The Problem with Text-type

It has been fashionable among textual scholars for nearly three hundred years to refer to “text-family” as a distinguishing characteristic of manuscripts. There are two primary text-families that get the most print:

  • Alexandrian: best known by the three codices Westcott and Hort used in preparing their 1881 New Testament – Codices Vaticanus (The Vatican, Bibl. Vat., Vat. gr. 1209 or B), Alexandrinus* (London, British Library, MS Royal 1. D. V-VIII or A), and Sinaiticus (London, Brit. Libr., Additional Manuscripts 43725, or ?)
  • Byzantine: easily the most attested manuscript text-family. Of the 500+ manuscripts that contain a complete General Epistles, more than 350 of them are Byzantine in character.

*Technically, A is both Alexandrian and Byzantine because most of the codex is Alexandrian but the Gospels are distinctly Byzantine.

In addition to these two text-families, Westcott and Hort pioneered the usage of two other text-family names:

  • Caesarean: a very small group of Gospel manuscripts, usually accompanied by Byzantine epistles – Codex Koridethi (no shelfmark, ?)
  • Western: for the most part, an inferred text type that underlies the Old Latin translation and appears as part of manuscripts that are overwhelmingly of another text-type – Codices Bezae Cantabrigensis (05) and Claromontanus (06)

It is important to remember that these distinctions were made by Westcott and Hort, based on the textual theories originated by German scholars of the previous generations like J.A. Bengel, J.S. Semler, and J.J. Griesbach. Griesbach particularly influenced Westcott and Hort. Although other scholars like Caspar Gregory and Kurt Aland have attempted to develop other classification systems, the Westcott-Hort system remains in common parlance.

(The Gregory-Aland system is much more comprehensive, but not as user-friendly. The BOLD letters, numbers and Hebrew or Greek letters used to refer to texts are Gregory-Aland signifiers.)

The reliance on this two-fold or four-fold category system is one of the biggest obstacles to open dialogue about the issue of Greek New Testament texts. It is generally (and incorrectly) assumed by most writers that the Received Text represents the Byzantine text-type family while the Critical Text represents the Alexandrian; and that one or the other represents the ‘original text’ of the New Testament. But what if this was not true in Westcott and Hort’s day and it is not true today?

Ask a proponent of the Received Text which Greek manuscripts are the Received Text and he will give some kind of broad answer. The reason is that the term Received Text does not apply to Greek manuscripts. It applies to printed Greek New Testaments. The first appearance of the phrase textus receptus (a Latin phrase, and the irony of that fact should not be lost on you) was in the Elzevir brothers edition of 1633:

textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immulatum aut corruptum damus
literally “this text you hold, now by all received, in which no loss or corruption is given”*

*Strangely enough, almost everyone gives a translation of this phrase which ignores the word immulatum which I have translated as “loss” but I am not completely sure of the meaning.

The Elzevir edition was issued over a century after Desiderius Erasmus’ Greek New Testament which was the first to be printed (1516). In the time between Erasmus’ first edition and the Elzevir edition, there had been no less than two editions (1519, 1522) of Erasmus as well as one edition printed by Robert Estienne (1550) which included recently uncovered manuscripts such as 05 and a number of other fragments. There was also Theodore Beza’s New Testament, which included even more texts – two of his own discovery, namely 05 and 06, and Tremellius’ Syriac New Testament which had become available in 1569.

All of these, as well as the much later edition done by F.H.A Scrivener in 1894, are considered the Received Text by most advocates. They are also based very heavily on Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, usually his second or third editions.

There are two main problems with classifying these as Byzantine texts:

  1. Erasmus’ work was a by-product of producing a more accurate Latin New Testament. Although later he would develop his Greek text even more, he did his textual selections based on the Latin backward. This is why it was relatively easy for him to include 1 John 5:7-8 when he was presented with a late Greek manuscript that had it. He believed the Latin Vulgate was essentially correct; and if a Greek text could be found to ‘underly’ it, then it was accepted.
  2. These Received Text examples vary wildly among themselves, are the evidence of developing textual criticism themselves AND they vary greatly from the Byzantine texts that underlie the Greek used by the Orthodox Church at the time and now.

Open a Greek New Testament in an Orthodox Church today and you will be reading the 1904 edition prepared under the supervision of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 2007, scholars began work on a new edition of the Majority Text for use in the Orthodox Church. Neither of these are Received Text. They are distinctly Byzantine, while the Received Text is distinctly European.

Read that last statement carefully, because we’re about to get into the real problem with the Westcott-Hort text types that are so popular in pop criticism.

The Problem

The inherent flaw in the W-H text-type family argument is the assumptions that are made.

  • Assumption #1 – The Western Church used a Greek New Testament.
  • Assumption #2 –  The Alexandrian Church was distinct from the rest of Eastern Christianity. (This assumption goes both ways. The Critical text people argue that it makes the texts more reliable. The Received Text people argue that Alexandria was influenced by Gnostics and thus was compromised.)
  • Assumption #3 – There was some kind of standard text in the ancient church in the first place.

#1 – The Western Church did not use a Greek New Testament

Greek was never the lingua franca of the Western Roman Empire as it was in the East. The Western half of the Empire spoke and worshiped in Latin. What great scholars of Rome or Italy or Carthage wrote in Greek? None. The West was the Latin part of the Empire. It always was. It is pure conjecture then to say that the Church in the West used a Greek New Testament.

Odds are (and yes, this is a hypothesis and not provable beyond reasonable doubt) that the Western Church translated the New Testament into Latin as soon as they could. It is true that their Latin translations were of wildly varied quality, which was the reason that Jerome was commissioned with creating a standard Latin text in 382 CE. It was probably also the reason that Constantine commissioned fifty Bibles as the standard Bibles of the Church. It is highly unlikely that Constantine even spoke Greek since he grew up in the Latin west and was crowned emperor in York in Britain.

It is true that Constantine came under the influence of two Greek-speaking Christian bishops, both named Eusebius. And it is also true that one Eusebius of Caesarea wrote extensively in Greek. But let’s consider what Eusebius’ Church History really was. Read Eusebius and you find a justification of Constantine and his reforms. You find references predominantly to church leaders in the East who supported Constantine’s regime.

We know the Church in the west was not very large before Constantine. Christianity had not really taken hold in Italy except among the poor and some slaves. It is possible that Constantine’s mother Helena had some Christian servants, but for the most part his ‘conversion’ was an elevation of a virtually unknown religion in the West.

Let’s consider the Council of Nicaea for a moment. Eusebius himself notes the composition of the Council.

In effect, the most distinguished of God’s ministers from all the churches which abounded in Europe, Lybia, and Asia were here assembled. And a single house of prayer, as though divinely enlarged, sufficed to contain at once Syrians and Cilicians,Phœnicians and Arabians, delegates from Palestine, and others from Egypt; Thebans and Libyans, with those who came from the region of Mesopotamia. A Persian bishop too was present at this conference, nor was even a Scythian found wanting to the number.

Pontus, Galatia, and Pamphylia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Phrygia, furnished their most distinguished prelates; while those who dwelt in the remotest districts of Thrace and Macedonia, of Achaia and Epirus, were notwithstanding in attendance. Even from Spain itself, one whose fame was widely spread took his seat as an individual in the great assembly.

The prelate of the imperial city was prevented from attending by extreme old age; but his presbyters were present, and supplied his place. Constantine is the first prince of any age who bound together such a garland as this with the bond of peace, and presented it to his Saviour as a thank-offering for the victories he had obtained over every foe, thus exhibiting in our own times a similitude of the apostolic company. (Eusebius, Life of Constantine III, 7)

A historian looks at the composition of this Council and notices that the overwhelming representation, with the exception of some presbyters from ‘the imperial city’ and a representative from Spain, were Greek-speakers from the Eastern part of the Empire.

Codex Vercellensis (c 350 CE) is the earliest known Latin manuscript of the Scriptures and it is Veta Latinus or Old Latin. Jerome’s Vulgate was translated soon after, but Vercellensis shows surprising affinity with the text of Codex Bezae, despite being separated by centuries in which the Vulgate was supposed to be prevalent.

Hopefully, this helps us understand that the Western Church was a Latin Church. The distinctives that would later tear the Western and Eastern Churches apart were primarily linguistic and only secondarily ecclesiastic.

