Looking Closer at the Textus Receptus

There are textual differences between the KJV and modern translations like the NASB or NIV because the TR follows the Byzantine text-type, while modern texts draw from the Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean, and Byzantine text-types, creating an eclectic type that seeks to give the original readings as preserved in these various textual families. It should be noted that the TR follows one stream of the Byzantine text-type; that is, at times when the Byzantine family gives variant readings, the TR will follow one particular element, an element that is not always even the majority Byzantine-type reading. Most of the time the differences between the TR and the modern texts are the same differences that exist between the Byzantine text-type and the other text-types. Sometimes, though, the TR goes off by itself and either gives a reading not supported by Greek manuscripts at all or supported by only a very few over against the large majority. It is important to understand that the TR is not identical with the Majority Text, even though it is closely related. The TR is its own text, and it is often found in disagreement with the Majority Text as well as with modern critical texts. The textual variations that fall into the “Byzantine text-type versus other texttypes” group will make up the bulk of this paper. For now, let’s look closely at the TR and some of its more interesting readings. With Erasmus’s use of Reuchlin’s manuscript of Revelation1 this led to some textual errors, the most famous of which are found in Revelation 17. In verse 4, the scribe created a never-before-seen Greek word, akathartetos (the actual term is akatharta), which is still to be found in the pages of the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Textus Receptus. At verse 8, the scribe mistakenly wrote, “ouk esti kaiper esti” (“and is not, and yet is” KJV) instead of “ouk estin kai parestai” (“and is not and will come” NASB). There are other important errors as well. The final six verses were absent from Erasmus’s lone manuscript; pressed for time, he translated the passage from the Vulgate into Greek so as to avoid a “gaping lacuna” in the text2 and admitting the action in his notations. We may chuckle at such a procedure today, and certainly Erasmus took criticism for it, but anyone familiar with the languages involved has to admire how well he did, all things considered. In the process, he did make a number of mistakes, as we would expect. The amazing thing is that these mistakes continue in the TR to this very day. Why Erasmus did not change them at a later time, we cannot say. He unashamedly made use of better texts of Revelation in his later editions, but he left these errors intact. Even more mind-boggling is that they then survived the editorial labors of
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It is well known that Erasmus struggled with the text of Revelation. Not finding any manuscripts that contained the book, he borrowed one from his friend Reuchlin. Erasmus was quite pleased with this text, feeling that it was “of such great age that it might be thought to have been writing in the time of the apostles” (See his Annotations, not 2 on Revelation 3). He had an unknown copyist make a fresh copy and returned the original to Reuchlin. The copyist likewise had difficulty with the text (the manuscript contained a commentary on Revelation, in which the actual scriptural text was imbedded), and as a result made some mistakes that found their way into the printed editions of Erasmus’s Greek text and finally into the text of the KJV. 2 “ne hiaret lacuna.” A “lacuna” is a hole, a gap in the text.

Stephanus and Beza to arrive unchanged in the hands of the KJV translators and subsequently ended up in the King James Version. Other places where Erasmus’s work, and hence the Textus Receptus, falls short includes Revelation 1:6, where the KJV has “made us kings and priests,” while the vast majority of manuscripts have “made us to be a kingdom and priests” (NIV). Another reading that should be significant to the KJVO advocates is found soon thereafter in verse 8, where the KJV reads “saith the Lord,” while nearly every Greek manuscript reads as the NASB, “says the Lord God.” Surely if the modern texts deleted “God” in a passage that can be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and so is relevant to His deity, we would never hear the end of it. Yet here the KJV has an errant reading with virtually no Greek manuscript support at all. Another important accidental deletion is at Revelation 14:1. Compare the KJV and NASB renderings: KJV And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. NASB Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

The name of the Lamb, identified by the phrase “His name and,” is not found in the TR. A grand total of six Greek manuscripts3, comprising one uncial text from the ninth century and five miniscules, all dating quite late (two of which are highly suspect), do not contain this phrase. The reason for its non-inclusion is simple: this is a case of homoeoteleuton, “similar endings.” The repetition of “his name and” caused those few scribes to skip to the second occurrence, deleting the reference to the name of the Lamb. Again, if the situation were reversed, this passage would be used by KJVO believers as evidence of anti-Christian bias by “modern translations.” We’ll note two more intriguing problems in the TR. The first is the addition of “him that liveth for ever and ever” at Revelation 5:14. This phrase, found in only three suspect Greek manuscripts4, is absent from Reuchlin’s. Second, in Revelation 15:3, where “King of saints” should be either “King of the ages” (NIV) or “King of the nations” (NASB), the TR’s reading again lacks Greek manuscript support. Why does the TR often give readings that place it in contrast with the united testimony of the Majority Text and the modern texts (e.g., the UBS4 and the NA27)? Often, because Erasmus imported entire passages from the Latin Vulgate. 5 This is how he came up with “the book of life” at Revelation 22:19 rather than the reading of the Greek manuscripts, “the tree of life.” Seemingly, the Vulgate edition Erasmus
3 4

Those are uncial P and miniscules 1, 57, 141, 146, and 159. Those are miniscules 57, 137, and 141. Some Latin manuscripts have the phrase. 5 KJVO advocates are quick to accuse modern Greek texts of being somehow “polluted” by Roman Catholicism, yet it is the TR itself that often contains entire passages based on the Latin Vulgate’s authority. In Final Authority, William Grady expends much energy forging a link between the Vatican and modern texts, even as he overlooks passages such as these with remarks like: “Have a problem with the Textus Receptus? Tell it to the judge!” (72).

