23. The origin of Text Types.

23. The origin of Text Types.
The word Bible is derived from the Greek word biblia meaning books. It is common knowledge that the Bible is a bundle or library of books. To most of us this is a well known and secluded set of books forming one unit referred to as the Word of God, or the Scriptures. Yet we forget that there had been a certain development in the compilation of these books. In the beginning each document had a “life” of its own. Later some documents were grouped together forming the volume of the Pauline letters, or those of James through Jude known as the Catholic letters. Initially single copies of the original documents were made. The separate gospels, Acts (a), the volume of Pauline letters (p), usually including the letter to the Hebrews, the volume of the Catholic letters (c) and Revelation (r) each had a considerable period of individual copy history.

Due to scribal errors and alterations, copies developed unique characteristics whereby a specific copy could be identified as belonging to a certain group with a common ancestor or geographical origin. After the invention of the codex, all the gospels were often collected in one volume (e). Even at the beginning of the life of the Gospels as a volume, the different gospels often exposed their individual character of origin. From there onwards this bundle could again develop its own peculiarities. In some bundles the gospels are in the order as we know it, but some are in the so-called Western order, putting the disciples first, then the companions of disciples; Matthew, John, Luke and Mark. If a certain copy of Mark ended at chapter 16:8, and this corresponds with a quite a number of other manuscripts, it can be concluded that they all share a common ancestor or copy history. The same is true when the story of the woman caught in adultery is completely missing from the gospel of John, or placed after John 7:44, or John 21:24, or even after Luke 21:38, or Luke 24:53. These indications identify a specific group of texts showing great congruity in many other readings. This is called a text type. The different text types are named after the area or city it presumably originated.

In the late 1880’s and even after 1970 large amounts of fragments of papyri as well as tombstones were discovered. Many of these date from the first and second centuries, almost the time of the origin of the New Testament. Some of them contain only a word or a phrase from the N.T., being used for instance as a blessing in an amulet. Their value lies in the fact that we can know that that specific phrase had been known to exist in that form during that period.
Today we can compare the wording of the different text types with the oldest papyrus documents, fragments or other evidence. This helps us to determine the greatest possibility of the authentic words of the original autographs. Linguistic experts have compiled a set of universally accepted guidelines and criteria by which to evaluate a text. As an example I mention just one. A scribe would rather alter a sentence to make it more fluent and easier understood, than complicate it. Therefore a reading that superfluously seen is more obscure or difficult, has a greater possibility to render the original, especially when it proves to be correct when it is studied more intensely. We will look at some of these rules in greater detail further on. These guidelines have not only been tested on the New Testament, but hold true in all cases of antique texts, and are universally accepted and applied. This assists the delicate art of evaluating every variation.
The texts of the New Testament are grouped in the following text types: Alexandrian text type, the Western text type, the Caesarian text type and the Byzantine text type.

1. The Alexandrian Text Type.
This text type originated in the vicinity of Alexandria, North Africa. It is widely accepted that the Alexandrian text type represents a very old form of text in all important points. It was prepared by skilful editors trained in the linguistic traditions of Alexandria. Several important manuscripts like p66 (±200) and p75 (±175-225) prove that that this text type represents an archetype dating from early in the second century. It did not undergo the systematic grammatical or stylistic polishing like other texts. (See Metzger, p.216) Almost all specialists of the Greek New Testament regard this text type as the best ancient revision and best resemblance of the original autograph.
This text type is not slavishly followed by the United Bible society in the compiling of their combined text. As an example we look at Mat.27:49: Both the codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (main witnesses of this text type from about 350 A.D.) together with Ephraemi (±450), Regius (±750) and Ms1010 (±1150) as well as a Syrian translation from before 500 A.D. and a few others, all have the following words included: “…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.“ The Bible Societies accept that these words were interpolated here from John 19:34. Rather than stick to the common reading of the Alexandrian text type they leave it out because the text evidence and other considerations bear more weight. In this case there is no difference between the KJV and the NIV even though the Alexandrian text type differs.

