Monday, September 30, 2013

Confession of an Ex-TR Evangelist

The plain truth of the matter is that the supremacy of the Textus Receptus text-type is not supported by the manuscript evidence.

ἀφαιρήσει ὁ Θεὸς τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς
Rev 22:19, Textus Receptus

ἀφελεῖ ὁ θεὸς τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς
Rev 22:19, NA281

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading about the science of Textual Criticism, the history of Greek New Testament translation, and the vast, manuscript evidence we have available to us today. As a direct result of this research, I have made a radical, 180° change in my thinking concerning the Greek New Testament.

Until now—and to my shame—I had ignorantly regarded every critical text as a warmed over version of the “damnable” Westcott & Hort text, and therefore apostate and inferior to the Textus Receptus, whilst arrogantly dismissing the entire field of Textual Criticism as an exercise in academic Nicolaitanism (see here and here to see just how convinced I was).

I no longer believe any of those things.

My belief in the supremacy of the Textus Receptus (TR) text-type began forming from the time I started to learn Koine Greek. It was, as I can see now, the typical opinion of Christians, like me, who are iconoclastic, distrustful of consensus and sceptical of any form of conventional wisdom. Being self-taught in Greek, in the cocoon of my own home, meant that I had never been personally exposed to the practitioners of NT Textual Criticism, or heard their side of the text-type debate. All of that, combined with my natural conservatism, ensured that I’d be drawn to the pro-TR message and its messengers.

So what happened to change my mind? Well, there was more than one thing, but it really began to change when I saw the following video of Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM)2, speaking about the reliability of the text of the New Testament. Listening to this man's reasoned and highly informed defence of the New Testament text was so exciting and inspiring I developed an instant respect and admiration for those who toil in the field of Textual Criticism!

Needless to say, I highly recommend you watch it all:3

By way of conclusion, I would like to draw your attention to the two different Greek readings of Revelation 22:19 at the top of this post. The words in yellow are book and tree respectively. The word book in the TR citation found its way into the KJV. Of all the Greek manuscripts around today, not one of them has the word book in this clause of this verse of Revelation. It was a Latin scribal error that made its way into the TR via Erasmus’ back-translation of the Vulgate for the last six verses of the Apocalypse in his Greek New Testament.

And there hasn’t been a genuine scholar for over 200 years who would defend it.


1. Unless otherwise indicated, all English Scripture text is taken from the ESV2011 (the English Standard Version, 2011). Greek text is from NA28 (28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece).

2. The purpose of the CSNTM is to digitize all known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament via digital photography.

3. The original video I saw has since been removed from Youtube, but Wallace apparently only gives one speech, so the information in this video is almost exactly the same as in the one I first watched.

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