Monday, July 18, 2022

Against KJV-Onlyism: Stop Usurping the Original Text

          In the second half of the 1800s, some textual critics were wary of the momentum that was building in England and the United States in favor of a revision of the English Bible.  (Some individuals had already made new English translations – such as Living Oracles and The Book of the New Covenantbut they had little impact.)   But the situation changed when the Revised Version was published in 1881.  Its New Testament base-text reflected, for the most part, an abandonment of the Byzantine Text (which generally has the support of most Greek manuscripts), and an almost complete embrace of the Alexandrian Text, especially at points where the Alexandrian Text is supported by two early manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

          Meanwhile in America, defenders of the traditional text – as reflected in the English King James Version – tended to be suspicious of textual revisions, mainly for three reasons.  I give them in no particular order:  (1)  Some of the individuals calling for revision were doctrinally aberrant (with Unitarian tendencies).  (2)  Much analysis still needed to be done upon both already-known and newly discovered materials.  (3)  Future discoveries of pertinent materials were likely to make revisions obsolete virtually before the ink dried.  (The short lifespan of revisions was illustrated in Tischendorf’s eighth edition of the Greek New Testament, following his encounter with Codex Sinaiticus, in which Tischendorf changed the text in 3,505 places, compared to the seventh edition.)

          But no one, generally speaking, was saying that text-critical endeavors were not worthwhile.  No one opposed the Revised Version with more vigor than John Burgon, but Burgon was not categorically opposed to revision.  Burgon wrote (in Revision Revised, 1883, the following, in a footnote on p. 21:

            “Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text.  We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject.  Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g., at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.   We do but insist (1) That it is an incomparably better text than that which either Lachmann, or Tischendorf, or Tregelles has produced : infinitely preferable to the ‘New Greek Text’ of the Revisionists.  And, (2) That to be improved, the Textus Receptus will have to be revised on entirely different ‘principles’ from those which are just now in fashion.  Men must begin by unlearning the German prejudices of the last fifty years; and address themselves, instead, to the stern logic of facts.”

          Notice Burgon’s statement that “the Textus Receptus needs correction.  Burgon argued, though, that much more work needed to be done on the text before such a revision could be successfully undertaken:  in paragraph 23 (p. xxix) of the Preface to Revision Revised, Burgon stated, “After many years it might be found practicable to put forth by authority a carefully considered Revision of the commonly received Greek text.” Burgon also wrote (Revision Revised, p. 20), “Nothing may be rejected from the commonly received Text, except on evidence which shall clearly outweigh the evidence for retaining it.”

          It is now 2022.  Much of the study and research that Burgon hoped would be undertaken – and more – has been undertaken.   The Byzantine Text has been published, and is available to the public in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform and, with some differences, in Hodges & Farstad’s The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.

          Yet congregations have arisen in which the King James Version’s base-text – the Textus Receptus – is regarded as perfect and incapable of correction.  The Textus Receptus has even been treated as if it is immutable and authoritative by “Confessional Bibliologists.”  At least, I have never seen a “Confessional Bibliologist” agree with Burgon that the Textus Receptus needs correction, or say forthrightly that any reading anywhere in the base-text of the KJV New Testament is not original.

          Progress has been made since Burgon’s time – but KJV-Onlyists have either not acknowledged it, or else regarded it as unpalatable when served up on the same plate as the heavy pro-Alexandrian bias that is on display in the Nestle-Aland and UBS compilations (the main base-text for the NIV, ESV, CSB, NASB, NLT, and NRSV).  Some textual changes which impacted English Bibles in 1881 and more recently (looking especially you, TNIV and NIV 2011) were steps backwards.  But today, let’s consider the points in the text of the Gospels where definite progress has been made, away from the compilations of the 1500s and early 1600s, toward the original text.

          Specifically:  look at these readings which are supported not only by the Westcott-Hort compilation, and by the Nestle-Aland compilation, but also by Hodges & Farstad’s Majority Text and by the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  In other words, look at all the places in the text of the Gospels where the basis for what is read in the KJV is NOT the majority reading, and where the Textus Receptus is not, and never has been, the “Antiochan line” that KJV-Onlyists routinely pretend that it is). 

          A very thorough list of readings in the Textus Receptus that are not in the Majority Text has been made available online by Michael Marlowe.  Marlowe has presented detailed lists of such readings found in Acts 1-14, Acts 15-28, Romans, First & Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First & Second Thessalonians, First & Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, First & Second Peter, First, Second, & Third John, Jude, Revelation 1-11, and Revelation 12-22 (and he has also made a collection of variations found in different editions of the Textus Receptus that were published in the 1500s).

          Focusing on the Gospels, here are 100 readings which everyone should acknowledge as improvements on the King James Version.


4:18 – do not include the proper name “Jesus.”

