What are the most reliable manuscripts?
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35
Years ago while I was reading through my Bible, I read in many places where there were complete omissions of verses or brackets with a footnote that said, “Most reliable manuscripts and ancient witnesses do not contain these verses”. In my quest for truth I wanted to know what were these most reliable manuscripts. I wrote to many well known Bible colleges and universities and asked them what they felt the most reliable manuscripts were. Over 90% of the replies came back reporting that out of 5300 manuscripts of the Bible, three were regarded as the most reliable. They were:
• Codex Vaticanus
• Codex Sinaiticus
• Codex Alexandrius
The term “Codex” means book form. I wanted to learn all I could about these manuscripts. After a few months of research, I had received the following information:
I. Vaticanus – Known as codex (B)
• Discovered on a bookshelf in the Vatican Library in 1481.
• It was a fourth century codex from Alexandria that was not in use for more than 1,000 years.
• A closer look at this manuscript shows that it had been altered by at least two hands, one being as late as the 12th century.
• The fact that it was in good condition was a strong indicator that it was rarely used.
• It differs in nearly 8,000 places, amounting to one change per verse.
• It omits several thousand key words from the Gospels, nearly 1,000 complete sentences, and 500 clauses.• It has almost 600 readings that do not occur in any other manuscript, which effects nearly 1,000 words.
• Vaticanus does not consider the following books as part as the Bible.
4. I & II Timothy
5. Large parts of Genesis, Samuel,
Kings, Nehemiah and Psalms.
What it does consider as part of the Bible is:
• Bel and the Dragon
• Epistle of Barnabas
The Vaticanus resides at the Vatican Library.
An Interesting observation
Years ago while I was studying this manuscript, I went online to Wikipedia and looked up the Codex and the picture on the article showed the beginning of the book of Hebrews. When I looked at the writing on the left of the second column in the middle, I found that the inscription said "Fool and knave, can't you leave the old reading alone and not alter it!"
There are hundreds of places where there have been corrections that have altered many doctrines which are important to the Christian faith. Altered by wolves in sheep’s clothing, which the lord Jesus Christ warned the church about to careful for, that would come in to scatter the flock.
2. Codex Sinaiticus - Known as Aleph (N)
• It, too, was a fourth century Codex that is believed to be from the city
• Does not contain all of the Old Testament.
• Does not contain verses concerning the resurrection of Jesus found in Mark 16:9-20. The writer purposely left just enough space for it as well as other verses that have been altered.
Sinaiticus considers the following as part of the Bible:
1. Bel and the Dragon
3. Shepard of Hermes
In the Shepard of Hermes it teaches:
• Take the Mark of the Beast
• Works are part of one’s salvation.
3. Alexandrius - a fifth century codex from Alexandria.
• This codex was to be used in the translation of the Kings James, but because of storms and major delays it did not come until 1627 when the Patriarch of Constantinople presented it to King Charles I.
• It contains the complete Old Testament except for Palms 49:19 – 79:10.
• It reads like the traditional text of the Gospels.
• It does include the two “Epistles of Clement” which teach:
1. Men are saved by works.
2. Christians are in danger of going to hell.
3. Christians don’t get new bodies at the resurrection.
4. Scriptures are not to be taken literally.
Both Sinaiticus and Alexandrius reside at the British Museum in London.
During the Reformation the scholar Erasmus put together the Traditional Text known as the “Textus Receptus”. He had access to the Vaticanus, but did not use it because he felt it was unreliable.
Even though the Codex Alexandrius did not come to London until 1627, the translators knew it’s contents years before the translation had begun. Alexandrian manuscripts were considered the worst type during the early church. When they are considered the best, some of the basic doctrines of the faith are attacked like:
• The Deity of Christ – The early church father Arius from Alexandria taught that Jesus was not God.
• The Virgin Birth
• The Trinity
So what are the most reliable manuscripts?
The majority of manuscripts (over 25,000) dating as early as the first century (300 years earlier than the three mentioned), as well as, the early versions and quotes of the church fathers, who had access to the originals, indicate that the traditional text is the most reliable. This type of manuscript is only found in the Authorized Version (KJV).
God Only Wrote One Bible!