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Text of the
New Testament
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away"
(Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).  
With these words He claimed the eternal
preservation of the gospel: that is, the New Testament.

Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah
(40:6) and applies his words equally to the New
Testament as they had applied to the oracles of the Old Testament, because
"All scripture
is given by the inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16).  "For all flesh is as grass, and all the
glory of man is as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth
away: but the word of he Lord endureth forever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is
preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:24,25).

The care and mercy of God haev preserved His word throughout the ages.  God cannot lie
(Titus 1:2), and He has promised to preserve His word.  It is unbelief, a lack of faith, which
questions the preservation of the word of God.  Though assailed by skeptics, attacked by
critics and attempted to be altered by heretics, the New Testament --
yea, all of the Bible --
has passed through the fires of trial unscathed; so that the result has been rather than a
weakening of the Bible, a strengthening of faith.

As the poet has said,

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.

"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, then said with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."

And so, I thought, the anvil of God's word
For ages skeptics' blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed -- the hammers gone!
                                -- John Clifford

But, since the inspiration of the New Testament reaches to the selection of the very words
used by the inspired writer
(1 Corinthians 2:13; Ephesians 3:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); to
preserve the New Testament, the
words guided by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and
recorded by the inspired writers
must have been preserved.  That is, the text of the New
Testament, must have been preserved.

The Text of the New Testament

Benjamin Warfield has said:

If we  compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient
writing, we must... declare it to be marvelously correct.  Such has been the care with which
the New Testament has been copied -- a care which has doubtless grown out of true
reverence for its holy words -- such has been the providence of God in preserving for His
Church in each and every age a competently exact text of the Scriptures, that not only is
the New Testament unrivaled among the ancient writings in the purity of it text as actually
transmitted and kept in use, but also in the abundance of testimony which has come down
to us for castigating its comparatively infrequent blemishes. [
Introduction to Textual
Criticism of the New Testament: Seventh Edition
; London: Hodder and Stoughton; 1907;
pp. 12-13].

The text of the New Testament is verified by the Greek manuscripts, the early versions,
and
quotations from the early writers.  There are over 5,000 manuscripts of the New
Testament or portions of it which date from as early as 130 a.d.  There are over 19,000
early versions or translations of the New Testament dating back to as early as 125 a.d.  
According to Leo Jagany there are in excess of 86,000 quotations of the New Testament in
Dean Burgon's index of New Testament citations of early writers in the British Museum.
[
An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament; Sands and Co.; 1937; p.
48].  This means that over 24,000 manuscripts testify to the validity and veracity of the New
Testament text.

This manuscript testimony places the New Testament upon a level all its own among all
writings of antiquity.  No other work has such attestation ot its text.  No other work is thus
so assuredly handed down to us from antiquity without change in its text.  As John
Warwick Montgomery states:
to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament
books is to allow allof classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the
ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament. [
History and
Christianity
; Inter-Varsity Press; Downes Grove, IL; 1971; p. 29].  The variance between
the testimony concerning
the text of the New Testament and that supporting clasical works
of note is undeniable.

Variants

It is true that the documents supporting the text of the New Testament contain in excess of
200,000 variants.  However, as Geisler and Nix point out:

There is an ambiguity in saying there are some 200,000 variants in the existing
manuscripts of the New Testament, since these represent only 10,000 places in the New
Testament.  If one single word is misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, this is counted
as 3,000 variants or readings. [
A General Introduction to the Bible; Moody Press;
Chicago; 1968; p. 141.]

The variations are due to: 1) a difference in Greek orthography (spelling); 2) different forms
of words (not affecting their meaning); 3) insertion or omission of words; 4) use of
synonyms, and 5) transposition of words.  Of each of these, the insertion and omission of
words is most noticeable in an English translation (although orthography, synonyms and
transposition of words can and do effect an English translation).  A critical Greek New
Testament, such as the United Bible Societies', makes note of the major variations along
with the witnesses for the variation.

The Majority Text

The vast majority of the manuscripts of the New Testament agree with one another almost
letter for letter.  It has been estimated that these comprise 95-96% of the manuscripts
extant.
 This text is, with minor variation, the text underlying the King James Version of the
New Testament, known as the Receieved Text, or the Textus Receptus. [There is a minor
difference between the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus; though this difference is
vastly less than the difference between the Textus Receptus and the texts of Westcott/Hort,
Nestle and the United Bible Societies.]  Of this text, Westcott and Hort reluctantly admit:

A text virtually identical with the prevalent Greek text of the Middle Ages [the Textus
Receptus] was used by Chrysostom and other Antiochian Fathers in the latter part of the
fourth century, and thus must have been represented by MSS [manuscripts] as old as any
now surviving. [
The New Testament in the Original Greek; MacMillan and Co.: Cambridge
and London; 1891; p. 548].

Of these manuscripts which agree so closely with one another, Westcott and Hort state
that they "must have had in the greater number of extant variations a common original
either contemporary with, or older than, our oldest MSS." [
Introduction: p. 92 as quoted in
The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established; J.W. Burgon;
arranged, completed and edited by Edward Miller; London; George Bell and Sons; 1896 p.
14].   The manuscripts of early versions and quotations from early "Christian" writers show
that the readings of the Textus Receptus were current in the manuscripts of the 2nd and
1st centuries.

The text of the Textus Receptus (or more appropriately the Majority Text) is recognized to
be the standard Greek text of the New Testament from the 8th century until the last of the
19th century.  Westcott and Hort admit it was the standard text of all translations of the
Reformation on.  It was the underlying text of all translations of the Reformation until the
[English] Revised Version of 1881.  It was the printed Greek text until the works of
Lachman, Tischendorf and Tregelles.  However, no widespread rejection of the Received
Text was accepted until the publication of the work of Westcott and Hort in their Greek text
in 1885.

[continued in part 2]