Must all foreign translations based closely on the Textus Receptus be revised if not conforming 100% to it?

In recent years a small but growing minority of Fundamentalists are insisting that foreign language Bibles must not only be based on the Textus Receptus (the traditional position, which this writer upholds) but that these Textus Receptus-based foreign translations must now be re-examined to eradicate the slightest trace of any deviation whatsoever from the Textus Receptus. Although most of the attention is centered on the New Testament, a hard look at any possible deviations from the Masoretic text of the Old Testament is also taking place. The idea may sound noble and simple upon first impression, but there are some complex issues and problems that must not be overlooked. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the side effects and complexities involved in carrying out this new approach.

1. If one was really technical, this new approach would invalidate the KJV itself

The reason this new approach would invalidate the KJV itself is because there are a few places where the KJV deviated from the Textus Receptus. This will be demonstrated in acknowledgments from the writings of authors who defend the KJV, who therefore have no reason to portray the KJV in a negative light.
Lloyd Streeter:
The KJV is not based in every single instance upon the majority reading, nor on the Textus Receptus.
(Streeter, Lloyd. Seventy-Five Problems with Central Baptist Seminary’s Book The Bible Version Debate. First Baptist Church of LaSalle, 2001, p. 145)
Peter Ruckman:
“The” Greek text for the AV is NOT the “Majority” TR [Textus Receptus] Greek text anyway; it is an “eclectic” text…
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believer’s Bulletin, January 2003, p. 11)
Now the King James Bible is based more than 98% on this despised Syrian text; it is known from 500 A.D. on, as the Received Text, or “Textus Receptus.”
(Ruckman, Peter. The Bible Babel, 1964, p. 61)
If the Textus Receptus was infallible, which edition was, since they vary in editions? Who said any Receptus editions were equal to the English AV of 1611? Nobody down HERE.
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believer’s Bulletin Sep. 1980, p. 1)
[Note by Calvin George: I only quote Dr. Ruckman to make a point. I do not recommend any of his writings to anyone.]
D.A. Waite:
And certainly it’s the only one [the KJV], with very few exceptions, based upon the Masoretic Hebrew text alone, and the Received Traditional Text alone.
(Waite, D.A. An Answer to Stewart Custer’s Booklet “The Truth about the King James Controversy” 1985, p. 113)
Edward Hills:
Also, as we have seen, sometimes the several editions of the Textus Receptus differ from each other and from the King James Version.
(Hills, Edward. The King James Version Defended. Christian Research Press, 4th edition 1984, p. 224)
R.B. Ouellette:
False statement: The King James Bibles was based solely upon the Textus Receptus. This is a common misconception…

(Ouellette, R.B. A More Sure Word. Lancaster, CA: Striving Together Publications. 2008, p. 146)

2. This new approach would invalidate virtually every foreign language translation ever done

Historically translators that favored the Textus Receptus didn’t believe in following it slavishly. This new approach would mean that virtually every Bible in every language would need to be revised. The gravity of this matter should cause us to pause and ask ourselves if all this is really necessary.
Should the Italian Diodati translation recognized as being based on the Textus Receptus be replaced? Should Luther’s German Bible recognized as being based on the Textus Receptus be replaced? Should the French Ostervald Bible recognized as being based on the Textus Receptus be replaced?
Even Luther’s German Bible, held up in many pro-Textus Receptus books of the past as an exemplary model of a foreign Bible based on the Textus Receptus, has not been spared from those who want to revise it further to remove any deviations from the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic text.

3. This is not the historical position of those who have defended the Textus Recepus in the past

The following are representative quotes from defenders of the Textus Receptus of the past. Although they do not mention foreign translations in these quotes, they are very careful how they portray the Textus Receptus—they had high regard for it—and were very concerned about Westcott and Hort’s text.
John Burgon:
…the merits or demerits of the Textus Receptus,–which, for convenience only, is adopted as a standard: not, of course, of Excellence but only of Comparison.
(Burgon, John. The Revision Revised. Dean Burgon Society, 2nd printing 2000, p. 75 [footnote 1])
…make the Textus Receptus the standard,–departing from it only when critical or grammatical considerations show that it is clearly necessary.” We ourselves mean no more…Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.
(Burgon, John. The Revision Revised. Dean Burgon Society, 2nd printing 2000, p. 21 [also footnote])
Edward Miller:
Therefore the Rival School of Sound or High Textualists is right in attributing the greatest importance to the Traditional Text, as the Text undoubtedly handed down in the Church, and importance also to the Received Text, as an excellent though by no means an exact exponent of the former of the two.
(Miller, Edward. A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. 1886, 1979 reprint Dean Burgon Society, p. 63)
Edward Hills:
God’s preservation of the New Testament text was not miraculous but providential. The scribes and printers who produced the copies of the New Testament Scriptures and the true believers who read and cherished them were not inspired but God-guided. Hence there are some New Testament passages in which the true reading cannot be determined with absolute certainty. There are some readings, for example, on which the manuscripts are almost equally divided, making it difficult to determine which reading belongs to the Traditional Text. Also in some of the cases in which the Textus Receptus disagrees with the Traditional Text it is hard to decide which text to follow.
(Hills, Edward. The King James Version Defended. Christian Research Press, 4th edition 1984, p. 224)
Robert Dabney:
No one claims for the Textus Receptus, or common Greek text of the New Testament, any sacred right, as though it represented the ipsissima verba, written by the inspired men in every case…It is therefore not asserted to be above emendation.
(Dabney, Robert L. Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, Vol. 1, 1891, p. 350, Banner of Truth Trust reprint, 1982, Bible For Today reprint # 2124.)

Benjamin Wilkinson:

But, they say, there are errors in the Received Text. Yes, “plain and clear errors,” as their instructions informed the Revisers. It is to the glory of the Textus Receptus that its errors are “plain and clear.” … The errors of the Received Text, are the scars which tell of its struggles throughout the centuries to bring us light, life, and immortality.

(Wilkinson, Benjamin. Our Authorized Bible Vindicated. Payson, AZ: Leaves-of-Autumn Books, 1989 reprint, pp. 180-181)

4. Insistence on slavishly following the Textus Receptus 100% of the time is clouded by the reality of differing editions of the Textus Receptus

There were approximately thirty distinct editions of the Textus Receptus made over the years. Each differs slightly from the others…There are approximately 190 differences between the Scrivener text and the Beza 1598. There are 283 differences between the Scrivener text and the Stephanus 1550. (Anderson, D. E. Quarterly Record Trinitarian Bible Society, no. 547, January to March 1999).
Although it has less of a following, there is also a small trend that should be mentioned here among those that insist that foreign translations be translated word-for-word from the KJV. Gail Riplinger on page 990 of her book In Awe of Thy Word stated her view as follows: “English-speaking translators today can simply use the pure preserved King James Bible when translating the Bible into other languages. Lexicons are not an option.” (This statement was made after spending several pages expressing frustration over the fact that every edition of the Textus Receptus has some differences with the KJV). On page 956 of the same book she strongly implies that Greek should not be used when she states, “No one on the planet speaks first century Koine Greek, so God is finished with it.” I have written an article on this topic available here: Has the KJV been translated into hundreds or thousands of languages?

