A manuscript is a hand-copied document. This was the method used for writing and duplicating existing literature prior to the invention of printing. There are over 5,300 (5,309 to be exact) existing manuscripts of the Scriptures. Some of these manuscripts contain a large portion of scripture, while other are fragments.

Let us first consider certain Greek texts from which all New Testament translations are derived:

  1. the Majority Texts (Textus Receptus), and

  2. the Minority Texts (primarily the Westcott and Hort Greek Text, based primarily on the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus).

For obvious reasons, the Textus Receptus is also referred to as the "Majority Text" since the majority (95% or more) of existing manuscripts support this reading. These extant manuscripts were brought together by various editors such as Lucian (AD 250-312), Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevir brothers. The most notable editor of all was Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) one of the greatest scholars the world has ever known. When the early Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries decided to translate the scriptures directly from Greek into the languages of Europe, they selected Textus Receptus as their foundation Greek document.



The NASB, the NIV, the Jehovah's Witness bible ("New World Translation"), and most modern translations and paraphrases use the Westcott and Hort Greek Text, which is supported by only a small portion (5% or less) of existing manuscripts, including Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Alexandrian Codex, Parisian Codex, and Codex Bezae.

For obvious reasons, this text is referred to as the "Minority Texts." Westcott and Hort relied heavily on the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus for their Greek Text, which is particularly odd, considering the fact that these two codices contradict each other over 3,000 times in the gospels alone.

As stated above, there are more than 5,300 manuscripts in existence. These manuscripts are divided into several different formats:

  1. Papyrus fragments -- papyrus was relatively inexpensive compared to vellum (animal skins), and therefore was widely used. However, it was not very durable and copies would wear out rather rapidly through usage. The size of these papyrus fragments range from a few verses to large portions of an entire book.

  2. Unical -- these are copies that were written in capital letters.

  3. Cursive -- those written in small hand.

Of these 5,300+ existing manuscripts, over 95% are in agreement with, and form the basis for the Textus Receptus, which is the text which the King James translators used. Strange as it may seem, Westcott and Hort threw out the preponderance of manuscript evidence and opted rather to go with the Minority Texts! Hence we have inherited an ongoing struggle among New Testament critics, accompanied by havoc and confusion in churches caused by the introduction of these conflicting New Testament Greek texts. Since 1881, most subsequent versions have followed the Minority Texts.

Study the information in the following table. Although this data was compiled in 1967, recent archeological discoveries will not significantly effect the results. This data illustrates why the Textus Receptus is referred to as the "Majority Text."


of Manuscript
Total # of this
type manuscript
Number that
support WH*
Number that
support TR**
Papyrus 88 13 (15%) 75 (85%)
Unical 267 9 (3%) 258 (97%)
Cursive 2764 23 (1%) 2741 (99%)
Lectionary*** 2143 0 2143 (100%)

* WH indicates Westcott-Hort Greek Text (Minority Text)
** TR indicates Textus Receptus (Majority Text)
*** A lectionary is a book that contains a collection of scripture readings

The table gives the approximate number and percent of each type of Greek manuscript that supports the Westcott and Hort Greek Text, as well as the number and percent of each class that supports the Textus Receptus Greek text. These approximations are taken from the careful research of Dr. Jack Moorman in his book Forever Settled. [From: THE FOUR-FOLD SUPERIORITY OF THE KING JAMES VERSION By Dr. D.A. Waite]

There are a few other old manuscripts, even including fragmentary Greek papyri, whose textual character seems to conform more to the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus than to the Textus Receptus. However, these all have been traced (by liberal and conservative scholars alike) to a probable source in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 2nd or 3rd century. The most influential man among the "intellectual" community of Alexandria was the learned Origen, and it is believed by many that he was largely instrumental in developing the so-called "Alexandrian" text of the New Testament (of which the Vatican and Sinai manuscripts are representative), in contrast to the "Byzantine" text, from which the Textus Receptus has largely come.

With all his immense learning and zeal, however, Origen was a heretic. Like modern theistic evolutionists, he felt constrained to harmonize Christianity with pagan philosophy, especially that of Plato and the Stoics. This led him into excessive allegorization of Scripture, especially Genesis, and into denigrating the actual historical records of the Bible, even that of the bodily resurrection of Christ, as well as the literal creation of the world.

Whether or not Origen and his associates were first responsible for the differences in the Alexandrian text from the Byzantine, the fact remains that significant differences do exist, and that practically all modern English translations have been heavily influenced (via Westcott and Hort, etc.) in favor of the former, whereas the King James translation has its basis primarily in the latter.

The only place where these error laden, unreliable manuscripts excel is in the quality of the materials used on them. They have good bindings and fine animal skin pages. Their physical appearance, contrary to their worthless texts, are really rather attractive. But then we have all heard the saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover." The covers are beautiful but their texts are reprehensible.

And yet in spite of these well-known corruptions, they are the basis for many new versions such as the NIV and the NASB, rendering these versions critically flawed and unreliable. I will give many, many examples of these errors and omissions when I deal with the altered verses. Many of the differences between the manuscripts involve significant watering down of even such basic doctrines as Biblical inerrancy and the perfect divine/human nature of Christ. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember that, while the modern versions of the Bible do water down the truth and are not the BEST translations, they certainly do not completely eliminate these key doctrines, so it is still possible to discern these doctrines and to find the true gospel and way of salvation in many of the new texts or translations. My wife, for instance, was saved while reading the Good News Bible, which is a paraphrase based on the Minority Texts, which were corrupted. So you see, God uses even the flawed translations to accomplish His purposes and decrees.



Think about it . . . can you really imagine the Lord of Lords, the Holy One of Israel hiding Codex Vaticanus away for over 1,000 years in the Vatican Library till 1481? Or better yet, can you imagine Him prompting the monks of St Catherine's Monastery to dump Codex Sinaiticus into a waste basket?

Remember, the early Christians REJECTED these manuscripts. So, they went into secret libaries…and there they lay…until they were later dug up as "ancient manuscripts."

So here's what likely happened: the corrupt Alexandrian text (also called the "Egyptian" or "Hesychian" type text) found it's way into Constantine's bible (via Origen and Eusebius), one of which was the Vatican manuscript and another of which was the Sinai manuscript, but they were rejected and "thrown in the closet" by Christians of that day. However, after hundreds of years, they eventually were revived via the Westcott and Hort Greek Text, and finally crept into the new "Bible" versions in your local "Christian" bookstore.

The Devil is sneaky, isn't he??

Therefore, when you hear or read of someone "correcting" the King James Bible with "older" or "more authoritative" manuscripts, you are simply hearing someone trying to use a corrupted, pagan, gnostic, ecumenical, Roman Catholic text to overthrow the God-honored text of the Protestant Reformation and the great revivals. 


Home          Does it Really Matter?          Manuscripts           Codex Sinaiticus          Codex Vaticanus           Textus Receptus            Westcott & Hort
Is Older Better?           Other Translations             Altered Verses           Constantine            Origen            Tischendorf            Catholics & the Jesuits