A Brief Introduction to the History of the New Testament
By Sam Huizenga
New Testament (NT) revelation was originally
communicated through prophets who spoke as the
Holy Spirit gave them utterance.
This method waned and finally
ceased in the latter part of the first
During this time, the Spirit
inspired various authors to write
the letters of the NT.
Artist depiction of the Apostle Paul
The letters of the NT were copied and circulated
Other letters were written, but faithful
Christians were able to discern which
letters were inspired and which ones
The church councils of the fourth
century which listed the canonic books
of the NT were only recognizing what
was already upheld by discerning
Artist’s depiction of the Apostle Paul
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries
were a time of terrible scripture
Many scholars edited the
text of scripture to suit their
own heretical biases.
Most of the existing
manuscripts from this period
are unreliable because they
contain these corrupt changes.
Sample of the Sinaiticus manuscript
The Greek speaking churches in the east held the
original autographs for possibly up to the late 2nd
Reliable copies were
made and the text of
these copies are
represented in the
overwhelming majority of
manuscripts of this type
are rare because of their
constant use by faithful
Early map of Eastern Roman (or “Byzantine”) Empire
In the west, the Latin-speaking
churches rapidly fell into catholic
superstition and ritualism.
During the Dark ages the
scriptures were withheld from the
masses and idolatrous catholic
dogma was taught instead.
Pope Gregory I
The underlying Bible of the Catholic
church was the Latin Vulgate, first edited
by Jerome in 404 A.D. John Wycliffe
produced an English version of this in 1382
and was persecuted for it.
In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman
invaders marking the end of the Byzantine
Greek scholars together with
many precious manuscripts
moved to Europe exposing
the Catholic west for the first
time to the original Greek
text of the NT.
The influx of faithful scripture
manuscripts instigated a revival
in Biblical truth. In 1516
Desiderius Erasmus used
available Byzantine manuscripts
to edit and publish the first
printed Greek NT. Desiderius Erasmus
In 1440 the printing press was
invented in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg
Dutch Scholar, Desiderius
Erasmus produced an edition of
the Greek NT which was printed
Erasmus’s Greek NT, later called the
“TextusReceptus” (TR), was printed
in a single inexpensive volume and
was published ahead of the official
Vatican Greek NT, the
Sample of Erasmus’s Greek NT. (latin translation on left column)
The TR was an immediate success. It’s
low cost and the fact that distribution
was not controlled by the Catholic
authorities madeit available to those
who previously couldn’t possess the
Word of God. The Greek Byzantine texts
represented by the TR stood in stark
contrast to the text of the Latin Vulgate.
The TR became the source text of the
Luther translated Erasmus’s 2nd
edition into German in 1522.
Tyndale translated it into English
in 1526. Casiodorode Reina
translated it into Spanish in 1569.
Many other translations were
made as a revival of God’s Word
spread like wildfire.
Martin Luther William Tyndale Casiodoro de Reina
Further editions of the TR were produced by
Robert Estienne (1503-1559), Theodore Beza
(1519-1605) and the Elzivir brothers.
English translations of the TR include
Tyndale’s (1525), Miles Coverdale (1539), the Robert Estienne Theodore Beza
“Great” Bible, The Geneva Bible (1560), The
Bishop’s Bible (1568) and finally the King
James Version (1611).
The KJV translation was an attempt by King James I
to appease puritan sympathies in the Church of
England. 47 scholars divided into 6 committees
worked from 1604 to 1608. A general council
reviewed their work after that. The translators used
the TR as the basis for the NT and the completed
work was first published in 1611.
King James I of England
The importance of the King James Version (KJV)
cannot be overstated. It’s presence was instrumental
in shaping history and it’s impact is still felt today. As
England emerged into a global power the influence of
the KJV spread throughout the world. It dominated
over a period of enlightenment, scriptural fidelity and
gospel outreach such as was not seen since the days of
At the root of freedom, human rights and lawful
society in our modern world you’ll find the effects of
the KJV. No other edition available to us today bears
the same stamp of Divine approval. It has come to
us stained by the blood of faithful saints who sought
to see the Word of God thrive in the hands of the
Throughout the late 1700’s and the 1800’s there
was a movement to edit the NT using rationalist
principles. Scholars such as Johann Griesbach
(1745 – 1812) and Karl Lachmann (1783 – 1851)
were pioneers of this critical method.
Johann Griesbach Karl Lachmann
In 1844 Constantin von Tischendorf
discovered a complete Bible
manuscript (the Sinaiticus or “aleph”) Sample Sinaiticus
at a Greek monastery at the foot of
Mt. Sinai. Later another complete
Greek manuscript (the Vaticanus or
“B”) was made available by the Vatican
Library. These two ancient codices are
dated from the 4th century and differ Sample Vaticanus
from the TR in many places.
Both the Sinaiticus (aleph) and the
Vaticanus (B) can be traced back to the
revision work of early heretics. 4th
century apostates such as Origen edited Artist rendering
the text of scripture and produced
corrupted editions to suit their own
Even though aleph and B were clearly
unreliable rationalist scholars in the
1800’s used them as a basis to produce a
new Greek NT. Textual critics didn’t care
that the majority of of existing
manuscripts agreed with each other
against these two corrupted texts.
Unbelieving critics mistakenly taught
that these corrupt manuscripts were
superior just because they were older.
English Revised Version of 1881
In 1870 the Church of England passed a
motion to revise the KJV. Two committees were
formed, one for the Old Testament (OT) and
one for the NT. The original intention was to
simply update the language of the KJV.
Mariolotry, Darwinism and Unitarianism were some of
the beliefs represented on the revision council of 1881.
However, the NT committee had two
members who had an ulterior motive.
