Dear Saints of Grace congregation,
The on-going study of God’s Word is EVER important. Although the study and awareness of deeper topics involving God’s Word can seem too hard or be considered unimportant in relation to your salvation, we must keep in mind, as Christians, that these truths of God’s Word (re: doctrine or translations) must be fought for because future generations will be in need of them as well.
In this on-going important study, I give George Melke the opportunity to share his discoveries on translations with you. May you enjoy his findings as I have.
With you IN Christ!
The Inspired and Inerrant Word of God
in the English Language
""The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever."
Last month's introduction asked the question: ‘Why are modern scholars ignoring the long established Received Text, also known as the Textus Receptus?’ It is because modern scholars prefer minority texts that are older (but have many more variances within the manuscripts). The Received Text is a Majority Text based on the vast majority of manuscripts which are still in existence.
These manuscripts were brought together by various editors (Lucian [AD 250-312], Erasmus, Stepahanus, Beza and the Elzevir brothers) to form the text known as the Textus Receptus, or Byzantine Text, (the name given to the Majority Text in the 17th century).
Early Protestant reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries translated the Scriptures directly from Greek into European languages. They selected the Textus Receptus as their foundational Greek document.
The most notable editor (and one of the greatest scholars of the day) was Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536). Born in Holland on October 27th, the son of a Roman Catholic priest, Desiderius and his brother Peter were sent to one the best Latin schools in the Netherlands where he studied Greek.
In 1492, at the age of 25 and living in poverty, Erasmus became an ordained Roman Catholic priest. He did not serve long as an active priest as he was drawn to education. He befriended sponsors who supported him in his day long studies. He was an independent scholar who made a conscious effort to avoid any actions or formal ties that might inhibit his freedom to study.
Only after he had mastered Latin did Erasmus begin to express himself on major contemporary themes in literature and religion. His research into the Latin Vulgate of Jerome led him to find that the copyists of the New Testament era were not as faithful as the old. In 1512 he began doing research from the all the copies of the Vulgate he could find, to create a critical edition, updating the Latin New Testament. After mastering the Greek language, he began working on a second project, the collation of Greek Texts which would form the first Greek New Testament.
By working on both at the same time, Erasmus was able to reconcile the differences between the Vulgate and the Greek Byzantine Texts and produce compatible editions of the Latin New Testament and the Greek New Testament, thus explaining why his Greek Text is also called a Majority Text.
The manuscripts which were used by Erasmus are based on a small number of late manuscript witnesses (‘late’ meaning, they were not older and closer to the time of the original written manuscripts and ‘witnesses’ meaning testimonials). While discoveries since then dwarf what were available to Erasmus, we should not undervalue the late manuscripts with which he worked or the text of his Greek New Testament. They are faithful exemplars of the vast majority of New Testament manuscripts used throughout the Church since the apostolic era. In fact, the vast majority of ancient witnesses to the text of the New Testament favor this Majority or Received Text of Erasmus. Erasmus and the Church were aware of the minority texts in existence, but because of the variances in the manuscripts, they were not considered reliable.
The Reformers were given a printed Greek New Testament which presented what had been preserved as sacred text in the Church throughout her history. Notably, Martin Luther used Erasmus' 2nd Edition of 1519 as the basis of his German Bible. Additionally, William Tyndale (another great steadfast fighter of God’s Truth) is said to have used the 3rd Edition of 1522 for his first English Bible.
More about Erasmus and Tyndale in the coming months.
*Written by George B. Melke, lay member of Grace Lutheran Church, San Mateo, California.*