Friday, January 30, 2015

The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism: Is It Reasonable and Eclectic? - Appendix

Differences in Matthew 1-10 
Between Westcott & Hort’s 1881 Greek text
and the 26th/27th edition of Nestle-Aland

= An adopted reading not read by B or ﬡ.
Highlighted readings are adopted readings not read by B, ﬡ, or D, and which are not bracketed.

● 1:9 – NA reads Αχαζ, agreeing with B, instead of Hort’s Αχας, which agrees with ﬡ. 
1:18 – NA removes the brackets that Hort placed around Ιησου, which is included by ﬡ.  (B has a transposition.)
1:24 – NA removes the brackets that Hort placed around ο (before Ιωσηφ), solidifying the reading of B.
1:25 – NA removes the brackets that Hort placed around ου (before ετεκεν).  The word is absent in B but present in ﬡ.
3:2 – The opening word και, absent from B and ﬡ, has been adopted, in brackets.
3:7 – αυτου, after βαπτσμα, has been adopted, although it is absent in B and À
3:14 – Ιωαννης has been added, although it is absent in B and ﬡ.  Inclusion is supported by P96.  
3:15 – NA reads προς αυτον (with P64 and ﬡ) instead of αυτω (with P96 and B).
3:16 – NA reads αυτω, in brackets, although the word is absent from B and ﬡ.
3:16 – NA reads το, in brackets, before πνευμα, although the word is absent from B and ﬡ.
3:16 – NA reads του, in brackets, after πνευμα, although the word is absent from B and ﬡ.
3:16 – NA includes και, in brackets, before ερχόμενον, although the word is absent from B and ﬡ.
● 4:1 – The brackets that Hort placed around ο (before Ιησους) have been removed.  The article is in ﬡ but not in B.
● 4:3 – Where Hort had ειπον (after θεου), agreeing approximately with ﬡ (which reads ειποιν), NA reads ειπε, agreeing with B.
4:16 – Instead of σκότια (supported by B), NA reads σκότει (supported by ﬡ).
4:24 – NA includes και, in brackets, after συνεχομένος.  (The word is absent from B but present in ﬡ.)
● 5:1 – NA removes the brackets around αυτω, which is not in B but present in ﬡ.
● 5:9 – NA removes the brackets around αυτοι, which is not in ﬡ but present in B.
5:11 – NA added brackets around ψευδόμενοι.
5:18 – NA removes the brackets around αν, which is not in B but present in ﬡ.
5:28 – NA removes the brackets around αυτην, which is not in ﬡ but present in B.
5:32 – NA removes the brackets around the final phrase of the verse.
● 6:8 – NA does not include ο θεος, which was bracketed by Hort.  Inclusion is supported by B; non-inclusion is supported by À.
6:15 – After ανθρώποις, Hort included τα παραπτωματα αυτων in brackets, supported by B and Byz, but NA does not include the phrase.  (Non-inclusion is supported by ﬡ.)
6:21 – NA removes the brackets around και, which is not in B but present in ﬡ.
6:33 – NA includes του θεου in brackets. ﬡ does not have the phrase; B has, instead, των ουρανων.
● 7:9 – NA includes εστιν, which is not in B but present in ﬡ.
7:13 – NA includes η πυλη, which is not in ﬡ but present in B.
7:14 – NA reads τι at the beginning of the verse, instead of Hort’s οτι (supported by ﬡ) or οτι δε (supported by B).
7:18 – NA adopts ποιειν, agreeing with B, instead of Hort’s ενεγκειν, which agrees with ﬡ.
7:24 – NA removes the brackets around τούτους, which is not in B but present in ﬡ.
● 8:7 – NA includes και at the beginning of the verse; the word is not in B but present in ﬡ.
8:8 – NA reads και αποκριθεις instead of αποκριθεις δε, which is supported by B and ﬡ.
8:9 – NA does not include τασσομενος, which Hort included in brackets.  Inclusion is supported by B and ﬡ. 
8:13 – NA includes αυτου, in brackets, after παις, although non-inclusion is supported by B and ﬡ.
8:21 – NA includes αυτου, in brackets, after μαθητων, although non-inclusion is supported by B and ﬡ.
8:23 – NA includes το before πλοιον; inclusion is supported by B; non-inclusion is supported by ﬡ.
● 9:4 – NA adopts ιδων instead of Hort’s ειδως.  B reads ειδως; ﬡ reads ιδων.
● 9:6 – NA adopts εγερθεις instead of Hort’s εγειρε.  B reads εγειρε; ﬡ reads εγερθεις. 
9:14 – NA includes πολλα, in brackets; B and ﬡ support non-inclusion.
9:18 – NA removes the brackets around εις, which is not in ﬡ but is included in B.
9:18 – NA reads ελθων instead of Hort’s προσελθων, which is supported by B and ﬡ. 
9:19 – NA reads ηκολούθησεν, agreeing with B, instead of Hort’s ηκολούθει, which agrees with ﬡ.
9:27 – NA includes, in brackets, αυτω, agreeing with ﬡ, instead of Hort’s non-inclusion which agrees with B.
9:27 – NA reads υιος, agreeing with B, instead of Hort’s υιε which agrees with ﬡ.
9:32 – NA reads ανθρωπον, although non-inclusion is supported by B and ﬡ.
9:34 – NA removes the brackets around the verse.
10:13 – NA, after the second occurrence of ειρηνη υμων, reads προς instead of εφ.  B and ﬡ support εφ.   
10:23 – NA, after πολεις, removes the brackets around του, which is not included by B but is present in ﬡ.  
10:23 – NA includes αν, which B and ﬡ do not include.
10:28 – NA reads, as the third word in the verse, φοβεισθε, agreeing with ﬡ, instead of Hort’s  φοβεθητε which agrees with B.
10:28 – NA reads αποκτεννοντων, agreeing with ﬡ, instead of Hort’s αποκτεινοντων, which agrees with B. 
10:32 – NA adds brackets around τοις, which is included by B but not by ﬡ.
10:33 – NA adopts δ’ αν, agreeing with ﬡ, instead of Hort’s δε.
10:33 – As in the previous verse, NA adds brackets around τοις, which is included by B but not by ﬡ.


The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism: Is It Reasonable and Eclectic? Part Four of a Four-Part Response to Dan Wallace

Testing Reasoned Eclecticism

            Wallace attempts to separate his “reasoned eclectic” position from the pro-Alexandrian view of Westcott and Hort.  He stated that the Westcott-Hort theory has “many flaws.”  However, as Eldon Epp has observed, the Nestle-Aland text “almost always departs from the B-text only when an À versus B attestation is in question.”29  If the methodologies of Nestle-Aland and Westcott-Hort are so different, why are their results so similar?  How is it that the Nestle-Aland text differs at only 558 points from a text that was based on a theory with “many flaws”?30  
            Wallace describes the Nestle-Aland text as much more eclectic than the Westcott-Hort text, noting that “In scores of places the editors of the modern critical texts have adopted a Byzantine reading against an Aleph-B alignment (contra Hort).”  But what do these changes really constitute? 
            There is a way to find out:  sift through Wieland Willker’s online presentation of the Westcott-Hort text, which parenthetically displays the readings of NA27 where they diverge from WH-1881.  What differences have emerged in, say, the first ten chapters of Matthew?  A total of 55 differences, which are listed in the appendix of this article (in the post that follows this one).
            Seventeen of these changes, however, are not textual, but only consist of the addition or removal of brackets.  Of the remaining 38 changes, most of them do not make the text any more eclectic than Hort’s text, because they only consist of exchanging a reading in ﬡ for a reading in B, or a reading in B for a reading in À.  Only 17 changes in Matthew 1-10 actually make the text of NA26 more eclectic than Hort’s text, and of these 17 (indicated by red dots in the list in the appendix), eight are bracketed in NA26.  The only newly adopted readings not supported by either ﬡ or B, and also not displayed in brackets, are the following:     
● 3:7 – αυτου, after βαπτισμα, has been adopted, although it is absent in B and À.
3:14 – Ιωαννης has been added, although it is absent in B and À.  Inclusion is supported by P96.
● 8:8 – NA reads και αποκριθεις instead of αποκριθεις δε, which is supported by B and À.
● 8:9 – NA does not include τασσομενος, which Hort included in brackets.  Inclusion is supported by B and À.
9:18 – NA reads ελθων instead of Hort’s προσελθων, which is supported by B and À.
9:32 – NA reads ανθρωπον, although non-inclusion is supported by B and À.
10:13 – NA, after the second occurrence of ειρηνη υμων, reads προς instead of εφ.  B and À support εφ.  
10:23 – NA includes αν, which B and À do not include.

