Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point .... doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? — from "The Translators to the Reader," King James version (1611).

The student of the Bible who compares English versions will soon become aware of the fact that some of the differences in the versions are due to variations in the Greek manuscripts themselves. These variations are sometimes indicated by the translators in footnotes, but most of them are not indicated in English versions. The purpose of this work is to present, in English, a complete collation of translatable differences between the several Greek texts which have been used by translators and commentators in the past two centuries, so that the student of the New Testament who is unable to read Greek may yet have some access to this important information.

In recent years popular interest in this matter has been aroused by the increasing number of English versions on the market. As long as the King James version was used by nearly everyone there was little need for laymen to delve into questions of textual criticism, but now it seems that every careful student of the Bible must know something about variations in the Greek texts, if only to understand why the English versions are so different in places. Teachers must know enough about the variants to be able to explain the differences in the versions and give advice to students concerning the most reliable form of the text, and there has been a good deal of controversy over the question, "Which is the most reliable version?"

Recent discussions of the underlying Greek texts have largely repeated the controversy waged more than a hundred years ago in connection with the attempts of authorities to introduce a new version, called the English Revised Version (ERV), in the churches of England and Scotland. The conflict surrounding the ERV in 1881 included discussions of the Greek text because the revisers did not limit themselves to a revision of the translation given in the King James version, but also undertook to revise the Greek text which was to be the basis of the translation. That such a revision was appropriate was recognized by nearly all students of the subject, and even by the general public. Between 1870 and 1881 many popular works appeared explaining the problem of the variety of readings to be found in the manuscripts, and suggesting principles upon which the most authentic ones might be discerned. Lists which had before been drawn up for scholars of the differences between the Greek texts, called "collations," were edited and translated for the benefit of those who did not know Greek, and explanations were made for the more important disagreements found there, usually with the aim of commending to the reader a list of suggestions for the revision of the text. When therefore the work of the revision committee came under criticism, the public had in some measure been prepared for it.

The present work follows in the line of similar English collations which had been produced for interested laymen in the years before the appearance of the ERV. The information which was made available in these older works is here fully updated and supplemented with reference to the readings found in the texts of Westcott & Hort, Nestle-Aland, and Hodges & Farstad. It is designed to make available in English the greatest possible amount of specific information concerning the critical Greek texts, without any purpose of argument or endorsement, so that those students of the English Bible who desire to look into this subject may no longer depend upon guesswork, or upon grossly tendentious presentations, for information on the simple facts of the matter.

The study of the methods and materials employed in the composition of critical texts, called "textual criticism," is a very demanding scholarly discipline. Nevertheless, it is possible for interested laymen to learn much from the extensive literature of this field, some of which is written especially for them. The Bibliography of the present work is offered as an aid to those who wish to investigate this literature. If you are reading this page online at the website there are a number of other resources on the site. The Story of the Bible by Frederic G. Kenyon will serve well as an introduction.

The Introduction and the Collation of critical readings given in this work were originally done as a Master's thesis project at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1994. It was submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree, and reviewed and approved by Dr. Keith Nickle. I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Nickle and Dr. Robert Kelley of the New Testament faculty for their help and encouragement in this work.

To God be the glory.

Michael Marlowe
January 2000