Bible Versions? Texts Texts Texts (The Uncial and the Minuscule) Which Is the Oldest?

Written By Thomas Perez. July 16, 2014 at 6:24pm.



I can not over emphasize the importance of this little article. 

Languages can be a difficult thing, especially when trying to define a diffinition of a word, when that same word can entail four to six different diffinitions, or when trying to trace it’s original root meaning. For I.e., we know that Egyptian hieroglyphics gave birth to the Phoenician alphabet, which then gave birth to the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet (10th BC), which in turn gave birth to, or rather simply had sprang into two different languages,  the Arabic script, which then gave birth to modern Hebrew script – which became known as the Aramaic script; the suspposed language of Christ and His Apostles. Aramaic is a variant of Hebrew and Arabic. Aramaic is/was the language of the people, the common man, the socially less fortunate, the poor – not of the Greek (classical/Koine), Roman or of the Jewish priestly Hebrew tongue. Even the Latin itself was born from the Greek, the Cumaean form of Greek to be precise; along with the Runic, Cyrillic; while the Coptic went back to the original source alphabet (Phonician). Thus the apparent similarities in letters and vowels. With the spread of Hellenzation in the then known world and after the Bar Kokhba revolt, Hebrew became extinct (or rather simply ceased) until it’s revision in the 19th cent (1800).

Realizing this and the complex intricacies and influences that different languages can have upon one another, it is almost of a certain prerequisite that languages, be it it’s style, identifying its accent points, grammer, upper case or lower case, should always be understood, especially when it comes to the Scriptures of any Holy Writ, even in the most simplistic terms if possible. With that said, let us begin with our topic – the topic of the New Testament and it’s written style.

Note: Words and/or sentences that are underlined and italicized are of the most importance to the reader.

In reference to the New Testament (NT), scholars understand that there are two ancient texts pertaining to the NT, two texts with two distinct styles. These distinct styles are based upon a form of writing used when the original manuscripts were copied. The only distinctive styles between the two texts are found in what has become known as the Uncials and Minuscules. Uncials are (Upper Case Letters – Capital Letters Only) while Minuscules are (Lower Case Letters). The process of distinction between the two styles are often put into practice by an approach calledTextual Criticism” (or lower criticism). Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism, while literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature.

The Uncial form of writing can be traced back as far as the 2nd and 8th Centuries AD, while the Minuscule form of writing is dated anywhere from the 9th and 10th Centuries AD replacing the Uncial form. These Uncials and Minuscules are found in ancient writings known as Codex Writings/Versions. The term codex is used to indicate a “scroll” – taken from a “Papyrus” plant. This plant is then cut and pressed into sheets of writing material – thus becoming a scroll/codex. These Codex Editions can be traced dating back to the 2nd Century. However, the materials used to produce the Biblical books of the Old Testament was stone, clay, and leather until approximately 45-100AD – in which papyrus codex’s became useful.

While some earlier Codex Editions date back to the 2nd Century – thus using the Uncial form of writing, other 2nd and 3rd century translations – such as the Old Latin Vulgate (AD 157) and The Old Syriac Bible (AD 400) tend rather to conform to the Western Text-Type which uses the Uncial form of writing, as opposed to the Egyptian Alexandrian Type Text  which use’s both, the Uncial and Minuscule form of writing. Today there are 17 manuscripts belonging to the Alexandrian Type that bear witness to the minuscule form of writing. Upon literary evaluations, it can easily be understood from the conclusions of the facts that there are variations in style and form. A further, howbeit, short evaluation or outline may shed some light on this topic.

A. The Alexandrian Text

Let us begin with what is known as the Alexandrian or Egyptian Text Type.” This text type is used in textual criticism to determine the textual character of various New Testament manuscripts. The Alexandrian text type is a collection of textual documents. This text type can be traced in what has become known, as stated above, the Codex Editions.

Though using both the Uncial and Minuscule form of writing as indicated above, the Alexandrian text types are as follows:

The Codex Alexandrinus (425AD 5th Cent)
The Codex Vaticanus (340AD 4th Cent)
The Codex Sinaiticus (330AD 4th Cent)

Other Codex Versions include; Bohairic (Northern), Fayyumic, Sahidic (Southern), Akhmimic, and Mesokemic. Most of these Codex Versions were used to translate Biblical books from the Alexandrian Text.

Modern day English translations are based upon these Codex‘s. These modern day English versions of the Bible are not to be confused with the King James Version of the Bible which places its English text upon what has become known as the Textus Receptus or Western text type – it is also known by other names, such as the Traditional Text, Majority Text, Byzantine Text, the Imperial Text, the Reformation Text, or the “Syrian,” “Antioch,” or “Koine” text.