Brook F. Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort
had spent the previous two decades
developing a Greek NT using Aleph and
B as a basis. They influenced the
committee into not only updating the
language but changing the underlying
Greek text of the NT from the TR using
their critical revision instead.
Brook F. Westcott
In 1881 the English Revised Version (ERV)
was published in England. The American
Standard Version (ASV) was published in
the U.S.A in 1901. Both versions are based
on the revisions of Westcott and Hort who
preferred the corrupted Sinaiticus and
Vaticanus over the majority of existing
faithful manuscripts. ERV ASV
The ERV was opposed by many scholars
who weren’t impressed with Westcott and
Hort’s critical principles. God-fearing men
like F.H.A. Scrivener (1813-1891) and John
Burgon (1813-1888) stood for the Divine
Preservation of the Bible and argued for
the priority of the TR. They denounced
the scholarship of unbelief that would
“correct” the sacred scriptures according
to the witness of two corrupted
The first critical versions were
unpopular. The KJV proved hard to be
dethroned. However, new committees
were formed and further revisions of
the NT were produced. These new
versions followed similar principles to
the Westcott–Hort Greek NT. They
continued to prefer Aleph and B over
the majority of Greek NT
Eberhard Nestle (1851-1913) published a
critical Greek NT in 1898. Later his son
Erwin Nestle (1883-1972) produced further
editons. In 1952 Kurt Aland (1915-1994)
became editor of Nestle’s Greek NT. The
Nestle-Aland 27th edition is considered by
textual critics to be one of two standard NT
texts for our modern age.
Eberhard Nestle Kurt Aland
In 1966 “The Greek New Testament” was
published by the United Bible Societies
(UBS). Among the members of the
committee were Kurt Aland and Bruce
Metzger (1914-2007). Metzger is considered
to be one of the leading NT textual critics of
the 20th century. He readily admits to
preferring the readings of Aleph and B. The
UBS 4th edition follows similar principles to
the Westcott-Hort Greek NT. It is
considered to be the second standard Greek
NT for our modern age.
Even though these editions are
corrupted by faulty textual criticism
they have become the basis for all of
our modern Bible versions. The New
International Version, Revised
Standard Version, English Standard
version and the New King James
Version are some of the English
translations of these critical texts.
Let’s view a few examples of the critical
versions and see how they affect the text
In Matthew 19:17 Christ is making a
point about His Divinity.
King James Version “Why callest thou me good? There is
none good but one, that is, God…”
New International Version “Why do you ask me about what is good?
English Standard Version “Why do you ask me about what is good?”
Notice the force of Christ’s statement is seriously lessened.
Although the Divinity of Christ still is taught in the critical
versions it is substantially weakened.
KJV “ Saying, I am alpha and omega, the first and
the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book…”
NIV “which said, “write on a scroll…”
ESV “saying, “write what you see in a book…”
Notice the critical versions remove an important statement by our Lord
Jesus Christ. They are notorious for omitting verses that are important for
doctrine. Some examples are the references to Christ’s virgin birth in Luke
2:33, the deity of Christ in 1 Tim 3:16 & Romans 14:10,12 and the blood of
Christ in Colossians 1:14. There are over 3000 words omitted in the
The critical versions are full of footnotes bringing
doubt to the authenticity of many scripture verses.
For Instance, in between vs. 52 and 53 of John 7
the NIV includes a note stating “The earliest and
most reliable manuscripts and other ancient
witnesses do not have John 7:53-John 8:11.”
The ESV includes a note stating “The earliest manuscripts do not include John 7:53
to John 8:11.”
These statements insinuate that the story of the woman taken in adultery was not in the
originals and therefore not Divine scripture. The precious words “Neither do I condemn
thee, go and sin no more.” have no force if our Lord Jesus never actually spoke them.
Fortunately, this story is in the originals as witnessed by over 900 manuscripts. The
manuscripts that remove these verses are the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and a few others from
that family. It is a fool’s errand to depend so heavily upon them.
John 6: 47
KJV “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
NIV “…he who believes has everlasting life.”
ESV “whoever believes has eternal life.”
KJV “…man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
NIV “It is written: man does not live on bread alone.”
ESV “… It is written, man shall not live by bread alone.”
KJV “ And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he
answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
NIV – nonexistent in the text, included in the footnotes with statement of doubt.
ESV – nonexistent in the text, included in the footnotes with statement of doubt.
Many scholars want to minimize the effect of the variants and
omissions found in the critical texts. They argue that none of the
major doctrines of the Christian Faith are affected but can be
supported by the modern versions. The truth is that there are more
then 5000 differences between the critical texts and the TR. This is
much too serious to just shrug off. Moreover, doctrines like the Deity
of Christ and the Trinity are seriously weakened by these differences.
There is one doctrine that is destroyed by the modern versions. It is the
doctrine of the Divine Preservation (DP) of God’s Word. DP means that
God has been tending to the text of His scriptures, weeding out errors that
creep in and providing the pure Word to every generation. The revisions
and changes found in the critical text were nonexistent for over 1000 years
until the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were discovered. The Byzantine/TR was
the NT text used by faithful Christians during that time. Since God has
promised to preserve His Word, we must conclude that the TextusReceptus
represents that preserved text today. Moreover, we have a reliable
translation of the TR in the King James Bible.
John 10:35 “…the scripture cannot be broken.”
Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth
pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till
all be fulfilled.”
Psalm 12:6,7 “The Words of the Lord are pure words: as silver
tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt
keep them O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this
Let’s remember that Satan has always tried to infiltrate and alter God’s
Word. We can take heart in the fact that God has promised to preserve
His Word for us. Let us use spiritual discernment and hold to the text of
God’s Word in the KJV.