What exactly is the Textus Receptus?

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Freshman
I've been listening to podcasts from the Dean Burgon Society. They have good information about the TR/KJV issue. One question I have, though, is, what exactly is the Textus Receptus? From listening to James White, I know that the KJV translators used the five editions of Erasmus' text, the 1551 Stephanus text, and the 1598 Beza text. Is the Textus Receptus all of these? Or just one of them? How many manuscripts underly each of the editions mentioned above. I've heard it said that 95% of all Greek manuscripts support the KJV, but do these manuscripts make up the Majority Text, the Textus Receptus, or what? And what part does Scrivener's work play?

Also, how much of a difference is there between the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text and the Robinson-Pierpont Majority Text?

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hello Michael,

To answer your last question first (from a previous answer to the very same question) : Farstad & Hodges Vs. Robinson & Pierpont

About what exactly is the Textus Receptus: I would say that it is Erasmus' editions, along with Stephens, and Beza's, keeping in mind that each of these Reformation texts used various manuscripts and versions (even in other languages) to produce their final products. So there is a TR pool so to speak from which to draw. Those who hold to the KJV / AV aver that the 1611 translators used these various editions and versions and were guided by God's providence (not inspiration) to produce a text from the Hebrew and Greek that kept what was in the original autographs intact.

Because the great London fire destroyed the translators' notes we do not have what they determined was the Greek original, though Scrivener's work—the 1894 Greek edition—reverse-constructed a Greek text with readings to match the King James translation. This 1894 work is a TR edition.

About what constitutes the Majority Text, here is a brief section from another thread on the topic:

I said I would post some material from Frederik Wisse’s, The Profile Method..., to give an idea of the status of the Byzantine minuscules, the vast majority of which have been unexamined and suppressed due to editorial bias. Wisse is not a TR / KJV advocate (as can be seen), though it seems safe to say he is a Majority Text advocate, or at least a text critic who seriously desires to know what the overwhelming majority of the Greek MSS actually have to say, especially in light of the failure of text critical efforts based upon the Egyptian MSS. The pages that follow give a telling story of the doings among those academics who have taken to themselves and their naturalistic methodologies our New Testament manuscripts.

There’s a good bit of material here (if it’s long for you to read, it was longer for me to type!), but for those interested in these text critical matters it will be a joy to gather more information on issues that are so important to us. As Wisse reviews Hort’s schema for disallowing the Byzantine (Syrian) text-type, those of you troubled at his method and wondering if there is any validity to it, I would refer you to Robinson and Pierpont’s Introduction noted above and a URL given to it online as an antidote. Bruggen’s and Pickering’s excellent critiques of Hort are good also. Wisse also reviews and critiques Kurt Aland's views on the Byz. I quote as much as I do of Wisse because the book is out of print and rare; though the information is startlingly relevant to our New Testament studies. Please note that I have omitted the footnotes due to time and space constraints.

I quote first from Kevin James’, The Corruption of the Word: The Failure of Modern New Testament Scholarship (distributed by Micro-Load Press, 1990, ISBN: 0962442003):​

Some examples of places where a King James wording seemingly has little support are given in the following chapters. Seemingly, because, while most existing New Testament copies have been roughly categorized into “majority” or “non-majority” groupings, the exact text of thousands of existing manuscripts is unknown except in a handful of places. [Emphasis mine –SMR]

It should be understood that it is impossible to prove which of two or more competing wording variations is the original since the originals have long since disappeared. But it is the height of folly to throw the settled received text of three and one-half centuries into the dustbin to make a revision when the exact contents of thousands of existing copies of mainstream tradition manuscripts is unknown [this last emphasis mine –SMR]. A clear picture of New Testament manuscript transmission history is also lacking. Finally, unless the vigilance of a living God is recognized, attempts at revision of the King James can easily stray from a stated target of supplying God’s people with a “better” New Testament.

Paul said: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21.) This should be the guiding principle for the Christian church when dealing with the intricacies of the wording of the original text. (pp. viii, ix)​

For those interested in reading this now out-of-print work (perhaps you can get it through Inter-library Loan), he collates and studies a number of Greek manuscripts in the following chapters.​

Another source of info on the MT and related issues may be found here: Answering Alan Kurschner of aomin . I hope this all is helpful, Michael.


Puritanboard Amanuensis

That page is probably accurate in terms of looking at mss., but it is insufficient in tracing the way the term came to be used in historical context. If one looks at the text critical literature of the 19th century the TR comes to have a specific meaning as the standard text which underlies the English Bible. It is only on this basis that one can understand Scrivener's aim in reproducing a text underlying the AV in contrast to the text underlying the RV. The term as such does not refer to a specific theory of ms. transmission or ms. families. It simply identifies a standard text. It is a little like speaking of "the critical text" in light of other theories which have emerged in response to it.
Not open for further replies.