"Erasmus (and Stephanus and Beza and the AV) practiced textual criticism"

Steven Avery

A discussion from Facebook, CARM and various spots over the years.

Facebook - The Received Text - Nov, 2018

David Burchard:
Can folks here help clarify the difference between the "textual criticism" done by Erasmus and Beza with the textual criticism done by moderns? As I'm discussing TR v. CT with guys, most of us having been trained to prefer the Critical Text, multiple guys have argued, "Erasmus and Beza used textual critical methods. So you can't consistently argue that it is an epistemological problem."

Help. Thanks.
Paul Barth

1) They didn't assume the Scriptures were corrupt and needed to be restored. They didn't consider scribal errors corruption.

2) They weighed the received and orthodox readings and testimony of the church much higher than modern textual criticism does.

3) They didn't prefer the shorter and more difficult readings because they didn't share the same assumptions that one would have to have to think these would be good principles to go by.

4) They didn't think that older is necessarily better because of their doctrine of preservation, widespread use and doctrinal consistency was more important for a reading.

5) They didn't have a recension theory like Westcott and Hort did about the Byzantine text.

6) For the Old Testament, on doctrinal grounds, they didn't think it appropriate to substitute LXX, Vulgate, or other versional readings in for the Hebrew.
"Erasmus (and Stephanus and Beza and the AV) practiced textual criticism"
(refrain of James White, et al.)

Facebook - Pure Bible - August, 2015

I've written on this occasionally, that the skills and methods were qualitatively very different, often opposite, what is today called textual criticism. And to use "textual criticism" about the Reformation Bible (Received Text) methods is a severe anachronism.

Note this by Richard Alfred Muller (b. 1948):


Richard Muller and the History of the Preservation of Scripture pt. 1

Kent Brandenburg - April 2010

At the very end of the book on p. 541, Muller makes this very interesting statement that is tell-tale for today:


Richard Muller:
"All too much discussion of the Reformers' methods has attempted to turn them into precursors of the modern critical method, when in fact, the developments of exegesis and hermeneutics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both precede and, frequently conflict with (as well as occasionally adumbrate) the methods of the modern era."


I especially include the last quote because of the common extrapolation that the 16th and 17th century theologians were actually involved in textual criticism. This is sheer revisionist history.


See also:

Didn't Erasmus and the Reformation Editors Use Textual Criticism?
David Cloud
http://libertyparkusafd.org/Burgon/reports/Didn't Erasmus and the Reformation Editors Use Textual Criticism.htm

Generally an excellent article.


Steven Avery - July 2015 (my summary)

Actually the Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza faith-consistent textual analysis was extensive and far superior to what is today called "textual criticism". (Which used to be under the umbrella of "sacred criticism" before it became largely an unbeliever's endeavor).

The reason is that "textual criticism" as defined today is based on demonstrably false concepts. And ones that are also faith-inconsistent (i.e. the dissonance between "textual criticism" and Bible evangelicism and fundamentalism is not only palpable, it involves a core-level contradiction.)

Thus, since "textual criticism" is definitionally and conceptually interlinked with the current false paradigms,which are totally different than the 1500s methodology, to use the term "textual criticism" for the Reformation Bible studies involves a severe anachronism.

Steven Avery
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Steven Avery

additional discussion resource

King James Bible Debate - 2014


The KJBD posts includes excellent material from Charles Forster.

A new plea for the authenticity of the text of the three heavenly witness; or, Porson's letters to Travis eclectically examined and the external and internal evidences for 1 John V, 7 eclectically re-surveyed (1867) - from the Preface

Christian Observer, Forster Review

... there is a still graver error which affects not only the disputed verse, but the whole of Dr. Wordsworth's very learned, and very elaborate, edition of the Greek Testament; the admission, namely, of a false first principle of Scripture criticism. This false principle is, the rejection of a common Textus Receptus ; and the assumption, by each individual editor, of the right to set up his own text: in other words, to impose his own textus receptus upon the whole Christian world. For, disguise it to themselves and others as men may, the practice now arraigned comes simply to this. In St. Paul's words, ' every man hath an interpretation;' and each successive editor would, if he could, force his own critical text as the standard text to be ' known and read of all men.' "

... I desire here to enter my solemn protest against a false principle of editorship, which makes every man, at once, the manufacturer of his own Bible, and the dictator of that Bible as the standard for all others.... Now, as the rejection of the Textus Receptus is the sole cause of the evil, so the restoration of the Textus Receptus is its only remedy." (pp. ix-xiii.)

John Owen


The next one may be anachronistic in using "textual criticism".

John Owen's treatise "Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text" he gives a list of principles for performing textual criticism. His 9th point is to reject readings that...

"Arise out of copies apparently corrupted, like that of Beza in Luke and that in the Vatican boasted of by Huntley the Jesuit, which Lucas Brugensis affirms to have been changed by the Vulgar Latin, and which was written and corrected, as Erasmus says, about the [time of the] council of Florence, when an agreement was patched up between the Greeks and Latins."

Received Text and Majority Text

Received Text and the Majority Text

The simplest difference is that the Received Text, the TR, the Textus Receptus (from which we get the dozens of major Reformation Bible editions from languages throughout the world, including the Geneva and the AV in the English) was providentially developed from a full-orbed textual analysis process. The result of a century of study from learned men of faith and vision, especially noting three textual giants, Erasmus to Stephanus and Beza. Their analysis included the following Bible considerations:

Received Text Sources

a) fountainhead Greek mss
b) historic Latin lines
c) ECW - early church writer usages
d) "internal" evidences (author's style, consistency, grammar etc.)
e) faith-consistent textual principles applied
f) auxiliary versional confirmation, the Syriac
Today that would be called an "eclectic" methodology, in the good and proper sense of the word. Giving us the Greek (and corresponding Latin) Received Text editions, from which the Reformation Bibles were translated.

Cornwall, Forster and McGrath on the Received Text
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Steven Avery

famous words - hold on to your Bible

"Listen to me --- I'm from the textual criticism community and I am here to help your Bible."
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Steven Avery

Erasmus - super-strong on the ECW

Erasmus - super-strong on the ECW

Erasmus - super-strong on the ECW

Notice how deep was the knowledge of Erasmus about the Early Church Writers (ECW), even beyond his extensive Greek and Latin mss. knowledge. The "scholars" today are generally clueless on the amazing ECW supports for pure Bible readings.


Humanists and Holy Writ: New Testament Scholarship in the Renaissance (2016)
Jerry H. Bentley

He collated no new manuscripts for his fifth edition (1535), but this does not mean Erasmus had ceased working on the text of the New Testament. In fact, from the third edition on, Erasmus vastly expanded his collection of textual data from a different kind of textual source—the writings of the Church Fathers. The Annotations of the later editions teem with variant readings Erasmus noticed in the Fathers’ works, many of which he edited in the 1520s and 1530s. Erasmus also requested and received variant readings in correspondence with friends and scholars. As early as 1518 he consulted William Latimer’s annotations on Matthew, which no doubt included textual information based on Latimer’s studies.71 In 1526 he asked Ferry Carondelet to send from Besancon “something in the way of old manuscripts, especially of the gospels and apostolic epistles.”72 He received readings in the Pauline epistles from Johann Faber in Rome.73 From Rome he also received, through Paolo Bombasio and Juan Gines Sepulveda, collations of the great uncial MS. B, Codex Vaticanus, the most important of all Greek New Testament manuscripts.74

Erasmus never saw the Vaticanus, but that did not prevent him from using it, and even criticizing it. In correspondence with Sepulveda he voiced the suspicion that MS. B had been corrected against the Vulgate. Somewhere he had picked up a wild tale that in 1435, after the Council of Florence, the Byzantine emperor ordered all Greek New Testament manuscripts to be emended and established the Vulgate as the standard. Sepulveda doubted Erasmus’ suspicions and told him so frankly.75 Erasmus seems finally to have accepted Sepulveda’s arguments, but not before he lodged a public charge against the Vaticanus in an addition of 1535 to his Capita argumentorum contra morosos quosdam ac indoctos, an apologetic work prefaced to his New Testament in editions from 1519 forward.76 Still, Erasmus invoked Vaticanus’ authority in Annotations to several passages (e.g., Mark 1:2-3, Acts 27:16, 1 John 5:7)

71-75 can be seen online for now.

On the PBF, I have a sepearate section on the Latinization and Council of Florrence issues.

It does seem that it would be helpful to find his arguments contra Vaticanus in Capita argumentorum contra morosos quosdam ac indoctos.


Steven .
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