J.B. Lightfoot on John 8:1-11 (1873)

Exerpted from: J.B. Lightfoot, R.C. Trench, C.J. Ellicott,
The Revision of the English Version of the NT,
intro. P. Schaff, (Harper & Bro. NY, 1873)

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Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), D.D.,was an English theologian and Bishop of Durham. Lightfoot went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read for his degree along with B. F. Westcott (1847) . He became Hulsean Prof. of Divinity, Cambridge (1861), and Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral (1871). In 1879 Lightfoot was consecrated bishop of Durham.

It was written of him in The Times after his death,

"...his personal character carried immense weight, but his great position depended still more on the universally recognized fact that his belief in Christian truth and his defense of it were supported by learning as solid and comprehensive as could be found anywhere in Europe, and by a temper not only of the utmost candor but of the highest scientific capacity.

The days in which his university influence was asserted were a time of much shaking of old beliefs.

The disintegrating speculations of an influential school of criticism in Germany (the 'Tubingen school') were making their way among English men of culture just about the time, as is usually the case, when the tide was turning against them in their own country.

The peculiar service which was rendered at this juncture by the 'Cambridge School' was that, instead of opposing a mere dogmatic opposition to the Tubingen critics, they met them frankly on their own ground; and instead of arguing that their conclusions ought not to be and could not be true, they simply proved that their facts and their premises were wrong.

It was a characteristic of equal importance that Dr Lightfoot, like Dr Westcott, never discussed these subjects in the mere spirit of controversy. It was always patent that what he was chiefly concerned with was the substance and the life of Christian truth, and that his whole energies were employed in this inquiry because his whole heart was engaged in the truths and facts which were at stake."

In 1874, the anonymous publication of Walter Richard Cassels' Supernatural Religion created considerable sensation. In a series of masterly papers in the Contemporary Review, between December 1874 and May 1877, Lightfoot successfully undertook the defense of the New Testament canon.

He also worked to further the cause of temperance and purity organizations. He continued to work at his editions of the Apostolic Fathers, and in 1885 published an edition of the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, collecting also a large store of valuable materials for a second edition of Clement of Rome . His defense of the authenticity of the Epistles of Ignatius is one of the most important contributions to that very difficult controversy.

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Bishop Lightfoot and the Revised Version of 1881

Our main interest in Bishop Lightfoot however, regards his involvement in the production of the Revised Version (NT) of 1881, and its relegation of the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11) to a kind of giant bracketed 'footnote', separated from the rest of Holy Scripture by a 3-line deep blank space on either end, and printed with an accompanying short note:

The Infamous RV Footnote:

"Most of the ancient authorities omit John vii.53 - viii.11.
Those which contain it vary much from each other."

Compared to other footnotes, this one is almost chatty, but since it fails to offer any kind of scientific data, or real enlightenment upon the textual problem, it is best called 'terse'.

This basic note and its variations have been repeated in almost every 'modern' translation. Unfortunately, neither has its wording significantly improved, nor has its content been altered to adequately reflect subsequent (or even previous) scholarship.

This "shocking" treatment of a cherished and highly important, substantial portion of Holy Scripture was one of the many reasons for the utter rejection of the Revised Version by Christians of all denominations. Other key verses were similarly assaulted, such as 1st Timothy 3:16, 1st John 5:7, and the Ending of Mark.

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The Actual Reception
of the Revised Version

How the Revisors imagined the reception of the Revised Version can be garnered from optimistic projections made before its release:

The Prospect of the New Revision

Now that the New Testament is revised and given to the world, and that the Old Testament moves onward to the same desired end, the question arises what is to be the final result in the case? It will be for individuals, and churchmen, and Bible Societies to take up this work and to decide whether it shall be used alongside of the old version of King James, or whether it shall supersede that, or whether it shall do neither, but shall fall dead and useless. It may be accepted as unquestionable, that if this revision be not accepted as sufficient in scholarly and denominational advantages, it will be a long time before any more favorable combination can be made.

The sentiment of the Revisers themselves was doubtless voiced by Dr. Schaff, in December, 1878, when he said: "We never had the least fear of the final result. There never has been such a truly providential combination of favorable circumstances, and of able and sound Biblical scholars."

from Isaac H. Hall, ed.,
The Revised New Testament and History of Revision. (1881)

The actual response to the Revised Version, and the resulting situation extending even to this day, was aptly summed up by Sir Frederic Kenyon in 1940, with the wisdom of hindsight:

"What, then, is the final value of the Revised Version, and what is to be in future its relation to the Authorised Version to which we have been so long accustomed? On the first appearance of the Revised New Testament it was received with much unfavourable criticism.

Dean Burgon of Chichester, occupying towards it much the same position as Dr. Hugh Broughton in relation to the Authorised Version, assailed it vehemently in the Quarterly Review with a series of articles, the unquestionable learning of which was largely neutralised by the extravagance and intemperance of their tone.

The Dean, however, was not alone in his dislike of the very numerous changes introduced by the Revisors into the familiar language of the English Bible, and there was a general unwillingness to adopt the new translation as a substitute for the Authorised Version in common use. "

...More than fifty years have now passed since the publication of the Revised Version, and the dust of the original controversy has had time to die down.

In less than that time the Authorised Version drove the Geneva Bible from the field; but there is no sign of a similar victory of the Revised over the Authorised (KJV).

The general verdict is, we think, this:

There is no doubt that the RV represents, in the NT, a very superior Greek text. There is no doubt that in very many places, especially in the prophetical and poetical books of the Old Testament, and in the Epistles in the New, it makes the meaning clearer and represents the original more accurately. On both these grounds the Revised Version is indispensable for anyone who really wishes to study the Bible.

On the other hand, it is universally felt that very many of the verbal changes introduced by the Revisers, especially in the Gospels (where they are more noticeable because of the greater familiarity of these books), are unnecessary and disturbing.

...Further, the Revisers were misled by their own scholarship. They applied (in such matters as the rendering of the tenses of the verb) the principles of Attic Greek.

The discoveries of Greek papyri that have been made since their time have taught us much about the Hellenistic Greek of the period of the Septuagint and the New Testament; and we realise that it had its own usages which were not so strict as those of the great classical authors.

We can safely be more idiomatic in our translation, without departing from faithfulness.

...A distinction must accordingly be drawn between the Old Testament and the New, and even between the Gospels and the other books. In the Gospels the sense of discomfort from the constant changes of the familiar words is too great, and the changes, where they do not rest on a change in the text translated, are unnecessary.

...It is true that the Authorised Version has struck its roots too deeply into our language and literature, and is itself too great a monument of literary art, to be dispossessed without a preponderating balance of loss.

We can no more do without the Authorised Version than we can do without Shakespeare and Bacon."

from: Sir Frederic Kenyon,
Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts 4th ed. (1939)

The launching of the Revised Version then, could be characterized as a kind of 'glorious failure'. While all 'modern' versions have something of value to contribute in translation, idiom, and novelty of expression, none have been able to achieve the authority of the KJV.

This deep split in mainstream (English) Protestantism over bible 'versions' continues today. While the various attempts at improvement of the translation and accuracy of the bible have continued, no 'modern' translation has been able to effectually supercede the Authorized (KJV) of the bible among the English speaking peoples at this time.

One of the main reasons for the large-scale rejection of modern versions is their handling of the Greek text. A large number of Christians simply don't accept the many omissions and alterations to the text that various academic scholars propose, especially such large sections as the Ending of Mark, and our passage, John 7:53-8:11.

Nor is it entirely about the Greek text or the quality of translation. The fact is, the Christian public at large have become skeptical of both the intent and the results of 'modern scholarship', and modern scholars themselves have in turn openly moved a great distance away from "the faith once delivered to the saints".

Even a translation like the "New King James Bible", a version based upon the traditional text and which attempts to reproduce the cadence and poetry of the KJV in modern language can still only secure a position as a kind of 'study-help' alongside the Authorized Version. Modern translations seem doomed these days to be relegated to this subordinate position.

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The Original Intent
of the Revisors

It is important to note that the Revisors did not intend such a practical disaster, or nor did they intend an attack upon the authority of the bible. Philip Shaff probably expressed as well as anyone what most of the Revisors thought they were doing:

"I have reason to believe that there is a general disposition among us to retain the idiom, grammar, and vocabulary of the AV so far as is consistent with faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, and with justice to the present stage of the English language.

The popular English Bible (KJV) is the greatest blessing which the Reformation of the 16th century bestowed upon the Anglo-Saxon race. It is, upon the whole, the best translation ever made, not excepting even Jerome's Vulgate and Luther's Version.

[The KJV] is not the production of a single mind, but of a large number of wise and good men, representing three generations in the most eventful and productive period of modern church history. It is 'the pure well of English undefiled'. ...

[The KJV] has a hold upon the popular heart which it can never lose. Its vocabulary and phrases, its happy blending of Saxon force and Latin dignity, its uniform chasteness, earnestness, and solemnity, its thoroughly idiomatic tone, its rythmic flow, its more than poetic beauty and harmony, have secured the admiration of scholars and the affection of whole churches and nations in which it is used.

