When I started reading Stanley Porter’s new book, How We Got the New Testament, I was expecting a basic introduction to the topic and that indeed is a good part of it. But, it’s value comes in the fact that it is very well written and brings the reader up to date on some of the most recent research. He offers a brief but excellent review of some of the work by Bart Ehrman. Often in texts like this terms get thrown around without offering distinctions which are so valuable for beginners. Terms like Textus Receptus, Byzantine Text and Majority Text are only a few. Here’s how he describes the difference:

“The distinction between the Textus Receptus, on the one hand, and the Majority text or the Byzantine texts, on the other hand, is one worth making here, if only briefly. All of these Greek texts are often referred to as forms of the ‘traditional text.’ The Textus Receptus is any form of the Greek text that goes back to the edition of Erasmus and the several late manuscripts he used. The Textus Receptus is a more restricted and limited form of Byzantine text, but it is not the Byzantine text as found in the edition of Robinson and Pierpont, or the Majority text found in the edition of Hodges and Farstad. Daniel Wallace notes that Hodges and Farstad’s edition of the Majority text differs from the Textus Receptus in 1,838 places. Aland and Aland list fifteen verses that they indicate are in the Textus Receptus but not in the Nestle-Aland critical edition. Four of those—Luke 23:17; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:6b-8a—are not found in the Majority text (Farstad and Hodges) or the Byzantine text (Pierpont and Robinson) either. I note also that the portions where Erasmus or others translated from Latin back into Greek, such as the final six verses of Revelation and 1 John 5:7-8 (the Johannine Comma), are also not part of the Byzantine text or the Majority text.” (52)

This is very helpful. One more thing I found especially interesting is his appeal to move away from the current eclectic texts used such as the Nestle-Aland text and the United Bible Society text. Seeing that these texts are “only as old as nineteenth-century scholarship” he urges that “those seeking the original text of the New Testament consider seeking it through individual manuscripts.” This move away from an “idealized eclectic text that never existed in any Christian community back to the codexes that still form the basis of our modern textual tradition . . . [which] . . . represent the Bible of a given Christian community.” He says this makes sense since our current eclectic text is 99.5 percent the same as Westcott and Hort’s edition. We are, therefore, essentially relying of two major codexes anyway: the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus. (74-75) A very interesting proposal indeed.

How we got the New Testament