Westcott and Hort - part 3

"Gipp's Understandable History of the Bible"
©1987 by Samuel C. Gipp.
Reproduced by permission.

Surprising Defense

Westcott's Peace-Movement

    No true Christian loves war. A Bible believer takes the premillenial view and realizes that war is caused by the sinful nature of mankind - James 4:1. He understands that this will all be changed at Christ's return - Philippians 3:21.

    A Bible rejector who has chosen the postmillenial viewpoint cannot allow himself to believe that mankind is bad. He must find a way to show that man is basically good. All men must be brothers in his eyes. "Brothers," he assumes, will just naturally work toward peace.

    Westcott, a postmillenial socialist, had this to say concerning the "brotherhood" of man in regard to instituting "peace on earth."

    "Christianity rests upon the central fact that the Word became flesh. This fact establishes not only a brotherhood of men, but also a brotherhood of nations; for history has shown that nations are an element in the fulfillment of the Divine counsel, by which humanity advances toward its appointed end."159

    What should these "brothers" do to help establish "peace on earth?" We can at once recognize the part which the Christian society is called upon to take with regard to three great measures which tend to peace - meditation, arbitration, and (ultimately) disarmament - and at least silently work for them.160

    "Combine action, in any ways possible, for the bringing about of a simultaneous reduction of the armaments."161

    Once again the Cambridge professor is ahead of his time. "Disarmament" has been the cry of liberal, pro-Communist college students for two decades. Strange it is that as the "peace" movement of the 1960's was led by a "minister" with the exact same philosophy about world peace!

    Westcott wanted an "arbitration board" made up of the "Christian society" to decide international policy concerning disarmament quotas. He first envisioned England and the United States submitting to this idea, assuming then that the rest of the world would be forced to follow.

    "The United States and England are already bound so closely together by their common language and common descent, that an Arbitration Treaty which shall exclude the thought of war - a civil war - between them seems to be within measurable distance. When once the general principle of arbitration has been adopted by two great nations, it cannot but be that the example will be followed, and then, at last, however remote the vision may seem, disarmament will be a natural consequence of the acceptance of a rational and legal method of settling national disputes."162

    Westcott even felt that world peace would be worth an "Ecumenical Movement."

    "Other cognate subjects were touched upon -- the proposed Permanent Treaty of Arbitration between the United States and Great Britain, the significance of war as extreme outcome of that spirit of selfish competition which follows from the acceptance of a material standard of well being, the desirability of seeking cooperation with the movement on the part of the Roman and Greek Churches -- but it seemed best to confine immediate action to a single point on which there was complete agreement."163

    He assumed that "world peace" was of the utmost importance.

    "The proposal to work for the simultaneous reduction of European armament is definite, and deals with an urgent peril. Such a disarmament would secure the lasting and honourable peace which the leaders of Europe have shown lately, once and again, that they sincerely desire. We are all sensible of the difficulties by which the question of disarmament is beset, but we cannot admit that they are insuperable."164

    All this was to be done, of course, in the name of Christ. Westcott felt that he was simply trying to bring to pass Luke 2:14. He truly considered himself a man with whom God was "pleased," as that verse had been mistranslated in the Revised Version.

    "The question of international relations has not hitherto been considered in the light of the Incarnation, and till this has been done, I do not see that we can look for the establishment of that peace which was heralded at the Nativity."165

    So here we have a man who doubted the miracles which Christ performed.

    "I never read an account of a miracle, but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability, and discover some what of evidence in the account of it."166

    Even though he doubted Jesus Christ's miracles, he didn't doubt that a Roman Catholic priest could perform them, as he explains what he saw in France at "Our Lady of La Salette" shrine.

    "A written narrative can convey no notion of the effect of such a recital. The eager energy of the father, the modest thankfulness of the daughter, the quick glances of the spectators from one to the other, the calm satisfaction of the priest, the comments of look and nod, combined to form a scene which appeared hardly to belong to the nineteenth century. An age of faith was restored before our sight in its ancient guise. We talked about the cures to a young layman who had throughout showed us singular courtesy. When we remarked upon the peculiar circumstances by which they were attended, his own comment was: 'Sans croire, comment l'expliquer?' (translated: 'Without believing how can it be explained?') And in this lay the real significance and power of the place."167

    We have a man who could read and exalt a Jesuit-inspired poet, Keble, but when it came to reading anything that presented Rome in a negative light, such as Fox's Book of Martyrs, he said, "I never read any of Fox's book."168

    He was a man who claimed, "I cannot myself reconcile the spirit of controversy and that of Christian faith."169

    Since controversy was "un-Christian," he refused to answer John Burgon's arguments concerning the Local Text of Alexandria which Westcott helped exalt. He simply said, "I cannot read Mr. Burgon yet. A glance at one or two sentences leads me to think that his violence answers himself."170

    It is a sad thing that Westcott's prejudice closed his mind to Burgon's comments. Burgon was harsh, but Burgon was correct. Time has since proven that. It is a dangerous spirit which ignores a man's FACTS just because of a "holier than thou" attitude which teaches that "anyone who is right, must be gentlemanly." Had more people in the late 1800's looked past Burgon's harsh comments and examined his FACTS, Christianity would be richer today.

    We have in Brooke Foss Westcott a man who believed in communal living; a man who believed that the second coming of Christ was spiritual, heaven was a state of mind, prayers for the dead were permissable in private devotions, and that Christ came to bring peace through international disarmament. He believed in purgatory and admiration for Mary, and he thought the Bible was like any other book. This is the man who walked into the Revision Committee and sat in judgment of our Bible. He thought he saw room for improvement in the Authorized Version and offered a pro-Roman Greek text with which to correct it. The ironic thing is that Bible-believing Christian educators and preachers, who would never agree with his theology, have for years exalted his opinion of the Greek as nearly infallible. These facts alone should be reason enough to condemn Westcott and Hort, their Greek Text and the MSS which they used to arrive at such a text. But let us look at their actions concerning the molesting of the pure words of the King James Bible, in favor of Rome. Saddest of all, we have in Brooke Foss Westcott a man who neither believed in salvation by grace nor ever experienced it. There is no record in his "Life and Letters" that he ever accepted Christ as his personal Saviour. In a letter to his then future wife, he stated strongly his feelings concerning "baptism."

    "My dearest Mary - I quite forget whether we have ever talked upon the subject alluded to in my last note - Baptismal Regeneration - but I think we have, for it is one of the few points on which I have clear views, and which is, I am sure, more misunderstood and misrepresented than any other. Do not we see that God generally employs means. I will not say exclusively, that He has appointed an outward Church as the receptacle of His promises, and outward rites for admission in to it, and thus for being placed in a relation with Him by which we may receive His further grace; for till we are so connected by admission into His outward Church, we have no right to think that he will convey to us the benefits of his spiritual Church, when we have neglected the primary means which He provides. It does not, of course, follow that the outward and spiritual churches are co-extensive, that all who have been placed in relation with God by Baptism, and so made heirs of heaven conditionally, will avail themselves of that relation to fulfill those conditions - and here lies the ambiguity: because a child is born again into the Church of God, as he has been born into the world before, people seem to conclude that he must discharge all the duties of his new station, which in temporal matters we know he does not. By birth he may, if he will, truly live here; by baptism he may if he will, truly live forever. I do not say that Baptism is absolutely necessary, though from the word of the Scripture I can see no exception, but I do think we have a right to exclaim against the idea of the commencement of a spiritual life, conditionally from Baptism, any more than we have to deny the commencement of a moral life from birth."171

    As has already been established, both Drs. Westcott and Hort were hostile to the true Greek text of the King James Bible. Dr. Westcott has been unconsciously influenced into a pro-Roman Catholic attitude. It must also be pointed out that earlier Dr. Hort had been a student of Dr. Westcott's, as Arthur Westcott points out: "Another of Westcott's private pupils was F.J.A. Hort."172

    The meticulous care with which he taught his pupils is noted by Dr. Whewell, Master of Trinity at the time, "The pains he bestows upon his pupils here (private pupils) is unparalleled, and his teaching is judicious as well as careful."173

    The common desire of these two Cambridge scholars was to eliminate the authority of the Universal Greek Text of the King James Bible. Scholars had long sought to do this, but were baffled by the obvious evidence testifying that the Universal Text was indeed the true text of the Bible, and in that, a preservation of the original autographs. These scholars, subtly influenced by Rome, knew that their duty was to overthrow this pure, Protestant, Christ-honoring text and replace it with the Local Text of Alexandria, Egypt, but the overwhelming evidence was always weighted in God's favor. No one, even the Roman Catholic Church, could find a way to explain why 95% of all extant MSS belonged to the Universal Text. "Textual criticism" was at a standstill until this roadblock could be circumvented.

Hort's Fiction

    It was the genius of Fenton John Anthony Hort which rode to the rescue of the forlorn Roman Catholic text. This man used the same method to overthrow the authority of the Universal Text that Charles Darwin used to overthrow the fact of creation. He used a THEORY!

    His theory was that the "originals" agreed with the Local Text, and that this Local Text was "edited" by the Syrian church at Antioch in the Fourth Century to become what we know as the Universal Text, and then forced upon the people by the church council.

    Just as was true for Darwin, common sense, all available facts, and the nature of God testified against his theory. Just as Darwin did, he collected minute scraps of evidence, then twisted and magnified his evidence, and theorized that he was right. Just as Darwin did, his theory was manufactured in his head, and INDEPENDENT of historical facts and evidence.

    Just as Darwin, his theory was overwhelmingly accepted by the overeducated men of his day who were looking for a way of overthrowing God's authority. The theory of evolution was music to the ears of scientists, biologists, and college professors who resented the thought of creation. The sound of "God did it; that settles it" just naturally mustered all of the animosity and rebellion that is resident in the human flesh (Romans 7:18). When Darwin issued his theory to the world, the world was happy to believe the lie.

    The same thing was true of Christian scholarship. They had long resented the thought that God could or would preserve His Word without their help. Like the lost scientists, they begrudgingly had to acknowledge that the evidence and facts of history were in favor of the Authorized Version. The issuing of Hort's theory, with the backing of Dr. Westcott, was heralded as the "liberation" of textual criticism. Dr. Alfred Martin explains the delight of liberals which existed upon learning of Hort's theory:

    "Men who had long denied the infallibility of the Bible - and there are many such in the Church of England and in the independent churches - eagerly acclaimed a theory which they thought to be in harmony with their position.

    "At precisely the time when liberalism was carrying the field in the English churches the theory of Westcott and Hort received wide acclaim. These are not isolated facts. Recent contributions of the subject - that is, in the present century - following mainly the Westcott-Hort principles have been made largely by men who deny the inspiration of the Bible."174

    Like Darwin's theory, different viewpoints using his theory arrived at different conclusions. This, Dr. Martin records, Hort knew: "Hort freely admits this and concedes that 'in dealing with this kind of evidence equally competent as to the same variations'."175

    Of course, the fact of different conclusions did not hamper Hort's followers. They were not interested in establishing a new conclusion. They were interested in abolishing an old one, i.e., that the King James Bible is the Word and the words of God.

    A textual critic is not like a man driving an automobile to a destination which only he knows. He is more like a little child standing behind the wheel who doesn't particularly care where he goes, just as long as HE is doing the driving. Dr. Martin exposed this tendency: "Their principle method, an extreme reliance upon the internal evidence of readings, is fallacious and dangerous, because it makes the mind of the critic the arbiter of the text of the Word of God."176

    The feeling of power, to be the judge of God's Word, coupled with the old nature which exists in the flesh of all men, even in Christian scholars, becomes overwhelming to the mind. As Paul stated in Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." Jeremiah concluded in chapter 17, verse 9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Even a saved man has bad flesh. Give this flesh the authority to change God's Word, and he will soon plant himself on God's throne. As it has been said "Put a beggar on horseback, and he will ride off at a gallop."

Scholarly Prejudice

    Another similarity between Hort's theory and Darwin's theory is that it is still held in high esteem long after it has been disproven. Darwin's theory has long ago suffered irreparable damage by historical evidence, the Word of God, and of course common sense. Yet, scientists have doggedly upheld it as reliable. This is not done because they feel that Darwin's theory will ever lead them to the truth, but because Darwin's theory leads them away from the authority they so detest, the Bible.

    Hort's theory has been just as ill-handled by the truth, as Dr. Kurt Aland points out:

    "We still live in the world of Westcott and Hort with our conception of different recensions and text-types, although this conception has lost its raison de'etre, or, it needs at least to be newly and convincingly demonstrated. For the increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort's conception."177

    Dr. Jacob Geerlings, who has extensively studied the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, states concerning the Universal Text:

    "Its origins as well as those of other so-called text-types probably go back to the autographs. It is now abundantly clear that the Eastern Church never officially adopted or recognized a received or authorized text and only by a long process of slow evolution did the Greek text of the New Testament undergo the various changes that we can dimly see in the few extant uncial codices identified with the Byzantine (i.e. Majority) Text."178

    Dr. David Otis Fuller concludes, "Thus the view popularized by Westcott and Hort before the turn-of- the-century, that the Majority Text issued from an authorative ecclesiastical revision of the Greek text, is widely abandoned as no longer tenable."

    As previously quoted, Dr. Martin has stated, "The trend of scholars in more recent years has been away from the original Westcott-Hort position."179

    In spite of new evidence, historical facts, and God's continued blessing of the Authorized Version, Christian scholars still exalt the theory as though it were the truth. This is not done because they feel that Hort's theory will eventually lead them to the true Word of God. Any honest, "Christian" scholar today who upholds Hort's outmoded theory will be glad to tell you that there is no perfect translation of "the Bible" in English today. They will admonish each new translation as "a step in the right direction," but even the newest translation is not without errors. This attitude is due to the fact that man's human nature resents the idea that God could preserve His words without the help of "good, godly Christians," and from the natural resistance of men to be in subjection to God. The supporters of Westcott and Hort possess a loyalty which borders on cultic, as Dr. Martin again has faithfully pointed out:

    "The theory was hailed by many when it came forth as practically final, certainly definitive. It has been considered by some the acme in textual criticism of the New Testament. Some of the followers of Westcott and Hort have been almost unreasoning in their devotion to the theory; and many people, even today, who have no idea what the Westcott-Hort theory is, or at best only a vague notion, accept the labors of those two scholars without question. During the past seventy years it has often been considered textual heresy to deviate from their position or to intimate that, sincere as they undoubtedly were, they may have been mistaken."180

    This cultic bent was even observed by Hort's friend, Professor Armitage Robinson, in 1891 who stated that a "kind of cult" had sprung up around the venerated old scholar.181

    To criticize either Dr. Westcott or Dr. Hort is almost sacrilegious in their eyes. We can almost hear Dr. Westcott's own words, "I cannot myself reconcile the spirit of controversy and that of Christian faith." This he used as a defense against the "fanatics" who think that the Bible is perfect. Once accepted, pride makes the decaying process almost irreversible. As any parent knows who has questioned their guilty son or daughter, being caught "red-handed" is not nearly as difficult for the child to take as is admitting that they have been wrong.

Freedom Then Slavery

    Just prior to the translation of the King James Bible, England had broken free of the yoke of Rome. Shortly after the Authorized Version was published, England once again started down the road back to Rome. For a brief "parenthesis" in English history, England was free of Roman influence just long enough to translate and propagate a perfect Bible.

    As we have seen, by the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, England had again, bit-by-bit, fallen to Roman influence. The Romaninzing effects of the Oxford Movement, the corrupt tracts of Newman, Pusey, and other pro-Romanists, the decisions by the Privy Council in favor of the anti-scriptural position of the "Essays and Reviews" had wrought their desired effect. In 1845, Newman made a formal break with the Church of England to join the Roman Catholic Church. His decision influenced 150 Church of England clergymen to do the same. In 1850, the aggressive Roman Catholic Cardinal Wiseman who had done so much to lead Newman to Rome, and had directed the Oxford Movement via his paper, "Dublin Review," had been commissioned by the Pope to formally re-establish the Roman Catholic Church on the shores of England.

    England had come from the Bible-honoring, Rome-rejecting position of the Reformation, to the ritualistic, pro-Roman attitude which mistrusts and condemns the Bible.

    England was ripe for revision!

The Trap is Set

    In 1870, the Convention of the Church of England commissioned a revision of the Authorized Version. A gleam of hope shone in the eye of every Roman Catholic in England and the Continent. An eager anticipation filled every Jesuit-inspired, Protestant scholar in England. Although it was meant to correct a few supposed "errors" in the Authorized Version, the textual critics of the day assured themselves that they would never again have to submit to the divine authority of the Universal Text.

    In November of 1870, Westcott testified of just such a spirit in a letter to Dr. Benson, "In a few minutes I go with Lightfoot to Westminster. More will come of these meetings, I think, than simply a revised version."182

    The Convocation had instructed the Revision Committee NOT to deal with the underlying Greek text of the Authorized Version. They were instructed to do as follows: (1) to introduce as few alterations as possible into the text of the King James Bible, and (2) to limit ... the expression of any alterations to the language of the Authorized Version.183

    Westcott and Hort had other plans. They had edited the corrupt Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts of the Local Text of Alexandria and produced their own Greek text. Wisely they had never published it. Thus its existence was unknown to the world, and Westcott and Hort did not have to worry about the investigative eyes of their contemporary scholars, such as Dean John Burgon. Had it been published earlier, it assuredly would have been exposed as corrupt and unfit for translation into English. Drs. Westcott and Hort were definitely "wise as serpents," but unfortunately they were equally as harmful.

Scholarly Deceit

    Since the Committee had been instructed not to deal with matters of the Greek text, and the Westcott and Hort text had not been published, it was necessary for the two Cambridge Catholics to submit it little by little to the Committee. Even this was done in secret.

    In order to establish their own Greek text as authorative, they first planned the strategy prior to the first meeting of the Committee. Their old friend Bishop Lightfoot was even there to help as Westcott notes in a letter to Hort dated May 1870, "Your note came with one from Ellicott this morning ... Though I think the Convocation is not competent to initiate such a measure, yet I feel that as 'we three' are together it would be wrong not to 'make the best of it' as Lightfoot says ... There is some hope that alternative readings might find a place in the margin."184

    The next month he wrote to Lightfoot himself: "Ought we not to have a conference before the first meeting for revision? There are many points on which it is important that we should be agreed."185

    They then secretly submitted their text to the Committee members, and stayed close by their sides to see to it that their scheme was carried out. This fact, Dr. Wilkenson attests to:

    "The new Greek Testament upon which Westcott and Hort had been working for twenty years was, portion by portion, secretly committed into the hand of the Revision Committee. Their Greek text was strongly radical and revolutionary. The Revisors followed the guidance of the two Cambridge editors, Westcott and Hort, who were constantly at their elbow, and whose radical Greek New Testament, deviating the furthest possible from the Received Text, is to all intents and purposes the Greek New Testament followed by the Revision Committee. This Greek text, in the main, follows the Vatican and Sinaiticus Manuscripts."186

    These actions reek of Jesuit underhandedness. Although Westcott and Hort were men of scholarship, they were not men of integrity.

Defending the Infidel

    For the most part, Westcott and Hort found a welcome audience to their abolition of the Universal Text, for the spirit of the revision had been set when the Christ-denying, Unitarian preacher, Dr. Vance Smith, was seated on the Committee.

