Introduction

-Stephen

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Surrett for taking the time to review the article. He is the only one who has been gracious enough to take the time to write a direct rebuttal to our article, and for that we are grateful. We have always respected and appreciated his disposition toward us and others. There are things I have learned from him as an undergraduate student at ABC in class that I will use for the rest of my life. We have no animosity against him or those who hold opposing views. We believe it is an imperative for believers to warmly receive one another with brotherly fellowship and love despite our differences (Phil. 4:21; Rom. 15:7).

A Note to the Readers 

-Jon

Dr. Surrett’s response was both direct and gracious. We are thankful for his approach. We will take the same approach in our response to him. We have the utmost respect for Dr. Surrett and recognize that he is a former distinguished professor at Ambassador Baptist College. However, we believe that it is necessary to address what we believe is a misrepresentation of the Scriptures as well as the facts concerning NT manuscripts. This article is addressing his response to our original article. We are breaking up his response section by section and providing a rebuttal to each section. 

 Dr. Surrett

1. You say you have “demonstrated” that there is no perfect manuscript, by noting that variants exist. Actually, you have not proved your point. The statement that there is no perfect manuscript is unproveable, without having the autographa to compare. The fact that A and B are different from each other does not necessarily prove both of them wrong. It does prove that one of them is wrong, but not necessarily both, nor does it tell which of them is right. Thus, the “answers” given by textual critics may not be as reliable as one would think.

Our Rebuttal

-Stephen

When I stated that we have “demonstrated” that there are no perfect manuscripts, that was in relation to the data provided by Dr. Daniel Wallace. This data shows that there are at least 6-10 textual variances per chapter in some of the closest manuscripts. This is true when comparing the “TR’s” as well. No two “TR’s” read identically. I recently transmitted and translated, along with Timothy Berg editing, all 59 of Scrivener’s translatable differences between Stephanus and Beza. This is where the KJV translators chose Stephanus in 59 places over Beza. I will gladly provide that data for anyone interested. The assertion that this is unprovable is aimed at the wrong crowd. All textual critics, believing and unbelieving, affirm differences between all the manuscripts and that none are identical. This has been documented by Wallace, Metzger, Ehrman, Epp, Aland, etc. And it is empirically verifiable to anyone who wants to examine a manuscript and collate it against any other. This is not some secret and unprovable claim made in the dark towers of the academy. Literally, the only people who might disagree with this claim are people who have never looked at the data, and anyone who has looked at the data would agree with this claim. We are still waiting for someone in the TR group to prove and bring the manuscripts to the table that read identically. Where are they? Family 35 manuscripts are as close as someone can get to “perfect” in readings, but they date from the 12th-century and were compiled for the purpose of having a unified tradition, and still fail to read exactly the same. If the answers that the textual critics are providing are not reliable, please provide the perfect manuscript(s) that are without any differences for the public to access. 

You said, “The fact that A and B are different from each other does not necessarily prove both of them wrong. It does prove that one of them is wrong, but not necessarily both, nor does it tell which of them is right.” Your logic is sound, but it fails to acknowledge that none of the manuscripts that you would put into the “A” category completely agree with each other. Also, the same is true about the manuscripts that you would put in the “B” category. That is the main reason we titled the first section the way that we did. 

 Dr. Surrett

2. You say that the 16th and 17th centuries “were not given special privileges” (and I agree with that statement), but your entire argument is based upon the underlying assumption that the 20th century was given special privileges, so that the discoveries recently made should change our concept of the text of Scripture. You have placed great faith in textual criticism, and, I believe, at the expense of the text itself, which I will address below. I do not believe that our knowledge of textual history is unlimited, so I refuse to allow the presumptions of the scholars to be my final authority for faith and practice. For example, the worn-out phrase, “the oldest and best manuscripts.” The manuscripts that have been discovered are not the oldest that ever existed, for they are copies of earlier manuscripts. Therefore, to call them the “oldest” is misleading. As for calling them the “best,” that is a subjective decision based upon other presuppositions.