            The confidently presented (i.e., not bracketed) “reasoned eclectic” text of Matthew 1-10 is more eclectic than Hort’s 1881 text – by a margin of four additions, one subtraction, and three substitutions.  In four of these eight cases (specifically, in 3:7, 9:32, 10:13, and 10:23) the adopted reading is supported by Codex D, and thus does not represent the adoption of a reading distinct to the Byzantine Text.  Thus the distinctly Byzantine contribution to the non-bracketed Nestle-Aland text of Matthew 1-10 amounts to one addition, two substitutions, and one subtraction (and the subtracted word was already bracketed by Hort).
            That’s next to nothing.  The results of “reasoned eclecticism,” as practiced by the compilers of Nestle-Aland, and by Wallace, are virtually the same text that Hort produced.  Why do they so persistently reject the Byzantine Text?  The answer is obvious:  against all evidence to the contrary, they are still entrenched in the belief that the Byzantine Text is a blend of Alexandrian and Western readings that were combined by an editor around 300.  In other words, they still adhere to Hort’s theory that the Byzantine Text originated with the Lucianic Recension, as Wallace shows when he states that the Westcott-Hort theory “was apparently still right on its basic tenet:  the Byzantine texttype—or majority text—did not exist in the first three centuries.”  
            Is that a reasonable assumption? 
            By the early 400’s, the Byzantine text of the Gospels, or a substantial strata of it – a text that resembled the Byzantine Text far more than any other text-type – had been used by Wulfilas, Basil, Chrysostom, and the unknown translator(s) of the Peshitta.  It was also being disseminated in copies such as Codex A and Codex W.  In the 500’s, a similar text was used for the Purple Uncials (N-O-Φ-Σ). 
            What was happening in the areas where these writers lived?  Although we do not have copies of the Greek New Testament from Syria, Asia, and Greece before 300 – because they were made of papyrus, and those that were not victims of Roman persecutors became victims of high humidity – it should go without saying that the Greek-speaking Christians in these areas possessed copies of New Testament books, and routinely used them in their church-services.  Did the people in those areas simply set aside their old Greek texts – Alexandrian, or Western – and pick up a new Greek text – the Byzantine Text – that was brimming with new readings? 
            The idea is inherently improbable.  Such an act would not be analogous to what happened around 425 in Syria, when Theodoret replaced 200 copies of the Diatessaron with copies of the separate Gospels.  Theodoret was replacing the work of Tatian, who – rightly or wrongly – had acquired a reputation as a heretic, with the work of apostles and their associates.  The churches of Syria had a strong theological motive to accept Theodoret’s gift as an improvement, and to set the Diatessaron aside, regarding it as a dubious proxy.  But on what basis would a newly introduced Greek text of the Gospels (or of the entire New Testament), never before seen, be favored – and rapidly favored – over the Greek text of the Gospels that had been used in these areas for generations, and which those preceding generations had risked their lived to protect and preserve?
            Instead of assuming that the local text of Antioch, Asia, and Greece that was being used in the 200’s was suddenly abandoned in the 300’s, it is more reasonable to deduce that the Byzantine Text – or at least a very large part of it – was the local text of Antioch, Asia, and Greece in the 200’s, and that is why it continued to be the local text of those areas in the 300’s and 400’s.  As other text-types infiltrated the area, conflations occurred, but only rarely.  The amount of conflation (or apparent conflation) that Hort proposed was on display in the Byzantine Text is not materially greater than what one observes in early Alexandrian witnesses.31        
            A handful of conflations (in which a proto-Byzantine reading was combined with either an Alexandrian or Western reading) sprinkled over a strata of earlier text should not be considered a sufficient reason to regard the entire text-type as late. 
            Even early manuscripts such as P53 and P66 contain apparent conflations – and, occasionally, the early papyri contain distinctly Byzantine readings, that is, readings that are found in the Byzantine Text which are not found in the flagship manuscripts of the Western or Alexandrian texts.  A sample of these, from data provided by Harry A. Sturz,32 may be provided:  P45 agrees with the Byzantine Text in the Gospel of Mark, disagreeing with ÀB and D, in 5:22, 5:42, 6:2, 6:16, 6:45, 6:48, 7:12, 7:30 (twice), 7:31, 7:32, 7:35 (twice), 7:36, 9:6, 9:20 (twice), 12:6, and 12:16.  Sturz proceeds to list 26 agreements in Luke between early papyri and the Byzantine Text that disagree with ﬡB and D, and 44 agreements in John between early papyri and Byz that disagree with ﬡB and D. 
            Wallace seems to believe that every one of these Byzantine readings entered the early papyri out of nowhere.  Why not regard them, or at least some of them, as results of mixture with a local text that was infiltrating Egypt in the early 200’s?33  


            One does not have to adhere to the notion that the Byzantine Text was the majority text in the 200’s to grant that a substantial strata of the Byzantine Text was the local text of Antioch and Asia in the 200’s.  All one has to grant is the inherently probable premises that (a) the Greek text in Antioch and Asia did not develop along exactly the same lines in which it developed in the regions where the Western and Alexandrian texts dominated, and (b) when copyists made the shift from papyrus to parchment in Antioch and Asia, they did not set aside their most ancient, most respected local exemplars, but continued to use the same form of the New Testament text that previous generations had been using in their area, with only a minimal amount of accretions.     
            If these premises were accepted, instead of the premise that the Byzantine Text did not exist at all until the 300’s, then text-compilers might conceivably give Byzantine readings the hearing that they deserve, instead of reaching for whatever hypothesis (often the assertion of intentional corruption) is required to dismiss the Byzantine reading and maintain the Alexandrian reading, even when it is easily attributable to scribal carelessness.  Then, and only then, will it be possible to compile a Greek New Testament based on truly reasonable premises, with truly eclectic results. 




29 – See page 136 of Eldon Epp’s article, A Continuing Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism? in Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 73, 1980.)  Epp raises an important question:  today’s textual critics (“today” being 1980, when he wrote – his point is even more cogent now) have “more than 80 papyri, more than 200 additional uncials, more than 2600 additional minuscules, and perhaps 2000 additional lectionaries that were unavailable to or were not utilized by Westcott-Hort.”  Why, so far, has it made so little difference?
30 – According to the statistics presented by Michael Marlowe at , there are 551 differences between the 1979 Nestle-Aland text and the 1881 text of Westcott & Hort.  Slight fuzziness in the statistic may be due to different treatments of bracketed words in both texts.  As a peripheral point, it should be noted that some of those 558 differences exist because the compilers of the Nestle-Aland text – or at least a majority of the compilers – rejected Hort’s occasional preference for Western readings (the most famous examples being the “Western Non-Interpolations” in Luke 24).  Each time the compilers rejected a Western reading that Hort had favored, the resultant compilation became less eclectic and more Alexandrian.
31 – If one carefully sifts through Pickering’s Appendix D – Conflation or Confusion? in The Identity of the New Testament Text, fourth edition, one may find raw data indicative of conflations in either Vaticanus or Sinaiticus in Matthew 3:12, 24:38, Mark 1:4, 1:28, 1:40, 4:5, John 7:39, 13:24, 16:4, Acts 24:14, First Corinthians 7:34, Ephesians 2:5, Philippians 1:18, Colossians 1:12, 3:17, and Hebrews 9:10.  I would also draw the reader’s attention to the conflation in À in the third verse of Jude, in which the Alexandrian Text is combined with a reading of the Harklean Group.  This data tends to shatter Wallace’s claim that “Nowhere could it be shown that the Alexandrian combined Western and Byzantine readings.”
32 – See List 1 on pages 145-153 of The Byzantine Text-type & New Testament Textual Criticism, and selections from List IV, on pages 191-194.    
33 – This would account for the Byzantine readings that are found in compositions by authors such as Origen and Didymus, who were outside the locales where the Byzantine Text was popular, but were capable of encountering stray Byzantine copies and occasionally favoring their readings, such as “Bethabara” in John 1:28, which was mentioned and defended by Origen.  The early, rather than later, influence of the Byzantine Text in Caesarea and its environs may also efficiently account for the strong Byzantine element that exists in Caesarean witnesses such as 1582; regarding this see Robert Waltz’s tentatively framed research at .

