Problems with the New Testament Canon Part 1a: Inauthentic, Corrupted, Original Content Unknown for each NT Document

Before I demonstrate the corruption and poor preservation of the New Testament documents and the IMPOSSIBLE task of ever reconstructing the original autograph wording (based on current data [NT Manuscripts]), I must first ask all the Christians: WHY WOULD THERE BE A NEED FOR TEXTUAL CRITICAL SCHOLARS IF THE ORIGINAL “INSPIRED” WORDING HAD ALL READY BEEN RECOVERED?

Now… before I begin demonstrating the corrupted and poorly preserved New Testament documents. I will first like to get some quick points out of the way. Just to go along with Christian tradition, I will assume TRADITIONAL AUTHORSHIP of the New Testament Documents (Yes- even the book of Hebrews). I will ASSUME ORIGINAL ASSUME THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE FOR EACH NT DOCUMENT AS KOINE GREEK. YES, I KNOW THERE ARE THEORIES OUT THERE PROPOSING THE NT DOCUMENTS WERE ORIGINALLY ARAMAIC OR THE EARLY CHURCH FATHER PAPIAS’S ASSERTION THAT THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW WAS WRITTEN IN HEBREW. Yes, and lastly let’s assume original gospel authors’ were “inspired” and the new testament documents are AS ACCORDING TO CHRISTIANS the Word of “TRIUNE YAHWEH”.

Okay then that leaves the BIG QUESTION FOR CHRISTIANITY:

What did these AUTHOR’S REALLY WRITE? WHAT IS THE ORIGINAL CONTENT that the Authors of each of the New Testament documents write? What are the “inspired” words for each NT document? Many evangelicals BELIEVE that the original autographs were “inerrant” – So what is the content of those original autographs?

Claim: We do not know what these authors who were allegedly “inspired by a non-human intelligence” wrote. It is impossible to LOCATE the words that originate from an “inspired” super-natural force that were found in the original autograph documents.

Tangent, I am NOT claiming the scribes who copied the New Testament documents had evil intentions when they edited the text that came to them. However, the summation of multiple scribes editing has led to an inability for NT Scholars to figure out the original autographs’ words. Now some Christians may argue – Well only the Message matters. That’s irrelevant to this discussion. Rather – SINCE IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS ARE INAUTHENTIC, CORRUPTED (not necessarily by evil intentions), that the content Christians read today CANNOT BE VIEWED as written by the Traditional Authorship associated with each NT document.

Analogy of why this discussion is important: Let’s say You (the reader) wrote a book.  You wrote a sentence in that book that said “mixing blue dye in water will produce flavored water”. Someone copying your book wrote “mixing dye in water will produce flavored water”. Of course the message is the same – Adding dye to water makes flavored water. However the visual true reality of what you wrote (the readers)  is much different than someone reading the copy. They reader of the copy could easily add  say “red, green, yellow, etc  dye”.  {I will work on making an easier analogy}. How does this analogy compare specifically to the new testament documents.  Two specific examples that this analogy applies to  is the variant reading in Mark 1:41 and Hebrews 2:9. In Mark 1:41 was Jesus indignant or compassionate changes the image, perception of Jesus as a healer.  Or another example is the variant found in Hebrews 2:9 – which changes the ENTIRE THEOLOGY of the text.


A)     New Testament Textual Critics AUTHORITIES even claim that the earliest attainable text is NOT EQUIVALENT to the original autograph reading.  The earliest attainable text (constructed by New Testament textual critics) CANNOT BE DETERMINED TO BE the original autograph reading. Pause and re-read the statements above before I begin citing major authorities.

