The first we hear of Satan in the Bible he causes Eve to doubt what God said, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). His number one attack has always been to cause people to doubt God’s Truth, and the only way we can know God’s truth is by reading the Bible.
Prior to the arrival of modern Bibles, people did not have great doubts about the Word of God, but now with each new translation saying something different, and with many verses and phrases removed from most of them, doubts are growing. It causes people to doubt when they read, that the “oldest and best” manuscripts do not have this or that verse.
So why do modern Bibles say those things, and why are they so different from each other? We will begin by looking at the big picture of how we got the Bible. There will be many details presented throughout this book; even though details are important, it is just as important to zoom out and look at the big picture.
The Early Texts
In the early years of Christianity, the Christians studied the Old Testament and the newly written letters; “daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). When the books were written that eventually became the New Testament, they were copied and spread far and wide. Paul even gave instructions that his letters should be spread to other congregations:
When this epistle is read among you, ensure that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you, likewise, read the epistle from Laodicea. (Col 4:16) (MEV)
This began the practice of spreading Paul’s letters, which resulted in collections of his letters. The gospels were also written, circulated, collected, and then circulated as a collection. As the number of churches grew, more copies of the existing books were needed, so more copies were made.
Some of the books of the Bible were written down on papyrus by the author’s own hand, while some authors dictated to a scribe. Paul states clearly in several places that he used a scribe for at least some of his letters. At the end of Colossians, there is a note added by the two scribes. This note is included in the KJV, but left out in all other versions:
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen. Written from Rome to Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus. (4:18)
Even Jerome dictated his writing to a scribe. Since the printing press had not been invented, all books were hand-copied on papyrus, a primitive form of paper, or on animal skin. Some scribes were professional, some semi-professional, others were amateurs with various levels of skill.
Books of that era were first written in scrolls, but that is not efficient when you have many books. So the codex was invented, either by the Romans or Christians. A codex was made by taking several pages of papyri, then later parchment, folding them and stacking them up and sewing them together into a modern-type book. They even had covers of wood or just a piece of thick leather.
Various manuscript discoveries indicate that the codex was the widely established Christian practice by the early second century. (The Heresy of Orthodoxy, Michael J. Kruger and Andreas J. Kostenberger, p. 193.)
And so codices of the Bible were widely copied and distributed throughout the Roman Empire. Wherever Christian churches were founded, the texts quickly followed. And you would expect this to happen because the public reading of Bible texts made up the major portion of the services at that time. In 1 Tim. 4:13 Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture.
Detractors of the Bible try to tell us that the copyists were all amateurs who made so many mistakes that we cannot know what the original words of the Bible were. But this is not true:
We have little reason to think that early Christianity was a movement of illiterate peasants that would have been unable to reliably transmit their own writings. Instead, Christianity was a movement that was economically and socially average—representing a variety of different classes—and had a relatively sophisticated literary culture that was committed from its earliest days to the texts of the Jewish scripture as it sought to produce and copy texts of its own. (The Heresy of Orthodoxy, Kruger, page 186.)
Haines-Eitzen said most of “The earliest copyists of Christian literature were trained professional scribes,” (Guardians of Letters, p. 68. quoted in, Ibid, page 190). That is understandable, because papyri, parchment, and ink were all expensive. Each sheet of papyri was handmade from the stems of a water plant, plus writing with a sharpened stick was very difficult, so you hired a professional to write a letter or make a copy of one for you.
[T]he fact that a number of early Christian manuscripts contained an impressive amount of punctuation and readers’ aids—which are rare even in literary papyri—suggests that early Christian scribes were more in tune with professional book production than often realized. (Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, page 188)
It was an established practice of the time to keep a copy of each letter or document you wrote and sent off. Even though the original of each Christian book was used to make other copies, minor mistakes did happen. During those long days, occasionally a scribe would get tired and would write down a wrong word, or skip a word, or transpose two words. Anyone who has done any transcribing can understand how easy it is to make a mistake. However, “the vast majority of textual variations are insignificant and irrelevant to determining the original text of the New Testament” (Ibid, page 218). Even today, these minor mistakes are easy to find and recognize by comparing several copies of the same text.