The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism: Is It Reasonable and Eclectic? Part Three of a Four-Part Response to Dan Wallace

Internal Evidence

            I now turn to Wallace’s comments sub-titled Internal Evidence.  In this section, Wallace tends to misrepresent the Byzantine Priority position as it is currently framed by its chief advocate, Maurice Robinson.  Wallace cited Michael Holmes to support the idea that majority-text advocates “object quite strenuously to the use of the canons of internal evidence.”  Meanwhile in the real world, Robinson candidly affirms in The Case for Byzantine Priority:  “The basic principles of internal and external evidence utilized by Byzantine-priority advocates are quite familiar to those who practice either rigorous or reasoned eclecticism.”  Robinson proceeds to list and describe eight principles of internal evidence!23 
            As much as Wallace might wish that Byzantine-priority advocates disregard internal evidence, that is simply not true.  Rather, Byzantine-priority advocates (and other textual critics with a dislike of propaganda disguised as textual commentary) object to inconsistent applications of internal evidence which are primarily steered, not by the internal evidence as it exists for specific variant-units, but by a model of transmission-history that precludes, or sets ridiculously high hurdles against, the authenticity of Byzantine readings.  In other words, textual critics who believe, as Wallace appears to believe, that the Byzantine Text did not exist until after 300, will approach the internal evidence accordingly, and will consider the most crucial internal aspects of the evidence to be whatever results in the rejection of the Byzantine reading.
            Wallace invited readers to consult Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament to see how internal evidence was used in the United Bible Societies’ compilation-committee decisions to accept one reading over another – especially when the adopted reading was given an “A” rank, which means that the compilers regarded the adopted text as “virtually certain.”24   With apologies for lengthening this composition – Invitation accepted.  Let’s consider four “A” readings from the Gospel of Mark.  (These are not the best examples of the extreme lengths to which the UBS compilers have taken internal evidence as a means to reject Byzantine readings, but as a response to the invitation to use only A-ranked readings, they will have to do.)

Mk 1:14 – Against evidence from the Byzantine Text, the Vulgate, the Gothic version, the Peshitta, and codices D and W (among others – see the textual apparatus for further details) that supports the inclusion of της βασιλείας, Metzger argued for the Alexandrian non-inclusion of the phrase.  The longer reading, he claimed, “was obviously made by copyists in order to bring the unusual Markan phrase into conformity with the much more frequently used expression “the kingdom of God” (cf. ver. 15).”  On the other hand, however, it could be argued from internal evidence that the longer reading is more consistent with Markan style, because nowhere else in Mark does the phrase “gospel of God” appear.  Metzger’s idea requires that somewhere in the ancestry of diverse witnesses such as D, W, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate, they were all influenced by some copyist’s intentional insertion – whereas all that is required to produce the shorter reading is an accidental error that resulted when copyists’ line of sight drifted from the τ in της to the τ in του.

Mk 1:34 – Agreeing with external evidence from the Byzantine Text, the Vulgate, the Old Latin copies, the Gothic version, and the Peshitta, Metzger conceded that the longer reading in the Alexandrian text (Χριστον ειναι, read by Codex Vaticanus, L, and f1) was an addition, by which copyists harmonized the text in Mark to the text in Luke 4:41.  There would be no reason for copyists to omit the phrase, if it had been present originally, but it would be a natural expansion.

Mk. 7:4 – Agreeing with external evidence from the Byzantine Text, the Vulgate, D, the Old Latins, the Peshitta, the Gothic version, and Origen, Metzger conceded that the Alexandrian reading ραντισωνται (supported by B, À, and the Coptic version) was an alteration introduced by Alexandrian copyists.  (This is given an “A” certainty-rank in UBS-2, but in Metzger’s Textual Commentary it has a “B” rank.)

Mk. 9:29 – Against evidence from P45, the Byzantine Text, codices A, D, W, L, f1, the Old Latin copies, the Vulgate, the Peshitta, and almost everything else, Metzger argued that the shorter reading (supported only by À* B, 0274, one Old Latin copy (Bobbiensis), one Old Georgian copy, and Clement) was original, and that the phrase “and fasting” was the invention of copyists.  Apparently neither Metzger nor Wallace25 could perceive that copyists were troubled by a reading which could be interpreted to suggest that Jesus could not have cast out a particular kind of demon unless He had first fasted, even with the earliest (P45) and most diverse evidence (from multiple locales) pointing the way.    

Mk. 11:26 – Against evidence from the Byzantine Text, almost all the Old Latin copies, the Vulgate, the Peshitta, and the Gothic version, Metzger rejected the inclusion of verse 26, supposing it to be an insertion based on Matthew 6:15, even though its correspondence to that verse is loose.  This is an instructive example of favoring external evidence over internal evidence, because Metzger noticed that it would have been very easy for copyists to skip verse 26 if their line of sight drifted from the words τα παραπτωματα υμων at the end of verse 25 to the exact same words at the end of verse 26, but did not consider this internal consideration to be persuasive against the Alexandrian witnesses.  Metzger argued that the shorter reading is in “early witnesses that represent all text-types,” although the same thing can be said about the longer reading, which is supported by Byzantine, Western, and Caesarean witnesses).      

These four samples indicate that internal evidence can be a very slippery thing, and that its force often depends upon the extent to which the textual critic is willing to engage his imagination to devise explanations for the origination of whatever reading is least consistent with his model of the text’s transmission-history.  Were we to explore Metzger’s Textual Commentary in detail, we would see that very frequently, the UBS compilation-committee attributed longer readings to scribal creativity where the shorter reading is attributable to scribal carelessness – especially when the shorter reading is Alexandrian.26 

Only when the Alexandrian reading is longer (as in Mark 1:34), or when the Alexandrian reading is so obviously secondary that no amount of ingenuity can plausibly salvage it (as in Mark 7:4), does internal evidence seem to have the ability to outweigh Alexandrian external evidence.  Metzger and his fellow UBS committee-members were not alone in their consideration of the length of rival variants as an internal consideration by which to judge between them:  the canon, “prefer the shorter reading” has been a major text-critical canon for a very long time, and in the late 1800’s and throughout the 1900’s, it was appealed to very frequently as a pivotal consideration, resulting in the rejection of very many longer Byzantine readings, in favor of shorter Alexandrian readings.  When the Byzantine Text has the shorter reading – as it does hundreds of times, for example in James 4:12 (“and Judge” is not in the Byzantine Text) and Jude v. 25 (“through Jesus Christ our Lord” is not in the Byzantine Text) – the compilers seem to have no problem recognizing parableptic errors, but when the Alexandrian Text has the shorter reading, the theory of first resort is that the longer reading originated with copyists.27

Not only is this inconsistent, but it defies the analysis which James Royse provided of the text of some early New Testament papyri, showing that the copyists of those manuscripts tended to make more omissions than additions, at a proportion of three omissions for every two additions.28  This tends to altogether invalidate the “prefer the shorter reading” canon, and indicates that every variant-unit that has been decided on the basis of that internal consideration ought to be revisited.

- Continued in Part Four - 



23 – Of course Wallace could not anticipate, in the 1990’s, what Maurice Robinson would write in 2001.  But it is 2015 and Wallace’s article remains online, spreading false impressions about the nature of the view of the leading proponents of Byzantine Priority. 
24 – See page x of the introduction to the second edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament:  “The letter A signifies that the text is virtually certain.”
25 - See the NET’s note on this variant-unit:  “a good reason for the omission is difficult to find.”
26 – See Dennis Kenaga’s Skeptical Trends in New Testament Textual Criticism for additional critiques of inconsistencies in Metzger’s use of internal evidence. 
27 – The treatment of Matthew 12:47, which is absent in À and B and the Sahidic version (et al), is an outstanding example of pro-Alexandrian compilers’ reluctance to recognize parableptic omissions in the Alexandrian text.  Internal evidence has prevailed, but just barely.  Although the cause of a parableptic error is obvious – verses 46 and 47 end with the same word, λαλησαι – the UBS compilers assigned it a “C” rank (meaning that they harbor a “considerable degree of doubt” about the adopted text) and, echoing Nestle’s earlier treatment, bracketed the verse (to emphasize that the enclosed words have “dubious textual validity”).  
28 – See James R. Royse’s painstakingly prepared Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri, released in 2008.  

