Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Textus Receptus Is Not the Majority Text

One of the claims made by those who advocate the KJV as the best or only legitimate (English) translation of the Bible is that the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus [TR] which itself follows the traditional Majority Text which is the best manuscript tradition. A key problem with this view is that the TR is not identical with the Majority Text. It is fair to say that the TR belongs to the Byzantine text tradition, but this is not the same as saying that the TR is identical to the Majority Text at every point. In fact, according to Daniel Wallace, there are 1,838 places where the TR diverges from the Majority Text (Daniel B. Wallace, “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text,” cited 19 March 2012; online: http://bible.org/article/some-second-thoughts-majority-text).

The following is a small selection of examples where the TR and the Majority Text differ:

In Matt 27:35 the TR contains the words ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ προφήτου· διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μοῦ ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον in order that the word by the prophet might be fulfilled: they divided my garments among themselves, and cast lots for my clothing. The Majority Text does not have these words. In fact, the Majority Text agrees with the Alexandrian tradition at this point.

The TR includes Acts 8:37, which reads: εἶπε δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος, Eἰ πιστεύεις ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας, ἔξεστιν· ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπε, Πιστεύω τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι τὸν ’Iησοῦν Xριστόν And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, it is permissible.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The Majority Text does not include this verse, in agreement with the Alexandrian tradition.

The situation regarding 1 John 5:7–8 is a famous case. The TR, agreeing with the Latin Vulgate of the day, includes the words ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατὴρ ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one at the end of v. 7, and also the words καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ and there are three that testify on the earth at the beginning of v. 8. Once again, the Majority Text does not include these words in agreement with the Alexandrian tradition.

In Rev 16:5 Beza’s emendation of the text from ὅσιος holy one to ἐσόμενος who will be (without any manuscript evidence for doing so) resulted in a textual variant emerging within the TR. In other words, the TR is not unified at this point. The Majority Text and the Alexandrian tradition both have ὅσιος.

In Rev 22:19 the TR mentions the book of life, whereas all other manuscript traditions speak of the tree of life, except for some corrupted Latin manuscripts. It seems that this corruption occurred as a result of a scribal mistake: libro was substituted for ligno in the Vulgate, which was in time translated back into a small number of Greek manuscripts, resulting in the phrase βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς the book of life appearing in the TR.

All in all, it is incorrect to assume that the TR and the Majority Text are identical.

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