Should Conservatives Abandon Textual Criticism? -- By: Marchant A. King

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:517 (Jan 1973)
Article: Should Conservatives Abandon Textual Criticism?
Author: Marchant A. King

Should Conservatives Abandon Textual Criticism?

Marchant A. King

[Marchant A. King, Professor Emeritus, Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary.]

After the lapse of nearly a century there has again arisen, particularly among strong conservative groups, a call to repudiate the results of the textual studies pursued since the middle of last century and accept the Textus Receptus as the authoritative text of the New Testament. Allied with the acceptance of the Textus Receptus as the authoritative text is the claim that the King James Version is the preferred translation of the Greek Text. The full conservative who does not wish so to repudiate textual studies does not question the beauty, suitability, or usefulness of the King James Version. Its cadence, balance, and propriety of expression are superb, and its suitability for use in worship or in general is not questioned. The question is simply whether we are to abandon the work of such men as Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and Nestle and assert that the Textus Receptus represents in an unquestionable way the original reading of the New Testament.

The General Arguments of the Textus Receptus Proponents

First, the claim that modern textual criticism is rationalistic and has no regard for the special character of the Bible. This may well be true of some writers in this field but certainly is not true of many. Among the outstanding early ones Tischendorf was a very godly man, Westcott has given us some of our finest and most conservative commentaries, and Tregelles was a solid evangelical, while in more recent days A. T. Robertson, J. Gresham Machen, and Henry Thiessen were

fully convinced of the validity of textual criticism and they are hardly to be accused of disloyalty to the Bible.

Second, the claim that we must believe God has kept the true text the possession of His people through the centuries. However desirable it might seem for us to be sure that the text to which we are accustomed is the true one we must face the facts. The Textus Receptus was not the text of the early church in Egypt, nor was it so in Palestine. The Caesarean type of Greek text certainly existed early and seems to have been fairly wide-spread, and the somewhat later Palestinian Syriac was quite close to the Alexandrian. Neither was the Textus Receptus the text of the Western church. The Old Latin obviously was not based on it and when Jerome, probably the ablest literary man in the early Western church, was preparing to do his New Testament translation, he studied the available Greek manuscripts and selected what he thought were the best. The result is that the Vulgate is very much closer in text to the Alexandrian (and the prese...

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