NIV based on Alexandrian Manuscripts

It is common knowledge that the Greek New Testament text produced by Westcott and Hort was based on the Alexandrian manuscripts Sinaticus and Vaticanus.  This text was then used to produce the Revised Version 1881 and the American Standard Version 1901.   The more recent translations such as the NASB and the NIV, claim to use an ‘eclectic’ text that combines all the known readings and supposedly uses the most prevalent one.  It is claimed that they did not use the Alexandrian manuscripts or the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament at all.  Or did they?

In the NIV, Mark 16:9-20 is separated from the rest of the text by a line and some small print text.  In the 1984 edition this text reads:

The most reliable early mss. and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20

This line implies that they have many manuscripts that would justify their separation of verses 9-20 from the rest of the text. In the original 1978 edition, the separating text reads such:

The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.

Notice in this text there are only two manuscripts mentioned, and no “ancient witnesses.”   The NIV translators made this omission based on only two manuscripts!!  There are 5000+ known NT mss.!  But the two that they use are supposedly the “earliest and most reliable.”   Apparently in the 1984 edition, the NIV editors had to change their footnote for Mark 16:9-20. What if someone had realized that they had made this omission with only two manuscripts to back it up?  What would happen then?   That footnote implied that they were at least incompetent, if not worse.

But these great scholars, who thought they were doing us a favor by informing us that the “two most reliable early manuscripts” omit this passage, never admitted the identity of these “oldest and best” manuscripts.  C. I. Schofield, despite his support for new bible versions, put this footnote in his Schofield Reference Bible:

Verses 9-20 are not found in the two most ancient mss., the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus; others have them with partial omissions and variations.  But the passage is quoted by Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the second or third century. (1998 ed.)

Scolfield actually admits that the “oldest” manuscripts that omit the verse are Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  The “two most reliable early manuscripts” of the NIV are none other than Sinaiticus and Vaticanus!  But wait!! I thought the NIV translators didn’t use those manuscripts!!!

More proof the NIV uses the Alexandrian Manuscripts of Westcott and Hort:

Westcott and Hort edited the Greek text used for the Revised Version (1881) and the American Standard Version (1901).  Both the RV and ASV omitted about 17 verses.  The New American Standard Bible, a revision of the ASV, only omits 16 verses.  The NIV omits the exact same 17 verses that the RV and the ASV omits!  If the NIV uses a different Greek text, then why does it omit the same verses?

And if you still won’t believe me . . .   the NIV translators themselves admit that they used the Sinaticus and Vaticanus manuscripts. Indeed, they admit that these two manuscripts formed the basis for their translation.

Here is what NIV translator Ralph Earle wrote about the two Alexandrian manuscripts:

Soon after the middle of the nineteenth century (1859), N. Tischendorf discovered in the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai a fourth-century uncial manuscript of the entire New Testament, together with much of the Old Testament in Greek translation. From its place of discovery, it is called Codex Sinaiticus. (“Codex” means a bound book, in distinction from a scroll.)  Soon after that he pressured authorities into making another fourth century manuscript available to scholars. It is called the Codex Vaticanus, because it is held in the Vatican library at Rome.  Codex Sinaiticus is now in the British Museum.

These two great fourth-century uncials agree rather closely with the third century papyri [see below].  This provides us with a more accurate Greek text of the New Testament that that found in the Textus Receptus, which is based primarily on late minuscules.  We should be grateful to God for making these early manuscripts available to us as the basis for an up-to-date, contemporary translation of an ancient text.

(From The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation, Edited by Kenneth Barker, pp 56,57, online ed.  Emphasis Added.)

The “third century papyri” referred to are “two copies of John’s Gospel (Papyri 66 and 75) from about A.D. 200” (p 56).  (So you see that since these four older manuscripts disagree with the the Majority Text (the TR), and agree with each other, the scholars concluded that they are “more accurate”)

Notice that last sentence: “We should be grateful to God for making these early manuscripts available to us as the BASIS for an up-to-date, contemporary translation of an ancient text.”  Since Papyri 66 & 75 only contain the Gospel of John,  they can not be used to translate any other book than John.   Here you have it:  NIV translator Ralph Earle admits that they used Sinaticus and Vaticanus as the basis for their New Testament translation. So much for an “eclectic” Greek text.

Note the gushing words he uses for these manuscripts:  “these two GREAT fourth-century uncials” and “We should be thankful to God for making these manuscripts available to us…”

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  1 Peter 1:23

If the word of God abides with us forever, then why would it take the scholars to 1859 to discover it!  This would mean that Christians would have gone without a pure copy of God’s Word for 1,500 + years!  Does that sound like ‘preservation’ to you?

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalm 12:6,7

(Ralph Earle was the author of “The Rationale for an Eclectic New Testament Text,” Chapter 4 of “The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation”)

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Updated: February 24, 2015 — 6:42 PM