#2 – The Alexandrian Christians Were Not Just Gnostics

Because the Nag Hammadi documents were found in Egypt and Origen shows some thoughts that might be related to Gnostic dualism, there is a very prevalent belief that the Alexandrian Christians became Gnostics and stayed that way.

Aside from the fact that were some Gnostics in Egypt who appeared to have adapted their unique mythology to Christianity, there really is no evidence for a Gnostic influence on the Church there. The Nag Hammadi documents date from the 4th century CE, and even the earliest attest Gnostic Christian, Plotinus, dates from the 3rd century CE.

Almost all of the Christian literature dealing with Gnosticism and even proto-Gnosticism comes not from Egypt but from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  It is, in my opinion, quite a stretch to simply label Alexandrian Christians as gnostics based on such slim evidence.

#3 – Who Is To Say There Was a Standard Text of the Scriptures?

One of the most irritating things people do in the textual arguments is assume that Jesus commissioned a single copy of the New Testament from which all other copies were made. It is assumed, and generally confirmed  by our knowledge of the cultures of Palestine and Asia Minor during the Early Church Period, that Christian Scriptures were originally passed along orally. Although Paul’s letters were obviously written, they were still read to the churches and probably transmitted orally.

Scribal writing was a very expensive proposition in the first century CE. It required vellum or papyrus; it also required durable inks; and of course it required having an original to work from.

Somehow we have this image in our minds of Paul sending out messengers with dozens of copies of his letters which were then copied and distributed throughout the entire Mediterranean world. More likely, one copy was sent to a central location and memorized by preachers who then went to all the churches of that region and gave Paul’s words. It is hard for us to imagine in our literary world, but that is most likely how it worked.

The idea that there was a standardized ‘edition’ of the New Testament in the early church is not only unlikely, it is also unnecessary. It is, again in opinion, a projection of Western Christianity on an essentially Asia movement. We project a requirement for a written standard; but it is likely that there was not one.

What Does This All Mean for Text-Families?

It could mean nothing. Maybe Westcott and Hort were right. Maybe there really were two or four centralized regions where texts were circulated, although the evidence that sometimes we find Western gospels with Byzantine epistles and Alexandrian epistles with Caesarean gospels seems to indicate that this was not the case at all. In fact, it appears that written texts were simply not important until Post-Nicene Church. If that is indeed the case, then the pursuit of an ‘original’ text is an empty pursuit. There is no way to recover something that did not exist. The pursuit of a text which meets the artificial standards of modern academic rigor is a waste of time. [Changed 5/8/10]

53 thoughts on “The Problem with Text-type

  1. Damien T Garofalo May 8, 2010 / 6:16 pm

    Some intriguing thoughts here. No doubt that the New Testament’s transmission is nothing short of a miracle; whether it was oral or written notwithstanding, though it was probably a mix of both. If someone wants to believe that there was a single-volume original, a prototype of what we should/could have today, that’s fine with me. I don’t find it ‘irritating.’ However, I do see that the evidence is decidedly against it.

    Does that mean pursuing an original is an empty pursuit? I’m not so quick to say it is or isn’t. And when you say it did not exist, I think you’ll have to elaborate more here in the comments before you’re charged with all sorts of things. I can agree with that statement, provided I define it sort of like this: The scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, written down, and transmitted primarily orally as well as some early copies. All the canonical books of the NT did not come down in a single volume, in fact textual variation occurred while other parts of the NT were being compiled. So to me, I can say there was never a “complete original devoid of textual variation.” To say there’s no original at all, that no writings existed for generations, is not something I agree with – though I doubt that’s what you’re saying here.

    As far as text families/types, you’re certainly on to something, in that, it’s not as cut and dry as it is normally presented. Of course, there are solutions to why one may find a mss from one region in a totally different region, for example – travel. Still, I think the case is stronger to say that, generally speaking, mss fall into regional categories. Of course, your post isn’t a full refutation of that, but an expose of some problems, in which you’ve raised valid concerns.

  2. fundyreformed May 8, 2010 / 6:32 pm


    You raise some important questions and points. By the way, everyone, we’ve let Erik join us as a contributer. If you could, Erik, it’d be great to hear your story so we can know where you’re coming from, how you got here, etc.

    I appreciate your pointing out that the TR is decidedly different than the Byzantine text type. Now the TR editions don’t “vary widely”, they vary slightly, in hundreds of small places but not as wide as you make out. Still they aren’t identical with each other. Furthermore, many assume the 1891 (date??) text by Scrivener is the exact underlying Greek for the KJB but it isn’t, and Scrivener explains so in his preface.

    I agree that the Western Church early turned from the Greek to the Latin. But Paul did write in Greek, and Greek was a lingua franca. Now the fact that the earliest Old Latin text we have is AD 350 doesn’t say much. I’ve heard it’s assumed it goes back to AD 150. Historical evidence preserved at that date, belies the fact that other copies most likely predated it.

    Where I take issue is your insistance that oral tradition took precedence over written Scritpure. The papyrii we have which date back to AD 200 or earlier show that Scripture was used back then and copied widely. Furthermore, the Apostolic Fathers themselves wrote and quoted Scripture. If they were such a writing-averse culture, why did the church leaders bequeath writings?

    I believe that NT scholarship has moved beyond the idea of oral traditions being turned into Scripture much later. Instead they agree that their was a use of other written sources in the editing/authoring work that resulted in the Gospels.

    Also along this line, the Judaism which birthed Christianity was already a book-focused religion. This is clear from the emphasis of the compositional seams of the Tanak (as John Sailhamer points out ably in his recent work The Meaning of the Pentateuch).

    I’m not quite following you on your third point. Are you saying there is no NT original for us to try to recover? I’ll agree that fewer folk had access to the written Scriptures, but Paul exhorted Timothy to give attention to reading. Further, the Bible itself presents itself as that which is to be read and studied day and night for the purpose of blessing the reader, making him wise, and allowing him to receive life.

    I’d love for some further elucidation on point 3, brother. I do think much of what you have to say is important. I think the issue of mixed types could be traced more to the fact that books were expensive and were often pieced together from what was available. The locations in the names of the text types are more a convention and not necessarily a strict definition of where the text originated from.

    Have you read any of Philip W Comfort on textual criticism? I want to read more of his stuff, but he is an expert on the papyrii and has a believing and careful approach to the study from what I could glean from his New Testament Text and Translation Commentary. He argues that we need to be more radical in going back to the papyrii in some places, too.

    Thanks for contributing.


  3. Erik May 8, 2010 / 6:35 pm

    Damien, by ‘written standard’ I meant the hypothetical definitive original, monolithic manuscript of the whole New Testament that people on both sides of the text-family question seems to be trying to massage out of the texts.

    I would hypothesize a multi-site origin, that the individuals gospels were circulated regionally and put down within their regions and then transmitted to other regions, rather than there being a simple one-to-one relationship of “Mark predates Matthew” for example, you would have Matthew being transmitted to the region where Mark was originally written down and vice versa, thus sometimes Matthew was glossed into Mark and sometimes Mark was glossed into Matthew, and sometimes both were glossed by those who circulated Luke first.

    I don’t think the Gospels were primarily written documents in universal circulation. They were primarily oral statements, first by the apostolic authors and then when it became necessary and possible, they were committed to writing. I would not be surprised to discover that they were set down in multiple forms – all of which agreed substantially.

    The thing that irritates me about the “written standard” is that we are forcing our modern written culture onto a culture that was not dependent on writing. Even the Jewish TANACH was primarily transmitted orally. Probably only wealthy synagogues owned Torah scrolls. That was why rabbinical students were required to memorize the text.

    That is also why we have next to no manuscripts prior to Nicea – of the Greek or Latin versions of the New Testament. Only wealthy congregations would have been able to afford to have an entire New Testament written out for them.

  4. Erik May 8, 2010 / 6:45 pm

    Bob, I think my answer to Damien explains my third point a little further. I do believe that the Gospels at least were transmitted primarily orally and that while Paul definitely wrote his epistles, I believe they were primarily transmitted orally rather than copied out. The logistics of being able to create enough written copies for the churches of the Empire is absolutely staggering. Only the imperial government had the financial wherewithal to generate writing on a large scale.

    I agree that Paul wrote in Greek; but he wrote to the Eastern Empire with the exception of Romans, and even that is written to people from the Eastern Empire currently living in Rome.

    Your mention of the Early Church Fathers writing in Greek is important; but you will notice that most of them were again from the Eastern Empire. Virtually everything we know about Ante-Nicean Christianity comes from the Eastern part of the empire. Most of the church councils, even after Constantine, occur in the Eastern Empire.

