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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Has the New Testament changed?

If we go to the heart of the matter, we find that christians often make claims which are patently false in support of the beliefs. The claim that there are “25,000 ancient manuscripts from the New Testament, of which at least 5600 are copies from the original Greek. Of these there are only 40 lines of disputed text” is patently false, not to mention academically dishonest and grotesquely misleading.

There are no first century works. There are no second century works either. The earliest writings can only be dated to the first part of the third century, sometime between 200 and 225 CE. In spite of the fact that it is often claimed that there are 5,600 "ancient copies" of the New Testament, the reality is that there is one and only one complete version of the New Testament, and that is Codex Sinaiticus.

So, of the 5,600 alleged “ancient copies” of the New Testament, you have one complete copy (Codex Sinaiticus) and nearly 300 incomplete copies.

What about the other 5,300 “ancient copies?” They aren’t’ copies, as you will see.

Of the those, only a small percentage (12 out of 300 or 4%) even remotely resemble the New Testament. Those 12 are the only texts used when preparing editions of the New Testament (excluding the KJV which is based solely on the faulty Textus Receptus). The remaining 96% are not used because they are either too fragmentary, conflict with other texts, or both. I will list them in order of completeness:

1) Codex Sinaiticus circa 350 CE. Once again, this is the ONLY COMPLETE version of the New Testament.

2) Codex Alexandrinus circa 450 CE. It is nearly complete and very close doctrinally to Codex Sinaiticus, except for the Epistles. There are more than 40 disputed lines of text between Codices Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus.

3) Codex Vaticanus circa 350 CE. It is true that all of Revelation is missing, as are 46 chapters of Genesis, 30 Psalms, all of the pastoral epistles, and Hebrews 9 thru 13. This codex is doctrinally influenced by the Alexandrian school. The gospels differ greatly from Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus (more than the 40 lines of disputed text).

4) Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus circa 450 CE. Most of you wouldn’t even recognize this as the New Testament, because there are 100s of lines of disputed text. It contains portions of every book except for 2 Thessalonians and 2 John.

5) Codex Bezae/Cantabrigiensis circa 450 CE. This book contains the gospels and Acts only. It is heavily Western influenced and contains dozens of lines of disputed text.

6) Codex Claromontanus circa 550 CE. It contains only the Epistles by Paul and Hebrews. This and the following two codices are based on Western Doctrine.

7) Codices Augiensis and Boernerianus circa 850 CE. Contains only Paul’s Epistles.

8) Codex Regius circa 750 CE. Only the gospels. It most often agrees with Codex Vaticanus. Again, several hundred lines of disputed text, not 40 lines.

9) Codex Washingtonianus circa 425 CE. No relation to President George Washington. A Byzantine work of portions of the gospels only. Parts of John appear to be copied from Codex Alexandrinus.

10) Codex Koridethi circa 850 CE. Gospel parts only. Parts of Mark appear to have been quoted from the works of Origen and Eusebius in the 3rd and 4th Centuries respectively.

11) Codex Athous Laurae circa 900 CE. Contains parts of gospels, Acts, most of Paul and the Epistles. A mix of the Alexandrian, Western and Byzantine doctrines. Hundreds of lines of disputed text.

That’s it.

All other copies are fragmentary. What about the other 280-odd “New Testaments?” The majority of those are the various versions of the Textus Receptus (there is no such thing as a “standard” Textus Receptus), a text which had at one time had 1,838 disputed lines of text, and all date after 1500, so they are by no means “ancient” in spite of what people claim.

The remainder are worse than Codex Athous Laurae. They exist only as a few chapters or parts of several chapters, and they conflict heavily.

The use of the word “manuscript” is false and misleading at best. These are fragments, literally scraps of paper, consisting of several lines, or partial paragraphs. You will often see references to “25,000 ancient manuscripts” which aren’t really all that ancient, with many coming from the Middle Ages or from the period prior to the Reformation.

These “25,000 ancient manuscripts” were pieced together to form 2,813 “witnesses” as they are generally called by christian theologians.

Of those 2,813 Greek “witnesses,” better than 90% are based on Byzantine doctrine. About 10% (200 or so) deviate greatly from Byzantine doctrine (meaning 100s of lines of disputed text). All 2,813 manuscripts, none of which are complete by any stretch of the imagination, are dated after 800 CE. Only about 5 of the 2,813 Greek manuscripts are actually used in translation, because the others conflict so badly. Those five numbered manuscripts are:

1) #33 circa 800 CE is very Alexandrian in doctrine. It contains parts of the gospels, Acts, Paul, and the catholic Epistles, which differ vastly from all other Epistles.

2) #81 has a given date of 1044 CE (ancient?) contains complete Acts, Paul, and the catholic Epistles. The text of Acts mostly agrees with Codex Alexandrinus.

3) #1739 circa 950 CE contains most (but not all) of Acts, Paul, and the catholic Epistles. Another that shows Alexandrian influence.

4) E1 circa 1300 CE (another “ancient” manuscript) These are a collection of gospel fragments that appear to be based on the Ceasarean school of thought circa 300 CE.

5) E13 circa 1400 CE. These are a collection of gospel fragments. This group is very important, because it proves John 7:53 to 8:11 is a later addition (B. M. Metzger summarizes: “the evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the Pericope of the Adulteress is overwhelming).

Codices Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Rescriptus do not contain the story at all. Codices Bezae/Cantabrigiensis and Claromontanus contain parts of it.

More embarrassingly, in some texts, the Pericope of the Adulteress occurs at John 21, while in other texts, it occurs at either Luke 21 or Luke 25.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the story:

Pseudo-John 7:53 And each one departed to his own house. 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 8:2 Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. 8:3 The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them 8:4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. 8:5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone to death such women. What then do you say?” 8:6 (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. 8:7 When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8:8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Pseudo-John 8:9 Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 8:10 Jesus stood up straight and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 8:11 She replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

That’s 12 lines of disputed text right there.

I have argued in the past that this was an insertion to justify the adulterous affairs (including bisexual and homosexual affairs) and rapes of many of the popes (one pope in particular used to rape women on the streets in front of horrified on-lookers).

That’s also the biggest problem. We have no texts prior to the year 200, and who knows how many additions and deletions were made to the text in the first 50 years, 100 years, or 150 years.

Another 100 of the 5,600 “ancient copies” of the New Testament are a collection of papyri fragments. The five texts most commonly used in translation are the Chester Beatty Papyrus and the Bodmer Papyrus.

1) #45 (Chester Beatty) circa 250 CE contains gospels and Acts 4-17, Mark (the Caesarean version); Matthew, Luke, John (a mix of Alexandrian and Western)

2) #46 (Chester Beatty) circa 200 CE contains most of the Epistles of Paul and Hebrews

3) #47 (Chester Beatty) circa 250 CE papyrus contains only Revelation 9:10-17:2 usually agreeing with Codex Sinaiticus (this papyrus alone has over 40 lines of disputed text – too bad for AnneOminous).

4) #66 (Bodmer) circa 200 CE contains parts of John

5) #75 (Bodmer) circa 225 CE papyrus contains parts of Luke and John usually agreeing with Codex Vaticanus.

Additionally, there are incomplete “missionary” versions of New Testament:

1) Vulgate circa 250 CE, incomplete with heavy influence from Western, Alexandrian, and other schools.

2) Itala circa 250 CE, incomplete, typically Western

3) Vulgate II circa 350 CE and modified over the next two centuries has extensive cross-contamination. Conflicts heavily with the Vulgate text.

4) Syriac circa 200 to 600 CE, incomplete, with the older Syriac being generally Western, while the Pe****ta has a mixed text in gospels and Epistles, Western in Acts (the Harclean version of Acts is Western and the Palestinian Syriac is generally Caesarean.

5) Coptic circa 350 CE, incomplete. Versions from circa 450 CE are in the Sahidic dialect, and the last version from circa 850 CE is in the Bohairic dialect and all versions are generally Alexandrian.

6) Armenian circa 450 CE, incomplete, generally Caesarean but sections are Byzantine, and Paul appears to be copied from Alexandrian sources.

7) Georgian circa 450 CE, incomplete, generally Caesarean, but also Alexandrian and Western with an heavy Byzantine influence in later versions.

8) Ethiopic unknown, incomplete, generally early Byzantine

9) Slavonic circa 850 CE, incomplete, Byzantine through and through.

There’s your “5,600 copies” of the New Testament. As any fool can quite plainly see, the “5,600 ancient copies” just doesn’t pan out. Hebrews and most of the Epistles of Paul doesn’t equate to a copy of the New Testament. As it stands, there is only one complete copy of the New Testament, and that is Codex Sinaiticus. There are wide variances in all texts, which is why some are not used, but in all fairness, it is true that many of the manuscripts are ignored, because they are doctrinally close (but not exact) to other manuscripts that are more complete.

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