As we have previously seen, after the fourth century C.E., the official Church became that of the Trinitarians. It was not long until all opposition to their views and doctrines was pronounced a heresy and all of their proponents would be severely persecuted or killed. Most of what the Church had defined in its definition of the nature of God and Jesus could not be proven through the scriptures. Thus, in order to ensure as complete and thorough a silencing of the opposition as humanly possible, not only did the Church order that all opposing writings be destroyed and their proponents put to death for blasphemy, but it also saw to it that all scriptures were translated into Latin and then withheld from the masses. No one would be allowed to obtain a copy of the Bible for personal study and worship. If someone wanted to know something about God or His scripture he was required to go to the Church and respectfully ask them in all humility and submissiveness and the Church through its benevolence would dole out whatever portions of the scripture it wished, piecemeal, when and how it wished.
In most situations, however, a shift was made from referring to the scripture itself to referring to their newly defined and continually refined "creeds." The Church would define such creeds in their official councils and then pronounce to the great unwashed masses that in order to enter into heaven they only needed to memorize and recite these official creeds on a regular basis. Religion became big business with the Church selling to the masses patches of land in Heaven which they could purchase either for themselves of for their deceased relatives. Religion became empty acts of kissing crosses and rings of Popes, and the Church became a real-estate agent for Heaven. Thus, the scripture itself all but disappeared from public use. It was no longer the property of the people, rather it became the exclusive property of the Church, to do with as they pleased, with no one to answer to nor anyone to see their actions. This was how censorship was imposed by the Trinitarian Church even upon their own chosen scriptures, and this is how they managed to secure the freedom they would need over the coming centuries in order to refine, correct, and re-write even their own scriptures in order to "clarify" their doctrines in the Bible and then correct the resultant discrepancies, and so on in a never ending downwards spiral.
All of this began to change in 1453 when Johann Gutenberg invented the first printing presses. The first book to be printed on this new press was the Bible. Due to the novelty of this new process it commanded an exorbitantly high price per copy which only the wealthiest of the wealthy could afford. However, the ball had been set in motion in a chain of events that would soon force the Bible out of the hands of the Church and back into those of the people. It had taken close to 1,300 years, however, a light could now definitely be seen at the end of the tunnel and everyone began running towards it.
The Bibles that were now beginning to be printed were copies of the official text as authorized by the Church. These were extremely 'dirty' copies of the Bible. Full of errors. Not from the printing process, rather from the very content of the official texts themselves. The Trinitarian Church had been given complete freedom so many centuries ago by the pagan Roman Empire in order to select whatever gospels or epistles they chose and to burn hundreds of others. They were then given total and complete freedom to withhold their chosen books of God from the masses until they could correct and clarify any errors and discrepancies they might find in them. Their power grew to such an extent that they were answerable to no one. This would later become known as the "Dark Ages" and Kings and rulers were subject to the Church which could appoint or remove them as it saw fit. They had achieved ultimate power. This total unrestrained freedom continued for many centuries. In spite of this, when their approved text was finally released to the public in the fifteenth century it still contained massive discrepancies and numerous errors and contradictions between one book and the next, or at times even within the same book itself. They had done their best to repair their major doctrines and insert verses which might later be used to validate them, however, many large discrepancies still remained, and their "correction" of the text had also had the side-effect of generating many more "trivial" and "inconsequential" discrepancies in the details.
The door had now been forced open, the censorship stranglehold released, and the cost of individual copies began to drop dramatically. As far as lay people were concerned any Bible, even one full of errors, was better than none at all. At last, after more than a thousand years the opportunity to read, study and verify the word of God had arrived. Inevitably with this study the thirst from discerning scholars for more accurate translations emerged. What was available to them then was a very degenerated copy, a copy of copies of copies of copies, up to one hundred generations long, having been exposed to slips of the pen, tampering and correction.
The search for cleaner translations was now underway, but the Biblical world would not see the fruits of these efforts for another 350 years. The first printed Bibles were made from a copy of a manuscript that was in the common Roman language, Latin. This manuscript was a much later-generation copy of a text known as the "Vulgate," a Latin translation of the Bible prepared by the Church father Jerome (347-420 CE). The first Bibles came off the press in 1455, and by 1610 the Catholic Douay Bible was printed; which was also based on Jerome's Latin translation, using a copy dating back to around AD 450, and is still used to this day.
Sixty years after the first edition of the Bible was printed, a Dutch scholar named Erasmus in 1516 printed a Greek language version of the New Testament. He used only a half dozen available twelfth century copy manuscripts and a later copy of Jerome's Vulgate translation which he translated back into Greek. This translation had now gone through countless copies and had been converted from Greek to Latin and back to Greek. This mishmash brought about a self-originating, concocted Greek text producing a unique reading never to be found in any other known Greek manuscript. Unfortunately this text became the basis for the received text, the "Textus Receptus," which was later used as the base text of the King James Bible. The unjustified reverence that this Textus Receptus received as the "approved" text of the Church held back more accurate translations for many years. In 1611, King James of England had the Textus Receptus adopted into the official "King James Bible" we find in our hands today. This became the basis for most Protestant translations in Europe until the end of the nineteenth century.
To criticize Church's 'approved' text was akin to sacrilege. It was regarded as the Holy Word, direct from God's mouth; to tamper with this translation was regarded as blasphemous. Some Churches and denominations still hold this attitude even to the present day, although it has since been proven that it contains, by the most conservative estimates, over 2,000 errors. It is interesting to note that Churches which uphold the doctrine of the Trinity generally hang on for dear life to this far-from-accurate translation, adamantly refusing to believe that it contains a single error. Could it have anything to do with the fact that this "approved" text of the Church has been exposed to many generations of modifications of the text, deliberate or otherwise, which have had the interesting end result of making this doctrine so much "clearer" to the reader than it ever was in any of the original manuscripts or with the very first Christians?
The Church maintained its attitude of sanctification and faultlessness toward its received text and this severely stifled the efforts of many to search for a more faithful and correct text. Of those rare individuals who did indeed manage to undertake a search for a more accurate text, the Church managed to maintain a large degree of control over their efforts by financing and supervising their clean-up projects. Thus, these men were torn between loyalty to their financiers and loyalty to the Word of God. However, some courageous scholars pressed on for as clean and accurate a translation as they could get. This required getting as far back in time and as close to the original writings in the copy chain as possible, to the very earliest available copies. Thousands of dedicated scholars have devoted millions of man-hours to this task.
As the original writings of the first disciples and any original Hebrew manuscripts have long since been utterly destroyed, therefore, a massive dragnet went out though the world collecting whatever copies could be found in whatever languages they might be written in. Over the years many more manuscripts were discovered by such men as Griesback, Tischendorf, and Tregelles between 1775 and 1875, who researched and investigated them and based upon the discoveries made from the study of these ancient copies of the Bible, they made many corrections to the then-in-use "received text" of the Bible.
With the passage of time and the discovery of more and more manuscripts, the list of errors in the official Church "Textus Receptus" continued to mount. Eventually, these errors became so many and so serious that any efforts to correct this received text were completely abandoned and it was recognized that it was necessary to produce a completely fresh translation from scratch. In 1881 an attempt at this was made by Wescott and Hort. Armed with the large cache of newly-discovered manuscripts they devised a system to evaluate the age and strength of these manuscripts by applying to them a two-level refining procedure.
The first level of refinement:
This involved resolving the various conflicts between the manuscripts in two ways: First, by evaluating the original author's most likely meaning based upon the internal context; second, by evaluating the position and motivation of the scribes and any possible external pressures that may have been brought to bear upon them in order to distort the original writers meaning, taking into account how all these factors would affect the reliability and accuracy of their work.
The second level of refinement:
This involved dividing all available manuscripts into families. Each manuscript was identified as belonging to one of four families.
1.The Western family group, e.g. codex Bezae and Claromontanus.
2.The Alexandrian family group, e.g., codex Ephraemi, Regius.
3.The Neutral Family group, e.g., codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
4.The Syrian family group, e.g., codex Alexandrinus.
By setting up a family tree for each family group of manuscripts the common older ancestor manuscripts were identified; these would be the more valuable, being closer to the originals. Unfortunately, rather than simply dropping all verses which were found missing from the most ancient manuscripts and recognizing them as later forgeries and insertions, instead it was decided that with the exception of some very extreme cases, all verses which were missing from the most ancient manuscripts would be made up from more recent ones. Combing down the tree in reverse order, where a bit of missing text was found not carried by the previous ancestors it was added from the next most ancient text, and so on if necessary, down the tree until all the available material was incorporated as far as possible into a composite text, weighted in favor of the oldest least corrupt piece of any given text. Thus, a completely new mishmash was created, neither faithfully representing the most ancient manuscripts in their possession nor endorsing the old mishmash officially endorsed by the Church. Oh well, at least part of the truth is better than no truth at all.
Once these scholars were through assembling this mishmash, a Greek translation was directly compiled. Once this new translation was compared to the officially accepted "Textus Receptus" of the King James Bible it could be seen how extensively the old official text deviated even from this compromise half-truth new translation. Since this new text did not force the scholars to recognize the whole truth but only small morsels of it, therefore, it was not long until most of them soon grudgingly abandoned the old text and recognized the validity of the changes made to the new one since they did, after all, only address a fraction of the most major and glaringly obvious errors in the original approved text. This new and revised text was named the "Westcott and Hort" text and it became the basis upon which most modern day Bibles have been compiled, such as the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the American Standard Version, etc.
Once cleaner translations started to become available from the start of the 1800s, the old Church sponsored creed-adopted doctrines started to be exposed and take a bashing. Using these cleaner translations, and cross-referencing all scripture statements on any one subject using Bible concordances, a clearer pattern would emerge as to the true original teachings of the Bible. When the old creed doctrines were held up to the light of this examination they failed the test. Foremost among these exposed fabrications of the Church was the doctrine of the Trinity and the relationship of Jesus to God, which were both found to be in no way supported by the Biblical text but were indeed forced upon the text through Church manipulation of the text including insertion of verses and mistranslation of others.
Although this information had come to light from the study of ancient manuscripts of the Bible by well respected Christian scholars, still, ancient prejudices die hard and many Trinitarian denominations preferred to stick with a known faulty text that endorsed centuries of creedal definitions rather than switch over to more accurate translations which would not support these ancient creeds. The Church had spent over a thousand years programming these doctrines into the minds of the masses and such extensive indoctrination would not be easy to correct.
Following the 1880s, numerous examples of even earlier manuscript evidence has come to light. With these earlier reference manuscripts now available, the whole critical process needs to be redone taking this more recently recovered evidence into account. However, as we have seen in the example of the re-translation of the 1880s, no matter how good or ancient the source material, the unwillingness to simply discard all inserted or modified verses in favor of those found in the most ancient manuscripts and the emphasis contemporary scholars place on the 'weighting' aspect in the procedure, thus retaining as much of these insertions and modifications as humanly possible, all of this shall most likely continue to stifle all serious efforts to arrive at the truth and continue to result in translations containing only half-truths. This will especially be the case when the financial backers and the translators are notably biased in favor of a given doctrine or belief.
Following the Westcott and Hort text, other translations have followed, such as the 1900 Bernhard Weiss translation and then the 1901 Eberhard Nestle translation which simply took the consensus of three earlier texts, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort and the Weiss text. Further developments have been done using this hybrid Nestle text, introducing additional evaluation with numerous newly discovered papyri manuscripts dating back to about 200CE. Sadly, however, the text was also re-evaluated with the evidence of numerous so-called 'Church fathers' (200-700CE) who were mostly severely biased in favor of a given doctrine and very extremely intolerant of any other Christian denominations which would so much as criticize their views. Thus, it would be extremely inappropriate to apply weight to these commentaries of Church fathers who could have very well been involved in the original tampering projects which have resulted in these polluted texts. Far from having a cleaning effect on the text the very opposite would be the case.
Needless to say, the churches have not welcomed all of this public exposure of their previous actions with a whole lot of enthusiasm. However, they have generally responded by carrying on as if nothing had happened, using the same old Bibles, implying to their flock that the newer translations are simply the same Bible but in modern language, or making the appearance of an effort in acquiring newer modern language translations yet keeping them as close to the old versions as possible.
"Then woe unto those who write the Scripture with their own hands and then say: 'This is from Allah,' to purchase with it a miserable price! Woe unto them for what their hand have written and woe unto them for that which they earn [thereby]! And they said: 'The fire will not touch us except for a few numbered days.' Say, 'Have you taken a covenant with Allah so that Allah will not break His covenant, or is it that you say regarding Allah that which you know not?' Verily, Whosoever earns evil, and his sin has surrounded him, they are dwellers of the Fire; they will dwell therein forever. And those who believed [in the strict monotheism of God] and did good deeds they are dwellers of the Paradise, they will dwell therein forever. (The Noble Quran, 2:79-82)"
"[And remember] When God took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture: You shall make it known and clear to mankind, and you shall not hide it; but they flung it behind their backs, and purchased with it a miserable gain! How evil was that which they purchased! (The Noble Quran, 3:187)"
"Verily, those who conceal that which Allah has sent down of the Scripture and purchase a small gain therewith, they eat into their bellies nothing but fire. Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them, and theirs will be a painful torment. Those are they who purchase error at the price of guidance, and torment at the price of pardon. What boldness [they show] for the Fire! (The Noble Quran, 2:174-175)"
"Say: 'O people of the Book! exceed not in your religion the bounds [of what is proper], trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, who misled many, and strayed [themselves] from the straight path.' (The Noble Quran, 5:77)"