This is the third and final installment of our interview with Dr. Maurice Robinson, co-editor of the The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 1991, 2005). Continuing from part 2….
10. What would you see as the future for the Majority Text position? What needs to happen for it to have a greater impact on the wider church?
I expect the Byzantine-priority position to maintain itself, at least at the current level of acceptance. I would hope that, over time, more people might become convinced that a thoroughly integrated theory of transmission needs to underlie any text-critical endeavor — and such a theory is severely lacking in current modern eclectic praxis. As for the wider church, the matter depends on God’s people who comprise that body. Should the laypeople become convinced that the modern critical texts, the currently applied praxis of textual eclecticism, and translations based upon such are deficient, then perhaps the popular appeal of the Byzantine or majority text position will grow; if not, matters will continue much as they currently are.
One thing I would like to see (and I mentioned this in a paper presented at the end of May 2010 in Montreal, at a Canadian Bible Society sponsored conference on Text and Translation) is a greater number of footnotes added to modern translations regarding translatable textual variants, and to present these with some real specificity as to the nature of the manuscripts or texttype that support a given variant. Beyond this, I really would like to see existing NT translations (e.g., NASV, ESV, NKJV) appear in two editions: one reflecting the eclectic Alexandrian-based text (as current), and the other reflecting a Byzantine-based text (with text-critical footnotes adjusted to match each situation).
11. Speaking closer to home, would you say the Majority Text should influence students and pastors today? If so, how?
As Günther Zuntz stated in 1942, regardless of acceptance of the Byzantine-priority position, one really should “profitably pause to glance at the only universal Greek text of the New Testament that ever existed” (JTS 43  25-30). For more than a millennium, this form of text indeed was the “universal text” of the Greek-speaking world, a circumstance that did not come about without good reason. I suggest the major reason to be transmissional considerations leading to a generally consistent and regular perpetuation of the canonical autographs, with little or no major alteration beyond limited and minor scribal variation occurring sporadically among only a limited number of manuscripts.
12. Along these lines, what Bible translation would you recommend for general church use? Are any good quality English translations available that use the Majority Text?
At the present time no printed English translations of the Byzantine Textform exist, although the KJV and NKJV (both based on the TR) would come close. The NKJV comes closer, assuming that one follows its “M-text” footnotes scattered throughout, although these are by no means totally comprehensive regarding all translatable differences between the TR and the Byzantine Textform. As for unpublished electronic English translations of the majority text, there exist Zeolla’s ALT (Analytical-Literal Translation), Johnson’s WEB (World English Bible), and Esposito’s EMTV (English Majority Text Version), of which the latter remains the most readable without being overly literal.
I personally would welcome a good quality (readable formal-equivalence) printed English translation of the Byzantine Textform. I also would like to see a good interlinear based on the Byzantine Textform (either project of which I would be pleased to work on and/or supervise). The primary obstacle to both projects (at least for me) remains the need for funding and support of such.
13. Thanks again for your interacting with us on these points, Dr. Robinson. Could you help our readers know where we can find a copy of the Majority Text that you edited? And would you speak briefly on how it differs with the Hodges/Farstad edition that preceded it?
The Robinson-Pierpont edition is The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, available in hardback from various online sources or in case lots of 12 from the publisher (www.chiltonpublishing.com). Individual copies can be obtained from me within the USA at a low cost that covers only publishing plus postage and handling.
As for the differences from Hodges-Farstad: these are relatively minor in nature and in quantity small (somewhere around 220 differences total). Apart from the Revelation and the Pericope Adulterae passage in John, our differences reflect a varying choice where the Byzantine manuscripts are significantly divided. Due to their methodology, H-F in certain instances invoked manuscripts from non-Byzantine texttypes in order to determine their numerical “majority” reading. In Revelation, H-F chose to utilize a genealogical method similar to that of Westcott and Hort, accepting as primary a small subgroup that does not always reflect the more dominant Byzantine Textform (represented by the union of the Byzantine Q and A? groups). In the Pericope Adulterae, H-F follow the group termed “?6” by von Soden, primarily on the basis of internal criteria; our text in that pericope follows the “???5” group, primarily due to the relative antiquity of the ?5 tradition, but also with regard to transmissional probabilities regarding the variants in question.
