At the PreservedWord
website, some material has been circulated that provides some insight regarding
the basis for the motivation of some KJV-Onlyists. Today, let’s evaluate the claims of the
l “Bible scholarship of
the past 150 years has placed much attention on a very small number of
This is not quite true, since attention has been given to newly
discovered manuscripts such as Codex W and Codex Y, and the hundreds of
minuscule manuscripts which have been catalogued in the past 150 years. But the writer of the Preserved Word site is
partly right: special attention has been
given to a small number of manuscripts, particularly Vaticanus (B) and
Sinaiticus (À), which, as the writer noted, have
been described in Bible-footnotes as the “oldest and best” manuscripts. Meanwhile, manuscripts which support the
Byzantine Text have been treated as if they are “all irrelevant for textual
criticism, at least for establishing the original form of the text and its
development in the early centuries,” as Kurt & Barbara Aland dismissively
acknowledged on p. 142 of The Text of the
New Testament (Ó 1987 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
l “The public needs to
know the truth about these manuscripts [À and B].”
This is certainly true; when NIV (1984) readers were told “The
earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark
16:9-20,” it would have been helpful if, somewhere in the heading or footnote (unlikely
to be seen by readers of digital Bibles), reader had been told that the “earliest
manuscripts” was limited to two manuscripts, and that over 99.8% of the rest of
the Greek manuscripts support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 (as does earlier
testimony from the 100s in Epistula
Apostolorum, Preaching of Peter, Justin,
Tatian, and Irenaeus). Vaticanus and
Sinaiticus, for the most part, represent the Alexandrian Text, a form which was
used in the early centuries of Christendom in Egypt, but which never dominated
the Greek copying-centers where the Byzantine Text was used instead.
l “Contrary to what has
been taught in most seminaries, these two manuscripts are worthless, and
That is not quite true.
“Corruption” is a technical term in textual criticism; any manuscript
that contains non-original material, or which fails to include material which
was in the original text, is corrupt. No
doubt the texts found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are corrupt – but not
l “It has been speculated by some scholars that one or both were
produced by Eusebius of Caesarea on orders of Emperor Constantine. If this is
true, then these manuscripts are linked to Eusibus’s teacher Origen of
Alexandria, both known for interpreting Scripture allegorically as opposed to
This is not quite true either.
The late T.C. Skeat (an erudite scholar)
did indeed suspect that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were among the 50
copies of Scripture prepared by Eusebius of Constantinople for the Emperor
Constantine. But there is no evidence
that Origen (d. 254) originated or edited the Alexandrian Text; Origen appears to have used
whatever text was already in use in the location he happened to be in.
l “Scholars have designated these manuscripts as Alexandrian,
linking them with Alexandria,
region responsible for early heresies such as Gnosticism and Arianism.”
This is not quite true either. The
Alexandrian Text was popular in Egypt,
but there is little textual evidence that Gnostics or Arians were responsible for
more than a smattering of readings in the Alexandrian Text.
l “Vaticanus adds to the Old Testament the apocryphal books of
Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.”
That is not quite true either. Codex
Vaticanus does indeed contain these books, but in this respect its scribes were
simply perpetuating the canon of the Septuagint, which is also found in Codex
Vaticanus omits Mark 16:9-20, yet there is a significant blank space
here for these verses. Sinaiticus also lacks these verses, but has a blank
space for them.”
That is not quite true either. Vaticanus
has a blank space following Mark 16:8 that is sufficient to hold verses 9-20 (in
slightly compressed lettering). But
Sinaiticus, which contains replacement-pages for Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56, displays
no special blank space after Mark 16:8; after Mark 16:8 in À there is an especially emphatic coronis, and the book’s
closing-title, after which is the same blank space which the scribe normally
would leave blank after the end of a book.
It is not sufficient for verses 9-20.
The Gospel of Luke begin in the next column.
l Tischendorf “found it [Codex
Sinaiticus] in a trash can, waiting to be burnt!”
That is not quite true either.
