2: The lie of the oldest and the best

By Jim MacIntosh

One of the most successful of the lies relating to the versions of the Bible is that the newer versions are founded on manuscripts that are the oldest in existence. From this it is implied that, being older, they must also be better. But while the Greek manuscripts that make up the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus may be the oldest manuscripts available, they are definitely not the oldest versions of the Bible in existence. Several ancient versions, including the Peshitta, Italic, Waldensian, and the Old Latin Vulgate are at least two hundred years older than the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. And these ancient versions are all in agreement with each other and with the Majority Text. Remember that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not agree with each other, as we have already seen, having some 3,000 points of difference in the Gospels alone.

It is also true that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts are in better physical condition than most other manuscripts. But does that automatically mean they are better in terms of their content? To suggest that they are is akin to suggesting that the most beautiful women are always the most virtuous, and that the most magnificent cathedrals always harbour the greatest truth. Why are they in better condition physically? For one thing, as we have already seen, they were written on high quality vellum and were therefore better able to stand the conditions of the centuries through which they have passed. For another, they are in better condition because nobody used them, primarily because they weren't worth using. Bible scholars readily identified them as having been corrupted.

At this point, let me use an illustration to show the folly of the "older is better" argument:

In our fanciful story, Colonel Sanders is beginning his first restaurant, and is having great success because people like the flavour produced by his secret recipe with its eleven herbs and spices. The colonel wrote out the recipe on a sheet of paper so others in the restaurant could use it when he was not there. As he opened new restaurants, he wrote out the recipe to provide it to managers in the new locations, carefully dating each sheet of paper.

But one of the employees felt he could improve on the colonel's recipe. He dropped two or three of the original herbs and added one or two spices, and wrote out the new recipe on a sheet of paper, which he carefully dated. He took that recipe to several of the restaurant managers and told them that it was new and improved, and suggested that they use it instead of the colonel's recipe. Some of them actually tried it, but quickly rejected the recipe because the chicken did not taste right. So the renegade employee took his recipe home and placed it in a shoebox on a back shelf. There it sat for 40 years, until the man died.

One of his nephews discovered the recipe and became excited when he noted the date. During the 40 years, the colonel had replaced the sheets of paper that he had given to his restaurant managers several times, because constant use quickly rendered them too soiled and tattered to read. Each of the managers had copies of the true recipe that were dated only a few years or even a few months previous. The nephew took the 40-year-old false recipe to those restaurant managers and declared that, because it was older, it must be better than the newer copies of the colonel's recipe.

Did they use his "older and better" recipe? Of course not! Only the paper was older, and the recipe was corrupted. Their "newer" versions were true to the colonel's original.

And so it is with the manuscripts on which our Bible is based. The translators of the KJV, and of other versions that rely on the Majority Text, had access to the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts, but they rejected them when they found that they had been corrupted and were not true to the older versions.

When they translated the New Testament, the KJV translators, and the great reformers before them, including William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, and others, chose between two vastly different Greek texts:

  1. The Received (Majority) Text that was favoured by the early churches of Christendom (The Greek, Waldensian, Albegensian, Gauls, and Celtic churches).

  2. Or the Minority Text that was favoured by the Roman Catholic Church.

Was the Holy Spirit guiding those translators? One of the untruths being told about those early Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries is that were not aware of the Minority Texts produced in the 4th century, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices. The truth is that as they began their work, they had copies of the Majority, Minority, and Neutral texts before them, along with a large number of ancient versions of the Scriptures:, including the Peshitta, Old Latin Vulgate, Italic, Waldensian, Albegensian, Gaul and Celtic Bibles. Besides all of these were thousands of scriptural citations of the early Church Fathers, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd century. They also knew that the Roman Church used a Eusebio-Origen type of Bible based on the Minority Text. With all of these resources before them, these men set aside the Minority Text and made the determination to produce versions of the Bible based entirely on the Majority Text, the same text used by the early Christian Church.

Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were produced by unbelieving Egyptian scribes who amended, added to, and deleted many portions of the true text and then palmed off their work as the Word of God. These manuscripts were then taken up by sceptical translators, who did not believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, to spawn a whole generation of new translations.

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