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Analytical-Literal Translation

Byzantine Majority Text
or Byzantine Textform?

By Gary F. Zeolla

Throughout this Web site and in my Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament (ALT), I refer to the Byzantine Majority Text. This is the Greek text the ALT is based on. But the word “Majority” does not appear in the title of the forthcoming second edition of this Greek New Testament. Its formal title and biographical information is:

The Greek New Testament: Byzantine Textform. Second Edition. Complied, arranged, and thoroughly updated by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont. Publication forthcoming.

The word “Majority” was removed as it gave the wrong impression that this Greek text was developed by merely counting manuscripts. Although the number of manuscripts supporting a particular reading is an important factor, many other criteria are utilized in determining which reading is mostly likely the original among variants in the Greek manuscripts. As such, this Greek text would now more accurately be referred to as the Byzantine Textform rather than the Byzantine Majority Text.

But still, the vast majority of the time, this Greek text reflects the readings found in the vast majority of the manuscripts. So referring to it as a “Majority Text” is not inaccurate. Moreover, this text is not the only “Majority Text” type of text. The other such text is:

The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text: Second Edition edited by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1985.

This is the version of the Majority Text that is referred to by the notation “M” in the footnotes of the New King James Version. It is also used in the now out of print NKJV Greek-English Interlinear. I referred to this interlinear quite often while working on the ALT.

I refer to both of these Greek texts under the general term of “Majority Text” with the abbreviation MT on this Web site and in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. I explain in detail in my book in the chapter Meaning of “Majority Text” the similarities and differences between these two texts. But in nutshell, both of these texts put an emphasis on the number of manuscripts in determining which reading is most likely original. And when a vast majority of the manuscripts support a particular reading, then both texts will follow that reading. So again, it is appropriate to refer to both by the term “Majority Text.”

However, both texts will also utilize other criteria as well, especially when the Greek manuscripts are closely divided. But each will use somewhat differing methodologies when considering factors other than number. So it is important to distinguish between these two texts. So for the former I began using the term Byzantine Majority Text, while for the latter I’ll use Hodges and Farstad’s Majority Text, or more simply H&F’s MT.

This way, the similarity yet distinction between these two text could be represented. And I’ve been using these terms for so long and throughout my writings, it would be difficult to change now. But I will also start use the term Byzantine Textform or more simply Byzantine text for the former. I use all three terms in the second edition of the ALT. But the manner in which I use them, it should be clear to the reader that these names refer to the same Greek text.

Another point to note is that even with their different methodologies, these two Majority Texts are virtually identical. The reason for this is the vast majority of the time, a vast majority of the manuscripts supports a particular reading. And even for the closely divided readings, even with their different methodologies, these two texts often arrive at the same conclusions. This is why I was able to utilize the H&F's MT-based NKJV Interlinear while translating the ALT from the Byzantine Majority Text.

While translating, I did notice the occasionally place where these two Greek texts differed. But the vast majority of the time, they were identical. And this similarity is even more so with the second edition of the Byzantine Majority Text.

As can be seen in the list of changes between editions posted on this site, in many cases, the new Byzantine text has been changed from a reading that differed from H&F's MT to a reading that is identical to it. Moreover, when the two still differ, often the footnoted, alternate readings found in the new Byzantine text is the reading found in the main text of H&F's MT. Translations of these footnoted readings are posted on this site and will appear as an appendix in the new ALT.

Given this similarity between these texts, I believe it is important to have a general term to refer to both of them. And the term “Majority Text” is the one I and many others have been using for a long time. And with the term “Majority Text” being relatively well known, this is another reason to use the term Byzantine Majority Text. So even thought it might be less technically accurate that Byzantine Textform, it is still an understandable term to use.

But by whatever names they are referred to, this writer believes either of these Majority Texts very accurately reflects the original autographs of the New Testament. But given a choice between the two, I would chose the Byzantine Majority Text. I think its methodologies are somewhat sounder than for H&F MT.

It is because of this belief that I used the Byzantine Majority Text for my translation of the New Testament. And I especially like that this text has now been thoroughly reviewed and updated for a second edition. So I have even greater confidence that this text more accurately reflects the original autographs that any other Greek text available. It is for this reason, that I took the extra time and effort to update the second edition of the ALT to being based on the second edition of the Byzantine Majority Text/ Byzantine Textform/ Byzantine text. By whatever name it is called, it is the most reliable Greek text available.


Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

This above article was posted on this site September 26, 2004.

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Byzantine Majority Text: Changes and Alternate Readings

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