Chapter 8: Westcott and Hort — 1 of 3
Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1903) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) have been highly controversial figures in biblical history.
On one side, their supporters have heralded them as great men of God, having greatly advanced the search for the original Greek text.
On the other side, their opponents have leveled charges of heresy, infidelity, apostasy, and many others, claiming that they are guilty of wreaking great damage on the true text of Scripture.
I have no desire to «sling mud» nor a desire to hide facts.
I believe it is essential at this time that we examine what we know about these men and their theories concerning the text of the Bible.
I long sought for copies of the books about their lives. These are The Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westeott, by his son, Arthur, and The Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, written by his son.
After literally months of trying, I was able to acquire copies of them both for study. Most of the material in this section will be directly from these sources so as to prevent it from being secondhand.
We cannot blindly accept the finding of any scholar without investigating what his beliefs are concerning the Bible and its doctrines. Scholarship alone makes for an inadequate and dangerous authority, therefore we are forced to scrutinize these men’s lives.
A Monumental Switch
Westcott and Hort were responsible for the greatest feat in textual criticism. They were responsible for replacing the Universal Text of the Authorized Version with the Local Text of Egypt and the Roman Catholic Church. Both Wescott and Hort were known to have resented the pre-eminence given to the Authorized Version and its underlying Greek Text. They had been deceived into believing that the Roman Catholic manuscripts, Vaticanus and Aleph, were better because they were «older.» This they believed, even though Hort admitted that the Antiochian or Universal Text was equal in antiquity. «The fundamental text of the late extant Greek MSS generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian Text of the second half of the Fourth Century.»85
In spite of the fact that the readings of the Universal Text were found to be as old, or older, Westcott and Hort still sought to dislodge it from its place of high standing in biblical history. Hort occasionally let his emotions show, «I had no idea till the last few weeks of the importance of text, having read so little Greek Testament, and dragged on with the villainous Textus Receptus … Think of the vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late MSS; it is a blessing there are such early ones.»86
Westcott and Hort built their own Greek text based primarily on a few uncial MSS of the Local Text. It has been stated earlier that these perverted MSS do not even agree among themselves. The ironic thing is that Westcott and Hort knew this when they formed their text!
Burgon exposed Dr. Hort’s confession, «Even Hort had occasion to notice an instance of the concordia discourse.» Commenting on the four places in Mark’s gospel (14:30, 68, 72, a, b) where the cock’s crowing is mentioned said, «The confusion of attestation introduced by these several cross currents of change is so great that of the seven principal MSS, Aleph, A, B, C, D, L, no two have the same text in all four places.»87
A Shocking Revelation
That these men should lend their influence to a family of MSS which have a history of attacking and diluting the major doctrines of the Bible, should not come as a surprise. Oddly enough, neither man believed that the Bible should be treated any differently than the writings of the lost histor-ians and philosophers!
Hort wrote, «For ourselves, we dare not introduce considerations which could not reasonably be applied to other ancient texts, supposing them to have documentary attestation of equal amount, variety and antiquity.»88
He also states, «In the New Testament, as in almost all prose writings which have been much copied, corruptions by interpolation are many times more numerous than corruptions by omission.» (Emphasis mine.)89
We must consider these things for a moment. How can God use men who do not believe that His Book is any different than Shakespeare, Plato, or Dickens? It is a fundamental belief that the Bible is different from all other writings. Why did these men not believe so?
Their skepticism does, in fact, go even deeper. They have both become famous for being able to deny scriptural truth and still be upheld by fundamental Christianity as biblical authorities! Both Westcott and Hort failed to accept the basic Bible doctrines which we hold so dear and vital to our fundamental faith.
Hort denies the reality of Eden: «I am inclined to think that no such state as ‘Eden'(I mean the popular notion) ever existed, and that Adam’s fall in no degree differed from the fall of each of his descendants, as Coleridge justly argues.»90
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