In Matthew 1:25 of NKJV english translation of greek Textus Receptus, we are given a Footnote [fn] "NU-Text reads a Son." | This footnote is highlighting to readers the Greek word for "firstborn" (πρωτότοκον) in [Matthew 1:25] was not included in other Greek manuscripts like NU-Text ((Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament | United Bible Society's third edition).

Did the NU-Text make a scribal error? ( πρωτότοκον is a big word to miss, with 10-letters. )

[Note the addition of πρωτότοκον] in Textus Receptus' version of Matthew 1:25 - "and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn son.[fn] And he called his name Jesus." (1:25 καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον· καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν)


[Now notice the missing πρωτότοκον] in the greek NU-Text (Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament | United Bible Society's third edition) of Matthew 1:25 "25καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν· [?] καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν."

[?] No inclusion of "firstborn" (πρωτότοκον).


Did Textus Receptus add πρωτότοκον in Matthew 1:25, or did NU-Text forget to include πρωτότοκον (Which manuscript is older) ?

  • 1
    The translation 'her firstborn son' misses completely the force of the Greek : and she brought forth the Son of her, the Prototokos missing the ambiguity of 'son of her' and missing the meaning of proto/tokos. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 14:25
  • @NigelJ - The 'ambiguity' of NU-Text warrants the addition of πρωτότοκον in Textus Receptus? Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 14:32
  • 1
    No. The word prototokos is there in the manuscripts [TR]. The ambiguity 'the son of her' (The Son of her) is already there. The word prototokos has far greater relevance than merely 'firstborn' (in relation to Mary). Far greater.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 14:47
  • In general, no one usually adds or subtracts anything meaningful to or from the text; differences between the countless manuscripts are a dime a dozen.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 15:22
  • @Lucian - πρωτότοκον is a meaningful difference because it provides a distinction. For example the Textus Receptus could have elaborated 'μονογενής', but chose [was inspired] to use πρωτότοκον to elaborate on υἱόν of the NU-Text. - Correct? Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 15:39

3 Answers 3


Did Textus Receptus add πρωτότοκον in Matthew 1:25, or did NU-Text forget to include πρωτότοκον (Which manuscript is older) ?

The manuscripts that Nestle-Aland and UBS use for support are older (4th century). The oldest with the addition are from the 5th century.

The addition of καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον (she have birth to her son, the firstborn) is explained as a harmonisation with Luke 2:7.

The UBS grades the decisions they make from A to D. Where "A" designates that the text they print is virtually certain. "D" would signify that there is a high degree of doubt (pages xii-xiii in the 3rd edition of UBS/GNT).

So there is no doubt that this addition should not be in Matthew.


This is a question of whether MSS that do not have the word must be considered superior to MSS that DO have the word in question. Some MSS do, and some do not.

Please bear in mind that printed editions of the Greek New Testament (NT) from Erasmus' Novum Instrumentum omne (1516) to the Elzevier edition (1516) comprise the Textus Receptus (TR). No scribes who copied from Greek MSS available to them in the first few centuries A.D. were involved. People like Erasmus and the Elzevier brothers worked from existing material and MSS to produce a Greek text of the NT to get round the problem of there only being an old Latin text of the NT. They knew the desperate need to produce translations from the original language the NT had first been written in, and people were put to death for daring to produce a Greek text of the NT. Their work came to be know as "The Received Text" - received from the apostles through a chain of scribes. But once those MSS had been translated into old Latin and church law was then passed forbidding anyone to go back to the Greek, on pain of death, a dreadful situation arose.

Now it also needs to be borne in mind that the best, most reliable Greek MSS of the first few centuries were worn to a frazzle because of constant use, and copies of them had to be made before they became too worn. However, if a copy of the Greek text had been made that contained several errors, it would be shelved, or even binned. This is where the claim of those using particular MSS that did not have 'firstborn' in Mat. 1:25 needs to have the questions raised, "Why did such older MSS not have that word? Had that been a scribal mistake - an omission on the part of one scribe, then magnified by other scribes working from that flawed copy? Is that why such older MSS were found to be in really good condition, on a monastery shelf (or was it even in a bucket?)"

This is a simplified way of pointing out that older is not necessarily more accurate (when it comes to Bible MSS). But because the Novum Testamentum Graece (NU Text) included some new MSS not in the TR, differences arose, as in this example.

So, did the NU-Text make a scribal error? No. The collection of texts was compiled by a committee based on critical analysis of many Greek MSS. That committee did no scribal copying of Greek MSS. They were a group of scholars in the late 1800s who decided to add previously unfound MSS to the selection of MSS they thought modern translations should work from. It is the selection of particular MSS in the late 1800s that form the reason for the NU not having 'firstborn' before 'Son' in Mat. 1:25.

Here is an explanation provided in the notes of The Companion Bible re. vs.25, which it renders as "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn Son...":

"These words [her firstborn son] are quoted by Tatian (A.D. 172) and twelve of the Fathers before cent. 4; and are contained in nearly all MSS except the Vatican and Sinaitic (cent. 4). All the Texts omit 'her firstborn' on this weak and suspicious evidence. But there is no question about it in Luke 2:7."

This implies that the Vatican and Sinaitic 4th century MSS that were chosen to go into the NU collection of texts may have had a scribal omission in that verse. That omission was compounded by the committee deciding to include those MSS, which had never been included in the TR text. That's one way of looking at it. But however one looks at it, any scribal error is far more likely to be missing an existing word out, than adding one that never was in the MSS being copied.


First of all, the Text Receptus (received texts) is older than the recent NU (which is something modern), however this last text (NU) uses older texts than the former. The Textus Receptus traces back the year 1516. The following verse (Matthews 1:25) is present in this edition of (after 12th century), which is:

και ουκ εγινωσκεν αυτην εως ου ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου ιησουν

However one of the oldest version of Matthew (verse 1:25) traces back the 4nd and 5th centuries, and is found in Codex Washingtonianus, and this is used in Aland version of bible. It was written in koine greek in 187 leaves in a single column, it's curious that it was bought by a dealer (Ali) near Cairo, in Gizah.

The manuscripts can be found in https://manuscripts.csntm.org/manuscript/View/GA_032 observing that 032 is its code in the bible by Aland that is the base for NU-texts. In the seventh picture in the above site, from left to right, we see in red (actually I highlighted the text) that:

enter image description here

So, indeed the word πρωτοτοκον also appears in the Codex Washingtonianus.

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