Today, many people who claim to know something about the Bible, especially in the Judeo, so-called Identity movement, have little or no knowledge about the history and development of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
The trademark signs of this type of people who are Biblically ignorant include the following: they believe that the King James Version is divinely inspired or that it is the best available translation; they believe that the New Testament was written in Aramaic; they believe in the so-called "sacred names"; they build doctrines on textual interpolations, such as the trinity doctrine; they accept pseudepigraphal writings such as the 29th Chapter of Acts, Jasher, and Enoch as books of the Bible, and build false teachings upon these false books; they believe that the Old Testament has been preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic Text; they believe that Esther should not be in the Bible; etc.
Such are the misconceptions that are, in truth, Jewish fables. Thus, the study of what is called the history of the Bible is of great importance to the true Bible student. Only through a thorough knowledge of how the Bible has come to be can the Bible student see through the Jewish propaganda and lies regarding the Bible. For this reason, the information that follows is very important. Each of the misconceptions mentioned above and many more are answered and exposed in the following pages. Only when the Bible student is aware of these facts can he truly begin to study the Bible. The antichrist Jew would seek to hide this information from the white Christian, and thus I would admonish you to study it carefully.
The New Testament
We need to start our exploration of the New Testament by examining and understanding how the New Testament texts have come to be transmitted down to us. Before the invention of the printing press and modern-type paper, all ancient books were written by hand, thus the word manuscript, and were periodically recopied for preservation and circulation.
The New Testament was written originally in Greek; of this there can be no question. Some men have tried to claim that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew, and then later translated into Greek, but all such men are incapable of presenting a single shred of evidence that points to their contention. If any evidence existed, even fragmentary, we might offer some repudiation, but the fact of the matter is that not one piece of evidence exists. All evidence points to the contrary: Paul wrote letters to believers in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonika, and only a fool would think that any of these people spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. He wrote to men with Greek names, such as Timothy (Timotheus) and Titus. Alexander the Great had conquered the known world three hundred years earlier and had introduced the Greek language throughout the world. Jesus and His students traveled throughout Greek-speaking areas, and the New Testament records that Jesus was able to speak Aramaic and did so when it was necessary, but Greek was still His primary language. Galilee was a Greek-speaking region in the 1st century, and men like Mark and Luke show this in their Greek names. We will look at more of these contentions later in the section entitled Was the New Testament Written in Aramaic?
Thus, the men whom the Mentality of Separation used to write the New Covenant spoke Greek and wrote in Greek, although many of them were certainly fluent in other languages as well. The original manuscripts are not extant today, for reasons we will see later, but a great body of witnesses does exist that points to the original words of the original manuscripts, and through the science of Textual Criticism we shall see how today we can come closer than ever before to knowing with certainty the original words of the New Testament.
With this in mind, let us look at the many different ways the New Testament has been transmitted down to us over the last 1900 years.
Today, the uncial manuscripts are the most important of the Greek witnesses to the original text of the New Testament. They date from the 4th to the 9th centuries AD, and they are written entirely in large capital letters on vellum manuscripts or parchment. Because vellum was always at a premium, a number of conventions were taken to save space when preparing a manuscript on it. There are no spaces between the words, no punctuation, and often-used words, such as Jesus, Christ, and God, are abbreviated. The abbreviation technique was further applied to many common or obvious words where the last letter or syllable could be dropped off, just as we today abbreviate many words or shorten titles. Such shortenings were usually marked by a line drawn above the letter. Many of the texts have critical annotations in the margin and show the writing of more than one scribe and oftentimes of later correctors.
Vaticanus. The Vatican Manuscript, represented by the letter B, is the oldest of the great uncial codices and dates to the early 4th century AD. Until its recent release by the Catholic Church, it was kept hidden in the Vatican Library for at least 600 years. The manuscript was known by scholars to exist in 1475 when it was listed in a catalogue of manuscripts in the Vatican Library, and the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) portion of the manuscript was published in 1587 under the papacy of Pope Sixtus V. However, its New Testament contents were kept a guarded secret. This portion was not seen by scholars until 1815 when Napoleon captured Rome and brought the manuscript back to Paris, where it was studied for a short time. If not for this, it is certain that its contents would still be locked up secure in the Vatican Library today. The Catholic Church considers the manuscript dangerous because it shows so clearly how corrupt their Vulgate is and has become; for this reason it literally took a war before it was seen by scholars.
Codex Vaticanus Ga. 6:12-19, Ep. 1:1-16
Dr. Samuel Tregelles, one of the important figures in Textual Criticism in the 19th century, was two-years-old when the Vatican Manuscript was brought to Paris. Later in his life, he would make another step toward finally allowing the text to be freed from Catholic lock and key. With knowledge of the New Testament portion of the manuscript now a matter of public record, Tregelles traveled to Rome to view the manuscript. However, when he arrived, as he later said, they searched his pockets before he could look at the manuscript, allowed him no writing instruments or paper, and two priests were assigned to watch him and distract him when he spent too much time on any particular passage. They also took the book away from him when he stayed on one page too long. Still, Tregelles managed to tell the scholarly world enough of what was in the manuscript that Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) would be forced to make copies of the Vatican Manuscript available to the leading libraries of the world. This pressure was aided by Konstantin von Tischendorf. Before Tregelles ever viewed the text, Tischendorf had waited several months and was finally allowed to see it for six hours. Later, after Tregelles' visit, Tischendorf returned and was allowed to view the text under similar circumstances as was Tregelles. However, Tischendorf managed to copy 20 pages of the text. When the priests found out, the text was immediately taken from him. He published those leaves in 1867, and then in 1868 the Vatican published the entire New Testament. It was not until 1881 that the Septuagint was released. Photographs were released in 1889-90.
Today, the contents of the manuscript are well known. It contains 759 vellum sheets out of an original 820 or so, probably antelope skins, about 10 5/8 inches square, with text in three columns. It contains the entire Bible, both New Testament and Septuagint, except for Genesis 1-46, Psalms 105-137, and the New Testament after Hebrews 9:14.
Sinaiticus. The Sinaitic Manuscript, represented by the symbol(Aleph), is the second oldest of the uncial codices (early 4th century), and it too has only recently, comparatively speaking, become available. The manuscript was found in May, 1844, by the great German scholar Konstantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874) in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. In a fire-bin at the monastery, he noticed 129 sheets of a very old looking manuscript, the oldest he had ever seen. To his surprise, they were of the Greek Septuagint, and he suspected that he had found the oldest copy in existence. Tischendorf then found out that the monks had two other bins full of the text, but the monks, realizing the value, allowed him to have no more of the text. So Tischendorf returned to Germany only with the sheets that he had first found. The English government learned of Tischendorf's discovery and sent a man to try and find the rest and buy it, but he was not able to do so. Tischendorf contacted a friend in Egypt who had influence with the king to see if he could obtain the rest, but his friend soon wrote back:
"The monks of the convent have since your departure learned the value of the parchments, and now they will not part with them at any price."
Codex Sinaiticus Rom. 6:23-8:15
Tischendorf himself returned to the monastery but was able to secure only one more sheet of the text. He did, however, learn that the entire Septuagint (his chief interest at the time) was contained in the manuscript. Again, in 1859, he returned to the monastery with a commission from the Tsar of Russia, but he could not find the rest of the manuscript. One of the monks, however, invited him into his cell where he showed him his copy of the Septuagint. To Tischendorf's surprise, it was the rest of the manuscript that he had seen back in 1844, and not only did it contain the rest of the Septuagint (with Apocrypha), but also the complete New Testament. Tischendorf tried not to show his excitement this time in front of the monk, but asked if he could look over it in his room. Tischendorf later wrote:
"And there by myself, I gave way to my transports of joy. I knew that I held in my hands one of the most precious Biblical treasures in existence, a document whose age and importance exceeded that of any I had ever seen after twenty years' study of the subject."
Still, it was not for another eight years, in 1867, that Tischendorf persuaded the Tsar to do what was necessary to obtain the manuscript for the Tsar's library and public access. Although Tischendorf had published a copy five years earlier, it was based upon hand-made copies of the actual manuscript. The Tsar paid the monks nine thousand rubles and gave them an Archbishopric in exchange for the codex. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist Jews gained control of the manuscript, but the English government purchased it from the Jews in 1933 for £100,000.
