Last Updated:

Aug 14, 2010

Hills on Erasmus

Excerpt for review from: E.F. Hills, KJV Defended, ch 8 (USA, 1983) ed. T. Letis

Page Index

Erasmus: - E.F. Hills
    (c) Five Editions 1516-1535
    (d) Greek MSS Used - quality and type
    (e) Erasmus' Skill - and knowledge of variants
    (f) Latin Vulgate - readings adopted
    (g) List of Variants - from Latin Tradition

E.F. Hills on Erasmus

Erasmus' Greek NT (Excerpt: ch 8)

(c) Erasmus' Five Editions of the Textus Receptus

Between the years 1516 and 1535 Erasmus published five editions of the Greek New Testament. In the first edition (1516) the text was preceded by a dedication to Pope Leo X, an exhortation to the reader, a discussion of the method used, and a defense of this method. Then came the Greek New Testament text accompanied by Erasmus' own Latin translation, and then this was followed by Erasmus' notes, giving his comments on the text. In his 2nd edition (1519) Erasmus revised both his Greek text and his own Latin translation. His substitution in John 1:1 of sermo (speech) for verbum (word), the rendering of the Latin Vulgate, aroused much controversy. The 3rd edition (1522) is chiefly remarkable for the inclusion of 1 John 5:7, which had been omitted in the previous editions. The 4th edition (1527) contained the Greek text, the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus' Latin translation in three parallel columns. The 5th edition (1535) omitted the Vulgate, thus resuming the practice of printing the Greek text and the version of Erasmus side by side. (11)

(d) The Greek Manuscripts Used by Erasmus

When Erasmus came to Basel in July, 1515, to begin his work, he found five Greek New Testament manuscripts ready for his use. These are now designated by the following numbers: 1 (an 11th-century manuscript of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles), 2 (a 15th-century manuscript of the Gospels), 2ap (a 12th-14th-century manuscript of Acts and the Epistles), 4ap (a 15th-century manuscript of Acts and the Epistles), and 1r (a 12th-century manuscript of Revelation). Of these manuscripts Erasmus used 1 and 4ap only occasionally. In the Gospels Acts, and Epistles his main reliance was on 2 and 2ap. (12)

Did Erasmus use other manuscripts beside these five in preparing his Textus Receptus? The indications are that he did. According to W. Schwarz (1955), Erasmus made his own Latin translation of the New Testament at Oxford during the years 1505-6. His friend, John Colet who had become Dean of St. Paul's, lent him two Latin manuscripts for this undertaking, but nothing is known about the Greek manuscripts which he used. (13) He must have used some Greek manuscripts or other, however, and taken notes on them. Presumably therefore he brought these notes with him to Basel along with his translation and his comments on the New Testament text. It is well known also that Erasmus looked for manuscripts everywhere during his travels and that he borrowed them from everyone he could. Hence although the Textus Receptus was based mainly on the manuscripts which Erasmus found at Basel, it also included readings taken from others to which he had access. It agreed with the common faith because it was founded on manuscripts which in the providence of God were readily available.

(e) Erasmus' Notes: His Knowledge of Variant Readings and Critical Problems

Through his study of the writings of Jerome and other Church Fathers Erasmus became very well informed concerning the variant readings of the New Testament text. Indeed almost all the important variant readings known to scholars today were already known to Erasmus more than 460 years ago and discussed in the notes (previously prepared) which he placed after the text in his editions of the Greek New Testament. Here, for example, Erasmus dealt with such problem passages as the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:13), the interview of the rich young man with Jesus (Matt. 19:17-22), the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), the angelic song (Luke 2:14), the angel, agony, and bloody sweat omitted (Luke 22:43-44), the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53 - 8:11), and the mystery of godliness (l Tim. 3:16).

In his notes Erasmus placed before the reader not only ancient discussions concerning the New Testament text but also debates which took place in the early Church over the New Testament canon and the authorship of some of the New Testament books, especially Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Not only did he mention the doubts reported by Jerome and the other Church Fathers, but also added some objections of his own. However, he discussed these matters somewhat warily, declaring himself willing at any time to submit to "The consensus of public opinion and especially to the authority of the Church." (14) In short, he seemed to recognize that in reopening the question of the New Testament canon he was going contrary to the common faith.

But if Erasmus was cautious in his notes, much more was he so in his text, for this is what would strike the reader's eye immediately. Hence in the editing of his Greek New Testament text especially Erasmus was guided by the common faith in the current text. And back of this common faith was the controlling providence of God. For this reason Erasmus' humanistic tendencies do not appear in the Textus Receptus which he produced. Although not himself outstanding as a man of faith, in his editorial labors on this text he was providentially influenced and guided by the faith of others. In spite of his humanistic tendencies Erasmus was clearly used of God to place the Greek New Testament text in print, just as Martin Luther was used of God to bring in the Protestant Reformation in spite of the fact that, at least at first, he shared Erasmus' doubts concerning Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. (15)

(f) Latin Vulgate Readings in the Textus Receptus

The God who brought the New Testament text safely through the ancient and medieval manuscript period did not fumble when it came time to transfer this text to the modern printed page. This is the conviction which guides the believing Bible student as he considers the relationship of the printed Textus Receptus to the Traditional New Testament text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.

These two texts are virtually identical. Kirsopp Lake and his associates (1928) demonstrated this fact in their intensive researches in the Traditional text (which they called the Byzantine text). Using their collations, they came to the conclusion that in the 11th chapter of Mark, "the most popular text in the manuscripts of the tenth to the fourteenth century" (16) differed from the Textus Receptus only four times. This small number of differences seems almost negligible in view of the fact that in this same chapter Aleph, B. and D) differ from the Textus Receptus 69,71, and 95 times respectively. Also add to this the fact that in this same chapter B differs from Aleph 34 times and from D 102 times and that Aleph differs from D 100 times.

There are, however, a few places in which the Textus Receptus differs from the Traditional text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. The most important of these differences are due to the fact that Erasmus, influenced by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church in which he was reared, sometimes followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Traditional Greek text.

Are the readings which Erasmus thus introduced into the Textus Receptus necessarily erroneous'? By no means ought we to infer this. For it is inconceivable that the divine providence which had preserved the New Testament text during the long ages of the manuscript period should blunder when at last this text was committed to the printing press. According to the analogy of faith, then, we conclude that the Textus Receptus was a further step in God's providential preservation of the New Testament text and that these few Latin Vulgate readings which were incorporated into the Textus Receptus were genuine readings which had been preserved in the usage of the Latin-speaking Church. Erasmus, we may well believe, was guided providentially by the common faith to include these readings in his printed Greek New Testament text. In the Textus Receptus God corrected the few mistakes of any consequence which yet remained in the Traditional New Testament text of the majority of the Greek manuscripts.

The following are some of the most familiar and important of those relatively few Latin Vulgate readings which, though not part of the Traditional Greek text, seem to have been placed in the Textus Receptus by the direction of God's special providence and therefore are to be retained. The reader will note that these Latin Vulgate readings are also found in other ancient witnesses, namely, old Greek manuscripts, versions, and Fathers.

Matt. 10:8 raise the dead, is omitted by the majority of the Greek manuscripts. This reading is present, however, in Aleph B C D 1, the Latin Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus.

Matt. 27: 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. Present in Eusebius (c. 325), 1 and other "Caesarean" manuscripts, the Harclean Syriac, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus. Omitted by the majority of the Greek manuscripts.

John 3:25 Then there arose a questioning between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. Pap 66, Aleph, 1 and other "Caesarean" manuscripts, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Textus Receptus read the Jews. Pap 75, B. the Peshitta, and the majority of the Greek manuscripts read, a Jew.

Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If thou beievest with all shine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As J. A. Alexander (1857) suggested, this verse, though genuine, was omitted by many scribes, "as unfriendly to the practice of delaying baptism, which had become common, if not prevalent, before the end of the 3rd century." (17) Hence the verse is absent from the majority of the Greek manuscripts. But it is present in some of them, including E (6th or 7th century). It is cited by Irenaeus (c. 180) and Cyprian (c.250) and is found in the Old Latin and the Vulgate. In his notes Erasmus says that he took this reading from the margin of 4ap and incorporated it into the Textus Receptus.

Acts 9:5 it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. This reading is absent here from the Greek manuscripts but present in Old Latin manuscripts and in the Latin Vulgate known to Erasmus. It is present also at the end of Acts 9:4 in E, 431, the Peshitta, and certain manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. In Acts 26:14, however, this reading is present in all the Greek manuscripts. In his notes Erasmus indicates that he took this reading from Acts 26:14 and inserted it here.

Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? and the Lord said unto him. This reading is found in the Latin Vulgate and in other ancient witnesses. It is absent, however, from the Greek manuscripts, due, according to Lake and Cadbury (1933), "to the paucity of Western Greek texts and the absence of D at this point." (18) In his notes Erasmus indicates that this reading is a translation made by him from the Vulgate into Greek.

Acts 20:28 Church of God. Here the majority of the Greek manuscripts read, Church of the Lord and God. The Latin Vulgate, however, and the Textus Receptus read, Church of God, which is also the reading of Aleph B and other ancient witnesses.

Rom. 16:25-27 In the majority of the manuscripts this doxology is placed at the end of chapter 14. In the Latin Vulgate and the Textus Receptus it is placed at the end of chapter l6 and this is also the position it occupies in Aleph B C and D.

Rev. 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. According to Hoskier, all the Greek manuscripts, except possibly one or two, read, tree of life. The Textus Receptus reads, book of life, with the Latin Vulgate (including the very old Vulgate manuscript F), the Bohairic version, Ambrose (d. 397), and the commentaries of Primasius (6th century) and Haymo (9th century). This is one of the verses which Erasmus is said to have translated from Latin into Greek. But Hoskier seems to doubt that Erasmus did this, suggesting that he may have followed Codex 141. (19)

Original Footnotes:










Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional Valid CSS!

This page powered by: