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Alexandria vs. Antioch

Many of those in the KJV only camp–and especially the more radical element of that camp–teach that the Alexandrian Text Type is corrupt because of its association with Alexandria. There are two major lines of argument in this matter.
 

The Law of First Mention

The KJV only advocate use a hermenutical principle described as the law of first mention to claim that the Bible has a negative "attitude" toward Egypt. Their argument is that since the first mention of Egypt, and many othe references for that matter, as well as the reference to Alexandria in the Bible are negative, then we must assume that God views Egypt in a negative light. On the the other hand, the the references to Antioch in the Bible are generally positive. Therefore God views Antioch in a positive light.

This line of argument denies the power of Christ to change lives. In essence what the KJV proponent is saying is that Christ is powerless to convert the Egyptians. Because Egypt is viewed in a negative light in most of the Bible it is not possible for Christ to convert Egyptians to strong Chrisitans. Such a position is ridiculous. If I wanted to apply their law of first mention in this way then I must reject the teachings of Paul, because the first mention of him is in a negative context.
 

Alexandria as a Source of Heresy

The KJV only supporters make claims about the heretical nature of Alexandrian theology, while at the same time making glowing statements about the theology of Antioch. Generally they lump all of Alexandrian theology in with that of Origen, whom they claim is responsible for the Alexandrian form of the Greek text.

There are two major problems with this position. A quick reading of early Church history will show that both the Alexandria and Antioch produced great theologians. What we recognize today as the orthodox faith relies heavily on a blending of theologies from the two schools. Those that support the KJV only position claim that the Alexandrian Text Type denies the deity of Christ, yet it was the Antiochene position on the nature of Christ, not the Alexandrian position that was heretical. The Antiochene positon, following Nestorius, was that Mary gave birth to a human, not to God. See  Nestorius , Synopsis of Ancient Heretics
 

Origen

KJV only supporters lay most of the blame for the supposed "corruption" of the New Testament on Origen. They claim that Origen freely changed the text of the New Testament to match his theology. While Origen did produce a text of the Old Testament with Greek translation, it is doubtful whether he ever produced a NT. If he did, it most certainly is not the source of the Alexandrian text. Origen, due to conflicts with the bishop of Alexandria moved to Caserea about AD 232. His students moved on to the theological school of Antioch, the very place that the KJV only people so highly praise!

Origen was keenly aware of the problems of poor copies of the New Testament. The following extract from Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (pp 151-152) gives a good insight into Origen.
 

 Not long after the Theodotians had been excommunicated, one of the most assiduous and erudite scholars of his age, Origen of Alexandria and Caesarea, began a text-critical study of the entire Old Testament in Hebrew and in several Greek translations. His resulting Hexapla, which must have required many years of the most painstaking labour, was a monumental tool that many patristic scholars consulted, in the famed library of Pamphilus at Caesarea, until its destruction in the seventh century during the Islamic conquest of the Near East.

 The question whether Origen ever attempted to edit a critical text of the New Testament has been answered quite diversely by modern scholars; it seems probable to the present writer that he did not extend his textual efforts to preparing a formal edition of the New Testament. At the same time, in all his writings and particularly in his exegetical treatises, Origen reveals a certain solicitude for critical details in the Biblical text. He complains that 'the differences among the manuscripts [of the Gospels] have become great,either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they lengthen or shorten, as they please'. {Comm. in Matt. xv. 14 (Die griechischen chrisllichen Schriftsteller, Origenes, x. 387·28-388. 7~ ed. Klostermann)}  besides making comments of a general nature about the text, Origen sought out information (though he did not always utilize this information) concerning variant readings in Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. [Italics Added]
 

Do the words in italics sound like a man who was writing his own version of Scripture? I think not. Much of the KJV only rants against Origen are pure fantasy.


The following is a portion of an answer to an e-mail I received asking for more information on Vaticanus and Sinaitcus. Hopefully you will find that this information is useful.

Claims regarding the "corruption" of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are based on several lines of arguments. One is simple that the manuscripts contain a large number of corrections, and, at times, some obvious deletions that are the result of scribal errors. This argument ignores the fact that many of the "corrections" were made 200-300 years after the original, or that most manuscripts contain corrections and scribal errors.

Usually coupled with this claim of "corruption" is the statement by the Textus Receptus advocate Hoskier that there are over 3,000 variations between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the Gospels alone. As part of my investigation of this claim I did a study of the variations in the Gospels using the critical apparatus in Hodges and Farstad's Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. I was unable to duplicate Hoskier's 3000, possibly because I was working off of a critical apparatus rather than the actual text and possibly because of differences in counting methods. I counted a "missing" three-word phrase as one variation, it is possible Hoskier counted this as three. (I have not read his original work to be sure)

However, since I applied a consistent methodology across the critical apparatus I would contend that my comparisons are valid, despite differences in absolute values. What I found was the following:

Sinaiticus differs from Vaticanus 1139 times.

The Textus Receptus (the Greek Text Underlying the KJV) differs from the Majority Text 420 times.

There are 589 places where Hodges and Farstad split the Majority text witness because of variations within the manuscripts.

Based on this analysis it is clear that, despite the claims of the KJV-only advocates the Textus Receptus is not the same as the Majority text. Futhermore, the KJV-only crowds contend that the Textus Receptus/Majority Text group of manuscripts represent the pure "Antiochian" form of the text. However, when you combine the variations in this "Antiochian" text you find a total of 1009 variants within the Gospels. In my mind if the 1139 variants between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus invalids their witness to the text certainly the 1009 variations in the "Antiochian" text would raise doubts about its witness.

I should point out that most textual scholars-as opposed to the KJV-only advocates-would not speak of an "Antiochian," but a Byzantine text type. Also, most scholars would recognize more than two text types. However, no matter how one divides the text types I think the above analysis shows that numerous variations among manuscripts occurs in all lines of the New Testament text.


Claims regarding the "corruption" of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are based on several lines of arguments. One is simple that the manuscripts contain a large number of corrections, and, at times, some obvious deletions that are the result of scribal errors. This argument ignores the fact that many of the "corrections" were made 200-300 years after the original, or that most manuscripts contain corrections and scribal errors.

Usually coupled with this claim of "corruption" is the statement by the Textus Receptus advocate Hoskier that there are over 3,000 variations between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the Gospels alone. As part of my investigation of this claim I did a study of the variations in the Gospels using the critical apparatus in Hodges and Farstad's Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. I was unable to duplicate Hoskier's 3000, possibly because I was working off of a critical apparatus rather than the actual text and possibly because of differences in counting methods. I counted a "missing" three-word phrase as one variation, it is possible Hoskier counted this as three. (I have not read his original work to be sure)

However, since I applied a consistent methodology across the critical apparatus I would contend that my comparisons are valid, despite differences in absolute values. What I found was the following:

Sinaiticus differs from Vaticanus 1139 times.

The Textus Receptus (the Greek Text Underlying the KJV) differs from the Majority Text 420 times.

There are 589 places where Hodges and Farstad split the Majority text witness because of variations within the manuscripts.

Based on this analysis it is clear that, despite the claims of the KJV-only advocates the Textus Receptus is not the same as the Majority text. Futhermore, the KJV-only crowds contend that the Textus Receptus/Majority Text group of manuscripts represent the pure "Antiochian" form of the text. However, when you combine the variations in this "Antiochian" text you find a total of 1009 variants within the Gospels. In my mind if the 1139 variants between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus invalids their witness to the text certainly the 1009 variations in the "Antiochian" text would raise doubts about its witness.

I should point out that most textual scholars-as opposed to the KJV-only advocates-would not speak of an "Antiochian," but a Byzantine text type. Also, most scholars would recognize more than two text types. However, no matter how one divides the text types I think the above analysis shows that numerous variations among manuscripts occurs in all lines of the New Testament text.

