Thus begins the first chapter of Restoring the Original Bible in which Ernest L. Martin advocated a new and novel arrangement of the Christian Bible that has never actually existed as such at any time in the history of Christianity. Apparently oblivious to the inherent irony of claiming to "restore" that which has never existed, Martin refuted himself in his first sentence. Contrary to the title of his book, he advocated the creation of a novel hybrid Bible in which the New Testament would be patterned on his so-called "original manuscript order" and the Old Testament would be patterned on the modern Jewish Tanakh that was fixed in its present form by medieval Rabbis. He began the justification of his thesis in the second paragraph of his first chapter by appealing to an apparent concensus amongst a few 19th century biblical scholars (all quotes are from the free online version of his book published on the www.askelm.com site):The world has never had a complete Bible of the Old and New Testaments in the original manuscript order of the biblical books. This is a fact! It is almost unbelievable that such a non-manuscript arrangement of the books of the Bible could exist, but all modern translations of the Holy Scriptures do not follow the early manuscripts. -- Ernest L. Martin
Martin's statement is factually correct in that the four Greek New Testaments published in the 19th century by Lachmann (1862), Tischendorf (1872), Tregelles (1872), and Westcott and Hort (1881) "all without exception placed their arrangement of the books in the same order." But his statement is egregiously misleading because it suggests a consensus that has never existed, then or now. If critical scholars know anything, they know that there is a vast array of various orders represented in the Greek manuscripts. The mere existence, let alone exact sequence, of an "original order" has never been proven, and if there is any scholastic consensus it would have to be that no single sequence should be called "original" because the various patterns probably developed somewhat independently over time through communal use in local congregations. Here is how Daryl Schmidt explained the facts in his exhaustive analysis of all the sequences found in the Greek manuscripts that contain the complete New Testament called "The Greek New Testament as a Codex" published in "The Canon Debate" (edited by McDonald and Sanders, 2002, p.473):Let us look at the situation with the New Testament first. The last century saw the advent of what we call the modern scholarly criticism of the biblical texts and manuscripts. These pioneer scholars were very good at their task. Indeed, when they printed their final results of surveying the early New Testament manuscripts, they all without exception placed their arrangement of the books in the same order. [Martin's emphasis]
Given the overwhelming evidence that the actual historical documents exhibit nothing like the uniform sequence that Martin suggested in his second paragraph, we could wonder if he was simply ignorant of the evidence, or if perhaps his zeal had caused him to accidentally overstate his case in that one instance. Unfortunately, neither provides a viable solution to the enigma of his error. We know he did not "accidentally" overstate his case because the thesis of his entire book is that the order he advocates is the one and only "proper manuscript order." Indeed, he uses the phrase "proper manuscript order" or its equivalent ten times in chapter one to refer to his prefered sequence. A typical example is found in the eleventh paragraph of chapter one [my emphasis]: ....The variety of actual arrangements is quite surprising, and rarely mentioned by current textual critics. After noting that the sequence varies within each group, the Alands state: "The only characteristic common to the whole manuscript tradition ... is that the Gospels stand at the beginning and Revelation at the end," with "all variations of sequence to occur" in the middle sections. As we will see, even these characteristics vary.
Read the full review here.