English Bibles produced today are based upon what has become known as the NU-Text. The NU-Text generally represents the Egyptian Alexandrian Text. The acronym “NU“ “NU-Text” pertains merely to a contextual Critical Text published in the 20th Century by the Nestle-Aland Editions (Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland) thus the acronym (N) and the 3rd edition being published by the United Bible Societies – this is where the acronym (U) comes from. These editions and the subsequent various English versions that followed became the more popular among the common people due to its heavy use of the English language as spoken today. These editions are based upon Post 20th Century enlightenment academia. The first real attempt to break away from the traditional text came from Karl Lachmann.

Karl Lachmann (1793-1851) was a German philologist – an academia evolving literary studies, linguistics, and history. Lachmann broke away from the Textus Receptus in 1831, with his first “critical edition” of the New Testament. This new edition imposed specific rules based upon selective readings, styles, and linguistics; which only number in nine of the total number of Alexandrian Greek texts found that can be dated prior to the 9th Century – and as far back as the 4th Century. Lachmann’s edition, and thus the various editions that followed, does not rely on the oldest or more reliable as the Majority Text does, but on a compiled significant selection of manuscripts.

Starting with the NU Text first – and working its way  from the earliest by year, we have:

1. NU Text

A. The Nestle Editions 1-25. The first edition of “Nestle.”
Date of Publication. Published in 1898 by Eberhand Nestle (1851-1913).

B. The Nestle-Aland Editions 26-27 – The twenty-sixth edition of Nestle-Aland, was produced under the supervision of Kurt Aland.
Date of Publication. 1979.
The Text. Similar to that of the United Bible Societies Edition, of which Aland was an editor. The only differences lie in matters not directly associated with textual criticism, such as accents, punctuation, and arrangement of paragraphs. The characteristics of the text are described under the section on the UBS edition.

C. Kurt Aland – Aland: Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum: Editor. Text and apparatus edited by Kurt Aland.
Date of Publication. 1963. A revised edition (the 4th), appeared in 1967; another revised edition (the 9th), was released in 1976. The last and final major revision (the 13th) was published in 1985.

D. United Bible Societies Edition: Editors. Original edition compiled by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren; Carlo M. Martini joined the committee for the second and third editions; the fourth edition was prepared by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Martini, and Metzger.
Date of Publication. The first edition, The Greek New Testament, appeared in 1966. The second edition, slightly revised, appeared in 1968. The third edition (1975) contained a significantly revised text (now generally cited as UBS or GNT) and a slightly revised apparatus. The fourth edition (1993) has the same text as the third, but a significantly revised apparatus.
The Text. The UBS3 text, which is also shared by the 26 and 27th editions of Nestle-Aland, was prepared by a committee. The Alexandrian Text is highly used in these editions.

2. Other Versions/Texts

A. Tischendorf: Editors.
Date of Publication. (1869-1872)

B. Westcott & Hort: Editors. Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892)
Date of Publication. The text was published in 1881, 82 (revised edition by F. C. Burkitt in 1892).
The Text. The WH text is based on the Alexandrian Text.

C. Merk Text edited by Jesuit Augustinus Merk, S.J. Based upon the Clementine Vulgate.
Date of Publication. 1933.

D. Huck Text
Date of Publication. 1892. Respective dates include; 1906, 36, 81. The editions are the works of Albert Huck to H. Lietzmann and H. G. Opitz – who, more or less, borrowed from one another. However, the 1981 edition was taken over by one H. Greeven who used his own reconstruction of the text.

E. Bover: Editor. Edited by José Maria Bover, S.J.
Date of Publication. 1943. Preference for the Alexandrian Text is clearly evident (though not as strong a preference as is found in the Westcott and Hort and the United Bible Societies editions). It has been esteemed by some for its balanced critical attitudes; others might view it as having no clear guiding principle.

F. Souter Alexander Souter; the text itself is considered to be that underlying the English Revised Version of 1881.
Date of Publication. 1947. The first edition, the Novvm Testamentvm Graece, appeared in 1910.

G. Vogels: Editors. Heinrich Joseph Vogels.
Date of Publication. 1920; Latin parallel added in 1922; final edition published 1955.
The Text. This text uses both, the Byzantine text and the Alexandrian readings when warranted. Vogels uses the two texts when deemed necessary to clarify what he saw as difficult English passages. This approach undermines any possible contextual criticism, since both texts are used upon Vogels discretion.

H. Tasker: Editors. R. V. G. Tasker. Based on the version translated in the New English Bible. Date of Publication. Tasker’s work can be found in The New English Bible 1961. A retroversion form of the Greek New Testament is applied. This form can be found in Being the Text Translated in The New English Bible 1964.

I. Hodges & Farstad: Editors. Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad
Date of Publication. The first edition, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, 1982. Second edition 1985. A commendable work.
The Text. The text is Byzantine in structure and nature. Although the editorial policy concerning this version makes notations regarding the Textus Receptus as flawed in comparison to its Byzantine counterpart. As a result, this version does not always represent the Majority Text (TR). It tends to use the same symbols as the Nestle-Aland text (I.e.; Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, and United Bible Societies, etc). However, this version is considered closet to the Western Text, unlike its counterpart, the Alexandrian Text types.

J. Das Neue Testament auf Papyrus: Editor. Volume 1 (Catholic Epistles) edited by K. Junack and W. Grunewald; Volume 2 (Romans, Corinthians) edited by K. Junack, E. Güting, U. Nimtz, K. Witte; additional volumes forthcoming.
Date of Publication. Ongoing. First volume published 1986.
The Text. Unknown. Though it is considered in some circles not to be a text of any kind.

K. Swanson: Editor. Reuben J. Swanson. Parallel text is of the United Bible Societies edition.
Date of Publication. Published in several volumes. Status – ongoing.

B. The Western Text

1.The Textus Receptus

We now come to what has become known as the “Western Text Type.” The Western text type is a collection of several text type documents/manuscripts which can be found in various codex editions. The Western text type indicates a lineage, so to speak, a tracings of its authenticity. It, like the Alexandrian Text, consists of several text types used in textual criticism. It is used to describe the Geek New Testament as witnessed in the Old Latin Vulgate Bible (not to be confused with Jerome’s Latin Vulgate). Early 2nd and 3rd century Church fathers such as Cyprian, Tertullian, and Irenaeus often quoted from it.

The various text types found in the Western text are found to have many Uncial writings, such as the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the book of Acts. This is found in what is known as the “Codex Bezae“ (c 400 AD 5th Cent). Another Codex Version called the “Codex Claromontanus” (c 500 AD 6th) uses the Western text format for the Pauline Epistles. Moreover, many Western text renderings and readings can be found in the old Syriac translations of the Gospels, along with the Sinaitic (c 300 AD 4th Cent) and the Curetonian, possibly predating the standard Syriac version, the Peshitta; (sometimes called the Syriac Vulgate c 150 AD 2ND Cent) and finally the Sinaitic Palimpsest (c late 390’s AD 4th Cent) though this is debated.

The King James Version or Textus Receptus is based upon a great loyal ancestry. An ancestry which not only fought the forces of that old imperialistic mystery religion, but did so convincingly with the cup of their own passion, sealed with the blood of many martyrs. The Textus Receptus is based on the following: Prior to the 20th century, all English Bibles since Tyndale’s first New Testament (1526) were based upon the Textus Receptus. This includes:

A. Tyndale’s first New Testament (1526)
B. Miles Coverdale’s Bible (1535)
C. Matthew’s Bible (1500-1555)
D. The Great Bible (1539)
E. The Geneva Version (1560)
F. The Bishops’ Bible (1568)
G. and the King James Version (1611)

Moreover, the various versions above follow the style and linguistics of these ancient versions;

2. Ancient Versions

The Peshitta Version (AD 150) The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew in the 2nd century AD. The New Testament Peshitta became the standard in the 5th Century.
The Old Latin Vulgate (AD 157)
The Italic Bible (AD 157)
The Waldensian (AD 120 & onwards)
The Gallic Bible (Southern France AD177)
The Gothic Bible (AD 330-350)
The Old Syriac Bible (AD 400),
The Armenian Bible (AD 400 There are 1244 copies of this version still in existence)
The Palestinian Syriac (AD 450)
The French Bible of Oliveton (AD 1535)
The Czech Bible (AD 1602)
The Italian Bible of Diodati (AD 1606)
The Greek Orthodox Bible (Used from Apostolic times to the present day by the Greek Orthodox Church)


It is fairly obvious, that the oldest form of writing is the Uncial in which the TR is based upon. However, the decision to accept one text over the other or to accept both when warranted, as Hodges & Farstad did, does not imply a better purer faith, because if that were the case, then there would be little room for things left to hope for. Many however still feel the need to make such a choice regarding text type. However, regardless of the text chosen, it must be understood that faith is not established by the art of textual criticism but by substances hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; as expressed in the book of Hebrews chapter 11:1. Yet, we also remember another quotation; Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,“ This too is truth, for it brings man to a higher calling. A calling of the non-sensible objects, the spiritual.

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