The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism: Is It Reasonable and Eclectic? Part Two of a Four-Part Response to Dan Wallace

External Evidence

            Wallace began his consideration of what external evidence implies about the Byzantine Text with a simple misrepresentation.  He stated that the primary premise in the Byzantine Priority view is, “Any reading overwhelmingly attested by the manuscript tradition is more likely to be original than its rivals,” he added, “In other words when the majority of manuscripts agree, that is the original.”  But somewhere in those other words, the word “overwhelmingly” was murdered – sacrificed for the sake of caricature-drawing.  A majority might be 50.1%.  The overwhelming support for Byzantine readings that Wallace routinely vetoes in favor of Alexandrian readings include majorities of 85%, 98% and 99% and higher proportions of the manuscript-evidence. 
            Wallace says, “In historical investigation, presumption is only presumption.”  But when facing textual variants in which 99% of the Greek manuscripts disagree with the Alexandrian reading, we do not face mere presumptions; we face implications:  either a corruption permeated 99% of all Greek manuscripts, or else a corruption was adopted in 1% of them.  In general, which is more likely:  that many copyists in many places created or adopted a non-original reading, or that few copyists in few places did so?  The original text is the text with the head start, so to speak, and if one is to posit that a non-original reading overtook it so as to become more popular, one must explain how that happened – and this is not easy to do without making some assumptions, or presumptions.  So let the axiom, “Presumption is only presumption,” be aimed at all presumptions, not just those that maintain Byzantine Priority. 
            Moving along.  Wallace claimed that if the Byzantine Text were the original text, then one would expect to find it “in the earliest Greek manuscripts, in the earliest versions, and in the earliest church fathers,” and “One would expect it to be in a majority of manuscripts, versions, and fathers.”
            “But,” he continues, “that is not what is found.”  However, by definition, the majority text is what is found in the majority of manuscripts (at least in passages where a majority exists, rather than a split-decision among three or more rival variants).  Wallace attempts to circumvent this obvious fact by redefining the majority as the majority of long-lived manuscripts.  “As far as the extant witnesses reveal,” he claims, “the majority text did not exist in the first four centuries.” 
            Considering that it comes from someone attempting to avoid presumptions, that is an extremely presumptive claim.  Other than the papyri from Egypt, there is not much New Testament manuscript-evidence to indicate what texts were being used throughout the Roman Empire before the year 400.  The available manuscript-evidence is not remotely close to being extensive enough to justify statements about what the majority of manuscripts read in the second or third centuries, at points where the testimony of the extant evidence is diverse.  To presume that the manuscript-evidence from Egypt depicts the text that was used in other locales is a huge presumption.  By the year 235 or so, Origen stated that the manuscripts were in disagreement with each other.13  That is difficult to reconcile with the idea that a uniform Alexandrian Text, or any text-type, was an established standard text at that time in a multitude of non-Egyptian locales. 
             When Wallace appeals to the papyri as vindication for his idea that the Byzantine Text did not exist in the first three centuries of Christendom, he states, “More than fifty of these came from before the middle of the fourth century. Yet not one belongs to the majority text.”  That is not quite true.  Papyrus 104, which currently contends with Papyrus 52 for the claim of earliest-known-New-Testament-manuscript, is a fragment of text from Matthew 21 that agrees with the Byzantine Text as much as it agrees with the text of Codex Vaticanus.14  In addition, large portions of Codex W (from the late 300’s or early 400’s) display the Byzantine Text.15  
            Papyrus 98, a fragment from the late 100’s or early 200’s which contains text from Revelation 1:13-2:1, disagrees twice with the Byzantine Text (though in one of these two instances, the Byzantine Text is divided), and disagrees once with the Nestle-Aland text – so it is rather presumptive to say that the fragment favors one text-type significantly more than the other, especially since P98 disagrees with Codex Sinaiticus five times.  Papyrus 16, a fragment from the 300’s with text from Philippians, diverges from the Byzantine Text eleven times, but it also disagrees with Codex Vaticanus nine times.  The much-mutilated Papyrus 45, which is currently the earliest known manuscript of the Gospel of Mark, from the early 200’s, agrees much more closely with the text of Mark in Codex W than with the text of Mark in Codex Vaticanus, and in Mark 7, P45 agrees repeatedly with the Byzantine Text.  Papyrus 46 also frequently disagrees with the Nestle-Aland text.16
            Wallace can’t have it both ways:  if the mere existence of a non-Byzantine local text displayed in the early papyri constitutes strong evidence that the Byzantine Text did not exist, then the existence of a non-Alexandrian text in the early papyri (such as what is seen in P45) constitutes strong evidence that the Alexandrian Text didn’t exist.  Obviously this sort of reasoning is an overextrapolation, since witnesses such as P75 show that the parts of the Alexandrian Text that they contain did exist in the 200’s.  The non-existence of Byzantine papyri in Egypt does not imply the non-existence of Byzantine papyri in other locales, just as non-Alexandrian readings in some Egyptian papyri do not imply the non-existence of Alexandrian readings in other Egyptian papyri.
            Wallace stated, “Many hypotheses can be put forth as to why there are no early Byzantine manuscripts.  But once again an ounce of evidence is worth a pound of presumption.”  As if there is some mystery about it!  Until the 300’s, New Testament manuscripts were made of papyrus, which decomposes in virtually every climate except for the low-humidity climate of Egypt.  This is not a presumption; it is a scientific fact.  High humidity was even more systematic and thorough than the Roman persecutors who destroyed Christian manuscripts during the Diocletian persecution. 
            This is a perfectly reasonable explanation why we have New Testament manuscripts – and fragments of the works of Homer, and Greek poetry, and tax-receipts, etc. – from Egypt, and not from very many other locales, from the 200’s and 300’s.  It’s not as if Christians in other locales were not reading the Gospels, or reading the Iliad, or writing receipts and letters.  The unique climate of Egypt is the factor that has resulted in the preservation of papyrus documents there.  And they provide a fairly good sample of the texts that were used in Egypt (especially at Oxyrhynchus).  But they cannot do the impossible; they do not tell us what sort of New Testament text was in use elsewhere. 
            Wallace moves on to consider the early versions.  He correctly points out that the Old Latin evidence is consistently Western (where its witnesses are not barnacled by Vulgate readings, at least).  However, some Old Latin witnesses habitually collide with other Old Latin witnesses; there was not one monolithic Old Latin tradition; there were, instead, numerous independent Latin versions, as Jerome indicated in his preface to the Vulgate Gospels.  The extant Old Latin manuscripts are samples from that collection.  And while the Old Latin texts are not Byzantine, they agree with the Byzantine Text much more than they agree with the Alexandrian Text.  This is no more proof of the non-existence of the Byzantine Text than it is proof of the non-existence of the Alexandrian Text. 
            The Coptic version, Wallace states, “goes back to an early date, probably the second century.”  There was not just one Coptic version.  What we have are New Testaments (or at least portions of the New Testament) in several Egyptian dialects, displaying several different forms of the text from different areas and different eras:  Sahidic, Bohairic, Achmimic, Sub-Achmimic, Middle Egyptian, and Fayyumic.  Part of the Sahidic version is strongly Alexandrian, but the collective testimony of the Coptic versions is very far from a uniform endorsement of the Alexandrian Text; the Coptic Glazier Codex (CopG67), for example, displays a thoroughly Western text of Acts.  In addition, one should consider that the second-century origin of the Sahidic version is a calculated guess.  Due to the uniformity of Coptic lettering across centuries, the production-dates of Coptic manuscripts are notoriously difficult to specify on a paleographical basis.    
            Wallace next turns his attention to the Gothic version, which he, in agreement with Metzger, affirms to be the earliest representative of the Byzantine Text.  However, he blurs its production-date, stating that it was produced “at the end of the fourth century,” i.e., the late 300’s.  The Gothic version was produced by Wulfilas, who was appointed to be a bishop in 341; he undertook his translation-work shortly after that, in the mid-300’s, that is, at about the same time Codex Sinaiticus was produced.
            What does the existence of these early versions imply about the Byzantine Text?  Wallace proposes two implications.  First, he proposes that “If the majority text view is right, then each one of these versions was based on polluted Greek manuscripts.”  As far as the Old Latin versions are concerned, that sword cuts both ways:  advocates of the Alexandrian Text consider the Old Latin versions’ texts to be thoroughly corrupt.  Wallace has no right to treat this as a problem, since he believes it too.    
            Second, he proposes that the early versions represent the texts used in a wide variety of locales:  “the Coptic, Ethiopic, Latin, and Syriac versions came from all over the Mediterranean region. In none of these locales was the Byzantine text apparently used.”  (Did you see how he just threw the Ethiopic version in there, as if it existed before the 300’s?)  I challenge Wallace to name a single Byzantine reading anywhere in the Gospels that does not have some support from one or more of these versions.  The Syriac Peshitta version, in particular, exhibits strong alignment with the Byzantine Text.  And neither the Sinaitic Syriac nor the Curetonian Syriac displays an Alexandrian Text; put either one alongside the text of Vaticanus or Sinaiticus and you will observe a plethora of disagreements.  So when Wallace’s sentence is filtered by reality, and only versions from before the 300’s are in view, this is what survives:  “The Sahidic, Latin, and Syriac versions came from all over the Mediterranean region.  Only in the Sahidic version was the Alexandrian Text apparently used.”   
            The early Sahidic version did not come from all over the Mediterranean region.  It was a local text.    
            Rather than constituting “strong evidence that the Byzantine text simply did not exist in the first three centuries—anywhere,” the Old Latin evidence that Wallace has called to the stand testifies that diverse forms of the Western Text were used as the basis for Latin translations.  They are no more anti-Byzantine than they are anti-Alexandrian.  And, I note in passing, that in many cases, the Old Latin aligns with the Byzantine Text and not with the Alexandrian Text.  (This alignment provides pro-Alexandrian critics with an excuse to see only a few early Byzantine readings:  when a Byzantine reading agrees with a Western witness, the reading is categorized as Western.) 
            Again:  the only early version with a strongly Alexandrian Text is the Sahidic made-in-Egypt version.  Thus, what Wallace has in the early versions – even when the Gothic version and the Peshitta are set aside – is not evidence that the Byzantine Text did not exist anywhere.  The evidence does not come remotely close to warranting such a sweeping conclusion.  It implies, rather, that by the time the Old Latin versions were made, the Western Text had already developed, and that by the time the earliest strata of the Sahidic version was made, the Alexandrian Text had developed in Egypt.  It does not, and cannot, inform us about the text that was being used in other locales.

