Erasmus And The Textus Receptus -- By: William W. Combs

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 001:1 (Spring 1996)
Article: Erasmus And The Textus Receptus
Author: William W. Combs

Erasmus And The Textus Receptus

William W. Combs

* Dr. Combs is Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI.

This first issue of the Journal is dedicated to Dr. William R. Rice, the founder of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Like most fundamentalists in this century, Dr. Rice has always used the kjv in his public ministry. He often consulted other versions and commonly suggested alternative or improved translations from the pulpit. He never made an issue of Greek texts and English translations. Yet today there is a growing debate in fundamentalism regarding English translations of the Scripture and the texts behind them, especially the NT Greek text. One area of dispute involves the Greek Textus Receptus. For those who may be new to this controversy, Textus Receptus is a Latin term which means “Received Text.” The name itself comes from an edition of the Greek NT produced by Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevir (or Elzevier). The Elzevirs printed seven editions of the Greek NT between 1624 and 1678.1 Their second edition (1633) has this sentence in the preface: “Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus” (Therefore you [dear reader] have the text now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted).2 From this statement (Textum…receptum) comes the term Textus Receptus or TR, which today is commonly applied to all editions of the Greek NT before the Elzevir’s, beginning with Erasmus’ in 1516.

Numerous individuals who identify themselves with fundamentalism are now arguing that the TR is to be equated with the text of the original manuscripts of the NT. For example, D. A. Waite says:

It is my own personal conviction and belief, after studying this subject since 1971, that the words of the Received Greek and Masoretic Hebrew texts that underlie the King James Bible are the very words which God has preserved down through the centuries, being the exact words of the originals themselves. As such, I believe they are inspired words.3

That the TR, which underlies the kjv, could be thought to be “the exact words of the originals themselves” would seem to be far-fetched, to say the least, to anyone familiar with the history of the TR. But possibly, that is part of the problem; some who hold the TR position may not be adequately informed about the position they champion. This article will seek to shed some lig...

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