Lucian of Antioch. Image from Wikipedia.
In a previous post we looked at the harmonizing done by Tatian. But he was not the only person to deliberately alter the text of the New Testament. Around the year 310 A.D. Lucian of Antioch also set out to “improve” the gospels.
He tried to harmonize the gospels by using all the texts available to him. He kept the four gospels separate, but “filled in” what he considered the writer had “left out” or reported incompletely. Should one have only one of the gospels, he would at least have a full report. With this compilation of texts, he created a new text type, called the Byzantine text type. We look at a few examples of harmonizing.
a) “Correcting” a quotation from the Old Testament.
In Heb 12:20, the writer quotes part of Exod.19:13: (NIV)” because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned’ .“
To harmonize this quote with the Septuagint version of that verse, it was elaborated to: (MKJV) “… for they could not endure the thing commanded, ‘And if so much as a beast should touch the mountain, it shall be stoned or thrust through with a dart’ …” Learned scholars like dr. John Gill (1690 – 1771) and Albert Barnes (1798 – 1870) have long ago pointed out that these words could not have been part of the original autograph. Barnes wrote inter alia “…It is beyond all doubt an addition of later times, taken from the Septuagint of Exo_19:13.…” (See e-Sword Commentaries.)
Another example of harmonizing with the Old Testament is found in Rom.13:9 where the words printed in bold were added later, as it now appears in the MKJV: “…For: ‘Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not lust;’…”
The same is true concerning the quotation from Isaiah 29:13 as is reported in Mat.15:8, (MKJV): “This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
b) Harmonizing one gospel with the other.
The words from John 19:20 : “…the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek .” were added to Luke’s version of the crucifixion: (MKJV): “ … And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” In the older versions Luke 23:38 the words correspond with the NIV: “There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. “ Because Lucian did his work during the fourth century, it will be good to take note of the evidence we have up to the fourth century. That excludes any possible influence from his work. Of the three Greek manuscripts we have, only one corresponds with the words found in MKJV. Yet all five translations of that era, two from Africa, one from Italy and two from Syria all agree with NIV.
c) Harmonizing two accounts within the same document.
As was pointed out previously, Erasmus in his printed edition from which the King James Versions were made, harmonized the conversion of Paul as reported in Acts 9 with detail from Acts 22 and 26. The words (printed in bold) in the MKJV (Acts 9:6) have no Greek evidence at all, nor even do the Vulgate support it: “And trembling and astonished, he said, Lord, what will You have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and you shall be told what you must do. “
The printed editions of Erasmus, later known as the Textus Receptus (The text that was received) were used in the translation of most of the older translations, like the King James. When these adjustments are changed back to the original, it looks as though certain words are “omitted”. Luke did not mention these words in his rendering of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. In Luke 22 he reports on what Paul himself told the Jews in Jerusalem. There Paul mentioned this. For what reason would Luke “correct” Paul’s own report of his conversion, or for that matter why should anyone else?
We can trust the Word of God as it had been given. No correction, addition or omission is needed.