The below article is an excellent explanation of the problem with the Westcott-Hort Greek text. Almost all modern translations are based on the Westcott-Hort Greek text. While I was in Bible college I did not have the tools or resources to examine the Westcott-Hort theory. Since I retired from full-time employment I have had time to research almost all of the Biblical issues that concerned me. I have concluded from my studies that the Textus Receptus as it is so named is truly the best Greek Text. The Westcott-Hort Greek text is seriously flawed because of their extreme reliance of the two manuscripts:
.The basic argument for the use of these two manuscripts is that they are older that most Textus Receptus manuscripts. To me this is not a sufficient argument. Dr. Phil Stringer is an expert on this controversy of KJV only. He understands the history of the Greek Text and the Revision of the Greek text in 1870 by the Revision committee. TLC
THE WESTCOTT AND HORT ONLY CONTROVERSY
By Dr. Phil Stringer
This message was given at the 33rd Annual Meeting and Conference of the GraceWay Bible Society meeting, Saturday, October 27th, 2001, held at Brampton Ontario, Canada.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. The King James Only Controversy.
II. The Primacy of the King James Bible
III. The Westcott and Hort Theory.
IV. Westcott and Hort Only?
V. What You Have to Believe to Accept the Westcott and Hort Theory
VI. Were Westcott and Hort Infallible?
VII. Who Were Westcott and Hort?
VIII. The Doctrine of Westcott and Hort.
IX. Were Westcott and Hort Saved Men?
X. The Work of the English Revision Committee.
XI. Were Westcott and Hort Secret Practitioners of the Occult?
XII. The Fundamentalist Defenders of Westcott and Hort!
XIII. In Conclusion.
I. The King James Only Controversy.
You don’t have to read very much in contemporary, fundamentalist, Baptist literature to come across warnings about the “King James only controversy.”
Dr. Jerry Falwell announces that he is hiring Dr. Harold Rawlings to “refute the ‘King James Only’ cultic movement that is damaging so many good churches today.”
Dr. Robert Sumner warns about the “veritable fountain of misinformation and deceptive double talk on the subject of ‘King James Onlyism’.”
Dr. J. B. Williams refers to those who advocate the King James Only as “misinformers” and as “a cancerous sore.”
Dr. Robert Joyner calls King James Bible loyalists, “heretics”.
Dr. James R. White warns about King James Bible proponents “undercutting the very foundations of the faith itself”.
Such references to the King James Only Controversy are very common. Some refer to loyal supporters of the King James Bible as the “King James Only Cult”. Another common term is the sneering reference to the “King Jimmy Boys.”
However the use of the “King James Bible only” wasn’t always so controversial.
II. The Primacy of the King James Bible
God was doing a great work in England in the early 1600’s. The preaching of the gospel of Christ out of the Matthew’s Bible and the Geneva Bible was leading to multitudes of conversions. Evangelicals and Puritans were becoming a stronger and stronger force in the Church of England and in English culture.
Yet many were concerned that the final translation work into the English language had not been done. King James was persuaded to authorize a new translation. The King James Bible was printed in 1611.
At first there were questions and concerns about this new Bible translation. This was as it should be. No one should accept a Bible translation lightly. By 1640 however, the King James Bible was clearly the Bible of the English people. The Geneva and Matthew’s Bible, once greatly used of God, went out of print. There was simply no demand for them anymore.
The Church of England, with its official evangelical doctrinal statement, used the King James Bible exclusively. It was the Bible of the Puritans, both inside and outside the Church of England. In fact the Puritans began to use the distinctive Biblical English of the King James Bible in the day to day speech.
The King James Bible was the Bible of the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Quakers. It was clearly the Bible of the Baptists. By 1640 it was the Bible of the Pilgrims (some had used the Geneva Bible earlier).
The King James Bible was the Bible of evangelicals in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It became the Bible of the English colonies across the Atlantic Ocean. The only religious group of any size or importance in England that didn’t use the King James Bible was Roman Catholicism. All non-Catholics could have been referred to as “King James only people.” When the Methodist Revival stirred England in the 1700’s, it did so with the preaching of the King James Bible. John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodists, made his own translation of the New Testament. However, it found little acceptance, even among Methodists. Only the King James Bible was in common use.
When English colonies flourished in Australia and New Zealand, the King James Bible was the common Bible of the settlers. When President George Washington took the first presidential oath of office in the new United States of America, he did so with his hand on a King James Bible. Every American president since, with the exception of Franklin Pierce, has done the same.
Over one hundred fifty English translations were produced between 1611 and 1880. However, they found no audience except in a few cults. Most went out of print quickly. The English speaking, Christian world was truly “King James only”.
Baptist preachers produced a Baptist translation of the Bible. They replaced the word baptism with the word immersion. They replaced the word church with the word assembly. However, they found no audience, not even among Baptists. Their translation was soon out of print. The Baptists were truly “King James only”.
As hard as it may be for the liberals and secularists to admit, the American public schools were built around the King James Bible. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, (not exactly a religious right publication), describes the early public schools this way, “Public schools had a distinctly Protestant flavor, with teachers leading prayers and scripture reading from the King James Bible in their lessons”. The Roman Catholic minority objected to the King James Bible and so they developed their own school system. With the exception of the Catholics, the United States was clearly King James only.
Russell Kirk (a Roman Catholic historian) describes the influence of the King James Bible on the United States, “The book that was to exert a stronger influence than any other in Americas was not published until 1611, a few years after the first Virginian settlement: the ‘King James’ translation of the Bible, the Authorized Version, was prepared by English scholars for King James I. Read from American pulpits and in the great majority of American households during colonial times, the Authorized Version shaped the style, informed the intellect, affected the laws, and decreed the morals of the North American Colonies.” Truly the early United States was King James only.
According to Winston Churchill, ninety million copies of the King James Bible had been printed by the mid-twentieth century.
The King James Bible was the Bible of the great modern missions movement of the 1700’s and 1800’s. The missionaries from England and the United States were saved, called to the mission field, and trained under the preaching of the King James Bible. They traveled around the world, introducing the gospel of grace to millions. Many of these missionaries knew little or no Greek and Hebrew. They translated the Bible into 760 languages from the King James Bible. Truly the modern missions movement was a King James only movement.
III. The Westcott and Hort Theory.
In the 1870’s, a challenge arose in the English world to the primacy of the King James Bible. There had always been a challenge from Roman Catholicism, but this challenge came from men who were officially Protestants: Church of England Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott and Cambridge University Professor Fenton John Anthony Hort.
The heart of the Westcott and Hort theory was that the New Testament was preserved in almost perfect condition in two Greek texts, the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus was discovered in a wastebasket in St. Catherine’s Momentary (near Mt. Sinai) in 1844 by Constantin von Tischendorf. The Vaticanus was found in the Vatican library in 1475 and was rediscovered in 1845.
The King James New Testament was translated from a different family of Greek texts. To Westcott and Hort, the King James Bible was clearly an inferior translation. It must be replaced by a new translation from texts that they considered to be older and better. They believed that the true work of God in English had been held back by an inferior Bible. They determined to replace the King James Bible and the Greek Textus Receptus. In short, their theory suggests that for fifteen hundred years the preserved Word of God was lost until it was recovered in the nineteenth century in a trash can and in the Vatican Library. [Editor RAB: that’s where they belong.]
Hort clearly had a bias against the Textus Receptus, calling it “villainous” and “vile”. Hort aggressively taught that the School at Antioch (associated with Lucian) had loosely translated the true text of Scripture in the second century A. D. This supposedly created an unreliable text of Scripture which became the Textus Receptus. This was called the Lucian Recension Theory.
Hort did not have a single historical reference to support the idea that such a recension took place. He simply theorized that it must have taken place. In spite of the fact that there is not a single historical reference to the Lucian Recension, many Bible colleges teach it as a historical fact. [Editor RAB: sad but true. One of my professors was one of the contributing editors to the NIV, he did one of the minor prophets. I was not even a year old in Christ when I went off to seminary. I was not brought up in church, and never owned a Bible until my girlfriend gave me one as a gift before I went to seminary. The night I was saved I borrowed a Bible from a Muslim, (THAT IS ANOTHER STORY}. What was so disturbing to me was my professor. I felt he was trying to undermine my faith in the Bible and I told him so. By the way, my girlfriend gave me a King James Bible and told me it was the Word Of God. I married her while I was in seminary. Praise the Lord for a godly wife with godly convictions concerning the Bible. AMEN.]
IV. Westcott and Hort Only!
It is clear that the modern movement to revise the English Bible is based completely on the works of Westcott and Hort.
K.W. Clark writes, “…the Westcott-Hort text has become today our Textus-Receptus. We have been freed from the one only to become captivated by the other…The psychological chains so recently broken from our fathers have again been forged upon us, even more strongly.”
E.C. Colwell writes, “The dead hand of Fenton John Anthony Hort lies heavy upon us. In the early years of this century Kirsopp Lake described Hort’s work as a failure, …But Hort did not fail to reach his major goal. He dethroned the Textus Receptus. …This was a sensational achievement, an impressive success. Hort’s success in this task and the cogency of his tightly reasoned theory shaped – and still shapes – the thinking of those who approach the textual criticism of the New Testament through the English language.”
Zane Hodges, a long time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, “Modern textual criticism is psychologically addicted to Westcott and Hort. Westcott and Hort in turn, were rationalists in their approach to the textual problem in the New Testament and employed techniques within which rationalism and every other kind of bias are free to operate.”
Alfred Martin, former Vice-President at Moody Bible Institute, wrote in 1951, “The present generation of Bible students having been reared on Westcott and Hort have for the most part accepted this theory without independent or critical examination. …if believing Bible students had the evidence of both sides put before them instead of one side only, there would not be so much blind following of Westcott and Hort.” The two most popular Greek manuscripts today, Nestles-Aland and UBS (United Bible Society), differ very little from the Westcott and Hort text.
V. WHAT YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE TO ACCEPT THE WESTCOTT AND HORT THEORY.
You have to believe that people who believed in the Deity of Christ often corrupt Bible manuscripts.
You have to believe that people who deny the Deity of Christ never corrupt Bible manuscripts.
You have to believe that people who died to get the gospel to the world couldn’t be trusted with the Bible.
You have to believe that their killers could be trusted.
You have to believe that the Celtic Christians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Henricians, Petrobrussians, Paulicians, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Protestant churches, the Anabaptists and the Baptists all did not have the pure word of God.
You have to believe that the Roman Catholics and the nineteenth century rationalists did have the pure word of God.
VI. ARE WESTCOTT AND HORT INFALLIBLE?
Even though many evangelicals treat the Westcott and Hort Theory as proven fact, there have always been serious textual scholars that challenged it.
The brilliant textual scholar, Dean John Burgon, referred to Westcott and Hort’s “violent recoil from the Traditional Text” and “their absolute contempt for the Traditional Text”. He refers to their theory as “superstitious veneration for a few ancient documents.”
Another famed textual scholar and contemporary of Westcott and Hort, F.H.P. Scrivener wrote, “Dr. Hort’s system therefore is entirely destitute of historical foundation. He does not so much as make a show of pretending to it; but then he would persuade us, as he persuaded himself…”.
It is a phony claim to scholarship to simply parrot the ideas of Westcott and Hort and pretend that you are superior to those who don’t accept their ideas. Those who wish to change the King James Bible, so long greatly used of God and cherished by the English speaking people, need to give clear reasons why!
How do you know that the “older” Vaticanus and Sinaticus manuscripts aren’t corrupt manuscripts? How do you know that the Lucian Recension ever took place? Why do you believe that the evangelicals throughout the centuries were using a corrupt text? Why would you trust Westcott and Hort only?
VII. WHO WERE WESTCOTT AND HORT?
B.F. Westcott was born in 1825. F.J.A. Hort was born in 1828. They were members of the Broad Church (or High Church) Party of the Church of England. They became friends during their student days at Cambridge University. They worked for over thirty years together on the subject of the Greek text of the New Testament.
Westcott went on to become the Bishop of Durham (England) and served for a while as chaplain to Queen Victoria. Hort is best remembered as a Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University.
Both men wrote several books. They are best remembered for their edition of the Greek New Testament entitled, “The New Testament in the Original Greek”. They are also remembered for being the two most influential members of the English Revised Version committee which produced a new English translation. Scrivener thought that they exercised too much influence on this committee.
Westcott died in 1901. Hort passed away in 1892. Both men had sons who collected their personal correspondence and who wrote biographies about them.
VIII. THE DOCTRINE OF WESTCOTT AND HORT.
It is clear that neither Westcott nor Hort held anything even faintly resembling a conservative view of Scripture. According to Hort’s son, Dr. Hort’s own mother (a devout Bible believer) could not be sympathetic to his views about the Bible. Westcott wrote to Hort that he overwhelmingly rejected the “idea of the infallibility of the Bible”. Hort says the same thing, the same week, in a letter to Bishop Lightfoot.
When Westcott became the Bishop of Durham, the Durham University Journal welcomed him with the praise that he was “free from all verbal or mechanical ideas of inspiration.”
Hort called the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement “immoral”. In doing so he sided with the normal doctrine of the High Church Party of the Church of England. The Low Church Party was generally evangelical, teaching salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ. The High Church Party taught salvation by good works, including baptism and church membership.
Westcott and Hort wrote many commentaries that include references to classic passages about salvation. Repeatedly their commentary is vague and unclear. Westcott taught that the idea of “propitiating God” was “foreign to the New Testament.” He taught that salvation came from changing the character of the one who offended God. This is consistent with his statement that, “A Christian never is but is always becoming a Christian.”
Again and again, Westcott’s vague comments about salvation are easy to interpret as teaching universal salvation.
The Doctrine of Christ
It was common in the days of Westcott and Hort for those in the Church of England who denied the Deity of Christ to speak in vague terms! To clearly deny the Deity of Christ was to jeopardize your position in the Church of England. Many High Church modernists learned to speak of the Deity of Christ in unclear terms as a way to avoid trouble.
Many statements by both Westcott and Hort fall into that category of “fuzzy” doctrinal statements about Christ. Westcott and Hort were brilliant scholars. Surely they were capable of expressing themselves clearly on the doctrine of Christ if they wanted to. At best they are unclear; at worst, they were modernists hiding behind the fundamental doctrinal statement of the Church of England.
Other Teachings of Westcott and Hort
There are many other areas that cause fundamental Bible believers to have serious questions about Westcott and Hort. Westcott denied that Genesis 1 through 3 were historically true. Hort praised Darwin and his theory of evolution. Both Westcott and Hort praised the “Christian socialist” movement of their day. Westcott belonged to several organizations designed to promote “Christian socialism” and served as President of one of them (the Christian Social Union).
Both Westcott and Hort showed sympathy for the movement to return the Church of England to Rome. Both honored rationalist philosophers of their time like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dr. Frederick Maurice, and Dr. Thomas Arnold. Both were serious students of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
There is much about the teaching of Westcott and Hort to deeply trouble any objective Bible believer.
IX. WERE WESTCOTT AND HORT SAVED MEN?
The evangelical defenders of Westcott and Hort are quick to assert that they were saved men even if some of their ideas seem a little strange in our day. They remind people that both were ordained preachers in the evangelical Church of England.
However, there is no doubt that there were many Church of England preachers that were not true evangelicals. The High Church party was well known to teach salvation by works. Within the Church of England there was a vigorous debate between true evangelicals and those who taught baptismal regeneration or some other system of works for salvation. In their lengthy writings, neither Westcott nor Hort ever give an account of their own conversion. They never identified with the evangelicals in the Church of England. They were never accepted by the evangelicals in the Church of England. They were associated with various occult figures, but never with evangelicals.
While Westcott and Hort praised evolutionists, socialists, and modernists, they were bitterly critical of evangelical soulwinners. Westcott criticized the work of William Booth and the Salvation Army. Hort criticized the crusades of D.L. Moody. Hort criticized the soulwinning Methodists.
Both criticized evangelicals. Neither gave anyone any reason to believe that he had ever trusted Christ as his personal Saviour.
X. THE WORK OF THE ENGLISH REVISION COMMITTEE
In 1870, the English Parliament authorized a revision of the King James Bible. Two teams of translators were hired. Most translators were from the Church of England but there were also seven Presbyterians, four Congregationalists, two Baptists, two Methodists and one Unitarian. The translators were instructed to make as few alterations to the King James Bible as possible.
A similar committee was developed in the United States at the same time. The two committee’s exchanged copies of their work. Several thousand Church of England preachers signed a petition protesting the inclusion of a Unitarian, Dr. Vance Smith, on the Revision Committee. They felt that only saved men should be involved in translating the Bible. Proper translation required the illumination of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Both Westcott and Hort defended Smith and lobbied for his presence on the committee. Westcott threatened to quit if Smith was not included. Westcott and Hort supplied everyone working on the committee with a private copy of their new Greek text. Hort lobbied (some would say intimidated) committee members to follow the Westcott and Hort text. Westcott, Hort, and Bishop Lightfoot pressured the committee to go beyond their mandate for doing a revision of the King James Bible. Dr. Frederick Scrivener opposed many of the changes to be made on the basis of the new Westcott and Hort Greek Text. Committee meetings were referred to as “… a kind of critical duel between Dr. Hort and Dr. Scrivener”.
Arthur Hort described his father’s method for describing the right reading of the text as “to settle the question by the light of his own inner consciousness”. Dean Burgon spoke of Hort’s method as deciding by “the ring of genuiness”. Hort was far more concerned about his feelings than he was about the textual debate over any passage. Westcott referred to the debate over textual readings as “hard fighting” and “a battle royal”.
The original chairman, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, resigned after referring to the project as “this most miserable business”.
Westcott and Hort eventually won most of the debates. After the new English Revision was published, both Scrivener and Burgon published lengthy refutations of the Revision. Burgon attacked the Revision strongly, calling it “excursions into cloud land” and “blowing smoke”. The people of England largely rejected the new translation. Attempts to make it the new Authorized Version of the Church of England met with such protest that Queen Victoria abandoned the idea.
Neither the English nor the American Revision sold very well. They were both soon replaced by other versions. However, the multitude of new English versions were all based upon the same Westcott and Hort Greek text and upon the theories of Westcott and Hort. Their English translation failed but their principles won the day. Even though vangelicals rejected the English Revision and the Westcott and Hort text, it did find supporters. Modernists and rationalists, both within and without the Church of England, praised their work. Theosophy founder, Helen Blavatsky, wrote at great length in praise of the new Greek text.
The defenders of Westcott and Hort claimed that the evangelicals were too simple-minded and unlearned to understand the work of Westcott and Hort and other English “scholars”. Evangelicalism was presented as unscholarly. After a generation, many evangelicals began to feel uncomfortable at always being labeled as unscholarly and uneducated. Some evangelical leaders began to look for ways to reconcile the historic Christian faith with the theories of Westcott and Hort.
These theories and the Greek text of Westcott and Hort began to find their way into evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Two generations after the failure of the English Revision, the theories of Westcott and Hort had become majority opinion in evangelical Bible colleges and seminaries in both the United States and England. Their theories were universally accepted in modernist seminaries. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults bragged about having Bible translations based upon the Westcott and Hort theory.
Compromising evangelicals were suddenly proud of having “scholarship” accepted by the world. They used the same Greek text as the Roman Catholic Church, the modernists and the cults.
A relative handful of Bible believers refused to accept the Greek text and theory of Westcott and Hort. Such holdouts became an irritation to the “scholarly” evangelicals. As study of the issue increased, opposition to the Westcott and Hort theory grew. “Westcott and Hort only” no longer seemed an adequate reason for abandoning the King James Bible. The “scholarly evangelicals” began to react harshly to their “King James only” critics.
XI. WERE WESTCOTT AND HORT SECRET PRACTITIONERS OF THE OCCULT?
In 1993, Gail Riplinger published New Age Bible Versions. In this book, she alleges that Westcott and Hort were practitioners of the occult. It is indicated that they provide a bridge between apostate Christianity and the occult and the New Age Movement.
This charge created a sensation and generated a tremendous amount of criticism for Mrs. Riplinger. It is, of course, a very important charge. An objective look at the evidence for such a charge is important.
Along with Bishop Edward White Benson, Westcott and Hort founded the Ghostly Guild. This club was designed to investigate ghosts and supernatural appearances. The club was based upon the idea that such spirits actually exist and appear to men. According to The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, the members of the Ghostly Club would “relate personal experiences concerned with ghosts.
This club would eventually become the Society for Psychical Research. According to James Webb in The Occult Underground and W.H. Solter, The S.P.R. – An Outline of It’s History, this club became a major factor in the rise of spiritualism among the elite of English society in the late 1800’s. Many leading occult figures belonged to the Society.
Along the way, Westcott and Hort dropped out of the Ghostly Guild. However, they had plenty of opportunity to be exposed to the occult and demonism before they withdrew.
Westcott’s son refers to his father’s life long faith in spiritualism (Archbishop Benson’s son referred to Benson in the same way). Communion with spirits became quite fashionable in the late 1800’s in British society. Even Queen Victoria, who normally led a responsible Christian life, dabbled in spiritualism. However, it was considered unseemly for Church of England clergymen, and Wescott had to keep his ideas quiet. According to Wescott’s son, Arthur, Dr. Wescott practiced the Communion of the Saints. This was a belief that you can fellowship with the spirits of those who died recently.
Bible translator J. B. Phillips also believed in the Communion of Saints. He believed that the spirit of C.S. Lewis visited him after his death. According to Arthur Wescott, Bishop Wescott also had such experiences with spirits. His son writes, “The Communion of Saints seems particularly associated with Peterborough. He had an extraordinary power of realizing this Communion. It was his delight to be alone at night in the great Cathedral, for there he could meditate and pray in full sympathy with all that was good and great in the past. . . There he always had abundant company.” Wescott’s daughter met him returning from one of his customary meditations in the solitary darkness of the chapel at Auckland castle. She said to him, ” I expect you do not feel alone?” “Oh, no,” he said, “It is full.”
Either Dr. Wescott’s children lied about him or Dr. Wescott was used to meeting with spirits. Bible believers recognize these spirits as demons. Wescott and Hort both joined a secret society called, The Apostles. It was limited to 12 members. One of the other members Henry Sidgwick. He was also stated to have led several professors at Trinity College into secretly practicing the occult. Wescott, his close friend, was also a professor at Trinity College. Strange company for a Christian teacher and Bible translator.
In 1872 Wescott formed a secret society, the Eranus Club. Members included Hort, Sidgwick, Arthur Balfour (future prime minister of England), Archbishop Trench and Dean Alford. Both Trench and Alford would be involved in Bible revision work. Balfour became famous for his seances and practice of spiritualism. The Eranus Club would eventually become known as an occult secret society.
Wescott’s defenders point out that Wescott also eventually dropped out of Eranus. Still he was certainly allied with practioners of the occult in a secret society for a period of time.
Balfour and Sedgwick were involved in several occult organizations, socialism and Theosophy. How many Christians have so many friends prominent in the practice of the occult?
Balfour would also be involved in the founding of the League of Nations and in forming a secret society with Cecil Rhodes (the Round Table and the Council on Foreign Relations).
The evidence for Mrs. Riplinger’s assertions is strong. Would Westcott and Hort’s defenders accept anyone today who had such connections? They were clearly in contact with people who were “familiar” with spirits. There is every reason to suspect that they might also have been in contact with spirits. Based upon their associations, there is no clear reason to reject the suggestion that they were involved in the occult. The balance of evidence creates, at the very least, a strong suspicion of occult influence on both Wescott and Hort (especially Dr. Wescott).
XII. THE FUNDAMENTALIST DEFENDERS OF WESTCOTT AND HORT
There are fundamentalists who refuse to accept the characterization of Westcott and Hort as liberals (much less occultists)! J. B Williams writes, “I have three of Westcott’s commentaries in my library, and I challenge anyone to find one sentence that would be a departure from Fundamentalist doctrine.”
Keith Gephart writes, “In reality, Westcott had made clear statements affirming orthodox doctrines such as the deity of Christ, in no way was he guilty of heresy and apostasy.” In responding to a critic of Westcott and Hort, Gephart wrote this, “I cannot help but suspect that . . . some blinding presupposition . . .drives you to prove him a heretic at any cost.”
Dr. Stewart Custer writes, “Especially when these men have written in their mature years book after book defending the conservative interpretation of scripture, it is unjust to characterize their whole ministries by a few misinterpretations that they may have been guilty of.”
Evangelist Robert Sumner admits that Westcott and Hort were liberal in theology but he still believes that they were trustworthy to “restore the original text.”
It would be easy to ask at this point if everyone is reading from the same books. How can there be such a difference of opinion about what these men believed and wrote?
It is true that these men (especially Westcott) wrote commentaries in which they used the great doctrinal terms of the Christian faith in a positive way. They used terms that were part of the official doctrinal position of the Church of England (in which they both held prominent positions).
Almost all denominational liberals use the terms expected of them. This is important in maintaining their income, position and influence. The important thing is how they explain those doctrinal terms (or fail to explain them).
Unless you are determined not to see it, it is clear from their commentaries that they put a liberal interpretation on many Christian doctrines. Both of their sons admit that they were accused of heresy because of their books. This understanding of these statements in their commentaries are supported by several external facts.
Westcott and Hort identified with the High Church Party (Broad Party) within the Church of England. In contrast with the more evangelical and conservative Low Church, modernism found it’s home in the High Church Party.
Westcott and Hort constantly praised theological liberals, socialists and other radicals like Coleridge and Darwin.
No similar praise is found for evangelicals or fundamentalists, either in or out of the Church of England. They are normally ignored! When they are mentioned at all, like D. L. Moody, it is with disdain!
Their private correspondence reveals their liberal drift much more clearly then their commentaries. Of course, it was safer for them to admit what they really believed in this forum. Their correspondence also shows that they had concerns that they could not afford to have all of their beliefs known by the general public.
The biographies of Westcott and Hort written by their sons clearly reveal that they were not in harmony with the official positions of the Church of England. Their sons had no reason to lie about them. Certainly their sons had no King James only bias.
It is interesting that some men can’t face the real record about Westcott and Hort. In fact, some who are quick to attack even minor differences with living preachers, take a blind eye to Westcott and Hort.
However, this is easy to understand. Their campaign to replace the King James Bible has been based upon the work of Westcott and Hort only. To admit these men were not trustworthy would be to admit that they have been wrong in a major premise of their entire ministry.
Perhaps we must be forced to suspect that some blinding presupposition drives them to prove that Westcott and Hort were not heretics at any cost. It appears that “scholarship” requires only a shallow reading of Westcott and Hort and ignorance of their personal letters and correspondence. Their defenders do not spend anytime quoting their personal correspondence or the biographies written by their sons.
Their defenders never recount the testimonies of their conversion because no such testimonies exist.
XIII. IN CONCLUSION.
Dean John Burgon was a contemporary and acquaintance of both Westcott and Hort. He was a firm opponent of the Westcott and Hort theory, their new Greek text and the revision of the English Bible that they so heavily influenced. In an article entitled “The Secret Spanking of Westcott and Hort” Burgon wrote: “the text of Drs. Westcott and Hort is either the very best which has ever appeared or else it is the very worst; the nearest to the sacred autographs or the furthest from them. There is no room for both opinions, and there cannot exist any middle view.” In other words things that are different are not the same.
Millions of professing evangelicals have never heard of Westcott and Hort. None the less, their approach to the Scripture is based upon the theory of Westcott and Hort — Westcott and Hort only. No matter how many books, professors, colleges and denominational leaders these theories are filtered through, they are still the work of Westcott and Hort only.
Those who challenge the primacy of the King James Bible in the English speaking world depend on the work of Westcott and Hort.
Westcott and Hort are not a sufficient basis to reject the Textus Receptus or the King James Bible. Their objectivity, scholarship and doctrine are all at best “suspect.” There is no reason to believe that they were saved men. There is more reason to believe that they were influenced by the occult than there is to believe that they were influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the “King James Only Controversy” is misnamed. It is really a “Westcott and Hort Only” controversy.
Are you willing to abandon the historic contributions of the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible for Westcott and Hort, Westcott and Hort Only.
If you would like an updated KJV without the Thees and Thous I would direct you to Chris and Trudy Sherburne’s website http://www.armoredsheep.com where you can find a critique of the New King James version “Enough” and a copy of the KJ07 which removes the archaic language from the KJV1611 without changing the essential translation. Dr. Phil Stringer referred me to this site when I asked him about a good critique of the New King James Bible translation.
Also you should read the article entitled A Paraphrase is not the Bible.
Rev. Thomas L. Clark – Phil. 3:14