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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
O Timothy Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 5
It is customary today with those who are bitter against the pure teachings of the Received Text to sneer at Erasmus. No perversion of the facts is too great to belittle his work. As is usual for these folk, they can’t impeach the work of Erasmus so they tack on a label of “Liberal Roman Catholic” with the inference that this tag destroys any possibility of God preserving His Word by use of this man. If one is honest in his scholarship, and good scholarship demands honesty, he would soon see that the Erasmus text is none other than the same text as that of the Antiochian sources such as the Itala of 150 A.D. and the Syriac Peshitta of approximately the same date.
The text of Erasmus has such an out-standing history in the Greek and Syrian as well
as the Waldensian churches, that it has constituted an irresistible argument for
the proof of God’s providence. It should be noted that many skeptics who claim that
“oldest is best” refer to the Vatican and Sinai manuscripts which date from the 4th
Century A.D. However, even Dr. Hort, who stated this as his position admitted that
the Received Text had a pedigree that stretches back to the remotest antiquity and
is at least as old and possibly older that either the Sinai or Vatican manuscripts.
It is a historical fact that Erasmus was strong and public in his condemnation of
Catholic heresies, and “these attacks were made at a time when they might well have
cost him his life. They did, in fact, result in the Roman Catholic church branding
him as an “impious heretic” and the Pope forbade Catholics to read his works.”
“Men are threatened or tempted into vows of celibacy. They can have license to go
with harlots, but they must not marry wives.”
“I believe there are many not absolved by the priest, not having taken the Eucharist,
not having been anointed, not having received Christian burial who rest in peace,
while many who have had all the rites of the Church and have been buried next to
the altar have gone to hell.”
The term “humanist” has changed meaning. The term meant something entirely different
in the sixteenth century than it means today. In December 1984 I wrote to Andrew
Brown, at that time the Editorial Secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society, and
asked about the charge of Erasmus being a humanist.
Brown’s reply was most enlightening:
“Erasmus was a thorough going ‘Christian humanist’ from his youth to his death. The
use of the word ‘humanist’ in the Renaissance and Reformation period does not in
any way share the atheistic connotations which that word now has in popular usage.
A ‘humanist’ in that period was simply someone who was interested in classical literature,
culture and education, as a means of attaining a higher standard of civilized life.
Stephanus, Calvin and Beza were all humanists in this sense, and it is these ‘humanist’
ideals which have largely shaped Western culture in the succeeding centuries, blended
with the teachings of the Christian Gospel.
“Erasmus was both a Catholic and a Reformer at the same time. He criticized many
of the worst abuses and corruptions of the Catholic church, but he thought that the
church should be reformed from within and that it was wrong to separate from it.”
We read that “in 1535, he [Erasmus] again returned to Basel and died there the following
year in the midst of his Protestant friends, without relations of any sort, so far
as known, with the Roman Catholic Church.”
The Greek editors who revised Erasmus’ text were unquestionably Bible-believing.
It is important to note that the men who followed Erasmus in the work of producing
editions of the Greek New Testament and from whose editions most of the translations
of the Protestant Reformation were made, were strong Bible-believing men. It must
be kept in the mind that it was through the work of these men, of whom there can
be no doubt that they were separated, persecuted Protestants, that the Textus Receptus
was perfected. It is upon their Greek texts, and not directly upon that of Erasmus
that the KJV was based.