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Western Text

The name given by Westcott* and Hort* to a type of text of the Greek NT which had special affinities with the West. Its chief representatives are Codex Bezae (D) for the gospels and Acts, and Codex Claromontanus (Dp) for the Epistles (in both of which the text is written in Greek and Latin), the Old Latin version, and the Curetonian Syriac. Most of the Latin Fathers-including Marcion, Tatian, Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Cyprian-made use of the Western form of the text in their quotations. The date of origin of the Western Text is thought consequently to have been as early as the middle of the second century. The characteristics which Westcott and Hort found in it included an apparent freedom to change things in order to bring out the meaning better. This might involve the omission or insertion of words, clauses, or even whole sentences. They also found a tendency to assimilate words and phrases found close to each other and, more seriously, through a process of harmonization to obliterate differences in similar or parallel passages.

This process of harmonization is of course most readily found in the gospels, where it was particularly easy through carelessness or particularly tempting in the interests of consistency to make passages conform to each other. It was in the writings of Luke, particularly in Acts, that the Western Text was found to diverge most from the other types. The Western Text may not have been a deliberate recension, as were the other text types. Westcott and Hort had a very low view of its value except in the passages which they called rather cumbersomely “Western non-interpolations,” i.e., passages where the Neutral Text* had interpolations not found in the Western Text. Nowadays much less reliance is placed on the a priori likelihood of a particular text type being right or wrong, and readings from various sources are assessed on their merits.

B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881); A. Souter, Text and Canon of the New Testament (2nd ed., 1954); B.M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (2nd ed., 1968).