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The Greek Text of the New Testament:

Some Issues of Textual Criticism.

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Question #1: 

Hi--Just a quick question: I know your doctorate is in Classical Literature, correct? Does that include Hellenistic Greek Literature? Also, Lenksi, on the "opse" in Matthew 28:1 says that in classical Greek literature, it may carry the sense of "later" but in koine Greek it means "after." Is that true about the Classic Greek? Just curious. Thanks.

Response #1:   

My Ph.D. is in Classics. The discipline requires deep proficiency in Latin and Greek. That includes all Latin, and Greek up until Byzantine times (i.e., from Homer to about 800 A.D. or so). Even Greek thereafter is essentially accessible until one gets down to the late Medieval and Modern period where the language actually becomes different enough to call it a separate language. Modern Greek is different from Greek in the same way that Italian is different from Latin. There are still incredible similarities since the one is derivative of the other, but still one requires special training or extra work at any rate to understand the differences, most of which are based upon new vocabulary, simplified grammar, and, most of all, a vastly altered pronunciation.

But there is not enough difference between Homeric Greek, Classical Greek, Hellenistic Greek, and Koine Greek to be worth mentioning (except to say that Homer is all poetry, and poetry is of a different diction in all ages and languages). Those trained in Classics have to be proficient in them all, and that really doesn't require any sort of specialized work beyond learning "Greek". It's a real misconception to believe that there is any significant difference between these "dialects". As I explain to my students, if they think that there is enough difference between British English and American English to call them "dialects", then terms like "Classical" and "Koine" make sense. These terms really have more to do with style than anything else. Paul quotes several Classical poets (Aratus and Menander) in his epistles, and paraphrases Homer in Acts 17; he surely didn't think that this would cause his readers to go running to a lexicon. All Greek is accessible to all Greek speakers from about 800 B.C. to 800 A.D.

The meanings of words do have a tendency to change over time. We see this in English. What Washington meant by the word "gay" is not necessarily what we mean today. That doesn't mean George couldn't read the newspaper tomorrow morning or that we can't read the Federalist papers. And Greek is much more conservative in its shifts than English. The differences between Old and Modern English are vastly greater than the differences between Homer and Modern Greek (even though the latter covers about more than twice as great a time period: about 2,800 years as opposed to about 1,200).

However, I'm not sure what Lenski's point is. I find all of the possible meanings of opse in play from Homer (where it can mean "late" or "later" or "after a long time") to Lucian (an NT contemporary) where it can mean simply "late". The word "after" in English is a preposition, whereas "later" is an adverb, so he seems to be comparing apples to oranges here. Most of the time opse is an adverb, but sometimes adverbs are used as prepositions in Greek (the technical term is "improper preposition").  That is what we have at Matthew 28:1 (so that the correct translation of the phrase is "after the Sabbath [i.e., was over]").  The word can be used in either capacity early or late (though the prepositional use seems to be mostly late), and that will affect this aspect of the English translation. This is in fact a very good example of why basing any sort of biblical argument on the premise "but this is koine Greek, not classical Greek" is very wrong-headed.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Doc!

I've heard that some commentators have stated that Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8) was spurious, but I've recently read this article to try to prove that it is authentic. Here is what was written:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

The passage is called the Johannine Comma and is not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts. [1] However, the verse is a wonderful testimony to the Heavenly Trinity and should be maintained in our English versions, not only because of its doctrinal significance but because of the external and internal evidence that testify to its authenticity.

The External Support: Although not found in most Greek manuscripts, the Johannine Comma is found in several. It is contained in 629 (fourteenth century), 61 (sixteenth century), 918 (sixteenth century), 2473 (seventeenth century), and 2318 (eighteenth century). It is also in the margins of 221 (tenth century), 635 (eleventh century), 88 (twelveth century), 429 (fourteenth century), and 636 (fifteenth century). There are about five hundred existing manuscripts of 1 John chapter five that do not contain the Comma. [2] It is clear that the reading found in the Textus Receptus is the minority reading with later textual support from the Greek witnesses. Nevertheless, being a minority reading does not eliminate it as genuine. The Critical Text considers the reading Iesou (of Jesus) to be the genuine reading instead of Iesou Christou (of Jesus Christ) in 1 John 1:7. Yet Iesou is the minority reading with only twenty-four manuscripts supporting it, while four hundred seventy-seven manuscripts support the reading Iesou Christou found in the Textus Receptus. Likewise, in 1 John 2:20 the minority reading pantes (all) has only twelve manuscripts supporting it, while the majority reading is panta (all things) has four hundred ninety-one manuscripts. Still, the Critical Text favors the minority reading over the majority in that passage. This is common place throughout the First Epistle of John, and the New Testament as a whole. Therefore, simply because a reading is in the minority does not eliminate it as being considered original.

While the Greek textual evidence is weak, the Latin textual evidence for the Comma is extremely strong. It is in the vast majority of the Old Latin manuscripts, which outnumber the Greek manuscripts. Although some doubt if the Comma was a part of Jerome's original Vulgate, the evidence suggests that it was. Jerome states:

In that place particularly where we read about the unity of the Trinity which is placed in the First Epistle of John, in which also the names of three, i.e. of water, of blood, and of spirit, do they place in their edition and omitting the testimony of the Father; and the Word, and the Spirit in which the catholic faith is especially confirmed and the single substance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is confirmed. [3]

Other church fathers are also known to have quoted the Comma. Although some have questioned if Cyprian (258 AD) knew of the Comma, his citation certainly suggests that he did. He writes: "The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one' and likewise it is written of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one'." [4] Also, there is no doubt that Priscillian (385 AD) cites the Comma:

As John says "and there are three which give testimony on earth, the water, the flesh, the blood, and these three are in one, and there are three which give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one in Christ Jesus." [5]

Likewise, the anti-Arian work compiled by an unknown writer, the Varimadum (380 AD) states: "And John the Evangelist says, . . . 'And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one'." [6] Additionally, Cassian (435 AD), Cassiodorus (580 AD), and a host of other African and Western bishops in subsequent centuries have cited the Comma. [7] Therefore, we see that the reading has massive and ancient textual support apart from the Greek witnesses.

Internal Evidence: The structure of the Comma is certainly Johannine in style. John is noted for referring to Christ as "the Word." If 1 John 5:7 were an interpretation of verse eight, as some have suggested, than we would expect the verse to use "Son" instead of "Word." However, the verse uses the Greek word logos, which is uniquely in the style of John and provides evidence of its genuineness. Also, we find John drawing parallels between the Trinity and what they testify (1 John 4:13-14). Therefore, it comes as no surprise to find a parallel of witnesses containing groups of three, one heavenly and one earthly.

The strongest evidence, however, is found in the Greek text itself. Looking at 1 John 5:8, there are three nouns which, in Greek, stand in the neuter (Spirit, water, and blood). However, they are followed by a participle that is masculine. The Greek phrase here is oi marturountes (who bare witness). Those who know the Greek language understand this to be poor grammar if left to stand on its own. Even more noticeably, verse six has the same participle but stands in the neuter (Gk.: to marturoun). Why are three neuter nouns supported with a masculine participle? The answer is found if we include verse seven. There we have two masculine nouns (Father and Son) followed by a neuter noun (Spirit). The verse also has the Greek masculine participle oi marturountes. With this clause introducing verse eight, it is very proper for the participle in verse eight to be masculine, because of the masculine nouns in verse seven. But if verse seven were not there it would become improper Greek grammar.

Even though Gregory of Nazianzus (390 AD) does not testify to the authenticity of the Comma, he makes mention of the flawed grammar resulting from its absence. In his Theological Orientations he writes referring to John:

. . . (he has not been consistent) in the way he has happened upon his terms; for after using Three in the masculine gender he adds three words which are neuter, contrary to the definitions and laws which you and your grammarians have laid down. For what is the difference between putting a masculine Three first, and then adding One and One and One in the neuter, or after a masculine One and One and One to use the Three not in the masculine but in the neuter, which you yourselves disclaim in the case of Deity? [8]

It is clear that Gregory recognized the inconsistency with Greek grammar if all we have are verses six and eight without verse seven. Other scholars have recognized the same thing. This was the argument of Robert Dabney of Union Theological Seminary in his book, The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek (1891). Bishop Middleton in his book, Doctrine of the Greek Article, argues that verse seven must be a part of the text according to the Greek structure of the passage. Even in the famous commentary by Matthew Henry, there is a note stating that we must have verse seven if we are to have proper Greek in verse eight. [9]

While the external evidence makes the originality of the Comma possible, the internal evidence makes it very probable. When we consider the providential hand of God and His use of the Traditional Text in the Reformation it is clear that the Comma is authentic."

Then I've heard comments such as:

"I've never understood the logic about "best" or "oldest" or "most ancient texts!" Why is a more ancient text assumed to be the "best?" That's children's logic. Truth is Truth. Lies are lies. It doesn't matter if one is written before the other. Give me the "later text" of a blood bought God inspired Christian before the "most ancient text" of an unsaved man anyday..... "


"The oldest translation of the Bible, the Old Latin (Vetus Latina- 157 AD) contains the Comma. Also, most of the ancient manuscripts that don't contain the Comma also don't contain the WHOLE 5th CHAPTER OF I JOHN. Only about 500 out of the 5300 manuscripts contain the 5th chapter at all. Also, the Comma was quoted by the early church fathers including Tertullian in 200AD and Irenaeus before that. Finally, the passage wouldn't make sense without I John 5:7 and would be grammatically wrong. So my answer to your question would be, "Why not." I'll side with the believers instead of the unsaved reprobate scholars that came out out the secular universities of Germany and England during the 1800's. "


"Study your history and get your facts straight before you apply "history" to this issue. The original manuscripts are the most accurate. Since they are lost, the KJV is God's renewal manuscript that His people can trust. Anything from 200 AD, even Greek manuscripts, are not the inspired Word. They are copies. We have the renewed inspired Word in the KJV."