  1. The Publishers of the Nestle Aland 28th Edition have even shifted there assumptions from the earliest attainable text as equivalent to the original autograph reading. Here is a commentary explaining this point:
    “Third, this edition reflects a shift in assumptions about what the evidence allows one to reconstruct. Where previous generations, emboldened by a confidence in science which was possible only in the Enlightenment, claimed to be able to reproduce the “New Testament in the Original Greek,” late twentieth century scholars have known that extant evidence reaches only back to the second century, and that for only a scattering of passages. There may be nearly 150 years between the original writing/delivery of a New Testament text and the now-preserved manuscripts. Given the strong dependence on a genealogical method, this edition claims only to reconstruct the “Ausgangstext,” or the “Initial Text,” defined as follows:

“The initial text is the form of a text that stands at the beginning of a textual tradition. The constructed text of an edition represents the hypothetical reconstruction of the initial text.” (ECM 2 Peter, 23)

This edition helpfully acknowledges that reproducing an “autograph” of any New Testament writing is an impossible task, given available evidence. This also leads to a perhaps surprising move by the editors: the removal of any reference to a conjecture in the apparatus. Since the editors claim to reconstruct only the hypothetical text that stands at the head of the manuscript tradition (and not the “autograph”), conjectures are not part of their project. So, for example, the conjecture that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 is a post-Pauline interpolation has been deleted from the apparatus.”


  1. “(Michael) Holmes (New Testament Textual Critic) writes that while he once understood the purpose of textual criticism to be the reconstruction of the original text of a document, he no longer holds to this persuasion. He explains that there are at least two major reasons for this. First, “the study of the history of the transmission of the text is no longer viewed only or primarily as a means to the recovery of the original, but rather as a legitimate goal in its own right” (p. 367). Rather than treating many of the textual variants of the NT as “detritus littering the path to the original text” (p. 637), Holmes suggests that scholars should recognize the value of textual variants for what they reveal about the world of the early church. The existence of textual variants, Holmes notes, provide “possible sources of insight into the history and cultural context of the individuals and communities that transmitted (and, occasionally, created) them” (p. 367–68). But why dismiss the task of reconstructing the original text? Might it be possible to work towards a reconstruction of the text of the original writings of the NT while also recognizing that textual variants may occasionally reveal further insight into the various theological controversies which took place in early Christianity?

Second, Holmes suggests that the task of reconstructing the text of the original autographs of the NT writings is fraught with difficulties. As he argues, the original autographs would have contained “not merely the text as a sequence of words, but also the precise layout, spelling, and form of the words” that “generally are not recoverable from the surviving manuscripts copies of the New Testament writings” (pp. 668–69). However, even if these relatively minor characteristics of the autographs are not the primary focus, Holmes insists that discerning an “original” text remains problematic because of the ambiguity of the term. Because the NT writings were often composed with the assistance of a secretary (see the example of Tertius in Rom 16:22), the term “original text” is often used in reference to different stages in the compositional process. For most scholars, however, the term “original text” is used to describe the text that was dispatched to a writer’s original audience. Rather than seeking to reconstruct the “original” text—in whatever form one envisions—Holmes argues that textual critics should seek to uncover, so much as the extant witnesses allow, what he has described as the initial text, that is, “the form(s) of text in which an early Christian writing first began to circulate and be copied” (p. 638). In other words, rather than seeking to reconstruct the text of the original autographs in the state in which they were originally dispatched, Holmes argues that textual critics must instead seek to establish “the textual form(s) (archetypes) from which the extant evidence derives” (p. 680).

Ehrman’s essay also discusses some of his objections to a primary focus on the reestablishment of the original text. He argues that while textual critics have “enjoyed reasonable [Listen to Ehrman in his debate with Evangelical Dr. Daniel Wallace and he clearly states the EARLIEST ATTAINABLE TEXT IS NOT THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPH] success at establishing, to the best of their abilities, the original text of the New Testament” (p. 825), this narrow focus overlooks the significant insights that the various textual witnesses reveal about the social world in which the NT was written and transmitted. “An exclusive concentration on the autographs is myopic,” Ehrman concludes, because “it overlooks the value of variant forms of the text for historians interested in matters other than exegesis” (p. 803). Other notable textual critics have argued similarly in recent years, perhaps most notably Eldon Epp and David Parker.”

The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questions. Second Edition (New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents)


  1. William L Petersen: “For all researches in the New Testaament, but especially textual critics, it is of the utmost importance to remember that whatever sort of text (or oral tradition) early (pre-180) Christian writers were accessing, it was very different from the text we now find in our critical editions (such as Nestle Aland or ever the Greeven Synopse) and, of course, different from the textual backbone of these critical editions, MSS and B.
    To be brutally frank, we know next to nothing about the shape of the “autograph” gospels; indeed, it is questionable if one can even speak of such a thing. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the text in our critical editions today is acutally a text which dates from no earlier that about 180 CE, at the earliest. Our critical editions do not present us with the text that was current in 150, 120, or 100 – much less in 80 CE. This fundament fact of of textual criticism is often ignored, overlooked, or even denied. The reasons are diverse, but not hard to discern. For some, of course, the theological consequences of such a fact are unpalatable: they threaten the “reliability” of the “word of  God”. For others, the fact that our modern critical text takes us back no earlier than 180 would short-circuit their research efforts at the outset – and hence, it is easier to ignore the issue. It is clear, for example that one cannot hope to come close to solving the “synoptic problem” when the text of the gospels did not reach a state of textual entropy until 180 or so.” Page 62 – William L. Petersen – “Genesis of the Gospels”.

New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel edited by Adelbert Denaux, Joël Delobel.


  1. Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism Paperback by David Alan Black


A)     WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THESE AUTHORITIES VIEWS  “The earliest attainable text (by new testament textual critics) CANNOT BE DETERMINED TO BE the original autograph reading”

  1. New Testament Scholars cannot even come up with a UNIVERSAL DEFINITION OF WHAT THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPH DOCUMENTS ARE. Since New Testament Scholars CANNOT even come up with a universal definition of how the original autograph documents looked like: THEN WHAT EXACTLY ARE NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICS RECONSTRUCTING BACK TO? Examples:

i.      What is the original version of the Book of Acts (the Alexandrian or Western Text Type – 10% different)?

Bruce Metzger on the “Western Text” of the Book of Acts

“The text of the book of the Acts of the Apostles circulated in the early church in two quite distinct forms, commonly called the Alexandrian and the Western. The former, which has been traditionally regarded as the authentic text of Acts, is represented by p45 p74 א A B C Ψ 33 81 104 326 and 1175. The other form is represented chiefly by D and the fragmentary papyri p29 , p38 , and p48, by the readings marked with an asterisk or standing in the margin of the Harclean Syriac version (syrh with *, syrh mg), by the African Old Latin ms. h (a fifth or sixth century fragmentary palimpsest that preserves about 203 of the 1007 verses of Acts), and by the citations of Acts made by Cyprian and Augustine. These, which are the primary witnesses to the Western text in Acts, are sometimes joined by others that present mixed texts with a relatively high proportion of Western elements. Among such are the Armenian version of the commentary on Acts by Ephraem Syrus, the Old Georgian version of Acts, several mixed Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts, and a few Greek minuscule manuscripts that were included by von Soden in his I-group. More recent discoveries of witnesses with decided Western affiliations include a Palestinian Syriac fragment (syrms K) from the Kastellion Monastery at Khirbet Mird, dating from the sixth century, and a Coptic manuscript (copG67) written in the Middle Egyptian dialect and dated by its editor in the late fourth or early fifth century.

The two forms of text differ in character as well as length. The Western text is nearly one-tenth longer than the Alexandrian text, and is generally more picturesque and circumstantial, whereas the shorter text is generally more colorless and in places more obscure.

The relationship between the two forms of Acts has been the subject of much discussion; the chief theories that have been proposed are the following.

(1) Both forms of text proceed from the author, who produced two editions of his work. The first to make this suggestion appears to have been Jean Leclerc, who, however, later rejected his own hypothesis. In more modern times Bishop J. B. Lightfoot took a rather favorable view of this theory, and it was subsequently adopted and developed with much learning by the German professor of classics, Friedrich Blass. According to Blass, Luke, having made a rough draft of his history of the primitive church, perhaps on the back of some previous manuscript, desired to present a handsome copy of his work to his distinguished friend Theophilus. Not being rich enough to employ a professional scribe to make the copy, Luke had to make it himself; naturally, instead of slavishly following his first draft, he exercised the freedom that an author can lawfully take with a work of his own, in altering phraseology and deleting superfluities. From both forms of Acts, according to Blass, copies were made; the text current in most manuscripts represents the polished, second edition prepared for Theophilus, while copies were also made from the original (longer) draft, which Blass supposed was treasured and preserved in the Roman church.

