Where the Bible Versions
Part One: Introduction and
rages in this age which has been called “the battle for the Bible.” This
battle (more like a war) is being fought on several levels. Some deny that
the Bible is God’s Word at all. Others deny that the Bible completed God’s
revealed Word. While some scholars battle over original inspiration, and
some argue over Greek texts, others are fighting the battle of English
confusion of theological word battles and personal vendettas, many are
crying for answers. As we survey the battlefield, several points must be
made clear. The first point is that this battle is one battle. On every
level, this battle is about whether or not you and I have or can have the
Word of God.
If the Bible
only contains God’s Word, but no one knows which parts are His Word
and which parts are not, what good is that? And why argue over perfect
inspiration, if God has not preserved His Word? And what about all those
translations? The whole problem comes down to this: Can you and I get a
hold of God’s pure Word; and if we can, where?
point to be made is that this battle for the Bible is very important.
Nothing is more important than whether or not we can get God’s truth. If
God’s Word is not our source of absolute truth, then what is? We are left
holding an empty bag.
who claim allegiance to the Bible cannot seem to do enough to weaken its
power. Scholars dilute the Bible text. Publishers come out with new,
better-than-ever bibles every few months. Preachers freely correct the words of the living God. And young men herd off to
seminaries (or rather cemeteries) to be taught the inadequacies of the Word
claims to have a painting that contains the work of Rembrandt. They either
have a painting by Rembrandt or they do not. Even a careful imitation is
worthless next to the real thing. Likewise, we either have God’s Word or we
do not. Since God’s Word by reason of God’s own character must be totally
pure, then an impure word cannot be God’s Word. God’s Word is incorruptible
(I Pet. 1:23). That which is God’s Word is completely pure (Prov. 30:5).
Other forms of printed matter (printed sermons, tracts, corrupted “bibles,”
etc.) may contain portions of God’s Word, but they cannot be said to be God’s Word.
Yes, this is
all one battle. And this battle is important. But a third point needs to
be made. This battle is not new. Ever since the Garden of Eden, when
Satan denied God’s Word and Eve changed it, Bible correcting has been
one of man’s favorite hobbies.
instance, the text of the New Testament. Its alteration has not been solely
the recent work of little men with thick glasses hovering over ancient
manuscripts. No, the greatest corruptions of the New Testament text
occurred during the first two or three centuries after it was written. By
the end of this period, the vast majority of various readings had already
been written and the different Greek texts of today could have been
composed. These centuries, during which the battle lines were drawn, set
the time frame for the Tale of Three Cities.
A Tale of Three Cities
A tale of
three cities is a tale of intrigue and deception--one which pits the forces
of God and Satan into battle over the integrity of the Bible. This war over
the Word, which began in Eden’s beautiful garden, still rages today with
ever-increasing fury. God’s churches, God’s men, and God’s people cannot
afford to remain neutral when the stakes are so high. Yet, many seem
determined to live their spiritual lives as deserters.
The Principle of
unfolding of this story begins, two Biblical principles must be understood.
The first principle is that God has promised, without exception, to preserve
not only the Word which He has given to man, but also the words.
This promise is confirmed every time God commands us to read, memorize,
meditate upon, learn, or obey the words which He has given us. Nowhere in
the Bible does God suggest the possibility of us not having His words. The
promise of preservation is stated as follows in Psalm 12:6,7: “The words of
the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified
seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from
this generation for ever." This passage demands responsibility from
present- day Christians. According to God, His words are preserved pure.
If they are preserved, then we had better find them and believe them without
The Principle of
principle which must be understood is that many will “corrupt the word of
God” as stated by Paul in II Corinthians 2:17. Paul also warned against
“handling the word of God deceitfully” (II Cor. 4:2). This evil practice of
corruption assures us of the fact that many corrupted copies of God’s Word
have been and will be made. The man who claims that all bibles are
the word of God either does not know the scriptural principle of corruption
or denies it. Corrupting the words of God is not an exception or simply an
accident; it is an industry.
The Uniqueness of
principles taken together demonstrate another important truth. Since God in
His power is preserving the Word, and since the devil and his forces are
corrupting the Word, the Bible cannot be approached as any other
ancient book. Textual criticism sufficient for Homer’s Iliad will
not work for God’s Word! And while mistakes in Homer do not really matter,
mistakes in God’s Word could send a generation of mankind to hell. Unless
God’s preserving power and Satan’s corrupting influence are considered,
manuscript evidence is no more honest than last year’s politicians.
Modern bibles exist in a myriad of forms because intentional changes were made
in copies of God’s Word by those who disbelieved its teaching. Of course,
modern scholars claim that none of the various readings in the multitude of
versions affect any major doctrine. This claim requires a low opinion of
the weight of scripture. Every change made in the pure Word affects
doctrine because “all scripture is profitable for doctrine” (II Tim.
3:16). When any passage loses this profitability, then the Word of
God is no longer pure.
The Three Cities
principles stated and explained, the story can now begin. A tale of three
cities begins in the Roman Empire during the time of Christ. The three
cities (Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch) were the three largest and most
influential cities in the Roman Empire. Yet, to the Christian their
influence concerning Bible corruption and preservation is of much greater
of the Roman Empire and the empire’s largest city, Rome ruled the ancient
world. Rome emphasized form, legalism, and tradition. Through tradition,
Rome became the center of Biblical addition. The Apocrypha is one example
of how Rome added to scripture. From Italy, Rome dominated the theology and
spiritual life of southern Europe and northern Africa.
Egypt, the second largest city, was the world capital for science,
education, and scholarship. Great minds gravitated to Alexandria. This
home town of Philo and Origen dominated the theology of surrounding Egypt
and Palestine. As is the practice of modern scholarship, Alexandria
subtracted from the Word of God. The Alexandrian Text is still the basis of
modern Bible corruptions.
largest city of the empire was Antioch of Syria. Located in the East,
Antioch dominated the regions of Syria and Asia minor, the lands of early
apostolic work. Antioch was known for her luxury and cosmopolitan flavor,
but also for a literal interpretation of scripture. Although belittled by
the scholarship of today, the Syrian Text was the underlying basis for the
King James Version of 1611.
cities were located in three important countries on three different
continents. They represented the three major races. Why are they so
important? How did these cities become so influential in the historical
transmission of the Biblical Text? These questions and more are to be
answered in the following text. But never forget that God promised to
preserve His Word. Our greatest concern should never be to judge or
criticize the Word, but to find it, then read it, study it, memorize it,
obey it, teach it, preach it, and if necessary, die for it.
History of Alexandria
the Mediterranean Sea in the country of Egypt on the continent of Africa,
Alexandria is still an active city today. This great seaport is in the area
known scripturally as the “land of Ham” (Ps.105:23). Alexander the Great
founded the city in 332 BC during his conquest of the world. It rapidly
developed into the greatest metropolis of the ancient world, reaching an
estimated population of one million by the first century BC At the time of
Christ, the city was superseded only by Rome.
rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies, Alexandria became the literary and
scientific center of the world. Its university molded much of the
philosophical thought of the time. The famous library of Alexandria
contained half a million or more books and rolls. Vigorously pursued were
the studies of mathematics, astronomy, poetry, and medicine. Alexandria was
a Greek city by founding and thought; but because of the city’s
open-mindedness, it became a city known for its cosmopolitan collection of
the religions and philosophies from the known world. It was in this
environment that the Jewish theologian Philo first combined Judaism with
Platonism to establish the allegorical approach to the Old Testament.
School of Alexandria
Philo (b. 20 BC) was more of a Greek philosopher than a Jewish theologian;
hence his greatest influence was not in the Jewish realm. He desired to use
the Old Testament to support his Greek philosophy. Therefore, he
established a system of allegorical interpretation (spiritualizing of
scripture) in order to make the scripture mean anything he desired. He
taught that the hidden, deeper meaning of a passage of scripture was far
superior to the plain, literal meaning. His allegorical interpretation
became a wealth of ideas for the Alexandrian school of Christian thought of
the second and third centuries.
theological school was established in Alexandria in the second century after
Christ by a man named Pantaenus and was continued by Clement of Alexandria.
The School elevated Greek philosophy and emphasized the allegorical
interpretation of scripture. The school became known for its scholarship
and philosophy and was later brought into great prominence by a man named
Origen (lived 185-254 AD).
Influence of Origen
church histories, Origen is praised as one of the greatest Bible scholars of
all time. In this book, Origen’s mental genius and religious fervor are not
questioned, only his knowledge of Biblical truth and his spiritual
relationship with God. Origen possessed only one coat and no shoes, rarely
are flesh, never drank wine, devoted much of the night to study and prayer,
and slept on the bare floor. The certainly demonstrates religious fervor
and devotion. On the other hand, because of his doctrine, Origen is
certainly unworthy of his reputation as a great Bible scholar. He taught
that the Father is the originating cause of the Son, and that the Holy
Spirit was subordinate to and created by the Son. He believed in the
necessity of baptism for the remission of sins and approved of the baptism
of little children. He taught that even the damned and devils would be
brought into voluntary subjection to Christ after they were sufficiently
punished. Origen developed a formal method of interpreting the New
Testament scriptures by applying Philo’s allegorical interpretation. In
this way, he was able to support all of the above doctrines and more.
and scholars who reject Origen’s method of allegorical interpretation and
doctrinal conclusions often claim that his abiding merit lies in his work in
textual criticism. He is famous for his labors to produce a correct text of the Greek Bible. Is it possible, however, that Origen’s false doctrines
affected his Biblical criticism? Two examples should suffice. While
editing the New Testament text, Origen removed the word carpenter from Mark 6:3 because he did not think it should be there. He also removed
the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” from the passage of
Matthew 19:16-22 because he could not logically explain its presence and
said it therefore must have been added. How many times Origen applied this
method of Bible correction only God Himself knows.
text which was being formed at Alexandria during the time of Origen came to
be known as the Alexandrian Text. This text is represented mainly by two
Greek manuscripts: the Sinaiticus (found by Tischendorf in 1844 in a Greek
Orthodox monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai) and the Vaticanus (discovered
in the Vatican library in 1481). These manuscripts are the basis for the
majority of the subtractions made in the English bibles since 1611. Because
Origen supported the readings which make up the Alexandrian text, scholars
look to him as one of the most important witnesses to the corrupted text
which is used for modern translations of the Bible. After Origen’s death,
Alexandria continued to have great influence on the text of the New
Testament. Even today, the Alexandrian Text is accepted by the majority of
scholars as that which is closest to the originals.
is very rarely mentioned in the Bible, but these references tell the Bible
student much about the direction the city would take. Its commerce and
shipping trade are evident in the fact that the ships which took Paul from
Caesarea to Rome for trial were ships of Alexandria (Acts 27:6; 28:11).
Alexandria’s opposition to true doctrine is demonstrated by the Alexandrian
Jews which were found in the temple disputing with Stephen (Acts 6:9). But
the most revealing passage about Alexandria is found in Acts 18:24 where, “a
certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty
in the scriptures, came to Ephesus." Here was a man who was eloquent in
speech and very knowledgeable in the scriptures, but who knew, “only the
baptism of John” (v.25). For this reason, Aquilla and Priscilla, converts
of the apostle Paul, “took him unto then, and expounded unto him the way of
God more perfectly” (v.26). The high degree of training and superior
knowledge of Apollos confirms the emphasis on scholarship in his home town.
However, his gaps in Biblical knowledge and errors in Biblical doctrine also
point to the characteristic problems of Alexandria. These problems were to
continue in Alexandria through the early church history period. The old
copies of manuscripts of the New Testament which were influenced by the
Alexandrian scholars are characterized by their omitting of important
doctrinal phrases and verses. These omissions are not mistakes--scholarship
always subtracts from the Word of God.
example of their subtractions, let us examine the passage of Mark 16:9-20.
This passage is missing in both the Sinaitic and the Vatican manuscripts.
Therefore, in most recent versions, it is either omitted, or marginal notes
question its place in the divine text. However, these verses are found in all the Greek manuscripts except the two noted above and in all the Latin manuscripts but one. The Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts
were written between 325-350 AD. But approximately 150 years before Mark
16:9-20 was deleted by these manuscripts, the passage was quoted as
scripture by several writers: Justin Martyr (c. 150), Tatian (c. 175),
Iraneaus (c. 180) and Hippolytus (c. 200). Thus the evidence of the
majority of witnesses and the evidence of greatest antiquity both
overwhelmingly support the passage. Why then do the scholars still prefer
to omit the verses? Evidently because they still desire to follow
became the world center of education and scholarship. Here both Judaism and
Christianity tried to merge their thought with Grecian Platonism. Soon,
human wisdom took place over the words of the Bible, and scholars leaned
upon allegorical interpretations to derive from the Bible what they already
accepted as truth. However, this was not enough. The science of textual
criticism had to be developed to remove from the scriptures phrases which
were offensive to their own doctrine. Hence, Alexandria became the place
known for her subtraction from the Word of God.
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with the cities of Rome