5:27 – do not include “”by them of old time”

6:18 – do not include “openly”

7:2 – do not include “again”

8:5 – do not include the proper name “Jesus”

8:15 – replace “unto them” with “unto him”

8:23 – replace “a boat” with “the boat”

9:4 – replace “knowing” with “seeing”

9:36 – replace “weary” with “were harassed”

11:16 – read “others” instead of “fellows”

12:8 – do not include “even” after “Lord”

12:35 – omit “of the heart” after “treasure”

14:22 – replace “his disciples” with “the disciples”

14:22 – replace “a ship” with “the ship”

18:28 – replace “that” with “what”

18:29 – remove the word “all” at the end of the verse

19:9 – replace “except it be for fornication” with “except for fornication”

20:21 – replace “the left” with “your left” 

20:26 – replace “let him be your servant” with “must be your servant”

24:17 – replace “any thing” with “things”

24:27 – remove the word “also”

25:44 – remove the word “him”


4:4 – remove “of the air”

4:9 – remove “unto them”

5:11 – replace “mountains” with “mountain”

6:15 – remove “or”

6:33 – replace “the people” with “they”

6:44 – remove “about”

7:3 – replace “oft” with “with the fist” or “ceremonially”

8:24 – add “I see them” between “I see men” and “as trees walking”

8:31 – include “of the” before “scribes”

9:7 – remove “saying”

10:2 – remove “the”

10:14 – remove “and” after “Me”

10:28 – remove “Then”

10:29 – include “sake” after “gospel’s” at the end of the verse

11:4 – replace “the” with “a”

12:20 – remove “Now” at the beginning of the verse

12:23 – remove “therefore”

12:32 – remove “God”

13:9 – replace “be brought” with “stand”

14:9 – include “And” at the beginning of the verse

15:3 – remove the words “but he answered nothing”


2:21 – replace “the child” with “him”

2:22 – replace “her” with “their” (As far as I know, no Greek manuscript made before the time of Erasmus which reads “her”)

3:2 – replace “priests” with “priest”

3:19 – replace “his brother Philip’s” with “his brother’s”

4:8 – remove “for” before “it is written”

5:30 – include “the” before “publicans” (or “tax collectors”)

6:10 – replace “the man” with “him”

6:10 – remove “so”

6:26 – remove “unto you”

6:28 – remove “and” before “pray”

7:11 – replace “the day after” with “soon afterwards”

7:31 – remove “And the Lord said” at the beginning of the verse

8:3 – replace “him” with “them”

8:34 – remove “went and”

8:51 – replace “James and John” with “John and James”

10:6 – replace “the son” with “a son”

10:12 – remove “But”

10:20 – remove “rather”

11:54 – remove “and”

12:56 – replace “of the sky and of the earth” with “of the earth and of the sky”

13:15 – replacd “hypocrite” with “hypocrites’’

13:35 – remove “Verily”

16:25 – inclde “here” after “now”

17:6. Read “you have” instead of “you had”

17:9 – remove “him”

17:24 – remove “also”

19:23 – remove “the” before bank”

20:5 – remove “then” after “Why”

20:9 – remove “certain” before “man”

22:17 – remove “the” before “cup”

22:42 – . Read “willing to remove” instead of “willing, remove”

22:45 – replace “his” with “the”

23:25 – remove “to them”

23:55 – remove “also”


1:28 – replace “Bethabara” with “Bethany

1:29 – replace “John” with “he”

1:39 – remove “for”

1:43 – remove “Jesus”

1:43 – add “Jesus”

2:22 – remove “unto them”

3:2 – remove “Jesus”

4:30 – remove “Then”

4:31 – remove “his”

6:24 – remove “also”

7:16 – include “Therefore” after “Jesus”

7:29 – remove “But”

7:33 – remove “unto them”

7:50 – remove “Jesus”

9:36 – include “And” before “Who”

10:16 – replace one fold” with “one flock”

13:25 – include “thus” after “lying”

14:23 – replace “words” with “word”

14:30 – remove “this”

16:3 – remove “unto you”

17:20 - replace “shall believe” with “believe”

20:29 – remove “Thomas”

           Two non-original readings outside the Gospels may serve (as representatives of a much larger number of readings) as examples of inaccuracies in the Textus Receptus that impact translation.  (1)  In Philippians 4:3, most manuscripts read Ναι (“Yes”) instead of Και (“And”) at the beginning of this verse.  (2)  In Colossians 1:6:  most manuscripts include the words καὶ αὐξανόμενον (“and growing”), a phrase which would be vulnerable to accidental loss due to its occurrence between the words καρποφορούμενον and καθως.

         The original readings listed here all have one thing in common:  they are doctrinally benign.  Everyone interested in maintaining the actual traditional text, and not a compilation marred by non-original scribal inventions, should accept these God-given readings, and reject the readings in the Textus Receptus that were concocted by scribes.  Whatever rationale KJV-Onlyists have had to prefer the Textus Receptus – sentimentality, the influence of propaganda, stability for stability’s sake, or whatever – should be outweighed by the rationale that prefers God-given readings over readings (or absences) made by scribes.  A thief does not become king by sitting on the king’s throne, even if he sits there a long time.      




Bobby said...

This leads me to believe the KJB is pretty darn accurate compared to the Alexandrian line. I'll stick with the KJB until a real revision of the Byzantine line is published. Then I'll consider.

James Snapp Jr said...

The Patriarchal Text has already been produced (and this was done over a century ago) and the Byzantine Textform has already been published (and is readily available online for free) and the EOB New Testament has also been published. So has the World English Bible and other English versions in which the New Testament is essentially based on the Byzantine Text.

Conan said...

Outstanding James Snap! I'm marking the same Byzantine Text corrections to my Sinai and comparative New Testament (Edwin Leigh) which through special Type one can view the KJV, Vaticanus, Sinaticus, Alexandrus all at the same time. I am confident when I have the Majority/Byzantine Text which I consider closest to the Original

James Snapp Jr said...

I don't consider the Byzantine Text to be the original text in all respects. Some of its readings look very much like accretions influenced by lection-cycles,
But if it's the Byzantine Text that you think is closest to the original, why not just adopt the Byzantine Text or the Majority Text, and go from there?

MidusItus said...

One thing you will see is that the KJV used a number of different TR editions. None of them have all the variants. Scrivener has a list that indicates this. I have not found a TR edition that has all the variants in it. I use the Trinity Bible Society Greek NT which is based on Scrivener's Greek NT text. Anyway, just saying, I don't even bother with considering any Reformation TR to be "perfect". I think God indicated what he wanted in the NT using the KJ translators.
Just as a note, the Synod of Dort also upheld these variants in its endeavor to translate a new bible for the Dutch people. You can see this information in my paper "The Witness of God is Greater".

MidusItus said...

I have read enough of Burgon to know he is not a KJV fan. Burgon does a good job demonstrating how corrupt and liberal the 1881 revision is. That is what he is really good at. The 1881 revision is simply the product of the Tractarian movement in England. The antidote to that movement is the 3 vol edition of William Goode's "Divine Rule of Faith and Practice". The first two volumes are gold.

Conan said...

Perhaps I should be more specific. While the Byzantine Text may not be exactly like the Original Text always, it seems to me to be more highly accurate than say Vaticanus/Sinaiticus. The book that you reviewed here "Scribal Slips" showed that Vaticanus and especially Sinaiticus is missing text because of eye skip. So if I am reading the previously mentioned "The Sinai and Comparative New Testament" and see Vat/Sin have the support of the Byzantine Text verses the KJV/TR then I have great confidence in the reading. If I see the TR/Byzantine Text verses Vat/Sin then I have much more confidence in the more strongly supported reading. There may be places where the Byzantine Text is strongly divided and may not have the original text, but when using the "Comparative New Testament" it seems imperative to know what it's reading is.
I guess I do give it great weight.
As far as the Byzantine Text I do have which uses Pierpont and Robinson.

James Snapp Jr said...

You might also consider looking into the EOB-NT, which I reviewed at .

Conan said...

Thank you James! And thank you for all your post's which are very informative!

Demian said...

I enjoyed the title, James ;-) This is how the fathers of old would address error in the early church. I learned with them that both KJV-Onlyism and Alexandrian Text-Onlyism (and obviously Vulgate Bible-Onlyism) are not what was handed down to the universal church. Your blog is a gift to the church of Christ. Thank you!

Conan said...

So the James, I noticed that at the Bible Researcher website there are 72 differences between the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus (Scrivener) in Matthew, yet on your page there are only listed 22 differences in English? Is that because you only consider these 22 the original text verses the other differences between the Majority verses TR not listed?

Same with the other Gospels?

Joel Metzger said...

Thanks Brother James, your latest post against KJV only is a good example of why I like this blog, you seem steadfastly opposed to falling into either the, anything but the KJV, or, nothing but the KJV, camps. Unfortunately the Bible topic seems so extremely polarized (especially when browsing the internet on the subject) that very few seem to have a real balanced, facts based discussion, and are willing to say both camps have errors in one way or another.

James Snapp Jr said...


A reading's non-inclusion in the list should not be assumed to be due to a suspicion that it is original. Many of the KJV-readings in Marlowe's list were not included, for a variety of reasons (including the simple consideration that I didn't want to burden readers with the chore of reviewing them all; I limited the readings in the Gospels to 100.)

Conan said...

Thank you James for the clarification! Again, excellent blog. Thanks for sharing with us.