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Re: Question about greek behind KJV

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  • Mr. Helge Evensen
    ... In the Preface of the TBS Greek NT we find that The editions of Beza, particularly that of 1598, and the two last editions of Stephens, were the chief
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 23, 1997
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      Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:

      > TCers,
      > Which Greek text(s) were consulted when the KJV was translated?
      > According to the preface of the KJV, it is a revision of other English
      > Bibles like Bishop's, Wycliffe's and The Great Bible and the Greek was
      > only consulted, rather than used as a translation basis.

      In the Preface of the TBS Greek NT we find that "The editions of Beza,
      particularly that of 1598, and the two last editions of Stephens, were
      the chief sources used for the English Authorised Version of 1611".
      Dr. Edward Hills referred to the words used in the title page of the AV,
      when he wrote: "The original tongues referred to in the title were the
      current printed Hebrew Bibles for the Old Testament and Beza`s printed
      Greek Testament for the New. The "former translations" mentioned there
      include not only the five previous English versions.....but also the
      Douai Version, the Latin versions of Tremellius and Beza, and several
      Spanish, French, and Italian versions. The King James Version, however,
      is mainly a revision of the Bishops` Bible, which in turn was a slightly
      revised edition of Tyndale`s Bible" (KJV Defended, p.215).
      H.W.Hoare writes: "With regard to the New Testament, the companies
      appear not to have confined themselves exclusively to any one existing
      text, but to have made use of much the same materials as were accessible
      to Tyndale, and to have attached also great weight to the modifications
      which had been introduced by Beza into the texts of Erasmus and of Henry
      Stephens" (The Evolution of the English Bible, London 1902, p.252).

      > Now it is generally held that the TR was used. But the term Textus
      > Receptus came from a publisher's blurb in the Elzevir's 2nd edition GNT
      > of 1633, and the KJV was published in 1611.

      Even though it is clear that the "name" "Received Text" did not appear in
      any edition before that of the Elzevirs, all editions with virtually
      the same text as that of the Elzevirs are normally referred to as the
      Textus Receptus. Besides, the announcement was not intended as a new name
      or title, it was written in the Elzevir-edition only to refer to
      something which already was a fact, namely that "this is the text now
      recognized/received by all". It may have been an overstatement, but
      nevertheless it shows that this text was at least a standard in most
      circles (outside of the Roman church). It was in fact the _received_
      text. The *announcement* in the Elzevir-edition was just that! The
      Elzevirs stated what they did because their edition contained
      the text which was *already* "received".

      The KJV was published in 1611 and the second Elzevir-edition with the
      "TR-announcement" did not appear until 1633. This sounds like the KJV
      was *not* based on the TR. But the "TR" refers primarily to the *form* of
      the text rather than to some particular *edition* of that form. The form
      was fundamentally the same with the Erasmus and Stephens editions.
      Thus, to speak of the "TR" as something that was brought on the scene in
      1633, is not at all fair to the actual situation.

      There *are*, however, _minor_ differences between the TR editions of the
      Reformation, but the KJV-translators did not use only _one_ Greek source
      for their NT. They used a *variety* of the "TR", namely, a Greek text
      constructed on the basis of the Beza and Stephens editions, in comparison
      with other "TR-editions/translations". This also shows that they did not
      *uncritically* accept one particular source or just one edition. In this
      respect, the KJV-translators functioned as "textual critics". They even
      introduced a few readings of minor importance from Latin sources.
      In fact, they made their own "TR", their exact NT-basis was not in
      complete harmony with *any* printed Greek edition at the time.

      > My current understanding is that the Greek text behind the KJV was the
      > Stephanus 1551. Is this correct? I have also heard others say that it
      > was an edition published by Theodore Beza...

      (See above)

      > The Stephanus editions are revisions of Erasmus's text which he
      > initially rushed out the door using only a hand full of late manuscripts
      > and then made some corrections using the Complutum Polyglot.
      > Does anyone know what manuscripts Erasmus used to create his edition?

      It should be clear today, especially after the studies by Bentley, Jonge,
      and others, on Erasmus and his text, that the implications drawn from the
      "rushing out" of the first edition of Erasmus, and his use of only a hand
      full of late MSS, can no longer be maintained.

