The first we hear of Satan in the Bible he causes Eve to doubt what God said, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). His number one attack has always been to cause people to doubt God’s Truth, and the only way we can know God’s truth is by reading the Bible.
Prior to the arrival of modern Bibles, people did not have great doubts about the Word of God, but now with each new translation saying something different, and with many verses and phrases removed from most of them, doubts are growing. It causes people to doubt when they read, that the “oldest and best” manuscripts do not have this or that verse.
So why do modern Bibles say those things, and why are they so different from each other? We will begin by looking at the big picture of how we got the Bible. There will be many details presented throughout this book; even though details are important, it is just as important to zoom out and look at the big picture.
The Early Texts
In the early years of Christianity, the Christians studied the Old Testament and the newly written letters; “daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). When the books were written that eventually became the New Testament, they were copied and spread far and wide. Paul even gave instructions that his letters should be spread to other congregations:
When this epistle is read among you, ensure that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you, likewise, read the epistle from Laodicea. (Col 4:16) (MEV)
This began the practice of spreading Paul’s letters, which resulted in collections of his letters. The gospels were also written, circulated, collected, and then circulated as a collection. As the number of churches grew, more copies of the existing books were needed, so more copies were made.
Some of the books of the Bible were written down on papyrus by the author’s own hand, while some authors dictated to a scribe. Paul states clearly in several places that he used a scribe for at least some of his letters. At the end of Colossians, there is a note added by the two scribes. This note is included in the KJV, but left out in all other versions:
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen. Written from Rome to Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus. (4:18)
Even Jerome dictated his writing to a scribe. Since the printing press had not been invented, all books were hand copied on papyrus, a primitive form of paper, or on animal skin. Some scribes were professional, some semi-professional, others were amateurs with various levels of skill.
Books of that era were first written in scrolls, but that is not efficient when you have many books. So the codex was invented, either by the Romans or Christians. A codex was made by taking several pages of papyri, then later parchment, folding them and stacking them up and sewing them together into a modern-type book. They even had covers of wood or just a piece of thick leather.
Various manuscript discoveries indicate that the codex was the widely established Christian practice by the early second century. (The Heresy of Orthodoxy, Michael J. Kruger and Andreas J. Kostenberger, p. 193.)
And so codices of the Bible were widely copied and distributed throughout the Roman Empire. Wherever Christian churches were founded, the texts quickly followed. And you would expect this to happen because the public reading of Bible texts made up the major portion of the services at that time. In 1 Tim. 4:13 Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture.
Detractors of the Bible try to tell us that the copyists were all amateurs who made so many mistakes that we cannot know what the original words of the Bible were. But this is not true:
We have little reason to think that early Christianity was a movement of illiterate peasants that would have been unable to reliably transmit their own writings. Instead, Christianity was a movement that was economically and socially average—representing a variety of different classes—and had a relatively sophisticated literary culture that was committed from its earliest days to the texts of the Jewish scripture as it sought to produce and copy texts of its own. (The Heresy of Orthodoxy, Kruger, page 186.)
Haines-Eitzen said most of “The earliest copyists of Christian literature were trained professional scribes,” (Guardians of Letters, p. 68. quoted in, Ibid, page 190). That is understandable, because papyri, parchment, and ink were all expensive. Each sheet of papyri was handmade from the stems of a water plant, plus writing with a sharpened stick was very difficult, so you hired a professional to write a letter or make a copy of one for you.
[T]he fact that a number of early Christian manuscripts contained an impressive amount of punctuation and readers’ aids—which are rare even in literary papyri—suggests that early Christian scribes were more in tune with professional book production than often realized. (Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, page 188)
It was an established practice of the time to keep a copy of each letter or document you wrote and sent off. Even though the original of each Christian book was used to make other copies, minor mistakes did happen. During those long days, occasionally a scribe would get tired and would write down a wrong word, or skip a word, or transpose two words. Anyone who has done any transcribing can understand how easy it is to make a mistake. However, “the vast majority of textual variations are insignificant and irrelevant to determining the original text of the New Testament” (Ibid, page 218). Even today, these minor mistakes are easy to find and recognize by comparing several copies of the same text.
