Did Dean Burgon Believe The Bible Needed Corrected?

Posted: June 11, 2013 in King James Only Debate

Critics of the King James Only position love to take statements out of context made by Dean John Burgon, who wrote “Revision Revised”, a thorough refutation of the works of Westcott & Hort and the corrupted Alexandrian texts, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (the Roman Catholic manuscripts of which all modern versions that depart from the KJV are based on).

Rick Norris, who wrote “Unbound Scriptures”, takes such ‘liberty’ with quotes by Burgon;

John William Burgon referred to “what, in the A. V. is nothing worse than a palpable mistranslation” (Revision Revised, p. 72). Burgon wrote: “We hold that a revised edition of the Authorized Version of our English Bible, (if executed with consummate ability and learning,) would at any time be a work of inestimable value” (p. 114).

For example, Dean Burgon wrote: “Again and again we shall have occasion to point out that the Textus Receptus needs correction” (p. 21). Burgon maintained that “in not a few particulars, the ‘Textus receptus’ does call for Revision” (p. 107). Burgon wrote: “That some corrections of the Text were necessary, we are well aware” (p. 224, footnote 1)

But when read in context, we see that Burgon was criticizing the revisions by Westcott, Hort, and others who engaged in continuously revising the Textus Receptus. Burgon was arguing for what he considered to the be Traditional Text, which was the Textus Receptus before it had been mangled by others.

What Norris and other critics like James White, Doug Kutilek, James Price, et al have attempted to do is get readers to doubt the veracity and accuracy of the underlying texts of the KJV, and then reject the KJV by default. The critics also assume that because Burgon passed away before his works were completed, that he would have agreed with today’s current critics. How convenient an accusation. See Dean Burgon Society’s defense against this accusation, Chapter 1.

Back to Norris’ comments, here’s what Burgon actually said on page 114, quoted by Norris,  in context:

“WHATEVER may be urged in favour of Biblical Revision, it is at least undeniable that the undertaking involves a tremendous risk. Our Authorized Version is the one religious link which at present binds together ninety millions of English-speaking men scattered over the earth’s surface. Is it reasonable that so unutterably precious, so sacred a bond should be endangered, for the sake of representing certain words more accurately, — here and there translating a sense with greater precision, — getting rid of a few archaisms?

It may be confidently assumed that no ‘Revision’ of our Authorized Version, however judiciously executed, will ever occupy the place in public esteem which is actually enjoyed by the work of the Translators of 1611, — the noblest literary work in the Anglo-Saxon language. We shall in fact never have another ‘Authorized Version.’ And this single consideration may be thought absolutely fatal to the project, except in a greatly modified form. To be brief, — As a companion in the study and for private edification: as a book of reference for critical purpose, especially in respect of difficult and controverted passages: — we hold that a revised edition of the Authorized Version of our English Bible, (if executed with consummate ability and learning,) would at any time be a work of inestimable value. The method of such a performance, whether by marginal Notes or in some other way, we forbear to determine. But only as a handmaid is it to be desired. As something intended to supersede our present English Bible, we are thoroughly convinced that the project of a rival Translation is not to be entertained for a moment. For ourselves, we deprecate it entirely.


Furthermore, this is what Burgon says about the Sacred Text which he was clearly opposed to tampering with, not the revisions done to the Greek text there were carried out by others after Stephanus:

“My one object has been to defeat the mischievous attempt which was made in 1881 to thrust upon this Church and Realm a Revision of the Sacred Text, which–recommended though it be by eminentnames–I am thoroughly convinced, and am able to prove, is untrustworthy from beginning to end.” [Dean John W.Burgon, Revision Revised, p. v].

““It is, however, the systematic depravation of the underlying Greek which does so grievously offend me: for this is nothing else but apoisoning of the River of Life at its sacred source. Our Revisers (with the best and purest intentions, no doubt,) stand convicted of having deliberately rejected the words of Inspiration in every page, and of having substituted for them fabricated Readings which the Church has long since refused to acknowledge, or else has rejected with abhorrence, and which only survive at this time in a little handful of documents of the most depraved type.” [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. vi-vii].”

Dean Burgon frequently referred to the “Authorized Version Revised” by Westcott & Hort with references that would give a critic opportunity to claim that Burgon was referencing the King James Bible. Norris references are from repeating antiKVJO authors interpretations of what Burgon wrote.

Norris cites Edward Miller’s introduction attempting to show examples of what Burgon believed about the Textus Receptus, but as stated above, Burgon was critical of the REVISIONS of the Textus Receptus, and when going back a few pages in the introdution, one can read where the term “Textus Receptus” had become a popular term that referred to several different works by other authors besides Stephanus including Cardinal Ximenes, Elzivir Brothers and Theodore Beza, and of course ultimately, Westcott & Hort, Tregelles and Tischendorf (the latter 2 of whom are the only 2 who had ever been permitted by Rome to view the Codex Siniaticus).

Burgon showed quite the bit of confidence in Stephens version of the TR. “‘It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, writes the most learned of the Revisionist body [that is, Dr. F. H. Scrivener],‘that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originatedwithin a hundred years after it was composed:that Irenaeus (A.D. 150), and the AfricanFathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus” RR, page 30.

Burgon said about correcting “errors”: “Shame, — yes, shame on the learning which comes abroad only to perplex the weak, and to unsettle the doubting, and to mislead the blind! Shame, — yes, shame on that two-thirds majority of well-intentioned but most incompetent men who, finding themselves (in an
evil hour) appointed to correct ‘plain and clear errors’ in the English Authorized Version,’ occupied themselves instead with falsifying the inspired Greek Text in countless places, and branding with suspicion some of the most precious utterances of the SPIRIT! Shame, —yes, shame upon them”.

This is how Norris and numerous KJVO critcs have quoted every source that I have seen, out of context and typically from the works of other antiKJVO authors in attempts to overwhelm readers with a plethora of quotes hoping they won’t check the sources.

One thing is certain about Burgon, he was emphatice that the King James Bible should not be changed, altered or tampered with.


  1. Jeff says:

    I’m a little confused; in the paragraph of this article which starts with “Norris cites Edward Miller’s introduction”…
    I’m not clear what the point is, nor who is speaking about what, and why is it important to include the ending “…Tregelles and Tischendorf (the latter 2 of whom are the only 2 who had ever been permitted by Rome to view the Codex Siniaticus).”

    I mostly appreciate the rest of the article, but the history bite in this paragraph doesn’t appear to match what I read here,

    Also I don’t understand the importance of why its mentioned it in the first place. If you have time, could you please include further reading or explanation? Thanks!

    • drjamesa says:

      Thanks for noticing the omission. The book was “Tradition Texts of the Holy Gospels” Dean Burgon. Edward Miller wrote the forward in it. Norris sited it as an example of Burgon claiming that the KJV needed to be revised by attacking its underlying texts.

      The importance of including the issues about Tregelles and Tischendorf is that one of the primary mss used by Westcott & Hort was the Siniaticus, and only 2 people had actually ever been permitted by Rome to see the document itself. Tregelles allegedly memorized the text and then rewrote it. KJVO critics often refer to “copies errors” but have full faith in one man that rewrote the entire text of Siniaticus to be used in translating the “better” mss. And, KJVO critics refer to lack of “better” and “oldest” mss, and yet Siniaticus was never seen by translators of the RV of Westcott & Hort, nor the ASV of 1901, not to mention that it also went missing for 10 years which is suspected that the erasure marks seen on it could be attributed to Tischendorf (although most believe it to be committed by W&H since the Vaticanus also contained the same marks).

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