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Three-Way Discussion: MT vs. CT

Part Two

This discussion is continued from Three-Way Discussion: MT vs. CT - Part One. Once again, GettSmartt’s comments are in purple and enclosed in double "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. Rev Neal’s comments are in black and enclosed in single "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My responses are in red.


>> GettSmartt wrote to me:
I quoted at length from your article, "The Majority Text vs. the Critical Text" but Rev Neal dismissed most of the information there and even claimed there were some "un-truths." I think we are pretty much done but I can give you some more of his comments from another email. It might help you for future rebuttals (as well as me! :-) <<

I appreciate you quoting from my article. However, it might have been better to have simply given Rev Neal the title and URL of the article and directed him to it.

By directing him to the article itself he could read the whole article, and the quotes in context, along with seeing the extensive documentation I give for my statements. As for "un-truths" in the article, in preparing to write that article, and in studying this subject in general, I have read books by CT advocates (Metzger, Aland, and others), MT advocates (Hodges and Farstad [H&F], Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont [R&P], and others), and Harry Sturz who takes a "middle" position in the debate.

In quoting from these sources I make every effort to accurately represent the views of the author. I also always provide full documentation so the reader can check out the original source. But, or course, I am not infallible. So I may have misunderstood an author at some point.

Before commenting on your discussion, it might be helpful to check out the chapter "Majority Text vs. Critical Text: Part 2" in My Differences Between Bible Versions book. It presents some important data from Robinson's study of the adultery story (John 7:53-8:11).

Note, in this article, I discuss the issue of "accidental" mistakes. So even without appealing to Gnostic corruption, it should indicate why I would consider manuscripts from Egypt to be less reliable than those from the east. Egypt simply is far removed from where the autographs were located.

Now to comment on your discussion.

>> GettSmartt wrote:
Now, one thing I remember from reading the articles at that site was that even though the Critical Text can claim earlier generations -- weren't those texts found in Alexandria, Egypt the home of the Gnostics??<<

> Rev Neal responded:
Alexandria was in Egypt, and Egypt was the Home of Gnosticism, but that tells us very little. Northern Egypt was the seat of much orthodox Christianity as well as of Gnosticism, and just because the Gnostics were there doesn't mean that any and all existing manuscripts are reflective of gnosticism. Indeed, guilt by geographical association is FAR MORE damaging to any manuscript of Asia Minor -- and, hence, to any Byzantine Manuscript -- than to any manuscript from Egypt, for Asia Minor was the seat of many heretical movements, including Marcionism and Arianism.<

Yes, there were heretics in other areas besides Egypt. But, as stated in my first letter, the corrupted manuscripts of these heretics were not reproduced. Again, the text by Marcion is "only from citations in the Church Fathers" (R&P, p.xxxvii).

As for Egypt, yes there were Christians there; but also much Gnostic activity. And we do know from the writings of the Church Fathers that such heretics were in the habit of producing corrupted manuscripts.

Furthermore, the situation in Egypt is somewhat different from other areas, especially the east. All of the autographs, except two, were sent to eastern churches. The only exceptions are Romans and Mark which were sent to Rome. But NONE were sent to Egyptian churches.

So churches in the east had first the autographs and then first-generation copies of the autographs to compare manuscripts with. Thus they had a basis for discerning which copies were corrupted. But Egypt had no autographs. When copies first made their way to Egypt is impossible to determine. Maybe they had one or more first-generation copies, or only much later copies of copies.

> As for citations about the diverse distribution and antiquity of the Byzantine Text Type: such selective citations as to scholarly statements to such an effect are VERY misleading and, indeed, very typical of KJV-Only advocates.<

Again, I am NOT a KJV advocate. Also, as I indicate in my comment to "GettSmartt" above, I make every effort to study an issue form all sides and to accurately present my sources views.

> The following factors should be remembered whenEVER such claims (for distribution and/or antiquity) are made:

1. That what WE think of as the Byzantine Type didn't evolve into existence until the 700s - 1200s AD. Prior to about 700 AD, or so, while the Byzantine Text Type existed, it was FAR LESS different from what we know of as the Alexandrian Type than one might think. The written textual record demonstrates the process of textual evolution from a form of the Byzantine Text (in the 8th century) which was LESS elaborate and far MORE like the Alexandrian Text to a form of the Byzantine Text (in the 12th Century) which was MORE elaborate and far LESS like the Alexandrian Text.<

I quoted R&P previously as to the existence of the Byzantine Textform dating to well before 700 AD and H&F as to "The relative uniformity" of the MT manuscripts.

> 2. The wide distribution of the Byzantine Text Type wasn't predominately exclusive until the 10th Century, and then it was of a form of the Type that was LESS like the TR than most Majority-Priority/TR Priority/KJV-Only Advocates want to admit. In other words, the Byzantine Type Text OUTSIDE of the influence of the Imperial Scriptoriums was FAR LESS characteristic of the "advanced" Byzantine Type than the Text from INSIDE the sphere of influence of the Imperial Scriptoriums.

