The Bible of the Martyrs

While hundreds of languages have not one syllable of Scripture, English speakers get a new Bible almost yearly. The names change, but the New Testament versions can be put into two groups based on their underlying Greek text.  One group is derived from what we call the Received Text or Textus Receptus (TR), and the other from the Critical Text (CT).  The TR represents the Greek text that was used and preserved by the early churches and comprises the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, over five thousand two hundred of them. The CT was compiled in the later part of the nineteenth century by textual critics Westcott and Hort from a handful of manuscripts, numbering about forty-five; it is based primarily on one called manuscript B, or Vaticanus. Before this time, Vaticanus was hidden from the world and used only as the basis of the Catholic Bible. The reformers and Baptist-type groups used only the TR, a text viewed as vile by Westcott and Hort. The TR is the Bible of the martyrs. It was translated into many languages during the great era of missionary endeavor.

The Roman church did its best to conceal the Bible from its people and vigorously persecuted those who disagreed with her heresies and loved the TR Bibles. William Tyndale, the first to translate the TR into English, would have been martyred before completing his translation had the agents of Rome located him. They did find him after its completion and burned him at the stake. A death sentence was decreed for anyone who dared to even own a Tyndale Bible—a sentence carried out on many. The English Bible was revised and refined, reaching its zenith in the Authorized King James Bible (KJB).

In 1881, an attempt was made to deceive the English Bible readers with a so-called revision. People thought the committee was only going to update the language of the KJB, but instead they produced a Bible from a totally different Greek text—the CT of Westcott and Hort. (See Dr. David Otis Fuller’s book True or False.) This “Vaticanus” Bible called the Revised Version was rejected by the people. Another attempt called the American Standard Version was made in 1901 to give the Americans almost the same Bible from the same text; it too was rejected. Another tragedy occurred during this period. In many places where the heathen had received a good TR translation, the Bible societies began revising these Scriptures and inserting the CT readings. Vaticanus was reintroduced in 1946 in the Revised Standard Version, but was accepted only by modernists and Catholics.

In the middle of the 20th century, a new translation method called dynamic equivalency (invented by Eugene Nida) was born and has become the practice of many translators, producing less literal Bibles. The world today is flooded with dynamic equivalent versions of Vaticanus such as the very popular NIV.

I wonder how many Christians have rejected the TR, the Bible of the martyrs, and embraced Vaticanus not knowing textual history. I also wonder if God would entrust the organization that He describes in Revelation 17 and 18 with the preservation of His pure Word.  “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” (17:6). “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” (18:24). “For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.” (19:2). And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” (17:18). Only Rome fits the geographical, political, spiritual, and moral description that God gives. (Read Dave Hunt’s book A Woman Rides the Beast.)

How can we distinguish between a TR and a CT New Testament? The CT omits many words, phrases, and even whole verses; its omissions  roughly equal the size of First and Second Peter. It often omits the words “Lord,” “God,” and “Jesus.” It eliminates the deity of Christ from First Timothy 3:16, First John 5:7, and Revelation 1:11. It casts doubt on the virgin birth, referring to Joseph as the father of Jesus in Luke 2:33 and 2:43. Vaticanus removes Christ’s resurrection, His great commission, and His ascension from the Gospel of Mark by omitting the last nine verses. Usually this passage is found in modern versions but placed in brackets. Brackets are the editor’s way of saying, “This portion is not in our Greek text. It should not be in the Bible.” (Many portions placed in brackets in the New American Standard Version were completely removed in the NIV a few years later.) To help you check out the textual basis of any English or Spanish New Testament, write and request my “Bilingual Checklist” as an email attachment.

We should know the textual basis of our Bible so that we can make an informed choice as to which we will use and which we will translate from—the Bible of the martyrs or Vaticanus?