5. Insistence on verifying and revising foreign translations with Scrivener’s Greek text is unreasonable

I’m noticing a trend in recent years in which more Fundamentalists are insisting that foreign translations be compared with and revised with Scrivener’s Greek text printed by the Trinitarian Bible Society. The way this Greek text came about is very different from all other editions. One author went as far as to declare that Scrivener’s Greek text was back-translated from the KJV to Greek. (Ripliger, Gail. In Awe of Thy Word. Ararat, VA: AV Publications, 2003, p. 949). Scrivener himself wrote in the preface of this Greek New Testament that his purpose was “to keep the continuous text consistent throughout by making it so far as was possible uniformly representative of the Authorised Version.” (Scrivener, F.H.A. The New Testament in the Original Greek. London: Cambridge University Press, 1894, p. vii of preface)
One of the many problems associated with insisting that a foreign translation be checked with Scrivener’s Greek text is that this exact text was not in existence when many of the authoritative TR-based translations in the major languages were done. Authoritative translations had already been made in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and many other languages from different TR editions hundreds of years before Scrivener put together a Greek New Testament that reflected the KJV translator’s Greek choices. This would be akin to the French putting together a Greek New Testament that reflected the textual choices of the TR-based French Bible, and then expecting the English Bible translated hundreds of years previous to conform to it.
Ruckman says the KJV corrects the Greek and Hebrew. Some who wish to distance themselves from Ruckman say instead in certain words that the KJV determines the Greek and Hebrew. Although insisting on the Greek and Hebrew words underlying the KJV is different from Ruckman’s claim that the KJV corrects the Greek and Hebrew, in reality is not all that different. There is only a little twist in the terminology between the two views. Some who speak of the Greek and Hebrew underlying the KJV are not speaking of the Textus Receptus and Masoretic text in general, but rather the specific Greek and Hebrew choices the KJV translators made as they translated them to English. Notice the following:
God has not led His churches to declare the text underlying any other translation perfect. Spanish speaking Baptists do not claim the text underlying the Reina Valera is perfect. Since man is to live by every Word, saints can know where those Words are. They must be under the KJV, for only there has the Spirit led His churches to state they are perfectly preserved.

La More, Gary “God’s Providential Preservation of the Scriptures” in Thou Shalt Keep Them (Kent Bandenburg, editor) El Sobrante, CA: Pillar & Ground Publishing, 2003, p. 234

Further proof that insisting on the Greek and Hebrew words underlying the KJV is not meant as a reference to the Textus Receptus in general, but rather a Greek text not available until the late 1800’s:
But which [TR edition] is the purest? It is the TR underlying the KJV. … Is not the Greek Text underlying the KJV the Textus Receptus? Whose TR? Not completely Erasmus’s, Stephen’s, or Beza’s, it is a new edition of the TR which reflects the textual decisions of the KJV translators as they prayerfully studied and compared the preserved manuscripts. … I believe God providentially guided the KJV translators to produce the purest TR of all. The earlier editions were individual efforts, but the TR underlying the KJV is a corporate effort of 57 of the most outstanding biblical-theological, and more importantly, Bible-believing scholars of their day. And as the Scripture says, “in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Prov 11:14). The KJV translators had all the various editions of the TR to refer to, and they made their decisions with the help of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Lord providentially guided the King James translators to make the right textual decisions.
Khoo, Jeffrey. “A Plea for a Perfect Bible” The Burning Bush. January 2003, pp. 5-6
Also:
…the uncorrupted Greek text is the Beza’s 5th edition 1598 text, with slight modifications, that underlies the King James Bible. That is the Textus Receptus in which God’s Words are perfectly preserved. It is the text that’s been printed by Dr. Frederick Scrivener. It is the text which he was asked to make by the University of Cambridge back in 1894 or there about and he made it.

Waite, D.A. Central Seminary Refuted on Bible Versions. Collingswood, NJ: 1999, p. 92

For more information on Scrivener’s Greek text, see Appendix.

6. Creating new translations that are reputed to be 100% Textus Receptus to replace ones that are already very closely based on the Textus Receptus where people have already endeared themselves to the text is likely to cause controversy and division

Some will have the attitude that the Bible with which they were saved and nurtured in the Lord will only be pried away from their cold dead fingers. The following comes from an unpublished source based on comments made to a group that failed in their experimental attempts to provide a revised Spanish Bible acceptable to Spanish speakers:
What would you think if the French and the Germans decided we need a new English Bible?…Why should I leave the Bible I was saved under? Try to answer that to a national. I’ve studied it, learned from it, I’ve been blessed by it, I’ve been fed on it, I’ve interpreted through it, I’ve memorized it, I’ve defended it, I’ve taught it, I’ve trusted it, and now you tell me I can’t trust it? Try to answer those kinds of issues…You say, “We’ve got a new revision, and it’s better, but it’s not quite right yet. But you get one that’s better, and we’ll get one even better than that once you get that one, too.’ Sure sound like mass marketing, doesn’t it? They say, “How can I trust the one you have if you know it’s not quite right yet? Maybe we ought to wait until the next one comes down. Is there ever going to be any final authority? Are you never going to get it right? Are you going to constantly change the rules?”…It’s all they can do to afford a Bible. They read it to their neighbor last year, and the next year you may say what you read is not right. It’s a real problem.

Conclusion

If a given language does not have an authoritative Bible translation based on the Textus Receptus, I believe a Textus Receptus-based translation is needed. In such a case, the translator is free to translate it in such a way as to never deviate from whatever Textus Receptus edition he would like to use, if that is the way he would like to proceed. However, if an authoritative Bible translation based on the Textus Receptus already exists in a given language, nevertheless with a few isolated departures, I don’t believe a reviser should commence to revise it if the overwhelming majority of Christians speaking that language are not in favor of such a revision project. To do so would be to invite controversy and division.
If a new translation is not needed, thousands of hours of unneeded labor can be saved, more time can be dedicated to winning souls and planting churches, and the resulting divisiveness of wrongly maligning an adequate foreign translation can be avoided.

Appendix

 

Scrivener’s introduction to his Greek New Testament according to the text followed in the Authorized Version

The following is F.H.A. Scrivener’s introduction to his 1881 edition of the Greek New Testament, which was included in the 1894 printing. It is enlightening, because he went through the entire KJV New Testament attempting to find the underlying Greek text for every word. This preface is complete except for some lengthy references to details about the English Revised Version, which was being printed at the time.

Preface to the First Edition

The special design of this volume is to place clearly before the reader the variations from the Greek text represented by the Authorised Version of the New Testament which have been embodied in the Revised Version. [Lengthy reference to the Revised Version omitted here.] They therefore communicated to the Oxford and Cambridge University presses a full and carefully corrected list of the readings adopted which are at variance with the readings “presumed to underlie the Authorised Version” in order that they might be published independently in some shape or other. The University Presses have accordingly undertaken to print them in connexion with complete Greek texts of the New Testament. [Lengthy references to the Revised Version omitted here.]
The Cambridge Press has therefore judged it best to set the readings actually adopted by the Revisers at the foot of the page, and to keep the continuous text consistent throughout by making it so far as was possible uniformly representative of the Authorised Version. The publication of an edition formed on this plan appeared to be all the more desirable, inasmuch as the Authorised Version was not a translation of any one Greek text then in existence, and no Greek text intended to reproduce in any way the original of the Authorised Version has ever been printed.
In considering what text had to be right to be regarded as “the text presumed to underlie the “Authorised Version,” it was necessary to take into account the composite nature of the Authorised Version, as due to successive revisions of Tyndale’s translation. Tyndale himself followed the second and third editions of Erasmus’s Greek text (1519, 1522). In the revisions of his translation previous to 1622 a partial use was made of other texts; of which ultimately the most influential were the various editions of Beza from 1560 to 1598, if indeed his Latin version of 1556 should not be included. Between 1598 and 1611 no important edition appeared; so that Beza’s fifth and last text of 1598 was more likely than any other to be in the hands of King James’s revisers, and to be accepted by them as the best standard within their reach. It is moreover found on comparison to agree more closely with the Authorised Version than any other Greek text; and accordingly it has been adopted by the Cambridge Press as the primary authority. There are however many places in which the Authorised Version is at variance with Beza’s text; chiefly because it retains language inherited from Tyndale or his successors, which had been founded on the text of other Greek editions. In these cases it is often doubtful how far the revisers of 1611 deliberately preferred a different Greek reading; for their attention was not especially directed to textual variations, and they might not have thought it necessary to weed out every rendering inconsistent with Beza’s text, which might linger among the older and unchanged portions of the version. On the other hand some of the readings followed, though discrepant from Beza’s text, may have seemed to be in a manner sanctioned by him, as he had spoken favourably of them in his notes; and others may have been adopted on independent grounds. These uncertainties do not however affect the present edition, in which the different elements that actually make up the Greek basis of the Authorised Version have an equal right to find a place. Wherever therefore the Authorised rendering agree with other Greek readings which might naturally be known through printed editions to the revisers of 1611 or their predecessors, Beza’s reading has been displaced from the text in favour of the more truly representative reading, the variation from Beza being indicated by *. It was manifestly necessary to accept only Greek authority, though in some places the Authorised Version corresponds but loosely with any form of the Greek original, while it exactly follows the Latin Vulgate. All variations from Beza’s text of 1598, in number about 190, are set down in an Appendix at the end of the volume, together with the authorities on which they respectively rest.
Wherever a Greek reading adopted for the Revised Version differs from the presumed Greek original of the Authorised Version, the reading which it is intended to displace is printed in the text in a thicker type, with a numerical reference to the reading substituted by the Revisers, which bears the same numeral at the foot of the pages. [Lengthy references to the Revised Version omitted here.]
Manifest errors of the press, which often occur in Beza’s New Testament of 1598, have been silently corrected. In all other respects not mentioned already that standard has been closely abided by, save only that, in accordance with modern usage, the recitative oti has not been represented as part of the speech or quotation which it introduces, and the aspirated forms autou,  auto, auton, etc., have been discarded. In a very few words (e.g. margaritai) the more recent and proper accentuation has been followed. Lastly, where Beza has been inconsistent, the form which appeared the better of the two has been retained consistently: as … [Lengthy references to highly technical changes in the Greek to assure consistency throughout omitted here, being the last paragraph of the preface.]
F.H.A.S.
Christmas, 1880