14. Do you have plans for any future editions?
Glad you asked: the newest edition (a Reader’s Edition) has just appeared: The Greek New Testament for Beginning Readers: Byzantine Textform. This volume contains our 2005 text, but with lexical definitions and parsing information on each page for all NT root forms occurring 50 times or less in the NT. It also has an appendix that covers definitions and parsing information for all forms occurring more than 50 times (the Zondervan and UBS Reader’s editions only cover words occurring 30 times or less, and lack the appendices covering all other definitions and verbal forms). This hardback volume was prepared by Jeffrey Dodson (in consultation with me) over the past five years; it is published in hardcover by VTR (Verlag für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft), Nürnberg, Germany, but is speedily available in the USA and Canada from Amazon and other online marketers with the price (both retail and discounted) being parallel with that of the softcover NIV-based Reader’s Edition from Zondervan.
15. We can find you contributing from time to time over at Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, is there any additional online home where we can read more of your work? And are there any additional resources or websites you’d like to refer interested readers to for more information on the Majority Text?
To the first question, the answer is no, I generally do not post at other sites by deliberate choice. First, I am too busy to blog (and I don’t Tweet, Twitter, or Text either); second, I am generally disappointed by the nature and tone of most online text-critical or translational comment blogs, particularly since the KJVO writers tend to monopolize or hijack virtually all discussions, and I have no interest in dealing with what I consider illogical sophistry, conspiracy theories, and agenda-driven propagandistic blather. I have posted (rarely) on the Yahoo Byzantine Text discussion list, but almost exclusively on the ETC blogsite. I do have a couple of articles and reviews available online through the electronic TC Journal, but that’s about all.
As for other resources, I would recommend that anyone interested in the Byzantine or majority text issue begin historically with the various 19th century authors who defended a greater proportion of Byzantine readings than any others, without having the KJV as some sort of touchstone. These in various degrees include John W. Burgon, Edward Miller, F. H. A. Scrivener, and S. W. Whitney, as well as the French writer J. P. P. Martin. After digesting that material, I would move to reading the more modern authors on the subject such as the various material from Zane Hodges, Wilbur Pickering, Andrew Wilson, and myself. Not to be neglected, however, are the writings of those representing the opposite position, many of whom are addressed within the pages of the writers mentioned above; this particularly includes the Westcott-Hort Introduction volume.
16. Would you have a particular book or two that you would recommend as a good one-book introduction to the Byzantine-Priority position?
There really is no “book” out there on that specific topic (though a collection of my various articles, ETS presentations, and essays is currently in the works, but this won’t be ready for a couple of years). At this point, the best I can recommend is for people to read the Introduction to the 1991 R-P Gk NT edition and also the “Case for Byzantine Priority” appendix to the R-P 2005 edition (available here).
I should also add bibliographically that for a good overview of the “majority text” position, one really needs to read the various articles by Zane Hodges in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that appeared in the late 1970s (Hodges’ other articles in Bibliotheca Sacra in the 60s, 70s, and 80s are also helpful in this regard, although not as precisely to the point as the JETS articles).
And of course, for Pickering’s position, one needs to read his Identity of the New Testament Text (preferably his 3rd edition, available on the internet) as well as his JETS articles from the late 1970s.
Editor’s Note: I have tracked down the entire series of articles on the Greek Majority Text that were published in JETS in the late 1970s. They are available online (in .PDF format) and I give the links below. Also, Pickering’s book is available online in readable format here (bit I’m unsure if it is his 3rd edition).
- “Queen Anne Resurrected? A Review Article” by Richard A. Taylor (JETS Volume 20-4, December 1977) [A review of Wilbur Pickering’s The Identity of the New Testament Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977)]
- “Modern Textual Criticism and the Revival of the Textus Receptus” by Gordon D. Fee (JETS Volume 21-1, March 1978)
- “Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Response” by Zane C. Hodges (JETS Volume 21-2, June 1978)
- “Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Rejoinder” by Gordon D. Fee (JETS Volume 21-2, June 1978)
- “Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Surrejoinder” by Zane C. Hodges (JETS Volume 21-2, June 1978)
- “‘Queen Anne… ‘ and All That: A Response” by Wilbur N. Pickering (JETS Volume 21-2, June 1978)
- “‘Queen Anne’ Revisited: A Rejoinder” by Richard A. Taylor (JETS Volume 21-2, June 1978)
We want to thank you Dr. Robinson for your work in the area of textual criticism which is a blessing to us all. Thanks too for taking the time to interact with us here in our little corner of the world wide web.
Thank you for inviting me to this interview. I hope it will be beneficial to all your readers, particularly since the subject matter involves the word of God, a situation for which the establishment of textual accuracy remains most important.
For additional reading, check out the following links:
- Interview with Maurice Robinson (Part 1) by David Alan Black
- Interview with Maurice Robinson (Part 2) by David Alan Black
- Review of Robinson & Pierpont by P.J. Williams of the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog