The “Earliest and Best”

This is the first article in the series commenting on brother Robert Paul Wieland’s YouTube channel.


Greetings and felicitations! In this first article I will be reviewing Robert Paul Wieland’s video, A Partial Answer to Dr. White, which happens to be the first video he posted on his YouTube in 2012. Amazingly, his commentary is still relevant today. Wieland opens his video by graciously offering a “handshake across the internet” and points out that he was simply commenting on White’s view, and not White himself. If we can learn anything in addition to Wieland’s actual arguments, it is how he approached the discussion with grace. I have not found any posts where White interacts with Wieland’s videos, so if you have any posts where James White interacts with Wieland, please link them in the comments so I can add them to this series.

In this 15 minute video, Wieland presents an argument that is hardly considered by those in the critical text camp: that the Byzantine text tradition can be dated as early as the Alexandrian text tradition.

The “Earliest and Best” Myth Addressed

James White has commonly made the claim that the early Papyri and Uncials are “all Alexandrian in form.” This may be hyperbolic, but it is inaccurate nonetheless. This is highly problematic, as there are Byzantine readings in both the Papyri and the Uncials. Wieland brings this fact to the forefront of his response to White by highlighting that this means Byzantine readings pre-date the Lucian recension.

The Lucian Recension Theory (hypothesis) was proposed by Westcott and Hort in part to prop up the supremacy of their new text. They argued that the Byzantine text emerged as a result of a text-critical effort led by Lucian which birthed the Byzantine Text, which was then propagated forth by way of Constantinople. That means that the Byzantine Text could not have been as early as the Alexandrian Text, and further was an adaptation or evolution from the earliest text types. At the time, this was a strong case for exchanging Westcott and Hort’s text for the previous standard, the Textus Receptus. While this is widely rejected within the text critical community now, the residual has stuck within the mainstream orthodoxy of text critical dogma.

Wieland addresses the claim that the Alexandrian Text is “earliest and best” by quoting scholars that are hostile to the Textus Receptus, Bruce Metzger and Gunther Zuntz. It is possible that the reason so few have interacted with Wieland is due to the fact that he uses scholars critical of the Textus Receptus to support his arguments. The quotes are quite lengthy so I’ll post partial quotes here. If you wish to see Wieland’s full presentation, I provided the link to the video in the introduction.

“During the past decades several papyri have come to light which tend to increase one’s uneasiness over Hort’s reluctance to acknowledge the possibility, though it be absent from all great uncial manuscripts. Since the discovery of the Chester Beatty Papyri (P45 and P46) and the Bodmer papyrus II (P66), proof is available that occasionally the later Byzantine text preserves a reading that dates from the second or third century for which there had been no other early witness.”

Metzger, Bruce. New Testament Studies, 189-203.

“To sum up, a number of Byzantine readings, most of them genuine, which previously were discarded as “late,” are anticipated by P46. Our inquiry confirmed what was anyhow probable enough: The Byzantines did not hit upon these readings by conjecture or independent error. They reproduced an older tradition.”

Zuntz, Gunther. The Text of the Epistles, 55-56.

It may come as a surprise to many people, but the Papyri are actually quite powerful in contesting Alexandrian priority, which is in large part responsible for the footnotes, asterisks, and brackets in modern bibles. I imagine this is why White continues to say that the Papyri overwhelmingly prove his point, because if people found out the Papyri actually do not support his claims, they would begin to be skeptical of his presentation overall. He assumes his audience will not look into it, and for the most part, they don’t.

Wieland notes that the “testimony of a hostile witness” carries more weight than that of a friendly witness, and he’s right. If the scholars critical of the TR are saying that the textual data shows the antiquity of the Byzantine tradition, there is credibility in what those in the TR camp are saying, even if the scholars and apologists for the critical text won’t admit it or mitigate the importance of this reality.

He makes another great observation when he points out that manuscript age is not all that important, it is the age of the reading is what matters. Seeing as this was made in 2012 it shows that Wieland was far more up to date in his knowledge of textual scholarship than White, or at least that White was not willing to discuss the challenges to his position. Having been on the receiving end of White’s critiques many times, I can attest to this personally. The point is, that it doesn’t matter how old the paper of the manuscript is if the readings can be shown to be ancient. In the case of Alexandrian vs. Byzantine, this is extremely important.


Wieland concludes by making the point that it is not responsible to say that Alexandrian readings are necessarily more ancient than Byzantine readings. In his first video on his YouTube channel, he delivers a powerful blow to the common orthodoxy of the critical text dogma. If the Alexandrian readings are not necessarily earliest, what ground is left for the modern critical text apologists to stand on? The two positions might as well be on the same playing field as it pertains to antiquity.

The problem is that modern critical text apologists commonly conflate the antiquity of a manuscript with the antiquity of a reading when they present their argument at a layman’s level. Most honest scholars will admit that the point Wieland made is valid, while arguing that the later date of the Byzantine manuscripts implies that the readings are late as well. It is possible that critical text advocates and scholars tend to avoid this fact because it is extremely problematic to the entire structure of the critical text methodology. If the Byzantine Text is as old as the Alexandrian Text, the case for the modern critical text becomes much less relevant. I’ll conclude with this: if the Byzantine tradition, which is commonly labeled as a later evolution of the Alexandrian Text, is actually as old as the readings which make up the modern critical text, the case for using modern bibles in the church all but falls apart.

One thing that you will not get from reading my analysis of Wieland’s videos is his tone and charitable demeanor. I highly recommend for my reader, if you haven’t, to watch his videos and see what I’m talking about. Wieland had the amazing ability to deliver powerful arguments in such a way that disallowed critics to go after his character. I hope you have enjoyed the first article in this series, and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Is the Reconstructionist Effort Justified?


It has been about 140 years since the reconstruction efforts began on the text of the New Testament, if we use 1881, the year Westcott and Hort’s new Greek text was published as a starting point. The Traditional Text of Scripture had been well under attack before that point, but this was the first successful effort to unseat it. Since then, scholars have tried their hand testing many theories, all of which have proved completely unproductive. At some point, Christians need to seriously stop and question if this effort is justified now, or was ever justified. See, going into the 19the century, the church had a text. It was the text that sparked the Reformation. It was the text that was used during the high orthodox period. It was the text of the Great Awakening. All of the Reformed confessional standards from the 17th century appeal to this text as the pure and preserved text. 

For just a minute, let’s step into the world of business and apply a lower standard to the text of Holy Scripture than what the church gives lip service to. If you were a financier, and were in charge of funding a construction project, what sort of progress would you expect? At what point would you pull funding? How many years would you give the effort? How many failed attempts would you allow? What level of accountability would you hold the construction manager to? If every five years the construction manager came to you and said, “We made a mistake laying the foundation, we have to start again,” would that make you question the construction team’s methods? This is the case for the textual reconstruction effort, except Christians, instead of holding the scholars to basic standards, they have adopted the incomplete work of the reconstructionist scholars, and have even become apologists for it. They have even convinced themselves that this building is the only way buildings should be built, and that anybody living in a completed structure that hasn’t wavered for 400 years is actually foolish. Let’s stop pretending  for a minute, that Christians hold textual scholars to any sort of meaningful standard. If these scholars were held to a basic secular standard, they’d be out of jobs. 

Further, how would you feel if the people responsible for the construction project did not believe they had all of the materials to erect the structure, did not believe they could even erect the structure, and had not yet succeeded in erecting the structure? Who in their right might would continue hoping, defending, and financing this construction team? Even from a secular standard, that is absurd. Why is it the case that after 140 years, with all of this alleged “new and better” data, scholars still cannot seem to give the church a final product?

Assessing the Materials 

The earliest and best manuscripts are often appealed to in text-criticism discussions. Yet this tagline really deserves a second look. First, these manuscripts are not the earliest, just the earliest that we have today. The earliest complete New Testament manuscript is from the fourth century. The Bible was written in the first century. Therefore, the statement “Earliest and best” is already misleading. Second, these manuscripts are not the best by any reasonable standard. They disagree more than they agree, some are even paraphrastic like Codex D and P45, and they frequently disagree with the vast majority of our extant Greek manuscripts. The manuscripts labeled “earliest and best” are more appropriately titled “earliest extant.” Further, these manuscripts have no pedigree. We do not know who penned them in most cases, and the places where they do depart from the mainstream textual tradition are often conveniently in places which directly target major Christological doctrines. If we are going to call something “best,” we should at least be willing to develop and apply a consistent qualitative standard to them. Scholars like Dr. John Burgon did this extensively in the 19th century. Even when the genealogical method, which is preferred by modern scholars, is applied to these manuscripts, they differ to such a degree that they are not considered a textual family. They stand in no continuous text tradition handed down by the church. These manuscripts should have never even been considered as an option as a textual foundation, and yet almost every modern Bible uses them as such. It would be like laying the foundation of a building with different types and sizes of wood and expecting that building to withstand a storm. These manuscripts should have never been more than the muse of the secular academy, and yet the church has wholeheartedly bought into them. 

So what do we say to these manuscripts, that are of no particular quality worth mentioning, which we do not know where they came from or who used them, and which disagree with the mainstream text in a multitude of places? We reject them. When Codex B is collated against the Traditional Text, at least 2,877 words have been removed from just the Gospels alone. 3,455 words removed from Sinaiticus, and 3,704 from what we have of Codex D (The Revision Revised, 75). It is high time that the church sets aside the well intentioned words of scholars which say that, “They are essentially the same text.” How can two texts be “essentially the same” when they differ in thousands of places? How exactly is the word “essentially” being defined here?  With Burgon we must say, “Will the English church suffer herself to be in this way defrauded of her priceless inheritance, – through the irreverent bungling of well-intentioned, but misguided men?” Will we stand around as, “these eminent Divines undertake to decide which shall be deemed the genuine utterances of the Holy Ghost? – which not?”

Let us conclude with Burgon, “Now, in the present instance, the ‘five old uncials’ cannot be the depositories of a tradition, whether Western or Eastern, – because they render inconsistent testimony in every verse. It must be further admitted (for this is not really a question of opinion, but a plain matter of fact,) that it is unreasonable to place confidence in such documents. What would be thought of in a court of law of five witnesses, called up 47 times for examination, who should be observed to bear contradictory testimony every time?” (31). If we wouldn’t trust building materials of such quality, and we wouldn’t trust the testimony of such witnesses in court, why do we continue to trust such manuscripts as the basis for the Holy Scriptures? No amount of extant Papyri can resolve the inconsistencies within these uncial manuscripts the church has placed her trust in. 

Returning to a Reasonable Position 

It is not traditionalism, or fundamentalism, to reject manuscripts of such low quality. It is not “sacrificing truth for comfort” to look at the last 140 years of Reconstructionist text-criticism and reject it. At this point in history, it is actually illogical to continue hoping in an effort that has not succeeded. If we are to consider God’s providence at all, a plain story can be told about the fruit of each text. One text, the Traditional Text, was defended against the Papists and other heretical movements, and led to the largest Christian revival in the whole of human history. The other text, the Critical Text, based on mostly just two manuscripts of low quality, is adopted and even created by the Papists and cults, and has led to conservative scholars rejecting preservation and adopting and applying the evolutionary theories of the academy. It has led to hundreds of translations, none of which are considered complete or correct. It is anti-Berean to look at the fruit of such an effort, the text of such an effort, and the Theological statements of the men conducting the work, and to say, “Everything is fine.”

I exhort you, Christian, to stop defending a building that cannot stand, that has proven itself unstable. If you’re looking for evidence, look at the fact that the modern text is changing, and will continue to change. That alone is enough to cast doubt on the reconstructionist model. If the manuscripts are of such quality that they should unseat the Traditional Text, why can they not be used to create a stable text? Why don’t the scholars themselves have confidence in them? I encourage you to investigate the theories and theological standards which have produced the modern Greek texts. Are you comfortable aligning with the theological position that says we do not have now, and probably never will have, the text of the Apostles? Investigate the claims of “fundamentalism” and “traditionalism” and see that they are simply smokescreens to distract from the reality that the modern methodology has not produced a text. 

Look at the character attacks and storytelling on Erasmus and see them for what they are, a distraction. Look at the pedantic presentations of critical text apologists that are aimed almost exclusively at the character, credentials, and even age of those who defend the Traditional Text. Study the polemics of the Papists against Beza and see that their arguments are often the same exact arguments employed against the Traditional Text by Reconstructionist text-criticism apologists. If you are hoping that the direction of the modern text is going to slow down, it is not. There will never be a final product, and your modern Bible will continue changing. Compare that with your theology of Scripture and “prove all things.” The reconstruction of the New Testament was never justified, and never necessary, because the Word of God was never lost. It never needed reconstructing, and the fruit of such a reconstruction has shown the folly of ever thinking that that was the case.  

If you want proof of the low quality of the earliest extant texts, look at the doctrinal statements made by those who know them best. Start with the Chicago Statement and see that the only thing that modern theology will defend is the inerrancy of the non-existent autographs. If the earliest manuscripts are our only shot at having a New Testament, then by their own words, we will never know exactly what the New Testament said. By their own testimony, the Bible doesn’t teach that the Scripture would be preserved perfectly. By their own admission, God never desired to preserve His Word perfectly. Is that the stand that the 21st century church wants to take? That the Bible has not been kept pure in all ages? At least they are being consistent. These doctrinal positions are the logical conclusion, if the quality of the earliest texts are considered “best.” 


The reconstructionist effort began with deception. The Revisionists in the 19th century created a new text when they were only authorized to make a small amount of revisions to the AV. They made changes they were not authorized to make, created a Greek text that they were not authorized to create, and justified it by a theory that has been so thoroughly debunked the whole effort should be questioned. If the earliest extant manuscripts aren’t the best, then the reconstruction effort should have never been considered. The only reason it took place initially was due to breaking the rules set for the revision. Further, the foundational theological premise of the continued use of such a “revised” text is that God has not kept His Word pure in all ages. It requires the belief that certain parts of God’s Word have fallen away. It requires the use of theoretical genealogical models which are demonstrably arbitrary to produce a text. It requires that the church adjust their view of Inspiration and Preservation to changing theories that are constantly falling in and out of vogue. If the modern critical text doesn’t affect doctrine, why does doctrine change as the modern text changes? 

The reconstructionist effort should be rejected. Not because the scholars are mean, or malicious, or have poor intentions, but because the effort itself is not justified. The materials being used are not of proper quality or quantity. The methods used are theoretical and devoid of spiritual quality. The product of the effort speaks for itself. The fruit has grown and fallen off the tree. Christians must rally around a stable text if it wants a stable church. Dear Christian, receive your inheritance that the great fathers of our faith fought for. Doubt not that God has preserved His Word, and stop defending theological frameworks that insist that He hasn’t. Have confidence in the Word of God, and God Himself in His ability to prevent His Word from falling away. 

 “The words of the Lord are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them O LORD, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Ps. 12:6-7)

Going Back to the Start


There are approximately 450 Bible translations in English, each one unique. The most popular of these include the NIV, KJV, NLT, ESV, NKJV, NASB, and CSB. All of these utilize different translation methodologies, and all of these are either revisions from earlier translations, or follow the translational choices of previous translations. Among conservatives, the KJV and ESV reign supreme, though the ESV has largely won the hearts of the modern Calvinist camp. Prior to the late 19th century, there was really only one Bible used by all English speaking churches, the King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version (AV). We’ve come a long way in just over 100 years. It is easy to get bogged down in discussions over which version is the best, and that certainly does happen, often. It is often said that the English speaking world has an “embarrassment of riches” as it pertains to Bible versions, and I suppose that is true if we’re counting noses. Unfortunately, the quality of this multitude of versions should cause the sound minded Christian to see the hundreds of versions for what they are – simply an embarrassment. So how did we get here? How did we get from a church with one text to a church with more texts than there are genders recognized by the state of New York? 

A Short History of English Translations 

Prior to taking a trip through time, it is important to evaluate the state of affairs of Bible versions, and the fruit of such Bible versions. In the first place, it should be apparent to all that the number of Bible translations are not a blessing, but a blight to the English speaking church. Not only is it common, but inevitable, that you will encounter a multitude of translations wherever you go to fellowship. I could write several blog posts chronicling the various occasions on which an NASB devotee and an ESV reader went at it, ultimately resulting in the Bible study devolving into a shoddy attempt to do word studies using some online lexicon. Rather than going back to the Greek, let’s go back in history and see how this all started. 

In 1881, a revision of the Authorized Version was completed, and the product was called the Revised Version. The committee responsible for this effort were authorized with the simple task of removing the “plain and clear errors” in the AV. Some of the rules for such a revision included: 

  1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the text of the AV
  2. To indicate such alteration in the margin
  3. Only necessary changes were to be made

Not only did the “revision” team not follow these rules, they broke them in excess. They didn’t just “revise” the AV, they created an entirely new underlying Greek text, an entirely new translation, and the notes which they left in the margin to detail such additions and subtractions were so inadequate that even the most learned reader could be misled by them. The vague statements such as “some ancient authorities” in the margins have been carried over in spirit into the beloved modern versions, most notably the ESV, NIV, and NASB. These kinds of footnotes are not only bewildering, they introduce doubt where doubt need not be introduced. That is not to say that the intentions of the revision team were malicious, but if they were graded on how well they could follow directions, they would have failed. This is relevant because almost all of the modern versions stand in this textual tradition. 

In the preface of the ESV, it reads that it “stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526; marking its course were the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the English Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV).” 

If you’ve read both the ESV and KJV, you’re probably thinking what I thought when I read that: What loose definition of “classic mainstream” is being used? 

If by “classic mainstream” it is meant that it has 66 books in it, then it certainly does stand in the same stream. Yet, anybody who has read these two versions knows that this is a plain abuse of the term which only serves to obfuscate the reality to the reader. The reality is that the ESV, and almost every modern version stands in the stream of either the RSV or the ASV, and only the KJV can properly claim to stand in the tradition of Tyndale. One cannot say responsibly that a text is in the same tradition as another when they are different in hundreds of places, and those Bibles which stand in the RV stream omit over forty verses from the KJV stream. See, the English Bibles leading up to the KJV in 1611 all had the Longer Ending of Mark, the Pericope Adulterae, the Comma Johanneum, John 5:4, Acts 8:37, Romans 16:24, and so on. They all translated the same reading at John 1:18 and 1 Timothy 3:16. They all stood in the same textual tradition. So it is rather disingenuous when the revision team first introduced their text, advertising it as a “revision,” and again disingenuous when Crossway published their preface saying that the ESV was in the “Classic Mainstream” going back to Tyndale. This same strategy is still employed today by many top scholars who consistently prop up this idea that the two streams are essentially the same. 

It is important to note that not only is the text vastly different between the RV tradition and the KJV tradition, the textual methodologies are completely different as well. If the two streams are different, every Christian should be asking three questions: 

  1. Why is there such a concentrated effort to mitigate the differences between the two streams? 
  2. Why is it so important that the two streams stand in the same tradition? 
  3. If the “revision” effort resulted in an entirely new Greek text, should we adopt that text? 

Answering the Difficult Questions

The reason there is an effort to mitigate the differences between the two streams is due to the fact that if the streams are truly significantly different, the classic Protestant doctrine of inspiration and preservation is incorrect. If the Scriptures have been kept pure in all ages, there wouldn’t be, and cannot be, two textual traditions that are both valid. And if the modern textual tradition is valid, then the sum of classic Protestant doctrine was built on an incorrect text. That is why it is so important that the two texts stand in the same tradition. If we were talking about a handful of insignificant readings which were simply ignored for a hundred years or so, that is easily written off by the fallibility of the textual criticism done in the 16th century. That is not the case, however. The reality is, that we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of differences. So many differences, in fact, that the two text platforms are entirely different Bibles. That should cause every single Christian who cares about Inspiration and Preservation to give serious thought to the reality of two different textual platforms. If the ESV, for example, does not stand in the “classic mainstream” of Scripture, what should we think of it? 

Rather than viewing the discussion over translation as a matter of preference, we need to revisit the history of translations and see if that first “revision” was even warranted, and what exactly was done as a part of the effort. The reality is, if the revision team had followed instructions, it is likely that I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. We’d all be reading a faithful update to the Authorized Version. That of course, did not happen. Instead, we have hundreds of Bible versions, endless debates over which translation is best, the enemies of the faith constantly attacking our embarrassing situation, and utter chaos in our churches as a result of our multitude of Bible versions. Yet these are not the only products of that fateful “revision” effort. As a result of the modern textual methodology, pastors and layman alike are taught to read their Bibles critically and subjectively, picking and choosing verses to believe and not to believe. The common opinion is that “no translation can adequately bring forth the original,” resulting in people utilizing Greek lexicons to warp the text into what they want it to say. The plain fruit of this is that people simply do not trust their Bible translation. Even worse, the latest textual methodology that has evolved from the 19th century has brought the levels of skepticism to dire extremes. Not only is it the conservative position to approach the text skeptically and subjectively, it is perfectly normal to reject the preservation of Scripture altogether. In fact, it is naive, and even considered fundamentalism to affirm that God has preserved the matter of Scripture perfectly into the 21st century. 

The reality is that the “revision” done in 1881 has led to an embarrassment of problems for the modern church. It has given license for people to not only doubt their translation, but to doubt the text it was translated from. It has introduced division by forcing the church to take a stand on the traditional text against the modern text. It has created controversies, debates, strife, confusion, chaos, and has opened the door for not only the enemies of the faith to discredit the Scriptures, but given full license for Christians to do the same. Look around, Christian. There is not a Bible anymore, just bibles. Rather than squabbling for hours on Facebook over textual variants, perhaps it is a good idea to back up for a second and look around. Which text is the real problem? Which text really needs to be justified? Who is the burden of proof really on? It is abundantly clear which text has caused more problems. The question to ask, and an important one at that, is: Was it justified for the church to adopt a text that was conceived in scandal, and should we adopt the children of that text today?

In the following blog posts, I will be exploring these questions. Happy New Year!

A Summary of the Confessional Text Position


In this article, I will provide a shotgun blast summary of the Confessional Text Position, as well as some further commentary which will help those trying to understand the position better. In this short article, I do not expect that I have articulated every nuance of the position perfectly, but I hope that I have communicated it clearly enough for people to understand it as a whole. My goal is the reader can at least see why I adhere to the Traditional Hebrew and Greek text and translations thereof.

In 15 Points

1. God has voluntarily condescended to man by way of speaking to man (Deus Dixit) and making covenants with him (Gen. 2:17; 3:15)

2. In the time of the people of God of old, He spoke by way of the prophets (Heb. 1:1)

3. In these last days, He has spoken to His people by His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1)

4. The way that God has spoken by Jesus Christ is in Scripture through the inspiration of Biblical writers by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is the Word of God, and in these last days, is the way that Christians hear the voice of their Shepherd by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 10:27). The Bible does not contain the Word of God, or become the Word of God, it is the Word of God.

5. The purpose of this speaking is to make man “wise unto salvation” and “furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:15;17; Rom. 1:16; 10:17)

6. Jesus promised that His Word would never fall away, as it is the means of accomplishing His covenant purpose (Mat. 5:18; 24:35)

7. Since God has promised that His words would not fall away, the words of Scripture have been kept pure in all ages, or in every generation (WCF 1.8; Mat. 5:18; 24:35) until the last day

8. Up until the 15th century with the invention of the printing press in Europe, books were hand copied. This hand copying resulted in thousands of manuscripts being circulated and used in churches for all matters of faith and practice. These manuscripts are generally uniform, except for a handful of manuscripts formerly known as the “Alexandrian Text Family”, which were not really copied or circulated. When Constantinople fell in 1453, just 14 years after the invention of the printing press in Europe, Greek Christians fled to Italy, bringing with them their Bibles and language.

9. The printing press was put to use in the creation of printed Bibles, in many different languages, specifically Greek and Latin

10. If it is true that the Bible has been kept pure, it was kept pure up to the 16th century. Thus, the manuscripts that were used in the first effort of creating printed text was the same text used by the people of God up to that point. Text-critics such as Theodore Beza would appeal to the “consent of the church” as a part of his textual methodology, which demonstrates that the reception of readings by the church were an integral part of the compilation of this text

11. The text produced over the course of a century during the Reformation period was universally accepted by the protestants, even to the point of other texts being rejected. It is historically documented that this is the “text received by all” (Received Text), which is abundantly made clear in the commentaries, confessions (see proof texts), translations, and theological works up until the 19th century.

12. This Greek text, along with the Masoretic Hebrew text, remained the main text for translation, commentary, theological works, etc. until the 19th century when Hort’s Greek text, based on Codex Vaticanus was adopted by many. At the time, many believed that Hort’s text was the true original, which caused many people to adopt readings from this text over and above the Received Text. This text was rejected by Erasmus and the Reformers, and has no surviving contemporary ancestor copies, meaning it was simply not copied or used by the church at large.

13. This Greek text was adopted based on Hort’s theory that Vaticanus was “earliest and best” and the text of modern Bibles all generally reflect this text form, even today. Due to the Papyri and the CBGM, Hort’s theory has been rejected by all in the scholarly community. Not to mention Hoskier’s devastating analysis of Codex B (Vaticanus).

14. Thus, the Confessional Text position adopts the Greek and Hebrew text, and translations thereof, that were “received by all” in the age of printed Bibles, and used universally by the orthodox for 300 years practically uncontested, except by Roman Catholics and other heretical groups (Anabaptists, Socinians, etc.).

15. The most popular of these translations, the Authorized Version (KJV), is still used by at least 55% of people who read their Bible daily as of 2014, and at least 6,200 churches. Additionally, Bibles made from these Greek and Hebrew texts into other languages remain widely popular across the world. Other English Bibles are based on this text, such as the MEV, NKJV, GNV, and KJ3, but they are relatively unused compared to the AV.

Further Commentary

The adoption of the Greek Received Text and the Hebrew Masoretic text is one based on what God has done providentially in time. Many assert that the history of the New Testament can only be traced by extant manuscript copies, but those copies do not tell the whole story. The readings in the Bible are vindicated, not on the smattering of early surviving manuscripts, but rather by the people that have used those readings in history (John 10:27), which are preserved in the texts actually used by those people. Since we will never have all of the manuscripts due to war, fire, etc., it is impossible to verify genuine readings by the data available today, as there is no “Master Copy” to compare them against. That is why the current effort of text-criticism is pursuing a hypothetical Initial Text, which relies on constructing a text based on the first 1,000 years of manuscript transmission.

The product of this is called the Editio Critica Maior (ECM), and it will not be finished until 2030. The methodology used (CBGM) to construct this text has already introduced uncertainty to the editors of those making Greek texts as to whether or not they can even find the Initial Text, or if they will even find one Initial Text. That is to say, that from the time of Hort’s text in the 19th century, the modern effort of textual criticism has yet to produce a single stable text. The printed editions of the modern critical text contain a great wealth of textual data, but none of these are a stable text that will not change in the next ten years. That is to say, that translations built on these printed editions are merely a representation of what the editors think the best readings are, not necessarily what the best readings are in reality.

Rather than placing hope in the ability of scholars to prove this Initial Text to be original, Christians in the Confessional Text camp look back to the time when hand copied manuscripts were still being used in churches and circulated in the world. The first effort of “textual criticism” if you will, is unique because it is the only effort of textual criticism that took place when hand copied codices were still being used as a part of the church’s practice. That means that the quality and value of such codices could be validated by the “consent of the church”, because the church would have only adopted a text that was familiar to the one they had been using up to that point. This kind of perspective is not achievable to a modern audience. During the time of the first printed editions, the corruption of the Latin Vulgate was exposed, and the printed editions created during that time were in themselves a protest against the Vulgate and the Roman Catholic church, who had in their possession a corrupted translation of the Scriptures. It was during this time, and because of these printed texts, that Protestantism was born.

Any denomination claiming to be protestant has direct ties back to this text, and the theology built upon it. The case for the Confessional Text is really quite simple, when you think about it. God preserved His Word in every generation in hand copied manuscripts until the form of Bibles transitioned to printed texts. Then He preserved His Word in printed Greek texts based on the circulating and approved manuscripts. This method of transmission was much more efficient, cheap, and easily distributed than the former method of hand copying. This text was received, commented on, preached from, and translated for centuries, and is still used by the majority of Bible reading Christians today. The argument for this text is not one based in tradition, it is one based on simply looking back into history and seeing which text the people of God have used in time. Not simply the story that the choice manuscripts of the modern scholars tells.

Any theories on other text forms are typically based on a handful of ancient manuscripts that were not copied or used widely, and the idea that this smattering of early manuscripts represents the original text form is simply speculation. What history tells us is that the text vindicated in time is the text the people of God used, copied, printed, and translated. This does not mean that every Christian at all times has used this text, just the overwhelming testimony of the people of God as a whole. The fact is, that we know very little about the transmission and form of the text in the ancient church in comparison to what we know about the text after the ancient period. The critical text, while generally looking like the Received Text, is different than the historical text of the protestants, which is why those in the Confessional Text camp do not use them. The few Papyri we have even demonstrate that later manuscripts known as the Byzantine text family were circulating in the ancient church.


So why is there a discussion regarding which text is better? Up until this point in history, the alternative text, the critical text, has been thought to be much more stable and certain than it is now. Currently, the modern critical text is unfinished, and will remain that way until at least 2030 when the ECM is finished. Those in the Confessional Text position might ask two very important questions regarding this text: Does a text that represents the text form of a handful of the thousands of manuscripts, a text which is incomplete, sound like a text that is vindicated in time? Does a changing, uncertain, unfinished text speak to a text that has been preserved, or one that has yet to be found? I suppose these questions aren’t answerable until 2030 when it is complete. This alone is a powerful consideration for those investigating the issue earnestly. Most people in the Confessional Text camp do not anathematize those who read Bibles from the critical text, or break fellowship over it, but we do encourage and advocate for the use of Traditional Text Bibles, as it the historical text of the Protestant church.

For More Information on Why I Prefer the Received Text, Click Here

For Interactions with Arguments Against the Received Text, Click Here

Providential Exposure as it Relates to Preservation

The Theological Method and Preservation

The Theological Method for determining the text of Scripture heavily relies upon understanding the text that has been received by Christians, which is commonly called “exposure”. The text of Scripture is that which has been exposed to the people of God throughout the ages. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (KJV). Michael Kruger, in his book Canon Revisited, says this,

“When people’s eyes are opened, they are struck by the divine qualities of Scripture – it’s beauty and efficacy – and recognize and embrace Scripture for what it is, the word of God. They realize that the voice of Scripture is the voice of the Shepherd” (101). 

This might seem like subjectivism, but this is the historic doctrine that has been recognized throughout the ages by the theologians of the faith, most notably John Calvin and Herman Bavinck. This doctrine is not to be confused with the Mormon doctrine of “burning in the bosom”, which has been done by men like James White. Many false doctrines are based on truth, and here the Christian must recognize that God’s Word is the means that He is speaking to His people in these last days, regardless of how that doctrine has been twisted by other systems. 

What distinguishes this doctrine from its Mormon counterpart is that this reception of the Scriptures by the people of God is not purely individualistic. The text of Scripture, as it has been handed down, exists ontologically, not just subjectively. There is a concrete shape of God’s Word that exists, and the people of God have had that Word in every generation. The text of Scripture must primarily be viewed as a covenantal document given to the covenant people of God for their use in all matters of faith and practice (LBCF 1.1). That does not mean that all those professing Christianity throughout the ages have agreed upon what belongs in Scripture, or that every Christian has had access to the whole of Scripture in every generation. In fact, there are a multitude of Christians that do not have access to God’s Word, either by circumstance, or by choice. 

It is important to take note of how the Apostolic church received the text of Holy Scripture to understand the doctrine of exposure as it relates to preservation. In the New Testament, there is never a case where Scripture is said to be a gift delivered to individual people. The Scriptures were always a corporate blessing to the covenant people of God (Acts 15:14; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). In the testimony of Scripture itself, we can see that God delivers His Word to the people of God, not individual people of God. So the doctrine of exposure does not crumble due to certain individuals not having a copy of the Bible at all times. If this were the case, the fact that there are Christians who simply do not own a Bible would discredit this doctrine altogether. 

Despite the fact that the Canon is recognized in part by its corporate reception, this doctrine of providential exposure does not rest on ecclesiastical authority, as the papists might claim. There is no one single church which is responsible for giving authority to the text of Holy Scripture. In fact, no church could give authority to the Scriptures, they are authoritative in themselves (αυτοπιστος). Kruger explains this well, “The books received by the church inform our understanding of which books are canonical not because the church is infallible o because it created or constituted the canon, but because the church’s reception of these books is a natural and inevitable outworking of the self-authenticating nature of Scripture” (106).

It must be stated, that Kruger makes the distinction between the canon, and the text of the canon, which is the common thought amongst conservative scholarship. Upon examination of the theological method  however, there does not seem to be good reason to separate the two. If the doctrinal foundation of providential exposure demonstrates the “efficacy of the Shepherd’s voice to call”(106), then it follows that there must be a definitive voice that does the calling. The name of a canonical book is simply not efficacious to call sinners to repentance and faith. Simply listing off the canonical list is not the Gospel call. So the material that is providentially exposed to the people of God must also contain the substance which is effective unto life by the power of the Holy Spirit. God has not just preserved the book sleeves of the Bible, He has also preserved the words within those book sleeves. 

Since the Bible is self-authenticating, Christians cannot look to the totality or purity of its reception to determine which books or texts of the Bible should be received today. That is to say that because the majority of the Christian people do not accept one passage as authentic today, does not mean that it has not been properly received in the past, or that it is not ontologically a part of the canon. A passage of Scripture may not have been accepted as canonical by various groups throughout history, and this has indeed been the case, usually due to theological controversy. 

It is antithetical to the Theological method to say that the Scriptures are self-authenticating, but then also say that people must authenticate those Scriptures by a standard outside of the Scriptures themselves. Either the Scriptures are self-authenticating, or they are not. Which is why evidence are great tools to defend the Scriptures, but those evidences can never authenticate those Scriptures in themselves. It is problematic to say that God’s Word has been preserved, and kept pure in all ages, and then to immediately say that He has done so imperfectly, or has not fully exposed that Word to His people yet. 

The Theological method provides a framework that actually gives more weight to historical thought as opposed to modern thought. It disallows for a perspective that believes that the people of God had lost or added passages of Scripture, and that these texts need to be recovered or removed. It prevents certain theories that the text evolved, or that Christ’s divinity was developed over time. It especially rejects the idea that the original text of the New Testament was choppy, crude, and in places incoherent, and that scribes smoothed out the readings to make the text readable. In fact, it exposes those manuscripts that are choppy and missing parts to be of poor quality by assuming that the Holy Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit rather than invented by ostensibly literate first century Jews. 

There may have been localities that corrupted the text (usually intentionally), but this does not represent the providential preservation that was taking place universally. The vast majority of textual variants are due to Scribal errors, but the significant variants were certainly an effort of revision. A Scribe simply wouldn’t have removed or added 12 verses by accident. A great example is the idiosyncratic Egyptian manuscripts uncovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, which tend to disagree with the general manuscript tradition in important variant units. These manuscripts have been given tremendous weight in the modern period due to shifting views of inspiration and preservation. 

If the Scriptures truly were inspired and preserved, then one should expect that the text did not evolve, or that the closest representative of those originals would be riddled with short, abrupt readings. One would expect that in every stage of copying, Scribal errors would be purged out, and that the true readings would persevere. In fact, this phenomenon can be observed in the vast majority of the extant New Testament manuscripts, which has unfortunately been described as Scribal interference, or smoothing out the text. When the transmission of the New Testament manuscripts are viewed Theologically, an entirely different story is told by the manuscripts which largely disagrees with the modern narrative which favors those choppy manuscripts which existed in one locality of the Christian world. 

The preservation of God’s Word can be demonstrated evidentially, but not without the proper Theological lens. Evidential arguments can be a powerful tool in all disciplines, but they often are not effective in themselves to change anybody’s mind. That is why the Theology of scholars will ultimately determine the manuscripts they deem to be earliest and best. Simply counting manuscripts, or weighing manuscripts, is simply not consistent with the conservative doctrine of preservation. In both cases, these methods attempt to take an external authority, such as manuscript count, or the age of the manuscript, and use that to authenticate the Word of God. Yet both of these are at odds with the doctrinal standard that is laid forth in Scriptures themselves, that the Word of God is self-authenticating. That is why the language of “the text that has been received” is warranted in this conversation, because it recognizes God’s providential preservation and exposure of the ontological canon to the people of God in every age. 


The doctrine of exposure is often misunderstood as being too similar to the Mormon doctrine of “burning of the bosom” or the papal doctrine which states that Rome has the authority to authenticate the Bible. Despite these abuses of Scripture, the fact remains that the Scriptures are self-authenticating. It is easy to fall back onto empirical approaches, because they seem to be the most logical. Yet these empirical approaches do not do what they claim they can do, and this is becoming increasingly evident with each passing year. The number of Bibles has only increased, and exponentially at that. Modern methodology has not narrowed the text of the New Testament to fewer legitimate readings, but has expanded greatly the number of readings that “could be” original or early. 

The efforts of modern textual scholarship has only increased the uncertainty of the text of the New Testament. This has culminated in the abandonment of the search for the original text of the Bible for the Ausgangstext, or the earliest text scholars can get back to (which is 3rd or 4th century). Practically speaking, this pursuit will simply result in arriving at some hypothetical form of the text that may have existed in Egypt in the third century. Since this seems to be the direction of most current New Testament text-critical scholarship, it seems that it is time to return to the old paths. The Theological method has been expressed by countless Theologians of the Christian faith, and it should not be abandoned for the sake of adopting the modern critical scientific method. The Scriptures should always be handled as self-authenticating, and a shift to this way of thinking would result in a massive change in the direction of modern New Testament scholarship.