Church History the Bible The Papacy the Reformation

Where are God’s actual Words written?

Would you believe it if someone told you that the Christian Church has been without the true Words of God for at least the period of c.350 to 1870? I am talking about the Gospels and the writings of the early Apostles in their original Greek language. Talk about a conspiracy theory! But that is essentially what we are expected to believe.

Erasmus of Rotterdam Credit: Holbein-erasmus.jpg

You say, how come? We are expected to believe that the Traditional Text of the New Testament, which was passed down through the ages, was copied over and over again, was used by the persecuted Church since the days of the Apostles until Erasmus (in 1516) compiled a Greek New Testament from chosen manuscripts to the produce the Received Text (Textus Receptus), which was eventually translated and published in English in the Authorised King James Bible, was not the true Words of God but contained many early corruptions, which had arisen during the first few centuries of the Church.

That is an incredible story. We are expected to believe that God left His Church without the true text of the New Testament for  about 1520 years until a few men found several manuscripts (one in the Vatican library, one in the waste basket in St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai) from which they were able to recover the true Words of God. Really??

In short we are told that only with the publication of the Greek New Testament compiled by Westcott and Hort (in 1870 first printing, 1881 published) did the Church again get access to the true text of the Gospels and the Epistles and the Revelation of the Apostles. In 1881 that resulted in the publication of the Revised Version of the English Bible, which was meant to correct all the many thousands of errors in the King James Bible, which God had clearly used to evangelise the world over the intervening 270 years (i.e. 1611 to 1881), and well after that.


From this story you might be forgiven if you formed the view, that by their actions and statements, Westcott and Hort, though they were Anglican clergymen, were in fact ‘deep cover’ Roman Catholic even Jesuit agents who worked from within the Protestant churchForever settled cover in an attempt to subvert it through subversion of the Words of God. It seems they tried it at the time of the translation of the King James Bible (cartoon above). But their attempt, then, failed. Could it be that Westcott and Hort had the same goal but despite that God has continued to providentially preserve His Words?

To fill in the details of the how, when, who, and what, the following is excerpted from Dr Jack Moorman’s book, “Forever Settled,” Chapter XXXI, pp. 252-281 in the print version published 1999.1 It is detailed and scholarly but reads better than the best spy novel, yet it is all true. (My emphases and new graphics not in the book added.)

Three Hundred and Fifty Years of Attack upon the Authorised Version

1. The Strange Gathering Storm

“Wherever the so-called Counter-Reformation, started by the Jesuits, gained hold of the people, the vernacular was suppressed and the Bible kept from the laity. So eager were the Jesuits to destroy the authority of the Bible – the paper pope of the Protestants, as they contemptuously called it – that they even did not refrain from criticizing its genuineness and historical value.”

The opponents of the noble work of 1611 like to tell the story of how the great printing plants which publish the King James Bible have been obliged to go over it repeatedly to eliminate flaws of printing, to eliminate words which in time have changed in their meaning, or errors which have crept in through the years because of careless editing by different printing houses. They offer this as evidence of the fallibility of the Authorised Version.

They seem to overlook the fact that this labour of necessity is an argument for, rather than against, the dependability of the translations. Had each word of the Bible been set in a cement cast, incapable of the slightest flexibility and been kept so throughout the ages, there could have been no adaptability to the ever-changing structure of human language. The artificiality of such a plan would have eliminated the living action of the Holy Spirit and would accuse both man and the Holy Spirit of being without an intelligent care for the Divine treasure.

On this point, the scholars of the Reformation made their position clear under three different aspects. First, they claimed that the Holy Scriptures had come down to them unimpaired throughout the centuries. (“Semler,” McClintock and Strong, Encyclopedia).

Second, they recognized that to reform any manifest oversight was not placing human hands on a Divine work and was not contrary to the mind of the Lord.

And lastly, they contended that the Received Text, both in Hebrew and in Greek, as they had it in their day would so continue unto the end of time. (Brooke, “Cartwright.” pp. 274, 275).

In fact, a testimony no less can be drawn from the opponents of the Received Text. The higher critics, who have constructed such elaborate scaffolding, and who have built such great engines of war as their apparatus criticus, are obliged to describe the greatness and strength of the walls they are attacking in order to justify their war machine.

Of the Greek New Testament, Dr. Hort, who was an opponent of the Received Text and who dominated the English New Testament Revision Committee, says:

“An overwhelming proportion of the text in all known cursive manuscripts except a few is, as a matter of fact, identical.”

Thus strong testimonies can be given not only to the Received Text, but also to the phenomenal ability of the manuscript scribes writing in different countries and in different ages to preserve an identical Bible in the overwhelming mass of manuscripts. [In fact, 99% support the Received Text and only 1% support the Westcott and Hort’s text.]

The large number of conflicting readings which higher critics have gathered must come from only a few manuscripts, since the overwhelming mass of manuscripts is identical.

The phenomenon presented by this situation is so striking that we are pressed in spirit to inquire, Who are these who are so interested in urging on the world the finds of their criticism?

The King James Bible had hardly begun its career before the enemies commenced to fall upon it. Though it has been with us for three hundred years in splendid leadership – a striking phenomenon – nevertheless, as the years increase, the attacks become more furious. If the Book were a dangerous document, a source of corrupting influence and a nuisance, we would wonder why it has been necessary to assail it since it would naturally die of its own weakness. But when it is a Divine blessing of great worth, a faultless power of transforming influence, who can they be who are so stirred up as to deliver against it one assault after another?

Great theological seminaries, in many lands, led by accepted teachers of learning, are labouring constantly to tear it to pieces. Point us out anywhere, any similar situation concerning the sacred books of any other religion, or even of Shakespeare, or of any other work of literature. Especially since 1814, when the Jesuits were restored by the order of the Pope — if they needed restoration — have the attacks on the Bible, by Catholic scholars and by other scholars who are Protestants in name, become bitter.

For it must be said that the Roman Catholic or the Jesuitical system of argument – the work of the Jesuits from the 16th century to the present day — evinces an amount of learning and dexterity, a subtlety of reasoning, a sophistry, a plausibility combined, of which ordinary Christians have but little idea.

As time went on, this wave of higher criticism mounted higher and higher until it became an ocean surge inundating France, Germany, England, Scotland, the Scandinavian nations, and even Russia. “When the Privy Council of England handed down in 1864 its decision, breathlessly awaited everywhere, permitting those seven Church of England clergymen to retain their positions, who had ruthlessly attacked the inspiration of the Bible, a cry of horror went up from Protestant England; but ‘the whole Catholic Church,’ said Dean Stanley, ‘is, as we have seen, with the Privy Council and against the modern dogmatists’ (Stanley, Essays, p. 140). By modern dogmatists, he meant those who believe the Bible, and the Bible only.

The tide of higher criticism was soon seen to change its appearance and to menace the whole framework of fundamentalist thinking. The demand for revision became the order of the day. The crest was seen about 1870 in France, Germany, England, and the Scandinavian countries. Time-honoured Bibles in these countries were radically overhauled and a new meaning was read into words of Inspiration.

Three lines of results are strongly discernible as features of the movement. First, “collation” became the watchword. Manuscripts were laid alongside of manuscripts to detect various readings and to justify that reading which the critic chose as the right one. With the majority of workers, especially those whose ideas have stamped the revision, it was astonishing to see how they turned away from the overwhelming mass of manuscripts and invested with tyrannical superiority a certain few documents, some of them of a questionable character. Second, this wave of revision was soon seen to be hostile to the Reformation.

There is something startlingly in common to be found in the modernist who denies the element of the miraculous in the Scriptures, and the Catholic Church which invests tradition with an inspiration equal to the Bible. As a result, it seems a desperately hard task to get justice done to the Reformers or their product.

As Dr. Demaus says:

“For many of the facts of Tyndale’s life have been disputed or distorted, through prejudice, and through the malice of that school of writers in whose eyes the Reformation was a mistake, if not a crime, and who conceive it to be their mission to revive all the old calumnies that have ever been circulated against the Reformers, supplementing them by new accusations of their own invention.”

A third result of this tide of revision is that when our time-honoured Bibles are revised, the changes are generally in favour of Rome. We are told that Bible revision is a step forward; that new manuscripts have been made available and advance has been made in archaeology, philology, geography and the apparatus of criticism. How does it come then that we have been revised back into the arms of Rome? If my conclusion is true, this so-called Bible revision has become one of the deadliest of weapons in the hands of those who glorify the Dark Ages and who seek to bring Western nations back to the theological thinking which prevailed before the Reformation.

Some of the earliest critics in the field of collecting variant readings of the New Testament in Greek, were Mill and Bengel. We have Dr. Kenrick, Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia in 1849, as authority that they and others had examined these manuscripts recently exalted as superior, such as the Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Beza, and Ephraem, and had pronounced in favour of the Vulgate, the Catholic Bible.

Simon, Astruc, and Geddes, with those German critics, Eichhorn, Semler and DeWette, who carried their work on further and deeper, stand forth as leaders and
representatives in the period which stretches from the date of the King James (1611) to the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789). Simon and Eichhorn were co-authors of a Hebrew Dictionary. These outstanding six – two French, one Scottish, and three German – with others of perhaps not equal prominence, began the work of discrediting the Received Text, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, and of calling in question the generally accepted beliefs respecting the Bible which had prevailed in Protestant countries since the birth of the Reformation.

There was not much to do in France, since it was not a Protestant country; and the majority had not far to go to change their belief. There was not much done in England or Scotland because there a contrary mentality prevailed. The greatest inroads were made in Germany. Thus matters stood when in 1773 European nations arose and demanded that the Pope suppress the order of the Jesuits. It was too late, however, to smother the fury which sixteen years later broke forth in the French Revolution.

The upheaval which followed engaged the attention of all mankind for a quarter of a century. It was the period of indignation foreseen, as some scholars thought, by the prophet Daniel. As the armies of the Revolution and of Napoleon marched and counter-marched over the territories of Continental Europe, the foundations of the ancient regime were broken up. Even from the Vatican the cry arose, “Religion is destroyed.” And when in 1812 Napoleon was taken prisoner, and the deluge had passed, men looked out upon a changed Europe. England had escaped invasion, although she had taken a leading part in the overthrow of Napoleon. France restored her Catholic monarchs – the Bourbons who “never learned anything and never forgot anything.” In 1814 the Pope promptly restored the Jesuits.

Then followed in the Protestant world two outstanding currents of thought: first, on the part of many, a stronger expression of faith in the Holy Scriptures, especially in the great prophecies which seemed to be on the eve of fulfillment where they predict the coming of a new dispensation. The other current took the form of a reaction, a growing disbelief in the leadership of accepted Bible doctrines whose uselessness seemed proved by their apparent impotence in not preventing the French Revolution. And, as in the days before that outbreak, Germany, which had suffered the most, seemed to be fertile soil for a strong and rapid growth of higher criticism.

2. Griesbach and Mohler

Among the foremost of those who tore the Received Text to pieces in the Old Testament stand the Hollander, Kuenen, and the German scholars, Ewald and Wellhausen. Their findings, however, were confined to scholarly circles. The public were not moved by them, as their work appeared to be only negative. The two German critics who brought the hour of revision much nearer were the Protestant Griesbach and the Catholic Mohler. Mohler (1796-1838) did not spend his efforts on the text as did Griesbach, but he handled the points of difference in doctrine between the Protestants and the Catholics in such a way as to win over the Catholic mind to higher criticism and to throw open the door for Protestants who either loved higher criticism, or who, being disturbed by it, found in Catholicism a haven of refuge. Of him Hagenbach says:

“Whatever vigorous vitality is possessed by the most recent Catholic theological science is due to the labours of this man.”

Kurtz states:

“He sent rays of his spirit deep into the hearts and minds of hundreds of his enthusiastic pupils by his writings, addresses, and by his intercourses with them; and what the Roman Catholic Church of the present possesses of living scientific impulse and feeling was implanted, or at least revived and excited by him … In fact, long as was the opposition which existed between both churches, no work from the camp of the Roman Catholics produced as much agitation and excitement in the camp of the Protestants as this.”

Or, as Maurice writes concerning Ward, one of the powerful leaders of the Oxford Movement:

“Ward’s notion of Lutheranism is taken, I feel pretty sure, from Mohler’s very gross misrepresentations.”

Griesbach (1745-1812) attacked the Received Text of the New Testament in a new way. He did not stop at bringing to light and emphasizing the variant readings of the Greek manuscripts; he classified readings into three groups, and put all manuscripts under these groupings, giving them the names of “Constantinopolitan,” or those of the Received Text, the “Alexandrian,” and the “Western.” While Griesbach used the Received Text as his measuring rod, nevertheless, the new Greek New Testament he brought forth by this measuring rod followed the Alexandrian manuscripts; that is, it followed Origen. His classification of the manuscripts was so novel and the result of such prodigious labours, that the critics everywhere hailed his Greek New Testament as the final word. It was not long, however, before other scholars took Griesbach’s own theory of classification and proved him wrong.

3. The Gnosticism of German Theology Invades England

By 1833 the issue was becoming clearly defined. It was Premillenarianism, that is, belief in the return of Christ before the millennium, or Liberalism; it was with regard to the Scriptures either literalism or allegorism. As Cadman says of the Evangelicals of that day:

“Their fatalism inclined many of them to Premillenarianism as a refuge from the approaching catastrophes of the present dispensation … Famous divines strengthened and adorned the wider ranks of Evangelicalism, but few such were found within the pale of the Establishment. Robert Hall, John Foster, William Jay of Bath, and in Scotland, Thomas Chalmers, represented the vigour and fearlessness of an earlier day and maintained the excellence of Evangelical preaching.”

Here was a faith in the Second Coming of Christ, at once Protestant and evangelical, which would resist any effort so to revise the Scriptures as to render them colourless, giving to them nothing more than a literary endorsement of plans of betterment, merely social or political. This faith was soon to be called upon to face a theology of an entirely different spirit. German religious thinking at that moment was taking on an aggressive attitude. Schleiermacher had captured the imagination of the age and would soon mould the theology of Oxford and Cambridge. Though he openly confessed himself a Protestant, nevertheless, like Origen of old, he sat at the feet of Clement, the old Alexandrian teacher of 190 A.D.

Clement’s passion for allegorizing Scripture offered an easy escape from those obligations imposed upon the soul by a plain message of the Bible. Schleiermacher modernised Clement’s philosophy and made it beautiful to the parlour philosophers of the day by imaginary analysis of the realm of spirit. It was the old Gnosticism revived, and would surely dissolve Protestantism wherever accepted and would introduce such terms into the Bible, if revision could be secured, as to rob the trumpet of a certain sound. The great prophecies of the Bible would become mere literary addresses to the people of bygone days, and unless counter-checked by the noble Scriptures of the Reformers, the result would be either atheism or papal infallibility.

