New Testament Versions

The Usage and Sig­nif­i­cance of the New Tes­ta­ment Ver­sions for Text Crit­i­cal Purposes

There are three sources of doc­u­men­ta­tion for the his­to­ry of the New Tes­ta­ment text — first, the Greek man­u­scripts ; sec­ond, the ver­sions and final­ly the patris­tic quo­ta­tions.Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux, (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 5. The pletho­ra of prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with the Greek man­u­scripts and the patris­tic evi­dence have already been explored in-depth and it was shown why they do not help us in recov­er­ing the orig­i­nal text” of the New Testament. 

The only item now left to exam­ine are the New Tes­ta­ment ver­sions or translations.

Accord­ing to the polemi­cist and mis­sion­ary, Jay Smith :

    We have today in our pos­ses­sion 5,300 known Greek man­u­scripts of the New Tes­ta­ment. [For any giv­en book, there are between 100 and 1000 man­u­scripts], anoth­er 10,000 Latin Vul­gates, and 9,300 oth­er ear­ly ver­sions (MSS), giv­ing us more than 24,000 man­u­script copies of por­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment in exis­tence today ! (tak­en from McDow­ell’s Evi­dence That demands a Ver­dict, vol.1, 1972 pp. 40 – 48 ; and Time, Jan­u­ary 23, 1995, p. 57).

Anoth­er Chris­t­ian apol­o­gist writes :

    …there are thou­sands more New Tes­ta­ment Greek man­u­scripts than any oth­er ancient writ­ing. The inter­nal con­sis­ten­cy of the New Tes­ta­ment doc­u­ments is about 99.5% tex­tu­al­ly pure. That is an amaz­ing accu­ra­cy. In addi­tion there are over 19,000 in copies in the Syr­i­ac, Latin, Cop­tic, and Ara­ma­ic lan­guages. The total sup­port­ing New Tes­ta­ment man­u­script base is over 24,000.

The apol­o­gists John Anker­berg and John Wel­don claim :

    For the New Tes­ta­ment we have 5,300 Greek man­u­scripts and man­u­script por­tions, 10,000 Latin Vul­gates, 9,300 oth­er ver­sions

Final­ly, a low-lev­el Chris­t­ian polemi­cist excit­ed­ly pro­claims (copy­ing pret­ty much from Joseph Smith’s pro­pa­gan­da tract):

    We have today in our pos­ses­sion 5,300 known Greek man­u­scripts of the New Tes­ta­ment, anoth­er 10,000 Latin Vul­gates, and 9,300 oth­er ear­ly ver­sions (MSS), giv­ing us more than 24,000 man­u­script copies of por­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment in exis­tence today !

Accord­ing to the above-referred polemi­cists and apol­o­gists, there are some 10,000 Latin Vul­gates and 9,300 oth­er ear­ly” ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment in exis­tence. Pre­sum­ably, this means that the orig­i­nal” text of the New Tes­ta­ment can be recon­struct­ed on the basis of these ear­ly” ver­sions. But how ear­ly” are these ver­sions ? How do they assist schol­ars in the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the New Tes­ta­ment ? Can we real­ly recov­er the orig­i­nal text“The def­i­n­i­tion of the term orig­i­nal text” is actu­al­ly quite prob­lem­at­ic as well. Accord­ing to some, the orig­i­nal text” is the auto­graph — the words used by the orig­i­nal writer ; oth­ers would regard the orig­i­nal text” to be as close as pos­si­ble” to the orig­i­nal” — hence acknowl­edg­ing at least some dif­fer­ences between the orig­i­nal” and the restored form of the text ; still a few oth­ers would equate the orig­i­nal text” with the lat­est crit­i­cal edi­tion of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment. The orig­i­nal text” may also be con­ceived of as the form of the text in the first pub­lished” edi­tion of a New Tes­ta­ment writ­ing, from which stem all lat­er man­u­scripts. It gets more com­pli­cat­ed. Is the orig­i­nal text the one altered by a pro­to-ortho­dox scribe — which was then read, believed and act­ed upon by the Chris­t­ian mass­es — or the scribes altered text ? Should we dis­re­gard the dif­fer­ent forms of texts avail­able to Chris­tians at dif­fer­ent times and places, which no doubt these Chris­tians con­sid­ered to be orig­i­nals”?

Evan­gel­i­cal schol­ar John J. Bro­gan draws our atten­tion to some of these ques­tions : Fur­ther­more, tex­tu­al crit­ics have recent­ly been exam­in­ing the ques­tion as to what we mean by recov­er­ing the orig­i­nal text” or whether there is even such a thing as a sin­gle auto­graph and whether it is recov­er­able. Build­ing on the evi­dence pro­duced by source and redac­tion crit­ics, tex­tu­al crit­ics affirm that many New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings were redact­ed and expand­ed at lat­er times. In some cas­es, it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult and prob­lem­at­ic to define what exact­ly an auto­graph is. For exam­ple, accord­ing to most tex­tu­al crit­ics, the auto­graph of Mark did not con­tain the longer end­ing (Mk 16:9 – 20), and the auto­graph of John did not con­tain the sto­ry if the woman caught in adul­tery (Jn 7:53 – 8:11). With a doc­trine of the inerran­cy of the auto­graphs,” what should we do with such pas­sages ? Are these pas­sages not inspired and there­fore errant because they were not part of the auto­graph ? In attempt­ing to iden­ti­fy the inspired, inerrant word of God, do we excise these pas­sages, or can a case be made for the inspi­ra­tion and author­i­ty of the longer, canon­i­cal form of the text?” (John J. Bro­gan, Can I Have Your Auto­graph ? Uses and Abus­es of Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism in For­mu­lat­ing an Evan­gel­i­cal Doc­trine of Scrip­ture”, in Vin­cent Bacote, Lau­ra C. Miguelez, Den­nis L. Okholm (eds.), Evan­gel­i­cals & Scrip­ture : Tra­di­tion, Author­i­ty and Hermeneu­tics, 2004, Inter­Var­si­ty Press, pp. 103 – 104)

All of these issues are stud­ied in detail in the fol­low­ing essay : E. Jay Epp, The Mul­ti­va­lence Of The Term Orig­i­nal Text” In New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism on the basis of these versions ? 

The pur­pose of this paper is to inves­ti­gate these questions.

Overview Of The Prob­lems And Lim­i­ta­tions With The Use Of Versions

Ver­sions” are sim­ply the trans­la­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment into oth­er lan­guages. The New Tes­ta­ment writ­ers orig­i­nal­ly wrote their books and epis­tles in the Greek lan­guage where­as the ver­sions are trans­la­tions of their writ­ings into oth­er lan­guages. Nat­u­ral­ly, non-Greek speak­ing Chris­tians want­ed the text of the New Tes­ta­ment in their own local lan­guages and so the New Tes­ta­ment began to be trans­lat­ed into oth­er lan­guages some­time in the mid to late sec­ond cen­tu­ry. An impor­tant point to remem­ber is that no mat­ter how many thou­sands of trans­la­tions exist, it remains that they are in a lan­guage that is dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal lan­guage (Greek) of the New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings. Thus, their use and val­ue will always be lim­it­ed. A num­ber of issues need to be con­sid­ered when deal­ing with versions/​translations. The translator(s) may have had an imper­fect com­mand of the Greek and non-Greek lan­guages. More­over, cer­tain fea­tures of the Greek syn­tax and vocab­u­lary can­not be repro­duced and con­veyed in trans­la­tions. This means that the trans­la­tions need to be used with great cau­tion and care. They may cer­tain­ly assist schol­ars at times in ascer­tain­ing the gen­er­al char­ac­ter of the under­ly­ing Greek and non-Greek man­u­scripts, but they can­not be used to recon­struct the orig­i­nal” text of the Greek New Testament.

Küm­mel in his intro­duc­tion to the New Tes­ta­ment says :

But even the old­er trans­la­tions are only to be used with cau­tion as a wit­ness for the Greek text : No trans­la­tion exact­ly cor­re­sponds to the orig­i­nal even if it is lit­er­al. Nuances and spe­cial fea­tures of the Greek lan­guage (imper­fect, aorist, per­fect ; sub­junc­tive, opta­tive ; mid­dle voice ; the mul­ti­tude of prepo­si­tions, etc.) can­not be repro­duced exact­ly in a trans­la­tion. Often a trans­la­tion vari­ant is only the con­se­quence of an inter­pre­ta­tion of a dif­fi­cult Greek text. Added to that, the tex­tu­al his­to­ry of the ver­sions them­selves is stud­ded with prob­lems.W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 17th Revised edi­tion, 1975, SCM Press Ltd, p. 526

Met­zger and Ehrman in their lat­est intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment tex­tu­al crit­i­cism add :

… cer­tain fea­tures of Greek syn­tax and vocab­u­lary can­not be con­veyed in a trans­la­tion. For exam­ple, Latin has no def­i­nite arti­cle ; Syr­i­ac can­not dis­tin­guish between the Greek aorist and per­fect tens­es ; Cop­tic lacks the pas­sive voice and must use a cir­cum­lo­cu­tion.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 95

Fur­ther­more, as Küm­mel point­ed out above, the tex­tu­al his­to­ry of the var­i­ous New Tes­ta­ment ver­sions is also quite prob­lem­at­ic. The ver­sions were com­posed at dif­fer­ent times and loca­tions with the use of dif­fer­ent Greek and non-Greek man­u­scripts — of vary­ing qual­i­ty — by scribes with a vary­ing degree of com­mand of the lan­guages and these trans­la­tions were sub­se­quent­ly copied/​recopied by scribes of vary­ing com­pe­tence on the basis of dif­fer­ent Greek and non-Greek man­u­scripts — also of dif­fer­ent qual­i­ty. Thus, from an ear­ly time there exist­ed dif­fer­ing copies of the var­i­ous trans­la­tions. Cer­tain ver­sions were cor­rect­ed against one anoth­er by mul­ti­ple trans­la­tors who made use of dif­fer­ent Greek and non-Greek man­u­scripts for their pur­pos­es. With the absence of the orig­i­nals and rely­ing sole­ly upon lat­er copies of trans­la­tions — all of unequal qual­i­ty — schol­ars have to first apply tex­tu­al crit­i­cism upon the ver­sions in order to restore their ear­ly forms before they can be used for the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment. Quite under­stand­ably, this process tends to be even more com­pli­cat­ed than the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment itself. Accord­ing to Prof. Bruce Met­zger and Prof. Bart Ehrman :

The study of the ear­ly ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment is com­pli­cat­ed by the cir­cum­stance that var­i­ous per­sons made var­i­ous trans­la­tions from var­i­ous Greek man­u­scripts. Fur­ther­more, copies of a trans­la­tion in a cer­tain lan­guage were some­times cor­rect­ed one against the oth­er or against Greek man­u­scripts oth­er than the ones from which the trans­la­tion was orig­i­nal­ly made. Thus, the recon­struc­tion of a crit­i­cal edi­tion of an ancient ver­sion is often more com­pli­cat­ed than the edit­ing of the orig­i­nal Greek text itself.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 95

In light of these and oth­er prob­lems, Koester notes :

Trans­la­tions, how­ev­er, are noto­ri­ous­ly dif­fi­cult evi­dence, because they pro­vide only a rel­a­tive cer­tain­ty with respect to the text of their Greek orig­i­nal.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 19

Anoth­er prob­lem with some of these ver­sions, as we shall short­ly see, is that they were pro­duced on the basis of oth­er ver­sions and not the Greek man­u­scripts. Hence some of the ver­sions are mere­ly trans­la­tions of trans­la­tions and, there­fore, bare­ly used by tex­tu­al schol­ars for the recon­struc­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment text.

The dif­fi­cul­ties of using the ver­sions and their lim­i­ta­tions are sum­marised by Chris­t­ian schol­ars Lee Mar­tin McDon­ald and Stan­ley Porter as follows :

Besides pass­ing down the tex­tu­al tra­di­tion in Greek, a num­ber of church­es ear­ly on engaged in the trans­la­tion of the NT into their par­tic­u­lar lan­guages. For exam­ple, there are Syr­i­ac, Armen­ian, and Goth­ic ver­sions, besides a wide range of Old Latin ver­sions to con­sid­er, some of them in quite frag­men­tary form.46 Again, besides the prob­lem that we do not pos­sess the orig­i­nal of any of these ver­sions and hence tex­tu­al crit­i­cism must be done here as well, there is the seri­ous ques­tion of trans­la­tion. The com­plex­i­ty of the issue is that these texts are in lan­guages dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal text of the NT and require not only the under­stand­ing of these lan­guages but knowl­edge of the var­i­ous prin­ci­ples of trans­la­tion that may have been used in the course of their devel­op­ment. There is the fur­ther prob­lem, exac­er­bat­ed by the dif­fer­ence in lan­guages, of deter­min­ing which text was before the trans­la­tor. The prob­lems with these trans­la­tions nec­es­sar­i­ly intro­duce the ques­tion of whether they are good guides in estab­lish­ing the orig­i­nal text of the NT. In some cas­es, how­ev­er, they can help to clar­i­fy cer­tain issues : for exam­ple, the Syr­i­ac Peshit­ta does not have John 21.…Lee Mar­tin McDon­ald and Stan­ley E. Porter, Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty and Its Sacred Lit­er­a­ture, 2000, Hen­drick­son Pub­lish­ers, p. 584

Chris­t­ian apol­o­gist David Stone writes :

…there are some 9,300 ear­ly man­u­scripts in oth­er lan­guages, notably Syr­i­ac, Cop­tic (Egypt­ian), Goth­ic, Armen­ian, Geor­gian, Ethiopic and Old Slavon­ic. Dis­cov­er­ing the nature of the Greek text from which many of these were trans­lat­ed is not always easy. For a start, there may have been imper­fec­tions in the work of trans­la­tion, espe­cial­ly if trans­la­tors were not com­plete­ly famil­iar with the lan­guages they were deal­ing with. St. Augus­tine com­plains that No soon­er did any­one gain pos­ses­sion of a Greek man­u­script, and imag­ine him­self to have any facil­i­ty in both lan­guages (how­ev­er slight that may be) that he made bold to trans­late it’ (On Chris­t­ian Doc­trine 2.11.16). In addi­tion, there are cer­tain fea­tures of Greek which sim­ply can­not be trans­lat­ed direct­ly into some oth­er lan­guages. It’s well known, for exam­ple, that, unlike Greek, Latin has no def­i­nite arti­cle, thus mak­ing the word the’ impos­si­ble to trans­late.David Stone, The New Tes­ta­ment (Teach Your­self Books), 1996, Hod­der & Stoughton Ltd UK, p. 101

The most impor­tant trans­la­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment are the Latin, Syr­i­ac and the Cop­tic trans­la­tions.Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux, (Trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 26. Accord­ing to Koester these trans­la­tions have “…had a com­plex his­to­ry, includ­ing sev­er­al recen­sions which show the influ­ence of a Greek text that mean­while had under­gone its own fur­ther devel­op­ments and edi­tions.“Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 31. The old­est stages of these trans­la­tions belong to the late sec­ond cen­tu­ry and at least the ear­ly third cen­tu­ry for the Cop­tic trans­la­tion.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 31. The oth­er trans­la­tions are gen­er­al­ly of lit­tle val­ue and used to the min­i­mum by tex­tu­al scholars.

So how are the ver­sions use­ful when it comes to the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the New Tes­ta­ment ? As not­ed above, they can, how­ev­er, be use­ful at times to judge the gen­er­al char­ac­ter of the under­ly­ing texts and to ascer­tain what par­tic­u­lar words or phras­es might have been in place with­in the base texts. The ear­li­est ver­sions — the ones undoubt­ed­ly based upon Greek texts — which we will dis­cuss below, may act as a win­dow — albeit indi­rect — to study the ear­ly trans­mis­sion (and inter­pre­ta­tion) of the New Tes­ta­ment text in dif­fer­ent local­i­ties. More­over, agree­ments between ver­sions and the cita­tions of the Fathers from dif­fer­ent regions may reflect an ear­li­er text. Pri­mar­i­ly, how­ev­er, the ear­ly ver­sions act as use­ful evi­dence in New Tes­ta­ment tex­tu­al crit­i­cism when they add or lack cer­tain ele­ments or pas­sages.See Hyeon Woo Shin, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism And The Syn­op­tic Prob­lem In His­tor­i­cal Jesus Research : The Search For Valid Cri­te­ria (Con­tri­bu­tions To Bib­li­cal Exe­ge­sis & The­ol­o­gy, 36), 2004, Peeters-Leu­ven, Bondgenoten­laan, p. 34 Thus the ver­sions are used on occa­sions, with cau­tion, in a sup­ple­men­tary and cor­rob­o­ra­tive capac­i­ty by tex­tu­al critics. 

In the words of the Alands :

5. The pri­ma­ry author­i­ty for a crit­i­cal tex­tu­al deci­sion lies with the Greek man­u­script tra­di­tion, with the ver­sions and Fathers serv­ing no more than a sup­ple­men­tary and cor­rob­o­ra­tive func­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in pas­sages where their under­ly­ing Greek text can­not be recon­struct­ed with absolute cer­tain­ty.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 280

A Brief Sur­vey Of The Pri­ma­ry Ver­sions : Man­u­scripts, Sig­nif­i­cance, And Limitations

We will briefly go through the pop­u­lar ver­sions one by one and note the dates of their ear­li­est wit­ness­es and the over­all impor­tance of some of these versions.

Latin Vul­gate and Old Latin versions

A large num­ber of Chris­tians spoke Latin, the lan­guage of much of the west­ern part of the Roman Empire, and so the New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings were trans­lat­ed into Latin for these Chris­tians. Most schol­ars believe that the Gospels were first ren­dered into Latin dur­ing the last quar­ter of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry in North Africa.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, pp. 100 – 101. Soon many copies of the Latin trans­la­tions were cir­cu­lat­ing among the Chris­tians, how­ev­er, they dif­fered con­sid­er­ably from one anoth­er. Prof. Ehrman explains :

Prob­lems emerged very soon, how­ev­er, with the Latin trans­la­tions of scrip­ture, because there were so many of them and these trans­la­tions dif­fered broad­ly from one anoth­er.Bart D. Ehrman, Mis­quot­ing Jesus : The Sto­ry Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, 2005, Harper­San­Fran­cis­co, p. 74

In his De Doc­t­ri­na Chris­tiana, Augus­tine com­plained that any­one obtain­ing a Greek man­u­script of the New Tes­ta­ment would trans­late it into Latin no mat­ter how lit­tle he knew the lan­guages. Sim­i­lar­ly, Jerome — a well-known schol­ar of the fourth-fifth cen­tu­ry — also com­plained about the vari­ety of Latin man­u­script texts dur­ing his time, not­ing : There are almost as many dif­fer­ent trans­la­tions as there are man­u­scripts.” The prob­lem became so severe that near the end of the fourth cen­tu­ry, Pope Dama­sus had to com­mis­sion Jerome to pro­duce an offi­cial” trans­la­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment in Latin so that it would be accept­ed by all the Latin-speak­ing Chris­tians. Jerome went about with the task by select­ing, what he believed was, a rel­a­tive­ly good Latin trans­la­tion as the basis and com­par­ing its text with some Greek man­u­scripts at his dis­pos­al. This way, Jerome pro­duced a new edi­tion of the Gospels in Latin. Jerome’s Latin trans­la­tion came to be known as the Vul­gate (= Com­mon) Bible of Latin-speak­ing Chris­tians.Sum­marised from Bart D. Ehrman, Mis­quot­ing Jesus : The Sto­ry Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, 2005, Harper­San­Fran­cis­co, pp. 74 – 75. For a com­pre­hen­sive dis­cus­sion of the Latin ver­sions see Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, pp. 186 – 192 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, pp. 100 – 109 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 34.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Jerome’s revi­sion was itself soon cor­rupt­ed by the scribes dur­ing the course of its trans­mis­sion, both through care­less­ness and by delib­er­ate con­fla­tion with copies of the Old Latin ver­sions.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 34.

It was inevitable that, in the trans­mis­sion of the text of Jerome’s revi­sion, scribes would cor­rupt his orig­i­nal work, some­times by care­less tran­scrip­tion and some­times by delib­er­ate con­fla­tion with copies of the Old Latin ver­sions. In order to puri­fy Jerome’s text, a num­ber of recen­sions or edi­tions were pro­duced dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages ; notable among these were the suc­ces­sive efforts of Alcuin, Theo­dulf, Lan­franc, and Stephen Hard­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, how­ev­er, each of these attempts to restore Jerome’s orig­i­nal ver­sion result­ed even­tu­al­ly in still fur­ther tex­tu­al cor­rup­tion through a mix­ture of the sev­er­al types of Vul­gate text that had come to be asso­ci­at­ed with var­i­ous Euro­pean cen­ters of schol­ar­ship. As a result, the more than 8.000 Vul­gate man­u­scripts that are extant today exhib­it the great­est amount of cross-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of tex­tu­al types.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 106

Koester adds :

Today there are more than eight thou­sand known man­u­scripts of the Vul­gate which demon­strate that the lack of uni­for­mi­ty exist­ing at the time of Jerome was by no means over­come by his edi­tion.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 34

Jacobus H. Pet­zer concurs :

Although the Vg [Vul­gate] was meant to bring an end to the diver­si­ty, the tex­tu­al diver­si­ty obvi­ous­ly did not mag­i­cal­ly stop with the pro­duc­tion of the Vg. Decay con­tin­ued, with the new ver­sion cre­at­ing even more mix­ture.46Jacobus H. Pet­zer, The Latin Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment”, in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, pp. 123 – 124

Like­wise, Bruce Met­zger writes :

It was inevitable that, in the course of trans­mis­sion by recopy­ing, scrib­al care­less­ness cor­rupt­ed Jerome’s orig­i­nal work. In order to puri­fy the text sev­er­al medieval recen­sions were pro­duced…Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment”, in Matthew Black (Gen­er­al Edi­tor), Peake’s Com­men­tary on the Bible, 2001, Rout­ledge Co. Ltd., p. 671

Fur­ther­more, most of the thou­sands of man­u­scripts of the Vul­gate date from the medieval times, with the man­u­script deemed best” by most schol­ars — Codex Ami­at­i­nus — dat­ing from the sev­enth or eighth cen­tu­ry. Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 106. The Alands describe Codex Ami­at­i­nus as :

    …the old­est sur­viv­ing com­plete Bible in Latin.…

[Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 192]

The old­est man­u­script of the Vul­gate is Codex San­gal­len­sis, writ­ten prob­a­bly in Italy toward the close of the fifth cen­tu­ry (ibid., p. 108).

Mov­ing on, the Old Latin ver­sions do not con­tain the entire New Tes­ta­mentLeon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 27 ; Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 92 ; Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 187. and date from the fourth to the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry. Bruce Met­zger and Bart Ehrman write :

No codex of the entire Old Latin Bible is extant. The Gospels are rep­re­sent­ed by about 32 muti­lat­ed man­u­scripts, besides a num­ber of frag­ments. About a dozen man­u­scripts of Acts are extant. There are four man­u­scripts and sev­er­al frag­ments of the Pauline Epis­tles but only one com­plete man­u­script and sev­er­al frag­ments of the Apoc­a­lypse. These wit­ness­es date from the fourth to the thir­teenth cen­tu­ryBruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 101

In his clas­sic sur­vey of the New Tes­ta­ment ver­sions, Met­zger describes the state of the Old Latin man­u­scripts as follows :

…the man­u­scripts of the Old Latin ver­sions are rel­a­tive­ly few in a num­ber and unpre­ten­tious in format.

No one man­u­script con­tains the entire New Tes­ta­ment in the Old Latin ver­sion. Most of the copies are frag­men­tary and/​or palimpsest.5Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 293

It was, after all, the notable dif­fer­ences and the lack of uni­for­mi­ty among these ver­sions that prompt­ed Pope Dam­as­cus to entrust Jerome with a new revi­sion of the Latin Bible. Jacobus H. Pet­zer gives us an idea of the wide-rang­ing dif­fer­ences in the sur­viv­ing Old Latin (and Vul­gate) manuscripts :

The MSS [man­u­scripts], rep­re­sent­ing what is called the direct tra­di­tion, are not only often frag­men­tary but also often very late. This makes it dif­fi­cult to decide where and how par­tic­u­lar MSS relate to oth­ers. What makes the mat­ter worse is that almost every MS [man­u­script] is of a mixed nature. Most prob­a­bly not one sin­gle pure” Latin MS of the first mil­len­ni­um has sur­vived. Every Vg [Vul­gate] MS of the peri­od con­tains OL [Old Latin] read­ings in a greater or less­er extent, and every OL MS seems to have been con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed to some extent by Vg read­ings. Even in the MSS with a pre­dom­i­nant­ly OL text, appar­ent­ly few con­tain a text that rep­re­sents one of the OL text-types pure­ly.” They are all mixed. This mix­ture takes on near­ly every form pos­si­ble. Some MSS con­tain block mix­ture, where­by the tex­tu­al qual­i­ty of the MS changes in spe­cif­ic parts, wit­ness­ing to dif­fer­ent text-types in dif­fer­ent parts. In some instances, the mix­ture takes the form of indi­vid­ual read­ings of a spe­cif­ic text-type incor­po­rat­ed into a MS that has a pre­dom­i­nant­ly dif­fer­ent text-type. In oth­er instances, one finds a com­bi­na­tion of these two kinds of mix­ture. Not only does the extant evi­dence, there­fore, reflect only part of what once was, but it also does not rep­re­sent any part of the main­stream of the his­to­ry.Jacobus H. Pet­zer, The Latin Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment”, in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 119

Fur­ther­more :

It seems that there was a kind of free han­dling of the Latin ver­sion ear­ly in its his­to­ry, with new read­ings being cre­at­ed by almost every­body who worked with the text.Jacobus H. Pet­zer, The Latin Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment”, in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, pp. 119 – 120

There­fore, schol­ars do not use the Vul­gate or the Old Latin ver­sions for the recon­struc­tion of the ear­li­est form of the New Tes­ta­ment text, let alone the so-called orig­i­nal text.”

…the Latin ver­sion does not have any direct bear­ing on the orig­i­nal” text (auto­graphs) of the NT. It is much too late for that. Its only val­ue as a direct wit­ness, there­fore, is to the his­to­ry of the Greek text, inso­far as it had con­tact with that his­to­ry.Jacobus H. Pet­zer, The Latin Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment”, in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 124

Fur­ther­more, Met­zger adds :

In gen­er­al the type of NT text which is pre­served in Old Latin wit­ness­es belongs to the so-called West­ern’ fam­i­ly…Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment,” in Matthew Black (Gen­er­al Edi­tor), Peake’s Com­men­tary on the Bible, 2001, Rout­ledge Co. Ltd., p. 671

The impor­tance of the Vul­gate lies main­ly to the degree to which it pre­serves the Old Latin por­tions or read­ings.Eldon J. Epp, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism : New Tes­ta­ment,” Anchor Bible Dic­tio­nary (elec­tron­ic edi­tion ; Logos ; (c) 1997).

Some of the lim­i­ta­tions of trans­lat­ing Greek into Latin are as fol­lows : The aorist and per­fect tens­es can­not be dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed ; lack of def­i­nite arti­cle ; verbs lack the per­fect active par­tici­ple and the present pas­sive par­tici­ple ; depo­nents lack the pas­sive sys­tem and verbs lack the mid­dle ; cer­tain Greek syn­onyms are not pre­cise­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed in Latin.See the dis­cus­sion in Boni­fatius Fis­ch­er, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Latin In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 362 – 374

Cop­tic version

Palaeo­graph­i­cal­ly dat­ing man­u­scripts of the Cop­tic ver­sions is a tricky and com­plex busi­ness since there are almost no ear­ly dat­ed Cop­tic doc­u­ments. Thus cau­tion is need­ed when assign­ing dates to Cop­tic bib­li­cal frag­ments.See Fred­erik Wisse, The Cop­tic Ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 133. The main Cop­tic dialects are, Sahidic, Bohair­ic, Fayyu­mic, Mem­phitic, Achmim­ic and sub-Achmim­icThe Alands also add to the list Pro­to­bo­hair­ic dialect. See Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 200., out of which the Sahidic and the Bohair­ic dialects are the most impor­tant. Their old­est man­u­scripts date from the late third, late fourth and fifth centuries.

The Sahidic (south or upper Egypt­ian) ver­sion (sa or sah) prob­a­bly came into being bit by bit in the third cen­tu­ry and pre­serves in frag­ments almost the whole of the NT. The old­est man­u­script comes from the fourth century …

The age of the Bohair­ic (bo or boh) (north­ern or low­er Egypt­ian) ver­sion is debat­ed. But since we now know two man­u­scripts from the fourth/​fifth cen­tu­ry, the ori­gin of this ver­sion before the end of the fourth cen­tu­ry is cer­tain.W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 17th Revised edi­tion, 1975, SCM Press Ltd, pp. 536 – 537

How­ev­er, most of the Bohair­ic wit­ness­es are rel­a­tive­ly recent — ninth-six­teenth cen­turiesLeon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 38. and the ear­li­est com­plete Gospel codex still extant remains the one copied in A.D. 1174.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 112.

There is also a papyrus codex in the Fayyu­mic dialect con­tain­ing John 6:11 – 15:11, which is believed to date from the ear­ly part of the fourth cen­tu­ry.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 112. The Fayyu­mic is gen­er­al­ly more close­ly relat­ed to the Sahidic.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 34.

Fred­erik Wisse writes :

It is only for the late fourth and fifth cen­tu­ry that Cop­tic MS attes­ta­tion becomes sub­stan­tial and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of most of the NT writ­ings. Even for this rel­a­tive­ly late peri­od, the wit­ness­es rep­re­sent a wide array of Cop­tic dialects and inde­pen­dent tra­di­tions. This sug­gests that the ear­ly his­to­ry of the trans­mis­sion of the Cop­tic text of the NT long remained flu­id and hap­haz­ard.Fred­erik Wisse, The Cop­tic Ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 133

As not­ed above, the ear­ly trans­mis­sion of the Cop­tic text was flu­id and hap­haz­ard. The Sahidic texts are wide­ly diver­gent and were trans­lat­ed by dif­fer­ent inde­pen­dent trans­la­tors at var­i­ous times. Although the Sahidic ver­sion gen­er­al­ly agrees with the Alexan­dri­an text form, it also con­tains many West­ern read­ings.Sum­marised from Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 110. Also see Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Vol. 2, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 34. The Bohair­ic ver­sion, on the oth­er hand, appears to be lat­er than the Sahidic and although it sur­vives in many man­u­scripts, as not­ed above, almost all of them are of a very late date.Bruce Met­zger and Bart Ehrman write :

It [the Bohair­ic ver­sion] sur­vives in many man­u­scripts, almost all of them of a very late date (the ear­li­est com­plete Gospel codex still extant was copied A. D. 1174). [Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 112]

Accord­ing to Plum­ley, while the Cop­tic (Sahidic) ver­sion may well be used in attempts to recov­er the orig­i­nal Greek New Tes­ta­ment text, its appli­ca­tion in this regard would also be lim­it­ed for a vari­ety of rea­sons. Thus, there are many instances where the evi­dence of the Sahidic dialect would be unhelp­ful, lim­it­ed, and ambigu­ous. A num­ber of lim­i­ta­tions asso­ci­at­ed with the Sahidic dialect are point­ed out by Plum­ley, which include fac­tors such as no case end­ings in Sahidic dialect ; inabil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish between d and t ; inabil­i­ty to tru­ly rep­re­sent the Greek pas­sive ; Sahidic uses def­i­nite and indef­i­nite arti­cles dif­fer­ent­ly ; inabil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish between the var­i­ous Greek prepo­si­tions.See the dis­cus­sion in J. Mar­tin Plum­ley, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Cop­tic (Sahidic) In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 141 – 152

Be that as it may, the Cop­tic ver­sions, in gen­er­al, are pri­mar­i­ly help­ful when it comes to under­stand­ing the way how the New Tes­ta­ment text devel­oped in Egypt. In the case of the Sahidic dialect, these can be par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful to schol­ars involved in tex­tu­al crit­i­cism, as well as to schol­ars in gen­er­al because cer­tain pas­sages in the Sahidic pre­serve very ancient tra­di­tions of inter­pre­ta­tion, which will be of inter­est to schol­ars inves­ti­gat­ing the his­to­ry and devel­op­ment of Chris­t­ian doc­trine.See J. Mar­tin Plum­ley, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Cop­tic (Sahidic) In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 142

Syr­i­ac version

Under the rubric of Syr­i­ac ver­sion” falls the Old Syr­i­ac ver­sion, the Diates­saron, the Peshit­ta (also known as the com­mon ver­sion or the Syr­i­ac Vul­gate), the Philox­en­ian, the Har­clean, and the Pales­tin­ian Syr­i­ac ver­sions.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 193 ; Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux, (Trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 31 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 96. Lim­i­ta­tions of the Syr­i­ac in rep­re­sent­ing the Greek are list­ed by Brock in his excus­es, some of them being : lack of case end­ings in Syr­i­ac — thus its inabil­i­ty to indulge in the great free­dom of word order that is char­ac­ter­is­tic of Greek”; con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ences in the Syr­i­ac and Greek tense sys­tems ; lack of cor­re­spon­dence between the Syr­i­ac’s use of the post­pos­i­tive arti­cle and the Greek arti­cle ; entire sen­tences have to be restruc­tured, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Old Syr­i­ac ver­sion, due to the Syr­i­ac’s pref­er­ence of parataxis to hypotaxis ; inabil­i­ty to ren­der lit­er­al­ly the sub­stan­tive and com­pound words ; only rarely able to denote the pres­ence of prepo­si­tion­al com­pound ele­ments in verbs ; Syr­i­ac lacks in adjec­tives ; Syr­i­ac is poor in par­ti­cles.Sum­marised from : Sebas­t­ian P. Brock, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Syr­i­ac In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 83 – 88

Old Syr­i­ac ver­sion : This term is used to refer to the ear­li­est Syr­i­ac trans­la­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 193. The two ear­li­est man­u­scripts of the Syr­i­ac trans­la­tion are dat­ed to the fourth and fifth cen­turies. These are known as Syrc, called the Cure­to­ni­anus, and the Syrs, Codex Syrus Sinaiti­cus, called after its place of dis­cov­ery. These are frag­men­tary man­u­scripts in which only the text of the Gospels is pre­served and both these man­u­scripts have large gaps.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 32 ; Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 193 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 96. In gen­er­al, the Old Syr­i­ac ver­sion is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the West­ern text-type.Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 92 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 97.

Diatesseron : This was a gospel har­mo­ny pro­duced by Tat­ian, either in Greek or in Syr­i­ac,Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 193. What­ev­er the orig­i­nal lan­guage of com­po­si­tion, it was in the Syr­i­ac lan­guage that the Diates­saron was used for cen­turies in the east as the author­i­ta­tive ver­sion of the Gospels. See Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 30. in 170 A.D. In short, Tat­ian com­bined dis­tinc­tive phras­es pre­served by only one Evan­ge­list with those pre­served by anoth­er and arranged sec­tions of the gospels into a sin­gle nar­ra­tive. He omit­ted a few sec­tions such as the genealo­gies of Jesus (P) in Matthew and Luke. In this way, Tat­ian pro­duced one gospel, or a har­mo­ny of the gospels — sep­a­rate gospels woven into one. Diatesseron”, after all, means through [the] four [Gospels].“William L. Petersen, Tatian’s Diates­saron”, in Hel­mut Koester, Ancient Chris­t­ian Gospels : Their His­to­ry and Devel­op­ment, 1990, Trin­i­ty Press Inter­na­tion­al, p. 403 ; Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1997, The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Dou­ble­day, p. 839 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, pp. 131 – 133.

No com­plete copy of the Diates­saron exists. There is, how­ev­er, a small frag­ment (0212) in Greek con­tain­ing a por­tion of the Diates­saron which is placed around the mid-third century. 

William Petersen, a lead­ing expert and author­i­ty on the Diates­saron, writes :

No direct copy of Tatian’s Diates­saron exists. Instead, the schol­ar must be con­tent with a wide array of sources and attempt to recon­struct the Diates­saron’s text from them. These sources, called wit­ness­es” to the Diates­saron, range in genre from poems to com­men­taries, in lan­guage from Mid­dle Dutch to Mid­dle Per­sian, in extent from frag­ments to codices, in date from 3d to 19th cen­tu­ry, on prove­nance from Eng­land to Chi­na. Mas­ter­ing these sources is the key to Diates­sa­ron­ic schol­ar­ship.William L. Petersen, Tatian’s Diates­saron”, in Hel­mut Koester, Ancient Chris­t­ian Gospels : Their His­to­ry and Devel­op­ment, 1990, Trin­i­ty Press Inter­na­tion­al, p. 408

Since the orig­i­nal text of the Diates­saron is lost, a major chal­lenge for schol­ars is to recon­struct its text as much and as best as pos­si­ble. The recon­struc­tion of the Diates­saron text would enable schol­ars to get a snap­shot” of the Gospels as Tat­ian knew them around the mid-sec­ond cen­tu­ry.See William L. Petersen, The Diates­saron Of Tat­ian,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 77 Since the Diatesseron pre-dates all New Tes­ta­ment man­u­scripts, except for the tiny frag­ment p52, it should pro­vide us with a form of the text that goes back to the man­u­scripts of at least the mid-sec­ond cen­tu­ry.See William L. Petersen, The Diates­saron Of Tat­ian,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 77

Peshit­ta : The Peshit­ta (abbre­vi­at­ed Syrp) has over 350 extant man­u­scripts, the ear­li­est being from the fifth and sixth cen­turies.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 194 ; Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 34 ; Bruce M. Met­zger & Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 98. Fur­ther­more, it con­tains only 22 books of the New Tes­ta­ment, lack­ing II & III John, II Peter, Jude and Rev­e­la­tion — which the Syr­i­an Church does not accept as canon­i­cal — and also lacks the Peri­cope Adul­ter­ae (John 7:53 – 8:11), Luke 22:17 – 18Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 194 ; Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 48 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 32. as well as Matthew 27:35 ; Acts 8:37 ; 15:34 ; 28:29 ; 1 John 5:7 – 8 (these vers­es have lat­er been added to cer­tain man­u­scripts).Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 34.

Met­zger and Ehrman write :

The tex­tu­al com­plex­ion of the Peshit­ta ver­sion has not yet been sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly inves­ti­gat­ed, but appar­ent­ly, it rep­re­sents the work of sev­er­al hands in var­i­ous sec­tions. In the Gospels, it is clos­er to the Byzan­tine type of text than in Acts, where it presents many strik­ing agree­ments with the West­ern text.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 98

David Park­er writes :

It [the Peshit­ta] devel­oped, by a grad­ual process of revi­sion, out of far more ancient Syr­i­ac ver­sions.David Park­er, The New Tes­ta­ment,” in John Roger­son (Edi­tor), The Oxford Illus­trat­ed His­to­ry of the Bible, 2001, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 117

Also :

The Peshit­ta New Tes­ta­ment seems to have come into exis­tence more grad­u­al­ly, through revi­sion of ear­li­er Syr­i­ac trans­la­tions.Everett Fer­gu­son, Michael McHugh, Fred­er­ick W. Nor­ris (Edi­tors), Ency­clo­pe­dia of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty (Gar­land Ref­er­ence Library of the Human­i­ties, Vol. 1839) — One Vol­ume, Sec­ond Edi­tion, 1998, Gar­land Sci­ence, p. 901

The impor­tance of the Peshit­ta lies main­ly in the fact that it helps shed light on the char­ac­ter of the under­ly­ing Syr­i­ac trans­la­tions and it may also be use­ful to under­stand the devel­op­ment of the tex­tu­al tra­di­tion behind the Tex­tus Recep­tus of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment.Everett Fer­gu­son, Michael McHugh, Fred­er­ick W. Nor­ris (Edi­tors), Ency­clo­pe­dia of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty (Gar­land Ref­er­ence Library of the Human­i­ties, Vol. 1839) — One Vol­ume, Sec­ond Edi­tion, 1998, Gar­land Sci­ence, p. 1101

The Philox­en­ian and/​or Har­clean Version(s): The unrav­el­ing of the Philox­en­ian (abbre­vi­at­ed Syrph) and/​or the Har­clean (abbre­vi­at­ed Syrh) version(s) con­sti­tutes one of the most con­fus­ing and com­pli­cat­ed tan­gles in tex­tu­al crit­i­cism.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 99. Eldon J. Epp in his essay in the Anchor Bible Dic­tio­nary explains :

Final­ly, the com­plex Syr­i­ac tex­tu­al tra­di­tion con­tin­ued to devel­op through an ear­ly-6th-cen­tu­ry ver­sion made for Bish­op Philox­enus by his chorepis­co­pus Poly­carp in 5078, which was either reis­sued by Thomas of Harkel in 616 with mar­gin­al notes or was revised by Thomas, again with mar­gin­al notes. On the for­mer view, there is only one ver­sion involved (the Philox­en­ian); on the lat­ter view, there are two sep­a­rate ver­sions, the Philox­en­ian (syph) and the Har­clean (syh). Present evi­dence indi­cates that the lat­ter view is cor­rect and that Thomas of Harkel rather con­sid­er­ably revised the Philox­en­ian ver­sion — pri­mar­i­ly to bring it into slav­ish­ly close con­for­mi­ty with Greek idiom — and also added mar­gin­al read­ings and a crit­i­cal appa­ra­tus that marked off cer­tain read­ings with obeli and aster­isks. This appa­ra­tus and the mar­gin­a­lia are by no means ful­ly under­stood, but at least some of the read­ings high­light­ed in these ways rep­re­sent Greek vari­ants known to Thomas. Whether any Philox­en­ian mss sur­vive is uncer­tain ; the only ones plau­si­bly defend­ed as Philox­en­ian con­tain the Catholic Epis­tles and the Apoc­a­lypse, but these books were not part of the Syr­i­ac NT canon and there­fore were nev­er quot­ed by Philox­enus. The only cer­tain rem­nants of the Philox­en­ian ver­sion would appear to be NT quo­ta­tions in Philox­enus’ Com­men­tary on the Pro­logue of John, recent­ly pub­lished.Eldon J. Epp, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism : New Tes­ta­ment,” Anchor Bible Dic­tio­nary (elec­tron­ic edi­tion ; Logos ; (c) 1997)

Accord­ing to the Alands, in the year 616 Thomas of Harkel, monk and some­time bish­op of Mab­bug, under­took a revi­sion of the Philox­en­ian ver­sion on the basis of col­la­tions he made of Greek man­u­scripts (three for the Gospels, two for the Pauline epis­tles, and one for Acts and the Catholic epis­tles), at the Ena­ton monastery near Alexan­dria.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 197. In con­trast to all Syr­i­ac ver­sions, only with the Har­clean ver­sion is it pos­si­ble to recon­struct in detail the text of the under­ly­ing Greek exem­plar used by the trans­la­tor.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 199. How­ev­er, the Alands add :

But unfor­tu­nate­ly the result only demon­strates that the Harklean text, except for the Catholic let­ters, is an almost (though not absolute­ly) pure Koine type.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 199

The Har­clean ver­sion is not used for the recon­struc­tion of the orig­i­nal” text of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment or even its ear­ly forms. Its impor­tance lies pri­mar­i­ly in the study of the West­ern text-type — the Har­clean ver­sion is sec­ond only to Codex Bezae for the study of the vari­ant read­ings of the West­ern text type for the book of Acts.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 33 ; Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 199 ; Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 35 ; Bruce M. Met­zger & Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 99.

The Pales­tin­ian Syr­i­ac ver­sions Syrpal : Pales­tin­ian Syr­i­ac” refers to the Ara­ma­ic dialect ; this trans­la­tion is known pri­mar­i­ly from a lec­tionary of the Gospels, which is pre­served in three man­u­scripts dat­ing from the eleventh and twelfth cen­turies and there also exist frag­ments of the Gospels in con­tin­u­ous text, scraps of Acts and of sev­er­al Pauline epis­tles.M. Met­zger & Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 100. The date of this ver­sion is dis­put­ed, although most schol­ars believe that it dates from the fifth cen­tu­ry.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 199 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 33 ; M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 100.

About its sig­nif­i­cance, Hel­mut Koester writes :

Although this dialect is more close­ly relat­ed to the lan­guage of Jesus than the Syr­i­ac” trans­la­tions, this ver­sion from V CE has only minor text-crit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 33

The ver­sions we have dis­cussed thus far — Latin, Syr­i­ac and Cop­tic — are the most impor­tant ver­sions for text-crit­i­cal pur­pos­es. The ver­sions we will briefly dis­cuss below are of sec­ondary impor­tance to schol­ars, main­ly because their trans­la­tion base is either dis­put­ed, or it is known that Greek man­u­scripts con­tributed only par­tial­ly or influ­enced the trans­la­tions at a lat­er stage in a revi­sion of their text.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 204.

Ethiopic ver­sions

Schol­ars dif­fer when it comes to the date of ori­gin of the Ethiopic ver­sion ; some argue for a fourth-cen­tu­ry date, oth­ers argue for the sixth cen­tu­ry and still, oth­ers opine for a sev­enth-cen­tu­ry date. Sim­i­lar­ly, there is dis­agree­ment over the ques­tion of whether the trans­la­tors trans­lat­ed from Greek or Syr­i­ac.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 209 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 35 ; M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 120.

More­over, the man­u­scripts of the Ethiopic ver­sion are extreme­ly late, with the ear­li­est known man­u­script, a codex of the four Gospels, dat­ing from the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry.M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 121. Also see Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers. Com­fort says (p. 95): None [of the man­u­scripts], how­ev­er, is ear­li­er than the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry, and these man­u­scripts seem to rest rather heav­i­ly on the Cop­tic and the Ara­bic.” See also the dis­cus­sion in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 223 – 228. Bruce Met­zger and Bart Ehrman write :

…none of the extant man­u­scripts of the ver­sion is old­er than per­haps the tenth cen­tu­ry and most of them date from the fif­teenth and lat­er cen­turies.108Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, pp. 119 – 120

Rochus Zuur­mond says :

A ver­sion is a ver­sion and not a Greek MS. Like oth­er ver­sions, Eth should be used with much cau­tion in recon­struct­ing the under­ly­ing Greek. In addi­tion, a gap of about half a mil­len­ni­um sep­a­rates the actu­al translation(s) from the ear­li­est MSS. No one knows what hap­pened to the text dur­ing that peri­od. From the twelfth cen­tu­ry onward there is ever-increas­ing con­fu­sion, caused by the influ­ence of Ara­bic texts.

For the Gospels we have a few MSS of the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry or ear­li­er. In the rest of the NT the ear­li­est MSS come from the four­teenth cen­tu­ry.Rochus Zuur­mond, The Ethiopic Ver­sion of the New Tes­ta­ment”, in Bart D Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 154

Analy­sis of the ear­li­er form of the Ethiopic ver­sion reveals a mixed type of text, one that is pre­dom­i­nant­ly Byzan­tine, although there are also occa­sion­al agree­ments with cer­tain ear­ly Greek wit­ness­es such as p46 and Codex Vat­i­canus (par­tic­u­lar­ly in the epis­tles of Paul).Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 95 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 35 ; M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 121.

Regard­ing the val­ue of the Ethiopic versions :

Gen­er­al­ly, how­ev­er, they have proved to be dis­ap­point­ing, for most copies are very much more recent than their appear­ance sug­gests : vir­tu­al­ly no Ethiopi­an book is old­er than the four­teenth cen­tu­ry and most, indeed, are only eigh­teenth-or even nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry. If the text is ear­ly, which it may be, it was evi­dent­ly so revised and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed in the late Mid­dle Ages that its evi­den­tial val­ue for the Bible text is slight.Christo­pher DE Hamel, The Book. A His­to­ry of The Bible, 2001, Phaidon Press Lim­it­ed, New York, p. 308

There­fore the Ethiopic ver­sions are hard­ly used by tex­tu­al schol­ars for the recon­struc­tion of the Greek text of the New Tes­ta­ment. Their impor­tance lies in the study of the devel­op­ment of the New Tes­ta­ment text at a much lat­er date.

Armen­ian and Geor­gian versions

The Armen­ian Bible is often called the Queen of the ver­sions” due to its qual­i­ty, its idiomat­ic ease and grace­ful author­i­ty.“Erroll F. Rhodes, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Armen­ian In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 180 The Bible was trans­lat­ed into Armen­ian in the ear­ly fifth cen­tu­ryBruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 155 and, accord­ing to the Alands, this ver­sion was prob­a­bly based on a Syr­i­ac text of the Old Syr­i­ac type — thus a trans­la­tion of a trans­la­tion — and was sub­se­quent­ly revised in the eighth to the twelfth cen­turies on the basis of a Greek text. Koester, how­ev­er, says that It is an open ques­tion whether the Armen­ian ver­sion rests on a Greek text or was made on the basis of the Syr­i­ac trans­la­tion, which was lat­er com­pared with Greek texts and revised dur­ing VIII CE.“Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 205 ; Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 35. See also M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 117. Joseph M. Alex­an­ian says :

The Arm 1 NT [the ini­tial trans­la­tion of the Bible] was trans­lat­ed from an Old Syr­i­ac base text dur­ing A.D. 406 – 414. Fol­low­ing the Coun­cil of Eph­esus in A.D. 431, Greek copies of the Bible were brought from Con­stan­tino­ple and the Arm 2 [lat­er revi­sion — the Armen­ian major­i­ty text] revi­sion was based on the Greek text. (Joseph M. Alex­an­ian, The Armen­ian Ver­sion Of The New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 157)

See also the dis­cus­sion in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 164 – 165 ; Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, pp. 93 – 94. Accord­ing to Phillip Comfort :

The first trans­la­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment into Armen­ian were prob­a­bly based on Old Syr­i­ac ver­sions. Lat­er trans­la­tions, which have the rep­u­ta­tion for being quite accu­rate, were based on Greek man­u­scripts of the Byzan­tine text type but also show affin­i­ty with Cae­sare­an man­u­scripts.Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tur­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 94

Some note­wor­thy fea­tures of the Armen­ian ver­sion should also be men­tioned. The Old Tes­ta­ment includ­ed apoc­ryphal books such as the His­to­ry of Joseph and Ase­n­ath, the Tes­ta­ments of the Twelve Patri­archs, where­as the New Tes­ta­ment includ­ed the Epis­tle of the Corinthi­ans to Paul as well as a Third Epis­tle of Paul to the Corinthi­ans — which was read at Mass by Chris­tians as late as the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry. More­over, of the 220 Armen­ian man­u­scripts exam­ined by Col­well, only 88 includ­ed the longer end­ing of Mark (Mark 16:9 – 20) — 99 end at verse 8 with­out com­ment and in oth­ers there are indi­ca­tions that the scribes had doubts regard­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the pas­sage. The short­er end­ing (i.e., But they report­ed briefly to Peter…”), how­ev­er, occurs in a num­ber of Armen­ian texts. In any case, it is most unlike­ly that the last twelve vers­es of Mark (the longer end­ing) were a part of the orig­i­nal Armen­ian ver­sion.For details see Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, pp. 161, 163164

In his excur­sus on the lim­i­ta­tions of the Armen­ian in rep­re­sent­ing the Greek New Tes­ta­ment text, Rhodes says that while at times even the fine nuances of the Greek are reflect­ed in aston­ish­ing detail in the Armen­ian due to its flex­i­bil­i­ty and sen­si­tiv­i­ty, yet there are also instances where it is utter­ly use­less for dis­tin­guish­ing between dif­fer­ent Greek read­ings.“See Erroll F. Rhodes, Lim­i­ta­tions Of Armen­ian In Rep­re­sent­ing Greek,” in Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 171 Accord­ing to Met­zger, the Armen­ian ver­sion of the book of Rev­e­la­tion is quite valu­able since it alone may, in some cas­es, pre­serve the orig­i­nal read­ing of a book whose tex­tu­al his­to­ry is noto­ri­ous­ly obscure and dif­fi­cult.“Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford, p. 169 Due to the high abil­i­ty of the Armen­ian lan­guage to rep­re­sent the Greek Vor­lage, schol­ars are in a posi­tion to make rea­son­able judge­ments about the nature of the text of the under­ly­ing exem­plars. In par­tic­u­lar, as not­ed above, the wit­ness of the Armen­ian ver­sion is most use­ful when it comes to the text of the book of Rev­e­la­tion, the apoc­rypha and pseude­pigrapha, and also because it tells us about the sta­tus of the bib­li­cal text in a remote cor­ner such as Arme­nia.Joseph M. Alex­an­ian, The Armen­ian Ver­sion Of The New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 158 More­over, the Armen­ian ver­sion also serves as an impor­tant wit­ness for the Cae­sare­an type of text.Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 117.

Com­ing to the Geor­gian ver­sion, prob­a­bly in the fourth cen­tu­ry the Bible was trans­lat­ed into Geor­gian from Armen­ian (Arm. 1) and this Geor­gian ver­sion is also deemed an impor­tant wit­ness to the Cae­sare­an type of text.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 205. Koester describes Geor­gian as a sec­ondary trans­la­tion.” See Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 35. Also M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 118. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the ear­li­est man­u­scripts of the Geor­gian ver­sion go back only to the eighth cen­tu­ry, but behind them lay a Geor­gian trans­la­tion with Syr­i­ac and Armen­ian traces.Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 95. Met­zger and Ehrman state (pp. 118 – 119) that the old­est known Gospel man­u­scripts are the Adysh man­u­script of A.D. 897, the Opiza man­u­script of 913 and the Tbet man­u­script of 995. See M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press. Also Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 205. The first Geor­gian trans­la­tion (known as geo1) was sub­se­quent­ly revised (geo2) based on a Greek text which was made after the sep­a­ra­tion of the Armen­ian Church in the ear­ly sev­enth cen­tu­ry.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 205.

Besides the above, there are oth­er New Tes­ta­ment ver­sions as well, but they are of even lit­tle use to schol­ars for tex­tu­al criticism :

Oth­er ancient trans­la­tions have only lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance for tex­tu­al crit­i­cism, or their use is bur­dened with too many dif­fi­cul­ties. These include the Anglo-Sax­on, the Nubian, and the Sog­di­an trans­la­tions, as well as the trans­la­tions into Per­sian and Ara­bic. Except for a small por­tion of the Ara­bic ver­sion, they were all made from oth­er trans­la­tions and not from Greek orig­i­nals.Hel­mut Koester, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment : His­to­ry And Lit­er­a­ture Of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, (Vol. 2), 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter, p. 35

The ver­sions which are deemed use­ful are the ones which were made either direct­ly from a Greek text or were sub­se­quent­ly thor­ough­ly revised from a Greek base.

The Con­tri­bu­tion Of Ver­sions In The Mak­ing Of Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece 26th and 27th Editions

To sum­marise the dis­cus­sion very briefly : the Latin, Syr­i­ac and the Cop­tic ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment are the most impor­tant ver­sions to tex­tu­al schol­ars. After these come the Armen­ian, Ethiopic and the Geor­gian ver­sions. Here we would like to know what role these ver­sions play towards the prepa­ra­tion of a crit­i­cal text of the New Tes­ta­ment. Let us take the wide­ly used 27th edi­tion of the Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece (also known as Nes­tle-Aland27) as an example.

We will begin with the sec­ond batch of ver­sions first. Regard­ing the con­tri­bu­tion made by the Armen­ian, Geor­gian, Ethiopic etc., ver­sions towards the prepa­ra­tion of the Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece 27th edi­tion, we are told :

The Armen­ian, Geor­gian, Goth­ic, Ethiopic and Old Church Slavon­ic ver­sions are rarely cit­ed in the present edi­tion, and then only if they are of spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for a par­tic­u­lar read­ing (cf. Mk 16,8) … While it is true that sev­er­al impor­tant stud­ies of the Armen­ian, Geor­gian, Ethiopic and Old Church Slavon­ic ver­sions have appeared in recent decades, research in these tex­tu­al tra­di­tions has by no means yet achieved con­clu­sive results. In par­tic­u­lar, the ori­gins and devel­op­ment of these ver­sions and their rela­tion­ship to the Greek tex­tu­al tra­di­tion remains so con­tro­ver­sial that no thor­ough­go­ing use of their evi­dence is pos­si­ble.Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (eds.), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelge­sellschaft, pp. 70 – 71

Mov­ing on to the first batch of ver­sions (Latin, Cop­tic, and Syr­i­ac), the edi­tors acknowl­edge that the prin­ci­pal empha­sis is placed upon the Latin, Syr­i­ac and Cop­tic ver­sions because they were unques­tion­ably” based direct­ly on the Greek at an ear­ly time. More­over, we are informed that they hap­pen to be the most ful­ly stud­ied ver­sions and because their val­ue as wit­ness­es to the tex­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Greek New Testament…has become increas­ing­ly clear through decades of debate.” How­ev­er, they pro­ceed­ed to add :

The ver­sions are cit­ed only where their under­ly­ing Greek text can be deter­mined with con­fi­dence. They are gen­er­al­ly cit­ed only where their read­ings are also attest­ed by some oth­er Greek or inde­pen­dent ver­sion­al evi­dence. Only in rare instances do they appear as the sole sup­port for a Greek read­ing…Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (eds.), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelge­sellschaft, pp. 63 – 64

More­over, we are cau­tioned that :

Dif­fer­ences in lin­guis­tic struc­ture between Greek and the lan­guages of the ver­sions must be care­ful­ly not­ed. Vari­ant read­ings reflect­ing idiomat­ic or styl­is­tic dif­fer­ences are ignored. One the whole, ver­sions can only reveal with more or less pre­ci­sion the par­tic­u­lar details of their Greek base.5 In instances where the wit­ness of a ver­sion is doubt­ful, it is not not­ed.6

The ver­sions still enjoy an impor­tant role in crit­i­cal deci­sions because they rep­re­sent Greek wit­ness­es of an ear­ly peri­od. But their val­ue for schol­ar­ship today in com­par­i­son with ear­li­er gen­er­a­tions has been mod­i­fied by the great num­ber of Greek man­u­scripts on papyrus and parch­ment dis­cov­ered in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (eds.), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelge­sellschaft, p. 64

Thus, to list the main points :

• Rather than reveal­ing the orig­i­nal text of the New Tes­ta­ment, ver­sions may only reveal with a degree of pre­ci­sion and approx­i­ma­tion the text of their under­ly­ing manuscript.
• Ver­sions are cit­ed only when their under­ly­ing Greek text can be deter­mined with confidence.
• Ver­sions rarely appear as sole wit­ness­es ; they are cit­ed only when there is sup­port in a Greek or an inde­pen­dent version.
• Ver­sions such as the Armen­ian, Geor­gian, Goth­ic, Ethiopic, Slavon­ic etc., rarely appear in Nes­tle-Aland27.

It is also worth not­ing the role played by the ver­sions in the prepa­ra­tion of the 26th edi­tion of the Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece. The Alands write :

It must be empha­sized that the val­ue of the ear­ly ver­sions for estab­lish­ing the orig­i­nal Greek text and for the his­to­ry of the text has fre­quent­ly been mis­con­ceived, i.e., they have been con­sid­er­ably over­rat­ed. An inad­e­quate appre­ci­a­tion of how their lin­guis­tic struc­tures dif­fer from Greek has all too often per­mit­ted the ear­ly ver­sions to be cit­ed in crit­i­cal appa­ra­tus­es of Greek texts where their evi­dence is irrel­e­vant. Nes­tle-Aland26 advis­ed­ly restricts cita­tion of the ver­sions in its appa­ra­tus to instances where their wit­ness to a Greek exem­plar is unequiv­o­cal.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 186

At this junc­ture, we must remind our­selves that the Greek man­u­scripts are the pri­ma­ry wit­ness­es for the restora­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment text. The ver­sions and the patris­tic cita­tions are sec­ondary lines of evi­dence, play­ing no more than a sup­port­ive and cor­rob­o­ra­tive role as indi­rect wit­ness­es to the New Tes­ta­ment text. To quote the Alands again :

5. The pri­ma­ry author­i­ty for a crit­i­cal tex­tu­al deci­sion lies with the Greek man­u­script tra­di­tion, with the ver­sions and Fathers serv­ing no more than a sup­ple­men­tary and cor­rob­o­ra­tive func­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in pas­sages where their under­ly­ing Greek text can­not be recon­struct­ed with absolute cer­tain­ty.Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, p. 280

Final­ly, it should be not­ed that Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece is a work­ing text. It should not be looked upon and con­fused as rep­re­sent­ing the orig­i­nal” text of the New Tes­ta­ment. This is how the edi­tors of Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece describe the 27th edition :

It should nat­u­ral­ly be under­stood that this text is a work­ing text (in the sense of the cen­tu­ry-long Nes­tle tra­di­tion): it is not to be con­sid­ered as defin­i­tive, but as a stim­u­lus to fur­ther efforts toward defin­ing and ver­i­fy­ing the text of the New Tes­ta­ment.Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (Edi­tors), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelge­sellschaft, p. 45

The pur­pose of the 27th edi­tion of the Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece is to present the user with a work­ing text with the means of ver­i­fy­ing it or alter­na­tive­ly of cor­rect­ing it.“Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (eds.), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelge­sellschaft, p. 46 The pro­ce­dure adopt­ed to deter­mine the best text for Nes­tle-Aland27 is briefly illu­mi­nat­ed by Dr. Park­er as follows :

This text was agreed by a com­mit­tee. When they dis­agreed on the best read­ing to print, they vot­ed. Evi­dent­ly, they agreed either by a major­i­ty or unan­i­mous­ly that their text was the best avail­able. But it does not fol­low that they believed their text to be orig­i­nal’. On the whole, the tex­tu­al crit­ics have always been reluc­tant to claim so much. Oth­er users of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment accord them too much hon­our in treat­ing the text as defin­i­tive.D. C. Park­er, The Liv­ing Text Of The Gospels, 1997, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 3

The same cau­tion­ary remarks are made by Moi­ses Sil­va regard­ing the Unit­ed Bible Soci­eties’ Greek New Testament :

…we can hard­ly afford to encour­age the view that the work of New Tes­ta­ment tex­tu­al crit­i­cism is for all prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es com­plete. If any­thing, papy­ro­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies and the research of the last sev­er­al decades have made us more aware of the com­plex­i­ties of the tex­tu­al his­to­ry of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment. Nonethe­less, the term may be used sim­ply to indi­cate that the text in ques­tion has received wide­spread accep­tance. In my opin­ion, this accep­tance is well deserved, but one need not con­cur with this judge­ment to rec­og­nize the facts of the case. The UBS text reflects a broad con­sen­sus and it thus pro­vides and con­ve­nient start­ing point for fur­ther work. Far from con­sid­er­ing this text as defin­i­tive, there­fore, we ought to do all we can to improve it.Moi­ses Sil­va, Mod­ern Crit­i­cal Edi­tions And Appa­ra­tus­es Of The Greek New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 290

Hence none of the extant wit­ness­es of the New Tes­ta­ment, be it the Greek man­u­scripts, the ver­sions, and the patris­tic cita­tions, give us access to the orig­i­nal” text of the New Testament.

Con­clu­sions

To assert that there are 24,000 man­u­script copies of por­tions” of the New Tes­ta­ment or that the New Tes­ta­ment man­u­script base is over 24,000” is to give a mis­lead­ing impres­sion. It is mis­lead­ing because such blan­ket asser­tions leave read­ers with the impres­sion as if all man­u­scripts are of equal val­ue and sta­tus. They con­ve­nient­ly ignore the fact that hard­ly a frac­tion of this base is deemed impor­tant by tex­tu­al crit­ics for the recon­struc­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment text. The same mis­lead­ing impres­sion is con­veyed when men­tion is made of the 10,000 Lat­in­Vul­gates and the 9,300 oth­er ear­ly” ver­sions as if the Greek New Tes­ta­ment text can be pain­less­ly recon­struct­ed in its entire­ty on their basis. The prob­lems and lim­i­ta­tions asso­ci­at­ed with the Latin Vul­gates, the oth­er ear­ly” ver­sions and, in fact, with ver­sions in gen­er­al, are qui­et­ly omit­ted as if they do not exist. The mag­i­cal fig­ure of 24,000” is thus arrived upon by over­look­ing the many prob­lems through sim­plis­ti­cal­ly adding and pil­ing up every tini­est bit of frag­ment, late medieval man­u­scripts, late ver­sions and lec­tionar­ies (late non-con­tin­u­ous texts).

It should be clear by now that there can be no whole­sale repro­duc­tion of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment text on the basis of the above-dis­cussed ver­sions. The dif­fer­ent New Tes­ta­ment ver­sions are of unequal val­ue, impor­tance, and use for text-crit­i­cal pur­pos­es. Some are more/​less important/​useful than oth­ers. For exam­ple, some ver­sions shed light and give insights on the trans­mis­sion of the Greek text at an ear­ly peri­od and loca­tion for which there are no extant Greek man­u­scripts ; some may shed light on the trans­mis­sion and devel­op­ment of spe­cif­ic doc­u­ments and text types (i.e., book of Rev­e­la­tion, the West­ern text type); some ver­sions play lit­tle or no role in the under­stand­ing of the Greek text ; some ver­sions are impor­tant when it comes to under­stand­ing the devel­op­ment of the Greek text at a lat­er stage, though of lit­tle and/​or no use when it comes to know­ing about the ear­ly trans­mis­sion of the Greek text. In short, the ver­sions act as indi­rect wit­ness­es of unequal qual­i­ty and val­ue to the dif­fer­ent stages of the trans­mis­sion and devel­op­ment of the Greek and non-Greek New Tes­ta­ment text, inform­ing us, at most, about the nature of their under­ly­ing manuscript(s) rather than the very text of the Greek autographs.

Phillip Com­fort says that the Old Latin, Cop­tic and the Syr­i­ac ver­sions are used for estab­lish­ing the orig­i­nal text” of the New Tes­ta­ment. How­ev­er, imme­di­ate­ly there­after he weak­ens his own asser­tion when he adds the fol­low­ing caveat :

How­ev­er, read­ers should be aware that ancient trans­la­tors, as well as mod­ern, took lib­er­ties in the inter­est of style when they ren­dered the Greek text. In oth­er words, there is no such thing as a lit­er­al, word-for-word ren­der­ing in any trans­la­tion. There­fore, the wit­ness of the var­i­ous ancient ver­sions is sig­nif­i­cant only when it per­tains to sig­nif­i­cant ver­bal omis­sions and/​or addi­tions, as well as sig­nif­i­cant seman­tic dif­fer­ences. One should not look to the tes­ti­mo­ny of any ancient ver­sion for con­clu­sive evi­dence con­cern­ing word trans­po­si­tions, verb changes, arti­cles, or oth­er nor­mal styl­is­tic vari­a­tions involv­ing noun inser­tions, con­junc­tion addi­tions, and slight changes in prepo­si­tions. The cita­tion of such ver­sions for these kinds of vari­ant read­ings in the appa­ra­tus­es of crit­i­cal edi­tions of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment can be quite mis­lead­ing.Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Pub­lish­ers, p. 91

In oth­er words, the idio­syn­crasies asso­ci­at­ed with the dif­fer­ent ver­sions can­not allow the com­plete extrac­tion of the under­ly­ing Greek text, let alone the orig­i­nal” text of the New Tes­ta­ment. Their use and val­ue will always be lim­it­ed. More­over, we have already seen that the Nes­tle-Aland27 is described by its edi­tors as a work­ing text ; it should not be mis­tak­en and con­fused as the orig­i­nal” New Tes­ta­ment text.

Clear­ly, the text of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment would be of a much more pre­car­i­ous and uncer­tain nature if we were depen­dent sole­ly upon the wit­ness of the ancient ver­sions. The Greek man­u­scripts remain the first and the pri­ma­ry evi­dence for the text of the New Tes­ta­ment, with­out which the New Tes­ta­ment text would be even more uncer­tain if reliance was placed sole­ly upon the ancient ver­sions and the patris­tic cita­tions com­bined. The lat­ter two sources act only in a sec­ondary, col­lab­o­ra­tive and sup­port­ive capacity.

This is not to say that the wit­ness of the ver­sions is entire­ly worth­less. Accord­ing to Wisse, the impor­tance of the Cop­tic, Latin and Syr­i­ac ver­sions lies in the fact that they are indi­rect wit­ness­es” to an ear­ly state of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment text that is oth­er­wise poor­ly attest­ed by Greek wit­ness­es and also because these ver­sions local­ize the form of the Greek text that they trans­lat­ed.“See Fred­erik Wisse, The Cop­tic Ver­sions of the New Tes­ta­ment,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 131 Briefly, it should be borne in mind that siz­able por­tions of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment only begin to appear from c. 200 onwards. Before this peri­od, there is noth­ing save the tiny cred­it card sized p52, which may be placed any­where with­in the first half of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry.Ehrman writes :

…the fact is that we can only approx­i­mate the date of this frag­men­t’s pro­duc­tion with­in fifty years at best (it could as eas­i­ly have been tran­scribed in 160 as 110). More­over, we do not know exact­ly where the frag­ment was dis­cov­ered, let alone where it was writ­ten, or how it came to be dis­card­ed, or when it was. As a result, all extrav­a­gant claims notwith­stand­ing, the papyrus in itself reveals noth­ing def­i­nite about the ear­ly his­to­ry of Chris­tian­i­ty in Egypt. One can only con­clude that schol­ars have con­strued it as evi­dence because, in lieu of oth­er evi­dence, they have cho­sen to. (Bart D. Ehrman, The Text as Win­dow : New Tes­ta­ment Man­u­scripts and the Social His­to­ry of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty,” in The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, Bart D Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 372)

Thus, we lack Greek man­u­scripts com­plete­ly from the first cen­tu­ry and for the major part of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry. To make mat­ters worse, the ear­li­est Greek wit­ness­es also hap­pen to be quite frag­men­tary. There­fore, there is a rather poor attes­ta­tion of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment in the ear­li­est peri­od.For details and ref­er­ences on the ear­li­est Greek man­u­scripts, their sta­tus, and the trans­mis­sion of the New Tes­ta­ment, see the exten­sive essay : Tex­tu­al Reli­a­bil­i­ty /​Accu­ra­cy Of The New Tes­ta­ment Since the New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings began to be trans­lat­ed into oth­er lan­guages some­time in the sec­ond cen­tu­ry, the ear­li­est ver­sions are nat­u­ral­ly impor­tant to tex­tu­al schol­ars because they can pro­vide evi­dence for an ear­ly peri­od of tex­tu­al trans­mis­sion from which no Greek man­u­scripts sur­vive. For exam­ple, Tatian’s Diates­saron pre­dates all Greek man­u­scripts, except for p52, and was based upon man­u­scripts dat­ing to at least around the mid-sec­ond cen­tu­ry. As such, if the text of the Diatesseron is restored, it would give us insights into the form of the text of the under­ly­ing man­u­scripts of the peri­od.See the dis­cus­sion in See William L. Petersen, The Distes­saron Of Tat­ian,” in Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny, p. 77 As point­ed out ear­li­er on, the ear­li­est ver­sions are use­ful for tex­tu­al crit­i­cism when they omit or add some ele­ments or pas­sages and also when there are agree­ments between ver­sions from dif­fer­ent areas since that may reflect an ear­li­er text.Hyeon Woo Shin, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism And The Syn­op­tic Prob­lem In His­tor­i­cal Jesus Research : The Search For Valid Cri­te­ria, (Con­tri­bu­tions To Bib­li­cal Exe­ge­sis & The­ol­o­gy, 36), 2004, Peeters-Leu­ven, Bondgenoten­laan, p. 34 On oth­er occa­sions some ver­sions assist schol­ars in under­stand­ing how par­tic­u­lar text types, the West­ern and Byzan­tine type of texts for instance, devel­oped in var­i­ous local­i­ties. Fur­ther­more, ver­sions based on oth­er trans­la­tions may help schol­ars, through tex­tu­al crit­i­cism, in gain­ing insights into the con­tents of the under­ly­ing translation/​s. Final­ly, the main ben­e­fit of the ver­sions lie in the fact that they help us under­stand how Chris­tians at dif­fer­ent times and regions inter­pret­ed and viewed the var­i­ous canon­i­cal and non-canon­i­cal writ­ings. This also has immense impor­tance for canon­i­cal stud­ies as well. Thus, the ver­sions are indeed an impor­tant tool for not only tex­tu­al crit­i­cism, but even more in under­stand­ing the viewpoints/​outlooks of dif­fer­ent Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties and their use of the writ­ings. But let us be clear about one thing : there can be no whole­sale repro­duc­tion of the orig­i­nal” Greek text of the New Tes­ta­ment on the basis of the above dis­cussed ver­sions. To reit­er­ate, ver­sions — pri­mar­i­ly the Latin, Syr­i­ac and Cop­tic — are used, on occa­sions with much cau­tion, sim­ply as indi­rect wit­ness­es and in a sec­ondary and sup­port­ive capac­i­ty in the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment. The remain­der of the ver­sions play a much small­er role, or no role at all, for text crit­i­cal purposes.

