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Chapter 4

Two Greek New Testaments


Many theologians, seeking to calm the fears of church members, assert that there is only three percent of difference between the Greek manuscripts upon which the modern versions are based and those upon which the King James Version depends. Even if this estimate is correct, it means that the equivalent of 240 verses in the New Testament come under question. Very significant doctrinal changes could be accomplished by the perversion of such a large number of verses. Furthermore, should God’s children countenance any departure from the inspired writings? While many theologians, as we have noted, emphasize that only three percent of Scripture is in question, nevertheless, they are most tenacious in their defence of the modern versions. Indeed, their defence of these versions appears to extend beyond the matter of ease of understanding. After all, theologians in many instances have studied Greek and/or Hebrew. They themselves should have no trouble with a few archaic English words. Yet it is evident that the majority discard the King James Version, preferring one of the modern versions based upon the Greek manuscripts which contain numerous omissions and other errors. We could be forgiven for suspecting a hidden agenda.

There have been, from the earliest period of the Christian era, two competing Greek manuscripts. Before a sincere Bible student selects a Bible translation for daily use, it is imperative that he first examine which one of these two incompatible Greek manuscripts he finds to be the one which represents the original writings of the New Testament apostles, and then discover which translations are based upon this accurate Greek manuscript. Clearly, a translation from a faulty Greek manuscript can in no wise bring pure truth to God’s people.

The Greek manuscripts from which the King James Version of Scripture was translated, largely emanated from the Eastern Christian Church. When Constantinople, the headquarters of the Eastern Church, was overrun by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, many Greek scholars fled to the West, bringing with them priceless Greek manuscripts of Scripture. The Eastern Christian Church, particularly that located in Syria, had faithfully copied the manuscripts utilizing a technique similar to that used by the Jews in copying the Old Testament. In this technique, words and letters were counted and manuscripts checked to minimize the possibility of copyist errors.

So dedicated were the translators of the King James Version that they desired only the very best manuscripts, and eschewed those which have been tampered with in the West. The sound manuscripts represent over ninety-five percent of all Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

The second category of the Greek manuscripts, from which the vast majority of modern translations have been made, consists of those from the Western Christian Church which had its centers of learning in Alexandria and Rome. The two most famous of these manuscripts are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. Two significant Bibles have been translated from these Western manuscripts. The first was the Latin Vulgate translated in the fourth century, and the second was the Jesuit translation of Scripture in 1582 known as the Douay Version.

It is significant that churches which remain close to the truth of God always preferred Bibles based upon the Eastern manuscripts; while those who did not regard biblical authority as final, preferred the Western manuscripts. Thus the church in Pella in Palestine, where Christians fled after the fall of Jerusalem, the Syrian church of Antioch, the Italic church of Northern Italy, the Gallic of Southern France, the Celtic church of Great Britain, and the Waldensians all had the Eastern manuscripts as the basis for their Bibles. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church has always upheld the Western group of manuscripts. Such a situation should alert every loyal Christian to the need for a thorough examination of the Bible from which he is studying. Dr. Fuller has demonstrated the presence of the two contrasting categories of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Speaking of the production of the Douay translation, he states:

At the same time another group of scholars, bitterly hostile to the first group, were gathered at Rheims, France. There the Jesuits, assisted by Rome and backed by all the power of Spain, brought forth an English translation of the Vulgate. In its preface, they expressly declared that the Vulgate had been translated in 1300 into Italian and in 1400 into French, "the sooner to shake out of the deceived people’s hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses." This proves that Waldensian Versions existed in 1300 and 1400. So the Vulgate was Rome’s corrupt Scriptures against the Received Text; but the Received Text the New Testament of the apostles, of the Waldenses, and of the Reformers. D.O.Fuller, Which Bible?, p. 209

That the Western Christian church corrupted Scriptures cannot be doubted. Speaking of the pure Italic faith, Allix testified:

They receive only, saith he, what is written in the Old and New Testaments. They say, that the popes of Rome, and other priests, have depraved the Scriptures by their doctrines and glosses. Allix, Churches of Piedmont, p. 288

There is sound historical evidence to support the fact that the New Testament was early corrupted in the Western Christian church. Eusebius reported that in his day there were many corrupted manuscripts. He asserted that those who were destroying the manuscripts were claiming to correct them. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 24, quoted in B.G.Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, 15

Very soon the Gnostic heresy entered the Christian church. The proponents of this heresy taught that Christ was a created being. In the second century, Tatian wrote what he described to be a harmony of the gospels, termed the Diatessaron. This book claimed to have placed the four gospels into one book. However, it was so corrupted that eventually most churches destroyed the book. Encyclopedias, "Tatian" quoted in B.G.Wilkinson, op. cit., 16

In Alexandria in the third century, Clement refused to hand down Christian materials unmixed with the precepts of pagan philosophy. He freely quoted from corrupted manuscripts indicating that these were scriptural passages .Dean Burgon, The Version Revised, p. 366 quoted in B.G.Wilkinson, op. cit., 17

Origen also "corrected" Scripture. He stated:

The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written. MaClintock and Strong, quoted in ibid.

It was Origen who taught Jerome, the editor of the Latin Vulgate translation of Scripture.

Because the Gnostics did not accept the divinity of Jesus Christ, we can see evidences of this doctrine in their corrupted New Testament manuscripts. Let us examine just one. One of the great affirmations of the divinity of Jesus Christ was stated in Paul’s first epistle to Timothy:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16

Virtually every modern translation, following the Western manuscripts corrupted by the Gnostics, delete the word God and substitute the word He in its place, thus concealing this powerful witness to Christ’s divinity. Let us examine three modern translations of this text as evidence.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16, RSV

And great beyond all question is the mystery of our religion: He who was manifested in the body. 1 Timothy 3:16, NEB

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body. 1 Timothy 3:16, NIV

That the English translators of the King James Version were not alone in adhering to the legitimate Eastern manuscripts may be seen from an examination of the translation of this text in a number of European languages:

Dieu a été manifeste en chair (1 Timothy 3:16, Osterwald’s French Version)

Gott ist offenbaret im fleisch (1 Timothy 3:16, Luther’s German translation)

Iddio e stato-manifestato in carne (1 Timothy 3:16, Diodati’s Italian translation).

Deus se manifestou em carne (1 Timothy 3:16, Almeide’s Portuguese translation).

Dios ha sido manifestado en carne (1 Timothy 3:16, Valera’s Spanish translation).

William Tyndale had translated this passage in 1534 as

God was shewed in the fleisch (1 Timothy 3:16, Tyndale translation).

Clearly, the decision as to the stream of Greek manuscript in which to place one’s faith is a vital one.


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