Book Endorsement: The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason Harris

The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason HarrisToday’s book review post is special for two reasons. First, this marks the 150th book review I’ve posted here at Fundamentally Reformed. Second, this review includes the foreword I was privileged to write for this book.

The Doctrine of Scripture: As It Relates to the Transmission and Preservation of the Text by Jason Harris is published by InFocus Ministries in Australia. I’m excited to recommend this new book to my readers here in the United States as I believe this book can go a long way toward helping those confused or entangled by King James Onlyism.

My Foreward

Another book on the King James Only debate? Much ink has been spilled and many passions expended in what may be the ugliest intramural debate plaguing conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and charismatic — all have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by those arguing for or against the King James or New King James Versions of the Bible. With each new book it seems the debate becomes more and more caustic, each group castigating the other in ever more forceful terminology.

Jason Harris enters the fray with the right blend of humility and tenacity, and turns the attention of all to the true center of the debate: the doctrine of Scripture. What makes this debate so passionate is that it centers on the very nature of Scripture. Rather than focus on technical facts and ancient manuscript copying practices, Harris takes us back to what Scripture says about itself: its inspiration, preservation and accessibility. In doing so, he demonstrates how those upholding the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus behind it, base their position not on sound exegesis of the Scripture, but on tenuous assumptions read into the text.

Harris’s pen is lucid and his grasp of the King James Only debate as a whole is masterful. He focuses his work on TR-only position which represents the very best of King James Only reasoning. He interacts with the exegesis of key TR-only proponents and marshals compelling evidence demonstrating their failure to measure up to Scripture’s own teaching about itself. And after explicating the doctrine of Scripture, Harris draws important conclusions which should protect the reader from making simplistic assumptions in a quest for textual certainty that goes beyond what Scripture teaches we should expect.

Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles. He wants such confidence to be rooted to a Scriptural understanding of the Doctrine of Scripture rather than in the “supernatural-guidance” of a group of sixteenth-Century translators. Assuming that such a group of men made no mistakes is to expect something Scripture doesn’t teach, and ignore what it does. Harris is to be commended for such a clear, lucid defense of the historic doctrine of Scripture. I hope his book is received well and helps laymen and pastors everywhere to begin to rethink the basis for why they think as they do when it comes to the King James Only debate.

Bob Hayton
FundamentallyReformed.com
KJVOnlyDebate.com

[pp. 9-10]

Additional Thoughts

After re-reading this book and seeing the published version, I am more optimistic than ever about its promise to provide clarity to the King James Only debate. Jason Harris’s book has a few characteristics which together make it a unique contribution to this debate.

First, his book focuses on the alleged doctrine of the verbal, plenary accessibility of Scripture. This is where the root of the KJV and TR preference lies for many people. The argument is not so much based on texts and manuscripts as it is on what allegedly the Bible teaches – that the very words of Scripture (all of them down to the letters) would be generally accessible to believers down through the ages. Harris spends most of his time marshalling a Scriptural rebuttal to these claims and also demonstrates the difficulties such a position has when it comes to the history of the text as we know it.

Second, this volume carefully builds a theology of the transmission and preservation of Scripture. Such a careful, exegetically-based explication of the doctrine of Scripture has been lacking in this debate. And such a gap has often been used by KJV-only proponents to their advantage. It is KJV-only books which start with a Scriptural position and then look at the evidence, with the “anti-KJV” books starting with history and evidence and then moving to the Scriptural arguments. This book is different and starts where the debate starts for most of the sincere beleivers who get swept up into it — it starts on Scripture’s teaching about the very nature and preservation of Scripture.

Finally, Harris keeps a very irenic tone throughout. He is careful not to overstate his case and exaggerate the claims of his opponents. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to this heated debate, but Jason pulls this off well. Additionally, he backs up his book with the inclusion of a vast array of footnotes documenting the claims he is arguing against. I appreciate how he does not direct his argument toward the Riplingers and Ruckmans of this debate. He focuses on the TR-only position and the more careful wing of KJV-onlyism, men like David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Charles Surret, and the like. Harris has read widely in the KJV only literature, and his treatment avoids broadbrushing and generalizations that tend to give KJV-only propoents an easy out. It’s easy to dismiss a book as not being directed to their particular position, or to claim the author makes egregious errors and lumps their position in with that of heretical views. Harris’s book is not open to such charges. He directs his case against the very best arguments of KJV-onlyism.

Had I been exposed to such a book I would have been inoculated to the pull of the KJV-only persuasion. As it happened, I was swept up in a TR-only view that made it seem like we had the corner on truth and everyone else was compromising. By God’s grace I came to understand that Scripture does not support such a view of the transmission of the text.

Jason Harris is to be thanked for giving us a tool to recommend to those thinking through this issue from within, and to help the ones who are being pressured to join the KJV-only position. I highly recommend The Doctrine of Scripture and hope it makes its way into the hands of anyone struggling with this issue who will yet be open-minded enough to study out the issue from both sides.

You can pick up a copy of The Doctrine of Scripture at Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~ cross posted from FundamentallyReformed.com, the author’s other blog.

Advertisements

The Theological Illusions of King James Onlyism by Kevin Bauder (part 4)

One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible may just be the best book on the King James Only debate, period. The posts in this series are tracing the arguments of Kevin Bauder, in his conclusion to the book: “An Appeal to Scripture”. He explains several theological arguments that KJV Onlyists resort to, in an effort to continue propagating their belief against a mass of contrary evidence. Bauder shows that these arguments are really illusions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Part 1 set the stage, and part 2 dealt with “the appeal to faith”. Part 3, covered “the appeal to reason”. Now we’re picking it back up at “the appeal to evidence”.

For this argument, I’m going to quote Kevin Bauder at length and then chime in some of my own thoughts.

The third illusion that attends the King James-Only position involves the evaluation of the actual evidence. King James-Only advocates are extremely reluctant to allow the empirical evidence to stand on its own merits. On the one hand, they are fond of insisting that “the majority rules” in textual matters. On the other hand, they are very careful about what they allow to count as a majority. For example, if all manuscripts of the ancient translations of the New Testament are counted, then manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus form a distinct minority. Moreover, according to the actual manuscript evidence, the manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus are not in the majority even of Greek manuscripts until the fourth century or even later. If the theory that “the majority rules” is correct, then the next two questions are, Majority of what? and, Majority from when?

The King James-Only movement can survive only by deploying a highly prejudicial definition of the word majority. Its defenders insist that very late Greek manuscripts be included in this majority but that very early translations be excluded from it. They revise history to explain the paucity of manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus before the fourth century. In fact, historical revisionism is a mainstay of the King James-Only argument. Their carefully reworked history is filled with heretics who deliberately miscopied the Scriptures; churches that rejected Alexandrian manuscripts; ecumenical councils that endorsed the Byzantine tradition; secret plots of Jesuits, Masons, Nazis, and Communists; and a variety of other irresponsible speculations, none of which can be shown to have happened. (pg. 160)

I’ve previously made similar points about the nebulous idea of “majority”. In my Majority Rules: Fact or Fiction? series I delved into this. Also, the Greek support for the TR wasn’t really a majority of manuscripts until the 9th Century, per James White.

The impression I got in my experience of King James Onlyism was that the “evidence” and the role of “the majority of manuscripts” was quite important. That is what made the whole theory appeal to me as solid. When I found out that often King James Onlyists manipulated the evidence to suit their cause, I started down the disillusionment path.

The Theological Illusions of King James Onlyism by Kevin Bauder (part 3)

One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible may just be the best book on the King James Only debate, period. The posts in this series are tracing the arguments of Kevin Bauder, in his conclusion to the book: “An Appeal to Scripture”. He explains several theological arguments that KJV Onlyists resort to, in an effort to continue propagating their belief against a mass of contrary evidence. Bauder shows that these arguments are really illusions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Part 1 set the stage, and part 2 dealt with “the appeal to faith”. Now in part 3, we come to “the appeal to reason”.

Bauder has in mind a specific argument that KJV Onlyists use in relation to preservation. They claim that “verbal inspiration… is useless unless it is followed by exactness in verbal preservation”. I have seen KJV Only materials which claim that verbal preservation (also known as perfect preservation), is a direct corollary of verbal inspiration. Bauder is quick to affirm verbal inspiration, but does not affirm perfect preservation. “While this argument from reason sounds plausible at first hearing,” he says, “it actually runs counter to God’s dealings in Scripture.” (pg. 158)

Bauder makes the case that this demand that perfect inspiration requires perfect preservation does not stand up to Scripture itself. First, he shows that not all of God’s spoken words were recorded in Scripture. Pre-flood instructions on sacrifices, the seven thunders of Revelation (Rev. 10:1-4), and Jesus’ words that aren’t recorded in Scripture (John 21:25) all are evidence that perfect words of God can be given and yet not preserved.

Bauder’s second line of argumentation here deals with the written words of Scripture comparing the actual record we have in Scripture with the KJV Onlyists requirement of perfect preservation. Bauder finds that the testimony of Scripture doesn’t support perfect preservation. His thoughts are worth repeating at length.

Even with regard to written words, it is demonstrably true that when someone’s spoken words were later recorded in Scripture, the “exact” words spoken were not necessarily the very words that were used in Scripture. For example, when the Gospel writers recorded words that Jesus had spoken during His lifetime, these authors, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, recorded the essence of Jesus’ words, not His exact words. This observation must be true because the recounting of Jesus’ words by the Gospel writers do not exactly agree (compare, for example, Matt. 13:1-13 with Mark 4:1-13 word for word). We affirm wholeheartedly that the Gospel writers were accurately employing the exact words that God wanted them to use to record Jesus’ speech under the perfect, supervisory ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, we also know that the Holy Spirit intended for these writers to record the essence of Jesus’ speech, not His exact words, for that is what they did. Also, remember that Jesus and His disciples frequently quoted the Old Testament (OT) in other than exact words. They sometimes quoted the Septuagint, the Masoretic text, a free rendition, or a combination thereof. In God’s method of propagating truth, it is apparent from the text of Scripture itself that He allowed some degree of latitude for the accurate and authoritative communication of that truth apart from the perfect preservation of all of the exact words in one particular place; and this latitude is observable even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (pt. 159, bold emphasis mine)

He then gave one final example from Scripture. “In one case,” he said, “the entire written revelation of God survived in a single manuscript that was hidden from public view (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 34:15).”

From this, Bauder makes the following conclusion about “the appeal to reason”:

…In all of the cases enumerated herein, God gave specific, verbal revelation, but He did not necessarily see fit to preserve all of the words and exactly the words in a publicly accessible form. The doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy (which are absolute truths) and the King James-Only proponents’ postulate of perfect preservation (which is dubious speculation) are certainly not inextricable corollaries.

All parties to this debate acknowledge that God has superintended the choice of the precise words that would be used to communicate His truth. To accept this fact, however, is not to concede that God is obligated to preserve every word through which His truth has been revealed. He might preserve some words and He might permit some to be lost, depending upon His own purpose. The appeal to reason is not a sufficient ground for the King James-Only argument.

What Bauder has done here is extremely important, in my view. He goes to Scripture itself to see how important the preservation of the specific wording of a text is. When one can see parallel accounts in the OT and NT which do not line up perfectly in word order and precise wording, and when one sees quotations of other texts which are not word perfect, why shouldn’t one conclude that a certain latitude is permissible here, that minor variations among translations of Scripture do not affect their authority?

The Theological Illusions of King James Onlyism by Kevin Bauder (part 2)

One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible may just be the best book on the King James Only debate, period.  The posts in this series are tracing the arguments of one of the editors, Kevin Bauder, in his conclusion to the book: “An Appeal to Scripture”.  Bauder explains several theological arguments that KJV Onlyists resort to, in an effort to continue propagating their belief against a mass of contrary evidence.  Bauder illustrates how these arguments really are illusions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Part 1 set the stage, and now we get to the first of the theological arguments for KJV Onlyism.

The first illusion is the appeal to faith. According to its leading defenders, the King James-Only movement is fundamentally a “faith position.” Genuine, biblical faith, however, must rest in the promise of God. To be believed, the promise of God must be clearly revealed in the pages of Scripture itself. The question is not whether the Bible contains a promise that God will preserve His Word. King James-Only advocates go much further. They insist that God has preserved His words and preserved them exactly in a singular, identifiable, and accessible form. So the question is whether the Bible contains a promise that God will preserve, word for word, the text of the original documents of Scripture in a particular manuscript, textual tradition, printed text, or version. As this book has shown, the Bible contains no promise whatsoever that includes the preservation of all the words of the autographa (without addition or deletion) in a single, publicly accessible source. Without such a promise, the appeal to faith does not rest in the promise of God, but in the untestable and unverifiable speculation of the King James-Only advocates themselves. Until they can produce a Scripture that (properly and contextually understood) does promise all that they assert, they have no legitimate right to appeal to faith.

(Bolded emphasis mine. Excerpted from pg. 158, One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible, edited by Roy Beacham and Kevin Bauder; Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, 2001.)

?This is the rub in my opinion.  The various texts that apply to a doctrine of preservation, do not make the explicit claim that all the words of Scripture will be preserved in an accessible form.  For at least 1500 years, most KJV Onlyists allow that the words of Scripture weren’t together in a printed text or version that is accessible too.  Especially when one considers what E.F. Hills points out that several of the TR passages are preserved in the Latin language texts rather than the Greek language texts, and the New Testament was purified when the two streams were brought together.

The Theological Illusions of King James Onlyism by Kevin Bauder (part 1)

For the last several years, I have considered One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible to be the best book on the King James Only debate, period.  Kevin Bauder and Roy Beacham, the editors, are fundamentalists.  All the authors were professors at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, a fundamentalist institution.  They understand the issue from the inside out.  Their circles have been most affected by KJV Onlyism and so their book is extremely helpful.

Perhaps the best chapter in the book, is Kevin Bauder’s conclusion: “An Appeal to Scripture”.  It is full of so many excellent quotes that I plan to share bits and pieces from the chapter over a series of posts.  Of course, you need to get the book to get the full effect, but I hope this whets your appetite for the real thing.

Bauder sets the stage for his discussion of KJV-Onlyists’ appeal to scripture by presenting the quandry that King James onlyists face.

If the preservation of the Word of God depends upon the exact preservation of the words of the original documents, then the situation is dire.  No two manuscripts… [no] two editions of the Masoretic Text… [no] two editions of the Textus Receptus… [no] two modifications of the King James Version contain exactly the same words, and the Bible nowhere tells us which edition, if any, does contain the exact words of the originals.  These are not speculations; these are plain facts.

Confronted with these facts, King James-Only advocates are faced with one of two choices.  Either they may specify, a priori and without biblical evidence, a single manuscript or edition of the Bible in which the exact words are preserved, or they may begin to qualify their insistence upon exact preservation….

If they are pressed, they will admit that they do not have all the words and only the words of the original in a single place.  Instead, they will point out how similar most of the manuscripts are…. most King James-Only advocates are eventually willing to admit the possibility of an acceptable range of variation.

These King James-Only proponents, therefore, wish to have it both ways.  They insist upon condemning the Ben-Asher Hebrew text, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, the contemporary eclectic Greek texts, and the New American Standard Bible because they only contain some (not all) of the words of God.  But they are willing to accept differences in the various editions of the Ben-Chayyim Hebrew text, of the Textus Receptus in Greek, and of the King James Version in English, even though no more than one edition of one of these documents can conceivably contain all of the words and only the words of God….

In other words, if the King James-Only advocates were candid, most of them would have to admit to holding precisely the same theory of those whom they oppose.  They would have to admit that the whole debate is merely an academic quibble over the percentage of acceptable variation.  …they would have to admit that their preference was based on a difference of degree and not a difference of kind.

Of course, such an admission would be fatal to the King James-Only movement.  If its leaders were so candid, people would recognize that the whole debate amounts to a cyclone in a coffee cup….  The movement survives, but only by clouding the issues and distracting people from the main point.  It protects itself with an elaborate structure of theological illusions.

(Bolded emphasis mine. Excerpted from pg. 155-158, One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible, edited by Roy Beacham and Kevin Bauder; Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, 2001.)

Testing the Textus Receptus: Rev. 16:5

In Testing the Textus Receptus posts, I test the claims of Textus Receptus (TR) Onlyism. This is a moderate form of King James Onlyism focusing on the Greek (& Hebrew) basis for the King James Version.

As I mentioned earlier, Rev. 16:5 is one of three passages that James White (author of The King James Only Controversy) recently asked TR Only proponents to “explain why [someone] should use the TR’s [reading]“.

The TR Only Claim

For this verse, the TR Only claim is not unanimous.  There are a few brave TR only groups that side with other TR editions against the TR edition underlying the King James Version (e.g., The Received Bible Society).  Most however, defend the King James Version’s readings.  I guess this verse then shows that even for TR Only folks, the King James really is the standard.  Rarely will a TR onlyist admit a single error in the KJV.  They will more readily admit that we have no perfect edition of the TR than that there is an error in the KJV.

Okay, moving back to the point here. Let’s look at the verse itself and the reading which we are concerned about for this post.

KJV And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. (…? ?? ??? ? ?? ??? ? ???????? …)

NASB And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; (…? ?? ??? ? ?? ? ó???? …)

There’s a variant regarding “Lord” earlier in the verse, but the one we will focus on is “Holy One” versus “and shalt be”.  Beza’s 1598 edition of the TR supports the KJV here, but several other key printed TR Greek texts have “Holy One”.

Testing that Claim: History of the TR

The other major editions (Erasmus’, Stephanus’ and Elzevirs’) of the TR, besides Beza’s, do not contain the “and shalt be” reading.  Scrivener’s 1894 TR does have the reading, but like its Oxford 1825 ed. forebear, Scrivener’s text was created based off of the English readings of the KJV and any available printed Greek texts that the KJV 1611 translators would have had.  So really we’re down to Beza’s as the only TR text which includes this reading, with one exception.  The 1633 Elzevir’s text, which earned the title “textus receptus“, actually sided with Beza, but the 1624 edition of Elzevir’s text and the 1641 and all following editions of Elzevir’s text go back to Stephanus/Erasmus reading of ó????.  That reading is nearly equal to the reading of the Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland, and Robinson-Pierpont (majority) texts.  The TR reading keeps the “and (???)”, however.

With this particular reading, English churchgoers of the 1600s would have been shocked to find their Bibles altered with the new Authorized Version’s reading here.  The Wycliffe Tyndale, Coverdale, Great, Geneva, and Bishop’s Bibles all had “Holy One”.  The Puritan branch of the Geneva Bible Only group would have been a tad bit concerned over this passage I think.  Because this is so important to really grasp, I am going to include the text of all the above Bibles at this verse (from studylight.org):

Wycliffe (1395) [And the thridde aungel… seide,] Just art thou, Lord, that art, and that were hooli, that demest these thingis;

Tyndale (1526) And I herde an angell saye: lorde which arte and wast thou arte ryghteous and holy because thou hast geve soche iudgmentes

Coverdale (1535) And I herde an angel saye: LORDE which art and wast, thou art righteous and holy, because thou hast geue soche iudgmentes,

Geneva (1557) And I heard the Angel of the waters say, Lord, thou art iust, Which art, and Which wast: and Holy, because thou hast iudged these things.

Bishop’s (1568) And I hearde the angell of the waters say: Lorde, which art, and wast, thou art ryghteous & holy, because thou hast geuen such iudgementes:

Testing that Claim: Manuscript Evidence

Now why did Beza remove “Holy One”.  Certainly if there is strong manuscript evidence, we should gladly embrace the change to a 200+ year tradition of the English Bibles.  Yet at this point, we find not one Greek manuscript to support Beza’s reading.  “Well”, one might counter, “perhaps Beza had access to manuscripts that we don’t have today.”  That would be all fine and dandy, except Beza himself tells us why he inserted the reading.  Listen to Beza in his own words:

“And shall be”: The usual publication is “holy one,” which shows a division, contrary to the whole phrase which is foolish, distorting what is put forth in scripture. The Vulgate, however, whether it is articulately correct or not, is not proper in making the change to “holy,” since a section (of the text) has worn away the part after “and,” which would be absolutely necessary in connecting “righteous” and “holy one.” But with John there remains a completeness where the name of Jehovah (the Lord) is used, just as we have said before, 1:4; he always uses the three closely together, therefore it is certainly “and shall be,” for why would he pass over it in this place? And so without doubting the genuine writing in this ancient manuscript, I faithfully restored in the good book what was certainly there, “shall be.” So why not truthfully, with good reason, write “which is to come” as before in four other places, namely 1:4 and 8; likewise in 4:3 and 11:17, because the point is the just Christ shall come away from there and bring them into being: in this way he will in fact appear setting in judgment and exercising his just and eternal decrees.

This is clearly a guess by Beza.  He is looking  at some Vulgate copy which is worn in the text at hand, and so based on his understanding of John’s other uses of the phrase, he concludes “shall be” is the proper reading.  Now, after fixing the Vulgate reading, he then concludes he should fix the Greek reading to “which is to come”, to match the other four places in Revelation where “which are and which were” is found.

The problem is, of the more than 5700 Greek manuscripts we have, and of the more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts we have, we have not a single copy supporting this reading.  What’s more we have no other old language translations supporting it either.  The only possible evidence for it is detailed by Thomas Holland here (that link is broken, try this one or this one and scroll down).  It is a Latin commentary on Revelation compiled in 786 AD, but the commentary in question was from 380 AD.  The Latin phrase “qui fuisti et futures es” is used for this passage.  Beza, however, is ignorant of this support as he does not cite it as a reason for his changes to the text.

Before I go on to dealing with the evidence, let me offer a scan of Philip Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale House: 2008) at this point.  Continue reading

Testing the Textus Receptus: Luke 2:22

In Testing the Textus Receptus posts, I test the claims of Textus Receptus (TR) Onlyism. This is a moderate form of King James Onlyism focusing on the Greek (& Hebrew) basis for the King James Version.

As I mentioned earlier, Luke 2:22 is one of three passages that James White (author of The King James Only Controversy) recently asked TR Only proponents to “explain why [someone] should use the TR’s [reading]”.

To help explain the context, let me quote Luke 2:22 and 23 here.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) — Luke 2:22-23 (ESV)

Jesus is a baby, and Joseph and Mary in this passage are going to Jerusalem to perform all the sacrificial rituals the Law required. The textual variant here concerns “their”. The King James Version reads “her”.

The TR Only Claim

This textual difference is claimed as an error in the modern Critical Text. “Their purification” would either implicate Jesus as possibly requiring purification for sin, or it would disagree with the OT Law which required only a woman to go through ceremonial purification after a child birth, not the man (if Joseph is in view). Again, this reading, according to TR Onlyists, must be an error due to theological reasons. Since two possible options for interpreting the text are clearly errors, and since the KJV offers a different reading, the conclusion is reached that the modern text must have it wrong on this point.

This verse then becomes one of a number of texts claimed to be doctrinal errors in the modern critical text. If we accept the critical text, we are accepting this theological error. We should side, say they, with the Textus Receptus which has been given the approval of God’s people for hundreds of years. The churches received this text with the reading: “her purification”. Case dismissed.

But when we start to test this claim, and dig a little deeper into this textual decision, the picture gets blurry fast.

Testing that Claim: History of the TR

Which reading did the churches receive? Well, the Textus Receptus did not always contain this reading. Early Bible Versions before the KJV, such as William Tyndale’s New Testament (1525) and the Coverdale Bible (1535) read “their purification”. The churches accepted those Bibles, it would seem. Stephen’s (or Stephanus) 1550 text which was accepted in England as the preferred form of the Textus Receptus, also reads “their purification”. Beza’s text (the 1598 edition which was most preferred by the KJV) and the later Elzevir’s text of 1633 both have “her purification”.

So did the churches cry foul, and eventually influence the textual editors to change the reading to suit their tastes? Maybe. It’s also possible that Beza fixed what he thought was a defect in the text, to bring it more in line with the Latin Vulgate.

Before we move on, we should note that nothing in Scripture would make us think that only churches of one nationality and one language should make this grave a decision. When we look at other Reformation era Protestant Bibles, produced for other languages, we again find a split in opinion. The Italian Diodati (1603) supports the “their” reading, according to some textual critical notes I found online (at this site). Luther’s German Bible uses a pronoun that in German can be either “her” or “their” so it doesn’t help us. The Dutch Staten translation of 1637 uses “her”. The Portuguese translation of 1681 (by Ferreira de Almeida) says just “days of purification”. We could go on in this search, but the prevailing theory would be all the Bibles produced by Christians before the 1800s should all read the same since they were received text Christians before the modern versions, right? It’d be interesting to see some more research done in this area, I am limited in what I can do here.

Testing that Claim: Manuscript Evidence

Looking more closely at the question, we come to manuscript evidence. Here we get an ever clearer picture of the situation. The Greek manuscripts overwhelmingly support “their”. Continue reading