A num­ber of fac­tors need to be tak­en into account when deal­ing with the wit­ness of the ver­sions. Often we are faced with sig­nif­i­cant gaps between the date of ori­gin of the ver­sions and the dates of their ear­li­est man­u­script. More­over, these ver­sions present their own unique tex­tu­al prob­lems to schol­ars — over the cen­turies, many were cor­rect­ed, revised and adapt­ed at var­i­ous stages by dif­fer­ent scribes, of vary­ing capac­i­ties, using dif­fer­ent Greek and non-Greek man­u­scripts in the process. As a result, schol­ars have to first apply tex­tu­al crit­i­cism upon the ver­sions in order to restore their ear­ly forms before they can be used for any pur­pose. This process tends to be far more dif­fi­cult and com­pli­cat­ed than the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the Greek New Tes­ta­ment itself. But most impor­tant­ly, even if their ear­ly forms are restored, the fact remains that we are still left with noth­ing more than trans­la­tions of par­tic­u­lar Greek man­u­scripts. No trans­la­tion is per­fect. Trans­la­tors always make a vari­ety of mis­takes and, more fre­quent­ly, all of the nuances, fea­tures, feel, and the sub­tle char­ac­ter­is­tics of a lan­guage can­not be per­fect­ly repro­duced into anoth­er lan­guage. There is no method of cap­tur­ing” a lan­guage with exact­ness into anoth­er lan­guage. Every lan­guage brings with it unique set of prob­lems which can­not be over­come by trans­la­tors. The fact that these are trans­la­tions, dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal lan­guage, makes their use lim­it­ed right from the outset.

And Allah knows best !The Usage and Significance of the New Testament Versions for Text Critical Purposes 1

Cite this arti­cle as : Usman Sheikh, The Usage and Sig­nif­i­cance of the New Tes­ta­ment Ver­sions for Text Crit­i­cal Pur­pos­es,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, March 9, 2007, last accessed May 27, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​b​i​b​l​e​/​n​e​w​-​t​e​s​t​a​m​e​n​t​-​v​e​r​s​i​o​ns/

Bib­li­og­ra­phy

Leon Vaganay, Chris­t­ian-Bernard Amphoux (trans. Jen­ny Heimerdinger), An intro­duc­tion to the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the New Tes­ta­ment, 1991, 2nd Revised & Updat­ed Edi­tion, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

Phillip Com­fort, Encoun­ter­ing the Man­u­scripts : An Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment Pale­og­ra­phy & Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 2005, Broad­man & Hol­man Publishers.

Hel­mut Koester, Intro­duc­tion to the New Tes­ta­ment Vol­ume 2 : His­to­ry and Lit­er­a­ture of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty, 1982, Wal­ter De Gruyter.

Hel­mut Koester, Ancient Chris­t­ian Gospels : Their His­to­ry and Devel­op­ment, 1990, Trin­i­ty Press International.

Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Eldon J. Epp, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism : New Tes­ta­ment,” Anchor Bible Dic­tio­nary (elec­tron­ic edi­tion ; Logos ; (c) 1997).

E. Jay Epp, The Mul­ti­va­lence Of The Term Orig­i­nal Text” In New Tes­ta­ment Tex­tu­al Criticism

Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Edi­tors), The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment In Con­tem­po­rary Research : Essays On The Sta­tus Quaes­tio­n­is, 1995, William B. Eed­er­mans Pub­lish­ing Company.

Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, 2005, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

Bart D. Ehrman, Mis­quot­ing Jesus : The Sto­ry Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, 2005, HarperSanFrancisco.

Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1997, The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Doubleday.

Christo­pher DE Hamel, The Book. A His­to­ry of The Bible, 2001, Phaidon Press Lim­it­ed, New York.

Lee Mar­tin McDon­ald and Stan­ley E. Porter, Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty and Its Sacred Lit­er­a­ture, 2000, Hen­drick­son Publishers.

Everett Fer­gu­son, Michael McHugh, Fred­er­ick W. Nor­ris (Edi­tors), Ency­clo­pe­dia of Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty (Gar­land Ref­er­ence Library of the Human­i­ties, Vol. 1839) — One Vol­ume, Sec­ond Edi­tion, 1998, Gar­land Science.

W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 17th Revised edi­tion, 1975, SCM Press Ltd.

David Stone, The New Tes­ta­ment (Teach Your­self Books), 1996, Hod­der & Stoughton Ltd, UK.

Vin­cent Bacote, Lau­ra C. Miguelez, Den­nis L. Okholm (ed.), Evan­gel­i­cals & Scrip­ture : Tra­di­tion, Author­i­ty and Hermeneu­tics, 2004, Inter­Var­si­ty Press.

Bar­bara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Kar­avi­dopou­los, Car­lo M. Mar­ti­ni, Bruce M. Met­zger (eds.), Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Graece, 27th Edi­tion, 1993, Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft

Bruce M. Met­zger, The Ear­ly Ver­sions Of The New Tes­ta­ment : Their Ori­gin, Trans­mis­sion, and Lim­i­ta­tions, 1977, Claren­don Press, Oxford.

Hyeon Woo Shin, Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism And The Syn­op­tic Prob­lem In His­tor­i­cal Jesus Research : The Search For Valid Cri­te­ria, (Con­tri­bu­tions To Bib­li­cal Exe­ge­sis & The­ol­o­gy, 36), 2004, Peeters-Leu­ven, Bondgenotenlaan.

Matthew Black (Gen­er­al Edi­tor), Peake’s Com­men­tary on the Bible, 2001, Rout­ledge Co. Ltd.

D. C. Park­er, The Liv­ing Text Of The Gospels, 1997, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press.Endmark

7 Comments

  1. 4. Mil­lions” of Mus­lims con­vert­ing to Chris­tian­i­ty every year ? Well, I doubt that and you did not both­er to cite any ref­er­ence either. Thou­sands ? Per­haps, but millions”…I don’t think so. ”

    The beau­ty of Islam does not depend on numbers.The ugli­ness of chris­tian­i­ty depends on numbers.

  2. what was the phukin copy that vat­i­canus was copied from ? do you know ? does it exist ? how accu­rate was that copy ?

  3. It is very well known that via arche­o­log­i­cal find­ings and his­tor­i­cal writ­ings that both lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive schol­ars now agree that all of the New Tes­ta­ment books were writ­ten before 100 AD. ”

    which ear­ly chris­t­ian church father makes ref­er­ence to all of your nt books ? how does TINY FRAGMENTS prove a com­plete nt writ­ten before 100 ad ? why no ear­ly church father is in agree­ment about what the bible said ? show me evi­dence that ear­ly church father x called matthew the word of god” or holy scrip­ture.” which is ear­li­er, codex vat­i­canus or the frag­ments of the nt ?

  4. Dear Deb­bie,

    Thank you very much for your com­ments. I must say that had you read the essay atten­tive­ly, you would not have mis­con­strued it as an act of dis­prov­ing Chris­tian­i­ty.” Suf­fice it to say that Chris­tian­i­ty is not dis­proved” by high­light­ing the exag­ger­at­ed claims of some apol­o­gists per­tain­ing to the use of the ancient ver­sions in tex­tu­al crit­i­cism. In this essay I mere­ly rehashed the schol­ar­ly dis­cus­sion on the use and sig­nif­i­cance of ver­sions for tex­tu­al crit­i­cism. I attempt­ed to ref­er­ence all claims and argu­ments with schol­ar­ly sources. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for what­ev­er rea­son, you choose to com­plete­ly ignore what I said and made no effort to engage with the argu­ments. Indeed, your entire post is just irrel­e­vant to the issue dis­cussed in the essay.

    Had you made rel­e­vant com­ments, then great. I just don’t see how your com­ments relate to any­thing I had to say. It seems you got emo­tion­al read­ing com­plete­ly unre­lat­ed mate­r­i­al at anoth­er loca­tion and decid­ed to vent out your anger and frus­tra­tions here.

    Also, assum­ing you were cor­rect — which, of course, you are not — that I wrote this paper to dis­prove” Chris­tian­i­ty, then that does not nec­es­sar­i­ly fol­low that I — let alone oth­er Mus­lims — am inse­cure” con­cern­ing my own reli­gion. I cer­tain­ly hope that you do not claim and believe to pos­sess the pow­ers to be famil­iar with my inner thoughts and feel­ings. If you don’t, then let me assure you I am not so inse­cure” regard­ing my reli­gion, though I try to be open mind­ed and give alter­na­tive view­points as much con­sid­er­a­tion as possible.

    I will make a few brief points con­cern­ing the unre­lat­ed issues that you raised :

    1. That all of the New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings were com­posed before A.D 100 does not auto­mat­i­cal­ly mean that they are inerrant. Sec­ond­ly, there is at least some dis­agree­ment among schol­ars whether or not a few books with­in the New Tes­ta­ment were writ­ten in the last decades of the first cen­tu­ry or the first few decades of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry. These writ­ings include 2 Peter, GJohn, Pas­toral Epis­tles, the Johan­nine epis­tles… I am not sug­gest­ing that a sec­ond cen­tu­ry dat­ing for these writ­ings is proven” or cor­rect”, but only that there is dis­agree­ment among schol­ars con­cern­ing the matter.

    2. Con­cern­ing the anec­dote of Dr. Green­leaf (who was a com­mit­ted Chris­t­ian apol­o­gist of the 19th cen­tu­ry and a law pro­fes­sor), then let me counter that by putting forth the name of Geza Ver­mes, an ACTUAL Jew­ish schol­ar and author­i­ty on the Dead Sea Scrolls and a reputed/​recognized schol­ar of the his­tor­i­cal Jesus sub­ject. He is the author of mul­ti­ple books on the his­tor­i­cal Jesus. Ver­mes often makes ref­er­ences to the dis­crep­an­cies with­in the canon­i­cal gospels and unre­li­able pieces of infor­ma­tion there­in. What will you do now ? Toss aside the gospels ? After­all, Ver­mes is a real Jew and, to top it off, he used to be a Chris­t­ian. So the temp­ta­tion to dis­miss the gospels should be very high no ? But I doubt you will fol­low this line. You might be shocked to learn that main­stream Chris­tians do not believe that the New Tes­ta­ment (indeed, the entire Bible) is an inerrant” doc­u­ment. Instead, the main­stream view is to accept the New Tes­ta­ment as an errant doc­u­ment, though one which is still inspired. Cer­tain­ly, schol­ars con­tin­ue to dis­agree over the extent of dis­crep­an­cies with­in the New Tes­ta­ment and their impli­ca­tions, but the inerrant view is almost uni­ver­sal­ly dis­missed. The evan­gel­i­cal view of inerran­cy is very much an odd view among Chris­tians. You are VERY unlike­ly to find Dr. Green­leaf being cit­ed as a reli­able author­i­ty on New Tes­ta­ment stud­ies in main­stream Bib­li­cal schools and Uni­ver­si­ty cours­es. Per­haps only in the inerranist evan­gel­i­cal estab­lish­ment will you have some luck.

    3. Is there evi­dence for the exis­tence of Jesus in sources oth­er than the New Tes­ta­ment ? Most cer­tain­ly yes, though the infor­ma­tion is not as much as we would like. Nonethe­less, the canon­i­cal gospels pro­vide us with a num­ber of reli­able details about Jesus. I did not deny this.

    4. Mil­lions” of Mus­lims con­vert­ing to Chris­tian­i­ty every year ? Well, I doubt that and you did not both­er to cite any ref­er­ence either. Thou­sands ? Per­haps, but millions”…I don’t think so. I am not deny­ing that there are Mus­lims who con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty, but, of course, there are also Chris­tians who turn to Islam every year. I am per­son­al­ly in touch with quite a few such for­mer Chris­tians. In any­case, con­ver­sion from one reli­gion to anoth­er does not prove” or dis­prove” a reli­gion. You have to study the reli­gion and its book and come to your own conclusion.

    Final­ly, there is an incon­sis­ten­cy in your approach. You appeal to Mus­lims to look at the pos­i­tive things” and con­sid­er Chris­tian­i­ty with fair­ness, but you do not approach Islam in the same way. Your post is lit­tered with count­less stereo­types, exag­ger­a­tions, and dis­in­for­ma­tion about Islam and Mus­lims. Why ? Per­haps because you have been filled with too much dis­in­for­ma­tion, hate and con­tempt towards the Mus­lims for a long time. If you are seri­ous and want oth­ers to inves­ti­gate Chris­tian­i­ty and the Bible in a just and bal­anced man­ner, then you should be will­ing to do the same when it comes to Islam. I am sure – at least I hope – that you are not afraid to be con­sis­tent in your investigations.

    You need to let go of your anger and apply some con­sis­ten­cy in your approach. I real­ly don’t wish to spend end­less time respond­ing to your count­less indi­vid­ual mis­un­der­stand­ings since that would require me hours and hours, but will only advice you to fol­low your own advice and suggestion.

  5. Why are Mus­lims so inse­cure about their reli­gion that they have to con­stant­ly try to dis­prove Chris­tian­i­ty ? It is very well known that via arche­o­log­i­cal find­ings and his­tor­i­cal writ­ings that both lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive schol­ars now agree that all of the New Tes­ta­ment books were writ­ten before 100 AD. Most, if not all, Mus­lims schol­ars agree with this, too, because they have no choice b/​c the evi­dence is there. Dr. Simon Green­leaf, a jew­ish legal pro­fes­sor, chal­lenged his Chris­t­ian stu­dents that he could dis­prove Chris­tian­i­ty and the Jesus Chris­tians know and love. Dr. Green­leaf helped found Har­vard Law School and many say he had the great­est legal mind to have ever walked this earth. He start­ed his research and found that there were not only no con­tra­dic­tions in the New Tes­ta­ment and that the sto­ry of Jesus and the Jesus Chris­tians know and love would not only stand up in a court of law, but could be proven in a court of law to be the truth, the whole truth, and noth­ing but the truth beyond a shad­ow of a doubt. Dr. Green­leaf also found that the sec­u­lar his­tor­i­cal evi­dence and Chris­t­ian evi­dence of the Jesus Chris­tians know and love to be very strong. In fact, there is more evi­dence of the Jesus Chris­tians know and love than any oth­er his­tor­i­cal fig­ure dur­ing or around the time that Jesus walked this earth. Dr. Green­leaf end­ed up becom­ing a life­long Chris­t­ian. Time and time again, peo­ple such as Dr. Green­leaf have set out to dis­prove Chris­tian­i­ty, and dur­ing their research when they have found that there is much evi­dence out there that proves Chris­tian­i­ty to be true, they have became Chris­tians them­selves. Instead of look­ing for all of the bad things that have been writ­ten through his­to­ry about Chris­tian­i­ty, Mus­lims should try look­ing at the pos­i­tive things and the real evi­dence that is out there. This is, after all, your eter­nal lives we are talk­ing about.

    There are many mir­a­cles, too, going on all over the world, espe­cial­ly in this day and time. God is def­i­nite­ly try­ing to tell us some­thing. Over 80,000 Amer­i­cans have claimed to have had near-death expe­ri­ences, with many of them claim­ing to have met Jesus dur­ing these expe­ri­ences. I just read the oth­er day where a Mus­lim from Jor­dan had had a near-death expe­ri­ence. He is now a Chris­t­ian. There are mil­lions of Mus­lims con­vert­ing to Chris­tian­i­ty every year now, which has been unheard of in the past. Many of these Chris­t­ian con­verts are claim­ing to have had dreams/​visions of Jesus. Isn’t that some­thing ? Mus­lims are always taught so many lies about Chris­tian­i­ty, Jesus has to come to them in order to get them to con­vert so he can use them to spread His Word here in the last days. There have been so many Mus­lims who have claimed to have had these visions, dreams…literally thousands…they are now doing stud­ies on this in Cal­i­for­nia. There are more under­ground church­es in the Mus­lim world than ever before since Islam’s begin­ning. It’s a shame that Mus­lims have to be so inse­cure about their reli­gion that they are actu­al­ly called upon to kill those who see the truth and decide to con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty. Peo­ple who tru­ly believe in their reli­gion and God would nev­er have to do such things as Mus­lims have to do. They also kill Chris­tians and oth­ers for shar­ing their faith with Mus­lims and if Chris­tians just say Muham­mad was not a prophet or any­thing neg­a­tive toward Islam. These things alone should tell you Islam is not from God. God is not inse­cure. God is not a con­trol freak, either. God is all about love, faith, and our freewill to come to Him. He wants no one to be forced to fol­low Him. There­fore, Islam is not God’s reli­gion. Open your eyes before it is too late. All you have to do is put down the Quran and ask that God lead you to the truth, as thou­sands of oth­er Mus­lims have done and are doing in this day and time. Almost all ex-Mus­lim, now Chris­t­ian tes­ti­monies con­sist of mir­a­cles from God to show them the way, the truth, and the light. This is the only way God and unbrain­wash the many lies and hatred Mus­lims are taught about Chris­tian­i­ty. And you won­der why the Mus­lim world is in a con­stant state of vio­lence, hatred, wars, etc. The Chris­t­ian world was always in a mess, too, when Chris­tians were not fol­low­ing God’s Word. They fought one anoth­er for pow­er as Mus­lims are doing now, and their world was in a con­stant state of war and vio­lence. They had slaves and it brought war on them. They straight­ened up and learned to love all of God’s chil­dren and God gave them the great­est coun­try this world has known and the great­est lives. God is all about love, Mus­lims, not hatred and anger as so many Mus­lims have today. God would nev­er, ever tell any prophet that it was okay to con­quer coun­tries and take girls/​women as their sex slaves. One of God’s prophets would nev­er tell peo­ple it was okay to lie. This is not the God I know and love and Chris­tians know and love.

  6. Assalam Alaikum and thank you for your very thought­ful suggestions.

    To begin with, I am not a schol­ar by any means, although I hope to reach that lev­el in some years. At the moment, how­ev­er, I lag behind quite a bit, though con­ti­nous­ly striv­ing to improve :)

    The rea­son why I did not dis­cuss the sub­ject of the recon­struc­tion of pos­si­ble Ara­ma­ic sayings/​traditions behind the Greek text was because this relates to a much ear­li­er phase (of gospel for­ma­tion), where­as my pur­pose was to deal with a much lat­er stage : the trans­la­tions of the indi­vid­ual books into oth­er lan­guages and their use/​significance in tex­tu­al crit­i­cism. How­ev­er, in a lat­er paper, I will attempt to write on the sub­ject you have raised.

    Regard­ing the con­cep­tion of Scrip­ture shared by many Chris­tians, I agree com­plete­ly. I now real­ize that the inerranist view is a fringe view among Chris­tians and that there is much diver­si­ty among Chris­tians. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, as you cor­rect­ly point­ed out, many of us are often engaged with a sec­tion of Chris­tians who are hard­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of main­stream Chris­tian­i­ty. Lat­er, how­ev­er, I will try to include some words on this sub­ject (con­cep­tion of Scrip­ture) in a lat­er edi­tion of this paper.

    Like­wise, the sta­tus of trans­la­tions is anoth­er impor­tant aspect which I should have dis­cussed as well.

    Thank you again for your very help­ful sug­ges­tions and advice !

    Usman

  7. Salam

    First­ly may I applaud the thor­ough research and learn­ing which char­ac­teris­es this impres­sive paper.

    Sec­ond­ly, I think this arti­cle demon­strates some of the well-known dif­fi­cul­ties to be found debat­ing with Fun­da­men­tal­ist Evangelicals.

    As Usman will know, in ref­er­ence to the NT gospels, it is com­mon­ly sup­posed that under­ly­ing the Greek text it often pos­si­ble to recon­struct an Ara­ma­ic orig­i­nal that goes back to Jesus’ own words. So the busi­ness of trans­la­tion goes back one step fur­ther to the Ara­ma­ic lan­guage Jesus spoke. It would have been help­ful if Usman had addressed this trans­la­tion issue too.

    How­ev­er, the main point I want to address is the sig­nif­i­cance of the dif­fer­ences between the Qur’an and the Bible. Chris­tians accept that NT was not a ver­ba­tim rev­e­la­tion from God — the NT is not sim­ply speech from the mouth of God to man. Chris­tians acknowl­edge that the word of God is expressed through and in the words of men. The implied infe­ri­or­i­ty of the NT vis a vis the Qur’an in this respect does not take into account the fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent genre and nature of the two Scrip­tures. This is a com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing to be found on both sides of the debate (by which I mean Mus­lims and fun­da­men­tal­ists, but not main­stream Chris­tians who are not at all phased by the issues Usman rais­es). Until this dif­fer­ence is acknowl­edged then these sorts of polemic will continue.

    As the Islam­ic writer Gai Eaton cor­rect­ly says :

    There is a mis­un­der­stand­ing : the Bible is made up of many dif­fer­ent parts, com­piled over many cen­turies and it is pos­si­ble to cast doubt upon one part with­out impugn­ing the rest ; where­as the Qur’an is a sin­gle rev­e­la­tion, received by just one man, either you accept it for what it claims to be, in which case you are a Mus­lim or you reject this claim, and so place your­self out­side the fold of Islam.

    Anoth­er impor­tant fact which I think Mus­lim schol­ars like Usman need to take on board more clear­ly is the sta­tus of trans­la­tions. In Islam the Qur’an is no longer the Qur’an if it is trans­lat­ed into anoth­er lan­guage. Indeed it can­not be trans­lat­ed, as the orig­i­nal Ara­bic is an inte­gral part of the rev­e­la­tion itself. This is stan­dard Mus­lim belief. Now it can­not be stressed to strong­ly that the Chris­t­ian view of the NT is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. The Koine Greek of the NT is NOT a sacred lan­guage. The neces­si­ty of trans­la­tions into oth­er lan­guages is not an embar­rass­ing expe­di­ent but an evan­ge­lis­tic imper­a­tive. It is the MEANING of the NT that is held to be pre-emi­nent­ly pre­cious not the ipsis­si­ma ver­ba of Jesus’ Ara­ma­ic words or Paul’s Greek. (Only his­to­ri­ans wor­ry about that). This dis­tinc­tion is cru­cial. No Chris­t­ian feels that he is at a loss by not being flu­ent in Ara­ma­ic or Koine Greek. Mus­lims on the oth­er hand feel knowl­edge of Ara­bic is absolute­ly essen­tial for a prop­er appre­ci­a­tion of Gods Revelation.

    If schol­ars such as Usman would devote time dis­cours­ing with main­stream Chris­t­ian schol­ars and not the the­o­log­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al fun­da­men­tal­ist evan­gel­i­cals, he would, I am sure, find much com­mon ground.

    Paul Williams

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