If Schleiermacher did more to captivate and enthrall the religious thinking of the 19th century than any other one scholar, Coleridge, his contemporary, did as much to give aggressive motion to the thinking of England’s youth of his day, who, hardly without exception, drank enthusiastically of his teachings. He had been to Germany and returned a fervent devotee of its theology and textual criticism. At Cambridge University he became the star around which grouped a constellation of leaders in thought. Thirwall, Westcott, Hort, Moulton, and Milligan, who were all later members of the English Revision Committees and whose writings betray the voice of the master, felt the impact of his doctrines.

“His influence upon his own age, and especially upon its younger men of genius, was greater than that of any other Englishman … Coleridgeans may be found now among every class of English divines, from the Broad Church to the highest Puseyites,” says McClintock and Strong’s Enclyclopaedia.

The same article speaks of Coleridge as “Unitarian,” “Metaphysical,” a “Theologian,” “Pantheistic,” and says that “he identifies reason with the divine Logos,” and that he holds “views of inspiration as low as the rationalists,” and also holds views of the Trinity “no better than a refined, Platonized Sabellianism.”

4. Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles

It can be shown that Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles fell under the influence of Cardinal Wiseman’s theories. There are more recent scholars of textual criticism who pass over these three and leap from Griesbach to Westcott and Hort, claiming that the two latter simply carried out the beginnings of classification made by the former. Nevertheless, since many writers bid us over and over again to look to Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles – until we hear of them morning, noon and night – we would seek to give these laborious scholars all the praise justly due them, while we remember that there is a limit to all good things.

Lachmann’s (1793-1851) bold determination to throw aside the Received Text and to construct a new Greek Testament from such manuscripts as he endorsed according to his own rules, has been the thing which endeared him to all who give no weight to the tremendous testimony of 1500 years of use of the Received Text. Yet Lachmann’s canon of criticism has been deserted by both Bishop Ellicott and Dr. Hort. Ellicott says,

“Lachmann’s text is really one based on little more than four manuscripts, and so is really more of a critical recension than a critical text.” And again, “A text composed on the narrowest and most exclusive principles.”

While Dr. Hort says:

“Not again, in dealing with so various and complex a body of documentary attestation, is there any real advantage in attempting, with Lachmann, to allow the distributions of a very small number of the most ancient existing documents to construct for themselves a provisional text.”

Tischendorf’s (1815-1874) outstanding claim upon history is his discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript in the convent at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Mankind is indebted to this prodigious worker for having published manuscripts not accessible to the average reader. Nevertheless, his discovery of Codex Aleph toppled over his judgement. Previous to that he had brought out seven different Greek New Testaments, declaring that the seventh was perfect and could not be superseded. Then, to the scandal of textual criticism, after he had found the Sinaitic Manuscript, he brought out his eighth Greek New Testament, which was different from his seventh in 3572 places! Moreover, he demonstrated how textual critics can artificially bring out Greek New Testaments when, at the request of a French publishing house, Firmin Didot, he edited an edition of the Greek Testament for Catholics, conforming it to the Latin Vulgate.

Tregelles (1813-1875) followed Lachmann’s principles by going back to what he considered the ancient manuscripts and, like him, he ignored the Received Text and the great mass of cursive manuscripts. Of him, Ellicott says,

“His critical principles, especially his general principles of estimating and regarding modern manuscripts, are now, perhaps justly, called in question by many competent scholars,” and that his text “is rigid and mechanical, and sometimes fails to disclose that critical instinct and peculiar scholarly sagacity which is so much needed in the great and responsible work of constructing a critical text of the Greek Testament.”

Such were the antecedent conditions preparing the way to draw England into entangling alliances, to de-Protestantize her national church and to advocate at a dangerous hour the necessity of revising the King James Bible. The Earl of Shaftesbury, foreseeing the dark future of such an attempt, said in May, 1856:

“When you are confused or perplexed by a variety of versions, you would be obliged to go to some learned pundit in whom you reposed confidence, and ask him which version he recommended and when you had taken his version, you must be bound by his opinion. I hold this to be the greatest danger that now threatens us. It is a danger pressed upon us from Germany, and pressed upon us by the neological spirit of the age. I hold it to be far more dangerous than Tractarianism, or Popery.”

The campaigns of nearly three centuries against the Received Text did their work. The Greek New Testament of the Reformation was dethroned and with it the versions translated from it, whether English, German, French, or of any other language. It has been predicted that if the Revised Version were not of sufficient merit to be authorized and so displace the King James, confusion and division would be multiplied by a crop of unauthorized translations. The large output of heterogeneous Bibles verify the prediction. No competitor has yet appeared able to create a standard comparable to the text which has held sway for 1800 years in the original tongue, and for 300 years in its English translation, the King James Version.

5. Westcott and Hort

Though a number of men laid the groundwork the chief architects of the critical theory which resulted in a revised Greek Testament were Brook Foss Westcott (1825-1901), and Fenton J.A. Hort (1828-1892), two renowned Anglican scholars at Cambridge University.

(1) Their Animosity toward the Received Text

Referring to INTT:2
Although Brooke Foss Westcott identified himself fully with the project and the results, it is generally understood that it was mainly Fenton John Anthony Hort who developed the theory and composed the “Introduction” in their two-volume work. In the following discussion, I consider the W-H theory to be Hort’s creation.

B.F Westcott (1825-1901)
B.F Westcott (1825-1901)

At the age of 23, in late 1851, Hort wrote to a friend:

“I had no idea till the last few weeks of the importance of texts, having read so little Greek Testament, and dragged on with the villainous Textus Receptus. Think of that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late MSS; it is a blessing there are such early ones.”

F.J.A. Hort (1828-1892)
F.J.A. Hort (1828-1892)

Scarcely more than a year later, “the plan of a joint (with B.F. Westcott) revision of the text of the Greek Testament was first definitely agreed upon.” And within that year (1853) Hort wrote to a friend that he hoped to have the new text out “in little more than a year.” That it actually took twenty-eight years does not obscure the circumstance that though uninformed, by his own admission, Hort conceived a personal animosity for the Textus Receptus, and only because it was based entirely, as he thought, on late manuscripts. It appears Hort did not arrive at this theory through unprejudiced intercourse with the facts. Rather, he deliberately set out to construct a theory that would vindicate his preconceived animosity for the Received Text.

Colwell has made the same observation,

“Hort organised his entire argument to depose the Textus Receptus.”

(2) Their Plan of Attack

These are briefly listed below. Previously, we showed the fallacy of several of the more important principles of their theory. [See INTT for a complete refutation.2]

1. In textual criticism the N.T. is to be treated like any other book.
2. There are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text.
3. The numerical preponderance of the Received Text can be explained through genealogy. Basically this means frequent copying of the same kind of “defective” manuscripts.
4. Despite its numerical advantage, the Received Text is merely one of several competing text types.
5. The fact that the Received Text is fuller is because it is a conflated text. It was combined with the shorter readings of the other competing text types. This conflation was done with the official sanction of the Byzantine church during the 4th century.
6. There are no distinctive Received Text readings in the writings of the Church Fathers before 350 A.D.
7. Where there are several variant readings, the right one can be determined by two kinds of internal evidence. The first is “intrinsic probability,” i.e. which reading best fits the context and conforms to the author’s style and purpose? The second is “transcriptional probability.” Whereas the first has to do with the author, the second concerns the copyist. What kind of error did he make deliberately or through carelessness? Under transcriptional probability, two basic norms were established. One: the shorter reading is to be preferred (on the assumption that a scribe would be more likely to add material). Two: the harder reading is to be preferred (on the assumption that the scribe has attempted to simplify).
8. The primary basis for a Greek Text is to be found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
9. Harmonization. Parallel passages in the N.T. were made to say the same thing.

Most of the above points have been, I feel satisfactorily answered in this paper. One that has not, deals with “the shorter reading is to be preferred.” This is Hort’s response to the fact that the TR is longer and fuller (in addition to conflation).

Referring to INTT,
Perhaps the canon most widely used against the “Byzantine” text is brevior lectio potior – the shorter reading is to be preferred. As Hort stated the alleged basis for the canon, “In the New Testament, as in almost all prose writings which have been much copied, corruptions by interpolation are many times more numerous than corruptions by omission.” Accordingly it has been customary since Hort to tax the Received Text as being full and interpolated and to regard B and Aleph as prime examples of non-interpolated texts.

But is it really true that interpolations are “many times more numerous” than omissions in the transmission of the New Testament?

Pickering then marshals strong evidence against this conclusion. One quotation will have to suffice here.

The whole question of interpolations in ancient MSS has been set in an entirely new light by the researches of Mr. A. C. Clark, Corpus Professor of Latin at Oxford. In the Descent of Manuscripts, an investigation of the manuscript tradition of the Greek and Latin Classics, he proves conclusively that the error to which scribes were most prone was not interpolation but accidental omission. Hitherto the maxim brevior lectio potior has been assumed as a postulate of scientific criticism. Clark has shown that, so far as classical texts are concerned, the facts point entirely the other way.

(3) The Strange Response of Textual Scholars to the Westcott and Hort Theory

It is strange because the naturalistic critics themselves have shown each of the principles listed above to be defective, and yet in a greater or lesser way they still embrace it. Under no circumstance will they return to the Received Text! We see the same thing regarding the theory of evolution. Science has disproved it at each point but would not dare return to Biblical Creationism. What spirit does the reader see at work here?

After going through the WH theory, Pickering says,

“And that completes our review of the WH critical theory. It is evidently erroneous at every point.”

He then quotes naturalistic critics who have come to the same basic conclusion:

Epp confesses that “we simply do not have a theory of the text.” K.W. Clark says of the WH text: Again “The textual history postulated for the textus receptus which we now trust has been exploded.” Also, “The textual history that the Westcott-Hort text represents is no longer tenable in the light of newer discoveries and fuller textual analysis. In the effort to construct a congruent history, our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break through.”

But then Pickering adds,
The practical effect of the WH theory was a complete rejection of the “Syrian” text and an almost exclusive reference for the “Neutral” text (B and Aleph). Subsequent scholarship has generally rejected the notion of a “Neutral” text but sustained the rejection of the “Syrian” text.

Curiously, there seems to be a determination not to reconsider the status of the “Syrian” text even though each of the arguments Hort used in relegating it to oblivion has been challenged. Thus J.N. Birdsall, after referring to the work of Lake, Lagrange, Colwell, and Streeter, as well as his own, declares:

“It is evident that all presuppositions concerning the Byzantine text – or texts – except its inferiority to other types, must be doubted and investigated.” [But doesn’t the supposed inferiority depend on those presuppositions?]

Colwell expresses it as well as anyone:

“The dead hand of Fenton John Anthony Hort lies heavy upon us. In the early years of this century Kirsopp Lake described Hort’s work as a failure, though a glorious one. But Hort did not fail to reach his major goal. He dethroned the Textus Receptus. After Hort, the late medieval Greek Vulgate was not used by serious students, and the text supported by earlier witnesses became the standard text. This was a sensational achievement, an impressive success. Hort’s success in this task and the cogency of his tightly reasoned theory shaped – and still shapes – the thinking of those who approach the textual criticism of the N.T. through the English language”

(4) A Brief Survey of the Views of Westcott and Hort

From Wilkinson,
It is interesting at this juncture to take a glance at Doctors Westcott and Hort, the dominating mentalities of the scheme of Revision, principally in that period of their lives before they sat on the Revision Committee. They were working together twenty years before Revision began, and swept the Revision Committee along with them after work commenced. Mainly from their own letters, partly from the comments of their respective sons, who collected and published their lives and letters, we shall here state the principles which affected their deeper lives.

(a) Their Higher Criticism

Westcott writes to his fiancee, Advent Sunday, 1847:

“All stigmatize him [Dr. Hampden] as a ‘heretic.’ …  If he be condemned, what will become of me! … The battle of the Inspiration of Scripture has yet to be fought, and how earnestly I could pray that I might aid the truth in that.”

Hort writes to Rev. Rowland Williams, October 21, 1858:

“Further I agree with them [authors of Essays and Reviews] in condemning many leading specific doctrines of the popular theology … Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather than untrue. There are, I fear, still more serious differences between us on the subject of authority, and especially the authority of the Bible.”

(b) Their Leanings Toward Rome

Westcott writes from France to his fiancee, 1847:

“After leaving the monastery, we shaped our course to a little oratory which we discovered on the summit of a neighboring hill … Fortunately we found the door open. It is very small, with one kneeling-place; and behind a screen was a ‘Pieta’ the size of life [i.e. a Virgin and dead Christ] … Had I been alone I could have knelt there for hours.”

Hort writes to Westcott, October 17, 1865:

“I have been persuaded for many years that Mary-worship and ‘Jesus’-worship have very much in common in their causes and their results.”

Hort writes to Westcott, September 23, 1864:

“I believe Coleridge was quite right in saying that Christianity without a substantial church is vanity and disillusion; and I remember shocking you and Lightfoot not so long ago by expressing a belief that ‘Protestantism’ is only parenthetical and temporary.” “Perfect Catholicity has been nowhere since the Reformation.”

(c) Their Tendency Toward Evolution

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, April 3, 1860:

“But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with … My feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable. If so, it opens up a new period.”

Westcott writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury on Old Testament criticism, March 4, 1890:

“No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history – I could never understand how any one reading them with open eyes could think they did.”

Hort writes to Mr. John Ellerton:

“I am inclined to think that no such state as ‘Eden’ (I mean the popular notion) ever existed, and that Adam’s fall in no degree differed from the fall of each of his descendants, as Coleridge justly argues.”

(d) Their Views of the Death of Christ

Westcott writes to his wife, Good Friday, 1865:

“This morning I went to hear the Hulsean Lecturer. He preached on the Atonement. All he said was very good, but then he did not enter into the great difficulties of the notion of sacrifice and vicarious punishment. To me it is always most satisfactory to regard the Christian as in Christ – absolutely one with Him, and he does what Christ has done: Christ’s actions become his, and Christ’s life and death in some sense his life and death.”

Both rejected the atonement of the substitution of Christ for the sinner, or vicarious atonement; both denied that the death of Christ counted for anything as an atoning factor. They emphasized atonement through the Incarnation. This is the Catholic doctrine. It helps defend the Mass.

Hort writes to Westcott, October 15, 1860:

“Today’s post brought also your letter. I entirely agree – correcting one word – with what you there say on the Atonement, having for many years believed that ‘the absolute union of the Christian (or rather, of man) with Christ Himself’ is the spiritual truth of which the popular doctrine of substitution is an immoral and material counterfeit … Certainly nothing could be more unscriptural than the modern limiting of Christ’s bearing our sins and sufferings to his death; but indeed that is only one aspect of an almost universal heresy.”

A much fuller treatment of the views of Westcott and Hort is given in “Dr. Stewart Custer answered on the T.R. and K.J.V.” by D.A. Waite.

Two manuscripts, one in the Pope’s library, the other in a wastepaper bin in a Catholic monastery; and two Anglican clergymen – are the reason why the late 20th century Church is awash with modern versions.

6. Revision at Last

(1) The Steps Taken

The following is from Benjamin Wilkinson:
By the year 1870, so powerful had become the influence of the Oxford Movement, that a theological bias in favour of Rome was affecting men in high authority. Many of the most sacred institutions of Protestant England had been assailed and some of them had been completely changed. The attack on the Thirty-nine Articles by Tract 90, and the subversion of fundamental Protestant doctrines within the Church of England had been so bold and thorough, that an attempt to substitute a version which would theologically and legally discredit our common Protestant Version would not be a surprise.

The first demands for revision were made with moderation of language. “Nor can it be too distinctly or too emphatically affirmed that the reluctance of the public could never have been overcome but for the studious moderation and apparently rigid conservatism which the advocates of revision were careful to adopt” (Hemphill, History of the Revised Version). Of course, the Tractarians were conscious of the strong hostility to their ritualism and said little in public about revision in order not to multiply the strength of their enemies.

The friends and devotees of the King James Bible naturally wished that certain retouches might be given the book which would replace words counted obsolete, bring about conformity to more modern rules of spelling and grammar, so that its bitter opponents, who made use of these minor disadvantages to discredit the whole, might be answered. Nevertheless, universal fear and distrust of revision pervaded the public mind, who recognised in it, as Archbishop Trench said,

“A question affecting … profoundly the whole moral and spiritual life of the English people,” and the “vast and solemn issues depending on it.”

Moreover, the composition of the Authorised Version was recognised by scholars as the miracle of English prose, unsurpassed in clearness, precision, and vigour. The English of the King James Bible was the most perfect, if not the only, example of a lost art. It may be said truthfully that literary men as well as theologians frowned on the revision enterprise.

For years there had been a determined and aggressive campaign to take extensive liberties with the Received Text; and the Romanizing Movement in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, both ritualistic and critical, had made it easy for hostile investigators to speak out with impunity. Lachmann had led the way by ignoring the great mass of manuscripts which favoured the printed text and built his Greek New Testament, as Salmon says, of scanty material.

Tregelles, though English, “was an isolated worker, and failed to gain any large number of adherents.” Tischendorf, who had brought to light many new manuscripts and had done considerable collating, secured more authority as an editor than he deserved, and in spite of his vacillations in successive editions, became notorious in removing from the Sacred Text several passages hallowed by the veneration of centuries.

The public would not have accepted the extreme, or, as some called it, “progressive” conclusions of these three. The names of Westcott and Hort were not prominently familiar at this time although they were Cambridge professors. Nevertheless, what was known of them was not such as to arouse distrust and apprehension. It was not until the work of revision was all over, that the world awoke to realise that Westcott and Hort had outdistanced Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles. As Salmon says,

“Westcott and Hort’s Greek Testament has been described as an epoch-making book; and quite as correctly as the same phrase has been applied to the work done by Darwin.

The first efforts to secure revision were cautiously made in 1857 by five clergymen (three of whom, Ellicott, Moberly and Humphrey, later were members of the New Testament Revision Committee), who put out a Revised Version of John’s Gospel. Bishop Ellicott, who in the future was to be chairman of the New Testament Revision Committee, believed that there were clear tokens of corruptions in the Authorised Version.

The triumvirate who constantly worked to bring things to a head, and who later sat on the Revision Committee, were Ellicott, Lightfoot and Moulton. They found it difficult to get the project on foot. Twice they had appealed to the Government in hopes that, as in the case of the King James in 1611, Queen Victoria would appoint a royal commission. They were refused.

There was sufficient aggression in the Southern Convocation, which represented the Southern half of the Church of England, to vote Revision. But they lacked a leader. There was no outstanding name which would suffice in the public eye as a guarantee against the possible dangers. This difficulty, however, was at last overcome when Bishop Ellicott won over that most versatile and picturesque personality in the English Church, Samuel Wilberforce, the silver-tongued Bishop of Oxford. When Ellicott captured the persuasive Wilberforce, he captured Convocation, and revision suddenly came within the sphere of practical politics.

First came the resolution, February 10, 1870, which expressed the desirability of revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament: “Whether by marginal notes or otherwise, in all those passages where plain and clear errors, whether in the Hebrew or Greek text originally adopted by the translators, or in translation made from the same, shall, on due investigation, be found to exist” (W.F. Moulton, The English Bible).

An amendment was passed to include the Old Testament. Then a committee of sixteen–eight from the Upper and eight from the Lower House — was appointed. This committee solicited the participation of the Northern Convocation, but they declined to cooperate, saying that “the time was not favourable for Revision, and that the risk was greater than the probable gain.”

Later the Southern Convocation adopted the rules which ordered that Revision should touch the Greek text only where found necessary; should alter the language only where, in the judgement of most competent scholars, such changes, the style of the King James should be followed; and also, that Convocation should nominate a committee of its own members who would be at liberty to invite the cooperation of other scholars in the work of Revision. This committee when elected consisted of eighteen members. It divided into two bodies, one to represent the Old Testament and the other to represent the New. As the majority of the most vital questions which concern us involve New Testament Revision, we will follow the fortunes of that body in the main.

The seven members of this English New Testament Revision Committee sent out invitations which were accepted by eighteen others, bringing the full membership of the English New Testament Committee to the number of twenty-five.

W.F. Moulton, a member of the committee who had spent some years in translating Winer’s Greek Grammar from German into English, exercised a large influence in the selection of members. Dr. Moulton favoured those modern rules appearing in Winer’s work which, if followed in translating the Greek, would produce results different from that of the King James. How much Dr. Moulton was a devotee of the Vulgate may be seen in the following words from him:

“The Latin translation, being derived from manuscripts more ancient than any we now possess, is frequently a witness of the highest value in regard to the Greek text which was current in the earliest times, and its testimony is in many cases confirmed by Greek manuscripts which have been discovered or examined since the 16th century.”

From this it is evident that Dr. Moulton looked upon the Vulgate as a witness superior to the King James, and upon the Greek manuscripts which formed the base of the Vulgate as superior to the Greek manuscripts which formed the base of the King James. Furthermore, he said, speaking of the Jesuit New Testament of 1582, “The Rhemish Testament agrees with the best critical editions of the present day.” Dr. Moulton, therefore, not only believed the manuscripts which were recently discovered to be similar to the Greek manuscripts, from which the Vulgate was translated, but he also looked upon the Greek New Testaments of Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles, built largely upon the same few manuscripts, as “the best critical editions.” Since he exercised so large an influence in selecting the other members of the Committee, we can divine at the outset the attitude of mind which would likely prevail in the Revision Committee.