Even professional scribes made mistakes, this was why scriptoriums would always proofread each copy and make corrections before sending out a copy of any book. Yet, some might not be found, so minor mistakes did creep into the texts that were passed down through the centuries and became part of the text of that biblical book. Copies were sent to faraway places, like Egypt or Asia Minor, or Greece. Those localities would then use their copy as a master text, and minor mistakes could also creep into their texts.
This is how what was once called “text families” were formed. A text family is a group of manuscripts of the Bible books which all have similar characteristics, or readings. For most of the past 150 years, text critics classified four text-types or families in Greek: the Byzantine text-type of the Eastern Church, and the Alexandrian found in Egypt, were the two main ones.
But copies of the Alexandrian are far fewer in number than those of the Byzantine. Two other text-types are even smaller in the number of existing manuscripts (MSS), the Western and Caesarean. But because all the text-types, except Byzantine, have many readings of all the other types, it means that in reality, they are a mixture and not a distinct type. This is why the textual critics are now saying there are no text-types except the Byzantine.
Yet most of the textual “experts,” officially called text critics (TCs), continue the charade of various text-types. The Byzantine became the dominate text-type in the later part of the 4th century, with fewer and fewer copies of any other text being made in Greek.
Text critics condemn the Byzantine text as an artificial creation. They claim, following the lead of Westcott and Hort, that the Eastern Greek-speaking Church edited the text, smoothing out the rough wording and adding words and phrases, making the text longer. Thus, they claim it does not represent the texts of the New Testament as originally written; even though they do not know what the originals looked like because they no longer exist.
Heretics and Corruptors
In addition to minor mistakes that can be easily fixed by comparing several copies of the text, some people put intentional changes into the copies they were making, whether to enforce a doctrinal position or to literally corrupt the text. God knew that people would make changes to some of the books of the Bible and warned them not to do that to the book of Revelation:
If anyone adds to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life and out of the Holy City and out of the things which are written in this book. (Rev. 22:18-19) (MEV)
The main corruptors were heretics like Marcion (d. 160), the Ebionites, Donatists, Manicheans, Pelagians, Gnostics, and Arians. Early church Father, Irenaeus (130-200), wrote about 180-185 A.D. and said:
Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at 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. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)
Gaius, an early Church Father, claimed in his writings (175-200) that Asclepiades, Theodotus, Hermophilus and Apolomides and their followers were among the heretics who spread copies of corrupted Scriptures.
I need to point out here for the new Christian, or the Christians who attend lukewarm churches, that these heretics were not pagans, they claimed to be Christians, but their doctrine was so twisted that it was not anything like traditional Christian doctrine, which is called “orthodoxy.” When the heretics were not doctoring the NT books, they were forging new ones, like the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Truth, the Secret Book of John, and dozens more. Eventually, official Christianity destroyed most of them, but a cache of them was uncovered in 1945 in Egypt; which are Gnostic and collectively called The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (they make the New Age Movement seem like child’s play). Dr. John Burgon, a professor at Oxford, wrote:
As for Clemens [Clement of Alexandria], he lived at the very time and in the very country where the mischief referred to was most rife. For full two centuries after his era, heretical works were so industriously multiplied, that in a diocese consisting of 800 parishes (viz. Cyrus in Syria), the Bishop (viz. Theodoret, who was appointed in A.D. 423,) complains that he found no less than 200 copies of the Diatessaron of Tatian the heretic, (Tatian’s date being A.D. 173) honourably preserved in the Churches of his (Theodoret’s) diocese, and mistaken by the orthodox for an authentic performance. (The Revision Revised, John Burgon, 1883)
Tatian (110-173) created a harmony of the Gospels, called Diatessaron, but he must have taken some creative license because it was condemned as corrupt. But the quote above indicates that his corrupted text was being mistaken by the general population of Christians for a genuine Gospel as late as the 5th century.
