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Second Samuel
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Second Chronicles
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Minor Prophets
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Topical Teaching:
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Framework Bible School
Bible School 2004
Bible School 2012-2019
30 Questions
Mystery of the Church
Defending the Faith
Church History
The Nephilim
Wake Up, Church!
Basics for Living
Basic Doctrine
Eschatology Overview - Gen-Rev
End Times Basics
Eternal Rewards
Political Platform of Lord
Refuting Reform Doctrine
kosmos vs Kingdom 
(κόσμος vs Βασίλειο)
Understanding the Times
Brace for Impact: Prepare Soul

A Bible Teaching Ministry of Galyn Wiemers

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Lesson 5 of 50 - History of English Bible (part one)
Section C, Chapter 10 - Writing the Bible
Section C, Chapter 11 - Bible Languages
Section C, Chapter 12 - New Testament Greek Manuscripts
Section C, Chapter 13 - Greek New Testament
Section C, Chapter 14 - Textual Criticism

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2004 mp3 Audio

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2009 mp3 Audio
(ch. 10 & 11)
2009 mp3 Audio (ch. 12)
2009 mp3 Audio (ch. 13-14)

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300 class sessions in
2012-2019 Bible School Series

Chapter Tests:
Sect C, Ch 10 - Writing the Bible
Sect C, Ch 11 - Bible Languages
Sect C, Ch 12 - NT Greek Manuscripts
Sect C, Ch 13 - Greek New Testament
Sect C, Ch 14 - Textual Criticism

Essay Tests:
Sect C, Ch 10 - Make Timeline of Writing
Sect C, Ch 11 - Why Aramaic?
Sect C, Ch 12 - Describe NT Manuscripts
Sect C, Ch 13 - The Greek NT
Sect C, Ch 14 - Contrast Textual Criticisms

History of the Bible: Chapter 10-11 (2009) - Writing the Bible and
Bible Languages

History of the Bible: Chapter 12 (2009)
- Manuscripts and Text


History of the Bible: Chapter 13 (2009) - Greek NT and Textual Criticism

History of the Bible: Chapter 14-15 (2009) - Timeline of the English Bible

History of the Bible: Chapter 10-11 (2012) - Writing the Bible and
Bible Languages
History of the Bible: Chapter 12 (2012)
- The NT Greek Manuscripts

History of the Bible: Chapter 13-16 (2012) - Greek NT, Textual Criticism, Timeline of the English Bible

History of the Bible

Early Writing

1. 3500 BC     Early Sumerian limestone tablets
2. 3000 BC     Egyptian hieroglyphics had begun to develop
3. 1400 BC     We have letters written by governors

Bible critics at one time (1800’s and early 1900’s) claimed writing was not developed until well after the time of Moses.

Writing Material

  1. Stone
    1. The Moabite Stone erected by Mesha, king of Moab about 850 BC tells of Moab’s revolt against Israel’s King Jehoram and is in agreement with the Old Testament account.
      1. See text of Moabite Stone here
      2. See details of Moabite Stone
    1. Siloam Inscription records the construction of a tunnel in Jerusalem from King Hezekiah’s time and work recorded in the Bible from 700 BC.
    2. Exodus 31:18;; 34:1, 28;; Dt. 27:2-3; Joshua 8:30-32
  1. Clay
    1. Library of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal   (650 BC) has been recovered containing thousands of tablets.
    2. At Ebla in Syria  more than 16,000 tablets from back to 2500 BC recovered (also here )     
    3. Ezekiel 4:1
  1. Wood
    1. In Athens, Greece wood was white washed in order to show ink better
    2. Isaiah 30:8; Habakuk 2:2
  1. Leather 
    1. Used by the Hebrews
    2. Jeremiah 36:23 mentions a scribes’ knife used for erasing leather writing
    3. The Jewish Talmud (a code of traditional laws) required that Scripture be copied on animal skins.
    4. Apostle Paul asks that “the parchments” be sent to him in 2 Timothy 4:13.  Parchments were leather portions of the Old Testament.
  1. Papyrus 
    1. Made from the pith of the swamp grown papyrus plant. Pressed, dried and polished.
    2. Used in Egypt as far back as 3000 BC
    3. By 400 BC ancient historians record “everyone” was writing on papyrus
    4. Papyrus Scrolls (or, Rolls)
      1. Average length was 30 feet and they were 9-10 inches high
      2. Wrote in columns that were  3-4 inches wide
      3. Inner edge (or, both edges) were attached to a wooden roller.
    1. Codex and Papyrus
      1. During the years 50-200 AD the codex developed.
      2. A codex is simply the early form of a book.  The papyrus sheets were stacked and bound like book.
      3. The codex had several advantages over the scroll:
        1. They could be carried around easily
        2. They could be used for ready reference
        3. They contained more written information
      4. Christians copying the New Testament letters helped advance and popularize the use of the codex.