Our Rebuttal 

-Stephen

I do not believe the 20th century was given special privileges at all. My point was actually to neutralize all centuries in a way. The most privileged century would likely be the end of the first and into the second centuries. We would all love to access the wealth of material that Eusebius utilized in the early 4th century while compiling the fifty Bibles requested by Constantine in the east. Also, we would love to have the material that Jerome used in the late 4th century while translating the Vulgate in the west. Our desire is to look at the Bible from the first 400 years of the church, not as much as from the last 400 years. The only way to know what they had then is based on what survived antiquity. With that being said, we have more today of what survived during that period than did those who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. We are not given special privileges, we were just given more material. The statement “change our concept of the text of Scripture” is astonishing to me. This assumes that the concept of the text of Scripture has always been clean-cut and organized, but that is not the case. Christians did not have this view of transmission until the printing press made us familiar with this concept. Also, we do not believe our knowledge is unlimited in this field as well! That is why we are operating on what God gave us, believing that it is sufficient to answer what we need to know today! We cannot conjecture on the “what could have been” concepts when God has given us what we need to know today. We believe God has preserved His word. Therefore, what we have is enough to affirm that He was faithful to do it. I do not see any statement in our article that says, “the oldest that ever existed.” They are the oldest to survive antiquity, but not the oldest of all time. I do not see in our article where we stated that the oldest are “best” either. A second century papyri of John such as P66 certainly carries more “weight” than a 14th century minuscule manuscript. But I fail to see your quotation of these statements in our article. 

 Dr. Surrett

3. Your position flies in the face of Isa 59:21, which clearly states that every generation of man will have access to God’s Words, with the plural used to indicate not just a general Gospel message, but the specific words used to communicate that message. Your view depends upon the existence of manuscripts that you say were buried in the sand from the second century until the twentieth. I say that those “buried” manuscripts, because they were inaccessible for so long, cannot meet the requirements of Isa 59:21. Even if one makes the ludicrous assumption that this applies only to the descendants of Isaiah, rather than to all of humanity, Isaiah’s descendants did not have access to those “buried” manuscripts, so they still cannot be the preserved words of God. Some other passages that teach the ongoing accessibility to God’s Word are Deut 29:29; Deut 30:11-14; Rom 10;8; Num 23:12; Deut 18:18; Josh 1:8; Ps 40:3; Isa 51:16; Jer 1:9; Mal 2:6; Deut 6:6; Deut 11:18; Ps 37:31; Ps 119:11; Lk 2:51; Heb 8:10; Heb 10:16; Lk 16:29; Jn 5:39; and II Tim 3:15. 

Our Rebuttal

-Jon

Are you certain that your interpretation of Isaiah 59:21 is correct? Could you provide any citations from other reputable sources that agree with your understanding of this passage? I personally scanned fifteen different commentaries and none of them came to the conclusion at which you have arrived. 

Let’s look at the passage.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord;

My spirit that is upon thee,

And my words which I have put in thy mouth,

Shall not depart out of thy mouth,

Nor out of the mouth of thy seed,

Nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord,

From henceforth and for ever.”

This passage relays God’s covenant with His people which entails the message of the Messiah (i.e., a Redeemer will come to Zion v. 20)  being preserved orally (i.e., Shall not depart out of thy mouth, Nor out of the mouth of thy seed, Nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed). I appreciate your attention to detail as you noted that “words” is in the plural. I agree that this emphasizes the specific words, but in context, it is the particular message of the Messiah, just relayed in the verses prior, and further developed in the rest of the book.

The point is this: these verses do not teach the preservation of the written Scripture (at least directly). The passage seems to have been misinterpreted and misapplied. By what reason should we think Isaiah intended the preservation of those words to occur in the Received Text. It stems from misusing passages like these to claim accessibility. 

Brown documents that in over 60 places, Erasmus created more than 60 readings in Revelation alone that have no or little Greek support. If Erasmus had those words that Isaiah referred to, what about the people one hundred years before him? Would that promise of Isaiah not fail to be applied to the generation before him? 

 Dr. Surrett

4. Your position is refuted by Prov 22:20-21, which indicates that we can have certainty about the written words of truth. The Hebrew words used lead us to the conclusion we can be doubly certain of the written words. While some may assert that this only applies to words that Solomon wrote to his son, rather than to the words that God inspired Solomon (and others) to write, that would lead us to the ludicrous application that Solomon’s words were certain, but God’s were not! I find that hard to believe, especially when the certainty of God’s words is also indicated in II Pet 1:19; Ps 119:128; Matt 5:18; Jn 17:17; II Sam 7:28; Prov 30:5; Ps 12:6; Gal 3:16; Rom 3:4; and Ps 19:8-9. It would be virtually impossible to do fair exegesis of all these passages and “explain away” the concept that man can have certainty about God’s Words. 

Our Rebuttal 

-Jon

It appears that you have approached Proverbs 22:20-21 the same way you approached Isaiah 59:21. In my search of ten reputable commentaries, I was unable to find one that came to your position. Do you have any citations that support the position that you hold? It seems that your position hinges largely on inference, rather than on what the passage actually says.

Let’s look at the passage like we did the last one. 

“Have not I written to thee excellent things

In counsels and knowledge,

That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth;

That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?”

The phrase “excellent things” is in reference to the proverbs that he had written earlier. The Hebrew consonants šilšom (שִׁלְשׁוֹם) has various possible renderings, including “thirty,” “formerly,” and “excellent.” “Thirty” may be correct, since the material can be divided roughly into thirty sections. Regardless of how you translate the term, it is in reference to the collection of sayings that he mentions earlier in the book. These sayings (or proverbs) provided counsel and knowledge to the listeners, in order that they might know the certainty of the words of truth — in other words, that they would know what is right (קֹשְׁט what is conforming to reality) and what is true (אֱמֶת what is dependable and faithful). The last phrase of the verse furthers the purpose by stating “that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?” 

In the context of the paragraph (v.17-21), he commands the listener to “bow down,” “hear,” and “apply” these sayings until they are ingrained in him and the truth is ready on his lips to share (v17-18). It is clear that the emphasis is on the listener coming to full confidence that the sayings are right and true (dependable and faithful). 

So, how does this passage refute our position? We affirm that all the collections of sayings in the book of Proverbs are certain and true. We don’t deny any of them! This passage has nothing to do with our position or your position. If we interpret this passage with its original intent, neither of our positions is refuted because it does not address that topic.

The point is, you are misusing the phrase “certainty of the words,” and you are making it say something that it does not say. It is not talking about the preservation of the written Word. It is saying that his words (these proverbs) are certain and true and that therefore we must “bow down,” “hear,” and “apply.” You might object by saying, “what good are those words if they aren’t preserved?”  I agree, but I would not argue that point from this passage.

To be clear, we are not denying the certainty that God has preserved his written Word. We do believe all of God’s Word is, to borrow Solomon’s words, certain (קֹשְׁט) and true (אֱמֶת)! We are denying that this passage implies that there must be a perfect text or a perfect stream of manuscripts preserved throughout all time. To say that our position is refuted by these verses shows a lack of due attention to the true intent of this passage. 

You have made several comments about depending on Scripture over scholarship. This is a tragic false dichotomy. There is no doubt that scholars have attacked the veracity of Scripture (e.g., Bart Erhman), but scholarship is not the enemy of Scripture. True scholarship seeks to uncover the truth. It would lead a person to properly exegete a passage. An anti-intellectual approach is neither intuitive nor scriptural. I’m sure that you would agree to an extent, but to discount the evidence in order to protect a held position, which is built off inference and not accurate interpretation of Scripture, lacks integrity. 

You said, “I refuse to allow the presumptions of the scholars to be my final authority for faith and practice.”  This sentence seems to assume that textual critics, in large, have malicious intent. It also is a bit of a straw man, because Stephen and I do not make scholars our final authority for faith and practice. We hold tenaciously to what the Scripture says about itself (i.e., inspiration, inerrancy, preservation) yet we allow Christian brothers and sisters in the field of textual criticism to inform us about the truth regarding NT manuscripts. Because scholarship and the Scriptures are not enemies, we embrace both of them.  

Dr. Surrett

5. Your position does not seem to give much credence to I Tim 3:15, which assigns the local church, rather than the “scholars,” to be the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Although I do not place the confidence in history that you do, historians seem to be virtually unanimous in their admission that the textual stream used by the majority of Christians for the majority of church history has been the Byzantine (or whatever other term they may use to denote the tradition that resulted In the TR). While a handful of manuscripts dating from the first four centuries is insufficient for us to determine what Greek text was dominant in the churches at that time, it is obvious that churches in the following centuries primarily used the TR-type texts. Were those churches wrong to choose the texts they used? My assumption, based upon the Scriptural concepts of accessibility, certainty, and local church usage, is that the same Greek text was dominant in earlier centuries, despite the fact that those manuscripts in circulation have not been found. The Critical Text view is based upon an argument from silence (TR-type texts have not been found from the first few centuries, so they must not have existed then). By contrast, the TR position is based upon an argument of faith, assuming that the Biblical promises of preservation, accessibility, and certainty prevailed in the first four centuries, as well as all of the rest of church history. I am willing to adapt my view of history to accommodate the Scriptures, but I am not willing to adapt my view of Scripture to accommodate history.

Our Rebuttal

-Stephen 

The Church is most certainly the pillar and ground of the truth. But to separate the believing scholars from the church makes no sense here. If believing scholars are involved in the field, they are a part of the Church. The Church is made up of people. Men like Wallace, White, Hughes, Gurry, Hixson, Mitchell and others are believers bringing this data to us. Do they not serve as members of the body of Christ? Are you insinuating that a Church or Churches decided the readings? The TR originated from the work of a Catholic Monk, who dedicated his work to Pope Leo the X. I hope he does not have the final say in the decision making between textual variances. Which Church or Churches chose the readings for us today? This event in history never took place. The Churches were divided on whose edition to use all the way to Scrivener. Some supported Beza, others supported Mills, or Stephanus. The clean-cut picture of how we got the Greek readings all perfectly compiled is simply unhistorical. The TR position is based on faith? You say faith in preservation. All positions hold that view. But in practice, you would have to admit that the textual tradition played out, through the various editions of a Catholic Monk and his traditions that were updated all the way to Scrivener, who placed readings into his text on the basis of what the KJV translators chose, all the while writing of his (Scrivener’s) distrust and disagreement for certain readings that he placed within that  text. I fail to see that as reasonable faith. This view does not have any scriptural support. The TR’s faith is a “faith in faith” without any substance or evidence. When God said he would preserve His Word, we believe he did so, not only because he said it, but also because he demonstrated it.  

 Dr. Surrett

6. I appreciate the fact that you have clearly said you believe in the preservation of Scripture, but I wonder how man would benefit from preservation without certainty? To know that the right words exist somewhere, but to be unclear about how to find them would make it very difficult to live by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).” How and why do you do exegesis, if you are unsure? Do you consider every variant to be viable, or do you trust the “scholars” to make those decisions for you? In actual practice, how often in preaching do you indicate to your listeners that you are uncertain? When you use a Greek New Testament that documents all the variants, how do you determine which reading to preach? I think these questions would haunt me, if I were preaching from your perspective.