“It’s [Gnosticism’s] Egyptian origin was defended by E. Amelineau, in 1887, and illustrated by A. Dietrich, 1891 (Abraxas Studien) and 1903 (Mithrasliturgie). . . . That Alexandrian thought had some share at least in the development of Christian Gnosticism is clear from the fact that the bulk of Gnostic literature which we possess comes to us from Egyptian (Coptic) sources.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert Appleton, Co., New York, 1909, Vol. VI, p. 593)
And the Written Word in like manner, in the earliest age of all, was shamefully handled by mankind. Not only was it confused through human infirmity and misapprehension, but it became also the object of restless malice and unsparing assaults. Marcion, Valentinus, Basilides, Heracleon, Menander, Asclepiades, Theodotus, Hermophilus, Apollonides, and other heretics adapted the Gospels to their own ideas. (Burgon, The Traditional Text, 1896, p. 10)
Egypt was a hotbed of heresy where Christological errors flourished because it was the home of Gnosticism and Arianism. So it was likely the greatest center of heresy in the history of Christianity. No books of the New Testament were written for any church in Egypt, so no city there could claim to be the repository of any original New Testament book.
Eusebius in the fourth century quotes Caius who wrote (175-200) against the heretic Theodotus and his followers:
“For this purpose they fearlessly lay their hands upon the holy Scriptures, saying that they have corrected them. And that I do not say this against them without foundation, whoever wishes may learn; for should any one collect and compare their copies one with another, he would find them greatly at variance among themselves. For the copies of Asclepiodotus will be found to differ from those of Theodotus. Copies of many you may find in abundance, altered, by the eagerness of their disciples to insert each one his own corrections, as they call them, i.e. their corruptions. Again, the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these, for those of Appollonius are not consistent with themselves.
For one may compare those which were prepared before by them, with those which they afterwards perverted for their own objects, and you will find them widely differing. But what a stretch of audacity this aberration indicates, it is hardly probable themselves can be ignorant. For either they do not believe that the holy Scriptures were uttered by the holy Spirit, and they are thus infidels, or they deem themselves wiser than the holy Spirit, and what alternative is there but to pronounce them demoniacs?
For neither can they deny that they have been guilty of the daring act, when the copies were written with their own hand, nor did they receive such Scriptures from those by whom they were instructed in the elements of the faith; nor can they show copies from which they were transcribed.” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chapter 28. Translated by C. F. Cruse, 1856, page 215-216)
This has proven to be true because all the Egyptian texts that have been discovered do not agree with each other, just as Caius said. Yet, it is these Egyptian texts that have been used for our modern Bibles.
As the above quotes show, several of the Early Church Fathers in the second and third centuries spoke out against the corruption of Biblical books by heretics. Yet, modern textual critics have no category for “corrupted by heretics,” they just accept any MS they find, and even label them as “oldest and best,” and take what they say above all the thousands of other copies of the Bible.
Luther W. Martin in The History of Gnosticism’s Influence Upon the English Bible, said:
The “Christian” Gnostics, with their center of influence at Alexandria, had their own doctrinal reasons for rejecting the virgin-birth of Christ. They, in turn, influenced the choice of words used in some of the Greek Manuscripts, in Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23, and John 1:18, with the goal of diminishing the Deity of Christ, and according Him a secondary status of Divinity. . . .
Within less than a century, Gnosticism and Orthodoxy were pitted against each other, each calling the other “Heretic.” The Gnostics, in particular, were influential in Egypt, and resorted to the writing of fanciful Gospels, which were less than Canonical. They also engaged in the ‘retouching’ of copies of Scripture in their immediate area. (Printed in Unholy Hands on the Bible Vol. 2, page 360, 381)
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