Though it may come as a surprise, the Textus Receptus underwent more than thirty revisions. Today, if you buy a TR, you’re most likely buying a 19th-century edition put together by F.H.A. Scrivener. This volume has been popularized by the Trinitarian Bible Society, and it’s what most people today think of when they think of the TR. However, the TR has a long history of revision.

This begs a question for our TR friends who insist that the TR did not come into existence in the 16th century but rather is identical to the autographs: which version of the Textus Receptus is it?

Often this question is dismissed with the response that most of the changes were minor and non-translatable. But this simply isn’t the case. There are 46 translatable differences between the 1598 Beza TR and the Scrivener TR alone (i.e. places where the KJV translators rejected the later Beza TR in favor of the earlier 1550 Stephanus TR). Often the reverse happened as well — the KJV translation committee sided with the 1598 Beza over the 1550 Stephanus. To look at a couple of concrete examples of that, we now consider two passages where the 1550 Stephanus TR differs from the Greek chosen by the King James Translation.

James 2:18

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:18 (KJV)

Here, Stephanus has χωρὶς instead of εκ. His 1550 thus reads:

“Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

James 2:18b (Stephanus 1550)

This might sound like a nonsensical printing error, but the NA28’s critical apparatus shows various support for the 1550 reading, including the Majority Byzantine tradition. Indeed, the printed edition of the Robinson Pierpont Byzantine Textform sides with the 1550 reading, and in the original printing of the 1611 KJV, the margin says “some copies reade, by thy workes.”

Revelation 11:2

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

Revelation 11:2 (KJV)

Here, Stephanus has εσωθεν instead of ἔξωθεν. His 1550 thus reads:

“And leave out the court which is inside the sanctuary and do not measure it.”

Revelation 11:2a (Stephanus 1550)

Here, the NA28 critical apparatus shows limited support for the 1550 reading, including Codex Sinaiticus.1


As we examine the evidence, we come to an inescapable conclusion: the TR came about by scholars looking at textual evidence, reconstructing what they thought the reading most likely was, and adjusting as more light came in. This isn’t mere speculation or revisionist history — we have them in their own words. They were dealing in the realm of probabilities based on extant and evolving evidence, and they were willing to be proven wrong. In criticizing modern textual work, most polemical works on this subject seemingly criticize their own printed Greek text’s history.

Which printed edition of the Textus Receptus has every penstroke of the original autographs perfectly preserved? If the TR Onlyist cannot point to one, he must retire this argument.

  1. As in this example, NA28 often sides against Codex Sinaiticus. This betrays the narrative that the Critical Text is a slavish follower of this and the Vaticanus codices. ↩︎