Even professional scribes made mistakes, this was why scriptoriums would always proofread each copy and make corrections before sending out a copy of any book. Yet, some might not be found, so minor mistakes did creep into the texts that were passed down through the centuries and became part of the text of that biblical book. Copies were sent to faraway places, like Egypt or Asia Minor, or Greece. Those localities would then use their copy as a master text, and minor mistakes could also creep into their texts.
This is how what was once called “text families” were formed. A text family is a group of manuscripts of the Bible books which all have similar characteristics, or readings. For most of the past 150 years, text critics classified four text-types or families in Greek: the Byzantine text-type of the Eastern Church, and the Alexandrian found in Egypt, were the two main ones.
But copies of the Alexandrian are far fewer in number than those of the Byzantine. Two other text-types are even smaller in the number of existing manuscripts (MSS), the Western and Caesarean. But because all the text-types, except Byzantine, have many readings of all the other types, it means that in reality, they are a mixture and not a distinct type. This is why the textual critics are now saying there are no text-types except the Byzantine.
Yet most of the textual “experts,” officially called text critics (TCs), continue the charade of various text-types. The Byzantine became the dominate text-type in the later part of the 4th century, with fewer and fewer copies of any other text being made in Greek.
Text critics condemn the Byzantine text as an artificial creation. They claim, following the lead of Westcott and Hort, that the Eastern Greek-speaking Church edited the text, smoothing out the rough wording and adding words and phrases, making the text longer. Thus, they claim it does not represent the texts of the New Testament as originally written; even though they do not know what the originals looked like because they no longer exist.
Heretics and Corruptors
In addition to minor mistakes that can be easily fixed by comparing several copies of the text, some people put intentional changes into the copies they were making, whether to enforce a doctrinal position or to literally corrupt the text. God knew that people would make changes to some of the books of the Bible and warned them not to do that to the book of Revelation:
If anyone adds to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life and out of the Holy City and out of the things which are written in this book. (Rev. 22:18-19) (MEV)
The main corruptors were heretics like Marcion (d. 160), the Ebionites, Donatists, Manicheans, Pelagians, Gnostics, and Arians. Early church Father, Irenaeus (130-200), wrote about 180-185 A.D. and said:
Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke, and the epistles of Paul, they assert that these alone are authentic, which they have themselves shortened. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)
Gaius, an early Church Father, claimed in his writings (175-200) that Asclepiades, Theodotus, Hermophilus and Apolomides and their followers were among the heretics who spread copies of corrupted Scriptures.
I need to point out here for the new Christian, or the Christians who attend lukewarm churches, that these heretics were not pagans, they claimed to be Christians, but their doctrine was so twisted that it was not anything like traditional Christian doctrine, which is called “orthodoxy.” When the heretics were not doctoring the NT books, they were forging new ones, like the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Truth, the Secret Book of John, and dozens more. Eventually, official Christianity destroyed most of them, but a cache of them was uncovered in 1945 in Egypt; which are Gnostic and collectively called The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (they make the New Age Movement seem like child’s play). Dr. John Burgon, a professor at Oxford, wrote:
As for Clemens [Clement of Alexandria], he lived at the very time and in the very country where the mischief referred to was most rife. For full two centuries after his era, heretical works were so industriously multiplied, that in a diocese consisting of 800 parishes (viz. Cyrus in Syria), the Bishop (viz. Theodoret, who was appointed in A.D. 423,) complains that he found no less than 200 copies of the Diatessaron of Tatian the heretic, (Tatian’s date being A.D. 173) honourably preserved in the Churches of his (Theodoret’s) diocese, and mistaken by the orthodox for an authentic performance. (The Revision Revised, John Burgon, 1883)
Tatian (110-173) created a harmony of the Gospels, called Diatessaron, but he must have taken some creative license because it was condemned as corrupt. But the quote above indicates that his corrupted text was being mistaken by the general population of Christians for a genuine Gospel as late as the 5th century.
“It’s [Gnosticism’s] Egyptian origin was defended by E. Amelineau, in 1887, and illustrated by A. Dietrich, 1891 (Abraxas Studien) and 1903 (Mithrasliturgie). . . . That Alexandrian thought had some share at least in the development of Christian Gnosticism is clear from the fact that the bulk of Gnostic literature which we possess comes to us from Egyptian (Coptic) sources.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert Appleton, Co., New York, 1909, Vol. VI, p. 593)
And the Written Word in like manner, in the earliest age of all, was shamefully handled by mankind. Not only was it confused through human infirmity and misapprehension, but it became also the object of restless malice and unsparing assaults. Marcion, Valentinus, Basilides, Heracleon, Menander, Asclepiades, Theodotus, Hermophilus, Apollonides, and other heretics adapted the Gospels to their own ideas. (Burgon, The Traditional Text, 1896, p. 10)
Egypt was a hotbed of heresy where Christological errors flourished because it was the home of Gnosticism and Arianism. So it was likely the greatest center of heresy in the history of Christianity. No books of the New Testament were written for any church in Egypt, so no city there could claim to be the repository of any original New Testament book.
Eusebius in the fourth century quotes Caius who wrote (175-200) against the heretic Theodotus and his followers:
“For this purpose they fearlessly lay their hands upon the holy Scriptures, saying that they have corrected them. And that I do not say this against them without foundation, whoever wishes may learn; for should any one collect and compare their copies one with another, he would find them greatly at variance among themselves. For the copies of Asclepiodotus will be found to differ from those of Theodotus. Copies of many you may find in abundance, altered, by the eagerness of their disciples to insert each one his own corrections, as they call them, i.e. their corruptions. Again, the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these, for those of Appollonius are not consistent with themselves.
For one may compare those which were prepared before by them, with those which they afterwards perverted for their own objects, and you will find them widely differing. But what a stretch of audacity this aberration indicates, it is hardly probable themselves can be ignorant. For either they do not believe that the holy Scriptures were uttered by the holy Spirit, and they are thus infidels, or they deem themselves wiser than the holy Spirit, and what alternative is there but to pronounce them demoniacs?
For neither can they deny that they have been guilty of the daring act, when the copies were written with their own hand, nor did they receive such Scriptures from those by whom they were instructed in the elements of the faith; nor can they show copies from which they were transcribed.” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chapter 28. Translated by C. F. Cruse, 1856, page 215-216)
This has proven to be true because all the Egyptian texts that have been discovered do not agree with each other, just as Caius said. Yet, it is these Egyptian texts that have been used for our modern Bibles.
As the above quotes show, several of the Early Church Fathers in the second and third centuries spoke out against the corruption of Biblical books by heretics. Yet, modern textual critics have no category for “corrupted by heretics,” they just accept any MS they find, and even label them as “oldest and best,” and take what they say above all the thousands of other copies of the Bible.
Luther W. Martin in The History of Gnosticism’s Influence Upon the English Bible, said:
The “Christian” Gnostics, with their center of influence at Alexandria, had their own doctrinal reasons for rejecting the virgin-birth of Christ. They, in turn, influenced the choice of words used in some of the Greek Manuscripts, in Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23, and John 1:18, with the goal of diminishing the Deity of Christ, and according Him a secondary status of Divinity. . . .
Within less than a century, Gnosticism and Orthodoxy were pitted against each other, each calling the other “Heretic.” The Gnostics, in particular, were influential in Egypt, and resorted to the writing of fanciful Gospels, which were less than Canonical. They also engaged in the ‘retouching’ of copies of Scripture in their immediate area. (Printed in Unholy Hands on the Bible Vol. 2, page 360, 381)
It appears that Alexandria was the center of most of the heresy in Egypt:
“Alexandria was the great meeting place for Greek, Jew, Egyptian, Roman, and Oriental. In this great center of learning, cultural and religious elements from the various nations could be compared, conciliated, and fused on a larger scale than anywhere else in the world. Alexandria became the hot-bed of early Jewish gnosticism.” (History of the Christian Church, Lars P. Qualben, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1939, p. 75)
Pantaenus (died c. 200 A.D.) is a saint of the Catholic Church, but Albert Henry Newman, in his large “A Manual of Church History,” said Pantaenus was a Gnostic. His own follower, Clement of Alexandria (150-215) said so:
Clement was born about 160, probably at Athens. Having pursued studies under various masters, of various nationalities and of various religious and philosophical views, he at last found rest under the influence of Pantaenus, the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, whom he regarded as the greatest of them all. He always speaks of Pantaenus (not often by name) in terms of the very highest praise. Pantaenus was, in his view, the “deepest Gnostic,” i. e., possessed the most perfect insight into the significance of Christianity.
Clement was already profoundly versed in Greek philosophy and literature and knew something of Christianity when he came under the influence of Pantaenus. The philosophical Christianity of Pantaenus satisfied his needs and he devoted himself with ardor to theological studies. He succeeded Pantaenus as teacher about 190, and continued in this work until about 202, when he was driven from his post by persecution. (Vol. 1. The American Baptist Publication Society, page 273)
Burgon said that Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), had many heretical texts which he quoted from while claiming the quotes were from one of the genuine Gospels:
Clemens moreover would seem to have been a trifle too familiar with the works of Basilides, Marcion, Valentinus, Heracleon, and the rest of the Gnostic crew. He habitually mistakes apocryphal writings for inspired Scripture: and–with corrupted copies always at hand and before him–he is just the man to present us with a quotation like the present, and straightway to volunteer the assurance that he found it ‘so written in the Gospel according to S. Mark.’ (The Revision Revised, Burgon, 1883)
Clement was a pupil of Pantaenus. Some sources say that Clement opened his own school, others that he became head master of Pantaenus’s school. But most of them list Clement as being Gnostic:
His Miscellanies is a multicolored patchwork of teachings in advanced philosophy, ethics, and disciplined instruction for “Christian Gnostics” to lead them into esoteric knowledge (gnosis) . . . (www.christianity today.com /history/ people/ evangelistsandapologists/ clement-of-alexandria.html)
So it should be clear that Pantaenus was a Gnostic, yet WH said he held the strictest orthodoxy. They said this because they needed to make people believe that there were solid orthodox Christians in Egypt who could have produced the two old Bibles that WH used to create their corrupted Greek master-text, the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Also to make those Bibles appear to be faithful reproductions of the original texts of Scripture.
Even Origen (185-254) of Alexandria, Egypt is acknowledged to have altered the Scriptures. He was Clement’s pupil and also accused of being a Gnostic by some Christians, while others call him orthodox because he attacked other Gnostics. But the Gnostics were a very large group with very broad and diverse beliefs, much like the New Age Movement today. So it is likely that being in Alexandria, he was heavily influenced by some Gnostic beliefs without realizing it, and so he attacked those Gnostics which were even more wrong than he was.
He defended Christianity from the Sabellians, Arians, Pelagians, Nestorians, Apollinarists, and other major heretics; yet he was declared a heretic in the 6th century because of some of his own beliefs, like the preexistence of the soul, Universalism, and the spiritual interpretation of Scripture:
The use of the Logos on a lower level from God led some early Fathers, such as Origen, to assign less than full deity to Christ. (Norman L. Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics, page 430)
Origen also did not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead with a physical body, and denied the bodily resurrection of Christians. Origen was described by Johann Mosheim, a German Lutheran church historian, as:
. . . a compound of contraries, wise and unwise, acute and stupid, judicious and injudicious; the enemy of superstition, and its patron; a strenuous defender of Christianity, and its corrupter; energetic and irresolute; one to whom the Bible owes much, and from whom it has suffered much. (Com. de Rebus Christ, Vol. II., p. 144. Quoted in, Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, by Robert L. Dabney, Vol. 1, 1890.)
In spite of all his wrong doctrine, he eventually became revered, and today he is called Christianity’s first true theologian. He is still held in high esteem by many Catholic and Protestant theologians, even though they do not agree with all of his speculations.
Text critics operate under the assumption that the oldest texts are closest to the original and therefore more accurate; even while the evidence shows that heretics abounded in Egypt where their favorite MSS were found. Even though many text critics want you to believe Egypt was a great place for the production of Bible texts, some critics will admit the truth, like Bruce Metzger:
. . . to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant Christian sect was represented in Egypt during the second century; Clement mentions the Valentinians, the Basilidians, the Marcionites, the Peratae, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimetites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known. (The Early Versions of the New Testament, Clarendon Press, 1977, p. 101)
So we know that many people created corrupted copies of the Apostles’ books, and continued their corruptions after the Bible was formed. And we know that many of those heretics were based in Egypt.
Ambrose (340-397) of Milan, Italy spoke Latin, so he used the Old Latin translation, but tells us that Latin texts were also corrupted:
But if any one disputes because of the variations of the Latin codices, some of which heretics have falsified, let him look at the Greek codices, and observe that it is there written: . . . (Phillip Schaff, Nicene and Post-nicene Fathers: Second Series, Vol. 10, chapter 5)
This clearly shows that even the Old Latin texts contained corruptions.
The modern critics and translators go by the assumption that if one of their old MSS has part of a verse deleted, then that is proof that the Orthodox Christians must have added those words to support the claim that Jesus is God or some other doctrine. They never assume that words were taken away by heretics, only that words were added by the orthodox. Isn’t it more likely that those who believed that the Bible is the true Word of God would take the best care of the text? Yes!
Guardians of the True Text
It is true that the Orthodox did make one provable change; Epiphanius reports that a text was found where the orthodox had a few words removed from Luke 19:41:
They were anxious for the Gospels not to contain anything that did not fit in with their principles, and so removed the part of Chapter 19, Verse 41, which says that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, on the grounds that such weeping seemed to them a weakness unworthy of our Lord. St. Epiphanius cites these words, noting that they were present in all manuscripts which were not “corrected,” . . . “the Orthodox cut out these words through fear, unable to understand their thoughts or their purpose.” But these words are used by Christians of all nations today; and St Epiphanius shows that they are genuinely by St Luke, on the evidence of St Irenaeus who used them against certain heretics. (Critical History of the Text of the New Testament, Andrew W.R. Hunwick. Brill, 2013, page 117)
Notice that the orthodox removed a few words they did not like, but heretics would never do that! But since we have always had those words in our Bibles, then the corruption of Luke 19:41 was found and corrected. Therefore, there must have been a mechanism in place for correcting any errors that were found in the texts which the orthodox came across in their churches.
H. A. Scrivener said, in his Introduction to the Text of the New Testament:
It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected originated within a hundred years after it was composed; that Irenaeus and the African Fathers, and the whole Western church, with a portion of the Syrian, had far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens, thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus.
Even before the canon was formed, the Early Church Fathers recognized certain books were inspired Scripture and took care of them accordingly. Dr. Randall Price said:
The early patristic use of almost the whole of the New Testament reveals that it had an implied kind of canonicity at this early date and that its text was being handled with respect, even reverence. (Price, Searching for the Original Bible, p. 125)
We can reproduce the entire NT except for 11 verses just from the quotes found in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Irenaeus (130-202) spoke about this issue as well:
True knowledge, is the teaching of the Apostles, . . . which is in each several place a very full mode of teaching of the Scriptures, which has come down to us by uncorrupt guardianship, admitting neither of addition nor diminution, and reading without adulteration, and exposition according to the Scriptures . . . (Book 4. Chapter 32, section 8. Five Books of S. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, translated by Rev. John Keble, 1872. p. 408)
As the above quote indicates, because of all the corrupted texts that were circulating, the early fathers took great effort to prevent variants from creeping into the authorized texts. Gregory of Nyssa wrote about 382:
. . . as an evidence of the truth fully revealed to us, reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scriptures, which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety. We believe, then, even as the Lord set forth the Faith to His Disciples . . . In the Faith then which was delivered by God to the Apostles we admit neither subtraction, nor alteration, nor addition, knowing assuredly that he who presumes to pervert the Divine utterance by dishonest quibbling, the same “is of his father the devil,” who leaves the words of truth and “speaks of his own,” becoming the father of a lie. For whatsoever is said otherwise than in exact accord with the truth is assuredly false and not true. (Against Eunomius, Book 2. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, Vol. 5, Gregory of Nyssa. Editors Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 1893, p. 101)
On this subject Metzer wrote:
In order to ensure accuracy in transcription, authors would sometimes add at the close of their literary works an adjuration directed to future copyists. So, for example, Irenaeus attached to the close of his treatise On the Ogdoad the following note: “I adjure you who shall copy out this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his glorious advent when he comes to judge the living and the dead, that you compare what you transcribe, and correct it carefully against this manuscript from which you copy; and also that you transcribe this adjuration and insert it in the copy.” (Metzger, The Text of the NT, p. 21)
About the above quote by Irenaeus, Dr. Wilbur Pickering said:
If Irenaeus took such extreme precautions for the accurate transmission of his own work, how much more would he be concerned for the accurate copying of the Word of God? In fact, he demonstrates his concern for the accuracy of the text by defending the traditional reading of a single letter. The question is whether John the Apostle wrote ???’ (666) or ???’ (616) in Revelation 13:18. Irenaeus asserts that 666 is found “in all the most approved and ancient copies” and that “those men who saw John face to face” bear witness to it. And he warns those who made the change (of a single letter) that “there shall be no light punishment upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture” (xxx.1). Presumably Irenaeus is applying Revelation 22:18-19. (Pickering, Identity of the New Testament Text IV, chapter 5, www.walkinhiscommandments.com/pickering3b.htm)
Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp, who knew the Apostle John, so Polycarp’s copy of Revelation most likely was made from the original, and Irenaeus’ from Polycarp’s. Tertullian said in about 208 A.D.
[R]un over [to] the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still preeminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there come even into our hands the very authority (of the apostles themselves). (Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, chapter 5, online edition.)
Tertullian seems to have said that the original letters of the New Testament were still available for inspection in 208 A.D. by the churches that received them. This means that they were still able to make faithful copies from the originals for many decades beyond that date.
So it appears that we have two groups of texts, the authentic and uncorrupted texts preserved in the Orthodox churches of the east, which is called the Byzantine text, and the many corrupted texts found in Egypt that were created by heretics; some were more corrupt than others. And this was just as we would expect because the Bible says that God created and guides his Church by the Holy Spirit. And what is his number one source for spiritual food? The Bible, of course, so God would make sure that it was correctly transcribed and passed down, and not corrupted or replaced by heretics. But this does not mean it was transcribed perfectly with no mistakes, ever, but the mistakes are easily found and corrected.
But text critics claim the oldest texts we currently have are more likely to represent the originals, even though all but one were found in Egypt, the center of heresy. They also point to the lack of Byzantine MSS found that are older than the 4th century, so they claim that the Byzantine text did not exist prior to that time. But they fail to use good reasoning.
During the periods of persecution, especially the last great persecution that was begun by Diocletian (303-306) which continued until 313 in the eastern part of the empire, the Romans demanded that Bishops turn over all of their copies of the Scriptures. The Romans were trying to wipe out the texts which the Bishops used in their sermons. Many thousands of copies of the Byzantine texts were confiscated and publicly burned. There were, of course, copies that survived the persecutions but they were heavily used to make more copies, so they wore out or did not survive the aging process.
The texts in Egypt survived the aging process because of the dry conditions, plus, most intelligent Bible scholars believe that Sinaiticus survived because it was so corrupt that no one would use it, so they just put it on a shelf and that is where it stayed to be discovered by Tischendorf in the 19th century.
Dr. John Burgon believed that the Byzantine texts were the most used in the churches, so they were worn out and replaced, but there would still be old copies laying around. So some people have speculated that they must have destroyed the old copies once they made a new one, but the most likely reason there are no really old copies is because they were handed over to the Romans and burned, and the few that survived did not survive the centuries because the environmental conditions did not preserve them, as the texts in Egypt.
