The Majority Text – What is it?
The Majority Text (or Ecclesiastical Text or Byzantine Text) is a compilation of Greek New Testament manuscripts using a "majority rules" method for determining the proper reading when various manuscripts contain variant readings. For example, if 100 manuscripts contain one reading, and 200 manuscripts contain a different reading, the reading represented in the 200 manuscripts will be the one chosen.
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At first glance, the "majority rules" methodology of the Majority Text seems to be a good approach. However, there are other factors that should be considered beyond which reading occurs most often. For example, if one Greek manuscript was copied with certain errors and was then copied 1,000 times, those errors would be reproduced many more times than an earlier, more accurate copy reproduced only a few times.
Instead, both the age of the manuscript and the location in which the manuscript is found must also be taken into consideration. The earlier the manuscript, the more likely it resembles the original writing of the text. When the early writing can be found in more than one area (for example, manuscripts originating in both Western and Eastern locations as well as in Alexandrian or Egyptian area manuscripts), then it is more likely to be in agreement with the original.
As a result, modern editions of the Greek New Testament use an eclectic approach that takes multiple factors into account. Which reading occurs more often in older manuscripts? Which reading occurs in manuscripts found in different parts of Europe and the Middle East? And, which reading occurs in the highest number of manuscripts?
It is interesting to note that none of the modern English Bible translations are based on the Majority Text. The KJV and NKJV are based on the Textus Receptus, which is very similar to the Majority Text, but differs from the Majority Text over 1,800 times.
The vast majority of Bible scholars today do not consider the Majority Text to be the most accurate compilation of New Testament Greek manuscripts due to its sole reliance on "majority rules" while not taking other factors into consideration.
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