces of the same type of text." "It forms part of the Caesarean group."
  3. 28 contains many non-Byzantine readings in Mark. Also Caesarean.
  4. 33. Hort said it was the best of the minuscules, for its Gospel portions agree with Vaticanus. It is called the Queen of the Cursives.
  5. 157, "same class as 33" - Hort.

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  1. 81, "best of the minuscules in Acts".
  2. 274, "contains in the margin the shorter ending to Mark" 579 is similar in this respect.
  3. 565, ''Has a good text with ancient readings, and in Mark is akin to the Caesarean type."
  4. 1108, "A good text of the Pauline Epistles.''
  5. 2040, "A good text of the Apocalypse."

Assuming that when Kenyon says, "A good text of" he means that there is a fair amount of agreement with Vaticanus, or the Alexandrian text, and assuming that there are some similarities between the so-called Caesarean text and Alexandrian (Origen went to Caesarea after he left Alexandria), Kenyon is prepared to list only 22 that give even partial support to the "best" text. Twenty-two out of 2401!!

Are we to believe that in the language in which the New Testament was originally written (Greek), that only twenty-two examples of the true Word of God are to be found between the 9th and 16th centuries? How does this fulfill God's promise to preserve His Word? Why at that juncture when the uncial script was replaced by the minuscule were an overwhelming number of copies of the Received Text made, but practically none of the Alexandrian? We answer with a shout of triumph, God has been faithful to His promise. Yet in our day, the world has become awash with translations based on MSS similar to the twenty-two rather than the two and a half thousand.


Quoting from Benjamin Wilkinson:

The Textus Receptus was the Bible of early Eastern Christianity. Later it was adopted as the official text of the Greek Catholic Church. There were local reasons which contributed to this result. But, probably, far greater reasons will be found in the fact that the Received Text had authority enough to become, either in itself or by its translation, the Bible of the great Syrian Church; of the Waldensian Church of northern Italy; of the Gallic Church in southern France and of the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland; as well as the official Bible of the Greek Catholic Church. All these churches, and at a time some earlier, some later, were in opposition to the Church of Rome , when the Received Text and these Bibles of the Constantine type were rivals. They, as represented in their descendants, are rivals to this day. The Church of Rome built on the Eusebio-Origen type of Bible; these others built on the Received Text. Therefore, because they themselves believed that the Received Text was the true apostolic Bible, and further, because the Church of Rome arrogated to itself the power to choose a Bible which bore the marks of systematic depravation, we have the testimony of these five churches to the authenticity and the apostolicity of the Received Text. The following quotation from Dr. Hort is to prove that the Received Text was the Greek New Testament of the East. Note that Dr. Hort always calls it the Constantinopolitan or Antiochian text:

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"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."


Anyone who is interested enough to read the vast volume of literature on this subject, will agree that down through the centuries there were only two streams of manuscripts.

The first stream which carried the Received Text in Hebrew and Greek, began with the apostolic churches, and reappearing at intervals down the Christian Era among enlightened believers, was protected by the wisdom and scholarship of the pure church in her different phases: precious manuscripts were preserved by such in the church at Pella in Palestine where Christians fled when in 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; by the Syrian Church of Antioch which produced eminent scholarship; by the Italic Church in northern Italy; and also at the same time by the Gallic Church in southern France and by theCeltic Church in Great Britain; by the pre-Waldensian, the Waldensian, and the churches of the Reformation.

This first stream appears, with very little change, in the Protestant Bibles of many languages, and in English, in that Bible known as the King James Version, the one which has been in use for three hundred years in the English-speaking world. These manuscripts have an agreement with them, by far the vast majority of copies of the original text. So vast is this majority that even the enemies of the Received Text admit that nineteen-twentieths of all Greek manuscripts are of this class.

The second stream is a small one of a very few manuscripts. These last manuscripts are represented:

(a) In Greek: The Vatican MS, or Codex B, in the library at Rome; and the Sinaitic, or Codex Aleph, its brother.

(b) In Latin: The Vulgate or Latin Bible of Jerome.

(c) In English: The Jesuit Bible of 1582, which later with vast changes is seen in the Douay, or Catholic Bible.

(d) In English again: In many modern Bibles which introduce practically all the Catholic readings of the Latin Vulgate which were rejected by the Protestants of the Reformation; among these, prominently, are the Revised Versions.

These two great families of Greek Bibles are well illustrated in the work of that outstanding scholar, Erasmus. Before he gave to the Reformation the New Testament in Greek, he divided all Greek manuscripts into two classes: those who agreed with the Received Text and those which agreed with the Vaticanus manuscript. (Nolan).

So the present controversy between the King James Bible in English and the modern versions is the same old contest fought out between the early church and rival sects; and later, between the Waldenses and the Papists from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries; and later still, between the Reformers and the Jesuits in the sixteenth century.

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In his later years, the apostle Paul spent more time in preparing the churches for the great future apostasy than in pushing the work farther on. He foresaw that this apostasy would arise in the West. Therefore, he spent years laboring to anchor the Gentile churches of Europe to the Churches of Judea. The Jewish Christians had back of them 1500 years of training. Throughout the centuries God had so molded the Jewish mind that it grasped the idea of sin; of an invisible Godhead; of man's serious condition; of the need for a divine Redeemer.

But throughout these same centuries, the Gentile world had sunk lower and lower in frivolity, heathenism, and debauchery. It is worthy of notice that the apostle Paul wrote practically all of his epistles to the Gentile churches - to Corinth, to Rome, to Phillippi, and so on. He wrote almost no letters to the Jewish Christians. Therefore, the great burden of his closing days was to anchor the Gentile churches of Europe to the Christian churches of Judea. They were to be the base. Therefore, at the end of his ministry, when fresh fields and splendid prospects were opening up for him in the West, Paul went to Jerusalem.

"There is not a word here of the church of Rome being the model after which the other churches were to be formed; it had no such preeminence - this honor belonged to the churches of Judea; it was according to them, not the church at Rome, that the Asiatic churches were modeled.

The purest of all the apostolic churches was that of the Thessalonians, and this was formed after the Christian churches in Judea. Had any preeminence or authority belonged to the church of Rome, the apostle would have proposed this is a model to all those which be formed, either in Judea, Asia Minor, Greece, or Italy." (Adam Clarke).


Some of this we have previously seen, but it is needful to reemphasize certain points.

The last of the apostles to pass away was John. His death is usually placed about 100 AD. In his closing days, he co-operated in the collecting and forming of those writiilgs we call the New Testament. (Eusebius).

While John lived, heresy could make no serious headway. He had hardly passed away, however, before perverse teachers infested the Christian Church. These years were times which saw the New Testament books corrupted in abundance.

Eusebius is witness to this fact. He also relates that the corrupted manuscripts were so prevalent that agreement between the copies was hopeless; and that those who were corrupting the Scriptures, claimed that they really were correcting them.

This rising flood, as we shall see, had multiplied in abundance copies of the Scriptures with bewildering changes in verses and passages within one hundred years after the death of John (100 AD). As Irenaeus said concerning Marcion, the Gnostic: "Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books it all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke, and the epistles of Paul, they assert that these alone are authentic, which they have themselves shortened."

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When the warring sects had been consolidated under the iron hand of Constantine, this heretical potentate adopted the Bible which combined the contradictory versions into one, and so blended the various corruptions with the bulk of pure teachings as to give sanction to the great apostasy, now seated on the throne of power.

Beginning shortly after the death of the apostle John, four names stand out in prominence whose teachings contributed both to the victorious heresy and to the final issuing of manuscripts of a corrupt New Testament. These names are (1) Justin Martyr, (2) Tatian, (3) Clement of Alexandria, and (4) Origen. We shall speak first of Justin Martyr.

The year in which the apostle John died, 100 AD, is given as the date in when Justin Martyr was born. Justin, originally a pagan and of pagan parentage, afterward embraced Christianity and although he is said to have died at heathen hands for his religion, nevertheless, his teachings were of a heretical nature. Even as a Christian teacher, he continued to wear the robes of a pagan philosopher.

In the teachings of Justin Martyr, we begin to see how muddy the stream of pure Christian doctrine was running among the heretical sects fifty years after the death of the apostle John. It was in Tatian, Justin Martyr’s pupil, that these regrettable doctrines were carried to alarming lengths, and by his hand committed to writing. After the death of Justin Martyr in Rome, Tatian returned to Palestine and embraced the Gnostic heresy. This same Tatian wrote a Harmony of the Gospels which was called the Diatessaron, meaning four in one. The Gospels were so notoriously Corrupted by his hand that in later years a bishop of Syria, because of the errors, was obliged to throw out of his churches no less than two hundred copies of this Diatessaron, since church members were mistaking it for the true Gospel.

We come now to Titian's pupil known as Clement of Alexandria, 200 AD. He went much farther than Titian in that he founded a School at Alexandria which instituted propaganda along these heretical lines. Clement expressly tells us that he would not hand down Christian teachings, pure and unmixed, but rather clouded with precepts of pagan philosophy. All the writings of the outstanding heretical teachers were possessed by Clement, and he freely quoted from their corrupted manuscripts as if they were the pure words of Scripture. His influence in the depravation of Christianity was tremendous. But his greatest contribution, undoubtedly, was the direction given to the studies and activities of Origen, his famous pupil.

When we come to Origen, we speak the name of him who did the most of all to, create and give direction to the forces of apostasy down through the centuries. It was he who mightily influenced Jerome, the editor of the Latin Bible known as the Vulgate. Eusebius worshipped at the altar of Origen's teachings. He claims to have collector eight hundred of Origen's letters, to have used Origen's six-column Bible, the Hexapla, in his Biblical labors. Assisted by Pamphilus, he restored and preserved Origen's library. Origen's corrupted manuscripts of the Scriptures were well arranged and balanced with subtlety. The last one hundred years have seen much of the so-called scholarship of European and English Christianity dominated by the subtle and powerful influence of Origen.

Origen had so surrendered himself to the furor of turning all Bible events into allegories that he, himself, says, "the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written." In order to estimate Origen rightly, we must remember that as a pupil of Clement, he learned the teachings of the Gnostic heresy and like his master, lightly esteemed the historical basis of the Bible. As Schaff says, "His predilection for Plato (the pagan philosopher) led him into many grand and facilitating, errors. He made himself aquatinted with the

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various heresies and studied under the heathen Ammonius Saccas, founder of Neo-Platonism.

He taught that the soul existed from eternity before it inhabited the body, and that after death, it migrated to a higher or a lower form of life according to the deeds done in the body; and finally all would return to the state of pure intelligence, only to begin again the same cycles as before. He believed that the Devils would be saved, and that the stars and planets had souls, and were, like men, on trial to learn perfection. In fact, he turned the whole Law and Gospel into an allegory.

Such was the man who from his day to this has dominated the endeavors of destructive textual critics. One of the greatest results of his life was that his teachings became the foundation of that system of education called Scholasticism, which guided the colleges of Latin Europe for nearly one thousand years during the Dark Ages.

Origenism flooded the Catholic Church through Jerome, the father of Latin Christianity. "I love .. . the name of Origen," says the most distinguished theologian of the Roman Catholic Church since 1850. "I will not listen to the notion that so great a soul was lost." (Newman).

A final word from the learned Scrivener will indicate how early and how deep were the corruptions of the sacred manuscripts: "It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed; that Irenaeus (AD 150) , and the African Fathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus."

The basis was laid to oppose a mutilated Bible to the true one. How these corruptions found their way down the centuries and reappear in our revised and modern Bibles, the following pages will tell.


Millers Church History states, "The Epistle to the Church in Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17) exactly describes, we believe, the state of things in Constantine's time.

In Ephesus, we see the first point of departure, leaving their 'first love' - the heart slipping away from Christ, and from the enjoyment of His love. In Smyrna, the Lord allowed the saints to be cast into the furnace, that the progress of declension might be stayed. They were persecuted by the heathen. By means of these trials Christianity revived; the gold was purified; the saints held fast the Name and the faith of Christ. Thus was Satan defeated; and the Lord so ruled that the Emperors, one after the other, in the most humiliating and mortifying circumstances, publicly confessed their defeat. But in Pergamos, the enemy changes his tactics. In place of persecution from without, there is seduction from within. Under Diocletian, Satan was the roaring lion; under Constantine he is the deceiving serpent. Pergamos is the scene of Satan's flattering power; he is within the Church."

On October 28, 312, Constantine defeated Maxentius, a rival claimant to the throne, near Rome. As they approached the battle, it is said that Constantine and his soldiers saw a glittering cross in the sky. Above it was the inscription BY THIS CONQUER. That night, it is claimed, Christ appeared to Constantine in a dream bearing in his hand the same cross and directing him to make a

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banner after the same pattern.

After this "conversion", his life was a strange mixture of Christianity and paganism. He issued the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity and put an end to the persecution of Christians.

"Constantine now took his place more openly to the whole world as the head of the Church; but at the same time, retained the office of the Pontifex Maximus (the high priest of the heathen). Thus we see for the first time the unholy union of Church and State. Bishops appeared as regular attendants upon the Court; the internal matters of Christianity became affairs of the State".

According to Wilkinson (quoting from Hort and Swete in the earlier part of this paragraph), "Constantine found three types of manuscripts, or Bibles, vying for supremacy: the Textus Receptus, the Palestinian (Eusebio-Origen), and the Egyptian. Particularly was there earnest contention between the advocates of the Textus Receptus and those of the Eusebio-Origen text. The defenders of the TR were of the humbler class who earnestly sought to follow the Scriptures. The Eusebio-Origen text was the product of the intermingling of the pure Word of God and Greek philosophy in the mind of Origen. It might be called the adaptation of the Word of God to Gnosticism.

As Constantine embraced Christianity, it became necessary for him to choose which of these Bibles he would sanction. Quite naturally he preferred the one edited by Eusebius and written by Origen... The philosophy of Origen was well-suited to serve Constantine’s religio-political theocracy.

Kenyon says, "The Emperor himself instructed Eusebius of Caesarea, the great historian of the early church to provide fifty copies of the Scriptures for the churches of Constantinople; and the other great towns of the Empire must have required many more for their own wants."

More specifically Ira Price says, "Eusebius assisted by Pamphilus issued with its critical remarks the fifth column of Organ's Hexapla." This then was the source of the Emperor’s Bible in the OT. Constantine and Sinaiticus are examples of this "Bible". (The precise connection is not known).

The Latin Vulgate, the Sinaiticus, the Constantines, the Hexapla, Jerome, Eusebius and Origen, are terms for ideas that are inseparable in the minds of those who know. The type of Bible selected by Constantine has hold the dominating influence at all times in this history of the Catholic Church. This Bible was different from the Bible of the Waldenses, and, as a result of this difference, the Waldenses were the object of hatred and cruel persecution, as we shall now show. In studying this history, we shall see how it was possible for the pure manuscripts, not only to live, but actually to gain the ascendancy in the face of powerful opposition.

Attentive observers have repeatedly been astonished at the unusual phenomenon exhibited in the meteoric history of the Bible adopted by Constantine. Written in Greek, it was disseminated at a time when Bibles were scarce, owing to the unbridled fury of the pagan emperor, Diocletian. We should naturally think that it would therefore continue long. Such was not the case.

The echo of Diocletian's warfare against the Christians had hardly subsided, when Constantine assumed the imperial purple. Even as far as Great Britain, that far had the rage of Diocletian penetrated. One would naturally suppose that the Bible which had received the promotion of Constantine, especially when disseminated by that emperor who was the first to show favor to that religion of Jesus, would rapidly have spread everywhere in those days fallen imperial favor meant everything. The truth is, the opposite was the outcome.

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It flourished for a short space. The span of one generation sufficed to see it disappear from popular use as if it had been struck by some invisible and withering blast.

Through the providence of God the Textus Receptus was the Bible in use in the Greek Empire, in the countries of Syrian Christianity, in northern Italy, in southern France, and in the British Isles in the second century. This was a full century and more before the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus saw the light of day. When the apostles of the Roman Catholic Church entered these countries in later centuries, they found the people using the Textus Receptus (Wilkinson).


XXVI A Survey of Early Versions

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Having looked at the primary sources, the MSS of the Greek New Testament itself, we now look at the various foreign language versions into which it was translated during the early centuries. Here again the promise of Christ to preserve His Word and the malicious intent of Satan to corrupt that same Word came into titanic conflict. This warfare must ever be kept before the believer who would rightly understand the early translation of the Scriptures into other languages.

[illustration: A Map of the Ancient New Testament Versions]

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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.


In approaching this and the other versions, we begin on the premise that God was actively superintending the translation of His Word into the other languages. Inspiration deals only with the Hebrew and Greek. But in that eventually so few could speak these languages, God's promise of preservation has no practical meaning unless He superintends the translation process.


History accords very little information about the beginnings of the Old Latin Version. And most who have written about it do so from the naturalistic position. But several key facts can be gleaned.

Tertullian speaks of an apparently complete Latin Bible circulating in North Africa (Carthage is the important city) as far back as 190 AD. Ruckman speaks of it being the "spontaneous effort of African Christians". He refers to Augustine’s "angry comment" (354 - 430) :

"In the earliest days of the faith, when a Greek manuscript came into anyone's hands and he thought he possessed a little facility in both languages (i.e. Greek and Latin), he ventured to make a translation."

This comment, though meant in the negative sense, may in fact point to the translation of this version.

Though looked upon with disdain by the "scholarly" Augustine, it was in fact the spontaneous effort of African Christians, and it was God who made it spontaneous. Scrivener says that "the Latin Bible, the Italic, was translated from the Greek not later than l57." More specifically, the Italic may refer to the particular type of the Old Latin used in northern Italy.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia takes us back a step further. "The Old Latin was written in Antioch by missionaries to Africa (north); it was then copied out by the common Christians in North Africa." This would be one strong indication that the Old Latin (at least in its beginnings) was of the Received Text type, for Antioch in Syria was the chief focal point for that text.

