Dean Burgon: The Greatest Enemy of
King James Onlyism
by James May
There are three false ideas which underlie King James Onlyism. First, KJVers believe that God has promised a perfect preservation of the Bible. Second, they believe that either by his providential guidance or direct inspiration this promise has been fulfilled in the King James Version. Third, they believe that God has placed his blessing upon the KJV in such a manner that all right thinking, spiritual Christians recognize that while all modern Bibles are perversions and corruptions of God’s Word, the KJV is perfect. Some advocates will hedge on the word “perfect” by saying that while the King James is completely without error, it is not “perfect” in the same sense as the Greek and Hebrew. Within the movement, a more extreme group believes that the KJV is directly the product of inspiration, and in fact is useful in correcting the Greek text of the New Testament. Members of this more extreme element may often be identified by their foul language, crude name-calling, boastful arrogance and interestingly, their attacks both upon those who use modern versions and upon the less extreme members of the King James Only movement.
KJVers of whatever stripe make a regular habit of misrepresenting the views of various men of the past in order to support their false position. This author, for example, has spent considerable time examining the many false, vicious and wicked accusations that have been made against Brooke Foss Westcott. The false accusers typically teach that he was an occult practitioner and a deliberate corrupter of God’s Word. Anyone willing to examine the facts can observe that he was instead a conservative, orthodox scholar who devoted much time and effort to the defense of the New Testament and of the Person of Jesus Christ. KJVers not only misrepresent the views of those whom they consider their enemies, but also of those whom they count as friends. The inclusion by David Otis Fuller of writings by Robert Dick Wilson, the great Princeton scholar, in Fuller’s book Which Bible? comes to mind. Wilson never advocated King James Onlyism, but anyone reading his material sandwiched between KJV propaganda might naturally suppose otherwise. Fuller also included material from Benjamin Wilkinson’s book, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, and deliberately hid the fact that the author was a grace denying Seventh Day Adventist missionary and Bible college teacher. One of the most interesting characters who is alleged to have supported KJVism, and yet who clearly did not, is Dean John William Burgon. A number of King James Only supporters, generally of the less extreme wing, have even formed a society to which they have improperly attached Burgon’s name.
Burgon, Anglican Churchman and Greek scholar, was a contemporary and vigorous opponent of Westcott and Hort. While Burgon spoke highly of their character and ability, he opposed the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament and the English Revised Version derived from it with very harsh language. KJVers make a false assumption, however, when they assume that the enemy of their enemy is their friend. Burgon differed with the Dean Burgon Society first in regard to the process which led to the creation of the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible, and secondly in regard to the alleged perfection of the TR and KJV. In reality, the position and teachings of John Burgon demonstrate him to be the greatest enemy of King James Onlyism.
KJVism and the Dean Burgon Society
Donald Waite is the president of both the Dean Burgon Society and of the Bible for Today. If the two organizations are legally separate (I suspect that they are), they are nonetheless very closely related. Their websites are linked; they are both headquartered in Waite’s house. If publications of the Bible for Today do not represent official positions of the Dean Burgon Society, they certainly represent the thinking of many members of the DBS. It may be safely assumed that both organizations speak with a single voice.
From the Dean Burgon Society website, one may download the Articles of Faith of the organization. Contained therein are the following two statements:
We believe that the Texts which are the closest to the original autographs of the Bible are the Traditional Masoretic Hebrew Text for the Old Testament, and the traditional Greek Text for the New Testament underlying the King James Version (as found in “The Greek Text Underlying The English Authorized Version of 1611”).
We believe that all of the verses in the King James Version belong in the Old and the New Testaments because they represent words we believe were in the original texts, although there might be other renderings from the original languages which could also be acceptable to us today.
The website also relays the objectives of the DBS, which include:
To defend the Traditional Received Greek Text of the New Testament which underlies the King James Version (such as is found in The Greek Text Underlying The English Authorized Version of 1611).
Further, it shall be our purpose to keep abreast of future bibliographic offerings in order to criticize and warn against those deviating from the Traditional Masoretic Hebrew Text and the Traditional Received Greek Text which underlie the King James Version.
It is this author’s observation that King James Only writers, at their very best, are frequently just a little sloppy. In the first sentence above, for example, the word “Traditional” is capitalized when it appears in “Traditional Masoretic Hebrew Text,” but not capitalized in “traditional Greek Text.” When Scrivener’s edition of the Textus Receptus is first mentioned above, it is enclosed in quotation marks: “The Greek Text Underlying The English Authorized Version of 1611”; when it is referenced in the list of objectives, the quotation marks are missing. Unfortunately, King James Only authors are even far sloppier in their research.
The first question which we consider here is whether the Dean Burgon Society believes in the perfection of the Textus Receptus, or perhaps we should say, in the perfection of the particular expression of the Textus Receptus which underlies the King James Bible. We should like to know if the Society and its leaders believe that the edition of the TR compiled by F.H.A. Scrivener and first published in 1894, contains all of the words of God and only the words of God. The statement by the DBS that the Masoretic Hebrew text (which is not a single, uniform text) and the 1894 TR of Scrivener are the “closest to the original autographs of the Bible” may leave the reader wondering. These words, by themselves, do not specify perfection in the TR. When, however, the members claim that the KJV contains “all of the verses” that it should because such verses “represent words we believe were in the original texts” it seems that only a perfect TR would satisfy such an affirmation. Further, under the organization’s objectives, the defense of a precise form of the TR, namely that which underlies the KJV, is required. They also seek to warn against any deviations from the exact TR of 1894, which only makes sense if that particular TR is beyond revision.
Other publications of the Bible for Today and of the Dean Burgon Society fortify this conclusion. Dr. Waite, president of both organizations, distributes an article by Jeffrey Khoo entitled “A Plea for a Perfect Bible,” (Bible For Today article B.F.T. #3094). In this article, Khoo offers the following clarification of the DBS position:
It must be clarified that the word “closest” in the Dean Burgon Society statement does not at all mean that we have an errant text or that the text is not the same as the original writings. . . . Dr D A Waite [sic], President of the Dean Burgon Society, likewise understands the statement to mean “that the words of the Received Greek and Masoretic Hebrew texts that underlie the King James Bible are the very words which God has preserved down through the centuries, being the exact words of the originals themselves,” (Khoo, p. 4).
Although Khoo does not give a reference for this information from Waite, his use of quotation marks indicates that he is reproducing Waite’s words. Since Waite himself distributes this material without objection, we must assume that it is indeed an accurate statement of the position of the president of the Dean Burgon Society as well as of the society itself. The only other possibility is that Waite is allowing his position to be misstated by more radical elements within the DBS. Khoo believes that God guided both Erasmus and the King James translators in their selections of readings:
I believe God providentially guided the KJV translators to produce the purest TR of all. . . . The KJV translators had all the various editions of the TR to refer to, and they made their decisions with the help of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Lord providentially guided the King James translators to make the right textual decisions. As such, I do not believe we need to improve on the TR underlying the KJV, (Khoo, p. 6).
Again, with no objection from Waite, we assume that this nonsense, which is actually the brain-child of Edward Hills, represents the thinking of most of the leadership of the DBS. Perhaps we should apply the same logic (?) to John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. God must have led Calvin to choose just the right words. Surely we cannot imagine that the most influential theological document of the Protestant Reformation is the product of a mere 26 year-old man with no divine intervention. We must see the hand of God in this. With no objective foundation, there is no limit to how such foolish reasoning can be misused.
Dr. Waite distributes another document which expresses the same position as that taken by Khoo. The author, like Khoo, is a Bible Presbyterian from Singapore. His name is the Rev Quek Suan Yew, and he has produced a paper entitled, “We Have an Inerrant Bible . . . . Today!” (B.F.T. #3101). His position, which Waite appears to support, is that:
When we speak of the perfect Bible we refer to God’s Word in the original languages, Hebrew and Aramaic in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. . . . When we begin with God and His Holy Wisdom we arrive plainly and simply with a perfect Bible today. . . . The KJV translation is the best translation in the English language because it uses the preserved text (perfect like the original). It also has [sic] the best group of godly translators gathered together by the providential hand of God, never to be repeated again in the history of mankind, (Yew, pp. 1, 2, 12).
It is clearly stated by both Mr. Khoo and Rev. Yew that the Textus Receptus is a perfect copy of the original text of the New Testament. A further statement by Yew leaves us at an utter loss for words:
From church history this issue was ironed out and crystallized for us when the early church fathers fought for the purity of God’s Word in the English language, (Yew, p. 8).
Yes, this is indeed the material that Dr. Donald Waite, Th.D., Ph.D., President of the Dean Burgon Society and of the Bible for Today, sends out for our consumption. Can we somehow suppose that Yew does not really believe what he says in this sentence? This is the “we believe what we want to believe in spite of the evidence” position on the text of the New Testament.
A third document relating the position of the Burgon Society is a book entitled When the KJV Departs from the “Majority Text”. Written by Jack Moorman, it is published by the Bible for Today, and is identified as B.F.T. #1617. Any doubt that this publication of the Bible for Today represents the position of the DBS is removed by a small tract authored by Dr. Waite. The tract, entitled “Why Reject the ‘Majority’ Text”, carries the emblem of the Dean Burgon Society on its front cover, and is simply a summary of, and piece of promotional literature for, Moorman’s book. The book itself is an attack upon the majority text of the New Testament as edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad. Moorman quotes from page x of the Hodges/Farstad text as follows:
The editors do not imagine that the text of this edition represents in all particulars the exact form of the originals. . .[sic] It should therefore be kept in mind that the present work. . .is both preliminary and provisional, (Moorman, p. v, quoting Hodges/Farstad, p. x).
The provisional nature of the Hodges/Farstad text causes Mr. Moorman grave difficulty, as indicated in the following words:
So we are bound to ask, if this isn’t, if the AV-Received Text isn’t, if the Critical Text isn’t; where must we go to get a Bible today? If after these certuries [sic] we still have only a provisional, preliminary, tentative Bible; what are we to do?
It is a common cry of the King James Only that if we do not have the Bible in precisely perfect form, we do not have it at all; highly accurate, sufficient for all practical matters of doctrine and life is not good enough. Any doubt concerning Moorman’s position is removed by the following extreme words:
When a version has been the standard as long as the Authorized Version and when that version has demonstrated its power in the conversion of sinners, building up of believers, sending forth of preachers and missionaries on a scale not achieved by all other versions and foreign language editions combined; the hand of God is at work. Such a version must not be tampered with. And in those comparatively few places where it seems to depart from the majority reading, it would be far more honoring toward God’s promises of preservation to believe that the Greek and not the English had strayed from the original! (Moorman, p. 28).
Here we find the truth about Moorman and the rest of the King James Only crowd: What the Greek text says, when push comes to shove, does not mean a thing if it contradicts the King James Version! As pious as Moorman tries to make this sound, it is nothing but heresy and differs little from Pete Ruckman’s correction of the Greek by the King James Bible. This is man’s tradition, not God’s truth, and demonstrates that Moorman’s appeal to majority readings is all smoke and mirrors. Moorman and friends are not in the slightest governed by the manuscript evidence, but rather by the alleged promise of perfect preservation. When they discuss the evidence that supports a given reading, it is nothing but foolishness. It is important to note, however, that when Moorman speaks of the Greek as straying from the original, he means the Greek as contained in the majority of manuscripts. He clearly does not mean that the Textus Receptus (at least the Textus Receptus of 1894) has gone awry. For Moorman, the Textus Receptus is the “God-honoured Textus Receptus,” (p. 12) and is identical in text to the KJV. Once again, and by a third author, we have the position of the Dean Burgon Society.
So What about Burgon?
It has been clearly established that the Dean Burgon Society believes that the King James translators where led by the Holy Spirit to select exactly the right words and only the right words from the various editions of the Textus Receptus for inclusion in the New Testament of the King James Bible. Further, when F.H.A. Scrivener assembled those selections into a discrete book and published it in 1894, he thereby produced a perfect Greek New Testament. The society also believes that the KJV contains no errors whatsoever, although some words could be translated differently provided that the new words contained exactly the same information as the old. The question now is whether Dean Burgon himself believed that both the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible contained all of the words of God and only the words of God. First we will examine ten passages about which Burgon indicated that the Textus Receptus does not contain the correct words, the first six of which are also commented upon by Jack Moorman in his above mentioned book.
Moorman brings to our attention the well-known fact that the last word of this verse (“openly” = three words in Greek) as found in the TR and KJV, is lacking in the majority of Greek manuscripts. In this example, as well as in all the ones that follow, he then lists all of the support for the minority reading. He does not list the evidence against the reading, and with good reason;---the poverty of his argument would become immediately obvious. Edward Miller, Burgon’s understudy and editor, relays Burgon’s analysis of the variant:
The three most important additions to the Received Text occur, as Dean Burgon thought, in St. Matt. vi. 18, where en to phanero [openly] has crept in from v. 6 against the testimony of a large majority both of Uncial and of Cursive MSS ; . . . ., (Edward Miller in John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller (1896; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Dean Burgon Society Press, 1998), p. 171).
Burgon agrees with Hodges and Farstad in this instance, against Waite, Moorman, and the Dean Burgon Society. This one example, all by itself, is sufficient to prove that he did not believe that all of the words in the TR and KJV are the words of God. It also proves that he did not believe the theory put forth by Edward Hills and adopted by many, if not most members of the DBS, that God providentially directed Erasmus and the King James translators to choose the correct words for the New Testament. Here, as elsewhere, Burgon consistently followed the logic of his majority text argument.
Most of the hand-copied Greek manuscripts of the New Testament do not contain the phrase “raise the dead” in Matthew 10:8. Waite, Moorman, and the Dean Burgon Society believe that, in spite of this lack of support, the words should be added, as they have been in the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible. Dean Burgon agrees with the majority of manuscripts and with Hodges and Farstad that the phrase is not part of Matthew Gospel:
‘Very nearly--not quite:’ for, in not a few particulars, the ‘Textus receptus’ does call for Revision, certainly; although Revision on entirely different principles from those which are found to have prevailed in the Jerusalem Chamber. To mention a single instance;--When our Lord first sent forth His Twelve Apostles, it was certainly no part of His ministerial commission to them to ‘raise the dead’(nekrous egeirete, S. Matthew x. 8). This is easily demonstrable. Yet is the spurious clause retained by our Revisionists; because it is found in those corrupt witnesses Aleph B C D, and the Latin copies,” (John Burgon, The Revision Revised (1883; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Bible For Today, 1984), pp. 107-8, bold added).
It becomes very obvious that Burgon’s method of determining the true text of the New Testament was much different than the method followed by Waite, Moorman, and others of their clan. Waite has written a booklet entitled Burgon’s Warnings on Revision. The gist of his argument is that no changes whatsoever should be made to the Textus Receptus until a long list of stringent conditions allegedly set forth by Burgon are met. I say “allegedly” after comparing Waite’s list to the actual words of Burgon. The above quotation demonstrates the fallacy of Waite’s booklet. Burgon believed that it was “easily demonstrable” that this clause should be removed from the Textus Receptus. Even if extensive preparations would be required for a complete revision of the TR, it is obvious that in the meantime many errors that are, as Burgon put it, “easily demonstrable” could be corrected. In other words, there is no logical reason (for those who adopt a majority text position) why the TR could not be corrected through a series of editions, just as it was originally fabricated. In truth, however, Waite does not believe that the TR should be revised at all. He simply wants to use Burgon’s material against the Westcott and Hort text without adopting Burgon’s position on the Textus Receptus.
Moorman defends the TR/KJV reading “and to be baptized” in opposition to the majority text reading “or to be baptized.” The false reading (according to Burgon) brings Matthew 20:22 into harmony with Mark 10:38. Burgon believed the TR/KJV to be in error:
This delicate distinction between the first and the second Gospel, obliterated in the Received Text, is faithfully maintained in nineteen out of twenty of the Cursive Copies, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller (1896; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Dean Burgon Society Press, 1998), p. 210).
Again Burgon stands in opposition to Waite, Moorman, and the Dean Burgon Society. Surely no defender of the TR would want to retain a reading that is not contained, as Burgon put it, in 95% of the cursive manuscripts. Well, maybe they would.
The rather lengthy dependent clause “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots” is not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts. Burgon’s esteemed opinion of this situation is found in the Dean Burgon Society’s reprint of The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text:
The three most important additions to the Received Text occur, as Dean Burgon thought, in St. Matt. vi. 18 . . . : in St. Matt. xxv. 13, . . . : and in St. Matt. xxvii. 35, where the quotation (ina plerothe . . . ebalon klarpon) must be taken for similar reasons to have been originally a gloss, (Edward Miller in John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller, p. 171).
Are Donald Waite, Jack Moorman, and the rest of the Dean Burgon Society willing to agree with Hodges and Farstad, with the majority of Greek manuscripts, and with Dean Burgon himself, that these false words have no place in Matthew’s gospel?
Where the King James has “He answered and said, Who is he, Lord . . . ,” the majority of manuscripts read “He answered and said, And who is he Lord . . . .” Burgon comments as follows:
The undoubtedly genuine expression kai tis esti, Kurie [and who is he, Lord](which is the traditional reading of St. John ix. 36), loses its characteristic KAI [and] in Cod. Aleph*AL,---though it retains it in the rest of the uncials and in all the cursives. The kai [and] is found in the Complutensian,---because the editors followed their copies: it is not found in the Textus Receptus only because Erasmus did not as in cases before mentioned follow his, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 191).
Once again Burgon follows the logic of his majority text argument and thereby rejects the TR, the KJV, Waite, Moorman, and the Dean Burgon Society. Notice that according to Burgon, there is no doubt that the Textus Receptus is in error and can be corrected without a long list of conditions first being met.
I John 5:7
No verse has received more attention from KJVers than I John 5:7; no verse reveals more clearly the poverty and desperation of their position. In this important case Moorman is not content to merely list the materials that support the verse. Instead he devotes nine pages to defending the indefensible. This is not the place for another rehash of the lack of evidence in support of adding the words to John’s epistle. Our concern here is entirely with John Burgon’s view of the reference. Moorman fails to reproduce any comments from his champion in support of this most important of minority readings. The simple reason is that Burgon, consistent with his own principles, did not believe that I John 5:7 was part of the original text of the New Testament, and he therefore never argued for its genuineness.
Beginning on page 424 and extending through page 501 of The Revision Revised, Burgon discussed the evidence in favor of the TR reading of I Timothy 3:16. As is well known, the reading “theos” has strong majority support. On a percentage basis, the support for “hos” is slim, so slim that given Burgon’s presuppositions, the Dean considers the critical text reading to be not worth considering. In fact, the critical text reading has such slight support that in Burgon’s mind it is no more likely to be part of the original text than is I John 5:7. To make his point, Burgon quotes, in Latin, from Griesbach:
“‘Si,’--(as Griesbach remarks concerning I John v. 7)--‘si tam pauci....testes....sufficerent ad demonstradam lectionis cujusdam gnesioteta [gk.] licet obstent tam multa tamque gravia et testimonia et argumenta; nullum prorsus superesset in re critica veri falsique criterium, et textus Novi Testamenti universus plane incertus esset atque dublius” (Revision Revised p. 483).
Translation: "If so few witnesses could suffice to demonstrate a given reading to be genuine -- despite the opposition of numerous and weighty witnesses and arguments against it -- then nothing certain can remain regarding true or false in [textual] criteria, and the NT text becomes completely uncertain as well as doubtful."
Burgon believed that if I John 5:7 is to be accepted on the basis of the meager evidence that supports the verse, there can be no certainty regarding any reading in the New Testament. This is clearly not the position of Waite, Moorman, or the Dean Burgon Society. On page 151 of his book, Defending the King James Bible, Waite comments upon Bibles which omit I John 5:7: “At this point, these Greek texts and these English versions are theologically deficient, whereas the Textus Receptus and the KING JAMES BIBLE are theologically superior.” Dr. Waite forgot to tell us that Dean Burgon himself is also “theologically deficient” on this verse. Moorman says that “It is sad to observe how readily modern christians [sic] will surrender this and other passages on ‘textual grounds’ without bothering to look more closely at the evidence,” (p. 115). Yes, we all wish that John Burgon had studied this more closely.
Passages Overlooked by Moorman
Moorman’s list of 375 passages in the King James Bible with readings which lack majority support fails to include many references. While I have made no attempt to determine its overall completeness vis-à-vis Burgon’s materials, I note four references which the list does not contain where Dean Burgon rejected words found in the TR/KJV:
An instance where an error from an Itacism has crept into the Textus Receptus may be seen in St. Luke xvi. 25. Some scribes needlessly changed hwde into hode, misinterpreting the letter which served often for both the long and the short o, and thereby cast out some illustrative meaning, since Abraham meant to lay stress upon the enjoyment ‘in his bosom’ of comfort by Lazarus, (John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller, p. 60).
This same particle (gar) has led to an extraordinary amount of confusion in another place, where its idiomatic propriety has evidently been neither felt nor understood,---viz. in St. Luke xviii. 14. ‘This man’ (says our LORD) ‘went down to his house justified rather than’ (h gar) ‘the other.’ Scholars recognize here an exquisitely idiomatic expression, which in fact obtains so universally in the Traditional Text that its genuineness is altogether above suspicion. . . . The Complutensian has it, of course: and so would the Textus Receptus have it, if Erasmus had followed his MS., (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 193).
Again, in St. John xiii. 25, outws has dropped out of many copies and so out of the Received Text because by an Itacism it was written outos in many manuscripts, (John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller, p. 60).
The same refinement of expression recurs in the Traditional Text of [John] ch. xiv. 22 (Kurie, KAI ti gegonen), and experienced precisely the same fate at the hands of the two earliest editors of the printed Greek Text, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, pp. 191-92).
The Name of Jesus
KJV Only writers frequently note that the Critical Text contains the name of Jesus only about 90% as many times as the Textus Receptus (although they seldom give it as a percentage). Burgon believed that the TR contained “Jesus” too often:
Thus o Ihsous [Jesus] has often been inserted, and in some places remains wrongly (in the opinion of Dean Burgon) in the pages of the Received Text, (Edward Miller in John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller, p. 171).
How many members of the Dean Burgon Society agree with this assessment?
Burgon and the Textus Receptus
Burgon’s adherence to the majority text clearly represents a rejection of the Textus Receptus in numerous variants, as demonstrated above. There are several quotations where, without necessarily giving specific references, the Dean rejected any thought that the TR is perfect.
First, be it understood, that we do not advocate perfection in the Textus Receptus. We allow that here and there it requires revision. In the Text left behind by Dean Burgon, about 150 corrections have been suggested by him in St. Matthew’s Gospel alone. What we maintain is the TRADITIONAL TEXT, (Edward Miller in John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 5, bold added).
I am not defending the ‘Textus Receptus’; I am simply stating the fact of its existence. That it is without authority to bind, nay, that it calls for skilful revision in every part, is freely admitted. I do not believe it to be absolutely identical with the true Traditional Text, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 15, bold added).
. . . where any part of it [the Textus Receptus] conflicts with the fullest evidence attainable, there I believe that it calls for correction, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 15).
A standard of reference being absolutely necessary, I have kept before me a copy of Dr. Scrivener’s Cambridge Greek Testament, A.D. 1887, in which the disputed passages are printed in black type, although the Text there presented is the Textus Receptus from which the Traditional Text as revised by Dean Burgon and hereafter to be published differs in many passages, (Edward Miller in John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, pp. 95-96, bold added).
. . . the Traditional Text must be found, not in a mere transcript, but in a laborious revision of the Received Text; and that on the other hand it must, as far as we can judge, differ but slightly from the Text now generally in vogue, which has been generally received during the last two and a half centuries, (John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, ed. Edward Miller, p. 1, bold added).
True, that, in order to exhibit clearly their respective divergences, I have referred five famous codices (A B Aleph C D)---certain of which are found to have turned the brain of Critics of the new school---to one and the same familiar exhibition of the commonly received Text of the New Testament: but by so doing I have not by any means assumed the Textual purity of that common standard. In other words I have not made it “the final standard of Appeal,” (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. xviii, bold added).
After many years it might be found practicable to put forth by authority a carefully considered Revision of the commonly received Greek Text, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. xxix).
The discrepancy between the texts of B Aleph D, thus for the first time brought distinctly into notice, let it be distinctly borne in mind, is a matter wholly irrespective of the merits of demerits of the Textus Receptus,---which, for convenience only, is adopted as a standard: not, of course, of Excellence but only of Comparison, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 75).
‘Very nearly--not quite:’ for, in not a few particulars, the ‘Textus receptus’ does call for Revision, certainly; although Revision on entirely different principles from those which are found to have prevailed in the Jerusalem Chamber, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 107).
But pray, who in his senses,---what sane man in Great Britain,---ever dreamed of regarding the “Received,”---aye, or any other known “Text,”---as “a standard from which there shall be no appeal”? Have I ever done so? Have I ever implied as much? If I have, show me where, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 385).
I regard the ‘Textus Receptus’ therefore, according to you, as the Ephesians regarded the image of the great goddess Diana; namely, as a thing which, one fine morning, “fell down from Jupiter.” I mistake the Received Text, (you imply,) for the Divine Original, the Sacred Autographs,---and erect it into “a standard from which there shall be no appeal,”---“a tradition which it is little else but sacrilege to impugn.” That is how you state my case and condition: hopelessly confusing the standard of Comparison with the standard of Excellence. By this time, however, enough has been said to convince any fair person that you are without warrant in your present contention. . . . [T]he Truth of Scripture is to be sought in that form of the Sacred Text which has the fullest, the widest, and the most varied attestation, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 387).
While the above material creates tremendous problems for the members of the Dean Burgon Society, they seem oblivious to the whole matter. Yes, Dean Burgon believed that there are errors in the Textus Receptus and that it is in need of extensive revision, including at least 150 changes in the Gospel of Matthew alone! Waite wrote a booklet, Burgon’s Warnings on Revision, in 1980 to calm the fears of the faithful. In it he does his usual twisting of facts to defend Burgon and once again attack Westcott and Hort. Waite falsely equates the Traditional Text with the Received Text and then tells his readers that “Dean Burgon praised this ‘Traditional Text’ as one which ‘cannot seriously be suspected of error’,” (Waite, Burgon’s Warnings on Revision, p. 10). First of all Burgon did not believe that the Textus Receptus was identical to the Traditional Text: “. . . the Traditional Text must be found, not in a mere transcript, but in a laborious revision of the Received Text . . . ,” (John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text, p. 1, bold added). When we examine the material from Burgon that Waite quotes (The Revision Revised, p. 356, footnote), we discover that Burgon is not discussing the entire New Testament text, but only one variant reading in Colossians 2:18! Burgon is merely stating that the Traditional Text, not the Textus Receptus, cannot be suspected of error in Colossians 2:18! He most clearly did not believe that the entire Textus Receptus “cannot seriously be suspected of error”!
Burgon and the King James Bible
Most of Burgon’s time and attention was devoted to attacking the Greek text of Westcott and Hort and the English Revised Version of 1881. With some of his opponents implying that he believed in the perfection of the Textus Receptus, he also found it necessary to make it clear that he believed that the TR was in need of much revision. No one, however, accused him of believing that the King James was a perfect translation, and for that reason he did not address the issue. Of course, the changes that Burgon would have made in the TR would imply imperfection in the KJV as well. The theory held by many KJVers of an absolutely perfect KJV only requires one error for its refutation. Here it is from Burgon:
Now, it is plain that the key which unlocks this interesting story [Luke 5:1-2] is the graphic precision of the compound verb employed, and the well-known usage of the language which gives to the aorist tense on such occasions as the present a pluperfect signification. The Translators of 1611, not understanding the incident, were content, as Tyndale, following the Vulgate, had been before them, to render apeplunan ta diktua,---‘were washing their nets.’ (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 212).
Why not Burgon?
According to King James Only proponents, it is a grave error, if not a wicked sin, to disagree with their opinion of the Textus Receptus and of the King James Bible. Those who do not believe the TR and/or the KJV to be absolutely free from even the most minor errors have abandoned the faith and at the very least have started down the slippery slope that leads to complete apostasy. They are “Alexandrian Apostates.” There is, however, at least for the members of the Dean Burgon Society, one notable exception to this rule. John Burgon can deny the perfection of the TR and of the KJV, can deny that the Church has in her possession a perfect Bible, can point out numerous errors in the King James, and draw nary a word of criticism. It should not be supposed that Donald Waite and the other members of the DBS are ignorant of Burgon’s position. As mentioned above, Waite has written a booklet, Burgon’s Warnings on Revision, in which he clearly recognizes Burgon’s belief in an imperfect TR. He simply chooses to ignore the devastating implications of his champion’s theory of the text. While Waite and his myrmidons can do all of the ignoring that they want, the simple facts do not change. We start with a quotation from page 1 of Moorman’s book, When the KJV Departs from the “Majority Text”:
Notice the disturbing kind of statement Pickering is prepared to make:
We do not at this moment have the precise wording of the original text (INTT p 153).
