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An old CSE question which has recently attracted a bounty has an answer that criticises the King James Version translation of 1 Timothy 3:16.

This question is not about that specific Bible verse but is about the claim that the KJV is biased when it comes to Scriptures that support the Trinity, that it is peppered with error and is not a true translation but an adaptation of previously released translations with selective interpretation.

The King James Version used the Received Text (the Textus Receptus) in the compilation of the New Testament. In 1881 Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort printed their New Testament in Greek, later known as the Critical Text. Dismissing the Textus Receptus as an inferior text rife with errors, Westcott and Hort compiled a new Greek text, with special focus on two fourth-century manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.

The Critical Text has become the standard Greek text used for modern interpretation and translation for nearly two generations. The Critical Text was the one chiefly used for the English Revised Version and the later American Standard Version. Today, the updated and revised Critical Text is the Greek manuscript basis for the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and virtually every other modern English translation of the Bible.

My question is whether there is any evidence to suggest that the Critical Text is less biased when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity or if the Received Text is a more reliable and authentic rendition of New Testament Greek.

See this question about the Unitarian influence with Westcott and Hort: How do proponents of the 'Critical Text' respond to the claim that it preserves an anti-Trinitarian corruption dating from the fifth century?

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    The underlying question is the matter of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus upon which Westcott-Hort (and Nestle-Aland) put a great deal of emphasis on account of their antiquity. Herman Hoskier showed (Codex B and its Allies) that there was a Coptic recension in the 4th century (of which these two codices are representative) which was a biased attempt to revert back to the original autographs. Thus Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are examples of what not to read. I suggest a focus on this fundamental issue may be helpful. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 19 at 6:55

2 Answers 2

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Voices from the not-too-distant past need to be heard in answer to this question. The history of developments of various Greek texts needs to be understood. Here is a collection of such information I have garnered.

First, one needs to know the history of the ancient Greek manuscripts, in particular the corrupt Egyptian and Coptic influence during times of persecution in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and the revision of manuscripts after the Council of Nicea in the 4th century. During this period of corrupt influence the Alexandrian manuscripts including Vaticanus and Siniaticus were written which now have been given vastly more weight and predominance (in the Westcott & Hort and in the Nestle-Aland UBS texts) undermining the purity of the Textus Receptus.

However, in an article by A. Hembd, he also stands against the use of the Byzantine Majority text noting that both the Hodges & Farstad and the Pierpoint & Robinson texts stem, primarily, from the 1913 text of Baron Hermann von Soden.

Hembd quotes Herman Hoskier (1864-1938, the close associate of Dean John Burgon, 1813-1888) who described, in 1914, the von Soden text as being ‘honeycombed with errors’. Hembd also reports Herman Hoskier’s work in cataloguing the huge number of discrepancies between Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, of which Hoskier documented no less than 3,036 in just the four gospels alone.

It is noticeable that Herman Hoskier was only seventeen years old when John Burgon wrote Revision Revised standing firmly against the substitution of a new Greek text (underlying the new Revised Version) when only an orderly adjustment of the English of the Authorised Version had actually been expected. And noticeable, also, that Hoskier was but twenty-four years old when Dean John Burgon passed away.

Now here are some quotes from Herman Hoskier dealing with various problems in the Critical Text. Bold, and capitals, are mine.

"Those who accept the Westcott and Hort text are basing their accusations of untruth as to the Gospellists upon an Egyptian revision current 200 to 450 AD and abandoned between 500 to 1881, merely revived in our day and stamped as genuine." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 468

"Modern scholars love to touch on the forbidden ground of the speculative philosophies St. Paul so often condemns in his pastoral epistles. They touch upon it and withdraw, but the harm for the reader is done." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 478

"The claims put forward by us are that B does not exhibit a neutral text... That B is guilty of laches, of a tendency to "improve," and of "sunstroke" amounting to doctrinal bias. That the maligned Textus Receptus served in large measure AS THE BASE WHICH B TAMPERED WITH AND CHANGED, and that the Church at large recognised all this until the year 1881 - when Hortism (in other words Alexandrianism) was allowed free play - and has not since retraced the path to sound tradition." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 464

"There remains one argument to be dealt with, and that concerns the possibility of someone saying that, after all, the variations of B are few in number and probably less than in most MSS. That is hardly so. If the reader wants a tenth-century example of a MS true to the Church type let him examine Matthaei's k, a most beautiful and neat MS, one of our very early cursives, and in this MS will be found a true exponent of the Koine. Had Erasmus used this, no fault could have been found, and yet BUT LITTLE DIFFERENCE IS TO BE FOUND BETWEEN K AND THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS, WHILE B AND HIS GROUP DIFFER INFINITELY MORE AMONG THEMSELVES AT A PERIOD MUCH MORE REMOTE." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 456

"I present therefore an indictment against the MS B and against Westcott and Hort, subdivided into hundreds of separate counts... If I now throw some bombs into the inner citadel, it is because from that Keep there continues to issue a large amount of ignorant iteration of Hort's conclusions, without one particle of proof that his foundation theory is correct." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p i-ii

"Now in the following pages I submit a vast number of other instances where B has a doctored text, plainly, indubitably doctored." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p vi

"The Church at large disagreed with Origen's conclusions. Westcott-Hort after nearly 1700 years merely wish to replace us textually in the heart of an Alexandrian text, which after AD 450 or thereabouts fell into discredit and disuse." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 9

"We do not necessarily recover Origen's manuscripts when we are inclined to follow Aleph and B and Origen, but very likely only Origen himself." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 10

"Now as B does not change all these datives, it might be thought that Antioch for some reason had made a harmonious whole and turned some genitives into datives in the supposed revision. It is just here that Aleph offers its important testimony, for Aleph does not use the genitive on the first occasion, thereby showing that it was EGYPT WHICH REVISED SOME OF ST. MATTHEW'S DATIVES, and not Antioch which cancelled some genitives." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 35

"Finally, observe that up to the time of Westcott and Hort the lower criticism had kept itself quite apart from so-called higher criticism. Since the publication of Hort's text, however, and of that of the Revisers, much of the heresy of our time has fallen back upon the supposed results acquired by the lower criticism to bolster up their views. By a policy of indecision in the matter of fundamental truths of the Christian religion - truths specifically set forth by its Founder - and by a decided policy, on the other hand, of decision in the matter of heresy in the field of lower criticism, the beliefs of many have been shaken not only to their foundations, but they have been offered free scope to play the Marcion and excise whatever appeared extra-ordinary or unintelligible to them. Many, who should have raised their voices against the mischief wrought, have sat by in apathy or have willfully fostered these heresies." Codex B & Its Allies, Vol I, p 422

These various quotes deal with the matter of bias, but the last quoted paragraph speaks plainly of the matter of heresy. Needless to say, those who are against the Trinity doctrine claim to have support from the Westcott and Hort text, while accusing the Received Text of bias. It is the other way around, according to those quotes.

Links: Two articles published by the Trinitarian Bible Society, Issues 581 and 582, being the fourth quarterly 2007 issue and the first quarterly 2008 issue of The Quarterly Record, articles by A. Hembd.

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.tbsbibles.org/resource/collection/D4DCAF37-AEB6-4CEC-880FFD229A90560F/An-Examination-of-NKJV-Part-1.pdf
https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.tbsbibles.org/resource/collection/D4DCAF37-AEB6-4CEC-880FFD229A90560F/An-Examination-of-NKJV-Part-2.pdf

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    Here's another interesting summary. bereanpatriot.com/… He agrees with the old is not necessarily better just because. He also mentions developments of the last 150 years.
    – SLM
    Apr 20 at 16:06
  • @SLM Many thanks for that link which I hope to read tomorrow.
    – Lesley
    Apr 20 at 16:39
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The 11th-15th century Greek handful of selected mss based edition based cannot possibly be more reliable compared to the critical editions, which are based on the oldest mss with the best level of scientific textual criticism. To get a general view as to why the critical edition is more reliable as being closest to the original NT, start with this article on the KJV and also read more similar articles, and possibly books in that topic. The TR (Textus Receptus) edition is based on a very few available of the Byzantine text or the Syrian transmission of late manuscripts have been proven to be embellished with various unintentional as well as deliberate bias of the scribes. The TR itself is not the best representative of the Syrian/Byz Text.

Trinity: Christological Bias

I suppose the actual question wants to know if we have better evidence for the trinity in the critical editions or the later text type and traditional Greek editions based on them. Firstly, we need to throw out the Latin footnote 1 John 5:7-8 (KJV: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth), aka the trinitarian formula, that was deliberately added into the Greek edition by threatening Erasmus into complying with the popular demand in the 16th century, as this formula did not exist in any Greek mss. It was a fraudulent mss made by the religious authorities to pressure Erasmus into adding that clause in his Greek edition, on which the KJV was based on (for a similar reason, the Arab Christians had to change the word of God from ilah into Al-lah, the name of the Islamic god, in the Arabic Bibles after the rule of Islamic-State).

On these differences, the NJKV will be useful, because it contains the mention of various key changes with the accurate (critical) edition, by putting them on the footnotes. NU means Nestle-Aland and UBS critical editions, and M stands for the Majority text edition, another name for the Syrian later text type. The NKJV footnotes says the NU and M omits the trinitarian clause.

NU, M omit the words from in heaven (v. 7) through on earth (v. 8). Only 4 or 5 very late mss. contain these words in Greek.

Thus, you can use the NKJV as a tool to compare the key differences of the TR with the oldest more accurate Greek text, as the critical reading is often mentioned in the footnotes, to see which text follows the evidence for trinity better.

It is hard to make a decision, perhaps someone may have done research on this topic of trinitarian interpolations in the Byzantine text to give a better picture. Though, I have observed a few instances where the Byzantine text as well as the KJV translation where they find it hard to accept the true deity of Christ. This is why I have a curiosity whether the later traditional people had objection against the deity of Christ, given the fact that their Nicean trinity status of Christ, is of a begotten status, which is close to Arius subordinationism, rather than a true co-eternal status with the father. Thus, one must define his trinity for comparison to begin with, is it the biblical trinity or the Nicean trinity of subordinationism where the Son seems to be derived being begotten like mortals, denoting a contingent property.

The textual interpolations due to theological bias, thus, go against trinity in the TR or the KJV rather than for it. For an excellent critical edition based English version, follow the ESV to compare the KJV. All Modern Bibles follow the critical edition, Revised English Version that was based on the Westcott-Hort critical edition; so you can use any good modern translation to compare with the KJV. By comparing, we can make speculations about the motivation for scribal interpolations. Thus, the traditional scribes and translators may show a tendency to show a particular doctrine of trinity which avoids showing Jesus as coequal with God the father. They would introduce interpretative interpolations like "God was manifested in flesh" (1Tim3:16), as they didn't have any problem with Jesus being God, but that hey may have been a smaller, lesser begotten god than the father; in a sense a lesser Christology.

  • Example of interpretation of the same Greek text: 2Peter 1:1 ESV "righteousness of God and Savior Jesus Christ"; in the KJV "righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ", where God and Christ are separated in interpretation. Same for Titus 2:13

Textual differences:

  1. Jude 1:25
    • KJV: To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
    • ESV: to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen
  • "Through Jesus Christ our Lord", has been removed, perhaps from the fear of potential interpretation that the only God our savior is referring to Jesus Christ our Lord.
  1. Jude 1:5
    • KJV: I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
    • ESV: Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
  • Jesus was the one who saved Israel out of Egypt. Jesus has been changed to Lord.
  1. John 1:18
    • KJV: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
    • ESV: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
  • Greek only God was changed to only Son by the later scribes.

These are some examples of theological motivated corruptions, there maybe more that I don't remember. For a deeper study, suggested books are Stanley Porter's Fundamental of NT Textual Criticism, and for a detailed and early scribal corruption tendencies see The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.

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    The continually repeated claim, that "the critical editions, are based on the oldest mss with the best level of scientific textual criticism" is used to silence all opposition to the critical text. But oldest does not logically mean "best". Some very old mss were shelved or binned, because they were bad, erroneous mss. That is why they were discovered hundreds of years later in remarkably good condition. They were bad mss that should not be consulted. But along came the textual critics of 1881 and applauded them. There's nothing 'scientific' about such an approach.
    – Anne
    Apr 20 at 14:25
  • I have listed excellent articles like bible org site's articles, and some books for learning details. Here is a free & detailed article The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods And Critique Daniel B. Wallace* christianpublishinghouse.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/…
    – Michael16
    Apr 20 at 14:43
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    I have serious misgivings about the influence of Drs. Westcott and Hort who had altered the Greek Text in the New Testament in 5337 places, thus violating the original rule that had been set for the committee of not altering the Greek Text unless absolutely necessary to do so. Dr. Scrivener defend the Textus Receptus, and was probably the foremost scholar of the day in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and the history of the Text. I thank you for your input but I fear Westcott and Hort were hugely biased against the Trinity.
    – Lesley
    Apr 20 at 16:23
  • Some information re the Unitarian bias in the Revision of the KJV: textus-receptus.com/wiki/George_Vance_Smith
    – Lesley
    Apr 21 at 11:46

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