Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Biblica Versus the Facts About "Added Verses"


            Recently the website of Biblica – formerly known as the International Bible Society – featured a brief video, Do Modern Bibles Such as the NIV Leave Out Verses?”.  Biblica’s answer to that question was, basically, that the NIV is not at fault; the KJV has verses that are not in the “oldest and most reliable manuscripts,” and so – Biblica’s narrator explains – it only looks like the NIV leaves out verses; what has really happened is that the KJV was based on inferior manuscripts, which contained verses and phrases that are not original.
            The video gives just one example of a phrase that is not in the NIV: the doxology to the Lord’s model prayer in Matthew 6:13: “For yours in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” The non-inclusion of these words, Biblica’s narration says, “is a good thing.”
            Before looking into that in more detail, I think it is fitting to look at some other statements in the video, asking, “Do the folks at Biblica know what they are talking about?”

Biblica: “It’s important to realize that we currently don’t have any complete books of the Bible on a single scroll or codex from before A.D. 350.”

            False. Papyrus 72 contains, along with most of the text of First and Second Peter (and other compositions), the text of all 25 verses of the book of Jude. Codex Vaticanus is generally assigned to the early 300s, not the mid-300s (because it lacks the Eusebian Canons, a cross-reference system for the Gospels which was developed by Eusebius of Caesarea at about that time).

Biblica: “At the time” – when English translations of the Bible were first produced – “the earliest accessible manuscripts dated back to approximately the 9th century A.D. for the Old Testament, and the 12th century A.D. for the New Testament.”

            This is likely to make it seem as if the Reformation-era scholars only had a smattering of late Greek manuscripts at their disposal.  However, manuscripts were not the only form of evidence known to the scholars of that time.  They also consulted Scripture-citations embedded in patristic writings, and versional evidence such as the Peshitta.  Those citations and those versions echo manuscripts much earlier than the ninth century.   

Biblica:  “In this process” – the process in which researchers in the 1800s compared the text of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus to the text of later manuscripts – “they discovered that several words and sentences included in the Bible of their day did not exist in the much earlier copies of Scripture.”

            Since no evidence to the contrary is presented in the video, many viewers are likely to conclude that this means that such words and sentences did not exist at all in copies of New Testament books before the mid-300s.  But let’s take a closer look at some evidence pertaining to some verses that are not in the NIV – evidence that apparently eluded the helpful folks at Biblica.  

Matthew 17:21.  Origen, writing in the first half of the 200s, cited Matthew 17:21.  In the NIV, this verse is absent, because it is not in the fourth-century manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, but it must have been in Origen’s manuscripts in the first half of the 200s.
Luke 23:17.  This verse is not in the NIV, but it is in Codex Sinaiticus. (This is one of thousands of disagreements between these two manuscripts.)  It was also utilized by Eusebius of Caesarea (who died in 340). 
Acts 8:37.  This verse is not in the NIV, but the verse was utilized in the 100s by Irenaeus, and in the 200s by Cyprian.   

            Anyone capable of reading the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament can verify this information from Biblica’s own materials.  I know not and judge not whether Biblica’s claim that these verses did not exist in manuscripts before the 300s is a case of deliberate deception, or a symptom of innocent incompetence.  But I can say – for it is a matter of observation – that the impression given by Biblica’s cartoon fiction has no resemblance to the evidence found in the real world.

Biblica:  “The earliest New Testament manuscripts are very reliable in helping us know what was originally written.” 

            This is true, but misleadingly vague (like all of the NIV’s footnotes about manuscripts), because the NIV’s base-text frequently disagrees with the earliest manuscripts when the earliest manuscripts disagree with Vaticanus and/or Sinaiticus, and in some other cases as well.  In Mark 1:41, for example, the NIV disagrees with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and with all of the medieval manuscripts too.  In John 7:8, the NIV disagrees with Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75.  In Mark 9:29, the NIV disagrees with Papyrus 45.  In Matthew 27:49, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus both have a reading which the NIV does not reflect (which is actually a good thing for the NIV, because the Alexandrian reading there is an accretion).  The NIV disagrees with Papyrus 46 in First Corinthians 10:26 (and in hundreds of other passages).  In Mark 1:34 the NIV disagrees with Vaticanus.  And in John 1:18, the NIV’s text does not correspond to the text of any Greek manuscript, young or old.        
     
Biblica:  “These verses” – i.e., verses in the KJV but not in the NIV – “were not removed.  They simply didn’t exist in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts we now have access to.” 

