Below is an article that I have had for some time. I am not a big textual critic, although that hinders me at times. I feel that if there is something in the TR that I don’t need, well, it will not hurt me. I am posting this, only in hopes of opening avenues of discussion. There are several posters in the blogosphere that are ignorant of the facts of textual criticism, and I have to admit, I am not fully up on the issues either. I do not believe that the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus are forgeries by Rome. Nor do I believe that there is a great, historical and satanic conspiracy to dethrone the KJV. I hope that you can approach the article with a balance of mind and appreciation of the facts that surround this issue.
Andrew S. Hudson
Assistant Professor Of Biblical Studies
Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
In recent years, the KJV-only movement has created a renewed interest in the Textus Receptus.1 D. A. Waite and the Dean Burgon Society are at the forefront of this movement. Since 1971, Waite has conducted seminars and written over 270 books and pamphlets in support of the King James Version of the Bible and the TR which underlies it.2
TR proponents, like Waite and the Dean Burgon Society, criticize all translations of the Greek New Testament that are based on the Critical Text3 rather than the TR. One of the primary reasons for vilifying the CT is the text’s alleged reliance on Westcott and Hort and their method of textual criticism. TR proponents often appeal to the work of Dean John
William Burgon4 to support their claims for TR superiority. Burgon wrote several books in defense of the TR. He spent a good deal of time pointing out the errors of Westcott and Hort’s text and textual theory. He also criticized the English Revised Version of the Bible which was based on Westcott and Hort’s text. TR proponents reason as follows: since modern versions of the Greek New Testament are based on Westcott and Hort’s theory, and since Burgon effectively disproved their theory, then all modern versions of the Greek New Testament are inferior.5
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the TR proponents’ appeal to Burgon to criticize the modern CT is unjustified. The proof for this claim will be presented in three steps. First, TR proponents’ claims that the modern CT is based on Westcott and Hort’s theory and text will be illustrated. Second, it will be shown that members of the United Bible Society6 committee that produced the modern CT have moved beyond Westcott and Hort’s textual theory. In fact, most modern scholars agree with most of Burgon’s criticism of Westcott and Hort. Therefore, vilification of Westcott and Hort and their textual theory is somewhat irrelevant to the accuracy of the modern CT.7 Third, an answer will be suggested for the resemblance of the modern CT to Westcott and Hort’s text.
It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with specific textual problems. This paper simply attempts to contrast the theory of textual criticism used by modern scholarship with Westcott and Hort’s. This identification is made in an effort to evaluate the appeal of TR proponents to the works of Burgon. The focus of the paper is on the theory, not the practice, of textual criticism. Neither is this article intended to be a thorough refutation of the KJV-only movement. This article deals with just one of the primary arguments of the KJV-only movement.
Claims That The Modern CT Is Based On Westcott And Hort
The claim that the modern CT is based on the theory of Westcott and Hort is a theme that runs throughout the writings and presentations of TR proponents. This is clearly stated by D. A. Waite in this advertisement for one of his booklets.
There is no one book that exposes Westcott and Hort’s false Greek text and false Greek theory behind that text any more thoroughly and convincingly than The Revision Revised. Dean Burgon defends the traditional text of the New Testament. He also shows clearly the defects in both manuscript “B” (Vatican) and manuscript “Aleph” (Sinai). It is very important to see the arguments contained in this historic volume.
Virtually the same Greek text of Westcott and Hort (1881) has been used for almost all of the modern versions and perversions. Therefore, The Revision Revised forms a strong basis for refutation of the false Greek texts and theories rampant today which form the basis for the modern English versions. This booklet summarizes some of the best and most relevant of Dean Burgon’s quotations from The Revision Revised. It can be used to refute the modern English versions as well!8
This argument can also be found in almost any defense of the TR. Often, one of the first points given in support of the TR over the modern CT is Burgon’s criticism of Westcott and Hort. The fact that criticism of Westcott and Hort is a major tenet in the reasoning of the KJV-only movement is attested to by the number of men who employ this argument.
Wilbur N. Pickering
In 1977 Thomas Nelson Publishers published Pickering’s book The Identity of the New Testament Text. In this book Pickering suggested that the CT is based on the theory of Westcott and Hort. After stating that Hort successfully dethroned the TR, Pickering explained the result for modern texts.
And that explains the nature and extent of the common divergence of the modern versions from the AV (King James Version)—they are all based essentially on the W-H theory and text whereas the AV is essentially based on the Textus Receptus.9
Although Pickering supported the Majority Text rather than the TR, he is cited here because he is referred to with favor in
KJV-only literature because of his criticism of Westcott and Hort.10
D. A. Waite
Since 1971, Waite has consistently and prolifically criticized Westcott and Hort in his writings and seminars. Waite also applies his criticism of Westcott and Hort to the modern CT. After documenting many theological errors of Westcott and Hort, Waite incorrectly concludes that Westcott and Hort’s theory will be the focus of the battle for the “true text.”
The BATTLE Against WESTCOTT AND HORT’S FALSE TEXTUAL THEORY Will Be Waged Throughout The Coming Decades—Your BIBLE And Its TRUE TEXT ARE AT STAKE! The importance of WESTCOTT AND HORT historically in the false theories of textual criticism that they initiated cannot be forgotten. It is of utmost importance to the TRUE TEXT of the Bible to oppose their MINORITY GREEK TEXT and to SUPPORT the TRADITIONAL GREEK TEXT which basically is the text underlying the King James Version of the New Testament! Let’s not allow these two UNBELIEVING HERETICS to ruin and spoil our Bibles! Have they not done enough by their HERESIES as outlined in this analysis?! Do we need them to use their influence beyond the grave to gain support and respectability to their false text of the New Testament?! This is a deadly and an important battle, and it will not be an easy one to win, but the BIBLE FOR TODAY will persist in its efforts to support the TRADITIONAL GREEK TEXT of the New Testament and OPPOSE the false and defective HERETICAL TEXT of Westcott and Hort constructed to accommodate their own BIBLICAL HERESIES!11
Waite’s booklet was published in 1979. He speaks of the battle against the Westcott and Hort text in present and future terminology. Therefore, he believes that the modern CT is based on Westcott and Hort’s textual theory.
