A Survey of the Documents and History of the Bible
Part Five : A Survey of English Bible History
[The Bible Believers' Resource Page has received permission
to post this reference material to provide helpful and sound answers to critics of the AV
1611and those who would promote or otherwise support use of the corrupted modern versions
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men or the ministries cited as sources in this study material].
Compiled by Jack Moorman
posted with permission
This rewource will take a few minutes to
Contents of Part Five : First Section - Page 129 to 185
- page 129 -
The ten early versions listed above [in Part 4] will give
you a good picture of how God dispersed His word to the population centers of that day.
But the most important later developments in Bible History center in England and the
Continent. The following pages survey the major epochs in England and Europe leading up to
the translation of the Authorized Version of 1611.
XXVII - A HISTORICAL OUTLINE OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE
AND THERE LANGUAGE
In order to trace the history of the English Scriptures, it is necessary to remember a
little of the history of the English people and their language.
1. THE EARLY SETTLERS
In the millenniums BC, people from Spain and Brittany in north western France settled
on hilltops in southern England. These were followed by settlers from the Rhine and Danube
river regions of mainland Europe. This latter group built large circular monuments with
stones, of which Stonehenge is an example.
2. THE FIRST INVADERS
The first invaders of England were the Celts. They began crossing the English Channel
in the 700's BC. The Celts, a warlike people, were divided into various tribes, and
invaded in several waves. The earliest invading tribe, the Gaels, settled in the western
and northern areas of tire island. The second wave the Britons, or Brythons, occupied most
of what is now England and Wales. The Celts worshipped native gods through priests known
as Druids. They used iron and mined tin. They traded with the Gauls in what is now France.
3. THE ROMAN CONQUEST
In 55 BC Julius Caesar conquered the Gauls in France and then a year later invaded
Britain and defeated some of the Celts. He withdrew after forcing the Celts to give him
In AD 43 Claudius conquered Britannia (as the island was then called). The Celtic
tribes were easily defeated, and Rome ruled England for 400 years. History records how
England prospered under Roman rule. It was a Roman province and protected from tile
warlike peoples of Scotland by forts and wails.
4. THE GERMANIC INVASIONS
The Roman soldiers left England in the early 400's to help defend Rome against
barbarian invaders. With the Romans gone, the Britons could not protect themselves against
invasion by tribesmen from Scotland called Picts and people from Ireland called Scots. But
the greatest danger came from seafaring
- page 130 -
Germanic tribes, especially the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. They first raided the coast.
In the mid 400's, they began to establish permanent settlements. The Jutes settled in
south eastern England. The Angles and Saxons set up kingdoms throughout southern and
eastern England. The whole country became known as Angle-land. The native Britons held
only the mountain areas of extreme western and northern England.
In 596 Pope Gregory I sent Augustine to Kent, thousands were "converted",
including Ethelbert, King of the Jutes. Augustine built a monastery near Canterbury, and
became the first archbishop of Canterbury - the religious center of England. The Picts and
Scots in the north were also converted to this Roman type of Christianity. The Latin
Vulgate became their Bible. From this point onward until 1534, England was officially a
However, as we saw earlier, the native Britons (Celts) had had a different and truer
form of Christianity and purer Bible - the Old Latin. Stanley in "Historic Memorials
of Canterbury" records on pp. 33, 34 how Augustine treated with contempt the early
Christian Britons and connived with the Angles and Saxons in their frightful
extermination. However, after Augustine's death, when these same Anglo-Saxons began to
terrify the papal leaders in England to the extent that they fled back to Rome, it was the
British or Celtic Christians of Scotland who occupied the forsaken fields. It is evident
from this that the original roots of British Christianity was not Rome but the
missionaries who came into that land in the early centuries from Judea or Asia Minor.
5. ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD
The Saxons occupied four separate "nations" in the south, and the Angles
three in the north and east. These seven kingdoms became known as the
"Heptarchy". From 500 to 800 in successive stages, one of the seven would rule
the other six.
King Egbert of Wessex (West Saxon), the last "nation" to control the
Heptarchy, is often considered to be the first king of England.
During the 800's, Danish raiders attacked England and easily conquered all the Angles-
Saxon kingdoms except Wessex. 'Their King Alfred the Great resisted and then in 886
defeated the Danes and forced them to withdraw to the northeastern third of England. This
became known and Danelaw. However, in the 100 years after Alfred's death in 899, Danish
power increased. In 1016 Canute, a brother of the King of Denmark defeated the king of
Wessex (Ethelred II) and became king of England. Danish rule collapsed though after his
death in 1035.
Under Edward the Confessor, the son of Ethelred II the Saxons again came to power, but
it was to be short-lived. He built the first church building on the site of what is now
6. THE NORMAN CONQUEST
Edward the Confessor died without a direct heir to the throne. The English nobles chose
Harold of Wessex as king. But a French nobleman, William Duke of Normandy, claimed that
Edward had promised him the throne. William awarded England and defeated the forces of
Harold in the Historic Battle of Hastings. On Christmas Day, 1066, William the Conqueror
was crowned king of England.
- page 131 -
He divided England among the Normans and forced most of the Anglo-Saxons to become
serfs. His survey of land and property owners to determine taxes is known as the Domesday
The Normans spoke French at first, but gradually their language blended with that of
the Anglo-Saxons. In time they became a united people.
This brings us to the matter of the English language itself.
7. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The history of the English language is divided into three periods.
(1) OLD ENGLISH OR ANGLO-SAXON UNTIL C.1100
As we have seen, until about AD 450, England was not called England, nor was english
spoken there. Before that time, the country was called Britain, and the people were known
as Britons. Most of these spoke Celtic. The Celtic dialects include Breton, Irish,
Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh. Being under Roman rule for 400 years, Latin was also spoken.
The basis and origin of the actual English language is to be found with the Germanic
invaders - Angles, Saxons and Jutes. As we have seen, the very word England is from Angle.
The language developed with many words evolving from Latin but few from Celtic. The Danish
invaders also contributed to the language's development. Also through Latin, many Greek
words have come into English.
(2) MIDDLE ENGLISH C.1100 TO 1450
With William the Conqueror, almost overnight Normans replaced Englishmen as the chief
landowners and church leaders. The Norman dialect of French became the language of tile
ruling class, and the literary language, whereas English continued as the language of the
Three hundred years later, during the mid-1300's, English again became the chief
literary language and the usual language of the ruling class. But by that time, it had
changed greatly, thousands of French words had conic into the English language. This
transference of French into English continued into the 1400¡¯s.
(3) MODERN ENGLISH C. 1450 TO PRESENT
Words still were and are borrowed from other languages. But with the advent of
so-called Modern English, the period of rapid change and development had ended and the
language had stabilized into the basic form that we know it today.
The believer should also see the hand of God in this development of the English
language, for beside being the most prominent form of Communication in the world, it has
been he foremost vehicle of God spreading His Word.
With this summery of the origins of the English peoples and language it will only be
necessary to list the further important dates of English History.
- page 132 -
8. FURTHER IMPORTANT DATES OF ENGLISH HISTORY
||English barons force King John to agree to the Magna
||England conquers Wales.
||Edward I calls together the Model Parliament.
||Scotland is assured of its independence from England by winning the Battle of
||England fights the Hundred Years' War with France and loses its lands on the European
||Two royal families fight for the throne in the Wars of the Roses.
||Henry VIII has Parliament pass a law decreeing that the King and not Pope
is head of the church in England. This ended the thousand year reign of Catholicism and
led to the formation of the Church of England as we now know it.
||The English fleet defeats the Spanish Armada.
||England and Scotland are joined in a union under one king, James I.
||England becomes a Commonwealth and then a Protectorate.
(The above is taken mainly from the world Book Encyclopedia.)
XXVIII - IMPORTANT DATES IN. THE HISTORY OF BIBLE
(From "Which Bible")
||Date of the Copper Scroll from Cave III at Qumran
||Romans destroy Jerusalem
||Latest date possible of a scroll found at Masada, counting
||Death of John
||Birth of Justin Martyr
||Birth of Italic Church
||Death of Rabbi Aquiba
||Date of Peshitta, the Syrian Bible
||Date of the Italic Bible
||Assigned date of P75
||Heathen massacre of Gallic Christians
||Date of Clement of Alexandria
||The tract Yoma
||Date of some Aramaic words claimed couldn't have been used
400-700 years earlier
||Vast mutilations in many copies of Scriptures have already
||Date of Clement of Alexandra
||Date of active use of Codex B
||Earliest date that Rome sent missionaries toward the West
||Dates of Diocletian, last pagan emperor of Rome
||Constantine becomes emperor of Rome
||Constantine Sunday Law
- page 133 -
||Constantine orders and finances a Rival Greek Bible
||Texas Receptus is dominant Graeco-Syrian text (same period
that of the production of "B" and "Aleph")
||Council of Laodicea
||Council names the 39 books as canonical
||Received (Traditional) Text is still called the Vulgate
||Church Fathers up to this date testify that the
Traditional Text was in existence and that it was the predominant one
||Augustine prefers the Italic Text
||Date of Jerome
||Roman Empire is breaking up into modern kingdoms;
diffusion of pure Latin
||Codex B falls into discredit and disuse
||Codex B Abandoned
||Rome sends missionaries to England and Germany
||Gregory I begins to destroy Waldensian records
||"The Noble Lesson" written
||Peter Waldo begins his work
||Council of Toulouse
||Pope orders crusade against those of Southern France and
Northern Italy who won't bow to him
||Council condemns the Waldensian New ,Testament
||Asserted date that Latin Vulgate (Traditional) still held
its own against Jerome's Vulgate
||Jesuits translate the Vulgate into Italian
||Jesuits translate the Vulgate into French
||Printing is invented
||End of Dark Ages
||Constantinople falls; thousands of MSS (Greek) taken to
||Erasmus reaches at Cambridge Tyndale studies Greek with
||Erasmus¡¯ Greek New Testament printed Erasmus' Greek
New Testament is first in 1000 years
||Loyola wounded at the siege of Pampeluna
||Erasmus' third edition is printed: foundation for Textus
||Tyndale's New Testament is published
||Tyndale's Pentateuch is published
||Erasmus rejects a number of selected readings from Codex B
||Tyndale's amended edition of New Testament is printed
||On August 6. Tyndale is burned
||Olivetan's French Bible
|1545 - 1563
||Council of Trent
||Council decrees that apocryphal books plus unwritten
tradition arc on equal ground with the Word of God
||Stephen's Greek NT printed
||The Geneva NT in English
||The Elizabethan period; generally regarded as most
important era in English literature
||The Geneva Bible in English
||Council of Trent closes
||Dates of Cyril Lucar
- page 134 -
||Jesuit Bible is printed in English at Rheims, France
"to shake out of the deceived people's hand, the false heretical translation of a
sect called Waldenses."
"In the preface they state that it was not translated into English because it was
necessary that the Bible should be in the mother tongue or that God had appointed the
Scriptures to be read by all; . .
||Jesuits dominate 287 collages and universities in Europe
||Jerome's Vulgate was full of errors almost innumerable - a
monk of Casine
||OT of the Vaticanus is printed; third edition is called
"Sixtine". being published at Rome under Pope Sixtus V
||Spanish Armada destroyed
||Date of Beza, associate of Calvin
||Jesuit University moves back to Douay from Rheims, France
||Beza's Greek New Testament is printed
||The "Douay of 1600 and that of 1900 age not the same
in many WAYS."
||Cyril becomes patriarch of Alexandria
||Queen Elizabeth dies
||Diodati's Greek New Testament appears at Geneva
||Complete Jesuit Bible is published at Douay
||King James Version is printed Waldensian
influenceOpportune condition of English language Vast Store Of manuscripts available
Triumph of the King James Version same problems and evidence as those of 1881 Abilities of
||Puritans leave England with KJV
||Mayflower lands in Plymouth in Dec.
||Elzevir's Greek New Testament printed
||Alexandrinus Manuscript arrives in London Cyril starts his
Confession of Faith
||Alexandrinus is presented to King Charles 1
||Cyril Confession of Faith printed At Geneva
||Cyril Lucar dies by Jesuits
||Terrible massacres of Waldenses
||Date of Walton
||Leger publishes General History of the Evangelical
Churches of the Piedmontese Valleys
||Date of Fell
||Date of Mill
||Melanchthon's Latin grammar ran for fifty-one editions
until this date
||Date of Bengal
||Date of Griesbach
||Douay's revision by Bishop Challoner
||Date of Wetstein
||European nations demand that the pope suppress Jesuits order
||Dates of Lachmann
||Dates of Mohler
||Napoleon is taken prisoner
||John William Burgon is born August 21
||Date of Tregelles
||Jesuits restored by the pope
||Dates of Tischendorf
||Gilly's sad findings at Cambridge
||Leger's book is Called "scarce"
||Dates of Westcott
||Dates of Hort
||Great crowds assemble to hear Edward Irving
||The issue: Premillenarianism or Liberalism (literalism or allegorism)
||Years of terrific Romanizing campaigns
- page 135 -
||Burgon matriculate at Oxford
||Sinaiticus is deposited in a wastepaper basket
||Tregelles goes to Rome to see Vaticanus
||Westcott writes to fiancee shout Pieta
||Westcott writes of the possibility of his being called a
||Burgon receives his M. A. from Oxford
||On July 6, Hort writes, "The pure Romish view seems to be nearer
and more likely to lead to, the truth thin the Evangelical. . . ."
||Bishop Kenrick publishes an English translation of the Catholic Bible
||Newman is considered the most distinguished Roman Catholic theologian
||Hort writes: "Think of that vile Textus Receptus"
||Westcott and Hort start their Greek Text
||Pantheism is strong, even among key Protestants
||Dates of Robert Dick Wilson
||In May the Earl of Shaftesbury states: "[With all the
versions, you must go to some learned pundit in whom you reposed confidence, and ask him
which version he recommended; and when you had taken his version you must be bound by his
||First efforts to secure a revision
||Tregelles' edition of the Greek NT
||On Oct. 21, Hort writes: "Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather
||Titchendorf's seventh edition of his Greek NT.
||Titchendorf's discovery of Sinaiticus on February 4
||Darwin's Origin of Species is published
||Burgon examines Cortex B
||On April 3, Hort writes: "The book which has most changed me is
Darwin .... It is a book that one is proud to he contemporary with"
||On Oct. 15 Hort writes to Westcott: "The popular doctrine of
substitution is an immoral and material counterfeit."
||Burgon examines the treasures of St. Catherine's Convent on Mt. Sinai
||In Oct.. Tischendorf publishes his edition of the Sinaitic Manuscript
||Privy Council of England permits seven Church of England clergymen, who
had attacked inspiration of (lie Bible. to retain their position
||Dr. Scrivener publishes A Full Collation of the Codex Sinaiticus
||On Sept. 23, Hort writes to Westcott: " 'Protestantism' is only
parenthetical and temporary."
||Dates of Herman C. Hoskier
||On Good Friday, Westcott writes: "[I] regard the
Christian as in Christ-absolutely one With Him, and he does what Christ has done."
||On Oct. 17. Hort writes to Westcott: "Mary-worship and
'Jesus'-worship have very much in common."
||On Nov. 17, Westcott writes: "I wish I could see to what forgotten
truth Mariolatry bears witness."
||Tischendorf studies the Vatican Cortex for 42 hours
||On Oct. 26, Hort writes to Lightfoot: "But you know I am a staunch
||Oxford Movement is powerful in England
||Papal declaration of infallibility
||Westcott and Hort print a tentative edition of their Greek New
||On Feb. 10, resolution appears which expresses the desirability of
revision of the KJV
||On May 28. Westcott writes to Hort: "I feel that as
we three' are together it would be wrong not to 'make the best of it' as Lightfoot
||On June 4. Westcott (writes to Lightfoot: "Ought we not to have a
conference before the first meeting fur Revision?"
- page 136 -
||Committee is established to produce a Revised Version
||On June 22, Vance Smith. Unitarian receives Holy Communion but does not
recite Nicene Creed
||Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts become king
||Dates of Revision
||Burgon writes The Last Twelve Verses of Mark
||On May 24, Westcott writes: 'We have had hard fighting during these
last two days."
||On July 25, Hort writes: "I felt how impossible it would be for me
to absent myself."
||Tischendorf publishes his eighth edition based for the first time on
Vaticanus and Sinaiticus
||On July. 27. Westcott writes: "Our work yesterday was positively
||R. D. Wilson graduate from Princeton
||Dr. Ellicot submits the Revised Version to the Southern Convocation
||In May, the Revised Version is published
||On May 20. The Revised Version is published in America; it has
immediate success in both England and America
||On May 22, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Times published the
entire New Testament.
||Westcott-Hort Theory hawed as final
||Burgon writes three articles in the Quarterly Review against the
||Popularity of RV doesn't spread to the masses
||MSS of RV had been abandoned since 500 AD
||Revisers of RV disagree basically with KJV scholars
||Burgon publishes the Revision Revised
||On June 7. Dr. George Sayles Bishop preaches a discourse concerning
"the new version and just in what direction it tends."
||On March 22, Westcott writes: "[Textual criticism] is a little
gift which from school days seemed to be committed to me,"
||In June. John Fulton writes: "It was not the design of the Divine
Author to use classical Greek as the medium of His revelation."
||On August 4, Burgon dies
||On &larch 4, Westcott writes: "No one now, I
suppose. holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal
history- I could never understand how any one reading them with open eyes could think they
||Chicago World's Fair
||L. Miller, using fragments of Burgon's. publishes The Traditional Text
of the Holy Gospels and The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text
||American Revised Version is published
||Westcott's son comments in defense of his father
||Date of Harris
||"Conscious agreement with [Westcott-Hort theory] or conscious
disagreement and qualification mark all work in this field since 1881."
||Date of Conybeare
||Ferrar Fenton publishes his translation
||Huskier writes: "[Burgon] maintained that Aleph and B had been
tampered with and revised."
||World War 1
||In Dec., in one week the front page of one of great New
York dailies has scarcely space free fur anything except reports of murders. burglaries,
and other crimes
||On Dec. 22. the United Presbyterian gives a description of the
||On July 16, the Herald and Presbyter state: The Revisers
had a wonderful opportunity. They might have made a few changes and removed a few archaic
expressions, and make the AV The most acceptable and beautiful and wonderful book of all
time to come."
||Article entitled "Who Killed Goliath?"
||On Dec. 29, it is reported: "Every seminary of standing in this
country has been teaching ... almost everything contained in the new Commentary."
||Article entitled: "The dispute about Goliath"
||Liberalism takes over Princeton
||Robert Dick Wilson dies
||Our Authorized Bible Vindicated Is published by Dr. Benjamin G.
||Date of Lake
||War of Liberation (Israel)
||Dr. Alfred Martin's dissertation for his Doctor of
Theology is titled: "A Critical Examination of the Westcott-Hort Textual Theory"
- Page 137 -
XXIX - IMPORTANT EVENTS IN ENGLISH AND EUROPEAN BIBLE
1. EARLY VERSIONS
Ungers Bible Dictionary says, "There were portions of the Bible, and possibly the
entire work, rendered into the English vernacular very early in the history of the
language. Gildas states that 'When the English martyrs gave up their lives in the 4th
century, all the copies of the Holy Scriptures which could be found were burned in the
Now, in view of what we have seen above, that English was not spoken on the island of
Britain until the arrival of the Germanic tribes in the mid-5th century, these Bibles most
certainly were copies of the Old Latin in the hands of the Celts.
With this assessment Bruce agrees:
Christianity was planted in Britain by the beginning of the 4th century at the latest.
In A.D. 314, we have the record of three British bishops (those of York, London and
Lincoln) attending the Council of Arles. The earliest British writer was one of the
outstanding figures in early Christian literature - Pelagius (c. 370-450), who in the
first decade of the 5th century produced at Rome commentaries on the thirteen epistles of
Paul. About the end of the 4th century Ninian, appointed bishop of the district now known
as Galloway and Dumfries, evangelised the southern Picts, and established a monastery at
Whithorn (Ad Candidam Casam) from which the Gospel was carried farther afield, in
particular to Northern Ireland. [This view is not discerning enough! See XXVI.1.(3) in
Part 4 Section 2.]
But there is no evidence of Bible translation having been carried out at this time in
the languages of Britain and Ireland. Pelagius wrote in Latin, as did all the other
churchmen of Western Europe. And even if the Bible had been translated into the native
languages in those days, such translations would have had no place in the history of the
English Bible. That history has as its starting point the arrival in Britain of the
Germanic-speaking Angles and Saxons and Jutes in the course of the 5th century and their
evangelisation in the 6th and 7th centuries.
The following are the earliest known portions of the Scripture in the Angle Saxon
vernacular (from Unger).
- Caedmon's versifications (689).
- Cuthbert's Evangelistarium (689). A portion of the Latin Vulgate with an interlinear
- Aldhelms translation of the Psalms (early 8th century).
- Eadfurths translation of the Gospels (720).
- The Venerable Bedes translation of John (735).
- King Alfred's translation of the Psalms (901).
- Archbishop Aelfric and others endeavoured to provide translations which could be read in
churches (late 10th century).
Each of the above translations were apparently based on the Latin Vulgate.
The Venerable Bede spoke of the heavenly endowment granted to the herdsman Caedman in
the latter part of the 7th century, which enabled him to sing in English verse the
substance and themes of Scripture.
- Page 138 -
"He sang the creation of the wolrd, the origin of man, and all the history of
Genesis, and made many verses on the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and
their entering into the promised land, with many other histories from Holy Writ; the
Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, and His ascending into heaven; the
coming of the Holy Ghost, and the preaching of the apostles; also the terror of judgement
to come, the horror of the pains of hell, and the joys of heaven" (Bruce).
Of the venerable Bede himself, Terrence Brown records:
In A.D. 735, Bede laboured at Jarrow on his translation of the Gospel. A letter written
by one of his pupils decribes how the aged scholar pressed on with his work of translating
the Scriptures up to the last moment of his life. Early in the morning of "Ascension
Day" in A.D. 735, he summoned his helpers to continue with the task and dictated to
them the translation of John's Gospel from the words, "What are they among so
many?" As the sun was setting, one of the scribes told him there was only one more
chapter, but it seemed hard for Bede to speak. He replied, "Nay, it is easy, take up
thy pen and write quickly."
The young scribe wrote on until he could tell his master that only one sentence was
wanting, when Bede dictated it the young man exclaimed, "It is finished,
master!" Bede replied, "Aye, it is finished! lift me up and place me by the
window where I have so often prayed to God." Then with the Name of the Father, Son
and Holy Spirit upon his lips, he passed into the presence of the Lord.
[graphic -The Rushworth Gospels - eighth century, with tenth century
the above Interlinear English is based on Cuthbert's version
- Page 139 -
2. WYCLIFFE'S BIBLE
The next four hundred years were an important period in the development of the English
language. It is not possible to give precise dates but from A.D. 1066 to about 1150 Saxon
and Norman French were in use side by side. From about 1150 the gradual fusion of the two
peoples caused their languages to mingle and merge with one another, producing what has
been described as "semi-Saxon." The old Saxon and the Norman French fell into
disuse, and from about 1250 "English" emerges to pass through a century or more
of development before being used as the vehicle of Wycliffe's English Bible of A.D. 1382
Leading up to Wycliffe, about 1300, a metrical version of the Psalms was made. It was
followed by several prose translations, one of which was by Richard Rolle. Portions of the
New Testament were also translated (New Bible Dictionary).
The crowning achievement of the latter part of the Middle English period was the
translation associated with John Wycliffe. (See also above in the section dealing with the
Latin Vulgate, page 113,114).
John Wycliffe is justly styled the Morning Star of the Reformation. In Roman Catholic
England he spoke out forcibly on the use of Scripture. He constantly appealed to Holy
Scripture as the primary and absolute authority in matters of faith and morals, and
maintained the desirability of its being made generally accessible to Christians. The idea
that Wycliffe himself translated the Bible into English rests on a statement of his great
Czech disciple, Jan Hus; it is certain, at any rate, that the Wycliffite versions are
rightly so called, whether he actually did much translation himself or not, as the work
was carried out under his influence and in accordance with his policy. Whatever be the
final verdict on the subject, Wycliffe's Biblical scholarship cannot be gainsaid.
There are two Wycliffite versions of the Bible which must be distinguished from each
other. One of these was the work of Nicholas of Hereford, a follower of Wycliffe, so far
as the Old Testament translation as far as Baruch 3:20 is concerned, (thus unfortunately
it had the Apocrypha); the rest of that version is the work of another, who may have been
Wycliffe. This version followed the Latin very literally. A more idiomatic 'Wycliffite'
version, a revision of the earlier one, was produced towards the end of the 14th century
by John Flurvey, another associate of Wycliffe (who himself was dead by now). Purvey's
prologue to his version is interesting and part of it is worth quoting:
"A simple creature hath translated the Bible out of Latin into English. First,
this simple creature had much travail, with divers fellows and helpers, to gather many old
Bibles, and other doctors, and common glosses, and to make one Latin Bible some deal
A translator hath great need to study well the sense both before and after, and then
also he hath need to live a clean life and be full devout in prayers, and have not his wit
occupied about worldly things, that the Holy Spirit, Author of all wisdom and cunning and
truth, dress him for his work and suffer him not to err.
God grant to us all grace to know well and to keep well Holy Writ, and to suffer
joyfully some pain for it at the last" (Bruce).
- Page 140 -
The following will give you an idea of the late Middle English of Wycliffe's Bible. The
portion is John 11.
"The disciplis scien to hum, Maister now the Jewis soughten for to stoone thee,
and est goist thou thidir? Jheus answered whether ther ben not twelve ouris of the dai? If
any man wandre in the night he stomlish, for light is not in him. He saith these thigis
and aftir these thingis he seith to hem Lazarus oure freene slepith but Y do to reise hym
fro sleep therfor hise disciplis seiden: Lord if he slepith he schal be saaf."
[graphic of The Later Wycliffite Bible - early fifteenth century
British Museum - Actual Size 15in. x 10in.]
- Page 141 -
Millers Church History gives us a challenging summary of Wycliffe and his great work:
Without following more minutely the general labours of Wycliffe, or the plottings of
his enemies to interrupt him, we will now notice that which was the great work of his
useful life - the complete English Version of the Holy Scriptures. We have seen him boldly
and fearlessly assailing and exposing the countless abuses of Popery, unfolding the truth
to the students, and zealously preaching the Gospel to the poor; but he is now engaged in
a work which will a thousand times more enrich his own soul. He is yet more exclusively
engaged with the Sacred Writings. It was not until he became more fully acquainted with
the Bible that he rejected the false doctrines of the Church of Rome. It is one thing to
see the outward abuses of the hierarchy, it is quite another to see the mind of God in the
doctrines of His Word.
As soon as the translation of a portion was finished, the labour of the copyists began,
and the Bible was ere long widely circulated either wholly or in parts. The effect of thus
bringing home the Word of God to the unlearned to citizens, soldiers, and the lower
classes - is beyond human power to estimate.
Minds were enlightened, souls were saved and God was glorified. "Wycliffe,"
said one of his adversaries, "has made the Gospel common, and more open to laymen and
to women who can read than it is wont to be to clerks well learned and of good
understanding; so that the pearl of the Gospel is scattered and is trodden under foot of
swine." In the year 1380 the English Bible was complete. In 1390 the bishops
attempted to get the version condemned by Parliament, lest it should become an occasion of
heresies; but John of Gaunt declared that the English would not submit to the degradation
of being denied a vernacular Bible. "The Word of God is the faith of His
people," it was said, "and though the Pope and all his clerks should disappear
from the face of the earth, our faith would not fail, for it is founded on Jesus alone,
our Master and our God." The attempt at prohibition having failed, the English Bible
spread far and wide, being diffused chiefly through the exertions of the "poor
priests," like "the poor men of Lyons" at an earlier period.
The Christian reader will not fail to trace the hand of the Lord in this great work.
The grand, the Divine, instrument was now ready and in the hands of the people, by means
of which the Reformation in the sixteenth century was to be accomplished. The Word of God
which liveth and abideth for ever is rescued from the dark mysteries of scholasticism,
from the dust-covered shelves of the cloister, from the obscurity of ages, and given to
the English people in their own mother-tongue. Who can estimate the blessing? Let the ten
thousand times ten thousand tongues which shall praise the Lord for ever give the answer.
But, oh! the wickedness - the soul-murdering wickedness of the Romish priesthood in
keeping the Word of Life from the laity! Is the glorious truth of God's love to the world
in the gift of His Son - of the efficacy of the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin -
to be concealed from the perishing multitude, and seen only by a privileged few? There is
no refinement in cruelty on the face of the whole earth to compare with this. It is the
ruin of both soul and body in Hell forever.
Having received many warnings, many threatenings, and experienced some narrow escapes
from the loathsome dungeon and the burning pile, Wycliffe was allowed to close his days in
peace, in the midst of his flock and his pastoral labours at Lutterworth. After a
forty-eight hours' illness from a stroke of paralysis, he died on the last day of the year
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The humble Christian, the bold witness, the faithful preacher, the able professor, and
the great reformer has passed off the scene. He has gone to his rest and his reward is on
high. But the doctrines which he propagated with so much zeal can never die. His name in
his followers continued formidable to the false priests of Rome. "Every second man
you meet in the way," said a bitter adversary, "is a Wycliffite." He was
used of God to give an impulse to Christian inquiry which was felt in the most distant
corners of Europe.
3. THE INVENTION OF PRINTING
About twenty years after Wycliffe's death, a boy named Gensfeisch
("Gooseflesh") was amusing himself cutting out the letters of his name from a
piece of bark. He dropped one of these accidentally in a pot of hot dye, snatched it out
and dropped it on a piece of white skin on a bench near the fire and was intrigued to see
the pattern of the letter was impressed on the skin. It is possible that this experience
lingered in his mind and suggested the idea of printing. Thirty years afterwards he set up
his famous press at Menz under the name of Gutenberg, his mother's family name. This was
an epoch-making invention and was to contribute greatly towards the rapid reproduction of
the Scriptures and the establishment of the Reformation in Europe (Brown).
Again to quote the stirring words of Andrew Miller.
Just at this period the Lord was making "all things work together for good,"
in a most remarkable way. Two silent agents of immense influence and power were ordained
to precede the living voices of His Gospel preachers - the invention of printing and the
manufacture of paper. These harmonious inventions were brought to great perfection during
the latter half of the 15th century, for which we can lift up our hearts in praise and
thanksgiving to God.
We have now reached a turning point in our history; and not only in the history of the
Church, but of civilisation, of the social condition of the European states, and of the
human family. It is well to pause on such an eminence and look around us for a moment. We
see a Divine hand for the good of all gathering things together, though apparently
unconnected. The falling of an empire, the flight of a few Greeks, with their literary
treasures, the awakening of the long dormant mind of the western world, the invention of
printing from movable types, and the discovery of making fine white paper from linen rags.
Incongruous as "linen rags" may sound with the literature of the Greeks, and the
skill of Gutenberg, both would have proved of little avail without the improved paper.
Means, the most insignificant in man's account, when used of God, are all sufficient. By
miraculous power, a dry rod in the hand of Moses shakes Egypt from centre to
circumference, divides the Red Sea, and gives living water from the flinty rock; a smooth
pebble from the brook, or an empty ram's horn, accomplishes great deliverances in Israel.
The power is of God, and faith looks only to Him.
It is a deeply interesting fact to the Christian, that the first complete book which
Gutenberg printed with his cut metal types was a folio edition of the Bible in the Latin
Vulgate, consisting of six hundred and forty-one leaves. Hallam, in his Literary History
beautifully observes: "It is a very striking circumstance, that the high-minded
investors of the great art tried at the very outset so bold a flight as the printing of an
entire Bible, and executed it with great success¡We may see in imagination this
venerable and splended volume leading up the crowded myriads of its followers, and
imploring, as it were, a blessing on the new art, by dedicating its firstfruits to the
service of heaven."
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From an early period the mode of printing from blocks of wood had been practised.
Sometimes the engravings, or impressions, were accompanied by a few lines of letters cut
in the block. Gradually these were extended to a few leaves and called blockbooks. An
ingenius blacksmith, it is said, invented in the 11th century separate letters made of
wood. The celebrated John Gutenberg, who was born at a village near Mentz, in the year
1397, substituted metal for the wooden letters; his associate, Schoeffer, cut the
characters in a matrix, after which the types were cast, and thus completed the art of
printing as it now remains.
Parchment, preparations of straw, the bark of trees, papyrus, and cotton had sufficed
for the printer and transcriber till the 14th century. But these preparations would have
been utterly inadequate to supply the demand of the new process. Happily, however, the
discovery of making paper from rags coincided with the discovery of letterpress printing.
The first paper-mill in England was erected at Dartmouth, by a German named Spielmann, in
(1) THE FIRST PRINTED BIBLE
All historians seem to agree, that Gutenberg, having spent nearly ten years in bringing
his experiments to perfection, had so impoverished himself that he found it necessary to
invite some capitalist to join him. John Faust, the wealthy goldsmith of Mentz, to whom he
made known his secret, agreed to go into partnership with him, and to supply the means for
carrying out the design. But it does not appear that Gutenberg and his associates,
Schoeffer and Faust, were actuated by any loftier motive in executing this glorious work,
than that of realising a large sum of money by the enterprise. The letters were such an
exact imitation of the best copyists, that they intended to pass them off as fine
manuscript copies, and thus to obtain the usual high prices. Those employed in the work
were bound to the strictest secrecy. The first edition appears to have been sold at
manuscript prices without the secret having transpired. A second edition was brought out
about 1462, when John Faust went to Paris with a number of copies. He sold one to the king
for seven hundred crowns and another to the archbishop for four hundred crowns. The
prelate, delighted with such a beautiful copy at so low a price, showed it to the king.
His majesty produced his, for which he had paid nearly double the money; but what was
their astonishment on finding they were identical even in the most minute strokes and
dots. They became alarmed, and concluded they must be produced by magic, and the capital
letters being in red ink, they supposed that it was blood, and no longer doubted that he
was in league with the Devil and assisted by him in his magical art.
Information was forthwith given to the police against John Faust. His lodgings were
searched, and his Bibles seized. Other copies which he had sold were collected and
compared; and finding they were all precisely alike, he was pronounced a magician. The
king ordered him to be thrown into prison, and he would soon have been thrown into the
flames, but he saved himself by confessing to the deceit, and by making a full revelation
of the secret of his art. The mystery was now revealed, the workmen were no longer bound
to secrecy, printers were dispersed abroad, carrying the secret of their art wherever they
found a welcome, and the sounds of printing presses were soon heard in many lands. About
1474, the art was introduced into England by William Caxton; and in 1508 it was introduced
into Scotland by Walter Chepman.
Before the days of printing, many valuable books existed in manuscript, and seminaries
of learning flourished in all civilised countries, but knowledge was necessarily confined
to a comparatively small number of people. The manuscripts were so scarce and dear that
they could only be purchased by kings and nobles, by collegiate and ecclesiastical
establishments. A copy of the Bible cost from forty to fifty pounds for the writing only,
for it took an
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expert copyist about ten months labour to make one. Although several other books issued
from the new presses, the Latin Bible was the favourite book with all the printers. They
usually commenced operations, wherever they went, by issuing an edition of the Latin
Bible. It was most in demand, and brought high prices. In this way Latin Bibles multiplied
rapidly. Translators now began their work; and by individual reformers in different
countries, the Word of God was translated into various languages in the course of a few
years. Thus an Italian version appeared in 1474, a Bohemian in 1475, a Dutch in 1477, a
French in 1477, and a Spanish in 1478; as if heralding the approach of the coming
(2) ROME'S OPPOSITION TO THE RAPIDLY SPREADING WORD
But, as usual, the great enemies of truth and light and liberty took the alarm. The
Archbishop of Mentz placed the printers of the city under strict censorship. Pope
Alexander VI issued a Bill prohibiting the printers of Mentz, Cologne, Treves and
Magdeburg from publishing any books without the express licence of their archbishops.
Finding that the reading of the Bible was extending, the priests began to preach against
it from their pulpits. "They had found out," said a French monk, "a new
language called Greek: we must carefully guard ourselves against it. That language will be
the mother of all sorts of heresies. I see in the hands of a great nunber of persons a
book written in this language called, 'The New Testament'; it is a book full of brambles,
with vipers in them. As to the Hebrew, whoever learns that becomes a Jew at once."
Bibles and Testaments were seized wherever found, and burnt; But more Bibles and
Testaments seemed to rise as if by magic from their ashes. The printers also were seized
and burnt. "We must root out printing, or printing will root out us," said the
Vicar of Croydon in a sermon preached at Paul's Cross. And the university of Paris,
panic-stricken, declared before the Parliament: "There is an end of religion if the
study of Greek and Hebrew is permitted."
The great success of the new translations spread alarm throughout the Romish Church.
She trembled for the supremacy of her own favourite Vulgate. The fears of the priests and
monks were increased when they saw the people reading the Scriptures in their own mother
tongue, and observed a growing disposition to call in question the value of attending
mass, and the authority of the priesthood. Instead of saying their prayers through the
priests in Latin, they began to pray to God direct in their native tongue. The clergy,
finding their revenues diminishing, appealed to the Sorbonne, the most renowned
theological school in Europe. The Sorbonne called upon Parliament to interfere with a
strong hand. War was immediately proclaimed against books, and the printers of them.
Printers who were convicted of having printed Bibles were burnt. In the year 1534, about
twenty men and one woman were burnt alive in Paris. In 1535 the Sorbonne obtained an
ordinance from the King for the suppression of printing. "But it was too late,"
as an able writer observes; "the art was now full born, and could no more be
suppressed than light, or air, or life. Books had become a public necessity, and supplied
a great public want; and every year saw them multiplying more abundantly."
While Rome was thus thundering her awful prohibitions against the liberty of thought,
and lengthening her arm to persecute wherever the Bible had penetrated and found
followers, at least all over France, God was hastening by means of His own Word and the
printing press, that mighty revolution which was so soon to change the destinies of both
Church and State.
The darkness of the middle ages is rapidly passing away. The rising sun of the
Reformation will ere long dispel the gloom of Jezebel's long reign of a thousand years.
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4. THE RECEIVED TEXT IS PRINTED
(1) THE MAN ERASMUS
Reuchlin and Erasmus - these famous names - may be conveniently and appropriately
introduced here. Although not reformers, they contributed much to the success of the
Reformation. They were called "Humanists" - men eminent for human learning. The
revival of literature, but especially the critical study of the languages in which the
Holy Scriptures were written Hebrew, Greek and Latin - rendered the highest service to the
first reformers. As in the days of Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah, the great Reformation was an
immediate connection with the recovery and study of the written Word of God. The Bible,
which had lain so long silent in manuscript beneath the dust of old libraries, was now
printed, and laid before the people in their own tongue. This was light from God, and that
which armed the reformers with invincible power. Down to the days of Reuchlin and Erasmus
the Vulgate was the received text. Greek and Hebrew were almost unknown in the West.
Reuchlin studied at the University of Paris. Happily for him, the celebrated Wesselus
was then teaching Hebrew at that renowned school of theology. There he received, not only
the first rudiments of the language, but a knowledge of the Gospel of the grace of God. He
also studied Greek, and learned to speak Latin with great purity. At the early age of
twenty he began to teach philosophy, Greek and Latin at Basle; "and," says
D'Aubigne "What then passed for a miracle, a German was heard speaking Greek."
He afterwards settled at Wittenberg - the cradle of the Reformation - instructed the young
Melanchthon in Hebrew and prepared for publication the first Hebrew and German grammar and
lexicon. Who can estimate all that the Reformation owes to Reuchlin, though he remained in
the communion of the Romish Church!
Erasmus, who was about twelve years younger than Reuchlin, pursued the same line of
study, but with still higher powers and greater celebrity. From about 1500 to 1518, when
Luther rose into notice, Erasmus was the most distinguished literary person in
Christendom. He was born at Rotterdam, in 1465; was left an orphan at the age of thirteen;
was robbed by his guardians, who, to cover their dishonesty, persuaded him to enter a
monastery. In 1492, he was ordained a priest, but he always entertained the greatest
dislike for a monastic life, and embraced the first opportunity to regain his liberty.
After leaving the Augustinian convent at Stein, he went to pursue his favourite studies at
the University of Paris.
With the most indefatigable industry he devoted himself entirely to literature and soon
acquired a great reputation among the learned. The society of the poor student was courted
by the varied talent of the time. Lord Mountjoy, whom he met as a pupil at Paris, invited
him to England. His first visit to this country, in 1498, was followed by several others,
down to the year 1515, during which he became acquainted with many eminent men, received
many honours, formed some warm friendships, and spent most of his brightest days. He
resided at both the Universities, and, during his third and longest visit, was professor
of Greek at Cambridge. All acknowledged his supremacy in the world of letters, and for a
long time he reigned without a rival. But our object at present is rather to inquire,
"What was his influence on the Reformation?"
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Under the gracious, guiding hand of Him who sees the end from the beginning, Erasmus
bent all his great mental powers, and all his laborious studies to the preparation of a
critical edition of the Greek Testament. This work appeared at Basle in 1516, one year
before the Reformation, accompanied by a Latin translation in which he corrected the
errors of the Vulgate. This was daring work in those days. There was a great outcry from
many quarters against this dangerous novelty. "His New Testament was attached,"
says Robertson; "why should the language of the schismatic Greeks interfere with the
sacred and traditional Latin? How could any improvement be made on the Vulgate
translation?" There was a college at Cambridge, especially proud of its theological
character, which would not admit a copy within its gates. But the editor was able to
shelter himself under the name of Pope Leo, who had accepted the dedication of the volume.
To question the fidelity of the Vulgate, was a crime of the greatest magnitude in the
eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vulgate could no longer be of absolute exclusive
authority; the Greek was its superior not only in antiquity, but yet more as the original
text. At this time Erasmus stood at the head of scholars and men of letters. He was
patronised by the Pope, many prelates, and by the chief princes of Europe. Sheltered
behind such an ample shield, he was perfectly secure, and, knowing this, fearlessly went
on with his great work.
To give the reader some idea of the popularity of this singularly great, yet in some
respects weak man, we may just notice that his book, entitled "Praise of Folly,"
went through twenty-seven editions during his lifetime; and his "Colloquies"
were so eagerly received that in one year, twenty-four thousand copies were sold. In these
books, he assailed with great power, and the most bitter satire, the inconsistencies of
the monks - their intrusiveness and rapacity in connection with deathbeds, wills and
funerals - and thus indirectly served the cause of the Reformation.
Erasmus had many tempting offers as to pensions and promotion, but his love for his
learned labours led him to prefer comparative poverty with perfect liberty. In 1516, he
took up his abode at Basle, where his works were printed by Froben, and he diligently
laboured in correcting proofs, and otherwise assisting that learned printer with his fine
editions of classical works.
But the great work for which he seems to have been specially fitted by God was his
Greek New Testament. "Erasmus," says D'Aubigne, "thus did for the New
Testament what Reuchlin had done for the Old. Henceforward divines were able to read the
Word of God in the original languages, and at a later period to recognise the purity of
the reformed doctrines. Reuchlin and Erasmus gave the Bible to the learned; Luther gave it
to the people."
The chain of witnesses was now complete. Wesselus, Reuchlin, Erasmus and Luther were
We allow Wilkinson to describe further this man God used at this most important epoch:
The Revival of Learning produced that giant intellect and scholar, Erasmus. It is a
common proverb that "Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it." The streams of
Grecian learning were again flowing into the European plains, and a man of calibre was
needed to draw from their best and bestow it upon the needy nations of the West. Endowed
by nature with a mind that could do ten hours
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work in one, Erasmus, during his mature years in the earlier part of the 16th century,
was the intellectual giant of Europe. He was ever at work, visiting libraries, searching
in every nook and corner for the profitable. He was ever collecting, comparing, writing
and publishing. Europe was rocked from end to end by his books which exposed the ignorance
of the monks, the superstitions of the priesthood, the bigotry and the childish and coarse
religion of the day. He classified the Greek Manuscripts and read the Fathers.
It is customary even today with those who are bitter against the pure teachings of the
Received Text, to sneer at Erasmus. No perversion of facts is too great to belittle his
work. Yet while he lived, Europe was at his feet. Several times the King of England
offered him any position in the kingdom, at his own price; the Emperor of Germany did the
same. The Pope offered to make him a cardinal. This he steadfastly refused, as he would
not compromise his conscience. In fact, had he been so minded, he perhaps could have made
himself Pope. France and Spain sought him to become a dweller in their realm; while
Holland prepared to claim him as her most distinguished citizen.
[graphic - Erasmus¡¯ New Testament - 1516
Actual size as reproduced, without margins 9 ?in. x 6 ?in.]
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Book after book came from his hand. Faster and faster came the demands for his
publications. But his crowning work was the New Testament in Greek. At last after one
thousand years, the New Testament was printed (1516 A.D.) in the original tongue.
Astonished and confounded, the world, deluged by superstitions, coarse traditions, and
monkeries, read the pure story of the Gospels. The effect was marvellous. At once, all
recognized the great value of this work which for over four hundred years (1516 to 1931)
was to hold the dominant place in an era of Bibles. Translation after translation has been
taken from it, such as the German, and the English and others. Critics have tried to
belittle the Greek manuscripts he used, but the enemies of Erasmus, or rather the enemies
of the Received Text, have found insuperable difficulties maintained their attacks.
Writing to Peter Baberius August 13, 1521, Erasmus says:
"I did my best with the New Testament, but it provoked endless quarrels. Edward
Lee pretended to have discovered 300 errors. They appointed a commission, which professed
to have found bushels of them. Every dinner table rang with the blunders of Erasmus. I
required particulars, and could not have them."
There were hundreds of manuscripts for Erasmus to examine, and he did; but he used only
a few. What matters? The vast bulk of manuscripts in Greek are practically all the
Received Text. If the few Erasmus used were typical, that is, after he had thoroughly
balanced the evidence of many and used a few which displayed that balance, did he not,
with all the problems before him, arrive at practically the same result which only could
be arrived at today by a fair and comprehensive investigation?
Moreover, the text he chose had such an outstanding history in the Greek, the Syrian,
and the Waldensian Churches, that it constituted an irresistible argument for and proof of
God's providence. God did not write a hundred Bibles; there is only one Bible, the others
at best are only approximations. In other words the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, known
as the Received Text, is none other than the Greek New Testament which successfully met
the rage of its pagan and papal enemies.
We are told that testimony from the ranks of our enemies constitutes the highest kind
of evidence. The following statement which I now submit, is taken from the defense of
their doings by two members of that body so hostile to the Greek New Testament of Erasmus
- the Revisers of 1870-1881. This quotation shows that the manuscripts of Erasmus coincide
with the great bulk of manuscripts.
"The manuscripts which Erasmus used, differ, for the most part, only in small and
insignificant details from the bulk of the cursive manuscripts. The general character of
their text is the same. By this observation the pedigree of the Received Text is carried
up beyond the individual manuscripts used by Erasmus to a great body of manuscripts of
which the earliest are assigned to the 9th century."
Then after quoting Doctor Hort, they draw this conclusion on his statement: "This
remarkable statement completes the pedigree of the Received Text. That pedigree stretches
back to a remote antiquity. The first ancestor of the Received Text was, as Dr. Hort is
careful to remind us, at least contemporary with the oldest of our extant manuscripts, if
not older than any one of them."
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(2) PARTICULARS OF THE GREEK TEXT EDITED BY ERASMUS
Strouse states that Erasmus primarily used the following five MSS in the first edition
11th Century MS of the Gospels, Acts and Epistles
15th, Century MS of the Gospels
12th-14th MS of Acts and Epistles
15th Century MS of Acts and Epistles
12th Century MS of Revelation
Erasmus had translated the Greek into a Latin Version in 1505-6 and presumably had
other MSS than these five.
These are the manuscripts to which F.J.A. Hort referred when he wrote to a friend,
"Think of that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late MSS." But as shown
above, Erasmus knew that they were representative of the overwhelming majority of MSS.
Subsequent investigation since has shown that Erasmus' judgement was correct. The Bible
believer resting on the promises of Christ to preserve His Word can see the guiding hand
of God in the choice of these MSS.
Erasmus produced five editions in which there were a number of refinements and
||Dedicated to Pope Leo X. Remember all of Europe was still under
Catholicism. Luther posted his Ninetyfive Theses on 31 October 1517. Erasmus welcomed it
and sent copies to his friends in England.
||Revision of Greek and Latin
||Includes 1 John 5:7
||Three columns (Greek,, Vulgate,, Erasmus' Latin)
(3) THE ANALYSIS BY EDWARD F. HILLS
Possibly the most penetrating analysis ever written on the early publication of the
Received Text is the following by Edward F. Hills:
One of the leading principles of the Protestant Reformation was the sole and absolute
authority of the holy Scriptures. The New Testament text in which early Protestants placed
such implicit confidence was the Textus Receptus (Received Text) which was first printed
in 1516 under the editorship of Erasmus and only slightly modified in subsequent editions
during the 16th and 17th centuries. The more important of these later editions of the
Textus Receptus include the second edition of Erasmus (1519), which formed the basis of
Luther's German Version, the third edition of Stephanus (1550), which is that form of the
Textus Receptus generally preferred by English scholars, the fifth edition of Beza (1598),
on which the King James Version was mainly based, and the second Elzevir edition (1633),
which was generally adopted on the European Continent and in which the term Textus
Receptus first appeared.
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The Textus Receptus is virtually identical with the Traditional text found in the
majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Kirsopp Lake and his associates (1928)
demonstrated this fact in their intensive researches in the Traditional (Byzantine) text.
Using their collations, they came to the conclusion that in the eleventh chapter of Mark
"the most popular text in manuscripts of the 10th to 14th century" differed from
the Textus Receptus only four times. This small number of differences seems almost
negligible in view of the fact that in this same chapter Aleph, B, and D differ from the
Textus Receptus 69, 71 and 95 times respectively. Also add to this the fact that in this
same chapter B differs from Aleph 34 times and from D 102 times and that Aleph differs
from D 100 times.
(a) The Received Text and the Providence of God
The Textus Receptus, then, is that form of the Greek New Testament text which God in
His providence provided for His people during the days of the Protestant Reformation and
which still remains, in spite of the detractions of naturalistic critics, the best printed
text of the Greek New Testament that has yet been produced. Back of the labours of Erasmus
and the other early editors who brought the Textus Receptus into being stood the guiding
providence of God. The more we consider the factors involved in this process, the more we
see that this is so.
The Greek Manuscripts used by Erasmus
When Erasmus came to Basle in July, 1515, to begin work on the first edition of his
printed Greek New Testament, he found five Greek New Testament manuscripts ready for his
use. These are now designated by the following numbers: 1 (an llth century manuscript of
the Gospels, Acts and Epistles); 2 (a 15th century manuscript of the Gospels); 2ap (a
12-14th century manuscript of Acts and the Epistles); 4ap (a 15th century manuscript of
Acts and the Epistles); and 1r (a 12th century manuscript of Revelation). Of these
manuscripts Erasmus used 1 and 4ap only occasionally. In the Gospels, Acts and Epistles,
his main reliance was on 2 and 2ap.
The fact that the Textus Receptus was based only on the few late manuscript which
Erasmus found at Basle is usually held against it. In the opinion of naturalistic critics
this was just an unhappy accident. "Erasmus used only a handful of manuscripts, which
happened to be at Basle." So Kenyon (1937) observes. But those that take this
attitude do not reckon sufficiently with the providence of God. When we view this
circumstance in its proper perspective, we see the divine plan behind it all. The text
which Erasmus published was not his own but was taken, virtually without change, from the
few manuscripts which God, working providentially, had placed at his disposal. These
manuscripts were of the Traditional type, and thus in the providence of God it came about
that during the Protestant Reformation and ever since, God's people have been provided
with the Traditional (true) New Testament text found in the vast majority of the New
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The Human Aspects of the Received Text
God works providentially through sinful and fallible human beings, and therefore His
providential guidance has its human as well as its divine side. And these human elements
were very evident in the first edition (1516) of the Textus Receptus. For one thing, the
work was performed so hastily that the text was disfigured with a great number of
typographical errors. These misprints, however, were soon eliminated by Erasmus himself in
his later editions and by other early editors and hence are not a factor which need be
taken into account in any estimation of the abiding value of the Textus Receptus.
But the thing for which Erasmus has been most severely criticized is his handling of
the book of Revelation. His manuscript of Revelation (1r) had been mutilated at the end
with the consequent loss of verses 16-21 of chapter 22, and its text in other places was
sometimes hard to distinguish from the commentary of Andreas of Caesarea in which it was
embedded. Erasmus endeavoured to supply these dificiencies in his manuscript by
retranslating the Latin Vulgate into Greek. In his fourth edition of his Greek New
Testament (1527), Erasmus corrected much of this translation Greek on the basis of a
comparison with the Complutensian Polyglot (1522), but he overlooked some of it, and this
still remains in the Textus Receptus. (Did Stephanus or Beza make changes here?)
It is customary for naturalistic critics to make the most of these and to sneer at it
as a mean and almost sordid thing. These critics picture the Textus Receptus merely as a
money-making venture on the part of Froben the publisher. Froben, they say, heard that the
Spanish Cardinal Ximenes was about to publish a printed Greek New Testament as part of his
great Complutensian Polyglot Bible. In order, therefore, to get something on the market
first, it is said, Froben hired Erasmus, at a good salary, as his editor and rushed a
Greek New Testament through his press in less than a year's time. But those who
concentrate in this way on the human factors involved in the production of the Textus
Receptus are utterly unmindful of the providence of God. God had a deadline to meet as
well as Froben. For in the very next year the Reformation was to break out in Wittenberg,
and it was important that the Greek New Testament should be published first in one of the
future strongholds of Protestantism rather than in Spain, the land of the Inquisition.
Latin Vulgate Readings in the Received Text
The God who brought the New Testament text safely through the ancient and medieval
manuscript period did not fumble when it came time to transfer this text to the modern
printed page. This is the conviction which guides the believing Bible student as he
considers the relationship of the printed Textus Receptus to the Traditional New Testament
text found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts. As has been stated, these two texts
are virtually identical. There are a few places, however, in which they differ, though not
seriously. The most important of these differences are due to the fact that Erasmus,
influenced by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church in which he was reared, sometimes
followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Traditional Greek text that lay before him.
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Are the readings which Erasmus thus introduced into the Textus Receptus necessarily
erroneous? To the believing Bible student this is a most unlikely supposition. It is
hardly possible that the divine providence which had preserved the New Testament text
during the long ages of the manuscript period would blunder when at last this text was
committed to the printing press. Surely it is much more probable that the Textus Receptus
was a further step in God's providential preservation of the New Testament text and that
these few Latin Vulgate readings which were incorporated into the Textus Receptus were
genuine readings which had been preserved in the usage of the Latin-speaking Church.
Erasmus, we may well believe, was guided providentially by the usage of the Latin Church
to include these readings in this printed Greek New Testament text. In the Textus Receptus
God corrected the few mistakes of any consequence which yet remained in the Traditional
New Testament text of the majority of the Greek manuscripts.
Hence, we may conclude, it was in the special providence of God that the text of the
Greek New Testament was first printed and published not in the East but in Western Europe
where the influence of the Latin usage and of the Latin Vulgate was very strong. Through
the influence of the usage of the Latin-speaking Church Erasmus was providentially guided
to follow the Latin Vulgate here and there in those few places in which the Latin Church
usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Thus the
Textus Receptus was not a blunder or a setback but a further step in the providential
preservation of the New Testament text. In it the few errors of any consequence which yet
remained in the Traditional Greek text were corrected by the providence of God operating
through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe.
The following are the most familiar and important of those relatively few Latin Vulgate
readings which, though not part of the Traditional Greek text, seem to have been placed in
the Textus Receptus by the direction of God's special providence and therefore are to be
retained. The reader will note that these Latin Vulgate readings are also found in other
ancient witnesses, namely, old Greek manuscripts, versions and Fathers.
Matthew 10:8, raise the dead, is omitted by the majority of the Greek
manuscripts. This reading is present, however, in B, Aleph, C, D, 1, the Latin Vulgate,
and the Textus Receptus.
Matthew 27:35, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They
parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots: present in
Eusebius (c. 325), 1 and other "Caesarean" manuscripts, the Harelean Syriac, the
Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus; omitted by the majority of the Greek
John 3:25, Then there arose a questioning between some of John's disciples and the
Jews about purifying: Papyrus 66, Aleph, 1 and the other "Caesarean"
manuscripts, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus read the Jews; Papyrus
75, B, the Peshitta, and the majority of the Greek manuscripts read a Jew.
Acts 8:37, And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And
he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This reading is
absent from the majority of the Greek manuscripts, but it is present in some of them,
including E (6th or 7th century). It is cited by Irenacus (c. 180) and Cyprian (c. 250)
and is found in the Old Latin and the Vulgate. In his notes Erasmus says that he took this
reading from the margin of 4ap and incorporated it into the Textus Receptus.
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Acts 9:5, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks: This reading is absent
here from the Greek manuscripts but present in Old Latin manuscripts and in the Latin
Vulgate known to Erasmus. It is present also at the end of Acts 9:4 in E, 431, the
Peshitta, and certain manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. In Acts 26:14, however, this
reading is present in all the Greek manuscripts. In his notes Erasmus indicates that he
took this reading from Acts 26.14 and inserted it here.
Acts 9:6, And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?
and the Lord said unto him: this reading is found in the Latin Vulgate and in other
ancient witnesses. It is absent, however, from the Greek manuscripts, due, according to
Lake and Cadbury (1933), "to the paucity of Western Greek texts and the absence of D
at this point." In his notes Erasmus indicates that this reading is a translation
made by him from the Vulgate into Greek.
Acts 20:28, Church of God: Here the majority of the manuscripts read, Church of
the Lord and God. The Latin Vulgate, however, and the Textus Receptus read, Church of God,
which is also the reading of B, Aleph, and other ancient witnesses.Romans 16:25-27: In the
majority of the manuscripts this doxology is placed at the end of chapter 14. In the Latin
Vulgate and the Textus Receptus it is placed at the end of chapter 16, and this is also
the position it occupies in B, Aleph, C, and D.
(b) Should 1 John 5:7 be in our Bible?
In the Textus Receptus 1 John 5:78 reads as follows:
7 For there are three that bear witness IN HEAVEN, THE FATHFR, THE WORD, AND THE
HOLY SPIRIT; AND THESE THREE ARE ONE.
8 AND THERE ARE THREE THAT BEAR WITNESS IN EARTH, the spirit, and the water, and the
blood: and these three agree in one.
The words printed in capital letters constitute the so-called Johannine comma, the best
known of the Latin Vulgate readings of the Textus Receptus, a reading which, on believing
principles, must also be regarded as possibly genuine. This comma has been the occasion of
much controversy and is still an object of interest to textual critics. One of the more
recent discussions of it is found in Windisch's Katholischen Briefe (revised by Preisker,
1951); a more accessible treatment of it in English is that provided by A.E. Brooke (1912)
in the International Critical Commentary. Metzger (1964) also deals with this passage in
his handbook, but briefly.
How 1 John 5:7 entered the Received Text
As has been observed above, the Textus Receptus has both its human aspect and its divine
aspect, like the Protestant Reformation itself or any other work of God's providence. And
when we consider the manner in which the Johannine comma entered the Textus Receptus, we
see this human element at work. Erasmus omitted the Johannine comma from the first edition
(1516) of his printed Greek New Testament on the ground that it occurred only in
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the Latin version and not in any Greek manuscript. To quiet the outcry which arose, he
agreed to restore it if but one Greek manuscript could be found which contained it. When
one such manuscript was discovered soon afterwards, bound by his promise, he included the
disputed reading in his third edition (1522), and thus it gained a permanent place in the
Textus Receptus. The manuscript which forced Erasmus to reverse his stand seems to have
been 61, a 15th or 16th century manuscript now kept at Trinity College, Dublin. Many
critics believe that this manuscript was written at Oxford about 1520 for the special
purpose of refuting Erasmus, and this is what Erasmus himself suggested in his notes.
The Johannine Comma is also found in Codex Ravianus, in the margin of 88, and in 629.
The evidence of these three manuscripts, however, is not regarded as very weighty, since
the first two are thought to have taken this disputed reading from early printed Greek
texts and the latter (like 61) from the Vulgate. (Since Hills wrote this, the latest
United Bible Society Greek Testament lists six Greek cursive MSS which contain it - 61, 88
mg, 429 mg, 629, 636 mg, 918. Moreover D.A. Waite cites evidence of some fourteen others
containing it. Tom Strouse, from whom this information is taken was able to confirm in
addition to the above - 634 mg, omega 110, 221 and 2318; along with two lectionaries - 60,
173; and four Fathers - Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine and Jerome).
But whatever may have been the immediate cause, still, in the last analysis, it was not
trickery which was responsible for the inclusion of the Johannine comma in the Textus
Receptus but the usage of the Latin-speaking Church. It was this usage which made men feel
that this reading ought to be included in the Greek text and eager to keep it there after
its inclusion had been accomplished. Back of this usage, we may well believe, was the
guiding providence of God, and therefore the Johannine comma ought to be retained as
The Early Existence of 1 John 5:7
Evidence for the early existence of the Johannine Comma is found in the Latin versions and
in the writings of the Latin Church Fathers. For example, it seems to have been quoted at
Carthage by Cyprian (c. 250), who writes as follows: "And again concerning the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: and the Three are One." It is true
that Facundus, a 6th century African bishop, interpreted Cyprian as referring to the
following verse, but, as Scrivener (1883) remarks, it is "surely safer and more
candid" to admit that Cyprian read the Johannine comma in his New Testament
manuscript "than to resort to the explanation of Facundus."
The first undisputed citations of the Johannine comma occur in the writings of two 4th
century Spanish bishops, Priscillian, who in 385 was beheaded by the Emperor Maximus on
the charge of sorcery and heresy, and Idacius Clarus, Priscillian's principal adversary
and accuser. In the 5th century the Johannine comma was quoted by several orthodox African
writers to defend the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals, who
ruled North Africa from 439 to 534 and were fanatically attached to the Arian heresy. And
about the same time it was cited by Cassiodorus (480-570) in Italy. The comma is also
found in r, an Old Latin manuscript of the 5th or 6th century, and in the Speculum, a
treatise which contains an Old Latin text. It was not included in Jerome's original
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edition of the Latin Vulgate, but around the year 800 it was taken into the text of the
Vulgate from the Old Latin manuscripts. It was found in the great mass of the later
Vulgate manuscripts and in the Clementine edition of the Vulgate, the official Bible of
the Roman Catholic Church.
Is 1 John 5:7 an Interpolation?
Thus on the basis of the external evidence it is at least possible that the Johannine
comma is a reading that somehow dropped out of the Greek New Testament text but was
preserved in the Latin text through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church, and this
possibility grows more and more toward probability as we consider the internal evidence.
In the first place, how did the Johannine comma originate if it be not genuine, and how
did it come to be interpolated into the Latin New Testament text? To this question modern
scholars have a ready answer. It arose, they say, as a trinitarian interpretation of 1
John 5:8, which originally read as follows: For there are three that bear witness, the
spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. Augustine was one of
those who interpreted 1 John 5:8 as referring to the Trinity. "If we wish to inquire
about these things, what they signify, not absurdly does the Trinity suggest Itself, who
is the one, only, true, and highest God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, concerning whom it
could most truly be said, Three are Witnesses, and the Three are One. By the word spirit
we consider God the Father to be signified, concerning the worship of whom the Lord spoke,
when He said, God is a spirit. By the word blood the Son is signified, because the Word
was made flesh. And by the word water we understand the Holy Spirit. For when Jesus spoke
concerning the water which He was about to give the thirsty, the evangelist says, This He
spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those that believed in Him would receive."
Thus, according to the critical theory, there grew up in the Latin-speaking regions of
ancient Christendom a trinitarian interpretation of the spirit, the water, and the blood
mentioned in 1 John 5:8, the spirit signifying the Father, the blood the Son, and the
water the Holy Spirit. And out of this trinitarian interpretation of 1 John 5:8 developed
the Johannine comma, which contrasts the witness of the Holy Trinity in heaven with the
witness of the spirit, the water, and the blood on earth.
But just at this point the critical theory encounters a serious difficulty. If the
comma originated in a trinitarian interpretation of 1 John 5:8, why does it not contain
the usual trinitarian formula the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Why does it
exhibit the singular combination, never met with elsewhere, the Father, The Word, and the
Holy Spirit? According to some critics, this unusual phraseology was due to the efforts of
the interpolator who first inserted the Johannine comma into the New Testament Text. In a
mistaken attempt to imitate the style of the Apostle John he changed the term Son to the
term Word. But this is to attribute to the interpolator a craftiness which thwarted his
own purpose in making this interpolation, which was surely to uphold the doctrine of the
Trinity, including the eternal generation of the Son. With this as his main concern it is
very unlikely that he would abandon the time-honoured formula, Father, Son and Holy
Spirit, and devise an altogether new one, Father, Word, and Holy Spirit.
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In the second place, the omission of the Johannine coma seems to leave the passage
incomplete. For it is a common scriptural usage to present solemn truths or warnings in
groups of three and four, for example, the repeated three things, yea four of Proverbs 30,
and the constantly recurring refrain, for three transgressions and for four, of the
prophet Amos. In Genesis 40 the butler saw three branches, and the baker saw three
baskets. And in Matthew 12:40 Jesus says, As Jonas was three days and three nights in the
whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the
earth. It is in accord with biblical usage, therefore, to expect that in 1 John 5:7-8 the
formula, there are three that bear witness, will be repeated at least twice. When the
Johannine comma is included the formula is repeated twice. When the comma is omitted, the
formula is repeated only once, which seems very strange.
In the third place, the omission of the Johannine comma involves a grammatical
difficulty. The words spirit, water, and blood are neuter in gender, but in 1 John 5:8
they are treated as masculine. If the Johannine comma is rejected, it is hard to explain
this irregularity. It is usually said that in 1 John 5:8 the spirit, the water, and the
blood are personalised and that this is the reason for the adoption of the masculine
gender. But it is hard to see how such personalisation would involve the change from the
neuter to the masculine. For in verse 6 the word Spirit plainly refers to the Holy Spirit,
the Third Person of the Trinity. Surely in this verse the word Spirit is
"personalised," and yet the neuter gender is used. Therefore, since
personalisation did not bring about a change of gender in verse 6, it cannot fairly be
pleaded as the reason for such a change in verse 8. If, however, the Johannine comma is
retained, a reason for placing the neuter nouns spirit, water and blood in the masculine
gender becomes readily apparent. It was due to the influence of the nouns Father and Word,
which are masculine. Thus the hypothesis that the Johannine comma is an interpolation is
full of difficulties.
Possible Reasons for the Omission of 1 John 5:7 in Greek MSS
For the absence of the Johannine coma from all New Testament documents save those of
the Latin-speaking West the following explanations are possible:
In the first place, it must be remembered that the comma could easily have been omitted
accidentally through a common type of error which is called homoioteleuton (similar
ending). A scribe copying 1 John 5:7-8 under distracting conditions might have begun to
write down these words of verse 7, there are three that bear witness, but have been forced
to look up before his pen had completed this task. When he resumed his work, his eye fell
by mistake on the identical expression in verse 8. This error would cause him to omit all
of the Johannine comma except the words in earth, and these might easily have been dropped
later in the copying of this faulty copy. Such an accidental omission might even have
occurred several times, and in this way there might have grown up a considerable number of
Greek manuscripts which did not contain this reading.
In the second place, it must be remembered that during the second and third centuries
(between 220 and 270, according to Harnack) the heresy which orthodox Christians were
called upon to combat was not Arianism (since this error had not yet arisen) but
Sabellianism (so named after Sabellius, one of its principal promoters), according to
which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were one in the sense that they were
identical. Those that advocated this heretical view were called Patripassians (Father-
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sufferers), because they believed that God the Father, being identical with Christ,
suffered and died upon the cross, and Monarchians, because they claimed to uphold the
Monarchy (sole government) of God.
It is possible, therefore, that the Sabellian heresy brought the Johannine comma into
disfavour with orthodox Christians. The statement, these three are one, no doubt seemed to
them to teach the Sabellian view that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were
identical. And if during the course of the controversy manuscripts were discovered which
had lost this reading in the accidental manner described above, it is easy to see how the
orthodox party would consider these mutilated manuscripts to represent the true text and
regard the Johannine comma as a heretical addition. In the Greek-speaking East especially
the comma would be unanimously rejected, for here the struggle against Sabellianism was
Thus it is not impossible that during the 3rd century, amid the stress and strain of
the Sabellian controversy, the Johannine comma lost its place in the Greek text but was
preserved in the Latin texts of Africa and Spain, where the influence of Sabellianism was
probably not so great. To suppose this, at any rate, is strictly in accord with the
principles of believing Bible study. For although the Greek New Testament text was the
special object of God's providential care, nevertheless, this care also extended, in
lesser degree, to the ancient versions and to the usage not only of Greek-speaking
Christians but also of the other branches of the Christian Church. Hence, although the
Traditional text found in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts is a fully
trustworthy reproduction of the divinely inspired original text, still it is possible that
the text of the Latin Vulgate, which really represents the long-established usage of the
Latin Church, preserves a few genuine readings not found in the Greek manuscripts. And
hence, also, it is possible that the Johannine comma is one of these exceptional readings
which, we may well believe, were included in the Textus Receptus under the direction of
God's special providence.
(4) ERASMUS REJECTED THE READINGS OF VATICANUS AND SIMILAR
As we have seen Vaticanus is the primary pillar of our modern versions. This is the
manuscript that is supposed to be so much better and ancient that those used by Erasmus.
However, according to Wilkinson, Erasmus, through a certain Professor Paulus Bombasius at
Rome, had access to, and received from his "such variant readings as he wished."
And in 1533 a correspondent of Erasmus sent him "a number of selected readings from
Codex B as proof of its superiority to the Received Greek Text." Erasmus, however,
rejected these varying readings because he considered from the massive evidence of his day
that the Received Text was correct. Therefore, modern Bibles are built upon a foundation
that Erasmus rejected. And we can see the guiding hand of God in this rejection.
With the Received Text now in print, we come to the next major epoch in the history of
LUTHER'S GERMAN BIBLE
Continuing with Miller:
When peace was established he turned to his favourite object - the translation of the
New Testament; and after it had undergone the more critical revision of Mlanchthon, he
published it in the September of 1522. The appearance of such
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a work, and at a time when the minds of all men were in a most excited condition,
produced, as might be supposed, the most extraordinary effects. As if carried on the wings
of the wind, it spread from one end of Germany to the other, and to many other countries.
"It is written," according to D'Aubigne, "in the very tone of the Holy
Writings, in a language yet in its youthful vigour, and which for the first time displayed
its great beauties; it interested, charmed, and moved the lowest as well as the highest
ranks." Even the Papal historian, Maimbourg, confesses that "Luther's
translation was remarkably elegant, and in general so much approved, that it was read by
almost everybody throughout Germany. Women of the first distinction studied it with the
most industrious and persevering attention, and obstinately defended the tenets of the
Reformer against bishops, monks and Catholic doctors." It was a national book. It was
the book of the people - the Book of God. This work served more than all Luther's writings
to the spread and consolidation of the reformed doctrines. The Reformation was now placed
on its own proper foundation - the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.
The following statistics show the wonderful success of the work: "A second edition
appeared in the month of December; and by 1533 seventeen editions had been printed at
Wittemberg, thirteen at Augsburg, twelve at Basle, one at Erfurt, one at Grimma, one at
Leipsic, and thirteen at Strasburg."
Meanwhile Luther proceeded in the accomplishment of his great work - the translation of
the Old Testament. With the assistance of Melanchthon and other friends, the work was
published in parts as they were finished, and wholly completed in the year 1530. Luther's
great work was now done. Hitherto he had spoken, but now God Himself was to speak to the
hearts and consciences of men. Vast, wonderful, mighty thought! The Divine testimonies of
truth presented to a great nation, which had hitherto been "perishing for lack of
knowledge." The Divine Word no longer to be concealed under an unknown tongue; the
way of peace no longer to be obscured by the traditions of men; and the testimony of God
Himself concerning Christ and salvation rescued from the superstitions of the Romish
Hills states that Luther's version was based on Erasmus' second edition which appeared
in 1519. It is with sadness though that we must inform the reader that Luther
"segregated Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation at the end of his New Testament as
books of lesser value." (Kenyon).
We now come to the second mighty translation based upon the Received Text of Erasmus.
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6. THE ENGLISH BIBLE OF WILLIAM TYNDALE
[graphic of Tyndale¡¯s New Testment - 1525
not reduced; actual size of whole page 7 1/2in. x 5 ?in.]
Benjamin Wilkinson says:
God, who foresaw the coming greatness of the English-speaking world, prepared in
advance the agent who early would give direction to the course of its thinking. One man
stands out silhouetted against the horizon above all others, as having stamped his genius
upon English thought and upon the English language. That man was WiIliam Tyndale.
The Received Text in Greek, having through Erasmus reassumed its ascendancy in the West
of Europe as it had always maintained it in the East, bequeathed its indispensable
heritage to the English. It meant much that the right genius was engaged to clamp the
English future within this heavenly mould. Providence never is wanting when the hour
strikes. And the world at last is awakening fully to appreciate that William Tyndale is
the true hero of the English Reformation.
The Spirit of God presided over Tyndale's calling and training. He early passed through
Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He went from Oxford to Cambridge to learn Greek under
Erasmus, who was teaching there from 1510 to 1514. Even after Erasmus returned to the
Continent Tyndale kept informed on the revolutionising productions which fell from that
master's pen. Tyndale was not one of those students whose appetite for facts is omnivorous
but who is unable to look down through a system. Knowledge to him was an organic whole in
which, should discords come, created by illogical articulation, he would be able to detect
quibblings at once. He had a natural aptitude for languages, but he did not shut himself
into an airtight compartment with his results, to issue forth with some great conclusion
which would chill the faith of the world. He had a soul. He felt everywhere the sweetness
of the life of God, and he offered himself as a martyr, if only the 1Yord of God might
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Herman Buschius, a friend of Erasmus and one of the leaders in the revival of letters,
spoke of Tyndale as "so skilled in seven languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian,
Spanish, English, French, that whichever he spoke you would suppose it his native
tongue." "Modern Catholic Versions are enormously indebted to Tyndale,"
says Dr. Jacobus. From the standpoint of English, not from the standpoint of doctrine,
much work has been done to approximate the Douay to the King James.
When Tyndale left Cambridge, he accepted a position as tutor in the home of an
influential landowner. Here his attacks upon the superstitions of Popery threw him into
sharp discussions with a stagnant clergy, and brought down upon his head the wrath of the
reactionaries. It was then, in disputing with a learned man who put the Pope's laws above
God's laws, that he made his famous vow, "If God spare my life, ere many years, I
will cause a boy that driveth a plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou
From that moment until he was burnt at the stake, his life was one of continual
sacrifice and persecution. The man who was to charm whole continents and bind them
together as one in principle and purpose by his translation of God's Word, was compelled
to build his masterpiece in a foreign land amid other tongues than his own. As Luther took
the Greek New Testament of Erasmus and made the German language, so Tyndale took the same
immortal gift of God and made the English language. Across the sea, he translated the New
Testament and a large part of the Old Testament. Two-thirds of the Bible was translated
into English by Tyndale, and what he did not translate was finished by those who worked
with him and were under the spell of his genius. The Authorised Bible of the English
language is Tyndale's after his work passed through two or three revisions (Wilkinson).
Terence Brown gives the following fascinating account of Tyndale and his Bible.Tyndale
with the means of giving to English readers for the first time a New Testament translated
directly from the Greek, the language in which it was first written. Like Wycliffe,
Tyndale was accused of heresy, and was not allowed to pursue his studies in peace. He
spent several years on the Continent and was eventually betrayed by a false friend,
arrested, imprisoned and burned at the stake at Vilvorde in Belgium in 1536. The place is
marked by a memorial erected by the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Belgian Bible
Society and the inscriptions include Tyndale's dying prayer "Lord open the eyes of
the King of England. " His prayer was answered when in 1538 King Henry VIII gave
instructions that a large Bible should be placed in every parish church.
Tyndale published an edition of the New Testament in a conveniently small size and
arranged for thousands of copies to be smuggled into England in barrels, bales of cloth,
and even in flour sacks. By these means the New Testament was rapidly and widely
distributed. Many copies were seized and burned at St. Paul's, as "a burnt offering
most pleasing to Almighty God" - as Cardinal Campeggio wrote to Wolsey. Tyndale said
that he was not surprised and would not be surprised if later they should burn him also.
The Bishop of London, who was anxious to obstruct the progress of the Reformation,
consulted with Pakington a merchant with connections in Antwerp, and asked his advice
about buying up all the copies that could be obtained in Europe. He did not know that
Pakington was a friend of Tyndale. "Halle's Chronicle" contains a quaint
description of the incident. "Gentle Master Pakington," said the Bishop, deeming
that he had God by the toe, when in truth he had, as he after thought, the devil by the
fist, "do your diligence to get them for me, and I will gladly give you whatever they
cost, for the books are
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naughty and I intend to destroy them all, and to burn them at Paul's Cross." The
bargain was made, and the story continues, "The Bishop had the Books, Pakington had
the thanks, and Tyndale had the money."
Tyndale was quite pleased with the arrangement, as the money relieved him of his debts,
the burning of some of the Testaments had the effect of encouraging many people to support
the work he was doing, and he now had resources to spend on an improved edition. Some time
afterwards a man named Constantine was being tried before Sir Thomas Moore for heresy. He
was promised leniency if he would tell where Tyndale and his helpers obtained the money to
pay for their editions. Constantine replied - "It is the Bishop of London that hath
holpen us, for he bestowed among us a great deal of money upon New Testaments to burn
them, and that hath been our chief succour and comfort."
The New Testament was based on the second and third editions of Erasmus' Text (1519 and
1522). The New Testament was finished in 1525-6. A large part of the Old Testament was
completed before his martyrdom in 1536 (New Bible Dictionary). Bruce says, "The
influence of Luther's work on Tyndale is obvious to anyone who compares the two versions,
but Tyndale is far from being a mere echo of Luther." The influence of the wording
and structure of Tyndale's New Testament on the Authorised Version is imense, and the
latter provides a continuing tribute to the simplicity, freshness, vitality and felicity
of his work (NBD).
The following gives a sample of Tyndale's version from Philippians 2:
"Let the same mynde be in you the which was in Christ Jesu. Which beynge in the
shape of God, and thought yt not robbery to be equal with God. Neverthelesse, he made
hymsilfe of no reputacion, and toke on him the shape of a servaunte, and becam lyke unto
men, and was founde in his apparell as a man. He humbled hym sylfe and becam obedient unto
the deeth, even the deeth of the crosse. Wherfore God hath exalted hym, and gyven hym a
name above all names, that in the name of Jesus shulde every knee bowe, both of thingis in
heven and thingis in erth and thingis under erth, and that all tonges shulde confesse that
Jesus Christ is the lorde, unto the prayse of God the father. Wherfore, my dearly beloved:
as ye I have alwayes obeyed, not when I was present only, but nowe moche more in myne
absence, even so performe youre owne health with feare and tremblynge. For yt is God which
worketh in you, both the wyll and also the dede, even of good wyll." (Kenyon)
7. ROMAN CATHOLIC EDITIONS OF THE 15TH AND EARLY 16TH CENTURIES
(1) THE COMPLUTENSIAN POLYGLOT - 1522
In 1502 Cardinal Ximenes formed a plan for a printed Bible containing the Hebrew, Greek
and Latin texts in parallel columns. Many years were spent in collecting and comparing
MSS, with the assistance of several scholars. It was not until 1514 that the New
Testainent was printed, and the Old Testament was only completed in 1517. Even then
various delays occurred, including the death of Ximenes himself. The actual publication
did not take place until 1522 and by that time lost the honour of being the first printed
Greek Bible. Only 600 copies were printed [That is of the complete work. Quite a number of
editions of the Greek N.T. persions were in later years published at Antwerp and Geneva].
Complutensian is Latin for Alcala, the town in Spain where it was printed (Kenyon).
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[graphic Complutensian Polyglot - 1522
(Actual size 12in. x 9 in.)]
(2) THE RHEIMS-DOUAY ENGLISH VERSION 1582 1610
The New Testament was published at Rheims, France in 1582 and the Old Testament in
Douai in 1610. This first Roman Catholic English translation of the Scriptures was based
on the Latin Vulgate with some reference to the Greek.Benjamin Wilkinson describes the
powers behind this Bible:
So instant and so powerful was the influence of Tyndale's gift upon England, that
Catholicism, through those newly formed papal invincibles called the Jesuits, sprang to
its feet and brought forth, in the form of a Jesuit New Testament, the most effective
instrument of learning the Papacy, up to that time, had produced in the English language.
This newly invented rival version advanced to the attack, and we are now called to
consider how a crisis in the world's history was met when the Jesuit Bible became a
challenge to Tyndale's translation.
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(a) The Jesuits
The Catholic Church has 69 organisations of men, some of which have been in existence
for over one thousand years. Of these we might name the Augustinians, the Benedictines,
the Capuchins, the Dominicans, and so on. The Benedictines were founded about 540 A.D.
Each order has many members, often reaching into the thousands, and tens of thousands. The
Augustinians, for example (to which order Martin Luther belonged), numbered 35,000 in his
day. The men of these orders never marry but live in communities or large fraternity
houses known as monasteries, which are for men what the convents are for women. Each
organisation exists for a distinct line of endeavour, and each, in turn, is directly under
the order of the Pope. They overrun all countries and constitute the army militant of the
Papacy. The monks are called the regular clergy, while the priests, bishops, and others
who conduct churches are called the secular clergy. Let us see why the Jesuits stand
predominantly above all these, so that the general of the Jesuits has great authority
within all the vast ranks of the Catholic clergy, regular and secular.
Within thirty-five years after Luther had nailed his theses upon the door of the
Cathedral of Wittenberg, and launched his attacks upon the errors and corrupt practices of
Rome, the Protestant Reformation was thoroughly established. The great contributing factor
to this spiritual upheaval was the translation by Luther of the Greek New Testament of
Erasmus into German. The medieval Papacy awakened from its superstitious lethargy to see
that in one-third of a century, the Reformation had carried away two-thirds of Europe.
Germany, England, the Scandinavian countries, Holland, and Switzerland had become
Protestant. France, Poland, Bavaria, Austria and Belgium were swinging that way.
In consternation, the Papacy looked around in every direction for help. If the Jesuits
had not come forward and offered to save the situation, today there might not be a
Catholic Church. What was the offer, and what were these weapons, the like of which man
never before had forged?
The founder of the Jesuits was a Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, whom the Catholic Church
has canonized and made Saint Ignatius. He was a soldier in the war which King Ferdinand
and Queen Isabella of Spain were waging to drive the Mohammedans out of Spain, about the
time that Columbus discovered America.
Wounded at the siege of Pampeluna (1521 A.D.), so that his military career was over,
Ignatius turned his thoughts to spiritual conquests and spiritual glory. Soon afterwards,
he wrote the book called "Spiritual Exercises," which did more than any other
document to erect a new papal theocracy and to bring about the establishment of the
infallibility of the Pope. In other words, Catholicism since the Reformation is a new
Catholicism. It is more fanatical and more intolerant.
Ignatius Loyola came forward and must have said in substance to the Pope: "Let the
Augustinians continue to provide monasteries of retreat for contemplative minds; let the
Benedictines give themselves up to the field of literary endeavour; let the Dominicans
retain their responsibility for maintaining the Inquisition; but we, the Jesuits, will
capture the colleges and the universities. We will gain control of instruction in law,
medicine, science, education, and so weed out from all books of instruction, anything
injurious to Roman Catholicism. We will mould the thoughts and ideas of the youth. We will
enroll ourselves as Protestant preachers and college professors in the different
Protestant faiths. Sooner or later, we will undermine the authority of the Greek New
Testament of Erasmus, and also
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of those Old Testament productions which have dared to raise their heads against
tradition. And thus will we undermine the Protestant Reformation."
How well the Jesuits have succeeded, let the following pages tell. Soon the brains of
the Catholic Church were to be found in that order. About 1582, when the Jesuit Bible was
launched to destroy Tyndale's English Version, the Jesuits dominated 287 colleges and
universities in Europe. Their complete system of education and of drilling was likened, in
the constitution of the order itself, to the reducing of all its members to the placidity
of a corpse, whereby the whole could be turned and returned at the will of the superior.
We quote from their constitution:
"As for holy obedience, this virtue must be perfect in every point - in execution,
in will, in intellect - doing what is enjoined with all celerity, spiritual joy, and
perseverance; persuading ourselves that everything is just; suppressing every repugnant
thought and judgement of one's own, in a certain obedience; and let every one persuade
himself that he who lives under obedience should be moved and directed, under Divine
Providence, by his superior, just as if he were a corpse (perinde ac si cadaver esset),
which allows itself to be moved and led in any direction" (R.W. Thompson, Footsteps
of the Jesuits).
That which put an edge on the newly forged mentality was the unparalleled system of
education impressed upon the pick of Catholic youth. The Pope, perforce, virtually threw
open the ranks of the many millions of Catholic young men and told the Jesuits to go in
and select the most intelligent. The initiation rites were such as to make a lifelong
impression on the candidate for admission. He never would forget the first trial of his
faith. Thus the youth are admitted under a test which virtually binds forever the will, if
it has not already been enslaved. What matters to him? Eternal life is secure, and all is
for the greater glory of God.
Then follow the long years of intense mental training, interspersed with periods of
practice. They undergo the severest methods of quick and accurate learning.
Dominant in the south of Europe, the great order soon went forth conquering and to
conquer. In spite of oceans and deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and penal
laws, of dungeons and racks, of gibbets and quarteringblocks, Jesuits were to be found
under every disguise, and in every country; scholars, physicians, merchants, serving men;
in the hostile court of Sweden, in the old manor house of Cheshire, among the hovels of
Connaught; arguing, instructing, consoling, stealing away the hearts of the young,
animating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying.
Nor was it less their office to plot against the thrones and lives of the apostate
kings, to spread evil rumours, to raise tumults, to inflame civil wars, to arm the hand of
the assassin. Inflexible in nothing but in their fidelity to the Church, they were equally
ready to appeal in her cause to the spirit of loyalty and to the spirit of freedom.
Extreme doctrines of obedience and extreme doctrines of liberty, the right of rulers to
misgovern the people, the right of every one of the people to plunge his knife in the
heart of a bad ruler.
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And again: If Protestantism, or the semblance of Protestantism, showed itself in any
quarter, it was instantly met, not by petty, teasing persecution, but by persecution of
that sort which bows down and crushes all but a very few select spirits. Whoever was
suspected of heresy, whatever his rank, his learning, or his reputation, knew that he must
purge himself to the satisfaction of a severe and vigilant tribunal, or die by fire.
Heretical books were sought out and destroyed with similar rigour.
(b) The Council of Trent is called to defeat the Reformation (1545-1563)
The Council of Trent was dominated by the Jesuits. This we must bear in mind as we
study that Council. It is the leading characteristic of that assembly. The great
Convention was called by Paul III when he saw that such a council was imperative if the
Reformation was to be checked. And when it did assemble, he so contrived the manipulation
of the program and the attendance of the delegates, that the Jesuitical conception of a
theocratic Papacy should be incorporated into the canons of the church.
So prominent had been the Reformers' denunciations of the abuses of the church, against
her exactions, and against her shocking immoralities, that we would naturally expect that
this council, which marks so great a turning point in church history, would have promptly
met the charges. But this it did not do. The very first propositions to be discussed at
length and with intense interest were those relating to the Scriptures. This shows how
fundamental to all reform, as well as to the great Reformation, is the determining power
over Christian order and faith, of the disputed readings and the disputed books of the
Bible. Moreover, these propositions denounced by the Council, which we give below, the
Council did not draw up itself. They were taken from the writings of Luther. We thus see
how fundamental to the faith of Protestantism is their acceptance; while their rejection
constitutes the keystone to the superstitions and to the tyrannical theology of the
Papacy. These four propositions which first engaged the attention of the Council, and
which the Council condemned, are:
They Condemned: I
"That Holy Scripture contained all things necessary for salvation, and that it was
impious to place apostolic tradition on a level with Scripture."
They Condemned: II
"That certain books accepted as canonical in the Vulgate were apocryphal and not
They Condemned: III
"That Scripture must be studied in the original languages, and that there were errors
in the Vulgate."
They Condemned: IV
"That the meaning of Scripture is plain, and that it can be understood without
commentary with the help of Christ's Spirit."
For eighteen long years, the Council deliberated. The papal scholars determined what
was the Catholic faith. During these eighteen years, the Papacy gathered up to itself what
survived of Catholic territory. The Church of Rome consolidated her remaining forces and
took her stand solidly on the grounds that tradition was of equal value with the
Scriptures; that the seven apocryphal books of the Vulgate were as much Scripture as the
other books; that those readings of the Vulgate in the accepted books, which
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differed from the Greek, were not errors, as Luther and the Reformers had said, but
were authentic, and finally, that lay members of the church had no right to interpret the
Scriptures apart from the Clergy.
(c) The Jesuit Bible of 1582
The opening decrees of the Council of Trent had set the pace for centuries to come.
They pointed out the line of battle which the Catholic reaction would wage against the
Reformation. First undermine the Bible, then destroy the Protestant teaching and doctrine.
If we include the time spent in studying these questions before the opening session of
the Council in 1545 until the Jesuit Bible made its first appearance in 1582, fully forty
years were passed in the preparation of the Jesuit students who were being drilled in
these departments of learning. The first attack on the position of the Reformers regarding
the Bible must soon come. It was clearly seen then, as it is now, that if confusion on the
origin and authenticity of the Scriptures could be spread abroad in the world, the amazing
certainty of the Reformers on these points, which had astonished and confounded the
Papacy, could be brocken down. In time the Reformation would be splintered to pieces, and
driven as the chaff before the wind. The leadership in the battle for the Reformation was
passing over from Germany to England. Here it advanced mightily, helped greatly by the new
version of Tyndale. Therefore, Jesuitical scholarship, with at least forty years of
training, must bring forth in England a Jesuit Version capable of superseding the Bible of
Tyndale. Could it be done?
Sixty years elapsed from the close of the Council of Trent (1563) to the landing of the
Pilgrims in America. During those sixty years, England had been changing from a Catholic
nation to a Bible-loving people. Since 1525, when Tyndale's Bible appeared, the Scripture
had obtained a wide circulation. As Tyndale foresaw, the influence of the Divine Word had
weaned the people away from pomp and ceremony in religion. But this result had not been
obtained without years of struggle. Spain, at that time, was not only the greatest nation
in the world, but also was fanatically Catholic. All the new world belonged to Spain, she
ruled the seas and dominated Europe. The Spanish sovereign and the Papacy united in their
efforts to send into England bands of highly trained Jesuits. By these, plot after plot
was hatched to place a Catholic ruler on England's throne.
At the same time, the Jesuits were acting to turn the English people from the Bible,
back to Romanism. As a means to this end, they brought forth in English a Bible of their
own. Let it always be borne in mind that the Bible adopted by Constantine was in Greek;
that Jerome's Bible was in Latin; but that the Jesuit Bible was in English. If English
could be retained in the Catholic column, Spain and England together would see to it that
all America, north and south, would be Catholic. In fact, wherever the influence of the
English-speaking race extended, Catholicism would reign. If this result were to be
thwarted, it was necessary to meet the danger brought about by the Jesuit Version.
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(d) The Great Stir Over This Edition
So powerful was the swing toward Protestantism during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and
so strong the love for Tyndale's Version, that there was neither place nor Catholic
scholarship enough in England to bring forth a Catholic Bible in strength. Priests were in
prison for their plotting, and many had fled to the Continent. There they founded schools
to train English youth and send them back to England as priests. Two of these colleges
alone sent over, in a few years, not less than three hundred priests.
The most prominent of these colleges, called seminaries, was at Rheims, France. Here
the Jesuits assembled a company of learned scholars. From here they kept the Pope informed
of the changes of the situation in England, and from here they directed the movements of
Philip II of Spain as he prepared a great fleet to crush England and bring it back to the
feet of the Pope.
The burning desire to give the common people the Holy Word of God was the reason why
Tyndale had translated it into English. No such reason impelled the Jesuits at Rheims. In
the preface of their Rheims New Testament, they state that it was not translated into
English because it was necessary that the Bible should be in the mother tongue, or that
God had appointed the Scriptures to be read by all; but from the special consideration of
the state of their mother country. This translation was intended to do on the inside of
England what the great navy of Philip II was to do on the outside. One was to be used as a
moral attack, the other as a physical attack - both to reclaim England. The preface
especially urged that those portions be committed to memory "which made most against
The principal object of the Rhemish translators was not only to circulate their
doctrines through the country, but also to depreciate as much as possible the English
The appearance of the Jesuit New Testament of 1582 produced consternation in England.
It was understood at once to be a menace against the new English unity. It was to serve as
a wedge between Protestants and Catholics. It was the product of unusual ability and years
of learning. Immediately, the scholarship of England was astir. Queen Elizabeth sent forth
the call for a David to meet this Goliath. Finding no one in her kingdom satisfactory to
her, she sent to Geneva, where Calvin was building up his great work, and besought Beza,
the co-worker of Calvin, to undertake the task of answering the objectionable matter
contained in this Jesuit Version. In this department of learning, Beza was easily
recognised as chief. To the astonishment of the Queen, Beza modestly replied that her
majesty had within her own realm a scholar more able to undertake the task than he. He
referred to Thomas Cartwright, the great Puritan divine. Beza said, "The sun does not
shine on a greater scholar than Cartwright."
Cartwright was a Puritan, and Elizabeth disliked the Puritans as much as she did the
Catholics. She wanted an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian to undertake the answer.
Cartwright was ignored. But time was passing and English Protestantism wanted Cartwright.
The universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Episcopalian though they were, sent to
Cartwright a request signed by their outstanding scholars. Cartwright decided to undertake
it. He reached out one arm and grasped all the power of the Latin manuscripts and
testimony. He reached out his other arm and in it he embraced all the vast stores of Greek
and Hebrew literature. With inescapable logic, he marshalled the facts of his vast
learning and levelled blow after blow
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against this latest and most dangerous product of Catholic theology.
Meanwhile, 136 great Spanish galleons, some armed with 50 cannons, were slowly sailing
up the English Channel to make England Catholic. England had no ships. Elizabeth asked
Parliament for 15 men-of-war - they voted 30. With these, assisted by harbour tugs under
Drake, England sailed forth to meet the greatest fleet the world had ever seen. All
England teemed with excitement. God helped: the Armada was crushed, and England became a
great sea power.
The Rheims-Douay and the King James Version were published less than thirty years
apart. Since then the King James has steadily held it own. The Rheims-Douay has been
repeatedly changed to approximate the King James. The result is that the Douay of 1600 and
that of 1900 are not the same in many ways.
The New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582. The university was moved back to
Douai in 1593, where the Old Testament was published in 1609-1610. This completed what is
known as the original Douay Bible. There are said to have been two revisions of the Douay
Old Testament and eight of the Douay New Testament, representing such an extent of verbal
alterations, and modernized spelling that a Roman Catholic authority says, "The
version now in use has been so seriously altered that it can be scarcely considered
identical with that which first went by the name of the Douay Bible," and further
that, "it never had any episcopal imprimatur, much less any papal approbation"
(The Catholic Encyclopedia, and following).
"Although the Bibles in use at the present day by the Catholics of England and
Ireland are popularly styled the Douay Version, they are most improperly so called; they
are founded, with more or less alteration, on a series of revisions undertaken by Bishop
Challoner in 1749-52. His object was to meet the practical want felt by the Catholics of
his day of a Bible moderate in size and price, in readable English, and with notes more
suitable to the time¡ The changes introduced by him were so considerable that,
according to Cardinal Newman, they 'almost amounted to a new translation.' So also,
Cardinal Wiseman wrote, 'To call it any longer the Douay or Rhemish is an abuse of terms.
It has been altered and modified until scarcely any verse remains as it was originally
published. In nearly every case, Challoner's changes took the form approximating to the
Note the above quotations. Because if you seek to compare the Douay with the American
Revised Version, you will find that the older, or first Douay of 1582, is more like it in
Catholic readings than those editions of today, inasmuch as the 1582 Version had been
doctored and redoctored. Yet, even in the later editions, you will find many of those
corruptions which the Reformers denounced and which reappear in the American Revised
Version.A thousand years had passed before time permitted the trial of strength between
the Greek Bible and the Latin. They had fairly met in the struggles of 1582 and the thirty
years following in their respective English translations. The Vulgate yielded before the
Received Text. The Latin was vanquished before the Greek; the mutilated version before the
pure Word. The Jesuits were obliged to shift their line of battle. They saw, that armed
only with the Latin, they could fight no longer. They therefore resolved to enter the
field of the Greek and become superb masters of the Greek; only that they might meet the
influence of the Greek. They knew that manuscripts in Greek, of the type from which the
Bible adopted by Constantine had been taken, were awaiting them - manuscripts, moreover,
which involved the Old Testament as well as the New. To use them to overthrow the
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Received Text would demand great training and almost Herculean labours, For the
received text was apparently incincible.
But still more. Before they could get under way, the English champions of the Greek had
moved up and consolidated their gains. Flushed with their glorious victory over the Jesuit
Bible of 1582, and over the Spanish Armada of 1588, every energy pulsating with certainty
and hope, English Protestantism brought forth a perfect masterpiece. They gave to the
world what has been considered by hosts of scholars the greatest version ever produced in
any language, The King James Bible, called "The Miracle of English Prose." This
was not taken from the Latin in either the Old or the New Testament, but from the
languages in which God originally wrote His Word, namely, from the Hebrew in the Old
Testament and from the Greek in the New Testament.
The Jesuits had therefore before them a double task - both to supplant the authority of
the Greek of the Received Text by another Greek New Testament, and then upon this
mutilated foundation to bring forth a new English Version which might retire the King
James into the background. In other words, they must, before they could again give
standing to the Vulgate, bring Protestantism to accept a mutilated Greek text and an
English version based upon it.
The manuscripts from which the New Version must be taken would be like the Greek
manuscripts which Jerome used in producing the Vulgate. The opponents of the King James
Version would even do more. They would enter the field of the Old Testament, namely, the
Hebrew, and, from the translations of it into Greek in the early centuries, seize whatever
advantages they could. In other words, the Jesuits had put forth one Bible in English,
that of 1582; of course they could get out another!! (Pages 162-169 are from Wilkinson).
Thus Wilkinson is saying that there is a Jesuit influence in key areas of Bible
revision since the days of the King James Version. And that this influence is not limited
to the standard Roman Catholic editions. Certainly time and time again in preparing this
paper, I have noted that many of the naturalistic scholars seem to be overly generous and
friendly in their statements toward the Roman position. They certainly do not seem very
forthright in defending the Protestant position. A number of key modern translations
openly state that there has been Catholic participation in the project.
An example of this "Iet's get friendly" approach by a noted scholar can be
seen in the following,
In his article, "One Bible - Many Versions" in the "Christian" of
9th October, 1964, Professor F.F. Bruce mentioned that in one group of teacher training
colleges the Roman and non-Roman colleges set identical papers in Divinity, except that
the Roman Catholic papers were based on the Douay Bible and the other colleges used the
Revised Version and more recently the N.E.B. Soon after the change from the R.V. to the
N.E.B. was made, news was released of progress on the Roman Catholic Edition of the
Revised Standard Version. Professor Bruce expected the Roman colleges to adopt this
version in due course, and expressed his regret that the non-Roman colleges did not also
switch to the Revised Standard Version. This version is thus advocated as more or less
equally acceptable to Romanists and Protestants.
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The same writer declared that he did not share the desire expressed by some for an
Evangelical version, but looked for a version "which is as truthful as human skill,
aided by the divine grace, can make it," a version which would commend itself to
Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals alike. Professor Bruce expressed the view that the
Revised Standard Version, with certain improvements, would come very close to this ideal.
See "Rome and the R.S.V." prepared by the Trinitarian Bible Society, 217
Kingston Road, London, S.W.19.
(3) THE SIXTINE AND CLEMENTINE LATIN BIBLES 1590, 1592
After the Polyglot of Ximenes (1522) no authoritative printed edition of the Latin
appeared until Sixtus V became Pope in 1585. Immediately on his accession, he appointed a
commission to revise the Vulgate, in which work he himself took an active part.
Surprisingly, and much to his credit, the N.T. generally resembles and was evidently based
on the Received Text Edition of Stephanus (see below).
But hardly had it issued from the press, and Sixtus declared his edition to be the
"sole authentic and authorised form of the Bible," that he died. One of the
first acts of Clement VIII, his successor in 1592, was to call in all copies of the
Sixtine Bible. The alleged reason was that the edition was full of errors. This charge has
been shown to be baseless. It is believed, however, that Clement was incited to this by
The Sixtine was altered in over 3000 readings and was published in late 1592 as the
Clementine Bible. This is the authorised edition of the Latin Bible current in the
Catholic Church today (Based on Kenyon).
8. GREEK EDITIONS OF THE RECEIVED TEXT AFTFR ERAMUS
(1) EDITIONS OF STEPHANUS 1546-1551
The great printer-editor, Robert Estienne, or Stephanus of Paris (sometimes anglicized
as Stephens) issued four editions of the Greek New Testament based mainly on the later
editions (1527 and 1535) of Erasmus.
The first two appeared in 1546 and 1549. The third published in 1550 was the first
Greek Testament to contain a critical apparatus (i.e. a listing of variant readings) for
which 15 MSS were used. One of these was Codex Bezae, but of this little use was made. It
is this 1550 edition which since that time has been most frequently reprinted and has been
the standard edition of the Received Text. It was known as the royal edition.
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(2) EDITIONS OF BEZA 1565-1611
Theodore Beza of Geneva edited ten editions of the Received Text, with the last one
appearing after his death.
Four of these were editions of the Stephens Text with some changes and a Latin
translation of his own in parallel. Textual notes were printed under the text. These folio
editions appeared in 1565, 1582, 1588 and 1598. Beza produced several octavio editions in
1565, 1567, 1580, 1590 an 1604.
The King James Version was based primarily upon Beza's 1598 edition. This Greek edition
is available from the Trinitarian Bible Society (Strouse and Brown). I would strongly
recommend using this edition in our study of the Greek New Testament.
(3) EDITIONS BY THE ELEZEVER BROTHERS, 1624-1678
They produced seven editions. In the preface of their second edition (1633) they wrote:
"textum ¡ nunc ab omnibus" - "text now received by all." This
popularised the term "Received Text" as descriptive of the vast majority of
Greek MSS which have been passed down through the centuries (Strouse).
9. FOREIGN LANGUAGE VERSIONS
Following Luther's version in 1522, was the French version of Oliveton (1535), the
Spanish and Czech translations (both in 1602), and Diodati's Italian translation of 1607
Wilkinson says more particularly.
Four Bibles produced under Waldensian influence touched the history of Calvin: namely,
a Greek, a Waldensian vernacular, a French and an Italian. Calvin himself was led to his
great work by Olivetan, a Waldensian. Thus was the Reformation brought to Calvin, that
brilliant student of the Paris University. Farel, also a Waldensian, besought him to come
to Geneva and open up a work there. Calvin felt that he should labour in Paris. According
to Leger, Calvin recognized a relationship to the Calvins of the Valley of St. Martin, one
of the Waldensian Valleys (From Leger, History of the Voudois).
Finally, persecution at Paris and the solicitation of Farel caused Calvin to settle at
Geneva, where, with Beza, he brought out an edition of the Textus Receptus - the one the
author now used in his college class rooms, as edited by Scrivener. Of Beza, Dr. Edgar
says that he "astonished and confounded the world" with the Greek manuscripts he
unearthed. This later edition of the Received Text is in reality a Greek New Testament
brought out under Waldensian influence. Unquestionably, the leaders of the Reformation
German, French and English were convinced that the Received Text was the genuine New
Testament, not only by its own irresistible history and internal evidence, but also
because it matched with the Received Text which in Waldensian form came down from the days
of the apostles.
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The other three Bibles of Waldensian connection were due to three men who were at
Geneva with Calvin, or when he died, with Beza, his successor, namely, Olivetan, Leger and
Diodati. How readily the two streams of descent of the Received Text, through the Greek
East and the Waldensian West, ran together, is illustrated by the meeting of the Olivetan
Bible and the Received Text. Olivetan, one of the most illustrious pastors of the
Waldensian Valleys, a relative of Calvin, according to Leger, and a splendid student,
translated the New Testament into French. Leger bore testimony that the Olivetan Bible,
which accorded with the Textus Receptus, was unlike the old manuscripts of the Papists,
because they were full of falsification. Later, Calvin edited a second edition of the
Olivetan Bible. The Olivetan in turn became the basis of the Geneva Bible in English which
was the leading version in England in 1611 when the King James appeared.
Diodati, who succeeded Beza in the chair of Theology at Geneva, translated the Received
Text into Italian. This version was adopted by the Waldenses, although there was in use at
that time a Waldensian Bible in their own peculiar language. This we know because Sir
Samuel Morland, under the protection of Oliver Cromwell, received from Leger the
Waldensian New Testament which now lies in the Cambridge University library. After the
devastating massacre of the Waldenses in 1655, Leger felt that he should collect and give
into the hands of Sir Samuel Morland as many pieces of the ancient Waldensian literature
as were available.
It is interesting to trace back the Waldensian Bible which Luther had before him when
he translated the New Testament. Luther used the Tepl Bible, named from Tepl, Bohemia.
This Tepl manuscript represented a translation of the Waldensian Bible into the German
which was spoken before the days of the Reformation. Of this remarkable manuscript, Comba
"When the manuscript of Tepl appeared, the attention of the learned was aroused by
the fact that the text it presents corresponds word for word with that of the first three
editions of the ancient German Bible. Then Louis Keller, an original writer, with the
decided opinions of a layman and versed in the history of the sects of the Middle Ages,
declared the Tepl manuscript to be Waldensian. Another writer, Hermann Haupt, who belongs
to the old Catholic party, supported his opinion vigorously."
From Comba we also learn that the Tepl manuscript has an origin different from the
version adopted by the Church of Rome; that it seems to agree rather with the Latin
versions anterior to Jerome, the author of the Vulgate; and that Luther followed it in his
translation, which probably is the reason why the Catholic Church reproved Luther for
following the Waldenses. Another peculiarity is its small size, which seems to single it
out as one of those little books which the Waldensian evangelists carried with them hidden
under their rough cloaks. We have, therefore, an indication of how much the Reformation
under Luther as well as Luther's Bible owed to the Waldenses.
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Waldensian influence, both from the Waldensian Bibles and from Waldensian
relationships, entered into the King James translation of 1611. Referring to the King
James translators, one author speaks thus of a Waldensian Bible they used: "It is
known that among modern versions they consulted was an Italian, and though no name is
mentioned, there cannot be room for doubt that it was the elegant translation made with
great ability from the original Scriptures by Giovanni Diodati, which had only recently
(1607) appeared at Geneva" (From Benjamin Warfield, "Collections of Opinion and
It is therefore evident that the translators of 1611 had before them four Bibles which
had come under Waldensian influences: the Diodati in Italian, the Olivetan in French, the
Lutheran in German, and the Genevan in English. We have every reason to believe that they
had access to at least six Waldensian Bibles written in the old Waldensian vernacular,
including Dublin MS A4, and No. 13, once the property of Archbishop Ussher, presented by
King Charles II of England to the University of Dublin.
Dr. Nolan, who had already acquired fame for his Greek and Latin scholarship and
researches into Egyptian chronology, and was a lecturer of note, spent twenty-eight years
to trace back the Received Text to its apostolic origin. He was powerfully impressed to
examine the history of the Waldensian Bible. He felt certain that researches in this
direction would demonstrate that the Italic New Testament, or the New Testament of those
primitive Christians of northern Italy whose lineal descendants the Waldenses were, would
turn out to be the Received Text. He says:
"The author perceived, without any labour of enquiry, that it derived its name
from that diocese, which has been termed the Italick, as contra-distinguished from the
Roman. This is a supposition, which receives a sufficient confirmation from the fact, -
that the principal copies of that version have been preserved in that diocese, the
metropolitan church of which was situated in Milan. The circumstance is at present
mentioned, as the author thence formed a hope, that some remains of the primitive Italick
version might be found in the early translations made by the Waldenses, who were the
lineal descendants of the Italick Church; and who have asserted their independence against
the usurpations of the Church of Rome, and have ever enjoyed the free use of the
In the search to which these considerations have led the author, his fondest
expectations have been fully realised. It has furnished him with abundant proof on that
point to which his enquiry was chiefly directed; as it has supplied him with the
unequivocal testimony of a truly apostolical branch of the primitive church, that the
celebrated text of the heavenly witnesses was adopted in the version which prevailed in
the Latin Church, previously to the introduction of the modern Vulgate" (Frederick
Nolan, Integrity of the Greek Vulgate).
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10. ENGLISH VERSIONS BETWEEN TYNDALE AND THE K.J.V.
The following has been taken from Kenyon:
(1) COVERDALE'S BIBLE, 1535
Tyndale was burnt; but he, with even greater right than Latimer, might say that he had
lighted such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as should never be put out. His own New
Testament had been rigorously excluded from England, so far as those in authority could
exclude it; but the case for which he gave his life was won. Even before his death he
might have heard that a Bible, partly founded on his own, had been issued in England under
the protection of the highest authorities. In 1534 the Upper House of Convocation of
Canterbury had petitioned the King to authorise a translation of the Bible into English,
and it was probably at this time that Cranmer proposed a scheme for a joint translation by
nine or ten of the most learned bishops and other scholars. Cranmer's scheme came to
nothing; but Cromwell, now Secretary of State, incited Miles Coverdale to publish a work
of translation on which he had been already engaged. Coverdale had known Tyndale abroad,
and is said to have assisted him in his translation of the Pentateuch; but he was no Greek
or Hebrew scholar, and his version, which was printed abroad in 1535 (probably, according
to the latest expert view, at Marburg) and appeared in England in that year or the next,
professed only to be translated from the Dutch (i.e. German) and Latin. Coverdale, a
moderate, tolerant, earnest man, claimed no originality, and expressly looked forward to
the Bible being more faithfully presented both "by the ministration of other that
begun it afore" (Tyndale) and by the future scholars who should follow him; but his
Bible has two important claims on our interest. Though not expressly authorised, it was
undertaken at the wish of Cromwell, and a dedication to Henry VIII, printed apparently by
Nycholson of Southwark, was inserted among the prefatory matter of the German-printed
sheets, which were no doubt imported unbound. It is thus the first English Bible which
circulated in England without let or hindrance from the higher powers. It is also the
first complete English printed Bible, since Tyndale had not been able to finish the whole
of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament Coverdale depended mainly on the Swiss-German
version published by Zwingli and Leo Juda in 1524-9, though in the Pentateuch he also made
considerable use of Tyndale's translation. The New Testament is a careful revision of
Tyndale by comparison with the German. It is to Coverdale therefore that our English
versions of the poetical and prophetical books are primarily due, and in handling the work
of others he showed great skill. Many of Coverdale's phrases have passed into the
Authorised Version. In one respect he departed markedly from his predecessor - namely, in
bringing back to the English Bible the ecclesiastical terms which Tyndale had banished.
The demand for the Bible continued unabated, and a further step had been made in the
direction of securing official authorisation. Two revised editions were published in 1537,
this time printed in England by Nycholson; and one of these, in quarto, bore the
announcement that it was "set forth with the king's most gracious license." The
bishops in Convocation might still discuss the expediency of allowing the Scriptures to
circulate in English, but the question had been decided without them. The Bible
circulated, and there could be no returning to the old ways.
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[graphic Cloverdale¡¯s Bible - 1535
(Actual Size 10 ?in. x 6 5/8 in.)]
(2) MATTHEW'S BIBLE, 1537
Fresh translations, or, to speak more accurately, fresh revisions, of the Bible now
followed one another in quick succession. The first to follow Coverdale's was that which
is known as Matthew's Bible, but which is in fact the completion of Tyndale's work.
Tyndale had only published the Pentateuch, Jonah and the New Testament, but he had never
abandoned his work on the Old Testament, and he had left behind him in manuscript a
version of the books from Joshua to 2 Chronicles. The person into whose hands this version
fell, and who was responsible for its publication, was John Rogers, a disciple of Tyndale
and an earnest reformer; and whether "Thomas Matthew," whose name stands at the
foot of the dedication, was an assistant of Rogers, or was Rogers himself under another
name, has never been clearly ascertained.
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It has also been suggested that Matthew stands for Tyndale, to whom the greater part of
the translation was really due. The appearance of Tyndale's name on the title-page would
have made it impossible for Henry VIII to admit it into England without convicting himself
of error in proscribing Tyndale's New Testament.
There is, however, no doubt that Rogers was the person responsible for it, and that
"Matthew" has no other known existence. The Bible which Rogers published in
1537, at the expense of two London merchants, consisted of Tyndale's version of Genesis to
2 Chronicles, Coverdale's for the rest of the Old Testament (including the Apocrypha), and
Tyndale's New Testament according to his final edition in 1535; the whole being very
slightly revised, and accompanied by introductions, summaries of chapters, wood-cuts and
copious marginal comments of a somewhat contentious character. It was printed abroad,
probably at Antwerp, was dedicated to Henry VIII, and was cordially welcomed and promoted
by Cranmer. Cromwell himself, at Cranmer's request presented it to Henry and procured his
permission for it to be sold publicly; and so it came about that Tyndale's translation,
which Henry and all the heads of the Church had in 1525 proscribed, was in 1537 sold in
England by leave of Henry and through the active support of the Secretary of State and the
archbishop of Canterbury.
THE GREAT BIBLE, 1539-41
[graphic The Great Bible - 1535
(Actual Size 13 ?in. x 9 ?in.)]
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The English Bible had now been licensed, but it had not yet been commanded to be read
in churches. That honour was reserved for a new revision which Crowwell (perhaps anxious
lest the substantial identity of Matthew's Bible with Tyndale's, and the controversial
character of the notes, should come to the King's knowledge) employed Coverdale to make on
the basis of Matthew's Bible. It was decided to print it in Paris, where better paper and
more sumptuous printing were to be had. The French king's licence was obtained, and
printing was begun in 1538. Before it was completed, however, friction arose between the
English and French courts, and on the suggestion of the French ambassador in London the
Inquisition was prompted to seize the sheets. Coverdale, however, rescued a great number
of the sheets, conveyed printers, presses and type to London, and there completed the
work, of which Cromwell had already, in September 1538, ordered that a copy should be put
up in some convenient place in every church. The Bible thus issued in the spring of 1539
is a splendidly printed volume of large size, from which characteristic its popular name
was derived. Prefixed to it is a fine engraved title-page. It represents the Almighty at
the top blessing Henry, who hands out copies of the Bible to Cranmer and Cromwell on his
right and left. Below, the archbishop and the Secretary of State, distinguished by their
coats of arms beneath them, are distributing copies to the clergy and laity respectively,
while the bottom of the page is filled with a crowd of people exclaiming Vivat Rex! (Long
live the King!). In contents, it is Matthew's Bible revised throughout, the Old Testament
especially being considerably altered in accordance with Münster's Latin version, which
was greatly superior to the Zürich Bible on which Coverdale had relied in preparing his
first translation. The New Testament was also revised, with special reference to the Latin
version of Erasmus. Coverdale's characteristic style of working was thus exhibited again
in the formation of the Great Bible. He did not attempt to contribute independent work of
his own, but took the best materials which were available at the time and combined them
with the skill of a master of language.
In accordance with Cromwell's order, which was repeated by royal proclamation in 1541,
copies of the Great Bible were set up in every church; and we have a curious picture of
the eagerness with which people flocked to make acquaintance with the English Scriptures
in the complaint of Bishop Bonner that "diverse wilful and unlearned persons
inconsiderately and indiscreetly read the same, especially and chiefly at the time of
divine service, yea in the time of the sermon and declaration of the word of God."
One can picture to oneself the great length of Old St. Paul's (of which the bishop is
speaking) with the preacher haranguing from the pulpit at one end, while elsewhere eager
volunteers are reading from the six volumes of the English Bible which Bormer had put up
in different parts of the cathedral, surrounded by crowds of listeners, who regard. less
of the order of divine service, are far more anxious to hear the Word of God itself than
expositions of it by the preacher in the pulpit. Over all the land copies of the Bible
spread and multiplied, so that a contemporary witness testifies that it had entirely
superseded the old romances as the favourite reading of the people. Edition after edition
was required from the press. The first had appeared in 1539; a second (in which the books
of the Prophets had again been considerably revised by Coverdale) followed in April 1540,
with a preface by Cranmer, and a third in July. In that month Cromwell was overthrown and
executed, and his arms were excised from the title-page in subsequent editions; but the
progress of the Bible was not checked. Another edition appeared in November, and on the
title-page was the authorisation of Bishop Tunstall of London, who had thus lived to
sanction a revised form of the very work which, as originally issued by Tyndale, he had
formerly proscribed and burnt. Three more editions appeared in 1541, all substantially
reproducing the revision of April 1540, though with some variations; and by this time the
immediate demand for copies had been satisfied, and the work alike of printing and of
revising the Bible came for the moment to a pause.
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It is worth noting that the Great Bible, in spite of its size, was not confined to use
as a lectern Bible in churches. There is good evidence that it was also bought for private
study. A manuscript in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 590, f.77) contains the narrative of
one W. Maldon of Newington, who states that he was about fifteen years of age when the
order for the placing of the Bible in churches was issued: "and immediately after
divers poor men in the town of Chelmsford in the county of Essex bought the New Testament
of Jesus Christ, and on Sundays did sit reading it in the lower end of the Church, and
many would flock about them to hear their reading." He describes how his father took
him away from listening to these readings: "then thought I, I will learn to read
English, and then will I have the New Testament and read thereon myself. The Maytide
following, I and my father's prentice, Thomas Jeffery, laid our money together and bought
the New Testament in English, and hid it in our bedstraw"; for which, on discovery by
his father, he was soundly thrashed.
Is is from the time of the Great Bible that we may fairly date the origin of the love
and knowledge of the Bible which has characterised, and which it may be hoped will always
characterise, the English nation. The successive issues of Tyndale's translation had been
largely wasted in providing fuel for the opponents of the Reformation; but every copy of
the seven editions of the Great Bible found, not merely a single reader, but a
congregation of readers. The Bible took hold of the people, superseding, as we have seen,
the most popular romances; and through the rest of the sixteenth and the seventeenth
centuries the extent to which it had sunk into their hearts is seen in their speech, their
writings, and even in the daily strife of politics. And one portion of the Great Bible has
had a deeper and more enduring influence still. When the first Prayer Book of Edward VI
was drawn up, directions were given in it for the use of the Psalms from the Great Bible;
and from that day to this the Psalter of the Great Bible has held its place in our Book of
(4) TAVERNER'S BIBLE, 1539
One other translation should be noticed in this place for completeness's sake, although
it had no effect on the subsequent history of the English Bible. This was the Bible of R.
Taverner, an Oxford scholar, who undertook an independent revision of Matthew's Bible at
the same time as Coverdale was preparing the first edition of the Great Bible under
Cromwell's auspices. Taverner was a good Greek scholar, but not a Hebraist; consequently
the best part of his work is the revision of the New Testament, in which he introduces not
a few changes for the better. The Old Testament is more slightly revised, chiefly with
reference to the Vulgate. Taverner's Bible appeared in 1539, and was once reprinted; but
it was entirely superseded for general use by the authorised Great Bible, and exercised no
influence upon later translations.
(5) THE GENEVA BIBLE, 1557-60
The closing years of Henry's reign were marked by a reaction against the principles of
the Reformation. Although he had thrown off the supremacy of the Pope, he was by no means
favourably disposed towards the teachings and practices of the Protestant leaders, either
at home or abroad; and after the fall of Cromwell his distrust of them took a more marked
form. In 1543 all translations of the Bible bearing the name of Tyndale were ordered to be
destroyed; all notes or comments in other Bibles were to be obliterated; and the common
people were forbidden to read any part of the Bible either in public or in private. In
1546 Coverdale's New Testament was joined in the same condemnation with Tyndale's, and a
great destruction of these earlier Testaments then took place. Thus, in spite of a
resolution of Convocation, instructing certain of
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[graphic The Geneva Bible]
the bishops and others to take in hand a revision of the errors of the Great Bible, not
only was the work of making fresh translations suspended for several years, but the
continued existence of those which had been previously made seemed to be in danger.
The accession of Edward VI in 1547 removed this danger, and during his reign all the
previous translations were frequently reprinted. It is said that some forty editions of
the existing translations - Tyndale's, Coverdale's, Matthew's, the Great Bible, and even
Taverner's - were issued in the course of this short reign; but no new translation or
revision made its appearance.
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Under Mary it was not likely that the work of translation would make any progress. Two
of the men most intimately associated with the previous versions, Cranmer and Rogers, were
burnt at the stake, and Coverdale (who under Edward VI had become bishop of Exeter)
escaped with difficulty. The public use of the English Bible was forbidden, and copies
were removed from the churches; but beyond this no special destruction of the Bible was
Meanwhile the fugitives from the persecution of England were gathering beyond sea, and
the more advanced and earnest among them were soon attracted by the influence of Calvin to
a congenial home at Geneva. Here the interrupted task of perfecting the English Bible was
resumed. The place was very favourable for the purpose. Geneva was the home, not only of
Calvin, but of Beza, the most prominent Biblical scholar then living and no considerations
of State policy or expediency need affect the translators. Since the last revision of the
English translation much had been done, both by Beza and by others, to improve and
elucidate the Bible text. A company of Frenchmen was already at work in Geneva on the
production of a revised translation of the French Bible, which eventually became the
standard version for the Protestants of that country. Amid such surroundings a body of
English scholars took in hand the task of revising the Great Bible. The firstfruits of
this activity was the New Testament of W. Whittingham, brother-in-law of Calvin's wife and
a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, which was printed in 1557, in a convenient small
octavo form; but this was soon superseded by a more comprehensive and complete revision of
the whole Bible by Whittingham himself and a group of other scholars. Taking for their
basis the Great Bible in the Old Testament, and Tyndale's last revision in the New, they
revised the whole with much care and scholarship. In the Old Testament the changes
introduced are chiefly in the prophetical books. In the New Testament they took Beza's
Latin translation and commentary as their guide, and by far the greater number of the
changes in this part of the Bible are traceable to his influence. The whole Bible was
accompanied by explanatory comments in the margin, of a somewhat Calvinistic character,
but without any excessive violence or partisanship. The division of chapters into verses,
which had been introduced by Whittingham from Stephanus' Graeco-Latin New Testament of
1551, was here for the first time adopted for the whole English Bible. In all previous
translations the division had been into paragraphs, as in our present Revised Version. For
the Old Testament, the verse division was that made by Rabbi Nathan in 1448, which was
first printed in a Venice edition of 1524. Stephanus' Latin Bible of 1555, is the first to
show the present division in both Testaments, and it was this that was followed in the
Next to Tyndale, the authors of the Geneva Bible have exercised the most marked
influence of all the early translators on the Authorised Version. Their own scholarship,
both in Hebrew and in Greek, seems to have been sound and sober; and Beza, their principal
guide in the New Testament, was unsurpassed in his own day as an interpreter of the sacred
text. Printed in legible Roman type and in a convenient quarto or smaller form, with a few
illustrative wood-cuts, and accompanied by an intelligible and sensible commentary, the
Geneva Bible (either as originally published in 1560, or with the New Testament further
revised by Tomson, in fuller harmony with Beza's views, in 1576, became the Bible of the
household, as the Great Bible was the Bible of the church. it was never authorised for use
in churches, and Archbishop Parker, who was interested in its rival, described below,
seems to have obstructed the printing of it in England; but there was nothing to prevent
its importation from Geneva, and up to 1617 there was hardly a year which did not see one
or more reprints of it. The bishops in general seem to have welcomed it, and it was
powerfully supported by Walsingham; and until the final victory of King James's version it
was by far the most popular Bible in England for private reading. Many of
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its improvements, in phrase or in interpretation, were adopted in the Authorised
Version. The Geneva Version was produced during a period when the Protestants were
suffering violent persecution, and it is not surprising that the marginal notes very
pungently exposed the errors of the Roman Church.
For example the comments on Revelation 9:3 where the "locusts that came out of the
bottomless pit" are explained as meaning "false teachers, heretics and worldly
subtle prelates, with Monks, Friars, Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Doctors,
Bachelors and Masters of Arts, which forsake Christ to maintain false doctrine." No
wonder it was disliked in episcopal and academic circles! (from The Books and the
Parchments by Bruce).
(6) THE BISHOPS' BIBLE, 1568
With the accession of Elizabeth a new day dawned for the Bible in England. The public
reading of it was naturally restored, and the clergy were required once more to have a
copy of the Great Bible placed in their churches, which all might read with due order and
reverence. But the publication of the Geneva Bible made it impossible for the Great Bible
to maintain its position as the authorised form of the English Scripture. The superior
correctness of the Geneva version threw discredit on the official Bible; and yet, being
itself the Bible of one particular party in the Church, and reflecting in its commentary
the views of that party, it could not properly be adopted as the universal Bible for
public service. The necessity of a revision of the Great Bible was therefore obvious, and
it happened that the archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, was himself a textual
scholar, a collector of manuscripts, an editor of learned works, and consequently fitted
to take up the task which lay ready to his hand. Accordingly, about the year 1563, he set
on foot a scheme for the revision of the Bible by a number of scholars working separately.
Portions of the Bible were assigned to each of the selected divines for revision, the
archbishop reserving for himself the task of editing the whole and passing it through the
press. A considerable number of the selected revisers were bishops, and hence the result
of their labours obtained the name of the Bishops' Bible.
The Bishops' Bible was published in 1568, and it at once superseded the Great Bible for
official use in churches. No edition of the earlier text was printed after 1569, and the
mandate of Convocation for the provision of the new version in all churches and bishops'
palaces, though not as imperative as the injunctions in the case of the Great Bible, must
have eventually secured its general use in public services. Nevertheless, on the whole,
the revision cannot be considered a success, and the Geneva Bible continued to be
preferred as the Bible of the household and the individual. In the forty-three years which
elapsed before the appearance of the Authorised Version, nearly 120 editions of the Geneva
Bible issued from the press, as against twenty of the Bishops' Bible, and while the former
are mostly of small compass, the latter are mainly the large volumes which would be used
in churches. The method of revision did not conduce to uniformity of results. There was,
apparently, no habitual consultation between the several revisers. Each carried out his
own assigned portion of the task, subject only to the general supervision of the
archbishop. The natural result is a considerable amount of unevenness. The historical
books of the Old Testament were comparatively little altered; in the remaining books
changes were much more frequent, but they are not always happy or even correct. The New
Testament portion was better done, Greek being apparently better known by the revisers
than Hebrew. Like almost all its predecessors, the Bishops' Bible was provided with a
marginal commentary, on a rather smaller scale than that in the Geneva Bible.
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11. QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE INCLUSION OF THE APOCRYPHA IN
The following is from Kenyon and Brown:
One important characteristic of our English Bible makes its first appearance in
Coverdale's Bible of 1535. This is the segregation of the books which we call the
Apocrypha. These books formed an integral part of the Greek Old Testament, being
intermixed among the books which we know as canonical. They were, however, rejected from
the Hebrew Canon. Many of the early Fathers concurred in this rejection. The Syrian
version omitted them; in the Canon of Athanasius they were placed in a class apart; and
Jerome refused to include them in his Vulgate. They had, however, been included in the Old
Latin version, which was translated from the Septuagint; and the Roman Church was
reluctant to abandon them. The Provincial Council of Carthage in 397, under the influence
of Augustine, expressly included them in the Canon; and in the Latin Bible they remained,
the Old Latin translation of them being incorporated in Jerome's Vulgate. When the
Reformation came, however, Luther reverted to the Hebrew Canon, and placed these books
apart under the title of 'Apocrypha.'
Tyndale did not translate these books completely, but his revised edition of his New
Testament included the "Epistles from the Old Testament according to the use of
Salisbury." This service book, one of the forerunners of the Book of Common Prayer,
included a list of "Gospels and Epistles" to be read on certain days. Some of
the "Epistles" were passages from the Apocryphal Books, and Tyndale included six
of these lessons in his translation. This part of Tyndale's work was apparently not
followed by either Coverdale or Rogers, and their version of the Apocrypha is quite
It was Coverdale though who actually bound eleven Apocryphal books in the back of the
Old Testament. The Bible believer is naturally sorry that this was done but is thankful
that they are separated and not interspersed as had previously been the case.
In his preface to the Apocrypha, Coverdale wrote:
"Apocripha, the bokes and treatises which amonge the fathers of olde are not
rekened to be of like authorise with the other bokes of the byble, nether are they founde
in the Canon of the Hebrue."
This was the basic example to be followed in the subsequent English Versions of this
time. Unfortunately, Thomas Cranmer in the Great Bible places these books under the title
"Hagiographa" (Holy Writings), thus confusing them with the
"Writings," the third section of the Hebrew O.T., which also was called
The Geneva Bible contains the Apocrypha preceded by an article entitled "The
Argument" asserting that these books were not received by a common consent to be read
and expounded publicly in the church, and that they could not be used to confirm a matter
of doctrine excepting in instances where they are in agreement with the canonical
Scriptures. Some copies of the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible were issued without the
Apocrypha, but the gap in the page numbers shows that the typesetting included the
Apocrypha and that the binder made up some copies without these books.
The Roman Church, on the other hand, at the Council of Trent in 1546, adopted by a
majority the opinion that all the books of the larger Canon should be received as of equal
authority, making this for the first time a dogma of the Church, and enforcing it by
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In the Bishops' Bible, it appears at the end of the Old Testament without any preface
to describe its uninspired character. Though an edition dated 1575 appeared without the
When the time arrived for work to commence on the revision which was to become so
widely known as the Authorised Version the Apocrypha had an established, if unwarranted,
place in the printed English Bible and a committee of six scholars, among them Samuel
Ward, Downes and Boys, laboured at Cambridge on this part of the undertaking. They didn't
seem to have their heart in it though. Scrivener wrote, "It is well known to Biblical
scholars that the Apocrypha received very inadequate attention from the revisers of 1611
and their predecessors, so that whole passages remain unaltered from the racy, spirited,
rhythmical, but hasty, loose and most inaccurate version made by Coverdale for the Bible
According to Rivington's "Records of the Stationers Co." quoted by Scrivener
in "The Authorised Edition of the English Bible of 1611 " Archbishop Abbot in
1615 forbade anyone to issue a Bible without the Apocrypha on pain of one year's
imprisonment. Nevertheless, Norton and Bill, "Printers to the King's most excellent
Majesty" published in 1629 a small quarto edition without the Apocrypha, but this had
"APO" after the tailpiece at the end of Malachi indicating that the inclusion of
the books was intended. The following year Robert Barker issued a reprint of this Bible
with the Apocrypha between the Testaments. The very fact that exclusion was forbidden in
1615, indicates that there must have been a number of printings where the Apocrypha had
been excluded, or at least a move was at hand to do so.
In 1644 the Long Parliament forbade the reading of lessons from it in public; but the
lectionary of the English Church has always included lessons from it. John Canne, a leader
of the English "Brownists," fled to Amsterdam after the Restoration of Charles
II and issued there in 1664 an octavo edition of the Authorised Version without the
The first edition printed in America in 1782 is without it. In 1826, the British and
Foreign Bible Society, which has been one of the principal agents in the circulation of
the Scriptures throughout the world, resolved never in future to print or circulate copies
containing the Apocrypha.
This clear exclusion of the Apocrypha held its place in the rules of the Society for
140 years until in 1967 a change in the Society's constitution made it possible for the
Apocrypha to be included at the discretion of the Committee in any version circulated by
the Society. During that long period, more Bibles were circulated than in the first
eighteen centuries of the Christian era and they all went forth without the Apocrypha. The
present decade has seen the birth of the "Common Bible" concept and
"interconfessional co-operation on Bible translations." The national Bible
Societies are inviting Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox scholars to join hands with
liberal and evangelical "Protestant" scholars with the object of producing
Bibles which Protestants and Roman Catholics will use without distinction. Such a plan
makes the inclusion of the Apocrypha, at least in some editions, quite inevitable. Hence
the recent change in the rules.
Thus, fear of Rome was the reason for the inclusion of the Apocrypha.
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XXX THE CROWNING JEWEL, THE AUTHORISED VERSION OF 1611
[graphic The Authorized Version - 1611]
1. THE AUTHORISED VERSION WAS THE CAPSTONE OF A LONG PERIOD OF SPIRITUAL
AND TEXTUAL PREPARATION
Quoting now from Wilkinson:
The hour had arrived, and from the human point of view, conditions were perfect for God
to bring forth a translation of the Bible which would sum up in itself the best of the
ages. The Heavenly Father foresaw the opportunity of giving His Word to the inhabitants of
earth by the coming of the British Empire with
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its dominions scattered throughout the world, and by the great American Republic, both
speaking the English language.
Not only was the English language by 1611 in a more opportune condition than it had
ever been before or ever would be again, but the Hebrew and the Greek likewise had been
brought up with the accumulated treasures of their materials to a splendid working point.
The age was not distracted by the rush of mechanical and industrial achievements. Moreover
linguistic scholarship was at its peak. Men of giant minds, supported by excellent
physical health, had possessed in a splended state of perfection a knowledge of the
languages and literature necessary for the ripest Biblical scholarship.
One hundred and fifty years of printing had permitted the Jewish rabbis to place at the
disposal of scholars all the treasures in the Hebrew tongue which they had been
accumulating for over two thousand years. In the words of the learned Professor E.C.
"There ought to be no doubt that, in the text which we inherit from the Masoretes,
and they from the Talmudists, and they in turn from a period when versions and paraphrases
of the Scriptures in other languages now accessible to us were in common use - the same
text being transmitted to this period from the time of Ezra under the peculiarly sacred
seal of the Jewish canon - we have a correct copy of the original documents, and one
worthy of all confidence."
We are told that the revival of Masoretic studies in more recent times was the result
of the vast learning and energy of Buxtorf, of Basle. He had given the benefits of his
Hebrew accomplishments in time to be used by the translators of the King James Version.
And we have the word of a leading Revisionist, highly recommended by Bishop Ellicott, that
it is not to the credit of Christian scholarship that so little has been done in Hebrew
researches during the past 300 years.
What is true of the Hebrew is equally true of the Greek.
The five editions of Erasmus, the four of Stephanus, the nine of Beza provided the
translators with a refined text, representative of that which was in the majority of the
As the above material shows the translation of the King James Version was the
culmination of one hundred years of spiritual, textual and translational preparation.
2. THE BETTER CONDITION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN 1611
We are now come, however, to a very striking situation which is little observed and
rarely mentioned by those who discuss the merits of the King James Bible. The English
language in 1611 was in the very best condition to receive into its bosom the Old and New
Testaments. The past forty years had been years of extraordinary growth in English
literature. Prose writers and poets - Spenser, Sidney, Hooker, Marlowe, Shakespeare, to
name only the greatest - had combined to spread abroad a sense of literary style and to
raise the standard of literary taste. Under the influence, conscious or unconscious, of
masters such as these, the revisers wrought out the fine material left to them by Tyndale
and his successors into the splendid monument of Elizabethan prose which the Authorised
Version is universally admitted to be (Kenyon). Each word of the language was broad,
simple and generic. That is to say, words were capable of containing in themselves not
only their central thoughts, but also all the different shades of meaning, which were
attached to that central thought.
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Since then, words have lost that living, pliable breadth. Vast additions -have been
made to the English vocabulary during the past 300 years, -so that several words are now
necessary to convey the same meaning -which formerly was conveyed by one. It will then be
readily seen that -while the English vocabulary has increased in quantity, nevertheless,
-single words have become fixed, capable of only one meaning, and therefore -less
adaptable to receiving into English the thoughts of the Hebrew -which likewise is a
simple, broad, generic language. New Testament -Greek, is, in this respect like the
Further, the authors of the New Testament did not always use that -tense of the Greek
verb, called the aorist, in the same rigid, specific -sense in which the Revisers claimed
they had done. Undoubtedly, in -a general way, the sacred writers understood the meaning
of the aorist -as distinguished from the perfect and imperfect; but they did not -always
use it so specifically as the Revisers claim. Thus a translator -needs spiritual
enlightenment as well as grammatical skill.-
3. THE STEPS LEADING UP TO, AND PLAN TO BE FOLLOWED IN THE NEW
After the life and death struggles with Spain, and the hard-fought -battle to save the
English people from the Jesuit Bible of 1582, victorious -Protestantism took stock of its
situation and organised for the new -era which had evidently dawned. A thousand ministers,
it is said, -sent a petition, called the Millenary Petition, to King James who -had now
succeeded Elizabeth as sovereign. One author describes the -petition as follows:
"The petition craved reformation of sundry abuses in the worship, -ministry,
revenues, and discipline of the national Church - Among -other of their demands, Dr.
Reynolds, who was the chief speaker in -their behalf, requested that there might be a new
translation of the -Bible, without note or comment."-
The strictest element of Protestantism, the Puritan, we conclude was -at the bottom of
this request for a new and accurate translation; -and the Puritan element on the committee
appointed was strong.-
The language of the Jesuit Bible had stung the sensibilities and the scholarship of
Protestants. In the preface of that book it had criticized and belittled the Bible of the
Protestants. The Puritans felt that the corrupted version of the Rheimists was spreading
poison among the people, even as formerly by withholding the Bible, Rome had starved the
Quoting now from Kenyon:
The attempt of Archbishop Parker and the Elizabethan bishops to provide -a universally
satisfactory Bible had failed. The Bishops' Bible had -replaced the Great Bible for use in
churches, and that was all. It -had not superseded the Geneva Bible in private use; and
faults and -inequalities in it were visible to all scholars. For the remaining -years of
Elizabeth's reign it held its own; but in the settlement -of religion which followed the
accession of James I, the provision -of a new Bible held a prominent place. At the Hampton
Court Conference -in 1604, to which bishops and Puritan clergy were alike invited by
-James in order to confer on the subject of religious toleration, Dr. Reynolds, president
of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, raised the -subject of the imperfection of the current
Bibles. Bancroft, bishop -of London, supported him; and although the conference itself
arrived -at no conclusion on this or any other subject, the king had become -interested in
the matter, and a scheme was formulated shortly afterwards -for carrying the revision into
effect. It appears to have been James -himself who suggested the leading features of the
scheme - namely, -that the revision should be executed mainly by the universities; that
-it should be
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approved by the bishops and most learned of the Church, -by the Privy Council, and by
the king himself, so that all the Church -should be concerned in it; and that it should
have no marginal commentary, -which might render it the Bible of a party only. To James
were also -submitted the names of the revisers; and it is no more than justice -to a king
whose political misconceptions and mismanagements have left -him with a very indifferent
character among English students of history, -to allow that the good sense on which he
prided himself seems to have -been conspicuously manifested in respect of the preparation
of the -Authorised Version, which, by reason of its after effects, may fairly -be
considered the most important event of his reign.
It was in 1604 that the scheme of the revision was drawn up, and some -of the revisers
may have begun work upon it privately at this time; -but it was not until 1607 that the
task was formally taken in hand. The body of revisers was a strong one. It included the
professors -of Hebrew and Greek at both universities, with practically all the -leading
scholars and divines of the day. There is a slight uncertainty -about some of the names,
and some changes in the list may have been -caused by death or retirement, but the total
number of revisers was -from forty-eight to fifty. These were divided into six groups,
of which two sat at Westminster, two at Oxford, and two at Cambridge. In the first
instance each group worked separately, having a special -part of the Bible assigned to it.
The two Westminster groups revised -Genesis - Kings, and Romans - Jude; the Oxford groups,
Isaiah - Malachi, -and the Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypse; while those at Cambridge
undertook -1 Chronicles - Ecclesiastes and the Apocrypha. Elaborate instructions -were
drawn up for their guidance, probably by Bancroft. The basis -of the revision was to be
the Bishop's Bible, though the earlier translations -were to be consulted; the old
ecclesiastical terms (about which Tyndale -and More had so vehemently disagreed) were to
be retained; no marginal -notes were to be affixed, except necessary explanations of
Hebrew -and Greek words; when any company had finished the revision of -a book, it was
to be sent to all the rest for their criticism an suggestions, ultimate differences of
opinion to be settled at a general meeting -of the chief members of each company; learned
men outside the board -of revisers were to be invited to give their opinions, especially
-in cases of particular difficulty.
With these regulations to secure careful and repeated revision, the -work was earnestly
taken in hand. It occupied two years and nine months -of strenuous toil, the last nine
months being taken up by a final -revision by a committee consisting of two members from
each centre. (Nothing, it may be observed, is heard of revision by the bishops, -the Privy
Council, or the king.) It was seen through the press by -Dr. Miles Smith and Bishop
Bilson, the former of whom is believed -to have been the author of the valuable Preface of
the Translators -to the Reader; and in the year 1611 the result of the revisers' labours
-issued from the press. It was at once attacked by Dr. Hugh Broughton, -a Biblical scholar
of great eminence and erudition who had been omitted -from the list of revisers on account
of his violent and impracticable -disposition. His disappointment vented itself in a very
hostile criticism -of the new version; but this had very little effect, and the general
-reception of the revised Bible seems to have been eminently favourable. Though there is
no record whatever of any decree ordaining its use, -by either king, Parliament or
Convocation, the words "Appointed -to be read in Churches" appear on its
title-page; and there can -be no doubt that it at once superseded the Bishops' Bible
(which, -except for some halfdozen reprints of the New Testament, was not reprinted -after
1606) as the official version of the Scriptures for public service. Against the Geneva
Bible it had a sharper struggle, and for nearly -half a century the two versions existed
side by side in private use. From the first, however, the version of 1611 seems to have
been received -into popular favour, and the reprints of it far outnumber those of -its
rival. Three folio editions and at least fourteen in quarto or -octavo appeared in the
years 1611-14, as against six
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of the Geneva Bible. Between 1611 and 1644, the Historical Catalogue of the British and
Foreign Bible Society enumerates fifteen editions of the Geneva and 182 of the Authorised.
After 1616, however, English-printed editions of the Geneva cease almost entirely, and
this may be due to pressure from above. Nevertheless, it would be untrue to say that the
version of 1611 owed its success to official backing from the authorities of Church or
State, for its victory became complete just at the time when Church and State were
overthrown, and when the Puritan party was dominant. It was its superior merit and its
total freedom from party or sectarian spirit that secured the triumph of the Authorised
Version, which from the middle of the seventeenth century took its place as the undisputed
Bible of the English nation.-
Into the details of the revision it is hardly necessary to go far. Tyndale no doubt
fixed the general tone of the version more than any other translator, through the
transmission of his influence down to the Bishops' Bible, which formed the basis of the
revision; but many improvements in interpretation were taken from the Geneva Bible, and
not a few phrases and single words from that of Rheims. Indeed, no source of information
seems to have been left untried; and the result was a version at once more faithful to the
original than any translation that had preceded it, and finer as a work of literary art
than any translation either before or since. In the Old Testament the Hebrew tone and
manner have been admirably reproduced, and have passed with the Authorised Version into
much of our literature. And in the New Testament, in particular, it is the simple truth
that the English version is a far greater literary work than the original Greek. The Greek
of the New Testament is a language which had passed its prime and had lost its natural
grace and infinite adaptability. The English of the Authorised Version is the finest
specimen of our prose literature at a time when English prose wore its stateliest and most
4. THE INFLUENCE AND EXCELLENCE OF THE AUTHORISED VERSION
The influence of the Authorised Version, alike on our religion and our literature, can
never be exaggerated. Not only in the great works of our theologians, the resonant prose
of the seventeenth century Fathers of the English Church, but in the writings of nearly
every author, whether of prose or verse, the stamp of its language is to be seen. Milton
is full of it; naturally, perhaps, from the nature of his subjects, but still his practice
shows his sense of the artistic value of its style. So deeply has its language entered
into our common tongue, that one probably could not take up a newspaper or read a single
book in which some phrase was not borrowed, consciously or unconsciously, from King
But great as has been the literary value of the Authorised Version, its religious
significance has been greater still. For three centuries it has been the Bible, not merely
of public use, not merely of one sect or party, not even of a single country, but of the
whole nation and of every English-speaking country on the face of the globe. It has been
the literature of millions who have read little else, it has been the guide of conduct to
men and women of every class in life and of every rank in learning and education. No small
part of the attachment of the English people to their national Church is due to the common
love borne by every party and well-nigh every individual for the English Bible. It was a
national work in its creation, and it has been a national treasure since its completion.
It was the work, not of one man, nor of one age, but of many labourers, of diverse and
even opposing views, over a period of ninety years. It was watered with the blood of
martyrs, and its slow growth gave time for the casting off of imperfections and for the
full accomplishment of its destiny as the Bible of the English nation.
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The common people found its language appeal to them with a greater charm and dignity
than that of the Genevan version, to which they had been accustomed. As time went on the
Authorised Version acquired the prescriptive right of age; its rhythms became familiar to
the ears of all classes; its language entered into our literature; and Englishmen became
prouder of their Bible than of any of the creative works of their own literature.
The above is taken from a man whose scholarship we are bound to respect but who
unfortunately embraces the naturalistic position. Yet Kenyon is an example that all who
take a deep objective look at this version, realise that something very unique in the
history of Bible translating took place in 1611. The believer who holds to Psalms 12:6,7,
119:89, Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 5:18, 24:35, I Peter 1:23,25, sees here nothing less than the
superintending hand of God.
5. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRANSLATORS OF THAT DAY AND THIS
No one can study the lives of those men who gave us the King James Bible without being
impressed with their profound and varied learning.
"It is confidently expected,"says McClure, "that the reader of these
pages will yield. to the conviction that all the colleges of Great Britain and America,
even in this proud day of boastings, could not bring together the same number of divines
equally qualified by learning and piety for the great undertaking. Few indeed are the
living names worthy to be enrolled with those mighty men. It would be impossible to
convene out of any one Christian denomination, or out of all, a body of translators on
whom the whole Christ-community would bestow such confidence as is reposed upon that
illustrious company or who would prove themselves as deserving of such confidence. Very
many self-styled ¡®improved versions¡¯of the Bible, or parts of it, have been
paraded before the world, but the religious public has doomed them all without exception
to utter neglect."
The translators of the King James, moreover, had something beyond great scholarship and
unusual skill. They had gone through a period of great suffering. They had offered their
lives that the truths which they loved might live.
This is especially true of the earlier translators who laboured in the reigns of Henry
VIII and Mary. The King James translators built upon a foundation well and truly laid by
the martyrs of the previous century.
Dr. Cheyne, in giving his history of the founders of higher criticism, while extolling
highly the mental brilliancy of the celebrated Hebrew scholar, Gesenius, expresses his
regrets for the frivolity of that scholar. No such weakness was manifested in the
scholarship of the Reformers.
"Reverence," says Doctor Chambers, "it is this more than any other one
trait that gave to Luther and Tyndale their matchless skill and enduring preeminence as
translators of the Bible."
It is difficult for us in this present prosperous age to understand how heavily the
heroes of Protestantism in those days were forced to lean upon the arm of God. We find
them speaking and exhorting one another by the promises of the Lord, that He would appear
in judgement against their enemies. For that reason they gave full credit to the doctrine
of the Second Coming of Christ as taught in the Holy Scriptures. Passages of notable value
which refer to this glorious hope were not wrenched from their forceful setting as we find
them in the Revised Versions and some modern Bibles, but were set forth with a fullness of
clearness and hope.
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Something other than an acquaintanceship, more or less, with a crushing mass of
intricate details in the Hebrew and the Greek is necessary to be a successful translator
of God's Holy Word. God's Holy Spirit must assist.
6. THE POWER OF THE AUTHORISED VERSION
The consistent Christian's course of action is quite clear. It is the course followed
by Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Huss, Erasmus, Stephanus,
Elzevir, Hoskier, Miller, Burgon, Moody, Sunday, Spurgeon, Goforth, Taylor, Mueller, Scrivener, and
Hills - "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the
word of God ¡ and having done all ¡ stand therefore!"(Eph. 6:17, 13, 14).
Gird your sword on your thigh and prepare for action.
As David said of Goliath's weapon, "Give it me ¡ there is none like
that!"Don't go into the last half of the last century of the Church Age, armed with
butter-knives, plastic pen-knives, toothpicks, fingernail files, and hair pins! (RV,
Take out the old "sword of the Spirit" that makes hippies blush when it
appears on a street corner, that makes College professors nervous when it is brought into
a classroom, that disturbed Westcott and Hort so badly they devoted a lifetime to getting
rid of it; get that old battered Book that was corrupted by Origen, hated by Eusebius,
despised by Constantine, ignored by Augustine, that was ridiculed by the ASV and RSV
committees; that razor-sharp blade which pierced Mel Trotter, Adoniram Judson, Dwight L.
Moody, and B.H. Carroll to the soul and made Christians out of them, which pierced Charles
Darwin, Huxley, Hobbes, Hume and Bernard Shaw to the soul and infuriated them, that word
which was preached to the heathen in every corner of the earth, that word which has been
used by the Spirit of God for 19 centuries to make fools out of scientists, educators and
philosophers, to overthrow Popes and Kingdoms, to inspire men to die at the stake and in
the arena; that infallible, everlasting BOOK which Angels desire to look into, and before
which Devils tremble when they read their future; and if you don't know, by now, what Book
this is we are talking about, you never will.
It is NOT any English translation published since 1800 (Peter Ruckman).
XXXI - THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS OF ATTACK UPON
THE AUTHORISED VERSION
1. THE STRANGE GATHERING STORM
"Wherever the so-called Counter-Reformation, started by the Jesuits, gained hold
of the people, the vernacular was suppressed and the Bible kept from the laity. So eager
were the Jesuits to destroy the authority of the Bible - the paper pope of the
Protestants, as they contemptuously called it - that they even did not refrain from
criticizing its genuineness and historical value."
The opponents of the noble work of 1611 like to tell the story of how the great
printing plants which publish the King James Bible have been obliged to go over it
repeatedly to eliminate flaws of printing, to eliminate words which in time have changed
in their meaning, or errors which have crept in through the years because of careless
editing by different printing houses. They offer this as evidence of the fallibility of
the Authorised Version.
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They seem to overlook the fact that this labour of necessity is an argument for, rather
than against, the dependability of the translations. Had each word of the Bible been set
in a cement cast, incapable of the slightest flexibility and been kept so throughout the
ages, there could have been no adaptability to the everchanging structure of human
language. The artificiality of such a plan would have eliminated the living action of the
Holy Spirit and would accuse both man and the Holy Spirit of being without an intelligent
care for the Divine treasure.
On this point, the scholars of the Refomation made their position clear under three
different aspects. First, they claimed that the Holy Scriptures had come down to them
unimpaired throughout the centuries. ("Semler," McClintock and Strong,
Second, they recognized that to reform any manifest oversight was not placing human
hands on a Divine work and was not contrary to the mind of the Lord.
And lastly, they contended that the Received Text, both in Hebrew and in Greek, as they
had it in their day would so continue unto the end of time. (Brooke,
"Cartwright." pp. 274, 275).
In fact, a testimony no less can be drawn from the opponents of the Received Text. The
higher critics, who have constructed such elaborate scaffolding, and who have built such
great engines of war as their apparatus criticus, are obliged to describe the greatness
and strength of the walls they are attacking in order to justify their war machine.
Of the Greek New Testament, Dr. Hort, who was an opponent of the Received Text and who
dominated the English New Testament Revision Comittee, says: "An overwhelming
proportion of the text in all known cursive manuscripts except a few is, as a matter of
Thus strong testimonies can be given not only to the Received Text, but also to the
phenomenal ability of the manuscript scribes writing in different countries and in
different ages to preserve an identical Bible in the overwhelming mass of manuscripts.
The large number of conflicting readings which higher critics have gathered must come
from only a few manuscripts, since the overwhelming mass of manuscripts is identical.
The phenomenon presented by this situation is so striking that we are pressed in spirit
to inquire, Who are these who are so interested in urging on the world the finds of their
The King James Bible had hardly begun its career before the enemies commenced to fall
upon it. Though it has been with us for three hundred years in splendid leadership - a
striking phenomenon - nevertheless, as the years increase, the attacks become more
furious. If the Book were a dangerous document, a source of corrupting influence and a
nuisance, we would wonder why it has been necessary to assail it since it would naturally
die of its own weakness. But when it is a Divine blessing of great worth, a faultless
power of transforming influence, who can they be who are so stirred up as to deliver
against it one assault after another?
Great theological seminaries, in many lands, led by accepted teachers of learning, are
labouring constantly to tear it to pieces. Point us out anywhere, any similar situation
concerning the sacred books of any other religion, or even of Shakespeare, or of any other
work of literature. Especially since 1814, when the Jesuits were restored by the order of
the Pope - if they needed
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restoration - have the attacks on the Bible, by Catholic scholars and by other scholars
who are Protestants in name, become bitter.
For it must be said that the Roman Catholic or the Jesuitical system of argument - the
work of the Jesuits from the 16th century to the present day - evinces an amount of
learning and dexterity, a sublety of reasoning, a sophistry, a plausibility combined, of
which ordinary Christians have but little idea.
As time went on, this wave of higher criticism mounted higher and higher until it
became an ocean surge inundating France, Germany, England, Scotland, the Scandinavian
nations, and even Russia. "When the Privy Council of England handed down in 1864 its
decision, breathlessly awaited everywhere, permitting those seven Church of England
clergymen to retain their positions, who had ruthlessly attacked the inspiration of the
Bible, a cry of horror went up from Protestant England; but 'the whole Catholic Church,'
said Dean Stanley, 'is, as we have seen, with the Privy Council and against the modern
dogmatists' (Stanley, Essays, p. 140). By modern dogmatists, he meant those who believe
the Bible, and the Bible only."
The tide of higher criticism was soon seen to change its appearance and to menace the
whole framework of fundamentalist thinking. The demand for revision became the order of
the day. The crest was seen about 1870 in France, Germany, England, and the Scandinavian
countries. Time-honoured Bibles in these countries were radically overhauled and a new
meaning was read into words of Inspiration.
Three lines of results are strongly discernible as features of the movement. First,
"collation" became the watchword. Manuscripts were laid alongside of manuscripts
to detect various readings and to justify that reading which the critic chose as the right
one. With the majority of workers, especially those whose ideas have stamped the revision,
it was astonishing to see how they turned away from the overwhelming mass of manuscripts
and invested with tyrannical superiority a certain few documents, some of them of a
questionable character. Second, this wave of revision was soon seen to be hostile to the
Reformation. There is something startlingly in common to be found in the modernist who
denies the element of the miraculous in the Scriptures, and the Catholic Church which
invests tradition with an inspiration equal to the Bible. As a result, it seems a
desperately hard task to get justice done to the Reformers or their product. As Dr. Demaus
"For many of the facts of Tyndale's life have been disputed or distorted, through
prejudice, and through the malice of that school of writers in whose eyes the Reformation
was a mistake, if not a crime, and who conceive it to be their mission to revive all the
old calumnies that have ever been circulated against the Reformers, supplementing them by
new accusations of their own invention."
A third result of this tide of revision is that when our time-honoured Bibles are
revised, the changes are generally in favour of Rome. We are told that Bible revision is a
step forward; that new manuscripts have been made available and advance has been made in
archaeology, philology, geography and the apparatus of criticism. How does it come then
that we have been revised back into the arms of Rome? If my conclusion is true, this
so-called Bible revision has become one of the deadliest of weapons in the hands of those
who glorify the Dark Ages and who seek to bring Western nations back to the theological
thinking which prevailed before the Reformation.
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Some of the earliest critics in the field of collecting variant readings of the New
Testament in Greek, were Mill and Bengel. We have Dr. Kenrick, Catholic Bishop of
Philadelphia in 1849, as authority that they and others had examined these manuscripts
recently exalted as superior, such as the Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Beza, and Ephraem, and
had pronounced in favour of the Vulgate, the Catholic Bible.
Simon, Astruc, and Geddes, with those German critics, Eichhorn, Semler and DeWette, who
carried their work on further and deeper, stand forth as leaders and representatives in
the period which stretches from the date of the King James (1611) to the outbreak of the
French Revolution (1789). Simon and Eichhorn were co-authors of a Hebrew Dictionary. These
outstanding six - two French, one Scottish, and three German - with others of perhaps not
equal prominence, began the work of discrediting the Received Text, both in the Hebrew and
in the Greek, and of calling in question the generally accepted beliefs respecting the
Bible which had prevailed in Protestant countries since the birth of the Reformation.
There was not much to do in France, since it was not a Protestant country; and the
majority had not far to go to change their belief. There was not much done in England or
Scotland because there a contrary mentality prevailed. The greatest inroads were made in
Germany. Thus matters stood when in 1773 European nations arose and demanded that the Pope
suppress the order of the Jesuits. It was too late, however, to smother the fury which
sixteen years later broke forth in the French Revolution.The upheaval which followed
engaged the attention of all mankind for a quarter of a century. It was the period of
indignation foreseen, as some scholars thought, by the prophet Daniel. As the armies of
the Revolution and of Napoleon marched and counter-marched over the territories of
Continental Europe, the foundations of the ancient regime were broken up. Even from the
Vatican the cry arose, "Religion is destroyed." And when in 1812 Napoleon was
taken prisoner, and the deluge had passed, men looked out upon a changed Europe. England
had escaped invasion, although she had taken a leading part in the overthrow of Napoleon.
France restored her Catholic monarchs - the Bourbons who "never learned anything and
never forgot anything." In 1814 the Pope promptly restored the Jesuits.
Then followed in the Protestant world two outstanding currents of thought: first, on
the part of many, a stronger expression of faith in the Holy Scriptures, especially in the
great prophecies which seemed to be on the eve of fulfillment where they predict the
coming of a new dispensation. The other current took the form of a reaction, a growing
disbelief in the leadership of accepted Bible doctrines whose uselessness seemed proved by
their apparent impotence in not preventing the French Revolution. And, as in the days
before that outbreak, Germany, which had suffered the most, seemed to be fertile soil for
a strong and rapid growth of higher criticism.
2. GRIESBACH AND MOHLER
Among the foremost of those who tore the Received Text to pieces in the Old Testament
stand the Hollander, Kuenen, and the German scholars, Ewald and Wellhausen. Their
findings, however, were confined to scholarly circles. The public were not moved by them,
as their work appeared to be only negative. The two German critics who brought the hour of
revision much nearer were the Protestant Griesbach and the Catholic Mohler. Mohler
(1796-1838) did not spend his efforts on the text as did Griesbach, but he handled the
points of difference in doctrine between the Protestants and the Catholics in such a
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way as to win over the Catholic mind to higher criticism and to throw open the door for
Protestants who either loved higher criticism, or who, being disturbed by it, found in
Catholicism a haven of refuge. Of him Hagenbach says: "Whatever vigorous vitality is
possessed by the most recent Catholic theological science is due to the labours of this
Kurtz states: "He sent rays of his spirit deep into the hearts and minds of
hundreds of his enthusiastic pupils by his writings, addresses, and by his intercourses
with them; and what the Roman Catholic Church of the present possesses of living
scientific impulse and feeling was implanted, or at least revived and excited by him ...
In fact, long as was the opposition which existed between both churches, no work from the
camp of the Roman Catholics produced as much agitation and excitement in the camp of the
Protestants as this."
Or, as Maurice writes concerning Ward, one of the powerful leaders of the Oxford
Movement: "Ward's notion of Lutheranism is taken, I feel pretty sure, from Mohler's
very gross misrepresentations."
Griesbach (1745-1812) attacked the Received Text of the New Testament in a new way. He
did not stop at bringing to light and emphasizing the variant readings of the Greek
manuscripts; he classified readings into three groups, and put all manuscripts under these
groupings, giving them the names of "Constantinopolitan," or those of the
Received Text, the "Alexandrian," and the "Western." While Griesbach
used the Received Text as his measuring rod, nevertheless, the new Greek New Testament he
brought forth by this measuring rod followed the Alexandrian manuscripts; that is, it
followed Origen. His classification of the manuscripts was so novel and the result of such
prodigious labours, that the critics everywhere hailed his Greek New Testament as the
final word. It was not long, however, before other scholars took Griesbach's own theory of
classification and proved him wrong.
3. THE GNOSTICISM OF GERMAN THEOLOGY INVADES ENGLAND
By 1833 the issue was becoming clearly defined. It was Premillenarianism, that is,
belief in the return of Christ before the millennium, or Liberalism; it was with regard to
the Scriptures either literalism or allegorism. As Cadman says of the Evangelicals of that
"Their fatalism inclined many of them to Premillenarianism as a refuge from the
approaching catastrophes of the present dispensation¡ Famous divines strengthened and
adorned the wider ranks of Evangelicalism, but few such were found within the pale of the
Establishment. Robert Hall, John Foster, William Jay of Bath, and in Scotland, Thomas
Chalmers, represented the vigour and fearlessness of an earlier day and maintained the
excellence of Evangelical preaching."
Here was a faith in the Second Coming of Christ, at once Protestant and evangelical,
which would resist any effort so to revise the Scriptures as to render them colourless,
giving to them nothing more than a literary endorsement of plans of betterment, merely
social or political. This faith was soon to be called upon to face a theology of an
entirely different spirit. German religious thinking at that moment was taking on an
aggressive attitude. Schleiermacher had captured the imagination of the age and would soon
mould the theology of Oxford and Cambridge. Though he openly confessed himself a
Protestant, nevertheless, like Origen of old, he sat at the feet of Clement, the old
Alexandrian teacher of 190 A.D.
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Clement's passion for allegorizing Scripture offered an easy escape from those
obligations imposed upon the soul by a plain message of the Bible. Schleiermacher
modernised Clement's philosophy and made it beautiful to the parlour philosophers of the
day by imaginary analysis of the realm of spirit. It was the old Gnosticism revived, and
would surely dissolve Protestantism wherever accepted and would introduce such terms into
the Bible, if revision could be secured, as to rob the trumpet of a certain sound. The
great prophecies of the Bible would become mere literary addresses to the people of bygone
days, and unless counterchecked by the noble Scriptures of the Reformers, the result would
be either atheism or papal infallibility.
If Schleiermacher did more to captivate and enthrall the religious thinking of the 19th
century than any other one scholar, Coleridge, his contemporary, did as much to give
aggressive motion to the thinking of England's youth of his day, who, hardly without
exception, drank enthusiastically of his teachings. He had been to Germany and returned a
fervent devotee of its theology and textual criticism. At Cambridge University he became
the star around which grouped a constellation of leaders in thought. Thirwall, Westcott,
Hort, Moulton, and Milligan, who were all later members of the English Revision Committees
and whose writings betray the voice of the master, felt the impact of his doctrines.
"His influence upon his own age, and especially upon its younger men of genius,
was greater than that of any other Englishman ... Coleridgeans may be found now among
every class of English divines, from the Broad Church to the highest Puseyites," says
McClintock and Strong's Enclyclopaedia.
The same article speaks of Coleridge as "Unitarian,"
"Metaphysical," a "Theologian," "Pantheistic," and says that
"he identifies reason with the divine Logos," and that he holds "views of
inspiration as low as the rationalists," and also holds views of the Trinity "no
better than a refined, Platonized Sabellianism."
4. LACHMANN, TISCHENDORF AND TREGELLES
It can be shown that Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles fell under the influence of
Cardinal Wiseman's theories. There are more recent scholars of textual criticism who pass
over these three and leap from Griesbach to Westcott and Hort, claiming that the two
latter simply carried out the beginnings of classification made by the former.
Nevertheless, since many writers bid us over and over again to look to Lachmann,
Tischendorf and Tregelles - until we hear of them morning, noon and night - we would seek
to give these laborious scholars all the praise justly due them, while we remember that
there is a limit to all good things.
Lachmann's (1793-1851) bold determination to throw aside the Received Text and to
construct a new Greek Testament from such manuscripts as he endorsed according to his own
rules, has been the thing which endeared him to all who give no weight to the tremendous
testimony of 1500 years of use of the Received Text. Yet Lachmann's canon of criticism has
been deserted by both Bishop Ellicott and Dr. Hort. Ellicott says, "Lachmann's text
is really one based on little more than four manuscripts, and so is really more of a
critical recession than a critical text." And again, "A text composed on the
narrowest and most exclusive principles." While Dr. Hort says:
"Not again, in dealing with so various and complex a body of documentary
attestation, is there any real advantage in attempting, with Lachmann, to allow the
distributions of a very small number of the most ancient existing documents to construct
for themselves a provisional text."
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Tischendorf's (1815-1874) outstanding claim upon history is his discovery of the
Sinaitic Manuscript in the convent at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Mankind is indebted to this
prodigious worker for having published manuscripts not accessible to the average reader.
Nevertheless, his discovery of Codex Aleph toppled over his judgement. Previous to that he
had brought out seven different Greek New Testaments, declaring that the seventh was
perfect and could not be superseded. Then, to the scandal of textual criticism, after he
had found the Sinaitic Manuscript, he brought out his eighth Greek New Testament, which
was different from his seventh in 3572 places! Moreover, he demonstrated how textual
critics can artificially bring out Greek New Testaments when, at the request of a French
publishing house, Firmin Didot, he edited an edition of the Greek Testament for Catholics,
conforming it to the Latin Vulgate.
Tregelles (1813-1875) followed Lachmann's principles by going back to what he
considered the ancient manuscripts and, like him, he ignored the Received Text and the
great mass of cursive manuscripts. Of him, Ellicott says, "His critical principles,
especially his general principles of estimating and regarding modern manuscripts, are now,
perhaps justly, called in question by many competent scholars," and that his text
"is rigid and mechanical, and sometimes fails to disclose that critical instinct and
peculiar scholarly sagacity which is so much needed in the great and responsible work of
constructing a critical text of the Greek Testament."
Such were the antecedent conditions preparing the way to draw England into entangling
alliances, to de-Protestantize her national church and to advocate at a dangerous hour the
necessity of revising the King James Bible. The Earl of Shaftesbury, foreseeing the dark
future of such an attempt, said in May, 1856:
"When you are confused or perplexed by a variety of versions, you would be obliged
to go to some learned pundit in whom you reposed confidence, and ask him which version he
recommended; and when you had taken his version, you must be bound by his opinion. I hold
this to be the greatest danger that now threatens us. It is a danger pressed upon us from
Germany, and pressed upon us by the neological spirit of the age. I hold it to be far more
dangerous than Tractarianism, or Popery."
The campaigns of nearly three centuries against the Received Text did their work. The
Greek New Testament of the Reformation was dethroned and with it the versions translated
from it, whether English, German, French, or of any other language. It has been predicted
that if the Revised Version were not of sufficient merit to be authorised and so displace
the King James, confusion and division would be multiplied by a crop of unauthorised
translations. The large output of heterogeneous Bibles verify the prediction. No
competitor has yet appeared able to create a standard comparable to the text which has
held sway for 1800 years in the original tongue, and for 300 years in its English
translation, the King James Version.
5. WESTCOTT AND HORT
Though a number of men laid the groundwork the chief architects of the critical theory
which resulted in a revised Greek Testament were Brook Foss Westcott (1825-1901), and
Fenton J.A. Hort (1828-1892), two renowned Anglican scholars at Cambridge University.
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(1) THEIR ANIMOSITY TOWARD THE RECEIVED TEXT
Quoting from INTT:
Although Brooke Foss Westcott identified himself fully with the project and the
results, it is generally understood that it was mainly Fenton John Anthony Hort who
developed the theory and composed the "Introduction" in their two-volume work.
In the following discussion, I consider the WH theory to be Hort's creation.At the age of
23, in late 1851, Hort wrote to a friend:I had no idea till the last few weeks of the
importance of texts, having read so little Greek Testament, and dragged on with the villainous
Textus Receptus¡Think of that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late
MSS; it is a blessing there are such early ones.
Scarcely more than a year later, "the plan of a joint (with B.F. Westcott)
revision of the text of the Greek Testament was first definitely agreed upon." And
within that year (1853) Hort wrote to a friend that he hoped to have the new text out
"in little more than a year." That it actually took twenty-eight years does not
obscure the circumstance that though uninformed, by his own admission, Hort conceived a
personal animosity for the Textus Receptus, and only because it was based entirely, as he
thought, on late manuscripts. it appears Hort did not arrive at this theory through
unprejudiced intercourse with the facts. Rather, he deliberately set out to construct a
theory that would vindicate his preconceived animosity for the Received Text.
Colwell has made the same observation, "Hort organised his entire argument to
depose the Textus Receptus."
(3) THEIR PLAN OF ATTACK
These are briefly listed below. Beginning on page 70, we showed the fallacy of several
of the more important principles of their theory. See INTT for a complete refutation.
- In textual criticism the N.T. is to be treated like any other book.
- There are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text.
- The numerical preponderance of the Received Text can be explained through genealogy.
Basically this means frequent copying of the same kind of "defective"
- Despite its numerical advantage, the Received Text is merely one of several competing
- The fact that the Received Text is fuller is because it is a conflated text. It was
combined with the shorter readings of the other competing text types. This conflation was
done with the official sanction of the Byzantine church during the 4th century.
- There are no distinctive Received Text readings in the writings of the Church Fathers
before 350 A.D.
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- Where there are several variant readings, the right one can be determined by two kinds
of internal evidence. The first is - "intrinsic, probability," i.e. which
reading best fits the context and confonns to the author's style and purpose? The second
is - "transcriptional probability." Whereas the first has to do with the author,
the second concerns the copyist. What kind of error did he make deliberately or through
carelessness? Under transcriptional probability, two basic norms were established. One:
the shorter reading is to be preferred (on the assumption that a scribe would be more
likely to add material). Two: the harder reading is to be preferred (on the assumption
that the scribe has attempted to simplify).
- The primary basis for a Greek Text is to be found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
- Harmonization. Parallel passages in the N.T. were made to say the same thing.
Most of the above points have been, I feel satisfactorily answered in this paper. One
that has not, deals with "the shorter reading is to be preferred." This is
Hort's response to the fact that the TR is longer and fuller (in addition to conflation).
Perhaps the canon most widely used against the "Byzantine" text is brevior
lectio potior - the shorter reading is to be preferred. As Hort stated the alleged basis
for the canon, "In the New Testament, as in almost all prose writings which have been
much copied, corruptions by interpolation are many times more numerous than corruptions by
omission." Accordingly it has been customary since Hort to tax the Received Text as
being full and interpolated and to regard B and Aleph as prime examples of
But is it really true that interpolations are "many times more numerous" than
omissions in the transmission of the New Testament?
Pickering then marshalls strong evidence against this conclusion. One quotation will
have to suffice here.
The whole question of interpolations in ancient MSS has been set in an entirely new
light by the researches of Mr. A. C. Clark, Corpus Professor of Latin at Oxford¡In
the Descent of Manuscripts, an investigation of the manuscript tradition of the Greek and
Latin Classics, he proves conclusively that the error to which scribes were most prone was
not interpolation but accidental omission ¡Hitherto the maxim brevior lectio
potior¡ has been assumed as a postulate of scientific criticism. Clark has shown
that, so far as classical texts are concerned, the facts point entirely the other way.
(3) THE STRANGE RESPONSE OF TEXTUAL SCHOLARS TO THE WESTCOTT AND HORT THEORY
It is strange because the naturalistic critics themselves have shown each of the
principles listed above to be defective, and yet in a greater or lesser way they still
embrace it. Under no circumstance will they return to the Received Text! We see the same
thing regarding the theory of evolution. Science has disproved it at each point but would
not dare return to Biblical Creationism. What spirit does the reader see at work here?
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After going through the WH theory, Pickering says, "And that completes our review
of the WH critical theory. It is evidently erroneous at every point."
He then quotes naturalistic critics who have come to the same basic conclusion:
Epp confesses that "we simply do not have a theory of the text."
K.W. Clark says of the WH text:
"The textual history that the Westcott-Hort text represents is no longer tenable
in the light of newer discoveries and fuller textual analysis. In the effort to construct
a congruent history, our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached
a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break
But then Pickering adds:
The practical effect of the WH theory was a complete rejection of the
"Syrian" text and an almost exclusive reference for the "Neutral" text
(B and Aleph). Subsequent scholarship has generally rejected the notion of a
"Neutral" text but sustained the rejection of the "Syrian" text.
Curiously, there seems to be a determination not to reconsider the status of the
"Syrian" text even though each of the arguments Hort used in relegating it to
oblivion has been challenged. Thus J.N. Birdsall, after referring to the work of Lake,
Lagrange, Colwell, and Streeter, as well as his own, declares: "It is evident that
all presuppositions concerning the Byzantine text - or texts - except its inferiority to
other types, must be doubted and investigated." (But doesn't the supposed inferiority
depend on those presuppositions)?
Colwell expresses it as well as anyone:
"The dead hand of Fenton John Anthony Hort lies heavy upon us. In the early years
of this century Kirsopp Lake described Hort's work as a failure, though a glorious one.
But Hort did not fail to reach his major goal. He dethroned the Textus Receptus. After
Hort, the late medieval Greek Vulgate was not used by serious students, and the text
supported by earlier witnesses became the standard text. This was a sensational
achievement, an impressive success. Hort's success in this task and the cogency of his
tightly reasoned theory shaped - and still shapes - the thinking of those who approach the
textual criticism of the N.T. through the English language"
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(4) A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE VIEWS OF WESTCOIT AND HORT
It is interesting at this juncture to take a glance at Doctors Westcott and Hort, the
dominating mentalities of the scheme of Revision, principally in that period of their
lives before they sat on the Revision Committee. They were working together twenty years
before Revision began, and swept the Revision Committee along with them after work
commenced. Mainly from their own letters, partly from the comments of their respective
sons, who collected and published their lives and letters, we shall here state the
principles which affected their deeper lives.
(a) Their Higher Criticism
Westcott writes to his fiancee, Advent Sunday, 1847:
"All stigmatize him (Dr. Hampden) as a 'heretic' If he be condemned, what will
become of me! The battle of the Inspiration of Scripture has yet to be fought, and how
earnestly I could pray that I might aid the truth in that."
Hort writes to Rev. Rowland Williams, October 21, 1858:
"Further I agree with them (authors of Essays and Reviews) in condemning many
leading specific doctrines of the popular theology ¡Evangelicals seem to me perverted
rather than untrue. There are, I fear, still more serious differences between us on the
subject of authority, and especially the authority of the Bible."
(b) Their Leanings Toward Rome
Westcott writes from France to his fiancee, 1847:
"After leaving the monastery, we shaped our course to a little oratory which we
discovered on the summit of a neighbouring hill ¡ Fortunately we found the door open.
It is very small, with one kneelingplace; and behind a screen was a 'Pieta' the size of
life (i.e. a Virgin and dead Christ)¡Had I been alone I could have knelt there for
Hort writes to Westcott, October 17, 1865:
"I have been persuaded for many years that Maryworship and 'Jesus'worship have
very much in common in their causes and their results."
Hort writes to Westcott, September 23, 1864:
"I believe Coleridge was quite right in saying that Christianity without a
substantial church is vanity and disillusion; and I remember shocking you and Lightfoot
not so long ago by expressing a belief that 'Protestantism' is only parenthetical and
temporary." "Perfect Catholicity has been nowhere since the Reformation."
(c) Their Tendency Toward Evolution
Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, April 3, 1860:
"But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it,
it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with ¡ My feeling is strong that
the theory is unanswerable. If so, it opens up a new period."
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Westcott writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury on Old Testament criticism, March 4,
"No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for
example, give a literal history - I could never understand how any one reading them with
open eyes could think they did."
Hort writes to Mr. John Ellerton:
"I am inclined to think that no such state as 'Eden' (I mean the popular notion)
ever existed, and that Adam's fall in no degree differed from the fall of each of his
descendants, as Coleridge justly argues."
(d) Their Views of the Death of Christ
Westcott writes to his wife, Good Friday, 1865:
"This morning I went to hear the Hulsean Lecturer. He preached on the Atonement
¡All he said was very good, but then he did not enter into the great difficulties of
the notion of sacrifice and vicarious punishment. To me it is always most satisfactory to
regard the Christian as in Christ - absolutely one with Him, and he does what Christ has
done: Christ's actions become his, and Christ's life and death in some sense his life and
Both rejected the atonement of the substitution of Christ for the sinner, or vidarious
atonement; both denied that the death of Christ counted for anything as an atoning factor.
They emphasized atonement through the Incarnation. This is the Catholic doctrine. It helps
defend the Mass.
Hort writes to Westcott, October 15, 1860:
"Today's post brought also your letter ¡ I entirely agree - correcting one
word - with what you there say on the Atonement, having for many years believed that 'the
absolute union of the Christian (or rather, of man) with Christ Himself' is the spiritual
truth of which the popular doctrine of substitution is an immoral and material counterfeit
¡ Certainly nothing could be more unscriptural than the modern limiting of Christ's
bearing our sins and sufferings to his death; but indeed that is only one aspect of an
almost universal heresy."
A much fuller treatment of the views of Westcott and Hort is given in "Dr. Stewart
Custer answered on the T.R. and K.J.V." by D.A. Waite.
Two manuscripts, one in the Pope's library, the other in a wastepaper bin in a Catholic
monastery; and two Anglican clergymen - are the reason why the late 20th century Church is
awash with modern versions.
6. REVISION AT LAST
(1) THE STEPS TAKEN
The following is from Benjamin Wilkinson:
By the year 1870, so powerful had become the influence of the Oxford Movement, that a
theological bias in favour of Rome was affecting men in high authority. Many of the most
sacred institutions of Protestant England had been assailed and some of them had been
completely changed. The attack on the Thirty-nine Articles by Tract 90, and the subversion
of fundamental Protestant doctrines within the Church of England had been so bold and
thorough, that an attempt to substitute a version which would theologically and legally
discredit our common Protestant Version would not be a surprise.
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The first demands for revision were made with moderation of language. "Nor can it
be too distinctly or too emphatically affirmed that the reluctance of the public could
never have been overcome but for the studious moderation and apparently rigid conservatism
which the advocates of revision were careful to adopt" (Hemphill, History of the
Revised Version). Of course, the Tractarians were conscious of the strong hostility to
their ritualism and said little in public about revision in order not to multiply the
strength of their enemies.
The friends and devotees of the King James Bible naturally wished that certain
retouches might be given the book which would replace words counted obsolete, bring about
conformity to more modern rules of spelling and grammar, so that its bitter opponents, who
made use of these minor disadvantages to discredit the whole, might be answered.
Nevertheless, universal fear and distrust of revision pervaded the public mind, who
recognised in it, as Archbishop Trench said, "A question affecting ... profoundly the
whole moral and spiritual life of the English people," and the "vast and solenm
issues depending on it." Moreover, the composition of the Authorised Version was
recognised by scholars as the miracle of English prose, unsurpassed in clearness,
precision, and vigour. The English of the King James Bible was the most perfect, if not
the only, example of a lost art. It may be said truthfully that literary men as well as
theologians frowned on the revision enterprise.
For years there had been a determined and aggressive campaign to take extensive
liberties with the Received Text; and the Romanizing Movement in the universities of
Oxford and Cambridge, both ritualistic and critical, had made it easy for hostile
investigators to speak out with impunity. Lachmann had led the way by ignoring the great
mass of manuscripts which favoured the printed text and built his Greek New Testament, as
Salmon says, of scanty material. Tregelles, though English, "was an isolated worker,
and failed to gain any large number of adherents." Tischendorf, who had brought to
light many new manuscripts and had done considerable collating, secured more authority as
an editor than he deserved, and in spite of his vacillations in successive editions,
became notorious in removing from the Sacred Text several passages hallowed by the
veneration of centuries.
The public would not have accepted the extreme, or, as some called it,
"progressive" conclusions of these three. The names of Westcott and Hort were
not prominently familiar at this time although they were Cambridge professors.
Nevertheless, what was known of them was not such as to arouse distrust and apprehension.
