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.
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.
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.