In a seminar given in 1981 to a group of women at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Waite continues this same line of reasoning.12 Waite refers to Burgon in this seminar. He claims that Burgon effectively proved Westcott and Hort’s theory and text wrong. Therefore, he concludes, modern texts are also wrong.
In his recent booklet, Four Reasons for Defending the King James Bible,13 Waite continues to suggest that the CT relies on Westcott and Hort. His first reason for KJV superiority is its alleged superior original language texts.14 After a paragraph extolling the virtues of the TR, which underlies the KJV, Waite follows with a six-page section entitled “The Greek Text of Westcott and Hort that Underlies the Modern Version.”15 Following this heading Waite gives a six-page criticism of Westcott and Hort’s Greek text.
David W. Cloud
Cloud argues that the modern text flows from a stream of apostasy.16 Yet even in this line of reasoning much is made of the connection of the CT to Westcott and Hort. Cloud makes this point in his introductory paragraph.
That the modern text and version are founded upon apostasy is evident in a number of ways. It can be seen in the men who developed the textual theories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It can be seen in the theories themselves. It can be seen in the theology of the majority of Greek editors who have promoted these theories. It can be seen in the theological nature of the critical Greek text. It can also be seen in the theology of a great many of the men involved in the new translations.17
Cloud does discuss several members of the committee responsible for the UBS text.18 He identifies these men as “apostates.”19 Unfortunately, he does not discuss the textual theory of these men. He simply assumes that it is the same theory developed by Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort.
Johnson also makes the correlation between Westcott and Hort and the modern CT. He makes this point even more vividly by means of his theatrics.20 Johnson had a table on each side of his pulpit. A KJV Bible was placed on one table and about 15 other modern Bible versions were placed on the other table. Both tables were covered with a cloth. As Johnson uncovered the table with the KJV Bible, he stated that it was based on the TR and, therefore, should be accepted. As he uncovered the other versions of the Bible, he sneered at them, stating that they were all based on the work of Westcott and Hort.
Jeffrey A. Young
Young, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, has also had some seminary training.21 He has written a 27–page paper criticizing modern textual theory and the CT entitled
“Examination of Modern New Testament Text Criticism Theory and Methods: Version 2.0.”22 The entire document is a refutation of Westcott and Hort (which supposedly is the basis for the modern CT and theory). This assumption is evident in his introduction. He states,
Their methods of criticism are wholeheartedly accepted by most liberal text critics today, and their Greek text has been largely used for virtually all modern English translations (including NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NAB, REB, CEV, TEV, GNB, LIVING, PHILLIPS, NEW JERUSALEM, & NEW CENTURY).23
Young also appeals to the work of Burgon.24 After twenty-four pages of material criticizing Westcott and Hort’s theology and textual theory, Young says, “Modern Text Critics have never answered the points raised in this essay although the weighty arguments were cited within 2 years of the publication of the text critical method.”25 Who is it that refuted Westcott and Hort’s method within two years of its publication? It is none other than Dean John William Burgon.26
Young is aware of the criticism of Westcott and Hort among modern textual critics. However, he does not allow this awareness to change his view of those critics. He concluded that, even though modern critics refute most of Westcott and Hort’s textual theory, those same modern critics still accept Westcott and Hort’s theory “wholeheartedly.”
Recent text critics have not blindly accepted the complete system of Westcott and Hort. Indeed there is room for arguing that if all the criticisms of Westcott and Hort are gathered from the various modern text critics, a complete refutation of their system may be assembled, . While they have not been uncritical, recent text critics have in large measure adopted Westcott and Hort’s major premise, conclusions, text critical method, text type definitions, and favored corrupt manuscripts.27
Is it not logical to conclude that, if modern text critics deny so much of Westcott and Hort’s theory of textual criticism, then those same text critics might have advanced beyond the textual theory of Westcott and Hort? Young (and others of the same movement) never prove that the modern CT is based on the textual theory of Westcott and Hort. They just assume that it is. That is why they spend a majority of their time refuting Westcott and Hort.28 Is it not also possible for modern text critics to arrive at a text similar to Westcott and Hort’s text by using a new and different textual theory?
Thomas M. Strouse
Strouse is the Dean of Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, Virginia. On February 29, 1996, he addressed the National Leadership Conference at Calvary
Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. In his presentation, entitled “Fundamentalism and the Authorized Version,” Strouse defined the “Textus Criticus” as follows:
Textus Criticus (Critical Text) refers to the Greek NT edition based on the textual theory of B. F. Westcott (1825–1901) and F. J. A. Hort (1828–1892) and is essentially manifested in the 26th edition of The Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the 3rd edition of The United Bible Society Greek New Testament (UBSGNT).29
It is admitted that it was beyond the scope of Strouse’s paper to prove the connection between Westcott and Hort and the modern CT. This definition is given simply to illustrate that Strouse assumes that the modern CT is based on Westcott and Hort.
An assumption is made by most, if not all, TR proponents that the modern CT is based on Westcott and Hort’s textual theory. They conclude, therefore, that if they can discredit Westcott and Hort they can discredit the modern CT. Most often, the TR proponents attempt to discredit Westcott and Hort by means of an appeal to the works of Dean Burgon. There is an occasional mention of modern criticism of Westcott and Hort—but this criticism is not allowed to move the discussion past the late 19th century debate between Burgon and Westcott-Hort. It is still assumed that the modern CT is a “Westcott and Hort text.”
Claims That The Modern CT Is Not Based On Westcott And Hort
Who makes the claim that the modern CT is not based on the textual theory of Westcott and Hort? The very members of the committee that produced the modern CT make this claim.30 These same scholars agree with much of Burgon’s refutation of Westcott and Hort. They also assert that they have moved beyond Westcott and Hort’s theory to a new textual theory.
