The Majority Text

The Majority Text of the Greek New Testament is the very first book I wrote in English. I published it in 2014.

When I wrote my first paper, I mailed it to Dr. Wilbur Pickering who, to my surprise, wrote back to me shortly to tell me he liked my work. This gave me the excitement I needed to continue in my studies and writing about them. This book was written straight into English. The Italian edition of the book came later.

The above is the 2021 edition.

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Introduction

from the book

The Old Testament was entrusted to the Jewish nation. Abundant evidence shows that they did an excellent job. Paul himself witnessed to that: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of the circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1-2).

The witness of the Jewish historian Josephus is also worth notice. He writes: “… and how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation, is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willingly die for them.” Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, 8.42.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the eleven Qumran caves started in 1947 has proved the case for the faithfulness of the Jewish nation in preserving the Old Testament text. Before that discovery, the earliest complete Old Testament manuscripts available dated from the tenth and the eleventh century. It was easy for the attackers of the authenticity of the Bible to dismiss the witness of the Masoretic Text as unreliable, since objectively too many centuries separated that from the autographs.

Among the Qumran manuscripts was the so called Great Isaiah Scroll, which dates 100 BC. When compared to the Masoretic text, it showed that: “Despite of the fact that the Isaiah scroll was about a thousand years older than the Masoretic version of Isaiah, the two were nearly identical … The results obtained from comparative studies of this kind have been repeated for many other scriptural books represented at Qumran. The large majority of the new scrolls do belong to the same textual tradition as the Masoretic text. They are, however, centuries older and thus demonstrate in a forceful way how carefully Jewish scribes transmitted that text across the years.” James C. Vanderkam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, page 126.

Brotzman quotes Millar Burrows as he technically discusses the same witness, “The conspicuous differences in spelling and grammatical forms between the St. Mark’s manuscript and the Masoretic text makes their substantial agreement in the words of the text all the more remarkable… It is a matter for wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, “Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition.” Ellis R. Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism, A Practical Introduction, page 95.

The conclusion as far as Old Testament textual criticism is concerned is well represented in a simple fact stated as follows: “90% or more of the text … exists without variation…”, Ellis R. Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism, A Practical Introduction, page 23.

In this book we will focus our attention of the textual transmission of the New Testament text.

By the time the temple and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed (70 AD) the Jews who believed in Christ were a minority in the Church compared to the large number of Gentiles who became Christians. All the apostles died in the first century and the dawn of the second century saw Christianity as a definite, separate entity from the Jewish nation, which, through its leaders, reiterated the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah.

“knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will also be diligent to cause you to always have memory of these things after my departure. For not having followed fables having been cunningly devised, but becoming eyewitnesses of the majesty of Jesus Christ, we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:14-16)

The apostles themselves must have instructed as to how the Gentile Church should preserve the New Testament Scriptures. This must have given rise to what Pickering calls “the beginnings of a ‘majority text’.” Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text IV, p. 93.

Multiple, faithful copies, of Paul’s epistles, of the Gospels, and other New Testament books must have been made by the recipients of the writings themselves.

Paul openly wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). He also wrote: “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:16).

These statements and other similar found in the New Testament imply that an active work of multiplying and spreading of trustworthy copies took place at an early age in the Gentile Church too and that such activity was under apostolic supervision.

Even the New Testament made mention that heretics were many from the beginning. The Church of the first centuries was even more attacked by heretics than the Church of the centuries to follow.

Since faithful copies could not be used for their purposes, some heretics began to try to corrupt the text of the Greek Scriptures in order to be able to show copies that proved the case for their beliefs. Some would even dare write gospel accounts or other writings falsely attributing them to the apostles Peter, Thomas, James and even Judas.

Notwithstanding these vile attempts, the witness of the surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts shows evidence of the faithful hands of honest servants of God who produced faithful copies of the apostolic Scriptures down to the times of the invention of print.

Honestly, if evidence of the preservation of the Holy Scriptures is not seen in the wonderful agreement found in more than ninety-five per cent of the existing manuscript evidence, where else can we hope to find it?

On the other hand, we can’t fail to see the traces left by the heretics, as they attempted to corrupt the Scriptures, in the small number of manuscripts which disagree not only with the majority but even among themselves. We maintain that this is the reason that gave rise to the so called Alexandrian text, supposedly produced in Egypt, survived in some early, conflicting manuscripts and acclaimed today by scholars as the most reliable witness to the Greek New Testament.

On the other hand, the so called Majority text, found in the agreeing witness of the largest number of Greek New Testament manuscripts is there for all to see how God preserved the apostolic Scriptures through the Gentile believers as well as He preserved the Old Testament through the Jewish nation.

The goal of this book is not controversy, but at the same time truth must be stated. In fact, we firmly believe that Bible believing Christians need to know that not only God inspired His Word, He also preserved it and such thing is quite evident especially in the Majority Text.

I hope the readers, whatever their opinions about this subject may be, will understand my work as an effort in the direction of communicating confidence in the supernatural way God gave His Word to the man of the twenty-first century.

Please bear with me. Not being a native speaker I know my English is far from perfect. Please judge intentions and ideas more than language accuracy.

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

 

 




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