Received Text and Majority / Byzantine Text Editions

Steven Avery

Received Text and Majority Text

Facebook - King James Bible Debate
Mike Combs - Sept 17,2015
"...What is the difference between the Received Text (all editions), and that which is known as the "Majority Text"? Thanks."
My response on an important question, originally placed on Facebook on the thread above, and on the PureBible forum:

Facebook - Pure Bible Forum - Steven Avery - Sept 18, 2015

PureBIble Forum


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, from 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.


One-Dimensional Greek Majority Theory

In contrast, The Greek Majority and Byzantine texts (generally, these will be the same since the great mass of Greek mss are the Byzantine mss) in the various iterations mentioned above, are, for the most part, simply one-dimensional shells, only interested in (a), Greek manuscripts. Only even looking at other evidences in tie-break mode. Compared to the Critical Text, the emphasis is on the whole Greek transmissional history, not just a couple of corrupted Alexandrian mss. So, even though one-dimensional, this text is far superior to the Critical Text Greek New Testament, and the modern versions derived from that ultra-corrupted text.

Thus, these endeavors are not really textual theories so much as collation text tools. And they barely exist in English editions that are actually used as reading Bibles.

(As to whether this text is actually believed to be autographic, some proponents of a "Majority" or Byzantine approach can express an occasional faith-based view of the purity and autographic identity of their resulting texts. However, that is quickly deemphasized when trying to kowtow to, and gain acceptance from, the textual establishment, which pretends to be a science. In that environment, the proponents of a Majority text would seek to be accepted as simply an alternative textual theory, leading to a probability text .. i.e. our text is more likely variant, by variant.)


Here is my earlier short explanation of this history:

[TC-Alternate-list] juxtaposition of the Byzantine (Majority) Greek and the Received Text models
Steven Avery - June 12, 2011

"The irony here is that this one-dimensional aspect of the Byzantine Priority position is precisely what is addressed in the scholarship of the Reformation Bible, the superb handiwork of Desiderius Erasmus & Robert ?tienne (Stephanus) & Theodore Beza. Many minority Byzantine witnesses were adopted into the text, based on other powerful evidences (including internal evidences...). The simple textbook case would be the inclusion of Acts 8:37, where Irenaeus and Cyprian and internal considerations powerfully support the Latin and minority Greek evidences."

Development of Terms

Earlier, at times, the Received Text was considered the Majority Text, since for the most part the Greek majority variants are followed.
You can see this in the Interpreter's Bible of 1951 which says:

"this majority text (from which the King James Version was translated)"
Today, however, the mix of the two terms, as done e.g. by the Dean Burgon Society, is better avoided. T
he beginning of the modern use of the term "Majority Text" as referring to the Greek mss tradition and text was in the 1970s. This involved both the development of a Majority Text by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farsted, negative counterpoint by men like Gordon Fee, and Kurt Aland's attempt to use this as one of his dismissal terms for the mass of manuscripts to be virtually ignored in textual studies.

You can even see the mix of phrasing from scholars like Gordon Fee. Here in 1978 we have his rather dumb comment:

Modern Textual Criticism and the Revival of the Textus Receptus (1978)
Gordon Fee

"the methodological proposal ... that all textual choices be made on the basis of internal probabilities alone.... The other alternative is that all textual choices should be made on the basis of external evidence alone—and in this case on the basis of the Byzantine MSS (or majority text). What this amounts to is the elimination of "textual choices" altogether and the wholesale adoption of the Textus Receptus (TR)...."
First, the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus wrongly used synonymously by Fee (this occurs less frequently today). More significantly, it was not understood by Gordon Fee that the Received Text itself does represent the application of an excellent, eclectic textual theory and approach. Thus, it is totally wrong of Fee to claim that the developers of the TR used "external evidence alone". Similarly, is totally wrong to say that they used only "the Byzantine MSS" for the external evidences. See the group of criteria they actually used above.

Another reality difference is simply that the TR endeavor had been (according to full proponents :)) providentially guided and successfully (understood by all) ...completed!
Es suficiente, es majestuosa.


Greek Orthodox accept Reformation Bible corrections

The superiority of the Received Text was so clear that even the Greek Orthodox traditions (these churches range over a wide area of Eastern Europe, Northern Africa and Asia, thus the Russian Orthodox would utilize Greek mss) had accepted some of the most important Reformation Bible corrections (e.g. heavenly witnesses, Acts 8:37, Luke 2:22) into their published texts and commentaries. In a sense the earlier Greek text, the manuscripts before the Reformation Bible on which the Majority Text is based, represents a type of Ecclesiastical Text, one that is without a current ecclesia.


Greek Majority as a "Third-Way" Movement

The revival of interest in the Greek "Majority" text in textual studies came forth out of a type of third way interest. There were many textual scholars who knew of the abject corruption of the Vaticanus-primacy hortian Critical Text that had been embraced. Yet, modern textual theory had tons of agitprop about how bad is the Received Text, very little understanding of its development (think Erasmus and a handful of late manuscripts as their description, not even mentioning the Latin, the ECW, etc) and thus a built-in animus had developed.

The griesbachian-hortian animus against the pure Reformation Bible had so much infected the textual studies realm that a new way was sought to counter the hortian textual cancer of Vaticanus-primacy, reliance on a couple of ultra-corrupt texts. (Which included the hortian emphasis on only the Greek mss, while choosing the corrupted ultra-minority Alexandrian mss.)

Thus, various new Greek text approaches were developed as the "third way", especially starting in the late 1970s. (The first attempt was Hodges-Farsted. Later came Robinson-Pierpont. And Wilbur Pickering developed similar textual ideas.) This way the Received Text and the AV could still be considered the enemy, (e.g. "fideistic") while in fact generally accepting much of the truth that the pure Received Text represented against the hortian text corruptions.


Received Text Superiority over the Majority Text

All you have to do is look at the details involving Acts 8:37

Acts 8:37

And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And he answered and said,
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

(and the sister verse the heavenly witnesses and 1 John 2:23b) to understand why the Received Text is the far superior text. Oftentimes the Greek line had been corrupted, while the original text was maintained in other evidences, including the Old Latin and Vulgate lines. These are areas where the "western text" (in modern textual parlance, with or without specific Greek mss) retained the pure Bible reading, while the Greek Byzantine manuscripts were corrupted, often simply by omissions.

Both texts, the Received Text and the Majority Text can agree, however, in the disaster in the text produced by the hortian apostasy, leading to the Critical Text behind the modern versions. So at times they can speak in one voice.

And when "Majority Text" proponents do excellent work (e.g. Maurice Robinson on the Mark ending and the Pericope Adultera and the Greek transmissional stream) this can be acknowledged, appreciated and utilized by TR-AV proponents.

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Steven Avery

Cornwall, Forster and McGrath on the Received Text

Here is the next part, three helpful quotes (maybe a couple could be added, eg. from Hills) This may help the reader understand the excellence, place and proper providential imperative aspect of the Received Text:


Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall (1812-1879)

Church Review - The genuineness of I. John, v. 7 proved by neglected witnesses - (1877)
Thorough scholars recognize the fact, that every Latin Version made before the era of printing, and having a diction of its own distinct from that of other Latin versions, implies the existence of a Greek manuscript from which that translation was made. When this fact is duly regarded by all whom it concerns a vast advance will be made toward the true and safe decision of this long controversy, by a thorough comparison and combination of "the Greek evidence" and "the Latin evidence" from all sources, not as two kinds of testimony having rival or unequal claims to attention and regard, but strictly co-equal wherever they can be traced as contemporaneous.
Both alike records, in ancient manuscripts, of readings received when those manuscripts, the Latin as well as the Greek, were penned; two living streams of Holy Truth and cherished knowledge of that truth ; there flowing in their own proper channels as distinct tributaries for the diffusion of revealed wisdom among the nations; here intermingled, rolling on with all their affluence of sacred learning above the ruins of the old philosophy, both Greek and Latin.

Charles Forster (1787-1871) writing to Christopher Wordsworth

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 (emphasis added)

" ... 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.)

Gavin Basil McGrath (b. 1960)

A Textual Commentary on the Greek Received Text of the New Testament (2008)

There are two rules of neo-Byzantine textual analysis, found in two maxims, of relevance here. The master maxim is. The Greek improves the Latin; and the servant maxim is. The Latin improves the Greek. I.e., we neo-Byzantines always start with the representative Byzantine Greek text, which is maintained unless there is a clear and obvious textual problem with it, for The Greek improves the Latin. However, if it is clear that a textual problem in the Byzantine Greek can be remedied by a reconstruction of the Greek from the Latin, then the Latin reading may be adopted, for in such a context. The Latin improves the Greek. But in all this textual analysis, it is the Greek that is our primary focus, and the Latin is only brought in to assist what is an evident textual problem in the Greek, and only adopted if it resolves this Greek textual problem. Thus the lesser maxim. The Latin improves the Greek, is always subject to the overriding greater maxim. The Greek improves the Latin. (p. cxliv)

And so it was, that these gifted and learned men who composed our Received Text in the 16th and 17th centuries, and whose work represents a zenith of textual achievement in terms of producing an entire NT Received Text, not simply this or that verse as in former times, (the like of which shows up the neo-Alexandrian and Burgonite textual "scholars" to be truly second rate.) turned their learned eyes to the matter. And when these neo-Byzantines did so, seeking the guidance of God's good Spirit, the deficiency in the representative Greek Byzantine manuscripts was thus spotted and remedied. Thus I John 5:7.8 was restored to its rightful place in the Received Text, and came to be translated in the Authorized Version. Praise God! His "word" "endureth for ever" (I Peter 2:25). (p. cxlix)

For those interested in examining the issues of the textual base (remember many have been to seminary and learned only Critical Text agitprop), it can be helpful to understand the Received Text and Authorized Version (an independent edition of the TR, per Edward Freer Hills) superiority and excellence. It can be the proper underpinning of acceptance of the majesty and purity and perfection of the Authorised Version.


Psalm 119:140
Thy word is very pure:
therefore thy servant loveth it.

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Steven Avery

Edward Freer Hills weighs in:

Brent Mahlen{"tn":"R"}

King James Bible Defended

"Where, oh where, dear brother or sister, did you ever get the idea that it is up to you to decide which Bible version you will receive as God's holy Word. As long as you harbor this false notion, you are little better than an unbeliever. As long as you cherish this erroneous opinion, you are entirely on your own. For you the Bible has no real authority, only that which your rebellious reason deigns to give it. For you there is no comfort no assurance of faith. Cast off, therefore, this carnal mind that leads to death! Put on the spiritual mind that leads to life and peace! Receive by faith the True Text of God's holy Word, which has been preserved down through the ages by His special providence and now is found in the Masoretic Hebrew text, the Greek Textus Receptus, and the King James Version and other faithful translations!" EF Hills
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