THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS: The Greek Text Behind the King James Version

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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

IMPORTANT NOTES: If a word is bold and has a footnote, it defines the term or gives you a few sentences to a few paragraphs of information on that term. This article is filled with 110 footnotes doing just that. The other footnotes (non-bold) are sources. This article also has numerous other article links that can take you far deeper so that you can appreciate the trustworthiness of the Bible. Attribution: This article incorporates some text from the public domain: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and Edward D. Andrews. This article is quite lengthy because it is the be-all and end-all for the KJV Onlyist Cult if you can objectively read it.

The Cult of the King James Version Onlyists

Let’s begin by saying the King James Version Onlyist (KJVO) is no different from the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons. They blindly accept blatantly wrong information, which bewilders the rational mind. Some warning signs that the KJVO is a cult-minded group. The person is not willing to objectively read a book or article that counters their narrative, not even able to acknowledge basic truths. For the KJVO, the KJV is the only true Word of God, and anyone who dares criticize it even in small legitimate ways is a heretic. You’re not allowed to criticize the King James Version, even if the criticism is true. You’re only allowed to study with the KJV Bible. If you use any other, you are a heretic. KJVOists view critical thinking as an infectious disease; every effort is made to suppress logical, rational, and reasonable information. For example, to ask the following basic question is heresy, “If the 1611 is the absolute Word of God and no other is to be trusted, what was the Word of God from 1610 and earlier?” Criticism is not allowed. Anyone who contradicts the supremacy of the KJV is viewed as a traitor and is often given labels like “apostate.” KJVOists are discouraged from taking in any information that is critical of the KJV. For example, to ask the following basic question is heresy, “You have all papyri that date 200 years before the oldest codices, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and 400+ years before the oldest Byzantine text, and some only decades from the originals. They are all Alexandrian text-type; this tells us which text is correct, right?”

The KJVOists view themselves as the ultimate authority on the truth of what Bible has the ultimate authority, so they cannot imagine anybody abandoning the KJV. Thus, they maintain a false story that former KJVOists were deceived, proud, and disloyal. If former KJVOists say anything against the KJV, they are rejected as bitter, angry, dishonest, and heretics. The KJVOists are paranoid about all other Bible translations and absolutely dismissive of any information that says they are to be preferred. The KJVOists say that they are the absolute truth and the only way to God and the rest of Christianity, and their modern Bibles only seek to destroy them and the real Word of God. The KJVOists create such disgust and abhorrence that members feel immediate shame for thinking differently than the KJVOist. Fence-riding KJVOists are trapped in shame, which prevents them from objectively looking at information that says something apart from the talking points of the KJVOists. If honest questions are laughed off with a joke or answered with talking points, you’re being brainwashed in the KJVOists cult. What if someone says to you, “THE PREFACE to the 1611 KJV by the translators says the KJV was a revision of the 16th-century translations of Coverdale, Tyndale, the Great Bibles, and others. The translators said they expect new revisions of their KJV translation when more manuscripts come to light, and if there was an improved understanding of Hebrew and Greek, there should be revisions.” The KJVOists are elitist, so they simply dismiss this kind of information and refer to those that mention it as heretics and antichrists for working against God. The KJVOist is the enlightened, chosen, and elect, whom God called to share the Word of God from the only true, genuine, and trustworthy Bible, the King James Bible.

Christian apologist James White has divided the King James Only movement into five main classifications:

  • “I Like the KJV Best” – Although White lists this point of view as a subdivision of the KJVO group, this is disputed by some. This group simply regards the KJV as a very good translation and prefers it over other translations because the church which it attends uses it, has always used it, or prefers its style.
  • “The Textual Argument” – This group believes that the KJV’s Hebrew and Greek textual base is more accurate than the alternative texts used by newer translations. Many in this group might accept a modern Bible version based on the same Greek and Hebrew manuscripts which are used in the KJV. White claims that Zane C. Hodges was a member of this group. Hodges considered that the Majority Text “corrects” the Received Text.
  • “Textus Receptus Only”/“Received Text Only” – This group holds the position that the traditional Greek texts represented in the Textus Receptus were supernaturally (or providentially) preserved and that other Greek manuscripts not used in this compilation may be flawed. The KJV is viewed as an exemplary English translation that is based on this Greek grouping of Bible manuscripts put together by Desiderius Erasmus, but it is also believed that other translations based on these texts have the potential to be of equal quality. The views of the Trinitarian Bible Society fit into this TRO division. The Trinitarian Bible Society does not believe that the Authorized Version (KJV) is a perfect translation, only that it is the best available translation in the English language. The Society believes this text is superior to the texts used by the United Bible Societies and other Bible publishers, which use texts that incorporate as their basis a relatively few manuscripts from the 4th century, and some going back to the early 2nd century.
  • “The Inspired KJV Group” – This faction believes that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They view the translation to be an English preservation of the very words of God and that they are as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Often this group excludes other English versions based on the same manuscripts, claiming that the KJV is the only English Bible sanctioned by God and should never be changed. White believes most KJV-Onlyists would belong to this group.
  • “The KJV As New Revelation” – This group claims that the KJV is a “new revelation” or “advanced revelation” from God, and it should be the standard from which all other translations originate. Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called “Ruckmanism” after Peter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view. – White, James (1995), The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, Minneapolis: Bethany House, pp. 1-4.

Are you a King James Version Onlyist (KJVO) Cult member or affiliated with it? What are the signs that the KJVOists are a cult? What is the true transmission of the Greek New Testament and the Textus Receptus?


KJVO and TRO, and BTO Questions

(1) If God’s Word is only found in the 1611 KJV, where was God’s Word from 100 A.D. – 1610 A.D.?

(2) How many textual errors (differences) are in the Byzantine manuscripts used to make the Textus Receptus, which is behind the KJV?

(3) How many textual errors (differences) are in the handful of Byzantine manuscripts used to make the Textus Receptus, which is behind the KJV?

(4) If there are no textual differences in the 4,000 Byzantine texts (which there are), what was the Word of God before the fifth-century Byzantine text of Codex Alexandrinus (400-440 A.D.)? Only the Western and the Alexandrian family texts existed in the third and fourth centuries, and only the Alexandrian in the second century. So, God allowed errors by the copyists of the Alexandrian and Western manuscripts but miraculously inspired the thousands of Byzantine copyists from 400 to 1455 A.D.?

(5) The Byzantine Advocates (the text behind the TR) acknowledge there are differences between the Byzantine text and the Textus Receptus, and Textus Receptus Advocates believe there are differences between the TR and the Byzantine text. So, where is the miraculous preservation of Scripture?

(6) The TRist and the KJVOist argue that the New Testament original is found in the majority of the manuscripts, which is the Byzantine. However, there is a problem, there was no Byzantine text for the first four centuries, and the Byzantine text did not become the majority of the manuscripts until the 9th century. So, what was the New Testament Text before the 9th century when the Byzantine came to be the majority, and until then, the Alexandrian was the majority?

(7) Which is inerrant, the Latin Vulgate Erasmus used to make some of the Textus Receptus or the Byzantine texts?

(8) What was the inerrant word of God in the second and third centuries AD, before the development of the Byzantine text?

(9) You say scribes/copyists do not introduce changes to the text intentionally and unintentionally, so how do you explain the copyists who write in the margins that a previous copyist made changes? How do you explain the differences in the manuscripts?

(10) Speaking of the Textus Receptus, which of the four editions by Desiderius Erasmus do you prefer (1519, 1522, 1527, 1535), or the four editions of Robert Estienne (Stephanus) (1503– 1559), or the nine editions by Théodore Beza (1519– 1605)? How did the term Textus Receptus come about? How did the Greek text develop from Desiderius Erasmus to Robert Estienne to Théodore Beza, and did any of the editions have a critical apparatus with variants, and did any of these men consult any Alexandrian manuscripts?

(11) If the KJVOist advocates are correct and the copyists for the Byzantine text DID NOT make all the additions to the Greek text but rather the Alexandrian copyists removed them, why do the 140+ papyri manuscripts discovered in the 1930s—the 1950s date with decades of the originals, 200 years before the 4th-century Alexandrian Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and 350 years before the earliest 5th-century Byzantine text looks just like the Alexandrian of manuscripts?

(12) THE PREFACE to the 1611 KJV by the translators says the KJV was a revision of the 16th-century translations of Coverdale, Tyndale, the Great Bibles, and others. The translators said they expect new revisions of their KJV translation when more manuscripts come to light, and if there was an improved understanding of Hebrew and Greek, there should be revisions. Were those translators wrong?

(13) What do you do with the fact that the KJV has 1,000 different words that do not mean today what they meant in 1611, even having the opposite meaning? Our understanding of Hebrew and Greek has astronomically improved since 1611. There have been thousands of manuscripts discovered since 1611, and we now have 5,898 Greek NT manuscripts and numerous ones dating within decades of the originals. And the 1611 KJV translators said in the 1611 PREFACE that a new revision should be made upon such circumstances. So, why reject efforts to do so with the 1881 English Revised Version (ERV), the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV), the 1952 Revised Standard Version (RSV), the 1995 New American Standard Bible (NASB), the 2001 English Standard Version (ESV), and the forthcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV)? Aren’t these revisions simply following the instructions of the 1611 KJV translators? 

(14) Why is the earlier Byzantine text more similar to the Alexandrian text in that it differs from the later Byzantine text in roughly 3000 places?

How to Interpret the Bible-1

History of the Transmission of the New Testament Text by Bruce M. Metzger

In the earliest days of the Christian church, after an apostolic letter was sent to a congregation or an individual, or after a gospel was written to meet the needs of a particular reading public, copies would be made in order to extend its influence and to enable others to profit from it as well. It was inevitable that such handwritten copies would contain a greater or lesser number of differences in wording from the original. Most of the divergencies arose from quite accidental causes, such as mistaking a letter or a word for another that looked like it. If two neighboring lines of a manuscript began or ended with the same group of letters or if two similar words stood near each other in the same line, it was easy for the eye of the copyist to jump from the first group of letters to the second, and so for a portion of the text to be omitted (called homoeoarcton or homoeoteleuton, depending upon whether the similarity of letters occurred at the beginning or the ending of the words). Conversely the scribe might go back from the second to the first group and unwittingly copy one or more words twice (called dittography). Letters that were pronounced alike were sometimes confused (called itacism). Such accidental errors are almost unavoidable whenever lengthy passages are copied by hand, and would be especially likely to occur if the scribe had defective eyesight, or was interrupted while copying, or, because of fatigue, was less attentive to his task than he should have been.

Other divergencies in wording arose from deliberate attempts to smooth out grammatical or stylistic harshness, or to eliminate real or imagined obscurities of meaning in the text. Sometimes a copyist would substitute or would add what seemed to him to be a more appropriate word or form, perhaps derived from a parallel passage (called harmonization or assimilation). Thus, during the years immediately following the composition of the several documents that eventually were collected to form the New Testament, hundreds if not thousands of variant readings arose.

Still other kinds of divergencies originated when the New Testament documents were translated from Greek into other languages. During the second and third centuries, after Christianity had been introduced into Syria, into North Africa and Italy, into central and southern Egypt, both congregations and individual believers would naturally desire copies of the Scriptures in their own languages. And so versions in Syriac, in Latin, and in the several dialects of Coptic used in Egypt were produced. They were followed in the fourth and succeeding centuries by other versions in Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Nubian in the East, and in Gothic, Old Church Slavonic, and (much later) Anglo-Saxon in the West.

Young Christians

The accuracy of such translations was directly related to two factors: (a) the degree of familiarity possessed by the translator of both Greek and the language into which the translation was made, and (b) the amount of care he devoted to the task of making the translation. It is not surprising that very considerable divergencies in early versions developed, first, when different persons made different translations from what may have been slightly different forms of Greek text; and, second, when these renderings in one or another language were transmitted in handwritten copies by scribes who, familiar with a slightly different form of text (either a divergent Greek text or a divergent versional rendering), adjusted the new copies so as to accord with what they considered the preferable wording.

During the early centuries of the expansion of the Christian church, what are called “local texts” of the New Testament gradually developed. Newly established congregations in and near a large city, such as Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Carthage, or Rome, were provided with copies of the Scriptures in the form that was current in that area. As additional copies were made, the number of special readings and renderings would be both conserved and, to some extent, increased, so that eventually a type of text grew up that was more or less peculiar to that locality. Today it is possible to identify the type of text preserved in New Testament manuscripts by comparing their characteristic readings with the quotations of those passages in the writings of Church Fathers who lived in or near the chief ecclesiastical centers.

At the same time the distinctiveness of a local text tended to become diluted and mixed with other types of text. A manuscript of the Gospel of Mark copied in Alexandria, for example, and taken later to Rome would doubtless influence to some extent copyists transcribing the form of the text of Mark heretofore current at Rome. On the whole, however, during the earliest centuries the tendencies to develop and preserve a particular type of text prevailed over the tendencies leading to a mixture of texts. Thus there grew up several distinctive kinds of New Testament text, the most important of which are the following.

The Alexandrian text, which Westcott and Hort called the Neutral text (a question-begging title), is usually considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original. Characteristics of the Alexandrian text are brevity and austerity. That is, it is generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not exhibit the degree of grammatical and stylistic polishing that is characteristic of the Byzantine type of text. Until recently the two chief witnesses to the Alexandrian text were codex Vaticanus (B) and codex Sinaiticus (א), parchment manuscripts dating from about the middle of the fourth century. With the acquisition, however, of the Bodmer Papyri, particularly 𝔓66 and 𝔓75, both copied about the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, evidence is now available that the Alexandrian type of text goes back to an archetype that must be dated early in the second century. The Sahidic and Bohairic versions frequently contain typically Alexandrian readings.