In this article, the position of these committee members is presented in two ways. First, evidence is given to demonstrate that modern textual critics have moved beyond Westcott and Hort and are using a revised textual theory. Second, evidence is given to show that modern textual critics agree with much of Burgon’s refutation of Westcott and Hort’s textual theory.
Beyond Westcott And Hort
Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland were both on the committee that was responsible for producing the modern CT. Since they were involved in the production of the modern CT, their statements concerning the textual theory used in that production are significant.
Metzger details several aspects of Westcott and Hort’s textual theory that have been revised by modern scholarship. First, Metzger calls Hort’s “Neutral text” a question-begging title.31 He claims that most scholars have abandoned Hort’s overly optimistic presentation of codex Vaticanus (B) as a pure text that represents the original except for a few slips of the pen.32
Second, Metzger admits that Hort’s identification of “Western non-interpolations” is simply a misnomer Hort used to justify “Western” reading (which was considered an extremely corrupt text-type) as original over his preferred codex Vaticanus (B).
Westcott and Hort regarded the Western text as almost totally corrupt and accepted as original in only what they called ‘Western non-interpolations’. As was mentioned above, subsequent scholars (e.g. Merx and A. C. Clark) reacted against this one-sided view with an equally one-sided preference for the Western text. Today such extreme positions for and against the Western forms of the text find little favour, for most textual scholars recognize that all of the pre-Koine forms of text deserve a hearing, and that any one of them may preserve original readings which have been lost to the other types.33
Metzger asserts that modern textual theory has moved beyond the sole preference of two pure manuscripts to a theory that evaluates all readings on their own merits. Westcott and Hort’s creative explanation for accepting Western readings as original is no longer needed because any family of manuscripts can contain the original reading.
Third, Metzger even softens Hort’s position on conjectural emendation. Hort stated that, when all variant readings produce no reading that seems logically possible, the textual critic must emend the text via his own conjecture.34 Metzger, on the other hand, admits that a reading that does not seem logically possible could, in fact, be original. He says, “It must not be overlooked, however, that though some anomalies are the result of corruption in the transmission of the text, other anomalies may have been either intended or tolerated by the author himself.”35 Westcott and Hort suggest about 60 instances in the Greek New Testament where they feel conjectural emendation is necessary. Metzger responds to this number by reasoning that there is so much manuscript evidence for the NT (as compared with secular literature) that the necessity of conjectural emendation is reduced to the “smallest dimension.”36
It is obvious that Metzger has moved beyond the textual theory of Westcott and Hort. He has suggested several areas in which they were mistaken in their theory. Where they were incorrect, he no longer follows them. If Metzger has abandoned the theory of Westcott and Hort, what theory of textual criticism does he use? He employs a new and revised textual theory unknown to Westcott and Hort.
Aland also asserts that he has moved beyond Westcott and Hort’s method to a revised method of textual criticism. In a paper read at the 100th meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1964, Aland stated that Hort’s view of text-types37 can no longer be trusted.
For, the increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort’s conception. We can no longer take their conception as valid, as long as its raison d’etre, even under the new conditions, has not been proven.38
Aland makes a similar statement about Westcott and Hort’s Neutral text and genealogy of manuscripts. Aland makes the following comment in reference to eclecticism.
Theoretically, the original reading can lie hidden in a single manuscript, thus standing alone against the rest of tradition. To this we must add that we are bound to be eclectic, because the guiding light of the Neutral text, which Westcott and Hort confidently followed, no longer shines, and also because we have no possibility of working out a genealogy of manuscripts which might throw some light on the history and tradition of the text.39
It is clear that Aland no longer accepts many aspects of Westcott and Hort’s theory of text types or genealogy of the text. The discovery of the papyri manuscripts has invalidated much of Hort’s theory. Aland was already making these statements in 1964. The impact of the abandonment of Hort’s theory, however, was not fully felt until the 1968 UBS text was published.40
Eldon Jay Epp did not agree with Aland’s assessment of the situation. Epp felt that the papyri simply provided real manuscripts for the ones that Westcott and Hort proposed. Therefore, the theory of textual criticism made no real advance from Westcott and Hort as a result of the papyri discoveries. Epp made the following statement as part of his assessment of the lack of progress in twentieth-century textual criticism.
It seems clear, then, that Aland’s claim that the discovery of early papyri invalidates Westcott-Hort’s whole scheme and places us in an entirely new situation is not well founded; rather, the papyri
provide hard documents to replace, roughly speaking, a number of Hort’s theoretical ones.41
Epp’s real concern is that no new history of the earliest text of the New Testament has been suggested. Manuscripts “B” and “Aleph” have simply been replaced with earlier manuscripts.42
Aland responded to Epp in an article published in 1979.43 Aland did not understand how Epp could suggest that modern textual criticism theory had not advanced past Westcott and Hort. Aland did not give a lengthy defense of this point. Instead, he simply gave evidence from the Western (or D) text that the situation was entirely different in modern theory than it was in Westcott and Hort’s theory.
In fact, the whole situation has changed decisively in comparison to Westcott-Hort (a fact which Epp does not talk about at all): for Westcott and Hort the deciding witnesses for the early dating of the D-text were the Vetus Syra and the Vetus Latina. But this defense using the Old Latin transmission breaks down, for the Latin text of D is now generally seen to be dependent on the Greek and not vice versa, as was formerly thought.44
Aland went on to ask, “How then can Epp assert: ‘This is where we stand, and this is precisely where Westcott-Hort stood?’”45
Epp responded to Aland’s question in an article published the next year (1980).46 In that article, Epp attempted to clear up a misunderstanding of his position. He admitted that the 20th century has seen many advances in textual criticism. He agreed that the situation in modern textual criticism is vastly different than it was in Westcott and Hort’s day. There were still several issues that needed further work, but Epp would never say that the situation is identical to Westcott and Hort’s. He clarified his position by saying,
A further prefatory word is appropriate and essential. Apparently the Hatch Lecture’s repeated emphasis on “little progress,” “no progress,” and “little or no progress” has led to a misunderstanding, and that must be corrected. Let there be no mistake about this: the twentieth century has been an extraordinary rich period for NT textual criticism; never have I suggested otherwise, nor would anyone else find a defensible basis for claiming that nothing has been done or that little has been accomplished during the last eighty years.47
In summary, Aland claims that he no longer holds to Westcott and Hort’s entire textual criticism theory. He argues that several aspects of their theory are no longer valid. Aland no long accepts Hort’s text types or genealogy. He does not accept Hort’s “neutral text.” Neither does he accept Hort’s premise that the neutral text is far superior to all other text types. He does not accept Hort’s view of the date or character of the Western text. Even Epp agrees with Aland that the situation is vastly different in modern textual theory than it was in the days of Westcott and Hort. The point is simply this: Aland, who is on the UBSGNT committee,48 asserts that he has moved beyond the textual theory of Westcott and Hort.
Therefore, it was not Westcott and Hort’s theory that guided the scholars who produced the modern CT.
Since it is clear that Aland has moved beyond the textual theory of Westcott and Hort, it is important to identify when this movement took place (at least in regard to the CT). What theory of textual criticism was used to produce the CT? A brief history of the Nestle-Aland49 text and the UBS text provide the answer to this question.
Nestle had a very simple method for determining his NT text.50 He compared Tischendorf’s text (1895) with Westcott and Hort’s text. When the two texts agreed he used their text. When the two texts disagreed, he selected a third text to cast the deciding vote. At first Nestle used Weymouth’s second edition (1892) for his deciding text. After 1901 Nestle used Weiss’ text (1894–1900) as his third text. This was the method used until the NA (26th ed.) was published in 1979. It is appropriate to claim that the NA text relied heavily on the theory and text of Westcott and Hort for its first twenty-five editions.
Kurt Aland first joined the work on the NA text in 1950. His name first appears on the title page of the twenty-first edition (1952). Aland was also one of the first members of the UBSGNT committee which was formed in 1955. After 1955 Aland worked on both the NA text and the UBS text. The first edition of the UBSGNT had a different Greek text than the NA New Testament. Starting with the third edition of the UBS and the twenty-sixth edition of the NA, both shared the same Greek text. However, they maintained their different textual apparatuses.
The decision to use a joint text was a crucial turning point in the practice of textual criticism. It was at this point that the UBS committee formally moved beyond the theories of Westcott and Hort. It was the change in textual theory that cleared the way for adopting a joint text. Aland explains the work of the UBS committee which produced the second edition in 1968:
A critical step toward the convergence of the two editions occurred in the deliberations on the second edition of GNT which was published in 1968 (Arthur Voobus had meanwhile withdrawn from the editorial committee before the publication of the first edition and Carlo Maria Martini, then rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and later archbishop of Milan and cardinal, was added). Only a few changes were introduced, but their importance was fundamental: the editorial committee (or more precisely its majority) decided to abandon the theories of Westcott-Hort and the “Western non-interpolations.” as Kurt Aland had urged consistently in personal discussion and also in numerous essays. This finally cleared the way for coordination the two editions.51
The text used in the UBS second edition (1968) was produced using a textual theory that moved past Westcott and Hort. As a result of this shift in textual theory, the UBS committee made over 500 changes between the second and third editions of their New Testament.52 The UBS third edition (1975) and the NA twenty-sixth edition (1979) share a common text.
When did the Nestle text move beyond a heavy reliance on the Westcott and Hort text? Beginning with the twenty-sixth edition of the NA text (1979), the committee no longer compared Westcott and Hort’s text with two other texts to determine the NA text. Instead, they produced the text by evaluating each variant on its own merits.53
When did the UBS committee move beyond the theories of Westcott and Hort? It is apparent from their own testimony that they decided prior to publishing the second edition in 1968 to abandon the theories of Westcott and Hort. However, there were very few changes in the actual text of the UBS Greek New Testament until the UBS third edition in 1975. Therefore, any discussion of the modern CT must account for this abandonment of Westcott and Hort’s theory.54 After 1968 (formally) and 1975 (practically) it is no longer sufficient to criticize Westcott and Hort and assume that one has destroyed the modern CT.55
Burgon’s Evaluation Of Westcott-Hort
It is apparent that modern textual critics agree with much of Burgon’s evaluation of Westcott and Hort’s textual theory. And yet, the modern CT is still substantially different from the TR. In light of the movement away from Westcott and Hort, the only way to account for the difference between the CT and TR is to admit that the CT uses a new/revised theory of textual criticism.56 Modern textual critics agree with much of Burgon’s criticism of Westcott and Hort’s theory of textual criticism.
First, Burgon criticizes Westcott and Hort for their theory of fourth-century recensions. Burgon specifically criticizes Hort’s suggestions of a “Syrian recension” in Antioch be tween 250 AD and 350 AD and a recension at Edessa or Nisibis that resulted in the Peshitta.57 Aland agrees with Burgon’s assessment of Westcott and Hort. He cites the discovery of the papyri as a turning point in rethinking fourth-century recensions.
Let me proceed by repeating what I have often, since the publication of the Bodmer papyri, maintained among my colleagues, in particular, in connection with the work on a new edition of the NT. P66 confirmed the observations already made in connection with the Chester Beatty papyri. With P75 new ground has been opened to us. Earlier, we all shared the opinion, in agreement with our professors and in accord with NT scholarship, before and since Westcott and Hort, that, in various places, during the fourth century, recensions of the NT text had been made, from which the main text-types then developed.58
Aland goes on in this article to assert that recensions and text-types (as Westcott and Hort taught) are no longer plausible.59 The evidence from the papyri has forever altered the landscape of textual criticism.