The main witnesses of this text type are:

1. Proto Alexandrian:

1) p66, 150-200 A.D. Contains John 1:1-14:26. It exhibits a mixed text form with Alexandrian as well as Western readings. In John 7:52: it has the unique reading: “Search the scriptures and see that the prophet has not been raised out of Galilee.” All other manuscripts read: “a prophet” or “no prophet”
2) p75, 175-225A.D. Contains part of Luke and John. Since 2007 this manuscript together with p74 are kept in the Vatican.
3) p45, 200-250 A.D. Contains Acts, (+ the Gospels in the Caesarian text type.)
4) p46, 200 A.D. Contains parts of Romans, Hebrews, 1+2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians and 1 Thessalonians.
Although the Papyri do not contain huge parts of Scripture, their value as oldest manuscripts against which later more complete documents may be compared, cannot be over stressed.

5) Codex Sinaiticus,  ±350 A.D. It contains the whole Bible. It is deemed by far the best witness of the New Testament. During 1844

Dr. Constantin von Tischendorf. Wikipedia.

Dr. Constantin von Tischendorf, a lecturer at the University of Leipzig, visited the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, on a mission to search for old manuscripts. In a waste-basket intended for lighting the oven of the Monastery he discovered 43 parchment pages. It had been taken from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Tischendorf was allowed to take them with him, and he published it as Codex Frederico-Augustanus, to the honor of his patron at that time, the King of Saxony. During a second visit in 1853 he found nothing, but with his third visit in 1859 he donated a copy of the published codex to the steward of St. Catharine’s Monastery, upon which the steward showed him his own copy of an ancient manuscript, carefully concealed in his cell. Since Tischendorf was due to leave for Cairo the following day, he was allowed to study it during the night. In Cairo he met the abbot of St. Catharine’s and begged of him to have the manuscript brought there. During the next two months he, with the help of a pharmacist and a bookseller managed to copy the more than 110,000 lines of text.
With the help of Czar Alexander 11 of Russia, protector of the Greek Church as well as his patron, Tischendorf succeeded in having the manuscript donated to Russia. In return the Czar donated a silver shrine for St. Catharine, as well as 7,000 roubles for their library, 2,000 roubles as well as several Russian “honorary degrees” for the monks. At the expense of the Czar the codex was published with type cast for the purpose to resemble the characters of the manuscript. In 1933 the British Museum, London, with a grant from the Government and private donations, succeeded to buy the Sinaiticus from Russia for £100,000.
Initially the Sinaiticus consisted of the complete Old and New Testaments, as well as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, two early Christian books from the second century, as well as certain Old Testament apocrypha. Parts of the Old Testament are lost.
The New Testament is still intact, written in carefully executed uncials and completely legible. It was done by a scribe who unfortunately made many superfluous mistakes. Yet the source from which it was copied can be identified as an early example of the superior Alexandrian text type.
Usually two types of correctors are identified. The first at the scriptorium itself before the manuscript is released. It could be the scribe himself or his overseer. The other type of corrector is someone who at a later date endeavored to “conform” the manuscript to agree to the one he had at hand. In Sinaiticus at least four different correctors can be identified. As long ago as the time of Irenaeus who died in 202, he already wrote a plead to future scribes to copy a document without altering its content. In the quest to establish the original autograph, the original wording of a manuscript is of paramount importance, and not the alterations that could have been made hundreds of years later.
Sinaiticus is kept in the British Museum, London. At present it is made available on the internet due to its prime position in the list of New Testament manuscripts.
See http://www.codexsinaiticus.com

6) Codex Vaticanus (B) ±350 A.D. It contains both Testaments as well as the apocrypha except for Maccabees. At present three parts are missing. The first forty-six chapters of Genesis, thirty Psalms and from the New Testament Heb.9:14 onwards, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Revelation. This is reckoned as the second important witness of the New Testament, kept in the Vatican.

