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Chapter 5

Erasmus—Johnny Come Lately and A Careless Liar?

 

Erasmus’ text is classified, by “scholars,” as being a late Byzantine text.  Which is exactly what it is. However, it is necessary to understand how the enemies of the Word of God use this classification against the Received Text.

 

In the world of biblical scholarship, early is generally considered better than late. But, what is not widely known, to the inexperienced researcher, is that it is also widely acknowledged that whether or not a text is classified as early or late is completely irrelevant as to its potential reliability.

 

The Received Text is a late Byzantine text, but it must be remembered that Erasmus compiled his Greek text from much older sources. So that classification of “late” doesn’t automatically make it less a reliable text.

 

Was Erasmus’ text really prepared carelessly and in haste?

 

The accusation that Erasmus prepared his text in haste (meant to imply carelessness and skewed motivations) is completely unfounded. It is true he was working under a deadline from his publisher, but the fact that he was even able to complete such a work within the space of one year is widely acknowledged as a testament to his skill as a translator—Erasmus’ skillful expertise in both Greek and Latin was widely acclaimed during his lifetime.

 

Is it reasonable to imply a writer may be careless in his work simply because he has a deadline to meet? Does having a deadline mean motivations for the work are wrong in the first place?

 

Along with allegations of careless haste, innumerable references to errors are made in regards to his first edition.

 

Here is what Erasmus had to say about the fuss being made about all the so-called “errors” in his text:

 

In a letter dated 13 August, 1521 to Peter Barbirius, Erasmus wrote: “I did my best with the New Testament, but it provoked endless quarrels. Edward Lee pretended to have discovered 300 errors. They appointed a commission, which professed to have found bushels of them. Every dinner table rang with the blunders of Erasmus. I required particulars, and could not have them.”

 

Why couldn’t he have them? Why couldn’t Erasmus have been presented with a list his blunders?

 

It must be clearly understood, at this point, that typographical errors on the part of the newly invented printing press and errors of carelessness on Erasmus’ part, are two completely different types of errors. The first is understandable, correctable and would not set the translator up for ridicule. The second, however, places responsibility for any and all errors squarely on the head of the translator. Erasmus was one of the foremost scholars of his day. His abilities were respected world-wide, even so, to expect perfection from a first edition produced on a tight deadline was unrealistic, and to blame him for printing press issues was absolutely unfair.

 

Even Erasmus acknowledged his first edition was not perfect and spent the next twenty years editing his text. The first edition of the Textus Receptus has never been used as a basis for any Bible Translation, so to associate any translation with it, as so many have tried to do with the King James Version, is very misleading.

 

What about allegations that Erasmus simply fabricated part of his text because he didn’t have enough material on hand to complete the work any other way?

 

Dr. Frederick Nolan, a Greek and Latin scholar of the 19th century and eminent historian who researched Egyptian chronology (spending twenty-eight years tracing the Received Text to its apostolic origin), after surveying Erasmus’ notes, recorded the following:

 

“With respect to manuscripts, it is indisputable that he was acquainted with every variety which is known to us; having distributed them into two principle classes, one of which corresponds with ... the Vatican manuscript ... the church, he was aware, was infested with Origenists and Arians; and affinity between any manuscript and that version, consequently conveyed some suspicion that its text was corrupted.”

 

Can we really take seriously the claim that Erasmus made his own interpretations and even fabricated material?

 

Where is the proof that Erasmus acted dishonestly or fraudulently when preparing the first edition of the Received Text? Was he inappropriately referencing the Latin Vulgate in regards to the last six verses of The Revelation?

 

No, Erasmus acted entirely appropriately and within the bounds of acceptable scholarship in this. Although the Latin Vulgate is not an entirely reliable translation, neither is it entirely corrupt. Erasmus simply made a judgment call—and remember, we are still referring to his first edition (from which no Bible translation has ever been made).

 

Erasmus didn’t fabricate anything. It would seem, though, that those who are making claims that he did...are guilty of the very thing they are accusing Erasmus of.

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