Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Textus Receptus: How Bad Is It?

          The flaws in the Textus Receptus - defined here as the base-text of the English King James Version - are well-know to those who have studied textual criticism.  Due to the limitations of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza's manuscripts, the Textus Receptus fails to display the majority reading in over a thousand places in Matthew-Jude, and in Revelation 22, the Textus Receptus to this day has non-original readings which Erasmus retro-translated into Greek from Latin.  Although it is generally a sound representative of the Byzantine Text in Matthew-Jude, minority readings pop up in every Gospel, in Acts, and in the epistles - on rare occasions (such as in Acts 9:5-6) readings with no Greek support at all.

          But today is April 28, the day when Billy the Kid escaped custody - so instead of focusing on how bad the TR was, let's put the spotlight today on how GOOD the Textus Receptus is.  (Billy the Kid might not have been a great gunfighter, but he was a good jaibreaker!)  Equipped with a low number of manuscripts, mostly Byzantine, the scholars of the 1500s were able to filter out scribal mistakes and give Tyndale, Luther, and the translators of the KJV a Greek base-text which transmitted (for the most part - allowing for harmonizations, name-spelling, the occasional glitch-reading, etc,) the same message that the original text transmitted in the first century.

          Some may say, "In 2024, we don't need the Textus Receptus anymore."  I agree.  The Byzantine Textform is better.  The Solid Rock GNT is better.  Not only do we have many more Greek manuscripts available than the scholars of the 1500s had, but we also have much wider versional evidence, and much older evidence in both Greek and Latin and Syriac, et al. But is there any case in which the Textus Receptus and the oldest extant manuscript agree, saying the same thing, and the Byzantine Textform, the Majority Text, the SBLGNT, the Nestle-Aland NTG and the UBS GNT disagree?

          There is.  Turn to First Peter 5:8.  "Νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε· ὁ ἀντίδικος ὑμῶν διάβολος, ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος, περιπατεῖ ζητῶν τίνα καταπίῃ" is the Byzantine form of this verse.  The Textus Receptus is different:  there is an οτί between γρηγορήσατε and ὁ ἀντίδικος which is in neither the Byzantine Text nor in the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilations.     In our earliest Greek witness to the text of this part of First Peter - Papyrus 72 - we also find this οτί!  Which just goes to show you that in the field of New Testament textual criticism, there is no such thing as an unimportant Greek manuscript.  Even the scribes who made the manuscripts upon which the Textus Receptus was based can possess the same scribal tendencies that the scribes of the earliest Greek manuscript had.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

News: Stephen C. Carlson Discovers an Irrelevant (?) Unregistered Manuscript in Paris

Stephen C. Carlson, Associate Professor at

Australian Catholic University (ACU), recently visited Paris (the one in France, not Texas) and discovered at the National Library of France an unregistered folio containing text from the Gospel of Mark!  Specifically, it has text from Mark 10.  The text is difficult to read and it is even more difficult on the opposite side.  There is enough to deduce that it is Byzantine.

And that means, to quote Kurt Aland, whose influence upon the Nestle/Aland compilation was immense, that it must be ignored, along with the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.  Aland's statement can be found on page 142 of The Text of the New Testament which he co-authored with Barbara Aland:  "All of these minuscules exhibit a purely or predominantly Byzantine text.  And this is not a peculiarity of the minuscules, but a characteristic they share with a considerable number of uncials.  They are all irrelevant for textual criticism, at least for establishing the original form of the text and its development in the early centuries."

Not everyone subscribes to the Alands' estimate of the value of Byzantine manuscripts - I certainly do not.  To our colleague Dr. Carlson I say, congratulations!  May such serendipitous events continue to occur. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

What We've Always Wanted: A More Reliable Manuscript-Dating Method

In honor of this special day, and having had no time to prepare a post in honor of the occasion, here is a post from a few years ago about an exciting new method in dating manuscripts.  I must say I am disappointed that I have not heard of any new developments.