God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. [Numbers 23:19]*
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent. [1 Samuel 15:29]
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. [2 Timothy 2:13]
…in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…. [Titus 1:2]
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. [James 1:17]
In my last post, I dealt with the issue of manuscript transmission in terms of the evidence and arguments used to justify the priority of the manuscripts in the Byzantine family over the manuscripts in the Alexandrian family as the best representatives of the readings found in the autographa. I firmly believe that the arguments marshaled by proponents of Alexandrian manuscript priority are historically weak and empirically unverifiable.
Unfortunately, the discussion has far-reaching implications in other areas of theological discussion. Although there are many advocates for Alexandrian manuscript priority who also advocate the doctrines of plenary inspiration and inerrancy [e.g. the late Gleason Archer, Daniel Wallace, Norm Geisler, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, William Mounce, Robert Mounce, Darrell Bock, Leon Morris, Thomas Schreiner, Willem VanGemeren, and Moises Silva], they seem not to realize or deliberately ignore the glaring inconsistency inherent in their position.
That inconsistency is this: If one maintains that the Alexandrian family of manuscripts best represents the readings found in the autographa, then one has to deal with the glaring historical and logical errors as well as falsehoods contained in those manuscripts. One cannot hold to Alexandrian manuscript priority and the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy with any degree of logical consistency.
This inconsistency is made even more blatant because of the claims that the textual differences between the Alexandrian text-type and the Byzantine text-type do not effect any crucial doctrines.
Wilbur Pickering, in The Identity of the New Testament Text, has noted some of the following examples of the discrepancies introduced by a slavish adherence to the Alexandrian text-type:
Matthew 1:7-8: The Byzantine text-type lists Asa the son of Abijah in this genealogy. The Alexandrian text-type lists Asaph, who was a Levite, and not in the Davidic line. In this case, the NKJV, the NASB, the NIV, the NLT, and the HCSB follow the Byzantine text reading. Of the major contemporary translations, only the ESV adopts the reading from the Alexandrian text.
Matthew 1:10: The Byzantine text-type lists Amon the son of Manasseh in the genealogy. The Alexandrian text-type lists Amos the prophet. In this case, again the NKJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and HCSB follow the Byzantine reading. Again the ESV simply follows the Alexandrian text.
Matthew 10:10: The Byzantine text reads that Jesus instructed his disciples not to carry “staffs” [plural] on their journeys. The Alexandrian text reads that He instructed them not to carry even one staff, creating a contradiction with Mark 6:8, when they are instructed to carry only one staff. In this case, only the NKJV follows the Byzantine reading while the NASB, NIV, NLT, HCSB, and ESV all follow the Alexandrian reading.
Matthew 19:17: The Byzantine text reads, Why do you call Me good? The Alexandrian text reads, “Why do you ask Me about the good?” The Alexandrian reading turns a challenge from Jesus for people to recognize Him for who He is into a denial of His essential Deity. Only the NKJV follows the Byzantine text. The NASB, NIV, NLT, HCSB, and ESV all follow the Alexandrian text.
Matthew 27:49: This is one of those situations where the Alexandrian text adds a totally false statement to scripture. It reads: “But another taking a spear, pierced His side, and water and blood came out.” The clause is does not appear in the Byzantine text type. Why is the statement false in this situation, when there is a parallel reference in John 19:34? For the simple fact that the passage, if included in the Matthew account, places the piercing of Jesus’ side with the spear BEFORE His death, while the account in John places this event AFTER Jesus’ death. The NKJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, HCSB, and ESV uniformly reject the Alexandrian reading.
Mark 1:2: The Byzantine reading is as it is written in the prophets. The Alexandrian reading is “as it is written in Isaiah the prophet.” The problem is the passage immediately cited following this clause, is from Malachi, not Isaiah. The specificity here is out of keeping with the Markan tendency toward indefiniteness in his citations. Only the NKJV follows the Byzantine reading.
Mark 6:22: The Byzantine reading is when the daughter of Herodias herself. The Alexandrian reading is “his daughter Herodias.” In the parallel passage found in Matthew 14:6, all manuscripts unanimously attest that this was was the daughter of Herodias, NOT Herodias, as do 99 percent of the manuscripts of Mark. The NKJV, NASB, NIV, HCSB, and ESV uniformly adopt the Byzantine reading. The NIV notes the alternative reading in a footnote. The NLT adopts the Alexandrian reading in its translation with no reference to the alternative reading.
Luke 3:33: The Byzantine reading is of Amminadab, of Ram. The Alexandrian reading is “of Amminadab, of Admin, of Arni.” The NKJV, NIV, and HCSB follow the Byzantine reading. The NLT and ESV follow the Alexandrian reading. The NASB conflates both readings to “of Amminadab, of Admin, of Ram.” The NASB footnotes its translation with a notation that “Arni” is Greek for “Ram.” This is not supported from either history or the Septuagint. Looking at the equivalent genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:9-10 in the Septuagint, we see that the Greek equivalent of “Ram” is “Ram,” not “Arni.” And there is no generation between Ram and Amminadab according to the Septuagint. Simply put, the Alexandrian rendering has no basis in the text or the historical record and is in error.
Luke 4:44: The Byzantine reading of this passage reads in the synagogues of Galilee. The Alexandrian reading is “in the synagogues of Judea.” The context of the passage makes it clear that Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee, not Judea. The NKJV and the HCSB follow the Byzantine text. The NIV, NASB, ESV, and NLT follow the Alexandrian text. A footnote to the online version of the NASB at www.biblegateway.com suggests that the reference to Judea would include Galilee. This footnote compounds the error because Luke, being a careful historian and recorder, would not have ignored the geopolitical distinctions between Judeans and Galileans. He does not do so anywhere else in his writings and in fact draws careful attention to the tensions which existed between Judeans, who considered themselves more sophisticated and urbane, and the Galileans, who were seen as being uncouth, uneducated and worthy only of contempt from the Judean perspective.
Luke 9:10: The Byzantine text reads into a deserted place belonging to a town called Bethsaida. The Alexandrian text reads, “into a town called Bethsaida.” The parallel passages in Matthew 14:13 and Mark 6:31-32 [there are no variant readings for the parallel accounts], as well as the context established by Luke 9:12, make it clear Jesus and His disciples were in a deserted or secluded spot, not in the city itself. Only the NKJV follows the Byzantine text reading. The NASB, NIV, ESV, NLT, and HCSB all follow the Alexandrian text.
Luke 23:45: The Byzantine text reads the sun was darkened. The Alexandrian text reads “the sun being eclipsed.” Here the Alexandrian text introduces errors into the text of literally astronomical proportions. The Passover occurs at the first full moon which follows the spring equinox. Solar eclipses do not occur during a full moon. The NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT, and HCSB follow the Byzantine reading. Only the NASB follows the Alexandrian reading.
John 6:47: The Byzantine text reads, whoever believes in Me has eternal life. The Alexandrian text omits the words “in Me.” The Alexandrian variant is suggestive that mere belief [called fideism, or “faith in faith”] is sufficient for eternal life and that the object of faith is irrelevant—thus promoting the heresy of universalism. Only the NKJV follows the Byzantine reading. The NASB, NIV, ESV, NLT, and HCSB follow the Alexandrian reading.
John 7:8: The Byzantine reading is I am not YET going up to this feast. The Alexandrian reading omits the word “yet.” The Alexandrian reading makes Jesus into a liar since the context shows He did go to the feast [John 7:10]. All Jewish males were required to appear in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles [also known as the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Ingathering] according to Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17. The Alexandrian reading suggests that Jesus had no intention of following the Law–making Him disobedient to the will of the Father. Yet we know that, of all mankind, only Jesus ever perfectly obeyed the Law [Romans 3:24-26; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8-9] — had He not lived in perfect conformity to the Law, He could not have redeemed His elect. The NKJV and HCSB follow the Byzantine reading. The NASB, NIV, ESV, and NLT follow the Alexandrian reading.
Acts 19:16: The Byzantine reading is, and prevailed against them. The Alexandrian reading is “and prevailed against both of them.” The reference in context is to the seven sons of Sceva, who had been casting out demons claiming the name of Jesus, but without being believers. The problem is that “both,” when used as an adjective, is a reference to only two, not seven. There is nothing in the context which suggests only two sons of Sceva were involved. The NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT, and HCSB all follow the Byzantine reading.
1 Corinthians 5:1: The Byzantine reading is sexual immorality such as is not even named among the Gentiles. The Alexandrian reading omits the word rendered “named,” which suggests the incest being described by Paul did not exist in the Gentile world. Several commentators have claimed that incest was prohibited by Roman Law. If such is the case, then the law was frequently ignored as the history of the Caesars shows. There are at least two incestuous relationships shown in the NT: that of Herod Antipas and Herodias [his niece] and that of Herod Agrippa II and Bernice [his sister]. So it existed, it just was not talked about “in polite society.” The NKJV translates according to the Byzantine text. The NASB and NLT translate according to the Alexandrian variant. The NIV, ESV, and HCSB, are difficult to evaluate because they adopt interpretive renderings rather than exact renderings.
Jude 15: The Byzantine reading is to convict all the ungodly among them. The Alexandrian reading is “to convict every soul of all their ungodliness.” The Alexandrian reading basically infers that there is no guarantee of salvation and that everyone stands condemned before God—even those in Christ. The context clearly establishes that only the ungodly will face the wrath of God. The NKJV and NASB follow the Byzantine reading. The NIV, ESV, HCSB, and NLT follow the Alexandrian reading.
So what is the purpose of bringing all this up? Simply to show that we have to pay attention to the text-type basis for translations because the text-type upon which a translation is based will effect how we understand doctrine and theology. The Alexandrian text-types introduces theological, historical, and logical errors into the text and thereby is contrary to the doctrine of inerrancy. Most people, not being conversant with Greek or the text-types, do not pay attention or carefully note what those readings are.
This is the main reason I use the NKJV. While I realize it is not strictly based on the Byzantine [also known as the Majority, or M] text-type, the textual basis for the New Testament [Erasmus-Beza] is similar. Moreover, the NKJV is the only translation which notes where the Majority text-type and the Alexandrian text-type [also known as the Nestle-United Bible Society, or NU], differ from the text used for the NKJV. No other translation does this with any consistency. Occasionally a variant may be noted, but the reference is always a vague “some mss read. . .” never citing that the variant may be the majority reading while the reading preferred by the translator is based on one or two manuscripts found buried in the desert equivalent of the city dump.
In the next installment, I hope to look at how these issues are impacted by the philosophy or theory of translation followed in producing a translation.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version [NKJV]. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.