Trivium Pursuit

The New Testament Was Written in Greek

Hello Mr. Bluedorn,

I have some questions about the Bible in Greek:

1. What are the guidelines to buy a Bible in Greek?
2. When we buy a Bible in Greek, what is the text we are getting? The one called the Septuagint?
3. When choosing a Bible, how do we know if it is missing something — as the verses 1 John 5:7 you mentioned in the last Trivium Pursuit newsletter? What more we are missing in the modern translations?
4. What is your opinion of learning the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek? Or will it be enough to learn everything in Greek? It is not that I do not want to learn Hebrew; we are already learning the Hebrew alphabet. It is just that I want to know more about this original text.

Perla, Saudi Arabia

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The Septuagint is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There have been many different editions of the Greek New Testament over the past five hundred years, and especially over the past century. The differences in editions are due to which ancient Greek manuscripts are used to construct the edition.

Before printing was available, the Greek New Testament was copied by hand, and these ancient hand-written copies (manuscripts) are our sources for the wording of the New Testament. When we compare the wording of these many ancient manuscripts, we find that they are not all identical – they vary in wording from matters as small as the addition, alteration, or omission of a single letter to matters as large as the addition, alteration, or omission of several paragraphs. Here in brief is my perspective:

I do not believe that we can have any assurance that we have sorted out the correct readings from the incorrect readings of the ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures unless:

(1) We approach the manuscripts from a believing perspective – not merely a skeptical perspective.
(2) We consider all of the manuscript evidence – not just a narrowly selected portion of the evidence.
(3) We evaluate the manuscript evidence employing Biblical rules – not simply naturalistic rules.

If we approach the many manuscripts of the Scriptures merely from a skeptical, selective, and naturalistic perspective, then we cannot avoid having results which will reflect these values. However, if we approach the manuscripts of the Scriptures believingly, comprehensively, and Biblically, then we will have results which will reflect these values. This does not rule out sanctified skepticism, selectivity, and objectivity, but it does put these things under subjection to genuine faith, actual evidence, and sound Biblical rules.

There may be dozens of approaches to determining the correct reading of a passage of Scripture. Some persons for various reasons favor the readings of certain manuscripts. Other persons for various reasons favor certain techniques for choosing particular readings. Still other persons combine certain manuscripts with certain techniques. And you can well imagine that there are other things which people do with the manuscripts – some too silly even to mention. As far as readily accessible editions of the Greek New Testament are concerned, we can narrow the approaches down to three:

1. Selective Majority Greek Text – With the purpose of correcting and purifying the text according to more objective standards of evidence, editors from this approach have selected readings primarily from among a very large majority of manuscript witnesses which are homogenously spread out over time and space. The primary representatives of this set include:

Hodges, Zane C. and Arthur L. Farstad. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, second edition, 1985.

Robinson, Maurice A. and William G. Pierpont. The New Testament in the Original Greek, Byzantine Textform 2005. Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005.

These two editions have very similar but not identical texts and notations.

2. Eclectic Minority Greek Text – Editors from this approach have freely gathered readings from diverse sources, but primarily from a very small minority of manuscript witnesses which are greatly restricted in time and space, and from this they have composed a patchwork text from otherwise unrelated pieces and fragments – and even from conjectures – according to much more subjective rules of evaluation. The primary representatives of this set include:

Nestle, Eberhard, Erwin Nestle, Barbara Aland, and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993, revised 2001.

Aland, Kurt, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren. The Greek New Testament, 4th edition. Stuttgart: United Bible Societies/Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), 1993, revised 1994.

These two editions have agreed to publish virtually identical texts, but different notations.

3. Traditional Greek Text – Editors from this approach gathered and selected readings from texts available to them in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The printed editions which are in this set (various editions of Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, the Elzevirs and others) are now four to five centuries old, they differ very little between themselves, and since they are printed editions, they are no longer subject to noticeable change. Stephanus 1550 is the chief representative of this group of printed texts, and it is readily available today in printed and electronic formats. The text of Stephanus 1550 is largely standardized; it has no copyright; it is reasonably uniform; it is often published in readable format (movable nu, sigma, etc.).

I believe the Selective Majority Greek Text approach comes closer to a faithful, objective, and sound approach to determining the correct reading of a passage. However, because many of the ancient manuscripts have never been fully examined and compared for agreements and differences (collated), the efforts of those persons who have adopted this method of approach are necessarily incomplete at this time. Though I do not favor the Eclectic Minority Greek Text approach (the more popular approach today), nevertheless in our day this approach cannot be ignored. Although it is not subjected to the sanctifying scrutiny of genuine faith, actual evidence, and sound Biblical rules, it nevertheless does have some information to give.

A Note on the King James Version – The King James Version (known in England as the Authorised Version) was primarily based on the edition of the Greek New Testament produced by Theodore Beza in 1598, which Greek edition reads much the same as the edition of Stephanus in 1550. F.H.A. Scrivener (acknowledged by Westcott and Hort in their time to be the foremost scholar of ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament) attempted to reconstruct the probable Greek text which was followed by the translators of the KJV. The KJV translators apparently relied upon Beza 1598 as well as upon other Greek and some Latin manuscripts. “[I]n some places the Authorised Version corresponds but loosely with any form of the Greek original, while it exactly follows the Latin Vulgate. All variations from Beza’s text of 1598, in number about 190, are set down in an Appendix at the end of the volume, together with the authorities on which they respectively rest.” [Scrivener, F.H.A. The New Testament in Greek, According to the Text Followed in the Authorized Version, Together with the Variations Adopted in the Revised Version. Cambridge: University Press, 1881 [1908 reprint], p. ix.] So the King James Version would come closest to the Traditional Greek Text.

If you can read, or at least struggle through Greek, I have placed on my web page The Comparative Critical Greek New Testament, which shows all of the variations between the Traditional, the King James, the Majority, and the Minority texts. I have also placed there The Text and Margins of Robinson and Pierpont Compared to the Text and Margins of Hodges and Farstad, which shows over 200 differences between these two Majority text editions.

Nearly all modern translations omit, bracket, or add a qualifying note to 1 John 5:7.

For an English comparison, you can read my document The King James Version Versus Modern English Versions. This list demonstrates the amount of differences between the KJV English text and other English texts due to underlying differences in the underlying Greek text used for translating. It does not focus on different translations where the underlying Greek text is the same. That is a separate issue. Such words as “absent” and “alternative” are meant only with relation to the KJV text – they are not here a judgment as to which may actually be the “correct” text. That is a separate issue.

Some modern versions which do not follow the Minority Greek text include:

KJV — The King James Version
NKJV — The New King James Version
KJ21 — The 21st Century King James Version
TMB — The Third Millennium Bible
MKJV — The Modern King James Version
LITV — The Literal Version

I believe Greek should have the priority because it is the language of the New Testament, which should have priority. The Old Testament (written in Hebrew) serves the New Testament like John the Baptist serves Jesus — He [Jesus] must increase, but I [John] must decrease.

Harvey Bluedorn

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