Second, Burgon criticized Westcott and Hort for their view that Codexes B and Aleph were identical to the original Greek text with a few minor exceptions. Burgon claimed that B and Aleph could not be proven to be essentially errorless as Westcott and Hort suggested (and thus called the Neutral text).60 Aland agrees that Westcott and Hort’s elevation of B and Aleph was unjustified. He states that “the guiding light of the Neutral text, which Westcott and Hort followed, no longer shines.”61 Modern textual critics do not view B and Aleph as essentially errorless. Metzger concurs with this evaluation of B and Aleph. He states that “most scholars have abandoned Hort’s optimistic view that codex Vaticanus (B) contains the original text almost unchanged except for slips of the pen.”62
Third, Burgon criticized Westcott and Hort for accepting B and Aleph as a safe guide that can never be rejected absolutely.63 Modern textual critics do not assign that much weight to codexes B and Aleph. They view them just as critically as any other manuscript. Aland asserts this practice was followed in producing the modern CT.
The Codex Vaticanus was examined just as critically by the publication committee as any other manuscript; it (and the witnesses accompanying it) is only followed when the external and internal criteria show its reading to be correct (which, as is well-known, is more often the case in the Gospels than in the rest of the New Testament).64
Fourth, Burgon criticized Westcott and Hort for their concept of an early, although corrupt, Western text (with codexes C and D as notable examples).65 Modern textual critics agree that Hort was incorrect in his theory of the Western text. Aland makes this same point in his book.
While it is possible that this “Early text” may have had certain characteristics in the West (as a local text), it is impossible to identify any occasion or person associated with its development in the way that B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort and their modern followers suggest. It is quite inconceivable that the text of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis could have existed as early as the second century. It is also significant, as we have mentioned, that
hardly anyone today refers to this putative Western text without placing the term in quotation marks, i.e., as the “Western text.”66
Fifth, Burgon criticized Westcott and Hort for suggesting the concept of Western non-interpolations.67 Both Metzger and Aland agree with Burgon on this point.68 Most modern textual critics do not accept the concept of a Western non-interpolation.
Sixth, Burgon criticized Westcott and Hort for emending the Greek text based on their own conjecture.69 If Westcott and Hort deemed all of the variants in a particular instance impossible or incomprehensible, they created a new variant (emended the text). Metzger agrees with Burgon when he concludes that the need for textual emendation in modern scholarship is virtually unnecessary.70 Metzger mentions two points which cause the reduced need for conjectural emendation. First, there is much more manuscript evidence available today than there was in Westcott and Hort’s day. Second, Westcott and Hort refused to acknowledge that some of the anomalies in the text were either intended or tolerated by the original author of the text.
Modern critics agree with much of Burgon’s assessment of Westcott and Hort’s textual theory. If these critics agree with Burgon against Westcott and Hort’s textual theory, it is impossible to conclude that they wholeheartedly followed Westcott and Hort’s textual theory in producing the modern CT.
Modern CT Is Similar To Westcott And Hort’s Text
It has been adequately demonstrated that the modern CT is not based solely on the textual theory of Westcott and Hort. However, the modern CT does bear a closer resemblance to Westcott and Hort’s text than it does to the TR.71 This similarity in text raises two questions. First, why are the texts similar even though they use different textual methods? Second, would Dean Burgon accept the modern CT?
Why The Similarities?
The modern textual critics’ preference for the Alexandrian family of manuscripts causes the CT to resemble Westcott and Hort’s text rather than the TR. This preference for the Alexandrian family of manuscripts was reinforced by the discovery of the papyri manuscripts. The evidence provided by the discovery of the papyri manuscripts not only proved Westcott and Hort wrong in several aspects of their textual theory, but it also proved that they were accurate in one area of their textual theory.72 They were correct in viewing the Byzantine text as a later family of manuscripts. Wallace makes this observation:
When Westcott and Hort developed their theory of textual criticism, only one papyrus manuscript was known to them. Since that
time almost 100 have been discovered. More than fifty of these came from before the middle of the fourth century. Yet not one belongs to the majority text. The Westcott-Hort theory, with its many flaws (which all textual critics today acknowledge), was apparently still right on its basic tenet: the Byzantine texttype—or majority text—did not exist in the first three centuries.73
Since the Byzantine text-type is later than the others, it is probably not as strong a witness as the others. Burgon says, “The more ancient testimony is probably the better testimony.”74 It is admitted that no single text-type has absolute authority,75 but the secondary character of the Byzantine family of MSS lowers its influence on textual choices to some degree. Therefore, a preference for the Alexandrian text-type over the Byzantine text-type results in a modern CT that looks more like Westcott and Hort’s text (which favored the Alexandrian family of texts) than the TR (which favored the Byzantine family of texts).
The modern CT’s resemblance to Westcott and Hort’s text does not negate the fact that modern textual critics are using a new theory of textual criticism. Even the modern textual critics’ preference for the Alexandrian family of manuscripts is based on different grounds than Westcott and Hort used. Therefore, it is unjustified to criticize the modern CT for a reliance on Westcott and Hort’s textual theory.
Would Burgon Accept Modern Ct?
It is almost impossible to answer this question with any degree of certainty. However, several factors indicate that Burgon might not be as opposed to the modern CT as TR proponents suggest.
First, Burgon did not believe or teach the ongoing miraculous preservation of the NT text in the TR. Erhman notes, “It was only his posthumous followers—chiefly Hills—who claimed that he built his entire textual method on a dogmatic foundation.”76 Burgon spent a great deal of time collating manuscripts and then realized the lack of unity in them. He even suggested 150 changes in the TR text of Matthew’s Gospel alone.77 If Burgon realized the need for change in the TR, he certainly could not have held to a miraculous preservation of that text.
