In the reading of most KJV Only works, one comes across a predominant theme. Wescott and Hort were the influential leaders needed to push the church at large to reject the TR. The discovery of Sinaiticus likewise is seen as a primary cause of the acceptance of new critical texts. Wescott and Hort are branded as ultra liberal, and the whole idea of textual criticism with its new critical text is tied to the influence of liberal scholars and rationalistic thinking. In short, the whole church was hoodwinked by liberals, and convinced by the finding of buried manuscripts. And thus, it is assumed that without the influence of Wescott and Hort (and other liberal scholars), and without the discovery of new manuscripts, the TR would still reign supreme.
This view offers its own contra assertions. It claims that if we had faith in God and His promises to preserve His Word, then we should still hold fast to the TR. God would not use manuscripts hidden for 1000 years+ to correct the Bible. Since liberalism is clearly “anti-God/anti-faith”, we must avoid the man-centered rationalism which produced textual criticism and the critical text. Wescott and Hort treated the manuscripts like secular writings, ignoring God’s preservation of Scripture. This then, invalidates all of their work.
This line of thought is very convincing. Many believers are easily convinced to jump on the great “conspiracy theory” bandwagon. For some, Alexandrian texts get linked to heterodox theology, text corrupters start appearing behind every bush in history, and then even the editors and scholars creating conservative modern versions today are turned into Christ-despising, blasphemers. Others avoid the more sensational claims but accept the generally assumed truth that liberalism and new manuscripts produced the widespread acceptance of the modern critical texts we see today.
Here, then is where I ask my question: “Fact or Fiction?”
Without the Influence of Wescott & Hort and the Discovery of New MSS the TR Would Still Reign Supreme: Fact or Fiction?
In evaluating this claim let us consider four important points.
1) The crucial contributions of conservative scholars to the field of textual criticism
Here let me quote a few paragraphs from Douglas Kutilek’s review of David Sorenson’s book Touch Not the Unclean Thing. [This review is in my opinion, one of the best overviews of the KJV Only issue–it is very enlightening yet succinct.]
…there is, to the contrary, a solid stream of devote, God-fearing, Bible-believing and Bible-defending men who have been at the heart of the rise and propagation of the critical texts (I mention only some of the more important). Early on, Theodore de Beza (1519-1605), successor and biographer of Calvin, set about collecting and recording variant readings from Greek manuscripts (as Stephanus had done before him); the collection and classification of such variants was an essential preliminary to the work of correcting the TR. Later, John Mill (1645-1707) spent 30 years rigorously examining Greek manuscripts, compiling detailed lists of variant readings in these manuscripts. He published, just before his death, an edition of the NT with a critical apparatus listing 30,000 variants he had discovered (all this was necessary groundwork to revising the TR on the basis of genuine evidence). His Greek text was highly prized and long-used by scholars, including Burgon, because of its very extensive listing of variants.
Later, Sir Richard Bentley (1662-1742), acclaimed as one of the two or three greatest classical scholars of all time and a staunch opponent of 17th and18th century English atheists and deists, was among the first to propose a revised Greek text, based on his extensive knowledge of NT Greek and Latin manuscripts. Of this project, only a sample of Revelation was ever completed.
On the Continent, Johann Bengel (1687-1751), the famous Bible commentator, a man conservative in doctrine and noted for his consistent Christian piety, undertook the study of Greek NT manuscripts and their variant readings first of all to settle in his own mind the issue of the effect if any such variants might have on the doctrinal content of the NT (for his conclusion, see the quote below). Bengel was the first to identify two major groupings of manuscripts (what today we call Byzantine and Alexandrian), and due in part to his extensive list of principles of textual criticism, he is the acknowledged father of modern textual criticism.
In the mid19th century, two men stood head and shoulders above the rest as examiners of manuscripts and collectors of variant reading, and had a profound impact on the content and direction of the textual criticism of the NT. I speak of Samuel P. Tregelles (1813-1875) and Constantin Tischendorf (1815-1874), both of whom published revised Greek texts which differ markedly from the TRbut agree substantially with the text later published by Westcott and Hort. Tregelles was raised a Quaker but as an adult was long associated with the Plymouth Brethren. His contribution to Christian scholarship was immense and his theological orthodoxy is beyond quibble or dispute (let the carping critic examine Tregelles\’ note under the word “almah” in his translation of Gesenius\’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, and then fall into embarrassed silence). As for Tischendorf, while my exposure to him and his writings is much more limited, I have never read a word about him or by him that suggested that he was anything other than conservative and orthodox in theology. 
2) Bible translations produced by conservative scholars before 1881.
Before the release of Wescott and Hort’s influential Greek Text (1881), at least two conservative Bibles were produced which departed from the TR in hundreds of places. The American Bible Union (predominantly Baptists) published its New Testament in English in 1865. According to Kevin Bauder, this version “antedated the introduction of theological liberalism into the United States” and the “orthodox credentials of its supporters and translators are beyond question”. This version even had an influence on the 1881 Revised Version, as the translators often referred to this version while doing their translation work. It also differed from the TR in hundreds of places . J.N. Darby, a leader in the conservative Brethren movement, produced his own Bible version in 1872. He also departed from the TR in many places . These versions illustrate that Wescott and Hort were not the only influence in moving away from the critical text, and they serve to show that the conservative realm of orthodox theology had no qualms about replacing or improving the KJV by means of the critical text current in their time.
3) The widespread acceptance of new critical texts by conservative church leaders.
The following quote from Kutilek’s article mentioned above serves to illustrate the widespread acceptance of critical texts both before and after 1881 by conservative church leaders:
It should be pointed out that conservative scholars and well-read pastors among Baptists (as was also true among conservative Presbyterians, Methodists, and others) in the 19th and 20th centuries rather consistently accepted the revised, critical texts as more faithful representations of the NT originals than the TR. Among these: H. B. Hackett, Thomas Armitage, John Broadus, J. P. Boyce, B. H. Carroll, A. T. Robertson, Charles Spurgeon, and many, many others (see my unpublished Th.M. thesis at Central Baptist Seminary, Plymouth, Minnesota, The Text and Translation of the Bible: Nineteenth Century American Baptist Views.) Are we to suppose that all these devote and faithful and informed men were somehow complete ignoramuses on the text issue (which was a big issue in their day and received very extensive publicity), that somehow they were gullibly sucked into dreadful apostasy and unbelief, that none of them was wise enough to even suspect the truth, which has only now been brought to our attention…. 
4) The widespread dissatisfaction with the KJV before 1850.
One Bible Only? edited by Kevin Bauder and Roy Beacham, reproduces a speech given by Thomas Armitage on the occasion of the founding of the American Baptist Union in 1950. The Union was founded specifically to ensure that a new version of the English Bible could be pursued. They published their NT in 1865 as mentioned above. Let me provide a revealing quote from Thomas Armitage justifying the need for a new version of the English Bible.
…let us labor…to procure…such a translation of the Word of God as will give one sense, and but one, and that so clearly, as to enable the unlettered to understand the Word of God, without the use of note, or comment, or gloss, or of the living teacher, where the Spirit has designed no inexplicable mystery, to which we must submissively bow….That our commonly received version of the English Scriptures does this, we cannot confidently declare. If we can, why the dissatisfaction with it which has always existed in the minds of the most godly and learned men, from the time it was given? Why the number of new translations, in part or in whole, by such men as Thomson, Scarlet, Wakefield, Dickinson, Wesley, Webster, A. Clark, Campbell, Macknight, Stewart, Doddridge, Lowth, Barnes, and multitudes of others? Why the piles of Comments, Notes, Essays, and Exegeses, either accompanying these translations or going forth alone, treating of the errors of this version, and seeking to remove them? And from whence has all this dissatisfaction arisen?
Armitage goes on to quote from several scholars from the past hundred years suggesting various ways the KJV needs improvement. And it is not merely a translational improvement, as textual corrections are also recommended. From this evidence it is clear that there was much in motion already to lead to a widely accepted revision of the KJV; and this, totally apart from the influence of Wescott and Hort and new manuscript discoveries made after 1850.
5) The conclusions of textual criticism before the discovery of Sinaiticus or the publication of Vaticanus.
This last consideration is very striking. I refer you to a link which quotes Tregelles, a principle textual critic of the 1800s, who gives his opinion as to what the proper reading should be in a few key places. While the article is written before the discovery of Sinaiticus and the publication of Vaticanus, Tregelles comes to the same conclusions as the modern text in such passages as 1 John 5:7, 1 Tim. 3:16, John 1:18, and 1 Pet. 3:15. Michael Marlowe (the one who has posted this article) introduces it with the following remarks:
The following chapter was written by Samuel P. Tregelles, an eminent scholar of the text of the New Testament, who wrote this chapter before Tischendorf discovered the famous codex Sinaiticus, before the librarians of the Vatican had made codex Vaticanus fully accessible to scholars, before Westcott and Hort began their studies, and before the discovery of any of the papyrus manuscripts which figure so prominently in recent study. Yet it is remarkable to observe how Tregelles usually arrives at the same conclusions as later critical editors. This goes to show that in general the conclusions of recent editors do not depend upon a small number of recently-discovered manuscripts, nor upon any theory of recensions as developed by Westcott and Hort.Indeed, as Tregelles shows, these conclusions were anciently held by fathers of the church.
On the basis of the above considerations, I believe that without the influence of Wescott and Hort, and apart from the discovery of Sinaiticus and other new MSS and papyrii, we still would have a Greek text today that is substantially different from the TR. And thus, I believe the idea expressed above concerning the indispensable influence of Wescott and Hort along with the modern MSS discoveries is more fiction than fact.
Note: The idea I have addressed with this article is a general feel one gets from the KJV Only works. I am not sure if any of them make specific claims as to whether the modern text today would be so bad without Wescott and Hort or Sinaiticus’ influence. The general tenor of many KJV Only works does give the impressions stated in this article. The author has read well over 1500 pages of KJV Only literature and is convinced this is the case. Regardless of whether specific KJV Onlyists do not make the claims I infer they make, the facts presented here apply forcefully to the KJV Only controversy. And the facts stated here are not well known or addressed in the popular KJV Only works out there.
 Quoted from “A Review of Touch Not the Unclean Thingby David Sorenson” by Doug Kutilek, online article accessed 8/23/06: [ http://www.kjvonly.org/doug/kutilek_review_touch_not_the_unclean_thing.htm ].
 Apparently there had been earlier revisions or installments of the revision. Thomas Armitage, the Baptist historian, states “the final revision of the New Testament…was published in 1865”. Quoted from A History of the Baptists, by Thomas Armitage, online article covering the section “The American Baptists”, sub section “17. Bible Translation and Bible Societies”, accessed 8/23/06 [ http://www.reformedreader.org/history/armitage/ch17.htm ]
 One Bible Only?: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bibleedited by Kevin T. Bauder and Roy E. Beacham (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2001): Appendix D, pg. 218.
 Proof of this assertion is found in this quote from Thomas Armitage: “The Bible Union’s New Testament was published nearly six years before the Canterbury revision was begun, and nearly seventeen years before it was given to the world. Although Dr. Trench had pronounced the ‘installments’ of the American Bible Union’s New Testament ‘not very encouraging,’ yet the greatest care was had to supply the English translators with that version. During the ten and a half years consumed in their work, they met in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster each month for ten months of every year, each meeting lasting four days, each day from eleven o’clock to six; and the Bible Union’s New Testament lay on their table all that time, being most carefully consulted before changes from the common version were agreed upon. One of the best scholars in the corps of English revisers said to the writer: ‘We never make an important change without consulting the Union’s version. Its changes are more numerous than ours, but four out of five changes are in exact harmony with it, and I am mortified to say that the pride of English scholarship will not allow us to give due credit to that superior version for its aid.’ This was before the Canterbury version was completed, but when it was finished it was found that the changes in sense from the common version were more numerous than those of the Union’s version, and that the renderings in that version are verbatim in hundreds of cases with those of the Union’s version.” from A History of the Baptists by Thomas Armitage (see above bibliographical info).
 For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Received Text from 1800 to Present by David Cloud (Oak Harbor, WA: Way of Life Literature, 1997, 3rd edition.) pg. 80.
 Quoted from “A Review of Touch Not the Unclean Thingby David Sorenson” by Doug Kutilek.
 One Bible Only?, Appendix D, pg. 221-222.
 Quoted from “Notes on Some Passages of Dogmatic Importance” by Samuel P. Tregelles, edited by Michael Marlowe, online article accessed 8/23/06: [ http://www.bible-researcher.com/dogma.html ]
âˆ¼striving for the unity of the faith for the glory of Godâˆ¼ Eph. 4:3,13 \”¢ Rom. 15:5-7