Standard Bearers
Isaiah 59:19
"So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun.
When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."
Byzantine Text History
Why The ‘Patriarchal’ Text of Greek New Testament ?
By R.D. Dedman (April 2005) v1.1

What is the ‘Patriarchal’ Text of the New Testament?


It is the official text of the Greek speaking churches. This Greek New Testament, obtainable from  is the 1904 ‘Patriarchal’ edition of the Greek Orthodox


        “The Patriarchal text arose from the need for a uniform text throughout the Greek
        Orthodox Churches. During the Turkish occupation there were various editions of the NT
        with the result that in different places a different NT was read. To avoid this the Ecumenical
        Patriarchate appointed a committee in 1902 to decide on a text that would be adopted
        as the official text. The committee retired in
Mount Athos and studied about 20 Byzantine
        manuscripts from which they decided on one taking into consideration some parts of the
        other manuscripts. This text was published in 1904 and it has been since then adopted by
        all Greek Orthodox Churches.”    by
Petros Petallides  (



How was the New Testament Text Transmitted?


The Hebrew scriptures (“Old Testament”), were written and compiled over a long period (approx.

1450 – 400 BC). These Scriptures were entrusted for their keeping to the Jews (Romans 3:2). But that part of Scripture called the “New Testament” has been preserved in a different manner.

Written in the common Greek (Koine Greek) language of the 1st century AD it was completed in a relatively short period following Jesus’ death and resurrection, probably by 90 AD. It was an

apostolic production fulfilling the promise Jesus made to them prior to His death (John 15:27, 17:20). The apostles wrote as well as preached the truth.


Thus the Gospels, Acts, Letters, and later Revelation became copied and distributed, firstly, we

may reasonably suppose, among the Christian communities themselves and later more broadly as non-Christians began to take notice. By the late-fourth century, however, knowledge of Greek was in sharp decline in the western half of the empire. A century later and knowledge of Greek had almost entirely vanished in the west. But the knowledge of Greek did not vanish in the eastern half of the empire. And it was within the Byzantine empire that the work of preserving the sacred Greek texts – copying and proof-reading – continued unabated, as we shall now see.



Why is the ‘Patriarchal’ Text Important?


Monks – the scholars of their day – first came to Mount Athos as early as the fifth century,
according to the official history of Mount Athos.1 Monastries later became established and the number of manuscripts, including those of the NT, rapidly accumulated. The work of copying and
transcribing manuscripts continued unabated at Mount Athos over the centuries. From the midninth century this work included the transcribing of the very oldest manuscripts: 

“The Greek manuscripts up to the 9th century and sporadically in the 10th and early
        11th centuries were written in majuscule writing, today’s capital letters, Few samples of
        manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts in majuscule writing are preserved to this day in
        the libraries of Mount Athos. The reason is that since the mid-9th century miniscule writing
        became predominant, and all the manuscripts of the previous centuries were transcribed in
        that writing and therefore became unused and little by little disappeared.” 2


By the time of the fall of
to the Ottoman Turks, in 1453, the bulk of these same NT manuscripts still existed in the East. As some Greek-speaking scholars fled West they carried with them copies of some of these NT manuscripts.


These few copies formed the basis of Erasmus’ first Greek New Testament.3 Tyndale’s New Testament, which still remains as a model of clarity4 is essentially based on Erasmus’ text. In 1550, an edition by Robert Stephanus was published, the third edition of which became one of the two ‘standard’ texts of the ‘Textus Receptus’ on which the King James Version is essentially based.

However, the majority of the Greek manuscripts of the new Testament remained in
Mount Athos. The Moslem Turks allowed the work of the copyists at Mount Athos to continue

during their occupation.





For those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, the Byzantine text form has long held an

esteemed position over self-contradicting Western text forms such as the Codex Vaticanus and

Codex Sinaiticus: these last two often disagree with one another and so their witness is

By contrast, the Byzantine texts are in substantial agreement. They have a proven lineage. Indeed no other textual history stretching back centuries even exists elsewhere. Unambiguously from the 5th century onwards the focus for copyists and scholars was

Mount Athos. And it is from this source that the ‘Patriarchal’ official text was taken.




2 Libraries and manuscripts in Mount Athos: A survey; Efthimios Litsas, Senior Researcher, Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, Associate Professor of Paleography, Ionian Senior Cataloguer, Mount Athos Manuscripts Digital Library, December 2001.


3 First edition published in 1516, subsequent revised editions in 1519, 1522, 1527 and 1535.


4 Witness his correct translation of ekklesia to ‘congregation’ rather than ‘church’, a word of very different etymology.


(source: )

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