7

When Dr Vance Smith, a Unitarian, was appointed to the Committee to revise the Authorised Version, public opinion objected to the appointment and Drs Westcott and Hort (Hort, also, leaning towards Unitarianism) said that if Dr Smith was not allowed then neither would they be involved in the revision.

All three were permitted to contribute to the revision and during that revision Drs Westcott and Hort approached other members of the committee, singly, seeking to influence them in regard to the Greek text being translated - the Received Text, also called the Textus Receptus.

The ensuing revision resulted in the imposition of a new Greek text (that of Drs Westcott and Hort) in 1881, something not envisaged by the purpose of the revision. Many objected to this, among them Dean John Burgon who, in his book ‘Revision Revised’, pointed out that between the two manuscripts upon which the W&H text strongly depended, Codex Aleph (Sinaiticus) and Codex B (Vaticanus), there was disagreement in over three thousand places in just the four gospels.

Hermon Hoskier, in his book ‘Codex B and its Allies’ demonstrated that there had been a recension (a supposed ‘reversion’ to the original) in the fifth century, based on Egyptian and Coptic influence, resulting in a corrupted text.

The correction of this recension, of the fifth century, resulted in the Received Text.

Hermon Hoskier further demonstrated that the two manuscripts upon which Drs Westcott and Hort so much relied were, in fact, proof of the corrupt recension. The reason they survived, say Dean John Burgon and Hermon Hoskier, is that they were recognised for their fault and were little used, just retained as reference.

The resulting Greek text of Westcott and Hort can be seen to be weakened, compared to the Received Text, in many places where the Deity of Christ and where the relationship of Father and Son are in view. (See below for just a few of those places.)

Overall, about 9,000 alterations, additions and deletions were made to the Received Text (see Dr Scrivener’s comparative text of 1881) amounting to about 7% of the text. And it is noticeable to anyone who studies these changes in detail that there is a definite bias appearing in regard to the deliberate favouring of Codices Aleph and B on these particular occasions.

What is the response of those who favour the so-called ‘Critical Text’ above the Received Text to the overall changes in emphasis seen in these texts - the bias evidently towards Unitarianism ?


A full explanation of the following texts and the effect of changing them is available here. (See the PDF version for a much better display of the Greek letters.)

  • ... and they worshipped him ... Luke 24:52

  • ... the only begotten Son ... John 1:18

  • ... the Son of man, which is in heaven ... John 3:13

  • ... purchased with his own blood ... Acts 20:28

  • ... Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever ... Romans 9:5

  • ... neither let us tempt Christ ... 1 Corinthians 10:9

  • ... singing to the Lord ... Colossians 3:16

  • ... God was manifest in flesh ... 1 Timothy 3:16

  • ... the dead ... stand before God ... Revelation 20:12


Note (edit)

I have used the word 'bias' in its second meaning as listed by the Oxford English Dictionary - 'to exert an influence unduly'. This is exactly, precisely, a description (as demonstrated in detail by Herman Hoskier in 'Codex B and its Allies' and Dean John Burgon in his book 'Revision Revised') of placing undue preponderance on just two manuscripts against the vast weight of evidence contained in over 5,000 other Uncials and miniscules, the Patristic Citations, the Versions and the Lectionary quotations. It results in a bias introduced in the fifth century and reproduced in the Critical Text as the above examples clearly indicate.

3
  • 1
    I found the following "LONG" article by Wallace and he address this issue at length. He also addresses Westcot and Hort. bereanpatriot.com/… It's really detailed but relatively easy to understand. I did not read the whole thing but I hope it helps as it relates to your question. Lastly, and this is a question I have? Your thread states for "Unitarians," yet Biblical Unitarians believe the Bible is the only source of truth where Unitarian Universalists deny the Bible is the source of truth, just saying!
    – Mr. Bond
    Apr 2, 2022 at 18:08
  • 1
    @Mr.Bond The article to which you refer states (towards the end) that it is 'personal opinion' : and indeed it is. It does not cover the depth that it is expressed by such devoted, lifelong experts as Dean John Burgon and Herman Hoskier. I did not find an answer to the question in that article, I am afraid. (Though I did read it, as you suggested.)
    – Nigel J
    Apr 2, 2022 at 18:30
  • 1
    I have just finished reading the entire article from the link given by Mr. Bond. What it says about Westcott and Hort is interesting, especially since they stuck to the "older is better" rule on textual criticism. Because of this their N.T. relied heavily upon Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. Yet in the last ~140 years since the Westcott & Hort 1881 Critical Text, papyri from the 300s, 200s, and even a few from the 100s have been discovered. Despite this, the Critical Text of the New Testament remains virtually unchanged from ~140 years ago. Hort said the Textus Receptus "was vile".
    – Lesley
    May 12, 2022 at 16:38