Our Rebuttal

-Stephen 

I fear our pursuit of certainty has replaced our pursuit of truth. How I “feel” about something is completely irrelevant to whether or not it is true. I can have sin in my life that disrupts my walk with the Lord giving me uncertainty of my salvation in the moment, but that does not mean that I am unsaved. Can we have certainty in something that’s not revealed to be true? Our need for certainty should be left outside the door when it comes to God’s Word. His Word is true because it was inspired by Him, not because we feel certain about it. No one producing any Greek text followed this pursuit of absolute certainty. Neither Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, Mills, Scrivener, or even the KJV translators for that matter, ever made a claim or assertion of certainty for their work. They were confident in the truths of God’s Word that stood the test of time, but they were always searching to improve their texts. That is why they constantly revised their work all the way until their deaths. Scrivener disagreed with numerous readings he placed in his own text (cf. Mt. 16:2-3; John 5:3-4, John 7:53-8:11; etc.). When you make the statement of, “when you use a Greek New Testament that documents all the variants,” I’m fairly certain that you would agree that not “all” textual variances are documented in any Greek text. Also, someone like yourself, who defends the TR, must know that all the editions of the TR demonstrated textual variants. The annotations of Erasmus and Beza are replete with notes of textual differences. By his own count, Erasmus said his first edition contained 1,000 annotations, and my guesstimate would be that maybe at least 1/3 of those are related to textual issues. Scrivener documented these differences in detail. Even the KJV 1611 has hundreds of footnotes allowing the reader to see the translators’ struggle to make choices between readings in the printed editions.  

 Dr. Surrett

7. I appreciate the fact that you have studied this subject for two years, and I commend you for your diligence. However, I feel you have been studying the wrong things. I would suggest you carefully exegete all the passages I have listed in this article, so you are absolutely sure that you are on solid Scriptural ground, and then allow your other studies to stay within the boundaries of God’s Word. Do you know of any passage of Scripture which teaches that God’s Word (or even portions of it) will be lost for centuries? Is there anything in God’s Word that teaches man would ever have to face the Bible with uncertainty, due to textual variants? What is the Biblical justification for allowing our limited knowledge of history to alter your view of preservation? It was that exact same mindset that caused some Bible-believers to think they had to alter their view of creation in order to accommodate the “scientific facts” of evolutionism. 

Our Rebuttal 

-Stephen

I’m not sure where the “two years” statement is coming from? We have been studying this issue for over a decade. Now, I will say that putting our work on a public platform has been more frequent in the last two years. We started our studies of this issue at ABC utilizing mostly your material. I am currently working on my second doctorate. This doctorate is a Ph.D. that is concentrated in textual criticism. I have written extensively on these issues over the last two years and I desire to learn more and more each day. I’m working on numerous projects with manuscript readings as we speak. One of the biggest projects is working with one of the librarians at the Smithsonian covering the details and development of Codex W. — specifically, looking at the unique reading at the end of Mark 16. As stated above, I have transmitted and translated all 59 of Scrivener’s notes of Appendix E, Section III. This field of study is massive and will always have projects. My pursuit of the truth has not taken me further from Scripture, but has drawn me closer. I only mention my current work because people have called into question our qualifications on this subject. I value the teachings of preservation and inspiration more today than I did when I held a TR view. A belief without truth is not worth believing. You asked, “Do you know of any passage of Scripture which teaches that God’s Word (or even portions of it) will be lost for centuries? Most certainly! 2 Chronicles 34:21. If it can be found, it must be lost first (based on the passage). Also, the Bible wasn’t given all at once, which does make the concept of interpreting Scripture by Scripture difficult. If Paul wrote his letters before the Gospels, then how were people supposed to compare his treatise on the resurrection without actual resurrection accounts? You asked, “Is there anything in God’s Word that teaches man would ever have to face the Bible with uncertainty, due to textual variants?” All the time! There are places where the NT cites the OT and the citations aren’t exactly the same (ie. Hebrews 8:9 quoting Jeremiah 31:33). The reading in Jeremiah is “I will be a husband to them.” The writer of Hebrews quotes what appears to be the Greek Septuagint by stating, “I disregard them.” That is quite different. This happens in various places in the NT. I think the better question would be, “Is there anything in God’s Word that teaches God will answer all of our questions to meet our demands? Or does God ever say ‘you just need to trust me even though you don’t understand it?’”  “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2 KJV)

 Dr. Surrett

8. There are questions of history that I cannot answer, and it would be foolish for me to try to debate a textual critic, if history were the final authority that decides all issues. But if the Bible is to be accepted as the final authority, I feel secure in the position I take regarding the Word of God.

Our Response

Stephen

I do not believe it is necessary to divorce history from Scripture. The Bible is a historical book and God is its author. I believe history, science, and archeology are God’s gifts to us in order to validate many of the things we believe in Scripture. The Bible was written in history (time and space). No, I do not believe that we know everything about the past. But what we do know is sufficient enough to operate on today. Scripture is most certainly our final authority. I recently debated someone on this very issue. The most concerning statement of all is your final statement: “I feel secure.” Every Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Materialist, and Muslim I have ever spoken to says the same thing. I have spoken with Mormon’s, with tears in their eyes, that were “certain” and “secure” about what they believe in their religion. The only problem with their “certainty” and “security” is that it is not based on truth! I’m not going for a feeling in this pursuit. I want the truth! The false religions have a feeling of security, but they are all void of the truth. 

This is the problem developing in the TR movement. The feeling of security is going away. The Bart Ehrman’s of the world killed it with unanswered statistics. That is why young people are reaching out to us week, after week, after week, shaken in what they once felt secure in. I’m currently talking with nine individuals this week alone, represented by three different Bible colleges, who once felt secure, but now are shaken. I would rather be the “bad guy” that disrupted the people who have a false security on this issue, waking them up to the reality of the warfare going on out there right now. It’s better coming from me than Bart Ehrman!

 We have lost too many people to apostasy because we did not equip our beloved churches with the truth. Who would have ever thought that a book on textual criticism could win a NY Times #1 bestseller, or set records on Amazon in sales? The church never thought this day would come, but here we are! Perhaps Bart Ehrman was God’s gift to the church by forcing us to look at these issues. It’s time to wake up and see the battle taking place for the Word of God. We are on the front lines defending the Bible! We are engaging atheists, skeptics, and Muslims. They know how we received our Bible better than we do! I have received numerous emails over the last week saying things like, “I do not agree with your conclusion, but I’m going to have to study this out because there’s a ton of things I did not know!” That’s great! Yes, study and make yourself aware of the issues. That’s what we desire to see. This was one of the main reasons for which we wrote our article. We wholeheartedly believe that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and preserved for us today. But we do reject the fallacy that God preserved His word through one stream of manuscripts or a perfect Greek text. 

Some Follow-up Observations from Surrett (a second post) 

I have received a few questions about the TR from individuals who have followed this debate. These questions revolve around the various editions of the TR, and how Scrivener came to produce the standardized edition that we now use. These are certainly fair questions to ask, and I do not profess to be able to answer them in a fashion that would persuade a Critical Text proponent to change his position, but neither am I persuaded that the dogmatic statements made by many of them tell the whole story about the text. As a parallel thought, I could not persuade an evolutionist, based simply upon my limited knowledge of science, that God created the world. However, my failure to know all the facts of the physical universe does not cause me to reject creationism. Prefaced by these thoughts, I will attempt to express some opinions on this matter.

  1. The differences in the various editions of the TR are miniscule. In discussing the differences in all manuscripts (not just the TR), The City Light article under discussion says that the differences are mostly in spelling and word order, and that less than 2% are “viable and meaningful.” It interests me that some of the same people who want us to think that all manuscripts teach virtually the same thing will turn around and try to point out the differences in TR’s, as if those differences are a significant number. Westcott and Hort, and many who have followed their Critical Text position have stated that the Byzantine (or Syrian) text-type, which resulted in the TR, has remained virtually unchanged.

  2. I cannot answer every question about Beza or Scrivener, because I wasn’t there when they did their work (by the way, neither were the textual critics)! My faith is not in Beza or Scrivener; it is in the God who promised to preserve His Word and make it accessible. I would rather have questions I cannot answer about history than to adopt a position that is refuted by Scripture.

  3. Daniel Wallace, who is quoted in the City Light article as documentation for their reasoning, has also made some fascinating statements in an article he wrote for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 20, 1993, entitled, “The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique.” Wallace disdained the TR, but he said that if one believes that the Bible teaches its own preservation, the most consistent position to take is the TR position (p 13). He also proceeded to say that, in studying textual criticism, one must “lay aside fideism,” because faith keeps us from objectively interpreting textual criticism (p 19)! Since I cannot please God apart from faith (Heb 11:6), I refuse to follow the direction that textual criticism is trying to lead me.

  4. I assume (by faith) that Scrivener got it right, but that faith is in the Bible, not in Scrivener.

Our Response

-Stephen

Dr. Surrett states that the various editions of the TR do have changes but that they are “minuscule.” We are not opposed to labeling them minuscule as well. However, our side of the argument is not claiming to have a perfect Greek text for every single reading. Minuscule variations are still differences, and only one reading can be the correct one. Let me give a few examples of these differences. 

-1 John 5:7 is a much disputed text. The original two editions of the “TR” of Erasmus lacked this verse. The Martin Luther German Bible was translated from the 1519 second edition which to this day lacks 1 John 5:7. Even after the assertion of Erasmus in his third edition, he wrote in his annotations that this reading lacked textual credibility. 

-Scrivener left numerous citations in his work of the differences between Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. Since I have transmitted and translated 59 of the translatable differences between Stephanus and Beza, I will list 5 examples based on Scrivener’s number listings:

# 14. John 18:20- πάντες of Erasmus, Vulgate, Tyndale, Coverdale, Great Bible, Geneva 1557, and Bishops’, is the true reading: our Authorized version derives πάντοτε from Complutensian Polyglot, Stephanus: πάντοθεν seems to be a mere conjecture from Beza. πάντες (all) operates as an adjective. πάντοτε (always) functions as an adverb. Scrivener accuses Beza of conjecturing the adverb πάντοθεν(all around or every side) into the text here. 

# 15. John 21:12- Χριστός for Κύριός Beza, but not his Latin version. Beza replaced Christ for Lord, but not in his Latin translation. 

# 17. Acts 4:25-  Beza (but not in 1565), Vulgate inserts Πνεύματι ἁγίῳ before διὰ. A similar reading would later be placed in the Critical editions of the NT. The King James chose Stephanus’ reading by leaving “the Holy Spirit” out of the verse. However, Beza inserted it.

#. 21. Acts 16:7-  Beza (but not in 1565), Vulgate adds Ἰησοῦ(of Jesus) to Πνεῦμα(Spirit) against Erasmus, Complutensian Polyglot, and Stephanus. Beza’s addition would later agree with the Critical editions of the Greek text. However, the King James translators chose to follow Stephanus by leaving Ἰησοῦ(of Jesus) out. 

# 50. 2 Timothy 2:22-  Beza and his Latin version read Χριστόν (Christ) for Κύριον (Lord). This was a conjectural emendation made by Beza without any manuscript basis. Bishop’s 1602 has “Lord” as does the KJV. 

Again, we personally are not concerned about these variances, as they do not change our understanding of Scripture. But for those who claim perfection in their manuscripts, these differences become a problem. Dr. Surrett followed up in his additional thoughts by asserting that “Scrivener “got it right” implying that he believes Scrivener’s Greek text is the perfect text. Here is the problem with that assertion. First, Scrivener was not producing a Greek text from the work of manuscript evidence. In fact, he inserted verses and phrases that he spoke out against as being authentic (ie Matt. 16:2-3, John 5:3-4, John 7:53-8:11). Scrivener did not believe his own work was perfect! He disagreed with readings that he inserted into his additions. Why? One may ask. Well, this brings us to the second problem. Scrivener was compiling a text that was fitting to the readings of the Authorized Version. Scrivener created a Greek text off of the selections of the KJV translators, when the translators made choices between Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. When this is understood, the King James translators are actually the ones, who in theory, built Scrivener’s text. This presents the third problem; the Greek text followed the English translation rather than the translation following the “perfect (Scrivener)” Greek text! Let me present a fourth problem with this assertion by asking a question. Did Scrivener parallel this pattern perfectly? No! I will give two examples: 

In Acts 7:20, Stephen states in his sermon, as recorded in the KJV, that “Moses was born, and was exceeding fair..” However, in Scrivener’s text it says, “ἐγεννήθη Μωσῆς, καὶ ἦν ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ·” Which reads in English that, “Moses was born, and was exceeding fair unto God.” The implications are different when one adds the phrase “unto God” into the equation.

The second example is one that I found while working through Scriveners list of 59.

 #59. Revelation 22:20- For the second ναί (surely, yes) Beza has καὶ (and) and his Latin Igitur (see his note). Scrivener seems to have made a mistake in this listing. He has ναί and ναί as if the KJV translated Stephanus. However, the translators followed Beza with καὶ as the second reading. Beza conjectured here in Greek and Latin. 

Even in the process of trying to harmonize an English translation to a Greek text, there were still mistakes made in transmission. Here, Scrivener seems to have made a wrong documentation of which choice the KJV translators went with. Therefore he documented the wrong reading in his own text. There are other examples of this, but for the sake of time these will suffice to demonstrate that there is still no such thing as a perfect Greek Text. Are these major issues? No. But we are not claiming perfection in every word or reading. Dr. Surrett also stated, “I wasn’t there when they did their work (by the way, neither were the textual critics)” I do not believe one needs to have been there in order to ask and answer many such questions. We still have these texts and they can be examined today. 

Closing Statement to the Readers

– Jon and Stephen

Dr. Surrett argues for the perfection of the TR because of what he claims the Scripture says about itself. The texts provided in support of his position failed to substantiate his claims. To say that he stands with the Scriptures and we stand with the scholars is an unfair assessment. We wholeheartedly affirm what the Scripture says about itself, yet we disagree with Surrett’s interpretation. Because we believe God has preserved His Word, we are unafraid to examine the evidence. Though we do not want to put words in his mouth, Dr. Surrett seems to reject any evidence that does not fit his interpretation of preservation; and therefore closes himself off to the discoveries of textual data. We believe this approach is unhealthy and harmful. 

If you prefer to use the KJV and hold to a TR position, that is your prerogative. However, we believe it is time for the King James Only movement and TR Only movement, which would create an anti-intellectual, and anti-scholarship mentality, to end. This way of thinking is crippling our Churches, and hurting the work of apologetics. The “faith in faith” practice of defending the Scriptures cannot, and will not stand a chance in the public forum. For those who may be on the fence with this issue, we ask you to examine the conservative scholars who are defending the faith of the gospel. Almost none of them hold this position of Scripture in their defense. They know that this attempt to defend the Scriptures would never survive criticism and attack. Chase down the truth no matter the cost. We all have experienced losses in this pursuit of truth. However, what we have gained in return has far outweighed the losses. Remember, the truth always sets you free. We feel the weight of writing a response like this. We know the risk of being accused of “disrespect” or “arrogance” when writing a criticism of an older man. We recognize that we made bold claims and assertions in response to Dr. Surrett. We love him and respect him as a brother in Christ. However, we strongly disagree with his conclusions on this matter.

 

Grace and Peace 

 

Jonathan Beazley, Lead Pastor of CityLight 

jbeazley@citylightseattle.com

 

Dr. Stephen Boyce 

sboyce@citylightseattle.com

Jon Beazley

Passionate about Jesus, husband to my gorgeous wife Bethany, father, and pastor, who enjoys power lifting, the great out doors, and a good cup of coffee!

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