Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism

Gordon H. Clark

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The problem of New Testament textual criticism is very difficult, and therefore hard to explain to the general public. For a more definite reason it is also hard to explain to ministers, seminary students, and even to the professors themselves. Yet its importance and ramifications are such that the ordinary worshiper as he sits in church on Sunday mornings, or as he reads his Bible at home, cannot escape its effects.

Most Christians in this country know no Greek, but nearly all recognize that there are competing translations of the Bible. There is the King James Version of noble ancestry; there is the American and now the New American Standard Version; the New International Version; several versions that are more paraphrases than translations (all bad); the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible; and translations of all or parts of the Bible by individuals rather than by committees. Surely these different translations confuse the ordinary reader at several places. Can he find a basis for making an intelligent choice? Without guaranteeing infallibility, I think he can, sometimes.

But congregations, not to insist on individuals, during the second half of this century, have been perplexed, pummeled, plagued, and sometimes pleased by the plethora of new proposals. The session of one church banished the King James and ordered the pastor to use only the New International Version in the pulpit. A year later they discarded the New International Version and made the New American Standard their official Bible. Advertisers of the several versions castigate the King James for its archaic terminology. True, it contains some antiquated words, though their number is usually exaggerated. The one or two new versions that merely replace an obsolete word with its contemporary counterpart are to be commended. But most of the new versions change the familiar terms simply for the sake of change. The result may be neither better nor worse: It is merely different.


Examples from the Old Testament


Here are some examples. Psalm 3:1 reads, “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me” (KJV). The New American Standard reads as, “O Lord, how my adversaries have increased.” The Revised Standard Version puts it, “O Lord, how many are my foes.” Aside from the fact that the Revised Standard Version omits the verb, the translations are equally accurate. The Hebrew word means both troubles and adversaries. But troubles is an easier and more familiar word than adversaries. Hence the new translation can neither claim to have replaced an obsolete word, nor even to have substituted an easier one.

Psalm 91:4 is another example of change for the sake of change. The new word is even less familiar to contemporary Americans than the King James word. The King James has, “He shall cover thee with his feathers.” The Hebrew word means feathers or wings. The Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard change feathers to pinions. Of course, pinions is a perfectly good English word, but it is less popularly used than feathers or wings. Nor is it a more accurate translation. Hence this seems to be change for the mere sake of change.

The first verse of the well known Isaiah 53 begins with, “Who hath believed our report?” The Hebrew of the last word means announcement, doctrine, news, report, rumor, or tidings. The Revised Standard Version changes the single word to the phrase “what we have heard.” This seems to make it a reference to what Isaiah heard, rather than to what he preached. The New American Standard makes better sense: “our message.” Now, the words message and report are both common English words, so that any claim to clearer English or to the removal of archaic expressions has no basis.

To be sure, no one can legitimately forbid new translations, especially the present writer; for I have deliberately made some very harsh translations in my commentaries. The reason was to imitate Greek constructions and to shake sleepy readers out of their inattentive perusal of a printed page. Legitimate though they may be, they are not attempts to replace the King James, nor would they be suitable for the formal reading of the Scripture in the Sunday morning service.


New Testament Examples


Matthew 5:18, “Till Heaven and Earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (KJV). The Revised Standard Version has, “Till Heaven and Earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” Worse is the New English Bible, “So long as Heaven and Earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has happened.” The New International Version has, “Until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

The English word jot seems to have been derived from the Greek word iota, which is the name of the letter i. On this point, the Revised Standard Version is the best of the quoted translations, for modern speech hardly recognizes jot as iota. But there is no good reason for changing tittle into dot, nor into stroke, and “not the least stroke of a pen” is an inexcusable paraphrase.

The word tittle is, to be sure, an unusual word in English. But there is none much better. It means a point or small sign used as a diacritical, punctuation, or similar mark, the dot over an i or j, a vowel point in Hebrew. The verb that the King James translates fulfilled is literally “has become.” Fulfill and accomplish are both proper, though the latter is no real improvement over the former. Totally unacceptable is the phrase “until all that must happen has happened.”

Luke 1:1: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us...” (KJV). “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us...” (RSV). “The author to Theophilus: Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events that have happened among us” (NEB). Forasmuch as this study aims generally to support the King James Version as being better or at least as good English as the new versions, it is only just to point out a deficiency now and then. The phrase “most surely believed among us” receives no support either from the critical texts or from the majority (Byzantine) manuscripts. The wording “have been accomplished” is quite satisfactory. But “compile a narrative” is distinctly inferior to “taken in hand,” both from the standpoint of easily understood English and of correct translation. The word for hand (cheir) is the root embedded in the verb. Even the phrase “to set forth in order” is a fair translation of the infinitive there. Anatasso means to arrange in a row, to draw up in order. The New English Bible’s transposition of Theophilus from the end of verse 3 to the beginning of verse 1 is merely mildly amusing.

The well-known words of John 14:18 are, “I will not leave you comfortless.” The last word in Greek is orphans. The New English Bible has bereft; the Revised Standard Version has desolate. I can approve the New International Version when it says orphans, because it is a more accurate translation; but bereft and desolate are neither better translations than comfortless, nor are they a simpler English that avoids an alleged archaism. They seem to indicate a desire to be merely different.

Acts 7:54 describes the effect of Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin: “they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (KJV). The Revised Standard Version has, “they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him.” “They were furious” is the New International Version’s translation. The inimitable-who would want to imitate it?-New English Bible has, “This touched them on the raw and they ground their teeth with fury.” Now, the Greek text has the word “hearts.” Since this is no strange word, a translator should not change it. The verb means “to cut to the quick.” It also occurs in Acts 5:33 without the word heart. Perhaps gnashed is an uncommon word these days and hence the Revised Standard Version’s “ground their teeth” can be considered an improvement. But the Revised Standard Version’s enraged and the New International Version’s furious are neither more accurate translations, rather less accurate, nor simpler English.

