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Robinson on the Byzantine Priority

I know this won’t be of much interest to the vast majority of my readers, but for the few of you who have been keeping abreast of the KJV-Only/TR discussion, the following is an excerpt from Robinson’s essay, “The Case for the Byzantine Priority” (you can read the 2001 article here). We’ve heard from him before, but in this work, he charts the course for defending Byzantine priority outside any Textus Receptus discussion.

I’ll post something of more general interest and edification later today.

From the beginning of the modern critical era in the nineteenth century the Byzantine Textform has had a questionable reputation. Associated as it was with the faulty Textus Receptus editions which stemmed from Erasmus’ or Ximmenes’ uncritical selection of a small number of later manuscripts (hereafter MSS), scholars in general have tended to label the Byzantine form of the text “late and secondary,” due both in the relative age of the extant witnesses which provide the majority of its own support and to the internal quality of its readings as subjectively perceived. Yet even though the numerical base of the Byzantine Textform rests primarily among the late minuscules and uncials of the ninth century and later, the antiquity of the text reaches at least as far back as its predecessor exemplars of the late fourth and fifth century, as reflected in MSSA/02 and W/032

Certainly the Textus Receptus had its problems, not the least of which was its failure to reflect the Byzantine Textform in an accurate manner. but the Byzantine Textform is not the TR, nor indeed it be associated with the TR or those defending such in any manner. [FOOTNOTE 2: This includes all the various factions which hope to find authority and certainty in a single “providentially preserved Greek text” or English translation (usually the KJV). It need hardly be mentioned that such an approach has nothing to do with actual text-critical theory or praxis.] Rather, the Byzantine Textform is the form of text which is known to have predominated among the Greek-speaking world from at least the fourth century until the invention of printing in the sixteenth century. The issue which needs to be explained by any theory of NT textual criticism is the origin, rise and virtual dominance of the Byzantine Textform within the history of transmission. Various attempts have been made in this direction, postulating either the “AD 350 Byzantine recension” hypothesis of Westcott and Hort, or the current “process” view promulgated by modern schools of eclectic methodology. Yet neither of these explanations sufficiently accounts for the phenomenon, as even some of their own prophets have declared.

The alternative hypothesis has been too readily rejected out of hand, perhaps because, as Lake declared, it is by far the “least interesting” in terms of theory and too simple in praxis application: the concept that the Byzantine Textform as found amid the vast majority of MSS may in fact more closely reflect the original form of the NT text than any single MS, small group of MSS, or texttype; further, that such a theory can more easily explain the rise and dominance of the Byzantine Textform with far fewer problems than are found in the alternative solutions proposed by modern eclectic scholarship. To establish this point, two issues need to be addressed: first, a demonstration of the weaknesses of current theories and methodologies; and secondly, the establishment of the case for the Byzantine Textform as an integrated whole, in both theory and praxis.

Robinson, Maurice A. and William G. Pierpont. The New Testament in the Original Greek. 2005. PP. 533-34