Johannine Comma

The Johannine Comma [1 John 5:7]

  • is scripture.

    Votes: 29 48.3%
  • should not be considered scripture.

    Votes: 19 31.7%
  • I don't know.

    Votes: 12 20.0%

  • Total voters
    60
Status
Not open for further replies.

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
Adam,

I do my textual criticism (which has always been distinguished from "higher-criticism, although it seems as if people here would like to lump the two together as far as moral culpability), because I love the Word of God's Spirit. There are a ton of variants among the thousands of mss that have been collected; the majority of the variants are superficial (changes in orthography, or a change in grammatical style to match the Greek as understood by the copyist's era), and have no real affect upon the understanding of the text, but some of them do, and it is important to me to weigh the issue as part of my ministerial responsibility before the people of God, and to make a well-studied decision.

As a presuppositionalist, I look at the "facts" with a different point of view than in former days. Nobody (in their right mind) should dispute the need for textual criticism. For, as everyone admits, there are lots of manuscripts and quite a few variants. The rub comes in how we interpret those facts. "Earlier is better" is a pretty good rule of thumb. However, if the "earlier" has a provenance in a community of heretics, does that make it better than a manuscript that hails from a later period, but comes from a line of orthodox Christians? Again, people like Dan Wallace and Ben Witherington have given powerful answers to Ehrman (after all Witherington was ALSO a student of Metzger at one time). Still, exploiting the reality of variants to discredit inerrance (or even inspiration) will be a ever-present problem. And, suggesting that agnostics like Ehrman may have an ideological ax to grind in how they sift, weigh, and present the "facts" is the problem, isn't it?
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Hmm. I'm a real KJV user (as opposed to the ruckman type). I take the bible as it stands. All of the questionable passages in the whole Bible would fill 1/2 of one page. I've heard all the reasons the moderns feel some passages should be taken out, but after doing a little research, they all should remain in the Bible. The stuff used against the Johnannine Comma is simmilar to the other passage arguements.

One of the best research things I do is to trace the history and go back to the begining. Modern scholars try and figure out the order in which the Gospels were written, and yet, if you read early church fathers, they spell it out clearly. I go with what they say.


But isn't that the real question here? The Bible as it stood in 1611, or as it stood in one of the 4th century codices, or the reading of Paul's Philippian epistle as found in a second century papyrus?

But that's just it, the KJV matchs the early stuff, that's why I said I take it as it stands. The newer versions don't match the early stuff as well.

That is a pretty broad statement to make. Does it really match "the early stuff" as closely as you say? What copies among "the early stuff" does it match, because even the early copies have variants among themselves?

Grymir said:
When I see that there is a significant difference between a number of 2nd/3rd century papyri, and a reading as contained in the Received Text, what should I do? Should I ignore significant early evidence for a better reading, or should just hang with tradition on some superficial notion that there has always been one preserved Word for God's people at all times (and hope that the TR is it)? How does that doctrine of preservation fit when you look at the Christians of the 5th century and one particular codex that they may have had as their only Scripture? Did God fail to preserve his Word for them where it varies from the TR? What about a Christian village during the Medieval era, whose priest had only a 13th century minuscule from which to preach (yes, preaching went on even back then, even with priests and preaching orders) - did God fail to preserve His Word to them where that minuscule varies from the TR?

According to this paragraph, there was a time in the 5th century that there was only one copy of the Bible? There were many copies. The KJV also reads the closest to 2nd/3rd century texts, especially as quoted by the church fathers than the modern copies do. This whole paragraph seems out of phase with what I was/am saying, because I didn't say anything about the doctrine of preservation, nor anything about the TR. Plus I know that preaching went back much further than the 13th century. Also, were not the miniscules usually hand written copies from codexes, and not worth as much as a major codex? :detective::gpl:

Do you really think that I would believe there to have been only "one copy of the Bible" in the 5th century? What I was getting at is the problem that you have regarding a doctrine of preservation (which is one of the central arguments put forth by many of the KJV/TR advocates, although you yourself may not hold to it) where you have one Christian community living in the 5th century with one codex, and a second Christian community in a different part of the ancient world living with another codex that has differences between it and the codex held by the first community. That reality raises the question as to the validity of a doctrine of preservation, especially since the assumption is often that the true church held the true copy (certainly we couldn't have had the RCC with the preserved word, while those faithful Waldensians were running around in the woods with some hack copy). Which of the various codices preserved the "one true form" of the Word of God? Would one community have been blessed with the preserved Word of God, while the others (presumably less favored of God?) would have bibles with errors in them? What does a doctrine of preservation do with the fact that NONE of the early papyri/codices are exactly identical to the TR? Where is that exact copy of the Word to be found? I have no problem with saying the the Word has always been preserved in some form or another throughout the ages, but to cite Psalm 119:89, and then to assert that there is one, unvarnished copy of the autographa to be found in the true church (which just so happens to be what we have in our 1611's) is not only poor scholarship in general - it is also generally poor exegesis! This latter type of argumentation is probably more closely aligned with the "Ruckman" camp that you have distanced yourself from, but I have seen hints of its influence on this board.

I don't think that I'm going to be putting any further time into this thread for now. Have fun amongst yourselves.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Adam,

I do my textual criticism (which has always been distinguished from "higher-criticism, although it seems as if people here would like to lump the two together as far as moral culpability), because I love the Word of God's Spirit. There are a ton of variants among the thousands of mss that have been collected; the majority of the variants are superficial (changes in orthography, or a change in grammatical style to match the Greek as understood by the copyist's era), and have no real affect upon the understanding of the text, but some of them do, and it is important to me to weigh the issue as part of my ministerial responsibility before the people of God, and to make a well-studied decision.

As a presuppositionalist, I look at the "facts" with a different point of view than in former days. Nobody (in their right mind) should dispute the need for textual criticism. For, as everyone admits, there are lots of manuscripts and quite a few variants. The rub comes in how we interpret those facts. "Earlier is better" is a pretty good rule of thumb. However, if the "earlier" has a provenance in a community of heretics, does that make it better than a manuscript that hails from a later period, but comes from a line of orthodox Christians? Again, people like Dan Wallace and Ben Witherington have given powerful answers to Ehrman (after all Witherington was ALSO a student of Metzger at one time). Still, exploiting the reality of variants to discredit inerrance (or even inspiration) will be a ever-present problem. And, suggesting that agnostics like Ehrman may have an ideological ax to grind in how they sift, weigh, and present the "facts" is the problem, isn't it?

That may be, but the true problem is not the reality of the variants (as I think we would agree), it is the problem of a heart of unbelief. Unbelief will latch onto whatever it can in an attempt to discredit the Scripture, and get God out of it's life. If the variants weren't there, Ehrman would have to go looking for something like supposed archaeological discrepancies to float his boat.

Btw, even though I am a firm believer in the necessity of textual criticism, I more often than not favor Byzantine readings. Metzger is not my homeboy, and I think that some of the reasoning that was used by that committee in reaching a few of their conclusions leaves much to be desired.

Okay, that's my last post!
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Adam M. (Archlute) has brought up some very pertinent points (post #62), and they warrant a thoughtful response; he said:

What I was getting at is the problem that you have regarding a doctrine of preservation (which is one of the central arguments put forth by many of the KJV/TR advocates, although you yourself may not hold to it) where you have one Christian community living in the 5th century with one codex, and a second Christian community in a different part of the ancient world living with another codex that has differences between it and the codex held by the first community. That reality raises the question as to the validity of a doctrine of preservation, especially since the assumption is often that the true church held the true copy (certainly we couldn't have had the RCC with the preserved word, while those faithful Waldensians were running around in the woods with some hack copy). Which of the various codices preserved the "one true form" of the Word of God? Would one community have been blessed with the preserved Word of God, while the others (presumably less favored of God?) would have bibles with errors in them?​

One way to phrase the issue would be like this: “If only the Greek Byzantine was the providentially preserved text, what about the other locations in the world that had a different texttype -- did they not have an adequate Bible?”

And I would answer thus:

There is a preserving of the text, and then there is a preserving of the text—where its integrity is held even to minute readings not granted the former. That the former was nonetheless efficacious is analogous to the Bibles based upon the CT being efficacious to save and edify God’s people today, as witnessed by the multitudes regenerated through those who use the NIV, NASB, ESV etc. The minute preservation occurred in the primary edition (KJV/TR) which was to serve the English-speaking people and the translations created for the vast missionary work they undertook, which impacted the entire world. There was a progression in the purifying of the text, so as to almost (some would say completely) perfectly reconstitute the original manuscripts of the apostles, even as there has been, in the area of theology, a restoration of apostolic doctrine, which also went through phases of deterioration and eventual renewal.

Thus, even those areas of the church which were non-Greek-speaking also had a “preserved text”—as do multitudes in this present day—though their texts were not “minutely preserved.” The texts they had were efficacious unto the salvation of souls and the sustaining of the churches. The distinction is between an adequate preservation as distinguished from preservation in the minutiae.

As regarding the Lord’s promise to preserve His Scripture (Matt 24:35; Isaiah 59:21; etc), many times the people of God have not understood how a prophecy was to be fulfilled until it was a done thing, and then they looked backward to see how He had worked. It is thus in observing how He fulfilled His promise to preserve His word.

Adam asks this question,

What does a doctrine of preservation do with the fact that NONE of the early papyri/codices are exactly identical to the TR?​

We distinguish between the early papyri and codices, and those later minuscules representing the Byzantine textform, yet even among these latter none are “exactly indentical”. What does this signify? It signifies that they were not slavishly copied from one parent document, but rather represent a united testimony from various quarters of the church and with different manuscript lineage, all nonetheless reflecting the ancient autographs (this historical aspect will be elaborated on in the following post).

Westcott and Hort concocted a theory to discredit this unanimity in testimony of 90% of the manuscripts – a supposed official edition produced by the church in Antioch, but it has never been supported by one shred of evidence, historical or otherwise – and has been rejected by text critics generally (not only the Majority Text and King James defenders), though the prejudices concerning certain readings, and the alleged superiority of the Westcott and Hort favorite MSS, B (Vaticanus) and [size=+1]a[/size] (Sinaiticus) doggedly remain, even though the theory that elevated them is no longer believed. As Van Bruggen pointed out in his, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, in the first section, "The Last Certainty of New Testament Textual Criticism",

Among all uncertainties of this 20th century, we, however, can point to one great, lasting certainty in the modern textual criticism — a certainty that serves as starting point and keeps stimulating much conscientious work and constant research. One can even say that the modern textual criticism of the New Testament is based on the one fundamental conviction that the true text of the New Testament is at least not found in the great majority of the manuscripts. The text which the Greek church has read for more than 1000 years, and which the churches of the Reformation have followed for centuries in their Bible translations, is now with certainty regarded as defective and deficient: a text to be rejected. This negative certainty has grown in the 18th century since Mill, Bentley, Wettstein, Semler, and Griesbach. It has found expression in text‑editions of the 19th century. From the close of that century until now, it has become visible for the Bible‑reading community: in 1881 the Revised Version in England no longer followed the current Greek text and in the 20th century the same applies for new translations in other countries. The churches are becoming aware that the text of centuries is replaced by the text of yesterday: the Nestle text.

This rejection of the traditional text, that is the text preserved and handed down in the churches, is hardly written or thought about any more in the 20th century: it is a fait accompli. To hear the arguments for this rejection one must go back to the 19th century, back to the archives. Our century is accustomed to the disregard of the text that is indicated with names such as: Byzantine, Antiochene, Koine, Syrian, or Ecclesiastical. Already for more than 100 years the certainty that this type of text is inferior has been taken for granted. Yet certainty about a better, superior text‑type has failed to come during this long time. The heritage of the 19th century criticism was a solitary certainty — the certainty of the inferiority of this "traditional text". And it remains to be seen whether the 20th century will have a new, second certainty to offer as a heritage of its own.​

This confusion and uncertainty purports to hold forth the differing Biblical versions the churches should cleave to, and many souls are dismayed. Even godly, learned men and women defend this disparate textual testimony, and depreciate the older Ecclesiastical Text, thinking they are supporting progress and learning. Brilliant strategy of the enemy, sowing this discord concerning the true Biblical text!

This is what modern text critics say about the NT text:

“In spite of the claims of Westcott and Hort and of van Soden, we do not know the original form of the gospels, and it is quite likely that we never shall” (Kirsopp Lake, Family 13, The Ferrar Group, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1941, p. vii).

“…it is generally recognized that the original text of the Bible cannot be recovered” (R.M. Grant. “The Bible of Theophilus of Antioch,” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 66, 1947, p. 173).

“…the optimism of the earlier editors has given way to that skepticisim which inclines towards regarding ‘the original text’ as an unattainable mirage” (G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles, 1953, p. 9).

“…every textual critic knows that this similarity of text indicates, rather, that we have made little progress in textual theory since Westcott-Hort; that we simply do not know how to make a definitive determination as to what the best text is; that we do not have a clear picture of the transmission and alternation of the text in the first few centuries; and accordingly, that the Westcott-Hort kind of text has maintained its dominant position largely by default” (Eldon J. Epp, “The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, 1974, pp. 390-391).

“…we no longer think of Westcott-Hort’s ‘Neutral’ text as neutral; we no longer think of their ‘Western’ text as Western or as uniting the textual elements they selected; and, of course, we no longer think so simplistically or so confidently about recovering ‘the New Testament in the Original Greek.’…We remain largely in the dark as to how we might reconstruct the textual history that has left in its wake—in the form of MSS and fragments—numerous pieces of a puzzle that we seem incapable of fitting together. Westcott-Hort, von Soden, and others had sweeping theories (which we have largely rejected) to undergird their critical texts, but we seem now to have no such theories and no plausible sketches of the early history of the text that are widely accepted. What progress, then have we made? Are we more advanced than our predecessors when, after showing their theories to be unacceptable, we offer no such theories at all to vindicate our accepted text?” (Eldon J. Epp, “A Continuing Interlude in NT Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, (Eerdman’s, 1993), pp. 114, 115).​

What the AV defenders hold forth is a Bible the Lord preserved for His people. We do not believe the pessimism of the critics with their naturalistic methodologies. The Bible is a supernatural Book, as is our Faith in its entirety. Ours is not a counsel of despair! To restate some of our positions.

Maurice Robinson and Wm. Pierpont posited in their Introduction to The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine / Majority Textform,

A sound rational approach which accounts for all the phenomena and offers a reconstruction of the history of textual transmission is all that is demanded for any text-critical hypothesis. (p. xxxii)​

(I am aware that Messrs. Robinson and Pierpont would disown me as one of their illegitimate progeny [holding to the King James Bible as I do], as they make clear on their page xli, but I want to make clear I refuse to be under bondage to “the tyranny of experts,” to use Machen’s memorable phrase. I do not need the knowledge of “experts” who proceed according to methodologies I do not subscribe to. I will consider their work [as much as I am able] and use it if I please.)

We go a step further than the Byzantine / Majority Text folks go – though we are indebted to their excellent work! – and that is the step of faith in our Lord’s promise to providentially preserve His word. This post is long enough already, but I will append to the next one an account by another Majority Text proponent concerning the “reconstruction of the history of textual transmission” of the Traditional Text. I go to these lengths because Adam’s concerns about how we defend our position really deserves an answer.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It has been rightly asked of us, In your view, what elevates the Reformation editors, and the texts used in the Reformation, over the early third and fourth century manuscripts that are Alexandrian? Were the Alexandrians not part of the church? Do you see the Alexandrian text-form as illegitimate?....On what basis do you say that the Alexandrian texts were rejected by the Reformed church? The manuscripts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, for instance, were not discovered or known until the 19th century. Furthermore, you seem to be disenfranchising the Alexandrian church. Were they not part of the church? Did they not receive those texts when they were written?

These are good questions, and I would briefly like to respond by quoting from chapter 5 in Wilbur N. Pickering’s, The Identity of the New Testament Text II, where he talks about the history and factors involved concerning the copies made from the autographs. Please note that this later version of the book (the online version) is slightly different from the earlier hardcopy book:

We have objective historical evidence in support of the following propositions:

  • The true text was never "lost".

  • In A.D. 200 the exact original wording of the several books could still be verified and attested.

  • There was therefore no need to practice textual criticism and any such effort would be spurious.

However, presumably some areas would be in a better position to protect and transmit the true text than others.

[size=+1]Who Was Best Qualified?[/size]

What factors would be important for guaranteeing, or at least facilitating, a faithful transmission of the text of the N.T. writings? I submit that there are four controlling factors: access to the Autographs, proficiency in the source language, the strength of the Church and an appropriate attitude toward the Text.

Access to the Autographs

This criterion probably applied for less than a hundred years (the Autographs were presumably worn to a frazzle in that space of time) but it is highly significant to a proper understanding of the history of the transmission of the Text. Already by the year 100 there must have been many copies of the various books (some more than others) while it was certainly still possible to check a copy against the original, should a question arise. The point is that there was a swelling stream of faithfully executed copies emanating from the holders of the Autographs to the rest of the Christian world. In those early years the producers of copies would know that the true wording could be verified, which would discourage them from taking liberties with the text.

However, distance would presumably be a factor—for someone in north Africa to consult the Autograph of Ephesians would be an expensive proposition, in both time and money. I believe we may reasonably conclude that in general the quality of copies would be highest in the area surrounding the Autograph and would gradually deteriorate as the distance increased. Important geographical barriers would accentuate the tendency.

So who held the Autographs? Speaking in terms of regions, Asia Minor may be safely said to have had twelve (John, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, 1 Peter, 1 and 2 and 3 John, and Revelation), Greece may be safely said to have had six (1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Titus in Crete), Rome may be safely said to have had two (Mark and Romans)—as to the rest, Luke, Acts, and 2 Peter were probably held by either Asia Minor or Rome; Matthew and James by either Asia Minor or Palestine; Hebrews by Rome or Palestine; while it is hard to state even a probability for Jude it was quite possibly held by Asia Minor. Taking Asia Minor and Greece together, the Aegean area held the Autographs of at least eighteen (two-thirds of the total) and possibly as many as twenty-four of the twenty-seven New Testament books; Rome held at least two and possibly up to seven; Palestine may have held up to three (but in A.D. 70 they would have been sent away for safe keeping, quite possibly to Antioch); Alexandria (Egypt) held none. The Aegean region clearly had the best start, and Alexandria the worst—the text in Egypt could only be second hand, at best. On the face of it, we may reasonably assume that in the earliest period of the transmission of the N.T. Text the most reliable copies would be circulating in the region that held the Autographs. Recalling the discussion of Tertullian above, I believe we may reasonably extend this conclusion to A.D. 200 and beyond. So, in the year 200 someone looking for the best text of the N.T. would presumably go to the Aegean area; certainly not to Egypt.

Proficiency in the source language

As a linguist (PhD) and one who has dabbled in the Bible translation process for some years, I affirm that a 'perfect' translation is impossible. (Indeed, a tolerably reasonable approximation is often difficult enough to achieve.) It follows that any divine solicitude for the precise form of the NT Text would have to be mediated through the language of the Autographs—Greek. Evidently ancient Versions (Syriac, Latin, Coptic) may cast a clear vote with reference to major variants, but precision is possible only in Greek (in the case of the N.T.). That by way of background, but our main concern here is with the copyists.

To copy a text by hand in a language you do not understand is a tedious exercise—it is almost impossible to produce a perfect copy (try it and see!). You virtually have to copy letter by letter and constantly check your place. (It is even more difficult if there is no space between words and no punctuation, as was the case with the N.T. Text in the early centuries.) But if you cannot understand the text it is very difficult to remain alert. Consider the case of P66. This papyrus manuscript is perhaps the oldest (c. 200) extant N.T. manuscript of any size (it contains most of John). It is one of the worst copies we have. It has an average of roughly two mistakes per verse—many being obvious mistakes, stupid mistakes, nonsensical mistakes. From the pattern of mistakes it is clear that the scribe copied syllable by syllable. I have no qualms in affirming that the person who produced P66 did not know Greek. Had he understood the text he would not have made the number and sort of mistakes that he did.

