The Modern Word of God?

While the King James Bible has historically stood as “The Bible” to countless people over the years (so much so that God is often heard speaking with an Old English lilt in imaginative renditions), there have been others who did not look favorably upon that great work. For these people, the only possible solution was to dethrone the King James version, elevating to its place a successor…

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 –

In 1881, two Anglican clergymen, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, changed the landscape of Biblical scholarship for generations to come. Working together, they employed the techniques of textual criticism – a discipline that focuses on a critical analyses of available manuscripts to isolate errors and alterations that may not have been present in the original document – in order to do battle against an enemy that plagued them. What was that enemy? It was none other than Erasmus’s Textus Receptus, the backbone of the King James New Testament. Hort in particular was against Erasmus’s work, declaring in a then private letter, dated to 1851, that, “I had no idea until the last few weeks of the importance of texts having read so little Greek Testament and dragged on with the villainous Textus Receptus. Think of that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late manuscripts.

Together, Westcott & Hort published a new translation of the Greek New Testament in 1881 using a number of different – rather unorthodox – manuscripts, in particular the fourth century Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Based on their studies, the manuscripts used in preparing earlier translations (those from the so-called Byzantine family of manuscripts) were not as close to the original Scriptures as should be desirable. Thus, by relying primarily on the Codex Vaticanus, supplementing missing sections with that of the Codex Sinaiticus, a new translation of the New Testament was formed.

The story however does not end there. Not by far…


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