By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
What is sometimes called the Protestant English Bible has 39 books that make up the Old testament, and 27 that make up the New Testament, for a total of 66 books. But what if you went to a store one day to buy a new Bible, and discovered that a big chunk of the New Testament was missing? By “big chunk,” I mean 11 complete books of the New Testament, and 4 chapters and 14 verses of another New Testament book. To be even more specific, what if the New Testament was missing 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus, 4 chapters and 14 verses of Hebrews (9:15 – 13:25), James, 1st Peter, 2nd Peter, 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation?
If you are a knowledgeable Bible-believeing Christian, that would be of great concern to you. You would most likely ask the store clerk why part of the Bible was missing. But what if the clerk said part of the New Testament was missing because the New Testament portion of the new translation you were looking at is based upon a Greek text that is “one of the most trustworthy witnesses to the New Testament text” ? You would almost certainly say, “What do you mean, one of the most trustworthy witnesses to the New Testament text? How can it be a trustworthy witness when so much of the New Testament is missing?”
Well, that is the case with the well-known “Codex Vaticanus.” Here is what we are told in the revised and expanded edition of Philip W. Comfort’s book called, “The Complete Guide To Bible Versions,” which is published by Tyndale House Publishers, and is copyrighted 1991 and 1996. I bought and read it in 1998.
Chapter 3 of Dr. Comfort’s book is called, “The New Testament Text———–How It Was Made and the Manuscripts We Have Today.” Here is what he wrote about Codex Vaticanus: “This manuscript had been in the Vatican’s library since at least 1481, but it was not made available to scholars, like Tischendorf and Tregelles, until the middle of the nineteenth century. This codex, dated slightly earlier than Sinaiticus, has both the Old and New Testament in Greek, excluding the last part of the New Testament (from Hebrews 9:15 to the end of Revelation) and the Pastoral Epistles. For the most part, scholars have commended Codex Vaticanus for being one of the most trustworthy witnesses to the New Testament text.” On pages 54 and 55, Dr. Comfort wrote again about Codex Vaticanus, and gave the same information as quoted above. Here is his conclusion concerning it: “A hundred years of textual criticism has determined that this manuscript is one of the most accurate and reliable witnesses.”
This information leads to a question: How can it be said that “A hundred years of textual criticism has determined that this manuscript is one of the most accurate and reliable witnesses,” when Codex Vaticanus leaves out a big chunk of the New Testament? It also leads to another question: If it is one of the most accurate and reliable witnesses, why does every modern English translation with which I am familiar contain the big chunk of the New Testament left out of Codex Vaticanus?
Imagine the great public outcry, if a new edition of the English Bible, based on Codex Vaticanus, was published! English Bible readers the world over would reject it, and would insist on reading translations containing not only Matthew through 2 Thessalonians, but also 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus, the complete book of Hebrews, James, 1st Peter, 2nd Peter, 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation.
One does not need to be a King James Version-onlyist to object to the claim that “A hundred years of textual criticism has determined that this manuscript is one of the most accurate and reliable witnesses.” Old-fashioned common sense tells us it can’t be true, when it leaves out so much of the New Testament.