In Romans 4:3 the King James translates elogisthe as counted, though in the next verse it uses reckoned. The Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard use reckoned in both verses. The New International Version uses credited twice. One can fault the King James for using two words and not the same word twice, but there is no more than a microscopic improvement in the latter versions. Liddell and Scott give both words, as well as calculate, conclude by reasoning; and Arndt and Gingrich have consider, ponder, propose, think, believe, as well as reckon and count. The English of the later versions is no better or clearer than that of the King James.

One should not conclude from this that all the modern changes are bad. In some, even in many places, the Revised Standard Version is better in English and more accurate in translation than the King James. 1 Corinthians 6:16 is a good example. But the Revised Standard Version changes the meaning of the passage by punctuating with an interrogation point. The Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible have a similar change in meaning. Without a comment on the change in meaning, one may say that the King James can be improved. A committee attempted this, and, in 1979, trying to preserve the great good and correct the few deficiencies, published the New King James Version (Thomas Nelson, Nashville). As an exercise, the reader is invited to dig into this passage on his own.

The King James at Ephesians 6:11, 14 reads, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil ... having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” The Revised Standard Version is very nearly the same. The New American Standard gives us, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil ... having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” As usual, the New English Bible deviates considerably: “Put on all the armour which God provides so that you may be able to stand firm against the devices of the devil.... Buckle on the belt of truth, for coat of mail put on integrity.” In the New International Version we have, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes....with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”

Perhaps someone can argue that loins and wiles are archaic, though the Revised Standard Version has both words, while the New American Standard keeps loins but drops wiles. The New English Bible and the New International Version go their own merry ways. I must acknowledge that sometimes the best-accoutered soldiers in antiquity wore something like a coat of mail, and they indeed used the term thorax. Liddell and Scott give this meaning, though strangely Arndt and Gingrich do not. However, the present question is not one of translation, but to what extent does the English of the King James need modernization.

The epistle to the Hebrews, being the best literary Greek in the New Testament, can hardly fail to furnish several fanciful flourishes. The King James begins, “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets....” The New American Standard destroys the Greek emphasis on “sundry times and diverse manners” by putting the phrase at the end of the verse instead of at the beginning. So does the New International Version. The New English Bible, as usual, lives up, or down, to its reputation. The Jerusalem Bible is even better than the King James, because it puts the word God after “various times...and in various different ways,” thus preserving the Greek emphasis. The New American Bible is slightly poorer. Verse 5 is an even better example of inadmissible change. In fact, the New International Version obviously mistranslates it as, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” In 2:3 it changes neglect to ignore. Not only does this fail to improve the English, it is also a poorer translation of amelesantes. Nor is pioneer in (in the RSV) 2:10 any better than captain. Indeed it is worse (compare Rienecker’s Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Volume II, or better, Liddell and Scott). The Jerusalem Bible’s leader is fair, though not preferable. So also The New American Bible. I do not understand why The New King James Version substituted author. The figure of speech is military, not literary.

In Hebrews 11:11, the King James has, “through faith Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” To one’s utter astonishment, the New International Version has “by faith Abraham [!] even though he was past age-and Sara herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he....” I do not know of a single manuscript that has this reading. The New International Version has made an incredible and utterly unjustifiable blunder.

These examples should be sufficient to cast doubt on the claim that the new versions are better English. Sometimes they are more accurate, but usually they are not. Several of the examples are instances of paraphrase rather than of translation. Such are ordinarily controlled by an individual’s or the committee’s unorthodox theology, or, which in effect is equally bad, one man’s aesthetic preferences.


Logical and Textual Criticism


Unfortunately for the communicant members, even for the pastor, and for most of those who have recently graduated from seminary, something far more difficult and complicated hides beneath the English versions. Not only should a translation be accurate, as many are not, but even more important, the Greek text to be translated should be accurate, or as accurate as possible. Toward the end of the last century, Westcott and Hort substituted a different Greek text, and this development has carried over to the present date. Nearly all the modern versions are based on a text that differs in a thousand ways from the Greek underlying the King James. This new development must be carefully considered.

Because of the vexations and innumerable complexities of the problem-did I say 1000 discrepancies? make it 3000 in the Gospels alone-textual criticism is a very difficult and delicate procedure, quite unsuited to the purposes of the present study and admittedly beyond the competence of the present writer. The scholar’s material includes five thousand New Testament manuscripts, several ancient versions, and hundreds of quotations in the early church fathers. Such a mass of complications, requiring knowledge of a half dozen or more ancient languages, is no playground for the ordinary church member-nor for the pastors, who are supposed to know both Greek and Hebrew. But even the church member, since the text of the Bible is so important, ought to know at least a little bit about the sources of the many Bibles now being published.

Because of such intricacies, because of their importance, and because of the probability of great misunderstandings, the exact scope, purpose, and limitations of the present study need to be clearly stated. The professional textual critics will expect too much and make a negative judgment. The others will not know what to expect and should therefore be favored with the clearest possible statement of purpose.

