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.

A Critique of Thomas Holland’s View of the Last Six Verses in Revelation

I recently noticed that the Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism chose to address the writings of an influential King James Only proponent: Thomas Holland. Holland represents the best kind of King James Onlyism, from what I have heard of him. He is honest and deals with the evidence at hand – or at least tries to. At the end of the day, he sticks with his guiding principles and faith in the perfect preservation of all of God’s words, no matter what the evidence. But his writing style is more helpful than many of the KJV proponents I have read.

The journal article focuses on Holland’s explanation of the last six verses of Revelation and his valiant attempt to explain away the consensus that Erasmus translated these verses from the Latin into Greek (for his N.T. edition), since he had no Greek manuscripts that covered that portion of Revelation.

Jan Krans, whose written a book on how Erasmus and Beza handled their translation work, takes Holland to task for what amounts, ultimately, to poor scholarship. Here is the abstract for his paper:

With Thomas Holland’s lengthy discussion of a reading in Rev 22:19 as an example, this article shows how Holland’s way of doing New Testament textual criticism falls short on all academic standards. With respect to the main issue, Erasmus’ retranslation of the final verses of Revelation, Holland fails to properly find, address and evaluate both primary and secondary sources.

I was impressed by how carefully and fairly Krans treated Holland, even as he systematically dismantles his every argument. At the end of the day it is quite apparent that Erasmus did translate from the Latin into Greek resulting in several unique Greek readings in these few short verses.

Equally apprent is the fact that Holland engages in special pleading and circular reasoning in trying to explain away the obvious. He casts doubt upon this historical reality (and definite problem for the TR – since most of the errors remain in all copies of it) in any way he can. He throws suspicion on whether Erasmus really said he translated it from the Latin, then he says the translation job was really good, then he says actually Hoskier thinks that another manuscript was used by Erasmus. In each case, Holland is misreading his sources and misses the mark of the truth.

Like it or not, Erasmus translated from Latin into Greek. The only Greek copies which support his mistranslations were copied after the presence of his Greek NT, and were influenced by it. This fact is admitted by Hoskier and is the consensus of careful scholars. Anyone who claims the Textus Receptus is perfect, has to grapple with this fact. I would argue that we can’t just believe what we want to believe and turn a blind eye to history and textual evidence. We have to face them head on. Reading thisarticle will help in that process. And I’d recommend William Combs’ articles on this matter as well.

Here’s some more info on Krans:

Jan Krans, Ph.D. (2004) in Theology, is Lecturer of New Testament at VU University, Amsterdam. He is currently working on a comprehensive overview and evaluation of important conjectures on the Greek New Testament. He is the author of Beyond What Is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (Brill, 2006) and also contributes to the the Amsterdam NT Weblog. His book is available online through

The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8 by C.L. Bolt

This article isn’t brand new, but I believe it is a worthwhile contribution to our blog. I came across this essay as its author, C.L. Bolt, and I interacted on a mutual friend’s comment thread on Facebook. Mr. Bolt was happy to have me re-post it here. Be sure to check out his website, Choosing Hats, an excellent resource of presuppositional apologetics.

The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8

by C.L. BOLT on DECEMBER 31, 2010

The Comma Johanneum as a Textual Problem


The phrase “Comma Johanneum” is the name given to a short clause of a sentence found in 1 John 5.7-8 which has become a famous problem in textual criticism. The word “comma” as it is used here just means a short clause of a sentence and “Johanneum” refers to the writings of the Apostle John.[i] The phrase “Comma Johanneum” thus refers to a short clause of a sentence (comma) which has some relevance to the writings of John (Johanneum). The Comma Johanneum can be found in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)[ii]

Continue reading

Where Do We Stand?

Last week’s post generated plenty of conversation. I hope to highlight one of the points brought to light in a future post; namely, I will post on Tischendorf’s discovery of Sinaiticus and how the story is portrayed in the KJVO debate on all sides.

What got me thinking, though, is more along the lines of our personal backgrounds. I realize some of our regular guests have shared their own story, but I’m not sure that I even know where everyone stands on the issue. I see we have folks who regularly comment in support of the TR or MT but are not necessarily KJVO. We have others who are very critical of the CT but again, not KJVO. Then we have some who are indeed KJVO. I am also very interested in your theological leanings, as we’ve had people here who are not Christian at all. It helps to know who we’re talking to.

I’m wondering if those of you who regularly comment here (or who have in the past) would mind providing a little theological background and insight into your current thoughts on the Bible version issue. My fellow contributors are welcome to chime in as always. Even though we’ve given short bios on the authors page, and even though we all come from the IFB KJVO position, we have not all given our full position on this topic and I’m sure we even differ among ourselves.

To keep the commentary to the point, would you please follow these guidelines and answer these questions:

Guidelines: Please keep it brief yet specific. Please refrain from replying to a comment unless it addresses a specific point made (perhaps for an elaboration or clarification rather than an argument).


1. What kind of church do you attend, if any?
2. What is your role in ministry, if any?
3. Has your position on the Bible version issue changed? If so, how?
4. How would you describe your current perspective on the TR, MT, and CT?
5. How important is this issue to you and how significant is it to your theology as a whole? (for example, do you practice separation if someone does not agree, etc)
6. What English Bibles do you recommend and use?
7. What resources have helped you, and which would you urge people to stay away from?
8. Finally, to keep things friendly, share with us what your favorite food is.

The above do not necessarily all have to be answered, or answered in order, but if you could frame your comments around these topics that would help us keep things clear and concise.

Jack Moorman on Revelation 16:5

In the recent James White — Jack Moorman debate on King James Onlyism, White brought up Rev. 16:5 as containing a phrase in the King James Version with no manuscipt support at all. It was added on the basis of conjectural emendation, he claimed. Several times in the debate he went back to that point, and Moorman kept saying he dealt with it already in one of his books.

Well, here’s the only section in Jack Moorman’s books that I know of which deals with Rev. 16:5. This is from When the KJV Departs from the So-Called “Majority’ Text: with Manuscipt Digest by Jack A. Moorman (published by The Bible for Today, Collingswood, NJ 1988). This is from pg. 102. I’ve tried to reproduce the format as shown in his book (my copy is the second edition).

Revelation 16:5
AV        which art, and wast, and shalt be
HF CR                                    … the Holy One


The KJV reading is in harmony with the four other places in Revelation where this phrase is found.
1:4 “him which is, and which was, and which is to come”
1:8 “the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty”
4:8 “Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come”
11:17 “Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come”
Indeed Christ is the Holy One, but in the Scriptures of the Apostle John the title is found only once (1 John 2:20), and there, a totally different Greek word is used. The Preface to the Authorised Version reads:

“with the former translations diligently compared and revised”

The translators must have felt there was good reason to insert these words though it ran counter to much external evidence. They obviously did not believe the charge made today that Beza inserted it on the basis of “conjectural emendation”. They knew that they were translating the Word of God, and so do we. The logic of faith should lead us to see God’s guiding providence in a passage such as this.

[AV = Authorized Version/King James Bible, HF = Hodges/Farstad Majority Text, CR = Critical Text (specifically the NA26/UBS3)]

When I first encountered this reasoning for maintaining the King James reading, I was troubled. He lists no witnesses except for Beza’s text. At the time, I was still of the KJV only persuasion, the TR Only variety. I wondered why Moorman disagreed with E.F. Hills a learned King James Version defender who admitted that Rev. 16:5 was a conjectural emendation. Later I learned that Beza actually tells us in his textual notes that this is a conjectural emendation inserted based on his presumption that John would be consistent with other similar phrases (which Moorman quotes above).

Well, since that time, I’ve come to see this as one of the clearest errors in the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus. Neither accepted version of the Textus Receptus contains this error. The 1550 Stephanus edition, prized in England as “the standard”, and the Elzevir’s text of 1633 preferred on the continent (of Europe), both do not contain this reading. Update: Actually the 1550 Stephanus, the standard in Europe, does not have Beza’s reading. The 1633 Elzevir’s text does, but the earlier 1624 Elzevir’s and all later Elzevir’s editions (1641-1678) go back to the Stephanus reading. I am unclear as to how much more preference was given to the 1633 text over the 1624, edition. H.C. Hoskier says the 1624 text is better, see Appendix C of his A Full Account and Collation of the Greek Cursive Codex Evangelium here). None of the previous English versions that the KJV translators referred to had this reading. The Latin didn’t have it either. In another post I have detailed the only possible, barest shred of evidence, a citation in one Latin commentary which may contain this reading. Beza is ignorant of that commentary however.

My point in bringing this up here is to show that I’m not so certain that Moorman has really dealt with this text. This is circular reasoning at its worst. This mentality belies the motivation behind many KJV Onlyists, which I believe White correctly pinpointed in the debate. It is the desire for a standard text. That’s a commendable desire, but it doesn’t excuse sloppy handling of evidence. By the way, this doesn’t mean that the TR isn’t a great text (most TRs don’t have this error). It also doesn’t impugn the Majority Text, as it obviously doesn’t have this reading.

Now I’m ready to stand corrected if in later copies of this book, Moorman actually added more evidence or took out his circular arguments. But at least in this version of the book, his arguments were quite poor indeed.

Testing the Core Textus Receptus Premise

In all the discussion of the TR-Only position, I think there have been a lot of straw men erected (on both sides of the discussion) and a lot of complimentary schismogenesis. I am going to ask all of you to forget all the anxilliary arguments for a moment. I think the core discussion is being lost in the fog of all the stuff being thrown around.

At the core of the Textus Receptus argument is this simple statement:

God entrusted the Bible to the Church; and the part of the Church that spoke Greek preserved the Greek New Testament.

As a corollary to this primary thesis:

Textual readings that are newly discovered and vary from the living, received text are not to be preferred over the readings that remained in daily, regular use.

This is why the Elzevir brothers termed this manuscript tradition textus receptus and why it was later dubbed majority text.

Now, without getting into any anxillary points, can we look at this thesis and its corollary and find any reason it should not stand.

I am legitimately asking the commenters and contributors to suspend any discussion of the ‘weight’ of variants and those things. I am asking you to focus only on the thesis and its corollary.

This discussion is open to anyone (including even you, Steve), but I warn you that any discussion off-topic will be removed. I want to see if it is even possible for everyone to deal with this premise and this premise alone. If you can’t stay on topic, however, it is probably best not to comment.

There might also be a secondary corollary to this:

The archaic, koine, form of Greek is older than the Attic and Byzantine forms of Greek where the two might diverge in living, received manuscripts.

But that is a topic for another time.

Some Follow Up Questions with Dr. DiVietro

Introductory Note:
Bob, the owner of had some additional interaction with Dr. DiVietro concerning his TR-Only position. With Dr. DiVietro’s permission, we are reprinting his responses here.

KJV Only Debate:
Do you follow the Scrivener Greek Text or the Cambridge KJV in the few places where they differ? (Or is some other Greek Text available that you would hold to more closely than Scrivener’s?)

Dr. DiVietro:
We know that the actual texts translated by the KJV 1611 translators were lost with their notes in the 1660 fire of London. We also know that Scrivener started with the Bezae 1598 and inserted the readings followed by the 1611 translators wherever they differed from the Bezae text.  He stated that he thought he had listed them all but there was the possibility of inadvertent omissions. Therefore the Scrivener text is not inerrant.

I do believe that the 1611 translators did their homework and translated the historic text as they received it in manuscripts, versions, lectionaries and the church fathers.  They did not follow any given TR or MT printed text. They had multiple sources at the table.  Where an absolute difference occurs between the KJV and the Scrivener text I assume that Scrivener inadvertently missed it.

KJV Only Debate:
If you side with Scrivener, would you have a problem saying the KJV has a few errors in places where it doesn’t follow the TR?

Dr. DiVietro:
No, I would not say that. The TR is not a single printed text. That idea is a straw man constantly erected to avoid the genuine issues.  The TR is not any particular edition of Erasmus or Stephanus or Elzivir or Scrivener or anyone else. It is the text you will read if you simply pick up and read the vast majority of NT manuscripts.

There is no such thing as a pure Alexandrian, pure Western, pure Byzantine manuscript.  Yes there is variation between the TR manuscripts but the main stream of the text is clear.  The problem is that people want to lock down the TR to a given manuscript or printed form. It is the RECEIVED text. It is how the text looked when someone received a manuscript.

When I differentiate between the TR and the modern eclectic text it is because there is absolutely NO manuscript that supports the eclectic text. Not even B, Aleph, L or f44 f46 or any of their other allies is followed consistently.  And yes, I have either facsimiles or photographs, as well as the printed text of most of these.

