Textual Transmission

Introduction to Textual Transmission

A. A definition
1. The final process

Inspiration The process of special revelation. This is the means by which God has spoken to mankind, in an understanding way.


The recognition of what is inspired. This is the means by which man has come to understand what God has spoken, the Bible is God’s word, it doesn’t simply contain words of God. The Spirit moved a man to write a biblical book. Books of the Bible are in there because they are recognised as being inspired.


The preservation of inspired Scripture. This is the means by which God’s words have been made available to all mankind of every time and place. It’s necessary because we do not have the autographs, or the originals, so we rely on copies.

1. The need to understand it.

Why do we need to understand it?

1. To understand the relationship between our 21st-century versions and the original texts. Does the 21st century Bible accurately represent the original writings?

2. To explain the existence of so many versions.

3. To show the need for continued revisions as we:

a. Gain access to more sources.

b. Better understand ancient languages.

c. Change the use of our own language.

This is our Book!

400 years ago you could be killed for having a Bible. The Bible is our book! It was written at the express will of our Father, breathed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, penned by our forefathers in the faith and our brothers in Christ, and copied and preserved by fellow saints.

It’s not the property of any publishing house, nor is it the property of any library or museum. This is our book. Let us cherish its words, learn its lessons, live its life, teach its message, and let us be of no doubt that this is what God has spoken.

How did it get from their pens to us today?

We don’t have the originals, we have manuscripts. They are copies of what was written and copies of copies and so on.

How can we trust the manuscripts?

General rule

The older the manuscript the more accurate it is likely to be. Closer to the time when it was originally written. But, this is not a universal rule. What matters is what generation copy it is. How many times it has been copied. A copy of a copy and so on.

A. Some difficulties of Transmission
1. Autographs

We don’t have original documents, anything written by Moses or Isaiah or Paul. The dating of documents, autographs and the material on which they were written makes it highly unlikely that we have the original texts. If we had them, they would be idolised.

2. Manuscript copies

We do have copies, but there are no two copies identical because of numerous errors.

Common Errors in Manuscripts:

a. Aural or visual confusion: What we hear, visual, what we see. Words or letters that sound and look the same. Similarly sounding or appearing words or letters are confused with one another, the text being dictated or copied.


Did you ever see a bun dance on the table? Did you ever see abundance on a table? Did you see abundance on a table? God is nowhere! God is now here! God is nowhere!

Codex Sinaiticus: capitals, without word divisions. Errors.

Dittography: Accidental duplication of one or more letters or words.

Haplography: Accidental omission of one or more letters or words occurring twice in close proximity.

Parablepsis: ‘Looking by the side’, literally. The scribe’s eye has wandered between two separate phrases or lines with identical endings and has either duplicated or omitted the intervening section.


In the Codex B in John 17:15 the word “them” occurs twice. The person would look away and write part of the section and picks up on the same word but further on misses the middle section. John 17:15 ‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.’ Error, ‘I do not ask you to take them from the evil one’.

Glosses: Remarks or comments might be inserted into the text and later preserved as part of the text itself.

A. The documents of Transmission

Manuscripts: both Old and New Testament copies in original languages.

Old Testament: Hebrew. New Testament: Greek.

Versions: early translations of both Old and New Testament, Syriac, Vulgate, LXX. It was through the Vulgate the bible was made known to Europe. Damasus asked Jerome to make a version. Jerome was to make a version from the Vulgate. 4th century. A revision of 4 gospels was done in Latin. Revision of the Psalms.

His 1st revision of the Psalms was known as the Roman Psalter. He revised the rest of the New Testament. The Codex b was similar to it. He used an Alexandrine type of text. He changed the text of the Latin where it was distorted. In 384 Damasus died and he completed the version. In 386 he settled in Bethlehem and lived there as a monk.

He produced a 2nd revision of the Psalms. It is now called the Gallican Psalter. Catholics use this. He translates the remainder of the New Testament from the Septuagint. He translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. 405 he completed this. He was called a heretic and accused of Judaising because he depended on the Hebrew text.

The Vulgate means common. The Old Testament was a version from the Hebrew. The New Testament was more of a revision of a text of the Old Latin. He wanted to get back to the pure text of Jerome. Alcuin of York. He revised a Vulgate manuscript. 8000+ Vulgate manuscripts exist today.

Codex Amiatinus. AD 700. This is the best manuscript of the Vulgate. It contains the entire Bible. In the 16th century, they were divided into 2 chapters. Patristic citations. Quotes from the fathers in the faith. Commentaries and sermons. The entire New Testament is found within them all except for 11 verses.

The problems as far as using this witness in reconstructing the text

1. Has the quotation been correctly preserved? We don’t have the original writings of the church fathers.

2. Did the writer intend to quote the whole sentence or just paraphrase?

3. Was the quote made from memory or was it copied? Because we don’t know the answers to these questions the usefulness of reconstructing the text is limited.

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Textual Transmission