Tischendorf did claim to have encountered pages of Sinaiticus in a basket, but he never
described it as a “trash basket.” It was
simply a basket, of the sort which J. R. Harris (who visited St. Catherine’s
Monastery) confirmed was used by the monks of the monastery to transport
l “Why would the monks of St. Catherine’s thrown out such a valuable
Why indeed? It appears that the monks
had no intention of throwing it out, or of burning it. Tischendorf either concocted the story about
what he was told (that “two heaps of papers like
these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames”), or he misunderstood
what he was told. He may have happened
to serendipitously encounter, in 1844, pages of Sinaiticus at the same time the
monks were undertaking a fresh re-binding of its pages.
John Burgon] “Tregelles has freely pronounced that “the state of the text, as
proceeding from the first scribe, may be regarded as very rough.”
That is true.
Tregelles’ observation, however, should be complemented by an
understanding of how the New Testament portion of À was
made: there was the main copyist, and
there was also the proofreader, or diorthotēs; the main copyist was truly a
terrible speller, and frequently inattentive, but much of his carelessness was
undone by the proof-reader, so, before the manuscript left the scriptorium, many
of the main copyist’s mistakes had already been corrected.
“Sinaiticus has also been corrected by “…at least ten revisers
between the IVth and XIIth centuries…””
That is true, but all this means is that, in addition to the corrections made
by the diorthotēs, À
features readings drawn from manuscripts besides its exemplar. The
“corrections” are not all true corrections (i.e., they do not all bring the
text in the manuscript closer to the original text), but testify to the
contents of manuscripts valued by the correctors.
l Codex Sinaiticus “looks
like a much-corrected rough draft.”
That is true – but looks can be deceiving.
What is shown in the image presented at the PreservedWord website is part
of a page of Codex Sinaiticus that contains the Greek text from Second Esdras
21 and 22, and a variety of corrections, all of which can be seen at the CodexSinaiticus.org website.
l “Sinaiticus also includes spurious,
uninspired, apocryphal books, including 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, 1 & 4
Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach in the Old Testament.”
That is true, but, again, the scribes of the manuscript were simply
perpetuating the (unfixed) canon of the Septuagint handed down to them.
l Sinaiticus includes the
Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. “These two false writings
(Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas) promote New Age and Satanism.”
This statement springs from a profound misunderstanding of the Epistle of
Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
Neither composition supports the doctrines of the “New Age,” and neither
one supports Satanism. They were both
generally regarded as orthodox in the early church, but their authors were not
considered equal in authority to the authors of the New Testament books.
l “Burgon had
personally examined these two manuscripts, and noted that their text differed
greatly form that of 95% of all manuscripts.”
Another way of saying that their text differed greatly from the form of text found in 95% of all manuscripts is that the Alexandrian Text (of
which À and B are the fullest Greek
representatives) differs greatly from the Byzantine Text, which is attested by
the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.
The Alexandrian Text, though supported by early manuscripts such as
Papyrus 75, circulated mainly in Egypt,
and when the dominant language in Egypt shifted away from Greek, the
Greek Alexandrian Text gradually was supplanted by manuscripts written in the
local dialects (Sahidic, Bohairic, etc.).
l “When examining the
Gospels as found in Vaticanus, Burgon found 7578 deviations from the majority,
with 2370 of them being serious. In the Gospels of Sinaiticus, he found 8972
deviations, with 3392 serious ones.”
Four thousand deviations are indeed serious, but the simple fact
that the text of manuscript #1 disagrees with the text of manuscript #2 four thousand times does not automatically settle any
specific textual variant. Those 3,392
variants counted by Burgon only show that the majority of manuscripts disagree
with the text of À in 3,392 places; they
do not mean that the reading in Sinaiticus is non-original every time (nor does
it mean that the reading of the majority of manuscripts is non-original every
l Burgon found that “In
the Gospels alone, Vaticanus has 197 particular readings, while Sinaiticus has
The number of singular readings in B, and in À, does not say a lot for the carefulness of their scribes. On the other hand, quite a few of the
singular readings in B are orthographic and do not affect translation. Meanwhile, many of the singular readings in À are the effects of (a) the main scribe’s
carelessness and abysmal spelling, and (b) the use, in the first seven chapters
of John, of a different exemplar.
repeatedly proven to have incorrect readings loose respectability.”