Although the present writer is not a textual critic, he will be bold enough to make some small claim to acquaintance with logic. He taught the stuff for a good fifty years in college. If someone argues, “All insects are quadrupeds, and all quadrupeds are edible, therefore all edibles are insects,” the writer can with some degree of assurance declare the syllogism invalid, even though he may not know whether or not a bumblebee is an insect. Or, if someone says, “All the heroes of Homer’s Iliad died young; Alexander was a hero of Homer’s Iliad; therefore Alexander died young,” he knows that the syllogism is valid, even if he thinks that the Iliad was written by Virgil. Similarly, if a textual critic asserts that manuscript B has the correct reading for Luke 5:33, and that therefore B has the correct reading for Jude 22, we must suggest a course in logic for the critic, even though we might think that B was discovered in 1624 and represents the Byzantine text.

These, of course, are ludicrous examples; but the aim here is to show that much of textual criticism is not noticeably better. If Aland or Metzger says that B gives a certain reading, I shall not question it. I have never seen manuscript B. But the methodology of textual criticism cannot claim immunity from logical analysis.

If the critics are not interested in the validity of their methodology, but nonetheless make use of manuscript evidence, I would like to recommend some studies of their professional resources. A small, interesting, and powerful brochure, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, by Jakob Van Bruggen (Premier Printing, Ltd; 1976, 1979, 40 pages) devastates the liberal criticism. The footnotes provide a good bibliography. An earlier work, The King James Version Defended, by Edward Hills, while valuable, suffers from some deficiencies, one of which is an excursion into the philosophy of science which-even if it were without other errors-would be irrelevant anyway. Zane Hodges wrote at least three papers between 1961 and 1975. More recently, with Arthur L. Farstad (and some consulting editors), Hodges edited a critical edition of The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text (Thomas Nelson Publishers)-a major work that required incredible patience. It contains a bibliography of about 150 entries.

Perhaps the best production for immediate reading is Wilbur N. Pickering’s The Identity of the New Testament Text (Thomas Nelson, 1977). Further references to this excellent book will be made as we proceed. In particular, he contrasts the painstaking procedure of the usually despised Burgon with the sloppy methodology of his detractors. Even the least academic member of the ghetto congregation in East Podunk, Missovania, ought to read some of Pickering’s book.

But it may be that the people of Podunk are not only turned off from reading Pickering, they may also doubt that logical analysis can be at all interesting. Interesting or not, it is far more important than Homer, Alexander, and Virgil. For that reason, I shall partly repeat and more fully extend some of these introductory inducements.


The Greek Text


Enemies of the Bible occasionally try to destroy the faith of believers by emphasizing the impossibility of discovering what the apostles actually wrote. The four or five thousand Greek manuscripts differ in many places. Once when I quoted a verse from John’s Gospel to a modernist, she quickly replied, “But how do you know that he actually said that?” By the grace of God, I was able immediately to shoot back, “How do you know Jesus said anything?” The other faculty members at the lunch table gave vocal evidence of a point scored. The modernist woman professor and missionary to India wanted to use some verses, but not others. But she saw then that if she insisted on her verses, she could not object to mine. At any rate the attempt to destroy Christian faith by an appeal to the difficulties of textual criticism has been based on considerable exaggeration. Someone has calculated that there is a textual variant for one word in seven, but only one in a thousand makes any difference in the sense. Still, since the New Testament contains about 200,000 words, it would mean 200 theological errors in the book as a whole. This is too many for comfort. Examples of both the nocuous and the innocuous will be given.


Variant Readings


In Mark 14:52, a few manuscripts have “naked he fled”; a few others have “he fled naked”; and a large number have “he fled naked from them.” Perhaps only three have “he fled from them naked.” Another example is 2 Corinthians 11:32. A few manuscripts read “to seize me”; many more have “wishing to seize me,” where me in the accusative is still the object to be seized. And there are thousands of such insignificant alternative readings. However, there are many variants that are substantial. In both these categories the overwhelming majority of even mature Christians have no resources to judge which Greek manuscript preserves the words of the original author. But they can understand some of the methods textual critics use. In fact, they ought to. If they do, they will not be so overawed by the revisers.

When we come to examine the passages chosen, the particular textual method used in each case will be analyzed in detail. In order that the reader may not be completely discombobulated by their strangeness, a few of the more general rules can serve as a preparation.

First, the number of manuscripts of the type underlying the King James Version far exceeds all other types combined. This would seem to be conclusive for the Byzantine text. The critics, however, propose a rule that number is less important than weight. A dozen or a hundred manuscripts all copied from a single original ancestor count only as one, and therefore a lone manuscript of a different type equals the other hundred in weight.

This argument, which seems so plausible at first, is not so weighty a criterion as the critics seem to believe. There is another factor involved, which, if they have mentioned it, I have missed the mention. It is this. If a score or two score manuscripts have a single ancestor, it implies that a score or two score copyists believed that ancestor to be faithful to the autographs. But if a manuscript has not a numerous progeny, as is the case with B’s ancestor, one may suspect that the early scribes doubted its value. Possibly the early orthodox church knew that B was corrupt, while the later heretics were less interested in wasting time copying their own altered text.

Furthermore, the argument that pits weights against number, if it were to have much force, would require a far more extensive knowledge of manuscript genealogies than anyone now has. Even in the case of the Byzantine text alone, while the manuscripts are basically similar, a true genealogy has never been completed. The western text of D is somewhat like Melchizedek, without ancestors or descendants. Attempts by Westcott and Hort, and others, to establish Syrian, Alexandrine, Neutral, Caesarean, Antiochan, and Western families-running into insuperable difficulties-have produced competing results in the last seventy-five years.

The critics use other criteria also. When several manuscripts differ at a given place, they prefer the reading that is harder to understand rather than the easier reading. They justify this principle by assuming that the scribe is likely to think that the harder reading was a mistake, with the result that he guesses his easy interpretation is the original. No one can prove that this never happened. But it is also possible, for a number of reasons-fatigue, brilliance, the mispronunciation of a reader-that he changed an easy reading into something more difficult.

Similarly, the critics often assume that the shorter reading is correct and the longer one corrupt. The underlying idea is that the copyist has several manuscripts before him, and he wishes to preserve all their readings in his copy. But could not some scribe, if he had different manuscripts before him and was not listening, with a room full of copyists, to a reader-could he not have been sufficiently devout to remember the Scriptural injunction neither to add nor to subtract? Examples of how these and other criteria are used and misused will now constitute a list that could be much further extended.


Textual Criticism of Matthew


Matthew 1:16: “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom [feminine singular] was born Jesus.” This first example is indeed a case of textual criticism, but it is much more importantly a case of dishonesty on the part of the Revised Standard Version’s translators. Before they completed their work on the Old Testament, they published the New Testament alone in 1946. It was well advertised and made quite a stir. People who picked it up would probably look at the first page and then leaf through. On the first page they would see nothing suspicious. There was the genealogy of Christ, and that was not very fascinating.

When the entire Bible first appeared, those interested might look at the first page of Genesis and then leaf through. It was unlikely that anyone would pay attention to the first page of the New Testament. But the first page of Matthew in 1952 was not the same as its first page in1946. A footnote had been added. It would have generated widespread criticism in 1946, but it would be generally overlooked when hidden by the preceding Old Testament pages.

The footnote reads: “Other ancient authorities read: Joseph, to whom was betrothed the virgin Mary, was the father of Jesus who is called Christ.”

First of all, note the word authorities. What is an authority? No doubt Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, or its parts, are authorities. Is Jerome’s Vulgate an authority? Are Scriptural quotations or references found in Christian writers of the next few centuries, authorities? Well, maybe; but as one goes beyond the Greek manuscripts, the authorities become less and less authoritative. Now, second, note that the word authorities in the Revised Standard Version note is plural. That means six or seven, or at least two. But the fact is that the Revised Standard Version had only one “authority,” a Syriac version. The translators deliberately deceived the public by using a plural noun instead of a singular. Even the liberal Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971) acknowledges, “There is no evidence that reading (3) ever existed in a Greek manuscript of the first Gospel” (7).

This Revised Standard Version attempt to discredit Matthew’s account of the virgin birth soon produced protests from knowledgeable conservatives, and the Revised Standard Version was compelled to delete its deception from later editions.

What has not been done, so far as I know, is some similar change in the Old Testament where the Revised Standard Version alters the radicals-not just the Massoretic points-without even a footnote calling attention to their unsupported changes.

Matthew 7:13 says, “for wide is the gate and broad is the road leading to destruction.” The Aland text gives the word gate only a “C” rating. Aleph’s first hand omits it; Aleph’s second corrector inserted it. No other Greek manuscript omits it, and it is attested by a long list of uncials and plenty of minuscules. Is it not most reasonable to suppose that Aleph, itself corrected by a second hand, made a mistake and that all the rest give the words of the autograph? Surely gate deserves a “B” rating, or why not an “A”?

Matthew 8:12 warns that “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out.” Again the Aland text gives a “C” rating to a word that is almost certainly correct. “Shall go out” is the reading of Aleph and an unimportant eighth century uncial. “Shall be cast out” is in the first corrector of Aleph plus ten other major uncials and about fifteen other manuscripts. In itself the item is trivial, but it is evidence of pervasive subjectivity in textual criticism.

Matthew 9:4: “And Jesus knowing their thoughts....”Again the word disputed here is distressingly unimportant. It is included merely to inform students and laymen that though there are a thousand or so variant readings, the New Testament is not utterly corrupt. Someone has estimated that there are variations for one word in every seven; but only one case in a thousand make much difference. The present case does not make much difference.

The word in question is knowing. The Textus Receptus has idon, seeing; the first edition of Aland has eidos, knowing; and Metzger’s note says that his Committee preferred idon. Their reason is that seeing is less appropriate than knowing, and that therefore seeing must be original while knowing must be a correction. Naturally one cannot expect the original author to have used the more appropriate word, can one? It is the logic of the reasoning that I am contesting, not the genuineness of idon. The defense of idon is in its superior textual evidence.

The manuscript evidence for knowing is B, Pi, and several minuscules. The evidence for seeing is Aleph, ten other uncials, and about fifteen minuscules. Though the Committee’s reasoning in support of idon is faulty, this is the word with the better manuscript support. One also wonders how, if the Committee preferred idon, the printed text has eidos. Who changed the wording after the Committee adjourned?

Matthew 18:7 warns, “Woe to the world because of offences [scandals]; for it needs must be that offences come; but woe to the man by whom the offence cometh.”

This verse presents a very insignificant textual problem. However it is solved, the meaning remains the same. Nor is there the least theological difficulty. Nevertheless, for these very reasons, it is a pure and excellent example of textual criticism. The question is, Did Matthew write “the man” or “that man”? The man is to anthropo; that man is to anthropo ekeino. Did Matthew write the extra word or did he not? This is so difficult to decide that the Aland-Black-Metzger-Wikgren text gives the shorter text a “C” rating.

There are relatively few manuscripts that omit the that. Many more include it. The two manuscripts which most present-day critics think are the best divide: Aleph has only the article; B adds the demonstrative pronoun. Metzger’s Commentary explains: “Except for the possibility of accidental oversight, there seems to be no reason why a copyist should have omitted ekeino. On the other hand, since the context seems to call for such a demonstrative, it is altogether probable that the word was added by more than one transcriber, either before ouai or after anthropo.”

Metzger’s reasoning is peculiar. He admits the possibility of accidental oversight. Not many people copy Greek manuscripts these days. But typists, following handwritten manuscripts, often make peculiar mistakes. In fact, when I myself type my own handwritten material, I sometimes omit a word. Hence the pronoun may very well be genuine, as the large majority of the copies testify. Therefore a modern critical text should have very good reasons for omitting it. But Metzger’s reason is very bad: Since the context seems to require the pronoun, Matthew could not possibly have written it-it just must have been added by a copyist! Stunning logic!

Matthew 21:44: Although textual criticism is legitimate and necessary, and although textual critics have done much good work-particularly in collating manuscripts-there are surprising exceptions. This verse is one of the latter. After giving the Pharisees the parable of the wicked husbandmen-a parable of profound theological meaning-Jesus adds, “And he who falls on this stone shall be smashed to pieces; on whom it falls shall be crushed to powder.”

The Aland text brackets this sentence. Brackets indicate a passage which is regarded as a later insertion, but which nevertheless is evidently ancient and important. Metzger’s note is, “Many modern scholars regard the verse as an early interpolation (from Luke 20:18) into most manuscripts of Matthew. On the other hand, however, the words are not the same, and a more appropriate place for its insertion would have been after ver. 42. Its omission can perhaps be accounted for when the eye of the copyist passed from autes (ver. 43) to auton. While considering the verse to be an accretion to the text, yet because of the antiquity of the reading and its importance in the textual tradition, the Committee decided to retain it in the text, enclosed within double square brackets.”

But the textual apparatus acknowledges only one uncial (a sixth-century uncial of dubious lineage) and one ninth-century miniscule without the verse; while there is a long list of uncials, including the critics’ favorite Aleph and B, plus about twenty minuscules that have the verse. How then can one logically infer that the verse is an interpolation, early or late?

Matthew 24:6: Here is another textual note. The critical edition reads, “for it must happen.” This reading is supported by five uncials, a couple of minuscules, and a few versions. Yet the Aland text gives it a “B” rating. The other readings say either “all must happen,” or “all these things must happen.” These other readings are numerous, many more than those cited by the textual critics for the shorter reading. But the critics are wedded to the idea that the shorter readings must nearly always be the originals. Having suffered at the hands or fingers of various typists, I cannot accept this criterion. They more often omit word sand phrases than make additions. The critics will reply: The typist copies only one manuscript; those who copied manuscripts have several copies in front of them. Did they? Maybe sometimes. Maybe not. Who knows? In this case the preponderance of evidence favors a longer reading, even if we cannot be sure of the order of the words all and these.

Matthew 28:9: “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, All hail” (KJV). “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them” (NASB). Its marginal note has “saying hello.”

The Aland text favors the shorter reading and gives it a “B” rating. It is supported by Aleph, B, D, K, W, Theta, family 13 (about a dozen manuscripts of lesser importance), and several minuscules. The longer reading occurs in A, C, K, L, Delta, Pi, family 1, and about ten minuscules. The modern critics put great emphasis on the combination of Aleph and B. Their argument, in my opinion, is not convincing. Metzger is kind enough to suggest that the shorter reading was the result of a homoeoteleuton: i.e., the copyist looked at his text and wrote down a phrase in his copy; then he looked at his text again and his eye struck the same last word occurring a line or two below, thus omitting a certain amount from his copy. Such mistakes occur, but these two verses do not make a very obvious homoeoteleuton. Metzger concludes that the longer reading is a copyist’s unwarranted expansion of the preceding verse. So far as I can see, no firm conclusion can be drawn. Either reading could be chosen and rated “C,” or even “D”; but neither merits a “B”.

The examples from Mark and Luke, now to follow, will prove tedious, trivial, and boring to many communicant members, though perhaps not to all seminary students. Those who wish may therefore skip to the discussion on John 7:53-8:11. It should interest everyone. However, the examples from Mark and Luke are included to show that the flaws in the revised text are not incidental and unintentional lapses. They are the result of a pervasive and controlling methodology. This, I believe, is more convincingly shown by trivialities than by major theological confrontation.




Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” This is also a case of ratings. Devout laymen of ordinary intelligence and seminary students who have paid little or no attention to the actualities of textual criticism are probably inclined to rate ratings “D” in importance. Nevertheless, these examples are given because seminary students really should have more than vague ideas on the subject. Even the laymen, who know no Greek, can by these examples perceive a measure of subjectivity in the work of the liberal critics.

The question in the opening verse of Mark’s Gospel is whether the two words “Son of God” should be included or omitted. The Aland text encloses them in brackets and gives them a “C” rating. Metzger thinks that their absence could be due to an oversight in copying, since Christ, Son, and God all end in the same two letters, ou. But he prefers to think that copyists like to expand what they were copying, especially in titles. However, since support for the words “is extremely strong,” they decided to put the words in brackets. Apparently “extremely strong support” barely balances three manuscripts plus conjectures about scribal insertion.

The evidence is as follows. “Son of God” occurs in the first corrector of Aleph, B, D, L, W, A, K, Delta, Pi, family1, family 13, and about twenty numbered manuscripts, and some versions and quotations. The two words are absent from the original Aleph, Theta, and not much else. It therefore seems to me that there is no objective justification forgiving the two words less than a “B” rating. In fact, the only important evidence for the omission is Aleph before it was corrected. The New American Standard surely exaggerates when in its margin it says that “many Mss. omit, the Son of God.”

