Bible Source Texts
The Greek New Testament
The lingua franca of the early centuries of Christianity
A. Need of Study of the Original Text.The New Testament was written in Greek originally, save for the Gospel of St. Matthew, though even this has only been preserved for us in its Greek dress. Greek might be described as the lingua franca of the early centuries of Christianity; indeed the translation of the Old Testament into Greek prepared the way for the speedy propagation of Christianity. The Fathers of the Church used the Greek Testament and commented on it; this was the case even with the Latin Fathers, e.g. St. Jerome and St. Augustine, thus the latter remarks of his Exposition of the Epistle of St. James that "it is of some use save for the fact that when I dictated those notes we had not a careful translation of the Epistle from the Greek when we were reading it." It was inevitable however that in the course of time the translations into the various vernacular tongues should supersede the original text. This was the case in Syria where the Syriac versions prevailed to such an extent that at the opening of the fourth century Rabbula the Bishop of Edessa felt constrained to translate the New Testament afresh from the Greek, and especially in the West where the Latin translations almost completely ousted the Greek text. When, after the fall of Constantinople in A.D. 1453, Europe was flooded with Greek MSS., the study of the Greek Testament was taken up with enthusiasm. We see the effect of this Renaissance in Erasmus' editions of the Greek Testament as well as in those published by Stephens. Neither did the commentators of those days neglect the Greek text, it will suffice to instance Cardinal Cajetan's  works on the New Testament. The Reformers however went to extremes; they scorned the Latin versions and looked upon the Greek text as a hammer wherewith to destroy all Church authority as being based upon a corrupt and untrustworthy translation. Hence the battle of versions and renderings which compelled the Tridentine Fathers to pronounce that the Latin Vulgate was the authentic Latin version. This did not mean that the Vulgate was to supersede the original, nor that it was a perfect translation. Appeal to the original was in no sense discouraged, rather the reverse, as is evident from the title-page of the Rheims and Douay versions of N.T. and O.T. respectively.
It may not be amiss to point out some of the advantages accruing from a study of the Greek text.
A. The tenses are naturally of prime importance for arriving at a clear sense of the text, e.g. in 2 Cor. 3 the involved argument of St. Paul is rendered still more intricate if the tenses are not carefully and exactly rendered, cf. John 15:6. Perhaps no version can do complete justice to the Greek tenses any more than to the notoriously difficult Hebrew tenses.
B. The prepositions require very careful handling, e.g. John 1:1, 18.
C. The same is the case with the conjunctions, e.g. St. Paul's favorite ἄρα.
D. The compound verbs afford us, when rightly understood, an insight into the meaning such as would not otherwise be obtained, see 2 Cor. 5:8.
E. The article, again, is a source of difficulty and is often obscured in the Rheims version owing to the fact that Latin has no article, see such familiar examples as John 1:21, 25, 17:14; cf. Matt. 5:39.
F. The so-called "recitative" ὅτι is often rendered unnecessarily by quia in the Vulgate, e.g. John 9:9, 17, and sometimes accorded a place in the Vulgate without warrant from the Greek, e.g. John 10:34.
G. It is often impossible to tell from a translation whether the author is using some frequently recurring word or not, since care has not been taken always to render the same word by the same English equivalent; thus note the varying renderings of λόγος by verbum, sermo and ratio, 1 Cor. 1:5, 2:4, 15:2; of νοῡς by sensus, mens, intellectus, Rom. 1:28, 7:23, Apoc. 13:18; of νόημα by sensus, mens, intellectus, intelligentia, 2 Cor. 3:14, 4:4, 10:5, Phil. 4:7; of ἐγκράτεια by abstinentia, continentia, castitas, 2 Peter 1:6, Gal. 5:23, Acts 24:25; of ἁγνός by incontaminatus, castus, sanctus, pudicus, 2 Cor. 7:11, 11:2, Phil. 4:8, Jas. 3:17; the failure to discriminate between κρίνω and its compounds, 1 Cor. 4:1-5; ἐξαπορευέσθαι is rendered by taedere, tedious, 2 Cor. 1:8, by destituimur, destitute, 4:8; ἀπορεύεσθαι by haesitanies, doubting, John 13:22, by aporiamur, we want, 2 Cor. 4:8, by confundor, confounded, Gal. 4:20, etc.
