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Erasmus and the Textus Receptus

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The KJV has been rightfully called “the single greatest monument to the English language,” but this is more from a literary rather than a translation standpoint. This is because the Greek MSS behind the KJV text is far inferior to that of modern translations in terms of textual basis, late MSS dates, and a less than perfect process of creation.


Erasmus the the textua receptus


A. “The single greatest monument to the English language”

B. Why such accolades?

C. Two fundamental problems with the KJV

1. Translation is dated

2. Textual basis is inferior


A. Humanist, Catholic scholar, best Greek scholar

B. Historical background

1. Turks invaded Byzantium (1453)

2. Movable type (1454)

3. First printed NT (1516)

4. Complutensian Polyglot (1514, 1522)

C. Erasmus’s Greek New Testament

1. Five editions of the Greek NT

2. First edition: Novum Instrumentum, March 1, 1516

a) All were Greek-Latin diglots

b) Based on 7 mss, none earlier that 11th century

3. Revelation

a) Only had one Greek manuscript

b) Missing the last leaf (Revelation 22:16-21) and back-translated Latin into Greek

D. Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7b-8a)

1. Text

a) KJV. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

b) Modern translations: “For there are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.”

2. History

a) First edition (1516): Trinitarian formula was not in the Erasmus’s text since he could find no Greek text with the formula

b) Second edition (1519) was the basis of Luther’s translation

c) Scribe working at Oxford seems to have “made to order” a complete NT manuscript including the Comma Johanneum

d) Third edition (1522): Erasmus included the Trinitarian formula under protest (corrected) because of ecclesiastical pressure and used by KJ translators

3. Trinitarian formula in other manuscripts

a) 9 late Greek manuscripts (4 in the text; 5 in the margins)

b) Oldest Greek ms with the Trinitarian formula is 10th century (in a later marginal note)

c) Oldest Greek ms with Trinitarian formula in the text is 14th century

4. Summary

a) Not found in any ancient versions except the Latin

b) Not mentioned in the early church councils that affirmed the Trinity

c) Early councils affirmed Trinity without 1 John 5:7

d) Earliest certain evidence: Late 4th century, in the writings of “Priscillian, the heretic”

e) Ehrman uses this passage to argue orthodox scribes changed the text and invented the Trinity

5. How did it get into the Latin Bible

a) Allegorical interpretation

b) Marginal reading in a Latin document, which ultimately made its way into Greek manuscripts


A. Editions

1. Erasmus (5 editions)

2. Stephanus (4 editions)

a) 1550 edition was the first to include textual variants

b) 1551 edition introduced verse references

3. Beza (11 editions); 1589 edition stood behind the KJV

B. Crtitique

1. Inferior textual basis

2. Essential doctrinal issues are not impacted

3. KJV added to the Word of God

Textus Receptus and the Doctrine of Preservation (Part 1)

Textus Receptus and the Doctrine of Preservation (Part 2)

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