The Textual History of the Books of the New Testament

Contents: Introduction
The Books:
The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Paul: Romans, 1 Corinthians,2 Corinthians, Galatians,Ephesians, Philippians,Colossians, 1 Thessalonians,2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy,2 Timothy, Titus,Philemon, Hebrews
Catholic Epistles:James, 1 Peter,2 Peter, 1 John,2 John and 3 John, Jude


The history of the New Testament text cannot be written based onour present knowledge. We do not know, and likely will never know, howthe original text was transmuted into the forms found in our presentmanuscripts.

And yet, knowing textual history is important for criticism. The morewe know about it, the better we are able to reconstruct the originaltext. And there are certain things which all critics will agree on -- e.g.the existence of the Alexandrian and Byzantine text-types, and the broad natureof (though not the reason for or significance of) their differences.

This article attempts to briefly outline what little we know aboutthe history of the various New Testament books. Much of what is saidhere parallels the material in the article onText-Types, but the emphasis is different.The discussion is concerned primarily with major changes and deliberate(recensional) activity.

The sections which follow are organized by corpus, and then bybook within the corpus. In general this document does not attempt togive a definitive history, but merely to outline the questions whileallowing the student to form conclusions.

The Gospels

Most of the evolution of the gospels took place after they weregathered into a single corpus. Of the four widely-acknowledged text-types,three (the Alexandrian, Byzantine, and "Western") are universallyagreed to be found in all four gospels. This is less certain in the caseof the "Cæsarean" text, which has been studied primarilyin Mark -- but if it exists at all, it almost certainly exists for allfour gospels.

Both the Alexandrian and "Western" text-types appear todate back to at least the second century. In the case of the Alexandriantext, this is based on the age of the early papyri, most of which,including P66 and P75, have Alexandrian texts.The age of the "Western" text is based on the witness ofearly writers such as Irenæus.

The date of the "Cæsarean" text is uncertain.It is often described as a combination of the Alexandrian and"Western" texts, but this is not true. (If it were, itwould imply that the "Cæsarean" text is theresult of recensional activity. But the type is not unifiedenough for this.) Rather, it has a combination of readingscharacteristic of those text-types (this is inevitable, sincemost variants are binary), with some variants of its own (e.g."Jesus Barabbas" in Matt. 27:16-17; also a very highnumber of harmonizing variants, at least in Mark). If those whochampion the text-type are correct, it was in existence by thethird century, when Origen used it.

The earliest Greek witness to the Byzantine text is the uncialA, of the fifth century. The Peshitta Syriac is also largely (thoughnot overwhelmingly) Byzantine; its date is uncertain though itis usually ascribed to the fourth century (and can hardly be laterthan this).

Hort thought that the Byzantine text was recensional (i.e. thatsomeone, perhaps Lucian of Antioch, assembled it). Certainly it ismore unified than any of the other text-types. But it is nowgenerally believed that even the Byzantine text evolved naturally.There is thus no evidence of recensional activity in the gospelsas a whole.


Of the gospels, Matthew shows the fewest signs of recensionalactivity. There are no changes in writing style and few truly majorvariants. Unlike in Luke, the text of Codex Bezae appears to haveevolved naturally. This is perhaps not surprising; Matthew is usuallythe first and most-quoted gospel. It influenced the others ratherthan being influenced by them. It would seem likely that wehave it very nearly as it was written (c. 80 C.E.?).


If Matthew has suffered the least textual activity, Mark has probablysuffered the most. Generally held in low esteem and rarely quoted, itis always vulnerable to assimilation to Matthew or Luke.

The other side of this is that scribes have been less concerned withthe text of Mark. Since no one used it, why bother correcting it to theprevailing text? This means that there are a number of manuscripts --among them Δ Ψ 28 565 --which are much more interesting in Mark than elsewhere.

But though minor changes in Mark are common, they seem to have happenedalmost at random. Few serious attempts seem to have been made to edit thebook (probably because it was so little used). There is only one place in Markwhere recensional activity has clearly taken place. This is in the endingof the book (the material following 16:8). In some texts, the book endshere; in others, we find either of two possible endings, often combined.

The earliest Alexandrian text, as represented byℵ andB plus one manuscript of the Sahidic Coptic, clearly had no ending.It is possible that the prototype of the "Cæsarean" textended here, as many of the oldest Armenian manuscripts and the two bestGeorgian manuscripts omit, while Family 1 and others have critical signsaround the passage.

From the only surviving African Latin witness, k, comes the so-called"short ending," three dozen words obviously written to roundoff a defective manuscript.

Originating perhaps with the "Western" text (D ff2,etc.; b is defective here) is the well-known "long ending," foundin most editions and supported by the entire Byzantine text. (It is, however,by no means certain that all European Latin manuscripts support thisreading; the most important of these manuscripts, a, is defective here; thepages have been removed and replaced by a vulgate text. Space considerationsseem to indicate that there was not room for the longer ending; its lackmay explain why the pages were removed.)

Finally, in many late Alexandrian witnesses (L Ψ083 099 579 and many Coptic and Ethiopic manuscripts) we find the longer andshorter endings combined, often with critical notations.

It should be noted that the style of the common ending, "16:9-20,"does not match that of the rest of Mark. It also seems to be derived frommaterials in the other gospels and even the Acts.

The conclusion seems clear: Whether by accident or design, the publishedgospel of Mark ended at 16:8. (It is barely possible that Matthew had accessto the real ending; it is even less likely that Luke had this ending). Thislack was severe enough that at least two attempts were made to mend the gospel.The more minimal of these is the short ending of k, which cannot be original.The longer ending is better supported, but textual and stylistic considerationsalso argue against it.


If the gospels of Matthew shows no evidence of recensional activity, andthat of Mark shows it only at the end, there is clear evidence of editorialwork in Luke. (In fact, we know that Marcion used this gospel, and only this,and edited it in his own way. However, that edition has perished completely;our comments are based solely on the differences observed between survivingdocuments.) The differences between the Alexandrian and "Western"texts are so pronounced that they can hardly have arisen entirely by accident.Many examples can be offered, but the two best are offered by Luke'sgenealogy of Jesus and by the so-called "WesternNon-Interpolations." The list below summarizes these variants, with theUBS/Alexandrian/Majority reading first (with a summary of supporters), followed bythe "Western" reading (with a complete list of supporters):

The overall effect of this is to make it effectively certain that either D or theAlexandrian/Byzantine text has been edited. And the fact that D uses Matthew's genealogy stronglyargues that D is the edited document. Does this mean that the entire "Western"text is an editorial production? This is not clear. It will be seen that none of theother Latin witnesses support D's genealogy of Jesus, and even the"Western Non-Interpolations" have onlypartial support from the Latin, Syriac, and Georgian witnesses. Kurt Aland hasargued that the "Western" text, as a type, does not exist. The evidencefor his view (in the Gospels) is significant -- but not overwhelming; the finaldecision must be left to the student. (We should note, however, that there is clearlya Greek/Latin type in Paul.)


Literary problems swirl around the Gospel of John: Who wrote it? When wasit written? In what location? What is its relationship with the Synoptic Gospels?

Textual criticism can shed little light on these questions. (Though the manuscriptsdemolish Baur's proposal for a late date. Two important papyri of John --P52 and P66 --date from the second century, and more follow soon thereafter. Thus the bookcannot be much more recent than 100 C.E. With this in mind,we can turn to the state of the book itself.)

The textual problems in John revolve around two sections: The story of theAdulteress ("John 7:53-8:11") and the entirety of Chapter 21.

Internal evidence would make it appear that Chapter 21 is an addition. Theending of Chapter 20 reads like the end of the book -- and then we find Chapter21, a seeming afterthought, with perhaps the purpose of explaining the death ofthe "Beloved Disciple."

But there is not the slightest textual evidence for this. Every known manuscriptcontains chapter 21. (Philip Wesley Comfort has argued that neither P5nor P75, which are single-quire codices, contained enough leaves tohold John 21. This is possible, but by no means convincing. Both codices breakoff well before John 21; it is possible that the scribes would have condensedtheir writing to save space. And if that proved insufficient, they could haveadded additional leaves at the end. All Comfort's calculations prove is thatwe cannot be certain these documents contained Chapter 21.) Chapter 21 maywell be an addition to the book, but if so, it was almost certainly addedbefore the gospel entered widespread circulation.

The case of the Adulteress is rather different, as here there is variationin the manuscripts. But this case is not parallel to, say, Mark 16:9-20, wherethe text-types disagree. Here almost all the evidence is hostile to the passage.

Taking the internal evidence first, we observe that the language is clearlynon-Johannine. This likely will be evident to any who read the passage in Greek,but we can put it on an objective basis. In this passage of twelve verses, thereare no fewer than four words hapax legomena, and fourother words (one of them used twice in the passage) which occur only two to fourtimes in the NT. By comparison, in the 52 legitimate verses of John 7 there arefive hapax, and five other rare words. In the following 48 verses ofJohn 8, there are no hapax and only three rare words. In fact, John as awhole (867 verses) contains only 58 hapax, or one every fifteen verses. Thusrare words are five times as common in 7:53-8:11 as in the rest of the gospel.It is not impossible that an author who used such a simple vocabulary could manageto insert so many rare words into such a short passage -- but it's not very likely,either.

In addition, the story shows every sign of being unassimilated folklore(for discussion, see the article on Oral Tradition).It is true that many other parts of the gospel rest on oral tradition -- butin all cases it has been assimilated: smoothed out and placed in an outsidecontext. The Adulteress has not been placed in context, which is exactly whatwe would expect of folklore.

The external evidence argues strongly against its inclusion. Even if itis accepted as scriptural, it appears in no fewer than five different placesin the manuscripts:

Thus the evidence clearly indicates that the story of the Adulteress isan addition to John, and probably not an original part of any of the gospels.If it is to be included in Bibles at all, it should be treated as an independentincident.

The Acts

Of all the books of the Bible, none shows such intense textual variationsas Acts. There are thousands of differences between the texts of B andD -- often so substantial as to significantly change the meaning ofthe passage.

This leads to three questions: First, is the D text actuallyrepresentative of the "Western" text? Second, is the"Western" text recensionally different from the Alexandrian,or did the differences arise naturally? Third, if the two arerecensionally different, which recension is original?

To address the first question, let me provide the following tableillustrating differences between D and other so-called "Western"witnesses. The table tabulates all readings of D in the Nestle-Aland apparatuswhich are not shared byeither the Alexandrian or the Byzantine texts (defined in this case as readingsof D which are not shared with any of the group P74ℵ A B orM/pm).The number of agreements with each of the most important so-called "Western"witnesses is listed, followed by the percent of the time each agrees with D.Chapters are grouped in blocks of four. Note: Family1739 is defined as the readingof 1739, or at least two of the group 323 630 945 1891 against 1739 if 1739 is Byzantine.Family 2138 is defined by any non-Byzantine member of the group, here representedby 614 1505 2495. A "Unique reading of D" is defined as a reading of D forwhich Nestle shows no Greek or versional support and no more than onepatristic supporter.

rdgs of D
of D
Chapters 1-412829 (23%)10 (8%)1 (1%)6 (5%)36 (28%)27 (21%) 13 (10%)31 (29%)
Chapters 5-810324 (23%)14 (14%)1 (1%)8 (8%)18 (17%) 9 (9%)10 (10%)38 (37%)
Chapters 9-126413 (20%)2 (3%)1 (1%)3 (5%)14 (22%) 15 (23%)15 (23%)20 (31%)
Chapters 13-1617064 (38%)14 (8%)4 (2%)21 (12%) 40 (24%)15 (9%)36 (21%)25 (15%)
Chapters 17-2016658 (35%)6 (4%)3 (2%)18 (11%) 35 (21%)12 (7%)22 (13%)--
Chapters 21-226129 (48%)1 (2%)0 (0%)1 (2%) 20 (33%)5 (8%)2 (3%)--
Totals:692217 (31%)47 (7%)10 (1%)57 (6%) 163 (24%)83 (12%)98 (14%)114/395 (29%)

The above numbers should instantly demolish Von Soden's contentionthat 1739 is "Western" in Acts! The question is, can anyof the other texts listed here be considered to belong to this type?Note that fully 31% of D's readings are singular, and none of theother witnesses agree with more than 30% of its readings.

It is my firm opinion that D is not a properrepresentative of the "Western" text; rather, it is anedited text based on "Western" materials. (This issimilar to the views of Kurt Aland, except that Aland does notoffer an explanation for the other "Western" texts.)Still, this is a point upon which scholars will differ, and inany case there is still a "Western" text -- which mustbe reconstructed, laboriously, from the Latins and copG67and other witnesses (it is by no means clear, however, thatFamily 2138is part of the "Western" text.)

This brings us to the second question, Is the "Western"text recensionally different from the Alexandrian and Byzantine?If we subtract D, this is a difficult question. With no reliableGreek witness to the type, some of the variations may betranslational.

Given the state of the evidence, we cannot make a certainstatement. The sundry "Western" witnesses do not appearto form a true unity, so they cannot form a recension. But ourevidence is imperfect. It seems to me that the "Western"witnesses attest to an influence, similar to but notactually derived from D. Many of the readings of this textdiffer recensionally from the Alexandrian text, but by no meansall.

Under the circumstances, it would appear that -- here if nowhereelse -- the Alexandrian/Byzantine recension is clearly superior. Butmuch remains uncertain. Some scholars haveproposed, e.g., that Luke produced two editions of hiswork -- with the Alexandrian being probably the "official"edition, but the other survived because copies were so difficultto produce. If there are indeed two editions, how does one decide which reading is"original?" Questions such as this must be left as anexercise for the student.

The Pauline Epistles

The textual theory of Westcott and Hort held that the text-typesin Paul were the same as in the Gospels: Alexandrian(ℵA C 33 etc.), "Western" (D F G Old Latin), andByzantine (K L 049 etc.), with B being mostly Alexandrian with"Western" readings.

Two discoveries changed this:P46 and1739. 1739united the semi-Alexandrian witnesses M (0121+0243), 6, 424c.P46 was even more significant, because it showed thatthe peculiar text of B is not peculiar. Zuntz later showedthat P46 and B formed the key witnesses to a separatetextual grouping. Zuntz called this group "Proto-Alexandrian"(implying that the later Alexandrian text evolved from it), and listed1739, the Sahidic Coptic, and the Bohairic Coptic as additionalwitnesses. All this may be questioned; in particular, it appearsthat the mainstream Alexandrian text(ℵA C 33 81 1175) is not actually descended from P46 and B;also, 1739 appears to head its own group. Still, it can be regardedas established that there are additional text-types beyondthe traditional three.

It is also noteworthy that the "Western" text ofPaul shows none of the peculiarities of Codex Bezae. The"Western" of Paul is clearly not a recensionalproduct; its readings are relatively restrained (this isparticularly true of the readings of D-F-G together; the closerelatives F and G have many peculiarities of their own whichlikely derive from a common ancestor). Thus a careful scholarwill have to take four non-Byzantine groups into account in examiningthe text of Paul: the Alexandrian(ℵA C 33 81 1175), the P46/B/Sahidic group, the"Western" text (D F G (629) Old Latin), andthe 1739 group (1739 0243 0121 1881 6424c and (in Romans-Galatians only) 630+2200).


Of the legitimate Pauline epistles, Romans has perhaps the most complextextual history. There are two reasons for this: The nature of the manuscriptsand the intricate nature of the literary tradition -- especially with regardto the sixteenth chapter and the doxology ("16:25-27").

Treating the problem of the manuscripts first, it is worth noting that verymany manuscripts change their nature in Romans. The most glaring example is33. In the other epistles, it is astrongly Alexandrian witness, falling closer to ℵthan any other document. In Romans, however, we have a text from another hand,which is largely if not entirely Byzantine.

Much the same is true of 1175(though the degree is less); in Romans it is Byzantine; in the other Paulinesit is mostly Alexandrian. 2464,too, is Byzantine in Romans but Alexandrian/Byzantine mix elsewhere. (On theother hand, a few minuscules, such as 1852 and 1908, probably have better textsin Paul than elsewhere.)

More important, however, is the case of 1739.The colophon claims that the text of Romans is taken, as far as possible, from Origen'scommentary on that book, while the other epistles come from an old Origenic manuscriptbut not from Origen himself. It appears that this is not true -- 1739 shows no clear changein textual affiliation between Romans and 1 Corinthians -- but the possibility mustbe taken into account that the manuscript has some alien readings here. (There is abare possibility that this colophon derives from one of 1739's ancestors, and that thisancestor, taken partly from the commentary and partly from another manuscript, becamethe ancestor of Family 1739.)

And, finally, there is P46. Although no rigorous study has beendone, the text of that papyrus appears to be much more wild (and rather lessaffiliated with B) in Romans than in any other part of Paul.

Thus, in examining the textual history of Romans, one must be very carefulto assess the evidence based on its affiliations in this book rather thanelsewhere.

Which brings us to the questions of Chapter 16 and the Doxology -- linkedproblems, as it is the location of the Doxology which causes us to questionthe origin of Chapter 16. It is true that Chapter 16 seems unlikely in aletter to Rome -- how could Paul, who had never visited Rome, know so manypeople there? But the question would not be as difficult if it were notfor the question of "16:25-27." (The related question of whetheror not to include "16:24" need not detain us; even in the unlikelyevent that this verse be thought original, it merely adds slightly to theuncertainty about 16:25f.)

Although these verses are 16:25-27 in the TextusReceptus, this is not their place in the Byzantine text. In themajority of manuscripts, including LΨ 0209vid 6 181 326 330 424 451 614 1175 1241 1505 1881 1912 2492 2495mvid dem hark geo2 slav, the verses fall at the end of chapter 14.In most of the Alexandrian and "Western" witnesses, however, theverses fall at the end of chapter 16 (so ℵB C D 048 81 256 263 365 436 630 1319 1739 1852 1962 2127 2200a b d* f r am ful pesh pal sa bo eth). Some witnesses, usually mixed, have theverses in both places (so A P 0150 5 33 88 104 459 2805 arm geo1).Others omit the doxology altogether (F G 629 dc-vid). P46,astonishingly, places the verses at the end of chapter 15. Even more astonishingly,the minuscule 1506(which ordinarily has an Alexandrian text) has the versesafter both chapter 14 and chapter 15, but omits chapter 16. We are alsotold (by Origen) that Marcion omitted chapters 15 and 16 of Romans (this testimonyshould, however, be used with great caution). The capitulations of certain Latinmanuscripts also seem to imply that Chapters 15-16 were not part of their texts.(Harry Gamble has speculated that the original text of Family 1739 omittedchapter 16, but the evidence of the family, combined with that of 1506, arguesstrongly against this.)

What does this mean? This question continues to exercise scholars. Are 16:25-27any part of Romans? If so, where did they originally belong? The level of supportfor the location after chapter 16 is extraordinarily strong -- but internal evidencefavours the location after chapter 14. Why would any scribe, finding the versesafter chapter 16, where they fit, move them after chapter 14, where they interruptthe argument and serve no useful purpose? It has been speculated that the doxologycame to be placed after chapter 14 as a result of Marcion's mutilation of Romans,but this is a rather long chain of suppositions. (Not least of which is thesupposition that Origen actually knew Marcion's text. Chapter 14 is a strange placeto truncate the epistle, as the argument extends to 15:13.)

Did shorter forms of Romans circulate, lacking either chapter 16 or chapters15 and 16? Gamble, in The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans,offers a good synopsis of the internal evidence (though his data on the externalevidence is questionable). But neither sort of evidence allows us to reach a firm conclusion. Apartfrom the Marcionite product, there is no evidence of a 14-chapter form in Greek,although there may once have been a Latin version. That a 15-chapter form ofRomans circulated is proved by 1506, and the evidence of P46 implicitlysupports this (as well as implying that this edition was very early). It probablywas not widespread, however.

As for the location of the doxology, we simply don't have enough evidence tobe dogmatic. My personal opinion is that it is an addition, appended to the endof one edition of the letter and then later moved to the other positions. If this isthe case, then the most likely position is perhaps after chapter 14. But this isso uncertain as to amount to speculation.

1 Corinthians

The textual history of 1 Corinthians appears quite simple. Itis a single writing, preserved without real evidence of alteration.There are variations, but (with possibly a single exception) allappear accidental.

The exception is in 14:34-35. These verses are found in thisposition in P46ℵA B K L 0150 02436 33 81 104 256 330 365 436 451 629 1175 1319 1505 1739 1881 1962 2127 2492Mam bam cav ful hub harl theo tol pesh hark pal s bo fay ar geo eth slav-- but in D F G 88* a b d f reg Ambrosiaster Sedulius-Scottuswe find the verses placed after 14:40. It has been supposed by somethat the verses were originally lacking; there is, however, absolutelyno direct evidence for this; the verses are found in every witness. Onlythe location varies. It is equally possible that they were movedan attempt at a clarification; it is also possible that a carelessscribe omitted them, then someone reinserted them in the wrong place.In any case, a single reading impliesvery little about the history of the text.

2 Corinthians

The literary history of 2 Corinthians is exceedingly complex. It ispossible that it contains fragments of six letters; that it containsportions of at least two is almost certain (the various sectionsare as follows: 1:1-6:13, a friendly letter to Corinth; 6:14-7:1,on marriage with unbelievers; 7:2-16, rejoicing at word from Titus;Chapters 8 and 9, on the collection for the saints, but possiblytwo separate discussions on the subject; 10:1-13:14, Paul's defenseof his ministry. The first and last sections can hardly have beenin the same letter, and the four intermediate sections may have comefrom anywhere).

This combination of fragments, however, clearly took place beforethe text was published, since there are no relevant variants in thetradition. Every known manuscript contains the entirety of allsections of the combined document. Thus these literary factors do notaffect the textual criticism of the epistle.


There is little to be said, textually, about Galatians. It is clearlya literary unity, and there is no evidence of editorial tampering. Theclosest thing to an interesting variant is the alternation (in 1:18,2:9, 11, 14) between "Cephas/Kephas" and "Peter."


The question of the textual history of Ephesians is closelytied in with the matter of its authorship. We can hardly addressthe latter here (though I freely admit that the style of Ephesiansis so unlike Paul that I cannot believe Paul wrote the letter).But this makes the question of the destination of the letter, in1:1, crucial. The words "in Ephesus" are found inℵcA Bc D F G 33 81 104 256 365 436 1175 1319 1881Ma b d f r vg pesh hark sa bo arm geo eth slav, but P46ℵ*B 6 424c 1739 omit. It seems clear that this isan editorial difference -- and that the form lacking "inEphesus" is at least as old as the form with it, probably older.

This variation has led to much speculation about the natureand origin of this letter (so clearly linked to Colossians),but this does not affect the textual history, so we leave theproblem there.


Until recently, scholarly consensus held that Philippianswas a unity. In modern times, though, some have held that theabrupt break in 3:1 (between 3:1a and 3:1b, or between 3:1 and3:2) indicates a discontinuity, and that Philippians actuallyconsists of two (or perhaps three) letters. In this theyare bolstered by Polycarp's remark that Paul had written"letters" to the church in Philippi.

Whether Philippians is a unity or not, it seems clear that itwas published as a single letter. There is no evidence of recensionalactivity in the text.


Textually, Colossians is an unusual case: Of all the epistles,it has suffered the most from assimilation of parallels. It isgenerally agreed that it is a unity, although some have questionedits Pauline authorship (on insufficient grounds, to my mind). Butthe great problem of Colossians is its relationship toEphesians.

That these two letters are dependent cannot seriously be denied.The author of one worked from the other (even if Paul wrote both,it is not impossible that he would have used one as a templatefor the other -- though, frankly, I find it inconceivable thatPaul could have written Ephesians). In all probability, Colossiansis the earlier letter.

But it is also the weaker letter (at least textually). Shorter, placed later in thecannon, with less development of its themes, it was almost inevitablethat it would in many places be contaminated with wording fromEphesians.

Examples of this assimilation of parallels are so frequent thatthey simply cannot be detailed here; the matter will be left forthe commentaries. It does appear, however, that this assimilationwas not deliberate or recensional; scribes simply wrote the morefamiliar form, as they so often did in the gospels.

1 Thessalonians

As with most of Paul's letters, there is no realevidence of editorial activity in this book.

2 Thessalonians

As in 1 Thessalonians, there is no sign of editorialactivity in this book.

1 Timothy

The textual situation in the Pastoral Epistles differsslightly from the rest of Paul. This is not due to editorialactivity but to the state of the manuscripts. B does notexist for these books, and P46 apparently neverincluded them. Thus we are missing a whole text-type.

This might possibly be significant, as these books areamong the most questionable of the Pauline Epistles. It is,of course, widely though not universally held that these booksare not by Paul, though they may be based on his notes.But as far as we know, this is not a textual question; thereare no signs of editorial work in our surviving text-types.

2 Timothy

2 Timothy operates under the same restrictions as1 Timothy: The book's authorship is inquestion, and P46 and B lack the book. Of thePastoral Epistles, it gives the strongest signs of compositeauthorship, with the personal sections having the genuinePauline touch while the sections on church order have showall the symptoms of being later than the apostle. But, asin 1 Timothy, there is no reason to believe that thetext has been edited since it was published; all thework of combining the Pauline and non-Pauline materialpreceded publication.


The situation in Titus is exactly the same as in1 Timothy, and the shortness of the bookmakes it even less likely that it has been edited.


With a book as short as Philemon, it is difficult to formtextual theories. There simply aren't enough variations to workwith. But there is no reason to believe that the book has beenedited in any way.


Hebrews is unique among the Pauline corpus in many ways. The obviousway is that it is not by Paul. But more noteworthy is the fact thatit was not universally recognized as canonical.

The surviving witnesses almost universally include thebook (indeed, Hebrews is the only one of the Pauline Epistles for whichwe have two substantial papyri --P13and P46); the only manuscripts which lack it are F and G, and thismay be because it was missing in their exemplar (we note that these two manuscriptsactually ignored lacunae in mid-book). Even so, it is likely that relativelyfew copies of Hebrews circulated in the second and third centuries, and someof those were probably separate from the rest of the Pauline corpus.

What effect this may have had on the text, if any, is not immediately evident.

The Catholic Epistles

In recent years, the Catholic Epistles have been subjected tomany detailed examinations -- due most likely to the fact that theirbrevity makes them relatively easy to analyse. Scholars such asAmphoux, Richards, and Wachtel have all undertaken studies ofthe text-types in these books.

In the Catholic Epistles, the "Western" text seems todisappear. There have been various attempts to find it, but thesecannot be considered convincing. There are few Old Latin texts ofthe Catholics, but we find extravagant readings in certain of theVulgate witnesses (these are detailed in the descriptions of theindividual books). These, presumably, are " Western" --but they simply do not match any of the Greek texts.

The text-type most often associated with the "Western" text(so, e.g. Amphoux) is Family 2138.This large group (Wachtel's Hkgr; Richards's A1)includes, among others, 206, 429, 522, 614, 630, 1505, 1611, 1799, 2138,2200, 2412, and 2495, as well as the Harklean Syriac. DespiteAmphoux, however, this type is not close to the Old Latin, and inActs the family is not overly close to D. (See the table in the section onActs). Thus the attempts to callFamily 2138 the "Western"text are at best questionable -- personally, I think they are wrong.That the family has a text independent of the Byzantine or mainstreamAlexandrian types is, however, beyond question.

In addition, Amphoux and Richards (though not Wachtel) identifytwo groups within what has traditionally been called the Alexandriantext. One of these the is Alexandrian text proper (P72?ℵA B? Ψ 33 81 436 bo etc.),the other is Family 1739(1739 1241 1881 323 945 etc.). C seems to be a mix of these two types,but closer to Family 1739.

Richards views these three types -- Alexandrian group, Family 1739, andFamily 2138 -- as subgroups of the Alexandrian text. This is, however,clearly incorrect (even Richards is unable to define the differencesbetween the types). Amphoux, who regards the three is distinct types,is correct.

Of the three types, Family 2138 as we now have it is the most affected by the Byzantinetext. Even the best members of the type (2138+1611, 1505+2495, 2412+614,630+2200) have lost about 20-30% of their family readings to Byzantineinfluence. As, however, the influence is different in each of thesubgroups, it is often possible to determine the original text of thefamily. Of course, the fact that our witnesses are so late (noneexcept the Harklean Syriac precedes the tenth century, and the Harkleanis one of the weaker representatives of the type) may mean that thereare additional corruptions we cannot recover.

The Alexandrian text is much earlier and purer. Family 1739 consistsof late witnesses (except for C), but its similarity to Origen and itsrelative closeness to the Alexandrian text, as well as its general freedomfrom Byzantine readings (at least in the leading witnesses, 1739 C 1241),indicates that it too is early and pure. Thus our tools for reconstructingthe text of the Catholic Epistles are perhaps better than for any othersection of the New Testament.

Balancing this is the fact that the books became canonical at widelydiffering dates. While a corpus of Paul must have been compiled early,it was not until quite late that unified editions of the CatholicEpistles would be circulated. This point will be taken up under theindividual books.


James was the last of the longer Catholic Epistles to be accepted bythe church. Even Eusebius, who lived in the fourth century, describes itas disputed (III.25; also II.23). It appears in all our Greekmanuscripts, however (except P72,which is a special case), and is included in the Peshitta. It clearlycirculated widely in the early church. There do not seem to be any particularproblems associated with its text; the variations it displays are the sortone would expect in the ordinary course of transmission.

1 Peter

1 Peter was one of only two general epistles to be recognized as canonical"from the beginning" (1 John was the other). It is found in everywitness, including P72. Its text is in good condition, and showslittle evidence of recensional activity.

The one case where we might see editorial action is in the Latin tradition.This contains a numberof substantial variations. After 1:19, for instance, a few Latin witnesses add"ipse ergo qui et praecognitus est ante constitutionem mundi et novissimotempore natus et passus est epse accepit gloriam quam deus verbum semperpossedit sine initio manens in patre." There are also some significantchanges in word order in this verse. More important, because betterattested, is the addition in 3:22, "deglutiens mortem ut vitae aeternaeheredes efficeremur" (z am bam cav fulc granhub leg sang theo tol val Aug Cass and the Clementine Vulgate; all Greekwitnesses, supported by ful* juv lux, omit). These readingslikely derive from the now-lost "Western" text of 1 Peter,perhaps indicating that it showed some of the same sort of extremereadings we find in the Bezan text of Acts. (The fact that these readingsdo not occur in Greek is further evidence that the "Western"text is not represented by Family 2138 or any of our other witnesses.)As, however, we have no continuous "Western" texts, there isvery little we can do about this problem.

2 Peter

Unlike 1 Peter, 2 Peter did not gain instant recognition as canonical.Moderns see many reasons for this -- it does not read like 1 Peter, itis dependent on Jude, it's much too wordy for a simple Galilean fisherman.How much of this was apparent to the early Christians is not clear, butthe fact is that the book was not universally recognized until well intothe fourth century. The Peshitta, for instance, omits it. We find it inP72 -- but of course P72 contains sundry non-canonicalmaterials.

Despite this, there is little evidence of deliberate editorial workin 2 Peter. Textually, the most noteworthy thing about this epistle isits relationship to Jude. For the most part, 2 Peter influenced Juderather than the reverse (2 Peter is longer, more respected, and comesearlier in the canon), but the influence may sometimes have gone theother way as well (see, e.g., the discussion on2 Peter 2:13).

1 John

1 John is the second of the Catholic Epistles to have been universallyaccepted as canonical. Since it also has a simple and straightforwardtext, there seems to have been little temptation to alter it.

The one exception is, of course, 1 John 5:7-8. Priscillian seemsto have been responsible for the explanatory Latin gloss "incaelo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt. Ettres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra" (though Priscillianhad the reading in a noticeably different form). This worked its wayinto certain Latin manuscripts (l r (cav) harl (tol) (valmarg);am bam dubl ful hub juv* mon sang val* omit), from there into a barehandful of Greek manuscripts ((61) 88marg 221marg 429marg(629) 636marg 918, 2318, all with variations), and from there,by an absurd twist of fate, into the Textus Receptus.(A similar Latin expansion, not found in the Textus Receptus, occurs in2:17, where p t Cyprian Lucifer Augustine samss add variations on"quomodo (et) (sicut) (deus) (ipse) manet in aeternum"; this, however,affected the Vulgate only minimally and the Greek not at all. Similarly in5:9 Beatus and a handful of Latin manuscripts add "quem misit salvatoremsuper terram, et fulius testimonium perhibuit in terra scripturas perficiens,et nos testimonium perhibemus quoniam vidimus eum ad adnuntiamus vobis utcredatis, et ideo." A final example occurs in 5:20, where t Speculum(Hilary) Julianus-Toledo add "et carnem induit nostri causa et passusest et resurrexit a mortuis adsumpsit nos.")

By the looks of it, there was, somewhere, a pretty extensive rewrite of theLatin tradition, which however affected the Greek tradition not at all and eventhe Latin tradition only partially.

The Byzantine text offers a handful of other interesting readings:

Both of these, however, appear to be simple scribal errors that never werecorrected.

2 John and 3 John

2 John and 3 John are the shortest books in the New Testament. They areso short that no textual history can be written, and no textual analysisshould be undertaken on the basis of their few dozen verses of text. Wetruly cannot tell their history; recensional activity is possible, since they were adoptedinto the canon late (and separately). Still, there is clear sign ofeditorial activity; the most noteworthy variant (2 John 2, omitδια την αληθειανΨ 6 323 614 630 1241 1505 1611 1739 1852 2138 2412 2495 ful hark), despite its strongattestation, appears to be the result of haplography. There is also atypically Latin insertion in 2 John 11, with variations on"ecce praedixi vobis ut in die(m) domini(nostri Iesu Christi) non confundamini" (so pcSpeculum and the Sixtine Vulgate, but not am cav ful hub sang tol val etc.).


The book of Jude is a leading candidate for the title of "mosttextually damaged." Certainly no other epistle is in such poorcondition. There are many reasons for this. It was one of the lastbooks to be canonized. It is rather dense and difficult. It parallels2 Peter, and falls after that book in the canon, meaning that it hassuffered more heavily from harmonization.

The witnesses strongly reflect this problem. The Alexandrian textshatters in Jude; the manuscripts show no particular pattern ofagreements. The papyri are of little help. P72 has beencalled "wild" in this book, the fragmentary P78,of about the same date, manages to have two singular readings despitepreserving parts of only four verses. We find important omissionsand/or additions in almost every major manuscript. A few samples (thislist could be multiplied several times over):

This confusion does not mean that Jude has ever been edited; it will beobserved that these odd readings are found in all sorts of texts. Theysimply mean that the text of Jude is in very bad condition, and that itsrecovery is a difficult and unreliable process. No witness, not even B,can be considered to be very reliable.


The textual evidence for the Apocalypse is the weakest of any partof the New Testament. The surviving manuscripts represent only about athird of the number found for the Epistles and a tenth that for theGospels. It is not found in the Lectionary. Some early versions, suchas the Peshitta, omit it, and we can only speculate about types such asthe Old Syriac and Old Georgian.

The good side of this is that it is possible to examine the manuscripttradition approximately in its entirety, as was done by Josef Schmid inStudien zur Geschichte des griechischen Apokalypse-Textes. Giventhe completeness of this work, we will only briefly outline its contents.

Schmid finds four text-types:

Both the Byzantine group and the Andreas group are very large; wherethey divide (as they frequently do), it is not really possible to speakof the Majority Text. Both of these groups, as might be expected, breakdown into smaller subgroups.

Observe that Andreas's text is, in effect, a recension.It is not really the result of editorial work, but the intricate relationof text and commentary has ensured that this particular type of textmaintains its independent identity. Due to their differing forms ofpresentation, mixed Andreas/Byzantine manuscripts are relatively rare.It should be noted that the Textus Receptusderives from an Andreas text, and has readings characteristic ofthe type (and, in fact, a handful derived from the commentary itself,where Erasmus could not tell text from margin in1r).