Manuel II Paleologus, Renaissance Europe and the Textus Receptus

In 1399, the city of Constantinople was under siege. The Ottoman Turks under Bayezid I had conquered virtually all of the Byzantine territories outside of the city itself. The emperor, Manuel II, was convinced that the only way to break the siege was a personal appeal to the powers of western Europe. For the first time in history, a Byzantine emperor headed west on an imperial tour.

What significance does this have in the discussion of the King James Bible?

More than you might think.

Manuel’s tour lasted three years. He visited the courts of England, France, the Holy Roman Empire (Germany), Denmark and Aragon (Spain). He carried himself as exactly what he was – the ruler of a culture that had survived for nearly 2,000 years. Manuel was educated and refined. He was a master of language, literature, science and politics. Everywhere he went, there was a swelling rage for Greek things. Dozens of contemporary accounts exist, gushing over the way he dressed and the way he spoke. He was such an impressive person that no one even brought up the religious differences that had divided Constantinople from the rest of Europe for ever 1,000 years.

Greek was very in that season.

Shortly before Manuel’s tour, the University of Florence had invited a Greek by the name of Manuel Chyrsoloras to teach Greek thinking and language. Manuel’s tour made Chyrsoloras and his students celebrities as well. Chyrsoloras taught many of the early humanists such as Leonardo Bruni and Ambrogio Traversari. His small group of close followers eventually rose to high level positions throughout Europe. Bruni became secretary to pope Gregory XII while Traversari was an influential thinker who did a number of key translations of ancient philosophy. Others such as Guarino de Verona traveled back to the Greek capital, learned Greek there and then brought manuscripts to Europe.

It was the rage for Greek things that was fueled by Manuel’s visits which ultimately resulted in the compilation of a Greek text for western Europe. Men like Traversari and Guarino spread their knowledge of the language through their own students and admirers. When Desiderius Erasmus learned Greek, it was from Chyrsoloras’ grammar, Erotemata Civas Questiones, which was printed first in Italy in 1471 and then made available to greater Europe in 1483.

People often wonder why there was no “standardization” of the Greek New Testament in Europe prior to Erasmus’ editions (1516, 1519, 1522, 1527, 1535). It was simply because no one in western Europe had learned Greek for 700 years, and they had extremely limited access to Greek texts of the New Testament – access so limited as to be virtually non-existent.

Manuel’s tour, coupled with the work of Manuel Chyrsoloras and his pupils, changed the way Europe viewed Greek culture and language. Once European Christians could access the Greek text of the New Testament, they began to question the Latin text they had received.

Unfortunately, they had access to very few manuscripts of the Greek text. There were a few – Vaticanus was probably brought to Italy after Constantinople was taken over by the Normans in 1204 – but they were not available to most people outside of the Papal palaces. After Manuel’s tour, more were brought over, but there were never a LOT of Greek manuscripts. (It is highly likely that among Guarino’s texts, there was at least a portion of the New Testament.)

Manuel’s son Constantine XI was the last emperor in Constantinople. In 1453, the great city of Constantinople fell to Bayezid’s grandson, Mehmet II. The flow of manuscripts ended abruptly once the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople and rechristened it Istanbul. The Turks sacked and burned most of the churches in the city and a thousand years of archives and literary treasures went up in flames.

For the next three hundred years or so, western Europe had no access to Ottoman territories. Practically the only Greek manuscripts they knew were those which had come to Europe via the short period between 1399 and 1453.

Once Erasmus printed a Greek text of the New Testament and Chrysoloras’ grammar was made available, Greek learning grew substantially. It was, however, confined to the study of the classical texts and the few Greek manuscripts that had made it to Europe. It would not be until the 19th century that anyone could penetrate the Ottoman controlled Middle East and find other texts.

The King James Only advocates demand that we accept the Textus Receptus as the absolute text of the Greek New Testament because it underlies the King James Version. They often support their position using the years in which it was the standard Greek text. The reality is that the TR was the result of a short interlude that allowed a few precious manuscripts into Europe.

History can be a stubborn thing, which is why many ideologues choose not to read it.

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Coffee With Sam: What’s the Big Deal about the KJV?

