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© Elizabeth McDonald, 2003/2013,  Bayith Ministries www.bayith.org  email: bayith@blueyonder.co.uk  You are very welcome to make copies of this article for personal research or for free distribution by print or email, but please respect our conditions that the content remains intact (including this copyright statement); that no misleading impression is given that we are necessarily associated with or endorse the distributor; and that proper reference is made to the title and author.  Website owners are encouraged to link to this page, but you must not incorporate this article into your own website without our prior written consent.  Thank you and bless you.

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The New Testament
 ~ A Quickie History

by Elizabeth McDonald
March 2003

 

 

1st - 4th Centuries

The original New Testament autographs, letters written to specific individuals or assemblies by the Apostles or by scribes (Galatians 6:11, Romans 16:22), between 40 and 100AD, were circulated widely amongst the believers and churches (Colossians 4:16) [1]. 

The letters were written on Papyrus, "a fragile medium made of flattened, beaten reeds" [1], "in a particular kind of Greek called Koine Greek" [7], the common language "of most of the peoples east of Rome in the 1st century.  It was spoken in Israel along with Aramaic, and Jesus and the disciples probably used it in their dealings with the Gentiles" [1]. 

As each letter was circulated from church to church, the papyrus wore thin through repeated use, and so "the autographs had to be carefully copied before their precious words were lost forever" [1].  "Eventually each church had its own collection of letters" [7].  "As far as we know no originals have survived.  However, God has promised to preserve His Word (Psalm 12:6,7)" [2]. 

"Once the New Testament was accepted in the form we recognise, it was carefully copied and circulated as a whole.  Lucian of Antioch (240-312AD) made copies ... which were then accepted by the believers as standard" [2].  This New Testament, and Lucian's copies, were written on papyrus in Koine Greek as had been the original letters.  "There is no evidence that anyone at Antioch ever tampered with this text. ... The Antiochian text is also called the ‘Majority Text’ because 95% of all manuscript evidence supports this text. ... This text travelled from Syria, though the Balkans to Germany and, thence, to England.  It was the text of the primitive church" [7].

From Antioch the believers sent missionaries into Alexandria, Egypt.  At that time Egypt was the seat of Baal worship, and the theology of the early church at Alexandria was influenced by both Egyptian and Platonist thinking [9].  One of the Alexandrian church's most influential theologians was Origen (184-254AD).  A Gnostic and a 'proto'-Arian, Origen believed in a form of reincarnation, the ultimate salvation of all men (and demons), that planets and stars had souls, and that Jesus was a created being.  He did not believe in physical resurrection, and he did not believe in the second coming of Christ [1] [7].   

The Alexandrian church also started making copies of the original manuscripts, but with changes from the texts they had received from Antioch that reflected their own philosophical and mystical beliefs.  "This line of text was written on vellum in classical Greek. ... It is important to note the difference between classical Greek and Koine Greek for three reasons: (a) Since the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, a manuscript copy in Koine Greek is apt to have a closer reading, (b) There are some 500 words in Koine Greek which are used in the New Testament which cannot be translated into classical Greek, (c) The majority of early believers accepted manuscripts in Koine Greek in preference to manuscripts in classical Greek" [7].  The Alexandrian text is also called the Minority Text, because it accounts for 5% of manuscript evidence [7].
 

Constantine 

In 312 Constantine became Roman Emperor.  Ostensibly converting to Christianity, in reality he remained a worshipper of the sun god [9]; successfully achieving his desire to merge paganism with Christianity [8].  With the purpose of producing "a compromise Greek text which would satisfy all disputing parties" [2], he commissioned the bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius (260-340AD), to produce 50 copies of the Bible. 

Also favouring the corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts, and having previously used Origen's Hexapla to edit a version of the Old Testament, Eusebius again made use of Origen's writings for the compilation of Constantine's 'compromise' Bible [1] [3] [7] [8].  "It is generally supposed that codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus were taken from Eusebius' manuscript.  Another text, the codex Alexandrinus, was written in Egypt in the early 5th century" [2].
 

The Dark Ages (The Roman Catholic Church) [10] 

Then came Jerome's (c347-420) Latin Vulgate, written c 400AD.  "It was based primarily on the work of Origen and Eusebius.  For the next thousand years, this was the standard Bible of the Catholic Church" [7], which then outlawed all other Bibles. 

The Waldensians of Northern Italy, the Gallic church in France, and the Celtic church in Britain had already been making translations into Latin; theirs' from the Antiochian Greek texts "then universally known as the Greek Vulgate" [3].  Rome's new  Latin version, translated from the Alexandrian texts "was the chief weapon relied upon to combat and destroy the Bible of the Waldenses.  '…the sooner to shake out of the deceived people’s hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses' [from the Preface of the New Testament translated by the Jesuits from the Vulgate into English, 1582AD]" [3].  Their 'Old Latin Vulgate' now forbidden, these believers were persecuted and put to death by Rome for refusing to give up their old Bibles for Jerome’s new 'Bible' [8] [9]. 

During the following thousand years, ever more of the old Babylonian religion was incorporated into the Roman Catholic Church, until it bore no resemblance to the faith of the original believers [8] [9].  Truly were these centuries well-called 'The Dark Ages' as Rome hid the light of God's Word under the bushel of pagan darkness.  "Centuries of suppression of God's Word ... reduced Europeans to a race of ignorant, illiterate, backward people.  Vast areas of knowledge were totally lost" [8].

But the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, and the resulting flight of scholars with their manuscripts to the West was used by God in His infinite wisdom to open Western Europe to a 'Renaissance' of learning.  Once more the texts of the Antiochian New Testament were available to His faithful Church [8].
 

The Protestant Reformation 

"The time had now come for the light to shine, and God's Word could no longer be kept from the people" [8].  In the early 16th century, the Renaissance scholar Erasmus (1466-1536) classified and collated the streams of Greek manuscripts, producing in 1516 his Greek New Testament, known as the Received Text (Textus Receptus), "from the reliable Antiochian Greek texts that he knew to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God" [2].  Erasmus had access to Vaticanus but had rejected it [4].  His Greek text "is none other than the Greek New Testament which successfully met the rage of its pagan and papal enemies" [3].

"In 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door, and the Reformation was properly under way" [2], but the Reformers were not satisfied with Jerome's Latin Vulgate Bible, "and the Reformation did not make great progress until after Erasmus' Text had been restored to the world" [3].  Ten years later this was done.  With the aid of Erasmus' Textus Receptus, William Tyndale (c1492-1536) translated the Antiochian manuscripts into an English New Testament.
 

The Catholic Counter Reformation [3] 

In 1534 Ignatius de Loyola set up the Order of the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus).  Their raison d’etre was to stop the spread of Protestantism at all costs.  "Their chief thrust has been in the field of education.  While initially they confined themselves to establishing their own colleges for the training of members of their order, very shortly they were penetrating the tertiary institutions of secular and even Protestant organisations" [8]. 

"The Jesuits were committed to the restoration of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, which had been critically damaged by the Protestant Reformation.  Perceptively, these servants of Rome recognised that the strength of the Reformation lay in its acceptance of the pure Word of God as the sole basis of truth.  The Word of God was of only marginal consequence in the minds of the Jesuits, as compared with the maintenance of papal authority.  Thus, unlike the Reformers, the Jesuits possessed no conviction dictating to them that they preserve God’s Word inviolate. ... They discerned that a pure Scripture would destroy the power of Roman Catholicism.  No order of the Roman Catholic Church was better designed than the Jesuit, for the task of perverting Scripture" [8].    

So they "exerted every effort to destroy the authority of the English version of Scripture based upon the Textus Receptus.  They conceived a plan to destroy the value of Scripture and thus turn the English back to Rome; it was decided to concede the need for a Bible in the English language, but to base it largely upon the Latin Vulgate..." [8].  In 1582 the Jesuits translated the Alexandrian manuscripts of Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome into an English Bible.  It was completed in 1610, but the English people rejected it [9].  Called the Rheims-Douay Bible it is the current Bible of the Roman Catholic Church [2].
 

The King James (Authorised) Bible 

In 1603, King James I (IV) assembled a group of godly scholars to prepare a new English Bible.  Making use of the Jewish Masoretic Text for the Old Testament, and Erasmus' Greek Text with Tyndale's English translation for the New Testament, these scholars completed the translation of the Antiochian manuscripts into an 'Authorised' English Bible: the King James Bible in 1611.  The Alexandrian group of manuscripts from which the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate and the Jesuits’ Rheims Bible had been translated were available to the Reformers when they translated the 1611 Authorised Version, but they chose to reject them because, like Erasmus and Tyndale, they believed them to be unreliable [2] [4].
 

The 19th Century [3] 

"The Reformation was history, and Western man became ‘enlightened’; no longer looking to God as Creator or Judge.  This was the age of Darwinism, and Humanist Philosophy" [2], of Hegelian Dialectic, Rationalism, Marxism, Literary Higher Criticism, and the Oxford Movement (the attempt to bring the Church of England back into Rome). 

C1870 a revision of the KJV was called for, ostensibly to ‘update’ some of its ‘archaic’ words.  One of the most vociferous cries for ‘revision’ came from Cardinal John Henry Newman, prominent within the Oxford Movement and educated by Jesuits.  On the Revision Committee were two friends of his: F.J.A. Hort and B.F. Westcott [9]. 

Westcott and Hort were the most influential members of the Committee, and "at the forefront of this work, having produced their own Greek New Testament which favoured the Alexandrian manuscripts of Vaticanus (so-called because it was kept in the Vatican in Rome) and Sinaiticus (so-called because it was discovered in a monastery on Mt. Sinai).  These two manuscripts not only frequently disagreed with each other, but "also contained many obvious and flagrant mistakes" [5].  Nevertheless, Westcott and Hort convinced the committee that the text they had produced was more reliable than that which came from the Antiochian manuscripts.  From this Westcott-Hort text the committee produced, not an updated Authorised Version, but a new English version of the old Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate Bible.
 

The Present Day 

Largely because of the efforts of Westcott and Hort, "all later translations have made use of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and have thus brought back into use all the corruptions of the Roman Catholic Vulgate.  What the Jesuit attack of 1609 failed to achieve with the Rheims-Douey version had been silently achieved by Protestants themselves" [2]. 

"Westcott and Hort’s Greek New Testament was largely updated by Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland.  All of these men were evolutionists.  Westcott and Hort both denied Biblical inerrancy, were Romanist sympathisers, and promoted spiritism and racism.  Nestle and Aland were German theological sceptics.  So one of the serious problems with modern English translations is that they rely heavily on Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible developed by Romanists, liberals, rationalists, and evolutionists; none of whom believed in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.  Is this how God would preserve His Word?  Would He not more likely have used devout scholars who believed in the absolute inerrancy and authority of the Bible?" [5]. 

Worse still, recent revisions to the United Bible Societies’ (UBS) NT Greek text have been made at the request of the Vatican in the express hope of producing a “common version” acceptable to both Protestant and Catholic churches.  "This was proposed at the Driebergen conference in June 1964 and given official Vatican approval in 1965.  In 1967 the international Editorial Committee of UBS was joined by Carlo M. Martini, Catholic Archbishop of Milan.  Martini, a leading Jesuit and prominent Greek scholar in the Vatican, supervised a complete revision of the UBS Greek New Testament, incorporating more than 500 changes to the text.  

"The 3rd edition of the UBS Greek New Testament was published in 1975.  A new Latin Vulgate (the Alexandrian Bible of the Roman Catholics) was issued in 1979, and published by the German Bible Society, a member of the UBS.  This new Vulgate has a corrected Latin text which conforms to the UBS Greek NT (3rd edition). 

"The 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek NT was also issued in 1979 by the German Bible Society, containing a Greek text which is identical to that of the 3rd edition of the UBS.  Thus, many modern translations used by Protestants today are, therefore, based on a Greek text approved by the Vatican. 

