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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

A. Sturz (who is about as sympathetic to the Byzantine text as anyone can be while not
being a pure Byzantine-prioritist) notes, “Hills [the leading exponent of this sort of
preservation] fails to show why the sovereign God must act in a particular way.” [Harry
A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism (1984), p. 42.
Italics added.] (For more on this subject, see the article on Theology and Textual
But while these non-critics (and non-critical thinkers) make up the majority of those who
prefer Byzantine or Byzantine-like texts, they are not the entirety of the Byzantine-
priority movement. There are genuine textual scholars who prefer the Byzantine text,
and others who, without entirely approving it, would still give it a much greater place
than Hort did.
Critical Arguments for the Byzantine Text
The major names in this movement are Harry A. Sturz, (who, in The Byzantine Text-
Type & New Testament Textual Criticism, offers the case that the Byzantine type should
be considered just as early as the Alexandrian and “Western” types) and the two sets of
editors, Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad (who published The Greek New
Testament According to the Majority Text) and Maurice A. Robinson and William G.
Pierpont (who published The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the
Byzantine/Majority Textform).
Those who believe in Byzantine Priority on critical grounds usually offer three lines of
argument: First, that Hort's proof that the Byzantine text is late is false; second, that the
numerical preponderance of the Byzantine text is proof of its fundamental originality,
and third, that the readings of the Byzantine text are superior to those of other types (by
some standard or other). (Those such as Sturz who argue simply for Byzantine equality
obviously pursue only the ?rst line of argument.) Those wishing to see the claims of
these authors should consult Sturz or the arguments presented by Pierpont & Robinson.
The claim that the sheer number of Byzantine manuscripts proves the originality of the
type is most easily disposed of, since it is false on its face. This is the Fallacy of Number
— and it is a fallacy. By this argument, the predominant life on earth would be the
anaerobic bacteria (now in fact nearly extinct, as they die on contact with oxygen in the
air), and the human race would have originated in China. It is true that, if nothing
interferes with the transmission process (meaning that all manuscripts produce
approximately equal numbers of descendants), then the text found in the majority of
manuscripts would likely be the most original text. But there is no reason to think that
the transmission process was absolutely smooth — such things almost never are, in the
real world; those who claim that the history of the New Testament text is smooth must
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism