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KJV Defended



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine


Second Pages to Chapters

1  2  4  6  8







 The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills



What about all the modern Bible versions and paraphrases which are being sold today by bookstores and publishing houses? Are all these modern-speech Bibles "holy" Bibles? Does God reveal Himself in them? Ought Christians today to rely on them for guidance and send the King James Version into honorable retirement? In order to answer these questions let us first consider the claims of the Textus Receptus and the King James Version and then those of the modern versions that seek to supplant them.

1. Three Alternative Views Of The Textus Receptus (Received Text)

One of the leading principles of the Protestant Reformation was the sole and absolute authority of the holy Scriptures. The New Testament text in which early Protestants placed such implicit reliance was the Textus Receptus (Received Text), which was first printed in 1516 under the editorship of Erasmus. Was this confidence of these early Protestants misplaced? There are three answers to this question which may be briefly summarized as follows:

(a) The Naturalistic, Critical View of the Textus Receptus

Naturalistic textual critics, of course, for years have not hesitated to say that the Protestant Reformers were badly mistaken in their reliance upon the Textus Receptus. According to these scholars, the Textus Receptus is the worst New Testament text that ever existed and must be wholly discarded. One of the first to take this stand openly was Richard Bentley, the celebrated English philologian. In an apology written in 1713 he developed the party line which naturalistic critics have used ever since to sell their views to conservative Christians. (1) New Testament textual criticism, he asserted, has nothing to do with Christian doctrine since the substance of doctrine is the same even in the worst manuscripts. Then he added that the New Testament text has suffered less injury by the hand of time than the text of any profane author. And finally, he concluded by saying that we cannot begin the study of the New Testament text with any definite belief concerning the nature of God's providential preservation of the Scriptures. Rather we must begin our study from a neutral standpoint and then allow the results of this neutral method to teach us what God's providential preservation of the New Testament text actually has been. In other words, we begin with agnosticism and work ourselves into faith gradually. Some seminaries still teach this party line.

(b) The High Anglican View of the Textus Receptus

This was the view of Dean J. W. Burgon, Prebendary F. H. A. Scrivener, and Prebendary Edward Miller. These conservative New Testament textual critics were not Protestants but high Anglicans. Being high Anglicans, they recognized only three ecclesiastical bodies as true Christian churches, namely, the Greek Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Church, in which they themselves officiated. Only these three communions, they insisted, had the "apostolic succession." Only these three, they maintained, were governed by bishops who had been consecrated by earlier bishops and so on back in an unbroken chain to the first bishops, who had been consecrated by the Apostles through the laying on of hands. All other denominations these high Anglicans dismissed as mere "sects."

It was Burgon's high Anglicanism which led him to place so much emphasis on the New Testament quotations of the Church Fathers, most of whom had been bishops. To him these quotations were vital because they proved that the Traditional New Testament Text found in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts had been authorized from the very beginning by the bishops of the early Church, or at least by the majority of these bishops. This high Anglican principle, however, failed Burgon when he came to deal with the printed Greek New Testament text. For from Reformation times down to his own day the printed Greek New Testament text which had been favored by the bishops of the Anglican Church was the Textus Receptus, and the Textus Receptus had not been prepared by bishops but by Erasmus, who was an independent scholar. Still worse, from Burgon's standpoint, was the fact that the particular form of the Textus Receptus used in the Church of England was the third edition of Stephanus, who was a Calvinist. For these reasons, therefore, Burgon and Scrivener looked askance at the Textus Receptus and declined to defend it except in so far as it agreed with the Traditional Text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.

This position, however, is illogical. If we believe in the providential preservation of the New Testament text, then we must defend the Textus Receptus as well as the Traditional Text found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts. For the Textus Receptus is the only form in which this Traditional Text has circulated in print. To decline to defend the Textus Receptus is to give the impression that God's providential preservation of the New Testament text ceased with the invention of printing. It is to suppose that God, having preserved a pure New Testament text all during the manuscript period, unaccountably left this pure text hiding in the manuscripts and allowed an inferior text to issue from the printing press and circulate among His people for more than 450 years. Much, then, as we admire Burgon for his general orthodoxy and for his is defense of the Traditional New Testament Text, we cannot follow him in his high Anglican emphasis or in his disregard for the Textus Receptus

(c) The Orthodox Protestant View of the Textus Receptus

The defense of the Textus Receptus, therefore, is a necessary part of the defense of Protestantism. It is entailed by the logic of faith, the basic steps of which are as follows: First, the Old Testament text was preserved by the Old Testament priesthood and the scribes and scholars that grouped themselves around that priesthood (Deut. 31:24-26). Second, the New Testament text has been preserved by the universal priesthood of believers by faithful Christians in every walk of life (1 Peter 2:9). Third, the Traditional Text, found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, is the True Text because it represents the God-guided usage of this universal priesthood of believers. Fourth, The first printed text of the Greek New Testament was not a blunder or a set-back but a forward step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. Hence the few significant departures of that text from the Traditional Text are only God's providential corrections of the Traditional Text in those few places in which such corrections were needed. Fifth, through the usage of Bible-believing Protestants God placed the stamp of His approval on this first printed text, and it became the Textus Receptus (Received Text).

Hence, as orthodox Protestant Christians, we believe that the formation of the Textus Receptus was guided by the special providence of God. There were three ways in which the editors of the Textus Receptus Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevirs, were providentially guided. In the first place, they were guided by the manuscripts which God in His providence had made available to them. In the second place, they were guided by the providential circumstances in which they found themselves. Then in the third place, and most of all, they were guided by the common faith. Long before the Protestant Reformation, the God-guided usage of the Church had produced throughout Western Christendom a common faith concerning the New Testament text, namely, a general belief that the currently received New Testament text, primarily the Greek text and secondarily the Latin text, was the True New Testament Text which had been preserved by God's special providence. It was this common faith that guided Erasmus and the other early editors of the Textus Receptus.