H. The true significance of many theological terms can only be gauged by the Greek, e.g. sacramentum, Ephes. 3:3, and note such Greek terms as πλήρωμα, ἐσκήνωσεν, John 1:14, φιλεῑν and ἀγαπᾱν in John 21:15-17, ἐπιθέντες τας χεῑρας and χειροτονήσαντες, 14:23. Similarly the Greek equivalent of such words as consummatio, Ephes. 4:12, 1 Cor. 1:10, 2 Cor. 13:9; gratulatio, Phil. 1:26; causa, Phil. 1:28; necessarium, 3:1; reformabit, 3:21; conversatio, Ephes. 2:12, Phil. 3:20, 1:27; omnia in John 12:32, is often illuminative.
I. Last but not least comes the question of Greek syntax and Grammar in the time of Christ. The time has gone by when peculiarities of N.T. Greek, as it used to be termed, could be explained by saying that they are due to the fact that the writers were thinking in Aramaic but expressing their thoughts in Greek. Neither can we now maintain that an adequate explanation of many apparent solecisms is to be found in the writer's familiarity with the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. The Papyri so laboriously discovered and deciphered during the last decade have shown us convincingly that the Greek of St. Paul's Epistles, for example, is precisely that which was in use in ordinary correspondence at that time. It is not a law unto itself.
B. Manuscripts of the Greek Testament
Codex Vaticanus, B.This is the oldest MS. of the Greek Testament in existence, it dates from the early part of the fourth century. Little is known of its history save that it was in the Vatican library in the time of Nicolas V. in 1448; possibly it was brought there by Cardinal Bessarion. Napoleon carried it off to Paris, but after the battle of Waterloo it was returned to Rome. This MS. is defective from Heb. 9:14 to the end, but as the Catholic Epistles follows upon Acts this mutilation only implies the omission of the latter portion of Hebrews and of the Apocalypse; these omissions have been supplied by a later hand. The punctuation, the breathings and the accents are also due to a later hand. Mark 16:9-20 was deliberately omitted, as is shown by the space left for it. The MS. was corrected by the official corrector, or Diorthotes, as also by at least two later correctors. The Codex is remarkable for its omissions; it has been calculated that these amount to no less than 2556 in all for N.T. It is peculiar in having three columns of text to a page, and the conjecture has been made that since Codex Sinaiticus, א has four columns to the page, we have here the explanation of Eusebius' account of the fifty copies of the Scriptures which he had made at the order of Constantine "volumes of a threefold and fourfold form." The MS. may however have been written at Rome  or in Egypt. The text of Vaticanus has been collated many times though imperfectly, in 1669, 1720, 1729, 1780, at Paris by Hug in 1809, by Tischendorf three times in 1843, 1845, 1866, from this last collation Tischendorf produced his edition of 1867. The MS. was edited, imperfectly, by Mai in 1857, by Vercellone in 1859, by Vercellone and Cozza in 1868, by Fabiani and Cozza in 1881, till, in 1889, it was reproduced as a photo-lithograph by Cozza and Luzi.
Codex Sinaiticus, אThis codex was discovered by Tischendorf during visits to Mount Sinai from 1844 to 1859. He published both O.T. and N.T. from 1846-1862, and N.T. alone in 1863. The text of N.T. is complete; as in B the Catholic Epp. follow after Acts, and Hebrews follows 2 Thess. The MS. contains the Epistle of Barnabas, as well as a large fragment of the Shepherd of Hermas. Mark 16:9-20 is deliberately omitted. There are neither breathings nor accents; punctuation is generally wanting. The copy was corrected by the original scribe, as well as by his official corrector, also by a sixth-century corrector, אa, by אb a little later, in very many places by אc of the seventh century, and by as many as eight other correctors of later date. Tischendorf held that one of these copyists of א also had a part in copying B, and this is endorsed by Hort  and by Scrivener-Miller. It is generally conceded that א is practically contemporaneous with B, i.e. about the middle of the fourth century. The MS. has been published in facsimile by Lake. This editor would hold that both א and B came from the same scriptorium, and that both were written in Egypt. The text stands in four columns; the numerals are represented by letters.
Codex Alexandrinus, AThis famous copy is now in the British Museum; it was presented to Charles I. by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1628. It may be referred to the close of the fourth century or to the opening of the fifth. An Arabic note says that it was copied by St. Thecla the martyr. The punctuation is elementary, and has not been added to by any later hand. The contents of the Codex are peculiar: prefixed to the Psalms is St. Athanasius' Ep. ad Manellinim, at the end come two Epistles of St. Clement, as well as a collection of Odes, including the Magnificat which is referred to the θεότοκος. The table of contents shows that originally the Psalms of Solomon were appended, though they are now lacking. The text of N.T. is deficient in Matt, 1-25:5, John 6:50—8:22 ; 2 Cor. 4:13 — 12:7. The Greek text is interesting since it approximates to the text preserved in later MSS. rather than to that given in א and B. The MS. may have been copied at Alexandria. It was collated by Young in 1633, the O.T. was edited by Grabe in 1707-1720, the N.T. by Woide in 1786, a folio edition, in octavo iDy Cowper in 1860, by Hansell in 1864, while the British Museum published an autotype copy in 1879. The Epistles of Clement were edited from it by Young in 1633.
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, C.This is a palimpsest, i.e., somewhere about the twelfth century the original writing was partially rubbed out and the parchment used for a copy of a Greek translation of some of St. Ephraim's works, hence the name by which the MS. is known. The under- lying Biblical text is valuable, and is to be referred to the fifth century. Two correctors, C** and C*** worked over the text, the former probably in the sixth century, the latter perhaps in the ninth century, when the MS. appears to have found its way to Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople in A.D. 1453 the Codex became the property of Catharine de Medici, and later passed to the Paris Library. Not quite two-thirds of the text of N.T. have been preserved, and even this is only legible with difficulty. There is only one column to the page, there are no accents or breathings by the original writer, the punctuation is slight. The copy may have been made at Alexandria. It was collated by Wetstein for Bentley in 1716, and a fine edition was published by Tischendorf in 1843.
Codex Bezae or Cantabridgiensis, DThis MS. was presented to the University of Cambridge by Theodore Beza in 1681; he declared that he obtained it from the monastery of St. Irenaeus at Lyons in 1562. It is thought that it was brought to the Council of Trent in 1546 by the Bishop of Claremont, The MS. almost certainly dates from the sixth century, and its main interest lies in the fact that it presents a bilingual, viz., Greek and Latin, text of the Gospels and Acts which accords with the text known to Irenseus towards the close of the second century. The Gospels are in the order Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark ; there are gaps in the text of each, as also in Acts. There are also sixty-seven leaves wanting and this gap closes with 3 John 11-15; on the supposition that the Catholic Epistles were here given they would only have occupied some thirty-six leaves, so that we still have a space of sixteen leaves to account for. This interesting MS. lay neglected for a long time, though Stephens had given readings from it in his edition of 1550, while Ussher collated it for Walton's Polyglott and Kipling edited it in 1793. Of late years it has been much studied by reason of the curious additions it presents to the ordinary text, especially in Acts. These latter are so curiously extensive that Blass was led to suppose that we had in this text an earlier and less polished edition of his Acts published by Luke himself. Scrivener published a handy edition of it in 1864, and in 1891 Rendel Harris set forth the ingenious but unconvincing theory that "the Bezan Latin is of prime importance, while the Greek has no certain value, except where it differs from its own Latin, and must not any longer be regarded as an independent authority." Rendel Harris even held that the text, in the Gospels at least, was older than Tatian. The question of this Western text as it is called, and of its relation to the Syriac text and to Irenaeus, has been discussed by Chase. The Cambridge University published a photolithographic edition in 1898.
The foregoing are the principal Uncial MSS. of N.T. The Cursive MSS. are of later date of course, but they are of immense importance, since they are derived from older MSS., so that their actual date is not of such consequence as their affinity with better known MSS. The number of known Cursive MSS. is legion, no less than 1,321 are enumerated in Scrivener-Miller for the Gospels alone, 420 for Acts, 491 for St. Paul's Epistles, 184 for Apocalypse, 963 Evangelistaria or manuscript copies of the Gospels for liturgical purposes, and 288 Lectionaries or service books containing the Epistles or Acts. Some of the cursives are better known than others because they have been more diligently studied: e.g., Nos. 1, 33, 102, 118, 131, which betray affinity with א, B, L, Nos. 13, 69 (the famous Codex Leicestrensis), 124, 346, forming the so-called Ferrar group and approximating to the Old Latin, the Harclean Syriac, and the uncials D and L. Codex Montfortianus, No. 61, is of interest owing to the fact that it has the text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses in 1 John 5:7, and thus convinced Erasmus that there was Greek warrant for this passage.
C. The PapyriIf the ever-growing number of Biblical texts has rendered the problem of Textual Criticism more complicated, the discovery of the Papyri in these last years has tended to make it still more so. From the year 1877, when the first large finds of papyri were made at Arsinoe in the Fayoum, an ever-growing flood of papyri has poured into the museums of Europe. For convenience' sake these papyri are tabulated according to the place in which they are found, or according to the collections in which they are now formed, or according to the name of some well-known collector. Thus we have the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the British Museum Papyri, and the Amherst Papyri. The oldest dated documents amongst them are those of 311 b.c; the earlier ones are carefully dated according to the day, month, and year, but after the close of the first century A.D. the year is not found. The Biblical fragments discovered are not, relatively speaking, very numerous, but they are of immense importance. Thus amongst other fragments of N.T. we have the greater part of Matthew 1 discovered in January, 1896, and referred to the close of the third century; also Matt. 12:25-26, 31-33 of the same period; John 2:11-22 of the fourth century; John 15:25-27, 16:21-31 of the close of the third century, 1 Cor. 7:18 — 8:1 of the fourth century; Phil. 3:9— 4:4 of the same date; Heb. 9:12-19 of the fourth century; Apoc. 1:4-7 third to fourth century, 3:19 — 4:1 fourth century, also 5:5-8, 6:5-8 ]; Jas. 1:10-18; as well as many other fragments of which a list is given in the Encyclopcedia Biblica, pp. 3559 ff. As for the textual affinities of these fragments the general opinion is that they approximate rather to the text of א, B and C than to that of the later Uncials. But this is hardly borne out by Grenfell and Hunt's statements, which are exceedingly cautious on this point. The greatest Biblical "find" of late years has been of the MSS. now known as the Freer MSS. These were discovered in Egypt in 1907, and consist of copies of Deuteronomy and Josue of the sixth century, a Psalter and fragments of St. Paul's Epistles of the same date, and a complete copy of the four Gospels said to date from the fifth century, and giving another ending to St. Mark's Gospel only known previously from St. Jerome.
We must hold our hand for the present in the realm of textual criticism of N.T. till the vast material at our disposal is more thoroughly sifted. It will be long before this is done, for Dr. Grenfell remarked in 1908 that only one-sixth of the Oxyrynchus Papyri alone had as yet been deciphered.
In addition to fragments of O.T. and N.T. the papyri have disclosed the existence of an immense number of apocryphal works which were in circulation in the early days of Christianity. The most interesting of these of course are the so-called Logia or "Sayings" of Christ. Three sets of these, or of fragments of them, have been discovered; they were published separately by the Clarendon Press in 1897, 1904, and 1908. Besides these we have, amongst many others, valuable additions to our knowledge of such works as the Book of Enoch, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Protevangelium.
D. Printed Editions of the Greek TestamentThe first half-century of the printing press saw at least 124 editions of the Latin Bible, but it was not till 1520 that the N.T. in Cardinal Ximenes' Complutensian Polyglott saw the light, though this portion, viz. the N.T., had been completed since 1514. It is impossible at this date to ascertain what MSS. were made use of in this edition, but it is practically certain that none of an acknowledged standing were used. Erasmus published five editions, in 1516, 1519, 1522, 1527, and 1535. Of his first edition Erasmus himself said: "Praecipitatum fuit verius quam editum," and its typographical errors are such as to make Scrivener say "Erasmus' first edition is in this respect the most faulty book I know."
Robert Stephen (Etienne) published four editions, 1546, 1549, 1550, and 1551. His third edition is of interest as being the first with a critical apparatus; the MSS. he used are fairly well identified with the Cursive Codices of the Gospels 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 120. The most interesting feature, however, is his use of Bezae, D. Stephen's fourth edition is remarkable as giving for the first time the division into verses.
Theodore Beza, or de Beze, published no less than four folio and six octavo editions of the Greek N.T. between 1565 and 1611. He unfortunately adapted his choice of readings to his theological prepossessions. Beza based his text on Stephen's fourth edition, and the Elzevir edition of 1624 is again based on this, so that Beza might well claim to be the real author of the Received Text (Textus Receptus).
The Elzevir texts are famous for their beauty as well as for the claim made in the Preface to the edition of 1624 that the text printed is "received by all," (see The Received Text).
These early printed copies may be said to have laid the foundation of our printed text, but the work expended on the text was in no sense critical. From the date of publication of the Elzevir editions the history of the printed text merges in the history of textual criticism.
1 - Retract. II. xxxii. ; P.L. XXXII. 643.
2 - See s.v. Syriac Versions.
3 - Died A.D. 1535.
4 - "Further, the same Holy Synod, reflecting that there may accrue no small gain to the Church of God if it be clearly made known which of all the Latin versions of the Sacred Books which are in circulation is to be considered authentic : pronounces and declares that the well- known (haec ipsa) old and commonly-used (vulgata) edition which has been approved by so many centuries of use in the Church itself, is to be held as authentic in public readings, disputations, preachings and expositions, and that no one is to dare or presume to reject it on any pretext whatsoever." See Denzinger, No. 785, 11th ed., 1911.
5 - The Title page of the Rheims New Testament runs as follows:
The New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated faithfully into English, out of the authentical Latin, according to the best corrected copies of the same, diligently conferred with the Greeke and other editions in divers languages: With Arguments of bookes and chapters. Annotations and other necessarie helpes, for the better understanding of the text, and especially for the better discoverie of the Corruptions of divers late translations, and for cleering the Controversies in religion of these daies.
6 - We are far from implying that on all occasions the same Greek word should be translated by the same English equivalent. It is impossible to be pedantic in such a matter. The genius of each language is different and the context will often show us that the original can only be correctly rendered by varying the English terms used, a classic instance would be the use of παρακαλεῑν in 2 Cor. 1, cf. St. Jerome, Comment. in Ep. ad Titum, iii. 15, P.L. XXVI. 589; note also St. John's distinction between αἰτεῑν and ἐρωτᾱν, 14:13-16, 15:7, 16:23-26.
7 - So Dr. Dobbin in Dublin University Magazine, November, 1859, p. 620, quoted in Scrivener-Miller, I. 120 note.
8 - Vita Constantina, IV, xxxvii., P.G. XX. 1185, where Eusebius writes τεύχεσι τρισσὰ καὶ τετρασσὰ represented in Latin by "terniones et quaterniones" which would seem however to demand rather τριπλόα καὶ τετραπλόα, whereas τρισσὰ καὶ τετρασσὰ might well be used to express the arrangement of the text in three and four columns respectively, see Cook in Scrivener-Miller, II. p. 119 note.
9 - So the Roman editors in ed. of 1889.
10 - So Hort, Introduction, p. 267.
11 - Cf. Codex B. and its Allies, Hoskier, London, 1914.
12 - Introduction, p. 213.
13 - II. 96, note, but cf. Lagrange in R.B., October, 1913, p. 486.
14 - See above, Codex Vaticanus.
15 - For accents, etc., in early MSS. see St. Epiphanius, De Mensuris ii., P.G. XLIII. 238.
16 - For a study of this MS. see J.T.S., 1910, p. 514.
17 - Acta Aposiolorum secundum formam quae videtur Romanam, 1897.
18 - Texts and Studies, II. p. 161. An early date is claimed for the text in D by C. H. Turner, Studies in Early Church History, pp. 178-9, Clarendon Press, 1912.
19 - The Old Syriac Element in the text of Codex Bezae, 1893, and The Syro-Latin text of the Gospels, 1895.
20 - For some idea of the work yet to be done on the Cursive MSS. see Hoskier, J.T.S., 1913, pp. 245, 359.
21 - Egypt Explor. Rep. 1895-6.
22 - Oxyrhynchus Papyri, X.
23 - Ibid., VI.
24 - Ibid., X.
25 - Ibid., VII.
26 - Ibid.
27 - Ibid., VIII.
28 - Ibid.
29 - Ibid.
30 - Ibid., X.
31 - Ibid., IX. and X.
32 - Selections fyom the Greek Papyri, Milligan, 1912, p. xxix. note.
33 - See their remarks on the Biblical fragments given, for instance, in Oxyrhynchus Papyri, VI., VII. and VIII.
34 - Egypt Explor. Rep. 1907-8, pp. 47-48; see R.B. July, 1908, p. 450.
35 - Athenaeum, August 22, 1908, quoted in Milligan, l.c. p. xxv. note. For the whole subject see, in addition to the great publications of Papyri which are not readily accessible, Milligan's Selections given above, an excellent handbook and very cheap; also Deissmann, Bible Studies, 2nd ed. 1909; Light from the Ancient East, 1910; also two most interesting papers, Oxyrhynchus and its Papyri by Grenfell in the Egypt Exploration Report for 1896-7, and Papyri and Papyrology by Hunt in the Journal of Egyptian Archeology, I. ii. April, 1914. Moulton and Milligan are bringing out now (1917) The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament illustrated from the Papyri in six 6s. parts, Hodder and Stoughton.
36 - See Scrivener-Miller, II. p. 62.
37 - Ibid., p. 183.
38 - Ibid., p. 185; cf. Expositor, June, 1916.
Hugh Pope, O.P., S.T.M., D.S.ScR.
Professor of New Testament Exegesis
The Collegio Angelico, Rome
F. Thomas Bergh, O.S.B.,
Edm. Can. Surmont,