This Sinaitic manuscript is also written on vellum, with four columns per page and with two columns per page in the poetic books of the Septuagint. It was originally about 720 leaves, roughly 15 x 13 1/2 inches, but a great deal of the Septuagint portion has been lost. Only about 145 leaves of the Septuagint still exist, and these contain parts or all of Genesis, Numbers, I Chronicles, Esdras, Esther, Tobit, Judith, I and IV Maccabees, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Job. Fortunately, the entire New Testament is contained in the manuscript, and also the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Shepherd of Hermas. In total, there are 393 leaves still existing.
Alexandrinus. The third oldest of the great uncial codices is signified by the letter A, and dates from the early 5th century. This manuscript, with two columns per page, has a nearly complete Septuagint, missing only ten leaves. The New Testament, however, is missing a total of about 37 leaves, with the bulk of those (25) missing from Matthew. 773 leaves still exist (630 of the Septuagint, 143 of the New Testament), measuring 12 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches.
Codex Alexandrinus Ro. 2:26-3:21
This Alexandrine manuscript was owned in 1625 by Cyril Lucar, then Patriarch of Constantinople. A Calvinist and supporter of the Church of England, he sent the text to England as a gift to King James. It first came into the hands of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had played a role in the translation of King James' Bible. Obviously alarmed at what he saw, he stalled the presentation of the manuscript. In fact, King James died before he ever got it, and it was finally presented two years later to King Charles I.
This particular text was written in the 5th century, and had found its way into the hands of the Athonite monks of Egypt by the 10th century. It is unclear how Lucar, who was later killed by the order of the Sultan, acquired the text. Tradition holds that the text was written for Thecla, an Egyptian noble lady in 325 AD. This date, of course, is too early, but other evidence does point to an Alexandria, Egypt, origin.
Codex Alexandrinus is particularly important to the study of New Testament Greek because it contains the best extant text of the Revelation, and for the Septuagint because it contains the oldest complete text of several Old Testament books as well.
Ephraemi. Codex Ephraem is the fourth oldest of the uncials, dating from the 5th century, and is signified by the letter C. When the King James translators made their Bible in 1611, they certainly knew of the existence of Codex Ephraem, for it had been brought to Paris by Catherine de Medici (1519-1589). However, as far as they knew, it was just a 12th century copy of the theological writings of St. Ephraem, a Syrian church father from about 350 AD.
It was not until 1834 that Tischendorf applied a chemical treatment to the text and discovered that it was a palimpsest, that is, someone, wanting to make a copy of Ephraem's works, had rubbed out the 5th century copy of the Septuagint and New Testament and then wrote his works on top of it to save from having to buy vellum. Unfortunately, many of the leaves were ruined or thrown away, and today only 64 leaves of the Septuagint and 145 of the New Testament exist. It measures 12 1/4 x 9 inches, being written in a single column. No books of the New Testament are complete and II Thessalonians and II John are entirely missing.
Tischendorf also played a key role in the final availability of this manuscript, for it was he who, in 1843, published a copy of the New Testament and two years later the Septuagint.
Bezae. This manuscript, dating from the 5th century, is the fifth of the great uncials, but it is also the least trustworthy of the five. It is typical of the Western texts, and shows its Catholic influence in the fact that it is a diaglot of Latin and Greek, that is, it parallels the Greek and Latin facing each other on the pages. It is interesting to note that frequently the Latin and Greek are in total disagreement.
It is missing a great deal of the New Testament, and has none of the Septuagint, but the passages it does contain are heavily interpolated with Catholic insertions, some of which have survived into the Textus Receptus, but none of which can be considered original. The Calvinist Theodore Beza discovered the manuscript in Lyons in St. Irenaeus in 1562, although Robert Stephanus had apparently seen the text and used it somewhat in the preparation of a Greek New Testament in 1550. Beza, however, claimed it, and in 1581 gave it to Cambridge University. There it was accessible to the King James translators. It is important to note that the Calvinists readily made available this corrupt text to the King James translators, but they sat on the more valuable and more accurate Codex Alexandrinus.
Codex Bezae is of little textual value, but it is useful for typifying the Western or Catholic expansions into the Greek texts.
Others. There are nearly 300 other uncial manuscripts. Of these, none are complete New Testaments, but some of them are very old (perhaps even older than the ones discussed above), and for the portions that do exist they are very good witnesses. Others are just later copies of the five manuscripts mentioned above or some like them, and contain a multitude of errors all their own.
There are literally thousands of minuscule type manuscripts of the New Testament in existence, and they are of secondary importance to the uncial type manuscripts. Minuscule texts are written in running hand or cursive, with or without spaces between the words. All date after the 9th century, when minuscule-type texts began to replace the uncial manuscripts. Even though these texts are more recent than the uncials, they are still important in that they may point to a very ancient uncial text from which they were taken.
Major Families. The minuscule manuscripts can, for the most part, be placed into families or groups. This is because the minuscules can be compared to one another and many show the same set of common errors or idiosyncrasies, showing that they have a common origin or a common source manuscript from which they were copied. The different families can then be given relative value. This makes comparing the many thousands of minuscule texts much easier, as there are nearly 2800. The different texts within a family can also be used sometimes to reconstruct an uncial text that no longer exists, but which was the basis for the minuscule copies.
The papyrus manuscripts are certainly some of the most important tools in ascertaining the original text of the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament was originally penned down on papyrus scrolls. We have been aware for quite some time how papyrus was made by the Greeks and Romans, but until the 19th century we had no papyrus manuscripts. Papyrus becomes brittle when dry and rots when damp, and therefore very few texts have survived. Thus, this most important tool has only recently become available to us.
p46, c. 85 AD (U. of Michigan)
Papyrus was made by taking the Egyptian papyrus plant and cutting the stems into sections and removing the pith; this pith was cut into thin strips, which were laid beside each other, and then another layer laid down at right angles on top of the first; finally, the layers were beaten together to form a sheet, which could be pasted together to form a scroll. These scrolls, which were rolled out horizontally rather than vertically, were usually about 10 inches in height and no longer than 35 feet (although one scroll known to exist is 133 feet in length). The typical scroll might hold something the length of one of the Gospels. The text is written in columns 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, about 5/8 of an inch apart from one another, and the text was usually only on one side, the side on which the fibers were placed horizontally. Sometimes both sides would be utilized, but only if the work was particularly long or papyrus was at a premium. This practice is even alluded to in the Bible in Ezekiel 2:10 and Revelation 5:1. However, the papyrus manuscripts that have come down to us are in codex form, with only four being actual scrolls. Whether this was how the books were originally written or not is a subject of debate.
Papyrus was used universally until vellum displaced it in the 4th century, and because papyrus is not durable, no complete or nearly complete copies of the Bible, Old or New Testament, predate that time. However, our oldest witnesses to the text of the New Testament are papyri. In fact, p52 dates from c. 125 AD. It is a fragment of a codex of the book of John (18:31-33, 37-38), and though not all that important regarding the reading of the text, it is very important in showing the early circulation of John's Gospel at that time. Other early important papyrus manuscripts include: p45, from the 3rd century, containing portions of all the gospels on 30 leaves; p46, from c. 200, containing on 86 leaves most of the letters of Paul and the Book of Hebrews; p75 from between 175-225 AD, containing on 102 pages most of Luke and John; and p72, from the 3rd to 4th centuries, containing parts of I and II Peter and Jude.
[Update: New dating techniques and a reevaluation of the evidence has pushed the dates of many of these papyri back even further. Also, the recently accepted identification of two new papyri of the New Testament found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave 7 has provided two new very early papyri of the New Testament. The following is a summary:
p46 - 85 AD
p66 -125 AD
p32 -175 AD
p45 -150 AD
p87 - 125 AD
p90 - 150 AD
p64/67 - 60 AD
7Q4 - <68 AD
7Q5 - 50-68 AD
The reader is encouraged to read Papyrology and the Dating of the New Testament (Separatist Brief 4.09) as a supplement and update to this section of The History of the Bible.]
As can be seen from this small portion of the list of nearly 100 papyrus manuscripts, a great portion of the New Testament text dating back well into the 3rd century [perhaps even 2nd century] can be obtained.
That's it for today. Next time we visit this subject we'll get into versions and the question of what language the New Testament was written in.