Nothing in this theory is inherently unreasonable, and it attracted the support of a number of other scholars, including Theodor Zahn, Eberhard Nestle, J. M. Wilson, and A.J. Wensinck. Other scholars, however, found it difficult to understand the motives of the author in choosing to omit certain details found in the presumed earlier account; the gain in space is small and the loss in information and descriptiveness is sometimes great. Is it plausible that the author would have omitted a clause from the decrees of the Jerusalem council (15.20, 29), or have altered the language of the letter of Claudius Lysias (23.26–30) or Festus’s speech to Agrippa concerning Paul’s culpability (25.24–25)? Furthermore, sometimes the shorter form contradicts the longer form. For example, having described (in the first person plural) a break in the journey from Caesarea to Jerusalem at the house of Mnason (so the Western text of 21.16), the author would not be likely to alter it so as to suggest that Mnason lived in Jerusalem (as is implied in the shorter text).

It has also been pointed out that in many cases the text that Blass regarded as the earlier, unrevised form of Acts exhibits the clear characteristics of later additions. Thus, for example, in a devastating review of Blass’s edition, another classical scholar, T. E. Page, assembled numerous examples where the Western text heightens or exaggerates the emphasis of the passage, where it introduces religious formulae and substitutes for the simpler and natural names of Jesus fuller and more elaborate theological titles, and where it emphasizes words and actions as inspired by the Spirit.

For these and other reasons many scholars today are reluctant to adopt Blass’s theory of two editions of Acts

(2) Soon after Blass popularized the theory of two editions of Acts, an Irish scholar, George Salmon, offered an alternative explanation to account for the textual phenomena of Acts. He suggested that “Luke may have continued to reside at Rome after the expiration of Paul’s two years [of Roman imprisonment], and may there have given readings of his work; and explanatory statements which he then made were preserved in the West.” Although it is possible to point to examples of authors in antiquity who gave public readings of their literary works, it is difficult to imagine the historical circumstances that would account for the preservation in written form of the oral comments made by Luke.

(3) Other scholars explain the distinctive form of the Western text as due to interpolation. It is maintained that in the early ages of the church the text of the New Testament was not looked upon as sacred, and therefore scribes felt at liberty to modify the form as well as to incorporate from oral tradition all kinds of additional details. Thus the Western text, according to this explanation, represents a wild and uncontrolled growth of the text during the first and second centuries.

This view has been widely held by scholars of various backgrounds, such as Westcott and Hort, W. H. P. Hatch, F. G. Kenyon, and Martin Dibelius.

Still others have held that one of the rival texts is derived from the other, not merely by a haphazard accumulation of glosses added over the years by numerous scribes, but by a deliberate revision made early in the second century by someone who was not satisfied with the existing form of the book. The problem is to determine which form was primary and which was secondary. The following two theories give diametrically opposing answers to the problem.

(4) The view that in general the Alexandrian text preserves more accurately the work of the original author and that the Western text reflects the work of a reviser was set forth with great learning by James Hardy Ropes in his edition of the text of Acts, and has been championed more recently by R. P. C. Hanson, who, however, instead of referring to a Western reviser, prefers to speak of a Western interpolator.

An interesting hypothesis that Ropes threw out for further discussion is the suggestion that “the preparation of the ‘Western’ text, which took place early in the second century, perhaps at Antioch, was incidental to the work of forming a collection of Christian writings for general Church use which ultimately, somewhat enlarged, became the New Testament; in a word, the ‘Western’ text was the text of the primitive ‘canon’ (if the term may be pardoned in referring to so early a date), and was expressly created for that purpose.”

(5) The opposite point of view, namely that the Western text of Acts is primary and the Alexandrian is a deliberate modification of it, was championed by Albert C. Clark, Corpus Professor of Latin in the University of Oxford. In his earlier publications Clark explained the shortened form as being the result of a scribe’s accidentally missing here and there one or more lines of his exemplar. Since, however, accidental omissions would not account for the regular correspondence of the omissions with breaks in the sense, nor does the theory explain the numerous differences in wording where no omission is involved, in a subsequent publication Clark practically abandoned the theory of accidental omission and revived the theory of a deliberate editorial shortening of the Western text. The Alexandrian abbreviator, he thinks, excised passages throughout the book for a variety of reasons; in some cases we can deduce that he eliminated what he considered to be otiose, but in other cases the excisions, Clark admits, show a singular want of taste.

Still other theories of a linguistic sort have been proposed over the years to account for the unusual phenomena of codex Bezae.

(6) J. Rendel Harris revived the theory of Mill, Wettstein, Middleton, and other eighteenth century scholars that “the whole of the Greek text of Codex Bezae from the beginning of Matthew to the end of Acts is a re-adjustment of an earlier text to the Latin version.” The theory finds little or no support among present-day scholars.

(7) The view that codex Bezae embodies an appreciable amount of Semitic coloring has been examined and adopted in various forms by several scholars. Frederic Henry Chase sought to prove that the Bezan text of Acts is the result of assimilation of a Greek text to a Syriac text that antedated the Peshitta version. In the case of the Gospels, Julius Wellhausen frequently argued for the primitive nature of the readings in codex D. This point of view was discussed further by A. J. Wensinck in a study entitled, “The Semitisms of Codex Bezae and their Relation to the Non-Western Text of the Gospel of Saint Luke,” and particularly by Matthew Black in his volume An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, in which he gathers, classifies, and carefully evaluates a large amount of relevant material. According to Black, “The Bezan text in all the Synoptic Gospels, if less so in some respects in Mark, is more frequently stained with Aramaic constructions and idiom than the B א text.” A somewhat similar conclusion concerning the Western text of Acts was also reached by Max Wilcox in his monograph (originally a doctoral dissertation written under the guidance of Black) entitled The Semitisms of Acts.

Another hypothesis that seeks to account for Semitisms in codex Bezae was proposed by a specialist in the Semitic languages, C. C. Torrey. After having published several monographs on details of Aramaic coloring in the Gospels and the first half of the book of Acts, Torrey advanced the theory that the Gospels and Acts were translated from Greek into an Aramaic “Targum” towards the end of the first century, and that this “Targum,” being mistaken for the original Semitic text of these books, was very soon afterwards retranslated into Greek with constant reference to the existing Greek text. This retranslation, Torrey held, was the basis of the Western text in the Gospels and Acts.

Although F. F. Bruce described Torrey’s hypothesis as “very plausible … [for] it seems to satisfy many of the linguistic phenomena better than any other,” most other scholars have rejected it as too complicated to be probable. …

After surveying the chief theories that have been offered to explain the origin of the Western text, one is impressed by the wide diversity of hypotheses and the lack of any generally accepted explanation. A failing common to many of the theories is the attempt to account for the Western text by concentrating upon only one aspect of the problem. The complex phenomena, however, that characterize the Western text in relation to the Alexandrian text include, as Haenchen points out in a brief but incisive discussion, at least three kinds or levels of variant readings. There are, first, not only for Acts but for the Gospels and the Pauline corpus as well, a great number of minor variants that seek to clarify and explain the text and make it smooth. Occasionally pious phrases are introduced. This form of text, widely current in the early church and used by Marcion, Tatian, Irenaeus, and others, cannot be regarded as a “recension,” for it is not and never was a unity.

Secondly, there are variants of another kind, peculiar to the Western text of Acts. These include many additions, long and short, of a substantive nature that reveal the hand of a reviser. Working upon a copy of the “Western” text in the first sense, the reviser, who was obviously a meticulous and well-informed scholar, eliminated seams and gaps and added historical, biographical, and geographical details. Apparently the reviser did his work at an early date, before the text of Acts had come to be generally regarded as a sacred text that must be preserved inviolate.

Thirdly, there are still other variants which are not to be associated with the Western text as such, nor with its reviser, but which belong to a particular manuscript, namely codex Bezae. This witness, copied, according to Haenchen, about A.D. 500, exhibits a variety of scribal idiosyncrasies, some of which, though suggesting Aramaisms, are nothing more than errors of a scribe, or possibly two successive scribes. It follows, in the words of Haenchen’s conclusion, that “in none of the three cases does the ‘Western’ text of Acts preserve for us the ‘original’ text of that book; this is the lesson that we are gradually beginning to learn.”

Since no hypothesis thus far proposed to explain the relation of the Western and the Alexandrian texts of Acts has gained anything like general assent, in its work on that book the Bible Societies’ Committee proceeded in an eclectic fashion, holding that neither the Alexandrian nor the Western group of witnesses always preserves the original text, but that in order to attain the earliest text one must compare the two divergent traditions point by point and in each case select the reading that commends itself in the light of transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities.

In reviewing the work of the Committee on the book of Acts as a whole, one observes that more often than not the shorter, Alexandrian text was preferred. At the same time the Committee judged that some of the information incorporated in certain Western expansions may well be factually accurate, though not deriving from the original author of Acts.”

Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1975), pp. 259-72.

ii.      Is the Prologue and Epilogue part of the original autograph of the gospel of John?

Here is a commentary of an evangelical just to show the dispute in action – and that NT Scholars can’t determine a definition of the gospel of John’s prologue:’s%20Prologue.pdf

iii.      Is Chapter 1 and 2 part of the Original Gospel of Luke

iv.      How many letters went into making 2nd Corinthians?


2. The Second Reason it is ILLOGICAL to make the claim that the earliest attainable text equals the original autograph reading is based on the Current Greek Manuscript Tradition. The late attestations for the current collection of greek manuscripts is far removed from the original autograph dating (remember it is impossible to know when the original autographs were dated with any preciseness so even the dating of the current NT manuscripts contain significant variation):

Here is a list of all the current Greek New Testament Manuscripts:

Pay attention to how many manuscripts and number of verses actually come from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Majority of the 5800+ manuscripts come from after the 8th century. So yes Christians have an idea of how the new testament looked like during that period and afterwards BUT NO WAY IN THE 1st century or 2nd Century. [I will provide more details in this regard in later edition].


Here are a few debates/lectures I suggest people wanting to learn about the New Testament corruption and inauthenticity should watch:

a)      Is the Original New Testament Lost? Sponsored by the Ehrman Project:

b)      Bible Corrupted by the iERA –

c) (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CROSS EXAMINATION BETWEEN a lay evangelical and NT Textual Scholar in regards to the poor preservation and inauthenticity of the New Testament documents)

d)    Even the most evangelical Textual Scholar (Daniel Wallace) from 8:48-10:00 Admits that “it is impossible to have absolute certainty of what the original words of the Bible are” Actually he wants Christians to avoid absolute certainty like the plague. His claim that parts of the original autograph have been recovered is an illogical claim based on the previous evidence. But even if we ASSUME Dr. Daniel Wallace is correct, there are still significant proofs the New Testament documents have been corrupted which will be highlighted in the part 1b in the next article. Furthermore his open admission that “(christians) we do not have absolute certainty what the original words of the bible are is light way of saying that all the words the new testament scholars have constructed still have doubt to their authenticity. By associating probabilities (qualitative) to what the original readings COULD have been is just a masking with flowery deception. Pretty much there is ALWAYS UNCERTAINTY as to how the earliest attainable text relates to the original autograph. Furthermore, the authenticity of the reconstructed words by New Testament scholars is ALWAYS IN JEOPARDY because earlier manuscripts finds can easily deem the reconstructed verses and words as CORRUPTED.


Conclusion: Ask any christian how the [A] reading in the UBS greek new testament or Nestle Aland’s  “reading” relates to the original autograph reading, and all THEY WILL ADMIT is it is a probability game. A probability game as to what the original words of the bible are? Yes just another way to say there is an INHERENT DOUBT always associated with the authenticity of the verses New Testament Textual Critics reconstruct.

Is this probability editors use numerical… NO it’s purely qualitative. They have no way of demonstrating that the [A] variant reading corresponds to the original autograph text.


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