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    The Received Text

    The fundamental question in the matter of versions is whether the Textus Receptus, or “Received Text,” as established in the early part of the sixteenth century by the work of Erasmus and Stephens, and used by the translators of the AV, is an absolutely correct text, as the author affirms, or whether it is subject to revision on the basis of the convincing testimony furnished by later discoveries, researches, and improved scholarship.RABV 49.2

    The author, after discussing the translation of the Bible by Wycliffe, states his view of the Textus Receptus in these words: “Then appeared the translation into English of Tyndale from the pure Greek text of Erasmus.” (Page 50).RABV 49.3

    The author furnishes no proof that the text of Erasmus was “the pure Greek text,” leaving his assertion to rest wholly upon his own unsupported authority. In marked contrast with his view, are the facts as presented by the leading textual scholars of our time. As this question of the Received Text, first prepared by Erasmus, is a fundamental one in this connection, it is important that the facts should be known. It is impossible to present all of the testimony bearing upon this matter, as that would require a small volume in itself, but the following are typical of many others:RABV 49.4

    Work of Erasmus on his first edition.—“The enterprising and scholarly publisher of that city, Basle, John Froben, wrote on 15th March to Erasmus, who was then in England, and summoned him to Basle to undertake the edition. This the versatile scholar agreed to do, and the pair worked with such incredible speed that the volume issued from the press on 1st March 1516. The task took only ten months, and probably not more than about seven manuscripts were employed, most of which are still at Basle. The manuscripts, with one exception (now numbered 1), were neither ancient nor valuable. The last six verses of the Apocalypse were wanting in the only manuscript of that book he had, and he retranslated them (except verse 20, where he had Laurentius Valla’s translation) from the Vulgate Latin (the Roman Catholic text) owning to what he had done. The book is full of printer’s errors, and in the Apocalypse the Complutensian (the Greek text of Cardinal Ximenes) gives a better text. Erasmus added a Latin translation of his own, and exploratory notes.”—” The Text and Canon of the New Testament,” Alexander Souter, p. 95.RABV 49.5

    Erasmus’ interpolations and alterations in the Greek.—“For the Apocalypse he (Erasmus) had only an imperfect MS, which belonged to Reuchlin. The last six verses were wanting, and these he translated from the Latin, a process which he adopted in other places where it was less excusable. The received text contains two memorable instances of this bold interpolation. The one is Acts 8:37, which Erasmus, as he says, found written in the margin of a Greek MS, though it was wanting in that which he used: the other is Acts 9:5, 6, schleron soi-anastethi for alla anastethi, which has been found as yet in no Greek MS whatsoever, though it is still perpetuated on the ground of Erasmus' conjecture.”—“Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible,” Vol. II, p. 522.RABV 50.1

    “According to Mill (Proleg. 1120), Erasmus altered the text in a little more than fifty places in the Acts, and in about two hundred places in the Epistles, of which changes all but about forty were improvements. Specimens of the corrections on the margin of the MS are given by Wetstein (Proleg. p. 56 ed. Lotze). Of these several were simply on the authority of the Vulgate, one of which, Matthew 2:11, heuron for eidon, has retained its place in the received text.”—Idem, Footnote.RABV 50.2

    Erasmus’ edition dedicated to Pope Leo X.—“The edition of Erasmus, like the Complutensian, was dedicated to Leo X.; and it is a noble trait of the generosity of Cardinal Ximenes, that when Stunica wished to disparage the work of Erasmus, which robbed him of his well-earned honour, he checked him in the words of Moses, ‘I would that all might thus prophesy,’ Numbers 11:29 (Tregelles, p. 19.)” Idem.RABV 50.3

    Erasmus’ own estimate of his first edition in 1516.—“Erasmus began to print his edition on the 11th of September 1515, and it was done by the 1st of March 1516. Froben, the printer and publisher, had heard of the Alcala edition (the Complutensian), and was anxious to get his edition out ahead of it. He was successful enough in this effort, for Erasmus did not get sight of a copy of that other New Testament until after his own third edition of the year 1522 was done. It was not strange that such a hasty edition as Erasmus’ first edition was, should have many faults. Erasmus praised his own edition in a letter to the pope, but he elsewhere conceded that it was done headlong rather than edited.’ The manuscripts which he followed most closely were younger (later) ones. As for the Revelation Erasmus had but one mutilated manuscript, and he supplied what was lacking by translating the words from the Vulgate into his imperfect Greek. In one verse, if we may refer to a special one, he omits the article six times, where it should stand.”—“The Canon and Text of the New Testament,” by Caspar Rene Gregory,”—p. 441.RABV 50.4

    Erasmus’ second edition in 1519 endorsed by Pope Leo X.—“The second edition, of the year 1519, contains Leo X’s approving letter of September 10, 1518.”—Idem.RABV 51.1

    Erasmus’ third edition in 1522 added a spurious passage from a Dublin MS.—“The third edition was issued in the year 1522, and it was this edition that, alas! brought the baleful verse 1 John 5:7, 8 out of that worthless manuscript at Dublin.”—Idem.RABV 51.2

    “In 1519 Erasmus issued a revised edition, correcting many misprints, and inserting improved readings from Evan. 3; and three more editions appeared in his lifetime, in 1522, 1527, and 1535.”—” Handbook to Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, K. C. B., F. B. A., pp. 269, 270.RABV 51.3

    “*This edition is notable for its introduction of the passage relating to the Three Heavenly Witnesses (1 John 5:7, 8). In controversy with Stunica, Erasmus had promised to insert it if any Greek manuscript could be produced in which it occurred. It was found (in a clumsy form) in a manuscript in England (61, now at Dublin), and Erasmus, though rightly supposing that it was due merely to retranslation from the Latin, inserted it in fulfilment of his promise. Hence the passage (for which there is early Latin authority) found its way into the Textus Receptus.”—Idem, Footnote.RABV 51.4

    “A third edition was required in 1522, when the Complutensian Polyglot also came into circulation, in this edition 1 John 5:7 was inserted for the first time, according to the promise of Erasmus, on the authority of the ‘Codex Britannicus’ (i. e. Cod. Montfortianus), in a form which obviously betrays its origin as a clumsy translation from the Vulgate.”—“Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible,” Vol. II, p. 522.RABV 51.5

    Erasmus’ fourth edition in 1527 included the Catholic Vulgate.—“The fourth edition of the year 1527 contained not only the Greek text with Erasmus’ translation, but also the text of the Vulgate.”—“The Canon and Text of the New Testament,” by Caspar Rene Gregory, p. 441.RABV 51.6

    Erasmus’ fourth edition corrected from Cardinal Ximenes’ Complutensian edition.—“Erasmus at length obtained a copy of the Complutensian text, and in his fourth edition in 1527, gave some various readings from it in addition to those which he had he had already noted, and used it to correct his own text in the Apocalypse in 90 places, while elsewhere he introduced only 16 changes (Hill, § 1141).”—Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. II, pp. 522, 523.RABV 51.7

    Erasmus’ fourth edition in 1527 was mother-edition to the Received Text and the Authorized Version.—“Each of these (editions) contains some alterations, and that of 1527 being noticeable for its use of the Complutensian edition (mainly in the Apocalypse) and for its introduction of the Vulgate text by the side of the Greek and Erasmus’s Latin. This edition of 1527 may be considered as Erasmus’s definitive text, that of 1535 shearing but very few alterations.”—” Handbook to Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, K. C. B., F. B. A., pp. 269, 270, Foot Note.RABV 51.8

    “Such was the fourth edition of Erasmus, the mother-edition of the Textus Receptus and of our own Authorized version. It was based, as we have seen, on scanty evidence and late manuscripts. It contains two interpolations which the editor himself introduced on his own responsibility, viz., Acts 8:37, and words in Acts 9:5, 6. It is especially unsatisfactory in the Revelation. Where in any degree dependent on a version, it is dependent only on a very bad and even deformed text of the Vulgate.”—“The Revision of the English Version of the New Testament,” Lightfoot, Trench, and Ellicott, p. 38 of Ellicott’s portion.RABV 52.1

    “The fourth edition afterwards became the basis of the received text.”—” Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible,” Vol. II, p. 523.RABV 52.2

    Estimate of Erasmus’ work by scholars.—“The Greek Text (of Erasmus) was accompanied by a Latin translation and some notes, which Erasmus had had in hand before Froben’s proposal. Work so rapidly produced could not rest on any great accumulation of material, and although the publisher’s preface speaks of the use of many ancient manuscripts and of the quotations of all the most important Fathers, it would appear that in reality only a few manuscripts were employed—those, namely, which lay ready to the editor’s hand at Basle. These for the most part, were neither ancient nor good, and the single manuscript employed for the Apocalypse was deficient in the in last six verses of the book, which Erasmus accordingly supplied by retranslation from the Vulgate. Some words of this retranslation, which occur in no manuscript whatever, still linger in our Textus Receptus to the present day. Similar retranslations, to supply real or supposed Lacunas (gaps), were also occasionally made in other places. The edition of Erasmus consequently has little critical value, and is inferior in this respect to the consequently has little value and is inferior in this respect to the Complutensian; yet it has exercised a far greater influence on the history of the New Testament text. In the first place it had six years start of its rival; and being issued in a single volume of reasonable size and price, it had a far wider circulation than the six-volume Complutensian of which only 600 copies were printed. Hence it followed the foundation of the editions which followed it at short intervals during the next generation.”—“Handbook to Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, K. C. B., F. B. A., pp. 269, 270, Foot Note.RABV 52.3