    We have virtually no Latin Christianity prior to Nicaea, and after Constantine’s conversion the Latins are almost constantly at odds with the Greeks. And ironically, most Latin Christians that we DO have are not from Italy but from other provinces – whether it is Augustine from Hippo or the various writers from Gaul.

  5. Erik May 8, 2010 / 6:49 pm

    Also, I should add that I don’t put a lot of weight behind Eusebius. He was the official propagandist of Constantine’s ‘conversion’ and his Church History is most definitely a reflection of his patronage. In fact, most Roman history of Christianity is – in my opinion – essentially revisionist.

    I know that some writers adore quoting the Fathers and Eusebius, but I know Constantine’s machinations well enough that I have a hard time trusting anything written during his rule.

  6. fundyreformed May 8, 2010 / 7:02 pm

    I would still stress that the Gospels are books in their own right, and they reflect a careful authorial attention to detail. The message could have spread orally, and there may have been oral traditions used by the Gospel authors, but they bequeathed books to the Church, as did the fathers after them. I don’t think the Bible is accidental, or just an after thought. It was composed carefully, under inspiration, and is a glorious blessing to the Church. The Gospel message is transformative, but the Bible is the support of our faith, it’s anchor and basis for the church to ponder and study day and night as we wait for the return of Christ.

    • Erik May 8, 2010 / 9:06 pm

      Bob, I am going to disagree on one point. The Gospel IS the message of the Bible. Without it, the Bible is pointless.

    • fundyreformed May 8, 2010 / 9:15 pm

      I don’t disagree on that. I just think the proclamation of Christ (the Gospel), is expressed in the Scripture, it is the heart of Scripture, but it is a part of Scripture. I think I hear where you’re coming from. I just don’t want to shortchange Scripture’s role for us today, nor the importance of allowing the author’s of Scripture (all guided by the superintending hand of The Author Himself) to speak, and have us listen to them, as well as commune with God personally through His Spirit.

      I’m probably not communicating well or making sense. I may have some semiotic-effect happening too….

    • Erik May 8, 2010 / 9:22 pm

      Hey, semiotic is copyrighted!

      Seriously, I know that’s what you meant. I hope you guys all understand that I paint with a broad brush first and then generally clarify as we go along, and I am genuinely not antagonistic…so if anything comes off as antagonistic, it’s unintentional.

      If I start expressing myself using Germanic-based words, then I’ve become antagonistic. (It’s true. English-speaking people generally use French and Latin-based verbs and modifiers when they are calm but switch to the older, more basal words that came out of Anglo-Saxon, Danish and other German languages when they get flustered.)

  7. Andrew Suttles May 8, 2010 / 8:16 pm

    Eric –

    Are you saying that efforts at reconstructing the original text are futile? When you post your bio, would you include a personal belief statement regarding inspiration/preservation?


  8. Erik May 8, 2010 / 9:00 pm

    Andrew, you can read my bio and view of inspiration at I would say that trying to reconstruct some kind of absolute original text would be futile because I believe it is not outside the realm of possibility that there never was an absolute original.

    I hold a very high view of inspiration. I believe that to limit inspiration to one time moments when God hit the apostle with inspiration and to assume that God could not keep It inspired as it was transmitted, even orally, is not a high enough view. Why couldn’t God maintain the inspiration of the Gospels as they were transmitted? Why must he be limited to one man writing and then everyone else observing? Why must the church be entirely passive in the receipt of the Gospels?

    I would contend that such a view is formed more by the clerical views of the church in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, compounded by the development of modern rationalist rigor than it is by the testimony of the manuscripts and history.

    Why couldn’t God have inspired the Gospel, which was transmitted orally and then set down, as Bob pointed out, quite intentionally? Must inspiration only be the moment when pen hits paper and then everything after is a downhill slide from perfection?

    Anything expressed in my article and labeled as “opinion” or “theory” or “hypothesis” are just that. I’m not claiming absolute authority; and I am going to revise my conclusion a bit to make that plain.

  9. CD-Host May 8, 2010 / 9:49 pm

    Eric —

    Assumption #1 – The Western Church used a Greek New Testament…. It is pure conjecture then to say that the Church in the West used a Greek New Testament.

    Well actually no. The official statements of the western church were greek, for example the very first the Nicene creed. Further the spread of the Vetus Latina (original Latin bible) was well known it was used for those Latin speakers that did not speak Greek. The greek was always available and always preferred. In Caeserea we know that Symmachus LXX was in use. So I don’t think pure conjecture, every piece of evidence we have is consistent with the cliche of a Greek text in general use with specific translations for different local languages. The didache is in Greek. The Epistle of Barnabas appears in Greek in many western bibles. Shepherd of Hermes was composed in Rome and the Latin contains obvious translation of Greek expressions, as well as there are numerous references to the Greek version.

    I guess I would want to know what “Western catholic church” official from early on do you see as being latin only. I’m hard pressed to see a single example of this among any of church fathers much less a large group.

    Assumption #2 – The Alexandrian Church was distinct … Aside from the fact that were some Gnostics in Egypt who appeared to have adapted their unique mythology to Christianity, there really is no evidence for a Gnostic influence on the Church there.

    The first orthodox church father we have is Clement of Alexandria. He spends the entirety of Book III of The Stromata discussing Basilidis and Valentinus because of their level of influence. We have an entire documentary history of Sethian Christianity which starts 100 BCE. Since Moritz Friedlander in the 19th century the debate with Alexandria is whether Gnosticism emerged directly from Judaism in Alexandria but there is simply is no question that Gnosticism flourished most strongly there.

    Again I’d agree with the KJVonlyists 100% on the importance of Alexandria.

    Assumption #3 – There was some kind of standard text in the ancient church in the first place.

    I happen to agree with you that there wasn’t a standard text in the beginning and the “standard” is a conglomeration of other texts. That standardization happened for some of them in the late 2nd and early 3rd century. But most appear to have circulated in something close to their canonical forms fairly early.

    For example, I’d say the Pauline letters as they appeared in the Apostolicon are effectively the “originals”. We don’t have rumors of earlier versions with the exception of Galatians.

  10. Erik May 9, 2010 / 5:32 am

    Fair statements. I would highlight the following though:

    Nicene was issued from Nicaea and everyone who was there and reported on it said that most of the attendees were from the East. See Eusebius of Caesarea III, 7 for an example.

    Clement is late enough that I would say he was not foundational; and how did Sethian Christians date to BCE?

    By Western Church I mean specifically the Church in Italy and Europe, possibly also Hispana and western North Africa. My basis for the statement is that we know Christianity was FAR more prevalent in the eastern part of the Empire. We assume, based on what we’ve always been told, that Greek was the lingua franca of the entire Empire but I think history now shows that the two parts of the Empire (East/West, Greek/Lain) were distinct for their entire existence.

  11. CD-Host May 9, 2010 / 9:10 am

    Erik —

    In terms of the Latin / Greek conversation I think you are still mixing two things.
    1) Did the Western church recognize the NT (and likely the OT) as a Greek book during the 2nd-4th centuries?
    2) Did the Western church primarily use Latin and not make use of Greek.
    3) Did the Western church primarily use Latin for their bibles?

    (2) and (3) can be true without (1) being true. For example in the United states we primarily use English for our bibles and our services while still recognizing the NT as Greek. I agree with you Koine Greek was not in heavy use as you go to Italy or further West. But that’s different than ” It is pure conjecture then to say that the Church in the West used a Greek New Testament.” We have Western writers quoting the Greek NT in Greek and the Vetus Latina are viewed as translations not authoritative documents in and of themselves.

    As for the Sethians, that’s the point. You have a baptizing sect with a eucharist like ritual practicing a gnostic form of Judaism; that believes that Sophia (Wisdom) became incarnate in some sort of mythological prehistorical world where she suffered and died in fulfillment of the prophecies. All by around 100 BCE. This is certainly proto-Christianity. Around 100-125 CE the Sethians run into more mainstream Christians and the identification of the suffering servant and Jesus / Logos occurs and the Eucharist and baptism all get pulled together into gnostic Christianity. But what is great about the Sethians is that they are only Christian sect where we have a literary record before, during and after their involvement with early Christianity, because they ended up breaking with it. They are like a comet that gives us a snap shot of how the planets got pulled in to the orbit.

