What Are Differences between the Majority and Alexandrian Texts, Which Are Used to Create Bible Translations?

By Randy Alcorn February 21, 2010

The majority text (MT) really means “a statistical number larger than another text type” (i.e., called the MT = “Western Text”). The other major text type has fewer manuscripts, but they are older and some are better preserved. It seems self-evident that the more human hands can touch a manuscript, the more likely the chance for corruption and error.

Also, the more touched by human hands, the more likely the text is to be added to. This is the case with the Western (MT) text. Therefore the non-western text types are superior, shorter, and older; one was hidden away in a monastery by God’s providence until 1850 or so. The very oldest manuscripts (the papyri discovered about 1880) are from the early second and third centuries. They also generally confirm the non-western text types. The question is, should we vote by majority for the best preserved text, or follow the shorter, older manuscripts?

My opinion is that some people defend the Western text type because it is the one followed by a certain translation. This would be a logical mistake since the translation should follow from the “best” (by some criteria) and oldest manuscripts, not defended when new information and manuscripts come to light.

Specifically, the King James Version New Testament was made from less than 10 manuscripts (of course representing the statistical majority of manuscripts), while we now have dozens of complete or nearly complete manuscripts, and thousands of partial fragments. It ultimately is an irrational defense to say it is superior. Yet the Western Text is also suitable for study; it is just not as close to the original as other text types.