    “It is almost painful to be obliged to remember that a portion of ten months at the utmost could have been devoted to his task by Erasmus; while the only manuscripts he can be imagined to have constantly used are Codd. Eva. 2, Act. Paul. 1 and Act. Paul 4, (all still at Basle) for the remainder of the New Testament, to which add Apoc. 1, now happily recovered, alone for the apocalypse. All these, excepting Evan. Act. Paul. 1, were neither ancient nor particularly valuable, and of Cod. 1 he professed to make but small account. As Apoc. 1 was mutilated in the last six verses, Erasmus turned these into Greek from the Latin; and some portions of his self-made version, which are found (however some editors speak vaguely) in no one known Greek Manuscript whatever, still cleave to our received text.”—” A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament,” Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, Vol. II, pp. 183, 184.RABV 52.4

    “*Erasmus in his Annotations fairly confesses what he did: ‘quanquam in calce hujus libri, nonnulla verba reperi apud nostros, quae aberant in Graecis exemplaribus, ea tamen ex latinis adjecimus.’ (“Although at the end of this book (the Revelation) some words I found in ours (the Vulgate) which were lacking in the Greek, so these were added from the Latin.”) But since the text and commentary in Cod. Reuchlini are so mixed up as to be undistinguishable in parts without the aid of a second manuscript (Tregelles’ ‘Delitzsch’s Handschriftliche Funde,’ Part ii. pp. 2-7), it is no wonder that in other places Erasmus in his perplexity was sometimes tempted to translate into his own Greek from the Latin Vulgate such words or clauses as he judged to have been wrongly passed over by his sole authority, e. g. ch 2:2, 17; 3:5, 12, 15; 6:11, 15 (see under Apoc. 1); 7:17; 13:4, 5; 14:16; 22:11, where the Greek words only of Erasmus are false; while in ch 2:3; 5:14 (bis); 6:1, 3, 5, 7; 13:10; 14:5 (as partly in 22:14), he was misled by the recent copies of the Vulgate, whereto alone he had access, to make additions which no Greek manuscript is known to support.”—Footnote in “A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament,” Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, p. 184.RABV 52.5

    “The fourth edition afterwards became the basis of the received text. This, it will be seen, rested on scanty and late Greek evidence, without the help of any versions except the Latin, which was itself so deformed in common copies, as not to show its true character and weight.”—” Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible,” Vol. II, p. 523.RABV 53.1

    Here is the latest word from an outstanding scholar in America, author of both a grammar and a lexicon of New Testament Greek:RABV 53.2

    “The Complutensian Edition of the Greek New Testament of Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros was printed in 1514, though not circulated till 1522. Erasmus produced his edition in 1516 and so won in the race with Cisneros, though at the cost of accuracy in many ways and only by the hurried use of a few late minuscules (cursives in small letters) and thus laid the foundation for the Textus Receptus which held the field till the critical text of Westcott and Hort, in 1881.”—Prof. A. T. Robertson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Biblical Review, January, 1931.RABV 53.3

    Estimate of the Received Text.—“Such is the history of our received text of the Greek New Testament; and it will be obvious from it how little livelihood there was that it would be a really accurate representation of the original language. For fourteen hundred years the New Testament had been handed down in manuscript, copy being taken from copy in a long succession through the centuries, each copy multiplying and spreading errors (slight, indeed, but not unimportant in the mass) after the manner described in our first chapter. Yet when this great invention of printing took place, and the words of the Bible could at last be stereotyped, as it were, beyond the reach of human error, the first printed text was made from a mere handful of manuscripts, and those some of the latest and least trustworthy that existed. There was no thought of searching out the oldest manuscripts and trusting chiefly to them. The best manuscripts were still unknown to scholars or inaccessible and the editors had to content themselves with using such later copies as were within their reach, generally those in their native town alone. Even those were not always copied with such accuracy as we should now consider necessary. The result is that the text accepted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to which we have clung from a natural reluctance to change the words which we have learnt as those of the Word of God, is in truth full of inaccuracies, many of which can be corrected with absolute certainty from the vastly wider information which is at our disposal today. The difference between the Authorized Version and the Revised Version shows in great measure the difference between the text accepted at the time of the first printed editions and that which commends itself to the best modern scholars. We do not find the fundamentals of our faith altered, but we find many variations of words and sentences, and are brought so much nearer to the true Word of God, as it was written down in the first century by Evangelist and Apostle.”—Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts,” F. G. Kenyon, Librarian, etc. pp. 99, 100.RABV 53.4

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