The Old Testament Committee also elected into its body other members which made the number in that company twenty-seven. Steps were now taken to secure cooperation from scholars in America. The whole matter was practically put in the hands of Dr. Philip Schaff of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Of Dr. Schaff’s revolutionary influence on American theology through his bold Romanizing policy; of his trial for heresy; of his leadership in the American Oxford Movement, we will speak later. An appeal was made to the American Episcopal Church to take part in the Revision, but that body

Through the activities of Dr. Schaff, two American Committees were formed, the Old Testament Company having fourteen members, and the New Testament with thirteen. These worked under the disadvantage of being chosen upon the basis that they should live near New York City in order that meetings of the committee might be convenient. The American Committee had no deciding vote on points of revision. As soon as portions of the Holy Book were revised by the English committees, they were sent to the American committees for confirmation or amendment. If the suggestions returned by the American committees were acceptable to their English co-workers, they were adopted; otherwise they had no independent claim for insertion. In other words, the American committees were simply reviewing bodies. In the long run, their differences were not many. The work then went on continuously in both countries, the English Companies revising, and the American Committees reviewing what was revised, and returning their suggestions. When this list is fully considered, the general reader will, we think, be surprised to find that the differences are really of such little moment, and in very many cases will probably wonder that the American divines thought it worth while thus to formally record their dissent.

Dr. Schaff, who was to America what Newman was to England, was president of both American Committees.

The story of the English New Testament Revision Committee is a stormy one, because it was the battleground of the whole problem. That Committee finished its work three years before the Old Testament Company, and this latter body had three years to profit by the staggering onslaught which assailed the product of the New Testament Committee. Moreover, the American Revised Bible did not appear until twenty years after the work of the English New Testament Committee, so that the American Revisers had twenty years to understand the fate which would await their volume.

When the English New Testament Committee met, it was immediately apparent what was going to happen. Though for ten long years the iron rule of silence kept the public ignorant of what was going on behind closed doors, the story is now known. The first meeting of the Committee found itself a divided body, the majority being determined to incorporate into the proposed revision the latest and most extreme higher criticism. This majority was dominated and carried along by a triumvirate consisting of Hort, Westcott and Lightfoot. The dominating mentality of this triumvirate was Dr. Hort. Before the Committee met,
Westcott had written to Hort,

“The rules though liberal are vague, and the interpretation of them will depend upon decided action at first.”

They were determined at the outset to be greater than the rules, and to manipulate them.

The new members who had been elected into the body, and who had taken no part in drawing up the rules, threw these rules completely aside by interpreting them with the widest latitude. Moreover, Westcott and Hort, who had worked together before this for twenty years in bringing out a Greek New Testament constructed on principles which deviated the furthest ever yet known from the Received Text, came prepared to effect a systematic change in the Protestant Bible. On this point Westcott wrote to Hort concerning Dr. Ellicott, the chairman: “The Bishop of Gloucester seems to me to be quite capable of accepting heartily and adopting personally a thorough scheme.

And as we have previously seen, as early as 1851, before Westcott and Hort began their twenty years’ labour on their Greek text, Hort wrote,

“Think of that vile Textus Receptus.”

In 1851, when he knew little of the Greek New Testament, or of texts, he was dominated with the idea that the Received Text was “vile” and “villainous.” The Received Text suffered fatal treatment at the hands of this master in debate.

We have spoken of Bishop Ellicott as the chairman. The first chairman was Bishop Wilberforce. One meeting, however, was sufficient for him. He wrote to an intimate friend,

“What can be done in this most miserable business?”

Unable to bear the situation, he absented himself and never took part in the proceedings.
His tragic death occurred three years later. One factor had disturbed him considerably – the presence of Dr. G. Vance Smith, the Unitarian scholar. In this, however, he shared the feelings of the people of England, who were scandalized at the sight of a Unitarian, who denied the Divinity of Christ, participating in a communion service held at the suggestion of Bishop Westcott in Westminster Abbey, immediately preceding their first meeting.

The minority in the Committee was represented principally by Dr. Scrivener, probably the foremost scholar of the day in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and the history of the Text. If we may believe the words of Chairman Ellicott, the countless divisions in the Committee over the Greek Text “was often a kind of critical duel between Dr. Hort and Dr. Scrivener. Dr. Scrivener was continuously and systematically outvoted.

“Nor is it difficult to understand,” says Dr. Hemphill, “that many of their less resolute and decided colleagues must often have been completely carried off their feet by the persuasiveness and resourcefulness, and zeal of Hort, backed by the great prestige of Lightfoot, the popular Canon of St. Paul’s and the quiet determination of Westcott, who set his face as a flint. In fact, it can hardly be doubted that Hort’s was the strongest will of the whole Company, and his adroitness in debate was only equalled by his pertinacity.”

The conflict was intense and ofttimes the result seemed dubious. Scrivener and his little band did their best to save the day. He might have resigned; but like Bishop Wilberforce, he neither wished to wreck the product of revision by a crushing public blow, nor did he wish to let it run wild by absenting himself. Dr. Hort wrote his wife as follows:

“July 15, 1971. We have had some stiff battles today in Revision, though without any ill feeling, and usually with good success. But I, more than ever, felt how impossible it would be for me to absent myself.”

Concerning the battles within the Committee, Dr. Westcott writes:

“May 24, 1871. We have had hard fighting during these last two days, and a battle-royal is announced for tomorrow.”

“January 27, 1875. Our work yesterday was positively distressing … However, I shall try to keep heart today, and if we fail again I think that I shall fly, utterly despairing of the work.”

Same date.

“Today our work has been a little better – only a little, but just enough to be endurable.”

The “ill-conceived and mismanaged” attempts of the Revision Committee of the Southern Convocation to bring in the contemplated radical changes violated the rules that had been laid down for its control. Citations from ten out of the sixteen members of the Committee (sixteen was the average number in attendance) show that eleven members were fully determined to act upon the principle of exact and literal translation, which would permit them to travel far beyond the instructions they had received.

The Committee being assembled, the passage for consideration was read. Dr. Scrivener offered the evidence favouring the Received Text, while Dr. Hort took the other side. Then a vote was taken. Settling the Greek Text occupied the largest portion of time both in England and in America. The new Greek Testament upon which Westcott and Hort had been working for twenty years was, portion by portion, secretly committed into the hands of the Revision Committee. Their Greek Text was strongly radical and revolutionary. The Revisers followed the guidance of the two Cambridge editors, Westcott and Hort, who were constantly at their elbow, and whose radical Greek New Testament, deviating the furthest possible from the Received Text, is to all intents and purposes the Greek New
Testament followed by the Revision Committee. And this Greek text, in the main, follows the Vatican and Sinaiticus Manuscripts.

Hort’s partiality for the Vatican Manuscript was practically absolute.

As the Sinaiticus was the brother of the Vaticanus, wherever pages in the latter were missing, Hort used the former. He and Westcott considered that when the consensus of opinion of these two manuscripts favoured a reading, that reading should be accepted as apostolic. This attitude of mind involved thousands of changes in our time-honoured Greek New Testament because a Greek Text formed upon the united opinion of Codex B and Codex Aleph would be different in thousands of places from the Received Text.

So the Revisers “went on changing until they had altered the Greek Text in 5337 places” (Everts, “The Westcott and Hort Text Under Fire,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan., 1921). Dr. Scrivener, in the Committee sessions, constantly issued his warning of what would be the outcome if Hort’s imaginary theories were accepted. In fact, nine-tenths of the countless divisions and textual struggles around that table in the Jerusalem Chamber arose over Hort’s determination to base the Greek New Testament of the Revision on the Vatican Manuscript.

Of course the minority members of the Revision Committee, and especially the world in general, did not know of the twenty years’ effort of these two Cambridge professors to base their own Greek New Testament upon these two manuscripts. Hort’s “excursion into cloudland,” as one authority describes his fourth century revisions, was apparent to Dr. Scrivener, who uttered his protest. Here is his description of Hort’s theory as Scrivener later published it:

“There is little hope for the stability of their imposing structure, if its foundations have been laid on the sandy ground of ingenious conjecture: and since barely the smallest vestige of historical evidence has ever been alleged in support of the views of these accomplished editors, their teaching must either be received as intuitively true, or dismissed from our consideration as precarious, and even visionary.”

As Westcott and Hort outnumbered Scrivener two to one, so their followers outnumbered the other side two to one; and Scrivener was systematically outvoted. As Professor Sanday writes:

“They were thus able to make their views heard in the council chamber, and to support them with all the weight of their personal authority, while as yet the outer public had but partial access to them.”

As a consequence, the Greek New Testament upon which the Revised Version is based, is practically the Greek New Testament of Westcott and Hort. Dr. Schaff says:

“The result is that in typographical accuracy the Greek Testament of Westcott and Hort is probably unsurpassed and that it harmonies essentially with the text adopted by the Revisers.”

(2) The Revisers were Liberal and yet Narrow

We meet the paradox in the Revisers, as they sit assembled at their task, of men possessing high reputation for liberalism of thought, yet acting for a decade with extreme narrowness. Stanley, Thirlwall, Vaughan, Hort, Westcott, Moberly – men of leading intellect – would naturally be expected to be so broad as to give most sacred documents fair consideration. Dean Stanley had glorified the Church of England because within her ranks both ritualists and higher critics could officiate as well as the regular churchmen. When Bishop Colenso, of Natal, was on trial, amid great excitement throughout all England, for his destructive criticism of the first five books of Moses, Dean Stanley stood up among his religious peers and placed himself alongside of Colenso. He said:

“I might mention one who … has ventured to say that the Pentateuch is not the work of Moses; … who has ventured to say that the narratives of those historical incidents are colored not infrequently by the necessary infirmities which belong to the human instruments by which they were conveyed … and that individual is the one who now addresses you. If you pronounce against the Bishop of Natal on grounds such as these, you
must remember that there is one close at hand whom … you will be obliged to condemn.”

Bishop Thirlwall, of “princely intellect,” had a well-known reputation for liberalism in theology. He introduced both the new theology of Schleiermacher and higher criticism into England. In fact, when Convocation yielded to public indignation so far as essentially to ask Dr. Smith, the Unitarian scholar, to resign, Bishop Thirlwall retired from the committee and refused to be placated until it was settled that Dr. Smith should remain (Vance Smith received Holy Communion with his fellow-revisers in Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1870, and said afterwards that he did not join in reciting the Nicene Creed and did not compromise his principles as a Unitarian).

Cardinal Newman believed that tradition and the Catholic Church were above the Bible. Westcott and Hort wore great admirers of Newman. Dean Stanley believed that the Word of God did not dwell in the Bible alone, but that it dwelt in the sacred books of other religions as well. Dr. Schaff sat in the Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair, 1893, and was so happy among the Buddhists, Confucianists, Shintoists and other world religions, that he said he would be willing to die among them. The spirit of the Revisionists on both sides of the ocean was an effort to find the Word of God by the study of comparative religions.

Evidence might be given to show liberalism in other members. These men were honorably bound to do justice to thousands of manuscripts if they assumed to reconstruct a Greek Text. We are informed by Dr. Scrivener that there [were at that time] 2864 cursive and uncial manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part. Price says there are 112 uncials and 3500 cursives.3 These represent many different countries and different periods of time. Yet astonishing to relate, the majority of the Revisers ignored these and pinned their admiration and confidence practically to two — the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

Doctor Moberly, Bishop of Salisbury, Bishop Westcott and Dr. G. Vance Smith came to the Committee with past relationships that seriously compromised them. Bishop Moberly “belonged to the Oxford Movement, and, it is stated in Dean Church’s ‘Life and Letters’ that he wrote a most kind letter of approval to Mr. Newman as to the famous Tract 90.” While with regard to Dr. Westcott, his share in making the Ritualistic Movement a success has been recognised.

Dr. Vaughan, another member of the Revision Committee, was a close friend of Westcott. The extreme liberalism of Dr. G. Vance Smith, the Unitarian member of the Committee, is well-known through his book on the Bible and Theology. This amounted practically to Christianized infidelity. Nevertheless, the worshipful attitude of these men, as well as that of Lightfoot, Kennedy and Humphrey toward Codex B, was unparalleled in Biblical history. The year 1870 was marked by the Papal declaration of infallibility. It has been well said that the blind adherence of the Revisionists to the Vatican manuscript proclaimed “the second infallible voice from the Vatican.”

(3) Ruthless Changes which Resulted

Even the jots and tittles of the Bible are important. God has pronounced terrible woes upon the man who adds to or takes away from the volume of inspiration. The Revisers apparently felt no constraint on this point, for they made 36,000 changes in the English of the King James Version, and very nearly 6,000 in the Greek Text.

As Canon Cook says:

“By far the greatest number of innovations, including those which give the severest shocks to our minds, are adopted on the authority of two manuscripts, or even of one manuscript, against the distinct testimony of all other manuscripts, uncial and cursive … The Vatican Codex sometimes alone, generally in accord with the Sinaitic, is responsible for nine-tenths of the most striking innovations in the Revised Version.”

That fact that guidance of the Holy Spirit as well as a knowledge of the rules of grammar are necessary for the translator can be seen in the following:

The instruments of warfare which they brought to their task were new and untried rules for the discrimination of manuscripts; for attacking the verb; for attacking the article; for attacking the preposition, the pronoun, the intensive, Hebraisms, and parallelisms. The following quotations show that literal and critically exact quotations frequently fail to render properly the original meaning:

“The self-imposed rule of the Revisers,” says the Forum, “required them invariably to translate the aoristic forms by their closest English equivalents; but the vast number of cases in which they have forsaken their own rule shows that it could not be followed without in effect changing the meaning of the original; and we may add that to whatever extent that rule has been slavishly followed, to that extent the broad sense of the original has been marred.”

One of the Revisers wrote, after the work was finished: “With reference to the rendering of the article, similar remarks may be made. As a rule, it is too often expressed. This sometimes injures the idiom of the English, and in truth impairs or misrepresents the force of the original” (Vance Smith).

The obsession of the Revisionists for rendering literally Hebraisms and parallelisms has often left us with a doctrine seriously, if not fatally, weakened by their

(4) The Revisers Greatest Crime and a Crime that has been Perpetuated Down to Our Own Day

When God has taught us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration” of the Holy Spirit and that “men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” the Holy Spirit must be credited with ability to transmit and preserve inviolate the Sacred Deposit. We cannot admit for a moment that the Received Text which, by the admission of its enemies themselves, has led the true people of God for centuries, can be whipped into fragments and set aside for a manuscript found in an out-of-the-way monastery, and for another of the same family which has lain, for man knows not how long, upon a shelf in the library of the Pope’s palace. Both these documents are of uncertain ancestry, of questionable history, and of suspicious character. The Received Text was put for centuries in its position of leadership by Divine Providence, just as truly as the Star of Bethlehem was set in the heavens to guide the wise men. Neither was it the product of certain technical rules of textual criticism which some men have chosen in the last few decades to exalt as divine principles.

