Ignatius (d. 107 AD)
Ignatius (or Theophorus) was the bishop of Antioch, Syria. Because of his Christian testimony, he was arrested and sent to Rome to be martyred by wild beasts in the imperial games. En route to his martyrdom this saint wrote letters to six different churches (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans), as well as one letter to Polycarp.
Ignatius was sound both in doctrine and spirit. Traditionally it is claimed that he knew several of the apostles personally and sought to follow their examples. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me" (1 Corinthians 4:16). Ignatius lived this admonition. He patterned his life after Paul’s, and his theology and attitude reflect his closeness with the Apostle John. Like John, Ignatius proclaimed the Trinity and deity of Jesus Christ. He states that Christians should be found "in the Son, and in the Father and in the Holy Ghost" (Magnesians 13:1) [Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers.] and refers to Christ as "our God" (Trallians 7:1). Concerning biblical atonement, he writes:
"Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation." (Smyrnaeans 6:1).
Ignatius reflects a Christian attitude in regard to others and rejects the anti-Semitism of Marcion and Origen. Ignatius agrees with Scripture and crumbles the walls of racism in a day when the Jews were despised by the Gentile nations.
Sadly, the scriptural citations made by Ignatius are often ignored or regarded as unimportant in the study of textual criticism. Dr. Alexander Souter wrote that Ignatius’ citations hardly have any bearing in respect to textual variants. [Alexander Souter, The Text And Canon Of The New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917), 76.] With such statements the writings of Ignatius are dismissed. Perhaps this is because the biblical citations used by this early church father support the Traditional Text. When we look at his writings, we find that he made several quotations from and allusions to Scripture. [Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 100.] It is true that he does not cite word for word; however, it should be remembered that he was not writing a theological dissertation. He was on his way to be martyred, most likely citing Scriptures from memory. Yet, it is clear from these citations that the text of Ignatius agrees with the Traditional Text.
A textual variant of great importance is found in 1 Timothy 3:16. The King James Version reads, "God was manifest in the flesh." Most contemporary versions, using the Alexandrian Text, read, "He was manifest in the flesh." There is an obvious difference between He and God. The KJV makes a clear proclamation concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. Ignatius apparently used a text that reflected the reading found in the KJV. He writes, "There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh" (Ephesians 7:1) and "God Himself being manifested in human form" (Ephesians 19:1). Ignatius uses the Greek words for God (theos) and for flesh (sarki) in the first citation, and a form of the Greek word for manifest (peanerosas) in the second. This would agree with the Greek found in the Traditional Text.
It is also interesting to read the phraseology of Ignatius in reference to the person of Jesus Christ. Consistently he refers to the Second Person of the Trinity as the "Lord Jesus Christ," or "our God Jesus Christ," or the more often used phrase, "Jesus Christ." Very rarely do we find "Jesus" or "Christ" by themselves in his writings. This would demonstrate a fuller text concerning divine titles that we also find consistently used in the Traditional Text of the New Testament.
Polycarp (70 to 155 AD)
Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna and traditionally is considered a disciple of the Apostle John. [Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries (1954; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 79.] In 155 AD Polycarp was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. It is said that he was first placed at the stake to be burned, singing hymns while waiting for the fire to devour him. However, the fire burned around him but did not consume him. The order was then given to stab him to death and burn his remains.
The witness of Polycarp is important in the study of textual criticism for the following reasons. First, he makes about sixty New Testament citations in his one letter, Polycarp to the Philippians. Over half of these are citations from Paul’s epistles, showing his acquaintance with the apostle and the acceptance of Paul’s letters as Scripture. Second, he was a contemporary of the apostles and would have had access to either their original writings or copies that were written shortly after the originals. Third, his biblical citations do not differ with the Traditional Text; instead they support it.
Most of what Polycarp writes deals with Christian living. He states his profession of faith early in his letter: "forasmuch as ye know that it is by grace ye are saved, not by works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:3). And, "He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also" (Philippians 2:2). Further, he makes a good profession and stands against the dualism of the Gnostics in stating:
"For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist: and whosoever shall not confess the testimony of the Cross, is of the devil; and whosoever shall pervert the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and says that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the first-born of Satan." (Philippians 7:1).
The biblical quotation Polycarp uses to confront Gnosticism is a citation from the Traditional Text. 1 John 4:3 reads, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." The Alexandrian line does not contain the phrase "is come in the flesh" in verse three. The verse deals with the lack of confession, not the believer’s profession found in verse two. As quoted above, Polycarp writes that "every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," agreeing with the Traditional Text.
Some have suggested that Polycarp is really citing 2 John 1:7 and not 1 John 4:3. This does not seem to have been the view of the renowned New Testament and patristic scholar J. B. Lightfoot. In his book, The Apostolic Fathers, [J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, (London: Macmillan, 1891) 171.] Lightfoot identifies the quotation as being from 1 John 4:3, as does Archbishop Wake in his translation of Polycarp. [Wake, The Lost Books of The Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (1927; reprint, Word Bible Publishers), 194.] Their observations are well taken as the Greek of 1 John 4:3 more closely matches the Greek citation of Polycarp.
1 John and Polycarp use the perfect tense, 2 John uses the present tense. The perfect tense means a present state resulting from a past action (i.e., because Christ came in the flesh, he is now in the flesh). Clearly Polycarp was citing 1 John 4:3, which matches the Traditional Text. Another example is found in Romans 14:10, "for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." Polycarp writes "And we must all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ;" (Philippians 6:2), agreeing with the Traditional Text. The Alexandrian Text changes "judgment seat of Christ" to "judgment seat of God." Since this passage in Romans is the only passage in the New Testament that speaks of the "judgment seat of Christ," Polycarp must have received his reading from the Traditional Text. The same may be said of the reading in Galatians 4:26, "which is the mother of us all." The Alexandrian Text reads: "and she is our mother." The Greek word panton (of us all) is not contained in the Alexandrian manuscripts, while it is in the majority of all Greek manuscripts. Polycarp writes "which is the mother of us all" and uses the Greek word panton (Philippians 3:3). Where did Polycarp get the phrase if not from the Traditional Text? Plainly the disciple of St. John and friend of the Apostle Paul was using a Greek text very much like the Textus Receptus.
Finally, as with Ignatius, Polycarp uses the fuller text when making reference to the Person of Jesus Christ. In his brief epistle, consisting of only four chapters, Polycarp uses the triune phrase "Lord Jesus Christ" seven times. This seems amazing since the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians used the phrase only three times. However, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses "Lord Jesus Christ" the same number of times as Polycarp. In this light, the thought that the multiple uses of "Lord Jesus Christ" found in the KJV were added to the New Testament text by Byzantine monks long after the apostolic age seems far-fetched. It is obvious from Polycarp that the expanded phrase was in common use at the time of the New Testament and shortly thereafter, again demonstrating a link with the Traditional Text.
In addition to the Greek, we have many early and old translations of the Bible that are classified as Byzantine or have readings that differ from the Alexandrian Text in favor of the Traditional Text. An early translation must have had a source. If an early translation has a certain reading, and a later Greek manuscript has the same reading, we can conclude that the source for the early translation had the reading as well even if we no longer have that original Greek source. The following translations have readings that support the Traditional Text.
The Peshitta (meaning clear or simple) is the standard Syrian version and was authorized by two opposing branches of the Syrian Church, the Nestorians and the Jacobites. Today the Syrian Church still holds this version in a place of special reverence. [Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament, 2nd ed., trans. Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 194.] Their tradition states that the Peshitta was the work of St. Mark or the Apostle Thaddeus (Jude). The Peshitta New Testament resembles the Byzantine text-type and therefore supports the Traditional Text. Alexander Souter noted that "the Peshitta Syriac rarely witnesses to anything different from what we find in the great bulk of Greek manuscripts." [Souter, 60.] It should be remembered that the "great bulk of Greek manuscripts" are Byzantine.
The Peshitta was considered the oldest of the Syrian versions dating to the second century or perhaps before, although some scholars disagreed and assigned it to the first part of the fifth century. [Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (New York: Claredon, 1977), 36.] In 1901, textual scholar F. C. Burkitt questioned the early date of the Peshitta and attributed the work to Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa. This soon became the standard position adopted by most textual scholars. Dr. Arthur Voobus attacked Burkitt’s view and compared Rabbula’s citations with the Peshitta, finding several differences. Likewise, Dr. Edward Hills argued that Rabbula could not have been the translator because the division within the Syrian Church took place during the time of Rabbula, who led one of the divisions. Yet both sides claim the Peshitta as Holy Scripture. Such unanimous acceptance would not have been likely if the leader of one side had translated it. [Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended (1956; reprint, Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1984), 172-174.] Metzger justly points out that the question as to who really produced the Peshitta will most likely never be answered. [Metzger, 59-60.]
The Old Latin
The Old Latin versions are divided into two types, African and European. The earliest Old Latin manuscripts in existence today date from the fourth century and onward. However, it is also thought that these later manuscripts strongly reflect the Old Latin New Testament that was in existence in the second and third centuries.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the majority of textual scholars believed that Antioch of Syria was the birthplace of the Old Latin versions. [Metzger, 288.] Today, they are more inclined to look to North Africa. Regardless of where the Old Latin originated, it is clear that it is strongly associated with the Syrian text-type, what we have called the Traditional Text.
An example of this may be found in Mark 1:2. The Traditional Text read, "As it is written in the prophets." The text of Mark then quotes from two prophets, Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3). The Alexandrian Text reads, "As it is written in the Prophet Isaiah" and then quotes the two prophets. The first reading is found in the King James Verson, the New King James Version and the Traditional Greek Text. It is also found in the Peshitta. Among the Old Latin manuscripts (which are usually classified with small Roman letters in italics), we find the same reading as in the Traditional Text.
The same is true of the longer ending of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery (known as the pericope de adultera). The Alexandrian Text does not contain Mark 16:9-20, though it is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts, the Peshitta, and almost all Old Latin manuscripts. The pericope de adultera, found in John 7:52-8:11, is also the reading of the Traditional Greek Text and found in the majority of Old Latin witnesses.
Other Early Versions
The Ethiopic Version is thought to have originated at the beginning of the fourth century; however, the existing manuscripts now extant date to the eleventh century. While it does contain a mixed reading, it is classified as basically Byzantine in origin. [Ibid., 324.] Likewise, the Armenian Version, Georgian Version, and the Slavonic Version are of the same textual family as the Traditional Text. [Ibid., 324-327.] The Gothic Version dates to the first part of the fourth century, and was translated by Wulfilas who used the Traditional Text. [Aland, 210-212.] Thus, these early versions are more closely related to the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus than to the Critical Text.
Chrysostom (345-407 AD)
John Chrysostom was both a great biblical expositor and preacher. His parents were Christians and came from Antioch. Chrysostom began his career as a lawyer until his conversion in 368 AD. He then began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was ordained in 386 AD and preached in Antioch until 398 AD when he became the Bishop of Constantinople. The Greek New Testament he used was of the Traditional Text.
Even though Christian historian Earle Cairns describes Chrysostom as courteous, affectionate, and kindly natured, [Cairns, 152.] Chrysostom was not ashamed to boldly proclaim the truth no matter who was offended. While at Constantinople he affronted Empress Eudoxia, the wife of Emperor Arcadius, preaching against her manner of dress and the silver statues of her placed throughout the city. Like the preaching of John the Baptist, his sermon came at a personal cost. He was banished from the city in 404 AD, and died while in exile.
Chrysostom left about six hundred forty sermons that are still in existence. He was so eloquent in his presentation of the gospel that he earned for himself the name Chrysostom meaning golden mouth, and is hailed as one of the greatest preachers of the church. Because of the massive amount of homilies left by Chrysostom, and because of his expository style of preaching, it is very easy to determine the text-type he used. Dr. Souter notes that the type of text Chrysostom used is reflected by Codex K, which is of the Byzantine line. [Souter, 85.] However, it should be noted that Codex K dates to the ninth century, several hundred years after Chrysostom. This demonstrates the continued use of the Traditional Text throughout the centuries.
The fact that Chrysostom used the Traditional Text is without question. An example of this may be found in his homilies on the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew chapter 6:1-15 there are two very notable differences between the major lines of manuscripts. They are found in verses 1 and 13 and can be illustrated by comparing the King James Version with the New International Version:
Matthew 6:1 (KJV)
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
"Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."
The KJV uses the word "alms" (eleemosunen), while the NIV uses the phrase "acts of righteousness" (dikaiosunen). One can see from the English and the Greek that these are two different words with two different meanings. Chrysostom makes mention of this text and uses the word alms (eleemosunen). He writes, "Thus, ‘take heed’ saith he, ‘as to your alms’" [Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, XIX:5.]
Another example may be found in what has been dubbed the Lord’s Prayer. Protestants conclude the prayer with the phrase, "for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever." Most Roman Catholics end the prayer with the phrase, "but deliver us from evil." The Latin Vulgate of Jerome does not contain the final benediction; however, it is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts and the Traditional Text. Again, the two may be compared in our English versions this way:
Matthew 6:13 (KJV)
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
Matthew 6:13 (NIV)
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
In this same sermon, Homily XIX, Chrysostom cites the passage as found in the Traditional Text and then expounds on the words kingdom, power, and glory. This would be rather difficult to do if his Bible did not contain them.
The Three Cappadocian Fathers
John Chrysostom was not alone in his use of the Traditional Text. Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD), Gregory of Nazianzus (330-389 AD), and Gregory of Nyssa (330-395 AD) used the same text. These three saints are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. They are noted for their strength in doctrine and opposition to the heresy of Arianism, which denied the Trinity. All three are associated with the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.
The Greek and Old Latin manuscripts used by these men reflect the text of the traditional line. Dr. Souter states that their Greek text most likely originated in Constantinople. [Souter, 9.] Souter also lists the Gospel manuscripts of N, O, S, and F as reflecting the textual line of these three church fathers. [Souter, 30.] These manuscripts (N, O, S, and F) are from the sixth century and represent the Traditional Text.
The following examples help to demonstrate the text-type used by the Cappadocian Fathers. In Matthew 17:21 the Alexandrian Text does not contain the verse. But the verse is found in the Traditional Text and is quoted by the Cappadocian Fathers. In Mark 1:2 we find the reading "Isaiah the prophet" in the Alexandrian Text. The Traditional Text and the Cappadocian Fathers render the passage as "prophets." In Mark 16:9-20, the longer ending is not contained in the Alexandrian Text but found in the Traditional Text and in the Greek of the Cappadocian Fathers. In Luke 2:14 the Alexandrian Text has the phrase "men of goodwill." The Traditional Text and the Cappadocian Fathers render it as "good will toward men." In John 5:4 the Alexandrian Text does not contain the verse. Nevertheless, it is found in the Traditional Text and the Greek text of the Cappadocian Fathers.
The Church Under Fire
Throughout the centuries there have been those strong in the faith that were willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ. John Foxe, in his Acts and Monuments (later called Foxe’s Book of Martyrs), recorded the bravery and honor with which many of them met death. Those who persecuted them also left written records, often accepted by later historians, which stigmatized the persecuted as "heretics." Among those groups of Christians who suffered were the Paulicians, the Bogomiles, the Anabaptists, the Waldenses, and the Albigenses. They are mentioned here because they used the Traditional Text or a translation that reflected the readings found in the Traditional Text.
Most were labeled as heretics in order to justify their mass murder. A case in point would be the Albigenses, so named because they originated in southern France near the old city of Albiga. To this date, they are listed in most histories of the church as a heretical sect that practiced dualism. It has been claimed that the Albigenses believed in two gods, one good and the other evil. This is not the case. American Baptist historian Dr. Henry C. Vedder demonstrated that the Albigenses were never dualistic but were Bible-believing Christians. Those who persecuted them did not theologically distinguish between the Albigenses and heretics who were dualists. Actually, the Albigenses opposed the dualists as much as they did the Roman church. [Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists (1907; reprint, Valley Forge: The Judson Press, 1969), 103.]
The true "heresy" of these French believers was that they would not conform to Rome. They believed each Christian had the right to read the Bible for himself in his own language. Pope Innocent III declared war on them and began the infamous Inquisition. This cruel war on "heretics" claimed the lives of countless thousands without formal trials or hearings. [Edward Peter, Inquistion (The Free Press; 1988), 50.] In this dark period of church history, unnamed thousands died because they wished to place the Bible into the hands of the common man.
Some Catholic historians and theologians today, while opposing the deeds of the Inquisition, argue that there was no need for the Bible to be translated into the language of the common man during this time because most could not read. They further state that since those who could read did so in Latin, there was no need to have any other translation other than Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. This by no means justifies the mass torture and murder of thousands of people. Besides, it overlooks several simple truths. First, because someone could not read would not prevent a person from wanting a Bible in his or her own language. It is possible that someone else could have read it to him or her. Second, if there had been only Latin Bibles, those who could not understand Latin would have been without hope of ever hearing the word of God in their own language. Third, history shows that once the Bible is translated into the language of the people, the people learn to read. Time and again the Bible has been the basic textbook for individuals to learn their own language in written form.
Another example of persecution concerns the Waldenses, who are often linked in history with the Albigenses. Some have suggested that the name Waldenses came from Peter Waldo, a Bible-believing merchant turned preacher. Others believe the name comes from the Italian or Spanish word for valley, implying they originated in the valley region of northern Italy. Regardless of where they derived their name, they strongly stood against many teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of that day.
Catholic and Orthodox historians David Knowles and Dimitri Obolensky call the Waldenses proto-Protestants. This group regarded the Bible as their supreme authority in all matters of practice and faith. They did not believe the Eucharist contained the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Instead, they viewed it as a symbolic memorial of Christ’s suffering for redemption. [David Knowles and Dimitri Obolensky, The Christian Centuries, vol. 2 (Paulist Press, 1969), 224, 369.] They proclaimed salvation was not by works, but was the free gift of God. Baptism for the Waldenses followed conversion and was not administered to infants. The Waldenses copied and translated the Bible in the vernacular and freely published their translation, believing that everyone should have the Bible in their own language. [Cairns, 248.] Therefore, their work in using the Traditional Text and providing indigenous translations must not go unnoticed in the biblical study of textual criticism.
Because of the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and others, the Bible was translated into Old French, Old High German, Slavonic, Old and Middle English, and other languages. One such translation that dates from this period is the West Saxon Gospels. This is the oldest version of the Gospels in English. The following example from Luke shows that this version followed the Traditional Text (or a Latin manuscript of the Traditional Text).
Luke 15:16 (KJV)
"And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him."
Luke 15:16 (RSV)
"And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything."
Luke 15:16 (West Saxon Version)
"Da gewilnode he his wambe gelyllan of pam beancoddum be oa swyn aeton: and him man ne sealde."
The subtle difference comes from the variance between the two lines of manuscripts. The Greek Textus Receptus reads, gemisai ten koilian autou apo (to fill his belly with). The Critical Text reads chortasthenai ek (fed out of). P75, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus support the reading of the Critical Text. All the Byzantine manuscripts, most Old Latin manuscripts, the Peshitta, and the Armenian support the Textus Receptus. It is plain from the reading of the West Saxon Gospels which one they follow. The words "wambe gefyllan" mean "stomach filled" and agrees with the Traditional Text.
To date we have over five thousand Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Eighty to ninety percent of these Greek manuscripts support the Traditional Text. [Zane Hodges, "The Greek Text of the King James Version," Bibliotheca Sacra 124 (1968), 335.] The agreement within this vast host of manuscripts is astounding (especially when compared to the tremendous amount of disagreement found within the few Alexandrian manuscripts). To these textual witnesses we can add the testimony of history, as we have seen in this chapter. This wealth of textual evidence is reflected the work of such men as Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), Robert Stephanus (1503-1559), Theodore Beza (1519-1605), and Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir (1624). All of them produced Greek New Testaments supporting the Traditional Text. In turn, their work provided the word of God to the world. The Greek text of Erasmus was the one used by Martin Luther for his eminent and exquisite German Bible. These Greek texts served as the basis for the brilliant and beloved Italian, French, and Spanish Bibles as well. Ultimately the jewel in this textual crown was set in 1611 with the translation of the English Authorized (King James) Version.
These texts and their translations did not go unrewarded by God. The Greek text of the Reformers was that of the Traditional Text. Every Protestant Church formed during this period of church history used the Traditional Text or a translation based on it. The Traditional Text produced reform and revival. It has proven itself to work effectually within the community of believers who have received it as the very word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Consequently, it has affected history itself.