Chapter 2: Tampering With Texts
Gnosticism was by far the most influential heresy confronting the early church. Historian Will Durant defines Gnosticism as "the quest of godlike knowledge (gnosis) through mystic means." [Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 3 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 604.] Not only did the Gnostics corrupt many readings found in the New Testament; they offered their own writings as inspired Scriptures such as the The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Acts of Andrew, and The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene). Gnosticism assumed a variety of forms and sects that broadened its base and growth.
In general, the Gnostics taught that the physical was evil and the spiritual was good. A good god could not have created a physical world because good cannot create evil. So the Gnostic god created a being (or a line of beings called aeons) and one of these aeons, or gods, created the world. The so-called Christian Gnostics believed that Jesus was one of these aeons who created the world. Some Gnostics taught that Jesus Christ did not have a physical body, and when he walked on the earth he left no footprints because he never really touched the earth (Jesus being spiritual and the world physical). Other Gnostics taught that only our spiritual bodies were important; the physical body could engage in whatever it desired because only the spiritual body would be saved. Still other Gnostics taught that the physical body was so evil, it must be denied in order for the spiritual body to gain salvation, thereby shunning marriage and the eating of meat (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
The influence of Gnosticism may be felt today. For example, the Christian Gnostics taught that Jesus Christ was an aeon, a created god who in turn created the world. To them, Christ was a begotten god from the "Unbegotten Father." The Authorized Version refers to Christ as, "the only begotten Son" (John 1:18). This is a literal translation of the Greek monogenes huios. However, some of the Egyptian manuscripts read monogenes theos (the only begotten god). The change in the Greek manuscripts reflects a textual variant that also happens to agree with Gnostic thought. It is possible that huios (Son) was changed to theos (god) to reflect Gnostic teaching.
Another example of Gnostic teaching concerns the dual sexual nature of God. In her book, The Gnostic Gospels, Dr. Elaine Pagels notes that some Gnostics taught that God was both Father and Mother. [Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 58-59.] Pagels states that Clement of Alexandria was influenced by this doctrine of a "masculo-feminine" God and characterized God in both masculine and feminine terms. [Ibid., 81.] In today’s society the same thought can be found. For example, the politically correct Inclusive Version renders the Lord’s Prayer as, "Our Father-Mother in heaven, hallowed be your name." [New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version (New York: Oxford University Press,] This is not to say that the translators of the Inclusive Version are modern-day Gnostics, nor that they were influenced by Gnostic doctrine. It is to say that the teaching of a masculo-feminine deity propagated by some Gnostics has a contemporary advocate.
Docetism, a form of Gnosticism, taught Christ was a phantom without a physical body in accordance with the sect’s teaching that only the spiritual was good and the physical evil. This was the heresy of Simon Magus from the book of Acts. He taught that Jesus Christ was only an appearance of God, rejecting the orthodox teaching that Christ was God incarnate. [Chas S. Clifton, Encyclopedia Of Heresies And Heretics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992), 118-120.] Others believed that the nature of Jesus Christ was two-fold, spiritual and physical, with Jesus being physical and "the Christ" spiritual. They believed "the Christ" departed Jesus at the crucifixion and left him on the cross to suffer and die. The Gospel of Peter reflects such beliefs. Although cited by Justin Martyr, Origen, and Eusebius, scholars did not discover a manuscript of this Gnostic writing until 1886. While excavating the grave of a monk in Egypt, a French archaeological team discovered a copy of this Gnostic gospel. Only a small portion of it remained, providing a conflicting account of the crucifixion than the four Gospels of the Bible. This separation of Christ from Jesus is seen in the following quotation:
"And many went about with lamps, supposing that it was night: and some fell. And the Lord cried out aloud saying: My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me. And when he had so said, he was taken up. And in the same hour was the veil of the temple of Jerusalem rent in two." [M.R. James (trans.), "Gospel of Peter," The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 5:18-20.]
These Gnostics believed the power of Jesus, "the Christ," left him while he was on the cross. This may account for variants in Greek manuscripts in places such as 1 John 1:7. Some texts read "the blood of Jesus Christ" while others read "the blood of Jesus." The difference may on the surface seem minor, but when examined in light of such heresy it could reflect a major tampering. These Gnostics would not reject the reading "the blood of Jesus" because they believed Jesus shed his blood and died on the cross when "the Christ" left him. However, the phrase "Jesus Christ," which is the most common phrase used by John in his epistle, would be a direct attack on their dualistic heresy.
The following account of the resurrection in the Gospel of Peter is Docetic in nature. The Gospel of Peter reads:
"Now in the night whereon the Lord’s day dawned, as the soldiers were keeping guard two by two in every watch, there came a great sound in the heaven, and they saw the heavens opened and two men descend thence, shining with a great light, and drawing near unto the sepulchre. And that stone which had been set on the door rolled away of itself and went back to the side, and the sepulchre was opened and both of the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw that, they waked up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping watch); and while they were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw again three men come out of the sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other, and a cross following, after them. And of the two they saw that their heads reached unto heaven, but of him that was led by them that it overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice out of the heavens saying: Hast thou (or Thou hast) preached unto them that sleep? And an answer was heard from the cross, saying: Yea." [Ibid., 9:34-10:42.]
Irenaeus, an early church father who confronted various false doctrines, notes that such Gnostics used and corrected the Gospel of Mark. He wrote, "Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified." [St. Ireaneus, Against Heresies III:11:7.] The Latin manuscript k may reflect such tampering. [Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended (1956; reprint, Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1984), 166-167.]
In Mark 16:4, k reads:
"Suddenly, moreover, at the third hour of the day, darkness fell upon the whole world, and angels descended from heaven, and as the Son of God was rising in brightness, they ascended at the same time with him, and straightway it was light."
This citation from k matches the citation from the Gospel of Peter concerning the resurrection.
Gnosticism influenced a second century heretic named Marcion, though he did not fully embrace its teachings. Instead, he developed his own religious following, vowing to complete the work of St. Paul and separate Judaism from Christian teachings. However, he did so in an anti-Semitic fashion. In 140 AD he went to Rome and established his doctrines, teaching that the God of the Old Testament could not have been the Father of Jesus Christ because Christ speaks of his Father as a God of love and the God of the Jews was a God of wrath. Marcion taught that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, created the world but that all created flesh was evil. A greater god, claimed Marcion, created the soul. This other god also created the spiritual realm and was the true Father of Jesus Christ. To release man’s soul from his flesh, this greater god sent Christ, who appeared as a thirty-year-old male in an unreal-spiritual body and not a physical one. Salvation was gained by renouncing Jehovah and all things physical.
Marcion rejected the Hebrew Scriptures and their quotations in the New Testament. The followers of Marcion issued their own New Testament composed of Luke and Paul’s letters. This may account for some of the variations in these books among the manuscripts; followers of Marcion would want these books to reflect their doctrines. [Brown, 60-68.] Irenaeus wrote "Marcion cut up that according to [the Gospel of] Luke." [Ireaneus, III:11:7. Some translate the phrase as, "But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke . . ."] This would account for the numerous changes found in varying manuscripts of Luke and the large number of verses omitted. It is, for example, understandable why the sentence "And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet" (Luke 24:40) would be omitted by Marcion. After all, he did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus but only in a spiritual resurrection.
Jesus taught that a corrupt tree will produce corrupt fruit (Matthew 7:17). He was speaking of false prophets and teachers who corrupt the Scriptures (2 Peter 2:1-3). We are told we can recognize them by their fruits. An apple tree produces apples and a fig tree brings forth figs. The fruit of the false prophet is false prophecies and the fruit of the false teacher is false doctrine. If a man’s doctrine is suspected of being corrupt, we must conclude that he will corrupt the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 2:17). In the transmission of Scripture, we must understand that there will always be a line of perversion just as there will be of preservation. According to our Lord, we must become "fruit inspectors." The remainder of this chapter and the next will demonstrate both lines in operation.
Tatian (110-180 AD)
Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr, was a doctrinal apologist and second century textual scholar. In 170 AD, he produced a harmony of the Gospels called the Diatessaron (Gk. through the four). It is thought that this harmony was written in Greek and translated into Syriac, but it is possible that it was originally written in Syriac. The Bishop of Syria, Theodoret, thought it so corrupt that he had all two hundred known copies destroyed. Today, we only have a fragment of Tatian’s Diatessaron along with two Arabic translations and a commentary.
After the death of Justin Martyr, Tatian fell under the influence of Gnosticism. [Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 425.] Several details about Tatian’s heresy are recorded by the church fathers Irenaeus and Eusebius. Irenaeus testifies that Tatian:
". . . composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He invented a system of certain invisible Aeons, like the followers of Valentinus; while, like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication. [Irenaeus, I:28.]
Eusebius quotes Irenaeus’ testimony and adds that Tatian:
. . . formed a certain combination and collection of the Gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title Diatessaron, and which is still in the hands of some. But they say that he ventured to paraphrase certain words of the apostle, in order to improve their style." [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, IV:29.]
Tatian’s harmony does not contain verses such as Matthew 21:44; Luke 23:17; 24:12; and John 7:53-8:11. However, since we do not have the original Diatessaron, it is hard to say how much influence the Diatessaron had on any line of manuscript. Nevertheless, with Tatian and his Diatessaron we see the influence of Gnosticism, which may have tainted the transmission of Scripture within the first hundred years of the completion of the New Testament.
Clement Of Alexandria (150-215 AD)
Titus Flavius Clement was born of pagan parents in Athens, Greece. He was influenced by Christian doctrine, yet held that God inspired the Greek poets in a diminutive sense. He went to Alexandria, Egypt where he became head of the Catechetical School in about 200 AD. A few years later he was forced to leave Egypt under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. He died in Cappadocia around 215 AD.
There are approximately twenty-four hundred New Testament quotations by Clement in his writings. Dr. Alexander Souter, a textual scholar of the early twentieth century, noted that Clement did not quote Scripture very carefully, and that his Greek text was closely related to Codex D. [Alexander Souter, The Text and Canon of the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917), 81.] Dr. Kurt Aland, a prominent textual critic, stated that Clement’s citations disagree with the Traditional Text fifty-six percent of the time. Twenty-four percent of the time his citations agree with the Alexandrian line of manuscripts and twenty-nine percent they agree with both. Only fifteen percent of the time does Clement choose the reading of the Traditional Text. [Kurt Aland, "The Text of the Church," Trinity Journal (Fall, 1987), 139.]
We have already learned that Clement was influenced by the Gnostics in his view of God as both Father and Mother. In The Instructor (Paedagogus), written about 202 AD, Clement reveals several other questionable beliefs. He accepted some books from the Old Testament Apocrypha, such as Baruch, as divinely inspired Scripture. [St. Clement, The Instructor, II:3:2.] He also believed in the divinity of man, agreeing with Heraclitus that men are gods. [Ibid., III:1:4.] Protestants would certainly reject the notion of divine inspiration attributed to apocryphal books, and both Catholic and Protestant believers would reject the doctrine of the dual sexual nature of God and the mistaken belief that man has the ability to become a god himself.
Origen (185-254 AD)
When Clement left Alexandria because of persecution, Origen succeeded him as headmaster at the Catechetical School. Origen developed the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. He interpreted most of the Bible symbolically. Yet, passages that are clearly symbolic he interpreted literally. As a textual scholar he produced the Hexapla, a Bible containing six translations of the Old Testament including the famous Septuagint. He considered the Old Testament Apocrypha inspired Scripture and included it in his Hexapla. Additionally, Origen accepted some books from the New Testament Apocrypha as canonical, such as The Shepherd of Hermas and The Epistle of Barnabas.
Historian Will Durant notes that Origen held to some heresies of his own. Origen rejected the literal interpretation of Scripture, questioned the truthfulness of the book of Genesis, and was skeptical of the fall of man. When the Old Testament depicts certain attributes of God, such as his divine wrath and judgment, Origen explained these away as merely symbolic. Likewise, he did not consider the temptations of Christ as literal temptations, but as symbolic truths. [Durant, 614.] In his work, De Principiis, Origen said that he could not determine if the Holy Ghost was born or innate, or if the Holy Spirit is to be considered a Son of God. [St. Origen, De Principiis, Preface, 4.] He believed Christ was unable to see the Father. [Ibid., 1:1:8.] He claimed that those who were in hell could be restored. [Ibid., 2:10:3.] Origen also suggests that the sun, moon, and stars were living beings. [Ibid., Preface, 10.] It is clear that he was a man of questionable doctrine, and on three different occasions his orthodoxy was challenged (300 AD, 400 AD, and 550 AD). [W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970), 189.] Ultimately he was considered a heretic, which may explain why so many of his writings have perished.
Someone with the same belief system as Origen would not be our first choice in revising or editing our Bibles for fear that such views may taint the translation. Nevertheless, Origen’s position as a textual critic is unquestionable. He was one of the most prolific writers of his day, writing over six thousand letters and books. In his writings he makes almost eighteen thousand quotations and allusions from the New Testament. Dr. Aland showed that Origen’s scriptural citations are mostly Alexandrian. [Aland, 139.]
Eusebius (263-340 AD)
Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea, was a church historian and textual critic responsible for writing The Ecclesiastical History in 325 AD. His work details what was occurring in the early church, especially during the canonization of Scripture. However, as noted by historian Will Durant, Eusebius sometimes glossed over some facts, a tendency shown in his Life of Constantine. Durant calls Eusebius’ technique "honest dishonesty" and points out that from reading the biography, one would never suspect that Constantine had killed his son, his nephew, and his wife. [Durant, 663.] The same sort of exaggerations crept into Eusebius’ account of early Christian martyrs. [Ibid., 649.]
Eusebius produced a form of the Gospels, dividing them into paragraphs and numbering them for cross-reference (they were not divided as we have chapter and verse divisions today in our Bibles). [Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 24.] Concerning the canon of Scripture, Eusebius questioned the authenticity of James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and the book of Jude. [Geisler and Nix, 294.]
Emperor Constantine ordered Eusebius to produce fifty copies of the Bible. Constantine stated these copies were to "be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner." [Ibid., 181.] Some have suggested that the famous manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were two of these fifty copies. These two manuscripts provide the basis of many of the changes in modern translations today. This was the view of Constantin Tischendorf, F. John A. Hort, and Alexander Souter as they commented on the subject. [Souter, 22-23.] If this is true, Eusebius not only produced the famous Alexandrian manuscripts; he also advocated a text-type that supports this same line of manuscripts. From the many citations of Eusebius, it is certain that he did favor the Alexandrian family.
There should be little doubt that the views and textual changes of Origen found their way into the textual work of Eusebius. Eusebius was the student of Pamphilus (hence the name "Eusebius Pamphili" by which the former was known in ancient times). Together they founded a library at Caesarea consisting of biblical and patristic writings plus Origen’s works. Pamphilus was the student of Origen while he was in Alexandria. We can see a direct line from Origen to Eusebius and his work in early textual criticism.
Jerome (340-420 AD)
Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus, known as St. Jerome, was responsible for producing the Latin Vulgate. Pope Damasus requested Jerome to produce a new Latin Version of the Old and New Testaments in 383 AD. Jerome reluctantly agreed, knowing his version would not be welcomed since Christendom had already begun to divide itself as to which line of manuscript and which translation best reflected the original autographs. In 405 AD, Jerome finished the Latin Vulgate and gave the Roman Catholic Church its official Latin Bible.
Most textual scholars believe that Jerome revised the Old Latin manuscripts according to his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. However, we do not possess many Latin versions which predate the Vulgate of Jerome and what we do have are fragmentary. The vast majority of Old Latin manuscripts we now have were written after the Vulgate and are divided into two groups, African and European.
Jerome was influenced by the work of Eusebius. Dr. Souter believed that we must look to Egypt for the origin of Codex Sinaiticus, which he claimed was produced by Eusebius. While in Bethlehem, Jerome had a Greek manuscript that was closely related to Sinaiticus. [Ibid., 23.] In like manner, Sir Frederic Kenyon noted that the Greek manuscript conspicuously agreeing with Jerome’s Latin Vulgate is Sinaiticus, [Frederic Kenyon, The Story of the Bible (1936; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 110.] again demonstrating the influence the Alexandrian textual line had on Jerome. However, it should be noted that Jerome was willing to reach a compromise and not make as many changes to the text as one finds in the Alexandrian line. Kenyon also notes that Jerome left the Old Latin readings standing whenever possible. [Ibid.] The Latin Vulgate produced by Jerome contains several readings that support the Traditional Text because they were originally in the Old Latin manuscripts. [Hills, 187.]
Tischendorf (1815-1874 AD)
Constantin von Tischendorf is responsible for providing the Protestant world with two of the oldest known uncials, Codex Vaticanus (also listed as Codex B) and Codex Sinaiticus (also listed as Codex Aleph). These two manuscripts date between 325 and 350 AD. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are two of the best examples of the Alexandrian line of manuscripts, and are responsible for numerous changes found in modern Bible versions. These two manuscripts formed the basis for the Greek text later produced by Westcott and Hort, a work that was the foundation for the Critical Greek Text. [Donald Guthrie, "Text and Versions," David Alexander and Pat Alexander, eds., Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 73.]
Tischendorf edited more New Testament editions and documents than any other scholar of his day. [Souter, 102.] By the age of twenty-nine he had already produced three editions of the Greek New Testament. Believing the Alexandrian line of manuscripts reflected the better readings, Tischendorf set off in search of additional manuscripts.
In 1844, he visited the monastery of St. Catherine located at Mt. Sinai. While there he saw several leaves of a manuscript written on vellum lying in a basket ready to be destroyed. The monks would burn such leaves to warm themselves. Tischendorf, desiring to save the manuscript, was allowed to keep forty-three leaves. The manuscript, which contained the Greek Septuagint, was recognized by Tischendorf to be of the same textual line as Codex Alexandrinus. However, this manuscript was about a hundred years older. A second visit to the monastery occurred in 1853 with nothing found. On his third visit in 1859, Tischendorf was shown the codex that is now known as Sinaiticus. He was denied custody of the manuscript at that time. He went to Cairo to speak to the Superior who granted him the codex. It was not until nine months later, after Tischendorf paid a good sum, that he was given the codex. [Kenyon, 57-58.] Codex Sinaiticus contains over half of the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament except for large passages such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, along with several other verses. It has the Old Testament Apocrypha laced within it as Scripture and the New Testament apocryphal books of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
Codex Vaticanus, known to have been in the Vatican Library since 1475, receives its name because it is the property of the Vatican. No Protestant scholars were permitted to view this codex for four hundred years until Rome produced a facsimile in 1890. There were two exceptions to this rule: S. P. Tregelles, who viewed it in 1845 and reproduced a memorized copy of it, and Tischendorf who viewed it between 1843 and 1866. Vaticanus is missing Genesis 1:1-46:28; 2 Kings 2:5-7, 10-13; Psalm 106:27-138:6; Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; and everything after Hebrews 9:14.
Westcott & Hort
Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) produced a Greek New Testament in 1881 based on the findings of Tischendorf. This Greek New Testament was the basis for the Revised Version (RV) of that same year, and later for the American Standard Version of 1901. They also developed a theory of textual criticism used as a basis for their Greek New Testament and several other Greek New Testaments since (such as the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies’ texts). Greek New Testaments such as these are the basis for most contemporary English translations of the Bible. Therefore, it is important for us to know the theory of Westcott and Hort as well as something about the two men who have so greatly influenced modern textual criticism.
In short, the Westcott and Hort theory states that the Bible is to be treated as any other book. When textual variants occur, the harder reading is usually considered the correct reading instead of the easier. They also believed the shorter reading among textual variants is most likely the original reading. The Alexandrian textual line tends to contain shorter readings, as well as the more difficult ones. Therefore, they considered this textual line to most likely reflect the original. Using these theories, the Bible is approached as a naturalistic book without divine intervention preserving the text from corruption. [B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (2 vols.; London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1881), II, 280-281.]
Westcott and Hort believed the Greek text underlining the King James Version was perverse and corrupt. Hort called the Textus Receptus "vile" and "villainous." [The Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan), 211.] They believed the Traditional Text did not exist until the fourth century and was created by Lucian of Antioch, under the authority of a church council, to unify the Western and Alexandrian textual lines. This mixing of the two lines, and filling them with additional texts, is called conflation.
There are several problems with this theory of a Lucian recension (that Lucian conflated the Western and Alexandrian texts to produce the Traditional Text). First, many citations of the early church fathers reflect the Traditional Text with the "fuller readings" long before the fourth century. Second, there is no evidence that there ever was a council or even a conference of scholars in Antioch to produce this conflated text. [Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1977), 37-38.] Even Kenyon, who supported the Critical Text, noted that we know the names of several of the revisers of the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate. It seemed unbelievable to him that such a council could have taken place without any historical record whatsoever. [Frederic Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1912) 302.] Third, God told us not to add to his word. If the Traditional Text has added to God’s word, why has it been so greatly used in the history of the church?
As the fathers of modern textual criticism, should we not know something of the beliefs of Westcott and Hort? Westcott denied biblical infallibility. [Arthur Westcott, The Life and Letters of Brook Foss Westcott, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1903), 207.] Hort stated that those who believed in biblical authority were perverted. [Hort, 400.] Hort taught that Revelation 3:15 proclaimed Christ was the first thing created, agreeing with the Gnostic teaching that Christ was a begotten god. [F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John 1-3: The Greek Text with Introduction, Commentary, and Additional Notes (1908; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 36.] Westcott denied that Saint John ever claimed Christ to be God. [B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes (1881; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 297.] Hort stated that the ransom for our sin was paid to Satan. [F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter 1:1-2:17: The Greek Text with Introductory Lecture, Commentary, and Additional Notes (1898; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 77.] Both men denied the doctrine of eternal damnation, stating hell is not a place of punishment. [B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith (London: Macmillan, 1885), 77-78. Hort, Life and Letters, 149.] These beliefs stand in direct opposition to the teachings of the New Testament and should be carefully considered when those who hold to such beliefs suggest changes in the New Testament. No matter how careful or unbiased a scholar may be, it is the nature of man to slant Scripture towards his understanding.
There have been several findings since the discovery of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Perhaps the most famous deals with textual criticism of the Old Testament: the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Concerning the New Testament, there is the John Rylands fragment known as P52, a Greek manuscript which some date between 117 and 138 AD. It was discovered in Egypt and contains five verses from the gospel of John. It now resides at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England. There is also some controversy concerning P64 and its redating to before 66 AD. There is even the possibility that New Testament fragments have been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls (7Q4 and 7Q5). [Jose O’Callaghan, a noted textual scholar and Qumran authority, maintains that 7Q5 is that of Mark 6:52-53. More information regarding this can be found in Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972), 1-14.]
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty discovered several papyrus manuscripts known as P45, P46, and P47. They date to the second and third centuries, and demonstrate a mixed text revealing both Alexandrian and Byzantine readings. P46, however, has recently been argued by some to date to the last half of the first century, around 85 AD. [Young Kyu Kim, "Palaeographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century," Biblica, lxix (1988), 248-257.] The same may be said of the findings of M. Martin Bodmer concerning P66, P72, and P75. These manuscripts traditionally date around the third century. P66, however, has been redated by some to the first half of the second century. [Herbert Hunger, "Zur Datierung des Papyrus Bodmer II (P66)," Anzeiger der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Kl., 1960, Nr. 4, 12-33.] If the redating of all these texts holds true it lends support to the thought that most textual changes occurred before 200 AD. It also could suggest that the Alexandrian text-type was in an evolutionary stage only to be fully developed by the fourth century. In either case, we see that the earliest manuscripts reveal a mixed text containing both Alexandrian and Byzantine readings.
No one would demand that each and every scholar, theologian, textual critic, and church historian agree on everything as it relates to Bible doctrine. But, when we find early heresies mixed with present day false teachings, it should cause us some concern. The concern should intensify when we discover that many who have influenced biblical transmission held such heresies. At the very least, their influence should be called into question. After all, do we really want to trust the safe keeping of Holy Scripture with those who have proven themselves to be corrupt in regard to biblical doctrine?