Early Heresies and the Western and Alexandrian lines


Early heresies and
the Western and Alexandrian lines

(NOTE: The student should be forewarned that the material in these next two lessons is lengthy but essential in the understanding of textual criticism and our approach to that study.)

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:17-20)


The Bible warns that there would be those who would "corrupt the word of God" (2 Cor. 2:17) and handle it "deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2). There would arise false gospels with false epistles (2 Thess. 2:2), along with false prophets and teachers who would not only bring in "damnable heresies" but would seek to "make merchandise" of the true believer through their own "feigned words" (2 Pet. 2:1-3). It did not take long for this to occur.

In the days of the Apostles, and shortly afterwards, several doctrinal heresies arose. Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism and Allegoricalism were four of these heresies. Their early beginnings are referred to in the New Testament in such places as Galatians 1:6-8; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7; and Jude 1:3-4. These heresies not only plagued the early Church, but are still with us today, in modern form, in many contemporary Christian cults. These false doctrines had an influence on the transmission of scripture and account for some of the differences in the line of manuscripts.


This was a form of Gnosticism which taught that Christ's body was a phantom and not physical. Only the spiritual was good, while the physical was evil. The nature of Christ was two-fold, spiritual and physical. Jesus was the physical, Christ was the spiritual. The Christ departed Jesus at the crucifixion, and left him on the cross to suffer and die. The Docetics (and Gnostics) wrote their own Gospels including The Acts of John and The Gospel of Peter. The Gospel of Peter was cited by Justin Martyr, Origen, and Eusebius, but was not discovered by scholars until 1886. While excavating the grave of a monk, a French archaeological team discovered this manuscript in Egypt. Only a small portion of it remains, but what does gives a differing account of the crucifixion than the four Gospels. This separation of the Christ from Jesus is seen in the following quotation.

And many went about with lamps, supposing that is was night, and fell down. And the Lord cried out, saying, My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me. And when he had said it he was taken up. And in that hour the veil of the temple of Jerusalem was rent in twain. (Gospel of Peter, verse 5).

Thus, according to the Docetics, the power of Jesus, the Christ, left him while he was on the cross.

The account of the resurrection is also Docetic.

And in the night in which the Lord's day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard two by two in a watch, there was a great voice in the heaven; and they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend from thence with great light and approach the tomb. And that stone which was put at the door rolled of itself and made way in part; and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw it, they awakened the centurion and the elders; for they too were hard by keeping guard. And as they declared what things they had seen, again they see three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him who was lead by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice form the heavens saying, Thou has preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yea. (Gospel of Peter, verses 9-10).

The Docetics used and corrected the Gospel of Mark as demonstrated by Irenaeus,

Those who separate Jesus from Christ and say that Christ remained impassible while Jesus suffered, and try to bring forward the Gospel According to Mark, can be corrected out of that, if they will read it with a love of the truth. (Ireaneus' Against Heresies, cited from Early Christian Fathers Vol 1; translated by Cyril C. Richardson and published by The Westminster Press, page 382).

The Latin manuscript k may reflect such tampering and has been suggested so by Dr. Edward F. Hills. Mark 16:4 reads as follows in k,

Suddenly, moreover, at the third hour of the day, darkness fell upon the whole world, and angels descended from heaven, and as the Son of God was rising in brightness, they ascended at the same time with him, and straightway it was light.

This citation from k matches the citation from the Gospel of Peter about the resurrection. It also contains the short ending to Mark and omits verses 9-20, as many modern translations and their Greek texts do. We can conclude from this that the Docetics used a copy of Mark which would read like many contemporary translations.


Marcion was influenced by the Gnostic, but not to the degree of fully embracing Gnosticism. Instead, he developed his own religious following, vowing to complete the work of St. Paul and separate Judaism from Christian teachings. However, he did so in a very anti-Semitic way. In 140 AD he went to Rome and established his doctrines, teaching that the God of the Old Testament could not have been the Father of Jesus Christ, because Christ speaks of His Father as a God of love and the God of the Jews was a God of wrath. Marcion taught that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, created the world, but that all created flesh was evil. The soul was created by a greater god over Jehovah. This other god created the spiritual realm and was the true Father of Jesus Christ. To release man's soul from his flesh, this greater god sent Christ. Christ appeared, in the form of a thirty-year-old man, in an unreal-spiritual body, not a physical one. Salvation was gained by renouncing Jehovah and all things physical. Marcion rejected the Hebrew Scriptures, and their quotations in the New Testament. The followers of Marcion issued their own New Testament composed of Luke and Paul's letters. This would account for some of the variations in these books among the manuscripts, seeing that the followers of Marcion would want these books to reflect their doctrines. The same is true today when contemporary cults slightly alter scripture to reflect their own private interpretation.

Again, Irenaeus points out that "Marcion cut up that According to Luke" (Ireaneus' Against Heresies, p. 382). This would account for the large number of changes found in varying manuscripts of Luke and the large number of verses omitted (as shown in lesson three). It is, for example, understandable why the phrase "And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet." (Luke 24:40) would be omitted by Marcion, since he did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus but only in a spiritual resurrection. In fact, the apparatus of the United Bible Society's Greek text points out that this verse is omitted by both Marcion and Codex D (UBS, 2nd ed., p. 317). This verse is omitted from the text of the NEB and RSV. Thus we see that Codex D, which is a Western line of manuscripts in the Gospels, and the RSV reflect some of the tampering done by Marcion and his followers.


Gnosticism was by far the most influential heresy faced by the early Church. Not only did the Gnostic corrupt many readings found in the New Testament, but offered their own writings as inspired scriptures, such as the The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Acts of Andrew, and The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene). Gnosticism had a variety of forms and sects which broadened its base and growth. Historian Will Durant calls Gnosticism "the quest of godlike knowledge (gnosis) through mystic means" (The Story Of Civilization Vol. III, p. 604).

As in Docetism and Marcionism, the Gnostics taught that the physical was evil and the spiritual was good. Thus, a good god (spiritual) could not have created a physical world, because good can not create evil (that is the spiritual would not create the physical). So the Gnostic god created a being (or a line of beings called aeons) removing himself from direct creation. One of these aeons, or gods, created the world. The so-called Christian Gnostics believed that Jesus was one of these aeons who created the world. Some Gnostic taught that Jesus did not have a physical body. When he walked on the earth, he left not footprints because he never really touched the earth (he being spiritual and the world physical). Others taught that only our spiritual bodies were important, so the physical body could engage in whatever acts they desired because only the spiritual body would be saved. Still other Gnostics taught that the physical body was so evil that it must be denied in order for the spiritual body to gain salvation, thus shunning marriage and certain foods (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

The influence of Gnosticism can be seen in some of the heresies of today. For example, many of the teachings stated above are found, in revised form, in the teachings of the Watchtower of the Jehovah's Witnesses. To the Jehovah's Witness, Jesus is a created god, not God manifest in the flesh. It is no wonder that the Watchtower's New World Translation omits "God manifest in the flesh" in 1 Timothy 3:16 and replaces it with "He was made manifest in flesh." The Greek text which underlines the NWT has made the change, so it is natural for the Watchtower to prefer the reading which reflects its doctrine. The same is true of John 1:18 where the NWT reads, "the only-begotten god" (Gk. monogenes theos). Again, this is because the Greek text of the NWT reads differently from the Greek text of the KJV, "only begotten Son" (Gk. monogenes heios). What is amazing is that in both of these examples, the NASV agrees with the NWT because they are both based on the same Greek text. Thus, false doctrine has influenced the various manuscripts, just as it influences translations today. The phrase "only begotten god" is supported by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, papyrus 66 and the Alexandrian line of manuscripts. The phrase "only begotten Son" is quoted by Chrysostom, Tertullian, Basil, the Old Latin and Old Syrian translations and the majority of all Greek manuscripts.

Another example of some Gnostics teachings concerns the dual sexual nature of God. In her book, The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels points out that the some Gnostic taught that God was both Father and Mother. Pagels writes,

One group of gnostic (sic) sources claims to have received a secret tradition from Jesus through James and through Mary Magdalene. Members of this group prayed to both the divine Father and Mother. . .Since the Genesis account goes on to say that humanity was created male and female (1:27), some concluded that the God in whose image we are made must also be both masculine and feminine–both Father and Mother. (pp. 58-59).

Pagels also points out that Clement of Alexandria was influenced by this false doctrine of a masculo-feminine God. "Clement," writes Pagels, "characterized God in feminine as well as masculine terms" (p.81). She then cites Clement as writing,

The Word is everything to the child, both father and mother, teacher and nurse. . . .The nutriment is the milk of the Father. . .and the Word alone supplies us children with the milk of love, and only those who suck at this breast are truly happy. For this reason, seeking is called sucking; to those infants who seek the Word, the Father's loving breasts supply milk. (p. 81).

It would seem that both Clement and the Gnostics would be pleased with the modern politically correct Inclusive Version (published by Oxford Press). The Lord's prayer reads, "Our Father-Mother in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your dominion come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." All references to God in this translation reflect the masculo-feminine doctrine of the Gnostics and Clement of Alexandria.


The majority of early Church Fathers, especially from the Alexandrian and Western line, relied heavily upon Allegoricalism. This is not an organized heresy, as the other three are; instead it is a general interpretation of the scriptures. To allegorize scripture means to interpret the word spiritually and not literally. To the Allegoricalist, the words of scripture are not as important as the meaning or teaching of scripture. The word is not to be taken literally, but carries a deeper, spiritual message. This is why many of the early Church Fathers did not use precise quotations from the New Testament, as much as they did allusions and loose citations. What the Bible means, to them, was more important than what it said.

This form of spirtualizing the scriptures is not only reflected in many of the writings of the early Church Fathers, but is a prominent view of Biblical interpretation today. It is the primary view of both moderate and liberal theologians, and the developed interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also reflective of how one translates the scriptures as well as interprets. If the message is more important than the words, than all we need to do is translate the message and not the words. This is the difference between two methods of translation, the formal equivalent (that is, word for word translation), and dynamic equivalent (that is, thought for thought translation). Examples of formal equivalent translations would be the KJV (of the Traditional text) and the NASV (of the Alexandrian text). Dynamic equivalent translations would be illustrated by versions like the NIV, TEV, and NRSV.


Jesus taught us that if a tree is corrupt, the fruit will be corrupt. Likewise, if a tree is good, the fruit will be good (Matt. 7:17). He was speaking of false prophets. False prophets and false teachers corrupt the scriptures (2 Pet. 2:1-3). We are told we can recognize these false prophets and teachers by their fruits. An apple tree produces apples, a fig tree brings forth figs. So the fruit of the false prophet is false prophecies and the fruit of the false teacher is false doctrine. If a man's doctrine is in suspect of being corrupt, we must conclude that he will do the same to the scriptures (2 Cor. 2:17). So, if a man's teachings are good and sound, we can expect that those sound teachings came from sound scriptures. The two go hand in hand.

In the transmission of scripture, we must understand that there will always be a line of perversion as there will be of preservation. According to our Lord, we must become fruit inspectors. The remainder of this lesson and the next will demonstrate both lines in operation.

The following are a few of the Western (Rome) and Alexandrian (Egypt) Church Fathers stating some of their doctrines and influences upon the study of textual criticism. Additionally, the same is shown concerning a few contemporary scholars who have likewise influenced the study of textual criticism and laid the foundation for modern translations of the Bible.

TATIAN (110-180 AD)

Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr, was a doctrinal apologist and textual scholar. In 170 AD he produced a harmony of the Gospels known as the Diatessaron (Greek meaning, through the four). It is thought that this harmony was written in Greek and translated into Syriac, but it is possible that it was originally written in Syriac. The Bishop of Syria, Theodoret, thought it so corrupt that he had all 200 known copies destroyed. Today, we only have a fragment of Tatian's Diatessaron along with two Arabic translations and a commentary on it.

Geisler and Nix point out that Tatian "came under the influence of Gnosticism after the death of Justin." (A General Introduction To The Bible, p. 351). Eusebius records several of Tatian's heretical views in his Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius writes,

He (Tatian) established his own type of doctrine, telling stories of invisible Aeons (the line of gods the Gnostics believed in), like the followers of Valentinus, and rejecting marriage as corruption and fornication similarly to Marcion and Saturninus. And as his own contribution, denied the salvation of Adam. . . .Tatian composed in some way a combination and collection of the gospels, and gave this the name of The Diatessaron, and this is still extant in some places. . . (from the Loeb edition, Vol. I p. 397. The still extant would show that the Diatessaron was still in use in the fourth century when Eusebius wrote).

Tatian's harmony omits verses such as Matthew 21:44; Luke 23:17; 24:12; and John 7:53-8:11. However, since we do not have the original Diatessaron, but only two Arabic translations and one commentary, it is hard to say how much influence the Diatessaron had on any line of manuscript. Nevertheless, in the Diatessaron, we see that Gnosticism had an influence on the transmission of scripture within the first hundred years of the completion of the New Testament.


Titus Flavius Clement was born of pagan parents in Athens, Greece. He was influenced by Christian doctrine, yet held that the Greek poets were likewise inspired by God but in a diminutive sense. He went to Alexandria, Egypt, and became head of the Catechetical School located there in about 200 AD. A few years later he was forced to leave Egypt under the persecution of Septimius Severus. He died in Cappadocia around 215 AD.

There are approximately 2,400 New Testament quotations by Clement in his writings. Alexander Souter states that Clement "is not a very careful quoter of Scripture, but . . . it is known that in the Gospels he used a text closely related to Codex Bezae (D)." (The Text and Canon of the New Testament, p. 81). Dr. Kurt Aland states that Clement's citations disagree with the Traditional text (from which the KJV came from) 56% of the time. Twenty-four percent of the time his citations agree with the Alexandrian line of manuscripts, with 29% being in common with both. Only 15% of the time does Clement choose the reading of the Traditional text. ("The Text of the Church" from the Trinity Journal; Fall 1987, p. 139).

The point here is that Clement is quoted with authority for his citations of scriptures by modern textual scholars, and that Clement uses a text which is not in alignment with the Traditional text. The question we must ask ourselves is, what were the teachings of Clement and do they agree with Biblical doctrines found in the New Testament?

We have already learned that Clement was influenced by the Gnostics in his view of God as both Father and Mother. Below are a few additional teachings of Clement as cited from his The Instructor Of Children (about 202 AD). All quotations are cited in The Faith of the Early Fathers, edited by W. A. Jurgens and published by the Liturgical Press of Collegeville, Minnesota. Many of the dogmas of the Roman Catholic church can be found in the teachings of Clement of Alexandra.

Baptism: "When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we are become immortal. . .It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishment due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation–that is, by which we see God clearly." (p.178). Thus, salvation follows baptism.

Eucharist: "(The Church is) calling her children about her, she nourishes them with holy milk, that is, with the Infant Word. . .The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. 'Eat My Flesh,' He says, 'and drink My Blood.' The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutriments. He delivers over His Flesh, and pours out His Blood; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery!" (p.179)

That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit, just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in flesh, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however, –of the drink and of the Word,–is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word." (p. 179). Therefore, the Eucharist is necessary for salvation, it is the receiving of Christ, as taught by Clement.

Scripture: "Divine Scripture, addressing itself to those who love themselves and to the boastful, somewhere says most excellently: 'Where are the princes of the nations, and those who rule over the beasts which are upon the earth; they that take their diversion among the birds of the air; they that hoard up silver, and the gold in which men trust–and there is no end to their acquiring it; they that work in silver and in gold and are solicitous? There is no searching of their works; they have vanished and have gone down into Hades.' " (p.179). What Clement calls "Divine Scripture" is the Old Testament Apocrypha book of Baruch 3:16-19. Thus he believed it to be inspired.

