Textus Receptus

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Textus Receptus, or "received text," refers to the Greek text of the New Testament that was used by the translators of the King James Version in 1611, as well as by other Reformation-era translators. This includes William Tyndale and Martin Luther. The earliest edition was put together by Erasmus in 1516. The name comes from a Latin inscription found in an edition published in 1633: Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum. (So [the reader] has the text which all now receive.)[1]


Erasmus, a Dutch Catholic, published the first edition of TR in Basel in 1516. Erasmus had produced a new Latin translation of the New Testament. He added a Greek text to his book as an afterthought, a tool to support his Latin translation. It was put together hurriedly, and on the basis of whatever manuscripts happened to be available locally in Basel. Yet this text struck a chord with a reading public hungry for access to the original. Erasmus used the following manuscripts to produce the first edition of TR:

  • Codex 1eap — This 12th century miniscule contains the entire New Testament except Revelation. It is the only TR manuscript not of the Byzantine type. Erasmus made little use of it as he believed it to be corrupt.
  • Codex 1r — A 12th century miniscule of Revelation.
  • Codex 2e — A 12th century miniscule of the Gospels.
  • Codex 2ap — A 12th century miniscule of Acts and the epistles.
  • Codex 4ap — A 15th century miniscule of Acts and the epistles.
  • Codex 7p — An 11th miniscule of the epistles.
  • Codex 817 — A 15th century miniscule of the Gospels.[2]

The Gospels were taken directly from Codex 2e, Acts and epistles from 2ap, and Revelation from 1r. Where these manuscripts had gaps, back-translations from the Vulgate were used. In fact, 2e and 2ap were sent directly to the printer for typesetting. Erasmus’ handwritten annotations can be seen between the lines, although the printer often ignored these. 1r could not be treated this way because it mixes text and annotation. Erasmus separated these by referring to the Vulgate. As a result of this haphazard process, there were numerous typographical errors in the first edition.

Some 400 corrections were made for the second edition (1519). Erasmus obtained access to 3eap, a nearly complete New Testament text. But there is no indication that he made much use of it. Many readers criticized the first two editions of TR because they lacked the Johannine Comma found in the Vulgate.[3] Erasmus added it to the third edition (1522), citing Codex 61. This was a recently produced manuscript, and it was probably produced in response to TR. Although Erasmus was skeptical of this manuscript, he thought it wiser to reverse himself. For the 1527 edition, Erasmus made extensive revisions based on the Complutensian Polyglot, a text edited by Jiménez de Cisneros and based on manuscripts kept at the Vatican library. A final edition was published in 1535.

Later texts

In 1550 Robert Stephanus produced a beautifully printed edition that added footnotes containing text from the Bezae and Regius codices. This is considered the classic edition of TR and is referred to as Editio Regia (royal edition). In 1551, Stephanus added a verse numbering system that is still used in modern Bibles. As for the text itself, Stephanus did little to improve on what Erasmus published. Since Stephanus had access to a significantly wider range of primary sources, this suggested that the Erasmus text was already being treated with undue reverence. The KJV translators consulted the 1550 Edito Regia, a 1598 reprint by Theodore Beza, and several other editions. The Scrivener New Testament reconstructs the underlying Greek text they used.

When the text of Codex Alexandrinus, a fifth century manuscript, was published in 1786, scholars noticed that it is significantly different than TR, which is based on 12th century manuscripts. In 1881, Westcott and Hort published a revised Greek text based on Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both fourth century manuscripts of the same text type as Alexandrinus.

Among modern translations, the New King James Version uses TR, while the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version use the Alexandrian text.


  1. Bruce Metzger has described this inscription as an advertizing blurb.
  2. Combs, William W., "Erasmus and Textus Receptus", Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, Spring 1996.
  3. "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." (1 John 5:7–8). Despite the Trinitarian controversy, no fourth century writer cites this passage. This suggests that it was not considered part of scripture at that time.

See also

External links

Several Greeks texts can be found at Bible Gateway, including the Scrivener New Testament, a reconstruction of the text used by the KJV translators.