The Beginning of Writing of the Bible

  1. Moses wrote around 1400 BC
    1. Exodus 17:14 – memorial concerning Amalek
    2. Exodus 24:4 – words of the covenant at Sinai
    3. Exodus 34:27 – Ten Commandments
    4. Umbers 33:2 – Journey’s of Israel
    5. Deuteronomy 31:9, 24 – Book of the Law
  2. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible
    1. Joshua 8:31
    2. Judges 3:4
    3. Malachi 4:4
    4. Luke 24:44
    5. John 7:19
  3. Moses used portions of historical documents that had previously been written by men of God who had been eye witnesses of the events they recorded.  He compiled these documents and edited the book of Genesis by using writings of men like Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, etc.
    1. Genesis 2:4 – inscription or a document of creation
    2. Genesis 5:1 – inscription or a document of Adam’s line
    3. Genesis 7-8 – inscription or document of Noah written like a journal or diary.
    4. Genesis 10:1 – document of Noah’s line
    5. Genesis 12-24 – documents by an eyewitness of events surrounding the life of Abraham
    6. Genesis 36 – document of Esau’s line
    7. Genesis 37 – document of Jacob’s life
  4. Joshua wrote in Joshua 24:26
  5. Samuel wrote in First Samuel 10:25
  6. Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 36:2

Josephus (wrote Jewish history around 70-90 AD) records (in Against ApionI.8) that the Old Testament canon developed between Moses and Artaxerxes or until the time or Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi.  This would be the years 1400 -450 BC.

New Testament

  1. All written between 50-100 AD
  2. From the beginning these letters were considered authoritative.
    1. “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.” (1 Thes. 5:27)
  3. These letters were exchanged between churches
    1. “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.”  (Colossians 4:16)
  4. Then authoritative written narratives of the life of Christ had to be established.
    1. Luke 1:1-4
    2. John 20:30-31
  5. The climax had to be revealed for this new dispensation and revelation was given
    1. “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.”  (Revelation 1:19)

Form of the Bible Today
“Testament” is an archaic word for “contract” or “covenant”

The Old Covenant or the Old Contract is found in the English Bible as:

  1. Five books of Law (Pentateuch)
  2. Twelve books of History (Joshua – Esther)
  3. Five books of poetry (Job – Song of Solomon)
  4. Seventeen books of prophecy (Isaiah – Malachi)
    1. Five of these books by the prophets are the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
    2. Twelve of these are the minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

This present form that we keep our Old Testament in came from the Latin Vulgate translation in 405 by Jerome.  This Latin translation was made from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (LXX).  The Latin Vulgate Old Testament then was a translation from a translation:  Hebrew to Greek (Septuagint)  to Latin (Vulgate)

Read the Greek Septuagint (LXX) here
Read Jerome’s Latin Vulgate here  

The Hebrew organization was different than our organization of the books.

  1. The Hebrews had three divisions of the books
    1. Law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
    2. Prophets
      1. The former prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings
      2. The later Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets.
    1. The Writings – Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles

Notice these differences:

  1. Some books are classified in different groups.  For example we call First and Second Samuel history.  The Jews classified it with the prophets.
  2. The twelve Minor Prophets are one book.
  3. First and Second Samuel was one book.  The same is true for 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
  4. The writers of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings were considered prophets for they wrote with a prophetic outlook.

