This post marks the beginning of a new series on my blog: KJV Only: Fact or Fiction? The series will highlight a number of KJV Only claims which are simply inaccurate. I will try to post weekly on this topic for the next few months if possible. Also, if anyone has any suggestions or questions for this series, feel free to give them to us all in the comments or you can email me.
So, without further ado, let us get to this week’s topic:
The KJV Onlyists claim that since the text underlying the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, then the KJV is to be favored. This claim carries a lot of weight in the textual debate. Many an unsuspecting person is absorbed by the KJV Only movement upon hearing this “fact”. But let us ask the question: Fact or Fiction? Does majority rule in this case?
When KJV onlyists emphasize the “fact” that the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, they usually ignore three vitally important considerations. We will look at each of these considerations and then find ourselves in a better position to answer our question.
Majority of Greek texts versus the TR
KJV onlyists assume that the Greek Textus Receptus (TR), which the King James is based on, represents the majority of the Greek Manuscripts. This is not accurate. The TR was actually based on seven Greek manuscripts as well as Erasmus’ copious textual notes on the Greek text . Most KJV onlyists use the “pie-in-the-sky”, wishful thinking view at this point, glibly assuming that the TR in fact really does represent the best of the majority of the manuscripts and that Erasmus’ textual notes and considerable knowledge of the Greek text offsets the use of only seven manuscripts. This hopeful hypothesis is made all the more doubtful by the consideration that Erasmus had not planned on producing his Greek text at the time he did: he was pressured to produce the text in a very short time by his printer. This forced him to use the locally available manuscripts rather than others he may have preferred to use . Incredibly high demand forced subsequent editions to be produced by Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, Elzevirs, and others without any wholesale revision of the text. Small revisions and corrections were made here and there, but printers’ errors and other errors introduced in Erasmus’ first Greek text remain in the TR down to this day .
Besides the documented history of Erasmus’ production of the TR, another fact flies in the face of the claim that the TR/KJV was based on the majority of the manuscripts. While most KJV onlyists assume that “majority text” is shorthand for the TR, it in fact is not. In 1982 the first edition of the printed Majority Text was published, edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad. Other editions have followed as well as a competing Majority Text edited by Pierpont and Robinson (1991). These texts are based on the collation work done so far on the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts. These texts contain over 1,800 differences from the TR . Now it is true this number is less than the estimated 5,600+ differences between the Wescott & Hort 1881 text  which is very similar to the critical text editions used today (UBS 4th edition, Nestle-Aland 27th edition). Yet the amount of differences between the TR and the Majority Text reveal that the majority of the Greek manuscripts do not in any sense unequivocally support the TR. In many places they do support the KJV over and against modern versions, but in many other places they do not. In fact, in many of the differences between the TR and the modern critical text, the Majority Text actually supports the critical text and modern versions against the TR.
In passing, I want to just list some important texts contained in the TR which are not contained in the Majority Text. 1 John 5:7, Acts 9:5-6, Acts 8:37, Rev. 22:19 “book of life” are just a few of many instances where the Majority of Greek manuscripts do not support the TR reading.
Majority of all texts and versions
When KJV onlyists say majority they are referring to the majority of the 5,600 or so Greek manuscripts. Yet KJV onlyists will also claim that God used the Latin textual tradition to preserve important textual readings such as 1 John 5:7 and those readings noted above (for instance E.F. Hills claims this, among many others). That being said, should not the entirety of ancient versions of the New Testament be included in any discussions of “the majority”? There are over 10,000 Latin manuscripts of the Vulgate, for instance, and the Vulgate’s text is closer to the modern critical text than the TR . If we include just the Latin manuscripts, we find the majority of all the manuscripts do not support the KJV! For most other ancient languages, the majority of textual witnesses supports the critical text.
Geographical and Chronological Majority
Finally we must consider geographical and chronological concerns. Chronologically, it was not until the 9th century or later that a majority of Greek manuscripts supported the TR . The vast majority of earlier manuscripts support the readings of the modern critical text.
Geographically, the KJV only’s “majority” comes from one basic locale: Syria/Asia Minor area. This is the area that spoke Greek the longest and was controlled by the Greek Orthodox church (which as we know is not Biblically orthodox on the means of salvation and other very important points). After every other area stopped speaking Greek, a great majority of the manuscripts found in this one locale are seen to be very similar. The great unanimity of these manuscripts might very well come from the fact that most of these manuscripts are from the same area and were produced by the same church authority. So that a majority of manuscripts from one locale and a relatively later time frame support the KJV/TR is not really that convincing.
In contrast, a majority of texts from widespread regions (Italy, North Africa, Palestine, and other regions) and across several chronological periods support the modern critical text.
In light of the above considerations, the TR is clearly not based on a majority of the textual witnesses. A majority of Greek manuscripts definitely do not rule! Any claims made by KJV onlyists that the TR is supported by the majority of the witnesses must be filtered through the lens of these considerations. There is more than meets the eye in regard to this claim. Fact or fiction? There is definitely more fiction than fact with regard to this claim.
 See “Erasmus and the Textus Receptus“, pg. 45ff. by Dr. William Combs (Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal: 1 Spring 1996).
 Ibid, pg. 41-45.
 Ibid, pg. 46-47. See also, “Errors in the King James Version?“, pg. 155-157 by Dr. William Combs (DBSJ 4 Fall 1999).
 1,838 is Dr. Dan Wallace’s actual count of differences, see “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text“, online article by Dr. Dan Wallace (the sentence in the text just before footnote 27).
 5,604 is Dr. D.A. Waite’s actual count, see Defending the King James Bible, pg. 41 (1999 edition, published by Bible for Today Press: Collingswood, N.J.).
 8,000 Vulate manuscripts: see “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text“, online article by Dr. Dan Wallace (the paragraph in the text just before footnote 76); over 10,000 Latin NT manuscripts total: see “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism“, online article by Dr. Dan Wallace (the sentences in the text just before footnote 28).
 See “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text“, online article by Dr. Dan Wallace (sentences in the text just before footnotes 74 and 75).
For Further Research
See my KJV Only Debate Resource Center, which contains the best of the best of online resources on this issue.
Note: This post was originally entitled “The KJV Is Based on the Majority of the Manuscripts: Fact or Fiction?” I changed the name to be more precise in what I am pointing out here. In fact, a majority of Greek Manuscripts do support the KJV–but what does this mean? This is more to the point of this post.
âˆ¼striving for the unity of the faith for the glory of Godâˆ¼ Eph. 4:3,13 \”¢ Rom. 15:5-7