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?

Thank You


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 mischaracterized. 

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 read The 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, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

I hope this has answered your questions/concerns.  If not, don't hesitate to let me know.  God bless.

In Christ,

Ben Rast
Contender Ministries