A new website has launched called BigDealKJV.com, in which (according to the video creator) 8-10 video episodes will eventually be published. In this first episode, KJVO advocate Sam Gipp sits down over coffee with a student to explain to his confused mind why the KJV is the final authority.

In this well-produced short video, Gipp offers many of the same arguments and presuppositions posited by KJV advocates. While Gipp has said things that place him in the Ruckmanite category, he comes off here as a humble and wise professor seeking to take the complex issue of biblical transmission and make it fit into a simple construct with contemporary analogies. Here are some arguments given:

1. The Bible(s) we have today have to be exactly the same as that given by inspiration in order to be authoritative. 

Gipp makes this point in the very beginning when he declares the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, and then clarifies that he’s “not talking about an imaginary book” but “a book that I’m holding in my hand right now.”  He proceeds to point to the Bible in his hand as the final authority.

This idea has been propagated in numerous ways across the spectrum of King James Onlyism. What this concept does is it provides a basis to later declare all modern versions as less than authoritative because they do not all equally match each other. The KJVO advocate may deny it, but if he uses this argumentation, he really is looking for a photocopy of the originals, albeit in English.

2. There are only two Bibles, the Egyptian and the Antiochan.

Over coffee, Gipp tells his suspicious catechumen that despite the hundreds of Bible translations in the bookstores, all Bibles come from just one of two lines of manuscripts: those that come from Alexandria, Egypt, and those that come from Antioch in Syria. From this simplistic categorization of text types, Gipp then uses the guilt-by-association tactic to prove the superiority of the KJV because of its affiliation with Antiochian manuscripts.

Never mind that the Bible provides no precedent to use a distinction between Egypt and Antioch for a basis of judging translations, or that the Son of God was called out of Egypt, or that Athanasius, the champion of trinitarian orthodoxy, came from Alexandria. Because the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch and Egypt is generally spoken of negatively in the scriptures, the issue is presented very matter-of-fact by Gipp that the KJV descends from the Antiochian line, and is therefore superior.

3. The Textus Receptus is the Antiochian line of manuscripts

Gipp says the TR “is the Greek that comes out of Antioch.” So, the line of reasoning is as follows: Inspiration in Antioch > copies and publishing in Antioch > Textus Receptus > KJV.

Unfortunately for Gipp’s argumentation, the transmission of the text is not that simple.

4. The Critical Text is bad because it’s called the Critical Text

I chuckled at the statement, “Just the fact that it’s ‘critical’ should tell you there’s a problem.” All the while he’s promoting the TR, which is a Greek text. A text, by its very nature, is critical. Variant readings from manuscripts have to be compared in order to produce a finished product. In this way, Erasmus’ TR editions are critical, although worked from far fewer manuscripts and with less of a science of textual criticism.

5. Modern translations cannot help a Christian grow in the same way the KJV can.

Thankfully, Gipp admits that people can come to the knowledge of the gospel and be saved through reading versions other than the KJV. However, only the KJV is incorruptible, and corrupt modern versions are not appropriate for the Christian’s growth. No evidence is given here, but at this point, the episode is coming to a close, so I suspect we’ll get more details in the future.

National Geographic Features the King James Bible and Its Legacy

This month, the King James Bible is featured in National Geographic Magazine. You can read the entire article here. The article is written by Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

For some reason the global impact of the KJV morphs into a discussion of Rastafarianism. But the article is a worthwhile read, nonetheless. My thanks go to James Snapp for alerting me to this article.

“The Superiority of the Majority Text” by Brian Schwertley

Recently, a reader sent me a link to the following lecture by Presbyterian pastor Brain Schwertley. It was forwarded to me under the heading of “Challenging Sermon from a TR-only Perspective.” I appreciate that forward; it gives us something to talk about. In listening to the sermon, I found it to be wanting: he used typical arguments, he confused terminology, and he does not answer each objections as well as he says he does. On the positive note, I found it refreshing to hear a sermon from a TR supporter that is not full of conspiracy theories and ad-hominem attack. Granted, he isn’t thrilled with those who support modern versions, but his passion seems sincere. What do you think?

Link to Sermon

“The Best Cure for KJVOism: A Real 1611 KJV” by Doug Kutilek

The following article is reprinted with permission from “As I See It”, Volume 14, Number 6, June 2011, a free monthly newsletter published by Doug Kutilek. Subscription information is available here at the author’s website: KJVOnly.Org. Note: our posting of this article does not imply our complete endorsement of all particulars contained therein.


 

The Best Cure for KJVOism: A Real 1611 KJV

It has been widely publicized that the year 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the original publication of the so-called “Authorized” or “King James Version” of the Bible in English. This translation has historically been the most widely used, at least since it overtook the previous champion, the Geneva Bible of 1560 (chiefly, at least initially, as a result of the legal suppression of the printing of the Geneva Bible by the British monarchy, in favor of the KJV). It should be noted, however, that the great majority of the editions and copies of the KJV printed and read in the past 400 years have been revisions rather than reprints of the original form of the KJV, with literally tens of thousands of revisions in spelling, punctuation and the use of italics, plus many hundreds in the precise wording of the text, to say nothing of the switch from “black letter” (“Gothic”) type to Roman, the widespread omission of the Apocrypha in the 18th and later centuries, along with the omission of an extended calendar and charts of Biblical genealogies, and most unfortunately, the omission of the extremely important and informative introductory essay, “The Translators to the Readers,” which was in the original edition. In short, most KJV users, particularly those who claim to be “King James Version 1611 Only” in their beliefs, have never actually seen or used a real 1611 King James Version in the original form in which it was issued from the press in 1611.

In the past, there have been from time to time facsimile reprints of the 1611 KJV. In 1833, “The Holy Bible, an exact reprint page for page of the Authorized Version published in the year 1611” was printed at the University Press, Oxford; it was in Roman type (see A. S. Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525-1961. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1968; p. 377). In 1911, the University Press at Oxford issued two 1611 reprints–the first a facsimile (in black letter) in reduced size of the original 1611 KJV, the other an exact reprint page-for-page but in Roman type, of the 1611 edition, both with introductory essays by A. W. Pollard (see Herbert, p. 458). I have owned a copy of the 1911 Roman type reprint for almost 35 years.

This 1911 Roman type reprint was reissued in the 1970s (or early 1980s) by Thomas Nelson of Nashville, about the time they issued their New King James Version (and for a time Nelson sold the two volumes together in a slipcase). This reprint omitted the Pollard essay (and perhaps other features–I gave my copy to one of my sons a few years ago and cannot check it directly). Later–probably in the 1990s–, Hendrickson Publishing (the publishing arm of Christian Book Distributors) also reprinted the1911 Roman type edition (in precisely the form Nelson had). These two recent reprints are easy to find via the internet.

Besides these, there have been over the years several full-sized facsimile reprints of the 1611 KJV by various publishers; my brother has a copy of one made in the 1950s, for which he paid $350, used, a decade ago. Such full-sized facsimiles are rarely met with and are generally rather pricey (in the hundreds or even many hundreds of dollars)

Now, another edition, widely available and quite inexpensive, has appeared, this made by Zondervan and sold at Wal-Mart (and perhaps other retail outlets). The ISBN is: 978-0-310-44029-1. It is a facsimile–an exact reproduction in the original black letter script–of the 1611 edition, but in a reduced size, and with one feature of the original omitted–the thirteen books of the Apocrypha (as noted on p. viii of the Introduction to this new edition). That the 1611 KJV originally did have the Apocrypha can be visually confirmed in this edition on the page containing Malachi 4, where the “catch-word” at the bottom of the page is “APO-“ which points to “APOCRYPHA” which is at the top of the page in the original (and in my 1911 reprint), after which originally followed the complete text of those non-canonical books).

The printed retail price of this Zondervan 2011 facsimile reprint is $7.99, though I have bought several copies at Wal-Mart in Kansas for $4.97 and I have heard it priced about a dollar higher elsewhere (and I suspect they hope to make a profit on the publication of the KJV at that price). I would strongly urge EVERY PREACHER, EVERY CHRISTIAN READER and EVERY CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN COLLEGE LIBRARY to get a copy AT ONCE. If you have any KJVO friends, buy and give them a copy. There is no quicker cure for KJVOism that the direct and extended study of the 1611 edition, introductory material and all.

One finds in the actual, original, genuine 1611 KJV (no doubt “preserved in the form God wants us to have”) an introductory essay that states the translators’ perspective on their own and other translations (they, at least, were decidedly NOT “KJVOnly”). If I could do just ONE thing, I would make every KJVO partisan read carefully those 11 highly informative pages. The original translator’s English Bible text has literally thousands of variant marginal renderings (showing that they did not believe their translation as found in the text was infallibly correct), plus variant manuscript readings, showing that they did not believe that the manuscript reading given in their text was necessarily always right. One will also find numerous places where words are “omitted,” “added” or altered as compared with all modern editions of the KJV, to say nothing of a considerable number of printer’s errors (are these also part of the “perfect preservation” we hear so much about?). And one can discover on the title page of the NT those revealing words: “cum privilegio” (Latin: “with privilege”) which demonstrate the undeniable fact that this translation was COPYRIGHTED FROM THE DAY IT WAS FIRST PUBLISHED (contrary to the gross misrepresentation on this point that is part of the accepted KJVO “wisdom”).

I am quite sure that the quickest “cure” for the absurdity of KJVOism is the close and careful study of the actual original KJV itself. I would challenge–even dare–every KJVO partisan to get this facsimile of the original KJV and study it “cover to cover” and margin to margin, spending a year and more in the process, and try to prove me wrong.

—Doug Kutilek

© Copyrighted by the author. Reprinted by permission. Posted in full, with no alterations (other than adding the picture of the KJV 1611 reprint).


Note: You can purchase a copy of the Zondervan fascimile at the following online retailers: Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or direct from Zondervan.

Was the King James Bible Published on May 2nd, 1611?

I have a confession, I depended on Google to verify the publication date of the King James Bible when I posted my recent video review of Dr. Donald Brake’s A Visual History of the King James Bible. I had heard the date May 2, given for the publishing of the KJB from the Haven Today radio interview of Dr. Brake. I Googled and found that several other sites were saying May 2 was “the date”.

I came across this blog post, where the blogger directly asked Dr. Brake if May 2nd was the date. Here’s an excerpt from his post and I think this answers the question.

David Norton in his book A Textual History of the King James Bible says “The printing history of the KJB is plagued throughout by inadequate publishing records. Presumably because it was considered a revision rather than a new book, the first edition was not entered on the Stationers’ Registers, so we do not know when in 1611 it appeared.” (page 46)

Norton’s book was published in 2005 so I thought maybe some new evidence had surfaced which fixed the date to May 2nd. I immediately thought of Donald Brake. After reading his first book, A Visual History of the English Bible, I had emailed him a couple of questions and he quickly provided me with answers. Since he just published a book specifically on the history of the King James Version (A Visual History of the King James Bible) I thought I would try him again. Two days later came his reply. Here’s what he wrote:

“The actual date of the publication is unknown. Tradition has placed it in May but no specific date can be verified. We know it was being sold in November from a diary of a resident in England, a Mr. Throckmorton. I believe David Norton is correct and I too am puzzled by the fact it was not in Stationer’s Registers. They were generally disciplined to include all new publications. I question the reason ‘because it was considered a revision rather than a new book.’ While it was designed to be a revision of the Bishops’ Bible as clearly stated in the Introduction, few would consider it an actual revision of the Bishops’. The translators consulted most of the 16th century Bibles (as set forth in the 15 rules for translators) plus the Greek and Hebrew texts. Having said that, I don’t have a better explanation. Perhaps it was released over a period of time as the copies were sold.”

As it turns out Brake was in DC during May 2nd and 3rd for a celebration of the KJV anniversary. The date, he said, was a “date the anniversary committee decided as the official day.”…

[Read the whole post]

40% Discount on KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World (DVD)


Westminster Bookstore has a special deal on the DVD documentary: KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World. This DVD is a first-rate and tells the story of the making of the King James Bible well. I have reviewed the DVD in full here.

At 40% off the regular retail price, this may be the time to pick up this DVD. You can also compare the price at ChristianBook.com and Amazon.com.

Here is the trailer: