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Vocabulary - New Testament Text Transmission




The subject of the transmission of the biblical text is very confusing to some. Part of that confusion comes from the terminology that is used in discussing the subject. Here is a vocabulary list that may help you.



amanuensis – scribal secretary; takes dictation. The apostle Paul used several different secretaries.


apocrypha (“hidden”) – The 14 or 15 books not considered a part of the Canon of Authoritative Scripture. Most declared canonical by Roman Catholic Church at Council of Trent 1546.


apostolicon – lectionary containing lessons from the epistles

collation – bringing together two or more MSS into one; Erasmus did this in producing the TR.


colophon – inscription placed at the end of a book or MSS with facts relative to it production (identifying scribe, printer, publisher, etc.)

conflation – combining two or more variant readings into a single text (reading)

conjectural emendation – text critics amending the text due to “educated guesses”; a reading proposed apart from any textual evidence

contraction – abbreviations in New Testament MSS where part of the middle of the word is omitted usually of specific common words (mostly relating to God, therefore called nomina sacra [“sacred names”]; example θεός θς; κύριος κς,

convergence of MSS – a supposed period in transmission during which local texts gave way to one dominant text

critical text – a text constructed according to the principles of textual criticism

dittography (“double writing”) – scribal error resulting from the repetition of a letter(s) or a word(s)


divergence of MSS – a supposed period in transmission (earliest period of textual history) during which errors were introduced into the text

eclectic – picking and choosing a reading based on more than one family or type of text

Enlightenment – 18th century European philosophical movement characterized by man’s rationalism as opposed to divine revelation. It embraced a spirit of skepticism coupled with the belief in empiricism (knowledge comes from the senses). Leads to abandoning orthodox doctrines and rejecting the Traditional Text. Also led to the methods of naturalistic unbelieving textual criticism.

evangelistarion – lectionary containing lessons from the Gospels

extant – existing or known MSS

external evidence – testimony of MSS, versions, lectionaries, etc.

fascicles – sections of book brought out in installments prior to publication

gloss – words of explanation inserted between lines of a text; a note of comment in the margin of a difficult or obscure word or expression

haplography (“single writing”) – scribal error resulting from accidental omission of a letter (s) or a word(s)


harmonization – changing a text so as to agree with a parallel or familiar passage

higher criticism – literary criticism; deals with author, source (historical background), form (style, vocabulary), etc.

homoeoarkton (“similar beginning”) – scribal error leading to omission of the intervening material of the text that is based on similar beginnings of words

homoeoteleuton (“similar ending”) – scribal error of skipping from one occurrence of a group of letters or a word to the same group or letters or word further down the page leading to omission of the intervening material of the text


internal evidence – intrinsic probability

interpolation – to polish, dress up, hence corrupt a text, alter a text by adding new words

itacism – Greek vowels and diphthongs which had become pronounced alike; example αι and ε; o ῳ and ω


lectionary – a portion of Scripture written out for use in ancient church services for worship (daily or weekly). To date 2193 known lectionary MSS. Earliest 6th century A.D.; others to 10th century. Both uncials and cursives designated by number “Lect. 225” or “l 225.”

lower criticism – textual criticism; seeks to determine the original wording of a document

metathesis (“change of place”) – change of order of letters or words (transposition)

minuscule (cursive) – Manuscript written in rather small letters – commonly in a cursive or free-flowing hand; handwriting rather than printing; designated by numbers; “Cod. 13”; To date 2792 MSS; cursive developed in 9th century after 10th century almost all MSS are minuscules.

modernity – accepting thought patterns, etc. of the modern times rather than holding to ancient ideas and methods (modernism); rejecting the traditional doctrines of the church

opisthograph – a scroll written on both sides (one of which may be referred to in Rev. 5:1)


orthography – spelling according to accepted use; a study used by believing textual criticism


palimpsest – manuscripts which have been “rubbed again” (erased) so they could be reused as a writing surface – called rescriptus, “rewriting”

pericope (“cut around”) – a shortened passage or text usually taken from a longer work – John 7:53-8:11


suspension – in New Testament MSS abbreviations where the end of the word is omitted

Textus Receptus – Printed New Testament Greek text. So-called due to its tradition as the text commonly received by believers and an advertisement phrase by the publisher. Used to translate the KJV. The TR commonly refers to Erasmus’ 3rd edition of 1522, Stephen’s 3rd edition of 1550 and named in Elizevir Brothers’ 2nd edition of 1633.

transliteration – a letter-for-letter transposition of a word from one language into another; for example baptidzo (βαπτισμὸς) = baptism, i.e. “immersion.”

transmission – the process of Bible MSS being copied and recopied down through the ages. God’s providential preservation guided this process by means of the Traditional Text or Majority Text.

uncial (majescule) – literally “inch high” – a manuscript written in formally printed large letters similar to capital letters. Designated by English alphabet capital letters 1st, Hebrew aleph, now numbers in zero prefix, 023; more than 250 exist; earlier dated manuscripts cursives; considered by text critics as the best MSS

Version – a Bible translated from original language into another language

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