The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate

In by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment


Possibly receiving a much needed reprint


This was a collection of essays gathered together to further the debate surrounding the call to revive the Byzantine, or what some call the Majority Text (we at the Institute call this the Ecclesiastical Text). Eldon J. Epp declared in 1979 that there was such a revival under way ("New Testament Textual Criticism in America: Requiem for a Discipline," Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (March 1978): 94-98. This announcement was in response to a book by Wilbur Pickering, titled: The Identity of the New Testament Text, a debate that appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (vols. 21, nos. 1-2, 1978), and the edition of the Majority Greek New Testament that would be published by Thomas Nelson and edited by Zane Hodges, et al., 1982. The Introduction to this collection offers an assessment of the so-called Majority Text school out of mainly Dallas Theological Seminary. The second edition (cover shown here) is now available.

Reviews:Louis F. DeBoer on wrote:

The "majority text" position is a mediating position between the traditional view that embraces the Textus Receptus and the critical view that remains in search of the true text of the Greek New Testament, while confessing that it believes the search to be hopeless as to ever settling the issue with any finality. Like the defenders of the Textus Receptus they believe in divine preservation of the text, but reject the Textus Receptus as the text that God has providentially preserved. Rather they view the true text as being that which is supported in every reading by a majority of all the extent manuscripts and authorities. Hence the position is logically termed the Majority Text position. Since the vast majority of the texts are of the Byzantine family, of which the Textus Receptus is a particular example, they are therefore proposing a text that is very similar to the traditional or received text and are therefore allies against the critical text forces. However, like the critical text people, they are in search of a text, and on a quest to develop a text that truly is the "Majority Text." This is an ongoing quest whose resolution is not nearly as simple as it may seem, and will engage in devotees in many years of what else, except of course ongoing "textual criticism." If they were therefore ever to achieve the ascendancy and dominate the Bible publishing industry we could probably continue to look for an ongoing series of Bible translations based on ever improved (?) versions of what purports to represent the true majority text. Therefore although such Bibles would be much purer representatives of God's inspired word, having rejected the horrible corruptions of the critical texts, they would not necessarily resolve the confusion of what precisely is the word of God nor terminate the instability that currently plagues the Bible publishing industry.

Letis' book is an excellent way for the student of God's word to achieve a concise and helpful overview of this position and its inherent weaknesses vis-a-vis the Textus Receptus position. In the Introduction Dr. Letis clearly outlines the majority text position, the state of the debate, and the issues involved. That section alone is probably worth the price of the book. He proceeds in Part One to publish three essays written by protagonists for the Majority Text position.

In Part Two he publishes two essays in defense of the Authorized Translation of the Scriptures. These are interesting and make many cogent points, but are not really the issue, which remains what Greek Text really represents the word of God. In the reviewer's mind any faithful translation of the Textus Receptus is acceptable, all the while acknowledging that the beauty of the language, and the majesty of the style, of the Authorized Version remain unsurpassed.

Finally, Part Three consists of four essays in defense of the Textus Receptus. Here its superiority over any "Majority Text" is clearly established.

This is an important book, written at a level that layman and pastor can alike can grasp. It presents the issues and their importance, without getting bogged down in the technical details that abound in the field of textual criticism. After reading a good book systematically defending the Textus Receptus position, such as Edward Hills', "The King James Version Defended," this book would be an excellent follow-up to bring the reader up to date on the state of the debate.

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