Now consider the problem from God's point of view. To whom should He entrust the primary responsibility for the faithful transmission of the N.T. Text? If the Holy Spirit is going to take an active part in the process, where should He concentrate His efforts? Presumably fluent speakers of Greek would have the inside track, and areas where Greek would continue in active use would be preferred. For a faithful transmission to occur the copyists had to be proficient in Greek, and over the long haul. So where was Greek predominant? Evidently in Greece and Asia Minor; Greek is the mother tongue of Greece to this day (having changed considerably during the intervening centuries, as any living language must). The dominance of Greek in the Aegean area was guaranteed by the Byzantine Empire for many centuries; in fact, until the invention of printing. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453; the Gutenberg Bible (Latin) was printed just three years later, while the first printed Greek New Testament appeared in 1516. (For those who believe in Providence, I would suggest that here we have a powerful case in point.)

How about Egypt? The use of Greek in Egypt was already declining by the beginning of the Christian era. Bruce Metzger observes that the Hellenized section of the population in Egypt "was only a fraction in comparison with the number of native inhabitants who used only the Egyptian languages."[21] By the third century the decline was evidently well advanced. I have already argued that the copyist who did P66 (c. 200) did not know Greek. Now consider the case of P75 (c. 220). E.C. Colwell analyzed P75 and found about 145 itacisms plus 257 other singular readings, 25% of which are nonsensical. From the pattern of mistakes it is clear that the copyist who did P75 copied letter by letter![22] This means that he did not know Greek—when transcribing in a language you know you copy phrase by phrase, or at least word by word. K. Aland argues that before 200 the tide had begun to turn against the use of Greek in the areas that spoke Latin, Syriac or Coptic, and fifty years later the changeover to the local languages was well advanced.[23]

Again the Aegean Area is far and away the best qualified to transmit the Text with confidence and integrity. Note that even if Egypt had started out with a good text, already by the end of the 2nd century its competence to transmit the text was steadily deteriorating. In fact the early papyri (they come from Egypt) are demonstrably inferior in quality, taken individually, as well as exhibiting rather different types of text (they disagree among themselves).

The strength of the Church

This question is relevant to our discussion for two reasons. First, the law of supply and demand operates in the Church as well as elsewhere. Where there are many congregations and believers there will be an increased demand for copies of the Scriptures. Second, a strong, well established church will normally have a confident, experienced leadership—just the sort that would take an interest in the quality of their Scriptures and also be able to do something about it. So in what areas was the early Church strongest?

Although the Church evidently began in Jerusalem, the early persecutions and apostolic activity caused it to spread. The main line of advance seems to have been north into Asia Minor and west into Europe. If the selection of churches to receive the glorified Christ's "letters" (Rev. 2 and 3) is any guide, the center of gravity of the Church seems to have shifted from Palestine to Asia Minor by the end of the first century. (The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome's armies in A.D. 70 would presumably be a contributing factor.) Kurt Aland agrees with Adolf Harnack that "about 180 the greatest concentration of churches was in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast of Greece." He continues: "The overall impression is that the concentration of Christianity was in the East. . . . Even around A.D. 325 the scene was still largely unchanged. Asia Minor continued to be the heartland of the Church."[24] "The heartland of the Church"—so who else would be in a better position to certify the correct text of the New Testament?

What about Egypt? C.H. Roberts, in a scholarly treatment of the Christian literary papyri of the first three centuries, seems to favor the conclusion that the Alexandrian church was weak and insignificant to the Greek Christian world in the second century.[25] Aland states: "Egypt was distinguished from other provinces of the Church, so far as we can judge, by the early dominance of gnosticism."[26] He further informs us that "at the close of the 2nd century" the Egyptian church was "dominantly gnostic" and then goes on to say: "The copies existing in the gnostic communities could not be used, because they were under suspicion of being corrupt."[27] Now this is all very instructive—what Aland is telling us, in other words, is that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted. Aland's assessment here is most probably correct. Notice what Bruce Metzger says about the early church in Egypt:

Among the Christian documents which during the second century either originated in Egypt or circulated there among both the orthodox and the Gnostics are numerous apocryphal gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses. . . . There are also fragments of exegetical and dogmatic works composed by Alexandrian Christians, chiefly Gnostics, during the second century. . . . In fact, to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant Christian sect was represented in Egypt during the second century; Clement mentions the Valentinians, the Basilidians, the Marcionites, the Peratae, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimetites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known.[28]​

It is almost enough to make one wonder whether Isaiah 30:1-3 might not be a prophecy about N.T. textual criticism!

But we need to pause to reflect on the implications of Aland's statements. He is a champion of the Egyptian ("Alexandrian") text-type, and yet he himself informs us that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted and that by 200 the use of Greek had virtually died out there. So on what basis can he argue that the Egyptian text subsequently became the best? Aland also states that in the 2nd century, 3rd century, and into the 4th century Asia Minor continued to be "the heartland of the Church." This means that the superior qualifications of the Aegean area to protect, transmit and attest the N.T. Text carry over into the 4th century! It happens that Hort, Metzger and Aland (along with many others) have linked the "Byzantine" text-type to Lucian of Antioch, who died in 311. Now really, wouldn't a text produced by a leader in "the heartland of the Church" be better than whatever evolved in Egypt?

Attitude toward the Text

Where careful work is required, the attitude of those to whom the task is entrusted is of the essence. Are they aware? Do they agree? If they do not understand the nature of the task, the quality will probably do down. If they understand but do not agree, they might even resort to sabotage—a damaging eventuality. In the case of the N.T. books we may begin with the question: "Why would copies be made?"

We have seen that the faithful recognized the authority of the N.T. writings from the start, so the making of copies would have begun at once. The authors clearly intended their writings to be circulated, and the quality of the writings was so obvious that the word would get around and each assembly would want a copy. That Clement and Barnabas quote and allude to a variety of N.T. books by the turn of the 1st century makes clear that copies were in circulation. A Pauline corpus was known to Peter before A.D. 70. Polycarp (XIII) c. 115, in answer to a request from the Philippian church, sent a collection of Ignatius' letters to them, possibly within five years after Ignatius wrote them. Evidently it was normal procedure to make copies and collections (of worthy writings) so each assembly could have a set. Ignatius referred to the free travel and exchange between the churches and Justin to the weekly practice of reading the Scriptures in the assemblies (they had to have copies).

A second question would be: "What was the attitude of the copyists toward their work?" We already have the essence of the answer. Being followers of Christ, and believing that they were dealing with Scripture, to a basic honesty would be added reverence in their handling of the Text, from the start. And to these would be added vigilance, since the Apostles had repeatedly and emphatically warned them against false teachers. As the years went by, assuming that the faithful were persons of at least average integrity and intelligence, they would produce careful copies of the manuscripts they had received from the previous generation, persons whom they trusted, being assured that they were transmitting the true text. There would be accidental copying mistakes in their work, but no deliberate changes. It is important to note that the earliest Christians did not need to be textual critics. Starting out with what they knew to be the pure text, they had only to be reasonably honest and careful. I submit that we have good reason for understanding that they were especially watchful and careful—this especially in the early decades.

As time went on regional attitudes developed, not to mention regional politics. The rise of the so-called "school of Antioch" is a relevant consideration. Beginning with Theophilus, a bishop of Antioch who died around 185, the Antiochians began insisting upon the literal interpretation of Scripture. The point is that a literalist is obliged to be concerned about the precise wording of the text since his interpretation or exegesis hinges upon it.

It is reasonable to assume that this "literalist" mentality would have influenced the churches of Asia Minor and Greece and encouraged them in the careful and faithful transmission of the pure text that they had received. For example, the 1,000 MSS of the Syriac Peshitta are unparalleled for their consistency. (By way of contrast, the 8,000 MSS of the Latin Vulgate are remarkable for their extensive discrepancies, and in this they follow the example of the Old Latin MSS.) It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Antiochian antipathy toward the Alexandrian allegorical interpretation of Scripture would rather indispose them to view with favor any competing forms of the text coming out of Egypt. Similarly the Quarto-deciman controversy with Rome would scarcely enhance the appeal of any innovations coming from the West.

To the extent that the roots of the allegorical approach that flourished in Alexandria during the third century were already present, they would also be a negative factor. Since Philo of Alexandria was at the height of his influence when the first Christians arrived there, it may be that his allegorical interpretation of the O.T. began to rub off on the young church already in the first century. Since an allegorist is going to impose his own ideas on the text anyway, he would presumably have fewer inhibitions about altering it—precise wording would not be a high priority.

The school of literary criticism that existed at Alexandria would also be a negative factor, if it influenced the Church at all, and W.R. Farmer argues that it did. "But there is ample evidence that by the time of Eusebius the Alexandrian text-critical practices were being followed in at least some of the scriptoria where New Testament manuscripts were being produced. Exactly when Alexandrian text-critical principles were first used . . . is not known."[29] He goes on to suggest that the Christian school founded in Alexandria by Pantaenus, around 180, was bound to be influenced by the scholars of the great library of that city. The point is, the principles used in attempting to "restore" the works of Homer would not be appropriate for the NT writings when appeal to the Autographs, or exact copies made from them, was still possible.

Conclusion

What answer do the "four controlling factors" give to our question? The four speak with united voice: "The Aegean area was the best qualified to protect, transmit and attest the true text of the N.T. writings." This was true in the 2nd century; it was true in the 3rd century; it continued to be true in the 4th century. And now we are ready to answer the question, "Was the transmission normal?", and to attempt to trace the history of the text.

-------

Notes

[21]Metzger, Early Versions, p. 104.
[22]Colwell, "Scribal Habits," pp. 374-76, 380.
[23]K. and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), pp. 52-53.
[24]Ibid., p. 53.
[25]Roberts, pp. 42-43, 54-58.
[26]K. and B. Aland, p. 59.
[27]K. Aland, "The Text of the Church?", Trinity Journal, 1987, 8NS:138.
[28]Metzger, Early Versions, p. 101.
[29]W.R. Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Cambridge: University Press, 1974), pp. 14-15. He cites B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 1924, pp. 111, 122-23.​

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I post this fairly lengthy section of Pickering’s to give an idea of the text-critical hypothesis he gives to account for the existence of the Byzantine text, and also to put in perspective the phenomenon of the Alexandrian textform. Remember what Dr. Maurice Robinson said,

A sound rational approach which accounts for all the phenomena and offers a reconstruction of the history of textual transmission is all that is demanded for any text-critical hypothesis. (From the Introduction to The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform, by Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont.

Both Robinson’s and Pickering’s works (and Bruggen’s as well!) are important advances in textual study, and should not be ignored.
 
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redeemed & reformed

Puritan Board Freshman
The only reason Erasmus included it in his text was because he lost a bet.

Can you explain that, please? Thanks!

As you may know, Erasmus did not include the Comma in either the first or second editions of his Greek text. Erasmus promised his Romanist detractors that he would kindly include the Comma in his third edition if even one Greek manuscript containing the Comma could be produced.... A monk (can't recall the order) forged a Greek text containing it by translating the Comma from the Latin into Greek. Erasmus was then shown this manuscript and, being a man of his word, included the Comma in his 3rd edition.

I have to say that if true, this story makes Erasmus look like a spineless idiot.

Indeed, I am in full agreement:agree:. As one of my past seminary professors used to say "The Roman Catholic Church handed Erasmus one document with the comma-and the ink was still wet on the page.":D
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Can you explain that, please? Thanks!

As you may know, Erasmus did not include the Comma in either the first or second editions of his Greek text. Erasmus promised his Romanist detractors that he would kindly include the Comma in his third edition if even one Greek manuscript containing the Comma could be produced.... A monk (can't recall the order) forged a Greek text containing it by translating the Comma from the Latin into Greek. Erasmus was then shown this manuscript and, being a man of his word, included the Comma in his 3rd edition.

I have to say that if true, this story makes Erasmus look like a spineless idiot.

Indeed, I am in full agreement:agree:. As one of my past seminary professors used to say "The Roman Catholic Church handed Erasmus one document with the comma-and the ink was still wet on the page.":D

If a prof at a seminary said it, it must be true! :lol:

Have you read through the whole thread? This 'story' about Erasmus is very dubious if you consider some of the earlier posts.

BTW, welcome to PB!
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I submit for consideration the brief defense of 1 John 5:7 by Dr. Thomas Holland.


The following is an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Holland's Crowned With Glory, ©2000, used with permission (and found at this website).

1 John 5:7 (Johannine Comma) - "These Three Are One"

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."

The passage is called the Johannine Comma and is not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts.[1] However, the verse is a wonderful testimony to the Heavenly Trinity and should be maintained in our English versions, not only because of its doctrinal significance but because of the external and internal evidence that testify to its authenticity.

The External Support: Although not found in most Greek manuscripts, the Johannine Comma is found in several. It is contained in 629 (fourteenth century), 61 (sixteenth century), 918 (sixteenth century), 2473 (seventeenth century), and 2318 (eighteenth century). It is also in the margins of 221 (tenth century), 635 (eleventh century), 88 (twelfth century), 429 (fourteenth century), and 636 (fifteenth century). There are about five hundred existing manuscripts of 1 John chapter five that do not contain the Comma.[2] It is clear that the reading found in the Textus Receptus is the minority reading with later textual support from the Greek witnesses. Nevertheless, being a minority reading does not eliminate it as genuine. The Critical Text considers the reading Iesou (of Jesus) to be the genuine reading instead of Iesou Christou (of Jesus Christ) in 1 John 1:7. Yet Iesou is the minority reading with only twenty-four manuscripts supporting it, while four hundred seventy-seven manuscripts support the reading Iesou Christou found in the Textus Receptus. Likewise, in 1 John 2:20 the minority reading pantes (all) has only twelve manuscripts supporting it, while the majority reading is panta (all things) has four hundred ninety-one manuscripts. Still, the Critical Text favors the minority reading over the majority in that passage. This is commonplace throughout the First Epistle of John, and the New Testament as a whole. Therefore, simply because a reading is in the minority does not eliminate it as being considered original.

While the Greek textual evidence is weak, the Latin textual evidence for the Comma is extremely strong. It is in the vast majority of the Old Latin manuscripts, which outnumber the Greek manuscripts. Although some doubt if the Comma was a part of Jerome's original Vulgate, the evidence suggests that it was. Jerome states:

In that place particularly where we read about the unity of the Trinity which is placed in the First Epistle of John, in which also the names of three, i.e. of water, of blood, and of spirit, do they place in their edition and omitting the testimony of the Father; and the Word, and the Spirit in which the catholic faith is especially confirmed and the single substance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is confirmed.[3]​

Other church fathers are also known to have quoted the Comma. Although some have questioned if Cyprian (258 AD) knew of the Comma, his citation certainly suggests that he did. He writes: "The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one' and likewise it is written of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one'."[4] Also, there is no doubt that Priscillian (385 AD) cites the Comma:

As John says "and there are three which give testimony on earth, the water, the flesh, the blood, and these three are in one, and there are three which give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one in Christ Jesus."[5]​

Likewise, the anti-Arian work compiled by an unknown writer, the Varimadum (380 AD) states: "And John the Evangelist says, . . . 'And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one'."[6] Additionally, Cassian (435 AD), Cassiodorus (580 AD), and a host of other African and Western bishops in subsequent centuries have cited the Comma.[7] Therefore, we see that the reading has massive and ancient textual support apart from the Greek witnesses.

Internal Evidence: The structure of the Comma is certainly Johannine in style. John is noted for referring to Christ as "the Word." If 1 John 5:7 were an interpretation of verse eight, as some have suggested, than we would expect the verse to use "Son" instead of "Word." However, the verse uses the Greek word logos, which is uniquely in the style of John and provides evidence of its genuineness. Also, we find John drawing parallels between the Trinity and what they testify (1 John 4:13-14). Therefore, it comes as no surprise to find a parallel of witnesses containing groups of three, one heavenly and one earthly.

The strongest evidence, however, is found in the Greek text itself. Looking at 1 John 5:8, there are three nouns which, in Greek, stand in the neuter (Spirit, water, and blood). However, they are followed by a participle that is masculine. The Greek phrase here is oi marturountes (who bare witness). Those who know the Greek language understand this to be poor grammar if left to stand on its own. Even more noticeably, verse six has the same participle but stands in the neuter (Gk.: to marturoun). Why are three neuter nouns supported with a masculine participle? The answer is found if we include verse seven. There we have two masculine nouns (Father and Son) followed by a neuter noun (Spirit). The verse also has the Greek masculine participle oi marturountes. With this clause introducing verse eight, it is very proper for the participle in verse eight to be masculine, because of the masculine nouns in verse seven. But if verse seven were not there it would become improper Greek grammar.
Even though Gregory of Nazianzus (390 AD) does not testify to the authenticity of the Comma, he makes mention of the flawed grammar resulting from its absence. In his Theological Orientations he writes referring to John:

. . . (he has not been consistent) in the way he has happened upon his terms; for after using Three in the masculine gender he adds three words which are neuter, contrary to the definitions and laws which you and your grammarians have laid down. For what is the difference between putting a masculine Three first, and then adding One and One and One in the neuter, or after a masculine One and One and One to use the Three not in the masculine but in the neuter, which you yourselves disclaim in the case of Deity?[8]​

It is clear that Gregory recognized the inconsistency with Greek grammar if all we have are verses six and eight without verse seven. Other scholars have recognized the same thing. This was the argument of Robert Dabney of Union Theological Seminary in his book, The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek (1891). Bishop Middleton in his book, Doctrine of the Greek Article, argues that verse seven must be a part of the text according to the Greek structure of the passage. Even in the famous commentary by Matthew Henry, there is a note stating that we must have verse seven if we are to have proper Greek in verse eight.[9]

While the external evidence makes the originality of the Comma possible, the internal evidence makes it very probable. When we consider the providential hand of God and His use of the Traditional Text in the Reformation it is clear that the Comma is authentic.

Footnotes:

[1] The first and second editions of Erasmus' Greek text did not contain the Comma. It is generally reported that Erasmus promised to include the Comma in his third edition if a single manuscript containing the Comma could be produced. A Franciscan friar named Froy (or Roy) forged a Greek text containing it by translating the Comma from the Latin into Greek. Erasmus was then presented with this falsified manuscript and, being faithful to his word, reluctantly included the Comma in the 1522 edition. However, as has now been admitted by Dr. Bruce Metzger, this story is apocryphal (The Text Of The New Testament, 291). Metzger notes that H. J. de Jonge, a respected specialist on Erasmus, has established that there is no evidence of such events occurring. Therefore, opponents of the Comma in light of the historical facts should no longer affirm this report.

[2] Kurt Aland, in connection with Annette Benduhn-Mertz and Gerd Mink, Text und Textwert der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments: I. Die Katholischen Briefe Band 1: Das Material (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1987), 163-166.

[3] Prologue To The Canonical Epistles. The Latin text reads, "si ab interpretibus fideliter in latinum eloquium verterentur nec ambiguitatem legentibus facerent nec trinitatis unitate in prima joannis epistola positum legimus, in qua etiam, trium tantummodo vocabula hoc est aquae, sanguinis et spiritus in ipsa sua editione ponentes et patris verbique ac aspiritus testimoninum omittentes, in quo maxime et fides catholica roboratur, et patris et filii et spirtus sancti una divinitatis substantia comprobatur."

[4] Treatises 1 5:423.

[5] Liber Apologeticus.

[6] Varimadum 90:20-21.

[7] Some other sources include the Speculum (or m of 450 AD), Victor of Vita (489 AD), Victor Vitensis (485 AD), Codex Freisingensis (of 500 AD), Fulgentius (533 AD), Isidore of Seville (636 AD), Codex Pal Legionensis (650 AD), and Jaqub of Edessa (700 AD). Interestingly, it is also found in the edition of the Apostle's Creed used by the Waldenses and Albigensians of the twelfth century.

[8] Fifth Orientation the Holy Spirit.

[9] Actually the 1 John commentary is the work of "Mr. John Reynolds of Shrewsbury," one of the ministers who completed Matthew Henry's commentary, which was left incomplete [only up to the end of Acts] at Henry's death in 1714.

[end of Holland]
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I will also look at Poimen’s (Rev. Daniel Kok) post #42 when I have time, though I must say that CalvinandHodges (Robert Paul Wieland) is more skilled at this kind of critical scrutiny on 1 John 5:7 than I – Rob, where are you?

It’s just that I’m busy, and these posts are time-consuming!
 
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Tallen

Puritan Board Freshman
Steve,

I appreciate your posts and the amount of information you provide. You are a blessings.

BTW, I lifted part of this post and put it on my website.
 
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