The Textus Receptus – What is it?

Textus Receptus means "Received Text" and refers to the published Greek New Testament text that was used as the basis for Bible translations in the Reformation period. Some of these translations included Luther's German Bible, William Tyndale's English translation, as well as the King James Version.

The Textus Receptus was not a handwritten Greek manuscript but rather an early printed text of the New Testament. It was first published by Erasmus in 1516 and then republished with updates in following editions in 1527 and 1535. Today's scholars note that Erasmus only had six late Greek New Testament manuscripts available in his research and even translated a few missing parts into Greek from Latin.

This Textus Receptus published by Erasmus would serve as the standard Greek text for the New Testament for the next 300 years. By the 1800s, however, the discovery of many additional early copies of New Testament texts led to new published editions of the New Testament that used a more eclectic method of textual criticism. Instead of the few copies available to Erasmus, scholars now had access to several thousand manuscripts, greatly developing the field of New Testament textual criticism.

Today, nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have been discovered. In addition, researchers have counted tens of thousands of quotations or allusions to New Testament passages in the writings of the church fathers. Further, early translations of Greek New Testament manuscripts into Latin, Coptic, Syriac, and other languages offer an enormous wealth of information for those serious about investigating the earliest origins of the New Testament manuscripts.

Also important to note is that some continue to argue that the Textus Receptus is the "best" or "only" real New Testament text, particularly in connection with its usage as the text behind the King James Version. However, due to the limitations Erasmus faced as he compiled the Textus Receptus, and due to the vast number of Greek manuscripts discovered since the compiling of the Textus Receptus, few serious biblical scholars consider the Textus Receptus the most accurate representation of what is contained in the original Greek New Testament. As 2 Timothy 2:15 teaches, the goal of Christians should be, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

Related Truth:

Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus – What are they?

The Dead Sea Scrolls - What are they and why do they matter?

The Majority Text – What is it?

How can knowing Greek and Hebrew be helpful when studying the Bible?

What is textual criticism?

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