Textual Criticism

The Unitarians
& Modern Critical Greek NTs

with some material excerpted and expanded from: David Cloud, UNITARIANISM AND THE MODERN BIBLE VERSIONS, (www.wayoflife.org, 2007)

Page Index

(A) Unitarianism

    Unitarianism - an explanation of doctrines
    Unitarianism - the early years; Servetus, Socinus

Unitarianism in Britain
    18th century England - Johnson, Lindsey (1770-1800)
    Cambridge U. Takeover - Coleridge, Latitudinarians (1800-1850)

Early Unitarian 'modern versions': Griesbach's Critical Greek NT (1775)
    1st English Unitarian NT - Newcome's NT & Belsham's Editing (1808)
    Bible Society Takeover - BFBS defects; TBS formed (1830)
    2nd,3rd English Unitarian NTs - Tischendorf & Noyes/Davidson (1869)
    Open Unitarians - and Textual Criticism

Unitarianism in America:
    Boston Churches Fall - Freeman, Bentley, Priestley (1785-1800)
    Harvard U. Takeover - Ware, Channing, the A.U.A. (1800-1825)
    The Slide into Paganism - Emerson, Thoreau (1825-1860)

Unitarianism: Summary
    Its Dominance - The peak of Unitarianism (1825-1920)

(B) Rationalism

The Rationalist Movement - the "modernists"
    Rationalism - The Age of 'Reason'
    France - Voltaire
    America - Thomas Paine
    Liberalism - Robert Ingersoll

(C) NT Textual Criticism
& Unitarianism


15 Key Unitarian Textual Critics:
The Unitarian "Fathers" of the 'modern versions'

First Wave: (1730-1810) The Invasion of German Skepticism
    J.J. Wettstein (c.1730-52) - The 1st 'critical' Greek NT
    J.J. Griesbach (1745-1812) - 2nd 'critical' Greek NT
    E. Harwood (1766-1776) - author radical Greek NT & transl.
    A. Geddes (c.1769-1779) - author radical Greek NT & transl.
    T. Belsham (c. 1808) - 1st 'Unitarian' English NT

Second Wave: (1800-1880) The Peak of the Unitarian Movement
    K. Lachmann (1831-1850) - 1st to drop TR: Radical Greek NT
    S.P. Tregelles (c.1860-78) - used only old MSS: Greek NT
    Tischendorf (c.1856-69) - eight 'radical' Greek NT editions
    G.R. Noyes (c.1869-1872) - AUA translator of Tisch. 7th Ed.
    S. Davidson (c.1848-1880) - translator of Tisch. 8th Ed.

Third Wave: (1880-1920) The Fight over the English Bible
    F.J.A. Hort (c.1882) - Creator of the W/H Greek NT
    Ezra Abbot (c.1882) - Amer. NT Committee: Revised Vers.
    G.V. Smith (c.1871-82) Brit. NT Committee: Revised Vers.
    J.H. Thayer (c. 1880-1920) - Amer. NT Committee: ASV
    C. Gregory (c.1880-1917) - text critic, transl. of Tisch. 8th Ed.

Unitarian Changes to the NT - readings pushed and adopted by Unitarian 'modern versions'



What is Unitarianism?

Unitarianism is a recent form of Christian theology (c. 1700-2000) that consciously rejects the mainstream doctrine of the Trinity, namely three persons in One God, (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit). On this point it is AntiTrinitarian. As the name suggests, they usually hold to a strict or simplified form of Monotheism (God as a single "person").

Unitarians and Jesus

In rejecting the Trinity, most Unitarians probably view Jesus Christ as a created being, still unique, ranked higher than angels, endowed with supernatural powers and authority, but not identical with God. This version of Unitarianism is a form of Socinianism, or Arianism (from Arius, 3rd/4th cent. heretic-theologian).

A few Unitarians may view Jesus as God Himself, that is, simply a visible manifestation of God the Father. The idea is that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply different "modes" of the same God, only perceived as different persons by the believer. This theology is known as Modalism, a form of Sabellianism (from Sabellius, 3rd cent. heretic-theologian).

Unitarians and the Holy Spirit

In similar fashion, some Unitarians would not recognise the Holy Spirit as a distinct Divine Being, either denying the Holy Spirit "personhood", by viewing it as a substance or emission produced by God, (i.e., not God Himself), or denying the Holy Spirit as a distinct entity different from God, who is also known to be a Spirit, and so making them identical.

Rationale for Unitarianism

Unitarians justified rejecting the mainstream Trinity doctrine on the following basis:

(1) Early Christians seem not to have consciously and explicitly expressed it. Varous diverse scriptures were seemingly accepted without deep thought into their significance.

(2) It was not fully articulated until the great Councils of the 4th century. The Trinity doctrine in its present form developed from scripture interpretation, debate, and expanding previous inadequate formulas.

(3) The Trinity appears mysterious to the point of incomprehensible. Unitarians suspected it to be artificial and flawed, because it seemed beyond human grasp, even by its supporters.

(4) Early 4th century manuscripts show tampering of key relevant passages. Unitarians suspected that the NT text may have been altered in the 4th century to support Trinitarian dogma.

(5) A growing cloud of suspicion gathered around all Christian dogma. Many religious claims examined under the light of "modern" reason now seemed like ignorant superstitions.

Unitarian Beliefs on Inspiration, Preservation

The new view of an 'evolving' Bible also required abandoning any belief in the Providential Preservation of the Scriptures. That the Bible had remained essentially unchanged for a 1000 years since Jerome's Vulgate could hardly be denied, but dumping longstanding Christian doctrines required assuming that the Bible had been artificially edited and corrupted prior to that time (c.300 A.D.).

Unitarians quickly moved to rejecting other doctrines, such as the Inspiration of the written word. S.T. Coleridge, an English Unitarian who promoted German criticism at Cambridge, for instance thought David’s psalms were merely 'inspired' in the same sense as Coleridge’s own poems.

Along with dismissing the Deity of Christ, former tests of orthodoxy like the Atonement and Redemption were now demoted to doubtful speculations among many Unitarians.

A Brief History of Unitarianism

Servetus in Switzerland

The roots of Unitarianism go all the way back to the 4th century, but its modern revival is perhaps pinpointed with Michael Servetus (1511-1553), who was burnt at the stake for his Arian views by John Calvin's government in Switzerland.

Socinus in Poland

There were Unitarian congregations in Poland, Hungary, and Transylvania in the 16th century, and in Poland they became known as the “Polish Brethren” or the Minor Church. Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) was a prominent leader among the Unitarians there and during his days they drew up a statement of faith called the Racovian Catechism. Socinus believed,

“that there was only God the Father, a single divine being. The Holy Ghost was not a person but a divine force, not God and not coequal to the Father. Jesus Christ was an exceptional man without sin, but not divine. Salvation required a holy life after the example of the man, Jesus Christ”


Because of Socinus’ leadership in the movement, the name “Socinianism” came to be associated with this heresy.

Unitarianism showed itself faintly in England in the 17th century after the Civil War. John Biddle (1615-1662) is considered its founder there, but it did not spread until later.

