Home‎ > ‎

Book of Revelation in the Textus Receptus


Minority Readings in the Book of Revelation

Minority Readings in the Book of Revelation 

The Textus Receptus departs from both the Nestle-Aland Text and the Byzantine Majority Text considerably in the Book of Revelation.  In these instances the Textus Receptus often follows Erasmus' Reuchlin manuscript (2814).  At times Erasmus departed from 2814 and followed the Vulgate (vg), other Andreas texts (MA), Church fathers and/or other authorities.  The following are examples of the more notable divergent readings with their earliest authorities:
  • Revelation 1:6: "kings and" (2814, 025, 2015, 2019, 2036)
  • Revelation 1:8: "the beginning and the ending" (2814, Aleph*, 1854, 2050, 2329, 2351, vg)
  • Revelation 1:11: "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and" (2814, 314, 2019, 2020, 2023)
  • Revelation 2:17: "to eat of" (2814, 025, 69, 104, 1611, 1854, 1957, 2015, 2023, 2036, 2050, 2344, 2351, Beatus)
  • Revelation 2:22: "their deeds" (2814, A, 1854, 2329, 2344, vgcl, Cyprian, Primasius)
  • Revelation 2:24: "will" (2814, Aleph, 046, 1611, 2050, 2329, 2351, vg, Tyconius, Primasius)
  • Revelation 3:11: "Behold" (2015, 2019, 2036, vgcl, Bede)
  • Revelation 5:5: "to loose" (Aleph, 2344, vgcl, Haymo)
  • Revelation 5:6: "and lo" (A, 2018, 172, vg)
  • Revelation 5:14: "four and twenty . . . him that lives forever and ever" (vgcl, Primasius, Haymo)
  • Revelation 6:1: TR omits "seven" (2814, 314, 2015, 2016, 2036)
  • Revelation 6:3: "and see" (vgcl, Primasius, Beatus) ["και ιδε" (Aleph, 2344)]
  • Revelation 6:12: TR omits "whole" before "moon" (025, 2814, 2018, 2023, 172, 1957, 1611, 2329, 2344, Primasius)
  • Revelation 8:7: TR omits "and the third part of the earth was burnt up" (2814, 2018, 1854)
  • Revelation 8:13: "angel" (2814, 025, 104,  2015, 2019, 241, 2036, Victorinus)
  • Revelation 11:1: "and the angel stood" (60, 61, 69, 172, 424, 432, 1957, 2018, 2019, 2023) [with varying word order] (Aleph2, 046, 1854, 2329, 2351, Tyconius, Beatus)
  • Revelation 11:17: "and art to come" ( 1841, 051, 1006)
  • Revelation 14:1: TR omits "his name and" (2814, 025)
  • Revelation 14:5: "before the throne of God" (vgcl)
  • Revelation 15:2: "over his mark" (051, 2814, 2018, 2019, 2036)
  • Revelation 15:3: "saints" (Victorinus-Pettau, Tyconius, Apringius, and Cassiodorus)
  • Revelation 16:5: "and shalt be" instead of "thou Holy One" (Beza)
  • Revelation 16:7: "another out of" (vgcl)
  • Revelation 16:14: "of the earth and" (2814)
  • Revelation 17:4: "filthiness of her fornication" (vg: "inmunditia fornicationis")
  • Revelation 17:8: "and yet is" instead of "and shall come" (Erasmus)
  • Revelation 18:20: "holy" (adjective) instead of "saints" (noun) (2018, C, 051, 2329, 2059, 2081, vgcl, Haymo)
  • Revelation 19:17: "great God" instead of "great supper" (2814, 051, 2019, 2023, 2036)
  • Revelation 20:12: "God" instead of "throne" (2814, 2059, 2081, 2186, 296)
  • Revelation 21:3: "and be their God" (025, 2036) [with varying word order] (A, 2030, 2050, 2053, 2062, 2329, vg)
  • Revelation 21:10: "that great city" instead of "the holy city Jerusalem" (2814, 2016, 2017, 2023, 2036, 1957, [*]: 051, 1854, 2030, 2377)
  • Revelation 21:24: "of them which are saved" (254, 2186, 2814, MA commentary)
  • Revelation 22:19: "book of life" (vg, 1075, 1957, Abrose, Primasius, Haymo)
  • Revelation 22:21: "be with you all" (vg, Pseudo-Ambrose)
There are several categories of these instances when the Textus Receptus departs from the Nestle-Aland and Byzantine Majority texts.  They are:
  1. Readings based on late minority Byzantine readings.
  2. Readings based on the Vulgate.
  3. Readings that are supported by early uncials.
  4. Readings based on Church fathers.
  5. Readings based on Erasmus' supposed errors.
  6. Beza's conjectural emendation.
The remainder of this article makes a case for the Textus Receptus despite these supposed flaws.

1. Late Minority Byzantine Readings

There Are Relatively Few Early Manuscripts for Revelation

Before brushing aside those so-called "late minority" readings, one must realize that Revelation is unlike the rest of the books of the Bible.  There are only 287 extant Greek manuscripts of Revelation in comparison with 2361 of the Gospels, 662 of Acts and General Epistles, and 792 of Paul's letters (Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1987), pp. 78-79, 83.).  Of these, only the following 16 are from before the 10th century:

 Name Century Verses included
P18III/IV1:4-7
P24 IV5:5-8; 6:5-8
P43 VI/VII2:12-13; 15:8-16:2
P47 III9:10-11:3; 11:5-16:15; 16:17-17:2
P85IV/V9:19-10:1.5-9
P98 II(?) 1:13-20 
P115III/IV 2:1-3, 13-15, 27-29; 3:10-12; 5:8-9; 6:4-6; 8:3-8, 11-13; 9:1-5, 7-16, 18-21; 10:1-4, 8; 11:5, 8-15, 18-19; 12:1-6, 9-10, 12-17; 13:1-3, 6-12, 13-16, 17-18; 14:1-3, 5-7, 10-11, 14-16, 18-20; 15:1, 5-7.
Aleph IV All 
All
CAll except 1:1-2; 3:20-5:14; 7:14-17; 8:5-:16; 10:10-11:3; 16:13-18:2; 19:5-22:21
025 IX All except 16:12-17:1; 19:21-20:9; 22:6-22:21 
0163V16:17-20 
0169 IV 3:19-4:3 
0207 IV 9:2-15 
0229 VIII 18:16-17; 19:4-6 
0308 IV 11:15-16; 17-18 

Most of these 16 early manuscripts ("early", being used generously here) do not even have the complete text of Revelation.  Thus for any given passage there may only be about 4 or 5 manuscripts from before the 10th century.  Revelation is an extremely difficult text to reconstruct if we were to use only the evidence that remains today.  With only 4 or 5 early manuscripts for a given passage, it is difficult to ascertain whether these mere few provide the most reliable form of any given passage.  No modern statistical study would be based on a sample size as small as 4 or 5.  The minority Byzantine text-type termed the Andreas text-type, which agrees with Erasmus' Reuchlin manuscript, ought to be given fair weight in these circumstances.  The assumption that late manuscripts contain late readings is refuted in the following page: Aren't older manuscripts more reliable? The Reuchlin manuscript which dates to the 12th century is not that late in comparison with the majority of manuscripts of Revelation.  Moreover, there is reason to believe that the majority of manuscripts of Revelation may be corrupt due to the unique canonical and textual history of Revelation.  The following section which justifies the use of the Vulgate for Revelation also applies to the use of minority Greek readings.

2. Readings Based on the Vulgate

Most Versions Often Follow Translations Over The Inspired Texts

The Textus Receptus is often criticized for having some readings based on the Vulgate rather than on Greek manuscripts.  God inspired the words in Greek, so in Greek should God preserve his words - so the thinking goes.  Other translations such as the NASB, ESV and NIV, however, often depart from Hebrew readings for the Old Testament in preference for readings found in Greek or Latin translations of the Old Testament.  Critics often bash the Textus Receptus for following the Vulgate, yet these critics are often found promoting translations such as the NASB, ESV and NIV which follow the same Vulgate for some passages in the Old Testament.  This double-standard is even more illogical when we consider that the preservation methods for the Old Testament were arguably more robust than the preservation methods for the New Testament.  This hypocrisy with respect to the use of translations in textual criticism is addressed at the page: Aren't some Textus Receptus readings based on weak Greek manuscript evidence? The page lists the Old Testament passages where the NASB, ESV and NIV choose translation readings over Hebrew readings.

The Book of Revelation Was Thoroughly Corrupted Very Early

With respect to the Book of Revelation, Vulgate readings should be considered on par with Greek readings in terms of reliability because there is no indication that Greek manuscripts were copied and preserved any better.  Despite there only being 287 extant manuscripts of Revelation (compared with 2361 for the Gospels), the number of variants among Greek manuscripts is relatively large.  Various factors contributed to this early and extensive corruption.  Revelation received limited circulation in the early centuries because it was canonized very late among the Greek churches that produced the majority of both the earliest and later manuscripts of Revelation.  The Syrian Church rejected Revelation in the 2nd century, the Alexandrian scribe of Codex Vaticanus omitted Revelation, and the Greek Church canonized Revelation as late as in 397 AD at the Council of Carthage.  Perhaps because of its non-canonical status, the Greek text became corrupt in many copies in very early times.  Daniel B. Wallace says, "Revelation was copied less often than any other book of the NT, and yet Irenaeus admits that it was already corrupted—within just a few decades of the writing of the Apocalypse" (Online article: Did the Original New Testament Manuscripts still exist in the Second Century?).  The limited circulation coupled with the great extent of corruptions gave the book of Revelation the highest variant to manuscript ratio of all the books of the Bible.

Professor Bruce Terry at the Ohio Valley University has prepared a helpful reference of many of the major textual variants in the books of the New Testament.  He identifies variants in the following Revelation verses  on his web pages, Revelation 1:5-14:3 [LINK], and Revelation 14:13-22:21 [LINK].  His list of variants show the extent to which the Book of Revelation was corrupted at an early stage.

There are in fact reasons to believe that Latin witnesses of Revelation could be more accurate than Greek witnesses.  The book of Revelation was canonized first by the Latin Church whereas the Greek Church took until 397 AD at the Council of Carthage. While influential Greek fathers in the 4th century such as Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus were still hesitant to canonize Revelation, Christians ministering in the Latin West in the 2nd century - Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian - recognized its canonicity early on. The Muratorian Canon, the oldest known canon that includes Revelation, is a Latin canon. Codex Vaticanus, a Greek codex, does not even have Revelation. Latin commentaries on Revelation by Victorinus and Tyconius existed by the fourth century, but the earliest known Greek commentary on Revelation is by Andreas of Caesarea in the seventh century.  There is indeed an illogical prejudice against translations.  Translations did not appear out of thin air.  They were based on Greek exemplars at one point in time.  Once a Latin translation made from the Greek got in the hands of faithful Latin Christians such as Victorinus or Tyconius, these faithful Christians would have been no more or no less tempted to alter God's word than those true Christians preserving God's word in Greek.

3. Readings That Are Supported By Early Uncials

Just because the Textus Receptus disagrees with the Nestle-Aland and Majority texts, it does not always mean the Textus Receptus reading is late.  The following notable readings depart from the Nestle-Aland and Majority texts but are nonetheless supported by earlier uncials:
  • Revelation 1:6: "kings and" (025 - 9th century)
  • Revelation 1:8: "the beginning and the ending" (Aleph* - 4th century)
  • Revelation 2:17: "to eat of" (025 - 9th century)
  • Revelation 2:22: "their deeds" (A - 5th century)
  • Revelation 2:24: "will" (Aleph - 4th century)
  • Revelation 5:5: "to loose" (Aleph - 4th century)
  • Revelation 5:6: "and lo" (A - 5th century)
  • Revelation 6:3: "and see" ["και ιδε"] (Aleph - 4th century)
  • Revelation 6:12: TR omits "whole" before "moon" (025 - 9th century)
  • Revelation 8:13: "angel"  (025 - 9th century)
  • Revelation 11:1: "and the angel stood" [with varying word order] (Aleph2 - 7th century)
  • Revelation 14:1: omission of "his name and" (025 - 9th century)
  • Revelation 18:20: "holy" (adjective) instead of "saints" (noun) (C - 5th century)
  • Revelation 21:3: "and be their God" (025 - 9th century) [with varying word order] (A - 5th century)
This shows not only that these particular readings are earlier than the Greek and Vulgate manuscripts used by Erasmus, but they also support the theory that Erasmus' manuscripts were capable of carrying over early readings that were lost in the majority of later Greek manuscripts.  If even just one manuscript, e.g. Codex A, were to have disappeared, textual critics today would be dismissing the Textus Receptus readings of Revelation 2:22, 5:6, and 21:3 as suspicious late readings.  One could reasonably theorize that there were once many more such early uncials which agreed with the Textus Receptus.

4. Readings Based on Church Fathers

Revelation 15:3 is a place where Erasmus is believed to have followed Church fathers over any extant Greek or Latin manuscript.  The commentaries of Church fathers such as Andreas, Tyconius, Victorinus, Primasius, Apringius and Beatus follow the early Greek uncials in many places.  Hence it is evident that these fathers had before them actual copies of the Book of Revelation.  In the few instances where their readings depart from those in extant Greek or Latin manuscripts, we can reasonably accept that such readings of the fathers were available in whatever texts that existed in their times.  As the quotes by many of these fathers are from their commentaries on the Book of Revelation, we can be even more certain that they were careful to cite the text accurately from their copies of the Book.  Sometimes Church fathers may have paraphrased scriptures freely in discourses or epistles, but that is not the case with these commentators who set out to provide careful analyses of the text.  The following links to a page on this website which explains Erasmus' decision to follow the Church fathers at Revelation 15:3:


5. Readings Based on Erasmus' Supposed Errors

There are a few places in Revelation where Erasmus is alleged to have created his own unique readings due to mistranscription (e.g. "ο και αδελφος" at Revelation 1:9 and "καιπερ εστιν" at Revelation 17:8).  The most well-known instance of Erasmus' alleged error is where he back-translated the Vulgate for the last 6 verses of Revelation.  The following are links to pages on this website which explain these more notable instances of Erasmus' alleged errors:




6. Beza's Conjectural Emendation

There is a reading in the Textus Receptus edition underlying the KJV that is based on a conjectural emendation.  This is Revelation 16:5 where it says, "which art, and wast, and shalt be".  The following link goes to a page on this website which justifies Beza's conjectural emendation:






Sources:
  • Constantin Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece, 8th major edition (1869, 1872).
  • Delitzsch, F., Handschriftliche Funde: Die Erasmischen Entstellungen des Textes der Apokalypse (1861).
  • Hoskier, H.C., Concerning The Text Of The Apocalypse, vol 1 & 2 (1929).
  • Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006).
  • United Bible Society: The Greek New Testament, 4th revised edition (2001).