If Moorman and his clan are disturbed because Pickering goes not believe that the precise wording of the text has been assembled into one particular edition of the Greek NT, why are they not disturbed when Burgon says:
I will venture to make only one more postulate, viz. this: That hitherto we have become acquainted with no single authority which is entitled to dictate absolutely on all occasions, or even on one occasion, as to what shall or shall not be regarded as the true Text of Scripture. We have no one infallible witness, I say, whose solitary dictum is competent to settle controversies, (John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller, p. 28, bold added).
Khoo believes that fundamentalists who do not accept his view of the TR/KJV are no better than neo-evangelicals. Of course, Burgon was no fundamentalist, but are Khoo and company willing to make the same accusation against him that they make against non-KJV fundamentalists?
I submit that if they [fundamentalists who are not KJV Only] proceed with this line of thinking and of judging the Bible, crying “error, error, error” here and there, they are no better than the neo-evangelicals who say that our Bible is only inerrant in a limited sense, (Khoo, p. 2).
Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction, (John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 21, bold added).
In the next statement, Khoo sets up a straw man: What orthodox believer of whatever stripe has ever said that God is incapable of first giving us a perfect Bible and then of preserving it perfectly?
Can we afford to believe in a Bible that is less than perfect? If God is incapable of giving us a perfect Bible, what makes us so sure that He is capable of preserving our salvation to the very end? (Khoo, p. 13).
We are discussing what God has done or has not done, not what he is capable of doing. We believe that God could have performed a miracle and made every manuscript of the New Testament a perfect copy had he chosen to do so, and we certainly believe that God can preserve every one of his children to the very end. We also believe, however, that God can preserve the Bible with such minor blemishes that the copies which we have are sufficient for all practical matters of life and doctrine. Does Khoo believe that God is capable of preserving the Bible in this manner? Khoo makes no contribution to his position with such statements.
According to Yew, “fundamental churches, seminaries and Bible Colleges” [sic] which do not espouse the KJV Only position “have died or have become citadels of Satanic teachings,” (Yew, p. 1). Was Burgon guilty of Satanic teachings?
There has arisen with the B-P [Bible Presbyterian] churches a new movement saying that we have a Bible with mistakes, albeit insignificant ones! This is the teaching which many neo-evangelicals have learned and accepted from the liberals and modernists, (Yew, p. 1).
Did Burgon learn and accept his teaching from the liberals and modernists? He believed that the KJV has mistakes.
For us to say that there are mistakes or variants or errors in the Bible that we have today, [sic] is to judge God and to attack and undermine His Holy Word, (Yew, p. 11).
Burgon clearly said that there are errors in the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible, the very forms of the text for which Yew and friends claim absolute perfection. Was Burgon judging God and attacking and undermining His Holy Word when he pointed out mistakes and variants and errors in the Bible that we have today? Waite, Moorman, Khoo, Yew and the rest of the Dean Burgon Society at the very least are terribly inconsistent and at the worst are hypocritical when they claim Dean Burgon as an advocate of their position.
If we accept the principles of textual criticism laid out by Dean John William Burgon, we will not believe in the perfection of either the Received Text nor of the King James Version of the Bible. We will not accept as part of the Bible several verses, a handful of clauses and a variety of words that have been included in both the TR and KJV. In contradistinction to the Dean Burgon Society and to other KJVers, Dean Burgon had a consistent methodology for establishing the text of the New Testament. The DBS follows Burgon’s method only where that method supports the KJV. Readings with broad majority support are dismissed if they are not contained in the TR and KJV. The men of the Dean Burgon Society have hijacked the name and writings of John William Burgon to advocate that which he never advocated, namely the textual perfection of both the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible.
 Copyright 2006, James Richard May. This paper may be reproduced in its entirety for free distribution. All other rights reserved.
 Waite also pastors a very small church which meets in his living room.
I am indebted to Dr. Maurice Robinson for supplying me with this translation.
I have allowed the English letter “w” to represent the Greek omega.