Deity of Man: "That which is true is beautiful; for it, too, is God. Such a man becomes God because God wills it. Rightly, indeed, did Heraclitus say: 'Men are gods, and gods are men; for the same reason is in both.' "(p.179). Like Mormonism, Clement taught man becomes a god.

Nature of God: "Nothing exists except that which God causes to be. There is nothing, therefore, which is hated by God; nor is there anything hated by the Word. Both are one." (p.179) How does this align with Luke 14:26; John 12:25; Rom. 9:13; Heb. 1:9 and Rev.2:6? Clement sounds like he is quoting the doctrine of Marcion in rejecting the fact that God can hate.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD)

When Clement left Alexandria because of the persecution, Origen succeeded him as head master at the Catechetical School. Origen developed the allegorical interpretation of scripture. He took the Bible symbolically, yet what is clearly symbolic he took literally. For example, upon reading Matthew 19:12, he castrated himself. As a textual scholar, he produced the Hexapla which was a Bible containing six translations of the Old Testament, including the famous Septuagint (also known as the LXX). He considered the Old Testament Apocrypha as inspired scripture and included them in his Hexapla. Additionally, Origen considered some New Testament Apocrypha books as inspired, such as The Shepherd of Herman and The Epistle of Barnabas (see The Lost Books of the Bible, World Bible Publishers; pp.145 & 197).

Historian Will Durant notes that:

The literal meaning of Scripture, argued Origen, overlay two deeper layers of meaning–the moral and the spiritual–to which only the esoteric and educated few could penetrate. He questioned the truth of Genesis as literally understood: he explained away as symbols the unpleasant aspects of Yahveh's (Jehovah) dealings with Israel; and he dismissed as legends such stories as that of Satan taking Jesus up to a high mountain and offering him the kingdoms of the world. (The Story Of Civilization, Vol. III; p.614)

Thus Origen held to this same doctrine as proclaimed by the heresy of Marcion.

Further, Durant quotes Origen as saying, "Who is so foolish as to believe that God, like a husbandman, planted a garden in Eden, and placed in it a tree of life. . .so that one who tasted of the fruit obtained life?" (Ibid., p. 614).

Additional doctrines of Origen can be seen in the following quotations from his work, The Fundamental Doctrines. As with Clement, the citations come form Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers.

Jesus Christ: "Secondly, that Jesus Christ Himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creatures; and after He had ministered to the Father in the creation of all things,–for through Him were all things made."(p. 191). Thus Christ is a created being. This follows the teachings of the Gnostics, the Docetics, and is seen today in the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"For it is just as unsuitable to say that the Son is able to see the Father, as it is unbecoming to suppose that the Holy Spirit is able to see the Son. It is one thing to see, another to know. To see and to be seen belongs to bodies. To know and to be known belongs to an intellectual being. That, therefore, which is proper to bodies, is not to be attributed to either the Father or to the Son; but that which pertains to deity is common to the Father and the Son." (p. 193). Again, the influence of Gnosticism can be seen in this citation. This is the same heresy which John warns against in both 1st and 2nd John.

The Holy Ghost: "Third, they handed it down that the Holy Spirit is associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son. In His case, however, it is not clearly distinguished whether or not He was born or even whether He is or is not to be regarded as a Son of God." (p. 191). Thus, the Holy Ghost becomes one of the aeons of Gnosticism.

Salvation: "After these points, it is taught also that the soul, having a substance and life proper to itself, shall, after its departure from this world, be rewarded according to its merits. It is distend to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness, if its deeds shall have procured this for it, or to be delivered up to eternal fire and punishment, if the guilt of its crimes shall have brought it down to this." (p. 191). This is teaching another gospel (Gal. 1:8) which claims salvation by works.

Restoration from Eternal Fire: "Now let us see what is meant by the threatening with eternal fire. . .It seems to be indicated by these words that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire and is not plunged into some fire which was kindled beforehand by someone else or which already existed before him. . .And when this dissolution and tearing asunder of the soul shall have been accomplished by means of the application of fire, no doubt it will afterwards be solidified into a firmer structure and into a restoration of itself." (p.196). Much like the teachings of Mormonism, Origen believed in restoration for those in eternal fire (hell).

The Sun and Stars: "In regard to the sun, however, and the moon and the stars, as to whether they are living beings or are without life, there is not clear tradition." (p. 192). Again, early Mormonism taught that the planets, moons, and stars were alive.

Here is a man of questionable doctrine. This is not a matter if differing interpretations of scriptures; this is a matter of false teaching. Like the current teaching of the Watchtower, Origen believed in the dualistic nature of Jesus Christ. Like the teachings of the Mormons, Origen believed in a restoration for those in hell, and wonders if the sun, stars, and moon have life. If someone had the beliefs of Origen, we surely would not be content to have him revising or editing our Bibles. Yet this is what has happened. And, if one does not believe that personal doctrine will interfere with translation, make a close examination of the NWT produced by the Watchtower. Or, for that matter, why do we classify translations of the Bible as *liberal* and *conserverative?* Does this not show that theological bias still enters into the process of current translations of the Bible? If it does so today, then it did so in the days of Origen as well.

