Former KJO Asks About Westcott and Hort - 02/17/2009
I used to attend an independent fundamental baptist
church. They are anti-contemporary music, anti-version (KJV only). I disagree with that stance now. I am curious however as to how the Westcott and Hort subject is handled when talking about the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Codex a and b, etc. that were used for the modern translations. I've heard terrible things about their beliefs and that the new versions are based on texts used by the catholic church. Is there anyway you could possibly clear up that stumbling block for me?
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Hi. Thanks for writing. I'm glad you left that particular church.
It's sad, but KJV-onlyism is an extremely divisive ideology that can be
easily cleared up if people are willing to hear the facts about the
transmission and translation of the Bible. The King James Only (KJO)
movement often uses straw man arguments, such as trying to scare people
about B.F. Westcott and Fenton J.A. Hort. It is their groundbreaking
work on a Greek New Testament using manuscripts not available for use
by the KJV translators that has paved the way for many modern Bible
translations. There are some good reasons for not giving credence to
these arguments, though.
First, most modern Bible translations are translated from the
Nestle-Aland 27th edition Greek text and/or the UBS 4th edition Greek
text. These made use of many of the same manuscripts used by Westcott
and Hort, as well as Westcott and Hort's translation to some extent.
However, the NA-27th and UBS-4th used a critical scholarly approach.
They agreed with Westcott and Hort where sound scholarship demands it,
but differed in spots where scholarship demanded it. The modern
translations are not direct from Westcott and Hort.
Second, God does not need infallible people to serve His infallible
purpose. Jesus called Peter "Satan" in Mark 8:33, but Peter was still
used of God as an apostle, and the instrument of scriptural revelation
by way of his canonized letters (1 & 2 Peter). David killed his
friend in order to sleep with his wife, but God used David to give us
the Psalms. In the same way, God has used imperfect, fallible people
for the transmission and translation of His Word. Westcott and Hort
were fallible people, just like you and I. These Anglican men were no
Catholics, but they believed some things that I don't. However, most
of the bad things you hear about them are just plain false. Some
leaders of the KJO movement have taken W & H so out of context that
they would be sued for libel if these translators were alive today. Here is a good resource
for seeing just how badly Westcott and Hort have been
Finally, and in keeping with my second point above, KJO advocates
should be careful about making accusations. The KJV was translated by
a group of "baby-sprinkling Anglicans" like Westcott and Hort. The
text from which they translated was the Textus Receptus (TR), which was
originally developed by a Roman Catholic Priest named Desiderius
Erasmus. Erasmus had very few Greek Manuscripts to work from when
developing the TR, and none of them were very old. He also filled in
some verses that appeared to be missing in the Greek texts by
translating from the Latin Vulgate into Greek (poorly) for those
verses. In one spot he was pressured by the Roman Catholic Church to
include the Johannine Comma that was not found in any Greek text - only
the Latin. He agreed to do so only if the Catholic Church could cough
up a single Greek manuscript containing the comma. They produced one
that was no older than he was, so he relented (click
here to read more about the Johannine Comma). So with the KJV,
you've got a translation created by Anglicans, based on a text produced
by a Catholic Priest, in places translating from the Catholic Bible
(Vulgate), and giving in to pressure from the Catholic Church on
textual issues. There is far more Catholic influence on the KJV than
on the modern translations.
However, the issue of who is Anglican and what role the Roman Catholic
Church played is beside the point. God promised to preserve His Word.
He didn't wait until 1611 to do that. The modern translations make use
of resources that Erasmus never dreamed of having. The translational
scholars go to great pains to make sure the text is an accurate
reflection of what the authors of Scripture originally wrote,
regardless of each scholar's personal beliefs. I strongly encourage you
King James Only Controversy by Dr. James White. It is an
excellent, easy-to-read, and thoroughly scholarly treatment of this
subject. I also encourage you to read through our mailbag at some of
the emails we've received from KJO proponents. See if you can find the
fruits of the Spirit in many of these emails, and also look at our
replies. Read them here,
I hope this has answered your questions/concerns. If not, don't
hesitate to let me know. God bless.