Every so often we are gifted with the words of a textual scholar that confirm my belief that those in the Textus Receptus camp listen to the scholars more than those in the Critical Text camp. In an article hosted on Dr. Peter Gurry’s blog, Dr. Jan Krans offers his insight into the discussion of the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text. As we would expect, Dr. Krans is not in favor of the Textus Receptus, but he does offer some valuable insight to be submitted into the marketplace of ideas. As a staunch “fundamentalist” TR advocate, I can appreciate the straightforward, scholarly, communication style of Dr. Krans.
His thesis is basically that the Textus Receptus cannot be accepted on the grounds that its production was void of any scholarly standard, and any retention of the TR is due to some form of nostalgia. While I think that this conclusion is lacking nuance and rather reductionistic, I won’t devote time in this article attempting to ‘refute’ his claims. Rather, I’d like to highlight some of his main points and offer commentary which should help my reader understand the effort of Modern Textual Scholarship better.
A Scholarly Admission That the Textus Receptus Was the Text of the Reformation
The first point that I’d like to highlight is one that has strangely been contested recently by a number of advocates for the Critical Text, James White being one of them. Dr. Krans writes when describing the TR position, “Historically speaking, the Textus Receptus was the Greek New Testament of the Reformation.” He later affirms this historical reality by saying that the TR view, “Concludes from a historical phenomenon (the Reformation) to actions that God must have taken.” Now I wouldn’t argue so strongly that this is the main argument for the Textus Receptus, but it is certainly a part of the framework. The point I want to highlight is that Dr. Krans dispels any notions that the TR wasn’t the text of the Reformation. In order for Dr. Krans to make his argument, he is not only assuming but plainly stating the historical premise that the TR was in fact the text of the Reformation. He goes on to say that it was merely a default text, but that does not dismiss the fact that it was the default text of the Reformation.
A Scholarly Admission That the Methods That Produced the TR Are Different Than That of the Critical Text
The second point I want to draw your attention to is that Dr. Krans clearly states that the scholars of the Reformation were not doing Textual Criticism in the same way as scholars do today. For those that are not familiar with Dr. Krans, he wrote what I consider to be the definitive work on the methods of Erasmus and Beza, so his input is quite valuable as it pertains to this topic. He argues what I argued in this article, which I wrote after reading his book in the New Testament Tools and Studies Brill series , that Beza in fact was not doing ‘Modern Textual Criticism’. In fact, this is his chief argument against using the TR. He writes,
“Historically speaking the Textus Receptus is undoubtedly outdated, as said, resting as it does upon far fewer sources and a far less developed method than known today. Moreover its editors did use the manuscripts available to them in a very irregular way, and did not follow consistently any method they had, whereas the demands of present-day scholarship guarantee that all evidence is taken into account and that methods are made explicit and subjected to scrutiny.”
Here we have an analysis from whom I would consider the most authoritative scholarly source on the topic, stating without ambiguity that their method was “far less developed” and even that they “did not follow consistently any method they had.” He then continues to contrast this with Modern Textual methodology, which highlights that these two methods, and the scholars who employed them, were engaging in distinct methods. Those that claim that “Beza was doing the same thing as we’re doing today,” like James White, seem to have been refuted by one of highest caliber scholars alive today. Either that, or this would be a strange admission that the Modern Critical method, like the TR, does “not follow consistently any method they” have.
Now it may be the case that Dr. Krans has irrefutably destroyed the TR position, though I don’t think his case is all that strong. The TR does not argue from product to evidence, it argues from Scripture to product. When TR advocates argue evidence, it is always to demonstrate that a reading has some evidential foundation, not that the evidence is the foundation. This is the same way evidence works in Apologetics as well. We all begin a Priori with something and interpret evidence through that lens.
His argument has been made by James White and everybody else before, though Dr. Krans does it much more intelligently. If you’d like to see my response to his basic argument, I can point you to this article and this article for further reading. Most importantly, Dr. Krans has definitively settled the matter on whether the TR was the text of the Reformation and whether or not Beza was doing Modern Textual Criticism. Hopefully we will see these arguments filter out of the mainstream, but I am not confident they will, as proponents of such arguments are not typically willing to correct themselves.