            On what grounds are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus considered the “most reliable” manuscripts?  Although Biblica’s narration-writers seem reluctant to admit it, their preference for the Alexandrian Text is based on the work undertaken by the scholars Westcott and Hort (especially Hort) in the 1800s.  (Biblica’s video acknowledges that the Revised Version – which Westcott and Hort helped to produce – and the American Standard Version were “completed using the latest manuscript discoveries.”  Those manuscript-discoveries did not include any of the papyri; yet the NIV’s base-text differs very little (by about 800 readings) from the compilation made in 1881 by Westcott and Hort.)    

Biblica:  “In the second half of the 20th century, new Bible translations, such as the New International Version, or NIV, began to emerge, based on the vast treasure of early manuscripts.”

            Two things in that sentence need clarification.  First, the NIV that was produced in the late 20th century is no longer in print.  The 1984 NIV is quite different from the 2011 NIV, and some of those differences are due to differences in their base-texts.  (Exhibit A:  Mark 1:41.)   Second, the “vast treasure” that favors the NIV’s base-text is frequently not vast.  Compared to the manuscript-support for the readings found in the Byzantine Text (which is usually represented, with some significant exceptions, in the KJV, NKJV, and MEB), the NIV’s base-text is usually represented by a small minority of manuscripts in Matthew-Jude, at points where it disagrees with the KJV’s base-text.
            To see the relative scale of the “vast treasure” of manuscripts for the NIV’s base-text, compared to the manuscripts that tend to support something else, let’s examine the one specific passage that was mentioned in Biblica’s cartoon:  Matthew 6:13.
            What Greek manuscripts of Matthew support the NIV?   Wieland Willker listed them:  Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, D, Z, 0170, family-1 (a small but important cluster of related manuscripts), 372, 2737, 2786, 130, 890, 1090c, 2701s, and the first hand of 2780.  (There may be more, but that is the most thorough list I have seen.)  
Matthew 6:13 in Codex W (replica).

What Greek manuscripts support the inclusion of “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”?  Here is the list:

07 011 017 019 021 028 030 031 032 037 038 041 042 043 045 047 055 0211 0233c 0257 0287 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 19 20 21 22c 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 33 34 35 36 37 39 40 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 51 52 54 55 56 58 59 60 63 64 65 66 67 68 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 80 83 84 86 89 90 98 99 100 105 106 107 108 109 111 112 114 116 117 119 120 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 132 133 134 135s 136 137 138 140 141 142 143 144 146 147 148 149 150 151 153 154c 155 156  158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 167 169 170 171 173 174 175 178 179 180 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 198 199 200 201 202 204 207 208 210 211 212 213 214 215 217 218 219 220 224 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 240 243 244 245 246 247 248 251 259 260 261 262 263 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 282 283 284 285 286 287 288c 289 290 291 293 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 303 304 305 329 330 331 333 334 335 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 355 358 359 360 361 363 364 365 366 367 370 371 373 374 376 377 379 380 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 399 402 405 406 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 417 419 420 423 428 431 435 438 439 440 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 461 470 471 473 475 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 489 490 491 492 493 494 495 496 497 498 500 501 504 505 506 507 509 510 511 515 516 517 518 519 520 521 522 523 524 525 527 528 529 530 532 534 535 537 543 544 546 547 548 549 550 551 553 554 555c 556 557 558 560 561 563 564 565 566 568 569 571 574 575 577 578 580 581 582 583 584 585 586 587 588 591 592 594 595 597 600 645 649 651 652 655 657 660 662 663 664 666 668 672 676 677 680 683 684 685 689 690 691 692 693 694 696 697 699 700 703 706 707 711 713 714 715 716 717 718 720 722 724 725 726 727 728 729 730 732 734 735 738 741 744 745c 746 747 750 751 752c 753 754 755 757 758 759 761 762 763 765 766 768s 769 772s 773 774 775 776 777 778 779 780 781 782 783 785 786 787 788 789 790 791 792 793 794s 795 796 797 798 799 800 801 803 804 805 806 808 809 811 817 818 819 820 822 824 825 826 828 830 833 834 835 836 839 843 844 845 852 854 855 856 858 860 861 863 864 867 871 875 877 878 880 881 888 889 892 893 895 896 898 899 900 901 902 903 904 905 906 922 923 924 925 926 927 928 929 930 932 933 934 935 937 938 939 940 941 942 943 944 945 946 948 949 951 952 953 954 955 956 957 958 959 960 961 962 963 964 965 966 968 970 971 972 973 974 975 978 979 980 982 983 986 987 988 989 991 992 994 995 996 997 998 999 1000 1001 1003 1004 1005 1006 1007 1008 1009 1010 1011 1012 1013 1014 1015 1017 1018 1019 1020 1023 1024 1025 1026 1028 1029 1030 1032 1033 1035 1036 1037 1038 1039 1040 1041 1042s 1043 1044 1046 1047s 1048 1052 1054s 1056s 1057 1058 1059 1061 1062 1063 1064 1065 1068 1071 1072 1073 1074 1075 1076 1077 1078 1079 1080 1081 1082 1083 1084 1085 1086 1088 1089 1090* 1091 1092 1093 1095 1096 1097 1110 1111 1113 1114 1117 1118 1120 1121 1122 1123 1125 1126 1127 1130 1131 1132 1133 1135 1136 1138 1139 1144 1145 1146 1148 1149 1152 1155 1157 1158 1159 1160 1163 1164 1165 1166 1167 1168 1169 1170 1171 1172 1173 1174 1178 1179 1180 1181 1182 1185 1187 1188 1189 1190 1191 1192 1193 1194 1195 1196 1197 1198 1199 1200 1202 1203 1204 1205 1207 1208 1210 1211 1212 1213 1214 1215 1216 1217 1218 1219 1222 1223 1224 1225 1226 1229 1230 1232 1233 1234 1235 1236 1237 1238 1239 1240 1241 1242 1243 1247 1248c 1250 1251 1252 1260 1261 1262 1263 1266 1268 1269 1272 1273 1278 1279 1280 1281 1282 1285 1288 1289 1290 1291 1292 1293 1294 1296 1297 1298 1299 1301 1302 1303 1305 1309 1310S 1312 1313 1314 1315 1316 1317 1318 1319 1320 1321 1322 1323 1324 1325 1326 1327 1328 1329 1330 1331 1333 1334 1335 1336 1338 1339 1340 1341 1343 1345 1346 1347 1350 1352 1353 1354 1355 1356 1357 1358 1359 1362 1364 1365 1367 1377c 1383 1385 1386 1387 1388 1389 1390 1391 1392 1393 1394 1395 1396 1397 1398 1399 1400 1401 1402 1403 1404 1406 1407 1408 1409 1410 1413 1414s 1415 1418 1420 1421 1422 1424 1432 1434 1435 1436 1438 1439 1441 1443 1444 1445 1446 1447 1448 1449 1450 1451 1452 1453 1454 1455 1456 1457 1458 1460 1461 1462 1463 1464S 1465 1466 1467 1468 1470 1471 1472 1473 1474 1475 1476 1477 1478 1479 1480 1481 1482 1483 1484 1485 1486 1487 1488 1489 1490 1491c 1492 1493 1494 1495 1496 1497 1498 1499 1500 1501 1502 1503 1505 1506 1508 1510 1511 1519 1521 1528 1530 1531 1533 1535 1536 1538 1539 1540 1541 1542 1543 1544 1545 1546 1547 1548 1549 1550 1551 1552 1553 1555 1556 1557 1558 1559 1560 1562 1563 1564 1570 1572 1573 1575 1576 1579c 1580 1581 1582c 1583 1584 1585 1586 1587 1588 1589 1590 1591 1592 1594 1595 1597 1600 1601 1603 1604 1605 1606 1609 1613 1615 1617 1620 1622 1623 1625 1626 1628 1629 1630 1631 1632 1633 1634 1635 1637 1639 1640 1641 1642 1643 1645 1646 1647 1649 1651 1652 1653 1659 1660 1661 1663 1664 1665 1666 1667 1668 1670 1672 1675 1676 1677 1678 1680 1682 1685 1686 1687 1690 1691 1692 1693 1694 1695 1697 1698 1699 1700 1701 1702 1703 1704 1712 1713 1797 1800 1802 1804 1808 1813 1814 1816 1823 1901c 1966 2095 2097 2099 2101 2107 2108 2109 2117 2118 2120 2121 2122 2123 2126 2127 2131 2132 2133 2135 2139 2141 2142 2146 2147 2159 2172 2173 2174 2175 2176* 2177 2178 2181 2191 2193 2195 2199 2201 2204 2206 2207 2213 2215 2217 2220 2221 2224 2229 2236 2255 2260 2261 2263 2265 2266 2267 2273 2277 2278 2280 2281 2283 2284 2287 2290s 2291 2292 2295 2296 2297 2301 2307 2314 2315 2317 2321 2322 2323 2324 2328 2352 2354 2355 2356 2362 2367 2369 2370 2371 2372 2373 2374 2375 2381 2382 2383 2386 2387 2388 2390 2394 2396 2397 2398 2400 2404 2405 2406 2407 2411 2414 2415 2420 2422 2426 2430 2439 2442 2444 2446 2451 2452c 2454 2458 2460 2465 2470 2471 2472 2474 2475 2476 2477 2478 2479 2482 2483 2487 2488 2489 2490 2492 2494 2496 2497 2499 2502 2503 2507 2508 2509 2510 2511 2515 2516 2518 2520 2521 2524 2525 2528s 2530 2533 2539 2545 2546 2549 2550 2554 2555 2559s 2561 2562 2571 2577 2578 2579 2581 2583 2585 2586 2590 2591 2592 2598 2603s 2604 2605 2606 2608 2610 2612 2613 2614 2615 2616 2620 2622 2623 2624 2633 2634 2635 2636 2637 2645 2646 2650 2651s 2653 2656 2658 2660 2665 2670 2673 2676 2680 2684 2685 2687 2691 2692 2694 2695 2702 2703 2705 2706 2707 2709 2710 2713 2714 2718 2721 2722 2724 2726 2727 2728s 2734 2735 2745 2749 2754 2756 2757 2760 2765 2766 2767 2770 2774 2775 2779 2780c 2781 2783 2787 2788 2806 2808 2809 2810 2812 2819 2831 2835 2836.

            That’s over 1,400 manuscripts.  In addition – although it is not my intention to settle the textual contest in Matthew 6:13 today in a few words – readers should be aware that in the Didache, a composition which is usually assigned to the early 100s – much earlier than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus – the Lord’s Prayer is presented with the closing phrase, “For yours is the power and the glory forever.”  This is not quite the text that is supported by 1,400 Greek manuscripts, including Codex W – and by the composition called Apostolic Constitutions, assigned to 380 – but it is quite similar, and all that is needed to bring them into close agreement is to reckon that an early copyist’s line of sight accidentally skipped from the ἡ before βασιλεία (“kingdom”) to the ἡ before δύναμις (“power”). 
 

Biblica's spokesperson - Miss Information.
           Instead of maintaining that a few relatively isolated ancient Greek manuscripts are correct in so many places where the majority of extant Greek manuscripts (and their non-extant, older ancestors) are incorrect, there is an alternative explanation for many of the instances where the NIV’s base-text is shorter than what one finds in over 90% of the Greek manuscripts.  This has to do with assumptions that were built into how the manuscripts’ contents were analyzed in the 1800s and 1900s.  For over two centuries, New Testament textual criticism was practiced on the basis of a series of simple principles, one of the most important of which was “The shorter reading is to be preferred.”  In theory, this principle was supposed to be qualified in various ways, but in real life, when the Alexandrian Text – the text supported by Codex Vaticanus – had a shorter reading than what was found in most manuscripts, the imagination of influential textual critics of the 1800s and 1900s tended to focus on ways to explain the longer reading as an accretion, instead of on how to explain the shorter reading as the result of scribal negligence.  (That is why the ESV does not have Matthew 12:47.)  More recently, a series of research projects have confirmed that contrary to the assumptions of scholars such as Westcott and Hort, early copyists tended to omit more frequently than they added.  One would think that this discovery would result in the reversal of many decisions made by Westcott and Hort in favor of shorter readings, but this has so far not been the case, as one can see by looking at the NIV’s New Testament base-text.

            In conclusion:  the cartoon’s contention that verses and phrases not found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus did not yet exist in 350, and that this makes the NIV superior to the KJV – and its secondary point, that a “vast treasure” of manuscripts supports the NIV and opposes the Byzantine readings – can be refuted many times in many ways.  Things are not nearly as simple as Biblica’s cartoon makes it seem. 
       


3 comments:

Veritas said...

Interesting. With regard to Matt. 17:21 I see the Vulgate included it, as do at least some Syriac sources. Where does Origen cite that verse?

Steve

James Snapp said...

Veritas/Steve,

See Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Book 13.

A convenient resource about this verse's evidence, by Jonathan Borland, is at
http://www.bibelgriechisch.info/Borland.pdf

Veritas said...

Good info James. Yes, Origen quoted the ‘fasting’ version of the verse without qualification (whereas in other instances he would note differences found in “some copies”). The earliest Coptic source for Matthew also includes the ‘fasting’ version. Syriac sources are divided, but the Peshitta includes the longer version. In checking the early Gothic by Wilfila, I found that the account in Mark also reads ‘fasting’ (Matthew 17 in Gothic is no longer extant). Overall, I’d say the inclusion of ‘fasting’ in Matt. 17:21 is pretty well attested.