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 archive.org.

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The King James Bible Trust


This being the year of the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary, celebrations of the enduring legacy of the King James Bible are planned all over the world. In England, the King James Bible Trust has been founded, and they are trying to educate the people of England about the literary treasure that is the King James Bible.

If you haven’t already been to the King James Bible Trust’s website, you really should give it a look. There is a wealth of historical information, and several interesting projects they are doing. The YouTube Bible Project seems especially intriguing. They are hoping to get video clips of people reading thorugh each chapter of the King James Bible uploaded to YouTube. I might have to try my hand at that and share my entry here with you all. [As a complete sidenote, I noticed that the University of Michigan’s website for the King James Bible text is what the Trust recommends to readers for their project. As a big Michigan fan, I thought that was great!]

Here are the stated aims of the Trust from their PDF brochure, available for free download.

The King James Bible is the book that changed the world. For 400 years its words have rung out across the length and breadth of Britain – its phrases on the lips of millions, its cadences the music of English literature. In America it inspired the rhetoric of politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, and has thus been a potent weapon in the struggle for freedom and social justice.

Yet the King James Bible has become – in its own telling phrase – ‘a prophet without honour’ in the country of its birth and one of the most important books in the English Language has practically disappeared from state schools.

Our aim is to raise awareness of what has been, for too long, one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It is impossible to understand the history and culture of this country without a knowledge of the King James Bible, and so we intend not only to re-awaken memories among the older generation, but to lay down new memories for the young.

There will be many celebrations through the year, but we also want to leave a legacy to ensure that the King James Bible lives on for future generations.

Education will play a key role in achieving these aims. We have already funded the development of 3 modules for the Religious Education curriculum, and we also want the King James Bible to take its proper place elsewhere in the curriculum, so that children from all backgrounds will have the chance to encounter its power and beauty.

Announcing the Opening of The Center for The Study and Preservation of The Majority Text


I was informed by Paul Anderson of the opening of a new website and study center for the Majority Text. Here’s some information from the organization’s website:

The Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text has been formed with the following purpose and mission:

1. To give scholars and researchers a Christian non-profit organization where all extant Majority/Byzantine text manuscripts may be fully studied and compared for proper classification.
2. To increase awareness of the importance in readings and manuscripts within the Majority/Byzantine Text tradition.
3. To provide a one-stop website where all major printed editions of the Majority/Byzantine text may be found.
4. To include an online image gallery where important manuscripts may be seen.
5. To offer online collations and studies to increase understanding of the various groups within the Majority/Byzantine text.
6. To give individuals, churches and interested parties a tax-free organization in which to donate in order further the stated goals and mission above.
7. To provide an international Christian organization which views the Holy, Inspired Word of God as preserved within the Majority/Byzantine Text of the New Testament.

CSPMT officially opened October 1st and promises to be a one stop shop for the study of the Majority Text. The site is amassing links and resources on the various families of the Majority Text, as well as the study of the Textus Receptus and the Greek lectionary tradition. Paul Anderson, one of the founders of this initiative, informed me that Dr. Wilbur Pickering, author of The Identity of the New Testament Text, and Dr. Kirk DiVietro of the Dean Burgon Society (and father of Erik, one of our contributors here) will be two of the board members for this organization. We interviewed Dr. DiVietro on our site, here.

The group’s website should prove to be a valuable resource for students interested in learning more about the Greek Majority Text. You’ll want to bookmark it and see how the site develops. It may prove a blessing to all who are interested in the thousands of Greek manuscripts which have been providentially bequeathed to the Church.

In related news, Dr. Maurice Robinson, who we have also interviewed concerning his own Byzantine priority position, is recovering from a heart attack and scheduled for related surgery in the next month. Please keep him in your prayers.

KJV Only Debate Blog Interviews Dr. Maurice Robinson, pt. 3

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….

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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 [1942] 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).

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.

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For additional reading, check out the following links:

Recommended: New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

Philip Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary is a valuable resource for studying the textual variants in any given NT passage.  The book lays all the evidence out in a helpful format for which Greek manuscripts or early translations support which reading in almost every place where the text of today’s English Bibles differ with one another.

He not only shows which Greek manuscripts and text use which reading, he also shows which major English Bible versions use which reading (whether in the margin, footnote or text of the Bible).

After listing the evidence, Comfort will then walk you through it helpfully.  He explains what factors such as a particular scribe’s tendencies or the nature of a specific manuscript influence him to favor the reading he supports.  Having Comfort as a guide is valuable, especially since he is intimately familiar with the all the NT papyrii and many other points of textual criticism.

Comfort is no disbelieving scholar, either.  He is very evangelical and at times shows evidence of being conservative.  Above all, Comfort has provided an invaluable reference tool for use by those intrigued by the differences between English Bibles, and especially for those who aim to think through the KJV Only issue in depth.  What’s great is that he does all this with the average English speaker in view, he always translates the Greek he cites and the entire tool is usable by those with no Greek knowledge at all.

The book includes an overview of both textual criticism and its history, as well as the current state of the manuscript witnesses we have for each section of the New Testament.  Even the most well-versed student of these matters has much to learn from this work.  For instance, Comfort offers all the evidence surrounding the story of the woman caught in adultery that is missing from many key Greek manuscripts (John 7:53-8:11).  He shows why it is likely the reading was first introduced into the Greek manuscript witness in the 5th or 6th century.   Yet he offers proof for the reading’s antiquity as well, theorizing that it may have been a legitimate story of Christ handed down that eventually was added to a collection of the Gospels by a well-meaning scribe.

There is much more that could be said of this work, in fact I did say more about it when I reviewed it on my main blog.  I wish it highlighted the readings of the printed Majority texts of Robinson-Pierpont or Hodges-Farstad when examining the evidence, but it doesn’t.  Still, a more helpful resource for researching out the King James Only issue could hardly be found.  When one comes face to face with the reality of the textual facts, the story of the King James Only position is seen for the wishful thinking it really is.