Text and Time

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A Reformed Approach to New Testament Textual Criticism

Formerly known as, The King James Version Defended


The Bible in English has fallen on hard times. Not only do some feminists see it as a format from which to transform Ancient Near Eastern, patriarchal religions into modern, 20th century paradigms of egalitarianism, but the American Bible publishing industry has reduced it to a commodity, hoping to maximize gains by imposing a marketing-manufactured consensus on conservative evangelicals, calling it the beginning of a "new tradition." Edward F. Hills in his work The King James Version Defended represents a sober and compelling argument for the "old tradition." As a well-trained classicist and an internationally recognized New Testament text critic, he analyzes the problems of both modern language translations and current New Testament text criticism methodology.


With the sometimes widespread and uncritical acceptance of such translations as the New International Version by pastors as well as laymen, this defense of the historic, English Protestant Bible should be read by all who share an interest in these areas.

Edward Freer Hills was a distinguished Latin and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University. He also earned the Th.B. degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and the Th.M. degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. After doing doctoral work at the University of Chicago in New Testament text criticism, he completed his program at Harvard, earning the Th.D. in this field. He is also the author of Believing Bible Study.

Hills' book has the following nine chapters:

  1. God's Three-fold Revelation of Himself
  2. A Short History of Unbelief
  3. A Short History of Modernism
  4. A Christian View of the Biblical Text
  5. The Facts of New Testament Textual Criticism
  6. Dean Burgeon and the Traditional New Testament Text
  7. The Traditional New Testament Text
  8. The Textus Receptus and the King James Version
  9. Christ's Holy War with Satan
Reviews:Louis F. DeBoer on http://www.amprpress.com/the_kjv_defended.htm wrote:

Although this book has been around for a while (my copy was published in 1973) it remains a classic. If you are looking for a single volume to give you a panoramic overview of the history of the Biblical text, the issues we face today, and a thorough defense of the Received Text underlying traditional translations of the Greek New Testament, this book is hard to beat. The author, Edward F. Hills was somewhat unique in that he paid his academic dues, studying textual criticism in the sanctuaries of unbelief before exposing it for what it is. He knows whereof he speaks.

The title however, is somewhat misleading. This is not so much a defense of a specific translation as it is the defense of a specific Greek text, the traditional text, also known as the Received Text (Textus Receptus in Latin) of the Greek New Testament. Since, at the time he wrote, the King James Version was, for all practical purposes, the only English translation based on the Received Text, Hills wrote in its defense. The book does not, however, go into a defense of the excellence of that translation, as much as it deals with textual matters and defends the text that underlies this translation.

The first one third of the book is actually introduction. Hills obviously believes that an extensive introduction is required to prepare his audience for his defense of the Received Text (Textus Receptus.) At the outset he makes a critical distinction. He sets forth the Scriptural doctrines of inspiration and preservation, that is that the text of Scripture is both inspired by God and has been providentially preserved by God, so that we today have the very word of God. He then states that there are two kinds of textual criticism. The first, which he terms the “consistently Christian” is by those who believe the above doctrines and handle the text accordingly. The second he terms the “naturalistic” method, by those who treat the text of Scripture as just another book. (Note: This is of course exactly what B.B. Warfield did at Princeton Seminary to get us where we are today.) Hills of course is committed to the first kind of textual criticism, and to defending the Received Text as the very inspired and preserved word of God.

Hills continues his introduction by reviewing first of all the threefold nature of God’s revelation of himself, through creation, Scripture, and by his Son, Jesus Christ. He follows this with what he calls “A Short History of Unbelief,” where he takes on a brief intellectual journey through the unbelieving thought of heathenism, pagan philosophy, Medieval Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Scholasticism. He then contrasts all that with the doctrines of the Protestant reformers and the creeds of the Great protestant Reformation. In a succeeding chapter, in a similar fashion, he gives us “A Short History of Unbelief,” that is a history of apostasy from the standards of the Reformation into the unbelief of Materialism, Enlightenment Philosophy, Modernism and higher criticism.

In the fourth chapter Hills deals with a Christian view of textual criticism. He reasserts the Biblical doctrine that promises the preservation of the text and then shows how God has providentially through history fulfilled his promises and preserved the texts of both the Old and the New Testament. The fifth chapter deals with the “The Facts of New Testament Textual Criticism.” Here Hills lays out the state of things, as he discusses the state of text, including the number and types of texts still extant, and reviews some of the more crucial variant readings encountered.

The sixth chapter is titled, “Dean Burgon and the Traditional New testament Text.” Dean Burgon was a nineteenth century Anglican who was a the most eminent defender of the Received Text in his day. A scholar without peer, with historical accuracy, and devastating logic, he defended the word of God from the naturalistic critics of his day. His uncompromising defense of God’s word and particularly his irrefutable refutations of the arguments of the leading textual critics of his day, such as Westcott and Hort, made him in his day one of the great champions of the Scriptures. Hills deals here particularly with the omissions from God’s word in the critical text, such as the last twelve verses of Mark, and the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), etc. He traces Burgon’s defense of these passages as he vindicates the traditional text against its modern critics.

In chapter seven he presents his own thorough and comprehensive defense of the traditional text. In chapter eight he defends the King James Version against its modern competitors, dealing again with variant readings, comparing it with contemporary translations, and especially comparing their creation, by godly men of faith on the one hand and naturalistic skeptics on the other.

For an introductory primer on textual criticism and an overview to guide the Christian as to “which Bible” he ought to use, this book is hard to beat. It should one of the first, if the not the first book to be read on the subject. Burgon is more technical and comprehensive; Letis is more scholarly; but for a plain book speaking directly to the layman this little volume is without peer. Get it and read it. You will be a better defender of the faith for having read it.

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