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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

(though Caxton and Thynne, especially the latter, were often guilty of editorial
The House of Fame
Anelida and Arcide
The Parliament of Fowls
Troilus and Criseyde
Caxton (1483), Thynne (1532)
Caxton (c. 1478)
Caxton (c. 1478)
Caxton (c.1483), Wynkyn de Worde (1517), Thynne
Thynne (1532)
Caxton (c. 1478), Julian Notary (c. 1500), Thynne
(1532), Stowe (1561), Speght (1602), etc.
The Legend of Good Women
(Various short works)
The Byzantine Priority Hypothesis
The ?rst printed New Testaments were all primarily Byzantine — that is, they all had
texts related to what we call the “Byzantine” or “Majority” text-type. Indeed, the Textus
Receptus was, for too long, used as the standard for the Byzantine text (and even once
it was challenged, it continued to be treated as if identical to the Byzantine text). In the
nineteenth century, though, due to the works of scholars such as Lachmann and Hort,
that changed. The key element of Hort's theory — the one part still accepted after the
rest was generally abandoned — was his “proof” of the lateness of the Byzantine text.
For most of the century following Hort, the uselessness of the Byzantine text was not
only universally accepted, but nearly unquestioned.
In the late twentieth century, that has changed. A group of scholars — mostly American
and mostly conservative evangelicals — have called for a return to the Byzantine text.
One must be careful in assessing people who prefer the Byzantine text. Most such are
not textual critics, and do not engage in textual criticism. Anyone who favours the King
James Version or the Textus Receptus, or who claims providential preservation or some
kind of divine sanction for a particular text, is not and cannot be a textual critic. It is
unfortunate that these non-critics have infected the arguments about the Byzantine text,
as their irrational, unreasonable, and uncritical arguments serve only to muddy what
should be a reasonable and fruitful debate. It is even more unfortunate that some
legitimate critics who support the Byzantine text have accepted their rhetoric. This
argument, like all critical arguments, must be decided based on evidence and logic, not
faith or claims of what “must” be so. The typical argument is “providential preservation”
— the claim that God must have preserved the original text in all its purity. But as Harry
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism