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Chapter 5

Corrupted Manuscripts


One may inquire upon what evidence we base the assertion that the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus are corrupted manuscripts. Since much has made of the fact that each is a fourth-century document, whereas the earliest Greek manuscripts utilized in the construction of the Textus Receptus are dated a century later, many, impressed by the antiquity of the two Codices, are unaware that both are full of

alterations of an obvious correctional character—"brought in by at least ten different revisers, some of them systematically spread over every page, others occasional, all limited to separate portions of the MS, many of these being contemporaneous with the first writer, but for the greater part belonging to the sixth or seventh century." Dr. Scrivener, quoted in David Otis Fuller, True or False, p. 75

Thus many of the corrections postdate the earliest manuscripts used in the Textus Receptus by one or two hundred years. The very fact that it required so many corrections is proof beyond dispute that it was regarded as impure. Indeed, the Codex Sinaiticus would have been even more corrupted had it not been for the thoroughgoing revision which Dr. Scrivener believed took place in the

6th or 7th century [in order] to conform to manuscripts in vogue at that time which were "far nearer to our modern Textus Receptus." Ibid.

Unlike scribes in the East, there is clear evidence that those scribes who undertook the copying resulting in the Codex Sinaiticus were utterly incompetent.

There is no attempt to end the word at the end of the line, for even words having only two letters as en, ek, are split in the middle, the last letter being carried over to the beginning of the next line, though there was ample room for it on the line preceding. Ibid., 76

Rank scribal carelessness can be seen in that the Codex Sinaiticus

must have been derived from one in which the lines were similarly divided, since the writer occasionally omits just the number of letters which would suffice to fill a line, and that to the utter ruin of the sense; as if his eye had heedlessly wandered to the line immediately below. Doctor Scrivener cited instances "where complete lines are omitted" and others "where the copiers pass in the middle of the line to the corresponding portion of the line below." Ibid., 76-77

It is clear that the scribes failed to reread the page, for they could not have failed to notice such omissions, and the destroyed sense of sentences. Dean Burgon pointed out:

In the Gospels alone, Codex B (Vatican) leaves out words or whole clauses no fewer than 1,491 times. It bears traces of careless transcription on every page. Codex Sinaiticus "abounds with errors of the eye and pen to the extent not indeed unparalleled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-grade importance." On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament. Ibid., 77

It is little wonder that Dean Burgon exclaimed:

So manifest are the disfigurements jointly and exclusively exhibited by the two Codices (Vatican and Sinaitic) that instead of accepting them as two independent witnesses to the inspired original, we are constrained to regard them as little more than a single reproduction of one and the same scandalously corrupt and comparatively late copy. Ibid., 74

Dean Burgon went on to point out:

In the Gospels alone, Codex Vaticanus differs from the Received Text in the following particulars: It omits at least 2,877 words; it adds 536 words; it substitutes 935 words; it transposes 2,098 words; and it modifies 1,132; making a total of 7,578 verbal divergencies. But the Sinaitic manuscript is even worse for its total divergencies in the particulars stated above amount to nearly 9,000. Ibid., 78

It is little wonder than in considering these two fourth-century Codices and a similar one from Beza dated in the sixth century, Dean Burgon declared,

". . . without a particle of hesitation, that they are three of the most scandalously corrupt copies extant"; that they "exhibit the most shamefully mutilated texts which are anyway to be met with"; that they "have become (by whatever process, for their history is wholly unknown) the depository of the largest amount of fabricated readings, ancient blunders and intentional perversion of truth, which are discernible in any known copies of the Word of God." Ibid., 78

In view of the clear evidence that these manuscripts were copied by scribes who disregarded the elementary techniques of their art, it should not surprise us that the modern translations of Scripture based upon these manuscripts are greatly faulted. Bibles utilizing such carelessly recorded passages of Scripture should have no credibility in those areas where they differ from the Textus Receptus.

We must not overlook the fact, however, that such defective manuscripts amply support Rome’s claim that the church is the sole source of doctrinal truth. If our Bible is corrupted, then men will have to seek elsewhere to find full truth.


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