The Diversity Within the TR Camp

Introduction

Many people are introduced to the TR position through its critics. This is often unhelpful in understanding just exactly what “the” TR position is, and what those that adhere to some form of it actually believe. It may be shocking to men like James White and Mark Ward, but the TR position, while mostly uniform, has subsets of people who differ in various ways. As a point of clarity, I will not be discussing the topic of translation here. In this article, I want to highlight two major camps within “the” TR position as it pertains to the underlying Greek and Hebrew. It may be helpful for those that are new to the discussion, or perhaps to those who want to see an inside perspective that isn’t tainted with the aggressive argumentation of modern apologists.

The Two Kinds of TR Adherents

The Corpus TR View

This is a very common view within the TR community. Due to minor variations between editions of the TR and the translations thereof, those in this camp believe that the TR is the collection of readings contained within Reformation era Greek texts and translations. Some in this camp rightfully argue that Erasmus’ editions do not properly represent what has been come to be known as the TR, and others accept Erasmus with open arms. This group is more open to accepting various readings at certain places like Rev. 16:5. As with all people that fall in the TR camp, they reject the critical text and versions made from it.

The KJV as a TR View

This is also a very common view within the TR community. This camp recognizes the variations within the TR corpus, but believes that there is not sufficient evidence to make any ruling on one variant or another based on the extant evidence. This skepticism towards the authority of the available manuscript evidence in 2020 necessitates that this group validates readings by measuring the reception of a reading by the church rather then the preponderance of extant evidence for or against a reading.

The basic argument justifying this view is that, due to how many manuscripts have been lost or destroyed and the lack of documentation detailing which manuscripts were available in the 16th century, there is no way to tell with confidence which manuscripts were available throughout time. A common practice within the modern camp is to simply assume that we know everything there is to know regarding the availability of manuscripts during the 16th century, when we clearly don’t. As a result of recognizing this reality, the editorial decisions made by the KJV translation team using Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and editions effectively becomes a definitive TR, as these readings have been received and used more than any other edition in the last 400 years.

Critiques

The Corpus TR View

One of the major critiques of those in the corpus view group is that they are essentially engaging in the same kind of text criticism as the modern camp, only with a smaller subset of data. The difference is said to be in “number and not in kind”. This group is still faced with the reality that we do not have a clear perspective on the sum total of manuscripts that were available to those producing the TR corpus. Despite this critique, this position more readily recognizes some of the difficulties of the variants that exist within the TR corpus, and leaves some room for discussion as to what exactly is “the” TR.

The KJV as a TR View

The most common critique of this position is that it is no different than Ruckmanite King James Onlyism. This is often set forth by men like Mark Ward and James White. The argument is essentially that, because the basic reality is that this group only reads the KJV, it doesn’t matter how they arrived to this position, as the end result is the same. This is a rather uncharitable interpretation of the position, and unhelpful if you are actually trying to understand what is being set forth. All adherents of this position vehemently deny any association to the methodology of Ruckman or Gipp. A fair reading of this position easily reveals that this group does not view the KJV as “reinspired” or esteem an English translation more highly than the inspired original texts.

The basic objection to this critique is that the position is far more nuanced than a blind adherence to the KJV. Often times, those in this camp begin with the corpus view, and through careful study and application of a faith-based criteria, end up adopting all the readings chosen by the KJV editors. Though this is actually quite common, there are still many people within this camp who adopt the KJV as a TR due to how widely and consistently the church has used the KJV for faith and practice. It is important to remember that the reception of Scripture is a theological issue, not an issue of modern criticism.

Conclusion

While both the Corpus view and the KJV as a TR view are practically the same, there are careful nuances within the two camps that deserve recognition. The TR camp should not be swept into one monolithic tribe, as there are differing opinions that may change how one person approaches the debate compared to the next. For example, somebody in the corpus view may be more willing to discuss manuscript evidence in certain places, whereas somebody in the KJV as a TR group might not due to skepticism about the progeny of the manuscripts being discussed.

In both cases, those within the TR camp recognize the absurdity of making hard claims regarding the early surviving manuscripts, often called “Alexandrian”, which make up the critical text. The TR camp finds unity in understanding that we simply do not know enough about the transmission history of the text until we see relative uniformity in the manuscripts leading up to the Reformation period. In the end, both groups agree that the best text is a TR type, as it is the text that God has providentially and unquestionably used most powerfully since the time Bibles began being mass produced via the printing press.

13 thoughts on “The Diversity Within the TR Camp

  1. I put myself in the KJV as a TR camp, and I appreciate the honest and fair treatment you give it. To many instantly write me off as KJV Only (whatever they believe that means), which ends all fruitful dialogue. I’m happy to seriously discuss translation decisions the KJV translators made, but I consider their Greek text to be a settled matter.

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  2. It is a pity that we do not know more about the actual manuscript situation of the KJV translators. It is assumed that many of the manuscripts they had available to them have been either lost or destroyed. I wonder if that is really the case. Do we actually know and have actually collated all the existing manuscripts, so that there are none further to be discovered and collated? I am not sure, but I am doubtful.

    In times of decline the Word of God may be partially hidden, as in the times before Josiah ascended the throne. These are times of great decline. Seems quite possible therefore that some manuscript evidence that guided the KJV translations may be hidden from us, to come to light again when the Lord purposes to revive his church. Just a thought.

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    1. Many manuscripts, as well as the notes of the KJV translators, were lost in the great fire of London, never to be seen again. The KJV itself is the enduring record of them, preserved in English. On another note, I’ve heard it said that new Greek manuscripts are discovered quite regularly, and that at the monastery on Mt. Athos there are hundreds, if not thousands of uncollated Greek manuscripts; there is no urgency to do so, since they are “just more Byzantine texts”.

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      1. That’s interesting about the Byzantine manuscripts in the monastery on Mt Athos. Given the doctrine of the divine preservation of Scripture, it could well be that though manuscripts were lost in the great fire of London, yet there are still others to be found that will witness to the text underlying the KJV, especially in regard to such verses as Rev.16:5 and 1 John 5:7.

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      2. “Many manuscripts, as well as the notes of the KJV translators, were lost in the great fire of London, never to be seen again. The KJV itself is the enduring record of them, preserved in English.”

        I have not studied this subject yet, but I do have a couple of queries:
        1. If we believe that the Greek texts that the KJV translators used were the preserved Word of God, then it seems strange to imply logically that He decided He would burn the said manuscripts in the 1600’s, or that He was not capable of saving them. Surely the great fire did not burn down all buildings in a day and manuscripts could be moved.
        2. Whilst these Greek manuscripts were being used in London, were no copies ever made for the Germans, French, Swiss, Americans etc? Was London the only place in the world to hold a copy of these manuscripts?
        Thx

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  3. Hi, thx for the teaching here. Ever since watching Chris Pinto’s videos on the Jesuit influence on the modern English versions, I have gone back to the KJV.
    When people ask about the various datings of the KJV, how do you answer? Thx

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    1. If you are asking the dates of the manuscripts…there is no way to tell. A mss created in 1200 could be made from a mss from 100 AD. That is why a lot of the modern critical scholarship is bunk – they don’t know anything.

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  4. Thx for the reply. Sorry for not being clear. Some have asked me about the 1611 version of the KJV and then a 1700’s version and they ask which one is the Word? I don’t know how to answer that. Maybe you already have a post addressing the question? Cheers.

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    1. The differences are in spelling and typesetting. I am not aware of any differences in lexical value. It’s basically an argument from people who think that we believe that the English was reinspired.

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  5. My problem is I do think the Purtians held to a view closer to the TR view than the modern CT View. (as Dr. Muller says)

    But I don’t think when I read Turrettini for example I can’t fit ‘the KJV as a TR’ view into what he says about the text. ‘The KJV as a TR’ might be a step to far?

    That being said I use the AV. I think the AV is the best TR translation we have.

    I’m just very hesitant to move beyond how we see Owen and others when debating the text of scripture. And as of now I don’t think I can fit that view ‘the KJV as a TR’ into what they say. I think practically they might agree but I don’t see them argue in this manner.

    (I’m learning so I know I could be wrong.)

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