Even in the Romish communion, a distinguished English apostate from Protestantism could not forget its marvellous beauty and heavenly music. (a reference to Dr. F.W Faber, not Neuman)."

from: P. Schaff, Introduction on the Revision of the English Bible, pp. xx, xxi

Most of the Revisors had great affection for the Authorized Version (KJV). They really wanted to enhance it, and preserve its authority, rather than undermine the Christian Scriptures before the rest of the world.

Even if Schaff and some others were "closet Catholics", as critics have charged, this misses the point. These men were naive, and possibly even deceived by their own estimates of the simplicity of the task, and their assessment of their own knowledge and talents. But most were apparently sincere in their beliefs that they were 'doing the right thing'.

We have to ask then, what caused such a failure, both in critical judgement, and practical result.

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Principles of Revision

Among the several articulated principles of revision, one in particular concerns us, (as well as the interpretation chosen for the Revisors' mandate). Isaac H. Hall (1881) expounds it:

4. That the text adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the text so adopted differs from the Authorized Version, the change be shown in the margin.

"The Greek text followed by these Revisers is of far higher authority than that known and followed by the King James' revisers. Their Greek text was based on manuscripts of the later parts of the Mediaeval Ages, but ours has been Perfected by the discovery of far more ancient manuscripts, and by an abundance of quotations from the early fathers of the Church, and use of ancient versions.

In view of these principles the Chairman of the American Revision Committee has affirmed as follows:

"The people need not apprehend any dangerous innovations. No article of faith, no moral precept, will be disturbed, no sectarian views will be introduced. The revision will so nearly resemble the present version, that the mass of readers and hearers will scarcely perceive the difference; while a careful comparison will show slight improvements in every chapter and almost in every verse.

The only serious difficulty may arise from a change of the text in a few instances where the overwhelming evidence of the oldest manuscripts makes a change necessary;..."

from Isaac H. Hall, ed.,
The Revised New Testament and History of Revision. (1881)

Inferiority of the Received Text Alleged

The first thing to note here is the perception that the Received Text (used by the original KJV translators) was an inferior text based merely upon 'Medieval manuscripts'. This itself is an exaggeration. By the time of the 1611 Authorized Version, Christian scholars were well aware of most of the early uncials and ancient versions (translations), as well as the opinions of the early fathers and previous translators. But that team of scholars were not convinced of the 'superiority' of the handful of surviving early uncials (4th to 9th century).

Authority and "Perfection" Claimed for Westcott-Hort Text

"Our Greek text" (above) here means the text recently made by Westcott and Hort, based mainly upon the readings of two ancient manuscripts, the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

Hort used clever genealogical arguments to sell his reconstructed text, but in practise largely just followed the text of Codex Vaticanus, claiming for it a purity and neutrality that later scholarship has since abandoned trying to defend. Regarding the "Genealogical Method" of Hort, E. C. Colwell has noted:

"That Westcott and Hort did not apply this method to the manuscripts of the NT is obvious. Where are the charts which start with the majority of late manuscripts and climb back through diminishing generations of ancestors to the Neutral and Western texts? The answer is that they are nowhere. Look again at the first diagram [Colwell provides one], and you will see that a, b, c, etc. are not actual manuscripts of the NT, but hypothetical manuscripts.

The demonstrations or illustrations of the genealogical method as applied to NT manuscripts by the followers of Hort, the "Horticuli" as Lake called them, likewise use hypothetical manuscripts, not actual codices:

Note, for example, the diagrams and discussions in Kenyon's most popular work on textual criticism, including the most recent edition. All the manuscripts referred to are imaginary manuscripts, and the later of these charts was printed 60 years after Hort."

(From: E. C. Colwell, "Genealogical Method," pp. 111-12.)

For a more detailed examination of the Westcott-Hort theory and Greek text, one can consult profitably the free online book by W. Pickering, here:

W. Pickering on the Westcott and Hort Text <-- Click Here.

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What Went Wrong and Why

What the Revisors were really guilty of was a lack of forethought; a failure to think through the ramifications and consequences of their acceptance of the critical Greek text of Westcott and Hort.

Adopting this text would mean thousands of significant changes to the English, hundreds of mutilations to familiar and beloved verses, and ultimately lead to the rejection in horror of the RV by the Christian public .

But the Revisors could not claim to have the moral upper ground, even if the public had rejected their work for the 'wrong' reasons.

NT Greek Scholarship - Its Primitive State

The state of knowledge regarding NT Greek in 1880 is best described as 'primitive' and quite naive, and colored heavily by preconceptions based upon Classical Attic Greek. This resulted in a stilted and awkward translation that grated upon English ears. Fully exposing this inadequacy would have to await the discovery and analysis of the early papyri found between 1905 and 1950. Meanwhile it almost seemed that Greek scholarship had actually regressed in wisdom and competence at translation.

NT Textual Criticism - A Naive Method

But this was a minor blemish compared to the thousands of changes made on the basis of 'the earliest and best Greek manuscripts'. Here it wasn't translation so much as actual alteration (mostly omission) of important key verses and phrases, many that Christians depended upon and believed to be authentic Holy Scripture.

But here also, the Revisors had less excuse. For the changes suggested by the 'early' (4th and 5th century) uncial manuscripts had been hotly debated for a 100 years. These were not minor or neutral changes, and the sometimes bizarre readings of the known 'ancient' witnesses had raised many concerns and 'red-flags' with scholars and churchmen of all persuasions.

Largely from inexperience and exaggerated optimism, the scholars of the 1880's imagined still that the restoration of the NT to its 'original' was virtual child's play. It could be done almost as a hobby between other obligations, by any trained individual. The enormity of the task had not yet been appreciated at all. Even the idea that the work might take more than a single man's lifetime seemed absurd.

But this is precisely what the evidence and the methodology was demanding. Even as early as 1910 it became evident to some scholars like von Soden that the thousands of existing manuscripts needed to be collated in detail and grouped, for any progress in genealogical reconstruction to be made.

Many saw even before the Revision, that a great amount of work had to be done regarding the Patristic evidence to have any assurance regarding conclusions about the 'earliest' text of the NT.

Others saw equally well, that careful studies in linguistics, vocabulary, style, literary analysis, and the evolution of language had to be made, to make any credible use of 'internal evidence'.

Finally, still others began to question fundamental philosophical premises, the very foundations of theology and biblical interpretation. Here again, the Revisors should have been fully warned that any work they could hope to accomplish would be extremely modest and tentative.

Naive Optimism and Arrogance

These facts should have caused the Committee to err on the side of caution, rather than attempt to serve up the most diverse text that could be formed from current textual principles out of the available evidence.

Hindsight isn't always 20-20, but in this case, it is quite clear why the Revised Version was doomed to failure, and eventual obscurity. They tried to sell too much, far too fast, and with too little support. But the scholars behind the Revised Version were simply carried away by their own enthusiasm and delusions of grandeur.

It was in this atmosphere of naivity and misplaced belief in rationalism and science as the solver of all problems, that the presumed solution to the textual problem of the Pericope de Adultera was quickly embraced and promoted.

The momentum was such that this premature judgement against the authenticity of the passage carried right into the mid 20th century and still finds its stubborn adherents today. But the facts of the case, when properly examined from a scientific viewpoint show a situation much more complex and ambiguous than detractors of the verses continue to offer the unwary.

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Lightfoot on John 8:1-11

Notes on the Viewpoint

Bishop Lightfoot's viewpoint, as revealed in his private correspondence with other members such as F. J. A. Hort and Westcott, show that his purpose and activity regarding the Revised Version was colored by the beliefs, and state of scholarship of the day (mid 19th century). It is really in this light that Lightfoot's comments and influence must be measured.

Rather than casting Lightfoot and Hort as utter villans, some slack must be cut for them due to the state of the science of Textual Criticism, and the available knowledge of the time. Because of this, it is important to quote an extended part of Lightfoot's portrayal of the situation, and his explanation of the solution, particularly regarding the Greek text of the NT.

This will provide Lightfoot with a fair hearing, and us with some understanding of how and why such a great mistake was made regarding this important passage of scripture.


of the


by J. B. Lightfoot, D.D.

III (p.31 fwd.)

Comparing the Revisors to Jerome

"We might with advantage study the history of [Jerome's Revision of the Latin] 1 ...And first of all, in the gloomy forebodings which have ushered in this (our 1881) Revision, we seem to hear the very echo of those warning voices, which happily fell dead on the ear of the resolute Jerome. The alarming consequences which some anticipate from any attempt to meddle with our time-honored version have their exact counterpart in the apprehensions by which his contemporaries sought to deter him. 2

Twin Dangers

The danger of estranging diverse churches and congregations at present united in the acceptance of a common Bible, and the danger of perplexing the faith of individual believers by suggesting to them variations of text and uncertainties of interpretation - these are now, as they were then, the twin perils by which it is sought to scare the advocates of revision. 3

Exaggerated Concern

Moreover, there is the like exaggerated estimate of the amount of change which any body of revisors would probably introduce. To this we can only give the answer as Jerome. Not translation, but revision, is the object of all who have promoted this new movement. There is no intention of snapping the thread of history by the introduction of a new version. Our English Bible (the KJV) owes its unrivaled merits to the principle of revision, and this principle it is proposed once more to invoke. 4

...say the authors of our Received Version (KJV), ...

"Truly, good Christian reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make a bad one a good one... but to make a good better..that hath been our endeavor, that our mark."

(from the forward of the original Authorized KJV 1611)

...Jerome ...could not be deterred by the fears of any adversaries, however good and however able.

Fears Over the Vulgate Unfounded

And again we may take courage from the results which followed...None of the perilous consequences which friend and foe alike had foreboded did really ensue. There was indeed, a long interval of transition, during which the rival versions contended for supremacy; but no weakening of individual faith, no alienation of churches, can be traced to this source. ... History does not mention any relaxation of the bonds of union as the consequence of Jerome's work. On the contrary, the Vulgate has been a tower of strength to the Latin churches, as Jerome foresaw it would be. 5

...The Articles of the Church of England still quote St. Jerome's authority for the distinction between the canonical and apocryphal books, which the Council of Trent did its best to obscure. 6

How the New Revision should be Treated

But there is yet another lesson to be learned from the history of Jerome's revision. The circumstances of its reception are full of instruction and encouragement. It owed nothing, as we have seen, to official sanction; it won its way by sterling merit. 7 Now let us suppose that the revision which we are about to undertake is successfully accomplished. How are we to deal with it?

If the work commends itself at once to all or to a large majority as superior to the present version (KJV), then let it by all means be substituted by some formal authorization. 8

But this is quite too much to expect. Though St. Jerome's revision was incomparably better than the Old Latin, though the superiority of our Received English Version (KJV) to its predecessors is allowed on all hands, no such instantaneous welcome was accorded to either. They had to run the gauntlet of adverse criticism;

...I suppose that no one who takes part in this new revision is so sanguine as to hope that his work will be more tenderly treated.

This being so, it does not seem to be necessary, and it is perhaps not even advisable, that the new Revised Version ...should at once authoritatively displace the old. Only let it not be prohibited. 9

Give it a fair field, and a few years will decide the question of superiority. 10

...[if it comes to pass] that for a time two concurrent versions should be in use....[this] seems a simple, practical solution.

§ 1. (p.36 fwd.)

The Corruption of the Received Text

And first of all let us boldly face the fact that the most important changes in which a revision may result will be due to the variations of reading in the Greek text. 11

It was not the fault, it was the misfortune, of the scholars from Tyndale downward, to whom we owe our English Bible, that the only text accessible to them was faulty and corrupt. 12

I need not take up time in recapitulating the history of the Received Text, which will be known to all. It is sufficient to state that all textual critics are substantially agreed on this point, though they may differ among themselves as to the exact amount of change which it will be necessary to introduce. 13

The Value of Textual Criticism

No doubt, when the subject of various readings is mentioned, grave apprehensions will arise in the minds of some persons. But this is just the case where more light is wanted to allay the fears which a vague imagination excites. ...I can only state my own conviction that a study of the history and condition of the Greek text solves far more difficulties than it creates. 14

Example 1: John 1:18

More especially it brings out the fact of the very early and wide diffusion of the NT writings with a clearness and a cogency which is irresistible, and thus bears most important testimony to their genuineness and integrity. Even the variations themselves have the highest value in this respect. Thus, for instance, when we find that soon after the middle of the 2nd century divergent readings of a striking kind occur in St. John's Gospel, as, for instance, monogenhV QeoV and o monogenhV UioV (i.18), we are led to the conclusion that the text has already a history, and that the Gospel, therefore, can not have been very recent. 15

Example 2: Ephesians

This evidential value of textual criticism, moreover, shows itself in other ways. I will select one instance, which has always appeared to me very instructive, as illustrating the results of this study - apparently so revolutionary in its methods, and yet really so conservative in its ends. 16 ...

(Lightfoot here discusses textual evidence of Ephesians. He shows that it might be a 'circular' letter sent to more than one church. Lightfoot argues from this that the letter is not plausible as a forgery, but can be held to be authentic.)

...This instance will illustrate my meaning when I alluded to the conservative action of textual criticism, for such I conceive to be its general tendency. 17

But in fact, the consideration of consequences ought not to weigh with us in a matter where duty is so obvious. It must be our single aim to place the Bible in its integrity before the people of Christ; and, so long as we sincerely follow the truth, we can afford to leave the consequences in God's hands; 18

and I can not too strongly urge the truism (for truism it is) that the higher value we set on the Bible as being or as containing the Word of God, the greater (if we are faithful to our trust) will be our care to ascertain the exact expressions of the original by the aid of all the critical resources at our command. 19

Jerome's Revision Appealed to Again

We have seen that St. Jerome's courage was chiefly tried in the substitution of a purer text, and that his fidelity herein has been recognized as his greatest claim to the gratitude of after ages. 20

The work which our new revisors will be required to execute is far less revolutionary than his. Where his task required him to substitute a wholly new text in the O.T., they will only be required to cancel or to change a word or expression, or, in rare cases, a verse, here and there in the New. Where he was faithful in great things, we may trust that they will not be faithless in small. 21

Some Important Examples of Proposed Changes

The question, therefore, is not one of policy, but of truth. Yet still it is well to face the probable results, because apprehension is especially alive on this point, and because only by boldly confronting the spectres of a vague alarm can we hope to lay them [aside]. 22

1st John 5:7

(Here follows a discussion of 1st John 5:7, and the alleged interpolation there. - p.40f)

...I only quote this criticism to show how much prejudice may be raised against the truth by the retention of interpolations like this; nor can we hold ourselves free from blame if such statements are made and accepted so long as we take no steps to eject from our Bibles an intrusive passage against which external and internal evidence alike have pronounced a decisive verdict. 23

The KJV: No Brackets - A Step Backward

In this instance our later English Bibles have retrograded from the more truthful position of the earlier. In Tyndale's, Coverdale's, and the Great Bibles, the spurious words are placed in brackets 24 and printed in a different type, and thus attention is directed to their suspicious character. In Luther's German Translation (in its original form), as also in the Zurich Latin Bible of 1543, they were omitted.

In the Geneva Testament first, and in the Bishop's Bible after it, the example was set, which the translators of our Authorized Version unhappily followed, of dispensing with these marks of doubtful genuineness, and printing the passage uniformly with the context. 25

In other doctrinal passages where important various readings occur, the solution will not be so simple; but in doubtful cases the margin may be usefully employed. 26

1st Timothy 3:16

Altogether, the instances in which doctrine is directly or indirectly involved are very few; and, though individual texts might be altered, the balance of doctrinal statement would probably not be disturbed by the total result, a change in one direction being compensated by a change in the other.

Thus for instance, if the reading "God was manifest in the flesh" should have to give place to "Who is manifest in the flesh", in 1st Tim iii.16, and retire to the margin, yet, on the other hand, the "Only-begotten God" would seem to have equal or superior claims to "the Only-begotten Son" in John i.18, and must either supercede it, or claim a place side by side with it. 27

John 7:53-8:11, and Mark's Ending

The passages which touch Christian sentiment, or history, or morals, and which are affected by textual differences, though less rare than the former, are still very few. 28

Of these, the pericope of the woman taken in adultery holds the first place of importance.

In this case a deference to the most ancient authorities, as well as a consideration of internal evidence, might seem to involve immediate loss. 29

The best solution would probably be to place the passage in brackets, for the purpose of showing, not, indeed, that it contains an untrue narrative (for, whencesoever it comes, it seems to bear on its face the highest credentials of authentic history), but that evidence external and internal is against its being regarded as an integral portion of the original Gospel of St. John. 30

The close of St. Mark's Gospel should possibly be treated in the same way. 31 If I might venture a conjecture, I should say that both the one and the other were due to that knot of early disciples who gathered about St. John in Asia Minor (Turkey), 32 and must have preserved more than one true tradition of the Lord's life and of the earliest days of the Church, of which some, at least, had themselves been eyewitnesses.*

*(The account of the woman taken in adultery is known to have been related by Papias, a disciple of this school, early in the 2nd century, who also speaks of the Gospel of St. Mark. Euseb., H.E.,, iii.39). 33

St. Luke's Gospel

Again, in St. Luke's Gospel, it might be right to take account of certain remarkable omission in some texts, and probably in these cases a marginal note would be the best solution. Such, for instance, are the words addressed to James and Luke, ix.55, "Ye know not of what spirit ye are", or the agony in the garden, xxii.43-44; or the solemn words on the cross, xxiii.34.

It seems impossible to believe that these incidents are other than authentic; 34 and as the text of St. Luke's Gospel is perhaps exceptional in this respect (for the omissions in St. John's Gospel are of a different kind), 35 the solution will suggest itself that the evangelist himself may have issued two separate editions.

