Thursday, October 22, 2020

Why the Textus Receptus Cannot Be Accepted (Jan Krans)

Here follows a guest post from a colleague and reader of the blog, Jan Krans of the Protestantse Theologische Universiteit (PThU) in Amsterdam, author of Beyond What is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament, NTTSD 35 (Brill, 2006).

Why the Textus Receptus cannot be accepted

In the discussion on the Textus Receptus two points of view exist that are diametrically opposed. I will first present the two views, and then demonstrate why only one of these can be sustained. 

In favour of the Textus Receptus

According to the first position the Textus Receptus has to be the one and only reliable text of the Greek New Testament. In other words it has to be the text that shows the correct reading at every single place of variation. Important historical-theological reasons are brought forward for this conclusion.

Historically speaking the Textus Receptus was the Greek New Testament text of the Reformation, during which the Bible itself took centre stage. Theologically speaking the Reformation was God-willed and God-given. Hence God himself used the Textus Receptus for his plans, condoned it, and even guided the minds and hands of its editors. In short the Textus Receptus has to be perfect.

There is even a biblical foundation for this view, for numerous Bible verses show that nothing of God’s word shall be lost: God assures that the Bible is transmitted in a pure and unaltered form. This form is the Textus Receptus.

With this position comes the conviction that the entire textual history since the establishment of the Textus Receptus has to be seen as degradation. Every textual change and every critical voice has to be suspect. For this corollary, again, historical-theological grounds can be given. The time since the Reformation, notably the Enlightenment, is marked by gradual alienation from God and detrimental human autonomy. Driven by the Enlightenment spirit, people began to undermine the Textus Receptus. Therefore all later texts and editions have to be rejected as thinly veiled attacks on God’s word.

It will be clear already at this stage that this first position can only be valid for those who share its most important presupposition, namely the special character of the Reformation, although this presupposition itself does not necessarily lead to the unconditional acceptance of the Textus Receptus.

Book Notice: Changing the Goalpost of New Testament Textual Criticism


Congratulations to Dr. Abidan Paul Shah who has just published his dissertation written under the direction of Maurice Robinson. I first met Abidan several years ago at ETS and have had the benefit to see him in action as a pastor. I’m looking forward to getting a copy. Here are the details.

Publisher Description

Changing the Goalpost of New Testament Textual Criticism

Before the 1960s, the goal of New Testament Textual Criticism was singular: to retrieve the “original text” of the New Testament. Since then, the goalpost has incrementally shifted away from the “original text” to retrieving “any text” or “many texts” of the NT. Some scholars have even concluded that the “original text” is hopelessly lost and cannot be retrieved with any confidence or accuracy. Other scholars have gone a step further to claim that the idea of an “original text” itself is a misconception that needs to be abandoned. If this new approach in NTTC is correct, then the authority of Scripture is weakened or no longer valid. It will be shown in this book that such is not the case. Furthermore, emphasis will be placed on the need to return to the traditional goalpost of NTTC, i.e., to retrieve the original text. Without a generally definitive text, the door will be left wide open to recreate any desired text of the NT. An unsettled original text will result in an unsettled biblical theology due to a lack of any authoritative and standard text. Consequently, it will lead to an unsettled Christian faith and practice.


“In this much-needed study of New Testament textual criticism, Shah offers far more than careful historical scholarship concerning one of the most vexing questions in this field. While his analysis offers a first-class treatment of the concept of ‘original text,’ he also rediscovers ideas that speak to the current confusion concerning the overriding goal of the discipline of textual criticism. The result of Shah’s work is that rare academic book that is grounded in careful research and yet speaks powerfully to the church today about the proper role and goal of New Testament textual criticism. This is a scintillating book that I believe will prove vital for the church as it seeks to be faithful to its historical documents.”
—David Alan Black, M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 

“Shah’s work on this vitally important topic is both thorough and insightful. He is at his best when he is tracing and documenting the major players and ideas in the modern trends of New Testament textual criticism, and even those who might be inclined to disagree with Shah’s conclusions will find much in this work that is of great value to contemporary research in textual criticism.”
—Edward D. Gravely, Professor of Christian Studies, Charleston Southern University 

“The great pioneers of the field of New Testament textual criticism sometimes differed in method but agreed on the goal of the discipline–restoring the original text of the New Testament. Changing the Goalpost shows that some modern textual critics have abandoned this historic quest as unattainable and rightly urges a return to the traditional goal for the sake of both the academy and the church.”
—Charles L. Quarles, Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Charles Page Chair of Biblical Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

TC Journal vol. 25 (2020) is up


The first installment of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism vol. 25 (2020) is complete with two articles and eight reviews. More articles will be uploaded in a second installment, hopefully later this year.