The fundamental questions regarding translations of God’s word are: which text is being used for the translation and who is translating the text. A corrupt text can be translated perfectly but it will remain forever corrupt, as will the resulting translation. A heretic or unbeliever can translate the preserved word of God and subtly change it to not only make it more palatable for himself but also to cause believers to doubt the veracity of God’s word.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1)
Note: The subject of this discussion is centered around English translations of the New Testament and does not presuppose that there can only be a faithful translation in English since the fundamental question of the textual source remains the same, no matter the language of translation.
Antioch vs. Alexandria
The manuscripts that are used to translate the New Testament emanate from two distinct sources: Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt, broadly referred to as the Antiochian and Alexandrian text types.
You Might Also Like: Why The King James Bible? This page contains various scriptural references that refer to Antioch and Alexandria, including those noted in the above map.
The Antiochian line comes from the early followers of Christ who diligently preserved the scriptures because they cared about preserving the word of God and the spread of the gospel. In the early centuries, the Greek manuscripts were translated into vernacular languages, beginning with the Peshitta translation into Syriac in 150 A.D., a translation that is still used today by the Syrian Orthodox Church and which contains verses omitted from the Alexandrian manuscripts, such as Matthew 18:11, Acts 8:37 and 1 John 5:7.
This traditional text was also used in the Italic translation of 157 A.D. when faithful believers translated the scriptures from Greek to old Latin. Like the Peshitta, the Italic contained the Alexandrian omitted verses, as did the Gallic translation of Southern France in 177 A.D., the Gothic translation of southeastern Europe in 330 A.D. and the translations used by both the early Celtic churches and the Waldensians.
Thus, there is much translational evidence that the traditional text was accepted, or received to be authentic, by early believers. This text later became known as the received text or the Textus Receptus.
The Alexandrian line — favored by translators and critics such as Wescott, Hort, Nestle, and Aland — is composed of corrupt texts copied and altered in the first century by Gnostics who denied the divinity of Jesus. Specifically, the two major manuscripts in this line are Codex Vaticanus which was “found” in 1481 in the Vatican library and Codex Sinaiticus, which was likewise “found” in 1859, by Constantin von Tischendorf, in a wastebasket at the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai. However, a Greek palaeographer and well-known forger, Constantine Simonides, claimed he created the manuscript with evidence to back up his claim. Further, the Alexandrian line originates in Egypt, a hotbed for Gnosticism and the wisdom of man. The city of Alexandria was known as the capital of knowledge and attracted many scholars. It was also home to the Great Library of Alexandria which was part of the Mouseion, a research institute dedicated to the Greek mythological Muses.
The Heretics and Unbelievers
Major proponents of the Alexandrian textual line were heretics who did not believe in God’s preserved word in the original languages. Indeed, it’s apparent from their own words that many did not believe that the scriptures are the word of God. Further, the proponents and translators of the Alexandrian texts had strong beliefs that tended towards Catholicism and/or humanism and/or ecumenism.
Here’s a very brief look at some of those involved in the Alexandrian line:
Clement of Alexandria: Clement, who copied the gnostic-corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts, not only denied salvation by grace through faith but also accepted Greek philosophy as valid.
Origen Adamantius: Origen, also of Alexandria and who likewise copied the gnostic-corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts, believed salvation to be faith plus works and, further, denied the historical truth contained in the Bible. In other words, he simply didn’t believe the Bible.
The Vatican: Codex Vaticanus is a keuy text in the Alexandrian line and there are, needless to say, many good reasons to not trust anything that emanates from the Vatican given their heretical doctrines, which include but are not limited to: transubstantiation, Mary worship, Mary as intercessor, purgatory, the use of the words Pope (Papa) and Father as titles (Matthew 23:9), praying for the dead, canonization of saints, sprinkling babies rather than baptism by full immersion (βαπτίζω — baptizō: fully wet) of an adult or child who has made a conscious confession of faith.
Westcott and Hort: These men were definitely not true believers. They had Catholic leanings, doubted the historical accounts in the Bible, embraced the theory of evolution, questioned the divinity of Jesus and, further, founded at least two occult societies, The Ghostly Guild and The Hermes Club. Here are some quotes from these occultists:
The pure Romish view seems to me more likely to lead to the truth than the Evangelical. (Fenton John Anthony Hort, 1848, letter to John Ellerton)
I have been persuaded for many years that Mary-worship and Jesus-worship have very much in common, in their causes and their results. Perhaps the whole question may be said to be involved in the true idea of mediation. We condemn all secondary mediators as injurious to the One. But this last error can hardly be expelled till Protestants unlearn the crazy horror of the idea of priesthood. (Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Vol.2)
The popular doctrine of substitution is an immoral and material counterfeit, nothing can be more unscriptural than the limiting of Christ’s bearing our sins and sufferings to his death, but indeed, that is only one aspect of a universal heresy. (Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Vol.1)
But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with. I must work out and examine the argument in more detail, but at present my feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable. (Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Vol.1)
My faith is still wavering. I cannot determine how much we must believe; how much, in fact, is necessarily required of a member of the Church. (Life and Letters of Brooks Fosse Westcott, Vol. 1)
No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history. I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did. (Life and Letters of Brooks Fosse Westcott, Vol. 2)
He never speaks of Himself directly as God, but the aim of His revelation was to lead men to see God in Him. (Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, p. 297)
[John] does not expressly affirm the identification of the Word with Jesus Christ. (Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, p. 16)
Eberhard Nestle: In 1898 Nestle published the first edition of a new Greek testament, Novum Testamentum Greace, which combined the work of Westcott and Hort with that of Tischendorf. According to Henry M. Morris, one of the founders of the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research, Nestle was an evolutionist as well as a theological skeptic. In other words, he didn’t believe in the truth of God’s word.
Kurt Aland: Aland was a frequent visitor to the Vatican who questioned the historicity of Jesus. Like Nestle, Aland was a theological skeptic.
The authority of the New Testament had as its presupposition the fact that her apostles and eyewitnesses were speaking. As soon as critical scholarship proved that this or that New Testament writing could not have been written by an apostle the authority of its author collapsed along with it, and with the authority of the author, the authority of the New Testament writing collapsed, and with the authority of the New Testament writing, collapsed the authority of the Church. (A History of Christianity, Vol. 1 by Kurt Aland)
The fact the Aland’s point culminates in the authority of the Church collapsing is not the point here but, rather, that he clearly did not believe the scriptures. Period.
The God-Fearing Men
In contrast to the corrupt history of the Alexandrian line and the at-best dubious beliefs of the translators and textual critics who promoted the resulting translations, the King James Bible was not only translated from the Textus Receptus but also the translators were the products of a God-fearing society which resulted in their firm belief that the Bible is God’s Word, as is apparent in their dedicatory epistle to King James:
But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.
Heretics and Unbelievers vs. God-Fearing Believers
It is madness to think that heretics and unbelievers are to be trusted more than God-fearing believers when it comes to faithfully preserving the word of God, to think that the Gnostics of Alexandria could be trusted to not corrupt the scriptures and, conversely, to think that those who followed Christ would be the ones to corrupt the scriptures, allegedly adding words and verses. Heretics and unbelievers naturally lack a fear of God whereas believers not only fear the consequences of tampering with God’s word but also have a natural desire to ensure that it is preserved.
It’s further madness to think that heretics and unbelievers are capable of spiritually discerning what is and isn’t the preserved word of God in the original language, which manuscripts are to be trusted and which are useful only for burning. As Paul makes clear in his epistle to the Corinthians, the Holy Ghost gives born again believers spiritual discernment. Unbelievers and heretics have no such discernment.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)
Paul Warned of Those Who Corrupt the Word of God
Corrupting the word of God is not a new phenomenon for, as Solomon so wisely said, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Therefore, it would behoove us to rid ourselves of the assumption that just because someone is involved in copying or translating biblical manuscripts, he must be doing so with good intentions.
Those of us who have a love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10) know that two things matter deeply in the question of manuscripts: the textual source and the personal beliefs of the translators.
Let us remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, words that were not merely a warning to his contemporaries, but a warning to all believers throughout time:
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
The Received Text — Talk by David Sorensen
Documentaries by Christian J. Pinto (If you only watch one of Pinto’s films, I’d suggest the third in the series, Bridge to Babylon):
- A Lamp In the Dark: The Untold History of the Bible
- Tares Among the Wheat
- Bridge to Babylon: Rome Ecumenism & The Bible
Documentary by Steven L. Anderson and Paul Wittenberger:
Note: While we don’t agree with Pinto’s position on the State of Israel, or everything Anderson preaches, there’s still enormous value to be found in these documentaries.