APPENDIX D - HISTORY OF TEXTS TRANSMISSION
From: Which Version is the Bible, Floyd Nolen Jones
It has been established that textual critics acknowledge that without a viable history of the transmission of the Biblical text, lower criticism is unworkable as the choice between variants becomes reduced ultimately to subjective conjecture (p. 82).[d] This was the reason Hort devised his genealogical-conflation theory and invented the Lucianic revision (p. 75 ff.). It has also been noted that modern eclecticism is likewise doomed to failure as its proponents basically ignore this vital component (p. 80). Yet incongruously, we have further documented from the citations of leading moderns that, without a history of the text, critical techniques are unable to determine and hence restore an "original" reading (p. 91).
Remember, there is no actual recorded history regarding the transmission of the New Testament documents. We have the resulting manuscripts of that transmission and now are faced with the problem of attempting to work backward while seeking to establish a reasonable, logical history which would account for the present condition of those documents and their variants. This hypothetical reconstructed history must especially account for the fact that we have no extant mss of the Byzantine Textform predating A.D. 400 as this is the most common criticism charged against the TR/Majority Text position by the naturalistic critics.
Indeed this appears a formidable and valid objection since no physical data is available which might be used for refutation. As previously stated, all the extant early manuscript evidence comes from the arid Egyptian region and reflects the mixed types of text prevalent there during the second century.
The fact that the Church was experiencing great and prolonged persecution during the first few centuries under discussion forms the basis for understanding, unraveling, and explaining the current status of the extant mss data. Taking into account this single historical fact forms the setting for establishing a comprehensible solution and defense for the Byzantine (Syrian) texttype as well as the phenomenon present in the other text "Families". Toward achieving the above stated purpose, the foregoing is offered as a general historical framework.
Having been initially written in Koine or common Greek, the geographical region in which that language flourished and from whence the autographs originated would tend to act as a safe haven for the original wording. That region would center around Jerusalem (Gal.2:1-9; Acts 21:17-20 etc.), Syria (especially Antioch from whence Barnabas and Paul labored - Acts 11:25-26; 14:26-28; 15:35; 18:22-23 etc.) extending to the western portion of Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece.
Indeed, Antioch became Paul's home church from which he launched his three missionary journeys. As the Hebrew people were populous in this area and since most of the early Church was comprised of Jews who had received Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, these followers would have been especially jealous over the New Testament readings for such had been their culture and tradition regarding the Old Testament. Therefore, the manuscripts in this "inner" zone would maintain their purity as appeal to the apostles' autographs (or faithful copies of same) would have been possible for many years after their having been written.
Here a qualifying clarification is necessary to distinguish between that which we might label "Church manuscripts" and "Non-church manuscripts". By "Church" manuscripts is meant those used by the early Churches during public worship and those prepared and distributed from local churches to individual Christians. The "Non-church" designation refers to documents prepared by individuals for personal use outside the church context proper. It is the former that this author defends as being that text to which God's preservation promises apply, not the "Non-church"copies which account for the numerous variant readings.[/b]
Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/ Majority Textform, (Atlanta, GA: The Original Word Pub., 1991), pp. xxvi-xxxviii. Many of the insights included within this historical reconstruction were gleaned and adapted from the introduction of this work. Of course as the authors, like Pickering et al., are purely Majority Text advocates (vis-a-vis the Textus Receptus) and thus "limited restorationists" (shunning theological factors and providential preservation considerations as well, see his pp. xli-xlii), some disparities will be found between their approach and that of this author's.
2 Ibid., p. xxviii.
Conversely, when the early faithfully copied manuscripts of the autographs arrived in regions distant from their sources (in which the Hebrew mind-set regarding Sacred Writ was greatly diminished and the Gentile frame of reference prevailed), far less constraint would have existed against altering their wording in such locales. This proposal is substantiated by that which prevails even today. The Rabbis continue to safeguard the wording of the Hebrew text; yet, from the days of Marcion and Origen through those of Westcott and Hort unto the present, Gentile scholars whether unregenerate or Christian conservative continue to alter the wording of the New Testament, producing edition after edition.
Regardless of motives, over time "popular" alterations and regional as well as personal "corrections" would have been combined in a continual process of scribal corruption. As the various altered mss were cross-corrected with others possessing differing readings, an admixture of texts would have resulted. Thus, in the first few centuries some localities experienced uncontrolled non-church types of copies which were widely distributed throughout those areas. These circumstances would have been further complicated due to ever increasing persecution to which the Church was subjected. This persecution would have effectively served as a barrier, hindering movement from region to region thereby cutting off vital controlling and correcting factors.
The reversal of such an uncontrolled process could only have been due to the existence of a protected original autographic text. Otherwise the result would have been that of a patch-work quilt of variant readings created by the individualistic scribes with no prevailing "majority" text ever coming to the fore. Such in fact was the very situation when Jerome was commissioned to attempt to make sense out of the Old Latin translation and produce a "standard text" in order to unify the Latin tradition.
Apart from a similar Byzantine revision (of which there is no historical evidence), the dominance of this textform cannot be satisfactorily explained by those who reject the TR as representing the original readings. Only the persisting existence of the autographic text for comparison against these corrupted manuscripts would have ever allowed order to have come out of such chaos.
Thus the proposed theory is that, due to the events and circumstances in which the New Testament documents were copied over the time span of the first three centuries, the original Text rapidly deteriorated into the various uncontrolled popular texts which prevailed in differing localities that were removed from the general Greek speaking Syrian area. Over the normal process of copying and re-copying during which scribal "improvements", "corrections", blunders, and cross-correlation changes from other exemplars added to the corruption process, these "popular" texts eventually would have developed into the distinctive local text forms which centered around the metropolitan regions.
