The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical? -- By: Daniel B. Wallace

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:590 (Apr 1991)
Article: The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?
Author: Daniel B. Wallace


The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?

Daniel B. Wallace

Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

1 In recent years a small but growing number of New Testament scholars have been promoting what appears to be a return to the Textus Receptus, the Greek text that stands behind the New Testament of the King James Version. But all is not what it appears. In reality, those scholars are advocating “the majority text”—the form of the Greek text found in the majority of extant manuscripts. That the Textus Receptus (TR) resembles the majority text is no accident, since in compiling the TR Erasmus simply used about a half dozen late manuscripts that were available to him. As Hodges points out:

The reason for this resemblance, despite the uncritical way in which the TR was compiled, is easy to explain. It is this: the textual tradition found in Greek manuscripts is for the most part so uniform that to select out of the mass of witnesses almost any manuscript at random is to select a manuscript likely to be very much like most other manuscripts. Thus, when our printed editions were made, the odds favored their early editors coming across manuscripts exhibiting this majority text.2

But the TR is hardly identical with the majority text, for the TR has numerous places where it is supported by few or no Greek manuscripts. Precisely because advocates of the majority text can

dissociate themselves from the TR in these places, their argumentation is more sophisticated—and more plausible—than that of TR advocates.

In a previous article3 the present writer interacted with the majority text theory as it has been displayed concretely in The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text.4 For the most part the interaction was with Zane Hodges’s particular defense of the majority text view. Not all majority text advocates share his approach, however. Indeed, several of the critiques made in that article of Hodges’s “stemmatic reconstruction” are voiced by other majority text advocates. The present article, therefore, is a more general critique of the majority text theory and is specifically intended to interact with Wilbur Pickering’s defense of it.

The present author writes from the perspective of “reasoned eclecticism,” the text critical theory that stands behind almost all modern versions of the New Testament (the New...

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