    Dr. Hort shared his feelings concerning Smith's appointment with co-conspirator Lightfoot. "It is, I think, difficult to measure the weight of acceptance won before the hand for the Revision by the single fact of our welcoming an Unitarian."187

    Westcott exposed his loyalty to apostasy when he threatened to quit if the Convocation were successful in ejecting Smith from the Committee.

    "I never felt more clear as to my duty. If the Company accepts the dictation of Convocation, my work must end. I see no escape from the conclusion."188

    Wilkenson records Smith's comments concerning Isaiah 7:14: "This change gives room to doubt the virgin birth of Christ. The meaning of the words of Isaiah may, therefore, be presented thus: 'Behold the young wife is with child."'189

    Dr. Smith called the belief in Christ's second coming an error. "This idea of the Second Coming ought now to be passed by as a merely temporary incident of early Christian belief. Like many another error, it has answered its transitory purpose in the providential plan, and may well, at length, be left to rest in peace."190

    Dr. Westcott felt that doctrine was unimportant. He believed that he as a scholar should decide the text, then theologians could add their remarks afterwards. He stated, "I hardly feel with you on the question of discussing anything doctrinally or on doctrine. This seems to me to be wholly out of our province. We have only to determine what is written and how it can be rendered. Theologians may deal with the text and version afterwards."191

    What did Westcott think of Smith's theological beliefs? "Perhaps we agree in spirit but express ourselves differently. At least we agree in hope."192

    This last statement may very well hold more truth than Westcott intended. It may help here to point out that the Church of England defector to Rome, Dr. Newman, was asked to be on the Committee, but he refused.193 This should reveal the true spirit which the revisors had in their attempt to "bring the Bible up-to-date."

    This is not the first revision Newman was asked to sit in on. In 1847, two years after defecting, Cardinal Wiseman, the militant Roman Catholic priest, wrote him this from Rome: "The Superior of the Franciscans, Father Benigno, in the Trastevere, wishes us out of his own head to engage in an English Authorized Translation of the Bible. He is a learned man and on the Congregation of the Index. What he wished was, that we would take the Protestant translation, correct it by the Vulgate ... and get it sanctioned here."194 Strangely enough, the desire of Wiseman, to "correct" the Authorized Version with Jerome's corrupt Vulgate, is exactly what Protestant scholars did in 1881, 1901, 1952, 1960, 1973, and in every "new" and "improved" translation since 1611.

    Westcott and Hort were so successful at their secret task of subtly guiding the decision of the Revision Committee that many Committee members did not suspect that they had been used by the Cambridge duo to help destroy the authority of the Authorized Version and give the world yet another Roman Catholic Bible. Philip Mauro records:

    "In view of all the facts it seems clear that, not until after the Committee had disbanded, and their work had come under the scrutiny of able scholars and faithful men, were they themselves aware that they had seemingly given their official sanction to the substitution of the "New Greek Text" of Westcott and Hort for the Textus Receptus. The Westcott and Hort text had not yet been published, and hence had never been subject to scrutiny and criticism; nor had the principles upon which it was constructed been investigated. Only after it was too late were the facts realized, even by the Revisors themselves."195

    It can be safely said that if Westcott and Hort were not two Jesuit priests acting on secret orders from the Vatican, that two Jesuit priests acting under such orders could not have done a better job of overthrowing the authority of God's true Bible and establishing the pro-Roman Catholic text of Alexandria, Egypt!

    It is truly amazing in light of all the evidence of their apostasy, that Westcott and Hort should be so revered by modern scholarship. It is strange indeed that men who believe in the premillenial return of Christ would defend men who did not. That men who believe that salvation is by grace through faith could uphold men who not only did not believe in it, but sadly, did not experience it. It is amazing that men who believe with all their heart that the Bible is the Word of God could be so blind to the infidelity to the Word of these two men.

    Revival in America is still possible, but like Jacob told his household in Genesis 35:2,3: Christian scholarship must "put away the strange gods" and "go up to Bethel."

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