This conjecture will be confirmed by observing that in the 2nd treatise of St. Luke [i.e., Acts] similar traces of two editions are seen 36 where the passage omitted in many texts, though not important in themselves, (e.g. xxviii.16,29), bear equal evidence of authenticity, and are entirely free from suspicion on the ground that they were inserted to serve any purpose, devotional or doctrinal. 37

Joseph and Fasting

On the other hand, some passages, where the external testimony is equivocal or adverse, are open to suspicion, because the origin of, or the motive for, the insertions or alterations lies on the surface. Thus, in St. Luke ii.33 "his father" is altered to "Joseph"; and ten verses later "Joseph and his mother" is substituted for "his parents", evidently because the transcriber was alarmed lest the doctrine of the Incarnation might be imperiled by such language; an alarm not entertained by the evangelist himself, whose own narrative directly precluded any false inference, and who therefore could use the popular language without fear of misapprehension. 38

And again the mention of "fasting" in connection with praying in not less than four passages (Matt. xvii.21, Mark ix.29, Act x.20, 1st Cor vii.5), in all of which it is rejected by one or more of the best editors, shows an asectic bias; though, indeed, there is ample sanction elsewhere in the NT for the practice which it was sought to enforce more strongly. 39

... (Lord's prayer, etc. discussed, p 44f)

Summary of Textual Discussion

I believe that I have not only indicated (so far as my space allows) the really important classes of various readings, but given the most prominent illustrations in each instance. The whole number of such readings, indeed, is small, and only a very few remain after the examples already brought forward. 40

On the other hand, variations of a subordinate kind are more numerous. These occur more frequently in the Gospel than elsewhere, arising out of the attempt to suppliment the evangelical narrative by the insertion of a word or clause from another, or to bring the one into literal conformity with the other by substitution or correction; but no considerations of moment are involved in the rectification of such passages. 41

It is rarely indeed that a various reading of this class creates the interest [generated by] Matt. xix.17 (compared with Mark x.18, Luke xviii.19); and for the most part, they are wholly unimportant as regards any doctrinal or practical meaning. 42

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Modern Footnotes

Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:

1. St. Jerome (342-419 A.D.) was an early father who became the secretary to the pope. He was well educated and renowned for his expertise with languages. He prepared a fresh translation of the NT into Latin from the Greek around 390 A.D. He carefully collected and collated the most ancient and trustworthy manuscripts for this purpose, ignoring the contemporary revisions and editions of others. Jerome also translated the O.T. directly from the Hebrew shortly after 400 A.D., using the best texts available at that time. Jerome's translation into Latin became known as the Latin Vulgate.

2. The appeal here to Saint Jerome is ironic on several levels. Jerome did diligently seek out the oldest and best manuscripts, avoiding contemporary or popular 'revisions' available in his time. In this there is a superficial surface similarity.

But the real ramifications and consequences of this fact have been completely missed, or avoided:

(1) Jerome had access to far superior manuscripts than the ones available to the Revisors, or even to us today. In fact, the newest manuscripts Jerome used were likely a hundred years or so older than Codex Vaticanus or Sinaiticus.

(2) Jerome strongly defended the Pericope de Adultera as authentic Holy Scripture, noting that it was found in "many copies, both Greek and Latin". He included it in his fresh translation, the Latin Vulgate of 392 A.D.,

(3) All of Jerome's contemporaries who commented upon it upheld Jerome's position and the authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera. These included Ambrose, Pacian, Augustine, and Didymus.

(4) Even Jerome's major opponents, who attacked his translation apparently made no protest at all regarding this passage.

(5) Both the Western and Eastern halves of the ancient Church embraced it, canonizing it as Holy Scripture and including it in the Lectionary tradition to be read publicly.

How can Lightfoot be taken seriously in making such a comparison, when he and the Revisors are actually proposing to reject Saint Jerome's expert opinions, those of his contemporaries, and also the pronouncements of the ancient Church?

3. This statement of the 'twin dangers' of an ill-advised or poorly executed 'revision' are strangely prophetic. The supposedly exaggerated dangers of the Revision came true with a force completely unforeseen and unexpected, even by opponents.

Everyone's worst fears turned out to be inadequate to encompass what actually came to pass. People left the churches en masse in pursuit of the hope promised by 'modern technology' and philosophies alien to the Bible and to their own ancestors.

To be fair, the tital waves of apostasy which followed the turn of the 19th century cannot be blamed entirely upon the German textual critics and the foolish ecclesiastics who followed them.

The breakdown and metamorphasis of society was global in scope and involved many overwhelming factors largely out of control of world leaders and wealthy capitalists, even governments.

Nonetheless, the performance of the religious leaders of the West was disappointing. Whether the war was won or lost, they should have at least fought, and fought on the right side.

E. A. Rowell documented and lamented the situation a mere twenty years after the Revised Version's release into the public domain:

WE read that "all the Athenians and the strangers sojourning there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing." Acts 17:21. As we have seen, this is the attitude of the higher critics. Any theory, any gospel, so long as it is new! Having discarded the ancient gospel of Christ, which "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1: I6), and having taught doubt as essential to their gospel, they proceed to patch up a new gospel - an up-to-date gospel.

Those critics who place the authority of Jesus very high, immediately place their own higher. The teachings of Christ are not often directly controverted, but they are often ignored, or treated as counsel of perfection which we are to admire rather than to obey. Listen to Harnack and Herrmann:

"It is obvious that in this workaday world, such principles are impracticable; no business can be conducted on these lines. Yet that is just what Jesus seems to want."

"Had He meant these words to be universal rules, He would have been worse than the rabbis whose teaching He opposed."

"The character of Jesus is made up of compassion and modesty, love and asceticism; and consequently He is no leader for men who with the means given them in this world wish to attain some definite object."

"With regard to the utterances of Jesus, we confess that we cannot simply comply with them, since we do not share His conception of the universe, and so are living in a different world. On the other hand, the mind which they reveal should be present also in us; that is, the will to act in accordance with our own convictions."

Harnack - "The Social Gospel," pages 1,59, 204, 212, 207.

This, then, is the new gospel. Do not follow Jesus. No matter how clearly stated is the will of Christ, "our own convictions" are to be followed in preference, especially when from them has been eliminated compassion, modesty, love, and asceticism. Yes, dear reader, such are the teachings of the new theology. Their words are before you. I would fain believe that they are the sad words read in a bitter dream; but unfortunately they are only too real.

I believe that these men are better than their teachings; but the better the personal life, the more vicious and extensive is the devastating influence of such teaching. If some drunken roué advocated the impossibility of following Jesus, of being modest, loving, compassionate, and self-controlled, those only would heed him who were more debauched than he. But when backed by the irreproachable private life, and stated with all the profound learning and charming genius, of Harnack and Herrmann, these restated teachings of the debauchee are enthusiastically applauded and blindly accepted.

That such teachings are neither isolated nor overstated, is evident from the bold avowals of Dr. Campbell, England's premier exponent of the new theology, who tells us roundly that "sin is the expansion of the individuality." - R. J. Campbell, "New Theology," page 157.

For fear that we may charitably mistake him, Mr. Campbell carries his principle to its hideous conclusion, with the blind disregard for results so often observed in higher critics:

"However startling it may seem, sin itself is a quest for God. That drunken debauch was a quest for life, a quest for God. Men in their sinful follies to-day, and their blank atheism, and their foul blasphemies, their trampling upon things that are beautiful and good, are engaged in this dim, blundering quest for God. . . . The rogué you saw in Piccadilly last night, who went out to corrupt innocence and to wallow in filthiness of the flesh, was engaged in his blundering quest for God."

-- R. J. Campbell, "New Theology," pages 150, 151.

It needs no argument to prove that if these new teachings were believed by foreign missionaries, their work would become paralyzed, and foreign missionary work would not only languish, but would go rapidly from apathy to stupor, and from stupor to profound coma, from which only the impending second advent of Christ could arouse it. Is it any wonder that Christ, in looking down the stream of time to the present, said sadly,

"Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8.

In taking stock of how much of the gospel of Jesus higher criticism has left us, and seeing how scant it is, and how warped and corrupted even that little is, many unsettled souls are crying out, with Mary,

"They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." John 20:13.

The terrible harvest of this higher criticism is already seen in the unsettled beliefs, the destroyed faith, the multiplied infidels, even in the churches, the weakened and empty churches, and the consequent increase of crime and vice. Aliens from God, outcasts from society, broken-hearted millions curse their miserable existence, and long for death as a desired release. From Africa's burning sands, from Russia's frigid steppes, from India's arid plains, from China's crowded lands, from the rocky cliffs of countless islands - from every land, in every clime - the cry of human woe is ascending in increasing volume, from the destitute, the afflicted, the diseased, and the dying.

To these misery-laden souls, higher criticism can give only a gospel of scientific doubt, a Bible of shreds and patches, a book of myths and legends - a Christless Bible. Nothing but husks have the new theologians to offer the sin-burdened, empty-souled, world-weary child of the world.

Since the story of the curse is held to be only a voice from the realm of fable, redemption must necessarily be the decadent fruitage of a hydra-headed myth; and a fabulous redemption from a fabulous curse is effected only by a nebulous, mystical, and mythical Christ, the fabulous product of unscrupulous deceivers, imposed upon an ignorant and superstitious people in an age of darkness. This theory is so prevalent among higher critics, and is taught so assiduously, that among the laymen, theories of Christ are rife, conclusions diverse, and faith wavering. The open or secret cry is,

"We will not have this Man to reign over us."

In this crude and mongrel system of Christianity, this incoherent conglomerate of antiscriptural religion, false philosophy, and infidel science, all the lifeblood of Christianity has been drawn from Christ's gospel, all the spirituality has been evaporated from His life, all the meaning from His words, and nothing is left us but muddy waters from the broken cisterns of ancient infidelity and modern "Christian" skepticism.

From: Earle Albert Rowell, The Bible in the Critic’s Den (1917)

Thankfully, Christian revival has nonetheless regularly returned to counter the tide, but the most effective missionary and revival movements continue to rely on the tried and true authority of the Bible as a basis, rather than upon the rationalistic 'science' of higher criticism.