Joseph Johnson in 18th century England

In the late 18th century and into the 19th Unitarianism began to increase in England.

Book publisher Joseph Johnson (1758-1809) helped establish the foundation for Unitarianism and theological rationalism in England and America.

Johnson published the works of Joseph Priestly, William Wordsworth, William Beckford, Richard Price, Theophilus Lindsey, William Godwin, Thomas Paine, John Horne Tooke, S. T. Coleridge, and other Unitarians and “free thinkers.”

The first self-styled Unitarian congregation, Essex Chapel in London, was founded in 1773 by Theophilus Lindsey, who had left the Church of England.

In May 1788, Johnson began publication of The Analytical Review, edited by Unitarian Thomas Christie.

“The Review stood in the forefront of libertarianism. It espoused political and social ideologies sympathetic to the French Revolution, opposed the slave trade, encouraged parliamentary reform, supported religious toleration for Catholics and Unitarians, and acquainted readers with Continental literature, especially from Germany, which, until the end of the 18th century, was relatively unknown in England”

- Gerald Tyson, “Joseph Johnson, an 18th-Century Bookseller”
Studies in Bibliography, ed. Fredson Bowers,
(Univ. Press Virginia, 1975, Vol. 28).

The Analytical Review ceased publication in 1799, but it had an influence among British intellectuals. Walter Graham in English Literary Periodicals calls it “unquestionably one of the most important periodical sources...of the late 18th century.”

Johnson’s shop at No. 72 St. Paul’s Churchyard “were a center for the exchange of news and ideas during the American and French revolutions, since his circle ...was, with but few exceptions, sympathetic to various kinds of social and political reform” (Tyson, ibid). Around the corner from the bookshop was The London Coffee House, where the likes of Benjamin Franklin of America congregated.

Johnson “negotiated the rental of an unused auction hall in Essex St. for the first Unitarian Chapel, appearing before the Westminster justices and petitioning for a license to permit Dissenting worship” (Tyson, ibid).

Johnson’s last act of support for the Unitarians occurred the year before his death when he turned over to them the copyright that he held for William Newcome’s translation of the Bible so it could be used as the basis for a Unitarian version (Thomas Belsham, Memoirs of the Late Rev. Theophilus Lindsey, 1812, p. 101). Newcome’s translation was desired because it was based on J.J. Griesbach’s Greek New Testament.

S.T. Coleridge and Cambridge University

A prominent Unitarian in England was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of Kubla Kahn. A close friend of the American poet W. Wordsworth, Coleridge was a Unitarian from his childhood.

In his student years at Cambridge he gravitated toward Joseph Priestley’s circle of friends, and he imbibed German rationalism while studying in Germany in 1798.

In 1825, Coleridge wrote, “... a high German Transcendentalist I must be content to remain” (Coleridge, Letters, Vol. II, pp. 735-6).

“It was Coleridge who was responsible, more than any other single individual, for the diffusion of German neology through Cambridge University and thence through the Anglican Church. His books Biographia Literaria, Aids to Reflection, and Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit had a profound effect on Julius Hare, J.F.D. Maurice, and John Sterling.

Coleridge and Maurice may be said to be the founders of that section of the church known as the Broad Church or Latitudinarian party, which by 1853 had gained the allegiance of 3500 Anglican priests. According to D. C. Somervell,

‘The whole of the Broad Church school of the next generation, in all its varieties, is derivable from Coleridge’

D. C. Somervell, (1929),
English Thought in the 19th Century

- James Sightler,
Tabernacle Essays on Bible Translation, (1992) p. 12.

Coleridge exalted human reason as the foundation of Christian belief rather than Scripture.

He rejected the divine inspiration of Scripture, saying, for example, that David’s psalms were inspired in the same sense as Coleridge’s own poems and rejected the doctrine that God gave David the words as “a superhuman ventriloquist” (E.S. Shaffer, Kubla Khan and the Fall of Jerusalem, p. 77).

He spoke of a Holy Spirit” rather than “the Holy Spirit” (H.N. Fairchild, Religious Trends in English Poetry, p. 319).

He spoke of the virgin birth as “an execresence of faith” which should be discarded (J.H. Rigg, Modern Anglican Theology, p. 309).

... He conjectured that Christ might be “the World as revealed to human knowledge--a kind of common sensorium, the idea of the whole that modifies all our thoughts” (quoted by Fairchild, Religious Trends in English Poetry, p. 325).

The First Unitarian English NT

Based on Griesbach's Greek NT

Long before the scandal of Westcott & Hort and the Revised Version of 1882, the Unitarians had latched onto the critical Greek NT (1774-75) of German modernist J.J. Griesbach.

Griesbach's text was the first revised edition of the Greek "Received Text", having an extensive critical apparatus and several major alterations to the Traditional text.

Prominent Unitarian leader Joseph Priestly attempted to publish a new English version based on the Greek text of Griesbach, and the project was well advanced when the manuscript was destroyed in a fire in 1791.

Priestly’s successor, Thomas Belsham, carried the idea on. Belsham had become a Unitarian in 1789. Belsham's Life of Theophilus Lindsey (1812) contained a chapter titled "American Unitarianism" that revealed many American clergy had Unitarian views.

When the Unitarian Book Society (the original UBS!) was formed, a major goal was a new English version based on the Griesbach Critical Greek text.

Archbishop Newcome's English NT (Revised, 1808)

Instead, in 1808 the UBS published an “improved” edition of William Newcome's 1796 translation, “chiefly because it followed Griesbach’s text” .

The 'corrections' were not however approved by Newcome, and were apparently done without his knowledge. He had died in 1800.

This publication “drew the fire of the orthodox for omitting several passages traditionally cited as pillars of Trinitarian doctrine,” such as “God” in 1 Tim. 3:16 and the Trinitarian statement in 1st John 5:7, as late interpolations.

It should be understood however, that the Unitarians had issued their Improved Version anonymously. The adaptations for a sectarian purpose were mainly the work of Thomas Belsham, who was scolded by Newcome's brother-in-law, Joseph Stock, D.D., bishop of Killala and Achonry (1809).

(see Earl Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism in Transylvania, England, and America, 1952, p. 339; see also P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America, pp. 255-258)

The Bible Society Takeover (1830)

By 1831 the British & Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) was infected with Unitarianism. In that year a group of men within the BFBS attempted to have the Society adopt a Trinitarian policy “to ensure that Unitarians denying the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ could not be admitted to membership or hold office in the Society” (TBS Quarterly Record, No. 475, April-June 1981, p. 3).

After a “prolonged and heated debate in Exeter Hall in the Strand, London, at the Annual Meeting, the motion was rejected by a large majority.”

As a result, the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) was formed on Dec. 7, 1831, by men who were concerned about doctrinal purity. They remained committed to the Traditional NT text (The Textus Receptus - TR). This split revealed the dramatic progress that Unitarianism had made in gaining acceptance in the early part of the 19th century.

By this time large numbers of the English Presbyterian and General Baptist (non-Calvinistic) churches were infected with Unitarian heresy.

Noye's & Davidson's English NT (1869, 1875)

Based on Tischendorf's Greek NT

In 1869 the American Unitarian Association (AUA) published an English translation of Tischendorf's Greek text (7th ed. 1856), by George R. Noyes.

Later, the two Unitarians C.R. Gregory and Ezra Abbot took over the publication of Tischendorf's final 8th Ed. (1869) and wrote the Prolegomena for it. (Tischendorf had died of stroke in 1874). The third Unitarian, Samuel Davidson then published an English translation of this (8th ed.) in 1875.

Open Unitarians & Textual Criticism (1750-1920)

Many of the prominent early textual critics were open Unitarians, including:

J.J. Wettstein (1693-1754), published 1st 'critical' Greek NT
Edward Harwood (1729-1794),
Alexander Geddes (1737-1802),
George Vance Smith (1816-1902),
Ezra Abbot (1819-1884), NT Committee: Revised Version (1882)
J.H. Thayer (1828-1901), author of Thayer's NT Lexicon
C.R. Gregory (1846-1917), ed. Tischendorf's Prolegomena (8th ed.).

Unitarianism in America

In America Unitarianism arose in the late 18th century.

The first Unitarian church in America was King’s Chapel in Boston, which had been the first Anglican congregation in America. Under the leadership of James Freeman in 1785, the church voted to adopt Unitarianism.

William Bentley, pastor of East Church in Salem, Massachusetts, accepted Unitarianism through the influence of William Hazlitt, an associate of Joseph Priestley. Hazlitt came to America in 1784 and “remained in New England for several years distributing literature, preaching, and disputing with numerous orthodox ministers” (The Diary of William Bentley, cited by James Sightler, Tabernacle Essays on Bible Translation, p. 10).

Bentley, an assistant to the pastor, persuaded the congregation to overthrow the pastor and install himself in his place. He then led the church into Unitarianism. Several of Bentley’s members “were captains of sailing ships and brought back theological works from Europe along with their cargoes” (Sightler, p. 10).

Joseph Priestley moved to America in 1794 and wielded a significant influence on American churches, particularly in the Northeast.

By 1800, 1/3 of the Congregational churches in Boston had become Unitarian.

Unitarians Take over Harvard

In 1805 Unitarians took control of Harvard College with the appointment of Henry Ware to the Chair of Divinity. The aforementioned James Freeman and William Bentley, who were graduates of Harvard, “played an important role in the movement of Harvard toward Unitarianism” (Sightler, p. 10). The divinity school was established at Harvard in 1816 and “became the centre of Unitarian thought.”

William Channing (1819)

In 1819 influential Presbyterian pastor William Ellery Channing publicly espoused Unitarianism in his “Baltimore Sermon.” Channing was minister of Federal Street Congregational Church in Boston.

In 1825 the Unitarian congregations organized themselves into the American Unitarian Association, with its headquarters in Boston.

As in England, the American Unitarians became increasingly skeptical and anti-supernatural as the 19th century progressed. They preferred terms such as transcendentalism and anti-supernaturalism.

Unitarianism, Universalism and Paganism

In about 1819 William Channing “became the spokesman and the new leader of the Unitarians. In his sermons and writings he enunciated three principles of the greatest importance: God is all-loving and all pervading; the presence of this God in all men makes them divine, and the true worship of God is good will to all men” (Unitarianism and Transcendentalism, http://lonestar.texas.net/~mseifert/unitarian.html).

R.W. Emerson and Paganism

Some of them, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, formed a religious philosophy that attempted to synthesize pagan religions such as Hinduism, Confucianism, and Zorastrianism, with Christianity.

Emerson was the Unitarian pastor of Second Baptist Church in Boston and following the death of his first wife he began an intense study of the aforementioned religions, “not in order to identify the superior credentials of one religion over another, but in order to develop their own religious thoughts and practices” (Christopher Walton, Unitarianism and Early American Interest in Hinduism, 1999, http://www.philocrites.com/essays/hinduism.html).

In his 1841 essay “The Over-Soul,” Emerson wrote:

“...within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One. ... there is no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins”

(Emerson, The Over-Soul).

Thus, Emerson taught that man’s soul is God and God is man’s soul.

In his message to the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard in 1837 entitled “The American Scholar”, Emerson exhorted scholars to free themselves of tradition (such as the Bible) and to maintain a “self-trust.”

Thoreau and Transcendentalism

Another influential Unitarian in America was Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), author of On Walden Pond, who said in his Journal, “I am a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot.” He denied the Fall and the New Birth and the Saviour and sought for “truth” instead through communion with nature, study of eclectic philosophies, and reflection.

Unitarianism reached a peak of popularity in the mid to late 1800s, where it reigned among the British middle-class academics and American evangelicals. It remained the "majority" outlook among many Protestant denominations, especially in North America. Meanwhile, even more extreme world-views and philosophical beliefs were rising and eclipsing this semi-Christian stop-gap to modernism.


Another developing line of thought in the 19th century was the rise of Rationalism, and its offspring, 'Modernism' ('modernism/modernist' refers in this context to those adopting a 19th century materialist/anti-.

A by-product of the Reformation was an emphasis upon the use of the individual mind for personal Bible interpretation (as opposed to say the dictums of the priesthood). While this spirit within Protestantism was perhaps admirable, some took it beyond the bounds of legitimacy, virtually deifying human reason.

This was a case where the flegling science of critical thought, still in its infancy, dismissed all the religious belief of history as "superstition". This happened through a sloppy over-application of skepticism, which was not at first applied sensibly.

It took science decades to develop and integrate a healthy amount of skepticism into the "Scientific Method", but unfortunately, adopting skepticism as an attitude or philosophy was no guarantee at all of scientific skill, or reliable results.

The first "pioneers" who applied a materialistic (and non-supernatural) world-view to religious matters may have been sincere, but their own labours resulted largely in worthless conclusions in the field of textual criticism.

The Rationalism Movement

The beginning of this movement is conveniently marked off from when Johann Selmer (1725-1791) began to argue that biblical events must be judged in the light of human reason/experience, and so, the reality of Jesus’ miracles was called into question, Christ’s deity was denied, etc.

The rationalistic disposition grew rapidly in the fertile fields of the German universities, and perhaps reached its culmination with the publication of F. Strauss’s Life of Jesus (1835), in which the author undertook to show that the Gospel accounts were mere “myths” (Hurlbut 1954, 178-179).


Francois Marie Arouer (c.1750-1778)

In France, Rationalism found a champion in Francois Marie Arouer—popularly known by his pen-name, Voltaire—a deist who produced several volumes brimming with hatred for the Bible. No one in Europe did as much to destroy faith in the Word of God as Voltaire. France rejected the Scriptures, tied a copy of the Bible to the tail of a donkey, and dragged it through the streets to the city dump, where it was ceremoniously burned. But, as Coffman notes, “since that time, the government of France has fallen thirty-five times” (1968, 343-344).

Voltaire predicted that within a hundred years of his death (1778) Christianity would be swept from existence and pass into history (Collett n.d., 63), yet two centuries have come and gone, and today, rare is the person who owns a copy of Voltaire’s writings, while almost every home is adorned with a Bible.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that Voltaire was “inordinately vain, and totally unscrupulous in gaining money, [and] in attacking an enemy” (1958, 250). Indeed! His final days were spent in agony. As an ex-Catholic, he loathed the idea of not having a “Christian burial.” He even signed a confession begging God to forgive his sins—which his biographers claim was insincere (Brandes 1930, 328-329).

When the composer Mozart heard of the skeptic’s death, he wrote: “[T]he ungodly, arch-villain, Voltaire, has died miserably, like a dog—just like a brute. That is his reward” (as quoted in Parton 1881, 617).

Rationalism in America

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

In America, the battle against the Bible was led by men like Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll. Paine (1737-1809) came out of a Quaker background and gained considerable prominence as a result of his writings (e.g., Common Sense) advocating America’s independence from Britain.

Eventually he went to France. There he yielded to the influence of French deism, and so composed his infamous tome, The Age of Reason, which was a passionate attack against the Bible. His qualification for such a task may be illustrated by the following admission. In discussing a passage in the book of Job, Paine says: “I recollect not enough of the passages in Job to insert them correctly . . . for I keep no Bible” (n.d., 33). Again: “[When] I began the former part of The Age of Reason, I had, besides, neither Bible nor Testament to refer to, though I was writing against both” (Ibid., 71). So much for scholarship.

Paine died a bitter and lonely old man, having lost most of his friends due to his political views and his hostility towards Christianity (Cross 1958, 1005). His trifling little volume is mostly ignored today. In this writer’s city (Stockton, California), of more than a quarter-of-a-million people, the public library’s only copy of The Age of Reason has been checked out sixteen times in the past ten years!

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

Robert Green Ingersoll was a politician who gained his real fame as an agnostic lecturer. He toured the country blasting the Bible. Quite the eloquent speaker, he was paid as much as five thousand dollars for some of his speeches, and thousands thronged to hear him rail against things holy. His “Mistakes of Moses” was a popular presentation.

William Jennings Bryan once quipped that it would be much more interesting to hear Moses on the “Mistakes of Ingersoll.”

Ingersoll had been greatly influenced by the writings of Voltaire and Paine (as well as others), and initially was a deist. Eventually, he evolved into a full-blown agnostic (Larson 1962, 76-77). Ingersoll was enamored with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and argued that Darwin’s discoveries, “carried to their legitimate conclusion,” destroy the Scriptures (as quoted in Larson 1962, 223).

Ingersoll’s influence pretty much died when he did. This writer phoned a major Barnes & Noble distribution center and inquired regarding Ingersoll’s books. Not a solitary volume was carried in their inventory! It is a fact, though, that the views of Voltaire, Ingersoll, etc., have influenced some religionists of our era.

Modern theological liberalism is so doctrinally nebulous that now even skeptics are warmly regarded. A few decades ago, Dean Shaller Mathews of the theological department of the University of Chicago asserted that the days are gone when men like Robert Ingersoll should be regarded as anti-Christ (Horsch 1938, 7).

Modernist Textual Critics

Other textual critics, though perhaps not Unitarian, were nonetheless radical modernists, who generally denied the deity of Christ and other mainstream Christian doctrines; such men as,

Johann Selmer (1725-1791) the mentor of Griesbach
J.J. Griesbach (1745-1812) author: 2nd Greek NT departing from the TR
Lachmann (c.1831-50) author: 3rd Greek NT, 1st to fully abandon TR
S.P. Tregelles (c.1860-78) used only old MSS: Greek NT
S. Davidson (c.1848-1870) English translator of Tisch. 8th Ed.
J.B. Lightfoot (c. 1880-90) apologist: Revised Version
F.J.A. Hort (c.1882-92) Creator of the W/H Greek NT

These men prided themselves on their "scientific outlook", in treating the Bible as an ordinary, non-supernatural book, written by fallible men, subject to the 'winds of random happenstance', and containing error.

Return to Index

Textual Criticism


Johann Jakob Wettstein

Wettstein was a textual scholar who collated manuscripts and published the first Critical Greek New Testament which abandoned the Traditional Text, in 1730 and 1751-52. He was Swiss-born but lived in the Netherlands.

“His Travels to Geneva, Lyons, Paris, and England, in connection with which he visited all accessible libraries and made himself acquainted with all the more important manuscripts of the New Test., served to enlarge the range of his views, as did also association with Montfaucon, La Rue, and Bentley”

(McClintock & Strong Cyclopedia).

Wettstein catalogued about 200 manuscripts, classifying them as uncials (assigned capital letters), minuscules (assigned numbers), and lectionaries (numbered and prefixed with "l"). His system was later modified by Caspar Gregory, another Unitarian.

Wettstein was heretical in his theology.

He was Socinian, meaning that he denied the full Biblical deity of Jesus Christ.

“Wettstein’s orthodoxy had for some time been suspected. He was charged with holding Arian and Socinian errors, and to this fault were now added his alleged [text-]critical aberrations.

His preference of “ΟΣ” ("which/who") over “ΘΣ [=θεος]” (= "God") in 1st Tim. 3:16 ... was credited to an alleged desire of depriving the doctrine of Christ’s deity of a proof-text.

Complaints respecting his heterodoxy were expressed even in the Diet of the Confederation, and ultimately a formal process of inquisition was inaugurated against him. ... He was ultimately dismissed from his post, May 13, 1730."

It was obvious to most Bible believers of that day that the critical Greek text supported heretical doctrines, weakened the doctrine of Christ’s deity, and represented doctrinal corruptions introduced by heretics in the 3rd and 4th centuries.

After that, Wettstein taught philosophy and Hebrew at the Arminian college in Amsterdam (College of the Remonstrants), assuming the vacated seat of the modernistic Jean Leclerc (Johannes Clericus), who had “maintained that reason is an infallible guide in judging of all that man needs to know for salvation” (Schaff-Herzog). Leclerc suggested that Luke produced two editions of the book of Acts (Metzger, p. 163). Thenceforward Wettstein made Holland his home”

(McClintock & Strong Cyclopedia, “Johann Wettstein”).

Wettstein also denied the infallible inspiration of Scripture and in this he influenced the German modernist Johann Semler.

“The traditional view regarded the canon as constituting a unit which is everywhere equally inspired; and this view had been shaken in his [Semler’s] own mind by the studies of R. Simon Clericus, and Wettstein, and also by his own investigations”

(McClintock & Strong, “Johann Semler”).

From this close association, we can see that the Unitarians and the more extreme 'modernists' (rationalists) worked hand in hand, and shared the same heretical ideas and beliefs, denying the Divine Inspiration, Providential Preservation, and Doctrinal purity of the Holy Bible. They treated the Bible as an ordinary book, written by uninspired religious fanatics, full of errors and superstitions, including the main doctrines of the Christian faith.

These were the "fathers" of the 'modern versions' (modern English translations) which were based on the new 'critically reconstructed Greek text' made by adopting minority readings found in a handful of 4th century manuscripts.

Unitarians, Rationalists, agnostics, and other uncommitted academics had created a Greek New Testament out of the errors of ancient manuscripts which had removed some 200 whole and half-verses from the Bible, and wanted the Christian world to adopt it as "improved".

Ever hear of the story of Aladdin's Lamp, in which the wicked con-man tricks Aladdin's servant out of his magic lamp, by shouting "New Lamps for Old! Come and trade your old lamp for this shiney new one! New Lamps for Old!"

Johann Jakob Griesbach (1745-1812)

German rationalist theologian pioneer of modern literary/historical analysis of the biblical text. Born in Hesse, Griesbach studied under Johann S. Semler at Halle (Prussia). He expanded the ms. base of the Greek NT & published (1774-75) the first revised edition of the traditional Greek NT (i.e., Textus Receptus 'TR' ="received text,") complete with an extensive critical apparatus.

Griesbach's False Solution to the 'Synoptic Problem'

He was appointed professor of NT studies at the U of Jena (1775). In 1776 he published A Synopsis of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke, the work that launched modern gospel studies. Since that time these three gospels have been referred to as "the synoptics."

Pointing to discrepancies between gospel narratives, Griesbach dismissed traditional attempts to harmonize these accounts & focused attention on their literary dependence instead. He accepted J. B. Koppe's observation that the text of Mark is often closer to Luke. This led him to reverse Augustine's account and claim that Mark was an uninspired compilation from Matthew & Luke. In 1789 he published his defense of this thesis as "A Demonstration that the Whole Gospel of Mark is Excerpted from the Narratives of Matthew & Luke." In the 19th c. Griesbach's thesis was championed by his student, W. L. de Wette. After years of neglect it was revived in 1964 by the American scholar, W.R. Farmer as "the Two Gospel hypothesis."

In his Demonstration, Griesbach summed up his argument as follows:

This is a summary of the thesis we are defending:

When writing his book, Mark had not only Matthew but also Luke positioned before his eyes;

and from these (texts) he excerpted whatever deeds, speeches and sayings of the Savior he committed to memory;

so that mainly & most often he followed Matthew as a guide; yet sometimes, leaving Matthew, he allied himself with Luke;

where he would stick to Matthew's tracks, he still would not let Luke out of his eyesight, but would compare him with Matthew and vice-versa;

he would try to be brief, as he wanted to write a book with minimum mass; So not only did he leave out what was not pertinent to the role of teacher, which the Lord performed in public..., he also passed over several of Christ's wordier speeches.

Furthermore, ...he kept in mind his readers: that is, people far from Palestine, among whom the maxims & customs of Palestinian Jews, especially the Pharisees, were not well known, nor were necessary to know; so, partly for this reason,

he would cut out some things found in Matthew or Luke that were meant only for Jews, especially those in Palestine, or fit their way of thinking...,

he would be stingier in citing OT passages...,

he would add things that he thought necessary as illustration or useful for his readers to understand the narrative....

In Griesbach's view, Mark worked like a cross between a researcher & a Reader's Digest editor to produce for non-Jewish readers a single condensed version of two books, adding only minor details & 24 new sentences to passages quoted from his sources. Other scholars were not persuaded that this presented a realistic picture of how ancient scribes functioned.

Thus Griesbach rejected the originality, inspiration, and effort of Mark entirely, as he saw it.

EDWARD HARWOOD (c. 1765-1776)

Harwood had a D.D. from Edinburgh and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in Bristol, England, in 1765. McClintock & Strong (1895) says, “His character, however, was so immoral that his congregation dismissed him.” He moved to London, where “he supported himself by teaching the classics and correcting the press.”

Though Metzger describes Harwood merely as “a Non-conformist minister,” McClintock & Strong identifies him as “a learned Unitarian minister.” Thus Harwood denied the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. He also translated many works of Firmin Abauzit, a French Unitarian.

Harwood published a 'critical' Greek New Testament in 1776, which “deserted the Textus Receptus more than 70 percent of the time” (B. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 1968, p. 116).

Harwood also published A Liberal Translation of the New Testament into polite English (London, 1768).

ALEXANDER GEDDES (c.1769-1802)

Geddes was a Scottish Catholic priest in Auchinhalrig and Preshome in Scotland from 1769 to 1779, at which time he moved to London where he spent the rest of his life.

He was closely associated with the Unitarians in Britain led by Joseph Priestley (James Sightler, Tabernacle Essays on Bible Translation, 1992, p. 11). Geddes was a contributor to The Analytical Review, which began publication in May 1788. The editor was Unitarian Thomas Christie and the publisher was Unitarian bookseller Joseph Johnson. The aim of the publication was “provide a principal repository of sentiments most favourable to rational liberty, both in politics and religion”

Geddes studied in Germany under theological modernists and went even farther than the German theologians in some ways.

In 1800 Geddes published Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scriptures, which presented the heresies of Eichhorn and his German school. In fact, he even went beyond Eichhorn:

Geddes “broached a theory of the origin of the Five Books exceeding in boldness either Simon’s or Eichorn’s. This was the well-known ‘Fragment’ hypothesis, which reduced the Penteteuch to a collection of fragmentary sections partly of Mosaic origin, but put together in the reign of Solomon. Geddes’ opinion was introduced into Germany in 1805 by Vater” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 493).

Geddes gave the famous poet S.T. Coleridge a letter of introduction to the modernist H. Paulus in 1798, when Coleridge and fellow poet William Wordsworth traveled to Germany.

Geddes published the first part of his translation of the Bible in 1792, and the second part in 1797. Geddes was working on a critical translation of the Psalms when he died on February 26, 1802. The translation of the Psalms was published postumously in 1807.

Thomas Belsham (c. 1789-1812)

Prominent Unitarian leader Joseph Priestly attempted to publish a new English version based on the Greek text of Griesbach, and the project was well advanced when the manuscript was destroyed in a fire in 1791.

Priestly’s successor, Thomas Belsham, carried the idea on. Belsham had become a Unitarian in 1789. Belsham's Life of Theophilus Lindsey (1812) contained a chapter titled "American Unitarianism" that revealed many American clergy had Unitarian views.

When the Unitarian Book Society (the original UBS!) was formed, a major goal was a new English version based on the Griesbach Critical Greek text.

Archbishop Newcome's English NT (Revised, 1808)

Instead, in 1808 the UBS published an “improved” edition of William Newcome's 1796 translation, “chiefly because it followed Griesbach’s text” .

The 'corrections' were not however approved by Newcome, and were apparently done without his knowledge. He had died in 1800.

This publication “drew the fire of the orthodox for omitting several passages traditionally cited as pillars of Trinitarian doctrine,” such as “God” in 1 Tim. 3:16 and the Trinitarian statement in 1st John 5:7, as late interpolations.

It should be understood however, that the Unitarians had issued their Improved Version anonymously. The adaptations for a sectarian purpose were mainly the work of Thomas Belsham, who was scolded by Newcome's brother-in-law, Joseph Stock, D.D., bishop of Killala and Achonry (1809).

(see Earl Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism in Transylvania, England, and America, 1952, p. 339; see also P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America, pp. 255-258)

Karl Lachmann (c. 1831-1850)

Though there were many others who had begun to work in this direction,[15] the new era of textual criticism arguably began with the German 15 Among those who preceded Lachmann’s break with Textus Receptus are Johann Griesbach, Franz Alter, Andreas Birch, Jacob Addler, D.G. Moldenhauer, O.G. Tychsen, Johann Hug, Johannes and Scholz. philologist and critic Karl Lachmann, who in 1831 published what he hoped to be “the first edition of the New Testament to be completely free of the influence of the Textus Receptus” (Hertz, 1851:157; Aland and Aland, 1989:11); second and third editions of Lachmann’s work were published between 1842 and 1850.

Lachmann is considered to be the first “recognized scholar” to break from the traditional use of the Textus Receptus (Metzger, 2005:124), and his desire to be free of it was driven by an emphasis on the Alexandrian texts as opposed to the Byzantine texts which the Textus Receptus relied so heavily upon. Lachmann’s rules (1842:Preface) for textual criticism which governed his new edition of the New Testament text are stated in the preface to his second edition. Below is a paraphrase of these rules.

  1. Nothing is better attested than that in which all authorities agree.
  2. The agreement has less weight if part of the authorities is silent or in any way defective.
  3. The evidence for a reading, when it is that of witnesses of different regions, is greater than that of witnesses of some particular place, differing either from negligence or from set purpose.
  4. The testimonies are to be regarded as doubtfully balanced when witnesses from widely separated regions stand opposed to others equally wide apart.
  5. Readings are uncertain which occur habitually in different forms in different regions.
  6. Readings are of weak authority if they are not universally attested in the same region.

Lachmann did not attempt to recreate the original text, which he did not believe was possible (Metzger, 2005:124-125); instead, he sought to recreate the text of the 4th century. In the end he chose to expunge John 7:53- 8:11 from the text because of its absence in then known 4th century manuscripts.

Because Lachmann broke with the traditional view, his theory was received with much skepticism at the time.

It was only later that Lachmann’s boldness in rejecting the traditionally accepted text, Textus Receptus (TR), would be openly copied by most textual critics. Modern scholars who argue for a Majority Text Theory still question his methodology.

His theory about the Alexandrian text-type vs the Byzantine text-type would be expanded upon by later scholars, even though his edition of the Greek NT is no longer used.

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (c. 1850-1860)

Following Davidson, Samuel Tregelles emerged in Britain and became a major force in biblical criticism. Tregelles likewise questioned the traditionally accepted text, Textus Receptus, and followed the earlier views of Karl Lachmann, but his work also exceeded that of Lachmann.

He spent numerous years traveling throughout much of Europe collating manuscripts that would be used for his 1857 single edition of the New Testament text, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek NT, based on the oldest manuscripts that were available to him.

Tregelles’ work included nearly all Greek manuscripts down to the seventh century, plus the earliest Patristic citations and versions (Metzger, 2005:127-128).

The Hijacking of Horne's Handbook

Tregelles conspired with Davidson to take control of Horne's Handbook, and fill it with their own radical theories of NT reconstruction, and so subvert the next whole generation of students at Oxford and Cambridge, where Horne's work was the defacto standard text. See our article on the hijacking of Horne here:
Tregelles, Davidson and Horne < - - click here.

Konstantin Von Tischendorf (1815-1874)

Lobegott Friedrich Konstantin Von Tischendorf (1815-1874),German New Testament textual critic

Born in Lengenfeld, Tischendorf studied at Leipzig (1834-1838) under J. G. B. Winer, a noted Greek grammarian whose Grammar of NT Greek (1822) had become a standard for many generations. For many years thereafter Tischendorf also taught in the theology department at Leipzig.

Influenced by Winer, He desired to use the most ancient manuscripts (following the ideas of Lachmann etc.) and thereby recover the 'purest and earliest form' of the Greek NT. To that end he devoted a lifetime to collating manuscripts and producing more accurate editions of the Greek New Testament. He 'discovered' Codex Sinaiticus (א), deciphered the palimpsest Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus(C), collated countless manuscripts, and produced 8 editions of the Greek NT.

Of all Tischendorf's accomplishments, the best known is his 'discovery' of Codex Sinaiticus (א) at St. Catherine's Monastery (located near Mount Sinai). The manuscript, dated around AD. 360 to 375, is one of the two oldest vellum (treated animal hide) manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

According to his version of the story, the first time he visited the monastery (1844), he retrieved several leaves of an ancient Septuagint from a wastebasket. Many other leaves, he was told, had already been used to stoke fires. On another visit (1859) he was shown a copy of the Greek Scriptures (containing books of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament) by the steward of the monastery.

Recognizing it as possibly the oldest extant complete copy of the Greek Scriptures, Tischendorf attempted to purchase the manuscript but was refused. After making a transcription of the text, he did some political maneuvering wherein the Czar of Russia was given the manuscript in exchange for favors conferred upon the authorities of the monastery.

However, according to the monastery, Tischendorf in fact stole the manuscript, by stealth or misrepresentation, and they view it as their property to this day.

Tischendorf over-used the readings of Codex Sinaiticus in preparing his final critical edition (the 8th) of the Greek NT.

G.R. Noyes (c. 1860s)

In 1869 the American Unitarian Association (AUA) published an English translation of Tischendorf's Greek text (7th ed. 1856), by George R. Noyes.

Obviously Noyes was a Unitarian promoter, deeply involved in the movement. The readings gathered and followed by Tischendorf clearly favoured the Unitarian position in their eyes.

Samuel Davidson (c. 1840-1880)

Another Unitarian, Samuel Davidson published an English translation of Tischendorf's Greek NT (8th ed.) in 1875, just 7 years before the infamous Revised Version was released (1882). Obviously this was for the express purpose of promoting the current critical Greek text, as conceived and concocted by those following the theories of Griesbach, Lachmann and Tischendorf.

Davidson and the Pericope de Adultera

Samuel Davidson, an Irish-born scholar, followed Karl Lachmann in questioning the Pericope de Adultera (PA, Jn 7:53-8:11) in his book, An Introduction to the NT, published in 1848 and republished in 1896. Davidson would become the entryway through which the German textual criticism of the 19th century, along with questions regarding John 7:53-8:11, entered the English- speaking world.

In fact, his modernist views on the Old Testament, which broke from the traditional view, created a controversy that forced him to resign from his position as the chair of biblical criticism at the Lancashire Independent College at Manchester. It was later at the University of London that he was able to further his work in textual criticism, and here where he also turned his attention to the New Testament.

Davidson’s views were similar to Lachmann’s, but Davidson went much further in detailing the case against the PA in particular. He questioned not only the textual evidence of early manuscripts but also the silence of several Church Fathers’ commentaries regarding John 7:53-8:11, most notably Cyprian and Tertullian, as well as discussing contextual and vocabulary/stylistic evidence (1896:513-516).

Davidson appears to have been relatively fair in this assessment of the situation presenting evidence for both sides of the argument, as it was then known and understood by the German higher critics; however, in the end he concluded,

“On reviewing the external evidence for and against the paragraph, we believe that the [evidence against the Pericope Adulterae] predominates; and so furnishes a reason for entertaining suspicions of its spurious character” (1848:358).

Samuel Davidson’s view that the PA does not belong in the Gospel of John would prove to be the start of a growing majority opinion.

Fenton John Anthony Hort (c. 1860-1892)

1828-1892. Anglican critic and professor at Cambridge University. Most famous textual critic of his age. Best known for the NT Greek text which he edited with Brooke Foss Westcott. What made this edition so important, however, was not its text (though it has been the template for most critical editions since) but its Introduction [and] Appendix, which was entirely the work of Hort. In it, Hort outlined his theory of text-types (which was adapted from Griesbach and his predecessors). In the process, Hort is considered to have destroyed all claims that the Byzantine Majority text is early.

This is perhaps the most important effect of Hort's work; most popular critical Greek texts since his time have been "Hortian" (i.e., following most of his textual readings). For discussion of his arguments, see articles on the Byzantine Priority position.

Hort also dominated the committee which prepared the English Revised Version (1882), and most of that edition's departures from the Byzantine Text were made on the advice of Hort. (The committee's policy was reportedly to hear the arguments of Hort and Scrivener and then vote on which reading to adopt.)

The Unitarian bias in the notes of the Revised Version is well known. The great energy with which Hort and his followers argued for the adopted readings makes clear how important they were deemed by those looking to support Unitarianism.

EZRA ABBOT (c. 1880)

(cited from David Cloud's Webpage)

"Abbot was on the American Standard Version translation (ASV) committee (1901). He was a Harvard theology professor and was an influential textual critic.

The testimony of Matthew Riddle, who was a translator on the ASV committee:

“Dr. Abbot was the foremost textual critic in America, and his opinions usually prevailed when questions of text were debated”

(Matthew Riddle, The Story of the Revised New Testament, 1908, p. 30).

Matthew Riddle‘s testimony is very important, as he was one of the most influential members of the ASV committee and one of the few members who survived to see the translation printed.

The testimony of the ASV committee upon the death of Abbot on March 21, 1884. The following excerpt from a memorial resolution issued by the committee gives additional evidence of the Unitarian’s influence on the Revision on both sides of the ocean:

“Always one of the first in his place at the table, and one of the last to quit it, he [Ezra Abbot] brought with him thither the results of careful preparation. His suggestions were seldom the promptings of the moment. Hence they always commanded consideration; often secured instant adoption. ... But it was in questions affecting the Greek text that Dr. Abbot’s exceptional gifts and attainments were pre-eminently helpful. Several of his essays on debated passages, appended to the printed reports of our proceedings which were forwarded from time to time to the brethren in England, are among the most thorough discussions of the sort which are extant, won immediate respect for American scholarship in this department, and HAD NO SMALL INFLUENCE IN DETERMINING THAT FORM OF THE SACRED TEXT WHICH WILL ULTIMATELY, WE BELIEVE, FIND ACCEPTANCE WITH ALL CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS”

(Historical Account of the Work of the American Committee of Revision, 1885, p. 68).

Abbot was a Christ-denying Unitarian.

He authored the footnotes in the ASV that say that Christ should not be worshipped and that question his deity. For example, at John 9:38, the wicked footnote states,

“The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature (as here) or to the Creator.”

"I [David Cloud] cite this from an edition of the 1901 ASV that I have in my library."*

He argued that the last clause of Romans 9:5 was a doxology to God and does not refer to Christ.

In Acts 20:28 Abbot led the committee to remove “God” and replace it with “the Lord,” thus corrupting this powerful witness to the deity of Jesus Christ. Unitarians and theological modernists alleged that Jesus is “the Lord” but not actually God.

Abbot wrote a long article arguing for the omission of “God” in 1st Timothy 3:16.

GEORGE VANCE SMITH (c. 1871-1882)

Smith was on the British translation committee that produced the English Revised Version (RV), 1882 .

He was a Unitarian minister of St. Saviour’s Gate Chapel, York, who denied the deity and atonement of Jesus Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, and the divine inspiration of Scripture. This was made plain in his book The Bible and Popular Theology, which appeared in 1871. This was reissued in 1901 in an enlarged fifth edition entitled The Bible and Its Theology: A Review, Comparison, and Re-statement. Consider some of the blasphemies that came from the pen of this man:

“... what is really meant by the term in question [the Holy Spirit], is no other than God himself ... but this fact will not justify us in saying that it is ‘God the Holy Spirit,’ as though it were a distinct personality...” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, p. 215).

“[Salvation] was in no way purchased of him [God] or of his justice. It was not because his ‘wrath’ was appeased, or satisfied by the sufferings of an innocent substitute, but because of his own essential fatherly goodness and ‘great love.’ ‘It is the gift of God,’ not a thing bought from him with a price, except in so far as this might be FIGURATIVELY said in reference to that death of the Messiah...” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, p. 246).

“... it is equally clear that it was not as their substitute that he died for men; not to redeem them from eternal misery; not ... because the clouds of God’s wrath had gathered thick over the human race, and required a victim, and could find that victim only in the innocent Jesus! ... The popular theory, in reality, is largely the product of dark and ignorant ages...” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, pp. 248, 253).

“It is, that the Bible manifestly offers itself to us, the people of these later times, largely as a Book of History. It never professes or claims to be more: never, in truth, makes any profession or claim at all on that point; but stands before us there, simply as a collection of writings preserving for us the remaining literature, the traditions, and the history of the Hebrews. ... It nowhere, in truth, claims inspiration, or says anything definite about it. The biblical inspiration, whatever it is or was, would seem, like the genius of Shakespeare, to be unconsciously possessed. The phrase, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and its equivalents, are simply to be referred to the style of the prophet; or to be understood only as indicating his belief that what he was about to say was conformable to the Divine Will. ... It is scarcely allowable, in short, to think of inspiration as being or acting in THE DEAD WORDS OF ANY BOOK” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, pp. 269, 276, 277).

“Then again, are we not, all of us who seek to be so, spiritual Sons of God?” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, p. 298).

“Jesus of Nazareth is nowhere presented to us as God, but simply as the Christ... ‘There is one God, the Father,’ and ‘one Lord, Jesus Christ;’ but these are not in any sense one being or one nature” (Smith, The Bible and Its Theology, p. 299).

When an attempt was made to have Smith removed from the RV translation committee, Westcott, Hort, Stanley, and Thirlwall stood by him and threatened that they would resign if Smith were removed.

The sordid story is given by A.G. Hobbs in the foreword to the Centennial Edition of Burgon’s Revision Revised:

“[Smith’s participation in the communion service] led to a public protest signed by ‘some thousands of the Clergy.’ The Upper House passed a Resolution that,

‘no person who denies the Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to be invited to join either company to which was committed the Revision of the Authorized Version of Holy Scripture: and that it is further the judgment of this House that any person now on either Company should cease to act therewith.’

