Last Updated:

Aug 13, 2010

Wallace's Conspiracy Theory

Review of: Daniel Wallace, Conspiracy Behind New Translations, (Internet, Aug 2010)

Page Index

Wallace's Conspiracy Theory I: - Club Hort - follow the herd?
    (1) Pericope Adulterae - Sidebar: 'Scholarly Unity' Counter-example
    (2) Critical Text of GNT - a 'genealogical tree' of TC evolution!

Wallace's Conspiracy Theory II:
    (3) Fake History of TC - Hort slayed the TR? Not recently.
    (4) Conspiracy Theory - Not Mel Gibson: ...far duller
    (5) The New Conspiracy Theory - still needs some work

Wallace's Conspiracy Theory

Internet Article, 2010

Recently, Daniel Wallace posted an article, "The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations". In it he makes several assertions and claims, not just about the best Greek NT text, but about those who contend with him regarding the mistaken readings in 'modern versions' (i.e., English translations). Many of his claims are historically inaccurate. Lets examine a few:

"Westcott & Hort (WH) were able to convince the vast majority of NT scholars of the truth of their textual choices. Essentially, they argued that the Greek text behind the KJV NT was inferior and late."

- Daniel Wallace

We continually hear about the "vast majority" of NT scholars, textual critics etc. But the majority is not as 'vast' as opponents of the KJV/TR hope or claim. Annoyingly, accredited scholars keep popping up who boldly and quite vocally oppose both the theories of Hort and specific instances of their choices regarding modern 'eclectic editing' of the NT.

Lets take a good example, of a significant passage where some critics follow Hort, and many other critics don't. A place where critics generally disagree strongly about how to handle the NT text:

The Pericope Adulterae

(John: 7:53-8:11)

As it turns out, NT scholars generally, textual critics, and commentators specifically, actually divide into several very distinct and vocal camps and many sub-camps:

A. Those who Accept the PA as Holy Scripture: (36)

1. Asserting Authorship by John the Evangelist (23).

Lampe, Bengel, Matthaei, Storr, Kuinoel, John Lightfoot (1675), Hilgenfeld (1800), Michaelis (1801), Staudlin (1806), Bloomfield (1826), T. Horne (1840), W. Trollope (1842), F. Nolan (1865), S. Leathes (1870), F. Dunwell (1872), W. Kelly (1888), John Burgon (1892), S. Whitney (1892), E. Miller (1897), C. Bushnell (1925), Z. Hodges (1979), E. Hills (1984), F. Jones (1999),

2. Assenting to Johannine Community Authorship (3).

W. Barclay (1956), Raymond Brown (1965), J.D. Punch (2010),

3. Asserting Historical Truthfulness Only,
    but Retaining it as Scripture

Roman Catholic Church (Council of Trent), Tholuck (1836), Alford (1849), Godet (1865), F. Farrar (1874), J.B. Lightfoot (1873), H. Meyer (1875), D. Thomas (1885), P. Schaff (1886), J. MacRoy (1914) B. Terry (1985),

B. Those who have Signficant Doubts or are Neutral: (9)

4. Expressing Significant Doubt (5).

Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Olshausen (1858), Edersheim (1883),

5. Remaining Neutral or Undecided (4).

Rendel Harris (1890), J. Robinson (1893), F. Scrivener (1894), B. Streeter (1930),

C. Those who Reject the PA as Holy Scripture: (37)

6. Accepting it as a Historical Source but not as Scripture (27).

Grotius, Wetstein, Semler, Paulus, Lucke, Porter (1848), Tregelles (1854), Hort (1882), B.B. Warfield (1887), Lias (1893), E. Nestle (1901), Plummer (1902), Schmiedel (1908), G. Box (1921), R. Ward (1960), U. Becker (1963), UBS-2 (1965), G. Burge (1984), D. Carson (1987), L. Morris (1995), W. Petersen (1997), W.Harris (2001), S.Wagner (2002), Harstine (2002), M. Marlowe (2004), B. Metzger (2005), C.Keith (2008),

7. Rejecting it as Historical Fact and as Scripture (9).

Bentley (1720), Lachmann (1831), S. Davidson (1848), E. Hengstenberg (1865), T. Zahn (1909), D. Parker (1997), A. Criddle (2007), G. Zervos (2007), J. Rius-Camps (2007),

8. Rejecting the concept of "Holy Scripture" entirely (1).

Bart Ehrman (2008)

The positions that NT scholars have taken crosses all denominational lines, eras, and countries. And contrary to Daniel Wallace, there is no "vast majority" in agreement with Hort. Scholars divide into at least three large camps, and Hort finds himself gathered with a motley crew.

At least half a dozen critics in his camp were not the least influenced by Hort's arguments or theory (they either came before Hort, or had already formed opinions).

Burgon also appears only marginally influential, with a large number of scholars preceding him.

The 'Genealogical Tree' of the Critical GNT

(Fallacious TC History I.)

Hort's Propagandists like to put a 'genealogical tree' together of the critical NT text, tracing it through a series of early critics and published texts:

Year CriticBackground
1717R. Bentleyonly 4th cent. evidence
1776WetsteinSocinian, Arian
1789GriesbachRecensions, Rejected Mark!
1831Lachmannthought TR = 15th cent.!
1861TregellesLachmann's follower
1869Tischendorf favoured א
1882Westcott/Hort favoured B/א
1904NestleTisch./WH text
1960Nestle-Aland (NA)

The earlier critics however, are only included to give the genealogical connection the appearance of legitimacy. It is with Lachmann that the serious mutilations of the NT begin. Followers of Hort ('Hortians') are selective, excluding many other legitimate NT scholars from consideration (for instance virtually all Roman Catholics, and conservatives like Burgon).

Wallace and friends can now give the illusion of a "vast majority" in agreement with Hort. All those following Hort of course adopt a critical text in essentially 90% agreement with his text (e.g. NA-27). Their critical text has not significantly changed since 1882, and has become the "Textus Receptus" of the Hortians.

Early Critics would Reject Hort:

This "unity" is illusory however. If Bengel, Weststein, or Griesbach for instance, saw what has become of the NT text today, and modern TC, they would utterly reject modern critics and their 'reasoned eclecticism'. Tischendorf would most certainly have rejected Hort's preference for Codex B over Codex א. In fact, most of the Protestant Reformers noted would have rejected Hort's exaggerated preference for Codex B on the basis of the Vatican's strange secretive hoarding of this manuscript, as well as its quirky readings.

Hortians Reject Early Critics:

At the same time, modern Hortians reject the early critics who spawned the Hortian Revision of the NT:

Mill and Bengel both defended 1st Jn. 5:7.
Bentley's naive arrogance,
Bengel's Catholic conservativism,
Wetstein's Socinian nonsense,
Griesbach's absurd Synoptic solution, (Mark = forgery)
Lachmann's paranoid claim: ("the TR was only 200 years old")
Tischendorf's obsession with the stolen Codex Sinaiticus,

- all cause great embarrassment to the Hortians, and discussion of the dark side of these "heroes" is avoided like the plague.

The 'Dethronement' of the TR

(Fallacious TC History II.)

"How did WH dethrone the Textus Receptus (TR) and the Greek MSS that stood behind it? They accomplished their task with three arguments:

(1) The Byzantine text was not quoted by any church father before AD 325 (i.e., Byz. = the group of Greek MSS behind the TR), while the Alexandrian text was amply represented before that period.

(2) The Byzantine text was shown to depend on two earlier traditions, the Alexandrian and Western, in several places. The early editors of the Byzantine text combined (or conflated) the wording of the Alexandrian and Western traditions on occasion, while nowhere could it be shown that the Alexandrian combined Western and Byzantine readings or that the Western combined readings of the Alexandrian and Byzantine.

(3) The Byzantine text, upon closer examination, proved to be inferior in its wording, either by not conforming to the author’s wording or moving in a predictable direction (such as by adding clarifying words).

Thus, with these three arguments, WH demonstrated that the Byzantine text was:

(1) late (the patristic argument),

(2) secondary (the conflation argument), and

(3) inferior (the internal evidence argument).

Although some of the particulars of their overall view have been questioned today, most NT scholars find this general scheme to be a compelling argument against Byzantine superiority. Hence, the overthrow of the TR.

- Wallace

Of course the argument is less compelling when we realise again that "most NT scholars" only includes those scholars picked by Wallace himself, and will naturally only involve a handful of pre-selected Americans.

Excluded as usual will be hundreds of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars, and those from all over Europe who publish in other languages but don't assent to the WH theory or text.

As to Wallace's three points, we can add some brief notes:

(1) Early Christian Writers often support the Byzantine text against the critical text. The claim about no 'Byzantine' readings before 325 A.D. is false, and based on a game of constantly moving the goal-posts. When a reading does have early support, it is classed as "non-Byzantine" by critics. The cumulative effect of further discoveries supporting the Byzantine text is ignored. But even if only 50% of Byzantine readings have early patristic support, the text as a whole is not 'late', but ancient. To this count must be added readings proven ancient on Internal grounds.

(2) Conflation Arguments don't apply to NON-Conflation Variation Units (VUs). The majority of VUs in the NT text don't meet the criteria of conflation. At least 50 VUs show features of accidental omission errors by Homoioteleuton. These cases show Hort's text (א/B) to be the secondary text for those key VUs.

(3) Style and Diction Arguments dont apply to NON-stylistic Variation Units. The fact that the text has also undergone a separate stylistic facelift has nothing to do with important early variants. The majority of variants of concern to both NT scholars and Christian laymen are not stylistic variants, but changes of content. Later stylistic alterations in other parts of the text simply can't directly solve early unrelated variants.

Recently, Mr. James Snapp Jr. also responded to Wallace's article, on CARM. We quote an exerpt here:

... Plus, Dr. Wallace’s claim that “Nowhere could it be shown that the Alexandrian combined Western and Byzantine readings or that the Western combined readings of the Alexandrian and Byzantine” is wrong. A consultation of Sinaiticus at John 13:24, I Cor. 7:34, I Thess. 1:5, Hebrews 10:12, and Rev. 6:7-8, and a consultation of Vaticanus at Mt. 3:12, Mt. 24:38, Mk. 1:28, Mk. 1:40, John 7:39, Eph. 2:5, and Col. 1:12, and a consultation of Codex D at Mt. 26:22, Luke 9:57, John 5:37, and Acts 10:48, should permanently cure all who have suffered from this delusion.

(In addition, we should notice the text of Mt. 26:36 in Papyrus 53, a manuscript which has been assigned to the 200’s. It looks conflate: rival reading are “OU” and “AN,” which P53 seems to combine as “OU AN.” Likewise the text of John 10:19 and 10:31 in Papyrus 66 look like conflations of rival variants. And the text of I Cor. 7:34 in Papyrus 46 looks like a conflation of rival variants. At the very least, this demonstrates that the appearance of conflation does not imply the lateness of the entire text in which the alleged conflation occurs. For more on this subject, see Pickering’s Appendix D at .)

Steven Avery also responded to Wallace's article, and had this to say:

"(1) The Byzantine text (i.e., the group of Greek MSS behind the Textus Receptus) was not quoted by any church father before AD 325, while the Alexandrian text was amply represented before that period." (Wallace)

While James addressed this to a point, I want to emphasize the word-parsing. There are tons of Byzantine Greek quotes from before before AD 325, yet you could say, by parsing, that the "Byzantine Text" was not massively, precisely "quoted", since all writers tended to be a little in flux, until even after Nicea, about 400 AD and Chrysostom. By using the vague "Byzantine text.. quoted", rather than "amply represented", a deception is perpetrated.

So, eg. when church writers Irenaeus and Tertullian quote John 1:18 as the only begotten Son, where is that in the Wallace equation ? Irenaeus and Cyprian give the TR of Acts 8:37 (a solid minority reading in the Byzantine, supported by the Latin, yet totally absent in the Alexandrian) before Nicea. The ending of Mark is referenced by numerous writers. 100 examples could easily be given. And Daniel Wallace should know this, if not he can go to the Dean Burgon studies and brush up.

So Daniel Wallace can word-parse well those are verses, but it is not the full "Byzantine Text ..quoted" by the writers, as they varied on other verses. Yet, when he discusses the Alexandrian text, Wallace switches to "amply represented". The truth of the matter is that both texts are "amply represented" before 325 AD, and the only way that Daniel Wallace could try to make any mileage points was through word-shifting trickery. This is, unfortunately, a very common technique in modern textcrit, initially honed by writers like Porson and Griesbach and a few other 1800s writers, unto an art-form by Metzger and then today to Ehrman and Wallace and others.

- Steven Avery

The Conspiracy Theory

(Fallacious TC History III.)

Wallace continues:

"More recently, KJV only advocates have argued that the scholars who produced the WH text and those who embrace it belong to a global conspiracy. They often charge that the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, salvation by grace, etc. is destroyed by these scholars. Some say that a New Age conspiracy is behind the modern translations.

In response, just a few points should be made.

First, conspiracy theories are increasing among evangelicals nowadays, and this is a troubling sign. By their nature, conspiracy theories ask the reader to be completely skeptical toward one view while adopting the other, without an examination of the evidence. ...Once the cry of conspiracy is raised, a cloud of suspicion is cast over one side of the issue. ... The fact that conspiracy theories about Bible translations are getting readily accepted ... is symptomatic of the dumbing down of Christians in this country. ...

Second, if there really is such a conspiracy, then why do the majority of evangelical, Bible-believing seminaries and Bible colleges use modern translations and the Greek MSS behind them? If the faithful wish to find fault with the beliefs of these schools, then they should attack head-on their beliefs, rather than that they use the wrong Bible. But the issue is always the same: wrong Bible must mean, by implication, wrong beliefs.

Third, let me camp on this doctrinal issue a bit. What doctrines are at stake? Is the deity of Christ? Surely not. Evangelicals embrace the deity of Christ, regardless of which Bible they use. ...the vast majority of the faculty at these schools use the modern translations... Where is the cause and effect relationship between new translations and heresy?

- Daniel Wallace

We will here reply in the same format:

Just because a conspiracy theorist makes some charges, it doesn't mean we will naively believe them. Nor should we ignore serious allegations. We shouldn't trust either Wallace or his opponents, and most Christians are capable of investigating for themselves and making their own judgments.

First: If I'm asked to be skeptical, I don't mind. Its part of the Scientific Method. Skepticism is a necessary tool to prevent easy acceptance without evidence. Intelligent people aren't going to direct their skepticism against one party or another without evidence. Wallace's fear is unfounded and unbiblical too. Jesus and the scriptures say "Fear not." repeatedly.

Second: Now that Wallace has raised the question, Why do the majority of Seminaries and Colleges use modern translations? The reason is probably obvious. Publishers give bulk discounts to promote their products, and a deal's a deal. The quality of the text is hardly vindicated by bribery and American-style perks.

James Snapp concurs:

Dr. Wallace posed a question: “Why do the majority of evangelical, Bible-believing seminaries and Bible colleges use modern translations and the Greek MSS behind them?” That’s easy; there are two main reasons: first, the heavy marketing of the modern translations, and, second, the deplorable state of text-critical studies in the United States -- an effect of the “dumbing-down” that Dr. Wallace affirmed to have occurred in American Evangelicalism. The Nestle-Aland texts, and the Textual Commentary written by Bruce Metzger, virtually win a majority of readers by default, with the result that millions of American Evangelicals are using a Greek text compiled by scholars who would not be allowed to preach in the pulpits of the churches they attend, or to teach in their Sunday School classes.

As to doctrines versus NT texts, again now that Wallace has raised the question, why not investigate Bibles? Why steer us away from what might be interesting and imporant? Rather than either/or, why not investigate BOTH texts, and doctrines, and even their inter-dependence. Seems like the obvious thing to do.

Third: What doctrine is at stake? How about the doctrines of Biblical inerrancy, Divine Providential Preservation, Plenary Inspiration, Biblical authority? It seems that even if no other doctrine is affected, at least these seem vulnerable to problems, if we just say "anything goes" when it comes to Bibles.

Again, Mr. Snapp has something to add:

Dr. Wallace’s next question was, “What doctrines are at stake?” ... And he concluded, “Whatever the evangelical doctrine -- it is not compromised by these new translations or the MSS behind them. This is the real issue.”

No. The real issue is,
What did the authors of the New Testament write?
The question, “What doctrinal difference does it make?” is secondary.

In addition, I observe that Dr. Wallace has lately qualified the claim he made in this article. He said here, “Whatever the evangelical doctrine,” it is not compromised by new translations or their base-text. The claim that he makes nowadays is different: “No cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by any viable variant.”

(But what is a “viable” variant? Is a variant viable if it appears in only one early Greek manuscript? The translators of the TNIV seem to have thought so, because they adopted the text of Codex Bezae in Mark 1:41. What about a variant that appears in NO Greek manuscripts? The Nestle-Aland text includes such a variant in the text of Acts 16:12.)

Combine that with Dr. Wallace’s adjustment that inerrancy is a “more peripheral” doctrine, and it becomes clear to me that Dr. Wallace is currently reluctant to clearly affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is not compromised by textual variants with strong manuscript-support.

Dr. Wallace re-stated his question: “What doctrines are changed if we change our Bibles?” Again, that’s not the question. The question is,

"What did the authors of the New Testament write?"

The New Conspiracy Theory

(The Devil in the KJV)

So, is there a conspiracy today? My answer may surprise the reader: yes, I believe there is. But the conspiracy has not produced these modern translations. Rather, I believe that there is a conspiracy to cause division among believers, to deflect our focus from the gospel to petty issues, to elevate an anti-intellectual spirit that does not honor the mind which God has created, and to uphold as the only Holy Bible a translation that, as lucid as it was in its day, four hundred years later makes the gospel seem antiquated and difficult to understand.2 It takes little thought to see who is behind such a conspiracy."

- Daniel Wallace

Here again we must protest the cartoons. Its not anti-intellectual to want to know why some 200 whole and half-verses have been deleted out of the New Testament in modern versions. This isn't an issue of translation, or updating language. Its more like tearing out 5 or 10 pages from your Bible.

When we actually do investigate, we find that there really was a historical 'conspiracy' of sorts. In the 19th century the Unitarian Movement arose, and most of those pushing to revise and alter the New Testament were Unitarians. This was no mere coincidence or unguided activity. Unitarians actively and openly complained about what they suspected were Roman Catholic glosses, and sought to "purify" the text from religious interpolations.

You can't have it both ways. If the text has not been significantly altered in modern versions, then the OLD text must be perfectly good. But if so, why delete 200 whole and half-verses? If there is nothing wrong with them, why not leave them in? If there is no significant difference, then the text needs no correcting in this way.

Wallace is being disengenious here. The KJV controversy is not about preventing language updates, or interfering with clarity in translation. Its about the erosion of the text, and erosion of its authority. But then, that doesn't matter if you don't believe the Bible has a fixed text, or any special authority.

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