By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
My post is about those misleading notes in some study Bibles. By notes, I do not mean the ones that are explanatory notes on Bible verses, also known as commentaries on verses, which can be helpful or harmful. The notes to which I refer are what can be called textual notes, in which we are told of the reliability or unreliability of a given verse or verses. Here is an example of what I mean, found in the Scofield Bible. It is a note about Mark 16:9 – 20. The note says: “The passage from Mark 16:9 to the end is not found in the two most ancient manuscripts, the Sinaitic and Vatican, and others have it with partial omissions and variations. But it is quoted by Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the second or third century.” The note is misleading for two reasons: 1) It gives us the impression “the two most ancient manuscripts” are, by virtue of their antiquity, the most reliable. And, 2) It does not give the whole story about one of the manuscripts mentioned. This manuscript does not have a substantial portion of the New Testament, and yet the notes in Scofield Bible and other study Bibles don’t tell us this fact. One can only guess why. One guess is that if the whole story would be told, it would undermine faith in the manuscript as a whole. Another guess is that the whole story has the potential to undermine faith in the New Testament itself. And no Bible-believing study Bible editor wants to be responsible for that. A third guess is that, at least in some cases, the editors of some study Bibles, didn’t know the whole story about the manuscripts referred to in the notes.
I addressed this subject in a previous post called, “What If A Big Chunk Of The Bible Was Missing?” The information is found 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. 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, which is referred to in the Scofield Bible’s note on Mark 16:9 – 20: “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?
Here is a link to the website from which the Scofield Bible note was taken: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/.