Second, Burgon was very concerned that all of the evidence be collated and evaluated before deciding what text was best. He stated this view as follows:
Let 500 more COPIES of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, be diligently collated. Let at least 100 of the ancient Lectionaries be very exactly collated also. Let the most important of the ancients VERSIONS be edited afresh, and let the languages in which these are written be for the first time really mastered by Englishmen. Above all, let the FATHERS be called upon to give up their previous secrets. Let their writings be ransacked and indexed, and (where needful) let the MSS. of their works be diligently inspected, in order that we may know what actually is the evidence which they afford. Only so will it ever be possible to obtain a Greek Text on which absolute reliance may be placed, and which may serve as the basis for a satisfactory Revision of our Authorized Version.78
Burgon did not have the benefit of all of the papyri manuscripts that are available today. It is significant that most of the changes suggested today in textual theory are a result of the discovery of the papyri. Since Burgon wanted to evaluate all the evidence, he certainly would have evaluated the evidence provided by the papyri. It may be that they would have caused him to alter his view of the text enough to accept the modern CT.
Third, some of the strongest evidence in support of the Byzantine text-type, according to Burgon, was the Church Fathers. Unfortunately, Burgon’s use of the Church Fathers is very poor. Mark Heuer mentions several problems with Burgon’s use of patristic evidence. Burgon was not able to access the modern critical texts of the Fathers. He often assumes that an allusion or citation supports his specific verse even though there is no clear evidence that the Father is citing that verse. He does not distinguish between paraphrases, allusions, citations from memory, and citations from a text. He cites later Fathers in support of an earlier text.79 If Burgon were confronted with these discrepancies in his methodology, he might change his view of which text the Fathers actually support.
Again, it is uncertain whether Burgon would accept the modern CT. Acceptance would depend somewhat on whether the evidence of the papyri and patristics would alter his support for the “traditional text.” It is certain, however, that Burgon only criticized Westcott and Hort and their text. He did not say anything about the modern CT and the theory used to produce it.
This article has sought to prove several things. First, modern proponents of the TR expend a great deal of their time and writing attempting to discredit Westcott and Hort. They assume that by discrediting Westcott and Hort and their theory, they successfully discredit the modern CT and all modern English versions based on the CT. For the most part, the criticism of Westcott and Hort is simply a repetition of the work of John Burgon. It is often asserted that Burgon’s refutation of Westcott and Hort in the late 1800s has never been adequately answered (and never will be).
Second, the modern CT is not based on Westcott and Hort’s textual theory. Members of the committee that produced the CT clearly state that they have abandoned the theories of Westcott and Hort.80 They used a new theory of textual criticism to produce the modern CT. In fact, they agree with Burgon in many of his criticisms of Westcott and Hort.
Third, the TR proponent’s criticism of Westcott and Hort is irrelevant to the accuracy of the modern CT. The CT is not based on the textual theories of Westcott and Hort. Therefore, criticism of their theory does not apply to the theory employed to produce the modern CT.
Fourth, the resemblance of the modern CT to Westcott and Hort’s text is due to the later date of the Byzantine family of manuscripts which the evidence from recently discovered papyri manuscripts suggests. This resemblance is not a result of dependence upon Westcott and Hort but on evidence they did not even know existed. Therefore, criticism of Westcott and Hort does not discredit the modern CT.
Several essential factors are suggested by the shift in textual theory away from Westcott and Hort. First, it is no longer adequate to refute Westcott and Hort’s theory of textual criticism. The modern CT and the English translations based on it have moved beyond Westcott and Hort. Therefore, the criticism of the modern CT and its English translations must also move beyond Westcott and Hort.
Second, the often repeated claim that Burgon effectively discredited the theories of Westcott and Hort is irrelevant to the present discussion of textual theory. Neither is it relevant that no one has ever answered Burgon. Modern scholarship has agreed with much of what Burgon argued and has moved on to a new textual theory. Burgon is unable to respond to this new theory. Therefore, TR proponents need to move past Bur gon’s criticism of Westcott and Hort’s theory and generate their own criticism of current textual theory.
Third, modern discussion of English translations needs to be more specific as to which edition of the NA or UBS text was used as their basis.81 A critical shift in method occurred in 1968. Prior to 1968 it is legitimate to speak of a text that relies on Westcott and Hort. After 1968 it is not legitimate. Therefore, any English translation made from a Greek text produced after 1968 should not be called a “Westcott-Hort text.”
It is plain to see that textual theory has advanced greatly and will continue to do so as more and more ancient works are uncovered and studied. As men of integrity and scholarship, we must be constantly searching for God’s truth, aside from personal favoritism and tradition.
1 Hereafter, referred to as the TR. This text has a long history with many revisions. Therefore, it is necessary to define which edition is intended. The Articles of Faith, Operation and Organization of the Dean Burgon Society identify the TR as “‘The Greek Text Underlying The English Authorized Version of 1611’ as published by THE TRINITARIAN BIBLE SOCIETY in 1976” (Articles of Faith, Operation and Organization, ), 3. This paper will adopt the Society’s identification of the TR.
2 For a brief description of Waite’s qualifications and experience, see his pamphlet entitled Why the Bible for Today (Collingswood, NJ: Bible for Today, n.d.). Waite is one of the founders of the Dean Burgon Society. He has served as the Society’s president since its organization in 1978.
3 Hereafter, referred to as the CT. This text is best represented by the 4th edition of the UBS Greek text and the 27th edition of the Nestle/Aland Greek text. This text is sometimes referred to as an eclectic text.
4 Burgon was a contemporary of Westcott and Hort. He became known as Dean Burgon after becoming the Dean of Chichester.
5 For instance, a brief biography of Burgon says, “His serious scholarship, quick wit and acid tongue drove Westcott and Hort and all other Alexandrian scholars from the field of battle. His arguments against the Alexandrian text and in favor of the last 12 verses of Mark and other questioned portions have proven to be as unanswerable by modern scholarship as they were to his contemporaries.” Http://www.aloha.net/~bstaggs/kjv24.txt. 5 December 1996.
6 Hereafter, referred to as the UBS.
7 The author of this article does not sanction any of Westcott or Hort’s theological errors. The point is simply that those errors are irrelevant in determining the accuracy of the modern CT.
