Modern Versions & Gnostic Heresies
By: Martin A. Shue
There is a lot of talk these days about finding the "oldest" reading.
While this is an admirable task one may not always rely on such evidence. As
soon as the Holy Ghost finished inspiring the NT writers the Sacred Deposit fell
among hostile hands. As heretics abound in our day so they abounded, perhaps
even more so, in the days of the NT writers. It is a known fact that the most
severe corruptions to the Biblical text were carried out within the first 100
years of its completion. There were countless sects of heretics with many well
known leaders who prided themselves on opposing the orthodox as well as
mutilating the Holy Scriptures. Of particular interest to these groups was the 4
Gospels. They altered the Gospels in such ways that they scarcely resembled the
originals. Tertullian gives the following assessment:
For if the (Gospels) of the apostles have come down to us in their
integrity, whilst Luke’s, which is received amongst us, so far accords with
their rule as to be on a par with them in permanency of reception in the
churches, it clearly follows that Luke’s Gospel also has come down to us in
like integrity until the sacrilegious treatment of Marcion. In short, when
Marcion laid hands on it, it then became diverse and hostile to the Gospels of
the apostles. I will therefore advise his followers, that they either change
these Gospels, however late to do so, into a conformity with their own,
whereby they may seem to be in agreement with the apostolic writings (for they
are daily retouching their work, as daily they are convicted by us); or else
that they blush for their master, who stands self-condemned either way — when
once he hands on the truth of the gospel conscience smitten, or again subverts
it by shameless tampering. Such are the summary arguments which we use, when
we take up arms against heretics for the faith of the gospel, maintaining both
that order of periods, which rules that a late date is the mark of forgers,
and that authority of churches which lends support to the tradition of the
apostles; because truth must needs precede the forgery, and proceed straight
from those by whom it has been handed on (Tertullian, The Five Books Against
Marcion, 4.5).It is evident by Tertullian's words that these
heretics were daily altering their manuscripts.
Among these heretics the Gnostics were of special note. The Gnostics
held, for all practical purposes, no consistent theory. They focused their
attention on two primary points, viz. 1) the origin of Matter, and 2) the origin
of evil. They taught that Jesus was in fact a "creature" of the Father.
Subsequently they had a tendency to alter the Gospel of John. In this brief
study I would like to look at two particulars in regards to John 1:3-4.
The whole first chapter of John is a wonderfully written chapter
demonstrating not only the Deity of Jesus Christ but also the fact that He is
the “only begotten Son” of the Father. These, and other factors, made this
chapter especially appealing to the heretics. In order to promote their heresies
they must needs alter the inspired words of the evangelist. And alter they did!
Though the mutilations abound in this chapter I hope to briefly discuss
only three of them. The first being that of the Valentinian Gnostics, viz.
altering “oude hen” in verse 3 into “ouden”. This subtle (Gen. 3:1) change
distorted the meaning of the Author and promoted the heresy of the Gnostics.
Subsequently, instead of reading “any [one]thing” the Gnostics read “nothing”.
If one will study the beliefs of the Gnostics you will quickly see why this
alteration was necessary. I do not have space in this brief study to explain
their reason for this change but let it suffice to say that this obvious Gnostic
corruption survives today in ONLY Aleph and D among the uncials.
At this point it is deemed necessary to give you the commonly Received
reading of John 1:3b-4a---”kai choris autou egeneto oude hen
ho gegonen. 4. en auto zoh hn” or “and without
him was not any thing made that was made. 4. In him was life;”. Once the change
listed above (i.e. “oude hen” to “ouden”) was made then Valentinus sought to
manipulate the punctuation of the sentence. Because Valentinus found the last
phrase, “that was made”, ‘simply unmanageable’, as Burgon terms it, he moved the
period and placed it after the first “made”. In other words, the Gnostic copies
read, “and without him nothing was made. What was made in him was life”. As you
can see this drastically changes the meaning of what John actually wrote.
However, as before, it became necessary to alter these verses in order to
conceal their heresy. Once again this is unquestionably an early Gnostic
corruption and can be found in both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. James White
comments on John 1:3 with the following words, “John 1:3 confesses the eternal
deity of Christ. John 1:3 asserts His creatorship in unmistakable terms (White,
The King James Only Controversy, p.198).” On this point I would agree with Mr.
White. However, what White fails to mention to his readers is that the four (4)
manuscripts (i.e. p66, p75, Aleph and B) that he routinely boasts about all
agree in promoting the Gnostic heresy which DENIES “the eternal deity of Christ”
and all four DENY “His creatorship in unmistakable terms”. Evidently, Mr. White
has a re-occurring case of temporary amnesia as he routinely forgets to mention
information just like that mentioned above. He purposefully misrepresents the
facts and he habitually conceals information that would expose him for the fraud
that he is. To proceed, however!
One could well expect the Gnostics and other heretics to deny the Deity
of Jesus Christ but when so-called “Christian” Bibles do the same there should
be an outcry. But instead millions of “Christians” sit idly by while the Deity
of our blessed Lord is weakened with every ‘new’ translation. Some add to their
sin by actually promoting and even defending these translations. All the while
they are unknowingly being led further and further away from the truth.
My readers will not find it strange that the New World Translation (NWT)
(JW’s version) reads, “All things came into existence through him, and apart
from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence
(4) by means of him was life”. But what may surprise many is that the Greek
texts (e.g. Nestle/Aland & UBS) that underlie nearly ALL of the modern
versions reads just like the NWT. Due to this fact the shift lately has been to
incorporate this purely Gnositc reading into the modern versions. For example:
NRSV- All things came into being through him, and without him not
one thing came into being. What has come into being (4) in him was life, and the
life was the light of all people.
CEV- And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made
without the Word. Everything that was created (4) received its life from him,
and his life gave light to everyone.
It should be noted that the RSV contained the Received reading but has
been altered in the ‘New’RSV.
Interestingly enough this very issue of where the period should be placed
was dealt with thousands of years ago by John Chrysostom. Chrysostom, while
refuting the corrupt reading stated:
“For we will not put the full stop after “not anything,” as the
heretics do. They, because they wish to make the Spirit created, say, “What
was made, in Him was Life”; yet so what is said becomes unintelligible
(Chrysostom, Gospel of John, Homily 5).”Again, I make the point
that this corrupt reading is found in, what we are told are, the “oldest and
BEST manuscripts”. And this reading can also be found in a few modern versions.
Are there still those that will continue to proclaim that ALL Bibles are valid?
With the changes already discussed in place there still existed one small
problem for the Gnostics, viz. what to do with the word “was”. This was a little
greater task because is involved changing a word entirely. But as usual they
were up for the task and therefore they changed the word “hn” (was) to “estin”
(is). At this point you can probably guess that this Gnostic heresy is also
preserved only in Aleph and D. Vaticanus here differs from Aleph in reading
“was” along with the Received text. However, B then differs from Aleph and the
remainder of manuscripts in omitting “of men” from the end of verse 4.
I will conclude this study at this point. I believe it is obvious that
Aleph, p75, p66, D and B have all been tainted by Gnostic theology.
Unfortunately, it seems that these corruptions are finding their way into
supposed “Christian” Bibles. When will Christians take this matter of Biblical