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Byzantine text-type
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Byzantine text-type

The Byzantine text-type (also called Constantinopolitan, Syrian, ecclesiastical, and majority) is the largest group of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

The Byzantine text-type is the text-type with by far the largest number of manuscripts, especially from the invention of the minuscule (cursive) handwriting in the 9th century. For example, of 522 complete or nearly complete manuscripts of the Catholic Epistles collated by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany, 372 of them attest the Byzantine reading in at least 90% of 98 test places.

The first printed edition of the New Testament in 1516 was done by Erasmus. Due to the pressure of his publisher to bring their edition to market before the competing Complutensian Polyglot, Erasmus was based his work on less than a half-dozen manuscripts from the Byzantine text-type, all of which dated from the twelfth century. This text came to be known as the Textus Receptus or received text. The King James Version of the Bible was translated from editions of the Textus Receptus.

Karl Lachmann (1850) was the first New Testament textual critic to produce an edition that broke with the Textus Receptus, relying mainly instead in manuscripts from the Alexandrian text-type. Although the majority of New Testament textual critics now favor a text that is Alexandrian in complexion, especially after the publication of Westcott and Hort's edition, there remain some proponents of the Byzantine text-type as the type of text most similar to the autographs. These critics include the editors of the Hodges and Farstad text, and Robinson and Pierpoint text.

Among those who believe that the Byzantine text is only a secondary witness to the autograph, there is some debate concerning the origin of the Byzantine text and the reason for its widespread use and homogeneity. The suggestions that have been put forward are:

To give a feel for the difference between the Byzantine form of text and the Eclectic text, which is Alexandrian in character, of 800 variation units in the Epistle of James collected by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, the Byzantine and Eclectic texts are in agreement in 731 of the places (a rate of 92.3%). Many of the 69 disagreements involve differences in word order and other variants that do not appear as translatable differences in English versions. According to the preface to the New King James Version of the Bible, the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian text-type and the Byzantine text-type are 85% identical.

See also: Alexandrian text-type, Caesarean text-type, Western text-type, Textus Receptus.