Origen's position as a textual critic is unquestionable. Not only because of the Hexapla, but because of his many scriptural quotations. Origen was one of the most prolific writers of his day, writing over 6,000 items and books. In these he makes almost 18,000 quotations and allusions from the New Testament. His citations are both Alexandrian and Western in nature. Dr. Aland shows that Origen's scriptural citations are mostly Alexandrian just like modern translations of the Bible are (The Text of the Church, p. 139).

Further, we can see the influence Origen had on other manuscripts. One of the subscriptions in Codex Sinaiticus (which we discussed in lesson two, and will expand on later in this lesson) states, "Taken and corrected according to the Hexapla of Origen. Antonius collated: I, Pamhilus, corrected." (Souter, The Text and Canon of the New Testament, p.23). Pamhilus, along with Eusebius, was a disciple of Origen. Therefore, we can see the influence Origen had on Codex Sinaiticus as stated in a footnote of that codex.

EUSEBIUS (263-340 AD)

Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea, was a church historian and textual critic who was responsible for writing the Ecclesiastical History of the church in 325 AD. His work provides us with many accounts of what was occurring in the early church, and especially during the canonization of Scripture. However, as noted by Historian Will Durant, Eusebius sometimes glossed over some facts, as he did in his work on the Life of Constantine. Durant calls it, "honest dishonesty" (The Story of Cilvilzation, Vol. III; p.663) and says, "One would never guess from this book that Constantine had killed his son, his nephew, and his wife." (Ibid.) Additionally, Durant states that, "Some exaggeration may have crept into the report" (Ibid., p. 649) concerning Eusebius' account of early Christian martyrs. For example, in recording the martyrdom of Polycarp, Eusebius states that when Polycarp was stabbed that, "there came out a dove" from the wound.

He also produced a form of the Gospels dividing them into paragraphs and numbering them for cross-reference (they were not divided as we have verse and chapter divisions today in our Bibles, but did provide a basis of division). Concerning the canon of Scripture, Eusebius questioned the authencity of James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and the book of Jude. In regard to 2 Peter, he noted, "But the so-called second Epistle we have not received as canonical, but nevertheless it has appeared useful to many" (Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I; p. 193). To Eusebius, these scriptures were good books, but not inspired.

Emperor Constantine ordered Eusebius to produce fifty copies of the Bible. Constantine stated these copies were to "be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner" (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 181). Some have suggested that the famous manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were two of these fifty copies, and these two manuscripts provide the basis of many of the changes in modern translations today. This was the view of Tischendorf, Hort, and Souter as they comment on the subject. If this is true, than Eusebius not only produced the famous Alexandrian manuscripts, but also advocated a text type that supports this same line of manuscripts. And from the many citations of Eusebius, it is certain that he did favor the Alexandrian family.

Eusebius was influenced by Origen of Alexandria. He and Pamphilus "founded at Caesarea a library of biblical and patristic writings on papyrus rolls, the nucleus of which consisted of Origen's voluminous writings, especially his editions and interpretations of biblical books." (Souter, The Text and Canon of the New Testament, p. 23). Pamphilus was educated at Alexandria and was a disciple of Origen; Eusebius was Pamphilus' "pupil and protege" (Ibid. p.84). No doubt, the views and textual changes of Origen found their way into the textual work of Eusebius.

JEROME (340-420 AD)

Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus, known to us as St. Jerome, was responsible for producing the Latin Vulgate. Pope Damasus requested Jerome to produce a new Latin Version of the Old and New Testament in 383 AD. Reluctantly, Jerome agreed knowing that his version would not be welcomed considering that Christendom had already begun to divided itself in regard to which line of manuscript, and which translation, best reflected the original autographs. In 405 AD Jerome finished the Latin Vulgate and gave the Roman Catholic Church its official Latin Bible.

Most textual scholars believe that Jerome revised the Old Latin manuscripts according to his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. (Jerome was one of the first scholars to be fluent in both Biblical languages). However, we do not possess many Latin versions which predate the Vulgate of Jerome and what we do have are fragmentary. As illustrated in the citations of Tertullian, Alexander Souter wrote, "It is perfectly clear from references in Tertullian, who wrote at Carthage (mainly in Latin, but also in Greek) between AD 195 and 218, that Latin translations of at least some parts of Scripture existed in his time." (The Text and Canon of the New Testament, p.35). The vast majority of Old Latin manuscripts which we now possess were written after the Vulgate and are divided into two groups, African and European.

Jerome was influenced by the work of Eusebius. Again, Souter notes, "It would seem, therefore, that we must look to Egypt for the origin of (Codex Sinaiticus) also. St. Jerome at Bethlehem had a MS.(i.e. manuscript) closely related to (Sinaiticus), in St. Matthew's Gospel, as we learn from his references in his commentary on that Gospel." (Ibid., p. 23). Sir Frederic Kenyon agrees and adds, "[Jerome] did so with reference to the oldest and best Greek manuscripts he could find, most of which seem to have belonged to what we have called the Alexandrian family. Indeed, the Codex Sinaiticus is the Greek manuscript which most conspicuously agrees with the Vulgate." (The Story of the Bible, p. 110).

It should be noted, however, that Jerome was more willing to reach a compromise and not make as many changes to the text as one finds in the Alexandrian line. Kenyon continues and notes, "Jerome, however, more cautious than our own Revisers (i.e. the RV of 1881) was sparing in his alterations; he tells us himself that he often left passages untouched which he might have corrected, in order to preserve the familiar form, and only made changes where he thought them material." (Ibid.) This would account for several verses in the Vulgate which follow the Traditional text instead of the Alexandrian. This is also noted by Dr. Edward F. Hills in his book, The King James Version Defended, regarding the Vulgate as a possible "movement toward the Traditional (Byzantine) Text" (p.187).

One thing is certain; the Latin Vulgate of Jerome became the standard Bible of the Roman Catholic Church and remained so for centuries. It is a clear connection between the Alexandrian line of manuscripts and the Westcott and Hort theory of textual criticism which will be discussed shortly. Despite that it sometimes reads in favor of the Traditional text, it is an early official translation which supported the Alexandrian line, and only agrees with the Traditional text as a compromise. In 1546 at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church made the Vulgate the official Bible of Catholicism. As far as the Catholic Church was concerned, there was therefore no need for additional textual studies or translations in the language of the people. This was a Latin Church and it had its Latin Bible with the mass in Latin. For the centuries that followed, all that was necessary was the Vulgate. And this remained the position of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1960's with the Second Vatican Council.

TISCHENDORF (1815-1874 AD)

Constantin von Tischendorf is responsible for providing the Protestant world with two of the oldest known uncials, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. These two manuscripts date somewhere between 325-350 AD. In lesson two we briefly discussed the contents of these two manuscripts. It is important to understand that both Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are two of the best examples of the Alexandrian line of manuscripts, and are responsible for a number of changes found in modern versions of the Bible. "These two manuscripts formed the basis of the text prepared by the 19th century scholars Westcott and Hort, and the parallel text used by the editors of the Revised Version." (Eerdmans' Handbook to the Bible, p.73). Tischendorf, along John Anthony Hort and later Alexander Souter, believed these two codices to be part of the 50 scriptures ordered by Constantine and produced by Eusebius.

Tischendorf "edited more New Testament documents and more editions of the New Testament than any other scholar (of his day)" (Souter, The Text and Canon of the New Testament, p.102). By the age of twenty-nine, he had already produced three editions of the Greek New Testament. Believing the Alexandrian line of manuscripts reflected the better readings, Tischendorf set off in search for additional manuscripts.

In 1844 he visited the monastery of St. Catherine located at Mt. Sinai. While there he "saw in a basket a number of leaves of vellum with fine and obviously very early uncial writing on them, which he was informed were about to be destroyed, as many similar leaves had already been." (Kenyon, The Story of the Bible, pp. 57-58). He was allowed to keep forty-three leaves which he noted were from the Greek Septuagint. He recognized that these were of the same line as Codex Alexandrinus, but about a hundred years older then that manuscript. A second visit to the monastery occurred in 1853 with nothing found. However on his third visit, in 1859, on the last night of his stay, Tischendorf was shown the codex which has come to be known as Sinaiticus. He was denied custody of the manuscript at that time. He went to Cairo to speak to the Superior who granted him the codex. A camel-rider was sent to the monastery and retrieved the manuscript, but it was not until nine months later, after Tischendorf paid a good sum, that he was given the codex. As the student recalls, Sinaiticus contains over half of the Old Testament and all of the New except for large passages such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, along with several other verses as demonstrated in lesson three. It has the Old Testament Apocrypha laced within it as scripture and the New Testament Apocrypha books of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, also listed as inspired scripture.

Codex Vaticanus, which was known to have been in the Vatican Library since 1475, receives its name because it is the property of the Vatican. No Protestant minister or scholar was permitted to view this codex for four hundred years until a facsimile was produced by Rome in 1890. There were two exceptions to this rule. They are S.P. Tregelles, who viewed it in 1845 and reproduced a memorized copy of it. And Constantin Tischendorf who viewed it between 1843 and 1866. Vaticanus is missing Genesis 1:1-46:28; 2 Kings 2:5-7,10-13; Psalm 106:27-138:6; Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; and Hebrews 9:14 to the end of Revelation. Both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are of the Alexandrian line of manuscripts.


Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) produced a Greek New Testament in 1881 based on the findings of Tischendorf. This Greek NT was the basis for the Revised Version of that same year. They also developed a theory of textual criticism which underlined their Greek NT and several other Greek NT since (such as the Nestle's text and the United Bible Society's text). Greek New Testaments such as these produced the modern English translations of the Bible we have today. So it is important for us to know the theory of Westcott and Hort as well as something about the two men who have so greatly influenced modern textual criticism.

In short, the Westcott and Hort theory states that the Bible is to be treated as any other book would be. Sir Frederic Kenyon sets forth the idea as follows:

Where alternative reading exist he (i.e. the textual scholar) will therefore tend to choose the harder rather than the easier, the shorter rather than the longer, the reading that differs from that in another Gospel rather than one which coincides; because, if alteration has taken place, it is likely to have been in the direction of the easier, longer, and harmonized readings. Such seems in particular to be the character of the Alexandrian text. (The Story of the Bible, p.111).

The Bible is therefore looked upon as a naturalistic book without Divine intervention preserving the text from corruption. In fact, according to Kenyon, where the text does not harmonize with the rest of the Bible is probably the correct reading. In such logic we can see the seeds of humanism replacing the spirituality of the Bible.

Westcott and Hort believed the Greek text which underlined the KJV was perverse and corrupt. Hort called the Textus Receptus vile and villainous (Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Vol. I, p.211). They believed the Traditional text did not exist until the fourth century and was created by Lucian of Antioch as an act of the Church council to unify the Western and Alexandrian line of manuscripts. This mixing of the two lines and filling them with additional texts is called conflation. The manuscripts of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are considered neutral by Westcott and Hort as stated in their book, The New Testament in the Original Greek. So, according to this theory, the text of the KJV is conflated by using both the Western and Alexandrian line, and adds to the Bible with its own additions. The manuscripts of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which is suppose to be a neutral text, would reflect what the original autographs said.

There are several problems with the theory. First, as will be seen [in Lesson Five], many of the early Church Fathers' citations reflect the Traditional text with the fuller readings long before the forth century. Second, there is no evidence that there ever was a council or even a conference of scholars in Antioch to produce this "conflated" text. Even Kenyon, who supports modern versions, wrote, "We know the names of several revisers of the Septuagint and Vulgate, and it would be strange if historians and Church writers had all omitted to record or mention such an event" (Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, p.302). Thirdly, since God has told us that we are not to add to His word, it would be a strange thing indeed for Him to support a Greek line of manuscripts and bless an English translations of the Bible that added to His word. Yet the line of manuscripts which Bible-believing Christians have read, used, and believed for almost two thousand years is of the Traditional text. And no English translation has been so greatly used and blessed by God as the KJV has. If the KJV has so grossly added to the word of God as claimed by Westcott and Hort, why has God blessed it so richly for the past 400 years? Additionally, if Westcott and Hort are the fathers of modern textual criticism and the restorers of the true text, should we not know something of their beliefs to see if they are consistent with scripture? This would be harmonious with the teaching found in Matthew 7:17.


"I reject the word infallibility of Holy Scriptures overwhelmingly." (Westcott, The Life and Letters of Brook Foss Westcott, Vol. I, p.207).

"Our Bible as well as our Faith is a mere compromise." (Westcott, On the Canon of the New Testament, p.vii).

"Evangelicals seem to me perverted. . .There are, I fear, still more serious differences between us on the subject of authority, especially the authority of the Bible." (Hort, The Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Vol. I, p.400)

Dr. Wilbur Pickering writes that, "Hort did not hold to a high view of inspiration." (The Identity of the New Testament Text, p.212)

Perhaps this is why both the RV (which Westcott and Hort helped to translate) and the American edition of it, the ASV, translated 2 Tim. 3:16 as, "Every scripture inspired of God" instead of "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," (KJV).

Deity of Christ:

"He never speaks of Himself directly as God, but the aim of His revelation was to lead men to see God in Him." (Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, p. 297).

"(John) does not expressly affirm the identification of the Word with Jesus Christ." (Westcott, Ibid., p. 16).

"(Rev. 3:15) might no doubt bear the Arian meaning, the first thing created.<<(Hort, Revelation, p.36).

Perhaps this is why their Greek text makes Jesus a created god (John 1:18) and their American translation had a footnote concerning John 9:38 "And he said, Lord I believe and he worshipped him." which said, "The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature, as here, or to the Creator." Thus calling Christ "a creature."


"The thought (of John 10:29) is here traced back to its most absolute form as resting on the essential power of God in His relation of Universal Fatherhood." (Westcott, St. John, p. 159).

"I confess I have no repugnance to the primitive doctrine of a ransom paid to Satan. I can see no other possible form in which the doctrine of a ransom is at all tenable; anything is better than the doctrine of a ransom to the father." (Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter 1:1-2:17, p. 77).

Perhaps this is why their Greek text adds "to salvation" in 1 Peter 2:2. And why their English version teaches universal salvation in Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men," (ASV).



"(Hell is) not the place of punishment of the guilty, (it is) the common abode of departed spirits." (Westcott, Historic Faith, pp.77-78).

"We have no sure knowledge of future punishment, and the word eternal has a far higher meaning." (Hort, Life and Letters, Vol. I, p.149).

Perhaps this is why their Greek text does not have Mark 9:44, and their English translation replaces "everlasting fire" [Matt. 18:8] with "eternal fire" and change the meaning of eternal as cited by Hort in the above quote.


"No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history–I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did." (Westcott, cited from Which Bible?, p. 191).

"But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with. . .My feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable." (Hort, cited from Which Bible?, p. 189)


"I wish I could see to what forgotten truth Mariolatry (the worship of the Virgin Mary) bears witness." (Westcott, Ibid.)

"The pure Romanish view seems to be nearer, and more likely to lead to the truth than the Evangelical." (Hort, Life and Letters, Vol. I, p. 77)

In defending Westcott and Hort, James R. White writes:

Anglican piety, especially in the context of the times in which Westcott and Hort lived, provided all sorts of ammunition for demonstration that neither of these men was a fundamentalist Baptist, a point that Westcott and Hort would certainly have admitted. The fact that the KJV was translated by 'baby-sprinkling' Anglicans does not seem to bother those who bring up Westcott and Hort, however." (The King James Only Controversy, pp. 122-123 fn).

It is one thing to have doctrinal differences on baby-sprinkling and perhaps a few other interpretations. It is another to be a Darwin-believing theologian who rejects the authority of scriptures, Biblical salvation, the reality of hell, and makes Christ a created being to be worship with Mary his mother. Yet, these were the views of both Westcott and Hort.

