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Alexandrian text-type

The Alexandrian text-type (also called Neutral or Egyptian) is a group of early manuscripts whose text is most similar to Christian writers active in Alexandria, Egypt in the 3rd and 4th centuries, including Origen and Cyril of Alexandria.

Starting with Karl Lachmann (1850), manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type have been the most influential in modern, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, achieving its culmination in the text of Westcott & Hort (1881).

The most prominent manuscripts of this text-type are Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican library and Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum.

All extant manuscripts of all text-types are at least 85% identical and most of the variations are trivial things such as word order or spelling. However, there are several instances in which Alexandrian and Byzantine texts disagree on some verses important to establishing the divinity of Christ. One example is 1 Timothy 3:16. Byzantine texts read "God was manifested in the flesh", whereas Alexandrian texts read "He was manifested in the flesh". The difference between the two readings in Greek is a single short line, present in the letter theta (Θ) but absent in the letter omicron (Ο), respectively. Other verses relating to the divinity of Christ, such as John 1:1, show no significant variation.

Most textual critics of the New Testament favor the Alexandrian text-type as the best representative of the autographs for many reasons. For example, Alexandrian manuscripts are among the oldest we have found, some of the earliest Church fathers used an Alexandrian text, and Alexandrian witnesses preserve the readings that are more likely to give rise to the variant readings in other text-types.

Nevertheless, there are some dissenting voices but among textual critics there are only a handful. Some textual critics, especially those in France, argue that the Western text-type, an old text from which the Latin versions of the New Testament are derived, is more original.

In the United States, however, the dissenting view tends to prefer the Byzantine text-type. They point out that there are good reasons why the Alexandrian manuscripts are older than the Byzantine. First, the Egyptian climate is more suitable to the preservation of papyri than the climate of Syria and Turkey. Second, immediately before the time of the oldest Byzantine manuscripts found there was a wave of Roman persecution in that area in which many churches were leveled and Bibles burnt.

Some of those arguing in favor of Byzantine priority further assert that the Alexandrian church was dominated by the gnostics who did not believe in the divinity of Christ. It is also known that some apocryphal gospels (i.e. those that falsely claim apostolic origin, but were actually written at a later time) were being written in Alexandria at the time in question. However, this argument proves too much in that all text-types have been used by heretics.

See also: Byzantine text-type, Caesarean text-type, Western text-type.