2. How Erasmus and His Successors Were Guided By the Common Faith

When we believe in Christ, the logic of faith leads us first, to a belief in the infallible inspiration of the original Scriptures, second, to a belief in the providential preservation of this original text down through the ages and third, to a belief in the Bible text current among believers as the providentially preserved original text. This is the common faith which has always been present among Christians. For Christ and His Word are inseparable, and faith in Him and in the holy Scriptures has been the common characteristic of all true believers from the beginning. Always they have regarded the current Bible text as the infallibly inspired and providentially preserved True Text. Origen, for example, in the :3rd century, was expressing the faith of all when he exclaimed to Africanus "Are we to suppose that that Providence which in the sacred Scriptures has ministered to the edification of all the churches of Christ had no thought for those bought with a price, for whom Christ died!" (2)

This faith, however, has from time to time been distorted by the intrusion of unbiblical ideas. For example, many Jews and early Christians believed that the inspiration of the Old Testament had been repeated three times. According to them, not only had the original Old Testament writers been inspired but also Ezra, who rewrote the whole Old Testament after it had been lost. And the Septuagint likewise, they maintained, had been infallibly inspired. Also the Roman Catholics have distorted the common faith by their false doctrine that the authority of the Scriptures rests on the authority of the Church. It was this erroneous view that led the Roman Church to adopt the Latin Vulgate rather than the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as its authoritative Bible. And finally, many conservative Christians today distort the common faith by their adherence to the theories of naturalistic New Testament textual criticism. They smile at the legends concerning Ezra and the Septuagint, but they themselves have concocted a myth even more absurd, namely, that the true New Testament text was lost for more than 1,.500 years and then restored by Westcott and Hort.

But in spite of these distortions due to human sin and error this common faith in Christ and in His Word has persisted among believers from the days of the Apostles until now, and God has used this common faith providentially to preserve the holy Scriptures. Let us now consider how it guided Erasmus and his successors in their editorial labors on the Textus Receptus.

(a) The Life of Erasmus—A Brief Review

Erasmus was born at Rotterdam in 1466, the illegitimate son of a priest but well cared for by his parents. After their early death he was given the best education available to a young man of his day at first at Deventer and then at the Augustinian monastery at Steyn. In 1492 he was ordained priest, but there is no record that he ever functioned as such. By 1495 he was studying in Paris. In 1499 he went to England, where he made the helpful friendship of John Colet, later dean of St. Paul's who quickened his interest in biblical studies. He then went back to France and the Netherlands. In 1505 he again visited England and then passed three years in Italy. In 1509 he returned to England for the third time and taught at Cambridge University until 1514. In 1515 he went to Basel, where he published his New Testament in 1516, then back to the Netherlands for a sojourn at the University of Louvain. Then he returned to Basel in 1521 and remained there until 1529, in which year he removed to the imperial town of Freiburg-im-Breisgau. Finally, in 1535, he again returned to Basel and died there the following year in the midst of his Protestant friends, without relations of any sort, so far as known, with the Roman Catholic Church. (3)

One might think that all this moving around would have interfered with Erasmus' activity as a scholar and writer, but quite the reverse is true. By his travels he was brought into contact with all the intellectual currents of his time and stimulated to almost superhuman efforts. He became the most famous scholar and author of his day and one of the most prolific writers of all time, his collected works filling ten large volumes in the Leclerc edition of 1705 (phototyped by Olms in 1962). (4) As an editor also his productivity was tremendous. Ten columns of the catalogue of the library in the British Museum are taken up with the bare enumeration of the works translated, edited, or annotated by Erasmus, and their subsequent reprints. Included are the greatest names of the classical and patristic world, such as Ambrose, Aristotle, Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, Cicero, and Jerome. (5) An almost unbelievable showing.

To conclude, there was no man in all Europe better prepared than Erasmus for the work of editing the first printed Greek New Testament text, and this is why, we may well believe, God chose him and directed him providentially in the accomplishment of this task.

(b) Erasmus Guided by the Common Faith— Factors Which Influenced Him

In order to understand how God guided Erasmus providentially let us consider the three alternative views which were held in Erasmus' days concerning the preservation of the New Testament text, namely, the humanistic view, the scholastic view, and the common view, which we have called the common faith.

The humanistic view was well represented by the writings of Laurentius Valla (1405-57), a famous scholar of the Italian renaissance. Valla emphasized the importance of language. According to him, the decline of civilization in the dark ages was due to the decay of the Greek and Latin languages. Hence it was only through the study of classical literature that the glories of ancient Greece and Rome could be recaptured. Valla also wrote a treatise on the Latin Vulgate, comparing it with certain Greek New Testament manuscripts which he had in his possession. Erasmus, who from his youth had been an admirer of Valla found a manuscript of Valla's treatise in 1504 and had it printed in the following year. In this work Valla favored the Greek New Testament text over the Vulgate. The Latin text often differed from the Greek, he reported. Also there were omissions and additions in the Latin translation, and the Greek wording was generally better than that of the Latin. (6)

The scholastic theologians, on the other hand, warmly defended the Latin Vulgate as the only true New Testament text. In 1514 Martin Dorp of the University of Louvain wrote to Erasmus asking him not to publish his forthcoming Greek New Testament. Dorp argued that if the Vulgate contained falsifications of the original Scriptures and errors, the Church would have been wrong for many centuries, which was impossible. The references of most Church Councils to the Vulgate, Dorp insisted, proved that the Church considered this Latin version to be the official Bible and not the Greek New Testament, which, he maintained, had been corrupted by the heretical Greek Church. (7) And after Erasmus' Greek New Testament had been published in 1516, Stunica, a noted Spanish scholar, accused it of being an open condemnation of the Latin Vulgate, the version of the Church. (8) And about the same time Peter Sutor, once of the Sorbonne and later a Carthusian monk, declared that "If in one point the Vulgate were in error, the entire authority of holy Scripture would collapse." (9)

Believing Bible students today are often accused of taking the same extreme position in regard to the King James Version that Peter Sutor took more than 450 years ago in regard to the Latin Vulgate. But this is false. We take the third position which we have mentioned, namely, the common view. In Erasmus' day this view occupied the middle ground between the humanistic view and the scholastic view. Those that held this view acknowledged that the Scriptures had been providentially preserved down through the ages. They did not, however, agree with the scholastic theologians in tying this providential preservation to the Latin Vulgate. On the contrary, along with Laurentius Valla and other humanists, they asserted the superiority of the Greek New Testament text.

This common view remained a faith rather than a well articulated theory. No one at that time drew the logical but unpalatable conclusion that the Greek Church rather than the Roman Church had been the providentially appointed guardian of the New Testament text. But this view, though vaguely apprehended, was widely held, so much so that it may justly be called the common view. Before the Council of Trent (1546) it was favored by some of the highest officials of the Roman Church, notably, it seems, by Leo X, who was pope from 1513 to 1521 and to whom Erasmus dedicated his New Testament. Erasmus' close friends also, John Colet, for example, and Thomas More and Jacques Lefevre, all of whom like Erasmus sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church from within, likewise adhered to this common view. Even the scholastic theologian Martin Dorp was finally persuaded by Thomas More to adopt it." (10)

In the days of Erasmus, therefore, it was commonly believed by well informed Christians that the original New Testament text had been providentially preserved in the current New Testament text, primarily in the current Greek text and secondarily in the current Latin text. Erasmus was influenced by this common faith and probably shared it, and God used it providentially to guide Erasmus in his editorial labors on the Textus Receptus.

(c) Erasmus' Five Editions of the Textus Receptus

Between the years 1516 and 1535 Erasmus published five editions of the Greek New Testament. In the first edition (1516) the text was preceded by a dedication to Pope Leo X, an exhortation to the reader, a discussion of the method used, and a defense of this method. Then came the Greek New Testament text accompanied by Erasmus' own Latin translation, and then this was followed by Erasmus' notes, giving his comments on the text. In his 2nd edition (1519) Erasmus revised both his Greek text and his own Latin translation. His substitution in John 1:1 of sermo (speech) for verbum (word), the rendering of the Latin Vulgate, aroused much controversy. The 3rd edition (1522) is chiefly remarkable for the inclusion of 1 John 5:7, which had been omitted in the previous editions. The 4th edition (1527) contained the Greek text, the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus' Latin translation in three parallel columns. The 5th edition (1535) omitted the Vulgate, thus resuming the practice of printing the Greek text and the version of Erasmus side by side. (11)

(d) The Greek Manuscripts Used by Erasmus

When Erasmus came to Basel in July, 1515, to begin his work, he found five Greek New Testament manuscripts ready for his use. These are now designated by the following numbers: 1 (an 11th-century manuscript of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles), 2 (a 15th-century manuscript of the Gospels), 2ap (a 12th-14th-century manuscript of Acts and the Epistles), 4ap (a 15th-century manuscript of Acts and the Epistles), and 1r (a 12th-century manuscript of Revelation). Of these manuscripts Erasmus used 1 and 4ap only occasionally. In the Gospels Acts, and Epistles his main reliance was on 2 and 2ap. (12)

Did Erasmus use other manuscripts beside these five in preparing his Textus Receptus? The indications are that he did. According to W. Schwarz (1955), Erasmus made his own Latin translation of the New Testament at Oxford during the years 1505-6. His friend, John Colet who had become Dean of St. Paul's, lent him two Latin manuscripts for this undertaking, but nothing is known about the Greek manuscripts which he used. (13) He must have used some Greek manuscripts or other, however, and taken notes on them. Presumably therefore he brought these notes with him to Basel along with his translation and his comments on the New Testament text. It is well known also that Erasmus looked for manuscripts everywhere during his travels and that he borrowed them from everyone he could. Hence although the Textus Receptus was based mainly on the manuscripts which Erasmus found at Basel, it also included readings taken from others to which he had access. It agreed with the common faith because it was founded on manuscripts which in the providence of God were readily available.

(e) Erasmus' Notes—His Knowledge of Variant Readings and Critical Problems

Through his study of the writings of Jerome and other Church Fathers Erasmus became very well informed concerning the variant readings of the New Testament text. Indeed almost all the important variant readings known to scholars today were already known to Erasmus more than 460 years ago and discussed in the notes (previously prepared) which he placed after the text in his editions of the Greek New Testament. Here, for example, Erasmus dealt with such problem passages as the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:13), the interview of the rich young man with Jesus (Matt. 19:17-22), the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), the angelic song (Luke 2:14), the angel, agony, and bloody sweat omitted (Luke 22:43-44), the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53 - 8:11), and the mystery of godliness (l Tim. 3:16).

In his notes Erasmus placed before the reader not only ancient discussions concerning the New Testament text but also debates which took place in the early Church over the New Testament canon and the authorship of some of the New Testament books, especially Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Not only did he mention the doubts reported by Jerome and the other Church Fathers, but also added some objections of his own. However, he discussed these matters somewhat warily, declaring himself willing at any time to submit to "The consensus of public opinion and especially to the authority of the Church." (14) In short, he seemed to recognize that in reopening the question of the New Testament canon he was going contrary to the common faith.

