Church Education Resource Ministries
Article written by an anonymous author
Most of the attacks on Westcott and Hort originate from Gail Riplinger
and her 1993 book, New Age Bible Versions. This is the source of most
comments you can read online these days regarding the history of the
Greek texts behind the NIV and other modern translations. In order to
accomplish her goal, she vilified Westcott and Hort.
Now in my opinion neither the moral fiber nor the theology of Westcott
and Hort are relevant to the New Testament compiled test which they
developed. That text stands or falls on the basis of its own merit alone.
The Greek textual basis of the NIV (and other modern translations of the
New Testament that have a similar textual basis) is academically solid.
Almost all textual critics agree about this.
So then, what motivates Riplingerís attack upon Westcott and Hort? They
were the originators of the focus upon the Alexandrian text-type (the
critical text, which I will sometimes refer to as ìCTî). Most won't take
the time to actually read the references she gives, they will be left
with an inaccurate impression of the men who are behind the modern
versions which, of course, she is attempting to prove are Satanically
inspired and designed to lead into Lucifer worship. Thatís ridiculous and
unfounded! None of those claims are valid.
In my opinion the NIV hasn't been attacked due to its merits-necessarily.
It was attacked partly because it was perhaps the first 20th century
DE-type translation. (Though IMO the RSV has many DE characteristics.) It
was also attacked because it has become the new Bible of evangelical
Christianity, over-taking the KJV.
Now let me say that by defending the Alexandrian text form I am not
saying that the NIV is the best English Bible in my opinion. I am simply
saying that attacks upon the Greek text from which the NIV New Testament
and that of essentially all modern Bibles were translated are greatly
One of the most common reports one can read about BF Westcott is that he
is a spiritualist. But that actually is based on poor research by Gail
Riplinger. WW Westcott, not BF Westcott, was a spiritualist. WW Westcott
was born in 1848 and died in 1925. BF Westcott was born in 1825 and died
in 1901. Much of her research is shoddy, such as this. BF Westcott was
not a spiritualist. Westcott and Hort were divinity profs at Cambridge.
They were believers.
She also cites Arthur Westcott, B.F. Westcottís son, as indicating that
his father was a ìSpiritualist.î Again, this is just not true. What his
son actually reported was that of a ìGhostlie Circularî written up by his
father, which explains that a society he was involved with was interested
in determining whether supernatural events are indeed taking place today
or not. That is not spiritualism.
Another supposed knock on Hort this time was that he believed in
evolution. Again this is not true. It comes from a couple of quotes in
which Hort reports enjoying reading Darwin. Hey, he's just saying it was
an interesting read. He also wrote to Macmillan (Westcott and Hort's
publisher) that he wanted to write and publish a formal critical response
to Darwin's book, in both scientific and theological form. Though Hort
saw Darwin's theories as intriguing, he said that "it is a ticklish
matter, and one wants months and months to think and read about it" and
also, "I do see immense difficulties in his theory". Hort also said, "I
shall also be glad to hear what Sedgwick, and indeed Cambridge in
general, says to Darwin."
Westcott supposedly did not hold to creation either, but that is also not
true. He viewed Genesis one as poetical in nature, but that God did
create the world. IOW, he probably did not hold to 24-hr. days in Genesis
1. But how many professors in our seminaries today do? I can assure you
that it is a small minority. Westcott does hold to creation.
Another person who extensively published against W & H is Donald Waite, a
KJV-only adherent who believes the KJV to be perfect. He claims that
Westcott did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ because he
objected to a book by Cassels (Supernatural Religion ) in his book, The
Gospel of the Resurrection in which Westcott said that Cassels held a
radically different view of the resurrection than he held to. Waite
mistakenly assumed Cassels' work was sound. In actuality, it was Cassels
who did not hold to an orthodox position on the resurrection, not
Westcott! The book was actually a systematic denial of historic, biblical
Christianity and an assault upon ìsupernaturalî religion! Westcott
objected to Cassels' attempt to deny that miracles actually happen. Of
course, Waite got it wrong, but who cares about such details, as long as
people will throw away their NIV Bibles and use the KJV... the end
justifies the means apparently.
Almost everything written in opposition to the NIV recently comes from
those two sources. They are quoted by many. John Burgon is another
source - he's from the 19th century, and he is often taken out of context
as well. (Burgon did strongly oppose W-H's new Greek compiled NT., but
where are modern Greek scholars who oppose the Alexandrian text?)
The reality is that BF Westcott was a conservative NT scholar who held to
the deity of Christ and believed that the Bible's reports of miracles
Here's an actual quote by Westcott in his book refuting Cassel:
"Indeed taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that
there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported
than the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption
that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the
proof of it. ... It is stated in the Acts that the necessary
qualification of an Apostle was that he should be a personal witness of
the Resurrection; and St Paul admits the qualification, and shews that it
was fulfilled in his case."
Another claim is that Hort did not hold to the deity of Christ. That
probably comes from the following quote, taken out of context:
"I have been persuaded for many years that Mary-Worship and Jesus worship
have very much in common in their cause and in their results." Life and
Letters of Hort, Vol II, pp 49-50.
Here it is in context, where we see that Hort was actually concerned with
a misunderstanding by some Christians of priests. That's why he put Jesus
"I have been persuaded for many years that Mary-worship and
'Jesus'-worship have very much in common in their causes and their
results. Perhaps the whole question may be said to be involved in the
true idea of mediation, which is almost universally corrupted in one or
both of two opposite directions. On the one hand we speak and think as if
there were no real bringing near, such as the N.T. tells of, but only an
interposition between two permanently distant objects. On the other we
condemn all secondary human mediators as injurious to the One, and shut
our eyes to the indestructible fact of existing human mediation which is
to be found everywhere. But this last error can hardly be expelled till
Protestants unlearn the crazy horror of the idea of Priesthood."
Here's a quote by Hort regarding the hypostatic union of Christ:
"And take a look at 'One,truly man,fulfilled a divine office,that is
Jesus.'", The Historic Faith, p 47
Westcott says in, The Historic Faith, p 49:
"Thus from the Person of the Lord we go on to consider His Nature. We
confess that He is 'the only son of God' and 'our Lord'. In both
respects, though truly man Who lived with men, He occupies a position
essentially distinct from that of any other. His Godhead is one with the
Godhead of the Father, His sovereignty over men is absolute. Christians
are sons of God, but sons by adoption in virtue of their fellowship with
Him Who is Son by nature. There are many lords who claim the obedience of
outward service [but] One only Who demands the complete surrender of the
Does that sound like the testimony of an unbeliever to you?
"We believe - I say - and confess that Jesus Christ is the only Son of
God. The confession cannot be lightly made. If the simple thought of God
ought to fill us with speechless awe, the further thought of God as
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, is yet more overwhelming. On such
a mystery, where human words and human thoughts must fail, our words
should be few, and these spoken rather in devotion that in explanation or
Now Hort and Westcott were Anglicans. They were not fundamentalist
protestants. But it is simply unfair to claim they held beliefs which
they clearly didn't.
Now regarding my concerns with the MT, one thing is generally
acknowledged by all textual critics: the Byzantine text-type--or majority
text--did not exist in the first three centuries. That is of serious
concern for me.
The Greek manuscripts which we have available today do not include the
Byzantine text in the first four centuries. That is amazing. But some
will ask about other languages that they had been translated into in
those first few centuries and the church fathers?
The NT was translated into Latin in the second century. About 100 Latin
MSS (before Jerome's Vulgate) represent this Old Latin translation, and
they all attest to the Western text-type. IOW the Greek manuscripts they
translated were not the Byzantine text.
The Coptic version also goes back to the second century, and it was a
translation of Alexandrian MSS, not Byzantine ones. The earliest forms of
the Syriac are also from either Western or Alexandrian texts.
Now some MT advocates appeal to the Syriac Pesetta as both coming from
the 2nd century and supposedly being a translation from the Byzantine
text. However, although the Pesetta originated before the mid 5th
century, however most critics say it originated in the 4th century. Hence
we still have no evidence of early MT MSS.
(Some think that Constantine liked a particular Greek MSS and was
concerned about the various, slightly different, Greek MSS around, and
tried to remove all but one form - the Byzantine. We do know that he
purged many Greek MSS, but it is just speculation that the MSS preserved
was Byzantine. and that is its origin. Some scholars who hold to the CT
speculate that this is the origin of the MT, but I'm not going to go down
that path. It's not fair to the MT.)
I like the MT. But I do not think it is as reliable a family as the
Alexandrian or Western families. I do like the MT, and once was a strong
adherent to it. I wish that the MT MSS would be considered as well as the
CT and Western family. I'm not a fan of the Textus Receptus (the Greek
text, with a few revisions, which is behind the KJV and the NKJV New
testaments), because I consider it to be a poor representative of the
By the way, for those interested in considering what principles and
philosophies are of concern for translation, I recommend the following
text (not available online I don't think):
Translating the Word of God, by John Beekman and John Callow, 1974 -
Zondervan. It is used by Wycliffe's Summer Institute of Linguistics.
These authors have over 20 years of translating experience and graduated
from MOODY Bible Institute and London Bible College respectively. Callow
has a PhD in linguistics.
Chapter 1 is great ("Literal and Idiomatic Translation") alone. They deal
with translating metaphors, multiple word meanings, concordance, lexical
equivalence across the target and source languages, rhetorical questions,
semantic structure, etc., and genitive structure to name a few topics,
with specific examples from scripture. There's also a scripture index. I
mention these examples because translation is not a simple matter of
translating word-for-word. To do so would result in losing the intended
meaning of the original inspired authors in the original languages
(Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek).