The Textus Receptus movement is fond of quoting Chapter 1 Paragraph 8 of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. It reads thus:

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.

2 LBFC 1:8

What did they mean when they said that the Scriptures have been “kept pure in all ages”? Could the Septuagint be considered the Word of God “kept pure”? What about the Latin Vulgate? If there is room for those, which have manifold variants from the TR, is there also room for modern English translations that differ from the TR?

In answering these questions, it’s helpful to know what TR proponents of old did and did not mean by “kept pure in all ages.” The modern TR Only movement contends that this must mean that the TR is identical to the original autographs. But does this represent the historical perspective?

Rather than perform an exhaustive study to answer this question, which would require several volumes, we’re going to zero in on specific examples from three men — namely Desiderius Erasmus, John Calvin, and C.H. Spurgeon. What did they believe?

Did Desiderius Erasmus Believe His TR Was Identical to the Autographs?

The Roman Catholic priest Desiderius Erasmus was not a Reformer, but he’s an important figure in this discussion because he produced the first printed edition of the TR in 1516 — of which the modern Scrivener TR is very similar. Jan Krans provides the following translation from Erasmus' Latin annotations. Speaking of the textual critic, Erasmus wrote:

The man who makes such advances does not follow any manuscripts which happen to come into his hands, nor does he stick to one only. He makes a selection. Nor does he rely only on the comparison of his manuscript authorities: he carries out careful research among the Greek and Latin commentators to find out how a passage has been read by the most reputable authorities, how they have explained it, what measure of agreement there is between them. And even then he does not deny anyone’s right to his own view unless the error is so obvious that it would be shameful to turn his back on it.

Beyond What Is Written, p.23

In his own words, Erasmus is rejecting the notion that any singular one of his consulted manuscripts could be “identical with the divine original” as the TR Only movement claims. Rather, he “makes a selection” amongst multiple manuscripts all of which have varying levels of accuracy and corruption.

Often, the TR Only movement tries to distance itself from Erasmus while at the same time trying to claim that the printed TR tradition did not change much. If the tradition did not change much, that meant that Erasmus was an important pioneer whose textual critical methodology and philosophy cannot be ignored. It’s a contradictory line of argumentation to try to distance oneself from Erasmus on the one hand, while at the same time maintaining that there was remarkable stability of the Greek Text during the 16th Century.

Did John Calvin Believe the TR Was Identical to the Autographs?

The French Reformer John Calvin had a high view of Scripture, but would he fit with the modern TR Only movement? In his commentary on 1 John 2:14, he had this to say:

These repetitions I deem superfluous; and it is probable that when unskillful readers falsely thought that he spoke twice of little children, they rashly introduced the other two clauses. It might at the same time be that John himself, for the sake of amplifying, inserted the second time the sentence respecting the young men, (for he adds, that they were strong, which he had not said before;) but that the copyists presumptuously filled up the number.

John Calvin Commentaries, 1 John 2:14

John Calvin would have been fine relegating this “superfluous” verse to the margins, or at least notating it in brackets. Just how received was this so-called Received Text to him? Instead, he’s manifestly trying to fix a perceived corruption in the text. TR Onlyists might try to explain away Calvin’s words here, but it begs a question: if someone got into the pulpit on a Sunday and said this about a verse, and the news got around in TR Only circles, what would happen? Would they let it slide, or would they roundly rebuke him? Would he get invited to their pulpits? To ask the question is to answer it. They would lament that such a preacher lacked the “high view of Scripture of our spiritual forefathers” and they would call such comments “an attack on preservation.” This betrays the fact that they have an anachronistic, ahistorical mindset on how godly men of old thought of and wrote about Scripture. It’s abundantly clear that John Calvin did not believe that the TR was identical to the autographs, and he would not fit with the TR Only movement.

Did C.H. Spurgeon Believe the TR Was Identical to the Autographs?

In his sermon on Romans 14:10, C. H. Spurgeon began with the following:

No doubt there is an error in our version, for where in the 10th verse we read, “The Judgment Seat of Christ,” it should be, “The Judgment Seat of God.” I suppose the word, “Christ,” slipped into certain manuscripts because Paul had been speaking of Christ and it was thought to be natural that he should continue to use the same name. Paul did not say “Christ,” but, “God”–but by that word he meant the same Person. Paul knew that Christ is God and when he was speaking of Christ it was no deviation from the subject for him to speak concerning Him under the title of “God.” It was necessary, here, for him to use the word, “God,” though, because he was about to quote from the Old Testament Scriptures a passage which speaks concerning the Sovereignty of God which is to be acknowledged and confessed by all mankind.

C.H. Spurgeon, Romans 14:10 Sermon

Here Spurgeon is taking issue with the TR. He manifestly did not hold to a TR Perfect position.


John Calvin and C.H. Spurgeon affirmed that the Word of God was “kept pure in all ages.” When the TR Only movement quotes this as a weapon against any proposed changes to the TR, they are using it in a way that was not originally intended. They claim to have men on their side who were not, as demonstrated above.