But if Erasmus was cautious in his notes, much more was he so in his text, for this is what would strike the reader's eye immediately. Hence in the editing of his Greek New Testament text especially Erasmus was guided by the common faith in the current text. And back of this common faith was the controlling providence of God. For this reason Erasmus' humanistic tendencies do not appear in the Textus Receptus which he produced. Although not himself outstanding as a man of faith, in his editorial labors on this text he was providentially influenced and guided by the faith of others. In spite of his humanistic tendencies Erasmus was clearly used of God to place the Greek New Testament text in print, just as Martin Luther was used of God to bring in the Protestant Reformation in spite of the fact that, at least at first, he shared Erasmus' doubts concerning Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. (15)

(f) Latin Vulgate Readings in the Textus Receptus

The God who brought the New Testament text safely through the ancient and medieval manuscript period did not fumble when it came time to transfer this text to the modern printed page. This is the conviction which guides the believing Bible student as he considers the relationship of the printed Textus Receptus to the Traditional New Testament text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.

These two texts are virtually identical. Kirsopp Lake and his associates (1928) demonstrated this fact in their intensive researches in the Traditional text (which they called the Byzantine text). Using their collations, they came to the conclusion that in the 11th chapter of Mark, "the most popular text in the manuscripts of the tenth to the fourteenth century" (16) differed from the Textus Receptus only four times. This small number of differences seems almost negligible in view of the fact that in this same chapter Aleph, B. and D) differ from the Textus Receptus 69,71, and 95 times respectively. Also add to this the fact that in this same chapter B differs from Aleph 34 times and from D 102 times and that Aleph differs from D 100 times.

There are, however, a few places in which the Textus Receptus differs from the Traditional text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. The most important of these differences are due to the fact that Erasmus, influenced by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church in which he was reared, sometimes followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Traditional Greek text.

Are the readings which Erasmus thus introduced into the Textus Receptus necessarily erroneous'? By no means ought we to infer this. For it is inconceivable that the divine providence which had preserved the New Testament text during the long ages of the manuscript period should blunder when at last this text was committed to the printing press. According to the analogy of faith, then, we conclude that the Textus Receptus was a further step in God's providential preservation of the New Testament text and that these few Latin Vulgate readings which were incorporated into the Textus Receptus were genuine readings which had been preserved in the usage of the Latin-speaking Church. Erasmus, we may well believe, was guided providentially by the common faith to include these readings in his printed Greek New Testament text. In the Textus Receptus God corrected the few mistakes of any consequence which yet remained in the Traditional New Testament text of the majority of the Greek manuscripts.

The following are some of the most familiar and important of those relatively few Latin Vulgate readings which, though not part of the Traditional Greek text, seem to have been placed in the Textus Receptus by the direction of God's special providence and therefore are to be retained. The reader will note that these Latin Vulgate readings are also found in other ancient witnesses, namely, old Greek manuscripts, versions, and Fathers.


Matt. 10:8 raise the dead, is omitted by the majority of the Greek manuscripts. This reading is present, however, in Aleph B C D 1, the Latin Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus.
Matt. 27: 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. Present in Eusebius (c. 325), 1 and other "Caesarean" manuscripts, the Harclean Syriac, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus. Omitted by the majority of the Greek manuscripts. John 3:25 Then there arose a questioning between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. Pap 66, Aleph, 1 and other "Caesarean" manuscripts, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus read the Jews. Pap 75, B. the Peshitta, and the majority of the Greek manuscripts read, a Jew.

Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If thou beievest with all shine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As J. A. Alexander (1857) suggested, this verse, though genuine, was omitted by many scribes, "as unfriendly to the practice of delaying baptism, which had become common, if not prevalent, before the end of the 3rd century." (17) Hence the verse is absent from the majority of the Greek manuscripts. But it is present in some of them, including E (6th or 7th century). It is cited by Irenaeus (c. 180) and Cyprian (c.250) and is found in the Old Latin and the Vulgate. In his notes Erasmus says that he took this reading from the margin of 4ap and incorporated it into the Textus Receptus.

Acts 9:5 it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. This reading is absent here from the Greek manuscripts but present in Old Latin manuscripts and in the Latin Vulgate known to Erasmus. It is present also at the end of Acts 9:4 in E, 431, the Peshitta, and certain manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. In Acts 26:14, however, this reading is present in all the Greek manuscripts. In his notes Erasmus indicates that he took this reading from Acts 26:14 and inserted it here.

Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? and the Lord said unto him. This reading is found in the Latin Vulgate and in other ancient witnesses. It is absent, however, from the Greek manuscripts, due, according to Lake and Cadbury (1933), "to the paucity of Western Greek texts and the absence of D at this point." (18) In his notes Erasmus indicates that this reading is a translation made by him from the Vulgate into Greek.

Acts 20:28 Church of God. Here the majority of the Greek manuscripts read, Church of the Lord and God. The Latin Vulgate, however, and the Textus Receptus read, Church of God, which is also the reading of Aleph B and other ancient witnesses.  Rom. 16:25-27 In the majority of the manuscripts this doxology is placed at the end of chapter 14. In the Latin Vulgate and the Textus Receptus it is placed at the end of chapter l6 and this is also the position it occupies in Aleph B C and D.

Rev. 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. According to Hoskier, all the Greek manuscripts, except possibly one or two, read, tree of life. The Textus Receptus reads, book of life, with the Latin Vulgate (including the very old Vulgate manuscript F), the Bohairic version, Ambrose (d. 397), and the commentaries of Primasius (6th century) and Haymo (9th century). This is one of the verses which Erasmus is said to have translated from Latin into Greek. But Hoskier seems to doubt that Erasmus did this, suggesting that he may have followed Codex 141. (19)

(g) The Human Aspect of the Textus Receptus

God works providentially through sinful and fallible human beings, and therefore His providential guidance has its human as well as its divine side. And these human elements were evident in the first edition (1516) of the Textus Receptus. For one thing, the work was performed so hastily that the text was disfigured with a great number of typographical errors. These misprints, however, were soon eliminated by Erasmus himself in his later editions and by other early editors and hence are not a factor which need to be taken into account in any estimate of the abiding value of the Textus Receptus.

The few typographical errors which still remain in the Textus Receptus of Revelation do not involve important readings. This fact, clearly attributable to God's special providence, can be demonstrated by a study of H. C. Hoskier's monumental commentary on Revelation (1929), (19) which takes the Textus Receptus as its base. Here we see that the only typographical error worth noting occurs in Rev.17:8, the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. Here the reading kaiper estin (and yet is) seems to be a misprint for kai paresti (and is at hand), which is the reading of Codex 1r the manuscript which Erasmus used in Revelation.

The last six verses of Codex 1r (Rev. 22:16-21) were lacking, and its text in other places was sometimes hard to distinguish from the commentary of Andreas of Caesarea in which it was embedded. According to almost all scholars, Erasmus endeavored to supply these deficiencies in his manuscript by retranslating the Latin Vulgate into Greek. Hoskier however, was inclined to dispute this on the evidence of manuscript 141. (19) In his 4th edition of his Greek New Testament (1527) Erasmus corrected much of this translation Greek (if it was indeed such) on the basis of a comparison with the Complutensian Polyglot Bible (which had been printed at Acala in Spain under the direction of Cardinal Ximenes and published in 1522), but he overlooked some of it, and this still remains in the Textus Receptus. These readings, however, do not materially affect the sense of the passages in which they occur. They are only minor blemishes which can easily be removed or corrected in marginal notes. The only exception is book for tree in Rev. 22:19, a variant which Erasmus could not have failed to notice but must have retained purposely. Critics blame him for this but here he may have been guided providentially by the common faith to follow the Latin Vulgate.

There is one passage in Revelation, however, in which the critics rather inconsistently, blame Erasmus for not moving in the direction of the Latin Vulgate. This is Rev. 22:14a, Blessed are they that do His commandments, etc. Here, according to Hoskier, (19) Aleph and A and a few Greek minuscule manuscripts read, wash their robes, and this is the reading favored by the critics. A few other Greek manuscripts and the Sahidic version read, have washed their robes. The Latin Vulgate reads wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb. But the Textus Receptus reading of Erasmus, do His commandments, is found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts and in the Bohairic and Syriac versions and is undoubtedly the Traditional reading.

It is customary for naturalistic critics to make the most of human imperfections in the Textus Receptus and to sneer at it as a mean and almost sordid thing. These critics picture the Textus Receptus as merely a money-making venture on the part of Froben the publisher. Froben, they say, heard that the Spanish Cardinal Ximenes was about to publish a printed Greek New Testament text as part of his great Complutensian Polyglot Bible. In order to get something on the market first, it is said Froben hired Erasmus as his editor and rushed a Greek New Testament through his press in less than a year's time. But those who concentrate in this way on the human factors involved in the production of the Textus Receptus are utterly unmindful of the providence of God. For in the very next year, in the plan of God, the Reformation was to break out in Wittenberg, and it was important that the Greek New Testament should be published first in one of the future strongholds of Protestantism by a book seller who was eager to place it in the hands of the people and not in Spain, the land of the Inquisition, by the Roman Church, which was intent on keeping the Bible from the people.

(h) Robert Stephanus—His Four Editions of the Textus Receptus

After the death of Erasmus in 1536 God in His providence continued to extend the influence of the Textus Receptus. One of the agents through whom He accomplished this was the famous French printer and scholar Robert Stephanus (1503-59). Robert's father Henry and his stepfather Simon de Colines were printers who had published Bibles, and Robert was not slow to follow their example. In 1523 he published a Latin New Testament, and two times he published the Hebrew Bible entire. But the most important were his four editions of the Greek New Testament in 1546, 1549, 1550, and 1551 respectively. These activities aroused the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, so much so that in 1550 he was compelled to leave Paris and settle in Geneva, where he became a Protestant, embracing the Reformed faith. (20)

Stephanus' first two editions (1546 and 1549) were pocket size (large pockets) printed with type cast at the expense of the King of France. In text they were a compound of the Complutensian and Erasmian editions. Stephanus' 4th edition (1551) was also pocket size. In it the text was for the first time divided into verses. But most important was Stephanus' 3rd edition. This was a small folio (8 1/2 by 13 inches) likewise printed at royal expense. In the margin of this edition Stephanus entered variant readings taken from the Complutensian edition and also 14 manuscripts, one of which is thought to have been Codex D. In text the 3rd and 4th editions of Stephanus agreed closely with the 5th edition of Erasmus, which was gaining acceptance everywhere as the providentially appointed text. It was the influence no doubt of this common faith which restrained Stephanus from adopting any of the variant readings which he had collected. (21)

(i) Calvin's Comments on the New Testament Text

The mention of Geneva leads us immediately to think of John Calvin (1509-64), the famous Reformer who had his headquarters in this city. In his commentaries (which covered every New Testament book except 2 and 3 John and Revelation) Calvin mentions Erasmus by name 78 times, far more often than any other contemporary scholar. Most of these references (72 to be exact) are criticisms of Erasmus' Latin version, and once (Phil. 2:6) Calvin complains about Erasmus' refusal to admit that the passage in question teaches the deity of Christ. But five references deal with variant readings which Erasmus suggested in his notes, and of these Calvin adopted three. On the basis of these statistics therefore it is perhaps not too much to say that Calvin disapproved of Erasmus as a translator and theologian but thought better of him as a New Testament textual critic.