This is not quite true. The singular readings in B and À are not indicative of unreliable
exemplars (except, perhaps, in the opening chapters of John in À); they are indicative of the
shortcomings of the manuscripts’ scribes.
Other early manuscripts have comparable rates of singular readings in
l “These two manuscript
witnesses constantly disagree with the majority of the manuscript evidence,
showing them to be suspect witnesses.”
That is not quite true. The
primary reason why the text of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus disagrees with the
majority of the manuscript evidence is that Vatican
and Sinaiticus display the Alexandrian Text, which dominated a different locale
(Egypt) (as opposed to the
Byzantine Text, which was dominant in Byzantium,
etc.). It was natural for John Burgon
to regard their text with suspicion in the 1870s – but a few decades later,
Grenfell and Hunt made excavations at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt which uncovered
manuscripts (including some papyrus manuscripts older than Vaticanus and
Sinaiticus) that also supported the Alexandrian Text. These were not nearly as numerous as the
manuscripts that support the Byzantine Text, but they were earlier, and thus
provide a window upon the text of the New Testament that was used in Egypt in the
first few centuries of Christendom.
l “The telling sign of
false witnesses is a disagreement in their testimony. It will be seen that
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not pass the false witness test.”
A distinction must be made between false readings (which can be as simple as
bad spelling - something of which the PreservedWord website is sometimes guilty) and false statements.
Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus do share some readings which are
also false statements (most notably at Matthew 27:49), but such cases do not
occur as often as the PreservedWord website’s author suggests.
l “Herman Hoskier did a
full collation of these two manuscripts in the Gospels, and counted the
following disagreements” which yield a total of 3,036 disagreements between
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
That is true, and yet it should be observed that this is a
comparison of the text in Vaticanus to the text written by the main scribe of
Codex Sinaiticus, not to the text of Sinaiticus as it existed after passing
inspection by its scriptorium’s diorthotēs. And it should be noted that many of À’s
disagreements with B, when they are not the effects of scribal carelessness,
are clustered in the opening chapters of the Gospel of John, for which a
different exemplar (with a form of the Western text) was used.
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are worthless manuscripts.”
That is not true. The quality of the performance
of the scribes of Sinaiticus left much to be desired, and both manuscripts have
undergone some damage (Vaticanus lacks the text of Hebrews after 9:14, the
Pastoral Epistles, and Revelation). But
the Alexandrian Text, although it contains its fair share of disagreements with
the Byzantine Text, is not worthless. It
simply lacks the level of scribal thoughtfulness (good and bad) which the
Byzantine scribes displayed.
l “They display horrible penmanship, and
have been subject to many correctors.”
That is not quite true. The penmanship
of the main scribes of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus is usually quite neat. And it is no
automatic point against a manuscript that it has been “corrected” on multiple
occasions; this was a side-effect of its use in locales where there were
manuscripts that disagreed (rightly or wrongly) with its exemplar.
l “They are false
witnesses of the Word of God.”
That is not quite true. Granted, there
are some readings in Vaticanus that are scribal blunders (such as its reading
in John 17:15, “I am not praying that you protect then from the evil one”), and
the problem is worse in the text of Sinaiticus (such as its attribution of Psalm
78:2 to Isaiah, in Matthew 13:35). But scribal blunders
are by no means unique to these two manuscripts. As a whole, the Alexandrian Text is almost as
accurate as the Byzantine Text, and the Alexandrian Text frequently preserves
the original form of the text where it has been benignly modified in the
Byzantine Text (via the substitution of a proper name where originally there
was only a pronoun, or via a harmonization to a parallel-passage, or via a
l The PreservedWord
website presents a long quotation from John Burgon: “I am utterly unable to believe, in short,
that God’s promise [of preservation] has so entirely failed, that at the end of
1800 years much of the text of the Gospel had in point of fact to be picked by
a German critic out of a waste-paper basket in the convent of St. Catherine;
and that the entire text had to be remodelled after the pattern set by a couple
of copies which had remained in neglect during fifteen centuries, and had
probably owed their survival to that neglect; whilst hundreds of others had
been thumbed to pieces, and had bequeathed their witness to copies made from
Burgon’s criticism of the text of Westcott and Hort, who relied extremely
heavily upon À and B, has much to
commend it. Westcott and Hort favored
the Alexandrian Text far too much, and this has been granted by most modern
textual critics (although one could hardly notice from the current compilations
of Nestle-Aland and UBS). Hort described
the mostly Byzantine Textus Receptus
– the base-text of the New Testament in the King James Version – as
“villainous” in 1851, and his mind does not seem to have changed at all from
1851 to 1881, when the Westcott-Hort revision of the text (titled “The New
Testament in the Original Greek”) was printed.
Burgon’s other statements should be considered as well. Burgon insisted that the Textus Receptus
needed to be revised, writing in 1883 in The
Revision Revised, p. 21, “Once for all, we request it may be clearly
understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for
the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this
subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g.,
at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.”
Burgon lamented that his
generation lacked sufficient materials to undertake such a revision. But nowadays, in 2022, when the
Hodges-Farstad Majority Text and the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform have
been produced, as well as the Patriarchal Text (which is primarily Byzantine),
what was envisioned by Burgon is obtainable – and the textual adjustments/corrections
involved in such an undertaking, giving readers an accurate reconstruction of
the original text of the books of the New Testament, should take readings from
the Alexandrian Text into consideration; i.e.,
if an Alexandrian reading is to be rejected, it should be rejected on the basis
of internal or external evidence (or both), not merely because the manuscripts
that support it are in a minority.
l “As Sinaiticus has
been exalted in the public’s eye by the Codex Sinaiticus Project, I would not
be surprised if Vaticanus is also exalted and placed online for all to see and
This has already happened. The Polonsky
Foundation Digitalization Project has financed the digitalization of
not only Codex Vaticanus, but many other manuscripts as well (including Papyrus
72, Papyrus 75, Codex S, and many minuscules, several of which are described here). But the online images do not encourage
idolatry; they are simply digital pictures.
l “These manuscripts
may be the driving force to get “Protestants” to accept the Apocrypha as well
as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, books so heretical that
even the Roman Catholic Church does not accept them as Scripture.”
The issue of
whether or not to accept the Apocrypha will not be settled by the introduction
of À and B into the equation; the issue,
rather, is a matter of respecting the Hebrew Bible (in 24 books, or 39 as
Protestants usually divide them) or the longer canon of the Septuagint.
l “We need to be alert,
and not fall for these manuscript idols.”
While it is incontestable that Christians should be alert, as
First Corinthians 16:13 says, it does not follow that Codex Vaticanus and Codex
Sinaiticus, or any other New Testament manuscript, is an idol. This is a touch of pejorative language from
the writer at the PreservedWord website.
l “We also need to be
aware that most Bible versions, other than the KJV, rely heavily on these
In the case of the NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB, and NRSV, this is certainly true, but
there are also translations which are based on the Textus Receptus (such as the MEV) and translations which are based
on the Byzantine Text (such as the World English Bible) and the Patriarchal
Text (such as the Eastern Orthodox Bible’s New Testament).
l “The NKJV, while
using the correct text, includes “alternate readings” from Sinaiticus and
Vaticanus in the margin. (Such as “The oldest MSS. say…”) We need to reject
these for the tried and true King James Version.”
The NKJV’s margin also includes some “M” readings – “M” as in “majority.” The KJV’s base-text contains about 1,000
minority readings which impact translation.
If Burgon’s hope – for a competently-made revision of the Textus Receptus – is to ever be
achieved, it will involve acknowledging what Burgon knew very well: “The Textus Receptus needs
correction.” Such correction will never
take place as long as those who could contribute to it instead choose to
demonize the Alexandrian Text, and set the Textus
Receptus in concrete, so to speak, pretending that it is as close as we can
come to the original text.
website states, on
another page, “The Word of God is found in the Byzantine text-type.” If its writer, Luke Mounsey, ever wants to
see the original text of the New Testament, he should engage in textual criticism, and consider all the
available evidence, not just the relatively late manuscripts upon which the Textus Receptus was based.