Alexandrian text-type

From Academic Kids

The Alexandrian text-type (also called Neutral or Egyptian) is a group of early manuscripts of the New Testament in the original Greek. The oldest near-complete manuscripts of the New Testament belong to this text-type, and are known as Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican library and Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum. The earliest papyri manuscripts of the New Testament such as P66 and P75 from the 2nd century also are of the Alexandrian type.

Whilst the type of text is referred to as "Alexandrian" since most manuscripts of this early type appear to have been preserved by the dry climate of Egypt, the readings found in the Alexandrian text can generally be found in the textual traditions from all over the empire -- for example, the Old Latin, Vulgate or Peshitta. As far as the surviving evidence indicates, Alexandrian manuscripts appear to have been more widespread than Byzantine manuscripts until the wave of copying in the Byzantine church overtook them around the 9th century.

Starting with Karl Lachmann (1850), manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type have been the most influential in modern, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, achieving widespread acceptance in the text of Westcott & Hort (1881), and culminating in the United Bible Society 4th edition and Nestle-Aland, 27th edition of the New Testament.

All extant manuscripts of all text-types are at least 85% identical and most of the variations are not translatable into English, such as word order or spelling. However, there are occasional instances in which Alexandrian and Byzantine texts disagree in a significant way. One example is 1 Timothy 3:16. The Byzantine texts read "God was manifest in the flesh", whereas Alexandrian texts, with support from the Old Latin, Vulgate, Peshitta, Western text-type and many early church fathers read "He was manifest in the flesh". The difference between the two readings in Greek is a single short line, present in the letter theta (Θ) but absent in the letter omicron (Ο), respectively. Other verses relating to the divinity of Christ, such as John 1:1, show no significant variation.

Most textual critics of the New Testament favor the Alexandrian text-type as the best representative of the autographs for many reasons. One reason is that Alexandrian manuscripts are the oldest we have found, and some of the earliest church fathers used readings found in the Alexandrian text. Another is that often the Alexandrian reading is the only one that can explain the origin of all the variant readings found in other text-types.

Nevertheless, there are some dissenting voices to this general consensus. A few textual critics, especially those in France, argue that the Western text-type, an old text from which the Old Latin versions of the New Testament are derived, is more original.

In the United States, some critics have a dissenting view that prefers the Byzantine text-type. They argue that the much greater number of Byzantine manuscripts, and their relative homogeneity, indicates that they have a superior claim to being an accurate copy from the autograph. The Byzantine text is also the one found in modern Greek Orthodox editions, though this might simply be a matter of not wanting to break with tradition.

Some of those arguing in favor of Byzantine priority further assert that the Alexandrian church was dominated by the gnostics who did not believe in the divinity of Christ. Alexandrian proponents counter that the Byzantine church was dominated by Arianism around the time that we first see evidence of the Byzantine text emerging. However most scholars are generally agreed that there is no evidence of systematic theological alteration in any of the text types.

See also: Byzantine text-type, Caesarean text-type, Western text-type.


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