2 Answers 2

1

There are many scholars who advocate for the Critical Text and reject the claim that it preserves an anti-Trinitarian corruption:

  • Bruce Metzger - Metzger was a prominent New Testament scholar and textual critic who was involved in the production of several major editions of the Greek New Testament. He argued that the evidence for the anti-Trinitarian corruption is weak and that the Critical Text is the most reliable representation of the original text.

  • Bart Ehrman - Ehrman is a well-known New Testament scholar and author who has written extensively on textual criticism. He has argued that the evidence for the anti-Trinitarian corruption is unconvincing and that the Critical Text is the most accurate representation of the original text.

  • Daniel Wallace - Wallace is a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and a leading authority on textual criticism. He has written extensively on the topic and has argued that the Critical Text is the most reliable representation of the original text.

  • Michael Holmes - Holmes is a textual scholar who has worked on several major editions of the Greek New Testament, including the SBL Greek New Testament. He has argued that the charge of anti-Trinitarianism is unfounded and that the Critical Text is the most reliable representation of the original text.


According to proponents of the Critical Text, the claim that it preserves an anti-Trinitarian corruption is based on a misinterpretation of the evidence. The textual variants in question are relatively minor and do not have any bearing on the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition, the textual variants are not unique to the Critical Text but are found in other manuscript traditions as well. The specific textual variants that have been cited as potentially anti-Trinitarian by some scholars are primarily found in certain manuscripts of the New Testament and include passages such as 1 John 5:7-8 and John 1:18:

  • 1 John 5:7-8 is a disputed passage that reads, For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one (ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ Πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν). This passage is absent from the majority of Greek manuscripts but is found in some later manuscripts such as the Codex Montfortianus and in Latin manuscripts such as the Codex Monacensis and the Codex Ottobonianus.

  • John 1:18 is another disputed passage that reads, No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο). Some manuscripts, including the Codex Sinaiticus, read "God only begotten" (μονογενὴς θεὸς) instead of "only begotten Son" (μονογενὴς υἱός) which has led some scholars to suggest that this reading is anti-Trinitarian.

However, it's important to note that the overwhelming majority of textual variants in the New Testament are minor and do not have any significant impact on Christian doctrine. While some scholars may interpret these textual variants as evidence of anti-Trinitarianism, others argue that they do not undermine the core teachings of the Christian faith.

Furthermore, proponents of the Critical Text argue that the charge of anti-Trinitarianism is historically unfounded. The doctrine of the Trinity was well established by the fifth century and there is no evidence to suggest that the scribes who produced the variant readings had any intention of altering the doctrine.

1
  • 1
    This skirts the subject and makes claims but without hard reference, without direct quotes of authorities 'He has argued ; He has argued ; He has written extensively.' But where is the direct quote ? This is hearsay, not evidence of the actual argument put forth with a substantial foundation. Nor is there any textual evidence presented, only - yet again - assertions but without the direct evidence.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 12, 2023 at 19:39
0

The question itself seems to make some unwarranted assumptions. As a non-Trinitarian, I support the Received Text (Textus Receptus) and/or the Majority Text. There is no need to think that the revised versions, as meddled with by Westcott and Hort and others, are either more accurate, or necessary to a proper understanding of God the Father and the Son of God.

Jesus taught that the Father was in him. He did not, however, teach that he was the Father. None of the passages touching on the deity of Christ say that it was Christ himself who was God--and, as far as I know, this holds true regardless of the manuscript in question. Many seem to think that "son of God" is the same as "God." But this is neither true in English, nor in Greek. The reference to John 1:18 is an interesting case in point--the alteration is that which changed "son" to "God" such that the ESV, for example, has translated it as "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." This is a ridiculous translation, and contradicts the rest of the book of John which identifies the Father as God. If "the only God" is "at the Father's side," then, obviously, the Father cannot be God. Therefore, the corruption is easy to identify, because it is a corruption which will introduce a contradiction.

The word "son" has a meaning, and the expression changes in its significance if this word is dropped. If the full expression were "the son of the Father," dropping "Father," and saying just "the son," would change its meaning very little, but dropping "son," and saying just "the Father," would change it completely.

The son of the Father = the Son
The son of the Father ≠ the Father

The changes made in the modern revisions with reference to Christ, his lordship, and his identity, are both unnecessary and specious. It is these changes which constitute a corruption of the text, and not the other way around. Nothing is "preserved" in the critical text, but rather it is destroyed.

The Catholic church, never one to be shy about its accomplishments, publishes quite openly regarding the changes it made to the Biblical manuscripts. The work of editing those manuscripts was documented during the late nineteenth century / early twentieth century1.

Catholic Revisions

Here is what they say about these manuscripts.

(2) Ancient Versions

Several are derived from original texts prior to the most ancient Greek MSS. These versions are, following the order of their age, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Gothic, and Georgian. The first three, especially the Latin and the Syriac, are of the greatest importance. (I) Latin version.—Up to about the end of the fourth century, it was diffused in the West (Pro-consular Africa, Rome, Northern Italy, and especially at Milan, in Gaul, and in Spain) in slightly different forms. The best known of these is that of St. Augustine called the “Itala”, the sources of which go as far back as the second century. In 383 St. Jerome revised the Italic type after the Greek MSS., the best of which did not differ much from the text represented by the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus. It was this revision, altered here and there by readings from the primitive Latin version and a few other more recent variants, that prevailed in the west from the sixth century under the name of Vulgate. (2) Syriac Version.—Three primitive types are represented by the Diatessaron of Tatian (second cent.), the palimpsest of Sinai, called the Lewis codex from the name of the lady who found it (third cent., perhaps from the end of the second), and the Codex of Cureton (third cent.). The Syriac Version of this primitive epoch that still survives contains only the Gospels. Later, in the fifth century, it was revised after the Greek text. The most widespread of these revisions, which became almost the official version, is called the Pesitta (Peshitto, simple, vulgate); the others are called Philoxenian (sixth cent.), Heraclean (seventh cent.), and Syro-Palestinian (sixth cent.). (3) Egyptian Version.—The best-known type is that called Bohairic (used in the Delta from Alexandria to Memphis) and also Coptic from the generic name Copt, which is a corruption of the Greek aiguptos Egyptian. It is the version of Lower Egypt and dates from the fifth century. A greater interest is attached to the version of Upper Egypt, called the Sahidic, or Theban, which is a work of the third century, perhaps even of the second. Unfortunately it is only incompletely known as yet.

These ancient versions will be considered precise and firm witnesses of the Greek text of the first three centuries only when we have critical editions of them; for they themselves are represented by copies that differ from one another. The work has been undertaken and is already fairly advanced. The primitive Latin version had been already reconstituted by the Benedictine D. Sabatier (“Bibliorum Sacrorum latinm versiones antiquae seu Vetus Italica”, Reims, 1743, 3 vols.); the work has been taken up again and completed in the English collection “Old-Latin Biblical Texts” (1883-1911), still in course of publication. The critical edition of the Latin Vulgate published at Oxford by the Anglicans Wordsworth and White, from 1889 to 1905, gives the Gospels and the Acts. In 1907 the Benedictines received from Pius X the commission to prepare a critical edition of the Latin Bible of St. Jerome (Old and New Testament). The “Diatessaron” of Tatian is known to us by the Arabic version edited in 1888 by Msgr. Ciasca, and by the Armenian version of a commentary of St. Ephraem (which is founded on the Syriac of Tatian) translated into Latin, in 1876, by the Mechitarists Auchar and Moesinger. The recent publications of H. Von Soden have contributed to make the work of Tatian better known. Mrs. A. S. Lewis has just published a comparative edition of the Syriac palimpsest of Sinai (1910); this had been already done by F. C. Burkitt for the Cureton codex, in 1904. There exists also a critical edition of the Peshitto by G. H. Gwilliam (1901). As regards the Egyptian versions of the Gospels, the recent edition of G. Horner (1901-1911, 5 vols.) has put them at the disposition of all those who read Coptic and Sahidic. The English translation, that accompanies them, is meant for a wider circle of readers.

