My question is can you tell me where specifically did the four text types
originate and when they originated and by whom or what local group are
most likely to have done so? I understand by Bruce Metzger that using the
fathers to locate a certain family of text or reading is also a factor. Is
this right or do I not understand him correctly?


It seems to me that you may be assuming too much. What I mean is that you
may be assuming that the different text types were the result of one
person or one group of persons and that one can reconstruct the place and
time where these text types were created. This simply is not the case.
The division of the textual types into the four categories is somewhat
arbitrary. This reflects an effort by scholars to classify the kinds of
changes which made their way into the later New Testament texts. They are
only rough guides to help us to understand what happened. You should not
take these rough guides too seriously, although they can help us to
organize our understanding of the ways in which copyists and editors
inserted small additions and changes into the original text.

The four families of texts which are referred to by scholars are;

1. The Alexandrian. This is so-called because it was used in particular
by church fathers who were centered around the church in Alexandria,
Egypt. Please take the designation Alexandrian with a grain of salt, but
important manuscripts which are considered to be of this type include the
most important ancient manuscripts, such as the Codex Vaticanus and the
Codex Sinaiticus. Codex Alexandrinus is thought to be Alexandrine except
for showing some signs of the Byzantine in the four gospels.

2. The Western text-type. Again, this is only a helpful guide. Its name
comes from the fact that manuscripts which incorporated some paraphrasing
into the text tended to arise in the Western churches. Apparently, there
were some significant additions and variations in the Western manuscripts
in the book of Acts. The Codex Bezae is the only really important
manuscripts which contains at least elements of the kinds of textual
changes which ended up in this family of manuscripts. Maricion the
heretic (mid-late 2nd century) and Irenaeus (late 2nd-early third century)
and others are said to have used this family of texts, although it is
possible that these men simply did some paraphrasing of their own in their
letters. It is also said that the early Latin versions and, more
importantly, the Vulgate were influenced by this text type. (I have also
heard it said that they were influenced by the Byzantine text type, to
show you that these issues and distinctions are not clear) I suggest you
listen to the scholars on these things, but take them with a grain of salt.

A third text-type which is mentioned is the Caeserean. This is so-called
because some of those who used this supposed text type were from Cesaerea,
which was in Palestine. It is said to contain a mixture of Western and
Alexandrian elements. It is not hard to see that this third category can
be rather arbitrary. Caesarea lies on the travel line between Alexandria
and the West.

The fourth text-type, as I mentioned earlier, is said to be the
Byzantine. This became a sort of official text for the Greek church in
the East. It, therefore, became the source of Erasmus famous Greek text
and all the early translations into English.

Scholars of the New Testament will all tell us that no one uses any of
these text types today, although the Alexandrian clearly represents the
most primitive and the most accurate of the four. Scholars attempt to use
common sense rules to eliminate editorial changes, as well as relying on
the quotes of the earliest church fathers and the most authoritative
manuscripts (such as Codex Vaticanus) to reconstruct the most accurate
version of the Greek original as possible. You should realize that the
differences between the Alexandrian and the original are truly miniscule.
This plus the other tools at the disposal of scholars allow them to
produce a Greek text which is virtually identical with the original, to
the point that Bible readers can accept what we have to be for all
practical purposes the original autographs of the New Testament writers.

It may be helpful to learn about the text types, but the main point is
that we do not use any of the text types. Do not allow yourself to become
too distracted by the history of what happened over the centuries as a
number of very slight and even a few significant variations came into the
texts. If you become too focused on this, you may tend to miss the big
picture, which is that we have a virtually perfect Greek texts available
to us.

Bruce Metzger is infinitely more well acquainted with these issues than
I. I agree with him that quotes from the early church Fathers are as much
an indication of the text types as the manuscripts themselves. I believe
you will do well to use Metzger as a resource. I simply suggest you not
get lost looking at the trees, but rather look at the forest, which points
us toward confidence in our Greek New Testament.

John Oakes

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