The Preface from the Greek text of the Textus Receptus of F. H. A. Scrivener, titled, The New Testament in Greek According to the Text Followed in the Authorised Version, Together With The Variations Adopted In The Revised Version has been far too often neglected and forgotten. It may be read in full here. The preface appears to have been printed on Christmas, 1880, though not published till 1881, in several different forms of the Greek text that were published in succeeding years (see the 1894 edition here).
This Greek text was first printed in 1881 by Cambridge University Press as a companion volume to the 1881 Revised Version, the official revision of the 1611 KJV, or Authorized Version (AV). In order that the Revisers might comply with their instructions about presenting the textual variations of their text from the text of the AV, they had provided CUP with a list of places they had chosen to differ from the Greek text presumed to underlie the AV. This list had been kept by Scrivener, who was on the Revision Committee, and who was appointed the task by the Committee. The University Presses decided that rather than clutter the margins of the RV, the best way to present this list and comply with the instruction was to actually separately print the Greek text of the AV, a text which had not been printed before, and set out in the apparatus at the foot of the page the alternative readings adopted in the RV.
Scrivener was chosen to edit this text. He couldn’t simply reprint the Greek text of the AV, because the text created by the Translators’ textual choices had never actually been printed. He thus reverse-engineered the Greek text behind the AV by starting with Beza’s Greek text as a base (the text they had most closely followed), and when the AV disagreed with Beza, substituting whichever form from the antecedent printed Greek texts they appeared to have followed. He then noted at the foot of the page every place where the RV committee made a different textual choice than had been made by the AV committee, causing a difference between their Greek texts. Edwin Palmer followed a similar procedure in printing the Greek text of the RV for Oxford University Press, listing in the apparatus the Greek readings of the AV, of Stephanus, and of the margins of the RV. Because the Translators of the AV sometimes rendered into English (or left in unrevised English) wording that had its source in the Latin Vulgate instead of any then-known Greek, and because Scrivener refused in such places to back-translate Latin or English into Greek, even his text does not exactly represent the text behind the AV. It is, however, the closest to it that has ever been printed.
Unfortunately, some groups later reprinted the text itself, from the 1894 edition, (including an edition in a beautiful calfskin leather) not noting that it had existed before that date. They strangely omitted Scrivener’s preface explaining the origins of the text, and omitted the apparatus which was the express purpose of the creation of the text; a purpose expressed in the very title of the original work. This was the edition used as the base text at my alma mater which professes that this text preserves, “the very words [God] inspired” (which had the unfortunate result of insulating students from reading the Preface and understanding the history of the text).
Other advocates for the KJV sometimes grossly misunderstood both Scrivener’s beliefs, and his intentions in creating this text (quite possibly precisely because they lack the original Preface to the text they use and endorse). R. B. Ouellette, for example, says of Hort and Westcott, in a blatant attempt to impugn their motives, “Men on their own committee such as Scrivener and Ellicott saw the superiority of the Greek Textus Receptus and questioned Hort’s true intentions. Scrivener, after the revision, edited his own Textus Receptus, choosing to have his name associated with what the churches recognized through the centuries rather than the apostasy associated with the new text” (Ouelette, R.B., A More Sure Word: Which Bible Can You Trust?, pg. 108). Hardly a phrase in that sentence is true. Scrivener highly respected Westcott and Hort, though he didn’t fully agree with their theories. He never questioned their integrity or their motives. He didn’t defend the TR or the KJV as inerrant, having pointed out its manifest errors as early as 1845. He didn’t publish his TR because he thought it represented the original text. Nor did he have any intention in publishing it to disassociate himself from the RV; his volume was published as a companion volume to the RV.
Ouellette and others who latch onto Scrivener as a champion of the TR are spreading misinformation and historical revisionism, as Dan Wallace points out here, (see further misrepresentations of Scrivener by Ouellette here, a review of his book here, and a response of Robinson to Wallace’s article here, clarifying that it is primarily KJV/TR advocates, rather than Majority Text advocates, who are guilty of spreading this revisionist history).
Scrivener had also printed a critical edition of Stephanus’ TR, which reprinted the 1550 text of Stephanus in the text, while including an apparatus noting variants, not in Greek manuscripts, but from several major printed Greek texts for comparison (first in 1859, then in 1887, including in its second form the readings of the RV). This edition of Stephanus is what the revisers did their own work from. He edited a triglot edition of the AV, its Greek text, and the RV, here (preface pg. xxiii-xxvi). The official reprint by Cambridge of the 1881 first edition of the AV Greek text may be purchased here (Cambridge) or here (Amazon). The Preface section may be downloaded free from Cambridge here, included in its entirety below. The 2008 Logos edition may be purchased here, which, as I understand it, has been morphologically tagged by Maurice Robison.
Before the Convocation issued its ruling to revise the Authorized Edition, and before the company was chosen who would perform the revision, Scrivener had labored for many years already as an eminent textual critic. He had since the start of his career paid special attention to the Authorized Version. His first publication, A Supplement to the Authorized English Version in 1845, was centered around the AV (noting his love and reverence for the AV, as well as setting out the many places it needed updating and correcting due to textual errors, translation errors, and archaic language, using the Gospel of Matthew as a test case). His A Plain Introduction To The Criticism Of The New Testament became a standard work of the day on textual criticism that heavily influenced the members of the revision committee. Then, Cambridge had asked him to edit and publish a new edition of the Authorized Version, which would restore its text to a more accurate form, (accurate here meaning, closer to the form actually printed in 1611 than the wildly divergent printings that had come to be common), and make the text more readable and legible (set out in paragraphs, with modern spelling, etc.). This volume was published in 1873 as The Cambridge Paragraph Bible, with an extensive introduction by Scrivener. In 1875, mid-way through the course of working on the Revision, he published Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament, a layman’s introduction to the principles of textual criticism. His introduction to the CPB was later (in 1884, and again in 1910) expanded into a full book specifically on the history and origins of the text of the Authorized Version, titled, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611), Its Subsequent Reprints And Modern Representatives. The official reprint by Cambridge (which has oddly changed the title), is available here. He thus became something of the recognized expert of the day on the history and text of the AV.
Naturally, when the time came to edit and publish the Greek text behind the Authorized Version in conjunction with the RV, Scrivener was the clear choice. We should note that we thus have the Revisers and their integrity to thank for the printing of the Greek text behind the A.V. His own principles of textual criticism (which were somewhere between those of J.W. Burgon and Westcott/Hort; closer to Burgon of the two) are clearly set out in his Introduction (which grew heavily through four editions). Contrary to claims sometimes made by those who want to claim him as defending the TR as inerrant, his published Greek text does not represent his final judgment about the original text of the NT, but is, as he explains in its Preface, his attempt to set out the Greek text that underlies the 1611 Authorized Version. He had from the beginning to the end of his career pointed out, with a respectful and reverent attitude, the imperfections of the text of the AV and the need for continuing textual criticism to restore the text to its original purity;
Now it were unreasonable to suppose, that if our authorised version is so great an improvement on all that went before it, during the short space of eighty years, the current of improvement is here to stop, and that no blemishes remain for future students to detect and remove. More than two centuries have passed since that version (or, to speak more correctly, revision of former versions) was executed, and they have been centuries of great and rapid improvement in every branch of knowledge and science.
– A Supplement, pg. 2, 1845
[The abundance of Greek NT Manuscripts] present us with a vast and almost inexhaustible supply of materials for tracing the history, and upholding (at least within certain limits) the purity of the sacred text: every copy, if used diligently and with judgement, will contribute somewhat to these ends. So far is the copiousness of our stores from causing doubt or perplexity to the genuine student of Holy Scripture, that it leads him to recognize the more fully its general integrity in the midst of partial variation….
The design of the science of Textual criticism, as applied to the Greek New Testament, will now be readily understood. By collecting and comparing and weighing the variations of the text to which we have access, it aims at bringing back that text, so far as may be, to the condition in which it stood in the sacred autographs; at removing all spurious additions, if such be found in our present printed copies; at restoring whatsoever may have been lost or corrupted or accidentally changed in the lapse of eighteen hundred years….Those who believe the study of the Scriptures to be alike their duty and privilege, will surely grudge no pains when called upon to separate the pure gold of God’s word from the dross which has mingled with it through the accretions of so many centuries.
– A Plain Introduction, pg. 5-7, 1894 edition, (c.f. the almost identical lines in his first 1861 edition, pg. 4-5).
His Preface explaining the origins of his edition of the text of the AV (with some highlights, and images added) follows;
Scrivener’s Preface To The TR
First Edition 1881
Reprinted 1881 (twice), 1883, 1884, 1886, 1890, 1894, 1908.
The special design of this volume is to place clearly before the reader the variations from the Greek text represented by the Authorised Version of the New Testament which have been embodied in the Revised Version. One of the Rules laid down for the guidance of the Revisers by a Committee appointed by the Convocation of Canterbury was to the effect “that, when the Text adoped differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin.” As it was found that a literal observance of this direction would often crowd and obscure the margin of the Revised Version, the Revisers judged that its purpose might be better carried out in another manner. They therefore communicated to the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses a full and carefully corrected list of the readings adopted which are at variance with the readings “presumed to underlie the Authorised Version,” in order that they might be published independently in some shape or other. The University Presses have accordingly undertaken to print them in connexion with complete Greek texts of the New Testament. The responsibility of the Revisers does not of course extend beyond the list which they have furnished.
The form here chosen has been thought by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press to be at once the most convenient in itself, and the best fitted for giving a true representation of the Revisers’ work. In their Preface the Revisers explain that it did not fall within their province to construct a continuous and complete Greek text. Wherever a variation in the Greek was of such a nature that it could properly affect the English rendering, they had to decide between the competing readings: but in most other cases they refrained from spending time on work not needed for the purposes of an English translation. It was therefore impossible to print a continuous Greek text which should include the readings certified as adopted by the Revisers, without borrowing all the intervening portions from some printed text which had not undergone their revision, and in which, to judge by analogy, they would doubtless have found many readings to disapprove. It is true that all variations in this unrevised part of the text must from the nature of the case be comparatively unimportant: but they include many differences of order and grammatical form expressive of shades and modifications of meaning which no careful reader would neglect in studying the Greek original. The Cambridge Press has therefore judged it best to set the readings actually adopted by the Revisers at the foot of the page, and to keep the continuous text consistent throughout by making it so far as was possible uniformly representative of the Authorised Version. The publication of an edition formed on this plan appeared to be all the more desirable, inasmuch as the Authorised Version was not a translation of any one Greek text then in existence, and no Greek text intended to reproduce in any way the original of the Authorised Version has ever been printed.
“…the Authorised Version was not a translation of any one Greek text then in existence, and no Greek text intended to reproduce in any way the original of the Authorised Version has ever been printed.”
– F. H. A. Scrivener
In considering what text had the best right to be regarded as “the text presumed to underlie the Authorised Version,” it was necessary to take into account the composite nature of the Authorised Version, as due to successive revisions of Tyndale’s translation. Tyndale himself followed the second and third editions of Erasmus’s Greek text (1519, 1522). In the revisions of his translation previous to 1611 a partial use was made of other texts; of which ultimately the most influential were the various editions of Beza from 1560 to 1598, if indeed his Latin version of 1556 should not be included. Between 1598 and 1611 no important edition appeared; so that Beza’s fifth and last text of 1598 was more likely than any other to be in the hands of King James’s revisers, and to be accepted by them as the best standard within their reach. It is moreover found on comparison to agree more closely with the Authorised Version than any other Greek text; and accordingly it has been adopted by the Cambridge Press as the primary authority. There are however many places in which the Authorised Version is at variance with Beza’s text; chiefly because it retains language inherited from Tyndale or his successors, which had been founded on the text of other Greek editions. In these cases it is often doubtful how far the revisers of 1611 deliberately preferred a different Greek reading; for their attention was not specially directed to textual variations, and they might not have thought it necessary to weed out every rendering inconsistent with Beza’s text, which might linger among the older and unchanged portions of the version. On the other hand some of the readings followed, though discrepant from Beza’s text, may have seemed to be in a manner sanctioned by him as he had spoken favourably of them in his notes; and others may have been adopted on independent grounds. These uncertainties do not however affect the present edition, in which the different elements that actually make up the Greek basis of the Authorised Version have an equal right to find a place. Wherever therefore the Authorised renderings agree with other Greek readings which might naturally be known through printed editions to the revisers of 1611 or their predecessors, Beza’s reading has been displaced from the text in favour of the more truly representative reading, the variation form Beza being indicated *. It was manifestly necessary to accept only Greek authority, though in some places the Authorised version corresponds but loosely with any form of the Greek original, while it exactly follows the Latin Vulgate. All variations from Beza’s text of 1598, in number about 190, are set down in an appendix at the end of the volume, together with the authorities on which they repsectively rest.
“It was manifestly necessary to accept only Greek authority, though in some places the Authorised version corresponds but loosely with any form of the Greek original, while it exactly follows the Latin Vulgate.”
– F. H. A. Scrivener
Wherever a Greek reading adopted for the Revised Version differs from the presumed Greek original of the Authorised Version, the reading which it is intended to displace is printed in the text in a thicker type, with a numerical reference to the reading substituted by the Revisers, which bears the same numeral at the foot of the pages. Alternative readings are given in the margin by the Revisers in places “in which, for the present, it would not” in their judgement “be safe to accept one reading to the absolute exclusion of others,” provided that the differences seemed to be of sufficient interest or importance to deserve notice. These alternative readings, which are more than 400 in number, are distinguished by the notation Marg. or marg. In the Revised Version itself the marginal notes in which a secondary authority is thus given to readings not adopted in the text almost always take the form of statements of evidence, and the amount of evidence in each instance is to a certain extent specified in general terms. No attempt however has in most cases been made to express differences in the nature or the amount of this authority in the record of marginal readings at the foot of the page. For such details the reader will naturally turn to the margin of the Revised Version itself.
The punctuation has proved a source of much anxiety. The Authorised Version as it was originally printed in 1611, rather than as it appears in any later edition, has been taken as a primary guide. Exact reproduction of the English punctuation in the Greek text was however precluded by the differences of grammatical structure between the two languages. It was moreover desirable to punctuate in a manner not inconsistent with the punctuation of the Reivsed Version, wherever this could be done without inconvenience, as punctuation does not strictly belong to textual variation. Where however the difference of punctuation between the two Versions is incompatible with identical punctuation in the Greek, the stops proper for the Authorised Version are given in the text, with a numerical reference, without change of type, to the other method set forth in the foot-notes. Mere changes in punctuation, not consequent on change of reading, are discriminated from the rest by being set within marks of parenthesis ( ) at the foot of the page. The notes that thus refer exclusively to stops are about 157.
The paragraphs into which the body of the Greek text is here divided are those of the Revised Version, the numerals relating to chapters and verses being banished to the margin. The marks which indicate the beginning of paragraphs in the Authorised Version do not seem to have been inserted with much care, and cease altogether after Acts xx.36: nor would it have been expedient to create paragraphs in accordance with the traditional chapters. Manifest errors of the press, which often occur in Beza’s New Testament of 1598, have been silently corrected. In all other respects not mentioned already that standard has been closely abided by, save only that, in accordance with modern usage, the recitative ὅτι has not been represented as part of the speech or quotation which it introduces, and the aspirated forms αὑτοῦ, αὑτῷ, αὑτόν &c. have been discarded. In a very few words (e.g. μαργαρῖται) the more recent and proper accentuation has been followed. Lastly, where Beza has been inconsistent, the form which appeared the better of the two has been retained consistently: as νεφάλιος not νεφάλεος, οὐκέτι not οὐκ έτι, ἐξαυτῆς not ἐξ αὐτῆς, ἱνα τί not ἵνατί but τὰ νῦν not τανῦν, δὶα παντὸς not διαπαντὸς, τοῦτʼ ἔστι not τουτέστι.
[The Triglot edition adds here – “Inasmuch as the ordinary English subscriptions to the Pauline Epistles have been retained in the Authorised Version, it has been thought necessary to set their Greek originals in the parallel columns, exactly as they stand in Beza’s edition of 1598, although these subscriptions are of late date, of no real authority, and several of them plainly erroneous.”]
[The 1894 adds a Note, “In this edition it has not been thought necessary to indicate variations from Beza by the mark *, the Appendix, which is retained, sufficiently showing the passages in question; moreover in lieu of using thicker type to indicate readings which have not been used by the Revisers, spaced type has been adopted.” Christmas, 1893]
[All Scripture is inspired by God]
F. H. A. S.