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Bible Versions: The King James Only Debate, by David Malcolm Bennett

The Greek New Testament and B.F. Westcott

The second point made by Gayle Riplinger is that the Greek text of the NT behind the modern translations was “drastically altered by a Spiritualist”. I will not go into great detail about the issues concerning the Greek texts of the NT.13 However a few points do need to be made.

First, today there are over five thousand ancient copies of the Greek NT or part thereof for scholars to examine. That is a great treasure trove for textual Bible scholars. At numerous places there are variant readings in these documents and these scholars have to determine at each point which is the reading most likely to be correct, so that they can present an accurate Greek base for the work of translation. The process is a complicated one, but one of the main principles is that the older manuscripts (that is, the documents nearer to the originals in time) are more likely to be correct than the later ones.

However, the translators of the KJV had a Greek textual base, formed from just a limited number of more recent copies of the Greek text. Most scholars agree that this means that the textual base for the KJV NT was less accurate than the one usually used for the modern translations.14

When Riplinger says that the edition of the Greek text behind the new translations was “drastically altered by a Spiritualist”, she is referring to Anglican Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott (1825 – 1901), whom she also calls “a pirate”.15 Bishop Westcott was one of the most important of the dedicated scholars examining the Greek text to try and establish what the originals said.

Riplinger spends most of one chapter criticizing B.F. Westcott (and his associate F.J.A. Hort), and making numerous suggestions that he was into the occult and held New Age beliefs.16 Then in a footnote, but only in a footnote, she says, that this is all “speculation on my part.”17

It is true that B.F. Westcott did belong for a short time to what was known as the “Ghostlie Guild”. This group set out to investigate supernatural phenomena. Westcott’s own account of this says,

Many years ago I had occasion to investigate ‘spiritualistic’ phenomena with some care, and I came to a clear conclusion … It appears to me that in this, as in all spiritual questions, Holy Scripture is our supreme guide. I observe, then, that while spiritual ministries are constantly recorded in the Bible, there is not the faintest encouragement to seek them. The case, indeed, is far otherwise. I cannot, therefore, but regard every voluntary approach to beings such as those who are supposed to hold communication with men through mediums as unlawful and perilous. I find in the fact of the Incarnation all that man (so far as I can see) requires for life and hope.18

In other words, Westcott investigated Spiritualism but rejected it for biblical reasons.

It can, therefore, be safely said that B.F. Westcott was not a Spiritualist. Yet Riplinger gives no concrete evidence to support her claim to the contrary. She just makes unsubstantiated accusations, seemingly to shed doubt on his work and thus pour doubt on modern translations of the New Testament.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Winter 2013

About the Author: David Malcolm Bennett, Ph.D., is an Anglo-Australian Christian researcher and writer with over 15 books in print. They include The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (companion website:, The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement, and The General: William Booth. He is also the transcriber, editor and publisher of The Letters of William and Catherine Booth and The Diary and Reminiscences of Catherine Booth.

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