Codex Alexandrinus (A) ±450 A.D. It contains the Old Testament and most of the New Testament. In the Gospels it is the oldest witness of the Byzantine text type. The rest of the New Testament, probably copied from another source, it represents the Alexandrian text type, equal to the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

1b. Later Alexandrian:
1) Codex Ephraemi (C) Palimpsest. ±450 A.D. Contains 5/8th of every part of the NT. Except for 2 Thessalonians and 2 John. The text is an example of a mixture of all the text types.
2) Codex Regius (L) ±750 A.D. The Gospels are almost complete. It was badly written with numerous unnecessary mistakes, but contains a good text type, often agreeing with Vaticanus. Mistakes and even huge blunders can easily be identified and corrected, but the text itself is of importance to the text critic, helping him in his conquest to establish the original autograph. It is in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
3) Codex Washington (W) 375-425 A.D. It contains the Gospels in the Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark). This codex seems to be copied from an ancestor made up from parts of different manuscripts pieced together. Its editor, Henry A. Sanders recons it was probably pieced together after Diocletian (245-313 A.D.) tried to crush the Church by destroying its sacred books. The four gospels are compiled as follows:
Matthew: Byzantine.
John 1:1-5:11: Alexandrian and Western (a quire replaced ±650 A.D.)
John 5:12-end: Alexandrian
Luke 1:1-8:12: Alexandrian
Luke 8:13-end: Byzantine
Mark 1:1-5:30: Western (Akin to Old Latin)
Mark 5:31-end: Caesarian (Akin to p45)
The fact that all four Text types are easily distinguishable in this manuscript of around 400 A.D. proves that all four text types were quite established at that time. The quire that had replaced the original in John, shows the influence of “corrections” made in the source manuscript from which it had been copied.

An interesting insert is found after Mark 16:14. Jesus criticized the disciples for not believing those who had seen Him after the resurrection, and they answered Him:
“And they excused themselves, saying, ‘this age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘the term of years for Satan’s power as been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. and for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more; that they may inherit the spiritual ad incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.“
4) MS 33; ±875 A.D. This manuscript is frequently called the “Queen of Minuscules” Contains the whole NT except for Revelation. It is an excellent example of the Alexandrian text type, but with Byzantine influence in Acts and the Pauline epistles. It is kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
5) MS 383 ±1250 A.D. Contains the Pauline and Catholic Epistles in the Alexandrian text type, as well as Acts in the Western text type. It consists of 181 parchment pages of 18x13cm. Only Heb 13:7-25 is lost. It is kept in the Bodleian library in Oxford.

The Alexandrian text type is represented by twelve other uncial codices and at least thirteen minuscule manuscripts.

2. Caesarean Text Type.
This text type probably originated in Egypt and was then taken by Origen (†254) to Caesarea. From there it was taken to Jerusalem (more than a dozen manuscripts have a note ‘copied and corrected from the ancient manuscripts at Jerusalem’). Then it was taken to the Armenians, who had a colony in Jerusalem, and to the Georgians. This text follows the Alexandrian text in principle, but also retains any Western reading that does not seem too improbable. It displays a certain striving after elegance.

The main witnesses of this text type are the following:
1) p45, 200-250 A.D. It contains parts of the four gospels. (Acts is in the Alexandrian text type, as was mentioned above.)
2) Codex Washington (W) 375-425 A.D. It contains the Gospels in different text types in the Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark), as mentioned.
3) Codex Koridethi (θ) ±850 A.D. Contains the gospels. It is written in a rough inelegant hand by a scribe who was not familiar with Greek. In Mark it resembles the text Origen († 254) and Eusebius († 339) used in Caesarea. The other gospels are typical Byzantine.
4) Family 1 (1150-1350 A.D.) Minuscule manuscripts no’s: 1, 118, 131, 209 and several others. It is akin to codex Koridethi (θ), where Mark resembles a text type used during the third and fourth centuries in Caesarea.
5) Family 13 (1050-1450 A.D.) Minuscule manuscripts Nos. 13, 69, 124 and 346, together with at least eight more minuscule manuscripts form this family. They all have the incident of the woman caught in adultery not after John 7:52, but after Luke 21:38.
6) MS. 565; (850-950 A.D.) It contains the gospels. This is one of the most beautiful manuscripts, written in gold letters on purple vellum. In Mark it represents the Caesarean text type. It is in the library of Leningrad.
7) MS. 700; (1050-1150 A.D.) It contains the gospels. It differs no less than 2,724 times from the printed text from which the King James translation was made and has 270 unique readings. Together with manuscript No.162 it has the words “Thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us”, instead of “Thy kingdom come” in the Lords Prayer. (Luke11:2). It is kept in the British museum, London.

3. The Western Text Type
This text type is described as “…an undisciplined ‘wild’ growth of manuscript tradition and translational activity.” (B.M.Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p.213). Copies of this text type has a wide distribution, not only in North Africa, Italy and France, but also in Egypt and the East. Although most learned scholars deem this text type as very corrupt, it is possible that the original could be contained where it is lost in other text types.

The most important witnesses of this text type are:
1) Codex Bezae (D); (450-550 A.D.) It contains the greater part of all four gospels, acts and a fragment of 3 John. It is a Diglot with Greek on the left and Latin on the right. “No known manuscript has so many and such remarkable variations …free addition (and occasional omission) of words, sentences and even incidents.” (Metzger p50) In Luke’s description of the Last Supper, all reference to the second cup is removed (Luke 22:20), leaving the order of institution inverted as first the cup and then the bread. In Acts there are so many additions that it is almost one tenth longer than any other witness!
2) Codex Washington (W); (375-425 A.D.) It contains the Gospels in different text types in the Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark), as mentioned.
3) Codex Claromontanus (Dp); (±550 A.D.) It contains the Pauline epistles including Hebrews. It is compiled in the same manner as Codex Bezae with the same features. The works of at least nine correctors have been identified. Codex Sangermanensis, (Ep) is a copy of Claromon¬tanus, made ±850 or ±950 and has no individual significance.
4) MS 383; ±1250 A.D. It contains Acts in the Western text type, the Pauline and Catholic epistles in the Alexandrian text type as mentioned. It is kept in the Bodleian library, Oxford.

4. Byzantine Text Type.
The Byzantine text type is based on the harmonizing work of Lucian of Antioch around 310 A.D. He and his helpers deliberately combined the elements of the different earlier text types. The Greek Orthodox Church used a manuscript of this text type to make copies for their Churches. That is the reason for the numerous copies of this text type. The question remains whether many copies of the same manuscript should weigh more than a few copies of another text type. In the light of the secondary origin of this text type as a whole, most investigators of the New Testament as well as most Bible Societies deem it rather as of lesser value.

The most important witnesses of this text type are:
1) Codex Alexandrinus (A); (±450 A.D.) It contains the Old Testament as well as most of the New Testament. Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople presented it to King Charles 1 of England in 1627. It rests in the British Museum, London. In the gospels it is the oldest witness of the Byzantine text type. The rest of the New Testament is of Alexandrian text type, probably copied from another source text.
2) Codex Basiliensis (E); (±750 A.D.) It contains the gospels and is kept in the University of Basle, Switzerland.
3) Codices F, G, H, K, P, S, V, , . All contain the gospels and are dated between 801 to 900 A.D., except for P, dated ± 550.
4) Codex Washington (W); (375-425 A.D.) It contains the Gospels in different text types in the Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark), as mentioned.
Mathew and Luke 8:13-24:53 represent the Byzantine text type.
5) Codex 049 (±850 A.D.) Contains Acts and the Pauline epistles.
6) Codices 046, 051 en 052; dated ±901 – 1000 A.D. All three on Revelation.
7) Most of the minuscule manuscripts represent the Byzantine text type, as explained above, and dated after the year 901 A.D.
8.) The first printed Greek text of Desiderius Erasmus, later known as the Textus Receptus, is reckoned as the finale form of this text type. Even so, Erasmus’ text differs almost 2000 times from the standard Byzantine text.

Although this is a long post, I thought it best to keep it all together.

God Bless!



About bibledifferencesfacts

I am a retired preacher of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Since my studies at the University of Pretoria I had a keen interest in the reasons for the differences between the translations of the Bible, especially the New Testament. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, two grand sons and one grand daughter. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman
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