It was not until the work of revision was all over, that the world awoke to realise that
Westcott and Hort had outdistanced Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles. As Salmon says,
"Westcott and Hort's Greek Testament has been described as an epoch-making book; and
quite as correctly as the same phrase has been applied to the work done by Darwin."
The first efforts to secure revision were cautiously made in 1857 by five clergymen
(three of whom, Ellicott, Moberly and Humphrey, later were members of the New Testament
Revision Committee), who put out a Revised Version of John's Gospel. Bishop Ellicott, who
in the future was to be chairman of the New Testament Revision Committee, believed that
there were clear tokens of corruptions in the Authorised Version.
The triumvirate who constantly worked to bring things to a head, and who later sat on
the Revision Committee, were Ellicott, Lightfoot and Moulton. They found it difficult to
get the project on foot. Twice they had appealed to the Government in hopes that, as in
the case of the King James in 1611, Queen Victoria would appoint a royal commission. They
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There was sufficient aggression in the Southern Convocation, which represented the
Southern half of the Church of England, to vote Revision. But they lacked a leader. There
was no outstanding name which would suffice in the public eye as a guarantee against the
possible dangers. This difficulty, however, was at last overcome when Bishop Ellicott won
over that most versatile and picturesque personality in the English Church, Samuel
Wilberforce, the silver-tongued Bishop of Oxford. When Ellicott captured the persuasive
Wilberforce, he captured Convocation, and revision suddenly came within the sphere of
First came the resolution, February 10, 1870, which expressed the desirability of
revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament: "Whether by marginal notes
or otherwise, in all those passages where plain and clear errors, whether in the Hebrew or
Greek text originally adopted by the translators, or in translation made from the same,
shall, on due investigation, be found to exist" (W.F. Moulton, The English Bible).
An amendment was passed to include the Old Testament. Then a committee of sixteen -
eight from the Upper and eight from the Lower House - was appointed. This committee
solicited the participation of the Northern Convocation, but they declined to cooperate,
saying that "the time was not favourable for Revision, and that the risk was greater
than the probable gain."
Later the Southern Convocation adopted the rules which ordered that Revision should
touch the Greek text only where found necessary; should alter the language only where, in
the judgement of most competent scholars, such changes, the style of the King James should
be followed; and also, that Convocation should nominate a committee of its own members who
would be at liberty to invite the cooperation of other scholars in the work of Revision.
This committee when elected consisted of eighteen members. It divided into two bodies, one
to represent the Old Testament and the other to represent the New. As the majority of the
most vital questions which concern us involve New Testament Revision, we will follow the
fortunes of that body in the main.
The seven members of this English New Testament Revision Committee sent out invitations
which were accepted by eighteen others, bringing the full membership of the English New
Testament Committee to the number of twenty-five.
W.F. Moulton, a member of the committee who had spent some years in translating Winer's
Greek Grammar from German into English, exercised a large influence in the selection of
members. Dr. Moulton favoured those modern rules appearing in Winer's work which, if
followed in translating the Greek, would produce results different from that of the King
James. How much Dr. Moulton was a devotee of the Vulgate may be seen in the following
words from him:
"The Latin translation, being derived from manuscripts more ancient than any we
now possess, is frequently a witness of the highest value in regard to the Greek text
which was current in the earliest times, and its testimony is in many cases confirmed by
Greek manuscripts which have been discovered or examined since the 16th century."
From this it is evident that Dr. Moulton looked upon the Vulgate as a witness superior
to the King James, and upon the Greek manuscripts which formed the base of the Vulgate as
superior the the Greek manuscripts which formed the base of the King James. Furthermore,
he said, speaking of the Jesuit New Testament of 1582, "The Rhemish Testament agrees
with the best critical editions of the present day." Dr. Moulton, therefore, not only
believed the manuscripts which were recently discovered to be similar to the Greek
manuscripts, from which the Vulgate was translated, but he also looked upon the Greek New
Testaments of Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles, built largely upon the same few
manuscripts, as "the best critical editions." Since he exercised so large
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an influence in selecting the other members of the Committee, we can divine at the
outset the attitude of mind which would likely prevail in the Revision Committee.
The Old Testament Committee also elected into its body other members which made the
number in that company twenty-seven. Steps were now taken to secure cooperation from
scholars in America. The whole matter was practically put in the hands of Dr. Philip
Schaff of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Of Dr. Schaff's revolutionary
influence on American theology through his bold Romanizing policy; of his trial for
heresy; of his leadership in the American Oxford Movement, we will speak later. An appeal
was made to the American Episcopal Church to take part in the Revision, but that body
Through the activities of Dr. Schaff, two American Committees were formed, the Old
Testament Company having fourteen members, and the New Testament with thirteen. These
worked under the disadvantage of being chosen upon the basis that they should live near
New York City in order that meetings of the committee might be convenient. The American
Committee had no deciding vote on points of revision. As soon as portions of the Holy Book
were revised by the English committees, they were sent to the American committees for
confirmation or amendment. If the suggestions returned by the American committees were
acceptable to their English co-workers, they were adopted; otherwise they had no
independent claim for insertion. In other words, the American committees were simply
reviewing bodies. In the long run, their differences were not many. The work then went on
continuously in both countries, the English Companies revising, and the American
Committees reviewing what was revised, and returning their suggestions. When this list is
fully considered, the general reader will, we think, be surprised to find that the
differences are really of such little moment, and in very many cases will probably wonder
that the American divines thought it worth while thus to formally record their dissent.
Dr. Scliaff, who was to America what Newman was to England, was president of both
The story of the English New Testament Revision Committee is a stormy one, because it
was the battleground of the whole problem. That Committee finished its work three years
before the Old Testament Company, and this latter body had three years to profit by the
staggering onslaught which assailed the product of the New Testament Committee. Moreover,
the American Revised Bible did not appear until twenty years after the work of the English
New Testament Committee, so that the American Revisers had twenty years to understand the
fate which would await their volume.
When the English New Testament Committee met, it was immediately apparent what was
going to happen. Though for ten long years the iron rule of silence kept the public
ignorant of what was going on behind closed doors, the story is now known. The first
meeting of the Committee found itself a divided body, the majority being determined to
incorporate into the proposed revision the latest and most extreme higher criticism. This
majority was dominated and carried along by a triumvirate consisting of Hort, Westcott and
Lightfoot. The dominating mentality of this triumvirate was Dr. Hort. Before the Committee
met, Westcott had written to Hort, "The rules though liberal are vague, and the
interpretation of them will depend upon decided action at first." They were
determined at the outset to be greater than the rules, and to manipulate them.
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The new members who had been elected into the body, and who had taken no part in
drawing up the rules, threw these rules completely aside by interpreting them with the
widest latitude. Moreover, Westcott and Hort, who had worked together before this for
twenty years in bringing out a Greek New Testament constructed on principles which
deviated the furthest ever yet known from the Received Text, came prepared to effect a
systematic change in the Protestant Bible. On this point Westcott wrote to Hort concerning
Dr. Ellicott, the chairman: "The Bishop of Gloucester seems to me to be quite capable
of accepting heartily and adopting personally a thorough scheme."
And as we have previously seen, as early as 1851, before Westcott and Hort began their
twenty years' labour on their Greek text, Hort wrote, "Think of that vile Textus
Receptus." In 1851, when he knew little of the Greek New Testament, or of texts, he
was dominated with the idea that the Received Text was "vile" and
"villainous." The Received Text suffered fatal treatment at the hands of this
master in debate.
We have spoken of Bishop Ellicott as the chairman. The first chairman was Bishop
Wilberforce. One meeting, however, was sufficient for him. He wrote to an intimate friend,
"What can be done in this most miserable business?" Unable to bear the
situation, he absented himself and never took part in the proceedings. His tragic death
occurred three years later. One factor had disturbed him considerably - the presence of
Dr. G. Vance Smith, the Unitarian scholar. In this, however, he shared the feelings of the
people of England, who were scandalized at the sight of a Unitarian, who denied the
Divinity of Christ, participating in a communion service held at the suggestion of Bishop
Westcott in Westminster Abbey, immediately preceding their first meeting.
The minority in the Comittee was represented principally by Dr. Scrivener, probably the
foremost scholar of the day in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and the history
of the Text. If we may believe the words of Chairman Ellicott, the countless divisions in
the Committee over the Greek Text "was often a kind of critical duel between Dr. Hort
and Dr. Scrivener." Dr. Scrivener was continuously and systematically outvoted.
"Nor is it difficult to understand," says Dr. Hemphill, "that many of
their less resolute and decided colleagues must often have been completely carried off
their feet by the persuasiveness and resourcefulness, and zeal of Hort, backed by the
great prestige of Lightfoot, the popular Canon of St. Paul's and the quiet determination
of Westcott, who set his face as a flint. In fact, it can hardly be doubted that Hort's
was the strongest will of the whole Company, and his adroitness in debate was only
equalled by his pertinacity."
The conflict was intense and ofttimes the result seemed dubious. Scrivener and his
little band did their best to save the day. He might have resigned; but like Bishop
Wilberforce, he neither wished to wreck the product of revision by a crushing public blow,
nor did he wish to let it run wild by absenting himself. Dr. Hort wrote his wife as
follows: "July 15, 1971. We have had some stiff battles today in Revision, though
without any ill feeling, and usually with good success. But I, more than ever, felt how
impossible it would be for me to absent myself."
Concerning the battles within the Committee, Dr. Westcott writes: "May 24, 1871.
We have had hard fighting during these last two days, and a battle-royal is announced for
"January 27, 1875. Our work yesterday was positively distressing ¡ However, I
shall try to keep heart today, and if we fail again I think that I shall fly, utterly
despairing of the work."
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Same date. "Today our work has been a little better - only a little, but just
enough to be endurable."
The "ill-conceived and mismanaged" attempts of the Revision Committee of the
Southern Convocation to bring in the contemplated radical changes violated the rules that
had been laid down for its control. Citations from ten out of the sixteen members of the
Committee (sixteen was the average number in attendance) show that eleven members were
fully determined to act upon the principle of exact and literal translation, which would
permit them to travel far beyond the instructions they had received.
The Committee being assembled, the passage for consideration was read. Dr. Scrivener
offered the evidence favouring the Received Text, while Dr. Hort took the other side. Then
a vote was taken. Settling the Greek Text occupied the largest portion of time both in
England and in America. The new Greek Testament upon which Westcott and Hort had been
working for twenty years was, portion by portion, secretly committed into the hands of the
Revision Committee. Their Greek Text was strongly radical and revolutionary. The Revisers
followed the guidance of the two Cambridge editors, Westcott and Hort, who were constantly
at their elbow, and whose radical Greek New Testament, deviating the furthest possible
from the Received Text, is to all intents and purposes the Greek New Testament followed by
the Revision Committee. And this Greek text, in the main, follows the Vatican and
Hort's partiality for the Vatican Manuscript was practically absolute.
As the Sinaiticus was the brother of the Vaticanus, wherever pages in the latter were
missing, Hort used the former. He and Westcott considered that when the consensus of
opinion of these two manuscripts favoured a reading, that reading should be accepted as
apostolic. This attitude of mind involved thousands of changes in our time-honoured Greek
New Testament because a Greek Text formed upon the united opinion of Codex B and Codex
Aleph would be different in thousands of places from the Received Text.
So the Revisers "went on changing until they had altered the Greek Text in 5337
places (Everts, The Westcott and Hort Text Under Fire, "Bibliotheca
Sacra, Jan., 1921 ) Dr. Scrivener, in the Committee sessions, constantly issued
his warning of what would be the outcome if Hort's imaginary theories were accepted. In
fact, nine-tenths of the countless divisions and textual struggles around that table in
the Jerusalem Chamber arose over Hort's determination to base the Greek New Testament of
the Revision on the Vatican Manuscript.
Of course the minority members of the Revision Committee, and especially the world in
general, did not know of the twenty years' effort of these two Cambridge professors to
base their own Greek New Testament upon these two manuscripts. Hort's "excursion into
cloudland," as one authority describes his fourth century revisions, was apparent to
Dr. Scrivener, who uttered his protest. Here is his description of Hort's theory as
Scrivener later published it:
"There is little hope for the stability of their imposing structure, if its
foundations have been laid on the sandy ground of ingenious conjecture: and since barely
the smallest vestige of historical evidence has ever been alleged in support of the views
of these accomplished editors, their teaching must either be received as intuitively true,
or dismissed from our consideration as precarious, and even visionary."
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As Westcott and Hort outnumbered Scrivener two to one, so their followers outnumbered
the other side two to one; and Scrivener was systematically outvoted. As Professor Sanday
writes: "They were thus able to make their views heard in the council chamber, and to
support them with all the weight of their personal authority, while as yet the outer
public had but partial access to them."
As a consequence, the Greek New Testament upon which the Revised Version is based, is
practically the Greek New Testament of Westcott and Hort. Dr. Schaff says: "The
result is that in typographical accuracy the Greek Testament of Westcott and Hort is
probably unsurpassed and that it harmonies essentially with the text adopted by the
(2) THE REVISERS WERE LIBERAL AND YET NARROW
We meet the paradox in the Revisers, as they sit assembled at their task, of men
possessing high reputation for liberalism of thought, yet acting for a decade with extreme
narrowness. Stanley, Thirlwall, Vaughan, Hort, Westcott, Moberly - men of leading
intellect - would naturally be expected to be so broad as to give most sacred documents
fair consideration. Dean Stanley had glorified the Church of England because within her
ranks both ritualists and higher critics could officiate as well as the regular churchmen.
When Bishop Colenso, of Natal, was on trial, amid great excitement throughout all England,
for his destructive criticism of the first five books of Moses, Dean Stanley stood up
among his religious peers and placed himself alongside of Colenso. He said:
"I might mention one who ... has ventured to say that the Pentateuch is not the
work of Moses; ... who has ventured to say that the narratives of those historical
incidents are coloured not infrequently by the necessary informities which belong to the
human instruments by which they were conveyed ... and that individual is the one who now
addresses you. If you pronounce against the Bishop of Natal on grounds such as these, you
must remember that there is one close at hand whom ... you will be obliged to
Bishop Thirlwall, of "princely intellect," had a well-known reputation for
liberalism in theology. He introduced both the new theology of Schleiermacher and higher
criticism into England. In fact, when Convocation yielded to public indignation so far as
essentially to ask Dr. Smith, the Unitarian scholar, to resign, Bishop Thirlwall retired
from the committee and refused to be placated until it was settled that Dr. Smith should
remain (Vance Smith received Holy Communion with his fellow-revisers in Westminster Abbey
on June 22, 1870, and said afterwards that he did not join in reciting the Nicene Creed
and did not compromise his principles as a Unitarian).
Cardinal Newman believed that tradition and the Catholic Church were above the Bible.
Westcott and Hort wore great admirers of Newman. Dean Stanley believed that the Word of
God did not dwell in the Bible alone, but that it dwelt in the sacred books of other
religions as well. Dr. Schaff sat in the Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World's
Fair, 1893, and was so happy among the Buddhists, Confucianists, Shintoists and other
world religions, that he said he would be willing to die among them. The spirit of the
Revisionists on both sides of the ocean was an effort to find the Word of God by the study
of comparative religions.
Evidence might be given to show liberalism in other members. These men were honourably
bound to do justice to thousands of manuscripts if they assumed to reconstruct a Greek
Text. We are informed by Dr. Scrivener that there are
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[at that time] 2864 cursive and uncial manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in
part [latest count: 88 papyri, 267 uncials, 2764 cursives]. These represent many different
countries and different periods of time. Yet astonishing to relate, the majority of the
Revisers ignored these and pinned their admiration and confidence practically to two - the
Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
Doctor Moberly, Bishop of Salisbury, Bishop Westcott and Dr. G. Vance Smith came to the
Committee with past relationships that seriously compromised them. Bishop Moberly
"belonged to the Oxford Movement, and, it is stated in Dean Church's 'Life and
Letters' that he wrote a most kind letter of approval to Mr. Newman as to the famous Tract
90." While with regard to Dr. Westcott, his share in making the Ritualistic Movement
a success has been recognised.
Dr. Vaughan, another member of the Revision Committee, was a close friend of Westcott.
The extreme liberalism of Dr. G. Vance Smith, the Unitarian member of the Committee, is
well-known through his book on the Bible and Theology. This amounted practically to
Christianised infidelity. Nevertheless, the worshipful attitude of these men, as well as
that of Lightfoot, Kennedy and Humphrey toward Codex B, was unparalleled in Biblical
history. The year 1870 was marked by the Papal declaration of infallibility. It has been
well said that the blind adherence of the Revisionists to the Vatican manuscript
proclaimed "the second infallible voice from the Vatican."
(3) RUTHLESS CHANGES WHICH RESULTED
Even the jots and tittles of the Bible are important. God has pronounced terrible woes
upon the man who adds to or takes away from the volume of inspiration. The Revisers
apparently felt no constraint on this point, for they made 36000 changes in the
English of the King James Version, and very nearly 6000 in the Greek Text.
As Canon Cook says: "By far the greatest number of innovations, including those
which give the severest shocks to our minds, are adopted on the authority of two
manuscripts, or even of one manuscript, against the distinct testimony of all other
manuscripts, uncial and cursive ... The Vatican Codex sometimes alone, generally in accord
with the Sinaitic, is responsible for nine-tenths of the most striking innovations in the
That fact that guidance of the Holy Spirit as well as a knowledge of the rules of
grammar are necessary for the translator can be seen in the following:
The instruments of warfare which they brought to their task were new and untried rules
for the discrimination of manuscripts; for attacking the verb; for attacking the article;
for attacking the preposition, the pronoun, the intensive, Hebraisms, and parallelisms.
The following quotations show that literal and critically exact quotations frequently fail
to render properly the original meaning:
"The self-imposed rule of the Revisers," says the Forum, "required them
invariably to translate the aoristic forms by their closest English equivalents; but the
vast number of cases in which they have forsaken their own rule shows that it could not be
followed without in effect changing the meaning of the original; and we may add that to
whatever extent that rule has been slavishly followed, to that extent the broad sense of
the original has been marred."
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One of the Revisers wrote, after the work was finished: "With reference to the
rendering of the article, similar remarks may be made. As a rule, it is too often
expressed. This sometimes injures the idiom of the English, and in truth impairs or
misrepresents the force of the original" (Vance Smith).
The obsession of the Revisionists for rendering literally Hebraisms and parallelisms
has often left us with a doctrine seriously, if not fatally, weakened by their theory.
(4) THE REVISERS GREATEST CRIME AND A CRIME THAT HAS BEEN PERETUATED DOWN TO OUR OWN
When God has taught us that "all Scripture is given by inspiration" of the
Holy Spirit and that "men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," the Holy
Spirit must be credited with ability to transmit and preserve inviolate the Sacred
Deposit. We cannot admit for a moment that the Received Text which, by the admission of
its enemies themselves, has led the true people of God for centuries, can be whipped into
fragments and set aside for a manuscript found in an out-of-the-way monastery, and for
another of the same family which has lain, for man knows not how long, upon a shelf in the
library of the Pope's palace. Both these documents are of uncertain ancestry, of
questionable history, and of suspicious character. The Received Text was put for centuries
in its position of leadership by Divine Providence, just as truly as the Star of Bethlehem
was set in the heavens to guide the wise men. Neither was it the product of certain
technical rules of textual criticism which some men have chosen in the last few decades to
exalt as divine principles.
The change of one word in the Constitution of the United States, at least the
transposition of two, could vitally affect thousands of people, millions of dollars, and
many millions of acres of land. It took centuries of training to place within that
document a combination of words which cannot be tampered with, without catastrophic
results. It represents the mentality of a great people, and to change it would bring chaos
into their well-ordered life.
Not of one nation only, but of all great nations, both ancient and modern, is the Bible
the basis of the Constitution. It foretold the fall of Babylon; and when that empire had
disappeared, the Bible survived. It announced before-hand the creation of the empires of
Greece and Rome, and lived to tell their faults and why they failed. It warned succeeding
kingdoms. All ages and continents have their life inwrought into the fabric of this Book.
It is the handiwork of God through the centuries. Only those whose records are lifted high
above suspicion can be accepted as qualified to touch it. Certainly no living being, or
any number of them, ever had authority to make such astounding changes as were made by
those men who were directly or indirectly influenced by the Oxford Movement.
The history of the Protestant world is inseparable from the Received Text. A single
nation could break loose and plunge into anarchy and license. The Received Text shone high
in the heavens to stabilise surrounding peoples. Even many nations at one time might fall
under the shadow of some great revolutionary wave. But there stood the Received Text to
fill their inner self with its moral majesty and call them back to law and order.
On what meat had Dr. Hort fed, when he dared, being only twenty-three years old, to
call the Received Text "villainous" and "vile"? By his own confession
he had at that time read little of the Greek New Testament, and knew nothing of texts and
certainly nothing of Hebrew. What can be the most charitable estimate we can put upon that
company of men who submitted to his lead, and would assure
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us in gentle words that they had done nothing, that there was really no great
difference between the King James Bible and the Revised, while in another breath they
reject as "villainous" and "vile" the Greek New Testament upon which
the King James Bible is built? Did they belong to a superior race of beings, which
entitled them to cast aside, as a thing of naught, the work of centuries? They gave us a
Version which speaks with faltering tones, whose music is discordant. The Received Text is
harmonious. It agrees with itself, it is selfproving, and it creeps into the affections of
When a company of men set out faithfully to translate genuine manuscripts in order to
convey what God said, it is one thing. When a comittee sets itself to revise or translate
with ideas and a "scheme," it is another. But it may be objected that the
translators of the King James were biased by their pro-Protestant views. The reader must
judge whose bias he will accept - that of the influence of the Protestant Reformation, as
heading up in the Authorised Version; or that of the influence of Darwinism, higher
criticism, incipient modern religious liberalism, and a reversion to Rome, as heading up
in the Revised Version.
A great deal of space has been given to the revision of the English Bible that took
place last century. But when properly weighed and pondered it will be seen to be satan's
most subtle and devastating attack upon the Word in all history. The version itself was
not popular but it opened the floodgates to the countless versions dancing before our eyes
today. It took away the standard, the benchmark of the English-speaking world. And it
placed a new Greek Text in our Bible Institutes and Colleges. It struck at foundations and
did more to undermine the authority of God's Word than any other event. But most tragic of
all, it was and is embraced by those who call themselves "fundamentalist."
As Wilkinson says:
Because of the changes which came about in the 19th century, there arose a new type of
Protestantism and a new version of the Protestant Bible. This new kind of Protestantism
was hostile to the fundamental doctrines of the Reformation. Previous to this there had
been only two types of Bibles in the world, the Protestant and the Catholic. Now
Protestants were asked to choose between the true Protestant Bible and one which
reproduced readings rejected by the Reformers.
7. A LONE VOICE
Since 1881, many, perhaps most, orthodox Christian scholars have agreed with Westcott
and Hort that textual criticism is a strictly neutral science that must be applied in the
same way to any document whatever, including the Bible. Yet there have been some orthodox
theologians who have dissented from this neutral point of view. One of them was Abraham
Kuyper (1894), who pointed out that the publication of the Textus Receptus was "no
accident," affirming that the Textus Receptus, "as a foundation from which to
begin critical operations." Another was Francis Pieper (1924), who emphasized that
fact that "in the Bible which is in our hands we have the Word of Christ which is to
be taught by and in the Church until the last day."
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It was John W. Burgon (1813-1888), however, who most effectively combatted the
neutralism of naturalistic Bible study. This famous scholar spent most of his adult life
at Oxford, as Fellow of Oriel College and then as vicar of St. Mary's (the University
Church) and Gresham Professor of Divinity. During his last twelve years he was Dean of
Chichester. In theology he was a high-church Anglican but opposed to the ritualism into
which even in his day the high-church movement had begun to decline. Throughout his career
he was steadfast in his defense of the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and strove
with all his power to arrest the modernistic currents which during his lifetime had begun
to flow within the Church of England. Because of his learned defense of the Traditional
New Testament text he has been held up to ridicule in most of the handbooks on New
Testament textual criticism, but his arguments have never been refuted.
Although he lived one hundred years ago, Dean Burgon has the message which we need
today. Since his books have now become difficult to acquire, they should all be reprinted
and made available to new generations of believing Bible students. His published works on
textual criticism include: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (1871), The Revision
Revised (1883), and The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels and The Causes of the
Corruption of the Traditional Text, two volumes which were published in 1896, after
[graphic John William Burgon (1813-1888)]
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One hundred years ago, Burgon said, "If you and I believe that the original
writings of the Scriptures were verbally inspired by God, then of necessity they must have
been providentially preserved through the ages."
Since the Garden of Eden that has been the primary issue. "Yea hath God
said"? Are you certain that you now have at every point the full and complete Word of
A seed that is allowed to corrupt and mildew in the granary will not do much good out
in the fields. Today there is an unprecedented printing and distribution of Christian
literature, but in comparison with past days, it seems to have so little effect "out
in the fields." The reason is not hard to find the sowers are using a corrupted seed.
(I got this last thought from a Pastor in Lebanon, Ohio, who from the base of his local
church prints millions of good Gospel tracts).
Thankfully since Burgon's day, many more have entered the battle for the purity and
distribution of God's Holy Word. And though our numbers are not great, we can take heart
in the fact that the position taken is the historical one. For eighteen hundred years the
non-Catholic and Protestant believers stood for the Received Text.
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side
Some great cause, God's Messiah
Offering each the bloom or blight
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and the light
Though the cause of evil prosper
Yet tis truth alone is strong
Truth forever on the scaffold
Wrong forever on the throne
Yet that scaffold sways the future
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above His own.
For ever, O LORD, thy Word is settled in heaven.
return to Table
return to Part One: A Survey of
Old Testament Documents
return to Part Two: The Issues We Face Regarding the New Testament
return to Part Three: The Witness of the
Early Church Fathers to the Received Text
return to Part Four: A Survey Of The New Testament Documents