The Received-Text: No Renderings Based upon Conjecture
Scholars today speak of corruption in manuscripts of the biblical text, discouraging belief in text inerrancy. Actually, any text left solely to the care of men can be expected to exhibit error due to limitations, carelessness or deception that are a part of human nature. It is difficult to imagine that any literary work undertaken by men entirely on their own recognizance could ever be totally accurate, as indicated by the history of secular literature.
God's intervention in text history is vital to maintain the inerrancy of texts in inspired autograph originals of scripture. Since men are always involved in text transmission, intervention should take the form of His choosing & guidance of copyists & translators and enabling of their scholarship. Text comparison indicates that God's intervention applies to traditional texts that have long been proven standards among His people (discussed on this website).
Now a great potential for corruption through the influence of men indicates that many manuscripts can exhibit a degree of error, ranging from very limited in most cases, to severe in others. Indeed a finding that select texts alone show evidence of inerrancy would be the factor identifying God's hand in text history, applied through His chosen men to the benefit of true churches alone. Variant degrees of error would identify the faulty work of men who are self-appointed, or appointed by others, to a task for which they are unqualified or untrustworthy. Thus the amount of manuscript support alone wouldn't always be the main factor identifying true readings, yet would likely identify a true text-class since chosen dedicated scribes are those likely to do most of the work.
Now what can be said of a few cases in which there is little, or no, manuscript support for readings in traditional texts of God's people? This can be viewed as God's way of showing us that His hand on the text is the only way we can have access to all of His truth. Total preservation of God's Word would be expected to culminate eventually in a standard printed text to replace hand-written copies subject to much error. Thus the advent of the Greek Received Text as the first printed New Testament text would announce God's true Word to the world in general. Such a text should restore true readings in cases of very little support by Greek manuscripts that are the mere work of men. It would renew true readings in God's time, through His chosen scholars, those who are identified by outstanding scholarship and devotion to God's truth. We can verify all this on the basis of internal evidence, the accuracy of language, context and grammar, by contrast with renderings in manuscripts that are just the work of scribes.
Now this view should not be rejected by modern scholars who promote a supposed superiority of Alexandrian manuscripts, even though they constitute a small minority of extant manuscript evidence. This situation is especially true of Vaticanus & Sinaiticus, the main Alexandrians that often provide the only support for critical-text readings. These manuscripts were lost to churches for ~1400 years, and offered no support at all for various readings peculiar to these texts over that period of time. To be consistent, scholars can't dismiss readings, offered by men like Beza & Erasmus, that have little or no manuscript support, especially since, as illustrated below, these are supported by language, context & grammar in superior fashion, and have early-version support, like that of the Vulgate, but Greek manuscript support limited to no earlier than the 16th century.
Regarding pre-5th century Greek manuscripts, 2nd-century Egyptian papyri exhibit Alexandrian & Traditional-Text readings,* so even in Egypt, the locale of Alexandrian texts, Traditional-Text readings were known. Traditional-Text readings in papyri are said to be minor in extent, and the Alexandrian major in extent, so how do we account for such a text-type mixture in Egyptian papyri? Modification of a supposedly original Alexandrian text to favor the Traditional wouldn't likely end with just minor change toward the Traditional. Largely-complete modification of an original Traditional Text to favor the Alexandrian would be far more likely, especially since Egyptian papyri are far more likely to exhibit bias for an Egyptian-type text than for the Traditional.
The Traditional Text as a class is far greater in number, and far higher in the quality of internal evidence than the Alexandrian is, and as noted above, papyri indicate the Traditional Text is at least as old as the Alexandrian, and suggest the Traditional Text is really the oldest (see essay 4i). A primary reason for rejection of Alexandrian texts is internal evidence indicative of many accuracy problems, even those of tampering for dogmatic purposes.
The case for restoration of authentic Traditional-Text readings
Now we consider the internal evidence supporting the authenticity of Received-Text passages with little, or no, manuscript support by its Traditional-Text ancestor.
Scholars say there are renderings based only on conjecture by Theodore Beza in his 1598 Received-Text edition that was the main basis for the KJV New Testament. However, textual evidence indicates Providential intervention enabling Beza to grasp true text language & context when there is minimal, or unknown manuscript support, and if Beza indicates that a rendering is based upon his own conjecture, that only indicates his lack of awareness of God working through him.
Regarding text preservation, the record of extant manuscripts can be incomplete due in part to early persecution of churches by Roman emperors seeking to destroy the source of Christian resistance to perceived "absolute authority of Rome." Yet we can expect God's intervention to retain true texts in all copies maintained by His people in true churches, or text restoration if all manuscripts are affected. We can't say when He would perform this work, but it would likely be early, although extant manuscripts would not always show this effect since many would be lost at unknown times in text history. Yet the Received Text, as a finalized perfected form of an original Traditional Text, necessarily would restore them if God's Word is to prevail, and this view is supported by some work of Beza & Erasmus in Received-Text history.
1. At Lk.2:22 the KJV says, when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, referring to Mary, Joseph and Jesus shortly after the birth of Jesus. Nearly all Greek manuscripts read their purification, rather than the her purification of Beza, and there is a plurality involved in the purification process since the Christ Child would undergo circumcision, a type of purification. Further, the purification relates to the Child in the sense that the law of Moses given by God is involved, and the Child represents God in this matter. Furthermore, there is a sense in which the purification relates to Joseph since he is the head of the household, and thus has the responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the purification are observed. However, none of these aspects of purification involving the Christ Child & Joseph apply to Luke 2:22 since the immediate context refers only to the length of time for purification required for Joseph & Mary to present the Child to God in the Jerusalem temple. That timing was the 40 days of Mary's purification noted in Leviticus 12:4, and circumcision of the Child would be completed much earlier on the 8th day of Mary's purification, (see Lev.12:3) long before they could take Him to Jerusalem. Immediate context justifies her alone as the correct pronoun, and use of the Child's circumcision to justify their is supported only by remote context, and, at best, is only implied in Luke. Further, the suggested additional roles of the Child & Joseph are not supported even by the remote context, and have no role in Luke except that of implied conjecture. The immediate context, always the main matter to be communicated, denies their, and shows Beza's her rendering is the true one. Internal evidence proves to be the decisive factor, and a lack in manuscript support proves to be a predominant effect of manuscript error.
2. The KJV at Rev.16:5 reads with Beza's rendering, O Lord, which art, and wast and shalt be, replacing faulty illogical language of nearly all manuscripts that read who art and who wast and who (or the) Holy One (no verb), who occurring in a series of three. The phrase who/the holy one interrupts continuity of the reference to God's eternality, and omits an expected third verb. The rendering of Beza speaks of eternal God of the past, present, and future, as expected of a true orthodox reading, and in accord with similar statements in Rev.1:4, 1:8, 4:8, 11:17 that read is/art to come, to acknowledge God's eternality by an obvious future aspect. The known manuscripts don’t relate this fully in Rev.16:5, not including the future aspect. Further, the future aspect serves to contrast Christ with antichrist, the latter being revealed in Rev.17:11 as having no future (he ends up in the lake of fire), for the verse describes him in past & present tense only, the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. The dominant Rev.16:5 theme is righteous judgment of God through Christ, in past, present & future power, while antichrist will be great in power only for a limited time. Christ is in view by contrast with antichrist in Rev.16:5, for righteous judgment is involved, and the Father commits all judgment to the Son (Jn.5:22). Thus the term holy is superfluous & linguistically unsound in this context, and the evidence is indicative of Providential guidance of Beza to renew a true readings lost in nearly all Greek manuscripts.
Manuscript error by indifferent scribes of large unbiblical churches likely began early, so preservation in translations of earliest biblical churches, translations older than the non-traditional 4th-century manuscripts favored by scholars, are helpful in retaining true readings. Further, renewal of texts through God's intervention on behalf of post- Reformation churches desiring to abandon non-biblical tradition and practice biblical standards, can explain contextually & linguistically-accurate readings emerging after the Reformation. Indications of this are the KJV displacing of early English versions having the incorrect holy one, and the reign of the finalized Received Text in English form in the KJV as the popular one presenting the best literality; all matured editions will be inerrant, but will vary in literality in minor ways (minor literality differences don't affect inerrant teachings).
3. Rev.17:8. Supposedly, in a passage dealing with the antichrist, the final KJV clause, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is, should read, the beast that was, and is not, and is come/present. The difference is due to use of different terms in the Received Text of the KJV and critical texts of modern versions, yet is present offers a like sense to yet is, which is likely the cause of the variance. Despite a degree of similarity in the two renderings, even is present doesn't fully fit the sense of the clause, speaking of one who was once present before all, and later was absent from all, is now present before all, which falls short of the entire sense of meaning. The rendering and yet is expresses the true sense, that of great astonishment that the beast earlier was in existence, then was not in existence, having received a mortal wound, and yet is now in existence (Rev.13:3,14 & 17:11 refer to the mortal wound).