4. Unfortunately, our English Bible (the KJV) does notowe its "unrivaled merits" to "the principle of revision", whatever that is. It earned its unrivaled [status], based upon its actual merits:

(1) The Authorized Version (KJV) is an excellent translation of the original languages. It is probably as 'literal' as a good idiomatic English rendering will allow.

(2) It is a masterpiece of English prose, drawing upon the best of previous translations, and being executed by skilled artisans of the English tongue.

(3) It is faithful to the traditional text used by Christians and Jews for 2000 years. Peoples of all related religions and denominations respect it for its fidelity to the original texts that were actually used historically by the key religious groups. Even Jews appreciate its Old Testament, and its fidelity to the Hebrew Scriptures.

The original translators undoubted believed in updating and improving the language of translation, and gaining from recent experience and accumulating knowledge. But it is doubtful they would have been convinced of the need for significant textual changes, or any 'principle of revision'.

5. Jerome's prophetic insight concerning his own work cannot be so easily transferred to the modern Revisors. Jerome's confidence was based upon his awareness of the poor and confused state of the Old Latin, and the need for a standardization of the text and language revision too.

The modern Revisors were not in any such similar situation. The text of the NT was already standardized, and happily accepted in its post-Reformation form by Catholic and Protestant alike. The basic text of the NT had not changed in 1000 years.

There certainly weren't hundreds of 'independant translations' of dubious quality floating about Europe and Britain. At best, the English of Shakespeare needed a minor facelift.

6. This appeal to the Articles of the Church of England is strangely out of place. The rejection of the Apocrypha as canonical (following Jerome) can hardly be compared to mutilating the traditional Gospel texts.

What is perhaps worse, is again Jerome is perhaps being supported here by the Articles and hence the Reformers of the Church of England, while the New Revisors have adopted a text plainly known to Jerome but totally rejected by him!

Lightfoot rallies to Jerome's Revision, supporting Jerome's judgment to the detriment of his own Revision, which runs counter to Jerome's authority and best advice.

7. Again the irony (and argument) is running rampant all over the Revisors' case. If indeed Jerome's Vulgate won its place by "sterling merit", why aren't the Revisors following Jerome's text, instead of Westcott and Hort's hacked up text? They cannot possibly claim to have better materials than Jerome had to work with, or more knowledge of the early text.

8. Here we see Lightfoot unable to restrain himself from a leap in wishful thinking that even other Revisors thought absurd. Perhaps delusions about the power of the English clergy over the masses, or of the quality of the Revision, or simple naivety is at fault.

But the unseemly image of the bishop's desperation invokes the picture of drowning man grasping at straws. But what kind of 'formal authorization' can he mean? That the Crown, or perhaps Parliament might dare to draw up a declaration of the excellence of the Revised Version? Has he forgotten that the Empire is all but lost, and a democratic 'commonwealth' sits in its place?

Were the other parties of the Revision equally naive and dreamy?

9. Now in a few short lines the mood has swung back the other way. 'Only let it not be banned.' Is this a premonition of the trouble about to break forth when the British people finally see what has been done to the Holy Book they cherish so much?

10. Lightfoot here seems to confess that little doubt will remain about the true quality of the work, a mere few years after its release. In this we wholeheartedly agree.

While a true work of genius can be expected to take a whole generation, or even an age to pass before it is truly recognized, the mediocre can usually be identified without much time or effort at all.

That the Revised Version was evaluated rather quickly in the scheme of history, speaks eloquently of its ultimate value.

11. This itself is an inadvertant confession of Lightfoot's knowledge of just how far Westcott and Hort had gone in using the early evidence to alter the traditional text.

He appears here to be trying to break the bad news softly by 'foreshadowing', even as he attempts to build a case that the situation is not 'that bad'. At the same time the actual numbers are being carefully avoided in this pre-release press conference.

12. The other shoe drops. This is an incredible charge, coming from a bishop of the Church of England. The Articles of Faith seem to have just flown right out the window.

Can this be true? The text used by the translators of the Authorized Version was "faulty and corrupt"?!! So apparently says the Canon of St. Paul's, the Bishop of Durham, sworn Defender of the Faith.

It is doubtful that the bishop would characterize the Holy Bible this way from the pulpit. Here of course he feels he is preaching to the converted: his fellow Revisors and associates. He can speak his mind, how he really feels. Is he exaggerating? One could hope so.

13. That the Greek NT (Received Text, "TR") could use some minor updates to reflect better the popular manuscript tradition, even Dean John Burgon, the most caustic and outspoken critic of the Revised Version would admit.

Yet even if the majority of 'textual critics' living in 1880 were swept away by the shenanegans of German higher critical scholarship, there were many who weren't. F.H.A. Scrivener, one of the most balanced and temperate scholars of the day, who was also on the Revision Committee, would hardly have characterized the Authorized Version as 'faulty and corrupt'. Nor would he have "substantially agreed" on this point concerning the Greek Textus Receptus.

Other scholars would follow, who found the theories of Westcott and Hort, and the text they produced from them far more faulty than the TR. One of the biggest criticisms against the Revised Version was its adherence to this new 'critical Greek text'.

14. Lightfoot seems to have arrived at a 'faith' based upon the rationalism and scientism of his day. For him the study of the Greek text at his leisure has apparently solved many a difficulty. Even in our time, this can only be described as a priviledge reserved for the upper classes and the academically inclined.

The bishop cannot be suggesting that this be a requirement of Christian faith and practice. For most Christians, dependance upon a printed translation is a fact of life. Now the bishop tells us the Holy Book is "faulty and corrupt". This apparently means the Word of God has yet to be delivered to the people. The Reformation has not yet begun.

But ordinary Christians have the right to ask, at what cost did the Bishop arrive at his personal solution? What were the 'difficulties' he had, that apparently could only be solved by studying the "history and condition of the Greek text" ?

Is he willing, or even able, to share his new elite 'faith', and how are ordinary Christians supposed to learn of it without studying the"history and condition of the Greek text"?

Without an extraordinary explanation, we can only say that Lightfoot's 'faith' is strange, elitist, and alien to the Christian Gospel as known and understood by millions of laypeople supposing themselves to be "Christians".

And this after all is perhaps the whole point. Should people like Lightfoot be meddling with the Christian text, or should they just come clean and put down their priestly robes and find a new profession?

15. Lightfoot here tries to make a case that early variants are 'great', because they show the original text must be 'much older'. But this is nonsense. The variant may only be as old as the oldest manuscript to sport the reading, simply because the scribe created it on the spot by a slip of eye or pen.

The 'discovery' of variant readings at best makes only an indirect and cumulative argument for an indeterminately 'older' text. But is this what textual criticism should even be doing? Its great that an aging bishop can 'find faith' in a Gospel by some kind of reasoning that it must be older than the surviving fragments of the 4th century A.D.

But we must suspect that all this hand-waving is just to reassure the timid. If the bishop's faith is so fragile as to need the crutch of such nebulous arguments, or even if his listeners are in such a crippled condition, will these weak twigs really hold up a faith well enough to withstand tests of persecution or even of life's ordinary trials?

Rather than rely upon 'ancient copies', and flakey arguments for the 'antiquity' of a Gospel, shouldn't Christians, or at least bishops (!) be putting the contents of the Gospel into practice to test their truth and worth?

If this is the major benefit ("evidential value") to be derived from textual criticism, we might as well pass on the whole enterprise.

16. Here again Lightfoot promises a rose-garden: What appears radical and dangerous is really soft and fluffy and conservative: Look, an analysis of Ephesians offers an explanation for its lack of mention of recipients and other suspicious features.

But skeptics could easily argue, and indeed now have, that a 'circular' letter is no better, no more authentic than a plainer or cruder forgery. Imagine a letter with no specific destination, possibly not even a source, as for instance the 'letter' to the Hebrews.

If a 'circular' memo of this type was mistakenly assigned to the Ephesians, why trust the early Christians competance regarding any other particulars, or even the canon itself?

How has 'textual criticism' (as practised by these primitive witchdoctors) helped defend the integrity of the Gospel and its primal documents in any significant way?

But the real problem with Lightfoot's argument here is much more serious: For in spite of his assurances, what really happened to the NT in the hands of the Revisors once they chose to follow Hort?

Dozens of whole and half-verses were simply torn out of the Holy Text and relegated to the margins. Hundreds of clauses and phrases vanished, some without even a proper notice. Thousands of changes were introduced into the text, affecting not just the style of expression or grammar, but the very meaning of the Holy Scriptures.

Whether Lightfoot simply lied, or spoke through his hat, or babbled like an ignorant old fool, completely out of touch with what the Revisors were really doing, it makes no final difference to the result:

Whatever he thought he was doing, he aided and abetted the mutilation of the NT far beyond what was called for by evidence or mandate, and followed Hort 'to hell in a handbasket'.

17. Here Lightfoot claims to "conceive that the general tendency" of Textual Criticism is "conservative action".

With the publication of the Revised Version, it is hard to imagine the farce becoming more extreme in the difference between the real "action" on a stage, and what is said about it.

Never has a claim appeared more ludicrous in hindsight; except perhaps the famous remark concerning "peace in our time" just before the breakout of World War II.

18. Here Lightfoot waxes eloquent. So plainly self-evident is this statement, that we can hardly find fault with it.

...But there is a fault, a fatal flaw in the entire enterprise. It is this:

Our duty can hardly be very 'obvious' if skilled people disagree as to the weight, nature, and interpretation of the evidence.

If "our single aim is to place the Bible in its integrity before the people of Christ", then hadn't we be sure we can properly identify what the 'true Bible' really is? Doesn't our aim include being absolutely certain of both our evidence and our methods before applying them to the problem at hand?

Finally, in our long tradition of Law courts, we presume innocence until guilt is proved (at least that is the expressed intent and philosophy, in the British commonwealth). We protect every single citizen under an accusation with that kind of conservative procedure, as a simple matter of course. How then can we do less for the Holy Inspired Word of God, used and trusted by Christians for a dozen centuries?

Should we not, in any case of significant doubt, rather leave the text as we have found it, and at most place a note or alternative reading in the margin?

This is what Mill did. This is what Bengel did. This is what the translators of the Authorized Version of 1611 did.

Whatever got into the heads of the Revisors, that they could throw all caution, and even accepted procedure out the window, and introduce into the text of Holy Scripture every significant variant they could find from a handful of old 4th century manuscripts?

19. "the greater will be our care to ascertain the exact expressions of the original by the aid of all the critical resources at our command."

Again, it is not the expressed intention, or even the philosophy which must be protested against here. Its the incredible disparity between the expressed principle, and the actual result, that causes the defiant objection and uproar from Christians everywhere.

Where is the care? Where is the demonstration that the aid of all critical resources were ever applied? Certainly not in the result.

If all depends upon the work of Westcott and Hort as it turns out, then bring them, their theory, and their results under the strictest microscopic scrutiny, before embracing such radical change. Its only common sense.

... And it was never done, because the people in charge of the Revision were carried away with the theories and beliefs of their age. Their enthusiasm and gullibility was contagious, and it submerged the whole operation in a smokescreen of self-congradulatory indulgence that no real scientific enterprise could dare afford.

It would hardly be unfair to say, that they talked each other into the biggest disaster of all time in the field of textual criticism. And Hort, who dominated the committee according to other participants, did most of the talking.

20. Once again, the appeal to Jerome for a kind of authority by association is shocking in its irony. If Jerome's fidelity to the purest text was really recognized as his greatest claim to the gratitude of succeeding ages, then Why aren't the Revisors actually adopting Jerome's "purest text"?

The short answer is that the Revisors, including Lightfoot, are only using Jerome as a shield, a foil, a source of prestige to associate with. They offer thin and shallow praise to Jerome, mere lip-service: had they truly wanted to honour and praise him, they would have respected his judgement and adopted his text.

21. "our work is far less revolutionary than his..."

Again Lightfoot surely is knowingly misleading his own readers. Even though Jerome updated the 'whole Latin text' in language and form, he did a lot less to the NT in terms of its content than the Revisors have done.

Jerome did not add or delete hundreds of partial verses, (except perhaps in the OT, where the sheer size of the text is 7x larger than the NT), nor did he introduce thousands of changes that completely altered the sense each verse. In most cases, Jerome simply updated the grammar of the Latin, which had evolved after 4 centuries. Jerome's work would be similar to a comparison of the KJV with the NKJV.

"Where he was faithful in great things, [the revisors] will not be faithless in small. "

Again, a lovely expression, but one which was betrayed in the practical result. But more importantly, this is a statement which exposes the work of the Revisors from the start:

If Jerome was "faithful in great things", without deleting whole sections like the Pericope de Adultera, how can the revisors be "not faithless in small" by the wholesale mutilation of the very NT that faithful Jerome preserved?

Whoever they were following, they were plainly not following Jerome's text, who was according to them, "faithful in great things"!

22. "Yet still it is well to face the probable results..."

Lightfoot first introduces 1st John 5:7, partly because this was already a well-publicised and difficult variant, in which the largest number of people were already convinced it was an 'interpolation'. Partly this was due to a long, protracted and poorly argued but bitter dispute over the verses, which had embarrassed those hoping in reason and temperance.

His argument is largely irrelevant however, since even this verse is still disputed in certain quarters today. For Lightfoot however, it is simply meant to serve as a 'softener' for what is to follow.

23. Lightfoot's main point with 1st John 5:7 is that if it is left in the text it will give excuse to 'critics' of the Christian religion. It bolsters the argument that if the Revisors don't do something to clean up the text, its flaws will just give the enemies of the Gospel opportunity for criticism and attack.

But this is a real straw dog, because most sensible Christians were already willing to concede that the language of the Authorized Version needed updating, and that possibly a few errors may have crept into the text.

But neither the agreement in principle for revision by Christians, nor the argument presented by Lightfoot regarding this peculiar verse can support the massive alterations done to the NT through the adoption of Westcott and Hort's 'critical' Greek text.

24. "the spurious words are placed in brackets..."

This is again non-sequitous argument. Much of what was thought perhaps to be 'suspicious' in 1500 was due to anti-Roman Catholic paranoia. Also, early paraphrase or translations were based upon words taken from the Latin Vulgate rather than the Greek, and so would not appear "spurious", or even be present in the Authorized Version of 1611.

There was no real need for such brackets when the suspicious material was no longer present to the degree found in early individual translations, especially with the adoption of a standardized margin where notes could be placed.

But again we have to be suspicious ourselves of the spin Lightfoot is here putting on the 'doubtful' words so marked. It may not have been the intent at all of early printers to suggest that these words were to be interpreted as "spurious". Why then include them in texts which were not relying upon any authority but were fresh translations?

It is far more likely a less strong meaning was meant: that the words were extraneous, superfluous, added by the translator but not present in the underlying Latin, Greek or Hebrew. In other words, material added for explanatory or interpretive purposes. That is, the added words were not always disapproved of, or censured at all.

25. Lightfoot here gives an impression that all the 'hills and valleys' of the text were reduced to a single dimension by the removal of 'critical brackets' putting readings in doubt. In fact, the Authorized Version retained over 8000 marginal notes. So Lightfoot's complaint seems odd.

They merely preferred the margin for alternate readings and translational notes. In this way the translators preserved the best of both worlds, providing a dignified rendering unmarred by distracting apparatus, while at the same time offering some meaningful answers and insight regarding technical issues in the margin for study.

Dr. Jack Moorman's comments on the marginal notes of the KJV can be consulted with profit on this:

"... [Dr. D.] Wallace says of the AV translators:

"These scholars [the KJV translators], who admitted that their work was provisional and not final (as can be seen by their preface and by their more than 8000 marginal notes indicating alternate renderings ), would wholeheartedly welcome the great finds in MSS that have occurred in the past one hundred and fifty years."

(from: Dr. D. Wallace,
Why I Do Not Think the KJ Bible
is the Best Translation Available Today

In neither The Dedication to the King, nor The Translators to the Reader do I find an inference where the AV translators "admitted that their work was provisional". To the King they declare: "out of the Original Sacred Tongues…there should be one more exact translation of the Holy Scriptures into the English Tongue". And, to the Reader they write:

"Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principle good one, not justly to be accepted against." (pp. xv,xvi).

Wallace calls their work provisional; the AV translators say it is "one principle good one".

Regarding marginal readings, these provided a kind of miniature commentary. In the comparatively few places where we find them, those translators who trusted in Him that hath the key of David (Translators to the Reader, p. xvi), showed by inclusion in the text what their decision had been, while at the same time giving insight into what the Original was capable of expressing. In some cases they show a strictly literal rendering which to translate directly into English would have been awkward.

In only 104 instances (see Scrivener) is a variant reading from different manuscripts given. Here they show their awareness, but not to the point of distracting the reader, and certainly not to the point of Wallace’s claim that the AV translators would have "welcomed the great finds in MSS that have occurred in the last 150 years".

Erasmus' knowledge of variant readings in Codex B is well documented. In an attempt to persuade Erasmus of the superiority of B, 365 variant readings were sent to him in early November 1533 from Rome by the Spaniard Sepulveda (Maynard, pp. 87,88).

Erasmus rejected these for his 1535 edition. They were rejected by succeeding editors of the Received Text, and by the great Reformation Bibles both in English and other languages. The men of the AV knew where the dangers lurked in the manuscript record. For example, Codex D, and the Clementine Vulgate (a much more corrupt 1592 replacement for the Sixtine edition), were at their disposal. They had the spiritual discernment to reject the corrupt variants that these and other sources presented."

from: Dr. Jack A. Moorman, Twenty Points of Criticism Answered, (2005)

26. Here Lightfoot undermines his own case. He admits the possibility at least, of cases where it may be difficult even for the Revisors to decide the relative probability of two (or more) alternate readings.

In these cases, brackets would be near-useless or misleading. What is the alternative? Use of the margin. But if so, why not be consistent and use the margin throughout, as intelligent editors have done in the past? Bracketing variant readings would be superfluous and annoying to the majority of users.

Its not just indeterminate readings that make brackets a crude tool. In cases of more than two readings, the margin will be heavily required anyway. So why not keep the text neat and readable, and embrace less obtrusive footnote numbers?

But again, these are issues of format, not substance. Is this the greatest fault to be found in the Authorized Version?

27. But according to Lightfoot's own plan of using brackets, how can two equally valued alternate readings be placed "side by side"? One must go in the margin, and one in the text, favouring it over the other.

Lightfoot is promising here something the Revisors cannot and have no intention of delivering: equality of alternate readings.

Perhaps more importantly, these example readings are hardly equal. Certainly the reading of the Received Text is preferred from the Christian viewpoint. And if so, what does that say about the 4th century witnesses offering ancient but less than desirable readings?

When Lightfoot reassures us that "though individual texts might be altered, the balance of doctrinal statement would probably not be disturbed by the total result", of what value is it?

If Lightfoot cannot guarantee the outcome of the Revisors' work (presumably each reading was to be debated on its own merits, even though Hort dominated the meetings), why make promises?

As it turned out, many people found that the large amount of doctrinal alterations did not "balance out" overall. Instead, the text produced by the Revisors was a weakened, confused text, lacking in doctrinal firmness for a variety of reasons.

28. In spite of Lightfoot's assessment, the "very few passages touching Christian sentiment affected by textual differences" amounted to many hundreds of passages, according to those whose sentiment was touched.

This caused a furious reaction and a near complete rejection of the Revised Version by the English speaking Christian public at large.

29. The Pericope de Adultera: John 7:53-8:11

In this case a deference to the most ancient authorities, as well as a consideration of internal evidence, might seem to involve immediate loss.

This claim is the basis for the Revisors' rejection of the passage as spurious and its separation from the rest of Scripture, surrounded by a cage of square brackets. It comes in two parts, External (textual) evidence and Internal Evidence:

Internal Evidence:

The case for the alleged Internal Evidence against the passage was composed by Samuel Davidson in 1848, following up on the vague statements of previous critics. His idea of 'internal evidence', (besides a rather subjective assessment of the style and plausibility of the content of the passage,) was essentially composed of a tabulation of vocabulary and grammar, in comparison with both the rest of John and the Synoptics.

Davidson's case regarding the internal evidence was premature and fatally flawed however, and it falls apart under close inspection. The main problems are these:

State of Knowledge Issues

(1) Greek vocabulary and grammar was in its infancy. Scholars were still attempting to treat NT (Koine) Greek using the standards of classical Attic Greek.

The world would have wait for the discovery of the papyri between 1900 and 1950 to provide adequate study materials. Advances in methods of descriptive linguistics, and quantitative analysis of usage were also badly needed.

(2) No analysis of the style and diction of each author was available. No scientifically credible studies of authors had taken place. These would necessarily have to wait until language fundamentals were mapped.

In fact, the required methodologies had not yet even been conceived. Up until this time, critics were giving their subjective impressions of author styles, with wide variation in results.

(3) The Concept of Author 'Style' was too narrow in scope. Discussion was limited to vocabulary and grammar, but this aspect of an author's style is perhaps the least reliable and least relevant of any characterization.

Although 'source criticism' had begun, a fully developed scientifically based literary criticism would require decades of subsequent innovation and testing.

Biblical criticism had not begun to extricate itself from theological and philosophical bias. Agendas dominated the work on all sides.

These considerations alone would negate any scientific value attributed to the arguments from "internal evidence".

Remarkably S.P. Tregelles also thought the internal evidence alleged against the verses to be near-worthless, although he rejected the passage on textual grounds:

"I do not rest at all on the internal difficulties connected with this passage, on the supposition that it is genuine Scripture; because, if it had been sufficiently attested, they would not present anything insurmountable.

The peculiarities of the language are indeed remarkable, and very unlike anything else in St. John's Gospel; but to this it might be said, that the copies differ so much that it is almost impossible to judge what the true phraseology is.

Perhaps the difficulties in the passage have been over-estimated: at least we have no reason to conjecture that any omitted it on account of such difficulties, any more than we have to think that any expunged it on doctrinal grounds, as suggested by Augustine."

(Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek NT, 1854, pages 236)

We may also note here that Tregelles attributes much of the supposed problem of vocabulary and style to the meddling of copyists.

Here he confesses that the internal evidence presented by Davidson only 6 years previously doesn't amount to a tinker's cuss. Next to textual evidence, Tregelles rates it as almost irrelevant.

Upon this, Tregelles clearly expresses himself honestly. And with him we wholeheartedly agree. The alleged internal evidence mounted against the passage is all but worthless.

We have analysed Davidson's case of alleged internal evidence in detail:

Davidson's Internal Evidence <-- Click Here.

Some of it turns out to be evidence in favour of authenticity.

External (Textual) Evidence

A "deference to the most ancient authorities" might indeed seem to involve immediate loss of the passage.

But we may rightly challenge the whole idea of blindly deferring to the "oldest and best MSS" as understood here by Lightfoot. In his day, this meant only Codex Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph).

It is true that the more recently discovered Egyptian papyri show that the text of B and Aleph go back to the 2nd century A.D. (e.g. P66, P75). But it has already been admitted that the text was old, and the papyri are only a 100 years or so older, essentially confirming what we already knew: the text of Vaticanus was old, and Egyptian (Alexandrian).

What is not so much discussed, is that these same witnesses also show that this text is plainly an edited Ecclesiastical text prepared for public reading and liturgical use. It is simply not the 'primitive, neutral, pure' text Hort claimed it was.

And nowadays no textual critic would accept Hort's description of Vaticanus as a "nearly pure, neutral" text.

For photos and a detailed examination of the actual manuscripts, go here:

Top Ten Early MSS for John 8:1-11 <-- Click Here.

Are Early Manuscripts Really the Best?

The original premise was that manuscripts were copied, generation by generation, preserving old errors and adding new ones. The cumulative result then was presumed to be this: that newer manuscripts were more corrupt and faulty, while older manuscripts were purer and more accurate.

Fewer Copy-Generations

But this model of manuscript production has been known to be faulty for a long time. In fact, the practice was to copy the "oldest, best" master-copy available, until it finally wore out. This ensured that centuries could go by, while a 'new' copy of a NT book might only be a few 'copy-generations' old.

Proof-reading and Correction

Added to this was the practice of 'correcting' a manuscript by comparing it to another, often different master-copy. This did two things:

(1) It kept most accidental mistakes from being copied beyond one or two 'generations' before being caught and fixed. This extended the purity of the text far beyond the simple copying analogy.

(2) It introduced 'mixture', cross-pollinating the copying streams, and preventing many changes from becoming too entrenched. Once a variant was introduced, constant exchange prevented a minority (late change) from becoming dominant (turning into a majority reading).

Edition and Recension

The only physical mechanism that could counter this self-purifying tendency, was deliberate reproduction of selected texts or readings, and conscious adoption of 'editions' or 'recensions'. Only through deliberate actions affecting numbers of manuscripts produced and selection of manuscripts for copying, could a minority reading have a good opportunity to become a majority reading.

This is not to deny both the possibility and the actual historical occurence of editions and conscious manipulations of the copying process. But only by identifying actual historical actions and associating them with specific readings can a scientifically convincing argument for a minority reading be made.

Limitations of Influence

But apparently more often than not, periodic 'revisions' never achieved any significant dominance in the early centuries There are two reasons for this:

(1) People refused to adopt other people's revisions, and they would wax and wane in popularity over short periods and over small geographical ranges.

(2) Because of the simple 'leap-frog' effect of other near-contemporary independent revisions bypassing them by appealing to earlier manuscripts, their power would again be diminished.

High Production Skewing

In a few cases, minority readings could become majority readings by a selective process: For instance, two competing texts could be consulted, and a new mixed text resulting from copying alternately from each would be born.

This new mixed text, having no real previous history or authority, could be reproduced in large numbers, out of proportion to the value of its internal choices of reading.

This has actually historically happened. At least two groups of manuscripts, von Soden's M7 and M4 are mixed texts, identifiable by a pattern of 'block-copying', where apparently the editor used one text for a stretch, then switched, back and forth.

In such cases, minority readings can artificially acquire more manuscript support than their original popularity warranted, unless such later mixed copies are eliminated from the counting/voting process.

No Breaks for Vaticanus or Sinaiticus

Such plausible processes, that could account for a 'false positive' of an artificially inflated amount of support for a previously minority reading, cannot come to the aid of Codex Vaticanus or Sinaiticus however.

These arguments can only be applied to groups of manuscripts within a copying stream affected. It is known that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are actually members of an alternate stream of transmission, and the Majority Text (traditional/Byzantine) text is not a descendant of that line of transmission.

The sorting process for eliminating the 'voting power' of later mixed texts can only apply to a large statistically well represented body of manuscripts within a single transmission stream, and possessing a clear genealogical relationship, such as the Byzantine manuscripts.

Choosing Between the Byzantine and Alexandrian

The choice between Codex B and the TR must be made on other grounds, such as judicious application of Tischendorf's principle where possible.

For example, there are a dozen cases where the Textus Receptus (TR) is plainly superior to the text of Aleph/B. These are all cases of obvious haplography, where a scribe's eye has skipped down a line or two to a place with a similar ending or beginning of line, resulting in the omission of a verse. These are some of the most common copyist errors.

Here are some examples: Mark 6:33, 8:26, 9:49, 11:8, 12:33, 14:19, 14:68,
Luke 4:5, 5:38, 9:55-56, 11:54, 12:39, 17:9, 17:24, 19:45, 20:23, 20:30, 22:64, 22:68, 24:42

The fact that these errors are sometimes supported by early papyri only underlines the fact that they are errors. Agreement in error is one of the evidences of genealogical dependance. We already know that Vaticanus is a descendant from the same stream that produced P66, P75.

