|Text of the
New Testament (2)
The Difference in Texts
Westcott and Hort based their Greek text upon the readings of A, B, Aleph, C, D. Upon the
basis of a handful of documents, they rejected 48 whole verses from the New Testament
text, and made, according to one estimate 2,288 differences affecting translation
[Evaluating Versions of the New Testament; Everett W. Fowler; Maranatha Baptist Press,
Maranatha Baptist College; Watertown, WI; 1981; p. 68], and a total number of 5,788
differences in the text according to other sources [The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A
History and Evaluation; Jack Lewis; Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI; 1982; pp. 69
and 335]. The readings of the Textus Receptus were termed Syrian by Westcott and Hort,
and of them they said, "the range of documents which attest it may be safely rejected at
once." [The New Testament in the Original Greek; 1891; p. 554]. Thus, with the wave of
the hand 95-96% of Greek manuscripts extant are dismissed, not to be considered in
determining the text by Westcott and Hort.
Those textual scholars which have followed in the twentieth century, have accepted the
basic concept of textual criticism utilized by Westcott and Hort; although there have been
minor changes in the method applied to the sorting of texts into "families" or text-types.
Thus, the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testaments and Nestle's Greek New
Testament are based upon the philosophy of approach used by Westcott and Hort.
It should not be thought, however, that the Traditional Text has been without its
champions. Both Dean J.W. Burgon [12 volumes indexing quotations of the NT by early
writers located in the British Museum, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According
to Mark, The Revision Revised, and posthumously The Causes of Corruption of the
Traditonal Text of the Holy Gospels, and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels
Vindicated and Established], Dean F.H.A. Scrivener [Bezae Codex Cantabrigiensis: being
an exact copy, in ordinary type, of the celebrated Uncial Graeco-Latin Manuscript of the
Four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, written early in the Sixth Century, and
presented to the University of Cambridge by Theodore Beza, a.d. 1581, with a Critical
Introduction, Annotations, and Facsimiles; A Full Collation of the Codex Sinaiticus with
the Received Text of the New Testament, to which is prefixed a Critical Introduction;
The New Testament in the Original Greek, according to the Text followed in the
Authorized Version, together with Variations adopted in the Revised Version; Six
Lectures on the Text of the NT&c; Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New
Testament for use of Biblical Students; Nov. Text. textus Stephanus &c.] were world
class scholars of unquestionable calibre who found against the Westcott/Hort theory of
textual criticism from it s very beginning. Edward Miller [editor of Scrivener's 4th edition of
Plain Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Corruption of the Traditonal Text of the
Text of the Holy Gospels, and his uncle's (J.W. Burgon) posthumous works; and author
of A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament], Benjamin G. Wilkinson [Our
Authorized Bible Vindicated], and David O. Fuller [Which Bible?, True or Falese? The
Westcott-Hort Theory Examined; and Counterfeit or Genuine? Mark 16 John 8?; all
published by Grand Rapids International Publications: Grand Rapids, MI] have
championed the Received Text through the 20th century. They have been joined by others:
Wilbur N. Pickering [The Identity of the New Testament Text, Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 1977],
Gordon Clark [Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism], Edward Freer Hills [The King
James Version Defended] and Earnest Cadman Colwell [What is the Best New
Testament?; The University of Chicago Press: Chicago; 1952].
John William Burgon stated the difference in approach to the Greek text, between the
Majority adherents and the Westcott/Hort theorists, well:
Does the truth of the Text of Scripture dwell with the vast multitude of copies, uncial and
cursive, concerning which nothing is more remarkable than the marvelous agreement
which subsists between them? Or is it rather to be supposed that the truth abides
exclusively with a very little handful of manuscripts, which at once differ from the great bulk
of witnesses, and -- strange to say -- also amongst themselves?
The advocates of the Traditional Text urge that the Consent without concert of so many
hundreds of copies, executed by different persons, at diverse times, in widely sundered
regions of the Church, is a presumptive proof of their trustworthiness, which nothing can
invalidate but some sort of demonstration that they are untrustworthy guides after all.
The advocates of the old uncials -- for it is the text exhibited by one or more of five Uncial
Codexes known as A B Aleph C D which is set up with so much confidence -- are observed
to claim that the truth must needs reside exclusively with the objects of their choice. They
seem to base their claim on "antiquity"; but the real confidence of many of them lies
evidently in a claim to subtle divination, which enables them to recognize a true reading or
the true text when they see it. Strange, that it does not seem to have struck such critics that
they assume the very thing which has to be proved. [The Traditional Text of the Holy
Gospels Vindicated and Established; pp. 16,17]
The difference in approach to the text of the New Testament is seen in the approach taken
by the two schools of thought. For illustrative purposes, we shall contrast the approaches
taken by J. Harold Greenlee [Professor of New Testament Greek, Graduate School of
Theology, Oral Roberts University] in his Introduction to Textual Criticism [William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company; Grand Rapids, MI; 1964; pp. 114-119] and J.W. Burgon
in The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established [pp. 16,29].
They are paralled here to make it easier to compare.
|J. HAROLD GREENLEE
"...there may be some advantage in considering
internal evidence first, since it is more subjective,
so that one's thinking will not from the first be
unduly influenced by evidence of the mss."
Procedure for Deciding Internal Evidence
(i) The shorter reading is often preferable...
(ii) The harder reading is often preferable...
(iii) The reading from which the other readings in
a variant could most easily have been derived is
(iv) The reading which is characteristic of the
author is generally preferable...
Procedure for Deciding External Evidence
(i) Divide the manuscripts into text-types.
(ii) The characteristics of the individual
witnesses to a text-type must likewise be
(iii) Which reading has the best mss support by
text-types and/or parts of text-types.
Weigh the evidence against the internal evidence.
"There can be no Science of Textual Criticism, I
repeat -- and therefore no security for the
Inspired word -- so long as the subjective
judgment, which may easily degenerate into
individual caprice, is allowed ever to determine
which readings shall be rejected, which retained."
1. Antiquity, or Primitiveness;
2. Consent of Witnesses, or Number;
3. Variety of Witnesses, or Catholicity;
4. Respectability of Witnesses, or Weight;
5. Continuity, or Unbroken Tradition;
6. Evidence of the Entire Passage, or Context;
7. Internal Considerations, or Reasonableness.
The Witnesses referred to are the manuscripts,
lectionaries, versions, and quotations from early
The most notable point of difference between the two approaches is what is considered
first. Greenlee advocates examining the internal evidence; Burgon addvocates examining
the external evidence. The question is one of whether the primary consideration
should be subjection or objective: whether the theories of the critic, or the evidence of
the manuscripts, should be most important
This is the question which underlies the text of the New Testament in the English
translations. This is the determining factor in deciding whether the text underlying the
King James Version is inadequate, or satisfactory. This is the pivotal point in the
inclusion or omission of 48 verses in the New Testament, as well as portions of many
[continued in part 3]