The Majority Text Has Always Been The Text of the Church

The Identity of the New Testament Text II by Wilbur N. Pickering, ThM PhD, Chapter 5:

840703_53305433In his book Aland’s discussion of the transmission of the NT text is permeated with the assumption that the Byzantine text was a secondary development that progressively contaminated the pure Egyptian (“Alexandrian”) text. But the chief “Alexandrian” witnesses, B, A (except e) and À (The Text, p. 107), are in constant and significant disagreement among themselves; so much so that there is no objective way of reconstructing an archetype. 150 years earlier the picture is the same; P45, P66 and P75 are quite dissimilar and do not reflect a single tradition. In A.D. 200 “there was no king in [Egypt]; everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” or so it would seem. But what if we were to entertain the hypothesis that the Byzantine tradition is the oldest and that the “Western” and “Alexandrian” MSS represent varying perturbations on the fringes of the main transmissional stream? Would this not make better sense of the surviving evidence? Then there would have been no “Western” or “Egyptian” archetypes, just various sources of contamination that acted in such a random fashion that each extant “Western” or “Egyptian” MS has a different ‘mosaic’. In contrast, there would indeed be a “Byzantine” archetype, which would reflect the original. In fact, virtually perfect exemplars exist in our day, as illustrated by 1841 for the pauline corpus and 424 for the general epistles.

Aland seems to grant that down through the centuries of church history the Byzantine text was regarded as “the text of the church”, and he traces the beginning of this state of affairs to Lucian.[49] He makes repeated mention of a “school of/at Antioch” and of Asia Minor. All of this is very interesting, because in his book he agrees with Adolf Harnack that “about 180 the greatest concentration of churches was in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast of Greece”.[50] This is the area where Greek was the mother tongue and where Greek continued to be used. It is also the area that started out with most of the Autographs. But Aland continues: “Even around A.D. 325 the scene was still largely unchanged. Asia Minor continued to be the heartland of the Church.” “The heartland of the Church”—so who else would be in a better position to identify the correct text of the New Testament? Who could ‘sell’ a fabricated text in Asia Minor in the early fourth century? I submit that the Byzantine text dominated the transmissional history because the churches in Asia Minor vouched for it. And they did so, from the very beginning, because they knew it was the true text, having received it from the Apostles. The Majority Text is what it is just because it has always been the Text of the Church.

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