            What about the early patristic writers?  Wallace affirms that “Many of them lived much earlier than the date of any Greek manuscripts now extant for a particular book.”  His readers could easily get the impression that many patristic authors before the year 300 wrote so extensively that researchers can confidently observe what text-type they used in their utilizations of the New Testament.  However, in 1881, Hort wrote,

            “The only extant patristic writings which to any considerable extent support Pre-Syrian readings at variance with Western readings are connected with Alexandria, that is, the remains of Clement and Origen, as mentioned above (§ 159), together with the fragments of Dionysius and Peter of Alexandria from the second half of the third century, and in a certain measure the works of Eusebius of Caesarea, who was deeply versed in the theological literature of Alexandria.”17

            In other words, if one searches through all the known patristic literature produced before 300, the only places one finds substantial agreement with non-Byzantine, non-Western forms of the New Testament are in the writings of a few individuals who were linked to Egypt either geographically (Clement of Alexandria lived in Alexandria, of course, and Origen worked there prior to moving to Caesarea around 230) or in terms of training (Eusebius of Caesarea was a fan and defender of Origen).  
            Even in some of the writings of individuals who were either in, or from, Egypt – where one would naturally expect the local Alexandrian Text to exert the most influence – there is as much evidence for the Byzantine Text as for the Alexandrian Text.  In Carl Cosaert’s analysis of the Gospels-text used by Clement of Alexandria, Cosaert listed 125 utilizations of the text of the Gospel of Luke in which Clement’s text agrees with either one or two members of a group consisting of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Bezae, and the Textus Receptus.  Clement’s text, according to Cosaert, agrees with D 62 times (49.6%), with B 65 times (52%), and with the Byzantine Text 68 times (54.4%).18  This is not evidence that Clement used a manuscript of Luke that closely resembled the Byzantine Text – but it is evidence (contrary to what Wallace is trying to show) that Clement’s support for the idea that the Byzantine Text of Luke was non-existent when he wrote is not any greater than Clement’s support for the idea that the Alexandrian Text of Luke was non-existent when he wrote.
            None of the patristic research conducted in the last 80 years has shown that any writers outside Egypt and Caesarea prior to the year 300 used the Alexandrian Text.  There simply are not “many” patristic writers before 300 who wrote enough, and cited the New Testament enough, to clearly show that they favored the Alexandrian Text.     
            Wallace’s claim that “The early fathers had a text that keeps looking more like modern critical editions” does not accurately describe a single early patristic writer outside the borders of Egypt and Caesarea.  It does not even accurately describe the text used by Clement of Alexandria.  In some cases, the texts used by early patristic writers look more Byzantine than Alexandrian.  For example, the Alexandrian Text does not contain Mark 16:9-20, but utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 are found in the writings of Justin Martyr (160), Tatian (172), Irenaeus (180’s), Hippolytus (220’s), and the pagan author Hierocles (305), who was very likely recycling material composed by Porphyry in the 270’s.  Matthew 17:21 is another example of a non-Alexandrian reading supported by a patristic author who is supposed to have an Alexandrian text:  this verse was cited by Origen, but the entire verse is absent in the Alexandrian Text.19 
            Wallace presents the Greek manuscripts, the early versions, and early patristic quotations as “a threefold cord” of testimony.  But in reality those three things do not come together:  the early Egyptian papyri display the texts used in Egypt.  The texts in the Old Latin versions and the Sinaitic Syriac and Curetonian Syriac are not Byzantine, but they are certainly not Alexandrian either.  Early patristic evidence from outside Egypt-and-Caesarea does not support the Alexandrian Text, and even some writers in Egypt and Caesarea support readings that are in the Byzantine Text, against the Alexandrian Text. 
            Everything we see in these three forms of evidence – manuscripts, versions, and patristic utilizations of the New Testament – indicates that the New Testament text was disseminated in localized forms.  And a local text, while capable of showing us what text was used in a specific locale, does not show us what text was being used in another locale hundreds of miles away.  We don’t look at an early Old Latin manuscript such as Codex Vercellensis and conclude that it reveals the local text of Alexandria.  Nor do we look at the Sinaitic Syriac and conclude that it reveals the local text of southern Italy.  But Wallace apparently wants us to look at a local Greek text of Egypt, and very different local Latin texts from who-knows-where – possibly also from Egypt, in some cases20 – and conclude that they reveal the local texts of Antioch, Asia, Cyprus, Edessa, Nicomedia, and the cities of Greece
            What text of the New Testament was being used by Christians in that vast territory before the year 300?  We do not know:  manuscripts, versions, and substantial patristic writings from that area, in the ante-Nicene era, are not extant.  But in the 400’s, the Byzantine Text was the Greek text that was in use in the Greek-speaking churches in these areas, and the Peshitta was the Syriac text that was in use in the Syriac-speaking churches.  In addition, we observe that
            ● the Gospels-text in Codex Alexandrinus (from around 400) is mainly Byzantine,
            ● portions of the Gospels in Codex W (from the late 300’s or 400’s) are Byzantine,
            ● Basil of Caesarea (330-379) used a text of Matthew that was primarily Byzantine,21
            ● The texts of John and the Pauline Epistles used by Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) agree more with the Byzantine Text than with any other text-type.22

            Before moving on to address Wallace’s comments about internal evidence, there is one more of his claims about external evidence that invites a response:  he stated that some patristic statements show that what is the majority-reading now was not the majority-reading when those statements were made.  Wallace provided only two specific examples of this:  (1)  Jerome’s statement (in Ad Hedibiam) that Mark 16:9-20 “is met with in only a few copies of the Gospel – almost all the codices of Greece being without this passage,” and (2) Jerome’s statement that at Matthew 5:22 “most of the ancient copies” do not contain εικη.   Regarding the first example, I believe that anyone who takes the time to compare Jerome’s comments in Ad Hedibiam to Eusebius’ comments in Ad Marinum will conclude that the part of Jerome’s composition in which this statement is found is essentially a loose recycling of Eusebius’ material; in the course of answering Hedibia’s broad question about how to reconcile the Gospels’ accounts of events after Christ’s resurrection, Jerome utilized three of Marinus’ specific questions on the subject, as well as three of Eusebius’ answers, in the same order in which they appear in Ad Marinum
            This should provide some instruction about the high degree of caution that should accompany patristic references to quantities of manuscripts.  In some cases, such as we see in Ad Hedibiam, the claim may have been borrowed second-hand from a source who was describing manuscripts in a different time and place.  In other cases, it may indeed reflect what the author has encountered, but it would be quite a leap to conclude that what the author encountered is what one would encounter when surveying all manuscripts everywhere that were contemporary to him.  In other words, there is no justification for the assumption that a reading found in the majority of manuscripts known to a specific author would also be found in the majority of manuscript that were not known to that author.  When we approach a statement about manuscripts that an author knows about, that is what we should understand it to be – not a statement about manuscripts about which the author knows nothing.  There is no necessary correlation between the contents of majorities of manuscripts known to Origen, or to Eusebius, or to Jerome, and the contents of actual majorities of manuscripts at the time of Origen, or Eusebius, or Jerome.  This point seems to have completely eluded Wallace.

- Continued in Part Three - 



13 – See Metzger’s quotation of Origen on page 88 of New Testament Tools & Studies – Historical and Literary Studies, Vol. 8 (1968), at the outset of his article, Explicit References in the Works of Origen to Variant Readings in New Testament Manuscripts:  “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyist or through the perverse audacity of others,” etc.
14 – A thorough description of P104 is among the files of the NT Textual Criticism group on Facebook.
15 – Specifically, Codex W is essentially Byzantine in Matthew and in Luke 8:13-24:53.  In Mark 5-12, it seems to be loosely, and uniquely, aligned with the text found in P45.  The text of Luke 1:1-8:12 and John 5:12-21:25 is essentially Alexandrian.  This block-mixture shows that it was possible for rival text-types to exist side-by-side in the same locale.
16 – See the comments by Dennis Kenaga regarding P46 on page of Skeptical Trends in New Testament TextualCriticism:  “The oldest witness, P46, was rejected 303 times, 30% of the time, in 1 Corinthians.”  (The wording of this sentence could be improved, but the basic point is correct.)    
17 – See page 127 of Hort’s Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek.
18 – See the data in Carl P. Cosaert’s The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria, © 2008 by the Society of Biblical Literature.  A preview is at .
19 – It is feasible that Origen was quoting from Mark 9:29, but he tended to quote from Matthew much more frequently than from Mark.  Even if one were to grant that Origen was quoting Mark 9:29, the quotation is clearly not based on the Alexandrian Text, because Origen includes the words “and fasting,” which are not in the Alexandrian Text of Mark 9:29.
20 – See Metzger’s comment on page 37 of The Bible in Translation:  The Coptic versions of the Old Testament frequently show a relationship with the Old Latin version . . . . This is not surprising, because the Old Latin version is regarded as having been of preeminent importance for the African Church.”
21 – See Jean-Francoise Racine’s 2004 book, The Text of Matthew in the Writings of Basil of Caesarea.
22 – See James A. Brooks’ 1991 book, The New Testament Text of Gregory of Nyssa.      

The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism: Is It Reasonable and Eclectic? Part One of a Four-Part Response to Dan Wallace


The 2005 edition of
The New Testament
in the Original Greek -
Byzantine Textform
          In the years since Daniel Wallace wrote The Majority Text and the Original Text:  Are They Identical?,1 no less than four English translations of the majority (i.e., Byzantine) text of the New Testament have been published, and another version (the Modern English Version) has recently been released which was based on the Textus Receptus.  A definitive edition of the Byzantine New Testament has been published.2  A recent poll showed that the King James Version is the most widely read Bible version in the United States, by a large margin.3  And the Center for Study and Preservation of the Majority Text has been established.

            In this article I will address some of the inaccuracies, overstatements, and poor argumentation in Dr. Wallace’s article.  My purpose here is not to endorse the Byzantine Text in its entirety – I do not subscribe to Byzantine Priority – but to show that Dr. Wallace’s reasons for rejecting it are insufficient (and to clarify some peripheral misstatements in his article). 
            Wallace’s very first paragraph echoes a common put-down of the Textus Receptus:  “In compiling the TR Erasmus simply used about a half dozen late manuscripts that were available to him.”  Although it is true that Erasmus, when preparing the first edition of his Greek text, only had immediate access to less than a dozen Greek manuscripts, during the 1500’s the Textus Receptus went through multiple editions and comparisons involving consultations of patristic references (in which patristic writers cited their manuscripts), Lorenzo Valla’s research (which mentioned other manuscripts), the Complutensian Polyglot (the editors of which claimed to have consulted their ancient manuscripts) and manuscripts that were used in the exchanges between Erasmus and his critics, and by Stephanus and by Theodore Beza. 
            A close examination of the annotations of Erasmus and the textual notes of Beza give a much different picture than Wallace's distant glance.  The editors of the texts that reached their standardized expression in the Textus Receptus tended to stick with the Byzantine readings in their Byzantine manuscripts, but to say that they did not use ancient manuscripts such as Codex Bezae and Codex Claromontanus (and, judging from the contents of the Textus Receptus in Matthew 9:36, Codex Regius4) and a list of 365 readings from Codex Vaticanus is blurry reporting.  One can use a manuscript and still reject its readings, as Wallace shows when he says that the Nestle-Aland text is based on over 5,000 manuscripts – over 4,000 of which persistently display Byzantine readings which the editors persistently rejected.               

Preservation and the Byzantine Text

            Wallace targeted Wilbur Pickering’s view of inspiration and preservation as if Pickering’s doctrinal view was the foundation of Pickering’s case for the Byzantine Text (or for a sub-group of it; he currently endorses the f35 text).  Wallace summarized Pickering’s doctrinal premise as follows:  “The doctrine of the preservation of Scripture requires that the early manuscripts cannot point to the original text better than the later manuscripts can, because these early manuscripts are in the minority.”
            When Pickering affirmed the superiority of the majority text over other text-types, he was not really saying much more than what the Westminster Confession of Faith – a major creedal statement in the history of Reformed Christendom, produced in 1646 – said in its first chapter, part eight: 

            “The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.”

            The producers of the Westminster Confession thus enunciated the doctrine that the New Testament text has been kept pure in all ages – and the text they knew was an essentially Byzantine text.  This purity pertains to the message which was conveyed by manuscript after manuscript, not to the exact form of the text, as if spelling-variations and the quirky mistakes of individual scribes rendered the text impure.  But when one text contains Mark 16:9-20, and Luke 22:43-44, and Luke 23:34a, and John 7:53-8:11, and another text does not contain any of them, but says in Mark 6:22 that Herod’s daughter danced, and says in Matthew 27:49 that Jesus was pierced before He died, what would an impure text look like, if these are both called pure?  These differences significantly shape the message that is being conveyed.  Meanwhile, the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Text are not so immense that they significantly shape the message being conveyed.   
            The doctrine of the preservation of Scripture does not preclude the idea that early manuscripts can preserve the form of the text better than the later manuscripts.  Rather, the doctrinal statement that God has kept the text pure in all ages implies that the message of the original text has been perpetuated in the Greek text used by the church.  And the Greek text used by the church, as displayed in thousands of Greek manuscripts, is the Byzantine Text or a sub-group of it.   
            Perhaps Wallace feels that the Westminster Confession’s statement that God has providentially kept the Biblical text “pure in all ages” is simply false.  (Speaking for myself, I do not subscribe to the Westminster Confession.)  But the thing to see is that Pickering is not introducing anything novel into the doctrinal equation.   
            Wallace’s article suddenly jumped to a different topic:  Pickering’s assessment of Hort’s anti-Byzantine view:  “Pickering,” wrote Wallace, “has charged Hort with being prejudiced against the Byzantine texttype from the very beginning of his research: “It appears Hort did not arrive at his theory through unprejudiced intercourse with the facts. Rather, he deliberately set out to construct a theory that would vindicate his preconceived animosity for the Received Text.””
            Wallace did not contradict Pickering on this point, and wisely so, because anyone can consult Hort’s writings and see where, in 1851, near the outset of his research, Hort denounced the Textus Receptus as “vile” and “villainous.”5  Instead, Wallace accused Pickering of doing the same thing:  “His particular view of preservation seems to have dictated for him that the majority text must be right.” 
            Such a tu quoque retort misses the point, which is that Hort clearly had some idea, in 1851, of what sort of conclusions he was going to reach by 1881 – yet his clearly expressed prejudice has not prevented very many textual critics from regarding his conclusions as correct.  So why, if Pickering was not the only researcher on earth with an entirely objective and detached mind, should this be used as a basis to reject his conclusions?  When Pickering insists that the purity of the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture has been providentially safeguarded for the church in all ages, he is not saying anything that the Reformers who composed the Westminster Confession did not say.  If the mere possession of a doctrinal view is sufficient to dictate one’s conclusions, then we must all be mute, including Wallace. 
            Pickering’s affirmation of a belief in the providential preservation of the purity of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible is seized by Wallace as if it proves that he worked from presuppositions; i.e., that he was out to prove a premise.  This is, however, only partly true:  Pickering has affirmed that a combination of Scripture-verses may reasonably be taken to imply a promise of the preservation of the Scriptures, “but no intimation is given as to just how God proposed to do it. We must deduce the answer from what He has indeed done.”6  Does not Wallace assert a very similar premise about the New Testament text when he states that all of the original text is extant somewhere – that is, it has all been preserved – and it is the task of the textual critic to discover where?
          There is no evidence that Pickering pre-judged the Alexandrian Text to be vile and villainous in the way that Hort pre-judged the Textus Receptus.  Even if Pickering had done so, however, it would not make the Byzantine Priority view right or wrong, any more than Hort’s initial bias against the Textus Receptus rendered any of his text-critical judgments right or wrong. 

Next, Wallace expressed three “serious problems” with the doctrine of preservation as expressed by Pickering.  Please bear with me, reader, as I address these three points in some detail.

(1)  ● Wallace opposes the idea that God providentially preserved the purity of the text in all ages in the majority of Greek manuscripts because it could be that God providentially did so “in a small handful of witnesses.”  Wallace has unfortunately overlooked the phrase “in all ages” and as a result his idea does not make sense, because it is obvious that the Greek text of the small handful of manuscripts that form the primary basis for the Nestle-Aland text has not been used by the church in all ages. 

(2)  ● Wallace opposes the idea that God providentially preserved the purity of the Greek text in all ages in the majority of Greek manuscripts because, “assuming that the majority text is the original, then this pure form of text has become available only since 1982.”  But it is not as if the readings in the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text were created in 1982!  Hodges and Farstad derived them from the majority of manuscripts (which existed long before 1982) and those manuscripts display the text that was in use in Greek-reading Christendom at the times they were produced. 
            In the course of elaborating on this strained objection, Wallace points out that the Textus Receptus differs from the Hodges-Farstad Greek New Testament “in almost 2,000 places.”  This merits some explanation, so let’s pause a moment to consider some of those differences.  Let’s ask, “If a copyist were to make a manuscript that contained exactly the same text that is in the Textus Receptus, to what extent would it be a non-Byzantine manuscript?”  Here is some data to answer that question.  I will list, for each Gospel, the number of differences between the Byzantine Text (where its testimony is not divided) and the Textus Receptus, followed by the number of differences which indicate an origin in a non-Byzantine source other than parableptic errors, itacisms and orthographic variations attributable to an individual copyist.  This will provide some idea of how non-Byzantine the Textus Receptus is. 

            ■ Matthew:  out of 159 differences, 46 readings in the Textus Receptus are non-Byzantine.
            ■ Mark:  out of 142 differences, 73 readings in the Textus Receptus are non-Byzantine. 
            ■ Luke:  out of 221 differences, 140 readings in the Textus Receptus are non-Byzantine.
            ■ John:  out of 158 differences, 107 readings in the Textus Receptus are non-Byzantine. 

            Thus, in the Gospels, there are 680 differences between the Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus.  Of those differences, 366 indicate an origin outside the Byzantine transmission-line (i.e., these 366 readings do not look like they began when a copyist was copying from an exemplar that contained nothing but Byzantine readings).  Many of those 366 variants have no effect on the meaning of the text.  (For example, out of the 107 distinctive variants in John, 22 of them are instances where the untranslatable definite article (a single Greek letter) is put before Jesus’ name.) 
            These statistics show that in the Gospels, if one considers Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus to both be good representatives of the Alexandrian Text, then the Textus Receptus must be considered a relatively close representative of the Byzantine Text.  Furthermore, a huge chunk of those differences are found in the text of the book of Revelation.  This is partly because of the unique transmission-history of the text of Revelation, and partly because Erasmus relied heavily on a manuscript of Revelation (2814) which has a text that frequently diverges from the norm.  (I have not counted all the differences, but it looks like the average chapter of Revelation in the Textus Receptus disagrees 30 times with the Byzantine Text.) 
            The statistics may be crunched as follows:  out of 1,838 differences between the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Text,7 680 are in the Gospels, about 660 are in Revelation, and about 500 are in Acts and the Epistles.  That’s 1,199 fewer variants between the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Text in the entire New Testament than the 3,037 variants that exist between Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, the flagship manuscripts of the Nestle-Aland text.     
            Regarding disagreements between the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Text, Wallace claims, “Many of these passages are theologically significant texts.”  However, he provides only two examples:  First John 5:7-8 and Revelation 22:19 – the first of which, albeit an interpolation, is one that expresses a teaching found elsewhere in Scripture, and the second of which conveys the same message no matter whether one refers to the book of life (as in the Textus Receptus and KJV) or to the tree of life.  Wallace scrapes the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, in his search for examples of variants within the Byzantine textual tradition that do not uniformly convey the same message. 
            Furthermore, via these comparisons, Wallace has confused the printed text that was used by the church for several centuries – the Textus Receptus – with the text that was available to the church in the manuscripts.  Perhaps Pickering, via some poor wording, left himself vulnerable to the charge that he believed that whatever printed Greek text the church used must be the preserved, original text.  For whatever reason, Wallace attempts to make Pickering’s arguments require an endorsement of the Textus Receptus – which Pickering clearly does not endorse.  This is a common tactic used by those who wish to dismiss discussion of the value of the Byzantine Text:  make it easy for those viewing the debate from a distance to think that one’s opponents are KJV-Onlyists or advocates of every iota of the Textus Receptus.       
            In the course of pointing out that the Textus Receptus includes minority readings, Wallace claimed that “Virtually no one had access to any other text from 1516 to 1881, a period of over 350 years.”  That is a rather inaccurate claim.  The Complutensian Polyglot was not based on the Textus Receptus.  Anyone who possessed a Byzantine manuscript had access to a Greek text other than the Textus Receptus.  The Orthodox churches continued to use the (essentially Byzantine) text of their lectionaries.  Griesbach’s text, in the 1770’s, was very different from the Textus Receptus; Abner Kneeland’s 1823 English version was very different; Granville Penn’s 1836 version was drastically unlike the Textus Receptus.    

(3) ● Wallace opposes the idea that God providentially preserved the purity of the text in all ages in the majority of Greek manuscripts because this would mean that such a text was available in Egypt in the first four centuries.  “But this is demonstrably not true,” he claims.  As the sole support for his claim, Wallace cites Bart Ehrman’s dissertation on the Gospels-text of Didymus the Blind (who lived in the mid-and late 300’s).  As Wallace mentioned, Ehrman concluded that his findings “indicate that no ‘proto-Byzantine’ text existed in Alexandria in Didymus’ day or, at least if it did, it made no impact on the mainstream of the textual tradition there.”  (Yet, not long after Didymus’ death, Codex W appeared, it would seem, in Egypt.)
            However, Ehrman’s data is capable of being interpreted to support a different conclusion.  I have systematically worked through Ehrman’s data about Didymus’ utilizations of the Gospels, and here are some observations:
            ► In Matthew, Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 49 times.  Didymus agrees with B against Byz 24 times (49%).  Didymus agrees with Byz against B 25 times (51%).
            ► Ehrman concedes that the data from Mark is too sparse to justify confidence that it reflects the affinities of Didymus’ Gospels-text.  In three of the four cases where Ehrman concludes that Didymus supports a reading in B in Mark, the grounds seem especially questionable.  With these qualifications in mind, in Mark, Didymus agrees with B against Byz 4 times (80%) and with Byz against B 1 time (20%).
            ► In Luke, Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 45 times.  Didymus agrees with B against Byz 28 times (62%).  Didymus agrees with Byz against B 17 times (38%).
            ► In John, Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 40 times.  Didymus agrees with Byz against B 23 times (57.5%).  Didymus agrees with B against Byz 17 times (42.5%).8
            Thus, rather than concluding that the evidence from Didymus shows that there was no Byzantine or Proto-Byzantine Text available in Egypt (and keeping in mind that we are talking about the Gospels-text used by a man who was blind from his childhood – and also keeping in mind that the evidence from Didymus would never lead us to conclude that a Gospels-text resembling what is found in P45 existed in Egypt; nevertheless there it is), it shows the following:  (1)  Didymus’ text of Matthew agreed with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Text as much as it agreed with Codex Vaticanus; (2)  We don’t have enough data to discern what Didymus’ text of Mark was like; (3)  Didymus’ text of Luke frequently contained readings that are found in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Text but not in Codex Vaticanus, and (4)  Didymus’ text of John agreed with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Text more often than it agreed with the flagship manuscript of the Alexandrian Text. 
            I conclude that the evidence from Didymus’ Gospels-utilizations does not post a problem at all for the idea that the Byzantine Text of the Gospels, or a text very similar to it, was available in Egypt in the 300’s.

            After firing blanks at the Byzantine Text, Wallace attempts to minimize the differences between the Byzantine Text and the Alexandrian Text, arguing that it does not make much doctrinal difference which text-type is used; both, he claims, are doctrinally orthodox:  “For over 250 years, New Testament scholars have argued that no textual variant affects any doctrine.” 
            He’s partly right:  many New Testament scholars (such as D. A. Carson) have made such a claim.  But others, such as George Vance Smith, a Unitarian scholar who was on the translation-committee of the 1881 Revised Version, have made different assessments.  Referring to the changes (some translational, but mostly textual) introduced in the Revised Version, Smith wrote,

          “The changes just enumerated are manifestly of great importance, and are they not wholly unfavourable to the popular theology?  Many persons will deny this, but it is hard to see on what grounds they do so.  Or, if it be true that the popular orthodoxy remains unaffected by such changes, the inference is unavoidable that popular orthodoxy must be very indifferent as to the nature of the foundation on which it stands.”9

            As a person who is much more aware of doctrinally significant textual variants and their implications, Wallace is much more careful than Carson when attempting to reassure people that pro-Alexandrian textual criticism poses no doctrinal challenges.  But he still seems willing to make it seem otherwise by holding up Carson’s fuzzy assurances when this subject comes up.  One must jump to footnote #25 in Wallace’s essay to see his actual view:  “No viable variant affects any major doctrine.” 
            But what constitutes a viable variant, and what constitutes a major doctrine?  Is the Sinaitic Syriac’s reading in Matthew 1:16 a viable variant?  Von Soden thought so.10  Is the belief that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived a major doctrine?  And is the inclusion of the name “Isaiah” in Matthew 13:35 a viable variant?  Eberhard Nestle thought so, and regarded it as the original reading.11  Is the Alexandrian reading of Matthew 27:49 a viable variant?  Hort thought so.12  Is the belief that the authors of Scripture did not produce errors a major doctrine?  Or is it, as Wallace has described it, a more peripheral doctrine?  Further examples of doctrinal subjects impacted by textual variants could be listed, such as the importance of fasting, standards for divorce and remarriage, and the bodily resurrection of Christ.      
            Wallace attempted to minimize the differences between the Byzantine Text and the Nestle-Aland text in terms of quantity:  they disagree, he states, “in only about 6,500 places,” most of which do not affect translation or interpretation.  “The majority text and modern critical texts,” he continues, “are very much alike, in both quality and quantity.”  But if the differences are clearly inconsequential, then why are hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours of labor being spent to collect and (someday) study digital photographs of New Testament manuscripts by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, of which Wallace is the Executive Director? 
            He does not seem to act as if all the differences are a matter of minutiae.  And rightly so, because well over 2,000 variant-units in the Gospels alone affect translation.  Their effects range from the inclusion/exclusion of two large 12-verse passages (Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11) to the inclusion/exclusion of entire verses, to the inclusion/exclusion of phrases, to the inclusion/exclusion of words that are pivotal to the sense of the sentences in which they occur (or do not occur).   To speak of the importance of textual variants in terms of quantity, as if to say that no one should worry about a low percentage of variation, is a poor way to state the problem.  It’s like telling people that there are only 6,500 stray cats in the city, and the vast majority of them are harmless.  If 65 of them are rabid it is still a concern.
- Continued in Part Two - 



1 – Wallace’s essay seems to have been written sometime in the 1990’s.  All quotations of Wallace in this essay are from that article, unless otherwise noted.
2 – The recently-produced English translations of the New Testament based on the Byzantine Text are:
            ● World English Version (at ),
            ● English Majority Text Version (at  ),
            ● Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament (at ), and
            ● Eastern/Greek Orthodox New Testament (at ),
The second edition of The New Testament in the Original Greek – Byzantine Textform, prepared by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, was released in 2005, with a generous copyright policy:  “Anyone is permitted to copy and distribute this text or any portion of this text,” effectively placing it in the public domain.  RP-2005 is online, formatted as a PDF, with a collection of other free resources, at
            Also worthy of mention are The New Testament – The Original Greek (Koine) Text, at and Wilbur Pickering’s compilation of the f35 text, at and his English translation of it, at , and the Byzantine Greek New Testament, at .
            The official website of the Modern English Version (with a Textus Receptus-based New Testament) is at .
3 – As reported on March 13, 2014, in Christianity Today – see – the  poll, carried out by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), found that 55% of Bible-readers in the United States read the KJV; the NIV was first runner-up, at 19%.  
4 – See Wieland Willker’s comment on Matthew 9:36 in A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels, Volume 1 – Matthew.  Willker noticed that εκληλυμενοι is in Erasmus’ text, and in Codex L, but not in codices 1 and 2.
5 – See pages 210-211 of Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Volume 1, at .  According to the sub-headings in the book, Hort made these references to the Textus Receptus as “vile” and “villainous” when he was 23 years old. 
6 – Wilbur Pickering, page 131, The Identity of the New Testament Text, fourth edition.
7 – This sum of 1,838 differences was offered by Wallace in his article Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text, at , published June 3, 2004.  It should be noted, however, that his tally is based on a comparison of printed texts; if formatted in the format of ancient uncial manuscripts, with contracted sacred names and no spaces between the words, the sum would be somewhat lower.
8 – In this comparison, “Byz” is the Robinson-Pierpont 2005 Byzantine text.  Ehrman’s research in 1996 used the Textus Receptus as a major representative of the Byzantine Text, so to acquire a more accurate picture of the actual implications of Didymus’ readings, it was necessary to manually consult the RP-2005 text reading-by-reading.
9 – See page 47 of George Vance Smith’s short 1881 book, Textsand Margins of the Revised New Testament Affecting Theological Doctrine BrieflyReviewed.  Readers may also consult page 140 of Volume 2 of Life and Lettersof Fenton John Anthony Hort to see Hort’s statement, in a letter written to Westcott in August of 1870, about the “moral damage that would have been done to the acceptance of the Revision by the laity if Unitarians had been outlawed as such.”  The background of the comment is that there had been objections against the inclusion of George Vance Smith on the Revision Committee, but Westcott and Hort had insisted that he be included.
10 – See the opening paragraphs of Bruce Metzger’ article The Text of Matthew 1.16 on page 105 of New Testament Tools & Studies – Philological, Versional, and Patristic, Vol. 10 (1980).
11 – See page 251 of Eberhard Nestle’s 1901 Introduction tothe Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament:  referring to the variant δια Ησαϊου του προφήτου, Nestle wrote, “It is certainly, therefore, genuine.”  
12 – Hort did not fully adopt the Alexandrian reading of Matthew 27:49 into his text, but stated on page 22 of Notes on Select Readings that there were two possibilities:  either the phrase “may belong to the genuine text of the extant form of Mt,” or “they may be a very early interpolation.”  He concluded:  “We have thought it on the whole right to give expression to this view [i.e., the view that the passage is an interpolation] by including the words within double brackets, though we did not feel justified in removing them from the text, and are not prepared to reject altogether the alternative position [i.e., the view that they are part of the original text of Matthew].”