used to translate the last six verses of Revelation into Greek contained this reading, and it survived all the editorial work on the text over the next century to end up serving as the basis for the KJV. Acts 8 and 9 also are expanded in the TR due to material brought over from the Vulgate. For example, if you look up 8:37 (“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” KJV) in the NIV, you will not find it (outside of the textual footnote). The verse is found in very few Greek manuscripts, none earlier than the sixth century, and Erasmus inserted it due to its presence in the Vulgate and in the margin of one Greek manuscript. This passage is surely orthodox and, in fact, is often laden with emotional attachments as well, which makes it easy to preach against its “deletion” by modern texts. But, of course, we must overcome our emotionalism to ask the central question: “What did Luke write at this point?” While the insertion certainly speaks the truth, so would inserting the Nicene Creed between Titus 2 and 3. But no one is going to suggest doing that. We cannot “improve” upon what God has revealed. Erasmus indicated that the Vulgate and the parallel passage in Acts 26 caused him to insert “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” at Acts 9:5 as well, again placing the TR in direct conflict with the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. The Vulgate is the source of a large section of 9:6 (“And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him…”), as well as “the word of God” at 19:20 rather than the Greek texts’ reading6, “the word of the Lord.” Furthermore, the TR stands against all other texts in reading “the eyes of your understanding” instead of “the eyes of your heart” at Ephesians 1:18, and it likewise is alone at Ephesians 3:9 with “the fellowship of the mystery” over against the Greek manuscript witness reading “the administration of the mystery.” So too the TR reading, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” at 2 Timothy 2:19, is found in only one uncial text and one miniscule text over against all others that read, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” What KJVO advocates often fail to understand is that the KJV translators did not utilize just one Greek text when working on the New Testament. They drew from a variety of sources but mainly from Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. 7 When these sources diverged, the decision lay with the translators themselves. Edward F. Hills, a staunch KJV defender, listed a number of instances where the translators had to decide between competing readings in the available texts, adding yet another step to the process that resulted in the text of the KJV. As this is a vital point in examining the KJVO claims, we provide here a summary of the information given by Hills, with some additional information from modern sources. The following chart provides the major passages where various editions of the Textus Receptus differ from one another, a brief listing of the manuscript support behind each reading, and
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Codex E contains “word of God.” Codex E is a bilingual, Latin/Greek manuscript from the early seventh century. 7 There are some places where sources as divergent as the Vulgate and Jewish commentaries in the Mishnah were used.

when necessary, the editions of Erasmus or Stephanus when one edition differed from another. The Textus Receptus vs. the Textus Receptus Luke 2:22 their purification, Erasmus, Stephanus, Erasmus, Stepanus 1, 2, 3, and omit this verse her purification, Beza, KJV, Complutensian, 76, and a few Greek miniscules, Vulgate Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Stephanus 4, Beza, KJV along with D and the Vulgate Bethany beyond Jordan, Stephanus 1, 2, , 66, 75, a, B, Vulgate have tribulation, Erasmus, Stephanus, , 66 because of his Spirit, Erasmus, Stephanus, , B, D, Vulgate serving the time, Erasmus 2, 3, 4, 5, Stephanus, D, G dispensation of God, Stephanus, , a, A, G Omit tabernacle Erasmus, Beza, Luther, Calvin, 46, a, B, D, Vulgate by thy works, Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza 1565,

Luke 17:36

John 1:28 John 16:33 Romans 8:11 Romans 12:11 1 Timothy 1:4 Hebrews 9:1

Bethabara beyond Jordan, Erasmus, Stephanus 3, 4, Beza, KJV shall have tribulation, Beza, KJV, D, f1.13, Vulgate by his Spirit, Beza, KJV, a, A, B, Vulgate serving the Lord, Erasmus 1, Beza, KJV, , 46, a, A, B, Vulgate godly edifying, Erasmus, Beza, KJV, D, Vulgate first tabernacle, Stephanus, ; KJV omits tabernacle and regards covenant as implied. without thy works, Calvin, Beza (last three editions), KJV, a, A, B, Vulgate

James 2:18

We can see that the Greek readings of the KJV New Testament, word for word, did not exist prior to 1611; that is, it is a peculiar Textus Receptus that differs from any edition preceding it. While flowing mainly from Erasmus via Stephanus and Beza, as a complete unit it did not come into existence until the KJV 1611’s first copies were printed. When we speak historically of the Textus Receptus, then, we are speaking of a text-type found in various editions with minor differences between each edition. Most often when the term is used by KJVO advocates, it refers to the KJV version of the TR – the Greek text that flows from the textual choices made by the translators themselves, not to any one particular edition of Erasmus, Stephanus, or Beza. Taken as a whole, the TR, absent the above abnormalities, is a fine representative of the Byzantine text-type. And, as already asserted in the strongest possible terms, the TR’s teaching is the same as that of the Majority Text and any of the modern texts, such as the UBS4 or the NA27. We have taken time to notes these items

simply because of the KJVO advocates’ misuse of the TR. Erasmus did not think his text was inerrant; Stephanus placed variant readings in the margins; Beza made conjectural emendations; the KJV translators chose between the differing readings of the different editions made by these men. None, obviously, would affirm the claims made by KJVO believers about their work.

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