This Resolution was also passed by the Lower House. And still they could not get this non-believer off the Committee. Here is a real shocker: Dean Stanley, Westcott, Hort, and Bishop Thirlwall all refused to serve if Smith were dismissed. Let us remember that the Bible teaches that those who uphold and bid a false teacher God speed are equally guilty. ‘For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds’ (2 John 9-11). No wonder that the Deity of Christ is played down in so many passages!”

(A.G. Hobbs, Foreword, The Revision Revised Centennial Edition).

Smith testified that the textual changes in the English Revised Version and the Westcott-Hort Greek NT reflected his own theology.

Some of the passages listed by Smith as being theologically superior in the modern texts and versions as opposed to the King James Bible were Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:13; and 1 Jn. 5:7, and that is because these passages in the critical text weakened the doctrine of Christ’s deity, which Smith rejected.

This English Reviser admitted what modern version proponents today such as James White often try to deny, that the modern Greek texts and versions weaken the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ! No man is blinder than he who WILL NOT see. Following are two examples from Smith’s pen:

“The only instance in the N.T. in which the religious worship or adoration of Christ was apparently implied, has been altered by the Revision: ‘At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,’ [Philippians 2:10] is now to be read ‘in the name.’ Moreover, no alteration of text or of translation will be found anywhere to make up for this loss; as indeed IT IS WELL UNDERSTOOD THAT THE N.T. CONTAINS NEITHER PRECEPT NOR EXAMPLE WHICH REALLY SANCTIONS THE RELIGIOUS WORSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST” (Smith, Texts and Margins of the Revised New Testament Affecting Theological Doctrine Briefly Reviewed, p. 47). This statement, of course, is a lie; but we reprint it to demonstrate the damnable heresies of this modern textual critic.

“The old reading [“God” in 1 Tim. 3:16] is pronounced untenable by the Revisers, as it has long been known to be by all careful students of the New Testament. ... It is in truth another example of the facility with which ancient copiers could introduce the word God into their manuscripts,—a reading which was the natural result of THE GROWING TENDENCY IN EARLY CHRISTIAN TIMES ... TO LOOK UPON THE HUMBLE TEACHER AS THE INCARNATE WORD, AND THEREFORE AS ‘GOD MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH’” (G. Vance Smith, Texts and Margins, p. 39).

JOSEPH HENRY THAYER (c. 1880-1920)

Thayer was on the American Standard Version (ASV) translation team (chairman of the New Testament committee) and was the author of the famous Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.

He was a Harvard professor of New Testament criticism. He was the assistant to Ezra Abbot at Harvard, and succeeded him as Bussey professor of NT criticism and interpretation at the Harvard Divinity School when Abbot died in 1884.

He was a Unitarian who denied the deity of Christ and the infallibility of Scripture. Prior to his tenure at Harvard, Thayer was a professor at Andover Seminary, but resigned in 1882 in protest to Andover’s requirement of “a rigid assent to the letter of the Creed” (Ernest Gordon, The Leaven of the Sadducees, 1926, p. 145).

Thayer could not assent to the infallibility of Scripture or the deity of Jesus Christ.

CASPAR RENÉ GREGORY (c. 1880-1917)

Gregory, who was American-born but German by naturalization, wrote influential books on textual criticism, including The Canon and Text of the NT (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1907). He expanded the system of identifying manuscripts that is still in use today, with the papyri indicated by an initial p followed by the number (p45, p66), the uncials by numerals with an initial "0" (Aleph or Sinaiticus is 01, Vaticanus or B is 03, etc.) (while retaining Wettstein’s capital letters for the uncials through 045), the minuscules with Arabic numerals (1, 2 , 3, etc.), the lectionaries Arabic numerals prefixed with the l (l2, l4), etc.

Gregory was also a Unitarian. He was the pupil of Unitarian Ezra Abbot at Harvard and was the son-in-law to Unitarian Joseph Thayer (Michael Maynard, A History of the Debate over 1 John 5:7,8, p. 216).

Gregory became Professor of Textual Criticism of the NT at the modernistic University of Leipzig, and he worked with Ezra Abbot in Germany (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1908, Vol. II, p. 109). Gregory and Abbot completed the work Constantine Tischendorf left behind at his death (Schaff-Herzog, vol. II, p. 109) and reissued the 8th edition of Tischendorf’s Greek NT with critical notes. Gregory was planning a 9th edition of Tischendorf’s NT, but he was killed in World War I fighting on the side of Germany.

Gregory’s unbelief is witnessed by the following quotes from his writings:

“Christianity has not grown to be what it is, has not maintained itself and enlarged itself, by reason of books being read, no, not even by reason of the Bible’s being read from generation to generation” (Caspar Gregory, The Canon and Text of the New Testament, 1907, p. 44).


“THE LETTERS THAT THE APOSTLES WROTE TO THEM WERE NOT ‘BIBLE’” (Gregory, The Canon and Text of the New Testament, p. 55).

Gregory was obviously not a mainstream Bible believing Christian.

Unitarian Alterations of the NT

Examples of the wholesale modification of traditional Trinitarian passages changed in most modern versions:

  • Matthew 19:17 -- “Why callest thou me good?” is changed to “Why do you ask me about what is good?”
  • Mark 9:24 -- “Lord” omitted
  • Luke 23:42 -- “Lord” changed to “Jesus,” thus destroying this powerful reference to Christ’s deity.
  • John 1:27 -- “is preferred before me” omitted
  • ---- 3:13 -- “who is in heaven” omitted
  • ---- 6:69 -- “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is changed to “the Holy One of God,” thus diluting this powerful witness to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God
  • ---- 9:38 -- “Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him” omitted, thus removing this powerful and incontrovertible confession of Christ as God
  • ---- 10:14 -- “am known of mine” is changed to “mine own know me.” “...this change destroys the exquisite diversity of expression of the original, which implies that whereas the knowledge which subsists between the Father and the Son is mutually identical, the knowledge the creature has of the Creator is of a very different sort; and it puts the creature’s knowledge of the Creator on the same level as the Father’s knowledge of the Son, and the Son’s knowledge of the Father” (Philip Mauro, Which Version: Authorised or Revised?).
  • Acts 20:28 -- “church of God” changed to “church of the Lord.” The Traditional Text says plainly that it was God who died on the cross and shed His blood, whereas the Alexandrian text allows for the heretical view that Jesus is the Lord but that he is not actually God.
  • Romans 14:10 -- “judgment seat of Christ” is changed to “judgment seat of God.” The “judgment seat of Christ” clearly identifies Jesus Christ with Jehovah God (Isaiah 45:23).
  • 1 Corinthians 15:47 -- “the Lord” omitted
  • Ephesians 3:9 -- “by Jesus Christ” omitted
  • 1 Timothy 3:16 -- “God” is omitted and replaced with “who” or “he”
  • 1 John 4:3 -- “confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” changed to “confesseth not Jesus”; every false spirit will “acknowledge Jesus” in a general sense (even Unitarians, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses), but the spirit of antichrist will not “confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” meaning that Jesus Christ is the very Messiah, the very God manifest in the flesh, promised in Old Testament prophecy.
  • 1 John 5:7-8 -- “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth” omitted

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