    • fundyreformed May 9, 2010 / 4:23 pm

      If you and Erik want to talk off-line, that’s fine. I don’t want our KJV Only Debate site bogged down with discussions like this about Sethian gnosticism and etc. This is a debate among professing believers interested in church history and textual criticism and the like. This isn’t a platform to spread your particular non-Christian theories.

      Thanks for understanding.


    • CD-Host May 9, 2010 / 6:38 pm

      No I don’t really understand. One of the ideas of the KJVonlyist movement is that Alexandrian texts are more “gnostic” than Byzantine texts. I think I’m entitled to agree with the KJVonlyists on this point and if asked explain why I think they are right.

      For example take this passage from David Cloud, “A.T. Robertson did not explain to his students how that heresy raged in Egypt in general and in Alexandria in particular during the early centuries following the apostles and that any manuscript from that part of the world and from that time period would naturally be suspect.” Where suspect here means disagrees with the TR. So am I allowed to agree with Cloud on that point, that “heresy” was the dominant form of Christianity in Alexandria during the 1st century and thereafter for quite a while?

      Either this form is open for debate or it isn’t. If the only positions that are going to be tolerated are those consistent with the ESV then there isn’t really isn’t much to talk about. I don’t think I need to defend my interest in Church history.

    • Erik May 9, 2010 / 6:38 pm

      Bob is the boss here at KJVO. If you’d like to carry on the convo, you can jump over to my blog

    • fundyreformed May 9, 2010 / 6:42 pm


      Defending a KJV Only idea about Gnosticism is one thing. Arguing that Gnosticism predates Christianity and focusing on that is another.

  12. CD-Host May 10, 2010 / 5:52 am

    Bob —

    This really has nothing to do with Gnosticism. That’s a distraction. We could be discussing Mark which the Magical Papyrii just as easily. I assume you agree that Jewish magical sects also predated Christianity. Then the use of magical terms of imagery in Mark starts indicating things about and the sect that wrote Mark.

    To quote Will Kinney, By the very fickle nature of textual criticism, the only logical conclusion to reach is that there is no fixed and infallible Bible text. This necessarily leads to the conclusion that there is no infallible Bible. Reality and maturity require that textual criticism face unsettling facts, chief among them that the term ‘original’ has exploded into a complex and highly unmanageable multivalent entity. Will is clearly a believer yet acknowledges that there are no originals determinable by textual criticism.

    I’m going to drop off. This is your blog you can do what you want. What you can’t have is an honest debate and a biased debate at the same time. Your position as several people have commented amounts to a refusal to allow the opposition to develop their theories. Generally on a debate blog you allow both sides to create the main postings, which isn’t done here. Here you have gone further and disallowed whole threads of arguments.

    This blog is loaded with claims about the “evidence” that are at best highly one sides and frankly I think are simply false. One of the core ideas of your anti-KJVonly position is that “the evidence” is not in any way inconsistent with a strong biblical faith. One of the ideas of the KJVonlyist is that the evidence is inconsistent with faith and that a neutral evaluation of the evidence will pull someone directly out of the fundamentalist faith; first towards modernism and then towards a whole host of heresies of atheism. Their argument is that one can see this quite obviously happening in real time to religious groups.

    I think looking at the evidence in detail is how one could decide whether they are right or wrong. I simply don’t think it is reasonable to simply assert that the evidence supports your point of view and then disallow conversation of what the actual evidence contains. Again and again this blog has had these sorts of assertions that the evidence provides a firm foundation for a right evangelical position and thus will allow this to remain stable over a long period of time, despite the evidence of what has happened to various societies within say 50 years once they adopt any sort of evidence based approach.

    So I think you need to look at this issue clearly. Are you going to allow pro KJVonlyist discussion in the comments or not?

    • JasonS May 10, 2010 / 10:14 am

      I think the issue is that there has been no demonstration of the connection between the gnostics and the KJVO issue. Perhaps you could show us in your previous comments something that would show that you did so.
      Maybe then Bob would allow the discussion as relevant??????

    • fundyreformed May 10, 2010 / 9:07 pm


      We are going to allow Pro KJVO discussion. We are not going to allow discussion that moves close to bashing historic Christianity. We don’t want to scare people away by focusing on such things here.

      You can discuss a gnostic tie in to textual variants if you want. But honing in on the gnostics as being pre-Christian sects that birthed Christianity, and arguing for late dates all the time on NT books is not part of our realm of discussion.

      We’ve allowed and interacted with your thoughts here quite a bit. We’ve just not been comfortable with this realm of discussion in this thread and a few in others, and want to steer the blog the right direction. One of our own contributors refuses to interact with you, and at least one reader has expressed dismay in finding out the true nature of the point of view that you embody.

      We have to set limits, and this is totally different than the reasons Will was banned. It isn’t a no pro-KJVO thing at all.

      You are spinning this to get your way or make us look bad, but we really are not out to give a platform to those views here. I’m sorry. You’ll have to respect that if you want to interact with us over here.



  13. CD-Host May 10, 2010 / 6:46 pm

    Jason —

    I think the issue is that there has been no demonstration of the connection between the gnostics and the KJVO issue.

    There are several connections:

    1) KJVO argue that earlier manuscripts, Alexandrian manuscripts are more gnostic in their orientation.

    2) KJVO argue that the manuscript evidence as it exists does not support orthodox Christianity but rather supports heretical sects, liberalism and atheism.

    3) KJVO argue that the Greek tends to lead to a gnostic interpretation and attitude towards scripture.

    4) KJVO quite often argue, like Cloud above that there are no “originals” the quest for originals is starting down an abyss of heresy.

    All 4 of which I agree with

    5) anti-KJVO argue that the manuscript evidence is unlikely to induce substantial changes in doctrine because it doesn’t differ much from the TR.

    Something I disagree with

    Anti-KJVO arguments tend to depend critically on an imagined history of early Christianity. KJVO can essentially take a Catholic position, that the bible as we have it today is a product of the church, rather than the church a product of the bible and thus not get caught in having to argue history.

    Once your argument does depend on history then of course the history of the early church matters and that means: mystery cults, Jewish gnosticism, Essences and later proto-Christian and quasi-Christian groups of all stripes become relevant. In other words the groups that wrote the books of the New Testament in their “original” or early redacted forms.

    Quite simply the history of the early church is relevant because the goal of this blog is to show that the manuscripts we have today are representative of the manuscripts that existed 200 years earlier than when they were penned.

    • JasonS May 10, 2010 / 8:00 pm

      I get what you’re saying to some extent.
      Here’s the rub with me, and I guess with Bob, now that this comes into view:

      “Once your argument does depend on history then of course the history of the early church matters and that means: mystery cults, Jewish gnosticism, Essences and later proto-Christian and quasi-Christian groups of all stripes become relevant. In other words the groups that wrote the books of the New Testament in their “original” or early redacted forms.”

      Do you truly believe that mystery cults, Essenes ( I think that is what you meant instead of “Essences”.), etc. produced the New Testament?
      If so, what about Irenaeus and Papias with their attribution of the gospels to the writers with whom we identify them?
      While I see where you’re coming from with your argument, I’m thinking that Bob is correct that a liberal/unbelieving/critical (in the negative sense) view of history is indeed not something that we need to deal with here. I simply don’t think that it will hold water, nor do I think it worth our while. This is a KJVO debate blog, not an apologetic for all of evangelical Christianity blog.
      Never the less, I think one well-worded response to me on the issue should clarify where you’re coming from and settle us for now.
      Thanks for taking the time to reply, and for understanding our desire to bring this part of the discussion to a close.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 7:47 am

      Jason —

      Do you truly believe that mystery cults, Essenes ( I think that is what you meant instead of “Essences”.), etc. produced the New Testament?

      No. I do believe however they and other groups produced earlier versions of many of the books of the NT. Let me give you a modern example the song Mack the Knife, where there is no dispute or missing links regarding the history. I have no doubt that Kevin Spacey sang the 2004 version. On the other hand the lyrics, music and style came from the 1959 Bobby Darin version. Darin’s version picked up its score and lyrics from the 1956 Louis Armstrong version. Armstrong’s lyrics came from the 1954 Blitzstein translation from the German and the score from that came from 1928 Bertolt Brecht lyrics. To Brechts lyrics were originally Kurt Weill’s score but Armstrong was familiar with the version as abridged by Ernie Kovacs. Going back further the idea for the song came from Harald Paulsen (also in German), and he was modifying a folk even that was based on a medieval song German song whose origins are unknown.

      So who wrote Mack the Knife? Clearly the “canonical” version is Darin’s but can I really talk about Bobby Darin who openly acknowledges his debt to Armstrong? Now if I start asking questions about what the song means I need to look at the context, the 1928 Three Penny Opera. But that’s a modified version of the 1728 Beggar’s Opera. Most of the ideas for “Mack the Knife” come from Gay’s ballad opera, and there is a more primitive version of the song there. But that opera’s lyrics were based on Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope’s play in 1716.

      Are those the original? Now imagine I asserted that God authored this song, based on historical events. Well the underlying historical events happened in the late 17th century and it was Pope and Swift who would have been inspired. Darin never claimed to be inspired….. Mack the Knife stabilized in the 1950’s. We have hundreds of records involving dozens or artists and million of copies of versions that agree on both lyrics, score from the 1950s and 60s. That doesn’t mean the two and a half centuries prior the song was stable.

      If so, what about Irenaeus and Papias with their attribution of the gospels to the writers with whom we identify them?

      That’s a long answer, in short what they are writing is propaganda not history. But people will often say that Bobby Darin or Louis Armstrong wrote Mack the Knife. Even though in virtually no sense is that objectively true.

      Papias is trying to back his sect in a fight with other sects (which even the canonical 1,2,3 John address). So he is trying himself as closely to Jesus as he can in arguing for the authorship of John. Despite the fact that his story and internal evidence contradict.

      Irenaeus is backing an entire vision of Christianity at total odds with gnosticism in the church. Perform a purge of a key sect that is undermining his philosophy of “One God, one Bishop”. I have long answer to give Darrin but I’d recommend Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Pagels who deals with why the church was introducing this history at the end of the 2nd century.

    • fundyreformed May 11, 2010 / 8:15 am


      This answers Jason’s question and is now the end of the road for this track of argumentation in this thread.



    • Andrew Suttles May 11, 2010 / 8:10 am

      1) “earlier manuscripts are gnostic…”

      Yes, KJVOs argue this, not really knowing what it means. They do this based on a choice set of texts, but as has been demonstrated, another choice set of texts can prove the opposite. There is no support for gnosticism in any of the GNT manuscripts.

      2) “…manuscript evidence …does not support orthodox Christianity”

      No it doesn’t and no they don’t claim this.

      3) “…Greek tends to lead to a gnostic interpretation…”

      That is bizzare. I would like to see where you come up with this.

      4) “…like Cloud above that there are no “originals””

      Cloud would never argue this.

      CD, you are completely misrepresenting the KJVO case to suite your own purposes. You are engaging in the same kind of argumentation that the KJVOs do: to grab onto any argument to support your traditions.

      Too bad the KJVOs don’t seem to be engaging CD on this issue.

    • Andrew Suttles May 11, 2010 / 8:24 am

      > “So who wrote Mack the Knife?”

      The reason you can trace out the ancestry of this song is because these earlier versions exist. Gnostic ancestors to the GNT Gospels do not exist and Gnosticism is not found in the NT.

  14. Damien T Garofalo May 10, 2010 / 7:41 pm

    CD, can you give a substantial example or two of #3? And let me frame the question if I may: stay within the realm of traditional Christianity, since you state your agreement with this argument of KJVO. Their contention is that gnostic interpretation infiltrates orthodox Christianity through the Alexandrian manuscripts.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 8:40 am

      CD, can you give a substantial example or two of #3? And let me frame the question if I may: stay within the realm of traditional Christianity, since you state your agreement with this argument of KJVO.

      Sure. I’ll stick to verses right out of Gail Ripplinger so that there is no question about claims this isn’t tied directly to the KJVO position.

      1 Tim 3:16 she gives an example of the primitive creed:
      He was revealed in the flesh, [vs. KJV’s God was manifest in the flesh]
      vindicated by the Spirit,
      seen by angels,
      proclaimed among Gentiles,
      believed on in the world,
      taken up in glory.

      The change in the later texts is clearly a move against the adoptionism in the original creed.

      Similarly in Acts 8:37 (again Ripplinger picked this verse) you see the addition of an orthodox creed to be baptized one must affirm belief in Jesus as the Son of God. (And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”), which is omitted in most manuscripts. Note the use of both Jesus and Christ as the Son of God. This one we have terrific textual evidence for, as part of the attempt to purge those who denied various aspects, we can in the manuscripts see the introduction of this new creedal requirement for baptism and we know when and we know why.

      Those Ripplinger’s examples which is about as pure KJVO as it gets.

    • Damien T Garofalo May 11, 2010 / 4:59 pm

      of course, what you’re saying, CD, and what the KJVO says are two different things with two very different conclusions. By “leading to gnostic interpretations”, the KJVO is basically bringing up the question in my earlier post:

      they’re not only concerned about the influences on the text, but the conclusions that are drawn from the text. And my question was, where do we find substantial examples of Christians who become gnostic, or even question the deity of Christ, on the basis of reading these textual variants? Isn’t it usually the case that heresy comes around, and the texts are used to support it later? Where are the gnostics who use 1 Tim 2:16 and/or Acts 8:37 today?

      Concerning I Tm 3:16, there’s no evidence of gnostic corruption, just assumptions. It is well known that much of the controversy revolves around the abbreviated form of theos, and the word, hos, which look very similar in uncial Greek letters, and it’s more likely a scribe mistook a theta for an omicron than it is some sort of gnostic conspiracy.

      Acts 8:37 may indeed be “the attempt to purge those who denied various aspects” and “the introduction of this new creedal requirement” (though I would argue that a creedal requirement was “new”), and I also agree that the textual evidence supports this (and consequently its exclusion from modern texts), but again, I don’t see the supposedly gnostic connection. It’s read into what we actually had. One can certainly, honestly say that even Christians inserted things into the text that, while not being heretical, are not original, without having to assert a sort of gnostic conspiracy.

      I don’t think either of your examples prove the point, and furthermore, I think you’re interpretation of the point (#3 specifically) is different from that of the KJVOnlyist.

      And in response to your comment below, as you’re saying that the non-KJVO actually has to look at the evidence, which you believe will only lead to your view of Christian origins, are you proposing that the only two possibilities for Christians are 1)stick your head in the sand and declare KJV only and 2) search the evidence and renounce traditional Christianity?

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 8:01 pm

      Damien —

      I don’t know of any modern gnostics that focus on these minor textual differences as reasons for their belief. Modern gnostics, like their ancient counterparts have their own holy books and read the protestant canon in terms of those books. They are interested in these variants as keys to better understanding their literature not the other way around. We aren’t disagreeing there.

      As for the examples you are now disagreeing with Ripplinger’s assessment of their theological impact. Which is fine, but I want to stop here and assert for the connection argument that once you disagree with Ripplinger you are at least proving my point that we are arguing the same thing.

      For Jesus to be revealed in the flesh is fully consistent with adoptionism, for God to be manifest in the flesh is not. If you want the textual critical argument that 1Tim 3:16 is not just a pen slip I’d say there is a pattern regarding adoptionism: Luke 2:33 Luke 2:43 Luke 2:48 Matt 1:16 John 1:13 John 5:16 Luke 3:22 Acts 10:37 John 1:34 Rom 1:4 Luke 9:35 1 John 5:18 Mark 1:1 Matt 1:18 1 Tim 3:16 John 1:18 Mark 1:3 1 John 3:23 John 10:33 John 19:40 Luke 1:17 Luke 1:76 Luke 2:26 2 Pet 1:2 Jude 5 Mark 3:11 Luke 7:9 Luke 8:28 Acts 10:28 1 Pet 5:1 1 Cor 10:5 1 Cor 10:9 Matt 24:36 Luke 2:40 John 19:5 Heb 2:18 Heb 10:29. That’s not coincidence that’s a pattern.

      As for Acts 8:37 the issue is whether the Christ and Jesus as separate entities that were joined. The formula in 8:37 is similar to the demand for a trinitarian baptism today. It shows that there was some controversy regarding the requirements for baptism. In other words there had to be somebody arguing the opposite case for this verse to be necessary. In and of itself that doesn’t tell you much but we do have writings from the period where the separatist anti-seperatist debate occurred and the whole list of anti-Seperatist corruptions: 1 John 4:2 Matt 12:30 Luke 11:23 2 Cor 11:4 Matt 1:16 Matt 1:18 Luke 1:35 Mark 1:1 Matt 3:16 Luke 3:22 Mark 15:34 Heb 1:3 Heb 2:9 Rom 8:341 John 1:17 Matt 16:21 2 Cor 4:10 Acts 3:13 AQcts 4:33 Acts 13:33 1 Cor 9:1 does paint a pretty clear picture. I’m not sure whether you want me to explain or argue based on your comments.

      Remember you asked for examples from KJVOnlyists. I’m not building Ripplinger’s entire book about New Age bible versions. My point was that she’s right these newer bibles do move in the direction of the new age.

    • Damien T Garofalo May 11, 2010 / 9:09 pm

      the pattern could just as well be orthodox Christians changing texts that appear to support gnosticism. in any event, it’s all speculative as to why these variants exist. Interestingly, the same means by which modern versions go back to calling Joseph and Mary Jesus’ parents are the means by which John 1:18 is translated as “only unique God” rather than “only begotten Son.”

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 9:58 pm

      Damien —

      I’m not sure what the difference is between “changing texts that appear to support gnosticism” and “changing texts that support gnosticism” is. But I’ll grant that, its harmless. Because you have just accepted a key point of the KJVO debate the Orthodox corruption of scripture. The KJVO argue the textual variants are not random scribal errors but rather there is a definite idealogical drift. The “further back” you go, the closer to the originals (as understood by the CT theory) you go, the more the scriptures support (or if you prefer “appear to support”) heretical forms of Christianity.

      These little variants do matter and they matter a lot. And as our knowledge of the texts get better and better we slowly crawl back through the years the texts are likely to appear to support more heretical views.

      You asked me a question above:

      1)stick your head in the sand and declare KJV only and 2) search the evidence and renounce traditional Christianity?

      I suspect by “traditional Christianity” you mean 21st century Protestantism, in which case I’d reject the label. I don’t think 21st century Protestantism is traditional Christianity but rather a fairly new religion built on older religions. Fundamentalism came out of the fundamentalist / modernist wars where neither side was all that interested in historical truth. The modernists of the 1890s were scholars, the modernists of the 1930s were egotistical politicians. Most of fundamentalism is a reaction to 19th century liberalism.

      For example traditional christianity is highly liturgical, strongly supportive of high church rituals and aesthetic beauty. Fundamentalism is suspicious of that sort of spirituality certainly not supportive.

      But excluding that point, the really good scholarship today is mostly evangelicals and atheists, I don’t see much good work coming from the liberal Christians. Fundamentalism as distinct from the evangelical right might be dying. Evangelicals are starting to continue the great work of the 19th century liberals. An attempt to reconcile the faith with history and science. Liberalism and fundamentalism both offered solutions that worked in the 1930s-1990s. Maybe something else will work?

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 3:56 pm

      Bob —

      I don’t think I’ve bashed anyone. I simply disagree with your theory of a unified Christian development. Am I bashing them when I disagree with their theory of Waldenses existing in the ancient world?

  15. Edwin Clive May 11, 2010 / 8:15 am

    Re #2 The Alexandrian Christians were not just Gnostics

    Erik says:

    “Aside from the fact that were some Gnostics in Egypt who appeared to have adapted their unique mythology to Christianity, there really is no evidence for a Gnostic influence on the Church there. The Nag Hammadi documents date from the 4th century CE, and even the earliest attest Gnostic Christian, Plotinus, dates from the 3rd century CE. Almost all of the Christian literature dealing with Gnosticism and even proto-Gnosticism comes not from Egypt but from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It is, in my opinion, quite a stretch to simply label Alexandrian Christians as gnostics based on such slim evidence.”

    Hans Lietzmann (History of the Early Church, Vol II, p. 274/5) says, that, to explain the marked gap in our knowledge of the first 100 years of Christian preaching – as it affected our knowledge of events in Egypt –

    “a theory has been advanced that . . . a Christianity flourished which was, later, felt to differ too widely from the ways of the church in the following period; in other words it was heretical. . . .. [Basilides and Valentine] were soon surrounded [during the reign of Hadrian and the early Antonine period] by a swarm of disciples and rivals. . . . Moreover, although the church repudiated the gnosticism which surrounded it in the Mediterranean world, that heresy continued to reverberate for centuries, particularly in literature translated into Coptic. . .. In addition, a thoroughly gnostic product, the “Gospel of the Egyptians” . . . was used rather than our four gospels. It follows that ”the Egyptians”, or more precisely, the Egyptian Christians, were gnostics The ”Gospel of the Hebrews”, which was also current in Egypt, was not less gnostic; it was cited by Clement and Origen . . . it is possible that it was used by groups of Jewish-Christian gnostics. All these facts support the presumption that in Egypt—similarly to Syria –Christianity took root at first in gnostic forms, and that the church catholic was victorious in this region only at a late date, and after a severe struggle with gnosticism.”

    Lietzmann was a Prof. Church History in the Univ. of Jena (died 1942). He says the great threat of gnosticism was theological. The fullness of the deity could not possibly dwell in Christ, as for gnostics he was only one of the lesser emanations of divinity in their schemes.

    Gnostics thus had a vested interest in diluting the strength of the testimony of the NT to the deity of Jesus. Many of the readings from Cod B and Aleph (and their allies) do have that effect. If they didn’t, KJV-lovers would probably make less fuss.

    • Andrew Suttles May 11, 2010 / 8:40 am

      So you agree with CD that early Christianity was Gnostic?

    • Erik May 11, 2010 / 12:24 pm

      What can I say, Edwin? I disagree with the distinguished professor except in his statement that it is a presumption.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 3:06 pm

      Edwin —

      Thank you. I think that proves my point regarding the tie in. I’ve never brought up Lietzman here, this author came right from the pro KJV side, Edwin of “The AV 4 Ever” blog.

      The guy who runs the “THEAV4EVER” blog does. Now just to demonstrate

      Lietzman holds that the NT is late in construction and the proper way to study Christian theology (as it developed) is through the liturgy where we have earlier works. His best studies who liturgical development of theology and then trace those through the NT works. So for example the charge of the “bloodless bible” (the original claim against the GNB) he would agree is consistent with the early texts, as he sees the Eucharist as originally being a bread rite alone (in the East) and the tie in to sacrifice / blood / wine being a later combination with Western rituals. Which is fully supported by the early textual witnesses as well as early the liturgy.

      He dates Christianity as a distinct religion to the period Trajan (106-117). I’d agree with Leitzman and Lietzman’s techniques. While I haven’t focused on the development of the Eucharist and sacrificial theology that was chance. The anti-KJVO case’s position that older Greek texts don’t involve a theological change would have been equally effective if I used Leitzman’s examples. And frankly, I’ll give Edwin a comment that now that I’ve thought about, he’s absolutely right those are terrific examples for Damien’s question. There were sects like the Collyridians (Arabia) who maintained a bread focus right through to the 5th century.

      I think Edwin meant what we wrote that in Alexandria, “All these facts support the presumption that in Egypt—similarly to Syria –Christianity took root at first in gnostic forms, and that the church catholic was victorious in this region only at a late date, and after a severe struggle with gnosticism.

      I think that proves the point that the KJVonly position regarding the theological “corruption” of NA27 bibles is supported by and moreover utilized by people making the case for studying early Christian literature as the key to understanding early Christianity and that these people in Alexandria were not by any remote stretch of the imagination “Orthodox” in their theology.

    • Erik May 11, 2010 / 4:29 pm

      All assumptions. Sorry, CD-Host. It is not a convincing case for me. There is nothing in your statements that presents new evidence that the Alexandrian church was Gnostic in origin. All it shows is that there were some Gnostic Christians in Alexandria. That means nothing. There were Arian Christians in Ravenna after Nicea. That doesn’t mean all Christians in Ravenna were Arian. The presence does not present a plurality.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 5:19 pm

      Erik —

      All assumptions. Sorry, CD-Host. It is not a convincing case for me. There is nothing in your statements that presents new evidence that the Alexandrian church was Gnostic in origin.

      I didn’t make a comprehensive case at all that the Alexandrian church was Gnostic, I’ve asserted it and presented a few points not definitively argued it. Edwin in this subthread cited Lietzmann who did make a case for some doctrines. And he did present new evidence in paralleling the development of the liturgy and the new testament which I briefly mentioned.

      If you mean my initial comments you didn’t address them The first orthodox church father we have is Clement of Alexandria. He spends the entirety of Book III of The Stromata discussing Basilidis and Valentinus because of their level of influence. We have an entire documentary history of Sethian Christianity which starts 100 BCE. Since Moritz Friedlander in the 19th century the debate with Alexandria is whether Gnosticism emerged directly from Judaism in Alexandria but there is simply is no question that Gnosticism flourished most strongly there.

      I haven’t seen any discussion of any of those points. And yes Friedlander does prove more than just presence. Yes the Sethians prove the absence or virtual absence of anything approaching orthodoxy till about 125 CE. And of course the orthodox fathers indicating this was the dominant form of Christianity is evidence. I’d say the ball is in your court. Where is your comparable evidence for early orthodoxy? I have 100 more little pieces but so far your side has basically:

      1) indicated that evidence for Alexandrian heresy in support of the KJVonly position is off topic, and shouldn’t be discussed

      2) ignored the fairly substantial evidence that has been presented. Forgot about my position Edwin’s counter argument is excellent.

      What is your theory of the development of the liturgy that’s consistent with your theology? Hit these other points, like the Sethians. I’ve pointed you towards Turner’s articles. Hit the Odes of Solomen and where they came from. What you are asking for is a direct attack on Acts. I might be willing to do that, but I’d like to see some evidence you are actually listening.

      I’m having a little conversation here. A genuine conversation about early christianity would take up far far more space. A convincing case about early christianity would be thousands of pages. That being said the core of the conversation is not about Alexandria, you can find that in most mainstream books.

    • Erik May 11, 2010 / 7:20 pm


      I consider the evidence you’ve presented to be circumstantial and periphery. It proves the existence of some Gnostics; and it is valid. I’m not arguing that Gnostics did not exist. What I am arguing that this evidence does not prove that GNOSTIC CHRISTIANS was a the plurality in Egypt.

      There was far more diversity in the early church than just Orthodox, Gnostics and the occasional heretic of another strain – despite what Elaine Pagels might argue (and I have read her works).

      You’re not presenting anything I haven’t heard before. Both the ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Gnostics’ were simply the groups who got into print. And one thing my study of archaeology has taught me is that those who get in print are almost never the majority.

      While argue the minutiae of your position? It’s based on what I consider a faulty premise. Sorry. That’s just the way I see it.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 8:10 pm

      Eric —

      We may not be disagreeing here. I’m with Karol King on the uselessness of the gnostic label. I use it here for simplicity.

      What groups do you believe existed, where and in what proportions?

    • Erik May 11, 2010 / 8:39 pm

      I don’t know that there were definable groups. There were just a lot of Christians that we don’t know about. We do know that Christianity was 1) a religion of the lower class for the most part (with some exceptions) and 2) was mostly in the Eastern Empire. I’d hazard a guess that 90-95% of Christians lived in Greece or east. There were of course some in Italy and Gaul, but I think their place has been amplified by later transmission.

      The entirety of the New Testament – with a small reference in Acts to Paul in Rome and of course the book of Romans which was still written from the East – occurs east of the Adriatic. The only book of the New Testament that feels, in my opinion, anything like Latin culture is Mark.

  16. Edwin Clive May 11, 2010 / 5:25 pm

    Andrew asks, in reply to my quoting Lietzmann (#16):

    So you agree with CD that early Christianity was Gnostic?

    No, the distance factor is very important. The emotional and geographical distance between Egypt and Syria, between Rome and Asia Minor, maintain a distinct difference between each culture. This is so unlike today, because of our instant communication via the global media.

    I was quoting Lietzmann for one reason only – to suggest that Erik may need to revise his statement: “ there really is no evidence for a Gnostic influence on the Church there. . . . Almost all of the Christian literature dealing with Gnosticism and even proto-Gnosticism comes not from Egypt but from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).” I’m not happy with Lietzmann’s lack of subjection to Scripture, and his preferring his own theories of origins. I have always found him difficult to read for that reason.
    In my understanding, Egypt is a special case [I don’t know why Lietzmann thought Syria was originally Gnostic, when Antioch was the place where believers were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26)! Egypt in Scripture seems to typify the unbelieving world (God called Israel out of Egypt!). No NT documents were written to Egypt, nor did any Apostle evangelise it [though Eusebius – H.E. II 16- attributed Christianity’s foundation to Mark – I know no reason to doubt that this is a reliable tradition, therefore I believe it, in the absence of contrary evidence].

    Here’s an interesting quote:

    “. . . [C]ertainly the religion of [Egypt] was fundamentally Gnostic in character. . . . [The plain sense of the Bible] was said to conceal a hidden meaning of spiritual truths veiled in allegory. The method of exposition found equal favour with all three schools [Greek, Jewish, and Christian] and Judaism in Philo produced in the days of the Apostles a Gnostic untinged with Christianity. For unrestrained allegory is essentially Gnostic in its contempt for realities. As to an Alexandrian the facts of Homer’s narrative and of the history of Abraham were equally unimportant compared with the truths they were supposed to inculcate, so by the Gnostic of later times, the circumstances of our Lord’s life were disregarded, and their symbolic meaning alone considered of importance. The reality of the Divine Life on earth began to vanish, and in its place a phantom Teacher instructed mankind about the Aeons and heavenly powers. Thus arose those Docetic errors against which the Fathers of the Church rightly contended with such earnestness.” (FJ Foakes Jackson, History of the Christian Church to AD 461, 6th Ed. 1914, pp. 126 -127)

    The quote naturally reflects a high Anglican view of the church, which is much more institution-focused than an independent Baptist tradition, for example. Having said that, I believe we can separate the wheat from the chaff when quoting such. As for CD, I’m quite concerned as to whether you, brother, have “lost hold of the Head “ (Col. 2:19) in your great desire to establish a firm authority base for your faith. 2 Tim 3:16-17 should be our lode-star, lest we be lost on the ocean of contrary winds and tides, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, as Paul said (see Eph 4:14).

    • fundyreformed May 11, 2010 / 9:53 pm


      CD doesn’t profess faith in Christ. Which is why I’m tempering what he is allowed to pursue when it comes to lines of argumentation here. This is supposed to be a forum for debate among like-minded believers about such matters.

      As to gnosticism in Alexandria, it is clear there was an allegorism there but that isn’t necessarily gnostic. Also, some great stalwarts of the faith hail from there, I believe Athanasisus was from there. Furthermore, we find the “Alexandrian” text type attested outside of Alexandria.

  17. CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 9:25 pm

    Andrew —

    The reason you can trace out the ancestry of this song is because these earlier versions exist. Gnostic ancestors to the GNT Gospels do not exist and Gnosticism is not found in the NT.

    What do you think Catholics see as most of the Apocrypha?
    Fir example Sirach, 2nd BCE which describes Sophia (Wisdom) in incarnate / personified terms (Raymond Brown identifies the following citations of the personification of Wisdom: Sir 1:1-18; 4:11-19; 6:18-31; 14:20-15:10; 24:1-31; 51:13-30; Wis 7-9; Baruch 3:9-38,) as the savior who suffers for the sins of her people? Philo refers to Sophia as the “daughter of God”.

    Just to list some more:
    Sophia was active in creation (Wis 9:9), is a mediator of creation (Wis 8:5-6), a ruler over kings who is all powerful and permeates the cosmos (Wis 7:23, 27; 8:1,5), leads people to life and immortality (Wis 6:18-19), resides in heaven as the glory of God (Wis 7:25-26), shares the very throne of God (Wis 9:3), is the vine and stream of water (Sir 24:17,28) who offers living water (Sir 24:18,20) to mankind, is a savior to humanity (Wis 9:18, 10:21, 10:9), makes her dwelling/tabernacle in Jacob (Sir 24:8) and will never cease to be (Sir 24:9). “In short, Divine Wisdom lives symbiotically with God (Wisd. 8:3f).

    You can see some evidence of transition even in the NT:

    Luke 11:49-51 it is Sophia who sends the prophets
    while in Matt 23:34-6 almost the same words but now jesus sending the prophets

    Matthew 11:18-9 has a fairly explicit tie i.e. Jesus / Wisdom is vindicated by his/her deeds.

    Luke 7:33-35: has almost the same words but Wisdom is vindicated by her children (likely Jesus and John)

    And Sophia personified this way is essentially a Judaized Isis and then we have tons of of parallels.

  18. fundyreformed May 11, 2010 / 9:50 pm


    No more comments from you in this thread re: Gnosticism influencing the NT please. You are not listening or abiding by what I’ve said above. I understand someone came on and asked some more questions.

    You’ve said your peace.

    • CD-Host May 11, 2010 / 11:01 pm

      No I haven’t said my peace. I hadn’t said my peace before either. As far as I’m concerned for the first time in 6 months we are having a real discussion about Ripplinger’s theory of New Age bible versions where we are actually getting into the details. So far her arguments are holding up.

      And contrary to your repeated assertions I’m not talking about gnosticism much at all. A few sentences maybe out of 100 paragraphs. So lets skip the straw man.

      I don’t know your motivations, But I do know that your arguments regarding the version debate not being idealogical aren’t holding up. Ripplinger is a good God fearing Christian, the verses are coming from her. The idea of “new age bible versions” is coming from her. Your argument against me is essentially an ad-hominum attack of the worst sort. And jut to prove it to you, let me do this, “I profess that Jesus is the King of the Jews”. Now we are past the professing part. I’ll bet dimes to dollars my lack of profession wasn’t really the problem.

      The only thing I’m doing is presenting a good defense of KJVO position. To quote you, “We aim to explain how there is adequate scientific proofs for the belief that conservatively translated Bibles are indeed very true to the original Scriptures.” That’s the position that is losing ground in this thread.

      For example Kinney in my discussion with him made exactly the same point I made to Damien regarding systematic corruption of the originals, “ One – The passage in I John 5:7 is among those like I Timothy 3:16 and Acts 20:28 that have all been tampered with in the manuscript tradition, all three having to do with the deity of Christ as “God.” ” He, just like Ripplinger list the same verses. I understand you don’t believe in systematic corruption, it makes you uncomfortable to think of the 2nd century church as actively altering the bible to fit their theology but KJVO don’t have the same qualms regarding corruption.

      The point of a debate blog is to debate people who disagree with you. It is absolutely a tautology that if one assumes the NA27 is more reflective of apostolic writers than the TR then most modern translations are going to be more reflective of apostolic writers than the KJV. What’s to argue or even discuss?

      But in reading the KJVO, sites you can see a presentation of an excellent counter case one that has not been made here. And that counter case questions the assumptions underlying your tautology. In Kinney’s case corruption occurs rapidly, so rapidly that repeated revelation is needed to preserve scripture. That theory has never been addressed.

      You want to censor than censor. But stop asking me actively cooperate in being censored. There have been a lot of objections in the last few weeks. JasonS argued that personal attacks were not allowed and hence Joe and Will were banned for them. What is your argument against me other than one long personal attack?

    • fundyreformed May 11, 2010 / 11:15 pm


      The KJVO argument is that gnosticism and other -isms corrupted the texts and so the older manuscripts are not necessarily better than the manuscripts which underlie the “received text”. You move a step beyond that and claim that corruptions both existed and were the true original readings and development of Christianity.

      I admit I wasn’t catching how your bringing up Sethian “Christianity” entered into what this thread was about other than in arguing for a view of the origin of Christianity which is outside the pale of faith. As the argument has been pressed and others have interacted you have demonstrated how it is connected with the KJVO idea.

      Still, I want to stay out of the multiple versions of Christianity realm, which I don’t believe the evidence to strongly support. I believe these are assumptions on your part.

      You are fine to argue for wholesale corruption of the manuscripts which support the NA27. Or for the orthodox corruption of later manuscripts which support the TR. I prefer to view it as orthodox corruption.

      What we do not want to promote is an open free-spirit about the origins of Christianity, and discuss liberal views of the development of Christianity. The KJVO position is not arguing that these Gnostics were the first Christians and only later orthodoxy won out.

      Joe was not banned, that thread was shut down as it was devolving and not being productive. Will was banned for other reasons, not for arguing for KJVO positions.

      I ask that you respect the nature of our site, and if you don’t want to abide by our rules go elsewhere. We aim to keep the discussion focused on an intramural discussion of Christian views of textual criticism and Bible versions and the like.

    • CD-Host May 12, 2010 / 5:38 am

      Bob —

      What we do not want to promote is an open free-spirit about the origins of Christianity, and discuss liberal views of the development of Christianity. The KJVO position is not arguing that these Gnostics were the first Christians and only later orthodoxy won out.

      Let me just comment here those views aren’t only on the liberal side. The core idea of Landmarkism is that the early church was the church of the Montanists, Paulicans, Albigensian. That it was only the second century the Catholic church emerged as a fake heretical church which persecuted the original Christian church. “We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles them selves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents

      According to Landmarkism Christianity had become totally corrupted by around 150 with Catholic theology and Montanus rose up to clean the church up and return it to the the state of the original Christians, quite distinct from the Catholics (i.e. what you are calling Orthodox), “Yet God had not left himself without a witness. From the corrupt, domineering party, which had thus sought to combine the false philosophy of men with the religion of Jesus Christ, arose, within the century following, the “Catholic Church;” and the opposition thus inaugurated by the Montanists continued to manifest itself during the subsequent centuries, the traces of which may be followed by noting the blood of its martyrs.” (John Daily).

      The groups they support: “ Montanists, Donatists, Paterines, Cathari, Paulicians, and Ana Baptists; and a little later, Petro-Brussians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses” (Trail of Blood).

      Paulicans were openly just a national later form of Manichaeism. And Cathari/Albigensians were via. the Bogomills openly connected to primitive Gnostics. As far as I can tell, they just don’t use the same terminology I am. What we have been calling orthodoxy the Landmark’s call “the official pseudo-Christianity which apostatized under Constantine”. For them real Christianity was the represented by groups like the Paulicans. And lets be clear, I come off like a conservative Catholic compared to a Paulican.

      The only thing that’s odd is that if you read landmark sites like they advocate for both the early corruption of the church and the idea that the KJV bible is the only legitimate bible; which seems highly contradictory. I’m not sure how they can have 3-5 sects identified with Manichaeism as part of their line of succession and still see the KJV as their holy book.

      But given the groups they are identifying themselves with and their rejection of Protestantism, I don’t quite buy that KJVO is so neatly within the Protestant mainstream as you want it to be. Certainly the people who are on this blog that are essentially converting from being KJVO baptists to being Presbyterians in all but name are well within the Protestant mainstream. But what I see at KJVO sites are the pieces of something rather more interesting:

      * A belief that the early church was corrupted.
      * A belief that mainstream Christianity is using a fake bible which has been corrupted. (Modern translations)
      * A respect for the middle ages gnostics sects (thus providing a gateway to other literature).
      * A rejection of the mass religious community, in their case focused on infant baptism and “modernism”.
      * A belief that the forces of darkness are winning in the world.

      You have a pretty explosive brew, in fact it sounds a lot like the what the Elcesaites believed about Jewish Christianity when they literally and figuratively gave birth to the real original Mani (inventor of Manichaeism).

      So I think you may be oversimplifying when you treat mainstream Evangelical Protestantism and KJVOism as interchangeable, an “intermural discussion” to use your phrase. What makes the KJVO interesting are where they break from Evangelical Protestantism. Your theory is that the KJVO don’t mean what they write as my example of Ripplinger showed.

      So lets put it to you. I understand you don’t accept the idea of early church corruption, what makes you so sure they don’t? That is that they don’t mean what they write in books like Trail of Blood?

  19. Erik May 12, 2010 / 6:38 am

    Let me just say that Gail Riplinger does not reflect an intelligent King James position. She holds that it was uniquely inspired of God, completely independent of the original languages – an absurd statement based on her own ideas and not Scriptures. She also promulgates a number of bizarre urban legends and misquotes people more extensively than anyone I’ve ever read.

    I have had to suffer through her writings; and my father, a prominent KJV apologists, has taken her on several times. I will ask him to send me a PDF of his answers to her most recent book for posting.

  20. Erik May 12, 2010 / 6:40 am

    As the author of the post, I am closing discussion on this post. Everyone has said their piece and had sufficient time to answer and respond.

    Let me conclude by restating my original thoughts:

    1. The Text-type family thesis should be discarded and replaced – it is flawed and the source of great contention.
    2. The Scriptures were inspired in a bigger way than just one guy writing them down and then afterwards they were copied and messed up. There were single human authors, inspired by God; but the process of the transmission of that original source until it could be written down was primarily oral.

    Thank you everyone, and I look forward to more discussion that will be edifying for all.

Comments are closed.