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.

Ecclesiastical Text Theory — Refuted?

The Evangelical Textual Criticism blog pointed my attention to a lengthy article by Adam at the Old Testament Studies blog which refutes  the “Ecclesiastical Text theory”.  The article covers quite a bit of ground as it attempts to refute a recent article by Kent Brandenburg on the LXX argument.  Adam interacts with the Scriptural evidence for preservation, and shows how a proper exegesis does of them does not demand the preservation of a word-perfect, accessible text.  Adam then discusses targumming, the LXX, and gets into some OT textual criticism.

I recommend the article as a good reference for discussion.  The question remains, did he really refute the Ecclesiastical Text theory?  For additional discussion here, perhaps we should switch from calling a reasoned, Greek studying, KJV-onlyism, TR-onlyism and instead call it the “Ecclesiastical Text theroy”.  I think that might be preferred by people of that persuasion, what do you think?

Thanks go out too, to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog for linking to our little blogging establishment again in their post about Adam’s article.

The King James Translators & the Septuagint (LXX)

It seems this has been a recurring theme on our blog of late, but discussions here and elsewhere have been focusing in on this point: Did Jesus and the Apostles use the Septuagint in their ministries and in quoting from the Old Testament? I was recently reminded that the translators of the King James Bible, themselves would answer “yes”. See their words below from “The Translators to the Reader“.

While God would be known only in Jacob, and have his Name great in Israel, and in none other place, while the dew lay on Gideon’s fleece only, and all the earth besides was dry; then for one and the same people, which spake all of them the language of Canaan, that is, Hebrew, one and the same original in Hebrew was sufficient. But, when the fulness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God should come into the world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yea, of all them that were scattered abroad; then lo, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek Prince (Greek for descent and language) even of Ptolemy Philadelph King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal. For the Grecians being desirous of learning, were not wont to suffer books of worth to lie moulding in Kings’ libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again, the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the Colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yea, and of Africa too. Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becometh hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first Preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by. It is certain, that that Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than by making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. This may be supposed to be some cause, why the Translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquila fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus; yea, there was a fifth and a sixth edition, the Authors whereof were not known. These with the Seventy made up the Hexapla and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen. Howbeit the Edition of the Seventy went away with the credit, and therefore not only was placed in the midst by Origen (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius gathered) but also was used by the Greek fathers for the ground and foundation of their Commentaries. Yea, Epiphanius above named doth attribute so much unto it, that he holdeth the Authors thereof not only for Interpreters, but also for Prophets in some respect; and Justinian the Emperor enjoining the Jews his subjects to use especially the Translation of the Seventy, rendereth this reason thereof, because they were as it were enlightened with prophetical grace. Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit [Isa 31:3]; so it is evident, (and Saint Jerome affirmeth as much) that the Seventy were Interpreters, they were not Prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yea, sometimes they may be noted to add to the Original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the word, as the spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek Translations of the Old Testament.

So we have a clear admission by orthodox Protestant scholars of the early seventeenth Century, that the LXX was used by Christ and the apostles. Subsequent scholarship has given additional insights into this, and confirms the notion that Greek translations of the Old Testament books were often used by the Apostles and quoted from in the New Testament. For more evidence on this point, see this comparison of NT quotes and the LXX vs. the Hebrew. See also this Trinitarian Bible Society (which incidentally only publishes the KJV for its English Bible) article on the value of the Septuagint [HT: Pavlos].

Luke 4:18 and the LXX (part 1)

Perhaps no passage in Scripture presents such a problem to the KJV Only view¹, as Luke 4:16-22.  In this first post, we will offer a brief explanation of the text, an examination of the quotation in verses 18-19, and a some historical support for our position.  In future posts, we will draw out the implications from the text which impact the version debate, and provide some answers to common KJV Only counter-arguments.

Explanation of the Text

Luke 4:16 explains Christ stood to read the text in the synagogue.  This was the common practice.  Jesus will read and then expound the text.  Vs. 17 explains he will read from the scroll of Isaiah, and he opens the scroll and proceeds to read.

Bibles that provide Jesus’ words in red, do a disservice to our text.  An ESV Bible I have sitting here, has vs. 18-19 in red.  But if we examine vs. 17 more closely, we’ll see that Luke is not telling us what Jesus “said” but what was written in the book that was in Jesus’ hand.

Luke says (using the KJV text here), “when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written”.  Then follows vs. 18-19.  Luke does not say Jesus said those words.  From vs. 20, it is clear that he had read them, as he rolls the scroll back up and sits down (to begin his teaching, as the custom prescribed).  So clearly Jesus read from that passage of Scripture.  But Luke gives us what the scroll said.  He tells us what was written (or what “stood written”, to better reflect the perfect tense of the Greek words here).

Luke as the inspired author of Scripture is making a statement concerning what was written on the scroll in the Nazareth synagogue.  Now we’ll look more closely at what Luke tells us was written there.

Examination of the Quotation

Using the KJV English as a comparison, the chart below shows where the quote in Luke 4:18-19 departs from the Hebrew Original as translated by the KJV in Isaiah 61:1-2. (You may want to click on the image to enlarge it.)

You’ll notice that some of the differences are quite minor (“to”/”unto”, “poor”/”meek”, “preach deliverance”/”proclaim liberty”).  Others are more significant: “Lord GOD” (Adonai Jehovah) becomes “Lord”, “LORD” (Jehovah) becomes “he”, “bruised” becomes “bound”.  And even more problematic, an entire phrase is found in Luke that is not in Isaiah 61: “recovering of sight to the blind”.  A similar phrase is found in Isaiah 42:7, but it doesn’t match up exactly.  It was common for readers in the prophets to skip around a bit, and read portions of verses from the nearby chapters.  Even allowing for this, it does not appear that the exact wording Luke records in Luke 4 is found in the King James Version in Isaiah (and we would assume in the Hebrew Masoretic Text behind the KJV).

Now this all gets very interesting once we compare the Greek of Luke 4 with the Greek of the Septuagint Old Testament (LXX) in Isaiah 61.

Here we see the differences are much less.  The first two involve alternate spellings of the same word.  In the NA27 and the Majority Text Greek, the spelling of the LXX is followed.  The third instance of a difference, followed by the TR and MT,² and in English it amounts to “the broken of heart” vs. “the broken of hearts” (or as often translated, “brokenhearted”).  The fourth instance is similar to the English example in the KJV, “preach” vs. “declare”.

Most interesting to note here, is that the phrase above which the KJV/Hebrew does not have in Isaiah 61, “the recovering of sight to the blind” is found in the Greek LXX and matches the wording exactly in all the versions of the Greek NT (TR, MT & NA27).  There is a missing phrase found in Luke and not in Isaiah LXX, however.  “To set at liberty them that are bruised” is not in the LXX.  However an almost exact form of this phrase is found in Is. 58:6.  That form matches more perfectly than the missing English phrase does from Is. 42 (see above).  So again, if we consider the common practice of reading from nearby chapters, then we have a much clearer story of where the quotation came from that Luke says was written in the scroll at the Nazareth synagogue. Continue reading

A Question For All Who Wish to Comment in Reply

I am looking for an interlinear NT.

I would like one that contains some manner of  justification for the reading chosen.

At this point I have two based on the TR, but would like one based on the TR with variants noted with a justification for their inclusion.  I would also like one based upon the latest UBS of Nestle that would also have the same.

Any suggestions?

The King James Translators & The King James Only Debate

The King James Version of the Bible is a wonderful translation.  It is my preferred translation.  It is my favorite translation.  I love it, study from it, enjoy it, preach from it, and believe what it says.  It is God’s Word.  What is said below is by no means intended to denigrate the KJV.  It is intended to show that the King James Version Only arguments are invalidated by the translators of the King James Version.

Though I shall retain the King James Version as my favorite and preferred Bible, I must say that it is not a defensible position to maintain that all other translations are Satanic in nature.  Neither is it defensible to call them “perversions” of the Bible.  There are, no doubt, poor translations available.  The King James is not a poor translation.  It is excellent.  It is not, however, a perfect translation.  The Word of God is perfect.  Scripture is perfect.  We must understand, however, that if the King James Version or any other translation were perfect we would not have to consult dictionaries to understand various words.  We would not have trouble with obscure passages.  Perfection is the nature of Scripture.  The transmission of Scripture in translation is not perfect.  Thus we have to strive hard for clarity of translation and we must strive hard for understanding of God’s Word.

It is to be noted that one website which posts the entire preface (www.jesus-is-lord.com) says the following about the translator’s preface to the reader:

The complete translator’s notes of the Authorized King James scholars are not included in today’s publishings. This is unfortunate because these notes say a lot about these men– they were humble, loved the word of God, loved the King, were berated by the Catholic religion, and they desired a translation for the common man who was kept in darkness. Some of the translators where killed for their faith. This book was forged in blood, sweat, and tears.”

While attempting to use the preface to the reader as a KJVO support, the one who established this website has actually posted something that speaks IN FAVOR of continual effort to improve the translation of the Scriptures into the language of the common man. Thus it is that this preface to the reader from the KJV1611 has been left intact as it was taken from the website of those in favor of the King James Version only stance.

In the Preface to The Reader below my comments are in red. ««Jump to the Preface with comments»». Originally posted at Pastoral Musings.

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

The LXX Revisited

A few weeks ago we looked at the LXX. Amazingly enough, there are some KJVO’ers who deny its existence. They know that to acknowledge its existence is to open the door for Jesus and the apostles quoting from non-Hebrew scriptures as well as quoting from an imperfect translation. That would be very damaging to their cause.

F.F Bruce in The Canon of Scripture gives an instance of Justin Martyr quoting from the LXX. Justin lived many years before Origen, who is alleged by some KJVO believers to have actually created the LXX.  Where did Justin get his copy of the LXX, then?

John Gill, in his comments on Galatians 1:10 says, “no man can serve two masters, God and the world, Christ and men. The Septuagint version of Ps 53:5 is, ‘for God hath scattered the bones’, anyrwpareskwn, “of men pleasers”, to which agree the Syriac and Arabic versions.” Gill lived before Vaticanus was made available for study, and before Sinaiticus was discovered and studied, yet Gill knew of the LXX and quoted from it.

I cannot help but wonder what “doctored” manuscript Gill had access to. It seems to me that those who would deny the existence of the LXX need to examine the issue a little more.

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

Testing the Textus Receptus: Introduction

A few months back, James White debated Bart Ehrman, a former evangelical textual scholar turned agnostic on the reliability of the New Testament. I am not necessarily a White fan, and I am not going to speculate as to who really won the debate. What interests me has to do with White’s fielding some criticism from proponents of the Textus Receptus at his blog. (The Textus Receptus (Received Text), is the Greek basis for the King James Version.)

White raised four questions regarding what actually constitutes the Textus Receptus (TR). I think those questions are spot on, and I’d like to hone in on the last one, for a few posts. As an aside, I should mention I had someone provide some KJV Only answers to White’s questions over at my King James Only Debate Research Center‘s forums. (Feel free to go over there and interact if you’d like.)

Here are White’s questions:

1) When did “the church” “received” this text?
2) What council engaged in a study of the respective texts and determined that this is the “one” text that most closely represents the original?
3) Which text IS the “TR”? Can you identify a single text as THE TR? If not, why not?
4) Please explain why I should use the TR’s readings of Luke 2:22, Revelation 16:5, and the final six verses of Revelation.

What White is doing here is testing the premise of Textus Receptus Onlyism. How is it that the Textus Receptus was received by the Church? What does that reception entail? Which text was received? How can we know which readings are correct based on this textual position?

He and others (like myself) are not splitting straws when they bring up difficult passages and possible errors in the Textus Receptus. We are testing the claims of TR Onlyism. If the Textus Receptus is truly the only Scripturally warranted text, then questions like these should not be stumpers. In fact, there should be a systematic approach to textual questions which is controlled, consistent, and guided by Scripture or in some way authoritative. Should we really expect the TR to be inerrant? If so, how do we deal with these kinds of questions.

For those who haven’t heard the term Textus Receptus Only, I should give a brief sketch of what that position entails. I used to claim the title as my own, so I am not going to try to misrepresent that view. This view holds that the Textus Receptus (TR) is the best Greek text today. It is not corrupted and full of errors as are the most commonly used text (Nestl- Aland 27 / UBS 4th edition) and even the new Majority text (ca. 1980). These other texts are critical texts, but the TR was handed down from the Reformation era. It was not pieced together by textual critics but by men who cherished Scripture. They simply collated the existing manuscripts they were aware of, and rejected incorrect readings and provided us a printed text.

After several years of editing, correcting printer’s errors, and the like, the text became stabilized with the printing of the King James Version. The text of the King James Version can be considered as a variety of the Textus Receptus, because the translators did not follow one specific text. Sometimes they sided with Stephanus’ 1550 edition, other times with Beza’s 1598. The text behind the King James translator’s choices was eventually compiled by Frederick Scrivener in the late 1800s and is available today from the Trinitarian Bible Society.

This view distances itself from a KJV Only view which claims the English corrects the Greek, or that there was some kind of second inspiration for the KJV, where its every translation choice was inerrant. The TR Only view holds that the inspired Word of God was preserved perfectly in the Textus Receptus (for the New Testament, Hebrew Masoretic Text for the Old). You will notice however, that almost every proponent of this view will claim that the Trinitarian Bible Society edition of the TR is actually inerrant (or some other edition is), and that there are no textual errors (or even serious translational mistakes) in the King James Version.

In at least 3 future posts (1 for each of the passages White mentions), I will put this position to test. In the future I may explore other problem areas for the Textus Receptus. I should make clear that I understand there are problems with my text of choice (the NA 27) too. But I am not claiming inerrancy for my text. I believe that essentially I have the Word of God in my English Standard Version, and that although in some few places there is some uncertainty as to which reading is the correct one, this does not shake my faith. That uncertainty does not mean the Bible was not verbally inspired, and it does not mean I cannot be reasonably certain as to which reading is correct, nor does it bring any major Bible doctrine into question. It does mean I’m being honest with the evidence, and should cause me to wrestle with the text in prayer as I seek to understand its meaning for my life.

Originally posted at Fundamentally Reformed.