The New Testament is made up of:

  1. Five books of history: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts
  2. Twenty-one books of doctrine or teaching (the Epistles or letters)
  3. One book of prophecy: Revelation

Bible Languages
Hebrew          Aramaic          Greek

Almost all of the 39 Old Testament books were originally written in Hebrew.
The Hebrew letters can be found as headings in Psalm 119
There are no vowels in Hebrew
Although scribes and scholars have added vowel points

Similar to Hebrew and uses the same letters
After exile to Babylon (500 BC) Aramaic became common language of Palestine.
Nehemiah 8:8 seems to indicate that the people of Nehemiah’s day needed to Hebrew scriptures translated into Aramaic to be understood.
Aramaic appears in the Old Testament in:

  • Genesis 31:47 in a place name
  • Jeremiah 10:11
  • Six chapters in Daniel (2:4b-7:28)
  • Ezra 4:8 – 6:18 and 7:12-26

The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal the exact same break from Hebrew to Aramaic in Daniel 2:4b in two different manuscripts.  These manuscripts switch back to Hebrew at the same place at the end of chapter 7.  The Dead Sea Scrolls match our modern manuscripts exactly after more than 2,000 years of being copied.

The Aramaic spoken by Jesus and disciples is found still recorded in these verses:

  • Mark 5:41 – “talitha cumi” (little girl, get up”)
  • Mark 7:34 -  “ephphatha” (“be open”)
  • Matthew 27:46 – “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
  • Mark 15:34 – “Abba” (“Father”)
  • Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6 – “Abba”
  • First Corinthians 16:22 – “maranatha” (“Our Lord, come”)

Jesus spoke Aramaic.  This explains why sometimes when the gospels  quote Jesus the quotes may slightly vary in wording.  Jesus would have said it in Aramaic but the writers translated it into Greek to record it for all to read. 
The New Testament was recorded in Greek.
Greek was the universal language of the day.

New Testament Manuscripts (NT MSS)
Original letters written on papyrus have perished.
Early Christians made many copies of these letters. 
The hand written copies are known as manuscripts.
The word “manuscript” is abbreviated with by the letters “ms” or “mss” for the plural.


Dating a Manuscript

  1. It is important to know how old a ms is.
  2. Some have dates written on them.
  3. Undated manuscripts are given a date by examining the handwriting:
    1. Capital or small letters?
    2. Words together or spaced?
    3. Number of columns?
    4. Appearance of columns?
    5. Punctuation?
    6. Paragraphs?
    7. Plain/simple or Elaborate/complex lettering?
    8. Spelling
    9. Word usage and grammar
    10. Style of letter
  4. Many of these things would change as writing style and the writing format changed.  Word meanings and the spelling of words changes through time so it is possible to place the ms in the correct frame of time when they were written.

Two Types of Manuscripts

  1. Uncials
    1. These are the earliest mss
    2. These are the most important mss
    3. A Uncial would be written in all capital letters
  2. Cursives
    1. These were written in all small letters
    2. Written in running hand style
    3. Began to appear in the 800’s


  • We have 5,000 Greek New Testament Manuscripts (mss)  
    • 375 are the ancient uncial
    • 250 of these ancient uncials are on vellum from 300-900 AD
    • 90 of these ancient uncials are on papyri
    • 50 of these ancient uncials on papyri are from 100-300  AD
  • It was too bulky to copy the whole Greek New Testament in one set so it was copied in four volumes
    • Volume One: The Four Gospels
    • Volume Two: Acts and the General Epistles (James, 1,2,3 John, 1,2 Peter)
    • Volume Three: Pauline Epistles
    • Volume Four: Revelation
  • Many of the letters were originally dictated
    • Romans 16:22
    • First Peter 5:12
    • Galatians 6:11
  • They were written:
    • In large letters
    • With no punctuation
    • Slightly cursive handwritten style
    • Familiar words abbreviated (“Christ” would be written “chr” or cristoV was written cr)
    • Columns were kept strai
      g h t   by  simply   contin
      uing the word  on the ne
      xt line
  • Five Great Uncials
    • Codex Vaticanus  
      • Known as Codex B
      • Comes from the 300’s AD
      • Each page is a 10 inch square with 3 columns each
      • 759 leaves of the finest vellum
      • A scribe traced the original fading letters but they are still visible
      • The front is lost up to Genesis 46:28 and the back is lost starting at Hebrews 9:14.  (In the codex form the general epistles come after Acts but 1,2 Timothy, Titus and Revelation come after Hebrews.)
      • Today’s Greek text rely heavily upon Codex Vaticanus
      • There is no Mark 16:9-20, but yet the scribe appears to know it exists since he left space for it in this mss.
    • Codex Sinaiticus
      • Known as Codex Aleph
      • Comes from 350 AD
      • 15 inch spuare sheets with 4 columns
    • Codex Alexandrian
      • Known as Codex A
      • Comes from 400’s AD
    • Ephraemi Rescriptus
      • Known as Codex C
      • Comes from 400’s AD
    • Codex Bezae  
      • Known as Codex D
      • Greek on the left with Latin on the right
      • 10 x 8 inch leaves with one column per page

Cursives or Minuscules
About 2,800 exist but they date from 800-1500’s AD
Codex 33 is the most important since its text is similar to Codex Vaticanus
These are awesome to see with their elaborate, artristic decorations
The covers are richly stamped
Initial letters luxuriously ornamented
Some include multi-colored illustrations

Portions of scripture were copied out to be read in a church service.
Most often these are the pastor’s notes from the sermon.
The scripture was written into the notes to be read during the sermon.
2,200 of these exist.

Early Translations
Translations from the Greek to other languages were made almost immediately

  1. Syriac Versions – these would be translations copied from a manuscript from the second century.  Syriac was the language of nations of Mesopotamia.
    1. Curetonian Syriac - translation into Syriac has been found from 400 AD with 80 leaves.  It was discovered in the 1800’s.
    2. Sinaitic Syriac – from late 300’s AD.  A rescript (a manuscript that has been written over with a more recent work) has been found at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai.
  2. Latin Versions
    1. About 35 Old Latin manuscripts plus fragments go back to 150 AD
    2. Latin Vulgate History – The Old Latin manuscripts were becoming so corrupt by 382 AD that Damascus, the bishop of Rome, asked Jerome to translate a new Latin version.  It would become known as the Latin Vulgate translation and be used by the church until the reformation in the 1500’s.  It is still used by many Catholic churches today.
      1. In making his Latin translation from the Greek, Jerome combined education, consecration and common sense.
      2. A several Latin translations were already in use by Jerome made corrections n the Latin text by going back to the Greek.
      3. Jerome was reluctant to do so because he knew his work would not be well received.
      4. He completed the Gospels in 384 AD and his work was not well received by the people.
      5. Jerome identified these people as those who identified “ignorance with holiness.”
      6. The result of Jerome’s work was a 1,000 year reign of this translation in the West.
      7. There are more than 10,000 mss of the Latin Vulgate
      8. The first English translations were translations of the Latin Vulgate.
      9. The KJ version heavily reflects Jeroms’e Latin Vulgate
      10. Roman Catholics made it the official Bible and it is still so today.
      11. The English Roman Catholic Bible is an English translation of the Latin Vulgate.
  1. Other Early translations
    1. Egyptian
    2. Armenian
    3. Gothic
    4. Ethiopic
    5. Georgian


Early Christian Writers

  1. These writers wrote from 70-100 AD and from 100-200 AD
  2. Their writings have been preserved and are filled with quotations from the New Testament
  3. Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria
  4. If all the other manuscripts were lost we could still rebuild the exact same New Testament text in Greek just from the quotes of the early church fathers.

The New Testament Greek Text
The original autographs of the New Testament do not exist.

Copies were made of these originals from the very beginning
All copies were made by hand until the printing press was invented in 1456.

Errors are bound to have occurred during 1,400 years of being copied.
Even with the invention of the printing press copies have been produced in mass quantities with errors many times.
For example, the 1611 edition of the King James Bible had 400 errors in the first edition.   They were corrected in the 1613 edition.

Textual Criticism:
Once an error was made it could be copied and would eventually be mixed into the text.  These errors produce the need for the science of Textual Criticism.

Textual Criticism has two branches:

  1. Lower Criticism – which seeks to recover the exact words used by the author in their original writing of the text by comparison and study of all available mss evidence.
  2. Higher Criticism – devotes itself to study of authorship, date of composition and historical value.  This is a science developed by the liberals to undermine authenticity of the scripture.

Identifying the need for Textual Criticism:

  1. It is necessary because no two existing mss are exactly alike.  Most manuscripts disagree 6-10 per chapter
  2. We have 5,656 Greek manuscripts (Gr. Ms), 10,000+ Latin mss and 1,000+ translation mss
  3. Only 59 of these have complete New Testaments

The Text-types:
Although no two mss are exactly alike they do fall into a particular style of text.
This means the variations in the Greek mss tend to fall into three basic text-types that seem to show they were copied from a similar mss.
These three seem to come from the same geographical locations”

  1. Byzantine Text-type
  2. Western Text-type
  3. Alexandrian Text-type

Western, Byzantine, Alexandrian Text-type

Byzantine Text-type (Majority)

  1. 80% of all the Greek manuscripts (Gr. mss) are of this text-type, thus it is called the Majority Text.
  2. They come from the Byzantine Empire where Greek was the native language.
  3. These are considered the most inferior texts because all of these mss come from after 300 AD
  4. Most of them are from after 1000 AD.
  5. This text tends to combined variant readings to make a new one that is different from both of its sources.
  6. This text harmonizes different parts of the text by making parallel passages agree and read the same way.
  7. It has built in smoothness
  8. Many variations are obviously liturgically-motivated.
  9. The greatest argument is the scarcity of this text-type in the early mss and the absence:
    1. In the papyri before 300 AD
    2. In quotes by the early church fathers

Western Text-type

  1. Mss of this text-type are found from 200 AD
  2. This was the text used by early Christians writers in Palestine and Asia Minor
  3. This comes from the Western Mediterranean area
  4. It is important when it agrees with other text-types because it gives credibility to them.

Alexandrian Text-type

  1. Found in the earliest mss, including the papyri
  2. Some of the Alexandrian papyri come from 110-200 AD.
  3. Generally regarded as superior due to internal evidence:
    1. Its readings tend to be more difficult (which explains why variations developed through time to smooth the text and conflicts.)
    2. Its readings tend to be shorter and the do not have the additional working.
  4. This is the  text-type found in Codex Vaticanus and  Codex Sinaticus, and the papyri
  5. It is the best text-type existing

The Greek Texts Built and Used Today
Greek texts that are used today for translating and study are texts that have been built out of the 1,000’s of Greek manuscripts.  There are three major Greek texts that are used in translating the Bible today.  Each text has a different theory on how to arrive at the best built text and recreate one that is the closest to the original.

  1. Eclectic Text
    1. It uses all the manuscripts
    2. It uses all the text-types
    3. All the variant readings are displayed in the apparatus of the text.
    4. This text is based on the theory that the date and quality of the mss is more important than the number of existing mss.
    5. The Eclectic text tends to favor the earlier mss
    6. This text tends to favor the Alexandrian text-type
    7. Follows Westcott and Hort’s methods
    8. This text is the basis of several modern translations including the NASB and the NIV.
  1. Majority Text
    1. Represents all the mss of the Byzantine Text-type (or, Majority Text-type)
    2. The Textus Receptus, which is an early Greek text, was based on this same text-type but actually only used six mss.  The King James was translated from the Textus Receptus.
    3. This Majority Text uses more than 4,000 mss of the same Byzantine Test-type.
    4. This text is based on two principles:
      1. Any reading overwhelmingly attested to by the mss tradition is more likely to be original.
      2. Final decisions about readings ought to be made on the basis of a reconstruction of their history in the manuscript tradition.  In other words they consider the Byzantine Tex-type to be original.  There are five strands of the Byzantine that conflict.  They build a genealogy of the development fro the variations in the mss.
    1. No translation is based on the Majority Text
    2. Some NKJV (New King James Versions) give Majority Text readings in the margins.
  1. Textus Receptus
    1. Textus Receptus was the title for the Greek text edition from 1633 of the Greek text first published in 1516 by Erasmus
    2. Erasmus originally intended to publish his annotations on the New Testament with a text of the Latin Vulgate.  His publisher pressured him to include the Greek New Testament (GNT)
    3. Erasmus responded by using seven Greek mss available in his city to edit a Greek text in 7 months
    4. Erasmus called it “thrown together rather than edited.”
    5. Erasmus used two main mss and wrote his corrections and changes on them
    6. The printer used these mss to set the type
    7. A comparison shows that the printer:
      1. Did not always follow Erasmus’ changes
      2. Made revisions not made by Erasmus.
    1. Erasmus had no Greek mss containing the last six verses of Revelation.  He translated these verses from the Latin back into Greek.  These verses contain at least 20 errors.
    2. The copyist made several errors in copying the text of Revelation which are still fond in the Textus Receptus today.

Types of Mistakes Found in GNT MSS (Greek New Testament Manuscripts)

  1. Unintentional Errors
    1. Scribe mistook one word for another.
    2. Scribe confused similar sounds (affect and effect)
    3. Unskilled scribes improperly divided words form the uncial mss
    4. Errors of omission/addition (skipping a word, skipping a line or writing the same work or line twice.  Ex: Skipping down 4 lines because both lines ended with the same word
    5. Explanatory notes were written in the margin.  When the mss was copied later the scribe copied the notes into the Greek text.  This is rare in the New Testament and can be identified by comparing the text with other texts.
  2. Intentional Errors
    1. They were not made by corrupt scribes trying to tamper with the text  Most often the scribe  feels he has come across an error and wants to “correct” the text.
    2. An example is Matthew 11:19 compared with Luke 7:35
      1. “Wisdom is proved right by her actions.” (Mt. 11:19)
      2. “Wisdom is proved right by her children.” (Lk. 7:35)

During copying a scribe apparently tried to change them to  agree as they do in the King James. (Both say “children” in the KJ)  Before the mss used for the KJ translation today  existed earlier mss show that the Greek used to say “works” in Matthew and “children” in Luke.  Apparently some scribe tried to make Matthew and Luke agree on this quote.

Basic Rules of Textual Criticism

  1. The more difficult reading is preferred.
    1. Scribes would tend to smooth out the passages they felt were in error or were hard to understand.
  2. The quality of the textual witness is more important than the quantity of textual support.
    1. Textual authorities must be weighted and not counted.
    2. Example: The American Standard Version places a footnote on Matthew 11:19 that says: “Many ancient authorities read ‘children’ as in Luke 7:35.”  But, this footnote does not say which ancient authorities read ‘children’ instead of ‘actions’.  To find this information in order to weigh the value of these ancient authorities you need to go directly to a GNT text and refer to the footnotes there.  The footnotes at the bottom of a GNT text page are called an apparatus.  In this apparatus you will find this information concerning which ancient mss support which reading:

      In support of “children”
      Rescriptus Ephraem MS from the 400’s
      Codex Bezae (400’s)
      Almost all the later ms
      Syriac Translation
      Latin Translatins

      In support of “works”
      Codex Vaticanus ms from 300 AD
      Codex Sinaiticus from 350 AD
  1. In parallel texts (Mt., Mk., Lk., Jn.) minute different readings are preferred rather than one that had been harmonized to match over the years.


Textual Variations
It might be said that there are 200,000 errors in the New Testament texts.
What this means is there are 200,000 scribal errors in all the manuscripts, but this is a misleading statement.
This number is arrived at by counting all the variations in the 5,000+ Gr. Mss.

If one word (the same word) is misspelled in 4,000 mss that is counted as 4,000 errors.
What happened is one scribe misspelled one word and it was copied at least 4,000 times.
We have 5,000 Gr. Mss.  If we only had 10 Gr. Mss there would not be 400,000 errors.
Why?  There would be errors but we would not be able to identify them nor judge them.
So, the more manuscripts  (mss) you have the variations you have to use for a more accurate job of checking and identifying the original.

Types of Textual Variations
Three Classes of Textual variations:

  1. Trivial Variations
  2. Substantial Variations
  3. Substantial Variations that Affect the Text

Trivial Variations

  1. These exist but have no consequence to the text
  2. This is the majority of the textual variations
    1. Example: in a copy of the printed Greek Text you could turn to the page with Matthew 11:19 on it.  It might have 13 verses on that page (Mt. 11:10-23). The bottom of the page would show that there are 9 variations in those 13 verses: 1 variation is the question of “works” or “children”; 5 variations concern the omission/addition of words like “for”, “and”, “the”; 3 variations concern different forms of the same Greek word.
  3. Often variations are changes in Greek spelling over the years.  The same ting happens in English.  This can be seen when a comparison of the 1611 KJ Bible is made with a modern copy of the same KJ Bible.  The spelling of many words has changed.
  4. Variations include grammar and occurred when grammar rules changed.
  5. Some variations occurred when vocabulary and word meanings changed.
  6. A change in word order, but saying the same thing occurs. (ex: “the Lord Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus the Lord.”)

In all these cases it is simple to identify when, where and why the change in the text occurred.  The best Gr. Text is then easy to develop in these cases.

Even if all these issues could not be resolved the overall meaning of the scriptures would not be lost of changed.

Substantial Variations
Some variations include whole verses or several verses.

  1. Codex Bezae of the 400’s reads at Luke 6:5:
    On the same day, seeing one working on the Sabbath day, he said to him, ‘Man, if you know what you are doing, you are blessed but, if you do not know, you are accursed and a transgressor of the law.”
  2. Codex Bezae is the first ms to have the story of the adulterous woman at John 7:53-8:11
    1. No early ms except the Codex Bezae (which is known for peculiar readings) has the story.
    2. It is not found in mss again until the 700’s
    3. Even some mss:
      1. Have notes of doubt in the margin
      2. Have put it at the end of the Gospel of John
      3. Have put it in Luke after Luke 21:38
    1. This does not bring doubt on the text but it does bring doubt on if this story was in the original.
    2. The story may be true, but it was not originally in the scriptures.
    3. American Standard Version brackets the story.
    4. Revised Standard and NIV – separate it from the text
    5. New English Bible (NEB) – puts it at the close of John
  1. Acts 8:37, “And Philip said, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’  And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”
    1. No Gr. Mss earlier than 600 AD has this quote.
    2. American  Standard and Revised Standard Version omit this.
  2. 1 John 5:7 (The Johannine comma)
    1. The KJ reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
    2. Erasmus made the first printed Gr. Text in 1516
      1. His 1st and 2nd editions did not include 1 Jn5:7 because there were no Greek manuscripts with this verse in it.
      2. A controversy arose because the verse had been in the Latin translatins up to this point in history.
      3. Erasmus insisted he was right according to the Greek manuscripts and promised he would add it into his text if one single Greek manuscript could be found to support it.
      4. Eventually a Greek manuscript appeared with 1 John 5:7 and Erasmus kept his word and added it into his 3rd edition.  The  Greek manuscript was a copy made in
      5. Wiliam Tyndale made the first copy of the English NT and used Erasmus’ 3rd edition.  From Tyndale in 1525 to KJ in 1611 1 John 5:7 was in the English Bible.
    1. 1 John 5:7 has no evidence of originality.  Only three Gr. Mss have it and these all show that they were translated back into Greek from Latin.
      1. One ms from 1300’s, one ms fro 1400’s, one ms fro 1500’s
    1. Websites that deal with 1 John 5:7
      1. Against
      1. In Support of


      1. Islam

These are all substantial variations but make no bearing on the meaning of the text nor the understanding of the divine revelation.

Substantial Variations that have bearing on the Text
These are textual issues we may want to ingnore but ignorance solves no problems and gives the critiecs the advantage.

Variations such a s1 John 5:7 and John 7:53-8:11 are surrounded by consistent evidence that leads us to a clear decision concerning originality.

Mark 16:9-20 is more difficult and even indecisive.

Evidence against Mark 16:9-20 is that it is missing in:

  1. Codex Vaticanus
  2. Codex Sinaticus 
  3. Old Syriac translation mss
  4. Old Latin translation mss

In Favor of its originality:

  1. Codex Alexandrian
  2. Ephraem rescripturs
  3. Codex Bezae
  4. Early Uncials
  5. All Latin uncials and cursives
  6. Old Latin
  7. Latin Vulgate
  8. One Old Syriac


  1. Irenaes (100’s AD) makes a statement concerning Mark 16:9-20.  He also said that Mark was the author of the book we call Mark.
  2. Codex Sinaiticus leaves room between Mark and Luke for the verses but they were never added in.

This is a page of Codex Sinaiticus. Notice the empty column.
This is the end of the book of Mark with space left for Mark 16:9-20.
The book of Luke begins in the third column. See Codex Sinaiticus Here

If these verses were taken out the concepts are still solid from other verses and Bible records.

KEY POINTS (back to the top)

  • Writing has been used by mankind since his earliest years
  • The Hebrews organized the Old Testament into three divisions: Law, Prophets, The Writings
  • Christians organize the Old Testament into four divisions: Law, History, Poetry, Prophecy
  • The New Testament is divided into three divisions: History, Epistles, Prophecy
  • Hebrew was the original language of the Old Testament. Greek was the original language of the New Testament
  • Manuscripts are handwritten copies written before the invention of the printing press
  • Manuscripts can be dated by examining the letters, spacing, columns, punctuation, spelling, grammar and word meaning
  • Uncials and cursives are two types of manuscripts
  • Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrian are important Greek manuscripts that are uncials
  • We have 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts. 50 of these are from 100-300 AD
  • Ancient New Testament manuscripts come to us in lectionaries, translations and quotes by early Christian writers
  • There are errors in the manuscripts that come from human mistakes or influence
  • Lower criticism seeks to recover the exact original text. High criticism undermines the authenticity of Scripture
  • There are three basic families of the New Testament text: Western, Byzantine and Alexandrian
  • Errors in the New Testament text can be divided into three groups: trivial variations, substantial variations that have no bearing, substantial variations that effect the meaning of the text

OTHER SITES (back to the top)

BOOKS from Galyn's Shelf: (back to the top)

  • Which Bible? by David Otis Fuller
  • The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell
  • The Complete Guide to Bible Versions by Philip W. Comfort
  • Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament by Philip W. Comfort
  • The King James Version Defended by Edward F. Hills
  • How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot

QUESTIONS (back to the top)

  • When was writing developed?
  • What are some writing materials used?
  • Did Moses use previously written historical documents to compose the book of Genesis?
  • How did the Hebrews organize the Old Testament books? How do Christians divide the Old Testament?
  • What were the three original languages used to write Scripture?
  • What is a manuscript?
  • How are manuscripts dated?
  • What is a uncial? What is a minuscule?
  • Name some early translations?
  • Explain the difference between lower criticism and higher criticism.
  • Name and define the differences in the three families of text types: Western, Byzantine and Caesarean.
  • What is an eclectic text?
  • What are textual variations?

Chapter Tests:
Sect C, Ch 10 - Writing the Bible
Sect C, Ch 11 - Bible Languages
Sect C, Ch 12 - NT Greek Manuscripts
Sect C, Ch 13 - Greek New Testament
Sect C, Ch 14 - Textual Criticism

Essay Tests:
Sect C, Ch 10 - Make Timeline of Writing
Sect C, Ch 11 - Why Aramaic?
Sect C, Ch 12 - Describe NT Manuscripts
Sect C, Ch 13 - The Greek NT
Sect C, Ch 14 - Contrast Textual Criticisms








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