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Bible Studies for the Church and for Christian Ministries - BIBLE STUDY ON TOUGH ISSUES 

 

 

Antioch and Alexandria

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(Birthplaces of manuscript lines and a key to identifying God's Word)

 

1. In Acts 13, Saul becomes Paul (vs. 9) and is part of the church at Antioch. (vs. 1)  Paul and Barnabus are separated out from the rest "for the work whereunto I have called them", God said. (vs2)  They preached in a number of places (nowhere near Egypt) and by verse 49 we learn the keys words, "And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."  (That phrase is a key to understanding which text is the true word of God).

 

So, where was the word of the Lord published - Alexandria or Antioch?

 

2. If we trace the manuscripts back to their origins, there are only two sources for them - Antioch and Alexandria.  Text types that represent a time period or location are traceable back to one of two families of manuscripts - the Majority text and the Minority text - the Majority text originating in Antioch, Syria and the Minority text originating in Alexandria, Egypt.

 

3. The Majority text (literally) includes approximately 99% of the 5,000+ extant manuscripts (meaning manuscripts that are in existence today).  These manuscripts include the ones used by the King James Bible translators and they have a high level of agreement with each other.  The Minority text (literally) includes the remaining less than 1% of extant manuscripts.  These manuscripts include those used by all modern versions and they have a high level of disagreement between each other (For example, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the two principal Alexandrian manuscripts by far, disagree with each other in over 3,000 places in the four gospels alone - see chart below).

a.  The Differences Between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the Four Gospels: 

Matthew

656+

Mark

567+

Luke

791+

John

1022+

Total

3036+

b. Modern translators have sub-divided the two families into Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean, and Byzantine categories, but this division obscures the fact that only two origins exist.  The first three categories originate from Alexandria and the latter from Antioch;

 

c.  Other names given to the Majority text include: the Antiochian text, Byzantine text, Traditional text, Apostolic text, the Eastern text and the Textus Receptus (Latin for Received Text).

 

d.  Therefore, we will refer to the two lineages based on their origins: Antioch/Antiochian and Alexandria/Alexandrian.

4. Antioch and Alexandria are as diametrically opposed in character and in fruit as are God and Satan, as are good trees and evil trees (Matt 7:17), and as are fresh water and salt water (James 3:12).  Because the bible is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice, let's study what the bible "practice" is regarding Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch.  For each section, keep in mind the "law of first mention", a principle wherein the first mention of anything in the bible generally sets the tone for the use of that word throughout the whole bible.

a.  What does God think of Egypt?:

1)  It is a place where they'll kill you and will take your wife (Gen 12:10-12) (First mention - negative),

 

2)  It is a place where they'll make you into slaves (Ex 1:11-14)

 

3)  It is a place that God, himself, calls "the house of bondage." (Ex 20:2)

 

4)  It is a place Moses calls "an iron furnace" (Deut 4:20)

 

5)  It is a place with which God commands his people that their future king is not to conduct any commercial trade.  He specifically warns them not to buy horses there, nor even to go that way again (Deut 17:16)  (Keep this in mind for later.)

 

6)  It is a place that God uses to denounce the city in which his two witnesses are murdered. (Rev 11:8)

b.  What does God think of Alexandria?  There are only four occurrences; these are all of them:

1)  It is a place where people disputed with and killed the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Act 6:9) (First mention - negative),

 

2)  It is a place where bad bible teaching comes from.  Apollos was learned in the scriptures but was unsaved (knowing only the baptism of John).  Aquilla and Priscilla explained the gospel - that Jesus was the Christ - and Apollos corrected his theology.  (Acts 18:24)

 

3)  It is a place that leads people to bondage and death.  Our champion, the Apostle Paul, was taken to be executed in Rome (of all places - Home of the Harlot) by a ship from Alexandria.  (Acts 27:6)

 

4)  It is a place, God emphasizes, that leads to bondage and death.  Our champion, the Apostle Paul, after surviving a shipwreck and a snake bite, is taken to be executed in Rome, by another ship from (once again) Alexandria. (Acts 28:11)

c.  What does God think of Antioch?

1)  It is a place - the only hometown mentioned - from which a man of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom came, and was appointed over church business (Acts 6:3-5) (First mention - positive),

[Note also that the first appearance of Antioch and Alexandria occur in the same book of the bible and in the same chapter, as if God is highlighting the two options we have from which to choose.  (coincidence??  Not likely.)]

 

2)  It is a place where the first great awakening of the Gentiles occurred.  The persecution following Stephens death scattered the Christians, who went preaching wherever they went.  At Antioch, they preached to the Grecians and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord (Acts 11:19-21) 

 

3)  It is a place where much people were added unto the Lord.  It is also where the people were glad, and were exhorted to purpose in their heart to cleave unto the Lord.  Barnabus was sent to Antioch and these things resulted.  (Acts 11:22-24) 

 

4)  It is the place where God established the headquarters of his New Testament church.  Barnabus sought Saul and shepherded him back to Antioch (not to Jerusalem and certainly not to Alexandria), and assembled with the church (Acts 11:25,26)

 

5)  It is the place where believers were first called "Christians"  (Acts 11:26) 

 

6)  It is the place to which God moved his prophets, signifying his blessing on Antioch, while the world was plagued with dearth. (Acts 11:27,28) 

 

7)  It is the place God has blessed for keeping his word.  The disciples had been told to go into all the world and to preach the gospel; but they didn't, and remained at Jerusalem.  Now, relief was needed from Antioch, where they had been faithful, to Jerusalem - which they sent at the hands of Barnabus and Saul.  (Acts 11:29,30) 

 

8) It is the place from which God sends missionaries (not from Jerusalem, and certainly not from Alexandria) Paul and Barnabus went on the first great missionary journey from Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) 

 

9) It is the place to which two envoys traveled from Jerusalem; each made a decision that had consequences.  One, (Judas) returned to Jerusalem and into oblivion; the other, (Silas) stayed in Antioch and became a tremendous missionary partner of Paul.  (Acts 15:23-27) 

 

10) It is the place from which the second great missionary journey began, (not from Jerusalem and certainly not from Alexandria), with Paul and Silas as the missionaries.  (Acts 15:40,41)

d.  How about the horses?

1)  In (I Kings 3:1)  Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, ignored God's commandment to avoid Egypt, and to NOT multiply horses unto himself from Egypt.

 

2)  But he bought the horses and married the Pharaoh's daughter anyway.

 

3)  The result was, that his heart was turned away from God (I Kings 11:3,4), he began worshipping other god's (I Kings 11:5-9) and God pronounced judgment on him (I Kings 11:9-43)

5. So here's the pertinent question.  What is the bible practice?  If God holds these opinions of Alexandria and Egypt, and he commands his people to not even buy horses from there, then how likely is it that he would want us to get a BIBLE from there?  Conversely, would he recommend a BIBLE from Antioch, where "the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."? (Acts 13:49)

 

6. Were there manuscripts published in Alexandria?  Absolutely.  But they were not the words of God.  These were manuscripts generated by Origen, founder of a school of philosophy, in Alexandria, Egypt and others of like mind.  Origen is perhaps best known for his life's work - the Hexapla, a six column side by side record of the Hebrew old testament with various interpretations of it in Greek.

 

7. Fragments of the Hexapla are the primary record of the mythical 'Septuagint', which is supposedly a pre-Christian Greek copy of the old testament.  There are good reasons why such a document never existed, and speculation that Origen himself produced it about 450 years after its claimed production.  Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus (the three primary manuscripts underlying modern versions) are believed to be copies of columns from Origen's Hexapla.

 

8. It is possible that these are copies of the 50 bibles ordered by Constantine and produced by Eusebius, a student of Origen's work.  Vaticanus was found, and remains secluded, in the Vatican.  Sinaiticus was found in a garbage can in a monastery in the Sinai.  These works are filled with errors, strike-outs and contradictions, yet they form the basis for what was compiled by Westcott and Hort in their 1881 Greek manuscript that underlies the modern versions.  [This study requires an enormous amount of time, but it is important in understanding the foundation upon which today's "bibles" are based.  Can anyone honestly believe that: Bad manuscripts = Good Bible??]

 

9. In summary, the Word of God was published in all of the region around Antioch and was accepted as scripture by early believers when they received it as such (hence "Received Text").  Many fragments of these writings constitute the Majority Text which Erasmus and the King James translators used to compile God's Word.  In opposition to this move of God, Origen, Eusebius, the Catholic church, Westcott and Hort, and many others generated and continue to propagate many conflicting accounts of what God's Word says.  These deceivers bring into question passages of scripture (Yea, hath God said...? Gen 3:1), add or omit many portions (Rev 22:18), and create confusion with many contrary voices. (... God is not the author of confusion ...  I Cor 14:33).

 

10. But this issue involves much more than just determining which book to read, which bible is the Word of God - a bible from Antioch or one from Alexandria.  It involves a crucial matter of the heart - which attitude one should have towards the Word of God - the attitude of believers in Antioch who "cleave" to the Word of God, or the attitude of unbelievers in Alexandria who questioned, changed, corrected, added to, and deleted from, the Word of God.

 

11. This is a very important issue.

 

(Credits:  We would like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Samuel C. Gipp whose own research provided the basic concept and much of the content for this article regarding God's thinking of the three cities.)

 

 

 

 

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