      K.W.Clark, in his article "Observations on the Erasmian Notes in Codex 2"
      (Studia Evangelica, 1959, p.749-56), brought out a few interesting points
      about Erasmus and his first editon. I quote: "Some have held that it
      [cod. 2] was written in the fifteenth century, not long before Erasmus
      used it. The recent personal examination left no doubt that Gregory`s
      twelfth-century dating is right, and that we must evaluate the work of
      Erasmus on this basis".

      He continues: ".....Erasmus was not guilty, as often accused, of resting
      his text upon a manuscript of later date and of greater corruption.
      .....there is no _a priori_ assurance that his twelfth-century copy was
      better than a later one, or that a manuscript of the fifteenth century
      would have been substantially inferior".
      "Indeed, among manuscripts after about 600 A.D. there is seldom a
      substantial difference to be observed except for local or family
      "Erasmus may be defended even against his own oft-quoted admission of
      haste. [Footnote: "... praecip fuit verius quam editum". It is not clear
      that Erasmus meant that he had been careless or negligent in preparing
      the text. The context suggests rather that he was dissatisfied with the
      haste and pressure of the printer. In any case, typographical errors are
      not properly to be charged to Erasmus]. Suppose that he had taken ten
      years instead of ten months; could the result have been much different,
      under the circumstances? A case in point is the Complutensian New
      Testament, praised by many for the care and time expended as well as for
      the superior manuscript sources borrowed and bought".
      ".....Scrivener quite rightly noted that "the text it [the Complutensian]
      exhibits does not widely differ from that of most codices written from
      the tenth century downwards".
      It is true that the Erasmus text is largely a printing of Codex
      2, just as the Westcott-Hort text is largely a printing of Codex B; yet
      the Erasmus text is a typical Byzantine text and is the only sort of text
      conceivable two centuries before John Fell and John Mill" (p.750-52).

      Clark further notes: "We should not attribute to Erasmus the creation of
      a "received text", but only the transmission from a manuscript text
      already commonly received to a printed form in which this text would
      continue to prevail for three centuries more" (p.752).

      Then he goes on to discuss some select passages in which Erasmus made
      changes by way of notes in Codex 2. The passages (in Luke) selected for
      illustration are the more significant readings dealt with by Erasmus.
      Clark discovered in his investigation of Codex 2 that several of the
      changes made by Erasmus has later been attested by subsequent MS finds.
      Let me qoute just one example: "At Luke 5,16 the scribe wrote simply that
      Jesus was in the desert areas praying, as the specific term UPOXWRWN was
      omitted. Erasmus inserted this in the margin, and this change is now well
      approved". Here we find Erasmus at work as a textual critic.

      Clark found that the notes done by Erasmus in Codex 2 demonstrate that
      the first edition of Erasmus was not solely based on this codex and his
      supplied notes. He concludes his paper with these words: "The instances
      here cited from the Gospel of Luke form adequate illustration of the
      surprising fact that the Erasmus edition is not a mere reproduction of
      Codex 2 as Erasmus revised it. Who was responsible for the gap: Froben,
      or the Lutheran John Oecolampadius of Weinberg, or Nikolas Gerbel? Or did
      Erasmus make oral and later revision of his own work? It is even possible
      that the basic text prepared by Erasmus was subject to collaborative
      revision, and that the 1516 edition was not solely the work of Erasmus"

      I think these statements and the investigation by Clark, shows that we
      should not be quick to pass judgment on Erasmus` work. It is, after
      all, several hundred years since Erasmus prepared his edition, and much
      material that was available to Erasmus may not be available at all today!

      The competence of Erasmus` as a textual critic is clearly seen in his
      "Annotationes in Novum Testamentum". Jerry H. Bentley writes about the
      "Annotationes", stating: "One surprising feature common to virtually all
      studies of Erasmus` scriptural labors is the failure to examine closely
      his _Annotationes....._. Heretofore only a few of the _Annotations_ have
      excited much scholarly interest.....
      .....and since the _annotations_ served for Erasmus purposes similar to
      those served today by the footnote and critical apparatus, the appendix
      and excursus.......it seems rather odd that scholars have not focused
      more attention on them before now. In fact the _Annotations_ can yield a
      great deal of information, not only about Erasmus` competence as a
      textual critic, but also about his general awareness of textual
      problems,.....". (Erasmus` _Annotationes in Novum Testamentum_ and the
      Textual Criticism of the Gospels, Archive für Reformationsgeschichte,
      No.67, 1976).
      In a footnote Bentley lists several earlier studies on the Annotations,
      and notes with reference to a chapter on it by A. Rabil: "Like all of the
      other studies listed in this note, Rabil is most interested in Erasmus`
      theological notes".
      This indicates that modern scholars in general have not given much
      consideration to the fact that Erasmus was a competent textual critic.

      In another article by Bentley on Erasmus and TC, we read: "....Erasmus
      was a remarkably astute textual critic. His _Annotations to the New
      Testament_ reveal that he was well aware of the many paths - some of them
      rather beaten tracks - leading to textual corruption in the
      pre-Gutenberg era. They reveal further that in the light of his
      well-developed critical faculty he was able to tread the largely unmarked
      road of textual criticism without himself straying down too many of those
      false paths. He employed advanced techniques, including the principle of
      the harder reading, for isolating error and recovering a pure text of the
      New Testament" (Erasmus, Jean Le Clerc, and the Principle of the Harder
      Reading, Renaissance Quarterly 31, 1978, p. 320).

      It is of importance to note that even though Erasmus did have objections
      to several "TR-readings", he did not let that influence the actual text
      he printed. He commented upon several readings in his Annotations, in
      which he disfavored readings which he himself had adopted into his text.
      He was led by a kind of "common faith" in the traditional text which was
      found in the current Greek MSS. His text-critical ideas did not influence
      his text much. Thus, Erasmus separated between TC and printed text. His
      method of TC was very moderate when it came to introduce into the text
      readings that departed from the generally accepted form of Greek text.

      Often we hear TCers referring to the "few and late MSS" used by Erasmus.
      But several of the "late" readings favored by Erasmus have been attested
      in subsequent time by far older MSS. Not to mention the great number of
      Byzantine MSS that has appeared since the time of Erasmus. This evidence
      attests even more to Erasmus` edition(s). Erasmus may have had "few" MSS
      at his disposal according to today`s standard, nevertheless his
      text was later attested by the great *majority* of MSS! And clearly, the
      text he produced from the "few" MSS was even in harmony with the great
      majority of Greek MSS at his own time.

      Let us now turn to one of the experts on Erasmian studies, Henk J. de
      In his article "Novum Testamentum a Nobis Versum: The Essence of Erasmus`
      Edition of the New Testament", Jonge emphasizes the importance of the
      Latin part of the first edition. In so doing, Jonge raises a few
      important points that may be of some relevance to our discussion here.
      He writes: ".....that the aim of the _Novum Instrumentum_ [i.e. the 1516
      edition] was not originally an edition of the Greek New Testament, is
      evident from what is known of the preparations for the work. It is
      established, and generally accepted, that Erasmus had been working on
      the text of the New Testament since 1504, and had been studying Greek
      manuscripts for this purpose.....
      His goal now was to make a new Latin translation on the basis of Greek
      By 1506 at the latest Erasmus had completed his new translation of Paul`s
      Epistles, and not later than 1509 he had made a new version of the
      (Journal of Theological Studies, vol.35, part 2, 1984, p.402).

      >From this it is clear that it cannot be regarded as a "truism" that
      Erasmus based his first edition on "just a hand full of Greek MSS".
      Erasmus had plenty of time for the investigation of Greek MSS.
      At the final stage of the preparation he may have *used* just a few MSS.
      But it is clear from the facts noted by Jonge that Erasmus did not *base*
      his edition on just "a few" MSS. It is a known fact that he travelled all
      over Europe visiting libraries and gathering information on Greek MSS.
      It is unfair to assert that the Erasmus edition necessarily is based on
      "just a few late MSS", when there are indications that he had a wide
      knowledge of variant readings in MSS. Most certainly he must have
      gathered hundreds of notes on his travels. Besides, we know very little
      with any sufficient degree of certainty with regard to all the sources
      used by Erasmus. He *may* have used *many* MSS instead of "a few".

      If Erasmus had been working on the text of the NT since 1504, *twelve
      years* ahead of the publication of his first edition, it is only logical
      to conclude that he must have had knowledge of variants in MSS far beyond
      those exhibited in the "few late" MSS he "used" in the final stage.
      When Erasmus saw that the Greek MSS he found throughout Europe was
      virtually identical in text to the ones at his disposal at the time
      of printing, he did not hesitate to use the latter.
      He began his work with the printed edition at Basel in 1515, and he had
      there five Greek MSS at his disposal. In addition, he must have had notes
      and maybe other sources available. He had throughly studied the Church
      Fathers which had made him well acquainted with textual variants.

      If Erasmus already by the year 1506 had translated the Epistles of Paul
      and by 1509 had translated the Gospels _from the Greek MSS_, then it is
      not hard to at least assume that he had compared the MSS with which he
      had been working.

      Further in the above mentioned article by de Jonge, we learn that
      Erasmus had not made his own recension of the Greek text by the time of
      the printed edition. So even though he had collected readings and
      studied MSS, he did not make his own recension. His text was not his, but
      the currently available form of the Greek text at the time. Jonge writes:
      "The truth is that he never made any such recension". Some have asserted
      that he did, but the results of Jonge`s study indicate that this
      assertion is wrong.
      Jonge`s contention is, in fact, that the *primary* reason for Erasmus`
      edition was to make available a new Latin translation of the NT based
      on the *Greek* MSS instead of the Latin.

      Jonge also says that Erasmus used not four or five, "but seven Greek
      manuscripts, for the edition of 1516: three which went to the printer and
      four which he merely collated" (p.404).
      Erasmus made notes in the MSS he sent to the printer. In his subsequent
      four editions he introduced corrections. So by the time the
      KJV-translators prepared their work, they had a "developed" and a
      "refined" "TR" available for use.

      Here is a rather interesting citation from de Jonge`s article:
      ".....we must....bear in mind that if Erasmus had had more time and had
      found manuscripts of the now preferable Egyptian type, he would certainly
      not have used them. On the contrary, he regarded the older Egyptian text
      form as having been deliberately brought into conformity with the Latin
      Vulgate, and thus as corrupt and to be rejected. If this (false) theory
      is borne in mind, we can only expect Erasmus to have edited the Byzantine
      text" (p.410).

      I would strongly suggest to all on this list who have not already done
      so, to read the studies presented by de Jonge. They are very instructive
      and, even more important, corrective, to many "established"
      misconceptions regardig the edition(s) of Erasmus among TCers.
      At the same time I must warn that he seems to place all too much
      emphasis on the Latin part of Erasmus` edition, even to the point that
      he believes the Greek column only had the function as a means by which
      to verify the accuracy of the Latin. I quote: "The true
      purpose of the Greek text which he offered is almost always missed. The
      aim of this text was to give the reader of the Latin text column, the
      opportunity to check whether the surprising and startling new phrasing of
      the new translation was really based on the Greek. The Greek was designed
      as an aid to the verification of the accuracy of the unfamiliar Latin
      It was not the textual criticism of the Greek, but the presence of the
      Greek at all, with which he was concerned" (p.410).
      Of course, de Jonge states this influenced by his own textual preferences
      which is not the TR or the Byzantine text.

      There is at least one major problem with Jonge`s statements here. I am
      talking now in terms of textual criticism. If the
      Greek was *not* in accordance with the Latin, there would have showed
      up problems in the mind of the careful reader. For if the reader reads
      something in the Latin which is not in the Greek, or something in the
      Greek which is not in the Latin, it probably would have caused
      questions regarding the accuracy of the Latin translation. So the textual
      quality of the Greek (i.e. that it has the same readings as the Latin)
      must have been an important aspect in Erasmus` mind. I have not, however,
      investigated Erasmus` Latin compared to his Greek, to verify this. But at
      least it seems to be the logical implication. Another point here seems to
      be (as already noted above) that since Erasmus had worked several years
      on his Latin translation based on *Greek MSS*, he must also have obtained
      a good insight into the readings of the Greek MSS and thus he must have
      developed a text-critical capability to approve or disprove of the MSS
      he would send to the printer.

      Finally, I must also state that, while Jonge defends Erasmus against some
      oft-repeated misconceptions, he does not at all favor the form of Greek
      text published by Erasmus, i.e. the "TR".

      - Mr. Helge Evensen
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