When the English Bible (the King James Version) was revised in 1881, the revision (the Revised Version) abandoned the Greek text of the New Testament that had been used until then, not only for the English Bible but also for all the Bibles of the Reformation, e.g., Luther’s Bible and the Dutch Bible authorized by the Synod of Dordt. The revision chose the newly discovered Greek text advocated by the textual scholars, Westcott and Hort. All subsequent English versions, except the New King James, have used the Westcott-Hort (W-H) text, rejecting the Greek Text of the KJV as an inferior text.
One godly scholar opposed the change at the time of the revision in the late 19th century—the English textual scholar, John W. Burgon. Burgon defended the Greek text of the KJV which he called the Traditional Text and which is referred to today as the Majority Text orTextus Receptus, as the authentic text of the New Testament Scripture. He criticized the W-H text as false and dangerous.
Unholy Hands on the Bible is basically the complete works of Burgon on the issue of the Greek text of Holy Scripture. It is, therefore, a powerful defense of the KJV and a devastating attack on all modern English translations of Scripture with the exception of the New King James.
The work is not intended for the ordinary church member. It virtually demands some knowledge of the Greek. But preachers who are committed to the complete inspiration of Scripture should avail themselves of it, especially those who assume that the W-H text is the best text and those who suppose that there is no significant doctrinal difference between the texts. It should be in the libraries of seminaries that hold the doctrine of verbal inspiration and therefore have deep concern for the authentic text of the New Testament. It should be consulted in the classes on textual criticism. Reformed and Presbyterian churches that have removed the KJV from pew and pulpit and replaced it with the NIV would do well to reconsider in the light of the solid scholarly work and sharp warnings of Burgon. Ministers in the Protestant Reformed Churches and in other denominations that retain the KJV will learn that there are reasons for this retention in the Greek text and will be able to teach their people the serious faults of the modern versions.
Included are an edited version of Burgon’s major defense of the Greek text of the KJV, “The Traditional Text of the New Testament,” and an edited version of his main critique of the English Revised Version of 1881, “The Revision Revised.” The book also includes his careful, convincing treatments of controversial passages in the area of textual criticism and English translations. There is his “God Manifested in the Flesh” on I Timothy 3:16 (the W-H text and the modern English versions omit “God” in this text). There is his study of John 7:53-8:11 (omitted in the modern versions), ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery.” There is his “The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel of Mark” (also omitted in the W-H text and in the modern versions).
The obvious value of Unholy Hands is that it gives all of Burgon’s works on textual criticism in one volume. The editing out of some of the technical and dated material from Burgon’s original writings makes the book manageable and less daunting to the hard pressed pastor who yet desires to get a handle on this important textual issue.
A biographical sketch of Burgon and a helpful “Introduction” that clarifies the important issues are supplied by Edward F. Hills, himself a notable textual scholar and a contemporary disciple of Burgon.
Fundamental to all of Burgon’s thinking and work with the text of Scripture was his conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God—a divine book. Following from this was his conviction that God has providentially preserved the text. These convictions have implications for textual criticism. The lack of these convictions also has implications for textual criticism.
The publisher, Jay P. Green, Sr., informs us that Volume II “will take up the individual modern translations and relate them to the factual information conveyed in this volume.”