These became the birthplaces of differing "texttypes" such as the Western, Alexandrian, and Caesarean (if such an entity actually exists) as well as others which may have been produced but have long since vanished due to a moist climate hostile to their preservation.
The foregoing would have dramatically changed with the advent of Constantine (288-337 A.D.). Upon his granting the Church official endorsement and acceptance, the predominantly "local" nature of the scattered churches became permanently altered. Approval from the throne precipitated greater freedom to the individual Christians resulting in wider travel with greater communication and intercourse between the churches from region to region all across the Empire.
A natural consequence of this would have been the cross-comparison and subsequent correction of these local textforms once they could be compared to the faithful copies of the archetype which had been providentially preserved in the Syrian Churches the very cradle of Christianity. Thus the
footnote: Robinson, The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/Majority Textform, op. cit., p. xxix.
archetype itself the Textus Receptus would then have been available on a major scale for correcting the various local texttypes.
This spontaneous "improvement" would have proceeded on a numerical and geographical scale far greater than ever before possible; nevertheless, it would have taken some period of time until the result would have fully manifested itself. Slowly yet inevitably, nearly all the manuscripts would tend toward a common and universally shared text.
Still, some minor distinct readings would have remained yielding their own subgroups among the mss. This "universal text" would have been the only one which could closely approach the common archetype from which all the local text forms had originated. This scenario views this emergent "Byzantine" (Syrian) text as being almost exclusively that of the "non-church" variety described previously whereas the archetype which gave it life is of the "Church manuscript" namely the autograph form itself. The present theory envisions many more "non-church" copies resulting from the above described process than those in the Syrian churches themselves. The increasing number of manuscripts would slowly have overcome the influence of "local" texts to eventually become the dominant text of the Greek-speaking world. This accounts for both the origin and dominance of Byzantine/Majority Textform as well as the fact that the Greek Church continues to use the Textus Receptus exclusively.
[b]Allusion has been made within the body of this study that scribes are assumed by critics to tend to alter the text being copied into readings with which they are more familiar. Such harmonizing was not a major factor among Byzantine-era scribes as may be proven by comparing the extant N.T. documents themselves. Were this type of alteration widespread, how does one account for the numerous often obvious and sensitive places left completely unchanged. Citing from his own Ph.D. dissertation on the subject of scribal habits, Maurice Robinson states:
"Byzantine-era scribes as a whole were less inclined to gratuitously alter the text before them than simply to perform their given duty. It was the earlier scribes in some locales who, during the uncontrolled 'popular' era of persecution and the initial years of Imperial 'freedom,' felt more at liberty to deal with the text as they saw fit.
This suggested transmissional history exposes the fallacy of the maxim "oldest is best". Again, it is not the age of the manuscript itself. The issue is the age and reliability of the text contained within the manuscript that is the real substance of the matter. Robinson is correct when he reminds us that:
"Most early manuscripts in existence today have been affected by the uncontrolled nature of textual transmission which prevailed in their local areas, as well as by the persecutions which came continually against the church. The whole matter of early copying practices is hypothetical, regardless of which textual theory one prefers. We know nothing beyond what can be deduced from what survives. In the early papyri, we may have only personal copies, and not those which were generally used by the churches themselves. Also, the papyri all come from a single geographic area, and reflect a good deal of corruption, both accidental and deliberate."
1 Herein lies the main conceptional difference between Robinson's theory of the transmission of the N.T. text and the present author's, cp. Robinson's p. xxxi.
2 Robinson, The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/Majority Textform, op. cit., p. xxxiv.
Robinson continues adding that if the Byzantine readings in the early Fathers which are being summarily dismissed by the critics were legitimately included, the Father's overall text would be seen as being more Byzantine than is currently acknowledged by these scholars exactly as Burgon contended a century ago. Burgon was ignored because he used "uncritical" editions of the Fathers. Today's "critical" editions eliminate distinctive Byzantine readings in places where they are unconfirmed by direct comment. Robinson states that were this practice not implemented, the Fathers' writings would be recognized as containing many more Byzantine readings than current opinion allows. The present reconstruction of the history of transmission would account for the presence of a Byzantine Textform in the writings of the fifth-century Fathers.
Moreover, it is reasonable to presume that most early copies many having been made directly from the autographs themselves would have been as accurate as care would permit. In particular, the Churches in the general Syrian region would not have knowingly allowed defective copies to have been sent forth. The persecution would have engendered deep abiding commitment resulting in the appearance of responsible, dedicated scribes. Thus the first and second copying generations would have yielded faithful reproductions of the sacred deposit.
In view of the existing confused status of the surviving Greek papyrus and uncial MSS, the herein contained general reconstruction of the history of textual transmission seems not only justified but demanded. Only the continual process of manuscript comparison and cross-correction carried out over the centuries would have succeeded in "weeding out" the early scribal corruption and conflicting variant readings. The increased cross-cultural travel and communication which followed Constantine's formal act of tolerance and legitimization of Christianity would have had the natural effect of slowly purging from the manuscripts the conspicuous as well as the less obvious early adulterations. This course would have resulted in a truly "older" and purer text. Such a process would not have been possible unless the basic text of all the Greek manuscripts had been essentially "secure".
After the 9th century the production of most uncial MSS ceased and were systematically replaced by the miniscule style. These predominated until the invention of printing. This "copying revolution" resulted in the destruction of hundreds of previously-existing uncial MSS once they had been copied in cursive script.
Robinson, The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/Majority Textform, op. cit., pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.[/b]