The so-called Western text, which was widely current in Italy and Gaul as well as in North Africa and elsewhere (including Egypt), can also be traced back to the second century. It was used by Marcion, Tatian, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian. Its presence in Egypt is shown by the testimony of 𝔓38 (about a.d. 300) and 𝔓48 (about the end of the third century). The most important Greek manuscripts that present a Western type of text are codex Bezae (D) of the fifth century (containing the Gospels and Acts), codex Claromontanus (D) of the sixth century (containing the Pauline epistles), and, for Mark 1:1 to 5:30, codex Washingtonianus (W) of the fifth century. Likewise the Old Latin versions are noteworthy witnesses to a Western type of text; these fall into three main groups, the African, Italian, and Hispanic forms of Old Latin texts.

The chief characteristic of Western readings is fondness for paraphrase. Words, clauses, and even whole sentences are freely changed, omitted, or inserted. Sometimes the motive appears to have been harmonization, while at other times it was the enrichment of the narrative by the inclusion of traditional or apocryphal material. Some readings involve quite trivial alterations for which no special reason can be assigned. One of the puzzling features of the Western text (which generally is longer than the other forms of text) is that at the end of Luke and in a few other places in the New Testament certain Western witnesses omit words and passages that are present in other forms of text, including the Alexandrian. Although at the close of the last century certain scholars were disposed to regard these shorter readings as original (Westcott and Hort called them “Western non-interpolations”), since the acquisition of the Bodmer Papyri many scholars today are inclined to regard them as aberrant readings (see the Note on Western Non-Interpolations, pp. 164–166).

In the book of Acts the problems raised by the Western text become most acute, for the Western text of Acts is nearly ten percent longer than the form that is commonly regarded to be the original text of that book. For this reason the present volume devotes proportionately more space to variant readings in Acts than to those in any other New Testament book, and a special Introduction to the textual phenomena in Acts is provided (see pp. 222–236).

An Eastern form of text, which was formerly called the Caesarean text, is preserved, to a greater or lesser extent, in several Greek manuscripts (including Θ, 565, 700) and in the Armenian and Georgian versions. The text of these witnesses is characterized by a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings. Although recent research has tended to question the existence of a specifically Caesarean text-type, the individual manuscripts formerly considered to be members of the group remain important witnesses in their own right.

Another Eastern type of text, current in and near Antioch, is preserved today chiefly in Old Syriac witnesses, namely the Sinaitic and the Curetonian manuscripts of the Gospels and in the quotations of Scripture contained in the works of Aphraates and Ephraem.

The Byzantine text, otherwise called the Syrian text (so Westcott and Hort), the Koine text (so von Soden), the Ecclesiastical text (so Lake), and the Antiochian text (so Ropes), is, on the whole, the latest of the several distinctive types of text of the New Testament. It is characterized chiefly by lucidity and completeness. The framers of this text sought to smooth away any harshness of language, to combine two or more divergent readings into one expanded reading (called conflation), and to harmonize divergent parallel passages. This conflated text, produced perhaps at Antioch in Syria, was taken to Constantinople, whence it was distributed widely throughout the Byzantine Empire. It is best represented today by codex Alexandrinus (in the Gospels; not in Acts, the Epistles, or Revelation), the later uncial manuscripts, and the great mass of minuscule manuscripts. Thus, except for an occasional manuscript that happened to preserve an earlier form of text, during the period from about the sixth or seventh century down to the invention of printing with moveable type (a.d. 1450–56), the Byzantine form of text was generally regarded as the authoritative form of text and was the one most widely circulated and accepted.

After Gutenberg’s press made the production of books more rapid and therefore cheaper than was possible through copying by hand, it was the debased Byzantine text that became the standard form of the New Testament in printed editions. This unfortunate situation was not altogether unexpected, for the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that were most readily available to early editors and printers were those that contained the corrupt Byzantine text.

The first published edition of the printed Greek Testament, issued at Basel in 1516, was prepared by Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch humanist scholar. Since Erasmus could find no manuscript that contained the entire Greek Testament, he utilized several for the various divisions of the New Testament. For the greater part of his text he relied on two rather inferior manuscripts now in the university library at Basel, one of the Gospels and one of the Acts and Epistles, both dating from about the twelfth century. Erasmus compared them with two or three others, and entered occasional corrections in the margins or between the lines of the copy given to the printer. For the book of Revelation he had but one manuscript, dating from the twelfth century, which he had borrowed from his friend Reuchlin. As it happened, this copy lacked the final leaf, which had contained the last six verses of the book. For these verses Erasmus depended upon Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, translating this version into Greek. As would be expected from such a procedure, here and there in Erasmus’s reconstruction of these verses there are several readings that have never been found in any Greek manuscript—but which are still perpetuated today in printings of the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament (see the comment on Rev. 22.19). In other parts of the New Testament Erasmus also occasionally introduced into his Greek text material derived from the current form of the Latin Vulgate (see the comment on Acts 9.5–6).

So much in demand was Erasmus’s Greek Testament that the first edition was soon exhausted and a second was called for. It was this second edition of 1519, in which some (but not nearly all) of the many typographical blunders of the first edition had been corrected, that Martin Luther and William Tyndale used as the basis of their translations of the New Testament into German (1522) and into English (1525).

In the years following many other editors and printers issued a variety of editions of the Greek Testament, all of which reproduced more or less the same type of text, namely that preserved in the later Byzantine manuscripts. Even when it happened that an editor had access to older manuscripts—as when Theodore Beza, the friend and successor of Calvin at Geneva, acquired the fifth-century manuscript that goes under his name today, as well as the sixth-century codex Claromontanus—he made relatively little use of them, for they deviated too far from the form of text that had become standard in the later copies.

Noteworthy early editions of the Greek New Testament include two issued by Robert Etienne (commonly known under the Latin form of his name, Stephanus), the famous Parisian printer who later moved to Geneva and threw in his lot with the Protestants of that city. In 1550 Stephanus published at Paris his third edition, the editio Regia, a magnificent folio edition. It is the first printed Greek Testament to contain a critical apparatus; on the inner margins of its pages Stephanus entered variant readings from fourteen Greek manuscripts, as well as readings from another printed edition, the Complutensian Polyglot. Stephanus’s fourth edition (Geneva, 1551), which contains two Latin versions (the Vulgate and that of Erasmus), is noteworthy because in it for the first time the text of the New Testament was divided into numbered verses.

Theodore Beza published no fewer than nine editions of the Greek Testament between 1565 and 1604, and a tenth edition appeared posthumously in 1611. The importance of Beza’s work lies in the extent to which his editions tended to popularize and stereotype what came to be called the Textus Receptus. The translators of the Authorized or King James Bible of 1611 made large use of Beza’s editions of 1588–89 and 1598.

The term Textus Receptus, as applied to the text of the New Testament, originated in an expression used by Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevir (Elzevier), who were printers in Leiden. The preface to their second edition of the Greek Testament (1633) contains the sentence: Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus (“Therefore you [dear reader] have the text now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted”). In one sense this proud claim of the Elzevirs on behalf of their edition seemed to be justified, for their edition was, in most respects, not different from the approximately 160 other editions of the printed Greek Testament that had been issued since Erasmus’s first published edition of 1516. In a more precise sense, however, the Byzantine form of the Greek text, reproduced in all early printed editions, was disfigured, as was mentioned above, by the accumulation over the centuries of myriads of scribal alterations, many of minor significance but some of considerable consequence.


It was the corrupt Byzantine form of text that provided the basis for almost all translations of the New Testament into modern languages down to the nineteenth century. During the eighteenth century scholars assembled a great amount of information from many Greek manuscripts, as well as from versional and patristic witnesses. But, except for three or four editors who timidly corrected some of the more blatant errors of the Textus Receptus, this debased form of the New Testament text was reprinted in edition after edition. It was only in the first part of the nineteenth century (1831) that a German classical scholar, Karl Lachmann, ventured to apply to the New Testament the criteria that he had used in editing texts of the classics. Subsequently other critical editions appeared, including those prepared by Constantin von Tischendorf, whose eighth edition (1869–72) remains a monumental thesaurus of variant readings, and the influential edition prepared by two Cambridge scholars, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort (1881). It is the latter edition that was taken as the basis for the present United Bible Societies’ edition. During the twentieth century, with the discovery of several New Testament manuscripts much older than any that had hitherto been available, it has become possible to produce editions of the New Testament that approximate ever more closely to what is regarded as the wording of the original documents. – Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xvii–xxiv.

In Christianity, the term Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”) refers to all printed editions of the Greek New Testament from Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum omne[1] (1516) to the 1633 Elzevir edition. It was the most commonly used text type for Protestant denominations.[2]

“A text therefore you have, that has now by everyone been received [i.e. accepted, admitted]” (emphasis added): the words from the Elzevier 1633 edition, in Latin, from which the term “Textus Receptus” was derived.

The biblical Textus Receptus constituted the translation-base for the original German Luther Bible,[3] the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale,[4] the King James Version,[5] the Spanish Reina-Valera translation,[6] the Czech Bible of Kralice,[7] and most Reformation-era New Testament translations[8] throughout Western and Central Europe. The text originated with the first printed Greek New Testament, published in 1516, a work undertaken in Basel by the Dutch Catholic[9] scholar, priest, and monk Desiderius Erasmus.[10]

The term Textus Receptus can also designate the text of a literary work which is generally accepted.


History of the Textus Receptus

Erasmus had been working for years on two projects: a collation of Greek texts and a fresh Latin New Testament. In 1512, he began his work on the Latin New Testament. He collected all the Vulgate[11] manuscripts that he could find to create a critical edition. Then, he polished the Latin, declaring, “It is only fair that Paul should address the Romans in somewhat better Latin.”[12] In the earlier phases of the project, he never mentioned a Greek text: “My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense.”[13]

The last page of the Erasmian New Testament (Rev 22:8-21)

While his intentions for publishing a fresh Latin translation are clear, it is less clear why he included the Greek text. Some speculate that he intended on producing a critical Greek text or that he wanted to beat the Complutensian Polyglot[14] into print, but there is little evidence to support it. Rather, his motivation may have been simpler: he included the Greek text to prove the superiority of his Latin version. He wrote, “There remains the New Testament translated by me, with the Greek facing, and notes on it by me.”[15] He further demonstrated the reason for the inclusion of the Greek text when defending his work: “But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep.”[16] Erasmus’ new work was published by Froben of Basel in 1516, becoming the first published Greek New Testament, the Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum. He used manuscripts: 1, 1rK, 2e, 2ap, 4ap, 7, 817.[17] The second edition used the more familiar term Testamentum instead of Instrumentum, and eventually became a major source for Luther’s German translation. For the second edition (1519), Erasmus also used Minuscule 3.[18]


Typographical errors attributed to the rush to complete the work abounded in the published text. Erasmus also lacked a complete copy of the Book of Revelation, and translated the last six verses back into Greek from the Latin Vulgate to finish his edition. Erasmus adjusted the text in many places to correspond with readings found in the Vulgate or as quoted in the Church Fathers;[19] consequently, although the Textus Receptus is classified by scholars as a late Byzantine text,[20] it differs in nearly 2,000 readings from the standard form of that text-type, as represented by the “Majority Text[21] of Hodges and Farstad (Wallace, 1989). The edition was a sell-out commercial success and was reprinted in 1519, with most but not all of the typographical errors corrected.[22]

Erasmus had been studying Greek New Testament manuscripts for many years, in the Netherlands, France, England and Switzerland, noting their many variants, but had only six Greek manuscripts immediately accessible to him in Basel.[23] They all dated from the 12th Century or later, and only one came from outside the mainstream Byzantine tradition. Consequently, most modern scholars consider his text to be of dubious quality.[24]

With the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek text (1522) the Comma Johanneum[25] was included because “Erasmus chose to avoid any occasion for slander rather than persisting in philological accuracy” even though he remained “convinced that it did not belong to the original text of l John.” [9] Popular demand for Greek New Testaments led to a flurry of further authorized and unauthorized editions in the early sixteenth century, almost all of which were based on Erasmus’ work and incorporated his particular readings but typically also making a number of minor changes of their own.

The overwhelming success of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament completely overshadowed the Latin text upon which he had focused. Many other publishers produced their own versions of the Greek New Testament over the next several centuries. Rather than doing their own critical work, most just relied on the well-known Erasmian text.

4th edition of New Testament of Robert Estienne

Robert Estienne,[26] known as Stephanus (1503–1559), a printer from Paris, edited the Greek New Testament four times, in 1546, 1549, 1550 and 1551, the last in Geneva. The first two are called O mirificam; the third edition is a masterpiece of typographical skill. It has critical apparatus in which quoted manuscripts referred to the text. Manuscripts were marked by symbols (from α to ις). He used Polyglotta Complutensis (symbolized by α) and 15 Greek manuscripts. Among them are included Codex Bezae,[27] Codex Regius,[28] minuscules 4, 5, 6, 2817, 8, 9. The first step towards modern textual criticism was made. The third edition is known as the Editio Regia. The edition of 1551 contains the Latin translation of Erasmus[29] and the Vulgate. It is not nearly as fine as the other three and is exceedingly rare. It was in this edition that the division of the New Testament into verses was for the first time introduced.

The third edition of Estienne was used by Theodore Beza[30] (1519–1605), who edited it nine times between 1565 and 1604. In the critical apparatus of the second edition, he used the Codex Claromontanus[31] and the Syriac New Testament published by Emmanuel Tremellius in 1569. Codex Bezae was twice referenced (as Codex Bezae and β’ of Estienne).


The origin of the term Textus Receptus comes from the publisher’s preface to the 1633 edition produced by Bonaventure[32] and his nephew Abraham Elzevir[33] who were partners in a printing business at Leiden. The preface reads, Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus (“so you hold the text, now received by all, in which (is) nothing corrupt”). The two words textum and receptum were modified from the accusative[34] to the nominative[35] case to render textus receptus. Over time, that term has been retroactively applied to Erasmus’ editions, as his work served as the basis of the others.[36]

Textual Criticism

John Mill[37] (1645–1707) collated textual variants from 82 Greek manuscripts. In his Novum Testamentum Graecum, cum lectionibus variantibus MSS (Oxford 1707) he reprinted the unchanged text of the Editio Regia, but in the index he enumerated 30,000 textual variants.[38]

Shortly after Mill published his edition, Daniel Whitby[39] (1638–1725) attacked his work by asserting that the text of the New Testament had never been corrupted and thus equated autographs with the Textus Receptus. He considered the 30,000 variants in Mill’s edition a danger to Holy Scripture and called for defending the Textus Receptus against these variants.[40]

Johann Albrecht Bengel[41] (1687–1752) edited in 1725 Prodromus Novi Testamenti Graeci Rectè Cautèque Adornandi and in 1734 Novum Testamentum Graecum. Bengel divided manuscripts into families and subfamilies and favoured the principle of lectio difficilior potior[42] (“the more difficult reading is the stronger”).

Johann Jakob Wettstein’s[43] apparatus was fuller than that of any previous editor. He introduced the practice of indicating the ancient manuscripts[44] by capital Roman letters and the later manuscripts[45] by Arabic numerals. He published in Basel Prolegomena ad Novi Testamenti Graeci (1731).

  1. J. Griesbach[46](1745–1812) combined the principles of Bengel and Wettstein. He enlarged the Apparatus by considering more citations from the Fathers,[47] and various versions, such as the Gothic, the Armenian, and the Philoxenian.[48] Griesbach distinguished a Western, an Alexandrian, and a Byzantine Recension.[49]Christian Frederick Matthaei[50] (1744–1811) was a Griesbach opponent.

Karl Lachmann[51] (1793–1851) was the first who broke with the Textus Receptus. His object was to restore the text to the form in which it had been read in the Ancient Church in about AD 380. He used the oldest known Greek and Latin manuscripts.

Constantin von Tischendorf’s[52] Editio Octava Critica Maior[53] was based on Codex Sinaiticus.

Westcott and Hort published The New Testament in the Original Greek[54] in 1881 in which they rejected what they considered to be the dated and inadequate Textus Receptus. Their text is based mainly on Codex Vaticanus[55] in the Gospels.[15]

4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2

Defense of the Textus Receptus

Frederick von Nolan, a 19th-century historian, and Greek and Latin scholar, spent 28 years attempting to trace the Textus Receptus to apostolic origins. He was an ardent advocate of the supremacy of the Textus Receptus over all other editions of the Greek New Testament, and he argued that the first editors of the printed Greek New Testament intentionally selected those texts because of their superiority and disregarded other texts, which represented other text-types because of their inferiority.

It is not to be conceived that the original editors of the [Greek] New Testament were wholly destitute of plan in selecting those manuscripts, out of which they were to form the text of their printed editions. In the sequel it will appear, that they were not altogether ignorant of two classes of manuscripts; one of which contains the text which we have adopted from them; and the other that text which has been adopted by M. Griesbach.[56]

Regarding Erasmus, Nolan stated:

Nor let it be conceived in disparagement of the great undertaking of Erasmus, that he was merely fortuitously right. Had he barely undertaken to perpetuate the tradition on which he received the sacred text he would have done as much as could be required of him, and more than sufficient to put to shame the puny efforts of those who have vainly labored to improve upon his design. […] With respect to Manuscripts, it is indisputable that he was acquainted with every variety which is known to us, having distributed them into two principal classes, one of which corresponds with the Complutensian edition, the other with the Vatican manuscript. And he has specified the positive grounds on which he received the one and rejected the other.[57]

The Textus Receptus was defended by John William Burgon[58] in his The Revision Revised (1881) and also by Edward Miller in A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1886). Burgon supported his arguments with the opinion that the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Ephraemi were older than the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus;[59] and also that the Peshitta translation into Syriac (which supports the Byzantine Text) originated in the 2nd century. Miller’s arguments in favor of readings in the Textus Receptus were of the same kind.[60] However, both Burgon and Miller believed that although the Textus Receptus was to be preferred to the Alexandrian Text, it still required to be corrected in certain readings against the manuscript tradition of the Byzantine text. In that judgement, they are criticized by Edward F. Hills, who argues that the principle that God provides truth through scriptural revelation also must imply that God must ensure a preserved transmission of the correct revealed text, continuing into the Reformation era of biblical translation and printing. For Hills, the task of biblical scholarship is to identify the particular line of preserved transmission through which God is acting; a line that he sees in the specific succession of manuscript copying, textual correction and printing, which culminated in the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible. Hills argues that the principle of providentially-preserved transmission guarantees that the printed Textus Receptus must be the closest text to the Greek autographs and so he rejects readings in the Byzantine Majority Text where they are not maintained in the Textus Receptus. He goes so far as to conclude that Erasmus must have been providentially guided when he introduced Latin Vulgate readings into his Greek text;[61] and even argues for the authenticity of the Comma Johanneum.[62]

Hence the true text is found not only in the text of the majority of the New Testament manuscripts but more especially in the Textus Receptus and in faithful translations of the Textus Receptus, such as the King James Version. In short, the Textus Receptus represents the God-guided revision of the majority text.[63]

Hills was the first textual critic to defend Textus Receptus. Although others have defended it per se, they are not acknowledged textual critics (such as Theodore Letis and David Hocking) or their works are not on a scholarly level (such as Terence H. Brown and D. A. Waite).[64]

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Relationship to Byzantine Text

The Textus Receptus was mainly established on a basis of manuscripts of the Byzantine text-type,[65] also called ‘Majority text’, and usually is identified with it by its followers. However, in addition, over many years, Erasmus had extensively annotated New Testament citations in Early Fathers,[66] such as Augustine[67] and Ambrose,[68] whose biblical quotations more frequently conformed to the Western text-type;[69] and he drew extensively on these citations (and also on the Vulgate) in support of his choice of Greek readings.

  1. H. A. Scrivener[70](1813–1891) remarked that at Matt. 22:28; 23:25; 27:52; 28:3, 4, 19, 20; Mark 7:18, 19, 26; 10:1; 12:22; 15:46; Luke 1:16, 61; 2:43; 9:1, 15; 11:49; John 1:28; 10:8; 13:20, Erasmus followed the readings of Minuscule 1[71](Caesarean text-type[72]).[73] Scrivener showed that some texts were incorporated from the Vulgate (for example, Acts 9:6; Rev. 17:4-8). Daniel B. Wallace[74] enumerated that in 1,838 places (1,005 are translatable) the Textus Receptus differs from the Byzantine text-type.[75]

Minuscule 1rK,[76] Erasmus’s only text source for the Book of Revelation, is a manuscript of the Andreas[77] commentary and not a continuous text manuscript. It was not always easy for Erasmus to distinguish this manuscript’s commentary text from its biblical source text. The Andreas text is recognised as related to the Byzantine text in Revelation; but most textual critics nevertheless consider it to be a distinct text-type.

Dean Burgon,[78] a great influential supporter of the Textus Receptus, declared that the Textus Receptus needs correction.[26] He suggested 150 corrections in the Textus Receptus Gospel of Matthew alone.[27]

Matthew 10:8 it has Alexandrian reading νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε (raise the dead) omitted by the Byzantine text.[28][29]

Acts 20:28 it has Alexandrian reading τοῦ Θεοῦ (of God) instead of Byzantine τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ (of the Lord and God).

Textus Receptus vs Alexandrian Text

B. G. Wilkinson of Washington Missionary College[37] writes in his book Truth Triumphant:

The Protestant denominations are built upon that manuscript of the Greek New Testament, sometimes called Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It is that Greek New Testament from which the writings of the apostles in Greek have been translated into English, German, Dutch and other languages. During the dark ages, the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. It was restored to Christendom by the labors of that great scholar, Erasmus. It is altogether too little known that the real editor of the Received Text was Lucian. None of Lucian’s enemies fails to credit him with this work. Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament. However, Lucian’s day was an age of apostasy, when a flood of depravations was systematically attempting to devastate both the Bible manuscripts and Bible theology. Origen, of the Alexandrian college, made his editions and commentaries of the Bible a secure retreat for all errors, and deformed them with philosophical speculations introducing casuistry and lying.

John William Burgon[38] opposed what he called the “two irresponsible scholars of the University of Cambridge” (Brooke Foss Westcott and Professor Fenton John Anthony Hort) and their revised Greek Text.

Herman C. Hoskier:[39]

the text printed by Westcott and Hort has been accepted as “the true text”, and grammars, works on the synoptic problem, works on higher criticism, and others have been grounded on this text.

J. H. Greenlee[40] of Asbury Theological Seminary:[41]

The textual theories of W–H [Westcott & Hort] underlies virtually all subsequent work in NT textual criticism.

D. A. Carson:[42]

The theories of Westcott and Hort … [are] almost universally accepted today. … Subsequent textual critical work [since 1881] accepted the theories of Westcott and Hort. The vast majority of evangelical scholars hold that the basic textual theories of Westcott and Hort were right and the church stands greatly in their debt.

Wilbur N. Pickering:

The two most popular manual editions of the text today, Nestles-Aland and U.B.S. (United Bible Society) really very little from the W–H [Westcott & Hort] text.

Edward D. Andrews:

The current Nestle-Aland edition, in its 28th edition, abbreviated NA28, is 99.5 percent the same as Westcott and Hort’s 1881 edition, even with an enormous amount of manuscript discoveries and hundreds of world-renowned textual scholars that take us back to the second and third centuries C.E. evidence in our quest to ascertain the original wording of the original text. Thus, in 138 years as of 2019, so little change evidences the labors of Westcott and Hort to be nothing short of miraculous.

Arguments for Textus Receptus

KJV Onlyists often criticize how new versions do not feature some verses that are found in the KJV. For example, some of the verses in John 5 and John 7 are left out from NLT, NASB, ESV, and UASV versions.

1 John 5:7

Most new versions do not have the Johannine Comma[43] (“the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”), because it is not found in any of the earliest manuscripts. However KJV Onlyists often defend this reading by quoting early church fathers, who sometimes used phrases similar to the reading. This reading is also defended by claiming corruption of the early texts, such as the Sinaiticus. KJV Onlyists have also claimed that the absence of the reading causes a grammatical error in the Greek.

For example, Cyprian seemed to quote the comma, and this has been used by KJV Onlyists to defend the verse:

The Lord says, “I and the Father are one;” and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one.”

Acts 8:37

Most new versions do not have Acts 8:37 because it is not found in the earliest manuscripts. KJV Onlyists will also defend the verse by using quotes from early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, who seemed to know the verse, which predate the earliest manuscripts available:

[Philip declared] that this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him; as did also the believing eunuch himself: and, immediately requesting to be baptized, he said, “I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.”

— Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.12.8


The KJV translates ᾅδης (hades) and Γέεννα (Gehenna) both as “hell,” unlike modern versions of the bible which translate ᾅδης as ‘Hades.’ KJV Onlyists criticize that the idea of Hades being separate from hell is an idea from Paganism[44] and not biblical.


EXCURSION: Setting Straight the Indefensible
Defenders of the Textus Receptus

While Karl Lachmann was the one to overthrow the Textus Receptus, it would be B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort in 1881 who would put the nails in the coffin of the Textus Receptus. The 1881 British Revised Version (RV), also known as the English Revised Version (ERV) of the King James Version, and the 1881 New Testament Greek text of Westcott and Hort did not sit well with the King-James-Version-Only* advocate John William Burgon (1813–1888), E. H. A. Scrivener (1813–1891), and Edward Miller (1825–1901), the latter authoring A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1886). We do not have the space nor the time to offer a full-scale argument against the King James Version Only and the Textus Receptus Only groups. However, we will address what amounts to their main arguments. This should help the reader to see how desperate and weak their arguments are.

* A connected group of Christians promotes the King James Only movement. It is their position that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations, and that all English translations based on the Westcott and Hort text of 1881 (foundation text of UBS5 and NA28) are corrupt due to the influence of the Alexandrian Greek manuscripts.

Bible scholar David Fuller brings us the first argument in his book, Which Bible, where he writes, “Burgon regarded the good state of preservation of B (Codex Vaticanus) and ALEPH (Codex Sinaiticus) in spite of their exceptional age as proof not of their goodness but of their badness. If they had been good manuscripts, they would have been read to pieces long ago. We suspect that these two manuscripts are indebted, for their preservation, solely to their ascertained evil character …. Had B (Vaticanus) and ALEPH (Sinaiticus) been copies of average purity, they must long since have shared the inevitable fate of books which are freely used and highly prized; namely, they would have fallen into decadence and disappeared from sight. Thus, the fact that B and ALEPH are so old is a point against them, not something in their favor. It shows that the Church rejected them and did not read them. Otherwise, they would have worn out and disappeared through much reading.”

Thus, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, leading representatives of the Alexandrian family of manuscripts, are in such great condition because they are full of errors, alterations, additions, and deletions, so they would have had little chance of wear and tear, never having been used by true believers. This argument is simply the weakest and most desperate that this author has ever heard. First, many of the papyrus Alexandrian manuscripts are in terrible shape, some being 200 years older than codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which would mean that they must have been read very often by true believers. Second, a number of old Byzantine and Western manuscripts are in good condition as well, which by this argument would indicate that they are also guilty of never having been read because they were full of errors, alterations, additions, and deletions, so they would have had little chance of wear and tear. Third, the size of Sinaiticus with the Old Testament, the New Testament, and apocryphal books, among other books would have weighed about 50+ lbs. This book was not read in the same manner that Christians would read their Bibles today. The same would be true of Codex Vaticanus as well. Fourth, both were written on extremely expensive and durable calfskin. Fifth, the period of copying the Byzantine text-type was c. 330 – 1453 C.E. and it progressed into the most corrupt period for the Church (priests to the popes: stealing, sexual sins, torture, and murder); so much so, it ends with the Reformation. Thus, the idea of true believers wearing out manuscripts is ludicrous. Sixth, the Bible was locked up in Latin. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, produced in the 5th century to make the Bible accessible to all, became a means of keeping God’s Word hidden. Almost all Catholic priests were biblically illiterate, so one wonders who these so-called true believers were and how were they reading God’s Word to the point of wearing it out. For centuries, manuscripts were preserved, even when the Catholic priests could no longer understand them.

Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener in their second argument maintained that the Byzantine text was used by the church for far more centuries, which proved its integrity, as God would never allow the church to use a corrupt text. B. F. Westcott wrote, “A corrupted Bible is a sign of a corrupt church, a Bible mutilated or imperfect, a sign of a church not yet raised to complete perfection of the truth.” (The Bible in the Church, 1864, 1875) The reader can determine for himself or herself if it is mere coincidence that as the church grew corrupt, the most corrupt manuscript of all grew right along with it for a thousand years.

As was stated earlier, Lucian produced the Syrian text, renamed the Byzantine text. About 290 C.E., some of his associates made various subsequent alterations, which deliberately combined elements from earlier types of text, and this text was adopted about 380 C.E. At Constantinople, it became the predominant form of the New Testament throughout the Greek-speaking world. The text was also edited, with harmonized parallel accounts, grammar corrections, and abrupt transitions modified to produce a smooth text. This was not a faithfully accurate copy. As we had just learned earlier under the corruption period, after Constantine legalized Christianity, giving it equal status with the pagan religions, it was much easier for those possessing manuscripts to have them copied. In fact, Constantine had ordered 50 copies of the whole of the Bible for the church in Constantinople. Over the next four centuries or so, the Byzantine Empire and the Greek-speaking church were the dominant factors as to why this area saw their text becoming the standard. It had nothing to do with it being the better text, i.e., the text that more accurately reflected the original. From the eighth century forward, the corrupt Byzantine text was the standard text and had displaced all others; it makes up about 95 percent of all manuscripts that we have of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener in their third argument continued with the belief that it would be foolish to set aside thousands of manuscript witnesses (the Byzantine text-type) for a few supposedly early manuscript witnesses (the Alexandrian text-type). But in truth, the majority of anything does not automatically mean that it is the best or even correct. Today, we can easily produce thousands of copies of a faulty manuscript with a machine, and every copy displays the same errors. If we were to hand-copy the same manuscript a thousand times, obvious errors probably would be corrected in many copies, but new errors would be introduced, many of them probably the result of a well-intended “correction.” A textual criticism principle that has been derived from this observation is that manuscripts should be weighed (i.e., for value), not counted.

In their fourth argument, Burgon, Miller, and Scrivener maintained that the Byzantine text-type was actually older and superior to the Alexandrian text-type. To refute this, we can go back to our patristic quotations, which reveal the Alexandrian text-type as earlier than the Byzantine text-type. Greenlee writes, “The fallacy in this argument was that the antiquity of a ‘Syrian’ (i.e., Byzantine) reading could be shown only when the Byzantine text was supported by one of the pre-Byzantine texts, which proved nothing in favor of the Byzantine, since WH maintained that Syrian readings were largely derived from the pre-Syrian texts. That the traditional text was intrinsically superior was more nearly a matter of subjective opinion, but extensive comparison of text-types has left most scholars convinced that the late text [Byzantine] is in general inferior, not superior.” – (Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism 1995, 76-7)


Metzger (whom I cite at length) writes,

The Alexandrian text, which Westcott and Hort called the Neutral text (a question-begging title), is usually considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original. Characteristics of the Alexandrian text are brevity and austerity. That is, it is generally shorter than the text of other forms, and it does not exhibit the degree of grammatical and stylistic polishing that is characteristic of the Byzantine type of text. Until recently the two chief witnesses to the Alexandrian text were codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (א), parchment manuscripts dating from about the middle of the fourth century. With the acquisition, however, of the Bodmer Papyri, particularly P66 and P75, both copied about the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, evidence is now available that the Alexandrian type of text goes back to an archetype that must be dated early in the second century. The Sahidic and Bohairic versions frequently contain typically Alexandrian readings …. It was the corrupt Byzantine form of text that provided the basis for almost all translations of the New Testament into modern languages down to the nineteenth century. During the eighteenth century, scholars assembled a great amount of information from many Greek manuscripts, as well as from versional and patristic witnesses. But, except for three or four editors who timidly corrected some of the more blatant errors of the Textus Receptus, this debased form of the New Testament text was reprinted in edition after edition. It was only in the first part of the nineteenth century (1831) that a German classical scholar, Karl Lachmann, ventured to apply to the New Testament the criteria that he had used in editing texts of the classics. Subsequently, other critical editions appeared, including those prepared by Constantin von Tischendorf, whose eighth edition (1869–72) remains a monumental thesaurus of variant readings, and the influential edition prepared by two Cambridge scholars, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort (1881). It is the latter edition that was taken as the basis for the present United Bible Societies’ edition. During the twentieth century, with the discovery of several New Testament manuscripts much older than any that had hitherto been available, it has become possible to produce editions of the New Testament that approximate ever more closely to what is regarded as the wording of the original documents. – Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xx, xxv.

Greek NT MSS Separated Into Families

We have textual traditions, or families of texts, which grew up in a certain region. For example, we have the Alexandrian text-type, which Westcott and Hort called the Neutral text that came from Egypt. Then, there is the Western text-type, which came from Italy and Gaul as well as North Africa and elsewhere. There was also the Caesarean text-type, which came from Caesarea and is characterized by a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings (B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 1994, Page xxi). The Byzantine text-type, also called Majority Text, came from Constantinople (i.e., Byzantium).

In short, early Christianity gave rise to what are known as “local texts.” Christian congregations in and near cities, such as Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Carthage, or Rome, were making copies of the Scriptures in a form that would become known as their text-type. In other words, manuscripts grew up in certain areas, just like a human family, becoming known as that text-type, having their own characteristics. In reality, it is not as simple as this because there are mixtures of text-types within each text-type. However, generally, each text-type resembles itself more than it does the others. It should also be remembered that most of our extant manuscripts are identical in more than seventy-five percent of their texts. Thus, it is the twenty-five percent of variation that identifies a manuscript as a certain text-type, i.e., what one could call “agreement in error.”

Therefore, the process of classifying manuscripts for centuries was to label them a certain text-type, such as Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean, or Byzantine. However, this practice is fading because technology has allowed the textual scholar to carry out a more comprehensive comparison of all readings in all manuscripts, supposedly blurring the traditional classifications. The new method primarily responsible is the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). In this method, an “initial text” is reconstructed that is considered “relatively close to the form of the text from which the textual tradition of a New Testament book has originated.” (Stephen C. Carlson)

The Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM)

The original New Testament authors were inspired by God, and error-free. The copyists were not inspired, and errors did show up in the texts as a result. These errors help us to place these texts into certain families. Very early in the transmission process, copies of the originals worked their way to these four major religious centers and the copying traditions that distinguish these text-types began to take place. The Alexandrian text-type is the earliest and reflects the work of professional and semi-professional scribes who treated the copying process with respect. The text is simple, without added material, and lacking the grammatical, stylistic polish sometimes imposed by Byzantine scribes. The Western text-type is early second century. These manuscripts reflect the work of scribes that were given to paraphrasing. Scribes freely changed words, phrases, clauses, and whole sentences as they felt it necessary. At times, they were simply trying to harmonize the text, or even add apocryphal material to spice it up. The Caesarean text-type is a mixture of Western and Alexandrian readings. The Byzantine text-type shows the hand of scribes who, as noted, attempted to smooth out both grammar and style, often with a view to making the text easier to understand. These scribes also combined differing readings from other manuscripts that contained variants. The period of 50 to 350 C.E. certainly saw its share of errors (variants) entering into the text, but the era of corruption is the period when the Byzantine text would become the standard text.


The Corruption Period

To round out our understanding of this early history, we need at least a short overview of what happened after 350 C.E. In short, the rise of the Byzantine Empire gave rise to the Byzantine textAfter Constantine legalized Christianity, giving it equal status with the pagan religions, it was much easier to have biblical manuscripts copied. In fact, Constantine ordered 50 copies of the whole of the Bible for the church in Constantinople. Over the next four centuries or so, the Byzantine Empire and the Greek-speaking church were the dominant factors in making the Byzantine text the standard. It was not a matter of its being the better, i.e., more accurate text. From the eighth century forward, the Byzantine text had displaced all others.

After the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1455, it would be this Byzantine text which would become the first printed edition by way of Desiderius Erasmus in 1516. Thanks to an advertisement by the publishers it was referred to as the Textus Receptus, or the “Received Text.” Over the next four centuries, many textual scholars attempted to make minor changes to this text based on the development of the science of textual criticism, but to no real effect on its status as the Greek text of the church. Worse still, it would be this inferior text what would lay at the foundation of all English translations until the Revised English Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901. It was not until 1881 that two Cambridge scholars, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, replaced the Textus Receptus with their critical text. It is this critical edition of the Westcott and Hort text that is the foundation for most modern translations and all critical editions of the Greek New Testament, UBS5, and the NA28.

Desiderius Erasmus and the Greek Text

I WOULD have these words translated into all languages, so that not only Scots and Irish, but Turks and Saracens too might read them . . . I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows his plough, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey. (Clayton 2006, 230)

Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus penned those words in the early part of the 16th century. Like his English counterpart, William Tyndale, it was his greatest desire that God’s Word be widely translated and that even the plowboy would have access to it.

Much time has passed since the Reformation, and 98 percent of the world we live in today has access to the Bible. There is little wonder that the Bible has become the bestseller of all time. It has influenced people from all walks of life to fight for freedom and truth. This was especially true during the Reformation of Europe throughout the 16th century. These leaders were of great faith, courage, and strength, such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, while others, like Erasmus, were more subtle in the changes that they brought. Thus, it has been said of the Reformation that Martin Luther only opened the door to it after Erasmus picked the lock.

There is not a single historian of the period who would deny that Erasmus was a great scholar. Remarking on his character, the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “He had an unequaled talent for form, great journalistic gifts, a surpassing power of expression; for strong and moving discourse, keen irony, and covert sarcasm, he was unsurpassed.” (Vol. 5, p. 514) Consequently, when Erasmus went to see Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England, just before Erasmus revealed himself, More was so impressed with his exchange that he shortly said: “You are either Erasmus or the Devil.”

The wit of Erasmus was evidenced in a response that he gave to Frederick, elector of Saxony, who asked him what he thought about Martin Luther. Erasmus retorted, “Luther has committed two blunders; he has ventured to touch the crown of the pope and the bellies of the monks.” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature: Vol. 3 – p, 279) However, we must ask what type of influence did the Bible have on Erasmus, and, in turn, what did he do to affect its future? First, we will look at the early years of Erasmus’ life.


Erasmus’ Early Life

He was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1466. He was not a happy boy, living in a home as the illegitimate son of a Dutch priest. He was faced with the double tragedy of his mother’s death at seventeen, and his father shortly thereafter. His guardians ignored his desire to enter the university; instead, they sent him to the Augustinian monastery of Steyn. Erasmus gained vast knowledge of the Latin language, the classics as well as the Church Fathers. In time, this life was so detestable to him that he jumped at the opportunity, at the age of twenty-six, to become secretary to the bishop of Cambrai, Henry of Bergen, in France. This afforded him his chance to enter university studies in Paris. However, he was a sickly man, suffering from poor health throughout his entire life.

It was in 1499 that Erasmus was invited to visit England. It was there that he met Thomas More, John Colet, and other theologians in London, which fortified his resolution to apply himself to Biblical studies. In order to understand the Bible’s message better, he applied himself more fully in his study of Greek, soon being able to teach it to others. It was around this time that Erasmus penned a treatise entitled Handbook of the Christian Soldier, in which he advised the young Christian to study the Bible, saying: “There is nothing that you can believe with greater certitude than what you read in these writings.” (Erasmus and Dolan 1983, 37)

While trying to escape the plague and make a living in an economy that had bottomed worse than our 20th-century Great Depression, Erasmus found himself at Louvain, Belgium, in 1504. It was there that he fell in love with the study of textual criticism while visiting the Praemonstratensian Abbey of Parc near Louvain. Within the library, Erasmus discovered a manuscript of Italian scholar Lorenzo Valla: Annotations on the New Testament. Thereupon Erasmus commissioned to himself the task of restoring the original text of the Greek New Testament.

Erasmus moved on to Italy and subsequently pushed on to England once again. It is this trip that brought to mind his original meeting with Thomas More, meditating on the origin of More’s name (moros, Greek for “a fool”); he penned a satire which he called “Praise of Folly.” In this work, Erasmus treats the abstract quality “folly” as a person, and pictures it as encroaching in all aspects of life, but nowhere is folly more obvious than amid the theologians and clergy. This is his subtle way of exposing the abuses of the clergy. It is these abuses that had brought on the Reformation, which was now festering. “As to the popes,” he wrote, “if they claim to be the successors of the Apostles, they should consider that the same things are required of them as were practiced by their predecessors.” Instead of doing this, he perceived, they believe that “to teach the people is too laborious; to interpret the scripture is to invade the prerogative of the schoolmen; to pray is too idle.” There is little wonder that it was said of Erasmus that he had “a surpassing power of expression”! (Nichols 2006, Vol. 2, 6)


The First Greek Text

While teaching Greek at Cambridge University in England, Erasmus continued with his work of revising the text of the Greek New Testament. One of his friends, Martin Dorpius, attempted to persuade him that the Latin did not need to be corrected from the Greek. Dorpius made the same error in reasoning that the “King James Only” people make, arguing: “For is it likely that the whole Catholic Church would have erred for so many centuries, seeing that she has always used and sanctioned this translation? Is it probable that so many holy fathers, so many consummate scholars would have longed to convey a warning to a friend?”  (Campbell 1949, 71) Thomas More joined Erasmus in replying to these arguments, making the point that what matters is having an accurate text in the original languages.

In Basel, Switzerland, Erasmus was about to be harassed by the printer Johannes Froben. Froben was alerted that Cardinal Ximenes of Toledo, Spain, had been putting together a Greek and Latin Testament in 1514. However, he was delaying publication until he had the whole Bible completed. The first printed Greek critical text would have set the standard, with any other being all but ignored. Erasmus published his first edition in 1516, while the Complutensian Polyglot (Greek for “many languages”) was not issued until 1522.

The fact that Erasmus was terribly rushed resulted in a Greek text that contained hundreds of typographical errors alone.[2] Textual scholar Scrivener once stated: ‘[It] is in that respect the most faulty book I know’ (Scrivener 1894, 185). This comment did not even take into consideration the blatant interpolations into the text that were not part of the original. Erasmus was not oblivious to the typographical errors, which were corrected in a good many later editions. This did not include the textual errors. It was his second edition of 1519 that Martin Luther used in his German translation and William Tyndale’s English translation. This is exactly what Erasmus wanted, writing the following in that edition’s preface: “I would have these words translated into all languages. . . . I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows his plough.”

Unfortunately, the continuous reproduction of this debased Greek New Testament gave rise to it becoming the standard, called the Textus Receptus (“Received Text”), reigning 400 years before it was dethroned by the critical text of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort in 1881. Regardless of its imperfections, the Erasmus critical edition began the all-important work of textual criticism, which has only brought about a better critical text, as well as more accurate Bible translations.

Erasmus was not only concerned with ascertaining the original words; he was just as concerned with achieving an accurate understanding of those words. In 1519, he penned Principles of True Theology (shortened to The Ratio). Herein he introduces his principles for Bible study, his interpretation rules. Among them is the thought of never taking a quotation out of its context nor out of the line of thought of its author. Erasmus saw the Bible as a whole work by one ultimate author, and as such, it should interpret itself.

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (sometimes known as Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam) (1466/1469-1536). Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic Christian theologian. Portrait.

Erasmus Contrasted With Luther

Erasmus penned a treatise called Familiar Colloquies in 1518, in which again he was exposing corruption in the Church and the monasteries. Just one year earlier, in 1517, Martin Luther had nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, denouncing the indulgences, the scandal that had rocked numerous countries. Many people likely thought that these two could bring about change and reform. This was not going to be a team effort, though, as the two were at opposite ends of the spectrum on how to bring reform about. Luther would come to condemn Erasmus because he was viewed as being too moderate, seeking to make change peacefully within the Church.

The seemingly small bond they may have shared (by way of their writings against the Church establishment) was torn apart in 1524 when Erasmus wrote his essay On the Freedom of the Will. Luther believed that salvation results from “justification by faith alone” (Latin, sola fide) and not from priestly absolution or works of penance. In fact, Luther was so adamant in his belief of “justification by faith alone” that in his Bible translation, he added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28. What Luther failed to understand was that Paul was writing about the works of the Mosaic Law. (Romans 3:19, 20, 28) Thus, Luther denied the principle that man possesses a free will. However, Erasmus would not accept such faulty reasoning, in that it would make God unjust because this would suggest that man would be unable to act in such a way as to affect his salvation.

As the Reformation was spreading throughout Europe, Erasmus saw complaints from both sides. Many of the religious leaders who supported the reform movement chose to leave the Catholic Church. While they could not predict the result of their decision, they moved forward, many meeting their deaths. This would not be true of Erasmus, though, for he withdrew from the debate, yet he did refuse to be made cardinal. His approach was to try to appease both sides. Thus, Rome saw his writings as being that of a heretic, prohibiting them, while the reformers denounced him as refusing to risk his life for the cause. Here was a man emotionally broken over criticism, but in fear of burning bridges with Rome, so he cautiously sat on the sideline.

Young Christians

The affairs of Erasmus in relation to the Reformation can be summarized as follows: “He was a reformer until the Reformation became a fearful reality; a jester at the bulwarks of the papacy until they began to give way; a propagator of the Scriptures until men betook themselves to the study and the application of them; depreciating the mere outward forms of religion until they had come to be estimated at their real value; in short, a learned, ingenious, benevolent, amiable, timid, irresolute man, who, bearing the responsibility, resigned to others the glory of rescuing the human mind from the bondage of a thousand years. The distance between his career and that of Luther was therefore continually enlarging, until they at length moved in opposite directions, and met each other with mutual animosity.”— (McClintock and Strong 1894, 278).

The greatest gain from the Reformation is that the common person can now hold God’s Word in his hand. In fact, the English-language person has over 100 different translations from which to choose. From these 16th-century life and death struggles, in which Erasmus shared, there has materialized dependable and accurate Bible translations. Consequently, the “plowboy” of 98 percent of the world can pick up his Bible, or at least part of it.

The Textus Receptus

The Dark Ages (5th to 15th centuries C.E.), was a time when the Church had the Bible locked up in the Latin language, and scholarship and learning were nearly nonexistent. However, with the birth of the Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe (1328-1384), and the invention of the printing press in 1455, the restraints were loosened, and there was a rebirth of interest in the Greek language. Moreover, with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 C. E., many Greek scholars and their manuscripts were scattered abroad, resulting in a revival of Greek in the Western citadels of learning.

About fifty years later, or at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo, Spain, a man of rare capability and honor, invited foremost scholars of his land to his university at Alcala to produce a multiple-language Bible—not for the common people, but for the educated. The outcome would be the Polyglot, named Complutensian, corresponding to the Latin of Alcala. This would be a Bible of six large volumes, beautifully bound, containing the Old Testament in four languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin) and the New Testament in two (Greek and Latin). For the Greek New Testament, these scholars had only a few manuscripts available to them, and those of late origin. One may wonder why this was the case when they were supposed to have access to the Vatican library. This Bible was completed in 1514, providing the first printed Greek New Testament, but it did not receive approval by the pope to be published until 1520, and was not released to the public until 1522.

Froben, a printer in Basel, Switzerland, became aware of the completion of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible and of its pending consent by the pope to be published. Immediately, he saw a prospect of making profits. He at once sent word to Erasmus, who was the foremost European scholar of the day and whose works he had published in Latin, pleading with him to hurry through a Greek New Testament text. In an attempt to bring the first published Greek text to completion, Erasmus was only able to locate, in July 1515, a few late cursive manuscripts for collating and preparing his text. It would go to press in October 1515 and would be completed by March 1516. In fact, Erasmus was in such a hurried mode that he rushed the manuscript containing the Gospels to the printer without first editing it, making such changes as he felt were necessary on the proof sheets. Because of this terrible rush job, the work contained hundreds of typographical errors, as we noted earlier. Erasmus himself admitted this in his preface, remarking that it was “rushed through rather than edited.” Bruce Metzger referred to the Erasmian text as a “debased form of the Greek Testament.” (B. M. Metzger 1964, 1968, 1992, 103)

As one would expect, Erasmus was moved to produce an improved text in four succeeding editions of 1519, 1522, 1527, and 1535. Erasmus’ editions of the Greek text, we are informed, ultimately proved an excellent achievement, even a literary sensation. They were inexpensive, and the first two editions totaled 3,300 copies, in comparison to the 600 copies of the large and expensive six-volume Polyglot Bible. In the preface to his first edition, Erasmus stated, “I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private persons read the Holy Scriptures, nor have them translated into the vulgar tongues.” (Baer 2007, 268)

Except for everyday practical consideration, the editions of Erasmus had little to vouch for them, for he had access only to five (some say eight) Greek manuscripts of relatively late origin, and none of these contained the entire Greek New Testament. Rather, these comprised one or more sections into which the Greek texts were normally divided: (1) the Gospels; (2) Acts and the general epistles (James through Jude); (3) the letters of Paul; and (4) Revelation. In fact, of the 5,898 Greek New Testament manuscripts that we now have, only about fifty are complete.

Consequently, Erasmus had but one copy of Revelation (twelfth-century). Since it was incomplete, he merely retranslated the missing last six verses of the book from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek. He even frequently brought his Greek text in line with the Latin Vulgate; this is why there are some twenty readings in his Greek text not found in any other Greek manuscript.

Martin Luther would use Erasmus’ 1519 edition for his German translation, and William Tyndale would use the 1522 edition for his English translation. Erasmus’ editions were also the foundation for later Greek editions of the New Testament by others. Among them were the four published by Robert Estienne (Stephanus, 1503-59). The third of these, published by Stephanus in 1550, became the Textus Receptus or Received Text of Britain and the basis for the King James Version. This took place through Theodore de Beza (1519-1605), whose work was based on the corrupted third and fourth editions of the Erasmian text. Beza would produce nine editions of the Greek text, four being independent (1565, 1589, 1588-9, 1598), and the other five smaller reprints. It would be two of Beza’s editions, that of 1589 and 1598, which would become the English Received Text.

Beza’s Greek edition of the New Testament did not even differ as much as might be expected from those of Erasmus. Why do I say, as might be expected? Beza was a friend of the Protestant reformer, John Calvin, succeeding him at Geneva, and was also a well-known classical and biblical scholar. In addition, Beza possessed two important Greek manuscripts of the fourth and fifth century, the D and Dp (also known as D2), the former of which contains most of the Gospels and Acts as well as a fragment of 3 John, and the latter containing the Pauline epistles. The Dutch Elzevir editions followed next, which were virtually identical to those of the Erasmian-influenced Beza text. It was in the second of seven of these, published in 1633, that there appeared the statement in the preface (in Latin): “You therefore now have the text accepted by everybody, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” On the continent, this edition became the Textus Receptus or the Received Text. It seems that this success was in no small way due to the beauty and useful size of the Elzevir editions.


The Restoration Period

From the days of Erasmus to Stephanus until 1881, the textual scholars were enslaved to the Erasmian-oriented Received Text. As these textual scholars* became familiar with older and more accurate manuscripts and observed the flaws in the Received Text, instead of changing the text, they would publish their findings in introductions, margins, and footnotes of their editions. In 1734, J. A. Bengel of Tübingen, Germany, made an apology for again printing the Received Text, doing so only “because he could not publish a text of his own. Neither the publisher nor the public would have stood for it,” he complained. (Robertson 1925, 25)

* Brian Walton (1600-61), Dr. John Fell (1625-86), John Mill 1645-1707), Dr. Edward Wells (1667-1727, Richard Bentley (1662-1742), John Albert Bengel (1687-1752), Johann Jacob Wettstein (1693-1754), Johann Salomo Semler (1725-91), William Bowyer Jr. (1699-1777), Edward Harwood (1729-94), and Isaiah Thomas Jr. (1749-1831)

The first one to break free from this enslavement to the Textus Receptus, in the text itself, was Bible scholar J. J. Griesbach (1745-1812). His principal edition comes to us in three volumes, the first in Halle in 1775-7, the second in Halle and London in 1796-1806, and the third at Leipzig in 1803-7. However, Griesbach did not fully break from the Textus Receptus. Nevertheless, Griesbach is the real starting point in the development of classifying the manuscripts into families, setting down principles and rules for establishing the original reading, and using symbols to indicate the degree of certainty as to its being the original reading. We will examine his contributions in more detail below.

Karl Lachmann (1793-1851) was the first scholar fully to get out from under the influence of the Textus Receptus. He was a professor of ancient classical languages at Berlin University. In 1831, he published his edition of the Greek New Testament without any regard to the Textus Receptus. As Samuel MacAuley Jackson expressed it: Lachmann “was the first to found a text wholly on ancient evidence, and his editions, to which his eminent reputation as a critic gave wide currency, especially in Germany, did much toward breaking down the superstitious reverence for the Textus Receptus.”  Bruce Metzger had harsh words for the era of the Textus Receptus as well:

So superstitious has been the reverence accorded the Textus Receptus that in some cases attempts to criticize it or emend it have been regarded as akin to sacrilege. Yet its textual basis is essentially a handful of late and haphazardly collected minuscule manuscripts, and in a dozen passages its reading is supported by no known Greek witnesses. (B. M. Metzger 1964, 1968, 1992, 106)

Subsequent to Lachmann came Friedrich Constantine von Tischendorf (1815-74), best known for his discovery of the famed fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus manuscript, the only Greek uncial manuscript containing the complete Greek New Testament. Tischendorf went further than any other textual scholar to edit and made accessible the evidence contained in leading as well as less important uncial manuscripts. Throughout the time that Tischendorf was making his valuable contributions to the field of textual criticism in Germany, another great scholar, Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-75) in England made other valued contributions. Among them, he was able to establish his concept of “Comparative Criticism.” That is, the age of a text, such as Vaticanus 1209, may not necessarily be that of its manuscript (i.e., the material upon which the text was written), which was copied in 350 C.E., since the text may be a faithful copy of an earlier text, like the second-century P75. Both Tischendorf and Tregelles were determined defenders of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, which likely had much to do with the productivity of their labors. If you take an opportunity to read about the lengths to which Tischendorf went in his discovery of Codex Sinaiticus, you will be moved by his steadfastness and love for God’s Word.

The Climax of the Restored Text

The critical text of Westcott and Hort of 1881 has been commended by leading textual scholars over the last one hundred and forty years, and still stands as the standard. Numerous additional critical editions of the Greek text came after Westcott and Hort: Richard F. Weymouth (1886), Bernhard Weiss (1894–1900); the British and Foreign Bible Society (1904, 1958), Alexander Souter (1910), Hermann von Soden (1911–1913); and Eberhard Nestle’s Greek text, Novum Testamentum Graece, published in 1898 by the Württemberg Bible Society, Stuttgart, Germany. The Nestle in twelve editions (1898–1923) to subsequently be taken over by his son, Erwin Nestle (13th–20th editions, 1927–1950), followed by Kurt Aland (21st–25th editions, 1952–1963), and lastly, it was coedited by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland (26th–27th editions, 1979–1993).

Many of the above scholars gave their entire lives to God and the Greek text. Each of these could have an entire book devoted to them and their work alone. The amount of work they accomplished before the era of computers is nothing short of astonishing. Rightly, the preceding history should serve to strengthen our faith in the authenticity and general integrity of the Greek New Testament. Unlike Bart D. Ehrman, men like Sir Frederic Kenyon have been moved to say that the books of the Greek New Testament have “come down to us substantially as they were written.” And all this is especially true of the critical scholarship of the almost two hundred years since the days of Karl Lachmann, due to which all today can feel certain that what they hold in their hands is a mirror reflection of the Word of God that was penned in twenty-seven books, some two thousand years ago.

The Epistle to the Hebrews PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

The Arrival of the Critical Text and the Last Nail in the Coffin of the Textus Receptus

From 1550, the New Testament Greek text was in bondage to the popularity of the Textus Receptus as though the latter were inspired itself, and no textual scholar would dare make changes regardless of the evidence found in older, more accurate manuscripts that later became known. The best textual scholars would offer was to publish these new findings in the introductions, margins, and footnotes of their editions. Bengel, as we noted above, apologized for repeating the printing of the Textus Receptus “because he could not publish a text of his own. Neither the publisher nor the public would have stood for it.” (Robertson 1925, 25)

Again, Karl Lachmann, Professor of Classical and German Philology at Berlin, was the first to make a clean break with the influential Textus Receptus. In 1831, he published at Berlin his edition of the Greek text, overthrowing the Textus Receptus. Ezra Abbot says of Lachmann, “He was the first to found a text wholly on ancient evidence, and his editions, to which his eminent reputation as a critic gave wide currency, especially in Germany, did much toward breaking down the superstitious reverence for the textus receptus.” (Schaff, Companion to the Greek Testament, 1883, 256-7) More on Lachmann in a moment, as the small turning point really began with Griesbach.

Johann Jakob Griesbach [1745-1812]

Griesbach obtained his master’s degree at the age of 23. He was educated at Frankfurt, and at the universities of Tubingen, Leipzig, and Halle. Griesbach became one of Johann Salomo Semler’s most dedicated and passionate students. It was Semler (1725 – 1791) who persuaded him to focus his attention on New Testament textual criticism. Even though it was Semler who introduced Griesbach to the theory of text-types, Griesbach is principally responsible for the text-types that we have today. Griesbach made the Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Western text-types appreciated by a wide range of textual scholars over two centuries.

After his master’s degree, Griesbach traveled throughout Europe examining Greek manuscripts: Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England. Griesbach would excel far beyond any textual scholar who had preceded him, publishing his Greek text first at Halle in 1775-77, followed by London in 1795-1806, and finally in Leipzig in 1803-07. It would be his later editions that would be used by a number of Bible translators, such as Archbishop Newcome, Abner Kneeland, Samuel Sharpe, Edgar Taylor, and Benjamin Wilson.

Griesbach was the first to include manuscript readings that were earlier than what Erasmus had used in his Greek text of 1516 C.E. The Society for New Testament Studies comments on the importance of his research: “Griesbach spent long hours in the attempt to find the best readings among the many variants in the New Testament. His work laid the foundations of modern textual criticism, and he is, in no small measure, responsible for the secure New Testament text which we enjoy today. Many of his methodological principles continue to be useful in the process of determining the best readings from among the many variants which remain.” (B. Orchard 1776-1976, 2005, xi)

The Fifteen Rules of Griesbach

In the Introduction to his Second edition of the Greek New Testament (Halle, 1796) Griesbach set forth the following list of critical rules for weighing the internal evidence for variant readings within the manuscripts.

  1. The shorter reading is to be preferred over the more verbose, if not wholly lacking the support of old and weighty witnesses,

for scribes were much more prone to add than to omit. They hardly ever leave out anything on purpose, but they added much. It is true indeed that some things fell out by accident; but likewise not a few things, allowed in by the scribes through errors of the eye, ear, memory, imagination, and judgment, have been added to the text.

The shorter reading is especially preferable (even if by the support of the witnesses it may be second best),

(a) if at the same time it is harder, more obscure, ambiguous, involves an ellipsis, reflects Hebrew idiom, or is ungrammatical;

(b) if the same thing is read expressed with different phrases in different manuscripts;

(c) if the order of words is inconsistent and unstable;

(d) at the beginning of a section;

(e) if the fuller reading gives the impression of incorporating a definition or interpretation, or verbally conforms to parallel passages or seems to have come in from lectionaries.

But on the contrary, we should set the fuller reading before the shorter (unless the latter is seen in many notable witnesses),

(a) if a “similarity of ending” might have provided an opportunity for an omission;

(b) if that which was omitted could to the scribe have seemed obscure, harsh, superfluous, unusual, paradoxical, offensive to pious ears, erroneous, or opposed to parallel passages;

(c) if that which is absent could be absent without harm to the sense or structure of the words, as for example prepositions which may be called incidental, especially brief ones, and so forth, the lack of which would not easily be noticed by a scribe in reading again what he had written;

(d) if the shorter reading is by nature less characteristic of the style or outlook of the author;

(e) if it wholly lacks sense;

(f) if it is probable that it has crept in from parallel passages or from the lectionaries.

On Griesbach’s principle of preferring the shorter reading, James Royse offers a word about appreciating the complexity and exceptions to the rule: “I would certainly accept Silva’s reminder that Griesbach’s formulation of the lectio brevior potior principle is far from a simple preference for the shorter reading, and that its correct application requires a sensitivity to the many exceptions and conditions that Griesbach notes.” (J. R. Royse 2007, 735) Kurt and Barbara Aland qualify the principle as well: “The venerable maxim lectio brevior lectio potior (“the shorter reading is the more probable reading”) is certainly right in many instances. But here again the principle cannot be applied mechanically. It is not valid for witnesses whose texts otherwise vary significantly from the characteristic patterns of the textual tradition, with frequent omissions or expansions reflecting editorial tendencies (e.g., D).” (Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament 1995, 281) Harold Greenlee offers a simple (or perhaps simplistic), balanced view of the principle:

(b) The shorter reading is generally preferable if an intentional change has been made. The reason is that scribes at times made intentional additions to clarify a passage, but rarely made an intentional omission. Of course, this principle applies only to a difference in the number of words in the reading, not to the difference between a longer and a shorter word.

(c) The longer reading is often preferable if an unintentional change has been made. The reason is that scribes were more likely to omit a word or a phrase accidentally than to add accidentally. (Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, 1995, 112)

Of Griesbach, Paul D. Wegner writes, “While Griesbach sometimes would rely too heavily on a mechanical adherence to his system of recensions, by and large he was a careful and cautious scholar. He was also the first German scholar to abandon the Textus Receptus in favor of what he believed to be, by means of his principles, superior readings.” (Wegner, A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History Methods & Results 2006, 214)

His choosing the shorter reading of the Lord’s Prayer at Luke 11:3-4 evidences Griesbach’s ability as a textual scholar. He made this decision based on only a handful of minuscule and uncials, patristic, and versional evidence. A few short years later, the Vaticanus manuscript would confirm that Griesbach’s choice was correct. Today we have one of the oldest and most valued manuscripts, P75, and it has the shorter reading as well. Many scribes from the fourth century onward harmonized Luke’s form of the prayer with Matthew’s Gospel.

Luke 11:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV NU)

Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Luke 11:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV TR)

Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

Karl Lachmann [1793-1851]

After two and a half centuries, in 1831 a German classical philologist and critic, Karl Lachmann, had the courage to publish an edition of the New Testament text he prepared from his examination of the manuscripts and variants, determining on a case-by-case basis what he believed the original reading was, never beholding to the Textus Receptus. However, he did not include his textual rules and principles in his critical text. He simply stated that these principles could be found in a theological journal. “Karl Lachmann, a classical philologist, produced a fresh text (in 1831) that presented the Greek New Testament of the fourth century.”

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible sums up Lachmann’s six textual criteria as follows:

  • Nothing is better attested than that in which all authorities agree.
  • The agreement has less weight if part of the authorities are silent or in any way defective.
  • The evidence for a reading, when it is that of witnesses of different regions, is greater than that of witnesses of some particular place, differing either from negligence or from set purpose.
  • The testimonies are to be regarded as doubtfully balanced when witnesses from widely separated regions stand opposed to others equally wide apart.
  • Readings are uncertain, which occur habitually in different forms in different regions.
  • Readings are of weak authority, which are not universally attested in the same region.

It was not Lachmann’s intention to restore the text of the New Testament back to the original, as he believed this to be impossible. Rather, his intention was to offer a text based solely on documentary evidence, setting aside any text that had been published prior to his, producing a text from the fourth century. Lachmann used no minuscule manuscripts, but instead, he based his text on the Alexandrian text-type, as well as the agreement of the Western authorities, namely, the Old Latin and Greek Western Uncials if the oldest Alexandrian authorities differed. He also used the testimonies of Irenaeus, Origen, Cyprian, Hilary, and Lucifer. As A. T. Robertson put it, Lachmann wanted “to get away from the tyranny of the Textus Receptus.” Lachmann was correct in that he could not get back to the original, at least for the whole of the NT text, as he simply did not have the textual evidence that we have today, or even what Westcott and Hort had in 1881. Codex Sinaiticus had yet to be discovered, and Codex Vaticanus had yet to be photographed and edited. Moreover, he did not have the papyri that we have today.


Samuel Prideaux Tregelles [1813-1875]

Tregelles was an English Bible scholar, textual critic, and theologian. He was born to Quaker parents at Wodehouse Place, Falmouth on January 30, 1813. He was the son of Samuel Tregelles (1789–1828) and his wife Dorothy (1790–1873). His education began at Falmouth Grammar School. He lost his father at the young age of fifteen, compelling him to take a job at the Neath Abbey iron works. However, he had a gift and a love of language, which led him in his free time to the study of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, and Welsh. He began the study of the New Testament at the age of twenty-five, which would become his life’s work.

Tregelles discovered that the Textus Receptus was not based on any ancient witnesses, and he determined that he would publish the Greek text of the New Testament grounded in ancient manuscripts, as well as the citations of the early church fathers, exactly as Karl Lachmann was doing in Germany. In 1845, he spent five months in Rome, hoping to collate Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican Library. Philip W. Comfort writes, “Samuel Tregelles (self-taught in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek) devoted his entire life’s work to publishing one Greek text (which came out in six parts, from 1857 to 1872). Because he was very poor, Tregelles had to ask sponsors to help him with the cost of publishing. The text came out in six volumes over a fifteen-year period—the last being completed just prior to his death. I consider myself fortunate to own a copy of Tregelles’s Greek New Testament with his signature. As is stated in the introduction to this work, Tregelles’s goal was ‘to exhibit the text of the New Testament in the very words in which it has been transmitted on the evidence of ancient authority.’ (See Prolegomena to Tregelles’s Greek New Testament.) During this same era, Tischendorf was devoting a lifetime of labor to discovering manuscripts and producing accurate editions of the Greek New Testament.” – (P. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism 2005, 100)

Friedrich Constantin von Tischendorf [1815-1874]

Tischendorf was a world-leading biblical scholar who rejected higher criticism, which led to his noteworthy success in defending the authenticity of the Bible text. He was born in Lengenfeld, Saxony, in Northern Europe, the son of a physician, in the year 1815. Tischendorf was educated in Greek at the University of Leipzig. During his university studies, he was troubled by higher criticism of the Bible, as taught by famous German theologians, who sought to prove that the Greek New Testament was not authentic. Tischendorf became convinced, however, that thorough research of the early manuscripts would prove the trustworthiness of the Bible text.

We are indebted to Tischendorf for dedicating his life and abilities to searching through Europe’s finest libraries and the monasteries of the Middle East for ancient Bible manuscripts, and especially for rescuing the great Codex Sinaiticus from destruction. However, our highest thanks go to our heavenly Father, who has used hundreds of men since the days of Desiderius Erasmus, who published the first printed Greek New Testament in 1516, so that the Word of God has been accurately preserved for us today. We can be grateful for the women of the twentieth and now the twenty-first century who have given their lives to this great work as well, such as Barbara Aland.

In the second principal recension of Tischendorf (as enumerated in Reuss 1872), the Introduction sets forth the following canons of criticism with examples of their application (see Tregelles 1854, pp. 119-21):

Basic Rule: “The text is only to be sought from ancient evidence, and especially from Greek manuscripts, but without neglecting the testimonies of versions and fathers.”

  1. “A reading altogether peculiar to one or another ancient document is suspicious; as also is any, even if supported by a class of documents, which seems to evince that it has originated in the revision of a learned man.”
  2. “Readings, however well supported by evidence, are to be rejected, when it is manifest (or very probable) that they have proceeded from the errors of copyists.”
  3. “In parallel passages, whether of the New or Old Testament, especially in the Synoptic Gospels, which ancient copyists continually brought into increased accordance, those testimonies are preferable, in which precise accordance of such parallel passages is not found; unless, indeed, there are important reasons to the contrary.”
  4. “In discrepant readings, that should be preferred which may have given occasion to the rest, or which appears to comprise the elements of the others.”
  5. “Those readings must be maintained which accord with New Testament Greek, or with the particular style of each individual writer.” Bibliography of Textual Criticism “T”, (Friday, December 24, 2021).

Westcott’s and Hort’s 1881 Master Text

The climax of this restoration era goes to the immediate successors of these men, the two English Bible scholars B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, upon whose text the United Bible Society is based, which is the foundation for all modern-day translations of the Bible. Westcott and Hort began their work in 1853 and finished it in 1881, working for twenty-eight years independently of each other, yet frequently comparing notes. As the Scottish biblical scholar Alexander Souter expressed it, they “gathered up in themselves all that was most valuable in the work of their predecessors. The maxims which they enunciated on questions of the text are of such importance.” (Souter 1913, 118) They took all imaginable factors into consideration in laboring to resolve the difficulties that conflicting texts presented, and when two readings had equal weight, they indicated that in their text. They emphasized, “Knowledge of documents should precede final judgment upon readings” and “all trustworthy restoration of corrupted texts is founded on the study of their history.” They followed Griesbach in dividing manuscripts into families, stressing the significance of manuscript genealogy. In addition, they gave due weight to internal evidence, “intrinsic probability” and “transcriptional probability,” that is, what the original author most likely wrote and wherein a copyist may most likely have made a mistake.

Westcott and Hort relied heavily on what they called the “neutral” family of texts, which involved the renowned fourth-century vellum Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts. They considered it quite decisive whenever these two manuscripts agreed, particularly when reinforced by other ancient uncial manuscripts. However, they were not thoughtlessly bound to the Vaticanus manuscript as some scholars have claimed, for by assessing all the elements they frequently concluded that certain minor interpolations had crept into the neutral text that was not found in the group more given to interpolations and paraphrasing, i.e., the Western manuscript family. E. J. Goodspeed has shown that Westcott and Hort departed from Vaticanus seven hundred times in the Gospels alone.

According to Bruce M. Metzger, “the general validity of their critical principles and procedures is widely acknowledged by scholars today.” In 1981 Metzger said,

The international committee that produced the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, not only adopted the Westcott and Hort edition as its basic text but followed their methodology in giving attention to both external and internal consideration.

Philip Comfort offered this opinion:

The text produced by Westcott and Hort is still to this day, even with so many more manuscript discoveries, a very close reproduction of the primitive text of the New Testament. Of course, I think they gave too much weight to Codex Vaticanus alone, and this needs to be tempered. This criticism aside, the Westcott and Hort text is extremely reliable. (…) In many instances where I would disagree with the wording in the Nestle / UBS text in favor of a particular variant reading, I would later check with the Westcott and Hort text and realize that they had often come to the same decision. (…) Of course, the manuscript discoveries of the past one hundred years have changed things, but it is remarkable how often they have affirmed the decisions of Westcott and Hort. – Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism, (Nashville, 2005), p. 100.


Critical Rules of Westcott & Hort

The following summary of principles is taken from the compilation in Epp and Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (1993, pages 157-8). References in parentheses are to sections of Hort’s Introduction, from which the principles have been extracted.

  1. Older readings, manuscripts, or groups are to be preferred. (“The shorter the interval between the time of the autograph hand the end of the period of transmission in question, the stronger the presumption that earlier date implies greater purity of text.”) (2.59; cf. 2.5-6, 31)
  2. Readings are approved or rejected by reason of the quality, and not the number, of their supporting witnesses. (“No available presumptions whatever as to text can be obtained from number alone, that is, from number not as yet interpreted by descent.”) (2.44)
  3. A reading combining two simple, alternative readings is later than the two readings comprising the conflation, and manuscripts rarely or never supporting conflate reading are text antecedent to mixture and are of special value. (2.49-50).
  4. The reading is to be preferred that makes the best sense, that is, that best conforms to the grammar and is most congruous with the purport of the rest of the sentence and of the larger context. (2.20)
  5. The reading is to be preferred that best conforms to the usual style of the author and to that author’s material in other passages. (2.20)
  6. The reading is to be preferred that most fitly explains the existence of the others. (2.22-23)
  7. The reading is less likely to be original that combines the appearance of an improvement in the sense with the absence of its reality; the scribal alteration will have an apparent excellence, while the original will have the highest real excellence. (2.27, 29)
  8. The reading is less likely to be original that shows a disposition to smooth away difficulties (another way of stating that the harder reading is preferable). (2.28)
  9. Readings are to be preferred that are found in a manuscript that habitually contains superior readings as determined by intrinsic and transcriptional probability. Certainty is increased if such a better manuscript is found also to be an older manuscript (2.32-33) and if such a manuscript habitually contains reading that prove themselves antecedent to mixture and independent of external contamination by other, inferior texts (2.150-51). The same principles apply to groups of manuscripts (2.260-61). – Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual .., (Friday, December 24, 2021).

History of the Nestle-Aland Edition

It seems best to allow the German Bible Society and the Institute for New Testament Textual Research to tell their own history:

In 1898, Eberhard Nestle published the first edition of his Novum Testamentum Graece. Based on a simple yet ingenious idea it disseminated the insights of the textual criticism of that time through a hand edition designed for university and school studies and for church purposes. Nestle took the three leading scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament at that time by Tischendorf, Westcott/Hort, and Weymouth as a basis. (After 1901 he replaced the latter with Bernhard Weiß’s 1894/1900 edition.) Where their textual decisions differed from each other, Nestle chose for his own text the variant which was preferred by two of the editions included, while the variant of the third was put into the apparatus.

The text-critical apparatus remained rudimentary in all the editions published by Eberhard Nestle. It was Eberhard Nestle’s son Erwin who provided the 13th edition in 1927 with a consistent critical apparatus showing evidence from manuscripts, early translations, and patristic citations. However, these notes did not derive from the primary sources, but only from editions.

This changed in the nineteen-fifties when Kurt Aland started working for the edition by checking the apparatus entries against Greek manuscripts and editions of the Church Fathers. This phase came to a close in 1963 when the 25th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece appeared; later printings of this edition already carried the brand name “Nestle-Aland” on their covers.

The 26th edition, which appeared in 1979, featured a fundamentally new approach. Until then, the guiding principle had been to adopt the text supported by a majority of the critical editions referred to. Now the text was established on the basis of source material that had been assembled and evaluated in the intervening period. It included early papyri and other manuscript discoveries so that the 26th edition represented the situation of textual criticism in the 20th century. Its text was identical with that of the 3rd edition of the UBS Greek New Testament (GNT) published in 1975, as a consequence of the parallel work done on both editions. Already in 1955, Kurt Aland was invited to participate in an editorial committee with Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, Alan Wikgren, and at first, Arthur Vööbus, later Carlo Martini (and, from 1982, Barbara Aland and Johannes Karavidopoulos) to produce a reliable hand edition of the Greek New Testament.

The first edition of the GNT appeared in 1966. Its text was established along the lines of Westcott and Hort and differed considerably from Nestle’s 25th edition. This holds true for the second edition of the GNT as well. When the third edition was prepared Kurt Aland was able to contribute the textual proposals coming from his preliminary work on the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland. Hence the process of establishing the text for both editions continued to converge so that eventually they could share an identical text. However, their external appearance and the design of their apparatus remains different, because they serve different purposes. The GNT is primarily intended for translators, providing a reliable Greek initial text and a text-critical apparatus showing variants that are relevant for translation. In the case of the passages selected for this purpose, the evidence is displayed as completely as possible. The Novum Testamentum Graece is produced primarily for research, academic education, and pastoral practice. It seeks to provide an apparatus that enables the reader to make a critical assessment of the reconstruction of the Greek initial text.

The text of the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland was adopted for the 27th edition also, while the apparatus underwent an extensive revision. The text remained the same, because the 27th edition was not “deemed an appropriate occasion for introducing textual changes”. Since then the situation has changed because the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of the Catholic Letters is now available. Its text was established on the basis of all the relevant material from manuscripts and other sources. The ECM text was adopted for the present edition, following approval by the editorial committee of the Nestle-Aland and the GNT. – Nestle Aland Novum Testamentum Graece: History, (Friday, December 24, 2021).

This makes more certain for us the Apostle Peter’s words: “But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25) We can have the same confidence that the One who inspired the Holy Scriptures, giving us His inerrant Word, has also used his servants to preserve them throughout the last two thousand years, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) The beloved Bruce Manning Metzger was right; the text of the New Testament was transmitted; then, it entered a 1,400-year period of corruption, and has been enjoying a 500-year period of restoration.



English translations from the Textus Receptus

  • Tyndale New Testament 1526–1530
  • Coverdale Bible 1535
  • Matthew Bible 1537
  • Taverner’s Bible 1593
  • Great Bible 1539
  • Geneva Bible 1560-1644
  • Bishops’ Bible 1568
  • Douay-Rheims Bible 1582, 1610, 1749-52. Base translation is from the Vulgate but 1749-1752 editions onwards (Challoner revisions) contain major borrowings from the Tyndale, Geneva and King James versions.[79]
  • King James Version 1611, 1613, 1629, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, 1850
  • English Dort Version 1657, English translation of the Statenvertaling by Theodore Haak
  • Quaker Bible 1764
  • Webster’s Revision 1833
  • Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) 1862, 1887, 1898
  • Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible (EBR) 1872 edition.
  • Cambridge Paragraph Bible 1873 edition of the KJV in paragraph format, edited by F.H.A. Scrivener.
  • Julia E. Smith Parker Translation 1876
  • New King James Version (NKJV) 1982 (New Testament 1979). With an anglicized version originally known as the “Revised Authorized Version”.
  • Green’s Literal Translation 1985. Included in The Interlinear Translation 1986.
  • Third Millennium Bible 1998
  • New Cambridge Paragraph Bible 2005 edition of the KJV, paragraph format with modernised spelling; edited by David Norton.
  • Modern English Version 2014[80]
  • Mew American Standard Bible 1995, 2020[81]

See also

The King James ONLY Movement (KJV Onlyists)

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS: How the Bible Has Come Down to Us


Martin Arhelger, Die Textgrundlage des Neues Testaments, 2006 (in German)

Martin Arhelger, Die Textgrundlage des Neuen Testaments (2008), pp. 74–79 – differences between editions of Textus Receptus

Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Jacob van Bruggen. The Ancient Text of the New Testament. Winnipeg, Man.: Premier, 1976. ISBN 0-88756-005-9

Pickering, Wilbur N. The Identity of the New Testament Text. Rev. ed. Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson Publishers, 1980. ISBN 0-8407-5744-1 pbk.

W. W. Combs, Erasmus and the textus receptus, DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996): 35-53.

Daniel B. Wallace, Some Second Thoughts on the Majority TextBibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989): 270-290.

Dr James White. King James Only Controversy, Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Bethany House, 1995.

Dr. Edward F. Hills. The King James Version Defended. Des Moines, Iowa, The Christian Research Press, 1984. An online version of Dr. Hills’ book is available here.

Edward D. Andrews FROM SPOKEN WORDS TO SACRED TEXTS: Introduction-Intermediate New Testament Textual Studies, 2020

Edward D. Andrews THE KING JAMES BIBLE: Do You Know the King James Version? 2018.

Edward D. Andrews THE KING JAMES BIBLE: Why Have Modern Bible Translations Removed Many Verses That Are In the King James Version? 2019

Frederic G. Kenyon, Edward D. Andrews HISTORY OF ENGLISH VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE, 2019.

Martin Heide: Der einzig wahre Bibeltext? Erasmus von Rotterdam und die Frage nach dem Urtext, 5. Auflage Nürnberg: VTR, 2006, ISBN 978-3-933372-86-4.

  1. J. de Jonge, Daniel Heinsius and the Textus Receptus of the New Testament
  2. P. Tregelles, The Printed Text of the Greek New Testament, London 1854.



4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2
The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II


How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1
israel against all odds ISRAEL AGAINST ALL ODDS - Vol. II


THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST by Stalker-1 The TRIAL and Death of Jesus_02 THE LIFE OF Paul by Stalker-1


The Epistle to the Hebrews PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL
Young Christians


9798623463753 Machinehead KILLER COMPUTERS


Why Me_ Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Understaning Creation Account
Homosexuality and the Christian second coming Cover Where Are the Dead
Human Imperfection HUMILITY




Powerful Weapon of Prayer Power Through Prayer How to Pray_Torrey_Half Cover-1


THERE IS A REBEL IN THE HOUSE thirteen-reasons-to-keep-living_021 Waging War - Heather Freeman
Young Christians DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)
Homosexuality and the Christian THE OUTSIDER RENEW YOUR MIND


APPLYING GODS WORD-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person
Abortion Booklet Dying to Kill The Pilgrim’s Progress
ARTS, MEDIA, AND CULTURE Christians and Government Christians and Economics


Book of Philippians Book of James Book of Proverbs Book of Esther
40 day devotional (1) Daily Devotional_NT_TM Daily_OT
DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)


The Church Community_02 THE CHURCH CURE Developing Healthy Churches

Apocalyptic-Eschatology [End Times]

Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Identifying the AntiChrist second coming Cover
ANGELS AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY_ ezekiel, daniel, & revelation


Oren Natas_JPEG Sentient-Front Seekers and Deceivers
Judas Diary 02 Journey PNG The Rapture

[1] Novum Instrumentum omne was the first published New Testament in Greek (1516). It was prepared by Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) and printed by Johann Froben (1460–1527) of Basel.

[2] The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority, arising from what were perceived to be errors, abuses, and discrepancies by the Catholic Church. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church.

[3] The Luther Bible (German: Lutherbibel) is a German language Bible translation from Hebrew and ancient Greek by Martin Luther. The New Testament was first published in September 1522 and the complete Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocrypha, in 1534.

[4] William Tyndale (; sometimes spelled Tynsdale, Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1494 – c. 6 October 1536) was an English scholar who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known as a translator of the Bible into English, influenced by the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther.A number of partial English translations had been made from the 7th century onwards, but the religious ferment caused by Wycliffe’s Bible in the late 14th century led to the death penalty for anyone found in unlicensed possession of Scripture in English, though translations were available in all other major European languages.Tyndale worked during a renaissance of scholarship, which saw the publication of Johann Reuchlin’s Hebrew grammar in 1506.

[5] The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, which was commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611, by sponsorship of King James VI and I. The books of the King James Version include the 39 books of the Old Testament, an intertestamental section containing 14 books of the Apocrypha, and the 27 books of the New Testament. Noted for its “majesty of style”, the King James Version has been described as one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in the shaping of the English-speaking world.The KJV was first printed by John Norton and Robert Barker, who both held the post of the King’s Printer, and was the third translation into English language approved by the English Church authorities: The first had been the Great Bible, commissioned in the reign of King Henry VIII (1535), and the second had been the Bishops’ Bible, commissioned in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1568).

[6] The Reina–Valera is a Spanish translation of the Bible originally published in 1602 until United Bible Societies in 1909 revised the earlier translation produced in 1569 by Casiodoro de Reina. This translation was known as the “Biblia del Oso” (in English: Bear Bible) because the illustration on the title page showed a bear trying to reach a container of honeycombs hanging from a tree.

[7] The Bible of Kralice, also called the Kralice Bible (Czech: Bible kralická), was the first complete translation of the Bible from the original languages into Czech. Translated by the Unity of the Brethren and printed in the town of Kralice nad Oslavou, the first edition had six volumes and was published between 1579 and 1593.

[8] The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority, arising from what were perceived to be errors, abuses, and discrepancies by the Catholic Church. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church.

[9] The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2019. As the world’s oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation.

[10] Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (; English: Erasmus of Rotterdam or Erasmus; 28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536) was a Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian who is considered one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance. As a Catholic priest, he was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. See articles What Do We Know About the Dutch Bible and Textual Scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam?; Bible and Textual Scholar Desiderius Erasmus Who Gave Us the King James Version New Testament; and Dutch Philosopher and NT Textual Scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam

[11] The Vulgate (; Biblia Vulgata, Latin: [ˈbɪbli.a wʊlˈɡaːta]) is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. The Vulgate is largely the work of Jerome of Stridon who, in 382, had been commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Vetus Latina Gospels used by the Roman Church.

[12] “Epistle 695” in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 5: Letters 594 to 841, 1517-1518 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson; annotated by James K. McConica; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), 172.

[13] “Epistle 273” in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 2: Letters 142 to 297, 1501-1514 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson; annotated Wallace K. Ferguson; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), 253.

[14] The Complutensian Polyglot Bible is the name given to the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible. The edition was initiated and financed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436–1517) and published by Complutense University in Alcalá de Henares, Spain.

[15] “Epistle 305” in Collected Works of Erasmus. Vol. 3: Letters 298 to 445, 1514-1516 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson; annotated by James K. McConica; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), 32.

[16] “Epistle 337” in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 3, 134.

[17] W. W. Combs, Erasmus and the textus receptus, DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996), 45.

[18] Minuscule 3 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), δ 253 (in von Soden numbering), is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament, on a parchment. Palaeographically it has been assigned to the 12th century.

[19] The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. The historical period in which they worked became known as the Patristic Era and spans approximately from the late 1st to mid 8th centuries, flourishing in particular during the 4th and 5th centuries, when Christianity was in the process of establishing itself as the state church of the Roman Empire.

[20] In textual criticism of the New Testament, the Byzantine text-type (also called Majority Text, Traditional Text, Ecclesiastical Text, Constantinopolitan Text, Antiocheian Text, or Syrian Text) is one of the main text types. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

[21] In textual criticism of the New Testament, the Byzantine text-type (also called Majority Text, Traditional Text, Ecclesiastical Text, Constantinopolitan Text, Antiocheian Text, or Syrian Text) is one of the main text types. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

[22] Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 145.

[23] W. W. Combs, Erasmus and the textus receptus, DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996), 45.

[24] Bruce Metzger The Text of the New Testament, p. 99

[25] The Johannine Comma (Latin: Comma Johanneum) is an interpolated phrase in verses 5:7–8 of the First Epistle of John. It became a touchpoint for the Christian theological debate over the doctrine of the Trinity from the early church councils to the Catholic and Protestant disputes in the early modern period. The passage appears to have originated as a gloss in a Latin manuscript around the end of the 4th century, and was subsequently incorporated into the text of the Old Latin Bible during the 5th century, though not the earliest Vulgate manuscripts.

[26] Robert I Estienne (French: [etjɛn]; 1503 – 7 September 1559), known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and sometimes referred to as Robert Stephens, was a 16th-century printer and classical scholar in Paris. He was the proprietor of the Estienne print shop after the death of his father Henri Estienne, the founder of the Estienne printing firm.

[27] The Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, designated by siglum Dea or 05 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), δ 5 (von Soden), is a codex of the New Testament dating from the 5th century written in an uncial hand on vellum. It contains, in both Greek and Latin, most of the four Gospels and Acts, with a small fragment of 3 John.

[28] Codex Regius designated by siglum Le or 019 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), ε 56 (von Soden), is a Greek uncial manuscript of the New Testament, dated paleographically to the 8th century. The manuscript is lacunose.

[29] Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (; English: Erasmus of Rotterdam or Erasmus; 28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536) was a Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian who is considered one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance. As a Catholic priest, he was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style.

[30] Theodore Beza (Latin: Theodorus Beza; French: Théodore de Bèze or de Besze; June 24, 1519 – October 13, 1605) was a French Calvinist Protestant theologian, reformer and scholar who played an important role in the Protestant Reformation. He was a disciple of John Calvin and lived most of his life in Geneva.

[31] Codex Claromontanus, symbolized by Dp, D2 or 06 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), δ 1026 (von Soden), is a Greek-Latin diglot uncial manuscript of the New Testament, written in an uncial hand on vellum. The Greek and Latin texts are on facing pages, thus it is a “diglot” manuscript, like Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis.

[32] Elzevir is the name of a celebrated family of Dutch booksellers, publishers, and printers of the 17th and early 18th centuries. The duodecimo series of “Elzevirs” became very famous and very desirable among bibliophiles, who sought to obtain the tallest and freshest copies of these tiny books.Although it appears the family was involved with the book trade as early as the 16th century, it is only known for its work in some detail beginning with Lodewijk Elzevir (also called Louis).

[33] Abraham Elzevir (4 April 1592 — 14 August 1652) was a Dutch printer. Elzevir was born and died in Leiden.

[34] The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of (some or all) prepositions.

[35] In grammar, the nominative case (abbreviated NOM), subjective case, straight case or upright case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments. Generally, the noun “that is doing something” is in the nominative, and the nominative is often the form listed in dictionaries.

[36] Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 152.

[37] John Mill (c. 1645 – 23 June 1707) was an English theologian noted for his critical edition of the Greek New Testament which included notes on over thirty-thousand variant readings in the manuscripts of the New Testament.

[38] T. Robertson, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman, 1925, pp. 107-108.

[39] Daniel Whitby (1638–1726) was a controversial English theologian and biblical commentator. An Arminian priest in the Church of England, Whitby was known as strongly anti-Calvinistic and later gave evidence of Unitarian tendencies.

[40] Whitby, Daniel (1 January 1710). “Additional Annotations to the New Testament: With Seven Discourses; and an Appendix Entituled Examen Variantium Lectionum Johannis Millii, S.T.P. in Novum Testamentum”. W. Bowyer – via Google Books.

[41] Johann Albrecht Bengel (24 June 1687 – 2 November 1752), also known as Bengelius, was a Lutheran pietist clergyman and Greek-language scholar known for his edition of the Greek New Testament and his commentaries on it.

[42] Lectio difficilior potior (Latin for “the more difficult reading is the stronger”) is a main principle of textual criticism. Where different manuscripts conflict on a particular reading, the principle suggests that the more unusual one is more likely the original.

[43] Johann Jakob Wettstein (also Wetstein; 5 March 1693 – 23 March 1754) was a Swiss theologian, best known as a New Testament critic.

[44] A New Testament uncial is a section of the New Testament in Greek or Latin majuscule letters, written on parchment or vellum. This style of writing is called Biblical Uncial or Biblical Majuscule.

[45] The list of New Testament Minuscules ordered by Gregory-Aland index number is divided into three sections:

List of New Testament minuscules (1–1000)

List of New Testament minuscules (1001–2000)

List of New Testament minuscules (2001–3000)

[46] Johann Jakob Griesbach (4 January 1745 – 24 March 1812) was a German biblical textual critic. Griesbach’s fame rests upon his work in New Testament criticism, in which he inaugurated a new epoch.

[47] The NT was quoted by early Christian authors, like Ignatius of Antioch, called the Church Fathers, and also in anonymous works like the Didache.

[48] Philoxenus of Mabbug (Syriac: ܐܟܣܢܝܐ ܡܒܘܓܝܐ, Aksenāyâ Mabûḡāyâ) (died 523), also known as Xenaias and Philoxenus of Hierapolis, was one of the most notable Syriac prose writers and a vehement champion of Miaphysitism.

[49] J. J. Griesbach, Novum Testamentum Graece, (London 1809)

[50] Christian Frederick Matthaei (4 March 1744, in Mücheln – 26 September 1811), a Thuringian, palaeographer, classical philologist, professor first at Wittenberg and then at Moscow.

[51] Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm Lachmann (German: [ˈlaxman]; 4 March 1793 – 13 March 1851) was a German philologist and critic. He is particularly noted for his foundational contributions to the field of textual criticism.

[52] Lobegott Friedrich Constantin (von) Tischendorf (18 January 1815 – 7 December 1874) was a German biblical scholar. In 1844, he discovered the world’s oldest and most complete Bible, dated to around the mid-4th century and called Codex Sinaiticus, after the St.

[53] Editio Octava Critica Maior is a critical edition of the Greek New Testament produced by Constantin von Tischendorf. It was Tischendorf’s eighth edition of the Greek Testament, and the most important, published between 1864 and 1894.

[54] The New Testament in the Original Greek is a Greek-language version of the New Testament published in 1881. It is also known as the Westcott and Hort text, after its editors Brooke Foss Westcott (1825–1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828–1892).

[55] The Codex Vaticanus (The Vatican, Bibl. Vat., Vat. gr. 1209; no. B or 03 Gregory-Aland, δ 1 von Soden) is one of the oldest copies of the Bible, one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named after its place of conservation in the Vatican Library, where it has been kept since at least the 15th century. It is written on 759 leaves of vellum in uncial letters and has been dated palaeographically to 300-325 C.E.

[56] An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament; in which the Greek Manuscripts are newly classed; the Integrity of the Authorised Text vindicated; and the Various Readings traced to their Origin (London, 1815), ch. 1. The sequel mentioned in the text is Nolan’s Supplement to an Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament; containing the Vindication of the Principles employed in its Defence (London, 1830).

[57] 5

[58] John William Burgon (21 August 1813 – 4 August 1888) was an English Anglican divine who became the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in 1876. He is remembered for his poetry and his defence of the historicity and Mosaic authorship of Genesis and of biblical inerrancy in general.

[59] The Codex Vaticanus (The Vatican, Bibl. Vat., Vat. gr. 1209; no. B or 03 Gregory-Aland, δ 1 von Soden) is one of the oldest copies of the Bible, one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named after its place of conservation in the Vatican Library, where it has been kept since at least the 15th century. It is written on 759 leaves of vellum in uncial letters and has been dated palaeographically to 300-325 C.E.

[60] Edward Miller, A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (The Dean Burgon Society Press: 2003), pp. 30-37. 57-59.

[61] Edward F. Hills, King James Version Defended!, pp. 199-200.

[62] Edward F. Hills, King James Version Defended!, pp. 209-213.


[64] “D. A. Waite.”; Daniel Wallace, The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique, in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, Wm. Eerdmans 1995, p. 301.

[65] In textual criticism of the New Testament, the Byzantine text-type (also called Majority Text, Traditional Text, Ecclesiastical Text, Constantinopolitan Text, Antiocheian Text, or Syrian Text) is one of the main text types. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

[66] Patristics or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers. The names derive from the combined forms of Latin pater and Greek patḗr (father).

[67] Augustine of Hippo (; Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis; 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian and philosopher of Berber origin and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period.

[68] Ambrose of Milan (Latin: Aurelius Ambrosius; c. 340 – 397), venerated as Saint Ambrose, was the Bishop of Milan, a theologian, and one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century.

[69] In textual criticism of the New Testament, the Western text-type is one of the main text types. It is the predominant form of the New Testament text witnessed in the Old Latin and Syriac Peshitta translations from the Greek, and also in quotations from certain 2nd and 3rd-century Christian writers, including Cyprian, Tertullian and Irenaeus.

[70] Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener (September 29, 1813, Bermondsey, Surrey – October 30, 1891, Hendon, Middlesex) was a New Testament textual critic and a member of the English New Testament Revision Committee which produced the Revised Version of the Bible. He was prebendary of Exeter, and vicar of Hendon.

[71] Codex Basilensis A. N. IV. 2, Minuscule 1 (on the list of Gregory-Aland), δ 254 (in von Soden’s numbering) and formerly designated by 1eap to distinguish it from minuscule 1rK (which previously used number 1) is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament, usually dated palaeographically to the 12th century AD. It is written on 297 parchment leaves and contains the entire New Testament except the Book of Revelation. The codex was prepared for liturgical use with marginalia (text’s division), and has almost completely survived; Erasmus used it for his Novum Instrumentum omne.

[72] In textual criticism of the New Testament, Caesarean text-type is the term proposed by certain scholars to denote a consistent pattern of variant readings that is claimed to be apparent in certain Koine Greek manuscripts of the four Gospels, but which is not found in any of the other commonly recognized New Testament text-types: the Byzantine text-type, the Western text-type and the Alexandrian text-type. In particular a common text-type has been proposed to be found: in the ninth/tenth century Codex Koridethi; in Codex Basilensis A. N. IV. 2 (a Greek manuscript of the Gospels used, sparingly, by Erasmus in his 1516 printed Koine New Testament); and in those Gospel quotations found in the third century works of Origen, which were written after he had settled in Caesarea.

[73] F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, (George Bell & Sons: London 1894), vol. 2, pp. 183-184.

[74] Daniel Baird Wallace (born June 5, 1952) is an American professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, the purpose of which is digitizing all known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament via digital photographs.

[75] Daniel Wallace, “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text”, Bibliotheca Sacra, July–September 1989, p. 276.

[76] Minuscule 2814 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), Aν20 (in Soden numbering), formerly labelled as 1rK in all catalogues, but subsequently renumbered as a 2814 by Aland, is a Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament, dated palaeographically to the 12th century.

[77] Andrew of Caesarea (Greek: Ἀνδρέας Καισαρείας; AD 563–637) was a Greek theological writer and bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Karl Krumbacher assigned him to the first half of the sixth century.

[78] John William Burgon (21 August 1813 – 4 August 1888) was an English Anglican divine who became the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in 1876. He is remembered for his poetry and his defence of the historicity and Mosaic authorship of Genesis and of biblical inerrancy in general.

[79] Reid, G. J. “The Evolution of Our English Bible”The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XXX, page 581, 1905.

Bobrick, Benson (2001). The Making of the English Bible. Phoenix. p. 195.

Newman, John Henry Cardinal “The Text of the Rheims and Douay Version of Holy Scripture”The Rambler, Vol. I, New Series, Part II, July 1859.

[80] “Home – MEV – Modern English Version”.

[81] The New American Standard Bible by the Lockman Foundation wants to play both sides of the fence. The company and the translators especially are all well aware of the interpolations in the Textus Receptus, the corrupt readings, and yet they retain this in their main text, which we would call the Bible, while all other modern English translations place them in the footnote. Lockman and translators would say, yes but they are in [square brackets], which let readers know they were not original. No, that can also convey simple doubtfulness. They are trying to play both sides of the fence to retain their King James Bible Readers. Now, in 2020, the NASB has adopted some dynamic equivalent translation philosophies to try and pick up a wider audience of readers. They seem to be more concerned with garnering more of the Bible market.

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