BibleTexts.com Questions, Insights, & Responses
shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#101 - KJV and the Textus Receptus: the facts
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
1. Reader question/insight #1
[BibleTexts.com note: This reader is referring to the BibleTexts.com article at http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm and that webpage's concluding invitation to readers " to email any additional information and insights that you may have."]
You do not arrive at "honest"
conclusions consistent with "all" facts. Your "facts" on
the Textus Receptus are grossly inaccurate. You offer nothing but criticism
of the TR and offer nothing but support of the Westcott and Hort New Greek text,
the text that most all modern perversions of the Scriptures are based. You "conveniently
disregard" historical fact considering the origin of the TR. If I follow
your "conclusions", I must believe that God did not preserve HIS WORD
to all generations like HE promised in HIS WORD. "For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting; and his TRUTH (i.e. HIS WORD) endureth to all generations."
If you desire honest discussion and seek the truth about the Bible, I would be happy to assist you.
2. BibleTexts.com response #1
Which "facts" that I presented on the Textus Receptus do you believe are inaccurate? What historical facts about the origin of the Textus Receptus do you believe I am disregarding?
The original Hebrew (Old Testament), Aramaic (Daniel only), and Greek (New Testament) texts are what actually constitute "the Bible." All versions of the Bible -- whether in Latin, English, Chinese, or Hindi; whether produced in 384 A.D., in 1611 AD, or in 1996 AD -- are merely translations indirectly derived from many generations of handcopies of those original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
The so-called Textus Receptus is only one type of Greek New Testament text based upon the various editions of Greek New Testament prepared by Erasmus and first published by Johannes Froben in 1516; and the original 1611 King James Version was only one of many noble attempts to translate biblical texts written in ancient languages into English and other non-ancient languages. Of course even the 1611 KJV continued to be revised over the years. It is actually Dr. Benjamin Blayney's 1769 edition of the KJV that is the basis for most of the KJV editions printed today. Even the original 1611 had marginal notes that suggested other possible renderings.
This is explained in my article, "The King James Version -- its history, its accuracy, and its relevance today," which is available at www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm. I also very much recommend the works of Bruce Metzger, professor emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary and arguably the foremost living authority on New Testament texts. Two of his books, The Text of the New Testament: It's Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration and A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Third Edition, are especially useful in this discussion. Another very useful book is James R. White's book, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations.
God certainly has preserved and will continue to preserve his Word. Solomon said of the temple he built, "Behold, the heaven and the earth cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (KJV, 1Ki 8:27) We can paraphrase Solomon's words about any version of the Bible, including the Textus Receptus or the KJV, "Behold, the heaven and the earth cannot contain thy Word; how much less this Bible version that I have prepared?"
It is God that we worship -- not a temple, not ancient biblical texts, and not an old or new Bible version. Just as the temple was not preserved, so the ancient biblical texts were not preserved intact, and Bible versions become outdated. But God's Word is eternally preserved and continues to bless, save, and guide us both.
3. Reader question/insight #2
You wrote, "Which "facts"
that I presented on the Textus Receptus do you believe are inaccurate?
What historical facts about the origin of the Textus Receptus do you
believe I am disregarding?"
Here are the facts: For over a hundred years modern version defenders have promoted a deception that the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament (and its 20th century successors, such as the United Bible Societies Greek N.T.) is founded upon the "oldest and best manuscripts," whereas the Greek text underlying the King James Bible is an inferior one that is based on a mere handful of late Greek manuscripts.
Consider the following statement by D.A. Carson, author of the influential and popular book, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism:
Although Erasmus published a fourth and fifth edition, we need say no more about them here. Erasmuss Greek Testament stands in line behind the King James Version; yet it rests upon a half dozen minuscule manuscripts, none of which is earlier than the tenth century. ... THE TEXTUAL BASIS OF THE TR IS A SMALL NUMBER OF HAPHAZARDLY AND RELATIVELY LATE MINUSCULE MANUSCRIPTS (DA Carson, The King James Version Debate, Baker Book House, 1979, pp. 35-36).