"We have come full circle!  The corrupt Alexandrian version adopted by Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church was rejected by early believers, criticised as heretical by the Church Fathers, and dumped by the Reformers" [2].

But Protestants have "discarded the trusted KJV and now cheerfully use Bible versions which are based upon Catholic manuscripts ... It should serve as a red flag to Protestants to learn that virtually every one of the modern translations may be purchased at Catholic book stores, but not the KJV, so despised is this version by the Catholic Church" [8].
 

"Which Stream?

"Christians today, knowingly or unknowingly, are carried along by one of two ancient streams, Byzantian [Antiochian] or Alexandrian, and are faced with a choice: go on being swept along with the multitudes who use versions founded on a corrupted Greek New Testament – or swim against the stream by moving to, or by continuing to use, a version based far more closely on the time-honoured Traditional [Received]/Majority Text" [1].
 

"Does it Matter?"

"Does it matter what version you use?  Yes, if you want to have the Word that God intended.  Yes, if you want to avoid Roman Catholic interpretations of the text.  Yes, if you think confusion, doubt, and error are enemies of God – 'for God is not the author of confusion' (1 Corinthians 14:33).  God did not write several different versions of His Holy Word" [2].


A Remarkable Parallel

In the 4th century Constantine merged Christianity and paganism.  Many apostate doctrines entered the Church as a result and swathes of the Church descended into Babylonian darkness, viciously persecuting the remnant of faithful believers who held, at all costs, to the Truth.  “At the centre of this appalling demise of the Christian faith was the acceptance of a perverted Scripture: the Latin Vulgate Bible produced by Jerome in the early part of the 5th century. …

“The 20th century opened with most Protestants prepared to declare the Papacy to be the antichrist of Scripture.  They abhorred contact with Rome … [they] recalled the history of the Middle Ages and the price their spiritual ancestors had paid to bring freedom of conscience, the open Word, and the spiritual truth into the hearts of men. … 

“The churches of [today] are almost unrecognizable as the descendants of those [at the close of the 19th century]. … Never has the Protestant church been weaker. … ecumenism has become virtually a tenet of faith, as if God would approve the violation of doctrinal purity in search for a Christian ‘unity’ based not upon truth, but upon damnable error.  Ecumenism has become the ‘icon’ worshipped by blind Protestantism. … 

“As persecution followed from the perversion of Scripture and the subsequent introduction of apostasy in the 4th century, no other result can be anticipated from the adoption of an identical course sixteen centuries later, … And it will come, for God’s Word is sure. 

“Shall we return to the 4th century? Or shall we progress from the 16th, ever upholding God’s precious Word and completing the Reformation?  … [The answer to] this question is the preservation of the true Word of God” [8].

 

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This Quickie History was compiled, quoted and edited from the following sources: 

[1]   Which Bible Version?   –   E. Barkhuizen 

[2]   Are all Bibles the Same?  /  Question and Answer on the Bible Texts   –   Banner Ministries 

[3]   Our Authorized Bible Vindicated   –   Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Ph.D 

[4]   All’s Well… or Sound the Alarm?   –   Michael de Semlyen 

[5]   Should Creationists Abandon the King James Version?   –   Dr. Henry M. Morris 

[6]   Which Bible?   –   edited by David Otis Fuller, D.D. 

[7]   Perfected or Perverted?   –   Norman Ward 

[8]   Modern Bible Translations Unmasked   –   Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish

[9]   Sabotage?   –   Jack Chick

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[10]   Please note that my reference here to the Dark Ages specifically refers to the crushing of the knowledge of the Bible and the persecution of true Bible believers - and thence the light of Christianity in the medieval West until the Reformation - by the medieval Roman Catholic Church; and is NOT to deny or lessen, or shift the focus away from, the Dark Ages of culture, trade, science, etc, imposed upon Christendom by the waves of aggressive Islamic invasions during the same period which nearly destroyed Western Civilisation, until the Islamic jihadists were gradually defeated and driven back at the Battles of Tours (732) and Vienna (1683) and the Spanish Reconquista (c711-1492).

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[Minor Revisions: March 2013, September 2017]

 

 

 

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