The change of one word in the Constitution of the United States, at least the transposition of two, could vitally affect thousands of people, millions of dollars, and many millions of acres of land. It took centuries of training to place within that document a combination of words which cannot be tampered with, without catastrophic results. It represents the mentality of a great people, and to change it would bring chaos into their well-ordered life.

Not of one nation only, but of all great nations, both ancient and modern, is the Bible the basis of the Constitution. It foretold the fall of Babylon; and when that empire had disappeared, the Bible survived. It announced beforehand the creation of the empires of Greece and Rome, and lived to tell their faults and why they failed. It warned succeeding kingdoms. All ages and continents have their life wrought into the fabric of this Book. It is the handiwork of God through the centuries. Only those whose records are lifted high above suspicion can be accepted as qualified to touch it. Certainly no living being, or any number of them, ever had authority to make such astounding changes as were made by those men who were directly or indirectly influenced by the Oxford Movement.

The history of the Protestant world is inseparable from the Received Text. A single nation could break loose and plunge into anarchy and license. The Received Text shone high in the heavens to stabilize surrounding peoples. Even many nations at one time might fall under the shadow of some great revolutionary wave. But there stood the Received Text to fill their inner self with its moral majesty and call them back to law and order.

On what meat had Dr. Hort fed, when he dared, being only twenty-three years old, to call the Received Text “villainous” and “vile”? By his own confession he had at that time read little of the Greek New Testament, and knew nothing of texts and certainly nothing of Hebrew. What can be the most charitable estimate we can put upon that company of men who submitted to his lead, and would assure us in gentle words that they had done nothing, that there was really no great difference between the King James Bible and the Revised, while in another breath they reject as “villainous” and “vile” the Greek New Testament upon which the King James Bible is built? Did they belong to a superior race of beings, which entitled them to cast aside, as a thing of naught, the work of centuries? They gave us a Version which speaks with faltering tones, whose music is discordant. The Received Text is harmonious. It agrees with itself, it is self-proving, and it creeps into the affections of the heart.

When a company of men set out faithfully to translate genuine manuscripts in order to convey what God said, it is one thing. When a committee sets itself to revise or translate with ideas and a “scheme,” it is another. But it may be objected that the translators of the King James were biased by their pro-Protestant views. The reader must judge whose bias he will accept – that of the influence of the Protestant Reformation, as heading up in the Authorized Version; or that of the influence of Darwinism, higher criticism, incipient modern religious liberalism, and a reversion to Rome, as heading up in the Revised Version.

A great deal of space has been given to the revision of the English Bible that took place last century. But when properly weighed and pondered it will be seen to be Satan’s most subtle and devastating attack upon the Word in all history. The version itself was not popular but it opened the floodgates to the countless versions dancing before our eyes today. It took away the standard, the benchmark of the English-speaking world. And it placed a new Greek Text in our Bible Institutes and Colleges. It struck at foundations and did more to undermine the authority of God’s Word than any other event. But most tragic of all, it was and is embraced by those who call themselves “fundamentalist.”

As Wilkinson says,
Because of the changes which came about in the 19th century, there arose a new type of Protestantism and a new version of the Protestant Bible. This new kind of Protestantism was hostile to the fundamental doctrines of the Reformation. Previous to this there had been only two types of Bibles in the world, the Protestant and the Catholic. Now Protestants were asked to choose between the true Protestant Bible and one which reproduced readings rejected by the Reformers.

7. A Lone Voice

Hills says,
Since 1881, many, perhaps most, orthodox Christian scholars have agreed with Westcott and Hort that textual criticism is a strictly neutral science that must be applied in the same way to any document whatever, including the Bible. Yet there have been some orthodox theologians who have dissented from this neutral point of view. One of them was Abraham Kuyper (1894), who pointed out that the publication of the Textus Receptus was “no accident,” affirming that the Textus Receptus, “as a foundation from which to begin critical operations. Another was Francis Pieper (1924), who emphasized that fact that in the Bible which is in our hands we have the Word of Christ which is to be taught by and in the Church until the last day.”

It was John W. Burgon (1813-1888), however, who most effectively combated the neutralism of naturalistic Bible study. This famous scholar spent most of his adult life at Oxford, as Fellow of Oriel College and then as vicar of St. Mary’s (the University Church) and Gresham Professor of Divinity. During his last twelve years he was Dean of Chichester. In theology he was a high-church Anglican but opposed to the ritualism into which even in his day the high-church movement had begun to decline. Throughout his career he was steadfast in his defense of the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and strove with all his power to arrest the modernistic currents which during his lifetime had begun to flow within the Church of England. Because of his learned defense of the Traditional New Testament text he has been held up to ridicule in most of the handbooks on New Testament textual criticism, but his arguments have never been refuted.

Although he lived one hundred years ago, Dean Burgon has the message which we need today. Since his books have now become difficult to acquire, they should all be reprinted and made available to new generations of believing Bible students. His published works on textual criticism include: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (1871), The Revision Revised (1883), and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels and The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text, two volumes which were published in 1896, after Burgon’s death.

John William Burgon (1813-1888)

One hundred years ago, Burgon said,

“If you and I believe that the original writings of the Scriptures were verbally inspired by God, then of necessity they must have been providentially preserved through the ages.”

Since the Garden of Eden that has been the primary issue. “Yea hath God said?” Are you certain that you now have at every point the full and complete Word of God?

A seed that is allowed to corrupt and mildew in the granary will not do much good out in the fields. Today there is an unprecedented printing and distribution of Christian literature, but in comparison with past days, it seems to have so little effect “out in the fields.” The reason is not hard to find the sowers are using a corrupted seed. (I got this last thought from a Pastor in Lebanon, Ohio, who from the base of his local church prints millions of good Gospel tracts).

Thankfully since Burgon’s day, many more have entered the battle for the purity and distribution of God’s Holy Word. And though our numbers are not great, we can take heart in the fact that the position taken is the historical one. For eighteen hundred years the non-Catholic and Protestant believers stood for the Received Text.

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God’s Messiah
Offering each the bloom or blight
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and the light.
Though the cause of evil prosper
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong
Truth forever on the scaffold
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above His own.

For ever, O LORD, thy Word is settled in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)

References and Notes

  1. Jack Moorman, Forever Settled, Dean Burgon Society Press, New Jersey, 1999; available from
  2. Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1977; available online
  3. D.A. Waite, Defending the King James Bible, The Bible for Today Press, 2006, page 56. Latest count: 88 papyri (fragments), 267 uncials, 2764 cursives and 2143 lectionaries.


By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

2 replies on “Where are God’s actual Words written?”

This article is truly an enlightening and enjoyable piece of work to read. People need to read this to understand the history of where things, events, and people came from in order to understand more clearly what is being said in scripture and by the people themselves. The problem is these days, most people do not want to read for themselves and use their brains to reason things out, as scripture tells us to do. Most expect other more qualified, or so they seem, to explain what was written because t hey think themselves too simple-minded to do for themselves. So sad indeed.

God gave us a brain to reason things out, to come to a sensible conclusion of matters we come across, and to put it into practice. What is so difficult with that?!?!

Thank you so much for posting this… so that the world in cyberspace can know for themselves the truth of the matter.


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