Sunday, October 5, 2008

Westcott and Hort's (alleged) false and heretical beliefs.

Quotes that demonstrate the false beliefs of the fathers of the modern Bible versions abound in the KJV-only literature, but they are contested by the versions defenders as being taken out of context, and sometimes contested as out and out lies.

Thomas Holland gives a typical list of quotations:

From Crowned With Glory by Dr. Thomas Holland:

[Page 38]. . . should we not know something of the beliefs of Westcott and Hort [the fathers of modern textual criticism]?

  • Westcott denied biblical infallibility. 76

  • Hort stated that those who believed in biblical authority were perverted. 77

  • Hort taught that Revelation 3:15 proclaimed Christ was the first thing created, agreeing with the Gnostic teaching that Christ was a begotten god. 78

  • Westcott denied that Saint John ever claimed Christ to be God. 79

  • Hort stated that the ransom for our sin was paid to Satan. 80

  • Both men denied the doctrine of eternal damnation, stating hell is not a place of punishment. 81

76. Arthur Westcott, The Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1903), 207.

77. Hort, 400.

78. F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John 1-3: The Greek Text with Introduction, Commentary, and Additional Notes (1908; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 36.

79. B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes (1881; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 297.

80. F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter 1:1-2:17: The Greek Text with Introductory Lecture, Commentary, and Additional notes (1898; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 77.

81. B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith (London: Macmillan, 1885), 77-78. Hort, Life and Letters, 149.

Here is a site calling these quotations false, saying the quotes have been taken out of context among other things.

He discusses the claim that Westcott denied biblical infallibility here: This page of complete quotes and commentary does seem to show that Westcott has been misread by the KJV-onlies, as he here affirms a belief in "the absolute truth" of scripture, and is objecting to the word "infallibility," which from other quotes given here he finds to be inadequate to describe the inspiration of scripture.

As for stating that evangelicals were "perverted," what Hort actually said was: "The positive doctrines even of the Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather than untrue," apparently not in reference to "biblical authority" and in fact without identifying which doctrines he had in mind (same page linked above.) This was said from the point of view of an Anglican.

On another page, the accusation that Hort believed Christ to have been created is answered. Apparently he is merely discussing the ways the Greek can be read.

This site is still under construction and I have not found the site owner's answer to the charge that Westcott denied that John claimed Christ is God, or that Hort claimed that the ransom for sin was paid to Satan. Likewise the section on Heaven and Hell is not yet on board, so the charge that both men denied that hell is eternal punishment is not yet answered there. There is a forum page where the unfinished topics may be discussed, but I haven't explored it yet.

it seems best to be cautious and say that rather than lying, most likely many KJV-onlies simply misread W&H, probably having had some trouble with Westcott and Hort's ways of expressing themselves, their Anglican frame of reference and their intellectuality.

My own observation is that they write like intellectuals, not like believers. Where they affirm belief in any particular tenet of the faith, it seems to have been arrived at intellectually, not through faith. They simply do not sound like believers. They sound most of all like 19th century liberals, who could often sound orthodox while meaning something completely different by their words. But maybe I'm also judging them unfairly from outside the Anglican tradition, and based on very few quotes after all.

I do think that it would be best to drop all the accusations of the character and beliefs of Westcott and Hort for the sake of the argument against the Bible versions, because when the KJV-onlies get their quotes wrong they make the case all the harder to prove despite their many other good arguments. Dean J W Burgon and other critics of the work of Westcott and Hort in their own generation did not accuse them of wrong beliefs, they argued strictly against the work itself, always the best policy in any dispute.

Caveat: I've done only the most cursory checking of the facts involved here and consider this subject unfinished.

Addendum: I just have to add another link to David Cloud's site, because over and over he seems to me to be the most scholarly, careful and reasonable defender of the King James Only position.
(Disclaimer: I am not a Fundamental Baptist, I am a Calvinist, so I can't agree with everything Dr. Cloud writes.)

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