The modern text is created by choosing the most aberrant reading in any given opportunity with the assumption that that it is most original.  The result is a patchwork of readings resulting in an incomplete, often errant theologically, biblically, etc. text.  Read the intrinsic and external sieves for discovering the ‘true’ reading of a manuscript or a text type (Alexandrian, byzantine, etc). These sieves are completely biased against any reading in the Textus Receptus.  Behind the sieves you will find that textual criticism, conservative or liberal, is based on the thesis that the biblical text evolved from the primitive form to the TR (or MT).  The evolutionary theory states that the text at the beginning was rough, incomplete, and inaccurate. Through the years the scribes smoothed it and it evolved into the form known as the received text.  This is contrary to the Bible doctrine of the origin and preservation of the scriptures.

KJV Only Debate:
E.F. Hills was transparent about a few errors in both the TR and the KJV, yet he remained TR-only. Would the admission of a few small errors in the TR materially damage your textual position?

Dr. DiVietro:
Errors or variants?  I have not found a single mistranslation of the Greek (I am not as accomplished in the Hebrew) in 35+ years of studying the King James Bible when I compare it to the Greek texts that I possess.  I rarely preach on a text without checking the underlying Greek or Hebrew.  Hardly a day goes by that I do not read some passage in its original language. This has been my practices since Bible college.  People always make this kind of abstract question but never refer me to a specific passage accompanied by the supposed error and the basis of declaring it an error.
If you have a specific example in mind I’d be glad to consider it.

Do I think that the KJV might have a translational inaccuracy? No, I think they accurately translated whatever they translated.

Do I think it is possible that they might have made a wrong choice of Greek or Hebrew reading? Without any specific in mind I take the same position Dean John Burgon took. If an analysis of ALL the manuscript evidence demonstrates an irrefutable error of judgment then I would consider correction. Until that occurs, and it has not yet been shown to me that it does, I continue to trust the work of almost 100 years of textual and translational attention paid by Tyndale through the 1611 translators.

I would no more trust today’s textual scholars and translators to correct the King James Bible than I would trust the present politicians to rewrite the US Constitution. In my opinion, the scholarship, the knowledge, the dedication and the corporate effort do not exist in today’s academic community.

KJV Only Debate:
Are TR advocates generally willing to admit errors in the TR or do they prefer to speak of either the KJV or the TR as a final authority that is error free?

Dr. DiVietro:
We both realize that we are speaking in the abstract. (And I know that the Riplinger/Ruckman/Coneyite advocates will accusing me of seeking a revision of the KJV.)  I take the same position as Dean Burgon.

I am not willing to admit ERRORS in the Textus Receptus body of preservation. There are variants within the Textus Receptus. The KJV translators dealt with those variants and made definitive judgments. Since I do not have the qualifications nor the body of evidence they used by which to challenge their accuracy I do not.  And as stated above until and  unless someone does a comprehensive examination of all the evidence, not just a select group of mss, or a recount of the same reasoning of the modern critics, I see no reason nor safe process by which to correct the KJV.

KJV Only Debate:
What are your thoughts on the NKJV?

Dr. DiVietro:
I attended a pre-publication meeting of the NKJV hosted by a local bible book store. Representative of Bible colleges and many pastors attended the meeting.  I sat next to John Kohlenberger’s brother.  At this meeting, the Thomas Nelson vice-president showed a film strip of the history of the King James Bible.  He then made a statement which etched indelibly into my mind.  Although I may not have it letter perfect I am attempting to recount not paraphrase.  He said something to the effect of:

We are all educated people here. We would never say this to our congregations but we all know that the King James Bible is an inferior translation based on inferior manuscripts.  But every time we have tried to give your people a better more accurate bible they have rejected it.  So we have taken the King James Bible and the texts from which it came and modernized it. We have introduced some minor changes to provide  you a bridge to get your people away from the King James Bible and eventually to a more accurate Bible.

As a result I have never even given the New King James a comprehensive look. From time to time I have compared passages. I have noticed a few grievous errors of translation, (i.e. saying that Jesus drank wine when no place in the KJV or the TR does it say that he did) and find that the original footnotes restored at least 2,000 of the Westcott-Hort alternative readings.  It changes things like everlasting to eternal and vice versa for no other apparent reason than to secure a copyright. No one has shown me a significant correction or clarification that justifies my moving to it.  In general I find it neither scholarly nor significant.