Beza’s stated reasons for his choices are irrelevant, only his text being of concern. We can see that Beza, like certain others, was providentially chosen to correct an ancient Traditional Text that, while excellent overall, needed minor change due to loss of some true passage text through willful attacks, or through errors of scribes.
4. Erasmus would have a part in God’s plan in such matters. This is indicated in Rev. 22:19 where the KJV reads, concerning anyone who takes away from prophecy of the Revelation, that God will take away his part out of the book of life. The term book of life, attributed to Erasmus, has only slight Greek manuscript support, and tree of life has most of the Greek support, and is preferred in most modern English versions.
But language/context deny tree of life here, not permitting a sense of giving someone a part, or portion, in the tree of life. Rev.2:7 says To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, indicating nothing more than all of the redeemed being given the right to eat of the tree, not the sense of having a part in the tree; the latter language is odd and inapplicable since the tree serves a need of the redeemed, but doesn't reflect any part or ownership in it. A part or ownership reflects names of the redeemed who are inherent to the book of life & inherent to having a part in the book of life. Correct use of tree of life is to speak of the right or authority to partake, which is the way the matter is expressed in Rev.22:14 that speaks of a right to the tree of life, and the KJV & its Greek text, modern English versions & their Greek texts all have it this way there.
In Rev.22:19, language & context indicate that the correct sense of the verse is taking away from someone his part or portion of/in the book of life, each person having a part of/in the book given to him since his name is written there.* Removal of names from the book of life is also contextually logical, immediately presenting ultimate disaster for those who remove words from God’s prophecy, and the verse plainly speaks of guilty parties not having any part in the holy city, identifying those whose names aren't in the book of life. Indeed, the preceding Rev.21:27 verse speaks of those who will not be in the holy city as not having their names in the book of life, and here book of life is in critical texts also. On the other hand, naming the tree in Rev.22:19 is superfluous since loss of a part in, or right to, the tree of life automatically applies to persons excluded from the holy city, the city being the locale of the tree of life, as seen in Rev.21:23 - 22:2.
*Some reject the rendering book of life, saying it indicates the possibility of losing salvation, but that is an incorrect observation. Evidently, names of all innocent children are entered in the book so that scripture rightly says whosoever will about salvation (Rev.22:17), most names being removed ultimately as people reject salvation. This view accords with Rev.3:5 where Christ says of each overcomer, I will not blot out his name out of the book of life. Little children are innocent, which means not guilty, for they do not defy God consciouslyby breaking His commandments. Only when they reach an age when they willfully despise the commandments do they become guilty, and if this status continues long enough, it results in eventual loss of their names from the book. There are saved persons who backslide into sin due to weakness resulting from long practice of sin, but they don't willfully sin and don't lose salvation, and they can be restored to a proper relationship with God, due to the patience and long-suffering of God with humanity.
Commentators say that, due to a lack of Greek manuscript support, Erasmus obtained book of life by back-translating Rev.22:16-21 from the Latin Vulgate. However, there are a few Greek manuscripts that have this rendering, and as Dr. Holland points out, textual evidence indicates renderings of these Revelation verses don't fully follow the Vulgate, and point to a Greek text different from the Alexandrian critical-text group as Erasmus' textual source (av1611.com/kjbp/faq/holland_re22_19.html). Actually, even if Erasmus had utilized the Vulgate as a textual source in these Revelation verses, book of life would be correct. For one thing, Vulgate readings located outside the gospels have a very high likelihood of deriving from the Italic Old Latin Bible that the Vulgate derived from, a Bible of some 2nd-century European true biblical churches. Further, if God preserves His Word for His people, restoration of true readings will occur in their traditional texts, and His appointment of men of outstanding scholarship & adoration of His Word to do the restoration, men like Erasmus & Beza, will result.
Language and context indicate an original term was restored, in God’s good time, long after it dropped out of nearly all Greek manuscripts. We can see that Erasmus, like Beza, very likely was providentially chosen to do restoration work.
Restoration to the ancient inerrant
state seems entirely likely for Reformation & post- Reformation
churches seeking to end past non-biblical tradition and honor God’s
Word by leadership of men of great bible-based conviction. Thus a
process in which different persons make changes that many think of as
creation of error, would be God’s way of restoring text inerrancy
while preventing exaltation of men regarding His Word. People with faith in God's preservation power will see the logic of this matter.