In John 8:59 Calvin follows the Latin Vulgate in omitting going through the midst of them, and so passed by. Here he accepts the suggestion of Erasmus that this clause has been borrowed from Luke 4:30. And in Heb. l l:37 he agrees with Erasmus in omitting were tempted. But in readings of major importance Calvin rejected the opinions of Erasmus. For example, Calvin dismisses Erasmus' suggestion that the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer is an interpolation (Matt. 6:13). He ignores Erasmus' discussion of the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20). He is more positive than Erasmus in his acceptance of the pericope de adultera (John 7:53-8:11). He opposes Erasmus' attack on the reading God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim.3:16). And he receives 1 John 5:7 as genuine.

To the three variant readings taken from Erasmus' notes Calvin added 18 others. The three most important of these Calvin took from the Latin Vulgate namely, light instead of Spirit (Eph.5:9), Christ instead of God (Eph. 5:21), without thy works instead of by thy works (James 2:18). Calvin also made two conjectural emendations. In James 4:2 he followed Erasmus (2nd edition) and Luther in changing kill to envy. Also he suggested that 1 John 2:14 was an interpolation because to him it seemed repetitious. (22)

In short, there appears in Calvin as well as in Erasmus a humanistic tendency to treat the New Testament text like the text of any other book. This tendency, however, was checked and restrained by the common faith in the current New Testament text, a faith in which Calvin shared to a much greater degree than did Erasmus.

(j) Theodore Beza's Ten Editions of the New Testament

Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Calvin's disciple and successor at Geneva, was renowned for his ten editions of the Greek New Testament nine published during his lifetime and one after his death. He is also famous for his Latin translation of the New Testament, first published in 1556 and reprinted more than 100 times. Four of Beza's Greek New Testaments are independent folio editions, but the six others are smaller reprints. The folio editions contain Beza's critical notes, printed not at the end of the volume, as with Erasmus, but under the text. The dates of these folio editions are usually given as 1565, 1582, 1588-9, and 1598 respectively. There seems to be some confusion here, however, because there is a copy at the University of Chicago dated 1560, and Metzger (1968), following Reuss (1872), talks about a 1559 edition of Beza's Greek New Testament. (23)

In his edition of 1582 (which Beza calls his third edition) Beza listed the textual materials employed by him. They included the variant readings collected by Robert Stephanus, the Syriac version published in 1569 by Tremellius, a converted Jewish scholar, and also the Arabic New Testament version in a Latin translation prepared by Francis Junius, later a son-in-law of Tremellius. Beza also mentioned two of his own manuscripts. One of these was D, the famous Codex Bezae containing the Gospels and Acts, which had been in his possession from 1562 until 1581, in which year he had presented it to the University of Cambridge. The other was D2, Codex Claromontanus, a manuscript of the Pauline Epistles, which Beza had obtained from the monastery of Clermont in Northern France. But in spite of this collection of materials, Beza in his text rarely departs from the 4th edition of Stephanus, only 38 times according to Reuss (1872). (24) This is a remarkable fact which shows the hold which the common faith had upon Beza's mind.

In his notes Beza defended the readings of his text which he deemed doctrinally important. For example, he upheld the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 against the adverse testimony of Jerome. "Jerome says this," he concludes. "But in this section I notice nothing which disagrees with the narratives of the other Evangelists or indicates the style of a different author, and I testify that this section is found in all the oldest manuscripts which I happen to have seen." And in 1 Tim. 3:16 Beza defends the reading God was manifest in the flesh. "The concept itself," he declares, "demands that we receive this as referring to the very person of Christ." And concerning 1 John 5:7 Beza says, "It seems to me that this clause ought by all means to be retained."

On the other hand, Beza confesses doubt concerning some other passages in his text. In Luke 2:14 Beza places good will toward men in his text but disputes it in his notes. "Nevertheless, following the authority of Origen, Chrysostom, the Old (Vulgate) translation, and finally the sense itself, I should prefer to read (men) of good will." In regard also to the pericope de adultera (John 7:53-8:11) Beza confides, "As far as I am concerned, I do not hide the fact that to me a passage which those ancient writers reject is justly suspect." Also Beza neither defends nor rejects the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:13) but simply observes, "This clause is not written in the Vulgate edition nor had been included in a second old copy (D?)."

The diffident manner in which Beza reveals these doubts shows that he was conscious of running counter to the views of his fellow believers. Just as with Erasmus and Calvin, so also with Beza there was evidently a conflict going on within his mind between his humanistic tendency to treat the New Testament like any other book and the common faith in the current New Testament text. But in the providence of God all was well. God used this common faith providentially to restrain Beza's humanism and lead him to publish far and wide the true New Testament text.

Like Calvin, Beza introduced a few conjectural emendations into his New Testament text. In the providence of God, however, only two of these were perpetuated in the King James Version, namely, Romans 7:6 that being dead wherein instead of being dead to that wherein, and Revelation 16:5 shalt be instead of holy. In the development of the Textus Receptus the influence of the common faith kept conjectural emendation down to a minimum.

(k) The Elzevir Editions—The Triumph of the Common Faith

The Elzevirs were a family of Dutch printers with headquarters at Leiden. The most famous of them was Bonaventure Elzevir, who founded his own printing establishment in 1608 with his brother Matthew as his partner and later his nephew Abraham. In 1624 he published his first edition of the New Testament and in 1633 his 2nd edition. His texts followed Beza's editions mainly but also included readings from Erasmus, the Complutensian, and the Latin Vulgate. In the preface to the 2nd edition the phrase Textus Receptus made its first appearance. "You have therefore the text now received by all (textum ab omnibus receptum) in which we give nothing changed or corrupt." (25)

This statement has often been assailed as a mere printer's boast or "blurb", and no doubt it was partly that. But in the providence of God it was also a true statement. For by this time the common faith in the current New Testament text had triumphed over the humanistic tendencies which had been present not only in Erasmus but also Luther, Calvin, and Beza. The doubts and reservations expressed in their notes and comments had been laid aside and only their God-guided texts had been retained. The Textus Receptus really was the text received by all. Its reign had begun and was to continue unbroken for 200 years. In England Stephanus' 3rd edition was the form of the Textus Receptus generally preferred, on the European continent Elzevir's 2nd edition.

Admittedly there are a few places in which the Textus Receptus is supported by only a small number of manuscripts, for example, Eph. 1:18, where it reads, eyes of your understanding, instead of eyes of your heart; and Eph. 3:9, where it reads, fellowship of the mystery, instead of dispensation of the mystery. We solve this problem, however, according to the logic of faith. Because the Textus Receptus was God-guided as a whole, it was probably God-guided in these few passages also.

3. The Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7)

In the Textus Receptus 1 John 5:7-8 reads as follows:

7 For there are three that bear witness IN HEAVEN, THE FATHER, THE WORD, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: AND THESE THREE ARE ONE. 8 AND THERE ARE THREE THAT BEAR WITNESS IN EARTH, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

The words printed in capital letters constitute the so-called Johannine comma, the best known of the Latin Vulgate readings of the Textus Receptus, a reading which, on believing principles, must be regarded as possibly genuine. This comma has been the occasion of much controversy and is still an object of interest to textual critics. One of the more recent discussions of it is found in Windisch's Katholischen Briefe (revised by Preisker, 1951); (26) a more accessible treatment of it in English is that provided by A. D. Brooke (1912) in the International Critical Commentary. (27) Metzger (1964) also deals with this passage in his handbook, but briefly. (28)

(a) How the Johannine Comma Entered the Textus Receptus

As has been observed above, the Textus Receptus has both its human aspect and its divine aspect, like the Protestant Reformation itself or any other work of God's providence. And when we consider the manner in which the Johannine comma entered the Textus Receptus, we see this human element at work. Erasmus omitted the Johannine comma from the first edition (1516) of his printed Greek New Testament on the ground that it occurred only in the Latin version and not in any Greek manuscript. To quiet the outcry that arose, he agreed to restore it if but one Greek manuscript could be found which contained it. When one such manuscript was discovered soon afterwards, bound by his promise, he included the disputed reading in his third edition (1522), and thus it gained a permanent place in the Textus Receptus. The manuscript which forced Erasmus to reverse his stand seems to have been 61, a 15th or 16th-century manuscript now kept at Trinity College, Dublin. Many critics believe that this manuscript was written at Oxford about 1520 for the special purpose of refuting Erasmus, and this is what Erasmus himself suggested in his notes.

The Johannine comma is also found in Codex Ravianus, in the margin of 88, and in 629. The evidence of these three manuscripts, however, is not regarded as very weighty, since the first two are thought to have taken this disputed reading from early printed Greek texts and the latter (like 61) from the Vulgate.

But whatever may have been the immediate cause, still, in the last analysis, it was not trickery which was responsible for the inclusion of the Johannine comma in the Textus Receptus but the usage of the Latin-speaking Church. It was this usage which made men feel that this.reading ought to be included in the Greek text and eager to keep it there after its inclusion had been accomplished. Back of this usage, we may well believe, was the guiding providence of God, and therefore the Johannine comma ought to be retained as at least possibly genuine.

(b) The Early Existence of the Johannine Comma

Evidence for the early existence of the Johannine comma is found in the Latin versions and in the writings of the Latin Church Fathers. For example, it seems to have been quoted at Carthage by Cyprian (c. 250) who writes as follows: "And again concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: and the Three are One." (29) It is true that Facundus, a 6th-century African bishop, interpreted Cyprian as referring to the following verse, (30) but, as Scrivener (1833) remarks, it is "surely safer and more candid" to admit that Cyprian read the Johannine comma in his New Testament manuscript "than to resort to the explanation of Facundus." (31)

The first undisputed citations of the Johannine comma occur in the writing of two 4th-century Spanish bishops, Priscillian, (32) who in 385 was beheaded by the Emperor Maximus on the charge of sorcery and heresy, and Idacius Clarus, (33) Priscillian's principal adversary and accuser. In the 5th century the Johannine comma was quoted by several orthodox African writers to defend the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals, who ruled North Africa from 489 to 534 and were fanatically attached to the Arian heresy. (34) And about the same time it was cited by Cassiodorus (480-570), in Italy. (35) The comma is also found in r an Old Latin manuscript of the 5th or 6th century, and in the Speculum, a treatise which contains an Old Latin text. It was not included in Jerome's original edition of the Latin Vulgate but around the year 800 it was taken into the text of the Vulgate from the Old Latin manuscripts. It was found in the great mass of the later Vulgate manuscripts and in the Clementine edition of the Vulgate, the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

(c) Is the Johannine Comma an Interpolation?

Thus on the basis of the external evidence it is at least possible that the Johannine comma is a reading that somehow dropped out of the Greek New Testament text but was preserved in the Latin text through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church, and this possibility grows more and more toward probability as we consider the internal evidence.

In the first place, how did the Johannine comma originate if it be not genuine, and how did it come to be interpolated into the Latin New Testament text? To this question modern scholars have a ready answer. It arose, they say, as a trinitarian interpretation of I John 5:8, which originally read as follows: For there are three that bear witness the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. Augustine was one of those who interpreted 1 John 5:8 as referring to the Trinity. "If we wish to inquire about these things, what they signify, not absurdly does the Trinity suggest Itself, who is the one, only, true, and highest God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, concerning whom it could most truly be said, Three are Witnesses, and the Three are One. By the word spirit we consider God the Father to be signified, concerning the worship of whom the Lord spoke, when He said, God is a spirit. By the word blood the Son is signified, because the Word was made flesh. And by the word water we understand the Holy Spirit. For when Jesus spoke concerning the water which He was about to give the thirsty, the evangelist says, This He spake concerning the Spirit whom those that believed in Him would receive. " (36)

Thus, according to the critical theory, there grew up in the Latin speaking regions of ancient Christendom a trinitarian interpretation of the spirit, the water, and the blood mentioned in 1 John 5:8, the spirit signifying the Father, the blood the Son, and the water the Holy Spirit And out of this trinitarian interpretation of 1 John 5:8 developed the Johannine comma, which contrasts the witness of the Holy Trinity in heaven with the witness of the spirit, the water, and the blood on earth.

But just at this point the critical theory encounters a serious difficulty. If the comma originated in a trinitarian interpretation of 1 John 5:8, why does it not contain the usual trinitarian formula, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Why does it exhibit the singular combination, never met with elsewhere, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit? According to some critics, this unusual phraseology was due to the efforts of the interpolator who first inserted the Johannine comma into the New Testament text. In a mistaken attempt to imitate the style of the Apostle John, he changed the term Son to the term Word. But this is to attribute to the interpolator a craftiness which thwarted his own purpose in making this interpolation, which was surely to uphold the doctrine of the Trinity, including the eternal generation of the Son. With this as his main concern it is very unlikely that he would abandon the time-honored formula, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and devise an altogether new one, Father, Word, and Holy Spirit.

In the second place, the omission of the Johannine comma seems to leave the passage incomplete. For it is a common scriptural usage to present solemn truths or warnings in groups of three or four, for example, the repeated Three things, yea four of Proverbs 30, and the constantly recurring refrain, for three transgressions and for four, of the prophet Amos. In Genesis 40 the butler saw three branches and the baker saw three baskets. And in Matt. 12:40 Jesus says, As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. It is in accord with biblical usage, therefore, to expect that in 1 John 5:7-8 the formula, there are three that bear witness, will be repeated at least twice. When the Johannine comma is included, the formula is repeated twice. When the comma is omitted, the formula is repeated only once, which seems strange.

In the third place, the omission of the Johannine comma involves a grammatical difficulty. The words spirit, water, and blood are neuter in gender, but in 1 John 5:8 they are treated as masculine. If the Johannine comma is rejected, it is hard to explain this irregularity. It is usually said that in 1 John 5:8 the spirit, the water, and the blood are personalized and that this is the reason for the adoption of the masculine gender. But it is hard to see how such personalization would involve the change from the neuter to the masculine. For in verse 6 the word Spirit plainly refers to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Surely in this verse the word Spirit is "personalized," and yet the neuter gender is used. Therefore since personalization did not bring about a change of gender in verse 6, it cannot fairly be pleaded as the reason for such a change in verse 8. If, however, the Johannine comma is retained, a reason for placing the neuter nouns spirit, water, and blood in the masculine gender becomes readily apparent. It was due to the influence of the nouns Father and Word, which are masculine. Thus the hypothesis that the Johannine comma is an interpolation is full of difficulties.

(d) Reasons for the Possible Omission of the Johannine Comma

For the absence of the Johannine comma from all New Testament documents save those of the Latin-speaking West the following explanations are possible.

In the first place, it must be remembered that the comma could easily have been omitted accidentally through a common type of error which is called homoioteleuton (similar ending). A scribe copying 1 John 5:7-8 under distracting conditions might have begun to write down these words of verse 7, there are three that bear witness, but have been forced to look up before his pen had completed this task. When he resumed his work, his eye fell by mistake on the identical expression in verse 8. This error would cause him to omit all of the Johannine comma except the words in earth, and these might easily have been dropped later in the copying of this faulty copy. Such an accidental omission might even have occurred several times, and in this way there might have grown up a considerable number of Greek manuscripts which did not contain this reading.

In the second place, it must be remembered that during the 2nd and 3rd centuries (between 220 and 270, according to Harnack); (37) the heresy which orthodox Christians were called upon to combat was not Arianism (since this error had not yet arisen) but Sabellianism (so named after Sabellius, one of its principal promoters), according to which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were one in the sense that they were identical. Those that advocated this heretical view were called Patripassians (Father-sufferers), because they believed that God the Father, being identical with Christ, suffered and died upon the cross, and Monarchians, because they claimed to uphold the Monarchy (sole-government) of God.

It is possible, therefore, that the Sabellian heresy brought the Johannine comma into disfavor with orthodox Christians. The statement, these three are one, no doubt seemed to them to teach the Sabellian view that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were identical. And if during the course of the controversy manuscripts were discovered which had lost this reading in the accidental manner described above, it is easy to see how the orthodox party would consider these mutilated manuscripts to represent the true text and regard the Johannine comma as a heretical addition. In the Greek-speaking East especially the comma would be unanimously rejected, for here the struggle against Sabellianism was particularly severe.

Thus it was not impossible that during the 3rd century amid the stress and strain of the Sabellian controversy, the Johannine comma lost its place in the Greek text, but was preserved in the Latin texts of Africa and Spain, where the influence of Sabellianism was probably not so great. In other words, it is not impossible that the Johannine comma was one of those few true readings of the Latin Vulgate not occurring in the Traditional Greek Text but incorporated into the Textus Receptus under the guiding providence of God. In these rare instances God called upon the usage of the Latin-speaking Church to correct the usage of the Greek speaking Church. (38)



Part Two



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