Novum Instrumentum omne
From Textus Receptus
Novum Instrumentum omne, is the first published New Testament in Greek (1516), prepared by Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), and printed by Johann Froben (1460-1527) of Basel. Although many claim that Erasmus' Greek New Testament was the first printed Greek New Testament, this is false, and the first was the Complutensian Polyglot (1514), although it was the published in (1522).
Five editions of Novum Instrumentum omne were published. Of these, editions four and five were not regarded as being so important by historians as the third edition (1522), which was used by Tyndale for the first English New Testament (1526) and later by translators of the Geneva Bible and the King James Version. With the third edition, the Comma Johanneum was included. The printed Erasmian edition of the Greek New Testament was a large part the basis for the majority of modern translations of New Testament in the 16-19th centuries.
- “I shall sit down to Holy Scripture with my whole heart, and devote the rest of my life to it...[A]ll these three years I have been working entirely at Greek, and have not been playing with it” (Froude, The Life and Letters, p. 87).
- “He had been at work over the Greek MSS. for many years. The work was approaching completion” (Froude, The Life and Letters, p. 93).
Frederick Nolan a Greek and Latin scholar of the 19th century and eminent historian who researched Egyptian chronology, spent twenty-eight years tracing the Received Text to its apostolic origin, after surveying Erasmus’ notes, Nolan recorded the following:
"With respect to manuscripts, it is indisputable that he was acquainted with every variety which is known to us."
Frederick Nolan, writing in 1815, states, In addition to the manuscripts which Erasmus owned or had seen himself, he gathered readings from the whole of Europe through his broad friendships. He noted;
- “I have a room full of letters from men of learning...” “[W]e find by the dates of his letters that he was corresponding at length and elaborately with the learned men of his time on technical points of scholarship, Biblical criticism...” (Froude, The Life and Letters, pp. 377, 394).
In 1512 Erasmus had been in negotiation with Badius Ascensius of Paris to publish the Vulgate of Jerome and a new edition of Adagia. It did not happen, and Erasmus did not continue contacts with Badius.
Afterwards, on a visit to Basel in August 1514 he contacted Johann Froben. Some scholars believe that Froben had heard about the forthcoming Spanish Polyglot Bible, and tried to overtake the project of Alcala (e.g. S. P. Tregelles). Some scholars doubt this motivation of Froben (e.g. Bruce Metzger), because there is no evidence to support it.
The next meeting took the place in April 1515 at the University of Cambridge. As a result, in July of 1515 Erasmus came to Basel and started his work. Johannes Oecolampadius served as his editorial assistant and Hebrew consultant. Erasmus was surrounded with Bible manuscripts from his childhood in the 1460s, until the publication of his Greek Text in 1516. He worked for a dozen years on the text itself. “The preparation had taken years” (Durant, p. 283). When he went to Basel to work on the printing of this Greek New Testament, he arrived; “weighed down with books...and copious notes on the New Testament” (Rummel, Erika, Erasmus s Annotations on the New Testament, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986, p. 23).
Erasmus’ own manuscript collection was so large and valuable, it was covetously seized by customs when he left England to go to the Continent to finalize the Greek New Testament in 1514. He protested saying that “they had stolen the labours of his life.” The manuscripts were returned in a few days (Froude, The Life and Letters, p. 169).