Greater Than All?
BY: Martin A. Shue
I have come to the conclusion that there is no reading too ridiculous for modern textual critics. As a matter of fact it seems the more ludicrous a reading the more they like it. Their battle cry of late has been, “The more difficult reading is to be preferred”. Often times they blindly follow this rule despite the fact that the “more difficult reading” has very little manuscript (ms.) support. By ‘very little’ I mean in many instances the reading is only supported by 1 manuscript. In this study I want to examine a verse that boggles the mind in both the Greek reading and the English translation. We’ll talk first about the Greek readings and then examine some English translations. The verse we will look at today is John 10:29.
If you’ve read very much on the Bible controversy no doubt you have heard of the “old uncials”. When talking about the “old uncials” more often than not they are referring to Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Sinaiticus (N), Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Bezae (D). And no doubt you have read comments from modern ‘scholars’ about how “accurate” they are and how they are the “best manuscripts”. Well, in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Frederick H. A. Scrivener made the following comments regarding these manuscripts.
Codex Vaticanus – “One marked feature, characteristic of this copy, is the great number of its omissions, which has induced Dr. Dobbin to speak of it as presenting ‘an abbreviated text of the New Testament:’ and certainly the facts he states on this point are startling enough.” (Scrivener, Plain Intro. p. 120)
Codex Sinaiticus – “From the number of homoioteleuta (Gk. for words omitted due to likeness of endings) and other errors, one cannot affirm that it is very carefully written” (Scrivener, Plain Intro. p. 93)
Codex Alexandrinus – “The Codex Alexandrinus has been judged to be carelessly written; many errors of transcription no doubt exist, but not so many as in some copies (e.g. Cod. N), nor more than in others (as Cod. B).” (Scrivener, Plain Intro. p. 104)
Codex Bezae – “No known manuscript contains so many bold and extensive interpolations (six hundred, it is said, in the Acts alone)” (Scrivener, Plain Intro. p. 130)
Now I would like to supply the reading of these 4 ancient codices for the phrase “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all;” with emphasis on the words in bold.
Vaticanus - o pathr mou o dedwken moi pantwn meizon estin
Sinaiticus – o pathr o dedwken moi pantwn meizwn estin
Alexandrinus - o pathr mou oV dedwken moi meizon pantwn estin
Bezae - o pathr mou o dedwkwV moi pantwn meizwn estin
One does not have to be able to read Greek to see the differences these 4 codices present. In addition to the grammatical changes above notice also that N omits “my” (mou) in reference to “My Father” and A transposes “greater than” (meizon) and “all” (panton).
What the evangelist wrote no doubt was, “o pathr mou oV dedwken moi meizwn pantwn estin” which is the Majority reading and the reading that underlies our Authorized Version. This reading, however, has been rejected by the Westcott/Hort (W/H) Greek text as well as the Nestle/Aland/UBS Greek texts. They chose instead the singular reading of B (see above). No other known Greek ms. reads this way and this choice has proven calamitous for many modern versions.
Commenting on the reading of N Bruce Metzger writes, “The reading of N, L, W, Psi is impossible Greek, and cannot be construed.” What Metzger doesn’t tell his readers is that the reading of B, in the words of J.W. Burgon, is “nothing else but a desperate attempt to force a meaning into the (reading of Aleph), by writing meizon for meizwn; treating o not as the article but as the neuter of the relative hos.”
As a side note: notice Metzger’s words concerning the reading in Aleph (viz. “impossible Greek”). Yet at other times we are expected to believe Metzger when he praises Aleph for being one of the most reliable mss. available to us today. If the scribe of Aleph didn’t understand common Greek why should we be forced to trust such an untrustworthy guide? Back to the matter at hand!
Due to this “desperate attempt”, as Burgon termed it, the reading of B when literally translated becomes something like, “What (or that) my father has given me is greater than all”. This, I say, is significant because this teaches a false doctrine. Jesus had been, and is here, talking about His “sheep” so the reading of B (which is the reading of W/H and the N/A Greek text) would teach that the “sheep” (i.e. “what”) that the Father had given to Jesus were “greater than all”. Commenting on this verse Edward F. Hills says, “This alteration is of great doctrinal importance, since it makes the preservation of the saints depend on the Church rather than on God. So Westcott expounds it, “The faithful, regarded in their unity, are stronger than every opposing power.” (Hills, The Kings James Version Defended, p. 128)” This is an erroneous teaching! Due to this fact, most modern versions abandon their stated underlying Greek text here and follow the reading of the Textus Receptus. However, there are still a few that actually contain this false teaching. These are listed below:
NRSV- What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.
International Standard Version- What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand.
In addition to this heretical teaching I would also like to point out that this is the reading of only 1 Greek ms. and yet we find it thrust into these modern translations. No other known Greek ms. reads this way!
It is an amazing thing to see just how far some ‘scholars’ will go in order to reject the Traditional Text of the church. One translation (NCV) reads, “My Father gave my sheep to me. He is greater than all, and no person can steal my sheep out of my Father’s hand.” This is an interesting translation because the word “sheep” does not appear in any manuscript! There are also several fascinating footnotes in some of the modern versions. For instance, we find in the NRSV (see above) this note, “Other ancient authorities read [My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father's hand]” Yet in the NASV we find this note, “One early ms reads What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” It appears the NRSV was attempting to gloss the actual evidence while the NASV (for a change) reported the actual facts.
Unfortunately the English Standard Version chose to put an outright lie in their footnote in order to deceive the saints of God. The ESV footnote reads, “Some manuscripts What my Father has given to me” As the NASV rightly stated there is only “One early ms” that reads this way. Shame on the ESV translators for deliberately putting this note on their pages.
I do trust this little study has been of some encouragement to you. I also hope it has shown that when the ‘scholars’ speak of the ‘oldest and best uncials’ that in reality they do not know what they are talking about. They vary greatly among themselves and as Metzger so wonderfully stated they often contain “impossible Greek” and, as demonstrated above, false teachings. Selah!