"Do you think Paul had the original manuscripts that Moses wrote? Or David?"

WOW, I suppose it is authentic. Or is it just the KJV ONLY advocates that assume it? Thanks in advance!

Response #2:   

Let me say at the outset that I am not an "unsaved reprobate scholar who came out of a secular university of Germany and England during the 1800's". Nevertheless, invective in place of evidence notwithstanding, I couldn't disagree more. The "comma" is not original. It is another alteration of the true text of the scripture by sticking in what doesn't belong, not as famous as some, but one whose illegitimacy is very easy to establish. I dare say that this and other attempts to violate the holy Word of God would never even be seeing the light of day at this late date, if it were not for the hyper-KJV-ists, who seem to hold to the creed that "the KJV was good enough for the apostle Paul, and it's good enough for me!".

But the KJV is just a translation. Make no mistake, it is a very good translation for the most part, but it has weak points (as of necessity all translations do). Because King James' diction has become beloved, does not mean that we should stick our heads in the sand and ignore its obvious problems. The biggest problem is that the men who translated it were tied to one version of the Greek text for the sake of uniformity. That text, the so-called textus receptus (TR) is not a manuscript, but a text which is an amalgamation of some (not all) of the manuscripts available at the time of translation. I have no doubt that many of the scholars who translated the KJV and who knew of alternate readings (which they undoubtedly felt were the right readings based even upon the much more limited evidence available at that time) would have read and translated what they felt was the better text in many places, had they been allowed to do so. They were not. Nowadays problems like this can at least be addressed in footnotes and the like, but in the early 17th century it was "take it or leave it". Today we have the benefit of much better manuscripts, and they are objectively better for all sorts of reasons, date, provenance, reliability, etc. No one, for example, who has actually done any serious textual criticism would buy the arguments put forward in this article. They sound good to a layman, but, trust me, they are pitiful. For example, counting up the "witnesses" is ridiculous. If I saw an accident first hand, and three hundred other people heard about it second hand from the same person, would you consider their testimony as more weighty than mine? I certainly hope not! This is one of the "errors" that people who try to support the (often unwitting) mistakes made by those who complied with the TR often make. The TR itself depends first and foremost upon the earlier edition of Erasmus – talk about your reprobate scholars from secular universities! I put "errors" in quotes above, because most of these people ought to (and probably do) know what they are doing, namely, deceiving people in the interest of a very bad cause. As Christians, we ought to want to know the truth about what the Bible says, and we ought not for the sake of our traditions (or some surreptitious agenda – like wanting to sneak the long ending of Mark back into the Bible, for example) to be willing to pervert God's Word.

The true text of 1st John 5:7-8 as actually written by John reads:

"(7) because there are three who bear witness, (8) the Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three have the same purpose."
1st John 5:7-8

The spurious expansion of this passage erroneously included in the KJV is doubtless the result of a gloss. That is to say, the passage is not the easiest one in the world to interpret. And since there are three elements here, that fact very naturally suggests the Trinity (but is not, of course, what the verse really says). Someone in trying to explain what was meant might well have written in the margin of an early text of this verse the alternative "comma", and in doing so quite understandably interpreted the three to be "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost". However, it is very clear that the person who did so erred in their interpretation, so that even without the overwhelming manuscript evidence we would be in a position to pronounce the comma as the gloss and not the other way around. For one would never get "Spirit / water / blood" from "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost", but working things the other way around it is clear that the glosser saw Spirit as Spirit, but the middle element of the three becomes "water" in his interpretation, namely, the "Water of the Word", i.e., Jesus Christ. While water does often equal "the Word", here the result of forcing a Trinitarian interpretation is to identify the Father with the blood; but of course "blood" refers to the Blood of Christ. So this is an "off the cuff" interpretation which has obvious problems, but that is how these things go. Later copyists, seeing the writing in the margin, were unclear as to whether or not this was a "correction". Since they liked the marginal reading (possibly being currently involved in defense of the Trinity), they wrote that in too, and as a result the true reading was expanded (and confused by) the gloss. This is a very common problem in manuscript transmission in the ancient world. We might also note that the fact that the Spirit has just been mentioned in the previous verse and retains first position in the true reading is another powerful argument for the comma being bogus (for in the comma, the order is reversed).

Blessedly, we have the best manuscripts all of one accord here in omitting the comma, something that is inconceivable if it were present in the original text (what good Christian copyist would deliberately take out a reference to the Trinity?). So I do not reject this argument because I am slavishly beholden to the text printed by "reprobate secular scholars"; rather I base my opinion upon some three decades of experience with Greek and with these manuscripts.

Furthermore, most of what this article says is untrue – or at least so misleading as to be so in effect. I give a synopsis (minus all the extensive fine print) of what is says on this passage in loc. in Metzger's A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament:

1) The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except four.

2) The passage is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers who, had they known it, would certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies.

3) The passages is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic) except the Latin; and it is not found (a) in the Old Latin in its early form (Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine), or in the Vulgate (b) as issued by Jerome . . . (c) or as revised by Alcuin. The earliest instance of the passage being quoted as part of the actual text of the Epistle is in a fourth century Latin treatise . . .

There is nothing more appalling than for those who call themselves Christians to sully the truth of the Word of God . . . of course what sort of true Christian would do that?

In our Lord Jesus, the Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #3:

I have a question about the Johannine Comma. Most of the research I have done indicates that it is a gloss and not in any of the oldest manuscripts, or in the uncials, though it appears in the minuscules, if I remember right. Did any early church father quote it? I ran across something on the web that said that Cyprian quoted it, plus another guy named Priscillian, or something like that. The following is by Martin A. Shue:

"...we shall now appeal to some of the writings of the Church Fathers. I John 5:7 is cited in the Speculum (427 AD) and the Varimadum (380 AD). It is also cited by Priscillian (385 AD), Cassian (435 AD), Ps-Vigilius (date unknown), Ps-Athanasius (6th century), Fulgentius (533 AD), Ansbert (8th century) and Cyprian (250 AD). I wanted us to briefly look at the quotations by Priscillian and Cyprian. Priscillian wrote: "As John says, 'and there are three which give testimony on earth, the water, the flesh, the blood, and these three are in one, and there are three which give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one in Christ Jesus.'" Cyprian wrote: "The Lord says, "I and the Father are one;" and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, "And these three are one." (Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church, point 6). As you can easily see I John 5:7 has a wide range of support for the Church Fathers dating back to as early as the 2nd century. I would remind you that this would be nearly two centuries OLDER than the oldest extant manuscripts."

I don't see any from the 2nd century, though. Third yes, from Cyprian. When I researched this, years ago, I ran across a website that had a listing of various biblical scholars who thought it belonged in the bible and those who didn't. As I recall, about a third thought it did, and the rest did not, which included Dr. Bruce Metzger.

Anyway, just wondered about your thoughts on this.

Response #3: 

You are exactly right on this issue in every detail. The "comma" is not part of scripture. I have a rather detailed, as yet unpublished, response on this all--of-a-sudden "hot topic" which I will paste in below (Bookmark to previous response). The one thing unique to the quotation from Shue you include here is the brazen attempt to include Cyprian in the "witnesses" for the comma. A careful look at Cyprian's actual quote in Latin (or in English for that matter) demonstrates that he is citing from the text we actually have, and not the "comma". He is merely interpreting the phrase "and these three have the same purpose" to be a reference to the Trinity, but he is clearly giving us an interpretation of the text we do have, not a quotation of the comma's inserted text, and that is a massive distinction. Simply put, Cyprian was reading what we read today in a critical version of the Greek New Testament (or in the Latin Vulgate – his text is only differs very slightly from the Vulgate's 1st John 1:8b – not 1:7). Therefore Cyprian can in no way be adduced as a witness to the comma; in fact, since it apparently suited his purpose for 1st John 1:8b to refer to the Trinity, if he had found the comma in his text, he most certainly would have cited that part of the passage since it would have made his argument that much stronger. This is why Metzger et al. include Cyprian as a witness against the comma, not as one who includes it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi--Thank you; this is very helpful. So, you are saying that this "gloss" does appear in minuscule Greek writings, but not in the uncials, is that correct? Metzger wrote that it is absent from every Greek manuscript but four. Are those "four" in the minuscules? And what about the Priscillian verse? Who was he, anyway? I've heard of most of the Early Church Fathers, but not him. But you are right--if this verse were really in the earliest manuscripts, then it would have been employed as proof of the Triune Godhead. There would have been no controversy.

Again, thanks for your help.

Response #4:   

It's really rather bizarre that the "comma" ended up in the TR at all. The best thing is to give you the full quote from Metzger on the manuscript part of his argument (op.cit.):

1) The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except four, . . . . . . and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate. These four manuscripts are ms. 61, a sixteenth century manuscript formerly at Oxford, now at Dublin; ms. 88, a twelfth century manuscript at Naples, which has the passage written in the margin by a modern hand; ms. 629, a fourteenth or fifteenth century manuscript in the Vatican; and ms. 635, an eleventh century manuscript which has the passage written in the margin by a seventeenth century hand.

So these four would be minuscules, not uncials; but even the vast majority of minuscules don't have the comma (i.e., there are thousands of them which omit it). Erasmus, the father of the TR (it is largely based on his edition of the Greek text, though somewhat indirectly so), apparently only even did a Greek edition to act as a comparison for his more favored child, his edition of the Latin version. Since the Latin version was preferred by him, and since the comma has greater support in late Latin witnesses, that may be how this variant got into the Greek critical text tradition in the first place. One would have to check all the editions of Stephanus and Bezae which followed in Erasmus' footsteps (the latter of whose editions were actually used to do the KJV) to know for certain the history of the comma in these early editions. But, as I say, these early scholars loved their Latin and it is pretty clear that this is where the comma came from. It was just that construction of a critical text by scholars who gave far too much authority to the Latin tradition that explains its inclusion. This is immensely ironic, since KJV-onlyists, when they criticize Wescott and Hort, Nestle, and the like, usually find them suspect because they are "secular scholars" – and it is actually hyper-Latin scholasticism which is the origin of the comma in the Greek critical text tradition.

As to Priscillian, he was a fourth century bishop from Spain executed for heresy. Some of his tractates were rediscovered in the 19th century. I looked up the passage in Latin which Metzger says is possibly the first instance of the comma being attributed to the text of 1st John. However, here is what I found in Priscillian:

Sicut Ioannes ait: tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in terra, aqua, caro et sanguis, et haec tria in unum sunt, et tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in caelo, pater, verbum et spiritus, et haec tria unum sunt in Iesu Christo.
Liber Apologeticus 4

It is like John says, there are three things which bear witness on earth, the water, the flesh and the blood, and these three things are to one [purpose], and there are three things which bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one in Jesus Christ.

But here is what the KJV reads:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
1st John 5:7-8

[as compared to NIV]: For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

As you can see from my translation, the KJV based on the TR does not have the same text as Priscillian. For one thing, Priscillian places the earthly witnesses first and the heavenly witnesses second (as a kind of explanation; see below). Secondly, he has water, flesh and blood as the three earthly witnesses, not the Spirit, water, and blood. Finally, his summation of the heavenly witnesses is that they are one "in Jesus Christ" – completely absent from the KJV/TR.

In my opinion, Priscillian's prose has all the marks of a homiletic paraphrase, and a very natural one too: three witnesses, heavenly and earthly; earthly all directly related to Christ, heavenly all having the same message in Christ. This in not really what John says (nor does Priscillian really mean it to be); this is merely "similar" to what John says (that is the meaning as I translate sicut above: "It is like John says" is clearly different from "This is what John says"). In other words, even Priscillian's "set up" signals a paraphrase/homily/explanation (that is the function of the word sicut, "like", in the Latin here).

It is possible that Priscillian is the originator of the homiletic idea (i.e., 3 balanced by 3 with both sets focused on Christ), and that over time this very nice and memorable application was "tweaked" by others to come up with the "standard" phraseology that ended up in late Latin texts of the Vulgate and from there made it into the TR. However, by carefully reading Priscillian's words in Latin or in English, it is very easy to tell that he most definitely was not reading this exact "comma" in his Greek (or more likely Latin) Bible. Had that been the case, the form of the comma we have now would not be so fundamentally different from his words then but would preserve the same order and the same elements since they would be reading from a common text. Indeed, the significant discrepancies guarantee that Priscillian is in fact not a witness to an alternative version (i.e., the comma), but rather a witness to (or possibly the originator of) a well-known homiletic paraphrase of this part of 1st John. The difference between his words and the TR comma show that this is not really even an interpretation (since it varies so significantly from what John actually does say), let alone a witness to the "original text". Rather it is a "sermon" loosely based upon the text. So much for sermons.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

I heard a pastor say that Jesus quoted the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek translation of the Old Testament). This was on a topic regarding Genesis 6 which he said the LXX (i.e., the Septuagint) reads "the angels of God" instead of the "sons of God." I did some research on this and this article I read stated that Jesus would not have used the LXX for several reasons. This person wrote:

"New Testament Evidence: Many scholars claim that Christ and his apostles used the Septuagint, preferring it above the preserved Hebrew text found in the temple and synagogues. But if the Greek Septuagint was the Bible Jesus used, he would not have said, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18). Why would Jesus not have said this? Because the jot is a Hebrew letter, and the tittle is a small mark to distinguish between Hebrew letters. If Jesus used the Greek Septuagint, His scriptures would not have contained the jot and tittle. He obviously used the Hebrew scriptures! In addition, Jesus only mentioned the scripture text in two ways, (1) "The Law and the Prophets" and (2) "The Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms": "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." Luke 24:44 The Hebrews divide their Bible into three parts: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Jesus clearly referred to this. The Septuagint had no such division. In fact, it contains Apocryphal books interspersed throughout the Old Testament. The sequence is so hopelessly mixed up that Jesus could not possibly have been referring to it!"

Is this article correct? Thanks in advance!

Response #5: 

Let's start with the fact that Jesus never quotes Genesis chapter six – in any version. He does allude to "the days of Noah" (Matt.24:37-39; Lk.17:26-27), but never says anything about angels or sons of God in doing so and does not quote Genesis directly in any case. So this particular argument has no place to go.

As to the question itself, I do not find the article provided convincing. The fact that Jesus knew Hebrew does not mean He did not know Greek. And the further fact that He alluded to Hebrew letters merely reflects the fact that even the primarily Greek (or Aramaic) speakers in His audience knew very well that the Bible was written in Hebrew. Think about it. "Jot and tittle" work perfectly well for us as a point of explanation when we read this passage in English, even if we don't know Hebrew. The same thing applies to the order of the books. Even if we assume that the Greek Bible in Jesus' day was identical to what we have in the Septuagint, that would not preclude Jesus' audience from understanding the classic, threefold division of the Old Testament scriptures. Think about it. We have the same sort of "hopelessly mixed up sequence" in our English Bible (which is different from the Hebrew order), and yet we are not confused, befuddled, or put off when we read Jesus' words in English about the "Law and the Prophets".

The origin of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament is a very involved subject. It would make a great dissertation topic for a Th.D. – but the person might not ever finish and graduate! First of all, we have the problem of the text of the LXX, then there is the problem of other versions of the Greek Bible later supplanted by the LXX (we know about the so-called Trifaria Varietas, Aquila, Symachus, and Theodotion, for example, but that does not preclude other possibilities). And, finally, there is the reality that Jesus and the writers of the gospels knew Hebrew and Greek (and Aramaic), and so often did their own translations of the Hebrew scriptures when they felt that was called for. So there are a variety of possibilities when we read a quotation in the New Testament of the Old. We might in any of these cases be dealing with,

1) a direct quote from the same text of the LXX we currently possess,

2) a direct quote from an alternate version or text type which we do not possess,

3) a direct translation from the Hebrew,

4) a combination of any two or three of the above,

5) a paraphrase: for just as you and I in conversation might "quote" from our memory a scripture and really give a paraphrase (i.e., not a direct quote but an approximation), so it apparently was with the gospel writers. That does not mean they were ever "wrong"; you or I might be wrong, but the Holy Spirit ensured that what they said was correct, even if it would not meet our APA guidelines for source quotations.

There are books written about this subject, and, as I say, there is much more to discover. But the important point is clear enough: there are a variety of approaches in the NT to quoting the OT, but in each and every case what we have is a precise reflection of the true meaning of the Word of God from the Old Testament into the New, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Hope this is helpful,

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Bob, do you have a list on your website of the New Testament verses that are not in the oldest/best manuscripts or are known to have been inserted at a later time?

Response #6:   

I don't have such a list; I suppose it's because of the way the ministry works (i.e., taking things on a case by case basis in answering questions and in doing systematics). This would be a good thing to have (as far as it is possible to produce) for the far-future BB 7, "Bibliology".

By "New Testament verses not in the oldest/best manuscripts", I assume you mean "verses wrongly included in English versions". There is, after all, no perfect version (English or Greek), but there is a perfect exemplar, one that would perfectly reflect the original autographs, that is. It is that ideal that all versions in all languages should be trying to attain. The problem of versions Greek or English which have wrongly included erroneous interpolations is an important one, but not all are guilty of the same exact sins.

It is also true that more often than not the thorniest and most important issues of NT (or OT) textual criticism generally have to do with individual words or phrases being wrong (reading the wrong word just as often as omitting one which should be included or of including one that is not original to the text).

The best thing to do to answer this question is to take the KJV as our standard for English and the Erasmian so-called Textus Receptus (on which it was based) as our standard for Greek. If we were to evaluate each in detail, most of the entries on a comprehensive list of what I would say have been wrongly included from a purely textual point of view would not be of great significance. For example, Matthew 17:21 in the KJV based upon the TR has, erroneously, "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting". However, since the verse does occur at Mark 9:29, it is not introducing some sort of heresy. To be clear, it is not part of scripture here (and most modern versions Greek and English both omit it; e.g., Nestle's Greek and the NIV – although both address the issue of their decision to take it out in footnotes).

I have commented here and there at Ichthys on what I would see to be some of the most important erroneous additions, and it will be helpful for me (if not for you) for me to list these here (no doubt memory is not recalling them all so I don't want to suggest that even this short list of forgeries is comprehensive):

As I say, there are other instances which are not as controversial wherein modern versions have sometimes departed from the KJV/TR (enough to keep the "King-James-onlyists" busy – that's for sure), but these are the ones I recall where getting it wrong could lead to doctrinal error (and many of them continue to be retained in the versions "out of respect for tradition"). Please let me know if any others occur to you!

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

I just have a quick manuscript question for you. The KJV, in Romans 8:1b has "who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Whereas, the NIV and NASB have this part of the verse at vs. 4b, in Romans 8. The KJV has it here, too, both places. Is this something found only in the later manuscripts that I know the KJV is based upon, and absent from the Nestle'-Aland manuscript, that the NASB and NIV are based upon? Just curious. Thanks!

Response #7:   

Yes, that is correct. The repetition of the phrase "who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" in the KJV comes from the Textus Receptus. This (incorrect) variant occurs only in a few late witnesses, but also in "A" or Alexandrinus (which is not a bad MS. but which is filled with Byzantine peculiarities). The reading does not occur in the best and earliest MSS., most of which were not available when the KJV was translated. It is clearly a doublet which should not be repeated in translation since it is not part of the text in verse one (and may have been added as an explanation).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I've noticed something odd about the context of Rev. 5:8,9:

"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;"

Does the "us" in verse 9 refer to the 4 beasts? My bible commentary states, "the beasts and the elders praise the Lamb for having redeemed then through His blood (vv. 8,9)." Why are these 4 beasts redeemed? and what are they redeemed from? according to the book of Isaiah and Ezekiel, these seem to be the same beasts mentioned in Ezekiel 10:7-14; Isaiah 6:2,3 which are either cherubs or seraphs. And if so, which seems very likely to me...why would they need to be redeemed? Thanks in advance!

Response #8: 

Christ's work on the cross redeemed human beings, not angels, so that "us" uttered by the four cherubs and the angelic elders would be quite inappropriate, especially since the objects are clearly human beings (i.e., "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation"). If you check some other translations, you will see that the KJV is the only one (at least among those I consulted) that has "us"; most other versions have "them". The KJV is an excellent translation, but, like all translations, it has its strengths and weaknesses. We see one of the latter here. The KJV was produced before the best witnesses to the ancient Greek text came to light. Also, since it was translated by three teams each with many different members, for simplicity's sake they agreed on a common, homogenized text ahead of time which necessarily would have some problems with it, problems which, for the sake of uniformity, they were then not allowed to fix even if they recognized them. This is a long way of saying that the Greek word for "us" (hemas) is not actually there in many of the manuscripts. This particular textual problem is a difficult one because the word does appear like this in the best manuscript, Sinaiticus, but I had a look at an image of this page and it appears we probably have to do with some later correction. My best guess is that since what we probably have here is the ellipsis of the direct object which was erroneously supplied. It is very common in Greek to leave out the direct object yet difficult for many people to get their heads around, especially later readers and correctors. Therefore there was a tendency to supply the "correct" object and here the wrong one got supplied instead in a part of the tradition (i.e., "them" / autous would make more sense here than "us" / hemas). That is to say, in English one person might say to another outside a pizza parlor "Let's get a pizza!"; in first century Greek they often say "Let's get ___ !" We are baffled by this, but the Greeks assume you can figure out from the circumstances what to fill in ("pizza" in this example; "them" in Rev.5:9).

As suggested above, in Sinaiticus it does appear to me that the "us" is a later development with word "our" being transformed into the word "us" (i.e., hemon being penciled into hemas): in the word in question an omega was replaced by an alpha + sigma and then the nu had an epsilon added to give us the otherwise unnecessary preposition en. So it appears that the "our" in the phrase "to our (hemon) God" is at the root of the problem; the word translated "our" is the genitive form of the same word as "us" hemas (i.e., hemon); the earlier occurrence in the text of this cognate form probably influenced the erroneous change/intrusion. For it would have been an easy mistake to make or, in reading the manuscript, to assume someone had made, to think that the true object was lurking in the hemon; the next step was to just go on and make this correction: that is to say, someone probably altered hemon to hemas en to give us a direct object.


Sorry if this is a bit confusing. The bottom line is that in my considered opinion the "us" is not original to the true text, and probably there is also properly no "them"; but if we must put something in, the "us" is best replaced by "them", because that is what is meant (and that is how we must translate it into English where the ellipsis of the direct object is not allowed).

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello--I hope I am not bothering you right now. I just have a couple of quick questions. First, could you translate this for me? A poster on CARM has this as his signature and he refuses to translate it. I can actually read the words okay, but I don't know what most of them mean.

Τ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ το το οὐκ ἐξ ὑμ ν, θεο τὸ δ ρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.

Another question: you know the longer ending to Mark, in 16:9-20? Is that considered Scripture? Is it NOT found in the oldest and best manuscripts? I know Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sanaiticus don't have it. Does that mean it's not likely to have been in the original autographs? Does it exist in some manuscripts as uncials or minuscules? One source I found said, "It's true that in various ways some of he other manuscripts too indicate an awareness that from early times some questions were being raised about the closing verses of Mark's Gospel. But on the other hand, even the copyists of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which don't have these verses, may have known about verses 9-20, because at the place where those verse would have occurred in the manuscript, Sinaiticus has a blank space long enough to accommodate vs. 9-20, and in Vaticanus, there is a page missing. So even with these two manuscriptus, the omission of those twelve verses is not entirely conclusive....other objections, such as the difference in style and vocabulary, pointed to by critics, can for the most part, be accounted for by the change in subject matter."

What do you think?

Thanks and God bless you.

Response #9:   

No bother. The quote is the precise Greek text of Ephesians 2:8-9. As to Mark's ending, you are correct that neither the shorter nor the longer endings (past verse eight) are part of scripture, having been added at a later date, without a doubt to "ameliorate" ending the book with "for they were afraid". This is the sort of thing that "begs" for expansion. Here is a link to a response to the same question (please feel free to inquire further if this doesn't address all your questions on this score – I do address the unique criticism you mention in your quote after this response below): LINK in "Combating Legalism II"

The bit about Sinaiticus "leaving a space" for the additional verses is a canard. Sinaiticus adopts a standard practice one finds at the end of all books, namely, the scribe makes a calligraphic notation (after some space for appearance' sake) and leaves the rest of the column blank – not for insertion, but so as not to begin a new book in the middle of a column or page. All the books begin with a new column. What Metzger says is precisely correct on this score. Judging from Sinaiticus alone, one would have no idea that there was any controversy or any possible addition. As to Vaticanus, I checked the pseudo-facsimile (which is available on-line), and the ending is identical to that of Sinaiticus. Also, there is a calligraphic design in Vaticanus as there is in Sinaiticus indicating the proper end of the book at verse eight. Thus, the information included in the quote trying to discredit these two as witnesses against the later additions to Mark is entirely erroneous.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

I have another question. When the Word says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, what precisely is the proper meaning/translation of the words' transformed' and 'mind'?

Thank you.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will be with you at every step in your work for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Response #10:   

Here is how I translate Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2

The two words in question are the verb metamorphoo (the source of our English word "metamorphosis"), and nous, one of the more common Greek words for "mind" or the inner faculty of reasoning and thinking (we get "noetic" and "paranoia" from this word). Rather than be con-formed to the world's thinking, Paul here urges us to be trans-formed, i.e., to pursue spiritual growth, an entire restructuring of the way we think about the world and everything else, doing so through the taking in and believing of God's truth.

Thank you for your kind prayer!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Dr. Luginbill– Could you please tell me your understanding of John 2:19--"Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up."? Now, I know that "temple" has great theological significance here. The earthly temple was where God dwelt among His people, and in Jesus, the living Temple, God dwells also. That part I get. I also know that Jesus was subtly declaring Himself to be God. But does Jesus actually mean that He, Himself, would raise up His own body? I saw a commentary on-line that says that Jesus didn't mean that He would raise Himself up, that would be gnosticism. But I don't get it. Jesus is fully God as well as fully man. Most of the time, the bible says "God" raised Him from the dead. Once or twice, like in Gal. 1:1, it says that the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

Also, I have seen one or two others on CARM, that apologetics site where I hang out, say that Jesus didn't mean He would raise up His own body, that I am making the bible contradict itself, etc. because Paul said that the Father raised Jesus from the dead. I don't get it. IF Jesus is God--and He is--what is to keep Him from raising up His own dead body, after three days? He didn't cease to exist at death; He has and had an immortal soul, as we all do. What is to keep His raising from being a "joint project," so to speak, in the Triune Godhead???

Anyway, I would appreciate your understanding of this. Nearly all the commentaries we have at home focus much more on the "destroy this temple" part and the meaning of "temple" than the whether or not Jesus Himself would raise up His own body. Only one of our commentaries even mentions that: "And Jesus Himself will effect this raising up."

Thanks again. God bless you.

Response #11: 

I agree with you on this entirely. The phrase "this temple" very clearly refers to Jesus' body (as the text says), and "raising it" can only mean the resurrection. There are numerous places in scripture where one member of the Trinity is referred to as taking a particular action in one place, and another in another. The Father is the Planner, the Son the Agent, and Spirit the Empowerer (see the link: "Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God"). Since they are "one", meaning unity in all things, including design, execution and empowerment, there has never been a case where in some respect an action occurring in human history could not in some way be attributed to any of the three members since all three are always involved. Of course, generally speaking each action is the particular province of one member, so that this is not usually the case. Nevertheless, it is far from unusual for scripture to express an "overlap". For example, as the ultimate Authority the Father seems to be in view throughout the Old Testament (apart from the symbolism of rituals wherein the Son is represented). But when we come to John 12:41 we find that Isaiah's vision was of the Son (who is the visible face of God); so that the Son was acting for/as the Father – but the message is the same. The most famous case of scripture attributing an action to one Member one place and another is the procession of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7, Jesus says "I will send Him to you"; in John 15:26 He says "I will send Him to you from the Father"; In John 16:13 the Spirit is described as "coming" without any mention of sending or point of procession. These are not contradictions but merely different ways of expressing the same truth. Prayer is another example of this. It is often said that we are to offer prayers to the Father in the Name of the Son and in the [power of the] Spirit, and that is fine. But in John 14:14 Jesus says "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it". Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega at Revelation 22:13, but earlier, at Revelation 21:6 and 1:8 this title is used for the Father. The Father is LORD (YHVH), but so is Jesus and so is the Spirit (2Cor.3:17).

The Father is the One who raised Jesus, but Jesus is the resurrection and the life (Jn.11:25), and the Father raised Him through the Spirit as He will raise us (Rom.8:11). But while the Father will raise us "through the Spirit", in John 6:40; 6:44; and 6:54, Jesus says that it is He Himself who will "raise us up on the last day". I would say that the Father ordains the resurrection, the Son commands it (1Thes.4:16), and the Spirit empowers it. Each part is important and they all overlap seamlessly; no part can be left out; all three members of the Trinity can thus be said to "resurrect us". This was true of the resurrection of our Lord; this is true of the resurrection of us all on that great day of days.

In our dear Lord Jesus whose return we so eagerly anticipate.

Bob L.


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