Mar 5, 2017
In this episode Brother Jonathan briefly talks about B.F.
Westcott and F.J.A. Hort. There is a lot said about these two men,
and a lot of quotations are thrown around. The question is, are
they really as important as people make them out to be?
Here are the notes for this episode:
Bible Versions Part 5: Who are Westcott and Hort, and does it
- Some people are really tired of hearing the names of B.F.
Westcott and F.J.A. Hort. Independent Fundamental Baptists are told
that they are pretty much the Devil incarnate in their aims and
work. Other denominations, like Southern Baptists, you’re probably
used to having to defend against Fundamentalist arguments. Their
names get thrown around a lot. I don’t know if most people have
ever actually looked into their works or their own personal
- I actually bought first edition copies of Life and Letters
of Fenton J.A. Hort and Brooke Foss Westcott: Bishop of
Durham in order to check the quotations that are thrown back
and forth. Context is always important when you look up things like
- But in addition to that, the question really is whether or not
they matter as much as people try to say. Have they really impacted
things that much?
- Who are they?
- Fenton John Anthony Hort was born on April 23rd 1828 in Dublin.
He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1850. He did some
stuff for 20 years like getting married, continuing his own
studies, writing essays, responding to letters, establishing the
Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology, etc. Then he
was asked to be part of the revision committee of the Authorized
Version in 1870. He, along with B.F. Westcott, published their new
Greek text at the same time.
- Brooke Foss Westcott was born on January 12th 1825 in
Birmingham. He also graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge. He
actually graduated with double first-honors. He stayed at Trinity
as a fellow and took on pupils. He took the Regius Professorship of
Divinity at Cambridge in November 1870. He also joined the revision
committee for the revision of the Authorized Version in 1870.
- Why do they get brought up in the discussion of Bible Versions?
- For their work in Textual Criticism.
- We talked a lot about this in our episode Bible Versions Part
3: Textual Criticism and Manuscript Evidence and also Part 4:
- For their personal theological views.
- For their work in editing and translating the Revised
- Do their personal beliefs affect their work?
- I was originally going to do like others and go over some
direct quotes from Westcott and Hort, but, frankly, I really didn’t
feel like going over it for the enth time. Fundamentalists have a
million websites up for you to look their quotes up. Other people
have spent equally enormous time and effort to defend Westcott and
Hort. There are also websites out there to defend the exact same
quotes from Westcott and Hort.
- It is interesting looking at all the quotes from these guys.
It’s even more interesting if you take the time, though it’s pretty
boring, to actually read their life and letters and writings. But
the fact is, and this can’t be denied, information is greatly
misquoted and misrepresented a lot of times by Fundamentalists
about Westcott and Hort. I have experience in this because when I
was first saved I began in the Independent Fundamental Baptist
denomination. In time I began to check into things that I was
taught, doctrinally as well as in things like this, and
consistently came to a different conclusion. I blindly repeated the
things that I was told. Lots of people today, not just
Fundamentalists, do this quite routinely.
- A point that is brought up quite consistently by those who
oppose the views of Fundamentalists regarding Bible Versions is the
fact that if you eliminate the work of people that you disagree
with theologically then you make the list very short. All Bible
versions that are available today, except reprints of things like
the Wycliffe Bible or Tyndale Bible, are built upon what happened
in manuscript work and textual criticism work done in the 18th and
19th century. Westcott and Hort were two of the most notable men of
the 19th century in the field of criticism.
- James White, who himself opposes the Fundamentalist views of
the Authorized Version, had this to say about Westcott and Hort:
- “In the sense that Westcott and Hort correctly identified the
need to examine the relationships of manuscripts and demonstrated
that it is not enough to count manuscripts—that instead we must
weigh manuscripts (some being more important than others as
witnesses to the original text)—one can say that modern
texts are based upon their work. However, modern textual
criticism has gone far beyond them and in many instances has
corrected imbalances in their own conclusions.” (James White,
The King James Only Controversy, p. 139, footnote 16.
- White shows his own bias in this quote because it is incorrect
to simplify the issue of manuscript evidence to “weight vs.
number”. The studies of Scrivener, Burgon, von Soden, Hoskier, and
Lake have proved that the great numbers of manuscripts we have that
form the majority are not siblings. Evidence and studies from
multiple scholars has shown that they come from independent parent
manuscripts. So weight then goes to the majority. White states,
regardless of his erroneous view, that modern Textual Criticism
owes a lot to the foundation laid by Westcott and Hort.
- It is their work in Textual Criticism and New Testament
translation that has been the main point of contention. Some may
argue that their beliefs lead to their work or at the least
contributes to it. They have a good point to argue. But the fact
remains that if you eliminate people that you don’t agree with
theologically then you probably eliminate Erasmus, Tyndale,
Wycliffe, John Burgon, all the King James translators: in effect,
King James only advocates eliminate pretty much everyone who
contributed to the making of the King James version of the Bible.
Their opponents, like James White, know this and exploit this fact
- Have they made a lasting effect?
- To give you an idea of the real effect that Westcott and Hort
had on the realm of Bible Versions, you have to appreciate the
event that was the translation of the Revised Version. Regardless
of people’s opinion of the Revised Version, it was a very
significant event in Bible translation history. Even men such as
John Burgon, who wrote the remarkable book The Revision
Revised, stated that if the committee of the Revised Version
had stayed within the guidelines that were given them then it
would’ve been one of the greatest contributions to Biblical Textual
- Even scholars who are not King James Version advocates have
openly stated that the Revised Version was a bad work because its
workers had a bad hermeneutic. I’m thinking specifically of Dr.
Jason Lisle with that point. It’s a fact attested to by people who
were contemporaries with the Revised Version’s release that Dr.
Hort and Dr. Westcott forced certain points through the committee.
Often it was Dr. Hort arguing against Dr. Scrivener and the
majority often went with Dr. Hort.
- The Revised Version essentially opened the floodgate. That’s
not my opinion either. If you check into the number of Bible
translations, it was the release of the Revised Version that
changed things. Philip Schaff stated that if the Revised Version
failed to supplant the supremacy of the Authorized Version it would
open a floodgate of Bible versions. Time has proven him to be
correct. One could argue that the multitude of Bible versions is a
good thing, but I disagree.
- Nowadays every single publishing company has a
formal-equivalency version, and every one of them have a
dynamic-equivalency version; and they all have multitudes
in-between. It’s become an industry for making money that has no
- Westcott and Hort helped to further, and cement, the view of
Textual Criticism that relies on subjectivity. Even today many
people who are involved in translation repeat the same arguments
for “internal considerations” and “subjective judgments” that Hort
championed—even though they’ve been shown to be unscholarly and
foolish for over one-hundred years. If you don’t believe me, read
anything by John William Burgon.
- If you want some longer talk on Dr. Hort’s Textual Criticism
listen to the two episodes where we discuss them at length.
- In my opinion, even though I’m not an Independent Fundamental
Baptist, it is impossible to deny that the work of Westcott and
Hort is very integral to understanding why things are the way they
are in the realm of Bible versions today.
- The problem comes when we have people throwing out bad
arguments, misrepresenting quotes, and have a lack of humility or
integrity that desires truth over bias. That being set aside,
people can have all those things and still come to the same
conclusion. I’ve seen scholars expose all the false arguments and
bad information by Fundamentalists and then sweep under the rug all
the things that are legitimate concerns. If you want an example of
this read James White.
- In my opinion, Westcott and Hort absolutely matter to the
discussion of Bible Versions. Just like Griesbach, Tregelles, and
Tishcendorf absolutely matter in the discussion.
- I encourage you that if you aren’t familiar with Textual
Criticism please to our previous episodes in this series on Bible