If choices between readings were properly based upon actual scientific evidence such as signs of haplography rather than vague preferences for 'older manuscripts', more significant and reliable advances could be made.

30. There are two remarks that must be made concerning Lightfoot's statements here:

(1) Lightfoot says the brackets would be placed around the passage, not to indicate that it is untrue, (here he expresses Tregelles' complex position), but to indicate simply that the evidence is against it being a part of John's Gospel.

What the Revisors actually ended up doing including footnote gives the ordinary reader an entirely different and more sinister impression. Gone is any suggestion of the passage being an ancient and true tradition regarding Jesus. Instead a terse note suggesting a later interpolation is given. Once again, alleged good intent transforms into the opposite of its promise. A trust was misplaced and violated.

(2) It was F. J. A. Hort who put together the case against the verses (of both internal and external evidence). While Lightfoot obviously had priviledged access to Hort's work, he offered no advance preview of the arguments.

This could have allowed some public challenge and discussion before the damage was done. In fact, all the Revisors were sworn to secrecy, and promised not to discuss or release their notes and conclusions before publication. This prevented a truly open peer review or any public accountability for the Revision. Hindsight shows (again) that such procedures result only in some form of duplicity and deception at all levels.

31. The suggestion that the Ending of Mark be treated the same way is patently nonsensical. The two cases, (John 7:53-8:11, and Mark 16:9 fwd) are completely different, regarding both content, nature, circumstances, and available evidence.

This was perhaps the most absurd suggestion among the many Lightfoot has made. To borrow Lightfoot's expression, "All textual critics are substantially agreed on this point", though they may differ among themselves as to the explanation of the evidence for the two cases!

32. The merits of Lightfoot's theory to explain the two major variants of the NT cannot be assessed here.

We may only note its irrelevance, since none of the other Revisors (including Hort) accepted anything like it. According to Hort, our passage was a late Western interpolation, and it was Hort's critical judgments that were accepted by the Revisors and used to create the footnotes of the RV.

33. Textual critics are divided on how to interpret the statements of Papias recorded by Eusebius. Both characters invoke suspicion on various points, and a great many, if not a majority, of critics are unconvinced that Papias/Eusebius are actually referring to the same story as John 8:1-11 is.

This evidence is so flimsy that even defenders of the verses don't emphasize it.

34. Here regarding Luke, Lightfoot treats the same early manuscript evidence completely differently. Now he would retain the verses he cherishes so highly. Again however, Lightfoot's sentiments would be completely ignored in favour of a consistent reliance upon the early evidence (B/Aleph). The verses would be deleted, marginalized, or bracketed.

Once again, Lightfoot's assurances turned out worthless. The text was mercilessly expunged of 'doubtful' passages. The English public were shocked and horrified. Luke's Gospel was granted no favour via Lightfoot's wishful thinking.

35. That there are differences in both the frequency and nature of variants between John and the other Gospels may be granted. The parallel parts of the Synoptics also suffered extra 'corrections' in various efforts to harmonize them to one another, while John offered less opportunity for this.

But Lightfoot means something different again here. For him, the difference between John and the Synoptics is licence to freely chop out verses in John, while it is an excuse to retain them in Luke. But there is no credible textual argument for Lightfoot's preferential treatment of Luke, or the devaluation of the traditional text of John.

36. Lightfoot continues to develop the theme of a "Two Edition Theory" for Luke, extending it to Acts. But his argument here is not really cogent. He would argue now that the so-called "Western Interpolations" of Luke/Acts are original, reversing the text-critical maxim, "Prefer the shorter reading." followed by Hort and the Revisors.

But his argument depends upon a case by case examination of the actual variant verses. If he had actually shown this for all of Luke/Acts, then the largest part of the Westcott-Hort Greek text("WH-text") would have been proved erroneous, also condemning the Revised Version.

Once Lightfoot's argument here is conceded however, and Hort is seen to be wrong about Luke/Acts, why grant his theory and text any credibility for Mark or John? At such a juncture, the entire plan and purpose of the Revision would need to be re-thought. What is Lightfoot doing, supporting Hort's agenda?

37. "[the variants for Acts] are entirely free from suspicion on the ground that they were inserted to serve any purpose, devotional or doctrinal."

Here Lightfoot argues that the verses in Luke/Acts are authentic, because no plausible explanation for their insertion can be found. As appealing as this sounds, it had little weight with either the Revisors or anyone else.

The original maxim of Tischendorf was "Prefer the reading that best explains the origin of the others". But this was at best an ideal, or a rare and lucky circumstance.

If the variants happened to have the right features, or an explanation could be posed, great. But most variants were simply not solvable this way, as though Sherlock Holmes could just step in and crack the code with a brilliant deduction or a clever set of logical steps.

Far more often, a set of variants would appear to have no explanation at all, or explanations would appear absurd. After all, many variants are mere errors, created by a multitude of causes and circumstances.

Lightfoot has here turned the rule inside out, in claiming a kind of 'argument from silence'. But the lack of a plausible explanation at hand cannot guarantee no interpolation took place.

Lightfoot would like his elaboration of Tischendorf's rule to override the early manuscript evidence. But Hort and the Revisors thought otherwise, preferring the textual ('oldest and best MSS') to "intrinsic probability" ('internal') arguments. Lightfoot was bound to lose the entire ship.

In subsequent discussions with the other Revisors, Lightfoot was unable even to save his precious Lukan verses. They too fell under the knife wielded by Hort.

38. Here is yet another example of Lightfoot caught up in apologetics over the text and its difficult variants, rather than scientific analysis of the variants.

He spends a paragraph attempting to read the mind of the Lukan narrator and possible correctors, to account for some changes. But as attractive as these theories can be, they undermine the whole enterprise of rational criticism if allowance isn't made for the common possibility of simple error by habit of speech, or deliberate doctrinal emendations in all directions, by many hands.

Again the conjecture is too simple to cover the full range. Its incompleteness almost guaranteed its rejection by other Revisors.

The result is that Lightfoot functions extremely well as an apologist and smokescreen for the Revisors, but very poorly as a predictor and expounder of what the Revisors were about to actually do to the text.

39. "Fasting" has always been an uncomfortable practise for the wealthy, upper and middle-class. In the Reformation Period, it was viewed with suspicion as a 'Romish superstition'. Its no surprise then that we have a (wealthy) Anglican bishop siding against the manuscript readings that uphold and emphasize fasting.

Again Lightfoot erodes his own argument by pointing out that even removing references to fasting where there is some manuscript support still leaves a healthy tradition of fasting behind for guidance of Christians.

The sidetracking just acts once again as a 'friendly assurance' to put concerned parties back to sleep. Meanwhile Hort's crew went ahead and hacked out the references to fasting anyway.

40. Yet in the end, the Revisors actually did many times the damage that Lightfoot suggested would take place, here in this preemptive apologetic work.

41. Here, Lightfoot gives a subtle warning of the many changes "of a subordinate kind" that are to come. Most of these will be explained away as attempts at 'harmonization' with parallel accounts or other places in the text.

The Revisors were to use the rule, "Prefer the harder reading." in the most extreme manner possible, following Hort. Originally, this rule was suggested to explain simple corrections (minority readings) by individual scribes.

In the hands of Hort, the rule would be used to introduce many absurdities (obvious blunders) into the text on the pretext that these were "harder", and obviously "corrected" by subsequent scribes. The argument was, it was 'more likely' that a scribe would correct an 'error' than the other way around (introduce an error).

But the premise of Hort here is logically fallacious. Methodologically it generates the most error-ridden text, by collecting all the errors spread across the manuscripts into one text. This new exaggeratedly depraved text would never have existed previously in any manuscript or group.

Wittingly or unwittingly, it presumes that the original text was full of errors, and that the smoother, more correct texts are fabrications. This then becomes a 'hidden assumption', a statement about the original autographs that is wholly unwarranted and prejudicial to the content of the NT.

It is an assumption, carried out in practice, that is not (and never has been) performed upon any other ordinary ancient text ever published. Homer, Plato, Euclid, are never treated in such a disrespectful and absurd manner.

Hort and other textual critics have done the opposite of what they were claiming to do: treat the text as they would an ordinary secular or classical document. In fact, they treated the NT text in a manner far different from that in which scholars have traditionally (and rationally) treated classical works.

Yet from a scientific viewpoint, this methodology is also naive and flawed. A scribe is not statistically more likely to correct an existing flaw than create a new one by simple error. Typically, scribes would make up to 3 or 4 minor blunders per verse, while it is unlikely that they would come across, notice, and fix an error on the fly even once in twenty verses.

If this were so, then by the 4th century the texts would be purged of virtually all errors, and there would be no surviving significant variants to reconstruct a text with. The method, and its philosophy, is a logical absurdity.

42. "[The variants] are wholly unimportant as regards any doctrinal or practical meaning."

...Except perhaps one of the most fundamental doctrines of all, the inerrancy of the autographs, and the divine preservation of the Holy Scriptures.

But Lightfoot is long past a simple and earnest faith in God and the Holy Scriptures. He has become a sophisticated priest of the ancient Pharisee order, claiming to see, but remaining blind.