By now, we’ve seen that the Textus Receptus Only movement is at odds with Jesus’ and the apostles’ doctrine of preservation, it’s at odds with the historical realities of how the TR came into existence, and it’s at odds with how godly people thought and taught in the Reformation era and beyond.

At this point, when presented with these arguments together, a lot of well-intentioned TR guys feel cornered and throw up their hands with one last objection: “At least I have a stable text that was used by God. I just don’t trust the alternatives." There’s some merit to this approach, in a sense. While the TR tradition does contain many readings that we know to be inauthentic, it still qualifies as the preserved Word of God, in the Biblical sense of the concept. It still carries with it the authority of God’s Word. It’s still the Word of God “kept pure in all ages.”

Our goal in this brief study has not been to argue that the TR platform represents a failure to keep the Word of God preserved in a way that the Critical Text has successfully achieved. If you’re still TR Preferred after a careful examination of the facts, there’s room to disagree. But what you can’t do is maintain the Biblically and historically implausible TR Perfect view, or a TR Preferred view that condemns Christians who disagree.

To the gracious TR Preferred individual, we bid a friendly adieu in this discussion, with the parting urge to find a translation of the TR that is based on modern English such as the New King James Version (NKJV) or the Modern English Version (MEV).1

But perhaps in this study, you’ve seen that freezing the work of the TR into a specific Scrivener edition was never the intention of the Reformers at all, and you’re wondering if there’s a reliable alternative to a Greek text that is based on an English translation.2 A polemic without a replacement is a dead end. If the TR Only movement is false, with what should it be replaced? There are two robust alternative positions. We begin with the more obscure one.

Alternative #1: Byzantine Priority

There is a case to be made that a Byzantine Priority approach is a preferred methodology for textual critical work. This movement is not compatible with TR Onlyism, even though it ends up producing a text that looks remarkably similar, albeit without the embarrassing blind spots and hiccups of the TR such as the Johannine Comma.

Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont’s Byzantine Priority edition of the New Testament is perhaps the best-known Greek edition available today. The Word English Bible (WEB) is a modern English translation based on the Greek Majority Text that’s freely accessible and license-free.

Alternative #2: Critical Text

The more popular alternative of course is the Critical Text platform available in the United Bible Society (UBS) and Nestle-Aland (NA) editions (these texts are virtually the same except for their differing critical apparatus). Almost all major English translations today are based on this Critical Text. Some of the good ones are English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the (Christian Standard Bible) CSB, the Legacy Standard Bible (LSB), and the New English Translation (NET). When it comes to good translations available in the Critical Text, we have an embarrassment of riches. Nobody needs to feel guilty for enjoying these riches, despite the extra-Biblical burdens with which the TR Only movement attempts to bind consciences.

A closing admonition from 1 Corinthians 16:14

In the closing sentences of what is probably his second letter to the young church plant in Corinth, the Apostle Paul urged the following admonition to his hearers:

Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (LSB)

Sometimes the battle can get heated when discussing the Textus Receptus controversy. We include Paul’s admonition after this brief study as a reminder of the overarching importance of love when engaging in these discussions. Otherwise, it is not profitable (1 Cor 13:3).

It is our prayer that the result of this study does not result in bitterness, but an increased love toward God and our fellow brothers and sisters. In the case of those whose consciences have been bound to the tradition of men, our prayer is that they come out of it. For those who have been the binders of those consciences, our prayer is that God grants them repentance.

When you come out of the TR Only movement, there is a renewed sense of fullness of joy in God’s Word. Because the Textus Receptus Only movement invariably offers just one English translation, the King James Translation of 1611, the result is a Christian life that is bound and limited by the obscure dialect of Elizabethan English — an increasing departure from today’s vernacular. People in such bondage fail to understand many passages of the Word of God with the clarity that He originally intended and transmitted. This stunts their growth and causes them to relate to God with a distant austerity that is more reminiscent of Roman Catholic mysticism than the true citizens of the New Jerusalem. This position is Biblically and historically indefensible and is sadly the cause of much discord and barrenness in the faith. A seasoned preacher who came out of this movement described it as follows.

It’s become what I call the Modern Baptist Amish Movement, where they have clung to something and it’s forced them to cling to other things that now put them out of the orb of normal life.

According to legend, William Tyndale prayed at his martyrdom, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Our prayer is now, “Lord, open the pastors’ eyes.”

May it be so. Amen.

  1. Edification requires intelligibility, and the King James Version fails this test. Mark Ward’s book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Version is a very helpful and patient resource in this regard. If you’ve been in the echo chamber of the King James Version, it is a real eye-opener. ↩︎

  2. Sometimes the TR Only movement claims that we’re saying that Scrivener introduced brand new Greek readings never seen before to accommodate the English choices of the King James translation committee. This argument is a strawman. Nobody says that Scrivener back-translated in the way that the TR Only movement is suggesting we’re saying. Instead, what we mean is that the Greek texts that Scrivener chose were an attempted match with the Greek texts that the KJV translation committee used. In that sense, the F.H.A. Scrivener TR is most emphatically a Greek text derived from a translation. As such, there’s no consistent textual critical methodology that could be produced that would ever come up with the eclectic set of readings found in the Scrivener TR. It’s a compilation based on a messy, circuitous set of circumstances. ↩︎