Mark 1:34: “because they knew him.” If these examples seem always to charge the critics with underrating, here is a possible overrating. They give it “A”. Incidentally, the Textus Receptus also has the reading. The rejected reading is “because they knew him to be the Christ.” Admittedly, the shorter reading has excellent attestation: the original Aleph, A, possibly D, K, Delta, Pi, and about eight numbered minuscules. The longer reading has the third corrector of Aleph, B, C, L, W, Theta, families 1 and 13, and a half dozen numbered manuscripts.

Aside from the recorded evidence, Metzger argues, “It is clear [?] that Mark terminated the sentence with auton [him] and that copyists made various additions.... If anyone of the longer readings [all using the same words but indifferent orders as is possible in Greek] had been original in Mark, there is no reason why it should have been altered or eliminated entirely.” No good reason, certainly; but copyists sometimes make mistakes. Pardon the personalism, but writing a manuscript in longhand, I sometimes think a word but neglect to write it on the paper. The shorter reading here is probably correct, but a “B” rating seems sufficient.

Mark 1:41: “feeling compassion” versus “being enraged.” Here is an example where there is a sharp difference in meaning. In favor of “feeling compassion” are Aleph, A, B, and on and on. The only Greek manuscript that has “enraged” is the peculiar D. D is so often and so badly mistaken that the rating should at least be “B” instead of only “C”. Note also that while the Aland text gives it “C,” Metzger in his Textual Commentary reduces it to “D”. This is indefensible.

Mark 5:1: “And they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the G....”

The problem here has as little to do with theology as is possible. For this reason, it is a pure example of method. Cases where there are clear theological inferences might raise doubts as to the writer’s objectivity. The last word of the verse is Gadarenes in A, C, K, Pi, family 13, and about thirteen numbered manuscripts. Gerasenes occurs in the original Aleph, B, and apparently no other Greek manuscript. Gergesenes has the support of a third corrector of Aleph, L, Delta, Theta, family 1, and less than ten numbered manuscripts.

It should be noted that the parallel passage in Matthew 8:28 gives slim support to Gadarenes-though the critics give it a “B” rating-abundant support to Gergesenes, and no Greek support for Gerasenes. In Luke 8:26, Gergesenes has some support; Gerasenes has papyrus 75, B, and D; while Gadarenes has a long list of supporters. Luke 8:37 has moderate support for Gergesenes, not much for Gerasenes, and strong support for Gadarenes.

By this evidence one could conclude that Matthew wrote Gergesenes, Mark wrote Gadarenes, and that Luke wrote Gadarenes. The critical text has Gadarenes in Matthew, Gerasenes in Mark, and Gergesenes in Luke both times.

To establish these critical conclusions, Metzger in his Commentary argues, “Of the several variant readings a majority of the Committee preferred Gerasenon on the basis of (a) superior external evidence (early representatives of both the Alexandrian and Western type of text), and (b) the probability that Gadarenon is a scribal assimilation to the prevailing text of Matthew [8:28], and that Gergesenon is a correction, perhaps originally proposed by Origen.... The reading of W (Gergustenon) reflects a scribal idiosyncrasy.”

In reply one may insist first that the “superior external evidence” favors Gadarenes in Mark. Then second, one may question the alleged “scribal assimilation” to Matthew, for Gadarenes in Mark could not have been copied from Gergesenes in Matthew. Indeed, there is no evidence that any copyist assimilated anything to anything. The critics’ argument is mainly unsupported speculation.

Mark 8:38: “For if anyone be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man shall also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” This verse contains two textual problems that form a strange contrast. “Words” near the beginning of the verse has almost unanimous support. Only papyrus 45 seems to omit it, and W is the only other Greek omission. The Aland text rates it an “A”. Toward the end of the long verse the preposition with has the same attestation, and its deletion-with and replacing it-has essentially the same few supporters. But Aland rates it only “B”. Here are two cases where the evidence in Greek is identical, and the slightest of differences in the non-Greek sources; yet they are rated differently. Metzger is at least consistent, but in my opinion wrong, by giving them both “B”. With greater probability, and justifiably I would say, Metzger in Mark 9:49 gives a “B” rating to what is rated “A” in the Aland text.

Those readers who know more than most may expect a discussion of Mark’s final paragraph. Unfortunately, it is too complicated for the present purpose. But before swallowing all the liberal critics say, those interested should read John W. Burgon’s The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according to Mark, reprinted in 1959 by The Sovereign Grace Book Club. I am well aware how greatly the modern critics despise him, but he seems to me to do a more thorough job than the critics usually do. The latter, to put it a little loosely, think that the combination of Aleph and B virtually outweighs all the other manuscripts together. This assumption permits a modicum of doubt, and it seems that Westcott and Hort are beginning to lose some of their hold on contemporary scholars.




Luke 9:59: “He said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, allow me to go first and bury my father.”

The critical text puts Lord or Sir in brackets and gives it a “C” rating. Metzger’s explanation is: “The omission of kurie from ... is puzzling; what motive would have prompted copyists to delete it? On the other hand, the word might well have been added, either from ver. 61 or from the parallel in Matthew 8:21. Since, however, the absence of kurie may have been due to a transcriptional blunder ... it was thought safer to retain the word in the text, but to enclose it within square brackets indicating doubt that it has a right to stand there.”

Note that the critics find the omission puzzling. Had they held B in less esteem, they would hardly have been puzzled at all. Before the evidence is cited, note that a person in declining an invitation to be a disciple, unless he were very antagonistic (but then Jesus would not have invited him), would have been rather polite. Possibly also, unlike Americans, but in the tradition the Europeans have inherited from antiquity, the people of that day would almost automatically have used the polite form of address. But of course this is speculation.

The textual evidence against the word Sir or Lord is the original B, D, and apparently only two numbered manuscripts. The evidence in favor of the word is papyrus 45, papyrus 75, Aleph, A, B’s third corrector, C, K, L, W, Delta, Theta, Xi, Pi, Psi, family 1, family 13, and twenty numbered manuscripts. The critics could not ignore this overwhelming weight of evidence, but such was their prejudice in favor of B that they put the word in brackets and gave it a “C” rating. Indefensible.

Luke 10:15: “shalt be cast down into Hades.” This verse presents a most peculiar confusion. Greek has two verbs for “cast down.” There is a shorter and more common verb, and there is a longer, rarer verb. The meaning of both is the same.

Now, the Aland text has the longer verb. Yet Metzger’s Commentary says, “A majority of the Committee, impressed by the superior external testimony of papyrus 75, B, D, al, adopted [the shorter verb].” But the printed text has the longer verb. Furthermore, the “superior external testimony” is anything but. In contrast with the shorter form, the longer form has the support of papyrus 45, Aleph, A, C, K, L, W, X, Delta, Theta, Xi, Pi, Psi, family 1, family13, plus about twenty numbered manuscripts. How can one place much reliance on the critics when such confusions as this occur?

Luke 11:2: “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name” (KJV). “Father, hallowed” (NASB). The marginal note in the New American Standard is “some mss. insert phrases from Matt. 6:9-13 to make the two passages closely similar.” This is, of course, an accusation of willful dishonesty.

The Aland text gives the simple pater an “A” rating on the basis of papyrus 75, Aleph, B, and not much else. It rejects “Our ... which art in Heaven,” as found in A, C, D, K, P, W, X, Delta, Theta, Pi, Psi, and a dozen or more cursives. Yet in the next line, they give a “B” rating to “Thy kingdom come,” which is supported by essentially the same evidence they rejected in the preceding line. Similarly, in Luke 11:4, the Aland text omits “Deliver us from evil,” and ends the verse with the word temptation. The critics’ favorite combination of Aleph and B support the omission, plus papyrus 75, but Aleph was corrected to include it, plus ten other uncials and many cursives.

In connection with nearly every item in the preceding discussions, something should be said about the critics’ favorite combination of Aleph and B. They are both fourth-century uncials. That means they were written, let us guess, about A.D. 350. They are supposed to have marked similarities which distinguished them from other uncials, not to mention cursives, such as A, C, K, etc. This leads to the supposition that they were both copied from an earlier, now lost, manuscript. Frederick G. Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (56), says, “If Tischendorf’s opinion as to the identity of the corrector of Aleph and the scribe of B be true, it is more than probable that the two manuscripts were written in the same place; and in any case [regardless of Tischendorf] the similarity of text suggests at least the possibility of a community of origin.” On the next page, Kenyon reports that Tischendorf’s edition of the New Testament after his discovery of Aleph differed from his previous edition in more than 3000 places. He adds, “it is primarily, though not by any means entirely, to their influence that the textual differences between our Authorized and Revised Versions are due.” I would delete from his statement the three words “by any means.”

For such reasons, the critics regularly minimize the importance of the very numerous Byzantine copies. That the numerical superiority of the Byzantine text might have been due to its early widespread acceptance of that type as being closest to the autographs does not seem to impress them. Furthermore, while it is reasonable to treat all descendant so f one source as one, there is more difficulty in tracing the heredity of manuscripts, their “families,” than the critics like to admit. And again, it is not true that the earliest manuscripts must be the best. Since Christianity was plagued with heretics and enemies right from the start, one of them could have deliberately altered his copy of the autograph. The result could be that Aleph and B are excellent copies of a deliberately altered ancestor. Indeed, deliberate alteration seems more likely to have occurred early, rather than later when the number of manuscripts increased. Why could not Aleph and B have come from an earlier proto-Arian text or a Marcionite deception?

Luke 13:27: “And he will say, saying to you.” However queer this sounds in English, or even in Greek, it is a very common Hebrew construction. That Luke, though a Gentile, was widely cognizant of Hebrew customs, may be verified by the opening chapters of his Gospel. The whole atmosphere is genuinely Jewish. Aleph and four minuscules omit the saying. All others, including one papyrus, ten lettered uncials, families 1 and 13, plus ten numbered minuscules have the Old Testament construction. Saying deserves a better rating than “C”.

Luke 16:14: “all these things.” To disabuse the uninstructed Christian of the notion that the doctrines of the New Testament are widely distorted by a multitude of textual errors, this reference is included because of its triviality. “These all” has the favor of the critics’ favored combination of Aleph and B, plus papyrus 75, plus (with the addition of and) a great number of others. “All these and,” “all and,” and “these” alone have some support. None of this makes any difference to the sense of the passage, and there are many similar examples.

More serious is Luke 16:21: “desiring to be fed from the fallen [things] from the table.” The Textus Receptus reads, “desiring to be fed from the crumbs which were fallen from the table.” The shorter form, which the critics rate as “B”, seems to have only four Greek manuscripts as evidence. The word crumb occurs in all the others, including twenty minuscules and the two families 1 and 13. Metzger pontifically disposes of the problem in one sentence: “The more picturesque expression ‘of the crumbs’ [in Greek] was introduced by copyists from Matthew 15:27.” No evidence supports this conjecture.

Luke 19:25 is another instance of the critics’ prejudice against the evidence. Because D, W, and three minuscules omit the verse, they give it a “D” rating in spite of the fact that it is found in Aleph, A, B, K, L, Delta, Theta, Pi, Psi, and a long list of others. It seems as if the critics doubt their own favorite combination of Aleph and B when even these support the Byzantine text.

Luke 21:36: The uninitiated should be warned that the Aland text and the Metzger Commentary do not indicate all their alterations of the Textus Receptus. This verse is an example. The King James reads, “Watch ... that ye maybe accounted worthy to escape....” The New American Standard and the Revised Standard Version have, “that you may have strength to escape....” The latter is the reading of Aleph and B; A, C, and the majority have be accounted worthy. In addition, the sense of the passage favors count worthy. The critical text makes the escape depend on an individual’s physical strength. But the context has just condemned carousing and drunkenness. Without doubt these are physical effects, but they begin with an infraction of morality. Furthermore the text adds, “the cares of this life.” This phrase does not indicate dissipation, but rather indifference to spiritual values. Hence be accounted worthy, which better fits the context, seems the preferable reading.

Luke 24:3: “[The women] entering [the tomb] did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” The critical text brackets the Lord, though the article the is retained. The supposedly conflated Byzantine cursives, according to modern textual critics, use many “devotional phrases” or “liturgical additions.” On this assumption, subjective modern preferences omit kuriou. Iesou alone seems to correct them. Yet papyrus 76, Aleph, A, B, plus other uncials and scads of cursives have kuriou. Very few, only one uncial and two twelfth-century cursives, omit it. One may therefore suspect that “liturgical additions” are not liturgical additions after all.

Luke 24:9: “Returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven.” The modern textual critics give only a “D” rating to the words “from the tomb.” Yet papyrus 75, eleven uncials including Aleph and B, plus plenty of cursives have these words. Only D omits it. Surely this deserves an “A” rating, and it is hard to see why the critics did not give it at least a “B.”

Luke 24:12: “Peter, rising, ran to the tomb” on to the end. The critics bracket the whole verse and give it a “D” rating. The evidence in favor of the verse is similar to that of Luke 24:9: papyrus 75, eleven uncials, including Aleph, A, and B, plus plenty of cursives. The only Greek manuscript that omits it is the inexplicable D.

The same is true for Luke 24:40. The critics rate it “D”; and the New American Standard omits it from its text, demoting it to a marginal note. It says, “Some mss. add verse 40.” The New American Standard should have said, “Nearly all.”




John 7:53-8:11: This is the passage concerning Jesus’ judgment of the woman whom the Pharisees caught in the very act of adultery. It is the longest and probably the most peculiar textual problem in all the New Testament; and though the liberal critics would not say so, the conservative scholars must admit that it is the most difficult also. Therefore, though not strictly necessary, some general background should be permitted.

First, no one should hold that the King James Version is the infallible autograph. For example (even if it is in the Old Testament), 2 Samuel 6:23 says, “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” But 2 Samuel 21:8 refers to “the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul.” For once the Revised Standard Version can be complimented for removing the contradiction. In my earlier years I had heard that some people believed the King James to be infallible, but I was 70 years old before I ever met one such. The liberals surely have exaggerated their number, but at least one minister was of that opinion.

More important is the question whether the Textus Receptus is the original text. But such a belief would be as foolish as the former. Since the present study is not addressed to professional scholars, but to students and ordinary church members, it is permissible to say something about the Textus Receptus, the Greek text which underlines the King James translation.

The Textus Receptus derives from the work of Erasmus, a Dutch scholar (1466-1536). His first edition of the Greek text appeared in 1516. It is full of mistakes, though most are merely typographical. The story is that Erasmus was anxious to have the honor of being the first to publish the Greek New Testament, and to do so he had to rush through his work before Cardinal Ximemes de Cisneras could publish his so-called Complutensian Polyglot. The Cardinal seems to have had no such eagerness, and though his edition was set up in type possibly as early as 1514, the actual publication date was 1522. Erasmus’ sloppy work doesn’t hold a candle to it.

Deficiencies other than typographical are not all Erasmus’ fault, or only partly so. He had the use of less than twenty manuscripts and used mainly only two or three. His only manuscript of Revelation lacked its last page, so Erasmus himself translated the Latin Vulgate back into Greek for the last six verses. He did this in some other places where his manuscripts were defective. Presumably this was unavoidable. Then to his credit, he omitted 1 John 5:7-8.This shocked the Roman Church. He replied that if they would produce even one Greek manuscript that had those two verses, he would include them. So the obliging papacy quickly got an Irish priest to make such a manuscript, and Erasmus inserted the verses.

Robert Etienne (Stephanus) of Paris printed a third edition of Erasmus’ translation. In it he used the Codex Bezae (that maverick western text D), parts of the Complutensian edition, all typographically corrected. This is the Textus Receptus.

Now, the Textus Receptus and the King James Version have John 7:53-8:11. These verses are not found in papyri 86 and 75, seemingly omitted in A and C, omitted in L, N, T, W, X, Y, Delta, Theta, Psi, two numbered uncials, and about ten minuscules. Containing the passage are D, G, H, K, U, Gamma, and about as many minuscules. Some of those that include the passage indicate it is doubtful. One unimportant manuscript puts it after Luke 21:38.

On the basis of this evidence, it is doubtful that the original contained the verses because it is unlikely that so many scribes would have deleted it. On the other hand, if it was not in the original, how can one explain so many manuscripts that include it? Now, if the liberal critics dogmatically assert that this copyist did this and that copyist did that, perhaps someone else can modestly suggest a different possible explanation. No doubt the liberal critics will hoot at the suggestion, but surely it will be at least a possibility. Just perchance the Apostle John himself wrote a second edition of his Gospel,