What text type or types do the most early church fathers use? If the Byz.
type goes no further than the 4th cent. why then do kjv. only people say
that church fathers from the 2nd cent usedthis type? My second question is
what are the text types for the earliest versions of the Bible namely the
Syiac and the Latin?
The evidence supports the conclusion that the “Alexandrian” text type is,
in most aspects, closer to the original writings of the New Testament.
The so-called Byzantine text type received its name because this Greek
text became more or less the accepted text in what became the Greek
Orthodox Church, which was headquartered in Byzantium. Because of the
dominant influence of the church in Byzantium(Constantinople) in the East
in the Middle Ages, the great majority of our Greek New Testament
manuscripts are of the Byzantine text-type. However, this numerical
superiority is deceiving. Almost all of the earliest, most strongly
attested, reliable Greek NT manuscripts are of the Alexandrian type.
Because the two manuscript types are so similar, it is not always possible
to say which type of manuscript the early church fathers are quoting from,
but scholars have posited that the earliest definite use of what we now
know as the Byzantine text is from John Chrysostoam in the late 4th
Let me explain the difference between the Alexandrian and the Byzantine
text. First of all, there is no absolutely clear-cut distinction. In
other words, some Byzantine tendencies may be found in a mostly
Alexandrian text and vice versa. However, there is evidence that certain
copiers of the New Testament tried to systematically “improve” the Greek
text. A scribe or, more likely scribes tried to improve the readability
of the Greek and to remove some difficulties in the original. This made
the New Testament a bit “better” to the Greek mind, but from our
perspective it certainly was not an improvement. For example in the
Byzantine text Mark 1:2 reads “as it is written in the prophets”, whereas
the Alexandrian line of manuscripts has, “As it was written in Isaiah the
prophet.” Experts in textual criticism can usually spot an attempt to
“improve” the text (which is of course, never an improvement on the
original). The quote following in Mark 1:2 is taken both from Isaiah and
Malachi. Presumably a copier took the role of an editor, removing what he
thought of as a mistake in Mark. A general rule is that the Byzantine
text generally contains less “contradictions” between the gospels. In
other words, when two gospels have somewhat different accounts, copyists
decided to remove the possible inconsistency.
Another distinction between the Alexandrian and the Byzantine texts is
that the Alexandrian are mainly in the uncial style (all capitals), while
the Byzantine tends to be in miniscule form (capitals and small letters).
This distinction is mainly due to the fact that with time, the Byzantine
text dominated those circulating, so that when uncial writing became less
common, the later accepted text was mostly Byzantine and mostly miniscule.
The bottom line is that, to the extent that the Alexandrian line of
manuscripts differs from the Byzantine, in general the Alexandrian is
better. Textual critics are unanimous that the Alexandrian is closer to
the original. By definition, closer to the original writings is better.
About translations, it appears that the Syriac Peshitta follows the
Byzantine style, as does the Vulgate translation by Jerome. Perhaps even
more importantly for English readers, the textus receptus, which was the
Greek text published by Erasmus in the 16th century is of the Byzantine
text type. This was not because Erasmus was a poor scholar or was
biased. It is simply because he had at his disposal very few Greek
manuscripts, all of which were from a later period. It is a safe
assumption that if Erasmus were alive today, he would reject the Byzantine
text in favor of the Alexandrian line of manuscripts. Erasmus? Greek
textus receptus was the basis for the early German translation of Luther,
as well as the English translations of Tyndale and of what became known as
the King James Bible. For this reason the KJV represents a relatively
inferior text from the point of view of the Greek manuscripts used to make
I am not saying that the KJV is a bad translation. It is just that in the
relatively few places where the Greek editors tried to “improve” the
original, the KJV follows the changes, which is not a good thing. The KJV
may not be a bad translation, but it certainly is not the best English
translation of the Bible. If a supporter of the KJV says that the church
fathers from the second century used the Byzantine text, you can be
assured that this person is either misinformed or is extremely biased.
You would do well to ignore such a statement. This conclusion is the
result of a person assuming their answer before asking the question. It
is not at all uncommon for people to defend the KJV as somehow almost
inspired?as the best translation into English. It is impossible to defend
this position unless one simply ignores the evidence. People defend the
KJV, not because the evidence supports it, but for some other reason.
They either do so to defend their tradition or perhaps to defend certain
(presumably false) doctrines which are more easily supported by using the
KJV and ignoring more modern, superior translations.
John Oakes, PhD