Another example of this error is found in the book The Bible Version Debate: The Perspective of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (1997). Chapter four is "Defining the Terms" by W. Edward Glenny, professor of New Testament at Central --
The TR is only based on seven late manuscripts" (Glenny, p. 51)
This incredibly erroneous statement has been repeated so frequently by textual critics and modern version defenders that it is commonly accepted as truth. While it is not exactly surprising to see New Evangelicals like DA Carson fall for such things, we have seen that some fundamental Baptists are repeating the same tired errors. If scholarly fundamental Baptists of our day would spend at least as much time studying the writings of Bible-believing textual scholars such as John Burgon, Edward Miller, and E. F. Hills, who believe in infallible inspiration and divine preservation, as they do studying the writings of Modernists and New Evangelicals such as Bruce Metzger, F.F. Bruce, and Kurt Aland, who deny both inspiration and preservation, they might not be so quick to pass along fallacies to unsuspecting readers.
Be that as it may, it is not difficult to dispel the myth that the Received Greek Text underlying the King James Bible and other Reformation Bibles is merely "based on seven late manuscripts." It is true that Erasmus had in his actual possession only a few Greek manuscripts when he composed the first edition of his Greek New Testament, but he had examined a large number of other manuscripts, both Latin and Greek, and he had compared these with many ancient Bible translations and with a large number of quotations from ancient church leaders. He also was aware of the alternative readings contained in manuscripts such as the Vaticanus and Codex D. Thus he was in a position to know that those few manuscripts he had at hand represented the witness of vast numbers of other manuscripts. The fact is that the Received Text underlying the esteemed and mightily used Reformation Bibles is represented in the majority of existing Greek manuscripts, quotations from ancient church leaders, and ancient Bible translations. This is why the Received Text has commonly been called the "majority text" (though that term has been usurped in recent years by the Hodges-Farstad-Thomas Nelson Greek New Testament of 1982). Textual authorities admit that of the more than 5,200 existing Greek manuscripts, 99% contain the common traditional ecclesiastical or Received Text. Thus, on the very face of the evidence, it is nonsense to say that the Received Text is "is only based on seven late manuscripts."
Now, having said that, does your website present these facts? No, it doesn't. How can you claim to want honest non-partisan debate, when you only present one side? I'm sure I will not convince you that I am correct, however, don't claim to be neutral when clearly you are not. I don't have a "problem" with the heresy of modern Bible versions, the Lord himself said it would happen. But you claim to be neutral; clearly you are not.
4. BibleTexts.com response #2
Thanks for your additional email. In our current dialogue, it is important for us to understand that the term Textus Receptus, or Received Text, was derived from the self-proclaimed statement by the Elzevir printer family, in their preface to the 1633 edition of their Greek New Testament. They stated (in Latin), "Textum ergo habes nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus." In English this means, "Consequently you now have the text received by everyone, in which we present nothing that has been changed or that is corrupted." Rather than pronouncing divine sanction, the Elzevirs simply were stating that they had made no textual changes in their 1633 edition of the popularly accepted 1624 text -- the text that had been received from the work of various scholars and publishers of the New Testament Greek editions and that had been received by the scholarly community as the standard text representing the Greek New Testament. Erasmus' 1514 text and the continuingly evolving texts over the next 119 years, which came to be known as the Textus Receptus, were to most European Bible scholars of that time what the United Bible Society's Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (UBS4) is to most international Bible scholars of today. They all represent conscientious endeavors to best approximate the original Greek New Testament writings. The reconstruction of the original Greek texts will continue as additional ancient manuscripts are discovered and analyzed and as the methodology for such textual reconstruction becomes even further refined. Though this reconstruction process -- which included the Textus Receptus and its conceptual offspring of today, the UBS4 -- will always be a work in progress, the Word of God is always complete.
You referred to W. Edward Glenny's statement, "The TR is only based on seven late manuscripts." I am not familiar with Glenny, and no one whom I have read has asserted that the Textus Receptus itself was "based on seven late manuscripts." Such a statement more represents what has been frequently said about Erasmus' Greek New Testament. As you pointed out:
Erasmus had in his actual possession only a few Greek manuscripts when he composed the first edition of his Greek New Testament, but he had examined a large number of other manuscripts, both Latin and Greek, and he had compared these with many ancient Bible translations and with a large number of quotations from ancient church leaders. He also was aware of the alternative readings contained in manuscripts such as the Vaticanus and Codex D. Thus he was in a position to know that those few manuscripts he had at hand represented the witness of vast numbers of other manuscripts.
Erasmus was a first-rate scholar and did the best he could with the materials that he diligently sought to obtain, borrow, or at least examine. In some cases, as with the John 5:7,8 additions to his his third editions, he was manipulated by church authorities to include material that he genuinely did not believe to be legitimate representations of the original text.
You spoke of John W. Burgon (1813-1888), Dean of Chichester, who was a very competant 19th century Bible scholar. He himself did not believe in the inerrancy of either the Textus Receptus or of the KJV. He, however, did believe in the inerrancy of God's Word. James White (The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995, pages 91-92) writes:
Many of the great scholars of the past who have defended the Byzantine textual tradition cannot honestly be included in the "KJV Only" camp (though they are often cited as if they were). Men like Dean Burgon, F.H.A Scrivener, H.C Hoskier -- all of whom were true scholars of the rist rank -- were not KJV Only advocates. All saw the need for revision in the KJV and in the TR as well. Just to give an ex`mple from Dean Burgon, who is so often cited by KJV Only advocates, we provide his words regarding the need for revision of the TR, wherein he notes a textual variant at Matthew 10:8:
For, in not a few particulars the "Textus Receptus" does call for Revision, certainly... To mention a single instance: -- When our Lord first sent forth His Twelve Apostles, it was certainly no part of His ministerial commission to them to 'raise the dead' (nekrous egeipete, S. Matthew x. 8) This is easily demonstrable. Yet is the spurious clause retained by our Revisionists, because it is found in those corrupt witnesses -- N B C D, and the Latin copies.
About E.F. Hill also, James White (ibid., pages 92-93) writes appreciatively:
Dr. Edward F. Hills represents the best of the KJV Only position in the sense that he does not engage in the kind of insulting rhetoric that is characteristic of the presentations made by other individuals. Instead, Hills' arguments focus upon the "logic of faith." Every problem one can present in the KJV or its underlying texts is answered by appeal to the "common faith," "the providence of God," or the "logic of faith." Hills does not ignore such things as the insertion of passages from the Vulgate into the text of Erasmus and hence into the KJV; instead, he argues that since God preserved the rest of the TR, He must have preserved those readings, too. It is quite plain that Dr. Hills began with the conclusion of his argument ("the TR is the God-preserved text") and did not hesitate to utilize the conclusion in the course of his argument, charges of circularity notwithstanding. However, much to the chagrin of the more radical elements of the KJV Only movement, Hills did not join them in granting inspiration to the AV. Note his words:
God's preservation of the New Testament text was not miraculous but providential. The scribes and printers who produced the copies of the New Testament Scriptures and the true believers who read and cherished them were not inspired but God-guided. Hence there are some New Testament passages in which the true reading cannot be determined with absolute certainty. There are some readings, for example, on which the manuscripts are almost equally divided, making it difficult to determine which reading belongs to the Traditional Text. Also in some of the cases in which the Textus Receptus disagrees with the Traditional Text it is hard to decide which text to follow. Also, as we have seen, sometimes the several editions of the Textus Receptus differ from each other and from the King James Version.
Dr. Hills' honesty is a breath of fresh air..
All I know about Edward Miller is that he was mentored by Dean Burgon and that he wrote or participated in writing the following:
As for Bruce Metzger, F.F. Bruce, and Kurt Aland, their deep faith, uncompromising integrity, and immense scholarship are beyond question. I feel certain that these are people whom Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza would have greatly admired and appreciated.
How can you claim to want honest non-partisan debate, when you only present one side? I'm sure I will not convince you that I am correct, however, don't claim to be neutral when clearly you are not. I don't have a "problem" with the heresy of modern Bible versions, the Lord himself said it would happen. But you claim to be neutral; clearly you are not.
The BibleTexts.com website has far more commitment to the honest, fair, and thorough presentation of facts than you have yet recognized. Contrary to what you have stated, I actually endeavor consistently to consider objectively all sides of biblical and other issues. I do not exclude from consideration any real data or reasonable information. That does not prevent me from drawing solid conclusions based upon an overwhelming weight of evidence supporting one assertion over another, while always remaining open to new conclusions based upon information that I have not yet seen or heard.
Rather than simply depending upon my conclusions, you are welcome to explore "The History of the Textus Receptus as described by various biblical scholars, representing many denominations and both conservative and liberal scholarship." This article may be browsed at http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/tr-history.htm. Those scholars whose historical findings are represented include:
Each of these scholars provides an individual perspective and a different set of facts, but viewed all together they present a coherent and well-documented picture from which sound conclusions can be reached. There you will find sufficient information to address many of the additional questions and comments you may have.
To explore how the Textus Receptus and the KJV reflect Western-Text errors that minimize the historically important roles of early Christian women, browse "The influence on the Textus Receptus of the 'Anti-feminist bias' of the Western Text of the New Testament" at http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/tr-wtext.htm.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer