[b-hebrew] Is the Massoretic text reliable?

James Christian jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Mon Nov 23 08:14:56 EST 2009


> >
> >
> >>
> >> > You've lost me here. The sinaiticus and the vaticanus are the major
> >> basis
> >> > of the Byzantine tradition. What do you mean by 'Byzantine tradition'?
> >> >
> >>
> >> Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are of the “Alexandrian text type”, not
> >> Byzantine.
> >> They are the basis of modern “critical” editions of the New Testament.
> >>
> >>
> > Ok. I'm now clear on what you mean. The later Byzantine traditions are
> > characterised by their use of minuscule script and punctuation not
> present
> > in the older traditions.
> >
> No, not at all. The Alexandrian and Byzantine traditions are based on the
> words used, not the use of miniscule and punctuation. You should have known
> that.
I've seen both the Codex Alexandrinus and the major section of the Codex
Sinaiticus in the British Library in London and the few pages that remain of
Codex Sinaiticus in St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.
I've also seen a great deal of later manuscripts and I can say that the most
striking visual difference is that the older manuscripts use maiuscule
script with no spaces between words while the later use minuscule with
punctuation, aspirations, accents and spaces between words.

As for the words used I'm not entirely sure what you mean. Evidently, we are
seeing some form of standardisation in the history of the transmission of
manuscripts where a particular tradition has gained dominance over another
and we have a received text. This has happened both in the Hebrew and the
Greek and yet where they intersect (the old testament) we nonetheless see

I would strongly suspect that there are doctrinal issues which have been a
major force in the standardisation of texts. See for example the NT verse
'there are three witnesses on earth... and there are three witnesses in
heaven...' which is not attested in any of the older Greek manuscripts.
After hearing from an Orthodox monk that there are uncatalogued old
manuscripts stashed away in the monasteries on Athos I spent some time
meeting the patriarchs who live at Athos to gain access to their libraries
and to this day nobody has been able to produce a single manuscript which
confirms the authenticity of this verse. In fact, to the contrary, all those
with authority I have gained access to have admitted that no such
manuscripts exist in any of their libraries.

Some Orthodox monks (like Justin the librarian at the St Catherine's
Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai) entertain the possibility that the
Codex Sinaiticus was one of the first 50 codices hand written under the
order of Constantine through Eusebius and yet even though Constantine was a
major player in the establishment of the Nicene creed this verse is not
present in the Codex Sinaiticus.

These factors only call into question the process which the received Greek
text went through before it reached its final state.

James Christian

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