"There are about two dozen printed 'TR' editions with varying levels of difference among them. Which one preserves the perfect text? Purchasers of which of these editions had the every jot and tittle promise fulfilled for them? It can be only one—if indeed you believe in perfect preservation." - By Faith We Understand
If Jesus promised His Words would never pass away, what are the implications for the doctrine of preservation? Did God’s Words ever pass away? Were they lost for centuries in the sands of Egypt? Could they have been? How can prophesy even be meaningful if the very words of God were lost for a time, or may be lost in the future?
In this excerpt from a book he edited, entitled Thou Shalt Keep Them, Kent Brandenburg explains what Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:35 means for the doctrine of preservation.
In Matthew 24:35, the Lord Jesus Christ makes the significant prophesy, “Heaven and earth shall not pass away, but my words shall not pass away.’ Although in its context the prophesy relates to His Second Coming, it also directly concerns the future of heaven and earth and God’s Words.1
Brandenburg briefly explains some of the context surrounding the great prophesy from Matthew 24: 2
How has God preserved His Word? Should you place your faith in the science of textual criticism to restore the New Testament text, bit by bit? Or, should you simply believe, by faith, that God has already preserved His Word in the manuscript tradition which has been preserved and used by the church down through the centuries?
In a book which he edited, entitled Thou Shalt Keep Them, Kent Brandenburg argued for the primacy of the Textus Receptus and, more specifically, the King James Version of the Bible. In this excerpt, he explains why he believes a Christian must accept this by faith.1
Living by faith is so integral to and synonymous with Biblical Christianity, and such a foundational truth in the New Testament, that this declaration of the Lord to Habakkuk is quoted three times in New Testament passages (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). The believer is a believer; he lives by faith because that is what it is to be a Christian. Faith is the basis of the righteousness from which someone lives (Rom 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Those who do not live by faith are apostates and the Lord has no pleasure in them (Heb. 10:38). Faithlessness is a serious issue for serious people.
Mark Ward: "[H]enceforth and forevermore, God helping me, I will not discuss textual criticism with people who insist on the exclusive use of the KJV . . . [v]ernacular translation is the only issue I’ll debate. Resolved: the KJV is not—or rather, is no longer—a vernacular translation. Let’s talk English."
Returning to the specific texts, Westcott-Hort vs. the textus receptus: in truth, both texts necessarily fall short of presenting the true original. Obviously, those readings in the textus receptus which are without any Greek manuscript support cannot possibly be original. Additionally, in a number of places, the textus receptus reading is found in a limited number of late manuscripts, with little or no support from ancient translations.
One of these readings is the famous I John 5:7. Such readings as these are also presumptively not original. And if one holds to the “majority rules” theory of textual criticism, i.e., whatever the reading found in a numerical majority of surviving Greek manuscripts is to be accepted as original, then the textus receptus falls short in the 1,838 readings where it does not follow the majority text.
The question remains to be resolved: how shall we define textus receptus? It has been customary in England to employ the 1550 text of Stephanus as the exemplar of the textus receptus (just as an Elzevir text was so adopted on the continent of Europe), and so we will follow this custom. For our purposes here, the term textus receptus means the 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament published by Robertus Stephanus.
The Westcott and Hort text is much simpler to define. This is the Greek New Testament edited by B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort and first published in 1881, with numerous reprints in the century since. It is probably the single most famous of the so-called critical texts, perhaps because of the scholarly eminence of its editors, perhaps because it was issued the same year as the English Revised Version which followed a text rather like the Westcott-Hort text.
Note: This study was first composed in 1996 and published that year by Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute as research report no. 45, a thirteen-page booklet (ISBN 0-944788-45-9). It was an attempt to clarify issues in the “Bible texts and translations controversy” by carefully defining and explaining terms which are often bandied about by those who seem to have limited understanding as to their actual meaning. It has not previously appeared in As I See It and is presented here with minor alterations. It is supplied with extensive notes, which should be read.
The New Testament was inspired by God, and came from the pens of its writers or their amanuenses in infallible form, free from any defect of any sort, including scribal mistakes. However, it is evident from the facts of history that God in His providence did not choose to protect that infallible original text from alterations and corruptions in the copying and printing process. Scribes, and later printers, made both accidental (usually) and deliberate (occasionally) changes in the Greek text as they copied and propagated it. As a result, the surviving manuscript copies (as well as printed editions) of the New Testament differ among themselves in numerous though usually trivial details.