Saturday, February 21, 2015

History of Printed Greek NT Texts 2: 1700-1800

Main Printed Greek New Testaments,
with Key Textus Receptus Editions highlighted in Green

The 16th century saw the first printed Greek New Testaments, based on Erasmus' work (1516-22), but corrected and improved by the comparison of more manuscripts which came to hand.

The three great series of Editions, by Stephen (1550), Beza (1565-97), used alongside Stephen's text for the King James Authorized Version of 1611,
and Elzevir's several printings (1624-33), provided ready and accurate copies of the 'Textus Receptus' (the Received Text, or TR) so that the New Testament could be translated afresh into many European languages.

The Reformation began with a good solid text that hardly needed much correction, in spite of the narrow manuscript base (good but later handwritten Greek copies). 

However, many small problems and questions remained, especially as more manuscripts and versions (translations) came to light or were put under the magnifying glass.

It was John Mill (1707) who painstakingly collected all the variant readings and collations of the increasing number of manuscripts available, and published the first bona fide Critical Greek Text and Apparatus, putting all the readings of the most important streams of tradition into the hands of translators and scholars.

...the Anglican theologian John Mill (1645-1707) embarked on the monumental task of putting together a critical version of the Greek NT. He used the text of Stephen (1550), except for a few places, “whether by accident or design” (per Scrivener), and added a list of the vast number of variants at the bottom of each page. This was a bold step indeed. Mill began the work with a Prolegomena in Latin that laid out valuable information and gave his method in listing the readings. ... Scrivener remarks: “Of the criticism of the New Testament in the hands of John Mill it may be said, that he found the edifice of wood, and left it marble.” Mill’s work was not without its faults. Bristol notes, “It is true that his collations were not always correct, but the errors were usually in collations made by others rather than in those made by himself.

This kicked off the 18th century with a bang.

Wetstein (1717-1735) re-Edited and published a Second Edition, updated, corrected and expanded John Mill's apparatus and footnotes, resulting in a further leap in advance of knowledge of the state of  the manuscript traditions.
 J.J. Wetstein in his Greek Testament of 1751 estimates that there were 10,000 errors in Mill.

Finally, Wetstein crowned the work with his own Two Volume Folio Edition,
completely redone to his own standards and grasp, after many years of intensive research and collations.

Wetstein's (1751-52) Final Edition was the Crowning Jewel of the 18th century,
and this work would not be significantly surpassed in essential content and accuracy, even by Tregelles' and Tischendorf's similar attempts in the 19th century.
All others publishing 'critical Greek NT's, pale in comparison to this monumental work by Wetstein, and look like amateurish and crude plagarisms and fads,
including Greisbach, Lachmann, Hort, Baljon, Nestle.

This can be easily demonstrated photographically.


  1. Hi,

    The AV-1611 is mostly taken from Beza and Stephanus (with some occasional Erasmus or Complutensian which is not in Beza or Stephanus.). Thus it would be helpful to show a Stephanus arrow, lest anyone thing that the AV was simply Beza 1598.

  2. The KJV is a work of man. It is imperfect. The scriptures never mention it