Westminster Divines and the Textus Receptus

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Reformed 78

Puritan Board Freshman
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope. (Westminster Confession 1:8)


So, I enjoy reading the ESV but prefer the NKJV as more reliable because I understand it uses the Textus Receptus like the KJV. So anyway, I over heard someone recently who was arguing against James White's point of view concerning textual criticism, and this individual argued from this above quoted portion of the Westminster Confession that the Westminster Divines themselves believed that you should only use the Textus Receptus (By this I'm guessing he means the KJV and or the NKJV only) in your Church...

Anyone have thoughts on this??
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages

The ESV and other translations based on the critical text do not make this assumption, rather that it has been corrupted and needs to be put back together.
 

KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
James White's argument is more along the lines of -- at the time of the Reformation, and at the time of the KJV, they were using all available Greek manuscripts they had -- a very small number of manuscripts the earliest of which was from around the 11th century. To claim that the people of that day "believed that you should only use the Textus Receptus" is an anachronism.

[edit: It seems I was wrong so removed "and at the time of the Westminster Confession".]
 
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Logan

Puritan Board Senior
by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages

The ESV and other translations based on the critical text do not make this assumption, rather that it has been corrupted and needs to be put back together.

I still have issues with this. What did the divines mean by "kept pure", since in their commentaries they used phrases like "some manuscripts say..." (clearly implying they didn't know which variant was "the one")? What work did Erasmus have to do if it had been "kept pure in all ages" in the sense that some TR folks want it to mean? It seems a bit uncharitable to say that all translations other than those based on the TR do not assume a providentially preserved text.
 

Reformed 78

Puritan Board Freshman
by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages

The ESV and other translations based on the critical text do not make this assumption, rather that it has been corrupted and needs to be put back together.

I still have issues with this. What did the divines mean by "kept pure", since in their commentaries they used phrases like "some manuscripts say..." (clearly implying they didn't know which variant was "the one")? What work did Erasmus have to do if it had been "kept pure in all ages" in the sense that some TR folks want it to mean? It seems a bit uncharitable to say that all translations other than those based on the TR do not assume a providentially preserved text.

Good point
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Adam,

If you are interested in this discussion I was a friend of an old salt. Even John Gerstner acknowledged him in Bloomington near Indiana University when I went to see him. I have a unpublished book he did. He died before it could be published. It was concerning James White in a 3rd work unpublished on Unholy Hands on the Bible. J. P. Green focused on the works of an Anglican Dean Burgon who I am not sure has been answered today concerning many textual variants. Also, you may look at a person called Jerusalem Blade on the Puritanboard. He has gone back and forth with James and their disagreements and agreements have been discussed on the Puritanboard many times. I would also note anything a Reverend Matthew Winzer states concerning the text we have received. His is one of my go to men for history and trust. His call name is Armourbearer on the Puritanboard. I can tell you what I think of James in Private.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I would also note anything a Reverend Matthew Winzer states concerning the text we have received. His is one of my go to men for history and trust. His call name is Armourbearer on the Puritanboard.
Regretablly Reverend Winzer changed his screen name from Armourbearer to MW. So if you do an advanced search using his new screen name you get "Please enter a name longer than 3 characters to do a partial match on."

If you do an advanced search using Armourbearer you get, "Invalid User specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator." So you can't win for losing ..... :(
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages

The ESV and other translations based on the critical text do not make this assumption, rather that it has been corrupted and needs to be put back together.

I still have issues with this. What did the divines mean by "kept pure", since in their commentaries they used phrases like "some manuscripts say..." (clearly implying they didn't know which variant was "the one")? What work did Erasmus have to do if it had been "kept pure in all ages" in the sense that some TR folks want it to mean? It seems a bit uncharitable to say that all translations other than those based on the TR do not assume a providentially preserved text.

While the Reformed Scholastics recognized problems with textual variation among the manuscripts, they nevertheless saw the text they had received as "pure". A "pure" text therefore did not mean absolute, autographic fidelity, but sufficient fidelity. They saw the matter of textual variation to be trifling (See Owen and Turretin for direct comments to this end) and that the Traditional Greek and Hebrew texts where infallible and therefore "authentical". (Also, keep in mind that the TR of Erasmus and those that followed him was still essentially the text of the Byzantine church.)


Many of the claims of the modern school of textual criticism were inconceivable to them upon doctrinal grounds. That extended narratives like the long ended of Mark and the Pericope Adulterae were non-inspired additions to the text received by the church for over 1,000 years was simply incompatible with their view of the inspiration and preservation of the text.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
That extended narratives like the long ended of Mark and the Pericope Adulterae were non-inspired additions to the text received by the church for over 1,000 years was simply incompatible with their view of the inspiration and preservation of the text.

Is that strictly true? My impression is that they typically didn't worry about what they couldn't know for certain, and just determined to profit from it.

Calvin on Pericope Adulterae said:
It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
That extended narratives like the long ended of Mark and the Pericope Adulterae were non-inspired additions to the text received by the church for over 1,000 years was simply incompatible with their view of the inspiration and preservation of the text.

Is that strictly true? My impression is that they typically didn't worry about what they couldn't know for certain, and just determined to profit from it.

Calvin on Pericope Adulterae said:
It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.

Actually, yes...it is true. For a solid study on this read "Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology" by Richard A. Muller.
 

SeanAnderson

Puritan Board Freshman
James White's argument is more along the lines of -- at the time of the Reformation, and at the time of the KJV, and at the time of the Westminster Confession, they were using all available Greek manuscripts they had -- a very small number of manuscripts the earliest of which was from around the 11th century. To claim that the people of that day "believed that you should only use the Textus Receptus" is an anachronism.

But this point is flawed. 17th century divines were familiar with the problems and with variant readings in early manuscripts such as Vaticanus, yet they defended TR readings which are now omitted from the Critical Text.

Edmund Calamy, for example, defended the Johannine Comma as canonical scripture and was well aware of the arguments against it.

So I would say these divines were TR advocates and this is not an anachronism. They were certainly not bound by the CT reasoning that the oldest (extant!) manuscripts are the best, but seemed more interested in the witness of the church and God's providential hand throughout history.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The divines were most concerned about the preservation of the original text throughout all ages. Concern about the purity of the text was addressed to refute those like the Muslims who claim the original texts were so perverted that new prophets and scriptures were needed to "know" god's truth. As to quoting the KJV, as Englishmen from multiple church traditions, it makes sense they'd use a translation that had been commissioned by the crown. Besides it was, and is, a lovely literary work.
 
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