Textus Receptus

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Erasmus did not "invent" the Textus Receptus, but merely printed a small collection of what was already the vast majority of New Testament Manuscripts. The first printed Greek New Testament was the Complutensian Polyglot (1514) but was not published until eight years later, Erasmus' was the second Greek New Testament printed and published in (1516).
Erasmus did not "invent" the Textus Receptus, but merely printed a small collection of what was already the vast majority of New Testament Manuscripts. The first printed Greek New Testament was the Complutensian Polyglot (1514) but was not published until eight years later, Erasmus' was the second Greek New Testament printed and published in (1516).

Textus Receptus (Latin: "received text") is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, for the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe. The series flowed from both the Byzantine and Latin traditional texts, and the first printed Greek New Testament was the Complutensian Polyglot in 1514 which was not published until eight years later. The second Greek New Testament printed and published in 1516 called the Greek New Testament; a work undertaken in Basel by the Dutch scholar and Christian humanist Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus did not "invent" the Textus Receptus, but merely printed a small collection of what was already the vast majority of New Testament Manuscripts.

Erasmus had devoted at least 15 years to the initial project, studying and collecting manuscripts from all over Europe. He had collated many Greek New Testament manuscripts and was surrounded by several language translations and also a multitude of verses from the commentaries and writings of Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyril, Jerome, and Augustine. Erasmus had access to Codex Vaticanus and Codex Bezae, but rejected most of the readings of Vaticanus as corrupt, as did the King James Translators. The text Erasmus chose had an outstanding history in the Greek, Syrian and Waldensian churches. Robert Estienne and Theodore Beza continued Erasmus' work and it became the standard Greek New Testament text.


Pre-16th Century

Textus Receptus type manuscripts and versions have existed as the majority of texts for almost 2000 years. Frederick von Nolan spent 28 years tracing the Textus Receptus to apostolic origins. John William Burgon supported his arguments with the opinion that the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Ephraemi, were older than the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus; and also that the Peshitta translation into Syriac (which supports the Byzantine Text), originated in the 2nd century around 150 A.D.. Papyrus 66 used the Textus Receptus. The 157 A.D. Italic Church in the Northern Italy used the Textus Receptus. The 177 A.D. Gallic Church of Southern France used the Textus Receptus. The Celtic Church used the Textus Receptus. The Waldensians used the Textus Receptus. The Gothic Version of the 4th or 5th century used the Textus Receptus. The Curetonian Syriac is basically the Textus Receptus. Vetus Itala is from Textus Receptus. Codex Washingtonianus of Matthew used the Textus Receptus. Codex Alexandrinus in the Gospels used the Textus Receptus. 99% of extant New Testament manuscripts all used the Textus Receptus. The Greek Orthodox Church used the Textus Receptus.

Greek manuscript evidences point to a Byzantine/Textus Receptus majority. 85% of papyri used Textus Receptus, only 13 represent text of Westcott and Hort. 97% of uncial manuscripts used Textus Receptus, only 9 manuscripts used text of Westcott and Hort. 99% of minuscule manuscripts used Textus Receptus, only 23 used text WH. 100% of lectionaries used the Textus Receptus.

Received Text

textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus - from the 1633 Greek New Testament produced by Abraham Elzevir and his nephew Bonaventure who were printers at Leiden
textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus - from the 1633 Greek New Testament produced by Abraham Elzevir and his nephew Bonaventure who were printers at Leiden

The origin of the term "Textus Receptus" comes from the publisher's preface to the 1633 edition produced by Abraham Elzevir and his nephew Bonaventure who were printers at Leiden:

Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus. Translated "so you hold the text, now received by all, in which nothing corrupt."

The two words, textum and receptum, were modified from the accusative to the nominative case to render textus receptus. Over time, this term has been retroactively applied to Erasmus' editions, as his work served as the basis of the others. The term "Textus Receptus" has also been used to refer to the early church fathers quotes containing "Textus Receptus" type readings, and it is also used as a synonym for Byzantine type texts, the Majority Text, and any reading that is supportive of the Textus Receptus used to underlie the King James Version. Unlike the editions of Erasmus, Estienne (Stephanus), and Beza before them, the Elzevirs were not editors of the editions attributed to them, only the printers. The 1633 edition was edited by Jeremias Hoelzlin, Professor of Greek at Leiden.

William Fulke (1538-1589) used the term "received text" in his book Defense of the Sincere and True Translations (Fulke's 49th response), to describe the Latin and also the commonly accepted texts in certain ages.

History of the Printed Textus Receptus

Complutensian Polyglot

See Also Complutensian Polyglot

The Complutensian Polyglot is the name given to the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible, initiated and financed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros. It contained the first printed Greek New Testament. Although the New Testament was printed in 1514 its release was delayed until the Old Testament was completed in 1517. By this time Erasmus had printed his Novum Instrumentum omne and obtained an exclusive four-year publishing privilege from Emperor Maximilian and Pope Leo X in 1516. Because of Erasmus' exclusive privilege, publication of the Polyglot was delayed until Pope Leo X could sanction it in 1520. It is believed to have not been distributed widely before 1522. It included the first printed editions of the Greek New Testament, the complete Septuagint, and the Targum Onkelos. It came as a six-volume set. The first four volumes contains the Old Testament. Each page consists of three parallel columns of text: Hebrew on the outside, the Latin Vulgate in the middle, and the Greek Septuagint on the inside. On each page of the Pentateuch, the Aramaic text (the Targum Onkelos) and its own Latin translation are added at the bottom. The fifth volume, the New Testament, consists of parallel columns of Greek and the Latin Vulgate. The sixth volume contains various Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek dictionaries and study aids. The Complutensian Polyglot remains as a strong witness against those textual critics who claim Erasmus "invented" the Textus Receptus as most of the readings are akin to Erasmus' editions of the Greek New Testament.

Novum Instrumentum omne

The last page of the Erasmian New Testament (Rev 22:8-21)
The last page of the Erasmian New Testament (Rev 22:8-21)

See Also Novum Instrumentum omne

Erasmus had been working for years on two projects: a collation of Greek texts and a fresh Latin New Testament. In 1512, he began his work on a fresh Latin New Testament. He collected all the Vulgate manuscripts he could find to create a critical edition. Then he polished the Latin. He declared, "It is only fair that Paul should address the Romans in somewhat better Latin." Erasmus was keen to amend the old Vulgate and poured his life into the project: "My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense."

While his intentions for publishing a fresh Latin translation are clear, it is less clear why he included the Greek text. Though some speculate that he intended on producing a critical Greek text or that he wanted to beat the Complutensian Polyglot into print, there is no evidence to support this. Rather his motivation seems to be simpler: he included the Greek text to prove the superiority of his Latin version. He wrote,

"There remains the New Testament translated by me, with the Greek facing, and notes on it by me."

Erasmus, who had worked as a scribe himself, further demonstrated the reason for the inclusion of the Greek text when defending his work:

"But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep."

Erasmus's new work was published by Froben of Basel in 1516 and thence became the first published Greek New Testament, the Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum. Erasmus was surrounded with Bible manuscripts from his childhood in the 1460s, until the publication of his Greek Text in 1516. This is over 40 years! He worked for a dozen years on the text itself. “The preparation had taken years” (Durant, p. 283).

He used manuscripts: 1, 1rK, 2e, 2ap, 4ap, 7, 817.

Novum Testamentum omne

See Also Novum Testamentum omne

The second edition used the more familiar term Testamentum instead of Instrumentum, and eventually became a major source for Luther's German translation. In second edition (1519) Erasmus acquired also Minuscule 3.

With the third edition of Erasmus' Greek text (1522) the Comma Johanneum was included, because a single 16th-century Greek manuscript (Codex Montfortianus) had subsequently been found to contain it, though Erasmus had expressed doubt as to the authenticity of the passage in his Annotations. Popular demand for Greek New Testaments led to many authorized and unauthorized editions in the early sixteenth century; almost all of which were based on Erasmus's work and incorporated his particular readings, although typically also making a number of minor changes of their own.

The overwhelming success of Erasmus' Greek New Testament completely overshadowed the Latin text upon which he had focused. Many other publishers produced their own versions of the Greek New Testament over the next several centuries. The first separate printing of the Greek text in any format was in 1521 which follows the improved 1519 Erasmus text. Even while Erasmus was still at work on his Greek NT and Latin re-translation, Nicholas Gerbelius, the editor of the edition at hand, wrote to him on 11 September 1515 to urge that the Greek should be printed separately for convenience (Tregelles, Account, p. 20). It has been suggested that it was this 1521 separate edition that Martin Luther actually worked from in translating his “September” New Testament of 1522. (Reuss, p. 30 and Darlow and Moule note at 4598)

Editio Regia

See Also Editio Regia

4th edition of New Testament of Robert Estienne
4th edition of New Testament of Robert Estienne

Robert Estienne, known as Stephanus (1503-1559), a printer from Paris, edited four times the Greek New Testament, 1546, 1549, 1550, and 1551, the last in Geneva. The first two are among the neatest Greek texts known, and are called O mirificam; the third edition is a splendid masterpiece of typographical skill. It has critical apparatus in which quoted manuscripts referred to the text. Manuscripts were marked by symbols (from α to ις). He used Polyglotta Complutensis (symbolized by α) and 15 Greek manuscripts. In this number manuscripts: Codex Bezae, Codex Regius, minuscules 4, 5, 6, 2817, 8, 9. The third edition is known as the Editio Regia; the edition of 1551 contains the Latin translation of Erasmus and the Vulgate, is exceedingly rare. It was in this edition that the division of the New Testament into verses was for the first time introduced.


See Also Theodore Beza

The third edition of Estienne (Stephanus) was used by as the basis of the Greek New Testament editions of Theodore Beza (1519-1605), who edited it nine times between 1565 and 1604. In the critical apparatus of the second edition he used the Codex Claromontanus and the Syriac New Testament published by Emmanuel Tremellius in 1569. Codex Bezae was twice referenced (as Codex Bezae and β' of Estienne).

The Underlying Text of the King James Version

See Also King James Version

The English King James Version of 1611 primarily used the 1598 of Beza, but departs from it in about 20 translatable places. Edward Hills wrote:

"the King James Version ought to be regarded not merely as a translation of the Textus Receptus but also as an independent variety of the Textus Receptus."

In 1881 Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, attempted to recreate the text underlying the KJV. It was based upon the 1598 of Beza, but departs in 190 places (see 191 Variations in Scrivener’s 1881 Greek New Testament from Beza's 1598 Textus Receptus), following at times, earlier readings of Erasmus and Stephanus, and sometimes following the printing errors of the original 1611 Authorized Version. As mentioned, the 190 number is too high and it departs from it in about 20 translatable places.

From a scholarly perspective, following the unprinted Greek underlying the KJV is a reasonable position, due to the scholarship of the translators, and also the close adherence to the 1598 of Beza. But modern text critics have caused confusion by the demonization of the "King James Only" movement. While some cultic and spurious characters who hold to King James Onlyism have been highlighted, many reject this position because of guilt by association and choose a Textus Receptus position.

Elzevir Family

The Elzevir's published three editions of the Greek New Testament. The dates being; 1624, 1633 and 1641. The Elzevir text is practically a reprint of the text of Beza 1565 with about fifty minor differences in all. The Elzevirs were notable printers, and their editions of the Greek New Testament were accurate and elegant. They were of Flemish ancestry and were famous printers for several generations. Throughout Europe the Elzevir editions came to occupy a place of honor, and their text was employed as the standard one for commentary and collation. The text of this 1633 edition became known as the "Textus Receptus" because of an advertisement in Heinsius' preface that said in Latin Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus, 'Therefore you have the text now received by all in which we give nothing altered or corrupt.' The Elzevir editions are collated against Estienne 1550 in the appendix of Tregelles 1854, and in Newberry 1877, Scrivener 1861, and Hoskier 1890.


The Greek New Testament which is sold by the Trinitarian Bible Society today, was edited by Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener is the same as the text of Beza's 1598 fourth edition, except for 191 places, in which Scrivener amended his text using earlier editions of the Textus Receptus.

Textual criticism and the Textus Receptus

Kurt Aland said in 1987:

“Finally it is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the original text.” ~ Kurt Aland (Trinity Journal, Fall 1987)

John Mill (1645-1707), collated textual variants from 82 Greek manuscripts. In his Novum Testamentum Graecum, cum lectionibus variantibus MSS (Oxford 1707) he reprinted the unchanged text of the Editio Regia, but in the index he enumerated 30,000 textual variants.

Shortly after Mill published his edition, Daniel Whitby (1638-1725), critiqued his work. He claimed that the autographs of the New Testament were identical to the Textus Receptus, and that the text had never been corrupted. He believed the text of the Holy Scripture was endangered by the 30,000 variants in Mill's edition. Whitby claimed that every part of the New Testament should be defended against these variants.

Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752), in 1725 edited Prodromus Novi Testamenti Graeci Rectè Cautèque Adornandi, in 1734 edited Novum Testamentum Graecum. Bengel divided manuscripts into families and subfamilies. He favoured (lectio difficilior potior).

Johann Jakob Wettstein. His Apparatus was fuller than of any previous editor. He introduced the practice of indicating the ancient manuscripts by capital Roman letters and the later manuscripts by Arabic numerals. He published in Basel Prolegomena ad Novi Testamenti Graeci (1731).

J. J. Griesbach (1745-1812) combined the principles of Bengel and Wettstein. He enlarged the Apparatus by more citations from the Fathers, and various versions, such as the Gothic, the Armenian, and the Philoxenian. Griesbach distinguished a Western, an Alexandrian, and a Byzantine Recension. Christian Frederick Matthaei (1744-1811) was a Griesbach opponent.

Karl Lachmann (1793-1851), was the first who broke with the Textus Receptus. His object was to restore the text to the form in which it had been read in the ancient Church about A.D. 380.

Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881).

The majority of textual critical scholars since the late 19th Century, have adopted an eclectic approach to the Greek New Testament; with the most weight given to the earliest extant manuscripts which tend mainly to be Alexandrian in character; the resulting eclectic Greek text departing from the Textus Receptus in around 6,000 readings. A significant minority of textual scholars, however, maintain the priority of the Byzantine text-type; and consequently prefer the "Majority Text". No school of textual scholarship now continues to defend the priority of the Textus Receptus; although this position does still find adherents amongst the King-James-Only Movement, and other independent Protestant groups hostile to the whole discipline of text criticism—as applied to scripture; and suspicious of any departure from Reformation traditions.

Criticism from KJVO

Gail Riplinger

Gail Riplinger concerning Theodore Beza stated:

The College of Cardinals has its counterpart at some otherwise good Christian colleges. There, the word of God must be corrected by a corrupt Greek text or a 16th century Greek text by a ‘Reformed’ five point Calvinist, such as Beza, who took over the church at Geneva after John Calvin died.
Beza’s extreme supralapsarian theology charges God with the origin of evil. That serious lack of discernment and other tiny lapses in his Greek text led the KJB translators to ignore his text where it did not follow the “Originall Greeke.”

Defense of the Textus Receptus

Textus Receptus Logo in Stephanus' and Beza's editions
Textus Receptus Logo in Stephanus' and Beza's editions

Frederick von Nolan, a 19th century historian and Greek and Latin scholar, spent 28 years attempting to trace the Textus Receptus to apostolic origins. He was an ardent advocate of the supremacy of the Textus Receptus over all other editions of the Greek New Testament, and argued that the first editors of the printed Greek New Testament intentionally selected the texts they did because of their superiority and disregarded other texts which represented other text-types because of their inferiority.

It is not to be conceived that the original editors of the [Greek] New Testament were wholly destitute of plan in selecting those manuscripts, out of which they were to form the text of their printed editions. In the sequel it will appear, that they were not altogether ignorant of two classes of manuscripts; one of which contains the text which we have adopted from them; and the other that text which has been adopted by M. Griesbach.

Regarding Erasmus, Nolan stated:

Nor let it be conceived in disparagement of the great undertaking of Erasmus, that he was merely fortuitously right. Had he barely undertaken to perpetuate the tradition on which he received the sacred text he would have done as much as could be required of him, and more than sufficient to put to shame the puny efforts of those who have vainly labored to improve upon his design. [...] With respect to Manuscripts, it is indisputable that he was acquainted with every variety which is known to us, having distributed them into two principal classes, one of which corresponds with the Complutensian edition, the other with the Vatican manuscript. And he has specified the positive grounds on which he received the one and rejected the other.

Regarding 1 John 5:7, the long-standing belief that MS. 61 was created specifically to force Erasmus to add the text is no longer considered a legitimate concern. Metzger himself admits this in the 3rd edition of The Text of the New Testament... when he notes (footnote 2 on p. 292):

What was said about Erasmus promise and his subsequent suspicion that MS. 61 was written expressly to force him to [add 1 John 5:7 to the text], needs to be corrected in light of the research of H.J. de Jonge, a specialist in Erasmian studies who finds no explicit evidence that supports this frequently made assertion.

Textus Receptus was defended by Burgon in his The Revision Revised (1881), by Edward Miller in A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. According to Burgon Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Ephraemi are older than Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus. Peshitta originated from the 2nd century. Arguments of Miller were of the same kind. Hills took different point of view. Hills rejected text of majority (Byzantine text) and according to him Textus Receptus was the closest text to the autographs. He concluded that Erasmus was divinely guided when he introduced Latin Vulgate readings into his Greek text and argued for the authenticity of the Comma Johanneum.

Hebrew Textus Receptus

In certain circles of scholarship the term Textus Receptus is defined as a reference to all Byzantine type texts, or to any reformation type Greek text, or sometimes to a specific edition of the Greek New Testament, such as the 1598 text of Beza, or the 1550 text of Stephanus, or other individual Greek New Testament editions. The Hebrew Masoretic Text has been called the Hebrew Textus Receptus, or simply the Hebrew received text, specifically referring to the Bomberg 1524-25 edition.

Textus Receptus Editions Online

Complutensian Polyglot

Desiderius Erasmus

There is another copy in the digital collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Staatliche Bibliothek, Regensburg, shelf mark 999/2Script.238).

There is also a GB version of the 1516 edition (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, shelf mark 4.D.10).

Yet another, interesting copy;is found in the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf (shelf mark ULBD DUE 01 α); it is from the collection of (first owner) Johannes Cincinnius von Lippstadt, who even noted on which day he bought the book, and how much he paid for it (see f. aaa 1v), and who made extensive use of it.

The 1527 volume with the Annotationes is available in the Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart.

Another copy can be found at GB: Text and Annotationes (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, shelf mark 4.O.18).

List compiled from the Amsterdam NT Weblog


Stephanus (Robert Estienne)

Theodore Beza

Major editions
Special cases
  • 1559: unauthorised Basel edition: e-rara; ULB Sachsen-Anhalt.
  • 1563: Beza’s Responsio against Castellio (referred to on the title page of the 1565 edition): e-rara
  • 1565: a special copy with Beza’s own handwritten notes in preparation of the third edition (MHR O4 cd (565) a): réro.
  • 1569: Tremellius’; Syriac NT, with Beza’s Greek and Latin text included: e-rara (both volumes); GB (Matt-John).
  • 1594: the Annotationes printed separately: e-rara.
  • 1642: the Cambridge edition, with Camerarius’ commentary: EEBO (limited access).
Minor editions
  • 1575: a Latin-only edition which introduces Chapter summaries: GB

Plantin Polyglot

List compiled with help from the the Amsterdam NT Weblog.




English translations of the Textus Receptus

  • Tyndale New Testament 1526-1530
  • Miles Coverdale's Bible 1535
  • Matthew's Bible 1537
  • The Great Bible 1539
  • Geneva Bible 1557-1560
  • The Bishops' Bible 1568
  • King James Version 1611,1613,1629,1664,1701,1744,1762,1769,1850
  • Quaker Bible English 1764
  • Webster Bible 1833
  • Youngs Literal Version 1862
  • Julia E. Smith Parker Translation 1876
  • Darby Bible 1884,1890
  • Interlinear KJV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English – by George R. Berry
  • New King James Version 1982
  • The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green, Sr. 1986
  • The Scriptures 1993, 1998, 2009
  • The 21st Century King James Version 1994
  • Literal Translation of the Bible 1995
  • Tyndale's New Testament edited by David Daniell 1995
  • Third Millennium Bible 1998
  • Modern King James Version 1999
  • Analytical Literal Translation 1999
  • Updated King James Version 2000
  • King James Version with Apocrypha by David Norton 2005
  • Holy Bible in Hebrew and Greek By Ryan Handermann
  • AV7 The New Authorized Version of the Holy Bible in Present-day English (The AV7 Bible
  • The Holy Bible Lighthouse Version By David Plaisted
  • Holy Scriptures V-W Edition 2010
  • Mickelson's Hilkiah Edition New Testament Interlinear : An English Translation interlined with the Hebraic-Koine Greek of the Textus Receptus, the 1550 Stephanus (Hebrew Edition)
  • Yah Bible KJV by Daniel Merrick, 2010
  • Real - New Testament By Hadarel Corporation
  • King James Version Easy Reader 2010
  • 1599 Geneva Bible by Tolle Lege Press 2010
  • Jesus' Disciples Bible 2012
  • The Revised Young's Literal Translation 2012
  • The Names of God Bible (KJV) by Ann Spangler 2013
  • Proper Name Version of the King James Bible
  • Jubilee Bible 2000 2013
  • Besorah Of Yahusha Natsarim Version
  • The Complete Koine-English Reference Bible: New Testament, Septuagint and Strong's Concordance Kindle Edition 2014 by Joshua Dickey
  • Modern English Version 2014
  • The New Testament Textus Receptus Edition Paperback – April 7, 2015 by Christopher Vaughan
  • King James Version 2016

See also

Other text-types
Other articles


Further reading

Defence of the Textus Receptus

Modern Textual Criticism

(Many of the arguments against the TR in the books below are filled with slander and errors)

  • S. P. Tregelles, The Printed Text of the Greek New Testament, London 1854.
  • Bruce M. Metzger, B. D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • W. W. Combs, Erasmus and the textus receptus, DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996).
  • Daniel B. Wallace, Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text. Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989): 270-290.
  • Dr James White. King James Only Controversy, Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Bethany House, 1995.

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