2 Responses to “Must all foreign translations based closely on the Textus Receptus be revised if not conforming 100% to it?”

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  1. gypsyseeker says:

    Receptus vs. KJB

    THE Textus Receptus is the exact readings underlying the KJB which differ in 24 places that I’ve found from the standard TR compiled by Scrivener (using only published Greek editions [see his preface and appendix] — a limitation which did not affect the 54 learned men when they attempted to find the best attested reading which to their company best represented the “Originall” [their term]. Only a full word by word collation of Scrivener with the KJB would show where he did not follow the text/reading chosen by the KJB translators. That’s the reason why one must be specific in describing what is meant by “Textus Receptus”. The following comment is thus NOT valid [“The reason this new approach would invalidate the KJV itself is because there are a few places where the KJV deviated from the Textus Receptus.”] Furthermore, Dr. Waite himself, in an e-mail to me said, “The TR is the exact readings underlying the King James Version”. And any discussions about “Which edition” of the Textus Receptus are moot. My Textus RECEPTUS is the exact readings underlying the KJB. When I say “Textus Receptus”, I mean just what I said in the previous sentence.

  2. Calvin George says:

    Re: Receptus vs. KJB

    I mean no disrespect, but it sounds self-serving to me to define the Textus Receptus as “the exact readings underlying the King James Version.” The TR edition then in existence that the KJV followed the closest was Beza 1598, but the KJV departed from it in 190 places. In some of those places Scrivener found that the KJV matched other TR editions, but in several dozen cases when the departures did not follow another TR edition he found that they matched the Latin Vulgate and not previous TR editions. However, the KJV followed the TR so closely, it is proper to say the KJV is based on the TR and generally speaking was translated from it. Discussions of editions of the Textus Receptus are not moot, because it is a reality that must be confronted and not swept under the carpet. At the risk of misunderstanding you, it seems that you are making the KJV the final authority in determining what the Greek should be, but without saying outright that “the KJV corrects the Greek” so it doesn’t sound so much like Ruckmanism. If this is not what you intended, then please explain.

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