In textual criticism of the New Testament, the Alexandrian text-type is one of the main text types. It is the text type favored by the majority of modern textual critics and it is the basis for most modern (after 1900) Bible translations.
Over 5,800 New Testament manuscripts have been classified into four groups by text type. Besides the Alexandrian, the other types are the Western, Caesarean, and Byzantine. Compared to these later text types, Alexandrian readings tend to be abrupt, use fewer words, show greater variation among the Synoptic Gospels, and have readings that are considered difficult. That is to say, later scribes tended to polish scripture and improve its literary style. Glosses would occasionally be added as verses during the process of copying a Bible by hand. From the ninth century onward, most surviving manuscripts are of the Byzantine type.
The King James Version and other Reformation-era Bibles are translated from the Textus Receptus, a Greek text created by Erasmus and based on various manuscripts of the Byzantine type. In 1721, Richard Bentley outlined a project to create a revised Greek text based on the Codex Alexandrinus. This project was completed by Karl Lachmann in 1850. Brooke Foss Westcott and F. J. A. Hort of Cambridge published a text based on Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus in 1881. Novum Testamentum Graece by Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland, now in its 28th edition, generally follows the text of Westcott and Hort.
Up until the ninth century, Greek texts were written entirely in upper-case letters, referred to as uncials. During the ninth and tenth centuries, minuscules came to replace the older style. Most Greek uncial manuscripts were recopied in this period and their parchment leaves typically scraped clean for re-use. Consequently, surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts from before the ninth century are relatively rare, but nine (over half of the total that survive) witness a more-or-less pure Alexandrian text. These include the oldest near-complete manuscripts of the New Testament: Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 and Codex Sinaiticus (both believed to date from the early fourth century).
A number of substantial papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament survive from earlier still, and those that can be ascribed a text-type, such as and from the second to the third century, also tend to witness to the Alexandrian text.
The earliest Coptic versions of the Bible (into a Sahidic variety of the late second century) use the Alexandrian text as a Greek base, while other second and third century translations (into Latin and Syriac) tend rather to conform to the Western text-type. Although the overwhelming majority of later minuscule manuscripts conform to the Byzantine text-type, detailed study has, from time to time, identified individual minuscules that transmit the alternative Alexandrian text. Around 17 such manuscripts have been discovered so far and so the Alexandrian text-type is witnessed by around 30 surviving manuscripts, by no means all of which are associated with Egypt although in that area, Alexandrian witnesses are the most prevalent.
|Chester Beatty I||3rd||fragments of Gospels, Acts||1931|
|Chester Beatty II||c. 200||Pauline epistles||1931|
|Chester Beatty III||3rd||fragments of Revelation||1931|
|Bodmer II||c. 200||Gospel of John||1952|
|Bodmer VII/VIII||3rd/4th||Jude; 1-2 Peter||1952|
|Bodmer XIV-XV||3rd||Gospels of Luke and John||1952|
|B||Codex Vaticanus||325-350||Matt. -- Hbr 9, 14||16th century?|
|A||Codex Alexandrinus||c. 400||(except Gospels)||17th century|
|C||Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus||5th||(except Gospels)||17th century?|
|Q||Codex Guelferbytanus B||5th||fragments Luke -- John||18th century|
|T||Codex Borgianus||5th||fragments Luke -- John||18th century|
|I||Codex Freerianus||5th||Pauline epistles||1906|
|Z||Codex Dublinensis||6th||fragments of Matt.||1787|
|L||Codex Regius||8th||Gospels||18th century?|
|W||Codex Washingtonianus||5th||Luke 1:1-8:12; J 5:12-21:25||1906|
|057||Uncial 057||4/5th||Acts 3:5-6,10-12||20th century?|
|0220||Uncial 0220||6th||NT (except Rev.)||1950|
|33||Minuscule 33||9th||Romans||18th century?|
|81||Minuscule 81||1044||Acts, Paul||1853|
Papyri: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , (?), , , (?), , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Uncials: Codex Coislinianus, Porphyrianus (except Acts, Rev), Dublinensis, Sangallensis (only in Mark), Zacynthius, Athous Lavrensis (in Mark and Cath. epistles), Vaticanus 2061, 059, 068, 070, 071, 073, 076, 077, 081, 083, 085, 087, 088, 089, 091, 093 (except Acts), 094, 096, 098, 0101, 0102, 0108, 0111, 0114, 0129, 0142, 0155, 0156, 0162, 0167, 0172, 0173, 0175, 0181, 0183, 0184, 0185, 0189, 0201, 0204, 0205, 0207, 0223, 0225, 0232, 0234, 0240, 0243, 0244, 0245, 0247, 0254, 0270, 0271, 0274.
Minuscules: 20, 94, 104 (Epistles), 157, 164, 215, 241, 254, 256 (Paul), 322, 323, 326, 376, 383, 442, 579 (except Matthew), 614, 718, 850, 1006, 1175, 1241 (except Acts), 1243, 1292 (Cath.), 1342 (Mark), 1506 (Paul), 1611, 1739, 1841, 1852, 1908, 2040, 2053, 2062, 2298, 2344 (CE, Rev), 2351, 2427, 2464.
According to the present critics codices and B are the best Alexandrian witnesses, which present the pure Alexandrian text. All other witnesses are classified according to whether they preserve the excellent -B line of text. With the primary Alexandrian witnesses are included and citations of Origen. With the secondary witnesses are included manuscripts C, L, 33, and the writings of Didymus the Blind.
All extant manuscripts of all text-types are at least 85% identical and most of the variations are not translatable into English, such as word order or spelling. When compared to witnesses of the Western text-type, Alexandrian readings tend to be shorter and are commonly regarded as having a lower tendency to expand or paraphrase. Some of the manuscripts representing the Alexandrian text-type have the Byzantine corrections made by later hands (Papyrus 66, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Ephraemi, Codex Regius, and Codex Sangallensis). When compared to witnesses of the Byzantine text type, Alexandrian manuscripts tend:
The above comparisons are tendencies, rather than consistent differences. There are a number of passages in the Gospel of Luke in which the Western text-type witnesses a shorter text, the Western non-interpolations. Also, there are a number of readings where the Byzantine text displays variation between synoptic passages, that is not found in either the Western or Alexandrian texts, as in the rendering into Greek of the Aramaic last words of Jesus, which are reported in the Byzantine text as "Eloi, Eloi.." in Mark 15:34, but as "Eli, Eli.." in Matthew 27:46.