The influence on the Textus Receptus and the KJV of the Western Text's "anti-feminist bias"

by Robert Nguyen Cramer


The Textus Receptus (TR)and the resulting KJV reflect some Western-text errors that minimize the historically important roles of early Christian women. The TR is representative of the Byzantine (a.k.a., Syrian) family of texts The Byzantine Text family is primarily a combination of the Neutral, Alexandrian, and Western text families.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (edited by Elizabeth A. Livingstone, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977, page 550) describes the Western Text of the New Testament as follows:

An early form of the Gk. text of the NT, so named by B.F. Westcott and J.F.A. Hort because the chief authorities for it were of Western provenance, viz. some Graeco-Latin MSS., the Old Latin, and quotations in the Latin Fathers. It reflects changes which the NT suffered before A.D. 150, and in some places it prob. preserves the correct text against other witnesses.

Bruce M. Metzger (The Text of the New Testament, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 1992) provides much more detail about the Western Text. He also quotes Hort's description of the Western Text's tendency to paraphrase (pp. 132-133):

Words, clauses, and even whole sentences were changed, omitted, and inserted with astonishing freedom, wherever it seemed that the meaning could be brought out with greater force and definiteness.... Another equally important characteristic is a disposition to enrich the text at the cost of its purity by alterations or additions taken from traditional and perhaps from apocryphal or other non-bibical sources... Another impulse of scribes abundantly exemplified in Western readings is the fondness for assimilation... But its most dangerous work is 'harmonistic' corruption, that is, the partial or total obliteration of differences in passages otherwise more or less resembling each other.

Later in his book Metzger writes (pp. 295-296):

In addition to the several considerations (listed on pp. 195-206 above) that induced scribes to make intentional changes in the text of the New Testament, one can also occasionally detect what appears to have been an anti-feminist bias, discernible chiefly in manuscripts of the 'Western' type of text. In Matthew's accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and of the Feeding of the Four Thousand, the evangelist states that in addition to the men there were also 'women and children' who were fed. In both passages, however, several witnesses alter the sequence to 'children and women' (in xiv. 21, D Th [Theta] f1 it; in xv. 38, N D Th [Theta] f1 lat syrc sah boh). Was the reason for the change an unwillingness to rank women before children, who would have included boys as well as girls?

More significant than these instances are modifications that were made in the text of Acts. In xvii. 4 by reading gunaikes [nominative plural] instead of gunaikon [women, genitive, plural], D and lat [latin vulgate] refer, not to women of prominence in the community, but to the wives of leading citizens -- that is, they do not have a status in their own right but status derived from that of the husband. In Acts xvii. 12 the author reports that at Beroea those who responded to the preaching of Paul and Silas included 'a considerable number of Greek women of the better class, and men also'. The scribe of codex Bezae, however, did not approve that women were given precedence over men and altered the sentence so as to read 'a considerable number of men and women of the better class'. Among Paul's converts at Athens, the statement 'and a woman named Damaris' is lacking in Bezae. 1

The transmission of the several references to Priscilla and Aquila in Acts xvii reveals some interesting features that Harnack pointed out at the close of the last century. The author of Acts seems never to have mentioned Aquila without Priscilla, and always (except inthe first instance, ver. 2) places the wife's name first. In both respects one or more witnesses (again of the 'Western' variety) depart from the original. Sometimes it is by reversing the names (as D in ver. 26) [Act 18:26], or by continuing the narrative with references only to 'him' rather than 'them (D in ver 2), or by mentioning only Aquila's name (old Lat h in ver. 7, and syr h mg in ver. 21) To these may be added a similar example in Col. iv. 15, [Col 4:15] where the 'Western' codex Claromontanus and other witnesses replace 'Nympha and the church in her house' with 'Nymphas . . . his house'.

1 For further discussion see Ben Witherington, 'The Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the "Western" Text in Acts', Journal of Biblical Literature, ciii (1984), pp. 82-84, and Richard I. Pervo, 'Social and Religious Aspects of the Western Text', The Living Text, Essays in Honor of Ernest W. Saunders, ed. by D.E. Groh and R. Jewett (Langham, 1985), pp. 235-40.

It is noteworthy that Act 18:26 and Col 4:15 illustrate how -- in some but not all cases -- the Textus Receptus and the KJV reflect Western-text errors that minimize the historically important roles of early Christian women:

Act 18:26 Akulas kai Priskilla And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Priskilla kai Akulas He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately.
Col 4:15 Numphân .. oikon autou. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. Númphan .. oikon autes. Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.


KJV's dependence on TR
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
KJV topical index
Questions & responses on TR

Various scholars' histories of TR
Women topical index homepage
Top of page