Chapter 5: The Localities
The manuscripts and their classifications and readings will be
studied in later pages. What we shall do now is closely scrutinize the
primary centers from which our extant manuscripts have originated. It will
be revealed in later study that Biblical manuscripts (MSS) are divided
into two general groups. These two groups have been found to disagree with
each other in many areas. Every English Bible in existence today will be
found to proceed more or less from one of these two groups. The fact that
there is one God plainly tells us that there can be only one
correct reading concerning any given discrepancy between these two groups.
Obviously, prior to comparing readings, it will be beneficial to
investigate the ancient centers from which our two basic groups proceed.
Earlier, we established two "ground rules." It will be relevant to
our study to review those rules at this point, and to keep them in mind as
we continue. Firstly, we established that the Bible is a spiritual book
which God exerted supernatural force to conceive, and it is reasonable to
assume that He could exert that same supernatural force to preserve it.
Secondly, that Satan desires to be worshipped. He has the ability to
counterfeit God's actions and definitely will be involved actively in
attempting to destroy God's Word and/or our confidence in that Word, while
seeking to replace it with his own "versions."
The fact that the disagreement between these two families is
centered around points of deity or doctrine tells us that one of them
must be the preserved text, as found in the original MSS, while the
other is a Satanic forgery. Satan attacked Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-11)
and will try to replace Him in the future (Revelation 13:1-8).
Are we to believe that Satan, a sworn enemy of Truth, is not going
to attempt to disrupt the travel of God's Word through history? Would he
dare let the only tangible item which God has left us remain unattacked?
No, Satan cannot afford to allow the Holy Scriptures to be unmolested. He
will obviously be heard to be its loudest textual critic and will attempt
to eliminate God's true Word while replacing it with his own
With this in mind, we shall begin with the original autographs and
trace the history of these two families of MSS.
Jesus Christ always worked through His followers. It is only
logical that He would look to His followers as instrumental in the
preservation of His words.
The New Testament was a paradox. It was completely foreign to
anything that the world had ever known. Until the time of Christ, the
world was Biblically divided into two groups.
One was the Jews. They were known as God's "chosen people." Their
religious practices were founded on the teachings of the Law, the
Prophets, and the Writings (thirty-nine books which comprise our present
Old Testament). They awaited their Messiah, the ruler who was expected at
any time to come to earth and set up a Jewish kingdom based in Jerusalem.
The other group spoken of in Scripture is the Gentile population of
the world. The Gentiles are also referred to as a group by the term
"Greeks." They were very religious, but heathenistic in practice. This is
noted by the Apostle Paul. When in Athens he mentioned that the city was
"wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16). After seeing them carry out their
religious duties, he concluded, "I perceive that in all things ye are too
superstitious" (Acts 17:22). The Gentile world was caught up in the
fantasies of Christless education, philosophy, and religion.
Another location of pagan religious practices was Rome. In Rome
were found temples built for the worship of many pagan gods and goddesses.
A few of these are Jupiter, Apollo, and Minerva.
Still another pagan city known for its education and philosophy was
Alexandria, Egypt. Famed for its library and school, it was a center of
education during the centuries prior to the New Testament era. It was
known to have received much of its philosophy from Athens about 100 B.C.
When the Christian church appeared, made up of born again
believers, it was looked upon as a rather strange group of people. The
Jews rejected it because its patrons claimed that Jesus Christ was the
Jewish Messiah. The Gentiles rejected Christianity because of the
Christians' claims that salvation was complete and that one could know
that they had eternal life. This ran contrary to the teachings of pagan
philosophy that nothing can be known for sure. It also made their heathen
religious practices worthless, not to mention all of their beautiful
The New Testament church needed a place to grow. It needed a
location that was far away from the prejudices of the Jewish religious
community centered in Jerusalem and the Gentile philosophical community.
It needed a location that would be advantageous to the spreading of the
gospel. Such a location was realized when, after the death of Stephen, the
believers traveled to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19). But it
was Antioch that the Holy Spirit chose for the base of Christian
Antioch was founded by Seleucus I about 300 B.C. Its location was
of prime importance to the gospel since it was built at the crossroads of
ancient trade routes from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and from
western Arabia to Asia Minor. It also has a seaport on the Orontes River.
In addition to the secular history of these two areas, let us
examine what the Bible says concerning them.
The law of first mention is important, as the first mention of a
subject usually sets the light in which that subject shall reside in the
Since one of the two families of MSS originated in Alexandria,
Egypt, we shall first look at Egypt. Egypt is first mentioned in Genesis
12:10. "...Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there...." but verse 12
says, "Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee,
that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they
will save thee alive." (Genesis 12:12). Immediately we find a negative air
about Egypt in the Bible. Notice that Abram's fear concerns the line of
Christ, Satan's first enemy.
"And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer
of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard." (Genesis 37:36). Here we find
Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt. This also is negative.
"Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with
their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and
Raamses." (Exodus 1:11). In this verse we see Israel, the people of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, persecuted in Egypt, a type of the world.
Verses 15 and 16 show that Satan's attack was once again on the seed
through which the Lord Jesus Christ would come. In Exodus 20:2, Egypt is
called "the house of bondage." In Deuteronomy 4:20, God calls Egypt "the
God forbids Israel to carry on commercial activities with Egypt in
Deuteronomy 17:16. "But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause
the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses:
forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no
more that way." Notice this final sentence gives the solemn warning, "Ye
shall henceforth return no more that way."
In Jeremiah 46:25 we find God promising punishment on Egypt. "The
LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saith; Behold, I will punish the
multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings;
even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him:"
Look at Ezekiel 20:7. "Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every
man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols
of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Here we find that God commanded Israel
not to be associated with Egypt's idolatry.
The last of our references compares Jerusalem in apostasy to Sodom
and Egypt. "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great
city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was
crucified." (Revelation 11:8).
This is only a small cross section of the Biblical references to
Egypt, but I believe we see that God's attitude towards Egypt is not
Now let's zero in on the city of Egypt which will concern our
Alexandria is first mentioned in Acts 6:9. "Then there arose
certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines,
and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia,
disputing with Stephen." Here we find that Jews from Alexandria were
partially responsible for the stoning of Stephen.
Also in Acts 18:24 we find Apollos was from Alexandria. Although he
was later saved and became a great disciple of Christ, he was first
associated with inadvertently misleading the people of Ephesus in Acts
We have now looked at what the Bible has to say concerning
Egypt in general and Alexandria in particular.
Since we accept the Bible in all matters of "faith and practice,"
we should take care to remember that God takes a negative approach to
Egypt. Do we have any right to ignore God's displeasure and approach Egypt
in a "positive" manner? Solomon was by far wiser than we are, yet he
ignored God's clear warnings. For example, I Kings 3:1 says, "And Solomon
made affinity with Pharoah king of Egypt, and took Pharoah's daughter, and
brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building
his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round
about." Also, I Kings 10:28 says, "And Solomon had horses brought out of
Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a
price." (cf. Deuteronomy 17:16). We find that ignoring God's Word led to
the heart being turned away from the Lord and after other gods (I Kings
11:3, 4). This resulted in abominable acts on his part (I Kings 11:5,
8)and finally brought God's judgment in I Kings 11:9-43.
Certainly, if wise Solomon could fall by accepting Egypt in spite
of God's clear condemnation, we would do well to take care before we buy
any "horses out of Egypt." God may not be pleased with such actions.
Now let us see what the Bible says about the city of Antioch.
Antioch is first mentioned in Acts 6:5 when Nicolas, a Christian
from Antioch, was chosen to be one of the first deacons. So we see that
the first time Antioch is mentioned, it is in a positive light.
Antioch is mentioned again in Acts 11:19. Here, it is a refuge for
Christians from persecution. In the Scripture Antioch represents a "type"
of the new life given to believers after having accepted Jesus Christ as
their personal Saviour.
To fully understand the light in which the Bible presents Antioch
in Acts 11, we must look at the context in which chapter 11 is written. In
the preceding chapter (Acts 10) God plainly shows that He is calling out a
following from among the Gentiles. In the following chapter (Acts 12) God
shows that He is not going to use Jerusalem as the center of the
New Testament church (Acts 12:1-4).
Antioch, the new center, is away from the Gentile centers of
Alexandria, Athens, and Rome and the Jewish center of Jerusalem. Antioch
symbolizes the Christian's new life, apart from the heathenism of the
Gentiles and ritualism of Judaism. II Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if
any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new." When a Gentile is saved, he is to
leave his heathenistic lifestyle for a new spiritual location in Christ.
Likewise, when a Jew is saved, he is to leave his ritualism for a new
spiritual location in Christ. In Galatians 3:28 Paul states that, "There
is neither Jew nor Greek...for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." In I
Corinthians 10:32 he divides mankind into three groups,
"Jews...Gentiles...the Church of God." As God gives born again man a new
spiritual location, He also gave His new young church a new physical
Please notice that after Acts chapter 12, the other apostles are
left alone at Jerusalem and are mentioned only one last time in the
narrative. This is in Acts 21:18 where they briefly rejoice in Paul's
report and then get preoccupied with the law! Paul in Galatians
2:11 had to rebuke Peter of this very thing when he came to Antioch and
tried to exercise the same legalistic teaching of Judaism on the New
Testament church there. Obviously God was using Antioch and Antiochian
Christians to forge a new practice of worshipping Him, different from the
Old Testament Judaism and the Gentile mythology and heathenism.
Acts 11:20 shows the beginning of God's settlement in Antioch. "And
some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to
Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus." In Acts
11:22, Barnabas, one of the most important figures of the New Testament,
moves from Jerusalem to Antioch. He is the man who is responsible for Paul
being in the ministry. It was Barnabas who went to Tarsus to get Paul,
then named Saul, in Acts 11:25. Upon finding him, Barnabas brought him
back to Antioch, not Jerusalem (Acts 11:26). So we see that the primary
figure of the New Testament church actually began his ministry in Antioch.
Paul had visited Jerusalem in Acts 9:26-29 and had even preached there,
but his ministry to the Gentiles really began when he departed from
Antioch in Acts 13:1-3 with Barnabas.
We must also notice that it was at Antioch that the disciples were
called "Christians" for the first time (Acts 11:26). In verse 27 of Acts
11 we find that the prophets from the Jerusalem church left it to settle
in Antioch. In verse 29 of Acts 11, we even see that it was necessary for
the Christians at Antioch to send relief down to their brethren in
As we mentioned before, Paul's first missionary journey originated
from Antioch in Acts 13:1-3. The Bible states in verse 2 that the Holy
Ghost "called" them. It was in Antioch that God chose these men.
Upon returning from their trip (Acts 14:26-28) they came back to
Antioch, not Alexandria; not Jerusalem.
When some "Christian" Judaizers came up to Antioch from Jerusalem
and began to teach the believers there that, "Except ye be circumcised
after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1), Paul and
Barnabas confronted them. Afterwards, Paul and Barnabas went down and
spoke with the apostles concerning this. They formed a council and
returned to their beloved Antioch with a written statement to the effect
that Judaism had no hold over the New Testament church.
Upon returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas took with them chosen
men of the Jerusalem church, Silas being one of them (Acts 15:22). They
all returned to Jerusalem but Silas (Acts 15:33,34), and he is the only
one whom we find recorded in New Testament history. After Acts chapter 11
and the move to Antioch, God used only those who left Jerusalem and
settled in Antioch! Such is the case with Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and
Mark. Paul and Barnabas reside at Antioch (Acts 15:35) and depart from
there again in verse 40.
Notice that Paul sets his mind to go back to Jerusalem in Acts
20:22, knowing that it is against God's will as we find in Acts 20:23;
21:4, and again in 21:10-12. He goes to Jerusalem in spite of God's
warning against it and is seized in Acts 21:30, thus beginning the end of
his ministry! This plainly teaches that a Christian is not to return to
his "old" life in any way, shape, or form and should stand firm in his
"new location" in Christ. It also shows that if there will be any center
for New Testament Christianity, it will be found in Antioch.
It may well be that many of the "originals" that we have heard so
much about were written right there in Antioch!
Egypt is a type of this world. Antioch is a type of a Christian's
new life in Christ. Which one do you think that God would use to preserve
God will not do anything contrary to His nature. It would not be
consistent with God's nature to use Alexandria, Egypt to preserve His Word
when He paints such a dismal picture of it in Scripture. In fact, there is
no record of any of the New Testament Christians ever visiting there.
Antioch, on the other hand, was greatly used by God as the center
of New Testament Christianity. Paul never took up residence in Jerusalem,
but always returned to Antioch. Looking from the spiritual and practical
aspect, Antioch would obviously be the logical location of the true Bible