This fact throws a great deal of light on Kenyon's statement, "They (many of the MSS of the Old Latin) certainly represent a different type of text from that which we have found domiciled in Egypt of which the foremost representatives are Aleph and B."

In dealing with the fact that Tertullian (160 - 241) often quotes from the Old Latin, Kenyon says, "Tertullian writing in Africa in Latin, quotes the Scriptures freely, but he is by no means an accurate writer, and he seems often to have made his own translations from the Greek, so that his quotations have to be used with caution."!!

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But why is Kenyon really so wary of Tertullian's Old Latin quotations? The reason is not hard to find. Tertullian frequently quotes from the Received Text. It is also claimed that he quotes I John 5:7 (D. A. Waite).

Thus, though Kenyon cannot bring himself to admit it, there is a strong case to be made for the Received Text in the Old Latin Version. In scanning through the two books by Kenyon and one by Bruce, I did not see any reference to the Old Latin supporting the Alexandrian kind of text. Knowing their sympathies, if it did, they would be quick to say so!

It is true that many of the extent MSS show corruption. Wilkinson says, "Much but by no means all of the Old Latin evidence is favorable to the Received Text." Several of the North African MSS show an affinity to Codex Bezae.

Ruckman says that the Old Latin bears witness to the Syrian Text type where it his not been tampered with. He states that both Augustine and Tertullian testify that the scribes in Africa continually tampered with Bible MSS and that this "explains satisfactorily the confused condition of the Old Latin by the time of Jerome." Kenyon also says, "As a rule, the larger divergences in the Old Latin are found in the African form, the smaller in the European.

At this point, it should be noted that many scholars divide the Old Latin MSS into two or three families - African, European and Italian. This division though is disputed.

The Apocrypha is affixed to many copies of the Old Latin. However, those used by the Waldensians do not contain it. The Apocrypha was added to many old Latin copies by the followers of Origen and Augustine. (Ruckman from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

As is usually the case, the corrupted copies remain because they were put on a shelf. The pure form was preserved and disseminated throughout North Africa and Western Europe.

Wilkinson says, "The word Vulgate means 'commonly used' , or 'current' . This word has been appropriated from the Bible to which it rightfully belongs. It took hundreds of years before the common people would call Jerome's Latin Bible, the 'Vulgate'."


There are now about 35 extant MSS most of which are fragments. The following of the earlier ones is from Kenyon.

1) Vercellensis (a) , 4th century, Gospels (mutilated) in Western order.

2) Bobiensis (k) , 4th or 5th century, Mark with shorter ending.

3) Veronensis (b), 5th century, Gospels.

4) Palatinus (e), 5th century, Gospels.

5) Saretianus (j), 5th century, Fragments of John.

6) The Old Latin text in parallel., Codex Bezae (o) , 5th or 6th centuries.

7) Corbeiensis II(ff2), 5th or 6th centuries, Gospels (mutilated).

8) Bobiensis (s), 5th or 6th centuries, Acts 23 - 28, James, I Peter.

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[picture: Codex Vercellensis - fourth century. Vercelli, North Italy]

9) Brixianus (f), 6th century, Gospels.

10) Claramentanus (h), 6th century, Gospels but only Matthew is in Old Latin. 11) Vindobonensis (i) , 6th century, Fragments of Luke and Mark. 12) Guelferbytanus (gue), 6th century, Fragments of Romans.

13) Palimpsestus Floriacensis (h), 6th or 7th centuries, Fragments of Acts, I, II Peter, I John, Revelation.

14) The Old Latin in parallel, Codex Laudianus (E), 7th century.

1S) Rehdigeranus (1) , 7th century, John 17 - 21.

16) Snagermwnensis I (gi) , 8th or 9th century, Gospels, but only Matthew is Old Latin.

17) Bodleianus (X2), 9th century, Nearly complete.

18) Corbeiensis I (ff1), 10th century, Matthew (mixed with Vulgate).

19) Corbeiensis (ff), 10th century, James, Epistle of Barnabas, Vulgate admixture.

20) Sangermanensis II, 10th century, Gospels, Vulgate admixture.

21) Colbertinus (c), 12th century, Gospels in Old Latin, rest of NT added later.

22) Gigas (g), 13th century, Entire Bible, but only Acts and Revelation are Old Latin.

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The above list demonstrates how copies of the Old Latin continued to be made after the translation of the Vulgate in 380. Ruckman, quoting ISBE says, "The Albigenses continued to use the Old Latin long after Jerome’s Vulgate came out and their preservation of this text is attributed (according to Burkitt) to the fact that they were 'heretics'."


Quoting from Wilkinson.

Since Italy, France and Great Britain were once provinces of the Roman Empire, the first translations of the Bible by the early Christians in these parts were made into Latin. The early Latin translations were very dear to the hearts of those primitive churches. God in His wisdom invested this Bible with a charm that outweighed the learned artificiality of Jerome's Vulgate, the Bible adopted by the papacy (380). For 900 years the Old Latin held its own, and was only replaced when Latin ceased to be a living language.

(a) The Old Latin In England

Onward then pushed those heroic bands of evangelists to England, to southern France, and northern Italy. The Mediterranean was like the trunk of a tree with branches running out to these parts, the roots of the tree being in Judea or Asia Minor, from whence the sap flowed westward to fertilize the distant lands. History does not possess any record of heroism superior to the sacrifices and sufferings of the early Christians in the pagan West. The first believers of ancient Britain nobly held their ground when the pagan Anglo-Saxons descended on the land like a flood. Dean Stanley holds it against Augustine, the missionary sent by the pope in 596 AD to convert England, that he treated with contempt the early Christian Britons. Yes, more, he connived with the Anglo-Saxons in their frightful extermination of that pious people. And after Augustine's death, when those same pagan Anglo-Saxons so terrified the papal leaders in England that they fled back to Rome, it was the British Christians of Scotland who occupied the forsaken fields. It is evident from this that British Christianity did not come from Rome. Furthermore, Dr. Adam Clarke claims that the examination of Irish customs reveals that they have elements which were imported into Ireland from Asia Minor by early Christians.

As Rome did not send any missionaries toward the West before 250 AD, the early Latin Bibles were well established before these churches came into conflict with Rome. Not only were such translations in existence long before the Vulgate was adopted by the Papacy, and well established, but the people for centuries refused to supplant their old Latin Bibles by the Vulgate. "The Old Latin versions were used longest by the western Christians who would not bow to the authority of Rome - e.g., the Donatists; the Irish in Ireland, Britain, and the Continent; the Albigenses, etc."

Famous in history among all centers of Bible knowledge and Bible Christianity was Iona, on the little island of Hy, off the northwest coast of Scotland. Its most historic figure was Columba. Upon this island rock, God breathed out His Holy Spirit and from this center, to the tribes of northern Europe. When Rome awoke to the necessity of sending out Missionaries to extend her power, she found Great Britain and northern Europe already professing a Christianity whose origin could be traced back through Iona to Asia Minor. About 600 AD, Rome sent missionaries to England and to Germany, to bring these simple Bible Christians under her dominion, as much

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as to subdue the pagans. D'Aubigne has furnished us this picture of Iona and her missions:

"D'Aubigne says that Columba esteemed the cross of Christ higher than the royal blood which flowed in his veins, and that precious manuscripts were brought to Iona, where a theological school was founded and the Word was studied. "Er long a missionary spirit breathed over this ocean rock, so justly named 'the light of the Western world'." British missionaries carried the light of the gospel to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, yea, even into Italy, and did more for the conversion of central Europe than the half-enslaved Roman Church."

(b) The Old Latin in France

In southern France, when in 177 AD the Gallic Christians were frightfully massacred by the heathen, a record of their suffering was drawn up by the survivors and sent, not to the Pope of Rome, but to their brethren in Asia Minor. Milman claims that the French received their Christianity from Asia Minor.

These apostolic Christians in southern France were undoubtedly those who gave effective help in carrying the Gospel to Great Britain. And as we have seen above, there was a long and bitter struggle between the Bible of the British Christians and the Bible which was brought later to England by the missionaries of Rome. And as there were really only two Bibles - the official version of Rome, and the Received Text - we may safely conclude that the Gallic (or French) Bible, as well as the Celtic (or British), were based on the Received Text. Neander claims that the first Christianity in England, came not from Rome, but from Asia Minor, probably through France.

(c) The Old Latin Amongst the Waldenses in Northern Italy

That the messengers of God who carried manuscripts from the churches of Judea to the churches of northern Italy and on, brought to the forerunners of the Waldenses a Bible different from the Bible of Roman Catholicism, I quote the following :

The method which Allix has pursued, in his History of the Churches of Piedmont, is to show that in the ecclesiastical history of every century, from the fourth century, which he considers a period early enough for the enquirer after apostolical purity of doctrine, there are clear proofs that doctrines, unlike those which the Romish Church holds, and conformable to the belief of the Waldensian and Reformed Churches, were maintained by theologians of the north of Italy down to the period when the Waldenses first came into notice. Consequently, the opinion of the Waldenses were not new to Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries, and there is nothing improbable in the tradition, that the Subalpine Church persevered in its integrity in all uninterrupted course from the first preaching of the Gospel in the valleys. It is held that the pre-Waldensen Christians of northern Italy could not have had doctrines purer than Rome unless their Bible was purer than Rome’s; that is, their Bible was not of Rome's falsified manuscripts.

In the fourth century, Helvidius, a great scholar of northern Italy, accused Jerome, whom the Pope had empowered to form a Bible in Latin for Catholicism, with using corrupt Greek manuscripts. How could Helvidius have accused Jerome of employing corrupt Greek manuscripts if Helvidius

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had not had the pure Greek manuscripts? And so learned and so powerful in writing and teaching was Jovinian, the pupil of Helvidius, that it demanded three of Rome's most furious fathers - Augustine, Jerome and Ambrose to unite in opposing Jovinian's influence. Even then, it needed the condemnation of the Pope and the banishment of the emperor to prevail. But Jovinian's followers lived on and made the way easier for Luther.

There are modern writers who attempt to fix the beginning of the Waldenses from Peter Waldo, who began his work about 1175. This is a mistake. The historical name of this people as properly derived from the valleys where they lived, is Vaudois. Their enemies, however, ever sought to date their origin from Waldo. Waldo was an agent, evidently raised up of God to combat the errors of Rome. Gilly, who made extensive research concerning the Waldenses, pictures Waldo in his study at Lyon, France, with associates, a committee, "like the translators of our own Authorized Version." Nevertheless, the history of the Waldenses, or Vaudois, begins centuries before the days of Waldo.

There remains to us in the ancient Waldensian language, "The Noble lesson" (La Nobla Leycon) , written about the year 1100 AD which assigns the first opposition of the Waldenses to the Church of Rome to the days of Constantine the Great, when Sylvester was Pope.Thus when Christianity, emerging from the long persecutions of pagan Rome, was raised to imperial favor by the Emperor Constantine, the Italic Church in northern Italy - later the Waldenses is seen standing in opposition to Rome. Their Bible was of the family of the renowned Itala. It was that translation into Latin which represents the Received Text. Its very name, "Itala", is derived from the Italic district, the regions of the Vaudois.

Of the purity and reliability of this version, Augustine, speaking of different Latin Bibles (about 400 AD) says:

"Now among, translations themselves the Italian (Itala) is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words without prejudice to clearness of expression."

The old Waldensian liturgy which they used in their services down through the centuries contained "texts of Scripture of the ancient Version called the Italick."(Allix, Churches of the Piedmont, 1690)

The Reformers held that the Waldensian Church was formed about 120 AD from the apostles. The Latin Bible, the Italic, was translated from the Greek not later than l57 AD. We are indebted to Beza, the renowned associate of Calvin, for the statement that the Italic Church dated from 120 AD. From the illustrious group of scholars which gathered round Beza, 1590 AD, we may understand how the Received Text was the bond of union between great historic churches.

That Rome in early days corrupted the manuscripts while the Italic Church handed them down in their apostolic purity, Allix, the renowned scholar, testifies. He reports the following as Italic articles of faith: "They receive only, saith he, what is written in the Old and New Testament. They say, that the Popes of Rome, and other priests, have depraved the Scriptures by their doctrines and glosses."

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It is recognized that the Itala was-translated from the Received Text (Syrian, Hort calls it); that the Vulgate is the Itala with the readings of the Received Text removed.

Where did this Vaudois Church amid the rugged peaks of the Alps secure those uncorrupted manuscripts? In the silent watches of the night, along the lonely paths of Asia Minor where robbers and wild beasts lurked, might have been seen the noble missionaries carrying manuscripts, and verifying documents from the churches in Judea to encourage their struggling brethren under the iron heel of the Papacy. The sacrificing labors of the apostle Paul were bearing fruit. His wise plan to anchor the Gentile churches of Europe to the churches of Judea provided the channel of communications which defeated continually and finally the bewildering pressure of the Papacy. Or, as the learned Scrivener has beautifully put it:

"Wide as is the region which separates Syria from Gaul, there must have ben in very early times some remote communication by which the stream of Eastern Testimony, or tradition, like another Alpheus, rose up again with fresh strength to irrigate the regions of the distant West."

We have it now revealed how Constantine's Hexapla Bible was successfully met. A powerful chain of churches, few in number compared with the manifold congregations of an apostate Christianity, but enriched with the eternal conviction of truth and with able scholars, stretched from Palestine to Scotland. If Rome in her own land was unable to beat down the testimony of apostolic Scriptures, how could she hope, in the Greek-speaking world of the distant and hostile East, to maintain the supremacy of her Greek Bible?

The Scriptures of the apostle John and his associates, the traditional text - the Textus Receptus, if you please - arose from the place of humiliation forced on it by Origen's Bible in the hands of Constantine and became the Received Text of Greek Christianity. And when the Greek East for one thousand years was completely shut off from the Latin West, the noble Waldenses in northern Italy still possessed in Latin the Received Text.

To Christians such as these, preserving apostolic Christianity, the world owes gratitude for the true text of the Bible. It is not true, as the Roman Church claims, that she gave the Bible to the world. What she gave was an impure text, a text with thousands of verses so changed as to make way for her unscriptural doctrines. While upon those who possessed the veritable Word of God, she poured out through long centuries her stream of cruel persecution. Or, in the words of another writer (author not given):

"The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation, they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. Had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution... Here for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith... 'In a most wonderful manner it (the Word of Truth) was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness."

The struggle against the Bible adopted by Constantine was won. But another warfare, another plan to deluge the Latin West with a corrupt Latin Bible was preparing. We hasten to see how the world was saved from Jerome and his Origenism.

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Quoting from Benjamin Wilkinson:

The Papacy, defeated in her hope to control the version of the Bible in the Greek world when the Greek New Testament favored by Constantine was driven into retirement, adopted two measures which kept Europe under its domination. First the Papacy was against the flow of Greek language and literature to Western Europe. All the treasures of the classical East were held back in the Eastern Empire, whose capital was Constantinople. For nearly one thousand years, the western part of Europe was a stranger to the Greek tongue. As Doctor Hort says:

"The West became exclusively Latin, as well as estranged from the East; with local exceptions, interesting in themselves and valuable to us but devoid of all extensive influence, the use and knowledge of the Greek language died out in Western Europe."

When the use and Knowledge of Greek died out in Western Europe, all the valuable Greek records, history, archeology, literature, and science remained untranslated and unavailable to Western energies. No wonder, then, that this opposition to using, the achievements of the past brought on the Dark Ages (476 AD to 1453 AD).

This darkness prevailed until the half-century preceding 1453 AD when refugees, fleeing from the Greek world threatened by the Turks, came west introducing Greek language and literature. After Constantinople fell in 1453, thousands of valuable manuscripts were secured by the cities and centers of learning in Europe. Europe awoke as from the dead, and sprang forth to newness of life. Columbus discovered America. Erasmus printed the Greek New Testament. Luther assailed the corruptions of the Latin Church. Revival of learning and the Reformation followed swiftly.

The second measure adopted by the Pope which held the Latin west in his power was to stretch out his hands to Jerome (about 400 AD), the monk of Bethlehem, reputed the greatest scholar of his age, and appeal to him to compose a Bible in Latin similar to the Bible adopted by Constantine in Greek. Jerome, the hermit of Palestine, whose learning was equaled only by his boundless vanity, responded with alacrity. Jerome was furnished with all the funds that he needed and was assisted by many scribes and copyists.

By the time of Jerome, the barbarians from the north who later founded the kingdoms of modern Europe, such as England, France, Germany, Italy and other countries, were overrunning the Roman Empire. They cared nothing for the political monuments of the empire's greatness, for these they leveled to the dust. But they were overawed by the external pomp and ritual of the Roman Church. Giants in physique, they were children in learning. They had been trained from childhood to render full and immediate submission to their pagan gods. This same attitude of mind they bore toward the Papacy, as one by one they substituted the saints, the martyrs, and the images of Rome for their former forest gods. But there was danger that greater light might tear them away from Rome.

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If, in Europe, these children fresh from the north were to be held in submission to such doctrines as the papal supremacy, transubstantiation, purgatory, celibacy of the priesthood, vigils, worship of relics, and the burning of daylight candles, the Papacy must offer, as a record of revelation, a Bible in Latin which would be as Origenistic as the Bible in Greek adopted by Constantine. Therefore, the Pope turned to Jerome to bring forth a new version in Latin.

Thus, in contrast to what the naturalistic critics say, it was not the matter of variations in the Old Latin which brought about this Version; but the desire to produce a Bible more compatible with the teachings of Rome. The same device was used by the revisers of 1881.


Jerome was devotedly committed to the textual criticism of Origen, "an admirer of Origen's critical principles," as Swete says. To be guided aright in his forthcoming translation, by models accounted standard in the semi-pagan Christianity of his day, Jerome retired to the famous library of Eusebius and Pamphilus at Caesarea, where the voluminous manuscripts Origen had been preserved. Among these was a Greek Bible of the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus type. (Price). Both these versions retained a number of the seven books which Protestants have rejected as being spurious. This may be seen by examining those manuscripts. These manuscripts of Origen influenced Jerome more in the New Testament than in the Old, since finally he used the Hebrew text in translating the Old Testament. Moreover, the Hebrew Bible did not have those spurious books. Jerome admitted that these seven books - Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, 1st and 2nd Maccabees - did not belong with the other writings of the Bible. Nevertheless, the Papacy endorsed them, and they are found in the Latin Vulgate and in the Douay, its English translation.

The existence of those books in Origen's Bible is sufficient evidence to reveal that tradition and Scripture were on an equal footing in the mind of that Greek theologian. His other doctrines, such as purgatory and transubstantiation, had now become as essential to the Imperialism of the Papacy as was the teaching that tradition had equal authority with the Scriptures. Doctor Adam Clarke indicates Origen as the first teacher of purgatory.

The Latin Bible of Jerome, commonly known as the Vulgate, held authoritative sway for one thousand years. The services of the Roman Church were held at that time in a language which still is the sacred language of the Catholic clergy, the Latin.

Jerome in his early years had been brought up with an enmity to the Received Text, then universally known as he Greek Vulgate. The word Vulgate "commonly used", or "current". This word Vulgate has been appropriated from the Bible to which it rightfully belongs, that is, to the Received Text, and given to the Latin Bible. In fact, it took hundreds of years before the common people would call Jerome's Latin Bible, the Vulgate. The very fact that in Jerome's day the Greek Bible, from which the King, James is translated into English, was called the Vulgate, is proof in itself that, in the church of the living God, its authority was supreme. Diocletian (302 - 312 AD), the last in the unbroken line of pagan emperors, had furiously pursued every copy of it, to destroy it. The so-called first Christian emperor, Constantine, chief of heretical Christianity, now joined to the state, had ordered (331 AD) and under imperial authority and finances, had promulgated a rival Greek Bible. Nevertheless, so powerful was the Received Text that even until Jerome's day (383 AD) it was called the Vulgate. (Swete).

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The hostility of Jerome to the Received Text made him necessity to the Papacy. The Papacy in the Latin world opposed the authority of the Greek Vulgate. Did it not see already this hated Greek Vulgate, long ago translated into Latin, read, preached from, and circulated by those Christians in northern Italy who refused to bow beneath its rule? For this reason it sought help from the great reputation which Jerome enjoyed is a scholar. Moreover, Jerome had been taught the Scriptures by Gregory Nazianzen, who, in turn, had been at great pains with two other scholars of Caesarea to restore the library of Eusebius in that city. With that library Jerome was well acquainted; he describes himself is a great admirer Eusebius. While studding with Gregory he had translated from Greek into Latin the Chronicle of Eusebius. And let it be remembered, in turn, that Eusebius in publishing the Bible ordered by Constantine, had incorporated in it the manuscripts of Origen. (Price).


Ungers Bible Dictionary states the following:

After long and self-denying studies in the East and West, Jerome wont to Rome AD 382, probably at the request of Pope Damasus to assist in an important synod. His active Biblical labors date from this epoch.

Jerome had not been long in Rome, when Damasus applied to him for a revision of the current Latin version of the New Testament by the help of the Greek original. "There were," he says, "almost as many forms of text as copies. (see above, there was something greater than this that led to the revision).

From Unger, the steps may be enumerated as follows:

(a) He began by revising the Old Latin Version of the New Testament. Some of the changes he introduced were made purely on linguistic grounds, but it is impossible to ascertain on what principle he proceeded in that respect. Others involved questions of interpolations. But the greater number consisted in the removal of the interpretations by which the synoptic gospels especially were disfigured. This revision, however, was hasty. (NOTE: The naturalistic critics have long spoken of removing the interpolations from the Received Text.)

(b) Jerome next undertook the revision of the Old Testament from the Septuagint. He apparently finished the entire OT using this method.

(c) Though dissatisfaction with the general result, he then made a complete translation of the OT from the Hebrew which was completed in 404. (This is to Jerome's credit, and here I believe we can see the hand of God).

Coming back to the New Testament, Kenyon says, though it was a revision of the Old Latin, Jerome had "recourse to the best available Greek manuscripts." Now what kind of Greek MSS did he use?

"The conclusion to which Wordsworth and White come with regard to the Gospels, after most careful investigation, is that while he sometimes followed Greek MSS differing from any that we know, in the main he used MSS of the class represented by Aleph, B and L (i.e. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Regius), and especially a MS or MSS closely resembling Aleph. In Jerome's hands then, the Old Latin Version, already considerably modified from its African form... took on distinctly Alexandrian colour!! (Keynon)

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Kenyon also says,

Large elements of the Old Latin remain in the Vulgate, but he selected the variants which agreed with the Greek MSS. (i.e. Aleph and B).

From time to time, attempts were made to revise the Vulgate, notably by Alcuin and Theodulf about the beginning of the 9th century, by Hartmut towards the end of the 9th century, and by the University of Paris in the 13th. But these rested on no firm basis of textual criticism, and did little to delay the general progress of deterioration. It was consequently in a far from correct form that the Vulgate appeared as the first book produced by the printing press, the famous Gutenberg or Mazarin Bible of 1456.

Regarding further its corruptive element, Wilkinson says,

In preparing the Latin Bible, Jerome would gladly have gone all the way in transmitting to us the corruptions in the text of Eusebius, but he did not dare. Great scholars of the West were already exposing him and the corrupted Greek manuscripts.(W. H. Green). Jerome especially mentions Luke 2:33 (where the Received Text read: "And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him," while Jerome's text read: "His father and his mother marvelled," etc.) to say that the great scholar Helvidius, who from the circumstances of the case was probably a Vaudois, accused him of using corrupted Greek manuscripts.

Although endorsed and supported by the power of the Papacy, the Vulgate - which name we will now call Jerome's translation - did not gain immediate acceptance everywhere. It took nine hundred years to bring that about. Purer Latin Bibles than Jerome's had already a deep place in the affections of the West. Yet steadily through the years, the Catholic Church has uniformly rejected the Received Text wherever translated from the Greek into Latin and exalted Jerome's translation. So that for one thousand years, Western Europe, with the exception of the Waldenses, Albigenses, and other bodies pronounced heretics by Rome, knew of no Bible but the Vulgate. As Father Simon, that monk who exercised so powerful an influence on the textual criticism Of the last century, says: "The Latin’s have had so great esteem for that father (Jerome) that for a thousand years they used no other version."

Therefore, a millennium later, when Greek manuscripts and Greek learning were again general, the corrupt readings of the Vulgate were noted. Even Catholic scholars of repute, before Protestantism was fully under way, pointed out its thousands of errors. As Doctor Fulke in 1583 writing to a Catholic scholar, a Jesuit, says:

"Great friends of it and your doctrine, Lindanus, bishop of Ruremond, and Isidorus Clarius, monk of Casine, and bishop Fulginatensis: of which the former writeth a whole book, discussing how he would have the errors, vices, corrections, additions, detractions, mutations, uncertainties, obscurities, pollutions, barbarisms, and solecisms of the vulgar Latin translation corrected and reformed; bringing many examples of every kind, in several chapters and sections: the other, Isidorus Clarius, giving a reason of his purpose, in castigation of the said vulgar Latin translation, confesseth that it was full of errors almost innumerable; which if he should have reformed all according to the Hebrew verity, he could not have set forth the vulgar edition, as his purpose was. Therefore in many places he retaineth the accustomed translation, but in his annotations admonisheth the reader, how it is in the Hebrew. And, notwithstanding this moderation, he acknowledgeth that about eight thousand places are by him so noted and corrected."

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Jerome's reaction to the often hostile initial reception of the Vulgate is given in our Old Testament survey.


While much of what is said above is justifiably critical; there is another side, and to some extent we can see God's overruling providence in the Vulgate. Its Old Testament was translated directly from the Hebrew (albeit under the influence of Origen' s Hexapla) , whereas the Old Latin was translated from the Greek. In the New Testament "large elements of the Old Latin remain." (Kenyon) . It was the first Bible to be printed, and though it his always been an integral part of the Catholic Church, many of the classic salvation verses are clearly translated.

Most importantly John Wycliffe, "The morning star of the reformation" became the first to produce the complete Bible in the English Language and this from the Vulgate.

[picture - The Mazarin, or Gutenberg Bible of 1456
British Museum]


Terrence Brown says,

Wycliffe knowing no Hebrew or Greek, translated from the Latin Vulgate which was far from perfect, but the English Version nevertheless showed only too clearly how far the doctrines of the Roman Church were removed from the plain teaching of God’s Word. Wycliffe was accused of heresy and excommunicated, but continued with his task until his death in 1384. Every copy of his translation had to be written by hand, but so many were written that a Bill was enacted in Parliament to forbid its circulation. Archbishop Arundel complained to the Pope of "that pestilent wretch Wycliffe". The convocation of Oxford under Arundel in 1108 decreed "that no man hereafter by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue, by way of book, pamphlet or treatise; and that no may read any Such book, pamphlet or treatise, now lately composed in the time of John Wycliffe or since ... publicly or privately, upon pain of greater excommunication… He that shall do contrary to this shall likewise be punished is a favourer of heresy and error". During the next hundred years, many Christian martyrs were burned to death with Wycliffe’s Bible tied around their neck, but 170 copies remain to this day to testify to his faithfulness and the diligence of his helpers.

Finally, we consider the Surprising findings of Edward F. Hills,

Among the Latin-speaking, Christians of the West, the substitution of Jerome's Latin Vulgate for the Old Latin version may be fairly 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."

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 more important passages, such as, Christ's agony (Luke 22:43), Father, forgive them (Luke 23:24), the ascension (Luke 24:5l). Kenyon (1937) lists 24 such passages in the Gospels in which the Western text (represented by D, Old Latin) and the Alexandrian text (represented by B Aleph) 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 (Matthew 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.

Later, we will look further at the question of Vulgate readings in the Received Text.


Manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate far exceed those of the Greek New Testament with over 8000 being extant. They are found by their hundreds in the libraries of Europe. They are not as old is the Greek MSS though.

In Kenyon's list of the more important ones, only ten were written before the 8th century. These are,

  1. Sangallensis (Sigma) 6th century, half of Gospels, the oldest MS.
  2. Fuldenensis (F), 541-46 AD, harmony of the Gospels.
  3. Haleienus (Z) , 6th or 7th century, Gospels.
  4. Lindisfarnensis (Y) , c 700 AD, Gospels.
  5. Cantabrigiensis (X), 7th century, Gospels.
  6. Stonyhurstensis (S) , 7th century, John.
  7. Oxoniensis (O) ,7th century, Gospels in mixed text.
  8. Amiatinus (A) , Present to Pope Gregory in 716, Entire Bible, generally regarded as the best MS of the Vulgate.
  9. Lichfeldensis (L), 7th or 8th centuries, portions of Gospels.
  10. Dunelmesis (Delta), 7th or 8th centuries, Gospels, Traditionally said to have been written by Bedo.

Though some positive things may be said about this version, it was nevertheless the Bible of Rome. That is of the priests of Rome, for it was kept away from the common people. This explains why its MSS remain in such abundance. Further, we must never forget that the warfare waged against those whose Bible was not the Vulgate!

Wilkinson summarizes,

For nine hundred years, we are told, the first Latin translations hold their own after the Vulgate appeared. The Vulgate was born about 380 AD Nine hundred years later brings us to about 1280 AD. This accords well with the fact that at the famous Council of Toulouse, 1229 AD, the Pope gave orders for the most terrible crusade to be waged against the simple Christians of southern France and northern Italy who would not bow to his power. Cruel, relentless, devastating, this war was waged, destroying, the Bibles, books and every vestige of documents telling the story of the Waldenses and Albigenses.

Since then, some authorities speak of the Waldenses as having their Bible, the Vulgate. We regret to dispute those claims. When we consider that the Waldenses were, so to speak, in their mountain fastnesses, on an island in the of a sea of nations using the Vulgate, it is no wonder that they knew and possessed the Vulgate. But the Italic, the earlier Latin, was their own Bible, the one for which they lived and suffered and died. Moreover, to the east was Constantinople, the center of Greek Catholicism, whose Bible was the Received Text; while a little further east was the noble Syrian Church which also had the Received Text. In touch with these, northern Italy could easily verify her text.


Regarding the Aramaic language of this version, see Old Testament portion of the Peshitta.


The Syrian Version is more interesting than its Latin counterparts for several reasons. The virtual center of 1st century Christianity was Antioch, an important commercial city in Syria. "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). Paul’s great church-planting ministries had their base in Antioch. Syrian Christianity had a close proximity to, and linkage with of the churches that had received the inspired New Testament letters. The Syrian church had direct contact with the Apostles and writers of the Scriptures. Therefore the Syrian version may have been written with direct access to the original autographs themselves (based on Ruckman).

Tom Strouse says, "It was probably translated from the original NT MSS."

Bishop Ellicot in 1870 wrote, "It is no stretch of imagination to suppose that portions of the Peshitta might have been in the hands of St. John."

Wilkinson says, "As time rolled on, the Syrian-speaking Christians could be numbered by the thousands. It is generally admitted that the Bible was translated from the original languages into Syrian about 150 AD (Burgon). This version is known is the Peshitta (the correct or simple). This Bible even today generally follows the Received Text."

Edward Miller (Burgon's associate) states further:

The rise of Christianity and the spread of the Church in Syria was starting in its rapidity. Damascus and Antioch shot up suddenly into prominence as centers of Christian zeal, as if they had grown whilst men slept.

The arrangement of places and events which occurred during our Lord's Ministry must have paved the way to this success, at least as regards principally the nearer of the two cities just mentioned. Galilee, the scene of the first year of His Ministry - ‘the acceptable year of the Lord' - through its vicinity to Syria was admirably calculated for laying the foundation of such a development.

This development saw its full realization after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.


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 second century and hence was one of the oldest New Testament versions. Thus 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 in ancient version. Burkitt (1904), for example, insisted that the Peshitta did not exist before the fifth Century but "was prepared by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa (the capital city of' Syria) from 411 - 435 AD, and published by his authority."

Burkitt's theory was once generally accepted, but now scholars are realizing that the Peshitta must have been in existence before Rabbula 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 have adopted it as their received New Testament text. Indeed A. Voobus, in a series of special studies (1947-54), has argued not only that Rabbula was not the author of the Peshitta but even that he did not use it, it 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 is 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 faction 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. (Edward F. Hills).

With regard to the above and the contention that the Peshitta was merely a Byzantine revision of another Syrian version called the Old Syriac or Curetonian, Pickering says,

Because the Peshitta does witness to the "Byzantine" text, Hort had to get it out of the second and third centuries. Accordingly, he posited a late recension to account for it. F. C. Burkitt went further than Hort and specified Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa from AD 411 - 435, as the author of the revision.

Both ideas have had a wide acceptance. H. C. Thiessen's statement is typical, both in content and dogmatism.

This (Peshitta) was formerly regarded as the oldest of the Syrian versions; but Burkitt has shown that it is in reality a revision of the Old Syriac made by Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa, about the year 425. This view is now held by nearly all Syriac scholars... The text of the Peshitta is now identified as the Byzantine text, which almost certainly goes back to the revision made by Lucian of Antioch about AD 300.

As to the Syrian Peshitta, Burgon protested the complete lack of evidence for Hort's assertions. A. Voobus says of Burkitt's effort:

Burkitt has tried to picture the life span of Bishop Rabbula as a decisive period in the development of the New Testament text in the Syrian church.

Regardless of the general acceptance of the axiom, established by him, that "the authority of Rabbula secured an instant success for the new revised version ..." and that "copies of the Peshitta were rapidly multiplied, it soon became the only text in ecclesiastical use" - the kind of reconstruction of textual history is pure fiction without a shred of evidence to support it.

Voobus finds that Rabbula himself used the Old Syriac type of text. His researches show clearly that the Peshitta goes back at least to the mid-fourth century and that it was not the result of an authoritative revision.

Here again there is in added historical difficulty.

The Peshitta is regarded as authoritative Scripture by both the Nestorians and the Monophysites. It is hard to see how this could have come to pass on the hypothesis that Rabbula was the author and chief promoter of the Peshitta. For Rabbula was a decided Monophysites and a determined opponent of the Nestorians. It is almost contrary to reason, therefore, to suppose that the Nestorian Christians would adopt so quickly and so unanimously the handiwork of their greatest adversary (Burgon).

It is hard to understand how men like F. F. Bruce, E. C. Colwell, F. C. Kenyon, etc., could allow themselves to state dogmatically that Rabbula produced the Peshitta.

"Literary history," says Scrivener, "can hardly afford a more powerful case than has been established for the identity of the Version of the Syriac now called the "Peshitta" with that used by the Eastern Church long before the great schism had its beginning, in the native land of the blessed Gospel. The Peshitta is referred by common consent to the 2nd century of our era."

'"We now come to the position," says Miller, "testing upon the supposed posteriority of the so-called Syrian Text. Here again we are in the region of pure speculation unsustained by historical facts. Dr. Hort imagines first that there was a recension of the early Syrian Version, which this School maintains represented by the Curetonian Version (see below) , somewhere between 250 AD and 350 at Edessa, or Nisibis, or Antioch.

Well indeed may Dr. Hort add 'even for conjecture the materials are scanty.’ It would have been truer to the facts to have said, ‘for such a conjecture there are no materials at all, and therefore it must be abandoned.’"


Until about the middle of the last century, no Syriac translation of the Now Testament was known to be earlier than the Peshitta. However, in 1842, a great mass of Syriac MSS reached the British Museum from the monastery of St. Mary Deipara in the Nitrian desert of Egypt. Many were copies of the ordinary Syriac Peshitta Bible, but among them were eighty leaves of a copy or the Gospels in Syriac which W. Cureton (thus the name), one of the officers of the Museum, recognized as containing a completely different text from any MSS previously known. These leaves were edited by him, with a preface in which he contended that in this version we have the very words of our Lord's discourses, in the identical language in which they were originally spoken. The MSS itself is of the 5th century, practically contemporary with the earliest MSS which we possess of the Peshitta Syriac. But Cureton argued that the character of the translations showed that the original must go back before the Peshitta. He then stated that the Peshitta was a revision of the Old Syriac (its other name), just as the Latin Vulgate was a revision of the Old Latin.

Many scholars, though, strongly disagreed. However, in 1892, two enterprising Cambridge ladies, Mrs. Lewis and her sister, Mrs. Gibson, visited the monastery of St. Catharine on Mount Sinai, the place where Tischendorf made his celebrated discovery of Codex Sinaitic. They photographed a number of MSS, among them a Syriac palimpsest. When they brought their photographs home, the underlying, text was recognized by F. C. Burkitt (there he is again) as belonging to the Old Syriac version, hitherto known only in Cureton's MSS. Fairly substantial portions of the four Gospels were deciphered. (Kenyon).

Lining up against the 250 (in 1949) extant MSS of the Peshitta we now have two of the old Syriac!!

Quoting Kenyon further,

It is clear that the Sinaitic MS does not represent precisely the same text is the Curetonian. The differences between them are made much more marked than, say, between any two manuscripts of the Peshitta or Greek. One striking proof is that in Matthew 1 the Curetonian emphasizes the Miraculous Conception, saying,

"Jacob begat Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the Virgin, who bare Jesus Christ."

Whereas the Sinaitic MS appears to deny this,

"Jacob begat Joseph, and Joseph to whom was betrothed Mary the Virgin, begat Jesus, who is called Christ."

No wonder this MS which dates back to the 4th century became a palimpsest. But these two (often conflicting MSS) provided Westcott, Hort and Burkitt with a convenient vehicle to move the Peshitta from had 2nd to the 5th century. It sounded very agreeable to say that just as the Vulgate, was a revision of the Old Latin, so the Peshitta was of the Old Syriac. The problem with this is, there is strong MS and historical testimony to the Old Latin, but these two MSS are all we have of the so-called Old Syriac.

They are simply another example of a corrupted offspring that was placed on the shelf for long centuries, until it could be taken down and used as a "proof" against God's Word.

Kenyon says regarding its (the two combined!!) agreement with Aleph, B as against D (Codex Bezae),

"In general, however, it is evident that, while the version cannot be reckoned totally with either the Aleph, B group or the D group, it shows a preponderance of agreement with the latter." This is a nice scholarly way of saying that there is total confusion when these MSS are compared. What Kenyon fails to mention is that the Old Syriac does contain some of the key Received Text readings.

Hills says,

Critics assign an early third 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 found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. For Burkitt (1904) found that "not infrequently" this manuscript agreed with the Traditional text against the Western and Alexandrian texts. 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.’

Thus again in the corrupted copies of scripture, the Received Text base can still be discerned.

Quoting again front Miller,

"Dr. Hort was perfectly logical when he suggested, or rather asserted dogmatically, that such a drastic revision as was necessary for turning the Curetonian into the Peshitta was made in the third century at Edessa or Nisibis. The difficulty lay in his manufacturing history to suit his purpose, instead of following it. The fact is, that the internal difference between the text of the Curetonian and the Peshitta is so great…"

Thus the differences are too great to speak of one being a revision of the other.


Miller says,

The commanding position thus occupied leads back virtually a long way. Changes are difficult to introduce in "the unchangeable East." Accordingly, the use of the Peshitta is attested in the 4th century by Ephraem Syrus and Aphraates. Ephraem "in the main used the Peshitta text" - is the conclusion drawn by MR F. H. Woods in the third volume of Studio Biblica." And as far as I may judge from a comparison of readings, Aphraates witnesses for the Traditional Text, with which the Peshitta mainly agrees, twenty-four times aginst four. The Peshitta thus reckons as its supporters the two earliest of the Syrian Fathers.

It can be traced by facts of history or by actual documents to the beginning of the golden period of Syriac Literature in the fifth century, when it is found to be firm in its sway, and it is far from being deserted by testimony sufficient to track it into the earlier ages of the Church.

The Peshitta in our own days is found in use amongst the Nestorians who have always kept to it, by the Monophysites on the plains of Syria, the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar, and by the Maronites on ‘the mountain-terraces of Lebanon.' Of these, the Maronites take us back to the beginning of the 8th century when they as Monophysites separated from the Eastern Church; the Monophysites to the middle of the 5th century; the Nestorians to an earlier date in the same century. Hostile as the two latter were to one another, they would not have agreed in reading the same Version of the New Testament if this had not been well established at the period of their separation. Nor would it have been thus finally established, if it had not by that time been generally received in the country for a long series of years.

In 1950, Kenyon stated that there were 250 extant Peshitta MSS, of which more than 100 were in the British Museum. He mentions that two belong to the 5th century (about 450) and that few others belong to the 6th century. However, Miller at the turn of the century refers to a total of 11 or 12 Peshitta MSS dating before the end of the 6th century. Notice how this compares with the ten or so crucial MSS which date to the end of the 6th century. If Miller's enumeration is correct, then the actual weight of evidence from the Peshitta is greater than that from the older uncials. And as the Peshitta is a TR type text, no wonder the naturalistic critics have done all in their power to 'move it forward in time."


(a) Tatian's Diatessaron

Tatian was a native of the Euphrates Valley, but lived for many years in Rome as a disciple of Justin Martyr. After the martyrdom of Justin in 165 he was charged with heresy. (Kenyon). Wilkinson says that he "carried the regrettable doctrine of Justin Martyr to alarming lengths and embraced the Gnostic heresy. About 172 he left Rome for Palestine and then back to his native land where he died in 180. (Kenyon). (Others say he died 8 years earlier) .

He is famous in his harmony of the Gospels, in which lie combines the four Gospels into one running account. Diatessaron is a Greek word meaning "harmony of four". Kenyon believes that he wrote it originally in Greek while still at Rome, but took it with him to Syria and there translated it into Syriac. Of course one reason why Kenyon must say this, is to rule out any possibility of a 2nd century Peshitta which Tatian might have had before him.

The Diatessaron had many corruptions. We are told that the genealogies and all passages referring to Christ's Jewish descent are removed. The fact of the incarnation was opposed to the teachings of the Gnostics which viewed Christ as merely a heavenly being, i.e. one of the "heavenly ranks between God and man."

Though Eusebius referred to it as a kind of "patchwork Gospel", it was widely spread and translated. Ephrem, the famous Syriac Father, made a commentary of the Gospels from it. And for many it practically seemed to be their Bible. But, Theodotus, bishop of Cyrrhus near the Euphrates from c 423 - 4S7 records that he collected and removed more than 200 copies from the churches in his area, replacing them by "the Gospels of the Four Evangelists"; no doubt the Peshitta. Rabbula himself seems to have taken similar steps in his neighboring diocese of Edessa. He give instructions that all the churches have copies of the "Gospel of the separated ones." This refers to the four Gospels being presented separately rather thin in a harmony (Kenyon and Bruce).

Though this is clearly a "doctored" translation. Yet the Received text base remains. Ruckman says, "Readers will be surprised to find that it reads with the King James Version on Luke 2:33 and John 9:35, upholding the Deity of Christ and the Virgin Birth. This gives a definite Syrian witness to the AV readings 200 years older than Vaticanus or Sinaiticus."

Kenyon admits as much when he says, "Since we now possess it only in late copies of translations, Latin, Armenia, Arabic and Dutch, which have been subject to the universal tendency towards containing strange texts to that generally received…"

(b) The Philoxenian and Harkleian Syriac

Kenyon says,

In the year 508, Philoxenus, bishop of Mabug, in eastern Syria, thinking the current Peshitta version did not represent the original Greek accurately enough (the same thing is said about the KJV), caused it to be revised throughout by one Polycarp. In 616 this version was itself revised, with the assistance of some Greek MSS in Alexandria, by Thomas of Harkel, himself also subsequently bishop of Mabug.

There are now about fifty extant MSS of the Harkleian text. The dates of the more notable ones are,

  1. 7th century at Rome
  2. 8th century at Rome
  3. 757 AD at Florence
  4. 10th century, British Museum,
  5. 10th century, British Museum
  6. 1170, Cambridge University Library. This is considered to be the best.

The Philoxenian apparently has survived only in a few MSS of II Peter, II and III John, Jude and Revelation.

Bruce is typical when he says that the original Peshitta version of the New Testament did not include the above five books. And these were not added to any Syriac version until the Philoxenian Version was produced in 508.

In response to this and the above revisions, it can be said (based on Ruckman).

Corruptions did not enter the Peshitta until the middle of the 3rd century, when Origin moved from Alexandria to Caesarea, bringing his publishing company with him. Further corruption took place during the time of Eusebius and Pamphilus (260 - 340), and at the time of the revisions known as Philoxenian, Harkleian and the Jerusalem Syriac.

The omission of Revelation can be traced, undoubtedly, to the work of Origen and Eusebius it Caesarea. Rabulla's edition which omits II Peter, II John, Jude and Revelation was NOT the original Syriac Bible, as is evident from the findings of Voobus in "Investigations into the Text of the NT used by Rabbula." Eusebius and Origen are definitely collaborators in the alteration of the Syrian Text. (Reumann).

Despite this, though, Strouse says that the Harkleian Syriac contains the Byzantine Text.

(c) The Palestinian Syriac

This is known only to us in fragments in a dialect of Syriac designated as Western or Jewish Aramaic. It is believed to have been made at Antioch in the 6th century, and to have been used exclusively in Palestine.

Nearly all the surviving, MSS are in the form of lectionaries, (Scripture lessons), the two most important being a pair of Gospel lectionaries, date 1104 and 1118.

Kenyon says it has "elements" of Aleph, B and the D type text. This probably means that in the main it is Byzantine.

We conclude our study of the Syriac Peshitta with a comment by Hills,

In the 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), 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.

Having gone into considerable detail in our study of the three major versions of the New Testament, it will only be necessary to give a brief review of the remaining ones. These versions arc presented in a geographic sequence.


As we saw in our survey of the Old Testament versions, Coptic was the ancient language of Egypt, written originally in hieroglyphics, but in NT times written in Greek letters, with the addition of six letters to represent sounds not used in Greek.

There arc the two main dialects: Sahidic, the dialect of Upper or Southern Egypt; and Bohairic, the dialect of Lower or Northern Egypt.

The New Testament seems to have been translated into the Sahadic dialect around 200 AD. Kenyon says, "It survives only in fragments, but these are now very numerous indeed, so that it has been possible to put together a practically complete New Testament. It is fundamentally and predominantly of the smile family as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus." With this conclusion, Strouse agrees. The oldest MS dates back to about 350 AD.

The Bohairic New Testament of Northern Egypt was somewhat later. This was the more developed and literary dialect and ultimately spread throughout the country superceding the other dialects. Over 100 MSS have been discovered, though none of them is very early. The oldest is dated 1173 AD. There is one page from Ephesians which may go back as far as the 5h century. As expected with the influence of Alexandria so near, "the Bohairic text is definitely Alexandrian." (Kenyon).

Again Strouse concurs.

'There is another side though. Ruckman is prepared to say that the Coptic along with several other early versions "were originally true and trustworthy copies of the original New Testament documents."

Referring to the detailed research of Kenyon on these versions, Hills says,

Thus during the fourth and fifth centuries among the Syriac-speaking Christians of the East, the Greek-speaking Christians of the Byzantine 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 New Testament 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 some of the manuscripts of the Bohairic (Coptic) version agree with the Textus Receptus against B Aleph and the remaining Bohairic manuscripts. This indicates that these important passages the readings of the Traditional Text had been adopted by some of the Coptic scribes.


Many would date this translation around the year 600. Bruce says, "the translation appears to have been a gradual process, carried out between the late 4th or early 5th centuries. The translation was made from Greek. Though influenced by Coptic Church, the text is mainly Byzantine." The MSS are quite late, with the earliest going back to the 13th century (Kenyon)


The Scriptures do not seem to have been extant in an Arabic version before the Time of Muhammad (570 - 632), who knew the Gospel story only in an oral form, and mainly from Syriac sources. These Syriac sources were marked by Docetism (meaning "deviation"; it said that Christ only appeared to be human and did not really die). This explains the source of the some teaching in the Muslim religion (Bruce).

Kenyon says, "Several Arabic versions are known to exist, some being translated from the Greek, some from Syriac, and some from Coptic." The earliest translation would be in the 7th Century.


Armenia is a country lying to the cast of Asia Minor and north of Mesopotamia, sandwiched between the Roman and Persian Empires. It was evangelized in the 3rd century by Syriac-speaking missionaries. However, it was not until the early 5th century that they possessed a version of their own. Armenian traditions themselves differ as to weather this version was translated from Syriac or Greek.

As to the actual translation, it is recorded by Armenian writers of the 5th Century that under order of Patriarch Saholc and a certain Mesrop this work was performed around 400. But that after the Council of Ephesus (431) at which Nestorianism was condemned, they received correct copies of the Greek Bible from Constantinople, and revised their translation accordingly ... this revision after 431 would probably have been from MSS of the Byzantine type, and this seems to be confirmed by the existing MSS. (Kenyon).

The earliest MS is dated 887. 'There are probably two others of the 9th century and six of the 10th. (Kenyon).


North of Armenia lies Georgia, in the Caucasus. They were the next to be evangelized after the Armenians, about the close of the third century. Their version seems to be based on the Armenian Version. The great majority of MSS show the Byzantine text, but a few, especially one dated 897, known as the Adysh MS show a Caesarean text (the town Origen went to when he left Alexandria).

The Armenian alphabet probably, and the Georgian alphabet certainly, were expressly devised in order that the Scriptures might be written in these two languages. These two missionary versions are thus the precursors of many more of a later date, which required that the language concerned should be reduced to writing before the Bible could be written in it. (Bruce). Ulfilas also did this when he prepared an alphabet for the Gothic Version.


The Roman Empire was subjected to continuous and increasing pressure on its northern frontier from Germanic tribes. Chief among these were the Goths who sacked Rome in 410. Augustine, at that time, reflects the general feeling of thankfulness that the Goths had been Christianized before the sack of Rome. (Bruce).

The Gothic version indicates that the Traditional text is not a late text. This New Testament translation was made from the Greek into Gothic shortly after 350 AD by Ulfilas, missionary bishop to the Goths. "The type of text represented in it," Kenyon tells us, "is for the most part that which is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts." 'The fact, therefore, that Ulfilas (means "little wolf") in AD. 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 Traditional type on hand in the days of Ulfilas, manuscripts which since that time have perished. (Hills)

The oldest MS dates back to the 5th or 6th century, it Contains more thin half the Gospels and is now at Upsala, Sweden. (Kenyon) .


In the 9th century, two brothers, Constantine and Methodius, were sent by Byzantium (Constantinople) to the Slavonic people in East Central Europe. They devised a Slavonic alphabet and translated the Scriptures from Greek into that language. This was also in the Byzantine Text.

In addition, Strouse mentions that a Frankish Version (West Central Europe) was translated in the 8th century; and a Persian Version was translated from the Syriac in the 14th century.

This completes our survey of the versions and manuscripts of the New Testament. Every attempt has been made to present the material accurately, fairly and most importantly, in a way that believes the promise of God to preserve His Word through the centuries.

We have surveyed the four major areas of manuscript evidence: the papyri, uncials, Cursives and versions. And, often in quoting from the research of scholars who would deny the Received Text its rightful place, we have seen the overwhelming advantage it enjoys over any other "text type". We have even noted a strong Received Text presence in those places where it was not supposed to be at all (that is, not in the view of Westcott and Hort and company). We have seen a clear Received Text presence in Egypt and Alexandria, in the very backyard of Origen, in the papyri, in the "five old uncials" and in the Coptic. We have also seen a dominant Received Text witness in the writings of the early church Fathers.

We have surveyed the Greatest warfare in history as the forces of Satan sought to thwart God's promise to preserve His Holy Word during the first three centuries. We have seen the casualties of this warfare - the corrupted manuscripts. But we have seen that God was faithful to His Holy Word, that the Fathered watched over- it just as He watched over the Living Word.

Benjamin Wilkinson wrote in 1930, "Down through the centuries, the pure Bible, the living Word of God, has often faced the descendants of this corrupt version (the one promulgated by Constantine) , robed in splendor and seated on the throne of power. It has been a battle and a march, a battle and a march. God’s Holy Word has always won. And now, once again in those last days, the battle is being renewed, the affections and the control of the minds of men are being contended for by these two rival claimants."

continue with Part Five: A Survey of English Bible History
return to Table of Contents
return to
Part One:
A Survey of Old Testament Documents
return to Part Two: The Issues We Face Regarding the New Testament Text
return to Part Three:
The Witness of the Early Church Fathers to the Received Text