Monday, March 12, 2012

Examples of Textual Variants in the Textus Receptus

There is a simplistic view on the part of some Christians which says that God has preserved a pure Greek text of the New Testament, and that this pure text is the Textus Receptus [TR]. One of the problems with this view is that the TR itself is not a unified tradition. In fact the TR itself is not a group of manuscripts, but a series of printed editions of the Greek New Testament published between 1516 and 1641. The first published printed edition of the Greek New Testament was compiled by Desiderius Erasmus, a Catholic priest and scholar. Erasmus collected five twelfth century and two fifteenth century Byzantine-type manuscripts in order to produce a single Greek text for publication. The name Textus Receptus was not used by Erasmus; but comes from the publisher’s preface to the 1633 edition produced by Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir. Because this edition was considered to be following on in the line of the work begun originally by Erasmus, in the end the name textus receptus was applied to the manuscript tradition reflected in the group of over twenty editions of the Greek New Testament that developed from the original edition of Erasmus.

Given that the term Textus Receptus is used to refer to a group of over twenty editions of the Greek New Testament, produced by at least four different compilers, it is not surprising that the various printed editions of the TR do exhibit differences among themselves. Overall the differences are not major, but nevertheless differences do exist.

Frederick Scrivener has identified that the KJV followed the 1589 and 1598 editions of Beza instead of the 1550 Stephanus edition on 113 occasions (F. H. A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible: Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives [Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1884]: 248–57). He has also identified 59 occasions on which the KJV followed Beza over against Stephanus (ibid., 257–61).

Some differences between the 1589 and 1598 editions of Beza, and the 1550 edition of Stephanus, that Scrivener mentions, include the following:

In Mark 8:14 Beza includes the phrase οἱ μαθηταὶ the disciples after ἐπελάθοντο they forgot, whereas Stephanus omits it.

In Luke 10:22 Beza omits the words καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εἶπε and having turned to the disciples, he said, whereas Stephanus includes them.

In John 16:33 Beza has incorrectly corrected a mistake of Stephanus that the latter corrected in a corrigendum at the end of his edition. Thus Beza corrected ἒξετε to ἓξετε you will have. Stephanus’s corrected text, however, is ἒχετε you have.

In Rev 5:11 Stephanus (following Erasmus) omits the clause καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν μυριάδες μυριάδων and their number was ten thousand times ten thousand, whereas Beza includes it.

In Rev 16:5 Beza departs from the traditional reading ὅσιος holy one, and emends the text to read ἐσόμενος who will be, seemingly without any manuscript evidence for doing so. Stephanus preserves the traditional reading ὅσιος. Interestingly, the KJV follows Beza at this point rather than Stephanus.

As the small sample of examples above show, the TR itself is not a uniform tradition.


Anonymous said...

Hey since Erasmus and Stephanus omitted some words from the book of Revelation, that means they got damned to hell right?

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, Anonymous!

Interesting thought. I guess it might be up to whether or not they did it deliberately, or were just following the best manuscripts that they had at their disposal.

Anyway, God knows the situation, and I'm sure that he will deal with those involved in a manner that is just.