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Textual Criticism Questions: 1990s

Below are e-mails I received in in the late 1990s asking questions about textual criticism. The e-mailers’ questions and comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


I really enjoy your website, and have learned lots.<

Thank you.

> I have a translation question which has bugged me for a while, and I was wondering if you had an opinion on it. In Romans 10:17 some translations end the sentence referring to Christ, while others end it with God. What is going on here? The NIV and NASB both use Christ, while the NKJV, KJV, and LITV all use God. The problem is, that I can not find notes in any study references which discuss this. Can you shed some light on this?

Keep up the good work!


It is a textual variant. The TR/ MT has "God" while the CT has "Christ." Note: the NKJV does not footnote this variant, but The NKJV Interlinear does.

>Hi, Hope this message reaches you in the best of health. I recently read your Web page on Biblical criticism, and about the CT [Critical Text] vs. the MT [Majority Text] . So I guess my question is that, I understand that there is a difference in the choice of words, but then are there any verses missing from the Bible in the newer versions? And which translation is more accurate?

Hope to hear from you soon.

I personally use the NKJV. I also compare it with the Modern King James Version (MKJV) and The Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV). I believe each of these three versions are the most accurate for reasons I detail in my Webs site in the articles on translation principles.

As for "missing" verses in newer versions, yes, some verses are omitted in the CT, or at least footnotes are included which cast doubt on their authenticity.

The most notable examples are Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11. The textual footnotes in the NKJV will point out other verses that differ between the MT or Textus Receptus that the NKJV is based on and the CT which most modern versions are based on.

See articles on my Web site for more on each of the above points. If you any questions/ comments after checking them out feel free to write again.

>Hello Gary:  I really appreciate the work you have done on Bible translations. I am just beginning to take up this study and I have found your site extremely helpful.

Just this past Lord's Day, my pastor was exegeting John 16 and when he came to verse 16, he skipped over the phrase "because I go to the Father" and continued right on with verse 17. He then came back and explained that those of us who read the KJV or NKJV have the phrase, but he doesn't know how it came to be in the Greek text. I know he uses the ASV (critical) which omits it. He added that he is not aware of a single Greek manuscript that includes it.

I checked the various New Testaments I have, and found that oti ego upago pros ton patera appears in Stephen's TR [Textus Receptus] 1550, Scrivener's TR 1881, and the Byzantine/Majority Text as well as the Latin Vulgate. It is absent from the Nestle Aland 26th.

On the surface this appears to be simply another case of TR/MT vs. CT variant confusion. The little booklet from the Trinitarian Bible Society "A Textual Key to the New Testament - A List of Omissions and Changes" lists this variant and puts an asterisk next to it to denote it as a more serious omission. But this simply highlights the fact that it is in the TR/MT and not in the CT.

I am quite sure my pastor is aware that it is included in the TR/MT. By his stating that he is not aware of a single manuscript that includes this phrase, I believe he is implying that the editors of the TR/MT texts inserted it with out warrant from "a single" MSS. He mentioned he has a theory as to how this phrase got into this verse but only eluded to that theory. I believe it has something to do with the reference to the "micron" in John 14:19 and the repeating of the phrase "Because I go to the Father" in John 16 vv. 10 and 17.

Do you know anything more about this variant? Is there any support in the MSS? Do you know which ones?

With a Berean spirit, J.M.

Response:  Thank you for your letter and kind comments about the articles on my Web site. As for your questions, I did a little research. I first checked The Greek New Testament . It does not include the phrase, and there is no information in the textual apparatus.

So I then checked A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger. If you are just beginning to take up this study the subject of textual criticism you should try to pick up both of these resources. Both present a "Critical Text" (CT) position. But they are very helpful for the info they provide. Metzger’s Commentary gives a good look into the thinking of why the UBS committee chose on reading over another. Note: The preceding links are direct links to where these volumes can be purchased from Books-A-Million.

Note, the UBS text and is very similar to the Nestle/ Aland text you mention. In fact, the recently released fourth edition of the UBS and the 27th edition of Nestle/ Aland are identical.

In any case, Metzger says the following about John 16:16:
"Wishing to prepare for the disciple’s question in ver. 17 about Jesus’ going to the Father (and overlooking Jesus’ statement in ver. 10), after opsesthe me [you will see Me] copyists added, with minor variations, oti upago pros ton patera [because I go to the Father]…. (p. 247).

Metzger then gives a list of manuscripts which include this reading. They include the Greek uncials "A, gamma, delta, theta, psi, 054 and 068." The earliest of these are "A" and 068, both of which date to the fifth century.

Then "f1" and f13" are listed. These symbols are used to group together groups of similar Greek manuscripts. In this case, f1 includes four minuscules (all dated 12th-14th century) and f13 includes 12 minuscules (11th-13th century). That’s a total of 23 Greek manuscripts listed (dates taken from charts in the "Introduction" for the UBS Greek New Testament).

There are also listed eleven early versions (two Italian, the Vulgate, five Syriac, one Coptic, one Armenian, and one Georgian).

So yes, there are Greek manuscripts, along with manuscripts in other languages, which contain this phrase. I must also point out that UBS sources generally do no list all of the Byzantine manuscripts for a particular reading; but usually only a sample. I suspect this may be the case here as the phrase is included in The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/ Majority Textform by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont (another excellent resource).

I was not able to find a list of which manuscripts omit the phrase. However, I would guess that they would include "aleph and beta." These fourth century uncials are considered to be "the two earliest and most reliable manuscripts" by CT people. I discuss in articles on my Web site as to why I disagree with this claim.

Now, I do need to comment on Metzger’s comment as to WHY the copyists "added" this phrase (which is probably what your pastor was alluding to). All I want to know is, is Metzger omniscient? Did he travel back in time and ask them? If not, then I would say his dogmatism is unwarranted.

An easier explanation would be that a copyist, somewhere along the way, accidentally omitted the phrase and then others copied his mistake.

Which actually happened? I’m not sure. And without additional manuscript information I will withhold a decision on whether "because I go to the Father" should be included or not. But from the above, it appears there is least some reason to believe that it should.

Finally, I must add, as in most cases, whether the phrase is included or not, it in no way affects the meaning of the passage.

I hope the above is helpful.

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

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

Bible Versions Controversy: Greek Text Types
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