Dr. John Cereghin
One of the loudest and most
insistent criticisms of the Authorized Version of 1611, popularly known as the
King James Bible, is that its Greek Text, referred to as the Textus Receptus, is
inferior to "modern" Greek texts. The attack upon the Textus Receptus centers on
the one Dutch Reformation scholar responsible for publishing it, Desiderius
Erasmus. Erasmus published the first Greek New Testament in 1516 (first edition,
followed by four others) which was the foundation for our modern Textus
Receptus, which underlies the New Testament of the AV.
The assumption of the enemies of God's Word is that, if you can somehow discredit Erasmus or his Greek text, then you can discredit the AV. These men then level their guns at Erasmus, attacking him personally and his Greek text. Then they sit back in smug satisfaction in imagining they have accomplished their goal.
But have they? By no means! Their criticisms have been carefully examined and have been found to be wanting. Every one of their attacks upon Erasmus can be easily answered. Below is an essay I wrote to answer such criticisms that were forwarded to me by an AV opponent by the name of Rick Norris. He wrote me and asked me how I could support Erasmus and his Greek Text seeing he was a humanist, a Roman Catholic and that his text was hastily prepared and fraught with errors? I answered him with the facts that Erasmus was not a good Catholic but a Reformer at heart, that a Reformation humanist was nothing like a modern humanist and his Greek text was a product of careful scholarship and was edited over a 20-year period. I grew weary at the continual stream of propaganda against Erasmus and his Greek text by these men so I decided to do my own research to answer my questions on this matter.
To help you answer these men whose "high calling" is trying to discredit the English Bible, we offer the following replies to the most common attacks based on Erasmus. These attacks are:
These are the standard accusations. Below is the refutation. If you have any additional information or if you spot a mistake, please let me know. My address is c/o Maryland Baptist Bible College, P.O. Box 66, Elkton MD 21922.
1. This material that I will
present is by no means new. It is easily and readily available. Yet critics of
the TR/AV choose to ignore it and rather parrot old and recycled arguments that
they get from each other instead of relying on new research. Examples abound,
from the writings of John R. Rice to Robert Sumner's booklet Bible
Translations and others. A very recent example is cited by David Cloud
in O Timothy, volume 12, issue 6, on pages 19 and 20. Cloud
reviews an article published by Bob Jones University in their Biblical
Viewpoint (Nov. 1994) by S. E. Schnaiter, in which he simply rehashes
arguments he got from someone else. Schnaiter claims that Dean Burgon was not
very scholarly in his defense of the AV, that the differences between the
majority and minority texts are small and unimportant and that Erasmus edited
his Greek text in "great haste" from manuscripts "he happened to have on hand."
Now I assume that Schnaiter is no fool, for he could have used the vast BJU
library to consult the same books I did. Rather, this material is overlooked and
suppressed by enemies of the AV. I would even go as far as to say "conspiracy"
and "cover-up." Why do these men ignore and refuse to present this material? If
I can find this material, why can't they?
The inference is the TR and hence its subsequent translations are Roman Catholic. Yet the truth is that Erasmus may have been a professing Catholic but was not a practicing Catholic. Was Erasmus a Catholic? Yes, but so was everyone else [except the Baptistic Waldensians (see Question #16)] in this day. Erasmus was clearly a Reformer at heart. Erasmus constantly criticized the doctrinal and practical errors of Rome and its Bible, the Latin Vulgate, which he rejected. Martin Luther, an anti-Romanist, used Erasmus to translate his German New Testament. Would Luther have used a Roman Catholic text to translate a Protestant Bible? Erasmus died among Protestant friends, outside of the Catholic Church. (1)
If Erasmus was so "Catholic" and his text so "Catholic," then who were the enemies of the Roman church? And why was Erasmus' manuscript never adopted by Rome? Why did Luther refer to Erasmus' second edition as "my wife" if Erasmus was so Catholic? (2) Erasmus Greek New Testament was placed on Rome's Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Trent, which meant that it is forbidden for Catholics to even read it without approval from their bishop upon pain of mortal sin. (3)
A Catholic writer, Hugh Pope, under an official Roman Catholic imprimatur and nihil obstat, says Erasmus was a heretic from Rome. He scoffed at images, relics, pilgrimages and Good Friday observances. Pope suggested Erasmus had serious doubts about every article of Catholic faith: the mass, confession, the primacy of the Apostolic See, clerical celibacy, fasting, transubstantiation and abstinence. (4) He also ridiculed invocation of the saints, reverence for relics and prayers to Mary. There was scarcely any superstition or abuse in the Roman Church that Erasmus did not denounce. (5) It is obvious then that Rome certainly has no desire to claim Erasmus. Erasmus was also a vocal opponent of Roman scholastic theology and of the ignorance of the monks. (6) Thus, AV critic, Doug Kutilek, is incorrect when he says "Erasmus did not disapprove of Roman Catholic doctrine." (7) To speak then of the "Roman Catholic Erasmus" and to try to paint him as a loyal Romanist is to speak against the facts and slander Erasmus' name.
Hugh Pope continues regarding Erasmus and Rome: "He seemed to take pleasure in suggesting doubts about almost every article of Catholic teaching . . . Small wonder then that he came to be regarded as the man who paved the way for the Reformation . . ." (8)
The Pope offered to make Erasmus a cardinal but he refused (as did the martyr Savanarola), saying he would not compromise his conscience. (9) Erasmus was committed to putting the Bible into the hands of the common man and for the worldwide translation of the Bible, something no pope ever supported. (10) David Cloud maintains, "It is a historical fact that Erasmus was strong and public in his condemnation of Catholic heresies . . . Rome did brand him as an 'impious heretic' and the Pope forbade Catholics to read his works." (11) "Bigoted Catholics," according to Philip Schaff, reviled him as "Errasmus" because of his errors; "Arasmus" because he plowed up old truths and traditions; and "Erasinus" because he made an *** of himself by his writings. They even called him "Behemoth" and "Antichrist." The Sorbonne condemned 37 articles extracted from his writings in 1527. His books were burned in Spain and long after his death. (12)
The Roman Catholic Diego Lopez Zuniga wrote a 54 page essay against Erasmus entitled Erasmi Roterodami blasphemiae et impietates (The Blasphemies and Impieties of Erasmus of Rotterdam) in 1522. How say ye then that Erasmus was a Roman Catholic? Somebody in Rome didn’t think too highly of Erasmus!
This quote from The Life and Letters of Erasmus, edited by J. A. Froude, also demonstrates the animosity between Erasmus and Rome:
"Erasmus had undertaken to give the book to the whole world to read for itself -- the original Greek of the Epistles and Gospel, with a new Latin Translation -- to wake up the intelligence, to show that the words had a real sense . . . It was finished at last, text and translation printed, and the living facts of Christianity, the persons of Christ and the Apostles, their history, their lives, their teachings were revealed to an astonished world. For the first time the laity were able to see, side by side, the Christianity which converted the world, and the Christianity of the Church with a Borgia pope, cardinal princes, ecclesiastical courts, and a mythology of lies. The effect was to be a spiritual earthquake. Erasmus opens with a complaint of the neglect of Scripture (in his preface and notes to each gospel), of a priesthood who thought more of offertory plates than of parchments, and more of gold than of books: of the degradation of spiritual life, and of the vain observances and scandalous practices of the orders specially called religious . . .
"His comments on Mathew 23:27 (on whited sepulchres): 'What would Jerome say could he see the Virgin's milk exhibited for money . . . the miraculous oil; the portions of the true cross, enough if they were collected to freight a later ship? Here we have the hood of St. Francis, there Our Lady's petticoat, or St. Anne's comb, or St. Thomas of Canterbury's shoes . . . and all through the avarice of priests and the hypocrisy of monks playing on the credulity of the people. Even bishops play their parts in these fantastic shows, and approve and dwell on them in their rescripts. (13)
"His comments on Matthew 24:23 (on Lo, here is Christ or there): 'I saw with my own eyes Pope Julius II, at Bologna, and afterwards at Rome, marching at the head of a triumphal procession as if he were Pompey or Caesar. St. Peter subdued the world with faith, not with arms or soldiers or military engines . . .'
"His comments on I Corinthians 14:19 (on unknown tongues): 'They chant nowadays in our churches in what is an unknown tongue and nothing else, while you will not hear a sermon once in six months telling people to amend their lives . . .'
"His comments on I Timothy 3:2 (on the husband of one wife): 'Other qualifications are laid down by St. Paul as required for a bishop's office, a long list of them. But not one at present is held essential, except this one of abstinence from marriage. Homicide, parricide, incest, piracy, sodomy, sacrilege, these can be got over, but marriage is fatal. There are priests now in vast numbers, enormous herds of them, seculars and regulars, and it is notorious that very few of them are chaste. The great proportion fall into lust and incest, and open profligacy.'
"Such are extracts from the reflections upon the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church which were launched upon the world in the notes of the New Testament by Erasmus, some on the first publication, some added as edition followed edition . . . They were deliberate accusations attached to the sacred text, where the religion which was taught by Christ and the Apostles and the degenerate superstition which had taken its place could be contrasted side by side. Nothing was spared; ritual and ceremony, dogmatic theology . . . bishops, seculars, monks were dragged out to judgment, and hung as on a public gibbet, in the light of the pages of the most sacred of all books, published with the leave and approbation of the Pope himself . . . The clergy's skins were tender from long impunity. They shrieked from pulpit and platform . . ." (14)
A.T. Robertson calls these anti-Roman notes in Erasmus text "caustic" and they raised the ire of the priests. (15) The priests saw the danger and instead of attacking the Greek Testament and its translation, they attacked Erasmus! Since they couldn't answer him theologically or critically, they had to resort to their last gasp -- personal attack and insult of Erasmus.
Edward Lee, a staunch papist and later Archbishop of York, organized a league of Englishmen to oppose Erasmus. (16) Erasmus literally had the firebrands of hell and Rome hurled at him. They absolutely hated him because he had dared tamper with the Vulgate.
Erasmus was relatively orthodox in his doctrine, including his soteriology. He wrote in his Treatise on Preparation for Death:
"We are assured of victory over death, victory over the flesh, victory over the world and Satan. Christ promises us remission of sins, fruits in this life a hundredfold and therefore life eternal. And for what reason? For the sake of our merit? No indeed, but through the grace of faith which is in Christ Jesus . . . Christ is our justification . . . I believe there are many not absolved by the priest, not having taken the Eucharist, not having been anointed, not having received Christian burial who rest in peace, while many who have had all the rites of the Church and have been buried next to the altar have gone to hell . . . Flee to His wounds and you will be safe." (17)
How "Catholic" is this? A good Catholic would tell you to flee to Mary, the mass or the sacraments, in the hour of death.
Philip Schaff, who was a closet-Catholic, calls Erasmus a "forerunner of the Reformation." He said that Protestants owed Erasmus a debt of gratitude for enabling Luther and Tyndale to make their translations. (18)
Frank Logsdon, who renounced his organizational work on the New American Standard Version, said "How could you speak against a man, claiming that he is a Roman, when he turned down the offer of a cardinalship and campaigned against monasticism, against the liturgy of the Catholic Church, and was detested by the Catholic people? Do you know one of the reasons the Jesuits came into being under Loyola? Their main project was to supplant the Erasmus text . . . Their whole aim . . . is to destroy the Erasmus text, and the Authorized Version, of course, came from the Erasmus text." (19)
Like most other Reformers, Erasmus desired to reform the Church from within. He did not desire to leave the Church. In this, his desire was similar to Luther. Erasmus never did officially leave the Church, desiring to reform it from within, but it cannot be denied that he was not a Romanist at heart.
Staunch Catholics were given to refer to Erasmus as a Lutheran at heart. They considered him and his works subversive. While Erasmus was not a Lutheran, there can be no serious or honest doubt that he was in sympathy with the main points of the Lutheran criticism of the Church. Melanchthon, Luther's right hand man, was quoted once as saying, "Erasmus nobiscum est," or "Erasmus is with us." (20)
Michael Maynard, in his work A History of the Debate Over I John 5:7-8, sees a possible motivation for the spread of the lie and slander about Erasmus being a "good Catholic:"
"The motive behind this . . . view of Erasmus being a 'good Catholic' appears to be an attempt to retaliate (by the editors of the United Bible Society text editors, including the Jesuit Carlo Martini on its editorial board). Since its advocates (of the UBS text) can justify neither the recent (1968) inclusion of the Jesuit Carlo Martini, on the UBS editorial committee, nor their reliance on ecumenical institutes, nor Roman Catholic involvement in UBS translations, they instead attempt to create the impression of a Catholic origin of the printed Received Text . . . Meanwhile, Received Text advocates are still waiting for the fundamentalists minority text advocates to explain why they trust four liberals and a Jesuit, who is in line to become the next pope, with the identity of the New Testament." (21)
The hypocrisy of the UBS defenders (who are anti-TR and AV) then becomes clear. In an attempt to justify their reliance on the work of Jesuit Martini, they try to create a Romanist Erasmus. Their thinking is, "If you can rely on the Catholic Erasmus and his work, then we are allowed to support the work of this Jesuit Martini!" But since Erasmus was a "bad Catholic" at best, their alibi falls flat.
Yet we do recognize that Erasmus never formally left the church. He was a Puritan within Rome rather than a pilgrim from it. He was an enigma. You cannot place him in any niche. David Cloud was quite accurate when he refers to him as "Mr. Facing-Both-Ways." (22) We do not try to turn him into some sort of "saint" that he might not have been. Our desire is simply to present a more balanced picture of his work. We do not seek to justify his outward neutrality nor his person. We are more interested in justifying his Greek text.
Didn’t Erasmus dedicate his Greek text to the pope?
Erasmus did dedicate his first edition Greek New Testament to Pope Leo X, but as a patron of learning and not on a theological basis. (1)
Leo also had done numerous favors for Erasmus, such as freeing him from his monastic vows and removing the disabilities of his bastardy. This Erasmus never forgot. (2)
In this day, it would have been nearly hopeless to think that a Bible or a Greek text could be accepted without the approval of the pope. Another reason why Erasmus dedicated his text to the pope was so that it would be accepted. (3)
Was Erasmus qualified to edit a Greek Text? Wasn't his Greek education substandard?
There are also attacks upon Erasmus' education and preparation. Without a doubt, Erasmus was the most brilliant of the Reformation-era scholars. Every king wanted him in his court for the intellectual prestige he would bring. Yet charges abound that Erasmus was not very proficient in the Greek. This is not true for Erasmus had the best Greek education that could be had in 16th century Europe. He spent most of 1506 improving his Greek with study in Bologna, Rome, Florence and Padua under the best Greek teacher of the day. (1) In 1505, he edited Valla's Annotations on the New Testament. Some of his Greek learning may have been individual, but not all of it. It is difficult to imagine a man of Erasmus' talents and scholarship, who was dedicated to a study of the Greek classics, being deficient in his knowledge of Greek!
Another attack against Erasmus was that he was not proficient in Hebrew. But this is an unimportant point. Why would he need to be when the was interested in Greek and Latin classics and New Testament manuscripts? Erasmus never tried to translate the Old Testament, so why would he need to study Hebrew?
Wasn't Erasmus' Greek text "hastily prepared" and "fraught with errors?"
The main complaint against Erasmus' Greek text is that it was prepared "hastily" and that he had only a few late manuscripts to work with. Again, these statements need to be clarified. His first edition was done hastily, but not because Erasmus was careless in his work, but because he had to meet the deadline established by his publisher. (1) He finished the work in about a year, which is a testament to his vast scholarship in that he was able to complete such a project in so short a time.
If Erasmus' first Greek edition was done in haste, the four later editions were not! Erasmus spent the rest of his life (20 years) editing, revising and correcting that "hastily done" first edition. Besides, most first editions have printer's errors and mistakes in them that are corrected in later editions. The errors in Erasmus' first edition were of a minor nature anyway. (2)
Yet on his "errors," Erasmus wrote "I did my best with the New Testament, but it provoked endless quarrels. Edward Lee (Archbishop of York) pretended to have discovered 300 errors. They appointed a commission, which professed to have found bushels of them. Every dinner table rang with the blunders of Erasmus. I required particulars and could not have them." (3)
The point is the first edition may have been somewhat careless, but so what? Nobody used that first edition for any translation purposes and nothing was translated from that first edition. Luther used a corrected and improved second edition to translate his German New Testament, not the first. Let the enemies of the AV name one translation of any importance that was based solely on the first edition of Erasmus.
The Stephanus text, translated by Robert Estienne (Stephanus), third edition, which is part of the TR/AV stream, was translated from Erasmus' 4th and 5h editions, not the first.
Theodore Beza produced 9 editions of the Greek New Testament between 1565 and 1604. The most important are the 1565, 1582, 1588-9 and 1598 editions. Beza's texts differ little from Stephanus' 4th edition of 1551. The AV translators made large use of Beza's editions 1588-9 and 1598. In 1624, the Elzevir brothers published a text based on Beza's 1565 edition. (4)
We thus agree with Dean Burgon, who says, "to describe the haste with which Erasmus produced the first published edition of the NT, to make sport about the copies which he employed, all this kind of thing is the preceding of one who seeks to mislead his readers to throw dust in their eyes, to divert their attention from the problems actually before them." (5) The AV is not affected by that first edition at all. To whine about the first edition and then try to somehow tie the AV in with it is dishonest scholarship and a smokescreen in an attempt to obscure the facts.
Question # 5
Did Erasmus have access to modern manuscripts as did modern translators? If he did, did he make use of them?
Erasmus had access to most of the same set of manuscripts as did modern translators with the obvious exception of Codex Sinaiticus, which was not rescued from the trash can at St. Catherine's monastery until the mid-19th century.
Robert Sumner, an opponent of the AV, is only partially correct when he states, "Erasmus himself had no knowledge of the Alexandrian manuscripts. The Sinaiticus was not discovered at the monastery of St. Catherine's on Mt Sinai until the mid 19th century (that's true, although Erasmus certainly had access to the Sinaitic-type readings) and the Vaticanus, while in the Vatican library at Rome since about the 15th century, was not available for use by outsiders until the dawn of the 20th century." (1) That's false!
Erasmus did have access to Codex B readings (2) and rejected them because he knew how corrupt they were. After all, B is the Pope's manuscript, and since Erasmus was anti-Catholic, he rejected it. Paulus Bombasius discovered the neglected Codex B in the Vatican library in 1521 and in June of that year sent Erasmus its readings from I John 4:1-3 and I John 5:7. (3)
These same readings of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were very much before the scholars in the 1611 AV as represented in the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus was a personal friend of Leo X (from his earlier days) and had access to every library in Europe (because of his reputation as a scholar), including the Vatican. Erasmus had access to Vaticanus if he wanted it. He didn't need the manuscript itself because Paulus Bombasius, who was in Rome, was sending him B readings. (4) Its readings were then known as early as the 17th century. Sumner is just plain wrong to say that no one had access to B before the 20th century.
Erasmus was furnished with 365 readings of B by Sepulveda, who was in possession of them as early as 1521. (5) Frederick Kenyon points out that the preface and dedication to Ximenes' text state that the text was derived from manuscripts loaned by Leo X from the Vatican library. (6) If Ximenes has these manuscripts made available to him, then certainly must have Erasmus (especially if he was such a "good Catholic" as his enemies claim!)
Again! The controversy over I John 5:7 forced an appeal to Codex B in 1522! (7) So what does Sumner mean when he said no one had access to it at this time? How could it be introduced into a 1522 controversy over I John 5:7 unless people knew of its readings? When Cardinal Ximenes was preparing his Greek New Testament in the mid-1510's, he had access to Codex B. If he had such access then so certainly must have Erasmus. (8)
The AV 1611 translators also had the readings of Codex B before them and rejected them as did Erasmus. Neither was ignorant of them. Erasmus also had access to Codex D, Codex Bezae but also rejected it. The AV translators also had these variant readings and rejected them.
In 1675, John Fell put out a Greek text based on the Elzevir 1633 text with variant readings for Codex B. (9) If "no one had access to Codex B until the 20th century," as Sumner wrongly insists, how did Fell get his B readings?
Was Erasmus familiar with the critical problems and the variant readings in the manuscripts?
Yes, Erasmus was very well informed concerning the variant readings. Erasmus, in his writings and research, dealt with such problem passages as:
Through his study of Jerome and other Fathers, Erasmus was well-versed in the variant readings. (4) He edited and published works of Jerome, Cyprian, Pseudo-Arnobius, Hilarius, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil and Origen (5) showing he would have been familiar with their Scriptural quotations. In 1505, he edited Valla's Annotations on the New Testament, which was a pioneer work for Biblical criticism."
What about Erasmus' spiritual state? Was he a spiritual man?
Erasmus never recorded any profound religious convictions or experience in his own life. (1) Luther saw the weakness and spiritual poverty of Erasmus, but this remark may have been influenced by Luther's opposition to Erasmus' position on the free will of man, over which Luther bitterly attacked Erasmus. (2) But some of Erasmus' writings are highly spiritual. Tyndale thought much of his Enchiridon (Manual of a Christian Soldier) and translated it into English. Enchiridon was a short, handy, Scripture-based call to Christian morality in lay people that was moderately critical of practices of the Church. Tyndale also thought much of Erasmus' Treatise on Preparation for Death. (3)
Erasmus did write an interesting passage in the Preface to his Greek Testament which shows a reverence and love for Scripture that surpasses the average textual critic:
"These holy pages will summon up the living image of His mind. They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word; they will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you if He stood before your eyes." (4)
This passage again reveals the anti-Romanism of Erasmus. No Romanist looks for Christ in the Scriptures. They look for Him in the sacraments or in the rituals of the Church. No Romanist has a high love for Scripture, but Erasmus clearly did.
Wasn't Erasmus a humanist?
Here is a major attack and a very deceptive one. Was he a humanist? Not by our standards but, in Renaissance meaning, was simply one who studied the classics, classical culture and education. Andrew Brown, of the Trinitarian Bible Society, gives the proper definition of a humanist in this context:
"Erasmus was a thoroughgoing 'Christian humanist' from his youth to his death. The use of the word 'humanist' in the Renaissance and Reformation period does not in any way share the atheistic connotations which that word now has in popular usage. A 'humanist' in that period was simply someone who was interested in classical literature, culture and education, as a means of attaining a higher standard of civilized life. Stephanus, Calvin and Beza were all humanists in this sense, and it is these 'humanist' ideals which have largely shaped Western culture in the succeeding centuries, blended with the teachings of the Christian Gospel." (1)
There is nothing wrong with this kind of humanism! Edward Hills also defines Renaissance humanism:
"The humanistic view was well represented by the writings of Laurentius Valla (1405-57), a famous scholar of the Italian renaissance. Valla emphasized the importance of language. According to him the decline of civilization in the dark ages was due to the decay of the Greek and Latin languages. Hence, it was only though the study of classical literature that the glories of ancient Greece and Rome could be recaptured. Valla also wrote a treatise on the Latin Vulgate, comparing it with certain Greek New Testament manuscripts which he had in his possession. Erasmus, who from his youth had been an admirer of Valla, found a manuscript of Valla's treatise in 1504 and had it printed the following year. In this work, Valla favored the Greek New Testament over the Vulgate. The Latin text often differed from the Greek, he reported. Also, there were omissions and additions in the Latin translation, and the Greek wording was generally better than that of the Latin." (2)
DeLamar Jensen, in his Reformation Europe, defines Christian humanism as "emphasizing historical study and a 'return to sources,' meaning the Bible. They placed more devotion to Scripture than did the Italian humanists." (3)
Renaissance humanism was decidedly anti-Romanist. Europe was still emerging from the Satanic millennium (500-1500) in which Rome ruled Europe with an iron hand. Culture and education had suffered under Rome and the humanists were dedicated to reviving them.
What translations used the Erasmus text?
Translations from Erasmus:
Why did Erasmus reject the Vulgate?
That Erasmus rejected the Vulgate is a historical fact. There are several reasons why he rejected it. He detected the 4th century corruption of the Alexandrian manuscripts on which the Vulgate was based, including the Vaticanus. He also opposed the obvious Roman bias in the translation of various passages. (1)
To oppose the Vulgate was a very un-Romanist thing to do in this day. "To question the fidelity of the Vulgate was a crime of the greatest magnitude in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church." (2) A good Catholic of the Reformation era would not have dared to question or tinker with the Vulgate, but Erasmus, the "bad Catholic" did and was condemned for it.
How many editions did Erasmus' Greek text go through?
I. First Edition -- 1516
II. Second Edition -- 1519
1. Codex Aureus loaned to him by the King of Hungary
2. Two manuscripts from the Austin Priory of Corsidonk
3. A Greek manuscript borrowed from the Monastery at Mt. Saint Agnes. (3)
D. Luther used his second edition for his New Testament, although not exclusively.
III. Third Edition -- 1522
A. Included I John 5:7, due to P61
B. Used by Tyndale
C. The basis for Stephanus' First Edition of 1546.
IV. Fourth Edition -- 1527
V. Fifth Edition -- 1535
Didn't Erasmus only have a few late manuscripts to work with?
The usual complaint, voice by Doug Kutilek, an opponent of the AV, goes something like this: "Erasmus had the feeblest of manuscripts. He chiefly used one manuscript from the Gospels from the 12th century, and one manuscript of Acts and the Epistles also from the 12th century . . . It was hastily produced . . . There is no ground whatsoever for accepting the Textus Receptus as the ultimate in precisely representing the original text of the New Testament . . . It was in fact the most rudimentary and rustic, at best only a provisional text . . . The Greek texts of Griesbach, Tregelles, Tischendorf, Alford and Westcott and Hort were . . . a great improvement over the text of Erasmus because they more accurately presented the text of the New Testament in the form it came from the pens of the apostles." (1) This is very inaccurate and misleading.
What of the manuscripts he used? Erasmus was ever at work, ever collecting, comparing, publishing. He classified the Greek manuscripts and read the Fathers. By his travels he was brought into contact with all the intellectual currents of his time. (2) He looked for manuscripts everywhere during his travels and he borrowed them from everyone he could. His text was mainly based on the Basel manuscripts, but included readings from others to which he had access. He had collated many Greek manuscripts of the NT and was surrounded by all the commentaries and translations by the writings of Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyril, Jerome and Augustine. (3) Erasmus had access to Codex Vaticanus, but rejected its readings that were at variance with the Byzantine text. He also had access to D, Codex Bezae, but also rejected it. (4) The AV translators also had these variant readings and rejected them. (5) The readings of these much boasted manuscripts recently made available are largely those of the Vulgate. The Reformers knew of these readings and rejected them, as well as the Vulgate. (6) The pedigree of Erasmus' "late minuscule manuscripts" thus date back to antiquity. (7) The text Erasmus chose had an outstanding history in the Greek, Syrian and Waldensian churches. (8)
The texts used by Erasmus for his first edition:
Erasmus mainly used 2 and 2ap, occasionally used 1 and 4ap. (11) Erasmus may have had as many as 10 manuscripts at his disposal, 4 from England, 5 at Basle and one loaned to him by John Reuchlin. (12)
Thomas Strouse mentions that the earliest of his manuscripts went back to the 5th century, "advisedly." (13) Bishop Charles John Ellicott, Chairman of the Revision Committee, said about the Received Text:
"The manuscripts which Erasmus used differ, for the most part, only in small and insignificant details from the bulk of the cursive manuscripts. The general character of their text is the same. By this observation the pedigree of the Received Text is carried up beyond the individual manuscripts used by Erasmus . . . That pedigree stretches back to remote antiquity. The first ancestor of the Received Text was at least contemporary with the oldest of our extant manuscripts, if not older than any one of them." (14)
So the question is not, "How old were those manuscripts that Erasmus used?" but rather whether those "late manuscripts" accurately preserve the originals. We state the Erasmus manuscripts were part of that Traditional stream of manuscripts that have always been accepted by God's people. The age of the individual manuscripts is not important, but rather their accuracy in preserving the older manuscripts which contained the very Word of God.
Did Erasmus do any other translation work?
Yes. In 1505, he made his own Latin translation of the New Testament while at Oxford. (1) In 1524, he published paraphrases and comments on the gospels and epistles which were widely received. (2)
Why did Erasmus insert I John 5:7,8 into his text? Is there sufficient manuscript evidence to support it?
Yes, there is overwhelming evidence for it. We may say indeed that if anyone doubts whether I John 5:7,8 belongs in Scripture, thy are wholly ignorant of the textual support in favor of it. First John 5:7,8 is an integral part of Scripture.
The earliest references to it would be Tertullian (160-230), Cyprian (200-258), Priscillian (d. 385), Cassiodorus (480-570), Augustine (5th century), Athanasius (4th century) and Jerome (4th century). (1) It appears in the Vulgate. (2) It also appears in Manuscript 61 and Codex Ravianus. Stephanus found it in 9 of his 16 manuscripts. (3)
Its attack and deletion from some manuscripts no doubt arises from the heresies in the early church, especially Arians. Those who oppose the inclusion of I John 5:7 are supporting the Unitarians and Jehovah Witnesses while ignoring the overwhelming mass of manuscript evidence.
Erasmus' role in the debate over these verses had been distorted by enemies of the AV. The standard position that liberals assume reads something as follows, given by AV-critic James White:
"When the first edition of Erasmus' work came out in 1516 . . . (I John 5:7,8) was not in the text for a very simple reason: it was not found in any Greek manuscript of I John that Erasmus had examined. Instead, the phrase was found only in the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus rightly did not include it in the first or second editions. The note in the Annotations simply said, 'In the Greek codex I find only this about the threefold testimony: 'because there are three witnesses, spirit, water and blood.' ' His reliance upon the Greek manuscripts caused quite a stir . . . Since Erasmus had promised, in his response to Edward Lee, to include the passage should a Greek manuscript be found that contained it, he was constrained to insert the phrase in the third edition when presented with an Irish manuscript that contained the disputed phrase." (4)
This is furthered by Stewart Custer of Bob Jones University:
"Now Erasmus made a rash promise. He said, 'If you can show me a Greek manuscript that has the text in it, I will print it there' . . . They went back and summoned their scribes and got them to translate the Latin Vulgate into Greek and put that verse in. (It) came right back to him. The ink was hardly dry on the manuscript . . . those two manuscripts are 61 . . . the date is 16th century, the time of Erasmus. The other one is 629 . . . Those are the only two manuscripts out of those 5000 that have verse 7 in it . . . Told him frankly that if he didn't put that verse in, they'd excommunicate him. He, being a good Roman Catholic, put it in." (5)
Both White and Custer are in error! Now for the facts:
Why did Erasmus insert some Vulgate readings into his text?
This was done because those readings simply happened to be the correct reading. As corrupt as the Vulgate is, it is not entirely correct. Occasionally it is correct. Edward Hills lists the major Vulgate readings in the Erasmus text as:
1. Matthew 10:8
2. Matthew 27:35
3. John 3:25
4. Acts 8:37
5. Acts 9:5,6
6. Acts 20:28
7. Romans 16:25-27
8. I John 5:7 (1)
This fact is not as damaging as it may sound. These Vulgate readings do not make the TR a Catholic manuscript. After all, the modern Catholic translations (such as the Jerusalem Bible or the New American Bible) often agree with the Authorized Version. Does this make those Catholic translations Protestant? Does it make the AV a Catholic Bible? Of course not. Generally speaking, the various translations will agree among themselves more often than not. The issue is over the places where they disagree against the AV!
What was Erasmus' attitude toward the Anabaptists, Bohemian Brethren and other Reformation-age Baptistic groups?
Erasmus was a supporter of the Anabaptists, the forerunners of the modern Baptists, who were savagely persecuted by both Catholic and Protestants. (1)
Erasmus was also a supporter of the doctrines and practices of the Bohemian Brethren. They gave Erasmus a copy of their Apologia, or defense of their articles of faith in 1507, and requested that he read it through and give his comments. Erasmus said he saw no error in their doctrines. Erasmus did not come out in public with his support of the Brethren because he feared the consequences. (2)
Editor's Note: Robert Sargent's response to this question is at variance with a number of Erasmus' letters regarding the Anabaptists published in J.A. Froude's Life and Letters of Erasmus (1894). Footnote #1 states: "Gipp, p. 152 and Maynard, p. 86, where he quotes a letter from Erasmus where he professed to have the "highest respect" for the Anabaptists." However, Michael Maynard's volume, A History of the Debate Over I John 5:7-8, appears to mistranslate Erasmus letter dated April 1, 1529 which states:
"This sect (he says) is peculiarly obnoxious because they teach community of goods and will not obey magistrates. They have no churches. They do not aim at power, and do not resist when arrested. They are said to be moral in their conduct, if anything can be moral with so corrupt a faith." (Froude, p.366)
Elsewhere in J.A. Froude's volume, which predates Roland Bainton's Erasmus of Christendom cited by Gipp, are found references to the Anabaptists from the letters of Erasmus:
"Anabaptists must not be tolerated. The Apostles bade their people obey the magistrates, though the magistrates were heathens. Anabaptists will not obey even Christian princes. Community of goods is a chimera. Charity is a duty, but property must be upheld." (Froude, pp. 344-45)
"Lower Germany swarms with Anabaptists; Munster, as you know, is taken; but there has been a dangerous riot in Amsterdam... Munster is taken and the insurgents punished. The Anabaptists are crowding in hither from Holland. I am glad that the Emperor is doing well, wherever he may be; but I wish he had stayed in Germany and saved us from these creatures. These Anabaptists are no joke. They go to work with sword in hand, seize towns, drive their creed down people's throats, set up new kings and queens, and make their own laws. Last winter there were troubles in Paris. Bills were posted threatening the King for persecuting what they called the Word of God. Four-and-twenty of the authors of these writings were executed. Many of the nobles fled. The king has recalled them, and promised them liberty of conscience if they will leave politics alone. Some say he was advised to be moderate by the King of England and by the Pope." (Froude, pp. 428-30)
Please see the Watch Unto Prayer report on he Semitic New Testament: Part II, which deals with the misrepresentation by fundamentalist scholars of gnostic sects such as the Valdenses, Anabaptists, Cathars, Albigenses and the Bogomiles.
Our faith in the superiority of the Textus Receptus and the Authorized Version remains intact and unshaken. We remain confident that our position for these traditional manuscripts is correct and is the true historical position that ought to be taken. The enemies of the AV have been unable to validate their charges and complaints against the AV and the TR.
Let is be understood that we are fully aware of the problems of Erasmus. He was not perfect. Were he alive today, he probably would not be classified as a "Bible-believing Fundamentalist." But we are more interested in his work, his texts and his contribution to Biblical preservation through his Greek text.
Another Bible, Another Gospel
Tables of Comparison of Selected Scriptures
The Semitic New Testament
Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1987, translated by Erroll Rhodes.
Ronald Bainton, Erasmus of Christendom, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
David Beale, A Pictorial History of our English Bible, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1982.
Donald Brake, The Preservation of the Scriptures.
John William Burgon, The Revision Revised, Dean Burgon Society, Box 354, Collingswood, New Jersey 08108.
David Cloud, For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Received Text From 1800 to Present, Oak Harbor WA: Way of Life Publications, 1995.
David Cloud, Myths About the King James Bible: Erasmus Was a Humanist, Oak Harbor WA: Way of Life Literature, 1986, 1993.
David Cloud, Myths About the King James Bible: Reformation Editors Lacked Sufficient Manuscript Evidence, Way of Life Literature: Oak Harbor WA, 1992
David Cloud, O Timothy, various issues.
David Cloud, Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible and Christianity, Oak Harbor WA: Way of Life Literature, 1993.
David Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography, New Haven: Yale Press, 1994.
John Davies, A History of Wales, London: Penguin Press, 1990.
Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Part VI - The Reformation, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.
Charles John Ellicott, The Revisers and the Greek Text of the New Testament, by Two Members of the New Testament Company, 1882.
J.A. Froude, Life and Letters of Erasmus, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894.
David Otis Fuller, ed. Counterfeit or Genuine? Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1975, 1978.
David Otis Fuller, ed. Which Bible? Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1970, 1975.
Samuel Gipp, The Answer Book, Shelbyville, TN: Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation, 1989.
William Grady, Final Authority, Schereville, IN: Grady Publications, 1993.
David Harrowar, A Defence of the Trinitarian System, Utica: William Williams, 1822.
Edward Hills, Believing Bible Study, Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1967.
Edward Hills, The King James Version Defended, Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1956, 1988.
John Hurst, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, New York: Eaton and Mains, 1900.
Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1909.
DeLamar Jensen, Reformation Europe, Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1981, 1992.
Frederick Kenyon, Our Bible.
Doug Kutilek, "Erasmus and His Greek New Testament," Biblical Evangelist, October 1, 1985.
Frank Logsdon, "From the NASV to the KJV," The Baptist Challenge, March, 1992.
John McClintock and James Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891.
Michael Maynard, A History of the Debate Over I John 5:7,8. Tempe AZ: Comma Publications, 1995.
Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
Andrew Miller, Miller's Church History, Bible Truth Publishers, 1980.
Edward Miller, A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Collingswood, NJ: Dean Burgon Society, 1886, 1979.
Hugh Pope, English Versions of the Bible, St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1952.
A.T. Robertson, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1925.
Robert Sargent, Landmarks of English Bible: Manuscript Evidence, Oak Harbor WA: Bible Baptist Church Publications, n.d.
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Volume VII - The German Reformation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910, 1970.
Frederick Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of the Biblical Student, ed. Edward Miller, 2 volumes, London: George Bell and Sons, 1894.
Thomas Strouse, "The 19th Century Baptists, Bible Translations and Bible Societies," Tabernacle Baptist Theological Journal, Summer, 1994, Vol. 1, No. 2.
Robert Sumner, "Dear Abner!" Biblical Evangelist, Nov. 1, 1992.
Benjamin Wilkinson, Our Authorized Version Vindicated.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1949.
22. David Cloud, For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Received Text From 1800 to Present. Oak Harbor, WA: Way of Life Publications, 1995, p. 33.
1. McClintock and Strong, Vol. 3, p. 277.
5. Hills, p. 196 and Encyclopedia Britannica, 1949, "Erasmus, Desiderius" in Vol. 8, p. 678.
1. Cited by Sargent, Landmarks of English Bible: Manuscript Evidence, p. 156
Question #16 [See Editor's Note to Question #16]