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MOVING AWAY FROM PRESERVED SCRIPTURE: EXAMINING THE HODGES-FARSTAD MAJORITY TEXT

By David W. Cloud

Copyright 1989, 1993
Way of Life Literature, 1701 Harns Rd., Oak Harbor, WA 98277
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In 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers printed The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (hereafter referred to simply as The Majority Text or the Hodges-Farstad Text) edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad, both of Dallas Theological Seminary. As its title implies, the Hodges-Farstad Text claims to be a Greek text which faithfully reflects the readings of the majority of extant Greek manuscripts. Since a great amount of money and work has gone into the publication of this volume, we would assume it is meant to be taken seriously as a true representation of the inspired Word of God. Seven years of labor went into the production of the Hodges-Farstad Text. But while the footnotes have some value for research, The Majority Text has grave defects and should not be taken seriously by anyone who desires to know for certain what came from the Apostles pens.

The Hodges-Farstad Text is superior to other Greek texts which have been created in recent years, but the differences between the Hodges-Farstad Text and the Textus Receptus underlying the King James Version and other God-honored translations are significant enough to cause us to examine the facts carefully.

MAJORITY TEXT NOT USED SYNONYMOUSLY WITH RECEIVED TEXT

Please note that when we refer to The Majority Text, we are referring specifically to the Hodges-Farstad work. The Textus Receptus and Majority Text have frequently been used synonymously, and this is largely correct The Received Text (also referred to in this study as the Textus Receptus and TR) does represent the majority of textual witnesses in most readings. Yet it also contains readings not supported by the majority of extant Greek manuscripts.

1 John 5:7 is a well-known example. "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." While there is manuscript evidence for this Th reading, the majority of existing manuscripts do not support it and would have us delete this reference to the Triune Godhead.

The fact is that while the Received Text is a form of the majority text, it is not entirely a "majority text." The reason for this is simple: In determining the true reading of Scripture, there are essential factors beyond merely examining extant manuscripts. We will say more about this farther into the study.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE RECEIVED TEXT AND THE MAJORITY TEXT

There are almost 1900 differences between the Textus Receptus and the Hodges-Farstad majority text, many of these very significant. Thus, while this matter is not as serious as the problem between the Received Text and the Westcott-Hort Text, it is something which must be faced. Should I John 5:7 be in our Bibles? As we have noted, this clear and powerful witness to the Triune Godhead is not in the Hodges-Farstad Text.

To further illustrate the significance of this matter, we want to list some of the omissions in The Majority Text as compared to the TR. Please understand that this is not an exhaustive listing, but merely a sampling:

Matthew 27:35 -- The Majority Text deletes the following words: "that might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." (19 words in the Greek)

Mark 15:3 -- The Majority Text deletes the following words: "but he answered nothing." (4 words in Greek)

Luke 7:31 -- The Majority Text deletes the following words: "And the Lord said" (4 words in Greek)

Luke 9:1 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "his disciples" (2 words in Greek)

Luke 17:36 -- The Majority Text deletes the entire verse: "Two men shall be in the field; the one shall betaken, and the other left." (12 words in Greek; 16 words in English)

Luke 20:19 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "the people" (2 words in Greek)

John 6:70 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Jesus" (1 word in Greek)

John 10:8 -- The Majority Text deletes the words "before me" (2 words in Greek)

Acts 7:37 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "him shall ye hear" (2 words in Greek)

Acts 8:37 -- The Majority Text deletes the entire verse: "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." (29 words in Greek)

Acts 9:5,6 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (20 words in Greek)

Acts 9:17 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Jesus" (1 word in Greek)

Acts 10:6 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (7 words in Greek)

Acts 10:21 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "which were sent from him from Cornelius" (7 words in Greek)

Acts 15:11 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Christ" (1 word in Greek)

Acts 15:34 -- The Majority Text deletes the entire verse: "Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still." (6 words in Greek)

Acts 20:21 -- The Majority Text deletes the word: "Christ" (1 word In Greek)

Acts 24:6-8 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, Commanding his accusers to come unto thee" (27 words in Greek)

Romans 13:9 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (2 words in Greek)

2 Corinthians 8:4 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "that we would receive" (2 words In Greek)

1 Thessalonians 2:19 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Christ" (1 word in Greek)

2 Timothy 2:19 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Christ"

Hebrews 11:13 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "and were persuaded’ (2 words In Greek)

Hebrews 12:20 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "or thrust through with a dart’ (3 words in Greek)

1 John 5:7,8 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth" (25 words in Greek; 22 words)

Revelation 1:8 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "the beginning and the ending" (3 words in Greek)

Revelation 1:11 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "1 am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and" (13 words in Greek)

Revelation 2:3 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "hast laboured" (1 word in Greek)

Revelation 5:4 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "and to read" (2 words in Greek)

Revelation 5:7 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "the book" (2 words In Greek)

Revelation 5:14 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "four and twenty" (1 word in Greek)

Revelation 5:14 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "him that liveth forever and ever" (6 words in Greek)

Revelation 7:5-8 -- -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "were sealed" from 10 of the 12 references (10 words in Greek)

Revelation 8:7 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "angel" (1 word in Greek)

Revelation 11:1 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "and the angel stood" (3 words in Greek)

Revelation 11:17 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "and art to come" (3 words in Greek)

Revelation 12:12 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "to the inhabiters" (2 words in Greek)

Revelation 12:17 -- The Majority Text deletes the word "Christ" (1 word in Greek)

Revelation 14:1 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "forty and four" (2 words in Greek)

Revelation 14:3 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "forty and four" (2 words in Greek)

Revelation 14:5 -- The Majority Text deletes the words: "before the throne of God" (5 words in Greek)

Again, please understand that these are by no means all of the deletions found in The Majority Text, but represent a sample listing to illustrate the significance of the problem. In addition to the hundreds and hundreds of blatant omissions and changes, The Majority Text casts serious doubt upon hundreds of other readings through the notes in the critical apparatus.

Though we are not dealing with omissions as numerous and serious as those in the Westcott-Hort Text, I, for one, do not want ANY omissions from the Holy Scriptures. When men such as Hodges and Farstad come along proposing hundreds of changes in the God-honored Received Text and KJV, I refuse to acquiesce. If anything is worth fighting for, it is the Word of God!

MAJORITY TEXT GAINING INFLUENCE

The idea that the Received Text should be revised according to the so-called majority readings is gaining influence. It is, of course, promoted by Drs. Hodges and Farstad, editors of The Majority Text. But it is also promoted by the following men. Please note that these men differ among themselves regarding the degree to which the Received Text and the KJV should be corrected. Not all would agree with all The Majority Text omissions we have listed earlier, yet all do support the basic principles underlying The Majority Text.

Wilbur Pickering

"The critical edition of the ‘Byzantine’ text being prepared by Zane C. Hodges. Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at the Dallas Theological Seminary, Arthur Farstad, and others, and to be published by Thomas Nelson, will differ from the Textus Receptus In over a thousand places... Hodges will be very happy to hear from anyone interested in furthering the quest for the definitive Text" (The Identity of New Testament Text, Wilbur N. Pickering, foreword by Zane Hodges, Thomas Nelson, 1977, 1980, pages 212, 232-233).

Jakob Van Bruggen

Van Bruggen’s support for the Majority Text approach is evident from the following statement:

The Lord has preserved His Word in such a way that no doubt can exist about the revealed doctrine, but scribes have not been faithful enough In preserving the text so that we can always say without any doubt which reading is the correct and original one. The history of the preservation of the text shows how God faithfully kept watch over His Word, but it also exposes THE PERMANENT SCARS [emphasis added] which that Word has sustained through the carelessness of scribes and the confusion brought about by heretical influences such as that of Marcion....

We must note at the outset that support of the Majority Text does not imply a complete endorsement of the KJV. IN 1611, LESS MATERIAL WAS AVAILABLE FOR THE PRECISE AND DETAILED DETERMINATION OF THE MAJORITY TEXT THAN IS THE CASE TODAY....IT IS IMPORTANT, THEREFORE, TO EXAMINE AND IMPROVE THE TEXT FOLLOWED BY THE KJV, where necessary on the clear witness of Greek manuscripts....

It is inaccurate and misleading to force a choice between the unrevised KJV text and the modem RSV text. Instead, the real choice is between the traditional text preserved in the majority of manuscripts (and followed In principle by the KJV) and the text reconstructions not preserved in the majority of manuscripts (and followed In most translations since 1881)....

We must conclude that fidelity to the New Testament text has been abandoned since the publication of the Revised Version In 1881. It is therefore time for a radical return to the Majority Text as the basis for translations. THERE IS, ABOVE ALL, A NEED FOR A SCIENTIFIC EDITION OF THE MAJORITY TEXT TO SERVE AS THE BASIS FOR DETERMINING AND OBJECTIVELY CORRECTING THE DEFICIENCIES OF THE KJV. This would clearly demonstrate and counteract the disastrous effects of Subjective textual criticism on modem translations (Future of the Bible, Jakob Van Bruggen, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1972, pages 120-121, 123, 132).

Note that while Van Bruggen rejects Westcott-Hort type texts, he urges the creation of a "scientific edition of the Majority Text to serve as the basis for determining and objectively correcting the deficiencies of the KJV." This is the middle-of-the-road position I referred to earlier. We are told that the Received Text (and accurate translations of it, such as the KIJV in English) is not the perfect Word of God, yet at the same time it is acknowledged that present efforts at creating the perfect Text fall short of the mark. Thus we are left without any text or translation upon which we can wholly depend.

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown was Editorial Secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) until 1991, and in this position had considerable influence in the many translation projects with which Trinitarian is involved. Though TBS publishes an edition of the Received Text, Andrew was sympathetic toward the Majority Text view. In the course of correspondence with this writer in regard to a new translation of the Bible into the Nepali language, Andrew made the following statements:

"We would also encourage you to refer to the ‘Majority Text’ which in certain passages Is an Improvement on the older Textus Receptus, where the TR does not represent the true consensus of the manuscripts. An edition of the Majority Text was published in the USA by Z. Hodges and A.L Farstad in 1982, and Is a valuable tool of reference" (Letter of April 4, 1984).

Further, in a letter of January 7, 1985, Mr. Brown told me that the reading of Hebrews 12:20--"or thrust through with a dart"--is not accurate in the TR and AV, but that the Majority variant should be preferred here. This is a specific example of what he had earlier called "an improvement on the older Textus Receptus."

Andrew Brown’s preference for the Majority Text viewpoint can be seen in his review of the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text which appeared in the TBS Quarterly Record:

The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (1982) has just been published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York, under the editorship of Professor Zane Hodges and Dr. AL. Farstad. This new edition, as its title implies, contains the text found in the majority of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It differs from the Received Text in those passages where the manuscripts used by 16th century editors deviated from the overall manuscript consensus. Below the main text are two sets of footnotes, the first showing the changes from the Received Text, the second showing the differences from two popular modem critical editions (The Untied Bible Societies 3rd edition, and the Nestle-Aland 26th edition.).

Although this "majority text" Is not necessarily at all points identical with the original text, THE NEW EDITION IS ON THE WHOLE A RELIABLE GUIDE [emphasis mine]. It will be an indispensable tool for all who wish to study the differences between the various forms of Greek New Testament text, and between the competing translations to which the Greek variants give rise (Quarterly Record, Trinitarian Bible Society, Number 482, pages 14-16).

We are happy that Mr. Brown was eventually dismissed from the Trinitarian Bible Society. The present leaders have assured us that they do not support the Hodges-Farstad Text, but it is clear that Brown’s influence was felt widely while he was associated with this organization. Further, though Mr. Brown is no longer employed by Trinitarian, the Quarterly Record Number 482 which supported the Hodges-Farstad Text was distributed throughout the world.

New King James Version

The New King James Version (NKJV) contains many alternate majority readings in its textual footnotes. Approximately 500 of these footnotes appear which give that which is supposedly the "majority reading" over against the Received Text reading. Many readers will make the obvious conclusion that if a reading is indeed supported by a majority of Greek manuscripts, it is superior to the Received Text underlying the KJV. The natural result, of course, is to replace the supposedly inferior readings of the Received Text and the KJV with those of the Majority Text.

The problem with this whole matter has already been stated. The readers of the NKJV are not told that the basis for determining the majority readings contained in the footnotes is defective and insufficient.

The New King James Version and the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text actually are twin productions. This was true of the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament which was published the same year as the English Revised Version which was based on it Farstad was the general editor of the NKJV project. The Majority Greek New Testament is the text upon which the textual footnotes in the NKJV are based. Both works present a conscious goal toward the publication of a Greek text and English translation which will replace the Received Text and the KJV.

Jay Green

Jay Green, editor of the Interlinear Bible and author of many books on the Bible version issue, also promotes the "majority text" view. In the back of the Interlinear Bible there is a list of roughly 1,500 "majority text" readings which Green suggests should replace the Received Text. He introduces this lists with these words: "If the foregoing Received Text is modified by the following notes, it will then be in the closest possible agreement with the vast majority of all manuscripts. He says this even though he certainly knows that "the vast majority of all manuscripts" have never been collated, so that no one knows what they read in the various passages he cites.

It should be clear that the Majority Text view is quickly gaining influence and will continue to increase in influence as Bible students and Christians use The Majority Text and the NKJV.

Wilbur Pickering, Jakob Van Brugen, Zane Hodges, Arthur Farstad, Andrew Brown, Alfred Martin (a consulting editor of The Majority Text), and others associated with this idea carry much influence through their positions, teaching, and writings.

A few years ago there were only two basic camps in regard to Bible texts among evangelicals and fundamentalists. On one hand there were those who adopted the popular principles and texts produced from the line of the Westcott-Hort tradition. This text today takes the form of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. On the other hand were those who rejected this textual foundation as corrupt and retained the Received Text handed down through the Reformation era. Now there is the third, middle-of-the-road position being promoted by men such as those mentioned above. In this light, I see this majority text matter as another little trick of the devil to further muddy the waters surrounding the Bible text and version issues and to make those who follow the Received Text even more divided. it is not a strictly pure majority text that the Lord chose to preserve the past few (very important) centuries, but rather the modified form of the majority text as represented in that which underlies the KJV, German Luther Bible, etc. But now we have Peter Ruckman on one side with his strange spirit and odd, twisted ideas and on the other side those who want to correct the God-honored and preserved Textus Receptus by the so-called Majority text. Only the devil sows confusion, though he often is able to use even saved men for his evil deeds as he did Peter that sad day.

REASONS FOR REJECTING THE HODGES-FARSTAD MAJORITY TEXT

Let me mention four reasons I have become convinced that we should ignore the Hodges-Farstad Text as a faithful witness to the original writings of the New Testament:

1. THE HODGES-FARSTAD TEXT IS A MYTHICAL TEXT.

The Hodges-Farstad Greek New Testament claims to be a Majority Text, but this is simply a myth. The reason is simple: The extant Greek manuscripts have never been collated and examined in such a way that a majority text could be determined with any sufficient degree of certainty.

Upon how much arid what sort of manuscript evidence is the new Majority Text built? The Hodges-Farstad Text "is not based on any new collations of manuscripts, but is derived mainly from the labours of Von Soden earlier this century. Von Soden and his assistants collated some hundreds of manuscripts, and published the results in a massive critical edition. In his footnotes, Von Soden shows the majority text by the symbol K (short for Koine, or ‘common text’). However, at any given instance of this symbol, one can rarely be sure whether Von Soden consulted all his manuscripts at the passage in question, or consulted just a representative sample. And even where he does give figures, the resulting total does not constitute a majority of all the manuscripts which are now available" (TSB Quarterly Record, Number 482, page 15).

Further testimony to the insufficiency of Von Soden’s work is given by Wilbur Pickering:

Such has been the soporific effect of the W-H theory that the available evidence has not been evaluated, has not been assimilated. In Aland’s words, ‘the main problem of NT textual criticism lies in the fact that little more than their actual existence Is known of most of the manuscripts so far identified, and that therefore we constantly have problems with many unknowns to solve. We proceed as if the few manuscripts, which have been fully, or almost fully, studied, contained all the problems in question’ (Aland, "The Significance of the Papyri," pp. 330-1).

Further, much of the work that has been done is flawed. Thus, in his status report on The International Greek New Testament Project given to the Society of Biblical Literature on December 29, 1967, Colwell stated:

‘The preparation of a comprehensive textual apparatus has required attention to previous editions of the Greek NT, viz, Tischendorf, Tregelles, von Soden, Legg. Careful study showed that the textual evidence in these editions cannot be used in the IGNT apparatus, since they fail to cite witnesses completely, consistently, and in some cases accurately’ (E.C. Colwell, et al., "The International Greek New Testament Project: a Status Report," Journel of Biblical Literature, LXXXVI (1968), 192, note 13,).

This means that not only are we presently unable to specify the precise wording of the original text, but It will require considerable time and effort before we can be in a position to do so. And the longer it takes us to mobilize and coordinate our efforts the longer It will be (The Identity’ of the New Testament Text, Wilbur Pickering, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1977, 1980 revision, foreword by Zane Hodges, pages 149-150).

You can easily see, then, that the claim to be a majority text on the part of this Thomas Nelson publication is a myth, for no majority text exists and it is not possible at this time to make such a text. The largest project being conducted at present toward the collating and examination of existing Greek manuscripts is the work ongoing at The Institut fur neutestamentliche Textforschung in Munster, Germany. According to Wilbur Pickering, this institute has "a collection of microfilms of some 4,500 of the extant Greek MSS (around 80 percent of them), and scholars connected with the Institut are collating selected ones" (The Identity of the New Testament Text, 1980 edition, page 150).

It is obvious that even this project will fall far short of the goal of producing the material necessary to determine a pure and definitive majority text. Even though this institute has a vast number of manuscripts, Pickering notes that these represent only 80 percent of the total number known to be in existence. Also he noted that the scholars are collating only "selected ones" from the 4,500 they have at hand. Therefore, nowhere in the world is there an effort being made toward the collation and examination of all or even most extant Greek manuscripts. It is ridiculous, then, to talk about possessing a "Majority Text" based solely upon the collated manuscript evidence at hand.

What does all of this mean? If we are to believe those who are promoting a Majority Text over the God-honored Received Text, it follows that we do not yet have the pure Word of God anywhere on earth in a form which is usable to God’s people. The KJV and the text which underlies it is said by Majority Text supporters to be good, but not nearly perfect And yet those who are claiming that this is the case have nothing perfect to offer. They claim that the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text is more nearly perfect that the Received Text, but the textual basis upon which they correct the Received Text Is insufficient, as we shall see, and even this Text they admit is not perfect. The best they can do is hope that one day, through the use of computers, the project of collating all the manuscripts will be accomplished, then the perfect Text; the original Word of God, can be discovered by researchers:

But it is the availability of sophisticated computers and programs that seems to me to hold the key. It is now feasible to collate the MSS in Munster and set up a computer program such that we can find out anything we want to know about the interrelationship of the MSS. In this way it should be possible to identify and trace the pure stream of transmission of the text and to declare with confidence, based on objective criteria, the precise wording of the original text! It will take dedicated, competent men as well, as money--plenty of both--but will It not be worth it? May God burden His servants!

In terms of closeness to the original, the King James Version and the Textus Receptus have been the best available up to now. Thomas Nelson Publishers is sponsoring a forthcoming critical edition of the Traditional Text (Majority, "Byzantine") under the editorship of Zane Hodges, Arthur Farstad, and others which while not definitive will prove to be very close to the final product, I believe. In it we have an excellent interim Greek Text to use until the full and final story can be told. Although we might want to wait for the definitive text before proceeding to an authoritative revision of the AV, a careful job based on the interim Text would be an Improvement over both the AV and all the modem versions (The Identity of the New Testament Text, Wilbur Pickering, pages 149-150).

Friends, I am glad that the doctrine of Preservation of Scripture allows me to reject these ideas. I’m glad that we are not still wailing for the perfect Word of God to be dug out of the heap of manuscripts through computer technology. God stated in Psalm 12:6 that "the words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." In the very next verse we have the blessed promise that these pure words will be preserved forever "Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever" (Psalm 12:7). Some have made the charge that Psalm 12:7 cannot possibly refer to the preservation of Scripture, but if this is the case, why have so many great Bible scholars applied it to preservation? These include Michael Ayguan (in his early 15th century commentary on the Psalms), Martin Luther (in his German translation of 1524), John Calvin, Miles Coverdale (in his 1535 Bible), John Rogers (in the Matthew Bible of 1537), Richard Taverner (the Taverner Bible of 1539), the editors of the Geneva Bible of 1560, Henry Ainsworth (in his Annotations of 1626, Ainsworth was called the "Prince of Puritan commentators"), Matthew Poole (in his commentary of 1685), the translators of the King James Bible of 1611, John Wesley, Henry Martyn, and G. Campbell Morgan. Two of the greatest rabbinical Hebrew scholars used by Reformation era commentators, Kimshi and Ibn Ezra, differed on the interpretation of "them" in Psalm 12:7. The latter supported the view that "them" referred to God’s words. In light of such weighty evidence in support of using Psalm 12:7 as a promise of divine preservation, it is not reasonable to accept the claim by some scholars today that it has nothing to do with the same.

God has indeed preserved the Scripture through the generations. At that crucial hour in history when by the providence of God the printing press was invented and the Protestant Reformation had created the political and economic climate in which the Word of God could be carried to the ends of the earth, God raised up scholarly and godly men who received the pure text from their fathers and committed it into our hands.

Thus we have the Received Text which underlies the great Protestant Bibles and which was carried to the ends of the earth and translated into multitudes of tongues during the world missionary era of the past four centuries. I am glad that I have faith to believe that this God-honored Text was a pure text and that we do not have to wait for the Majority Text men to create the pure text with their computers.

2. THE HODGES-FARSTAD TEXT IS AN INSUFFICIENT TEXT.

The Hodges-Farstad Majority Text is insufficient in that it fails to cite sufficient textual evidence in determining which readings are the pure Word of God. In the Foreword to The Majority Text, the editors make the following sad statement:

The present edition does not cite the testimony [1] of the ancient versions or [2] church fathers. [3] Nor are the lectionary texts considered. This Is not because such sources have no value for textual criticism. Rather; it is due to the specific aims of this edition, in which the primary goal has been the presentation of the Majority Text as this appears in the regular manuscript tradition (The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, edited by Zane Hodges, published by Nelson, 1982, p. xviii).

At this point we will quote from Dr. DA Waite’s excellent pamphlet, Defects in the So-called "Majority Greek Text."

Completely to scuttle the testimony of [1] ancient versions, [2] church fathers quotations, and [3] the lectionaries In the laborious process of New Testament Textual Criticism Is not only to act foolishly and unwisely; not only to go In direct opposition to the sound principles of Dean John William Burgon [a scholarly Bible-believing textual critic of the 19th century]; but it is also to contradict the recommendations contained in another book published by the same publisher (Nelson) entitled The Identity of the New Testament Text by Wilbur N. Pickering (Nelson, 1977) with a foreword by none other than Zane C. Hodges! Which Nelson are we to believe? The 1977 Nelson, or the 1982 Nelson? Which Hodges are we to believe? The 1977 Hodges, or the 1982 Hodges? Has truth changed in just five years?

In 1896, Dean Burgon, in his Traditional Text of the Gospels (as edited by Edward Miller) outlined his "principles" of textual criticism (pages 19-39). The materials for this sacred science included [1] copies (page 21); [2] church lessons or lectionaries (page 22); [3] ancient versions (page 22); and [4] quotations of Scripture from the church fathers (page 22). Nothing was to be omitted from this process. Copies alone were not considered complete!

In 1977, Nelson published, Wilbur Pickering wrote, and Zane Hodges approved, by his foreword, the following words:

‘So then, how are we to identify the original wording? First we must gather the available evidence--this will Include [1] Greek mss. [2] (including lectionaries), [3] Fathers, and [4] versions. Then we must evaluate the evidence to ascertain which form of the text enjoys the earliest, the fullest, the widest, the most respectable, the most varied attestation’ (Identity of the New Testament Text, op. cit., 1977 edition, page 137).

What caused the change of mind?

What was left behind by the absolute omission of [1] ancient versions, [2] church fathers, and [3] lectionaries?

For the ancient versions, Hodges has left behind all the early translations from the Greek language made at a primitive time and later. For the Church Fathers, Hodges has left behind all 89,489 quotations or allusions to the New Testament made by them, as catalogued by Dean Burgon in his 16 folio volumes in the British Museum [Cf. Pickering, Identity of the New Testament Text, 1977 edition, page 66).

For the lectionaries, he has left behind all 2,143 of them which have a direct bearing on the text of the Greek New Testament.

For Hodges and Pickering, who both profess to follow the Dean Burgon approach to New Testament Criticism, this threefold elimination of vital evidence Is, In my candid opinion, high treason to the Burgon cause! (D.A. Waite, Defects in the So-called "Majority Greek Text, pp. 8-10).

I would add, and I am confident that Dr. Waite would agree, that this elimination of vital evidence is not only high treason to the Burgon cause; more importantly, it is high treason to the cause of the infallible, preserved Word of God. When men know that three major areas of evidence must be weighed in determining the correct reading of the Scriptures, and these same men produce texts and versions which ignore more than two thirds of this evidence, what are we to think? No matter what we think of the motives which lie behind such work, one thing can be certain.

There is no good reason to give the work of these men serious consideration. Their’s is indeed an insufficient text.

3. THE HODGES-FARSTAD TEXT IS A PROVISIONAL TEXT.

I have never wanted a provisional text of the Word of God! There are many people in the world, people who do not speak English, who do indeed have provisional translations. The only access to the Holy Scriptures these people have is a translation which was made from corrupted manuscripts, and a translation often that was made carelessly and by men who were not properly qualified for such a holy work. Theirs is no enviable position. I do not want a provisional Bible. And I praise God that I do not have a provisional Bible. The Bible I use in English has been tested for more than three centuries and has been loved by scholars and common people alike. A massive amount of Bible study tools and materials have been laboriously developed around this translation of the Scriptures--the King James Version. Consider Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Such a work does not exist in any language apart from English, and Strong did not give his earthly life to produce that work because of money. He was not hired by some wealthy Bible publishing firm, but did the work as a compulsion before God and as a labor of love. Would he have spent so many years of tedious work- before the days of computers! -on an exhaustive concordance for a translation he considered flawed? Of course not. Scholars of the highest qualification for centuries have had great confidence in the King James Bible. They did not consider it preliminary and provisional, but the mature fruit of many generations of revision work which began with William Tyndale’s remarkable translation. I do not want a provisional Bible, and I praise the Lord that by His providence I do not have one!

The Majority Text, though, is only provisional. This is admitted by the editors, Hodges and Farstad:

The editors do not imagine that the text of this edition represents In all particulars the exact form of the orlginals. Desirable as such a text certainly is, much further work must be done before it can be produced. It should therefore be kept in mind that the present work, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Is both preliminary and provisional. It represents a first step in the direction of recognizing the value and authority of the great mass of surviving Greek documents. The use made of those documents In this edition must be subjected to scrutiny and evaluation by competent scholars. Such scrutiny, If properly carried out, can result in further progress toward a Greek New Testament which most accurately reflects the inspired autographs (Introduction," page x, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Zane C. Hodges/Authur Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

The fact that this Majority Text is provisional is also acknowledged by Wilbur Pickering, a consulting editor for the work:

The critical edition of the ‘Byzantine’ text being prepared by Zane C. Hodges, Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at the Dallas Theological Seminary Arthur Farstad, and others, and to be published by Thomas Nelson, will differ from the Textus Receptus in over a thousand places.. ..Hodges ... WILL BE VERY HAPPY TO HEAR FROM ANYONE INTERESTED IN FURTHERING THE QUEST FOR THE DEFINITIVE TEXT [emphasis added] (The Identity of the New Testament Text, Wilbur N. Pickering, pages 212, 232-233).

Standing, as we are, at the end of the greatest period of world missionary activity history has witnessed, are we still searching for the definitive text of God’s Word! Was that Text which was carried throughout the world from 1600 to 1900 only a provisional text as we are led to believe by these quotes? I contend this is not the case. In fact, the very opposite is true.

While the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text is indeed a preliminary text (and always will be!), the Received Text which has been the missionary text for centuries is the infallible, preserved Word of God, a mature Text of the Original Scriptures.

4. THE HODGES-FARSTAD TEXT IS AN INCONSISTENT TEXT.

The Majority Text is inconsistent in several ways, but I will mention but two:

First, it is inconsistent in that it does not always follow its own majority principles.

Of the readings adopted in The Majority Text, 1240 "are shown in the footnotes as not having a clear overall majority of manuscripts in their favour. Further; In John 7:53-8:11 and Revelation . . . the editors have on a number of occasions adopted a reading found only in a minority of manuscripts" (Quarterly Record, Trinitarian Bible Society, No. 482, p.14).

We see, then, that even in the matter of the selection of readings, the majority principle is abandoned quite often in The Majority Text. This is a strange inconsistency.

Secondly, it is inconsistent in that some Westcott-Hort principles are employed even though the editors call these principles defective.

Here I will quote again from Dr. Waite’s pamphlet:

The Hodges "Majority Text" claims to be against the Westcott and Hart system, but adopts their "genealogical method." The editors write: "In this present edition, wherever genealogical considerations could not be invoked readings overwhelmingly attested among the manuscripts have been printed In the text" (p. xii).

What they mean Is that they do not really believe In their own so-called "Majority Text" position If the Westcott and Hart false concept of "genealogy" Is possible." This Is, again, hypocrisy on their part

The editors continued: "It is true, of course, that most modem textual critics have despaired of the possibility of using the genealogical method. Nonetheless this method remains the only logical one. If Westcott and Hort employed it poorly, it Is not for that reason to be abandoned" (p. xii)

Dean Burgon, In his book Revision Revised, pp. 253-257, discusses Westcott and Hart’s "Factor of genealogy." He wrote: "High time however is it to declare that, in strictness, all this talk about ‘genealogical evidence,’ when applied to Manuscripts Is-Moonshine. . . . And perforce all talk about ‘Genealogical evidence,’ where no single step in the descent can be produced--in other words, where no Genealogical evidence exists--is absurd" (op. cit., pp. 255-56).

Burgon uses the analogy of some bodies in a graveyard when he wrote: "The living inhabitants of a village, congregated in the churchyard where the bodies of their forgotten progenitors for 1000 years repose without memorials of any kind is a faint image of the relation which subsists between extant copies of the Gospels and the sources from which they were derived. That, in either case, there has been repeated mixture, is undeniable; but since the Parish-register is lost, and not a vestige of Tradition survives, it is idle to pretend to argue on that part of the subject" (op. cit., p. 256).

Even Wilbur Pickering, in his Identity of the New Testament Text (1977 edition, pp. 44-47), refutes this "genealogical method." And yet he is listed as a "consulting editor" to the Nelson "Majority Text" book. Their volume used the "genealogical method" In two places: (1) John 7:53-8:11; and (2) the book of Revelation (op. cit., p. xli). (Waite, Defects in the So-Called "Majority Greek Text," pp. 3-5).

Not only do the editors of The Majority Text employ the Westcott-Hort principle of genealogical method at times, but they also adopt the Westcott-Hort method of "intrinsic and transcriptional probability." Again we quote from Dr. Waite:

The editors stated: "Where K itself was sharply divided within an M reading, the rival variations were weighed both in terms of their distribution within the majority tradition as a whole and with regard to Intrinsic and transcriptional probabilities. Occasionally, a transcriptional consideration outweighs even a preponderance of contradictory testimony from K (op. cit., p. xxii).

Hort, in his The New Testament in the Original Greek--Introduction, p. 20, defines these two types of "probability" as follows: "Internal evidence of readings Is of two kinds, which cannot be to sharply distinguished from each other; appealing respectively to (1) intrinsic probability having reference to the author, and (2) what may be called transcriptional probability, having reference to the copyists.

In appealing to the first, we ask what copyists are likely to have made him seem to write" (op. cit., p. 20).

From Hort’s own definition of these terms, you can see clearly that they are entirely subjective and therefore based on the critic’s own guesswork, inductive leaps, and speculation! Again, I feel betrayed by the Hodges-Farstad-Nelson use of this enemy’s methodology! They have gone over to the other side once more! Again, it is high treason to the Burgon method! Even Hort admitted this type of method was far from objective.

He wrote: "But in dealing with this kind of evidence, equally competent critics often arrive at contradictory conclusions as to the same variations" (p. 21).

Dean John Burgon leveled his heavy guns on this idle speculation as follows: "So far from thinking with Dr. Hort that ‘the value of the evidence obtained from transcriptional probability is Incontestable,’--for that, ‘without Its aid, textual criticism could rarely obtain a high degree of security,’ (p. 24)--we venture to declare that inasmuch as one expert’s notions of what Is ‘transcriptionally probably’ prove to be the diametrical reverse of another expert’s notions, the supposed evidence to be derived from this source may, with advantage, be neglected altogether. Let the study of documentary evidence be allowed to take Its place. Notions of ‘probability’ are the very pest of those departments of Science which admit of an appeal to fact" (Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 252).

The Identity of the New Testament Text by Pickering, published by Nelson, with foreword by Hodges railed out also against this terrible menace of "intrinsic and transcriptional probability"! (Cf. op. cit., 1977 edition, pp. 77-79). Why then do Nelson and Hodges, in 1982, make use of this method?!

Pickering wrote of it: "No twentieth century man [including Hodges] confronting a set of variant readings can know or prove what actually took place to produce the variants" (op. cit., p. 78).

If it is a method so incapable of letting us "know" what took place or actually "proving" what took place to produce the variants, then how can the Hodges-Farstad-Nelson team, with a straight face and in the name of objective scholarship, make use of it? (Waite, Defects In the So-Called "Majority Greek Text," pp. 11-14).

The Hodges-Farstad Majority Text is seen as an inconsistent work. It claims to be an attempt to follow a purely Majority reading principle, but such is not true. Again, the claim is made by the editors that Westcott-Hort principles are rejected in this work, but the truth is that those very principles are employed in places. No man is perfect; no man is perfectly consistent. But such gross inconsistently in a work of this nature is inexcusable and is yet another major reason why God’s people should reject The Majority Text. In no sense does it represent an improvement over the Received Text.

In fact, it puzzles us why anyone would take this work seriously as an accurate representation of the preserved Word of God. It appears more as an intellectual exercise, an interesting diversion for those who for some strange reason are not satisfied with the preserved Word of God and yet are, for whatever motive, not inclined to follow the Nestle-Aland text.

As we said at the beginning of this study, The Majority Text is by no means as corrupted as the texts which follow the Westcott-Hort tradition. But corrupted it is, though to a lesser degree. It claims to be a preliminary step in the refining of the supposed imperfect Received Text. In truth, it is a step (or several steps) away from the preserved Word of God. The men who are leading in this are not modernists. They are not Bible-deniers. But this does not mean they are correct in their views. Actually, the very fact that the editors and consultants for The Majority Text are well-known men who profess to believe in biblical inerrancy, makes their work even more dangerous. It is much more difficult to convince God’s people of the error of good men that it is to convince them of the error of bad men!

Dr. Waite, in his summary of the topic at hand, makes an important point:

I see in this entire regression from the Dean John Burgon methodology once espoused by Zane C. Hodges indeed a sad spectacle. I remember how Hodges for years had a paper he entitled a defense of the ‘Textus Receptus.’ Then he changed the title to the ‘Majority Text.’ I have seen him move closer and closer to the former Westcott and Hort position of textual criticism. Now we have seen him use the genealogical method of the Hortian heretics. We have seen him being quite at home with the Intrinsic and transcriptional probability of these same heretics. Where will it all end? Is there no bottom? One of our DBS Vice Presidents, Dr. David Otis Fuller, uses the expression ‘scholarolatry.’ Is this what Hodges is guilty of now? (The Dean Burgon News, May-August, 1985, pages 2-4).