8 This quotation is taken from an advertisement for Waite’s pamphlet entitled Westcott & Hort’s Greek Text and Theory Refuted. This advertisement was still being used as of November 8, 1996.
9 Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, rev. ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 39. This statement may have been accurate when Pickering wrote his Th.M. thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1968. However, it will be demonstrated later that 1968 was a pivotal year for the CT. During that year the UBS committee chose to abandon the theories of Westcott and Hort. See Aland, The Text of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 33. Pickering saw that this change was coming. In his 1968 Th.M. thesis he favorably quotes D. W. Riddle’s comment, “The time is ripe for a revision of the Hortian view which will effectually free New Testament textual criticism from the shackles of another rigorous (critical) orthodoxy” (Pickering, “An Evaluation of the Contribution of John William Burgon to New Testament Textual Criticism”), 8–9. Unfortunately, when Pickering revised his thesis for his 1977 book, he failed to adequately account for the changes that had taken place in 1968.
10 For example, David W. Cloud, For the Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Received Text from 1800 to Present (Oak Harbor, WA: Way of Life Literature, 1995), 31–32. Cloud states that Pickering provides a scholarly point-by-point refutation of Westcott and Hort theories.
11 D. A. Waite, The Theological Heresies of Westcott and Hort (Collingswood, NJ: Bible for Today, 1979), 41–42.
12 D. A. Waite, seminar entitled “Textual Criticism for the Ladies—Questions and Answers for Women,” given at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, October 6, 1981. Waite does say at one point that the NASB is based on a Westcott and Hort “type” text. However, he leaves out the word “type” on other occasions.
13 D. A. Waite, Four Reasons for Defending the King James Bible (Collingswood, NJ: The Bible for Today, 1993). “This review is taken from a message delivered on Wednesday, July 21, 1993, at the 15th Annual Meeting of the DEAN BURGON SOCIETY, given at the Berean Baptist Church, Greenwood, Indiana,” 1.
14 Ibid., 6–17.
15 Ibid., 10.
16 David W. Cloud, For the Love of the Bible, 14–46. Cloud concludes, “There IS a pattern on both sides which is observable, and the fact is that the TR flows from revival whereas the modern text flows from apostasy,” 46.
17 Ibid., 14. The men who developed the textual theories from which the modern CT flows are identified as Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort. Cloud also criticizes Westcott and Hort’s theory of textual criticism and presents it as the basis for modern versions of the Bible, 30–32.
18 Ibid., 37–44. He specifically mentions three members: Carlo Martini, Eugene Nida, and Bruce Metzger. Cloud bemoans the fact that he was not warned of these “apostates” during his academic training. He says, “The Greek text that I was required to purchase at Bible school was the Third Edition United Bible Societies Greek New Testament (there is a 4th edition now). I was not told that the editors of that volume are apostates, but they are,” 37–38.
19 Ibid., 43–44. This is a great concern for Cloud. He does not want to use a text of the Greek NT that was produced or approved by these “apostates.” He says, “These, then, are the type of men who have led the charge for the critical text. Join hands with them if you please, but I have determined to travel a different path altogether,” 44. Cloud prefers to follow the path of Erasmus, who was responsible for the first edition of the TR. Unfortunately, Erasmus’ theology is no better than Westcott and Hort’s. Doug Kutilek concludes, “Doctrinally, there is no question where Erasmus stood. Our perception is not limited to a few hints or suggestions, a deduction here or an inference there. Boldly and repeatedly, Erasmus declares himself to be a loyal and devoted Romanist, consenting to all that Rome stood for doctrinally, with its Mary-worship, veneration of the saints, sacrifice of the mass, papal supremacy, purgatory, monastic vows and orders and all else. He refused to side with Luther, and vigorously opposed the Protestant Reformation. He sought and got the Pope’s sanction for his New Testament.” Doug Kutilek, Erasmus: His Greek Text and His Theology, IBRI Research Report No. 32 (Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, n.d.), 20.
20 Dr. Dell Johnson, “The Bible . . . Preserved From Satan’s Attack,” Seminar presented at Pensacola Christian College, April 1–2, 1996. This seminar was distributed to the public in videotape format.
21 Dr. Jeffrey A. Young, “Examination of Modern New Testament Text Criticism Theory and Methods: Version 2.0,” October 31, 1995 (Http://www.aloha.net/~bstaggs/ntcritic.txt).The following information is provided at the end of Young’s paper: “Seminary training from my Pastor since fall ‘89 (currently 2/3 done); Synodical Affiliation: Lutheran Churches of the Reformation; Church: Christ Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Ft. Wayne, IN; Employment: Magnavox Ft. Wayne, IN (soon to be part of Hughes Aircraft).”
22 Ibid. This paper was written as part of the requirements for his private seminary education with Pastor Kenneth K. Miller.
23 Ibid., 2.
24 Ibid., 25–26.
25 Ibid., 25.
26 Daniel Wallace makes an interesting observation regarding the claim that no one has ever answered Burgon’s refutation of Westcott and Hort. He says, “The first to articulate that Burgon’s views were unanswered and unanswerable was Burgon himself (Revision Revised, 36). One is tempted to think that these later writers have simply taken Burgon’s word on the matter without bothering to research the discussion in the last 100 years.” Wallace, “The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique,” JETS 37 (June 1994):289. Another possible reason that no refutation of Burgon’s “substantial” criticisms of Hort has been made is that modern critical theory agrees with much of Burgon’s argument. This point is lost on those who claim that Westcott and Hort are accepted “wholeheartedly” today!
27 Young, “Examination of Modern New Testament Text Criticism Theory and Methods,” 24.
28 Ibid., 24. Young admits this assumed connection between the modern CT and Westcott and Hort. He says, “This is why so much space has been given in the present essay for refutation of Westcott and Hort. Modern text critics’ conclusions are in practice identical with those of Westcott and Hort,” 24.
29 This definition is taken directly from the printed form of the presentation given on February 29, 1996.
30 For example, Kurt Aland, The Text of the New Testament (rev. ed.), 33. See also Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (3rd ed.), 137, 214, 216.
31 Westcott and Hort concluded that two manuscripts (Aleph and B) were the purest manuscripts available. Since these manuscripts were not corrupted by any scribe, Westcott and Hort considered them representative of a “neutral text.” Westcott and Hort considered the neutral text to be the original Greek except for a few minor exceptions. See Westcott and Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 222–225.
32 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (New York/Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992), 216.
33 Ibid., 214.
34 Westcott-Hort, An Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, 71.
35 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 182. Metzger cites Zuntz’s article, “The Critic Correcting the Author,” Philologus xcix (1955): 295–303, for further discussion of the possibility of an illogical original text.
36 Ibid., 185.
37 Hort suggested four text types: Neutral—a very pure reflection of the original; Alexandrian—a text that was close to the neutral but had more corruption; Western—a very corrupt copy of the original; and the Syrian—a text that was a recension based on the other three earlier text types.
38 Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research,” The Bible and Modern Scholarship, ed. J. Phillip Hyatt (Nashville/New York: Abingdon, 1965), 337.
39 Ibid., 340.
40 This point will be demonstrated later in this article.
41 Eldon Jay Epp, “The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (1974):396–397. It is interesting to note that Epp does deny the accuracy of Westcott and Hort’s terms. He says, “NOTE: The Westcott-Hort terms ‘Neutral’ and ‘Western’ are used throughout this paper for convenience, though in full recognition of their inadequacy” (391, note 13).
42 Ibid., 393.
43 Aland, “The Twentieth-Century Interlude in New Testament Criticism,” Text and Interpretation: Studies in the New Testament Presented to Matthew Black, ed. Ernest Best and R. McL. Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1979), 1–18.
44 Ibid., 8.
45 Ibid., 9.
46 Eldon Jay Epp, “A Continuing Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism?” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980):131–151.
47 Ibid., 133.
48 During committee deliberations for work on the UBSGNT in 1968, the majority of the editorial committee agreed with Aland’s position. See Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 33.
49 Hereafter, referred to as the NA.
50 See the preface to NA, 26th ed., 39–40.
51 Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 33.
52 See the preface to the third edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, viii.
53 See the preface to NA, 26th ed., 40, where it says of the 26th edition, “. . . a completely new form of the text and apparatus was being prepared by K. Aland.”
54 Aland suggested that the shift in NT textual criticism actually started informally much earlier than 1968. He said, “The early papyri illustrate well how the NT Greek text had been circulating in many and divergent forms, proceeding in different directions, at about the same time, in the same ecclesiastical province. In my opinion, an entirely new phase began in NT textual criticism when this began to be recognized. This new phase can be seen as beginning in the thirties, when the Chester Beatty papyri had become known and were being discussed. Or, to put it more cautiously, scholars should then have begun to be more aware of the change which these papyri had introduced in the field of textual criticism” (Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research,” 334).
55 It is also inappropriate to criticize modern (CT based) English translations for dependence upon Westcott and Hort if they have been translated or revised using a Greek text produced after 1968.
56 This new method of textual criticism bears a striking resemblance to the “seven notes of truth” suggested by Dean Burgon. Compare Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospel Vindicated and Established (London: George Bell, 1896), 40–67, with Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 280–281.
57 Dean John William Burgon, Revision Revised, (reprint, Paradise, PA: Conservative Classics, n.d.), 517, 272–275, 278–281.
58 Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research,” 334–335.
59 Ibid., 334–337.
60 Burgon, Revision Revised, 517–518, 303–305.
61 Aland, “The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research,” 340.
62 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 216.
63 Burgon, Revision Revised, 518, 304.
64 land, “The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Criticism,” 5.
65 Burgon, Revision Revised, 518.
66 Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 55.
67 Burgon, Revision Revised, 25–269. Westcott and Hort called those few instances in the Western text (which they viewed as corrupt) that they thought were original Western non-interpolations.
68 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 214; Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 33.
69 Burgon, Revision Revised, 351–357.
70 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 182–185.
71 The CT is not, however, identical to Westcott and Hort’s text. James White concludes concerning UBS4 and NA27, “These texts are more ‘Alexandrian’ in character than the Textus Receptus, which is based upon Byzantine manuscripts, but less ‘Alexandrian’ than the text produced by Westcott and Hort in 1881. The King James Only Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995), 45.
72 The fact that Westcott and Hort were right about one point does not mean that modern scholars are employing their theory. There is agreement that Westcott and Hort were incorrect about many points, such as the Neutral text, Western non-interpolations, and their suggested genealogy. Agreement on one point does not prove agreement in textual criticism theory.
73 Wallace, “The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1981):159–160.
74 Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established, 40.
75 See Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 280–281.
76 Bart Erhman, “New Testament Textual Criticism: Quest for Methodology,” (M.Div. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1981), 46.
77 Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established, 5. If this rate of change is interpolated for the rest of the New Testament, Burgon would suggest about 1150 changes in the text of the New Testament.
78 Burgon, Revision Revised, 125.
79 Mark H. Heuer, “An Evaluation of John W. Burgon’s Use of Patristic Evidence,” JETS 38 (December 1995):519–530.
80 This is probably most clearly stated by Aland. He says, “It must be pointed out, and this applies not only to Epp but to some others as well that all this talk of the ‘Westcott-Hort Text,’ to which all modern hand-editions supposedly conform closely if they are not reviving the Textus Receptus, is not only ‘somewhat oversimplified,’ but downright false.” “Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Criticism,” 4.
81 However, determining the Greek text that was used as the basis of an English translation should only be part of a proper evaluation of that text. Very few, if any, English translations rigidly follow a printed Greek text. Philip Comfort concludes, “Of course, none of these translations slavishly followed the printed text of any of these editions, for the translators operated according to the principle of eclecticism—usually choosing a reading from a particular text and occasionally adopting a reading from the critical apparatus.” Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 26