Within Byzantium the Text Type evolved far more quickly into what we think of, today, as the Byzantine (or Majority Text Type), while outside of Byzantium the Byzantine (or Majority Text Type) was far less quick to adopt the evolutionary steps toward a more elaborate type of text. IF one is speaking of the earliest extant Byzantine Generations this characteristic is even MORE pronounced. Those 5th and 6th century Byzantine exemplars are FAR MORE like their Alexandrian brothers and sisters than they are like their descendents in the 10th century generation of Byzantine Texts. That realization is CRITICAL.<

I will simply say your claims here conflict with Robinson's study, as outlined in the above mentioned article, along with what I have read elsewhere and articulate in my chapters on MT vs. CT.

>> GettSmartt quoted from your article:

3) EARLY TRANSLATIONS OF THE NT into other languages of the time generally reflect a Byzantine text-type. According to Aland, these includes the following (with dates of original translation in parentheses): the Syriac Peshitta (c.400), the Syriac Harkelensis (616), the Palestinian Syriac Version (c.400), the Armenian version (c.400), the Gothic version (c.341), and the Old Church Slavonic version (c.850).<<

> Rev Neal responded:
Very interesting ... firstly, According to Metzger's masterful text on the Versions, they reflect a MIXED text, mostly either early Byzantine or late Alexandrian ... it's hard to tell. They are FAR LESS like the Majority Text than they are like the Alexandrian, however. That is a point that MUST be recognized. Claiming these versions to be "Byzantine" is misleading. Sure, they have something of a Byzantine Character, but its a Byzantine Text that is MORE similar to the Alexandrian Text Type than it is of the MUCH LATER, fully formed Byzantine Type.<

>> GettSmartt quoted:
>> As for the most important early version, the Latin Vulgate, Carson claims this version was based on "a western textual tradition" (Carson, p.56). But Aland refutes this idea and states, ".. the consensus today favors the view that Jerome used a contemporary manuscript of the early Koine (Byzantine) type."<<

> Rev Neal responded:
... which, when compared with the late Byzantine Type (exemplars of which make up the MAJORITY of the Majority Text), is FAR LESS like it than it is like the Alexandrian and Western Textual tradition. Is that clear? The "early Koine (Byzantine) type" is MORE like the Alexandrian and Western types than it is like the Byzantine Type which is reflected in the MAJORITY of extant Byzantine Manuscripts. Why? Because the Majority of Byzantine Manuscripts post-date the 8th century AND are clearly the result of significant textual evolution.<

>> GettSmartt quoted:
>>Moreover, none of the early versions Aland discusses are said to reflect an Alexandrian text type (Aland, pp.181-210).<<

> Rev Neal claims:
That's simply a flat out un-truth. Metzger's text on the Versions makes it VERY clear that the textual tradition is mixed on most of the versions, INCLUSIVE of the Alexandrian text. This citation of Aland is very misleading, at best.<

My information on the content of the early versions came from the book: Kurt Aland, & Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987.

Aland and Aland are most definitely NOT MT advocates. Now, since I do not personally know any of these languages it would be impossible for me to personally verify what the Alands said. Now, maybe I misunderstood their statements; but that is why I provide full documentation for the information so that people can check out the book for themselves.

In any case, note that I do use "guarded" language in saying "generally reflect a Byzantine text-type" not "always reflect." Also, I do not say that all early versions reflect a Byzantine type; but simply the ones Aland discusses. But you are correct that this last sentence might be somewhat misleading. So I plan on removing it from the article the next time I update my site.

>> GettSmartt quotes:
The most important of these discoveries was several Egyptian papyri. Sturz lists "150 distinctively Byzantine readings" found in these papyri. Included in his list are papyri numbers 13, 45, 46, 47, 49, 59, 66, 72, 74, and 75 (pp.61, 145-159).

Sturz brings up another very important point about these papyri, "They attest the early existence of readings in the Eastern part of the Roman empire in which the Byzantine and the properly (i.e. geographically) Western witnesses agree and at the same time are opposed by the Alexandrian" (p.70).<<

> Rev Neal responds:
Which such has been claimed, an ACTUAL analysis of the variant readings in the Papyri show this to be untrue. An occasional Byzantine Reading (usually an EARLY Byzantine reading) may find support in the Papyri, but for the most part the Papyri reflect MORE the Alexandrian Text type than the Byzantine Type. Most scholarship seems to think that the Papyri are reflective of a type of the text which pre-dates the Alexandrian/Byzatine divergence. Hence, it's somewhere *between* the elaboration of the Early generation of the Byzantine Type and the austerity of the Alexandrian Type.<

The book I am quoting from is: Harry Sturz. The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984. Sturz is NOT a MT advocate. He takes a "middle" position in this debate, as I make clear in my article.

Sturz’s 300 page book is about half lists of the Greek texts in question and charts documenting his claims. So I would say he has done "an ACTUAL analysis" of the variants.

In addition, McBrayer, in the Preface to R&P’s text and R&P themselves make reference to the inclusion of "distinctively Byzantine readings" in the papyri (pp.xi, xxvi-xxvii).

Now, I do not know for sure; but I doubt you have worked with the manuscript evidence as much as these scholars. I am relatively sure that you have not done sufficient textual studies to have published your own Greek NT. So you will have to excuse me if I take the word of these scholars over yours.

[Note: In a separate e-mail to me, Rev. Neal indicated he has a Masters Degree in Textual Criticism.}

>> Next e-mail [with some in-between correspondence omitted]:

>> GettSmartt wrote:
That's an unfair statement! The author of that site is NOT a KJV-only advocate, and neither am I. As a result of reading the articles at that site I have become a MT/TR-ONLY advocate. Which means I will seriously consider any Bible based on the MT/TR -- the NKJV, LITV, MKJV and yes the KJV is also based on the TR but I have never used it and don't really plan to. And let's be honest, Pastor, apparently you are a CT-ONLY advocate.<<

Thank you for the kind defense! And I thank God that might site has such a positive impact on you.

> Rev Neal responded:
I'm very sorry if I've upset you in the course of my responding. In the past I have spent most of my time in these kinds of debates addressing KJV-Only advocates who have been informed by people like Ruckman, Riplinger, Hills, and Waite. As a result, in these kinds of debates I have been personally attacked and vilified to the point that a burning NIV was once thrown through the living room windows of my home. As such, I often get a bit jumpy and often a little sharp in my writing in these debates.<

Given this type of situation; that is understandable. But please check out the articles on my site. I think you will find that I deal with this and other controversial topics without the ranting and raving so commonly (and unfortunately) seen.

> And, therefore, it sometimes comes as a surprise to me when I encounter the occasional MT advocate. When I have encountered MT Priority advocates, those encounters have usually turned out to be positive -- though very little progress has ever been made. I find that most who support the priority of the Majority Text to be quite solid in their argument, and refleshingly consistant in their textual criteria. They simply prefer multiplicity of witness over antiquity of witness.<

As I have tired to point out throughout this discussion, the MT theory that I and R&P and even H&F ascribe to is not "mere nose counting." Antiquity and other factors are also taken into account.

> The problem I have with their position is that the Majority Text is, in and of itself, a critical text which represents the majority of extant Byzantine Texts and, therefore, the LATER generation of the Byzantine Type. I find it difficult to understand how Majority-Priority folk fail (or refuse) to see the problem with the internal evolution of their text.<

It is not a failure or refusal but a different theory as to how and why the text evolved, as I have tried to outline in my Textual Transmission Theory.

> The most glaring problems of the TR relative to the MT reflect the LAST steps, and often-times the most incredible examples, of this evolution, but the evolution was not confined to just the critical compilation of the TR. The entire Majority Text exhibits clear signs of having evolved from an earlier form to a later, more "complete," form, but the MAJORITY of manuscripts in the Majority Text are found in the last generation, and therefore the most "complete" form, of the text.<

As I have also pointed out, I do believe that you are exaggerating your claims of evolution of the text. Yes there was some changes; but there is not a clear cut "earlier" and "later" MT or Byzantine textype. At least, in none of the books I have read on this subject, and I have read many on all sides, is such an idea promoted in the way that you do. So again, you will have to excuse me if I do not accept you evaluation of the manuscript data.

> As for my being a CT-ONLY advocate ... that is simply untrue. I PREFER the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition of the Greek New Testament, but I actually have occasional problems with some of their textual choices. I could give you examples if you wish, but suffice it to say that when the UBS editors grade a non-Byzantine reading C or even D, but go ahead include it, I often find myself disagreeing with them.

There ARE occasions where a Byzantine-like reading appears to have stronger support than a problematical reading from an early Alexandrian text. In some cases it's fairly evident that there is some kind of scribal error at work (indeed, EVEN in the Alexandrian Text such was true) and, while usually the editors recognize this when it happens and give priority to the reading that is clearly NOT the result of a scribal error, they sometimes DON'T do that.

As for using translations made upon texts OTHER THAN the Nestle-Aland Critical text ... I not only have no problem doing that, but often do. There are times when I GREATLY prefer the KJV reading, or the NKJV reading, or a reading made upon the Majority Text. Sometimes it's a translational question, not a textual question (we must NOT forget that, even given their differences, there is an INCREDIBLE DEGREE of agreement BETWEEN the Types), and, as I've already said, I sometimes don't agree with the conclusions of the Nestle-Aland Editorial team.<

I would agree with both of your main points here. Of the two main issues, translation principle and Greek text type, the former is much more important. As my site will show, I strongly believe in using a "formal equivalence" principle as opposed to a "dynamic equivalence" one.

I also make it clear on my site that overall, any of the three major Greek texts (TR, MT, or CT) are very reliable. They are much more similar than they are different. So overall, we probably agree more than we disagree.

Final Note: Subsequent to the above discussion, Rev Neal sent me a rather lengthy e-mail commenting on my article "The Majority Text vs. the Critical Text." In order to respond to his concerns, and other comments I have received, I revised and expanded the chapter from my original book into two chapters for the second edition of My Differences Between Bible Versions book.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above discussion was posted on this Web site June 17, 1998.

Bible Versions Controversy: Greek Text Types
Bible Versions Controversy

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