Which Edition of the Received Text Should We Use?

Updated February 11, 2016 (first published February 10, 1996; enlarged May 11, 2006) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

The Greek Received Text was the basis for all of the Protestant and Baptist Bibles until the late 19th century, and there are several slightly varying editions. Erasmus published five editions (1516, 1519, 1522, 1527, 1535). Robert Stephanus published four (1546, 1549, 1550, 1551). Theodore Beza published at least four independent editions (1556, 1582, 1688-89, 1598). The Elziver family printed two editions (1624, 1633).

In 1881 Frederick Scrivener, under contract to the Cambridge University Press, published the Greek text underlying the King James Bible. This edition of the Received Text has been republished many times, most recently by the Trinitarian Bible Society and by the Dean Burgon Society. It conforms to the KJV.

Note the following important facts on this matter:

1. The differences between the various editions of the Greek Received Text are extremely slight and cannot be compared to the differences found in the Alexandrian manuscripts.

According to Scrivener’s extensive comparisons, there are 252 places in which the Erasmus, Stephanus, Elzevir, Beza, and Complutensian Polyglot disagree sufficiently to affect the English translation. The 3rd edition of Stephanus and the 1st edition of Elzevir differ only 19 times in Mark. The editions of Beza differ from the 4th edition of Stephanus only 38 times in the entire New Testament.

In contrast, consider three of the chief Alexandrian manuscripts, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Codex D. In the Gospel of Mark alone, Vaticanus disagrees with Sinaiticus 652 times and with Codex D 1,944 times. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus disagree with one another in more than 3,000 places in the four Gospels alone!

2. Following are some of the most important differences between editions of the Greek Received Text:

Luke 2:22 -- Erasmus and Stephanus have “their purification,” while Beza, Elzevir, and Complutensian have “her purification”

Luke 17:36 -- Erasmus and the first three editions of Stephanus omit this verse, while Beza, Elzevir, and the 4th edition of Stephanus include it.

John 1:28 -- Erasmus, Beza, Elzevir, and the 3rd and 4th editions of Stephanus have “Bethabara beyond Jordan,” while the 1st and 2nd editions of Stephanus have “Bethany beyond Jordan.”

John 16:33 -- Beza and Elzevir read “shall have tribulation,” while Erasmus and Stephanus read “have tribulation.”

Romans 8:11 -- Beza and Elzevir read “by His Spirit that dwelleth in you,” while Erasmus and Stephanus read “because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

Romans 12:11 -- Beza, Elzevir, and the first edition of Erasmus read “serving the Lord,” while Stephanus and the 2nd to the 5th editions of Erasmus read “serving the time.”

1 Timothy 1:4 -- Erasmus, Beza, and Elzevir have “godly edifying,” while Stephanus has “dispensation of God.”

Hebrews 9:1 -- Stephanus reads “first tabernacle,” while Erasmus and Beza omit “tabernacle.”

James 2:18 -- The last three editions of Beza has “without thy works,” while Erasmus, Stephanus, and the first edition of Beza have “by thy works.”

3. Which edition of the Received Text should we follow today? Edward F. Hills, who had a doctorate in modern textual criticism from Harvard, made the following important statement in regard to the KJV and the Received Text:

“The King James Version is a variety of the Textus Receptus. The translators that produced the King James Version relied mainly, it seems, on the later editions of Beza's Greek New Testament, especially his 4th edition (1588-9). But also they frequently consulted the editions of Erasmus and Stephanus and the Complutensian Polyglot. According to Scrivener (1884), out of the 252 passages in which these sources differ sufficiently to affect the English rendering, the King James Version agrees with Beza against Stephanus 113 times, with Stephanus against Beza 59 times, and 80 times with Erasmus, or the Complutensian, or the Latin Vulgate against Beza and Stephanus. HENCE THE KING JAMES VERSION OUGHT TO BE REGARDED NOT MERELY AS A TRANSLATION OF THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS BUT ALSO AS AN INDEPENDENT VARIETY OF THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS....

“BUT WHAT DO WE DO IN THESE FEW PLACES IN WHICH THE SEVERAL EDITIONS OF THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS DISAGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER? WHICH TEXT DO WE FOLLOW? THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS EASY. WE ARE GUIDED BY THE COMMON FAITH. HENCE WE FAVOR THAT FORM OF THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS UPON WHICH MORE THAN ANY OTHER GOD, WORKING PROVIDENTIALLY, HAS PLACED THE STAMP OF HIS APPROVAL, NAMELY, THE KING JAMES VERSION, OR, MORE PRECISELY, THE GREEK TEXT UNDERLYING THE KING JAMES VERSION. This text was published in 1881 by the Cambridge University Press under the editorship of Dr. Scrivener, and there have been eight reprints, the latest being in 1949. We ought to be grateful that in the providence of God the best form of the Textus Receptus is still available to believing Bible students” (the all caps are added by Bro. Cloud) (Edward F. Hills,
The King James Version Defended, 4th edition, pp. 220, 223).

We agree with Dr. Hills’ position.

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