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Textual variants and the integrity of the New Testament text

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Textual variants and the integrity of the New Testament text

Many scholars have spent a lifetime of study of the textual variants. The following is the conclusion of the importance of these variants as they relate to the integrity of the New Testament text.

  1. There are over 200,000 variants in the New Testament alone. How do these variants effect our confidence that the New Testament has been faithfully handed down to us?

  2. These 200,000 variants are not as large as they seem. Remember that every misspelled word or an omission of a single word in any of the 5,600 manuscript would count as a variant.

  3. Johann Bengel 1687-1752 was very disturbed by the 30,000 variants that had recently been noted in Mill's edition of the Greek Testament. After extended study he came to the conclusion that the variant readings were fewer in number than might have been expected and that they did not shake any article of Christian doctrine.

  4. Westcott and Hort, in the 1870's, state that the New Testament text remains over 98.3 percent pure no matter whether one uses the Textus Receptus or their own Greek text which was largely based on Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

  5. James White, on p. 40 of his book The King James Only Controversy states: "The reality is that the amount of variation between the two most extremely different manuscripts of the New Testament would not fundamentally alter the message of the Scriptures! I make this statement (1) fully aware of the wide range of textual variants in the New Testament, and (2) painfully aware of the strong attacks upon those who have made similar statements in the past."

  6. Scholars Norman Geisler and William Nix conclude, "The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts that any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book-a form that is 99.5 percent pure."

  7. When textual critics look at all 5,600 Greek New Testament manuscripts they find that they can group these manuscripts into text-types or families with other similar manuscripts. There are four text-types.

Figure 1. Age differences between Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscripts.

    1. The Alexandrian text-type, found in most papyri and in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus all of which date prior to 350 A.D.

    2. The Western text-type, found both in Greek manuscripts and in translations into other languages, especially Latin.

    3. The Byzantine text-type, found in the vast majority of later Greek manuscripts. Over 90 percent of all 5,600 Greek New Testament manuscripts are of the Byzantine text-type. The Byzantine text-type is "fuller" or "longer" than other text-types, and this is taken as evidence of a later origin. The reason that we have so many manuscripts of the Byzantine text-type is because the Byzantine Empire remained Greek speaking and Orthodox Christian until Islamic Turks overran its capital, Constantinople, in 1453. Constantinople is now called Istanbul and is Turkey's largest city, although no longer its capital.

    4. The Caesaarean text-type, disputed by some, found in p 45 and a few other manuscripts.

Ringer ,Wesley. “History of the Bible: How The Bible Came To Us”. God and Science. 2, February, 2014. .

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