Notice how, strangely, the Catholic encyclopedia considers these other-language manuscripts to be more "original" than "the most ancient Greek MSS"? This was because the Latin, etc. were in their own hands and were edited/altered by them, as they document in the record. Notice how many times they reference a "revision" and speak of the work of correcting and revising these texts.

When they say "The work has been undertaken and is already fairly advanced," they refer, of course, to a work that is now completed, as this encyclopedic entry is about a century old. They were documenting what was taking place in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. It was during about this time that Westcott and Hort did their work. It is interesting that the Catholic record does not mention their names, nor does it record who was doing the work they referenced.

Clues from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dr. Bill Barrick, a Hebrew professor who has served as a consultant to nine Bible-translation projects, explains that the scribes who copied the Biblical manuscripts regarded them as so sacred that even when they had made copying errors, and were forced to reject the flawed manuscript, they would not burn it, nor destroy it. Because it contained portions of the sacred scripture, they still handled it carefully. They placed these manuscripts in earthen jars, and gave them an honorable burial. The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in Qumran, are these flawed manuscripts. We know they are incomplete because the Jews considered the name of God to be so sacred that a separate scribe would write it, and there are many blanks in the manuscripts where the name was not yet added.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered to be as much as 1000 years older than the Masoretic texts used to translate most Bibles today (certainly any Bible pre-dating their discovery in about 1947). They were well preserved in their earthen vessels within those desert caves.

The fact that these manuscripts have many flaws, and yet appear older, is of considerable interest in the discussion of which manuscripts are actually superior: those appearing "more ancient," or those which appear newer, likely because they were worn out from being copied and were replaced. The ones chosen to be used, and copied, would certainly be the ones deemed superior by the scribes, who had very strict policies with the work of copying. Errors were not tolerated. Even if a "typo" had crept into the text, it was forbidden to correct it--the scribes would make a marginal note to indicate if they had observed another version of the manuscript to have had a different spelling, but they would not make any change to the manuscript being copied. In many cases, those other manuscripts referenced have not survived, and these marginal notes are all we have to help us understand the possible changes as well as the strict culture among the scribes of preserving the text exactly.

Conclusion

A careful review of the manuscripts will show that in most cases the "anti-Trinitarian" versions are actually the most reliable. The "corruptions" are those of the "critical text" line, and this line is well-known for its origination in Egypt. The codex siniaiticus, codex vaticanus, and codex alexandrinus, the three dominant minority texts used in the modern translations, are all part of the "critical text" which Westcott and Hort promoted following their edits.


1 A footnote on the Catholic encyclopedia website says: "Catholic Answers is pleased to provide this unabridged entry from the original Catholic Encyclopedia, published between 1907 and 1912."

15
  • 1
    I would have expected which addressed my question, namely, the matter of the Coptic Recension and its subsequent effect, which requires revision. It is the Coptic Recension which alters the emphasis of scripture.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 2, 2022 at 22:47
  • 1
    " He did not, however, teach that he was the Father." The trinitarian claim is exactly that the Son is not the Father and great care is taken in claiming it. If you understand that trinitarianism teaches that the Son is the Father then you do not understand trinity doctrine. Dec 3, 2022 at 23:02
  • 1
    Bar Mitzvah began in the middle ages. There was no such custom during Jesus' day. This verse is not the words of the Jews but the Apostle John's inspired take on what the Jews believed Jesus meant. John gives no indication that the Jews got it wrong and John himself couldn't have gotten it wrong. Dec 5, 2022 at 13:01
  • 1
    It seems pretty clear that Jesus' claim to be the son of God, or that God was his Father, is distinct from the sonship of, say, Adam. The clarity comes from just what the link you provided describes. A normal claim of sonship would never have enraged the Jews as it did but, as it stands, they accused Jesus of blasphemy which is not a reaction that the term (as you understand it) would ever provoke. The claim Jesus made was understood by them as a claim of equality with God and that does not indicate a common usage of "son of God". My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Dec 6, 2022 at 13:44
  • 1
    If it was common usage they wouldn't have thought he was claiming equality with God. Dec 6, 2022 at 15:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .