In Testing the Textus Receptus posts, I test the claims of Textus Receptus (TR) Onlyism. This is a moderate form of King James Onlyism focusing on the Greek (& Hebrew) basis for the King James Version.
As I mentioned earlier, Rev. 16:5 is one of three passages that James White (author of The King James Only Controversy) recently asked TR Only proponents to “explain why [someone] should use the TR’s [reading]“.
The TR Only Claim
For this verse, the TR Only claim is not unanimous. There are a few brave TR only groups that side with other TR editions against the TR edition underlying the King James Version (e.g., The Received Bible Society). Most however, defend the King James Version’s readings. I guess this verse then shows that even for TR Only folks, the King James really is the standard. Rarely will a TR onlyist admit a single error in the KJV. They will more readily admit that we have no perfect edition of the TR than that there is an error in the KJV.
Okay, moving back to the point here. Let’s look at the verse itself and the reading which we are concerned about for this post.
KJV And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. (…? ?? ??? ? ?? ??? ? ???????? …)
NASB And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; (…? ?? ??? ? ?? ? ó???? …)
There’s a variant regarding “Lord” earlier in the verse, but the one we will focus on is “Holy One” versus “and shalt be”. Beza’s 1598 edition of the TR supports the KJV here, but several other key printed TR Greek texts have “Holy One”.
Testing that Claim: History of the TR
The other major editions (Erasmus’, Stephanus’ and Elzevirs’) of the TR, besides Beza’s, do not contain the “and shalt be” reading. Scrivener’s 1894 TR does have the reading, but like its Oxford 1825 ed. forebear, Scrivener’s text was created based off of the English readings of the KJV and any available printed Greek texts that the KJV 1611 translators would have had. So really we’re down to Beza’s as the only TR text which includes this reading, with one exception. The 1633 Elzevir’s text, which earned the title “textus receptus“, actually sided with Beza, but the 1624 edition of Elzevir’s text and the 1641 and all following editions of Elzevir’s text go back to Stephanus/Erasmus reading of ó????. That reading is nearly equal to the reading of the Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland, and Robinson-Pierpont (majority) texts. The TR reading keeps the “and (???)”, however.
With this particular reading, English churchgoers of the 1600s would have been shocked to find their Bibles altered with the new Authorized Version’s reading here. The Wycliffe Tyndale, Coverdale, Great, Geneva, and Bishop’s Bibles all had “Holy One”. The Puritan branch of the Geneva Bible Only group would have been a tad bit concerned over this passage I think. Because this is so important to really grasp, I am going to include the text of all the above Bibles at this verse (from studylight.org):
Wycliffe (1395) [And the thridde aungel… seide,] Just art thou, Lord, that art, and that were hooli, that demest these thingis;
Tyndale (1526) And I herde an angell saye: lorde which arte and wast thou arte ryghteous and holy because thou hast geve soche iudgmentes
Coverdale (1535) And I herde an angel saye: LORDE which art and wast, thou art righteous and holy, because thou hast geue soche iudgmentes,
Geneva (1557) And I heard the Angel of the waters say, Lord, thou art iust, Which art, and Which wast: and Holy, because thou hast iudged these things.
Bishop’s (1568) And I hearde the angell of the waters say: Lorde, which art, and wast, thou art ryghteous & holy, because thou hast geuen such iudgementes:
Testing that Claim: Manuscript Evidence
Now why did Beza remove “Holy One”. Certainly if there is strong manuscript evidence, we should gladly embrace the change to a 200+ year tradition of the English Bibles. Yet at this point, we find not one Greek manuscript to support Beza’s reading. “Well”, one might counter, “perhaps Beza had access to manuscripts that we don’t have today.” That would be all fine and dandy, except Beza himself tells us why he inserted the reading. Listen to Beza in his own words:
“And shall be”: The usual publication is “holy one,” which shows a division, contrary to the whole phrase which is foolish, distorting what is put forth in scripture. The Vulgate, however, whether it is articulately correct or not, is not proper in making the change to “holy,” since a section (of the text) has worn away the part after “and,” which would be absolutely necessary in connecting “righteous” and “holy one.” But with John there remains a completeness where the name of Jehovah (the Lord) is used, just as we have said before, 1:4; he always uses the three closely together, therefore it is certainly “and shall be,” for why would he pass over it in this place? And so without doubting the genuine writing in this ancient manuscript, I faithfully restored in the good book what was certainly there, “shall be.” So why not truthfully, with good reason, write “which is to come” as before in four other places, namely 1:4 and 8; likewise in 4:3 and 11:17, because the point is the just Christ shall come away from there and bring them into being: in this way he will in fact appear setting in judgment and exercising his just and eternal decrees.
This is clearly a guess by Beza. He is looking at some Vulgate copy which is worn in the text at hand, and so based on his understanding of John’s other uses of the phrase, he concludes “shall be” is the proper reading. Now, after fixing the Vulgate reading, he then concludes he should fix the Greek reading to “which is to come”, to match the other four places in Revelation where “which are and which were” is found.
The problem is, of the more than 5700 Greek manuscripts we have, and of the more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts we have, we have not a single copy supporting this reading. What’s more we have no other old language translations supporting it either. The only possible evidence for it is detailed by Thomas Holland here (that link is broken, try this one or this one and scroll down). It is a Latin commentary on Revelation compiled in 786 AD, but the commentary in question was from 380 AD. The Latin phrase “qui fuisti et futures es” is used for this passage. Beza, however, is ignorant of this support as he does not cite it as a reason for his changes to the text.
Before I go on to dealing with the evidence, let me offer a scan of Philip Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale House: 2008) at this point. Comfort incorrectly claims the TR and the KJV read the same as other English Bibles here. He goes on to discuss the manuscript evidence, however, for the few minor variants in the manuscripts related to this reading. He actually assumes that “and” is the original reading, albeit coupled with osios (holy).
TR Only Reactions to the Manuscript Evidence
Now in the face of this evidence, TR Onlyists have some explaining to do. A few defenders of the TR are refreshingly honest about the evidence. Hills lists this passage as one of the few “certainly erroneous” errors in the King James Version (which is “not ideally but practically” perfect) [E.F. Hills, Believing Bible Study (Christian Research Press, 3rd edition) pg. 83]. He also cites this passage as one of only two conjectural emendations Beza introduced to the TR which “were perpetuated in the King James Version”. He goes on to say, “In the development of the Textus Receptus the influence of the common faith kept conjectural emendation down to a minimum.” [Believing Bible Study, pg. 206].
The aforementioned Received Bible Society, has this to say about Rev. 16:5:
To the best of our knowledge, there is no extant manuscript that testifies to the reading ????????. While an 8th century Latin commentary on Revelation produced by Beatus of Liebana contains the phrase “qui fuisti et futures es” when referring to 16:5, it appears that, based upon his comments, Beza made this emendation for other reasons.
Therefore we came to the conclusion that Beza changed the text from ????? to ???????? in his 5th edition and the KJV translators made use of it. It is interesting to note that the Elzevir Greek New Testament published in 1624, after the King James Version and many years after Beza’s Greek New Testament did not include Beza’s conjectural emendation. However, when Scrivener prepared his Greek New Testament corresponding to the Greek text underlying the KJV in 1876, he followed the text of English KJV Bible: “shalt be”.
For these reasons, the Received Bible Society (RBS) decided to use the word ????? in Revelation 16:5 in the RBS Edition of the “TR”. This RBS Edition of the TR corresponds to the G20 and G20u Greek texts found in BibleOne. This word is also used in Revelation 16:5 in the English (ERB) and Korean (KRB) Received Bibles
Thomas Holland seems somewhat tentative about Rev. 16:5. He points out that the modern versions don’t go with the TR’s “and”. He also seems to say that since there are various textual variants (surrounding the “and” and a few other minor points, see below), conjectural emendation is warranted, especially in light of the worn section in the text Beza was using as well as in that place in P47.
Other TR Only and KJV Only writers are anything but tentative however. They seem to take this reading in stride as if it doesn’t prove anything. Rather than admit that there may be one minor error in the KJV, they go to great pains to defend it. See for yourself if the following quotes are warranted given the above evidence.
The King James Bible translators did not slavishly follow Beza’s Greek text, but after much prayer, study and comparison, did include Beza’s reading of “and shalt be” in Revelation 16:5. We do not know what other Greek texts the KJB translators possessed at that time that may have helped them in their decisions. They then passed this reading on to future generations in the greatest Bible ever written. Since God has clearly placed His mark of divine approval upon the KJB throughout the last 400 years, I trust that He providentially guided the translators to give us His true words. — Will Kinney on this thread (post #7).
The KJV reading is in harmony with the four other places in Revelation where this phrase is found…. Indeed Christ is the Holy One, but in the Scriptures of the Apostle John the title is found only once (1 John. 2:20), and there, a totally different Greek word is used. The Preface to the Authorised Version reads: “with the former translations diligently compared and revised”. The translators must have felt there was good reason to insert these words though it ran counter to much external evidence. They obviously did not believe the charge made today that Beza inserted it on the basis of conjectural emendation. They knew that they were translating the Word of God, and so do we. The logic of faith should lead us to see God’s guiding providence in a passage such as this. — Jack Moorman in When the KJV Departs from the So-Called Majority Text (Bible for Today: 1988), pg. 102. Moorman, whose work is full of every possible manuscript listing available to put down as evidence for the KJV readings, offers no evidence of any kind for this reading, except for Beza’s text.
These first two quotes beg the question. It is possible the KJV translators could have labored long and hard over that reading and then accepted Beza’s reading. It is equally possible that it being an insignificant variant that was not listed in Stephanus’ textual apparatus they had, and with other thoughts on their mind, they may have just adopted Beza’s reading without too much thought. They could have been convinced by his note that he must be correct and just moved on. Did they pray about the reading? How do we know? Could we grant they erred along with Beza on this?
The [“and shalt be”] portion is ELIMINATED in the Greek text and English versions specified above. Again, the removal of “and shalt be,” puts in doubt the eternal future of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is certainly a matter of doctrine and theology. At this point, this Greek text and these English versions are theologically deficient, whereas the Textus Receptus and the KING JAMES BIBLE are theologically superior. — D.A. Waite in Defending the King James Bible (Bible for Today Press: 1999 edition), pg. 167 (bold and all caps are his). Waite never mentions in this section the fact that the TR is split on this verse, and all English Bibles prior to the KJB did not have this reading.
Erasmus did not use conjecture like the critical text people so often do. The King James and the Textus Receptus is correct. There is no problem with that rendering of Rev. 16:5. If you look at Dr. Jack Moorman’s excellent book, When the King James Bible Departs from the So-Called Majority Text, you can turn to page 102. Dr. Moorman says,… — D.A. Waite, in Central Seminary Refuted on Bible Versions (Bible for Today Press: 1999), pg. 71. Waite goes on to quote what I already did above, from Moorman.
These quotes seem to belie a refusal to consider the manuscript evidence. In the first one, Waite irresponsibly ignores the TR split on the verse, and in the second quote, he dismisses out of hand any objection by offering a quote. Problem is the quote is just another opinion offering no proof at all for why this verse is not an emendation.
How do we know? We’ve got promises of preservation in Scripture. That’s one way of knowing things. That’s how I know justification, Trinity, and all my other doctrines. And I see it as sufficient. And then we’ve a note written by Bezae next to Revelation 16:5 about conjectural emendation. You gravitate to that note. Of course, it is true. The promises are less true than that experience of Bezae. Well, I believe the promises, so when I read Bezae, I hear this: 1) We’re talking about one Greek word. Yes, that’s important (you call it “powerful.” Powerful? Why isn’t the fact that the critical text leaves out “Lord” in Rev. 16:5, powerful? Tyndale and the TR and the KJV and the Geneva Bible all say “Lord,” but the NASV leaves it out completely. Is that powerful?). Part of the explanation of the emendation is that the manuscript was worn, faded, difficult to read. Hosios and esomenos look very much like each other. He sees esomenos to fit the context of the verse and of Revelation. A present participle of eimi, a kai, an imperfect participle of eimi, a kai, and then a future participle of eimi—as opposed to, present, imperfect, and then out of nowhere, an adjective, hosios. It’s only conjectural because the physical copy itself was worn and difficult to read.
2) He has Latin that backs up esomenos. I don’t discount translations.
3) The KJV translators had who knows what in the way of manuscripts. We don’t know. They believe that esomenos is correct.
4) The churches used and preached ‘eseomenos,’ the future, masculine, singular, participle of eimi. That is powerful that they accepted that. Just like it was powerful that they accepted the 66 books.
This is where I stand right now on Rev. 16:5. If I work a little harder, I believe it will become more clear to me. — Kent Brandenburg, author and editor of Thou Shalt Keep Them (Pillar and Ground Publishing: 2003), in his blog comments here.
Revelation 16:5 goes after one word essentially, yes. And that one word is enough to drive a whole history of textual criticism through and an acceptance of a Sinaticus and Vaticanus? That is a problem in light of what Scripture teaches on separation. I think you have to harmonize your view with a Biblical Theology of Scripture. I don’t get that from the other side today. — Kent Brandenburg in this comment earlier under the same post.
I can respect the faithful attitude and expectation that it’ll all work out in the end here. But, once more the manuscript evidence is brushed aside. This time an emphasis on the churches accepting “and shalt be” is given. What about the churches for 200 years previous to the KJV? And when the churches used the KJV, was their use of it a tacit approval of each and every reading in it? In fact the churches in Europe preferred Elzevir’s 1633 TR, and the churches in England preferred the Stephanus (or Stephen’s) 1550 TR.
Neither of these has esomenos.While the Elzevir’s 1633 did contain this reading, subsequent Elzevir’s editions do not. There was no TR based off of the English until Oxford’s 1825 edition. Prior to that time, if the pastors of the churches preached out of the Greek (arguably, most would have) they would not have normally been using Beza’s edition, in England they would have used Stephanus. So how can we say the churches accepted this reading?
As for driving a whole history of textual criticism and acceptance of Aleph and B through this one word in Rev. 16:5, I can see the point. Still if the KJV is not perfect, and if the TR is not perfect, why should it matter if all the words are in one book or not? In principle, this is the same as my position, namely that all the words of Scripture are preserved, in the plethora of available manuscripts, early translations and other textual evidence we have today. Clearly Rev. 16:5 is not enough to debunk a TR preferred view such as the RBS displays above. But it is enough to derail some of the more radical elements of KJV Onlyism. After all, each word and each reading is important.
Anyway you cut it, in my opinion, the evidence is clear. Beza added this into the text erroneously. Almost all later Greek texts did not follow his lead. Earlier texts didn’t either. Bibles before and after 1611 do not have the reading “and shalt be”. The testimony of the church in all other languages, had followed the reading “Holy One”, as far as we know all down to Beza’s time. Here again, as in Luke 2:22, the TR fails the test of perfection. Most TR Only advocates claim either a single TR edition or the KJV itself is indeed without error. If it is without error, only special revelation would lead us to confidently say so, given this passage.