Jovial (9 Nov 2014)
"What Manuscript Version did the Early Church Use?"

At , I explained what the various Text Types were (Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine) and provided an example verse to show the differences from Luke 4:4.

Alexandrian Westcott-Hort Byzantine Textus Receptus Western Codex Bezae
kai apekriqh proV auton o ihsouV gegraptai oti ouk ep artw monw zhsetai o anqrwpoV kai apekriqh ihsouV proV auton legwn gegraptai oti ouk ep artw monw zhsetai o anqrwpoV all epi panti rhmati qeou kai apokriqeiV * o IhV eipen :gegraptai *ouk ep artw monw zhsetai o anqrwpoV all en panti rhmati Qu
And Jesus answered him, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word of God. And Je-s answered him, speaking, It is written, That man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word of G-d.

These differences seem trivial, and as I said before, there is 85% agreement between the versions on lettering and 99% agreement on content, with the above verse showing most of the disagreement on content tends to be portions of a passage being omited in one version or the other.  Luke 4:4 is one of the exceptions, not the rule, where there is a lot of disagreement between the 3 texts, whereas the rule is that they are the same, usually even letter for letter the same.

Theologians in America tend to debate whether the Alexandrian or Byzantine version is more original.  Theologians in Western Europe tend to accept the Western Text Type as most original.   One thing nearly all theologians agree on in all locations is that when Early Church writers quote a passage that matches one version where that version disagrees with the others, that they tend to be quoting the Western version, not the Alexandrian or Byzantine.  Most pro-Alexandrian theologians will tell you this is true.  Most pro-Byzantine (pro-Textus Receptus) theologians will tell you this is true.  Pastor Bob is an exception, and he tried to tell us that they were quoting the Textus Receptus (based on 11th to 15th century manuscripts as explained at, but has yet to provide a single example of it.  He claims at he provided 3 examples at , but what Pastor Bob failed to deal with is that the passages he quoted are as easy to find in the Western Text as they are in the Byzantine Text Type.

The Vulgate standardized the Latin text in the 4th century and the Peshitta standardized the Aramaic text at about the same time.  The Old Latin manuscripts that preceeded the Vulgate tend to agree with the Western Greek over the Byzantine and Alexandrian.  The Old Syriac manuscripts that preceeded the Peshitta tended to agree with the Western Greek over the Alexandrian and the Byzantine.  Nearly all manuscripts found in all languages (Coptic, Armenian, etc) prior to the 4th century AD tend to agree with the Western Greek = Old Latin = Old Syriac over the Alexandrian vs the Byzantine.

So stop and think about this.  If

  • All pre-4th century Greek manuscripts are either Alexandrian or Western Greek, and never Byzantine.
  • All pre-4th century manuscripts in OTHER LANGUAGES agree with the Western Greek over the Alexandrian and Byzantine.
  • Most early Church quotations agree with the Western Greek

Then the use of age to arbitrate which version is most original would favor the Western Text over the Alexandrian or the Byzantine as the more original of the 3 Greek versions. 

One problem is that the Western Text was not very "Greek".  Its sentence structure is very Hebrew oriented.  The Alexandrian Text was probably an early attempt to correct the heavy Semitic Hebrew structure in the Western Greek manuscripts so it would sound more naturally Greek.  The Byzantine Text Type (unknown before the 9th century AD) was a later attempt to do the same thing - reword the Western Greek Text so it would sound less Hebrew structured and more naturally Greek.  This is similar to how modern English versions of the Bible make the Bible sound more naturally modern English over the archaic King James.  However, the Western Greek was not using "old" Greek, but Hebrew influenced Greek.

Wescott and Hort derived a critical reading of the Alexandrian manuscripts known as the Wescott-Hort Text.  The Nestle Aland Text was an attempt to take the Wescott Hort and correct it against the writings of the early Church.  Therefore WH (Wescott-Hort) is characteristically Alexandrian in nature.  Nestle-Alend (NA) is a cross between Alexdandrian and Western, since it is basically the Alexandrian Text corrected against Western quotations from the Early church writers.