SINCE 1881:

James R. White is correct in stating, "modern textual criticism has gone far beyond Westcott and Hort" (Ibid., p.122). While Westcott and Hort may be considered the parents of modern textual criticism, we must also recognize the efforts produced by their children. We have had several Greek New Testaments appear, such as the Nestle text, Aland text, and the United Bible Society's text all with various editions.

There have been several findings since the discovery of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Perhaps the most famous deals with textual criticism of the Old Testament with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Concerning the New Testament there is the John Rylands fragments known as papyrus 52 (P52), a Greek manuscript which some date between 117 and 138 AD. They were discovered in Egypt and contain five verses from the gospel of John. They now reside at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty provided several papyrus manuscripts known as P45, P46, and P47. They date to around 250 AD or later and are a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings. Also we have the findings of M. Martin Bodmer with P66, P72, and P75. These also date to around the same time as the Beatty manuscripts and have a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings. Although with both, there are times when these papyrus "shows frequent independence" (A General Introduction to the Bible, p.270) and have Traditional text readings in them. Dr. Wilbur N. Pickering has provided us with statistical evidence by quoting Dr. G. D. Fee findings, which show that these manuscripts do support the Traditional line at times and stand in opposition to the Western and Alexandrian, information which the modern textual scholar somehow forgets to provide us with.

Pickering notes a comparison of John 1-14 and states, "P66 agrees with the TR (i.e. the Textus Receptus Greek text) 315 times out of 663 (47.5%), with P75 280 out of 547 (51.2%)" (The Identity of the New Testament Text, p. 56). He also noted that out of 43 places where all these manuscripts have the same passages of scripture, P45 agreed with the Traditional text 32 times, P66 agreed 33 times, and P75 agreed 29 times (Ibid. p. 55). This being the case, these manuscripts are a mixture of textual families.

Modern scholars are quick to point to these manuscripts as proof that the Alexandrian line is the oldest and closest to the original autographs. However, this is no surprise to the Bible-believing student as we are aware that corruption of scripture date much earlier then 200 AD. As stated at the beginning of this lesson, even at the time of the Apostles, there were those who sought to corrupt the word of God. All these Greek manuscripts mentioned were discovered in Egypt and have more to do with Clement of Alexandria and Origen than the original autographs, and they show how textual critics of the second and third century were willing to alter the word of God.

We have now discussed the line which has produced the modern versions of the Bible. In our next lesson we will do the same with the line that produced the Authorized King James Bible of 1611. It will then be left to the student to decide which tree he or she will partake when digesting God's infallible Word.


One student writes concerning the difference in readings between the KJV and the NIV in Romans 9:5.

"Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." (KJV).

"Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." (NIV).

The question had to do with which one is the better translation. Some, such as D. A. Carson (The King James Version Debate, p.64) and James R. White (The King James Only Controversy, p.196) use this verse to show that modern versions such as the NIV have a stronger reference to the Deity of Christ than the KJV, because the NIV claims Christ is "God over all" while the KJV says Christ is "over all." Yet, the NASV reads much like the KJV in this passage. This is, therefore, a very weak argument expounded by these two scholars.

First of all, the Deity of Christ is firmly attested to in the KJV and lacking in the NIV in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Revelation 1:6. The passage in 1 Timothy calls Christ "God manifest in the flesh" in the KJV, while the NIV simply says, "He appeared in a body," leaving the reader to guess who the He is. The same is true with the passage in Revelation. The KJV says "unto God and his Father" thus clearly calling Christ God, for who is the Father of God the Son except for God the Father? The NIV, like all other modern versions, reads, "to serve his God and Father," thus removing the Deity of Christ in this passage altogether. And, of course, there is the proof text for the doctrine of the Trinity as found in 1 John 5:7, which is omitted in the NIV. "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." All the NIV has in this verse is, "For there are three that testify:" and then footnotes the reference to the Trinity questioning its validly by stating, "Late manuscripts of the Vulgate (read)" and then quotes the verse followed with, "not found in any Greek manuscripts before the sixteenth century." (The student should note that 1 John 5:7 will be discussed in more detail in the following lesson).

Secondly, this is not a matter of textual difference, nor of translation since the text reads the same in either the Alexandrian or the Traditional texts. The Greek simply says, "o on epi panton Theos eulogetos eis tous aionas amen" (the one who is over all God blessed for ever amen). It is a matter of where one places the comma, and the Greek manuscripts, as the student will remember, do not have punctuation marks. It would be difficult to debate the cultist who denies the Deity of Christ using an NIV reading of Romans 9:5 based solely upon the placement of the comma, considering the Greek manuscripts did not have commas.

There is no question that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1). The Bible reveals God as one God in three persons (Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7). All three persons are one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity. Within the Trinity, there is not only unity, but order. Paul illustrates the headship of the husband over the wife by stating that, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." (1 Cor. 11:3) Thus the Father is the head of the Son, not the Son over the Father. Jesus even refers to the Father as "my God" in John 20:17. The Father does call the Son "God" in Hebrews 1:8, but the Father does not call Christ his God. In fact, the next verse says, "therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows," again calling the Father the God of the Son. They are separate persons in one Godhead and in Christ, "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col 2:9) Thus, there is an order within the Trinity.

If the NIV is correct in its translation of Romans 9:5, than Christ is God over all, including the Father. He becomes the God of the Father, and the order within the Trinity is broken. However, if Christ is "over all," then He is still God, still equal to the Father (Phil 2:6) but not God over the Father.

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