Another argument for the corruption of the Alexandria manuscripts centers around the fact that they were copied in Alexandria. This argument ranges from claims that Origen or some other Alexandrian "heretic" intentionally changed the text to claims that the Bible is opposed to Egypt, thus the Bible simply cannot come from there. Usually added to this is the claim that the New Testament speaks highly of the Christians at Antioch, and therefore the "good" Bibles must come from there.

This claim ignores the historically facts regarding Antioch and Alexandria. Both were centers of great Christian activity, and both produced their share of both orthodox theologians and heretics. What is ironic is that Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria during a good portion of the 4th century was a staunch defender of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Both doctrines that the KJV-only crowd claim are "weakened" in the Alexandrian manuscripts. Simply put, the argument for Antioch over Alexandria does not bear up under the facts of history.

There are a variety of other arguments put forth by the KJV-only crowd for the corruption of the Alexandrian manuscripts that also fall apart under scrutiny, and some of which are just plain deceptive. For example I took the following from Jack Chick's web site:

Facts About the Vaticanus

It was written on fine vellum (tanned animal skins) and remains in excellent condition. It was found in the Vatican Library in 1481 AD. In spite of being in excellent condition, it omits:

Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 46:28

Psalms 106-138

Matthew 16:2-3

The Pauline Pastoral Epistles

Hebrews 9:14-13:25

Revelation

. . . .The Vaticanus was available to the translators of the King James Bible, but they didn't use it because they knew it is unreliable. The Vaticanus also contains the Apocrypha.

Chick's deception is clearly seen in his attempt to imply that the missing portions of Vatincanus (with the exception of Matt 16:2-3) are intentional. While the remaining portions of the manuscript may be in "fine condition" it is well documented that significant portions of the document are missing, as the following description (taken from the online Catholic Encyclopedia) clearly points out:

This codex is a quarto volume written in uncial letters of the fourth century, on folios of fine parchment bound in quinterns. Each page is divided into three columns of forty lines each, with from sixteen to eighteen letters to a line, except in the poetical books, where, owing to the stichometric division of the lines, there are but two columns to a page. There are no capital letters, but at times the first letter of a section extends over the margin. Several hands worked at the manuscript; the first writer inserted neither pauses nor accents, and made use but rarely of a simple punctuation. Unfortunately, the codex is mutilated; at a later date the missing folios were replaced by others. Thus, the first twenty original folios are missing; a part of folio 178, and ten folios after fol. 348; also the final quinterns, whose number it is impossible to establish. There are extant in all 759 original folios.  

The Old Testament (Septuagint Version, except Daniel, which is taken from the version of Theodotion) takes up 617 folios. On account of the aforementioned lacunae, the Old Testament text lacks the following passages: Gen., i-xlvi,28; II Kings, ii,5-7,10-13; Pss. cv,27-cxxxvii, 6. The order of the books of the Old Testament is as follows: Genesis to Second Paralipomenon, First and second Esdras, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles, Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Minor Prophets from Osee to Malachi, Isaias, Jeremias, Baruch, Lamentations and Epistle of Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel; the Vatican Codex does not contain the Prayer of Manasses or the Books of Machabees.The New Testament begins at fol. 618. Owing to the loss of the final quinterns, a portion of the Pauline Epistles is missing: Heb., ix,14-xiii,25, the Pastoral Letters, Epistle to Philemon; also the Apocalypse. It is possible that there may also be some extra-canonical writings missing, like the Epistle of Clement. The order of the New Testament books is as follows: Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Catholic Epistles, St. Paul to the Romans, Corinthians (I-II), Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians (I-II), Hebrews.  

Likewise Chick's claim that Vaticanus was "available to the KJV translators" is simply not supportable. The manuscript was in the Vatican library, and no published versions of the NT were available until 1669. Surely not even Jack Chick believes that in 1611 a group of Anglican Churchmen were going to march into the Vatican and check out the manuscript! Chick's complaint that Vaticanus "contains the Apocrypha," if he intends this as a negative comment, is laughable coming from a KJV-only supporter, considering that all of the original editions of the KJV also contained the Apocrypha.