The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods And Critique -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:2 (Jun 1994)
Article: The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods And Critique
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


The Majority-Text Theory:
History, Methods And Critique

Daniel B. Wallace*

* Daniel Wallace is assistant professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204.

For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, NT textual critics could speak with one accord: The textus receptus (TR) had finally been laid to rest. In 1899 Marvin Vincent referred to it as an “historical monument” that “has been summarily rejected as a basis for a correct text.”1 A. T. Robertson in 1926 declared: “The Textus Receptus is as dead as Queen Anne.”2 Eight years later Leo Vaganay similarly pronounced last rites over the corpse.3 And just three decades ago Bruce Metzger could justifiably dismiss the contemporary defense of the Byzantine text in a mere footnote.4

The situation today is disturbingly different. Gone is the era when KJV/TR advocates could be found only in the backwaters of anti-intellectual American fundamentalism. A small but growing number of students of the NT in North America and, to a lesser degree, in Europe (in particular the Netherlands and Great Britain) are embracing a view that was left for dead more than a century ago—namely, that the original text is to be found in a majority of MSS.5 The majority-text (MT)6 theory is also making

inroads into third-world missionary and translation endeavor.7 As in the parallel case of Marcan priority, proponents of a minority view are trying to reopen an issue once thought to be settled. Significantly, in the third edition of The Text of the New Testament it was now necessary for Metzger to devote five pages to a discussion of the resuscitation of John Burgon’s views.8

This resuscitation is so multifaceted that a mere critique would be overly simplistic. Consequently this paper will attempt three general objectives: (1) to survey the history of the resuscitation, (2) to examine briefly the various methods within the traditional-text camp, and (3) to offer a critique of the various strands, as well as of the unifying presuppositions, of the MT theory.

I. A Brief History Of The Modern Majority-Text Movement

To understand the modern MT movement, one must begin with Burgon. Although there was a hiatus of almost seven decades betw...

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