The Latin Bible
The main body of early Christianity was originally centered in the Middle East, what is today Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey (Asia Minor), Greece, and Egypt. This Church came to be known as the Eastern Church and used Greek as its primary language, which is why most of the New Testament was originally written in Greek; with the exception, perhaps, of Matthew and Hebrews, but they were soon translated into Greek. So we have all the books of the New Testament being in Greek.
The Christians in Rome translated the Bible books into Latin, now called Old Latin, then in the 4th and early 5th century an official Latin edition was made by Jerome (347-420), which is called the Vulgate, or common edition. It eventually became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church throughout Europe, but not right away, it took many years for it to be accepted.
The Latin Bible is closer to the Alexandrian texts than the Byzantine. One reason for this was that Jerome was an admirer of Origen. Wilkinson said:
Jerome was devotedly committed to the textual criticism of Origen, “an admirer of Origen’s critical principles” as Swete says. To be guided aright in his forthcoming translation, by models accounted standard in the semi-pagan Christianity of his day, Jerome [went] to the famous library of Eusebius and Pamphilus at Caesarea where the voluminous manuscripts of Origen had been preserved. Among these was a Greek Bible of the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus type. (Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, page 130 of PDF)
Jerome rejected the Byzantine type texts and accepted the shorter, Origen influenced texts. The Roman Catholic Church is not a true Church, so it is no surprise that their Bible does not represent a true copy of the Bible text.
We also have the writings of the Early Church Fathers that quote from the Bible books, and their quotes are also consulted to help determine the original reading of a passage. An analysis of their quotes reveals a mixture; some include Byzantine readings, along with other type readings. But if we remove the quotes from the Egyptian church fathers, then the percentage of Byzantine readings goes up (however, I don’t have those numbers, or even if they exist).
The Eastern Patriarch eventually became centered in Constantinople, which had become the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. When the western half of the Roman Empire fell, the eastern half continued on for another 1,000 years, even though historians call it the Byzantine Empire. (The rulers called themselves Roman emperors since the capital of the empire had been moved to from Rome to Constantinople.)
The Eastern Church eventually split from the Western Church in Rome in 1054 A.D. The Roman Church emphasized church doctrine over the Bible and as a result, even many priests did not know the Bible well, and the general population knew almost nothing of it. This is the way the RCC wanted it because they believed Christianity’s power and authority is vested in the doctrines of the Roman Church, not the Bible. So the majority of the population in Europe were ignorant of the Bible, except small pockets of resistors like the Waldenses who were eventually massacred by the RCC.
In 1229 A.D. the RCC even made it illegal to copy, own, or translate the Bible by anyone except official RCC authorities. Anyone who attempted to copy or translate the Bible was severely persecuted, such as John Wycliffe (1328-1384) who was martyred by the RCC for translating the Bible into English (he was also a reformer who preached against the Roman Church). He was burned at the stake with a copy of his Bible hung around his neck. Then later in 1428 his bones were dug up and burned; that is how much he was hated.
The RCC even pursued anyone who owned a copy of the Wycliffe Bible, or were thought to hold his views; over 1,000 persons were thus hung who dared to own a copy of his translation. Then in 1408 the RCC created the Constitutions of Oxford, to suppress religious dissent to the point of questioning students if they had any unapproved thoughts:
Any unauthorized person caught with a Wycliffe Bible could be tried for heresy, and all speculation on the Sacraments or other articles of faith, as well as disputations about crosses, saints, images, pilgrimages, and so on were proscribed. University officials were to ascertain, by monthly inquiries, whether anyone was guilty of violating such guidelines, and if so they were to be expelled or dismissed. The seventh of the thirteen Constitutions also read: “We therefore command and ordain that henceforth no one translate on his own authority any text of Holy Scripture into English . . . and that no one read anything of this kind lately made in the time of the said John Wycliffe . . . either publicly or privately, whole or in part” unless it was first “approved and allowed” by the local bishop of the diocese. (Bobrick, Wide as the Waters, p. 68)
Even though the RCC persecuted anyone that disagreed with it, and even though they killed many millions during the period of the inquisitions, Satan knew that it was not going to be enough.