Which text is the Word of God, the Alexandrian, or the Byzantine? In this discussion over Bible texts, it is important that we look first to the Bible for an answer, as the Bible is our final authority in all matters. What does the Bible say about texts? It will be noticed that the Bible says nothing about the existence of alternate texts. However, it does warn about wolves in sheep’s clothing, bringing a false gospel. There is only one Bible text, all others are heretical counterfeits. It will be shown, that the Bible witness against the Alexandrian text is very strong.
The Alexandrian text is named because it is centered around Alexandria, Egypt. The Bible has nothing good to say about Alexandria. In the first mention of this city, we find men of the synagogue of the Alexandrians helping to incite the martyrdom of Stephen.
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. (Acts 9:6) (see Acts chapters 9 and 10).
Apollos of Alexandria came preaching an incomplete gospel.
24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
A ship of Alexandria was to bear Paul to certain death in Rome: “And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.” (Acts 27:6). After this first ship was wrecked, the replacement vessel was also from Alexandria. “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.” (Acts 28:11). Thus Alexandria is linked with heresy and martyrdom, a negative connection indeed. As for Egypt, the Bible says “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isa 31:1). This warning was in respect to war. Why do today’s scholars seek after the help of Egypt in regards of something far more important: the text of the Bible?
What does the Bible have to say about the Alexandrian text? While never mentioning “alternate” Bible texts, the Bible warns much about false witnesses bringing conflicting testimony. The manuscripts of the Alexandrian text disagree very much, as explained in my article “Preserved in the Greek.” However, the chief Biblical testimony against the Alexandrian text is the doctrine of Scripture preservation.
There is a good reason why we place much emphasis on God’s promise to preserve His Word. First, it confirms that we have the infallible Word of God today. Second, it is the strongest witness against the Alexandrian text. The promise of preservation gives us the confidence that we possess a perfect Bible. We can hold up a KJV and declare that to be the infallible Word. This can also be said of most formal equivalence translations of the Byzantine text. However, the doctrine of Scripture preservation is also the strongest witness against the Alexandrian text. Preservation dictates that the true Bible will have been passed down through the ages, and will be evident in all time periods. Preservation demands that the Alexandrian text, having a glaring 1,500 year gap in it’s transmission, is not the preserved Word of God. The early death of the Alexandrian text shows that God did not preserve it. This is why I maintain a comprehensive list of the Scriptures on preservation: every passage on preservation is a nail in the coffin of the Alexandrian text, nailing the lid back on the coffin of a text which met it’s demise 1,600 years ago. Yet modern “scholarship” has reanimated this text, and placed it on life support. Yet, it is still dead. It is the text that “was, and is not, and yet is” (see Rev 17:8).
A small gap in transmission, perhaps 100-200 years, is excusable. Manuscripts don’t last forever, and periods of intense persecution may have greatly decimated the textual witness from these periods. But a gap of 1,500 years? To insist that the church has lacked the true text for ¾ of it’s existence is clearly ludicrous. This clearly contradicts the doctrine of preservation. Preservation dictates that the true text will have no such gap in it’s transmission. The Byzantine text HAS no such gap, but shows continuity back to antiquity.
Because preservation is a strong witness against the Alexandrian text, it’s proponents DENY the notion of a literal, to the word, preservation. (They also reject the notion of heretics altering the Bible, as this would point to the heretical origins of their text.) Thus, Biblical preservation is the strongest witness against the Alexandrian text.
Alexandrians are forced by their adherence to the Alexandrian text to deny Scripture preservation. Instead, they claim that the Scripture is inerrant only in the “original autographs.” As the originals disappeared centuries ago, this is a direct denial of preservation. There is not one Scripture passage that states that only the originals were perfect and inerrant. The inerrancy of Scripture is never limited to the originals. To limit perfection to the original autographs is clearly heretical. Yet, out of ignorance, many well meaning churches and ministries have doctrinal statements stating that they believe the Bible to be without error in the “original manuscripts.” But these originals have not been preserved. Therefore, Alexandrians have fallen into the “originals only” error. They believe this in ignorance. We, as Bible-believing Christians, need to help bring them out of this ignorance. This is the goal of Preserved Word Ministries.
Therefore, the words of the Bible witness against the Alexandrian text. The Scriptures protest against it’s conflicting manuscripts. The text links the locality of Alexandria with heresy and martyrdom of saints. The gap in it’s transmission shows that it has not been preserved to ALL generations, and thus is not God’s preserved Word. However, the Byzantine text has been preserved, and is endorsed by the Bible itself.
The Byzantine text clearly is the preserved text. It’s manuscript witness spans from antiquity to the present time. (For details, please see “Preserved in the Original Greek.”) The Byzantine text is centered around Antioch, Syria. Here, the disciples of Christ were first called “Christians.” Antioch also served as a base of operations for the early church.
25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26. And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And thedisciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
27. And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
1. Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
26. And [Paul and Barnabas] thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
27. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
28. And there they abode long time with the disciples.
Thus, Antioch has a positive Biblical connotation. The Alexandrian text, having a negative location connotation, and violating any notion of being a preserved text, is clearly and definitely rejected by the very Scriptures as the authentic text. The true text of the Bible is not found in the Alexandrian manuscripts. Unfortunately, most modern Bible translations have been made from some form of the Alexandrian text, including the New International Version, the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the New Living Translation.