Dane K. Jöhannsson
Lead Pastor, Agros Reformed Baptist Church
It is often said, not only by opponents, but also by promoters, that the Received Text Position is a minority position. While I can concede that the particular articulation of this position (Confessional Text Position/Ecclesiatical Text Position/Traditional Text Position) is a small (but quickly growing) position, yet the use of the traditional texts of the Bible (The Hebrew Masoretic and the Greek Textus Receptus) is anything but a small minority. It seems to be simply a rhetorical device employed by opponents of the traditional texts of the Bible in their attempts to discredit the position. But the facts stand in stark contrast to such a claim. The traditional texts of the Bible are not a minority either in their usage or their adherents.
Dr. David Murray of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary pointed out in a 2014 article that among English Bibles that are actually being read, the KJV reigns supreme. Over 55% of Bible readers use the KJV. Compare this with the NIV which only has 19%. As far as which Bibles are being purchased an October 2019 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association poll showed that the NIV is the best selling Bible, the KJV is the second best selling Bible, and the ESV is the third best selling Bible. The NKJV (which mainly employs the traditional Hebrew and Greek texts, though there are some issues, as discussed here, here and here) comes in fifth in number of sales. The NIV might be the best selling Bible, but it is dwarfed by the KJV as far as people who actually read the Bible. Among premium Bible publishers, their best selling are KJV. Whenever they propose a new typesetting or binding they usually begin by releasing it in the KJV. Why? Because it is the Bible most in demand amongst readers who are willing to pay top dollar for luxuriously bound goatskin Bibles.
The KJV is still used by many Bible societies in their literature and as the Bible they distribute. Among Spanish readers, the Reina Valera translation is the most widely used, and the Trinitarian Bible Society is in the process of fixing the translation to completely adhere to the traditional texts as we speak (the NT has been completed). Many foreign language translations are based on the traditional texts and are the most popular Bibles in those languages. Over the years the Trinitarian Bible Society has translated and distributed millions upon millions of Bibles based upon the traditional texts of the Bible. In their most recent supporter newsletter they stated that “throughout 2018 over 1.6 million Bibles, Scripture portions and Scripture items were granted free of charge to institutions and individuals, and 15.5 million items were sold worldwide (of which 14.3 million were under license). Scriptures were distributed in 38 languages to 115 countries. Currently the Society has translation projects in approximately 40 languages. Lord willing, Bibles in Thadou, Simte and Shona, and New Testaments in Dan-Gio and Chichewa will be soon published.”
Let us also not forget that in the United States alone (like it or not) over 6,400+ Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches exist which all exclusively use the KJV. Recently a directory website was created that lists, at this date, over 137 Confessionally Reformed Churches which use and uphold the traditional texts of the Bible. We may also add to this the 23 million plus Greek Orthodox believers who hold the TR to be their final authority for the NT.
While the Confessional Text Position may be a minority position as far as its specific articulation within academia, I think it is wise to keep in mind that is not a minority position in practice. In fact, it is the majority position. The majority of Christians are reading, purchasing and distributing traditional text Bibles. In this we should rejoice and seek to help those who use a traditional text Bible be able to articulate why it is important that they do. Furthermore, as was pointed out in The Text & Canon Conference, the Received Text “movement” is akin to the revival of interest in the Puritans and reformed theology that took place in the 1960’s with the reprinting efforts of The Banner of Truth Trust, Sprinkle Publications and many more reformed publishers which popped up all over the world. God in His providence brought a resurgence of interest in the reformed heritage that is still going on today through the aforementioned publishers as well as Reformation Heritage Books. Something similar seems to be taking place with the Received Text movement. As Gamaliel told the pharisees early on in the book of Acts, if this movement is not of God, it will dissipate, “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5:39 KJV)
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