Muller On the Textus Receptus

A debate recently took place on the text of Scripture between Christian apologist James White and agnostic textual critic Bart Ehrman.  The debate Did the Bible Misquote Jesus? has made for some interesting comments around the web.  It’s certainly a debate worth listening too.  It’s also very affordable.  Given this recent topic along with disagreements over which Bible translation one should use, I wanted to post a bit of what Richard Muller said about the textus receptus or received text.

It needs to be noted that the so-called textus receptus, was merely a part of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century process of establishing a normative or definitive text of the New Testament.  The phrase “textus receptus” or “received text” comes from the Elzevir New Testament of 1633 – and as the context of the phrase itself and the use of the Greek New Testament in the seventeenth century both testify, there was no claim, in the era of orthodoxy, of a sacrosanct text in this particular edition.  Nor did it, in the era of orthodoxy, provide some sort of terminus ad quem for the editing of the text of the Bible: the statement that this was the “text now received by all” simply meant that it was the text, produced by Stephanus and Beza, and slightly reedited by the Elzevirs, that was then regarded (by Protestants!) as the best available text of the Bible: namley, the critically examined combination of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the so-called Byzantine text of the New Testament.  Both in the era of the Reformation and the era of orthodoxy, there was a close adherence to the Old Testament Hebrew text inherited from the Western rabbinic tradition and to the New Testament Greek text that had served the Greek Orthodox church – and the text-critical work of the era was intended primarily as a method of establishing the genuine “original” of that text tradition of the Hebrew and the Greek (an approach that also accounts for the practice of placing variants gleaned either from an alternative text tradition, such as represented by De Colines’ edition of the New Testament or as might be inferred from the Syriac New Testament or the Targums, into the annotations).  Establishment of the authoritative Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, thus, was in the orthodox view to be based on a collation of the best exant Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and codices – whereas the ancient versions were to be used not for the emendation of text but as useful guides to interpretation, given that a translation was, of its very nature, a form of interpretation.
Muller, Richard A.. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: Holy Scripture : The Cognitive Foundation of Theology. 2nd. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.

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