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 Westcott, 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 historians 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
Furthermore, he took sides with the apostate authors of “Essays and Reviews.”
Hort writes to Rev. Rowland Williams, October 21, 1858, “Further I agree with them [Authors of “Essays and Reviews”] in condemning many leading specific doctrines of the popular theology … Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather than untrue. There are, I fear, still more serious differences between us on the subject of authority, and especially the authority of the Bible.”91
We must also confront Hort’s disbelief that the Bible was infallible: “If you make a decided conviction of the absolute infallibility of the N.T. practically a sine qua non for co-operation, I fear I could not join you.” He also stated:
“As I was writing the last words a note came from Westcott. He too mentions having had fears, which he now pronounces ‘groundless,’ on the strength of our last conversation, in which he discovered that I did ‘recognize’ ‘Providente’ in biblical writings. Most strongly I recognize it; but I am not prepared to say that it necessarily involves absolute infallibility. So I still await judgment.”
And further commented to a colleague:
“But I am not able to go as far as you in asserting the absolute infallibility of a canonical writing.”92
Though unimpressed with the evangelicals of his day, Hort had great admiration for Charles Darwin! To his colleague, B.F. Westcott, he wrote excitedly: “…Have you read Darwin? How I should like to talk with you about it! In spite of difficulties, I am inclined to think it unanswerable. In any case it is a treat to read such a book.”
And to John Ellerton he writes: “But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with … My feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable. If so, it opens up a new period.”93
Dr. Hort was also an adherent to the teaching of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His son writes: “In undergraduate days, if not before, he came under the spell of Coleridge.”94
Coleridge was the college drop-out whose drug addiction is an historical fact. “The opium habit, begun earlier to deaden the pain of rheumatism, grew stronger. After vainly trying in Malta and Italy to break away from opium, Coleridge came back to England in 1806.”95
One of Coleridge’s famous works is Aids to Reflection. “Its chief aim is to harmonize formal Christianity with Coleridge’s variety of transcendental philosophy. He also did much to introduce Immanual Kant and other German philosophers to English readers.”96
This man, Coleridge, had a great influence on the two scholars from Cambridge.
Forsaking Colossians 2:8
Hort was also a lover of Greek philosophy. In writing to Mr. A. MacMillian, he stated: “You seem to make (Greek) philosophy worthless for those who have received the Christian revelation. To me, though in a hazy way, it seems full of precious truth of which I find nothing, and should be very much astonished and perplexed to find anything in revelation.”97
Lost in the Forest
In some cases Hort seemed to wander in the woods. In others he can only be described as utterly “lost in the forest.” Take, for example, his views on fundamental Bible truths.
Concerning existence of a personal devil he wrote:
“The discussion which immediately precedes these four lines naturally leads to another enigma most intimately connected with that of everlasting penalties, namely that of the personality of the devil.” It was Coleridge who some three years ago first raised any doubts in my mind on the subject – doubts which have never yet been at all set at rest, one way or the other. You yourself are very cautious in your language.
“Now if there be a devil, he cannot merely bear a corrupted and marred image of God; he must be wholly evil, his name evil, his every energy and act evil. Would it not be a violation of the divine attributes for the Word to be actively the support of such a nature as that?”98
Rev. Hort also shrunk from the belief in a literal, eternal “hell.”
“I think Maurice’s letter to me sufficiently showed that we have no sure knowledge respecting the duration of future punishment, and that the word ‘eternal’ has a far higher meaning than the merely material one of excessively long duration; extinction always grates against my mind as something impossible.”99
“Certainly in my case it proceeds from no personal dread; when I have been living most godlessly, I have never been able to frighten myself with visions of a distant future, even while I ‘held’ the doctrine.”100
Although the idea of a literal devil and a literal hell found no place in Hort’s educated mind, he was a very real believer in the fictious Roman Catholic doctrine of “purgatory.” To Rev. John Ellerton he wrote in 1854:
“I agree with you in thinking it a pity that Maurice verbally repudiates purgatory, but I fully and unwaveringly agree with him in the three cardinal points of the controversy: (1) that eternity is independent of duration; (2) that the power of repentance is not limited to this life; (3) that it is not revealed whether or not all will ultimately repent. The modern denial of the second has, I suppose, had more to do with the despiritualizing of theology then almost anything that could be named.”101
Also while advising a young student he wrote:
“The idea of purgation, of cleansing as by fire, seems to me inseparable from what the Bible teaches us of the Divine chastisements; and, though little is directly said resecting the future state, it seems to me incredible that the Divine chastisements should in this respect change their character when this visible life is ended.
“I do not hold it contradictory to the Article to think that the condemned doctrine has not been wholly injurious, inasmuch as it has kept alive some sort of belief in a great and important truth.”102
Thus we see that Dr. Hort’s opinions were certainly not inhibited by orthodoxy. Yet his wayward ways do not end here. For, as his own writings display, Dr. Hort fell short in several other fundamental areas.
There was also his rejection of Christ’s atoning death for the sins of all mankind.
“The fact is, I do not see how God’s justice can be satisfied without every man’s suffering in his own person the full penalty for his sins.”103
In fact, Hort considered the teachings of Christ’s atonement as heresy!
“Certainly nothing can be more unscriptural than the modern limiting of Christ’s bearing our sins and sufferings to His death; but indeed that is only one aspect of an almost universal heresy.”104
The fact is, that Hort believed Satan more worthy of accepting Christ’s payment for sins than God.
“I confess I have no repugnance to the primitive doctrine of a ransom paid to Satan, though neither am I prepared to give full assent to it. But I can see no other possible form in which the doctrine of a ransom is at all tenable; anything is better than the notion of a ransom paid to the Father.”105
Dr. Hort also believed that the Roman Catholic teaching of “baptismal regeneration” was more correct than the “evangelical” teaching.
“…at the same time in language stating that we maintain ‘Baptismal Regeneration’ as the most important of doctrines … the pure ‘Romish’ view seems to me nearer, and more likely to lead to, the truth than the Evangelical.”106
He also states that, “Baptism assures us that we are children of God, members of Christ and His body, and heirs of the heavenly kingdom.”107
In fact, Hort’s heretical view of baptism probably cost his own son his eternal soul, as we find Hort assuring his eldest son, Arthur, that his infant baptism was his salvation:
“You were not only born into the world of men. You were also born of Christian parents in a Christian land. While yet an infant you were claimed for God by being made in Baptism an unconscious member of His Church, the great Divine Society which has lived on unceasingly from the Apostles’ time till now. You have been surrounded by Christian influences; taught to lift up your eyes to the Father in heaven as your own Father; to feel yourself in a wonderful sense a member or part of Christ, united to Him by strange invisible bonds; to know that you have as your birthright a share in the kingdom of heaven.”108
Hort’s Twisted Belief
Along with Hort’s unregenerated misconceptions of basic Bible truths, there were his quirkish and sometimes quackish personal beliefs.
One such example is his hatred for democracy, as he asserts in a letter to Rev. Westcott dated April 28, 1865:
“…I dare not prophesy about America, but I cannot say that I see much as yet to soften my deep hatred of democracy in all its forms.”109
In fact, Hort’s hope, during the years of the American Civil War, was that the South would win. This desire was fostered by the hope that such a victory would destroy both countries to eliminate America’s threat to England’s domination of the world. His own words betray this in a letter which he wrote to Rev. John Ellerton in September of 1862:
“I care more for England and for Europe than for America, how much more than for all the niggers in the world! And I contend that the highest morality requires me to do so. Some thirty years ago Niebuhr wrote to this effect: ‘Whatever people may say to the contrary, the American empire is standing menace to the whole civilization of Europe and sooner or later one or the other must perish.’ Every year has, I think, brought fresh proof of the entire truth of these words. American doctrine (only too well echoed from Europe itself, though felt to be at variance with the institutions of Europe) destroys the root of everything vitally precious which man has by painful growth been learning from the earliest times till now, and tends only to reduce us to the gorilla state. The American empire seems to me mainly an embodiment of American doctrine, its leading principle being lawless force. Surely, if ever Babylon or Rome were rightly cursed it cannot be wrong to desire and pray from the bottom of one’s heart that the American Union may be shivered to pieces.
“I do not for a moment forget what slavery is, or the frightful effects which Olmsted has shown it to be producing on white society in the South; but I hate it much more for its influence on the whites than on the niggers themselves. The refusal of education to them is abominable; how far they are capable of being ennobled by it is not clear. As yet everywhere (not in slavery only) they have surely shown themselves only as an immeasurably inferior race, just human and no more, their religion frothy and sensuous, their highest virtues, those of a good Newfoundland dog.”110
Hort also had no respect for prominent Americans, be they politician or preacher. Concerning President Abraham Lincoln he wrote: “I cannot see that he has shown any special virtues or statesmanlike capacities.”111 The great preacher D.L. Moody impressed him as follows:
“Think of my going with Gray yesterday afternoon to hear ‘Moody and Sankey’ at the Haymarket. I am very glad to have been, but should not care to go again. All was much as I expected, except that the music was inferior, and altogether Sankey did not leave a favourable impression. Moody had great sincerity, earnestness, and good sense, with some American humour which he mostly keeps under restraint, but in matter is quite conventional and commonplace. Much the most remarkable thing is the congregation or rather audience.”112
Hort’s distaste for America may not be solely attributed to patriotism as much as to a tainting of his thinking by a touch of Communism. These facts are brought out in his continued correspondence with Rev. John Ellerton, circa 1850:
“I have pretty well made up my mind to devote my three or four years up here to the study of this subject of Communism.”113
“I can only say that it was through the region of pure politics that I myself approach Communism.”114
“To be without responsibility, to be in no degree our ‘brother’s keeper,’ would be the heaviest curse imaginable.”115
“Surely every man is meant to be God’s steward of every blessing and ‘talent’ (power, wealth, influence, station, birth, etc. etc.) which He gives him, for the benefit of his neighbours.”116
Also suspect is Hort’s delving into the supernatural along with his good friend, Brooke Foss Westcott, and others in what was called the ‘Ghostly Guild’ (more on this later).
“Westcott, Gorham, C.B., Scott, Benson, Bradshaw, Luard, etc., and I have started a society for the investigation of ghosts and all supernatural appearances and effects, being all disposed to believe that such things really exist, and ought to be discriminated from hoaxes and mere subjective delusions; we shall be happy to obtain any good accounts well authenticated with names. Westcott is drawing up a schedule of questions. Cope calls us the ‘Cock and Bull Club;’ our own temporary name is the ‘Ghostly Guild.’ “117
Then again, it is possible that the learned doctor was influenced by more than mere philosophy, as we see in his description of a hotel in the Alps where he often vacationed:
“Pontresina, Hotel Krone; homely, but very clean and comfortable; … beer excellent.”118
It is not an amazing thing that any one man could hold to so many unscriptural and ungodly beliefs. It is amazing that such a man could be exalted by Bible believing preachers and professors to a point of authority higher than the King James Bible! Dr. Hort was a truly great Greek scholar, yet a great intellect does not make one an authority over the Bible when they themselves do not even claim to believe it! Albert Einstein was a man of great intellect, but he rejected Scripture, and so where he speaks on the subject of Scripture he is not to be accepted as authoritative. Possessing a great mind or great ability does not guarantee being a great spiritual leader. Dr. Hort was a scholar, but his scholarship alone is no reason to accept his theories concerning Bible truth.
If fundamental pastors of today enlisted the services of an evangelist and found that this evangelist had beliefs paralleling those of Fenton John Anthony Hort, I believe that the pastor would cancel the meeting. Strangely through, when a pastor discovers such to be true about Dr. Hort, he excuses him as “a great Greek scholar” and presents his Authorized Version to him to be maliciously dissected and then discarded as Dr. Hort sets himself down in the seat of authority which the Bible once held. Here again I must assert that most often this is done with childlike faith on the part of the pastor, due to the education he received while in seminary. The seminary is not really guilty either, for they have simply and unsuspectingly accepted the authority of two men raised under the influence of a campaign by the Jesuits to re-Romanize England. Wilkenson reports that Hort had been influenced by these Roman Catholic forces: “Dr. Hort tell us that the writings of Simon had a large share in the movement to discredit the Textus Receptus class of MSS and Bibles.” 119
Problems with Westcott
Unfortunately for the “new Bible” supporters, Dr. Westcott’s credentials are even more anti-biblical. Westcott did not believe that Genesis 1-3 should be taken literally. He also thought that “Moses” and “David” were poetic characters whom Jesus Christ referred to by name only because the common people accepted them as authentic. Westcott states:
“No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history – I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did – yet they disclose to us a Gospel. So it is probably elsewhere. Are we not going through a trial in regard to the use of popular language on literary subjects like that through which we went, not without sad losses in regard to the use of popular language on physical subjects? If you feel now that it was, to speak humanly, necessary that the Lord should speak of the ‘sun rising,’ it was no less necessary that he would use the names ‘Moses’ and ‘David’ as His contemporaries used them. There was no critical question at issue. (Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than History; this is a private parenthesis for myself alone.)” 120
He also said “David” is not a chronological but a spiritual person. 121
That the first three chapter of Genesis are all allegory has been believed by liberals and modernists for years. Do today’s fundamentalists realize that those modernists’ beliefs were nurtures in the heart of this Bible critic?
Westcott was also a doubter of the biblical account of miracles: “I never read an account of a miracle but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability, and discover somewhat of evidence in the account of it.” 122 If a great fundamental preacher of our day were to make this statement, he would be called apostate, but what then of Westcott?
Westcott believed that the second coming of Jesus Christ was not a physical coming but a spiritual coming: “As far as I can remember, I said very shortly what I hold to be the ‘Lord’s coming’ in my little book on the Historic Faith. I hold very strongly that the Fall of Jerusalem was the coming which first fulfilled the Lord’s words; and, as there have been other comings, I cannot doubt that He is ‘coming’ to us now.” 123
Wait! This fundamental doctrine is not the last one to be denied by Bishop Westcott, for he believed Heaven to be a state and not a literal place. Note the following quotations from Bishop Westcott: “No doubt the language of the Rubric is unguarded, but it saves us from the error of connecting the Presence of Christ’s glorified humanity with place; ‘heaven is a state and not a place.'” 124
“Yet the unseen is the largest part of life. Heaven lies about us now in infancy alone; and by swift, silent pauses for thought, for recollection, for aspiration, we cannot only keep fresh the influence of that diviner atmosphere, but breathe it more habitually.” 125
“We may reasonably hope, by patient, resolute, faithful, united endeavour to find heaven about us here, the glory of our earthly life.” 126
Dr. Westcott was also deeply devoted to John Newman, the Roman Catholic defector who took 150 Church of England clergymen with him when he made the change. Those of his disciples who did not make the physical change to Rome, made the spiritual change to Romanism, though many, like Westcott, never admitted it.
In writing to his futue wife in 1852, Westcott wrote: “Today I have again taken up ‘Tracts for the Times’ and Dr. Newman. Don’t tell me that he will do me harm. At least today he will, has done me good, and had you been here I should have asked you to read his solemn words to me. My purchase has already amply repaid me. I think I shall choose a volume for one of my Christmas companions.” 127
This was written after Newman had defected to Rome!
Wilkenson adds, “By voice and pen, the teaching of Newman changed in the minds of many their attitude toward the Bible. Stanley shows us that the allegorizing of German theology, under whose influence Newman and the leaders of the movement were, was Origen’s method of allegorizing. Newman contended that God never intended the Bible to teach doctrines.”
Westcott also resented criticism of the Essays and Reviews. Upon hearing the Bishop of Manchester deride the apostate authors of these heretical essays, Westcott wrote, “But his language about the Essays and Reviews roused my indignation beyond expression.” 128
These are the convictions of a man greatly responsible for the destruction of Christian faith in the Greek Text of the Authorized Version. Place Mr. Westcott next to any present fundamental preacher or educator, and he would be judged a modernist, liberal and heretic. In spite of his outstanding ability in Greek, a man of his convictions would not be welcome on the campus of any truly Christian college in America. This is not an overstatement, nor is it malicious. The Christian colleges of today hold very high standards and simply would not settle for a man of such apostate conviction, no matter how great his ability to teach a given subject.
It is truly amazing that a man who believed things completely contrary to the convictions of today’s fundamental preachers and educators could be exalted and defended by them. Of course, I believe this is done primarily because our fundamental brethren know little of what either Dr. Westcott or Dr. Hort really believed and taught.
This does not completely describe Brooke Foss Westcott, the man. He was a devout socialist and postmillenialist. Socialism and postmillenialism go hand in hand. Postmillenialism is the belief that we shall bring in the millenial reign of Christ ourselves, without Christ’s help. Socialism is usually the means of establishing that thousand-year reign of peace.
A postmillenialist would see a spiritual “coming” of Christ at any great event which drew the world closer to his idea of peace. It is also easy to see why he would believe that a “heaven” was attainable down here, i.e., Westcott’s statement: “We may reasonably hope, by patient, resolute, faithful, united endeavour, to find heaven about us here, the glory of our earthly life.”
These are only two small glimmers of the socialistic light which burned in Westcott’s breast. If they were all of the evidence available, it would make for a weak case indeed. They are not!
Dr. Westcott’s “pacifist” nature shows early in his life. He was known as a “shy, nervous, thoughtful boy” while attending school. His hobbies were as follows: “He used his leisure chiefly in sketching, arranging his collections of ferns, butterflies, and moths, and in reading books of natural history or poetry.” 129
He developed an interest in social reform early on. He was known about his school for talking about things “which very few schoolboys talk about – points of theology, problems of morality, and the ethics of politics.” 130
His son, Arthur, describes him with these words: “As a boy my father took keen interest in the Chartist movement, and the effect then produced upon his youthful imagination by the popular presentation of the sufferings of the masses never faded. His diary shows how he deserted his meals to be present at various stirring scenes, and in particular to listen to the oratory of ‘the great agitator,’ presumably Feargus O’Connor himself. He would often in later years speak of these early impressions, which served in no small degree to keep alive his intense hatred of every form of injustice and oppression. He even later disapproved of his father’s fishing excursions, because his sympathies were so entirely on the side of the fish. On one occasion, being then a little boy, he was carrying a fish-basket, when his father put a live fish into it, and later in life he used to declare that he would still feel the struggles of that fish against his back.”131
(The Chartist movement was a campaign for social reform in England from 1838-1848.)
This one paragraph reveals the temperament which could describe Westcott for the rest of his life:
He was ever in favor of any social reform, at any cost, as he himself stated in speaking of the French Revolution: “The French Revolution has been a great object of interest. I confess to a strong sympathy with the republicans. Their leaders at least have been distinguished by great zeal and sincerity. Lamartine, who I fancy you know by name, quite wins my admiration.”132
Westcott’s Poetical Influences
Westcott was ever a lover of poetry and was deeply influenced by its message. This explains his admiration of Alphonse de Lamartine. Lamartine was a French poet whose writings helped influence the French people into revolution. Ironically, but I am sure not coincidentally, Lamartine had studied under the Jesuits.
He is a fool who thinks a poet’s pen is not a mighty weapon!
Westcott’s romantic attitude explains why he would make the statement that, “Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than history.”
It also explains his susceptibility to the subtle Romanizing influence of the poet Keble. Westcott had a fondness for poetry and an unusual fondness for Keble’s poetry. No poet is mentioned more often in his writings than Keble.
Westcott writes concerning Keble, “But I intend reading some Keble, which has been a great delight to me during the whole week, and perhaps that will now be better than filling you with all my dark, dark, dark gloominess.”133
It seems Keble’s poetry inspired Westcott to see that the Church of England needed to make a change.
“I have been reading Keble for the day, and though I do not recollect noticing the hymn particularly before, it now seems to me one of the most beautiful and especially does it apply to those feelings which so often described to you: that general sorrow and despair which we feel when we look at the state of things around us and try to picture the results which soon must burst upon our Church and country.”134
Westcott found time to quote Keble to express his feelings.
“On these look long and well, Cleansing thy sight by prayer and faith, And thou shalt know what secret spell Preserves them in their living death.”
“That hymn of Keble’s contains very, very much. You have read it again and again now, I am sure, and understand it.”135
That Keble formed in Westcott a passive attitude toward Christianity’s arch-enemy, Rome, is evident by his reaction to a sermon condemning Popery: “As for Mr. Oldham’s meetings, I think they are not good in their tendency, and nothing can be so bad as making them the vehicle of controversy. What an exquisitely beautiful verse is that of Keble’s, ‘And yearns not her parental heart,’ etc. We seem now to have lost all sense of pity in bitterness and ill-feeling. Should not our arm against Rome be prayer and not speeches; the efforts of our inmost heart, and not the display of secular reason?”136
It has been often stated that “You are what you read.” Westcott’s constant exposure to pro-Roman influences set a pattern for his thinking, even though he may not have been aware of it. Westcott even refused to abandon Keble as his writings became more obviously Popish.
“Keble has lately published some sermons in which, as well as in a preface on ‘the position of Churchmen,’ I am afraid he will offend many. I can in some measure sympathize with him.”137
Remembering the hatred Westcott had for what he considered “injustice and oppression,” and his submission to the programming poetry of Keble, we find him slipping farther away from a truly biblical stand after hearing another pro-Roman speaker, Maurice.
“See Maurice’s new lectures, with a preface on development written apparently with marvelous candour and fairness, and free from all controversial bitterness. He makes a remark which I have often written and said, that the danger of our Church is from atheism, not Romanism. What a striking picture is that he quotes from Newman of the present aspect of the Roman Church – as despised, rejected, persecuted in public opinion.”138
This constant barrage of Romanizing influences caused Westcott to incorporate many Roman Catholic practices into his thinking.
In February of 1849 he decided to investigate two favorite subjects of the Romanizers: “Inspiration — Apostolical Succession. May I inquire on all these topics with simple sincerity, seeking only the truth!”139
The result of the first study led to Westcott’s believing the Bible to be absolutely true, but he refused to call it infallible.
“My dear Hort – I am glad to have seen both your note and Lightfoot’s – glad too that we have had such an opportunity of openly speaking. For I too must disclaim setting forth infallibility in the front of my convictions. All I hold is, that the more I learn, the more I am con- vinced that fresh doubts come from my own ignorance, and that at present I find the pre- sumption in favor of the absolute truth – I reject the word infallibility – of Holy Scripture overwhelming.”140
Our good Bishop has now lost the conviction that Scripture is “infallible.” We are never told the result of his study of the Roman Catholic teaching of “Apostolic Succession.”
Westcott also had an affinity for statues since his poetic spirit had the ability to read a great deal into that which he saw.
“Our Cathedral buildings at Peterborough are far from rich in works of sculpture, but among the works which we have there are two which have always seemed to me to be of the deepest interest. The one is a statue of a Benedictine monk, which occupies a niche in the gateway built by Godfrey of Croyland about 1308; the other is an effigy of an unknown abbot of considerably earlier date, carved upon the slab which once covered his grave, and which now lies in the south aisle of the choir. They are widely different in character and significance. The statue of the monk, which Flaxman took as an illustration of his lectures on sculpture, is one of the noblest of medieval figures. The effigy of the abbot has no artistic merit whatever. But both alike are studies from life; and together they seem to me to bring very vividly before us the vital power of early monasticism in England.”141
The Jesuit plan is to introduce the ways of Rome into the minds of Protestants and familiarize them with the “High Church” atmosphere. Then, little by little, allow these Roman ideas to intertwine themselves with the worship service. Dr. Wylie aptly describes the plan:
“Tract 90, where the doctrine of reserves is broached, bears strong marks of a Jesuit origin. Could we know all the secret instructions given to the leaders in the Puseyite movement, the mental reservations prescribed to them, we might well be astonished. ‘Go gently,’ we think we hear the great Roothan say to them. ‘Remember the motto of our dear son, the cidevant Bishop Autun, “surtout, pas trop de zele”(above all, not too much zeal). Bring into view, little by little, the authority of the church. If you can succeed in rendering it equal to that of the Bible, you have done much. Change the table of the Lord into an altar; elevate that altar a few inches above the level of the floor; gradually turn around to it when you read the Liturgy; place lighted tapers upon it; teach the people the virtues of stained glass, and cause them to feel the majesty of Gothic basilisques. Introduce first the dogmas, beginning with that of baptismal regeneration; next the ceremonies and sacraments, as penance and the confessional; and lastly, the images of the Virgin and the saints’.”142
This trend was quite apparent in the unsuspecting mind of Bishop Westcott. “I do not say that baptism is absolutely necessary, though from the words of Scripture I can see no exception, but I do not think we have no right to exclaim against the idea of the commencement of a spiritual life, conditionally from baptism, any more than we have to deny the commencement of a moral life from birth.”143
“Dear Mr. Perrott – I had sketched out a plan in my mind for the windows in the chancel at Somersham which I should have been glad to carry out, but now, as you know, my connection with the parish has practically ceased, and in a few weeks will formally cease. My wish was to have a figure of John the Baptist opposite that of the Virgin, to represent the Old Dispensation, and to have the work executed by Heaton and Butler, who executed the window for Mr. Mason.”144
These Romanistic leanings eventually led Westcott into allowing the practice of “prayers for the dead.” In writing to a clergyman in August of 1900 concerning this Roman Catholic practice which had found its way into an Anglican church, HE STATED, “I considered very carefully, in conference with some other bishops of large knowledge and experience, the attitude of our church with regard to prayers for the dead. We agreed unanimously that we are, as things are now, forbidden to pray for the dead apart from the whole church in our public services. No restriction is placed upon private devotions.”145 (Emphasis his.)
Notice that the Bishop advised against prayers for the dead in “public service,” but he did not even attempt to discourage the practice in “private devotions!” Would one of today’s fundamental preachers who have such high regard for the Westcott and Hort Greek Text respond in the same manner? Would we hear one of our Bible-believing brethren confront the matter with, ‘Well, we don’t practice prayers for the dead here in our services, but if you want to do it in your private devotions, it’s okay.’ NEVER! We are to hate the garment “spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 23.) Dr. Westcott’s garment is spotted to the point of resembling a leopard’s skin! Are we to expect an unbiased rendering of the Greek Text by a man whose convictions would rival Jerome’s in loyalty to Roman teaching? I trow not!
But to allow prayers for the dead would be futile if there were only heaven and hell. The “dead” in heaven would need no prayers, and the “dead” in hell would be beyond hope.
Benjamin Wilkenson provides the missing link in Westcott’s chain of Romanism when commenting on the Revised Version translation of John 14:2:
King James: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
Revised: “In my Father’s house are many abiding places.” (margin)
“In the following quotation from the Expositor, the writer points out that, by the marginal reading of the Revised, Dr. Westcott and the Committee referred, not to a final future state, but to intermediate stations in the future before the final one.
“Dr. Westcott in his Commentary of St. John’s Gospel gives the following explanation of the words. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions. The rendering comes from the Vulgate mansiones, which were resting places, and especially the stations on a great road, where travelers found refreshment. This appears to be the true meaning of the Greek word here; so that the contrasted notions of repose and progress are combined in this vision of the future.’
“‘For thirty years now,’ said Dr. Samuel Cox, in 1886, ‘I have been preaching what is called the larger hope, through good and ill report.
“The larger hope meant a probation after this life, such a time of purifying, by fire or otherwise, after death as would insure another opportunity of salvation to all men. Dr. Cox, like others, rejoices that the changes in the Revised Version sustain this doctrine. ‘Had the new version been in our hands, I should not have felt any special gravity in the assertion,’ he said. Doctors Westcott and Hort, both Revisers, believed this larger hope.” (This Roman Catholic translation also appears in the NASV).146
Considering the Romanistic ideals which Dr. Westcott possessed, it is no surprise that his close friend and companion, Dr. Hort, would compare him to, of all people, the Roman Catholic defector, John Newman! “It is hard to resist a vague feeling that Westcott’s going to Peterborough will be the beginning of a great movement in the church, less conspicuous but not less powerful, than that which proceeded from Newman.”147
It also seems not surprising that Westcott would call the Jesuit inspired Oxford Movement, “the Oxford Revival!” “The Oxford Revival in the middle of the century, quickened anew that sense of corporate life. But the evangelical movement touched only a part of human interest.”148
Another Roman Catholic doctrine is the adoration of Mary. Here also Dr. Westcott did not let the Roman Catholic Church down, as he reveals in a letter to his fiancee Sarah Louisa Whittard.
“After leaving the monastery, we shaped our course to a little oratory which we discovered on the summit of a neighboring hill … Fortunately we found the door open. It is very small, with one kneeling-place, and behind a screen was a ‘Pieta’ the size of life (i.e., a Virgin and dead Christ) … Had I been alone, I could have knelt there for hours.”149
This condition is also indicated by his son, Arthur, in describing Westcott’s reaction to the painting “The Sistine Madonna:”
“It is smaller than I expected, and the colouring is less rich, but in expression it is perfect. The face of the virgin is unspeakably beautiful. I looked till the lip seemed to tremble with intensity of feeling – of feeling simply, for it would be impossible to say whether it be awe of joy or hope – humanity shrinking before the divine, or swelling with its conscious possession. It is enough that there is deep, intensely deep, emotion such as the mother of the Lord may have had.”150
The intensity of Westcott’s admiration for Christ’s mother is best revealed by his desire to change his fiancee’s name to “Mary” as Arthur explains: “My mother, whose name was Sarah Louisa Whittard, was the eldest of three sisters. She afterwards, at the time of her confirmation at my father’s request, took the name of Mary in addition.”151
The above examples illustrate Dr. Westcott’s strong Roman Catholic leanings. Again I must say that I do not believe that if a man lived today with the convictions we have just studied, that he would be welcome in a fundamental pulpit anywhere in America, be his name Bishop Wescott or Hort or Schuler or any other.
Westcott’s Communal Living
Few of Bishop Westcott’s Twentieth Century supporters know the true thoughts and intents of his heart. If they did, they would know that he was an advocate of communal living! Let the record speak for itself.
His son, Arthur, stated in his book, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott:
“In later years of his Harrow residence (approximately 1868) my father was very full of the idea of a ‘Coenobium.’ (Arthur’s footnote for the word ‘Coenobium’ states simply, ‘community life.’) Every form of luxury was to him abhorrent, and he viewed with alarm the increasing tendency amongst all classes of society to encourage extravagant display and wasteful self-indulgence. His own extreme simplicity of life is well-known to all his friends. He looked to the family and not the individual for the exhibition of the simple life. His views upon this subject are accessible to all who care to study them. I only wish to put it on record that he was very much in earnest in this matter and felt that he had not done all he might have for its furtherance.”152
On the idea of the Coenobium, Bishop Westcott’s socialism bordered very close to communism as we see by his own description of what a Coenobium was to be.
“It would consist primarily of an association of families, bound together by common principles of life, of work, of devotion, subject during the time of voluntary co-operation to central control, and united by definite obligations. Such a corporate life would be best realized under the conditions of collegiate union with the hall and schools and chapel, with a common income, though not common property, and an organized government; but the sense of fellowship and the power of sympathy, though they would be largely developed by these, would yet remain vigorous whenever and in whatever form combination in the furtherance of the general ends was possible. Indeed, complete isolation from the mass of society would defeat the very objects of the institution. These objects – the conquest of luxury, the disciplining of intellectual labor, the consecration of every fragment of life by religious exercises – would be expressed in a threefold obligation; an obligation to poverty, an obligation to study, and obligation to devotion.”158 (Emphasis mine.)
Little did the esteemed professor realize that the college students of a hundred years later would be more than happy to turn his dream into a reality!
Arthur viewed the establishment of the Coenobium with much fear and trembling. They were assured of its future reality quite often.
“My own recollections of the Coenobium are very vivid. Whenever we children showed signs of greediness or other selfishness, we were assured that such things would be unheard of in the Coenobium. There the greedy would have no second portions of desirable puddings. We should not there be allowed a choice of meats, but should be constrained to take which was judged to be best for us. We viewed the establishment of the Coenobium with gloomy apprehension, not quite sure whether it was within the bounds of practical politics or not. I was myself inclined to believe that it really was coming and that we, with the Bensons (maybe) and Horts and a few other families, would find ourselves living in a community life. I remember confiding to a younger brother that I had overheard some conversation which convinced me that the Coenobium was an event of the immediate future, and that a site had been selected for it in Northamptonshire; I even pointed out Peterborough on the map.”154
In a letter to his old college friend, Dr. E.W. Benson, dated November 24, 1868, Dr. Westcott states his regrets that the Coenobium had not yet been established, and wonders if he wouldn’t have done better to have pursued the matter further.
“My dear Benson – alas! I feel most deeply that I ought not to speak one word about the Coenobium. One seems to be entangled in the affairs of life. The work must be for those who have a fresh life to give. Yet sometimes I think that I have been faithless to call which might have grown distinct if I had listened.”155
Two years later he was still promoting the idea through articles in a periodical entitled “Contemporary,” as he explains in another letter to Benson dated, March 21, 1870:
“…the paper on the Coenobium will appear, I think, in the next number of the ‘Contemporary.’ It was a trial to me not to send it to you and Lightfoot and Wordsworth for criticism, but on the whole I thought it best to venture for myself, and speak simply what I feel. If anything is to come of the idea it will be handled variously, and something is gained even by incompleteness. On the true reconciliation of classes I have said a few words which are, I hope, intelligible.”156
Young Arthur’s naive sounding prediction in 1868 of the establishing of such a Coenobium in Peterborough, two years later (1870) seemed almost prophetic. In December of 1868, Dr. Westcott became Examining Chaplain in the Diocese of Peterborough! Just prior to the move, he wrote Benson, “The Coenobium comes at least one step nearer.”157
Arthur’s fears seemed somewhat realized.
“The move to Peterborough was a great venture of faith on my father’s part. He had a large family to educate, and yet he exchanged the comparative opulence of a Harrow house master for the precarious income attached to a canonry in an impoverished Chapter. Our manner of life was already adapted to the idea of the Coenobium in its strict simplicity, so the only luxury that could be abolished was meat for breakfast, which however, was retained as a Sunday treat.”158
Thus we see a side of Dr. Westcott which is not too publicized by his followers, yet it was there nonetheless. In addition to his desire to see the Authorized Version replaced, a Romanized Church of England, and the establishment of college Coenobium, he had one other great driving force, the abolition of war.
No true Christian loves war. A Bible believer takes the premillenial view and realizes that war is caused by the sinful nature of mankind – James 4:1. He understands that this will all be changed at Christ’s return – Philippians 3:21.
A Bible rejector who has chosen the postmillenial viewpoint cannot allow himself to believe that mankind is bad. He must find a way to show that man is basically good. All men must be brothers in his eyes. “Brothers,” he assumes, will just naturally work toward peace.
Westcott, a postmillenial socialist, had this to say concerning the “brotherhood” of man in regard to instituting “peace on earth.”
“Christianity rests upon the central fact that the Word became flesh. This fact establishes not only a brotherhood of men, but also a brotherhood of nations; for history has shown that nations are an element in the fulfillment of the Divine counsel, by which humanity advances toward its appointed end.”159
What should these “brothers” do to help establish “peace on earth?” We can at once recognize the part which the Christian society is called upon to take with regard to three great measures which tend to peace – meditation, arbitration, and (ultimately) disarmament – and at least silently work for them.160
“Combine action, in any ways possible, for the bringing about of a simultaneous reduction of the armaments.”161
Once again the Cambridge professor is ahead of his time. “Disarmament” has been the cry of liberal, pro-Communist college students for two decades. Strange it is that as the “peace” movement of the 1960’s was led by a “minister” with the exact same philosophy about world peace!
Westcott wanted an “arbitration board” made up of the “Christian society” to decide international policy concerning disarmament quotas. He first envisioned England and the United States submitting to this idea, assuming then that the rest of the world would be forced to follow.
“The United States and England are already bound so closely together by their common language and common descent, that an Arbitration Treaty which shall exclude the thought of war – a civil war – between them seems to be within measurable distance. When once the general principle of arbitration has been adopted by two great nations, it cannot but be that the example will be followed, and then, at last, however remote the vision may seem, disarmament will be a natural consequence of the acceptance of a rational and legal method of settling national disputes.”162
Westcott even felt that world peace would be worth an “Ecumenical Movement.”
“Other cognate subjects were touched upon — the proposed Permanent Treaty of Arbitration between the United States and Great Britain, the significance of war as extreme outcome of that spirit of selfish competition which follows from the acceptance of a material standard of well being, the desirability of seeking cooperation with the movement on the part of the Roman and Greek Churches — but it seemed best to confine immediate action to a single point on which there was complete agreement.”163
He assumed that “world peace” was of the utmost importance.
“The proposal to work for the simultaneous reduction of European armament is definite, and deals with an urgent peril. Such a disarmament would secure the lasting and honourable peace which the leaders of Europe have shown lately, once and again, that they sincerely desire. We are all sensible of the difficulties by which the question of disarmament is beset, but we cannot admit that they are insuperable.”164
All this was to be done, of course, in the name of Christ. Westcott felt that he was simply trying to bring to pass Luke 2:14. He truly considered himself a man with whom God was “pleased,” as that verse had been mistranslated in the Revised Version.
“The question of international relations has not hitherto been considered in the light of the Incarnation, and till this has been done, I do not see that we can look for the establishment of that peace which was heralded at the Nativity.”165
So here we have a man who doubted the miracles which Christ performed.
“I never read an account of a miracle, but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability, and discover some what of evidence in the account of it.”166
Even though he doubted Jesus Christ’s miracles, he didn’t doubt that a Roman Catholic priest could perform them, as he explains what he saw in France at “Our Lady of La Salette” shrine.
“A written narrative can convey no notion of the effect of such a recital. The eager energy of the father, the modest thankfulness of the daughter, the quick glances of the spectators from one to the other, the calm satisfaction of the priest, the comments of look and nod, combined to form a scene which appeared hardly to belong to the nineteenth century. An age of faith was restored before our sight in its ancient guise. We talked about the cures to a young layman who had throughout showed us singular courtesy. When we remarked upon the peculiar circumstances by which they were attended, his own comment was: ‘Sans croire, comment l’expliquer?’ (translated: ‘Without believing how can it be explained?’) And in this lay the real significance and power of the place.”167
We have a man who could read and exalt a Jesuit-inspired poet, Keble, but when it came to reading anything that presented Rome in a negative light, such as Fox’s Book of Martyrs, he said, “I never read any of Fox’s book.”168
He was a man who claimed, “I cannot myself reconcile the spirit of controversy and that of Christian faith.”169
Since controversy was “un-Christian,” he refused to answer John Burgon’s arguments concerning the Local Text of Alexandria which Westcott helped exalt. He simply said, “I cannot read Mr. Burgon yet. A glance at one or two sentences leads me to think that his violence answers himself.”170
It is a sad thing that Westcott’s prejudice closed his mind to Burgon’s comments. Burgon was harsh, but Burgon was correct. Time has since proven that. It is a dangerous spirit which ignores a man’s FACTS just because of a “holier than thou” attitude which teaches that “anyone who is right, must be gentlemanly.” Had more people in the late 1800’s looked past Burgon’s harsh comments and examined his FACTS, Christianity would be richer today.
We have in Brooke Foss Westcott a man who believed in communal living; a man who believed that the second coming of Christ was spiritual, heaven was a state of mind, prayers for the dead were permissable in private devotions, and that Christ came to bring peace through international disarmament. He believed in purgatory and admiration for Mary, and he thought the Bible was like any other book. This is the man who walked into the Revision Committee and sat in judgment of our Bible. He thought he saw room for improvement in the Authorized Version and offered a pro-Roman Greek text with which to correct it. The ironic thing is that Bible-believing Christian educators and preachers, who would never agree with his theology, have for years exalted his opinion of the Greek as nearly infallible. These facts alone should be reason enough to condemn Westcott and Hort, their Greek Text and the MSS which they used to arrive at such a text. But let us look at their actions concerning the molesting of the pure words of the King James Bible, in favor of Rome. Saddest of all, we have in Brooke Foss Westcott a man who neither believed in salvation by grace nor ever experienced it. There is no record in his “Life and Letters” that he ever accepted Christ as his personal Saviour. In a letter to his then future wife, he stated strongly his feelings concerning “baptism.”
“My dearest Mary – I quite forget whether we have ever talked upon the subject alluded to in my last note – Baptismal Regeneration – but I think we have, for it is one of the few points on which I have clear views, and which is, I am sure, more misunderstood and misrepresented than any other. Do not we see that God generally employs means. I will not say exclusively, that He has appointed an outward Church as the receptacle of His promises, and outward rites for admission in to it, and thus for being placed in a relation with Him by which we may receive His further grace; for till we are so connected by admission into His outward Church, we have no right to think that he will convey to us the benefits of his spiritual Church, when we have neglected the primary means which He provides. It does not, of course, follow that the outward and spiritual churches are co-extensive, that all who have been placed in relation with God by Baptism, and so made heirs of heaven conditionally, will avail themselves of that relation to fulfill those conditions – and here lies the ambiguity: because a child is born again into the Church of God, as he has been born into the world before, people seem to conclude that he must discharge all the duties of his new station, which in temporal matters we know he does not. By birth he may, if he will, truly live here; by baptism he may if he will, truly live forever. I do not say that Baptism is absolutely necessary, though from the word of the Scripture I can see no exception, but I do think we have a right to exclaim against the idea of the commencement of a spiritual life, conditionally from Baptism, any more than we have to deny the commencement of a moral life from birth.”171
As has already been established, both Drs. Westcott and Hort were hostile to the true Greek text of the King James Bible. Dr. Westcott has been unconsciously influenced into a pro-Roman Catholic attitude. It must also be pointed out that earlier Dr. Hort had been a student of Dr. Westcott’s, as Arthur Westcott points out: “Another of Westcott’s private pupils was F.J.A. Hort.”172
The meticulous care with which he taught his pupils is noted by Dr. Whewell, Master of Trinity at the time, “The pains he bestows upon his pupils here (private pupils) is unparalleled, and his teaching is judicious as well as careful.”173
The common desire of these two Cambridge scholars was to eliminate the authority of the Universal Greek Text of the King James Bible. Scholars had long sought to do this, but were baffled by the obvious evidence testifying that the Universal Text was indeed the true text of the Bible, and in that, a preservation of the original autographs. These scholars, subtly influenced by Rome, knew that their duty was to overthrow this pure, Protestant, Christ-honoring text and replace it with the Local Text of Alexandria, Egypt, but the overwhelming evidence was always weighted in God’s favor. No one, even the Roman Catholic Church, could find a way to explain why 95% of all extant MSS belonged to the Universal Text. “Textual criticism” was at a standstill until this roadblock could be circumvented.
It was the genius of Fenton John Anthony Hort which rode to the rescue of the forlorn Roman Catholic text. This man used the same method to overthrow the authority of the Universal Text that Charles Darwin used to overthrow the fact of creation. He used a THEORY!
His theory was that the “originals” agreed with the Local Text, and that this Local Text was “edited” by the Syrian church at Antioch in the Fourth Century to become what we know as the Universal Text, and then forced upon the people by the church council.
Just as was true for Darwin, common sense, all available facts, and the nature of God testified against his theory. Just as Darwin did, he collected minute scraps of evidence, then twisted and magnified his evidence, and theorized that he was right. Just as Darwin did, his theory was manufactured in his head, and INDEPENDENT of historical facts and evidence.
Just as Darwin, his theory was overwhelmingly accepted by the overeducated men of his day who were looking for a way of overthrowing God’s authority. The theory of evolution was music to the ears of scientists, biologists, and college professors who resented the thought of creation. The sound of “God did it; that settles it” just naturally mustered all of the animosity and rebellion that is resident in the human flesh (Romans 7:18). When Darwin issued his theory to the world, the world was happy to believe the lie.
The same thing was true of Christian scholarship. They had long resented the thought that God could or would preserve His Word without their help. Like the lost scientists, they begrudgingly had to acknowledge that the evidence and facts of history were in favor of the Authorized Version. The issuing of Hort’s theory, with the backing of Dr. Westcott, was heralded as the “liberation” of textual criticism. Dr. Alfred Martin explains the delight of liberals which existed upon learning of Hort’s theory:
“Men who had long denied the infallibility of the Bible – and there are many such in the Church of England and in the independent churches – eagerly acclaimed a theory which they thought to be in harmony with their position.
“At precisely the time when liberalism was carrying the field in the English churches the theory of Westcott and Hort received wide acclaim. These are not isolated facts. Recent contributions of the subject – that is, in the present century – following mainly the Westcott-Hort principles have been made largely by men who deny the inspiration of the Bible.”174
Like Darwin’s theory, different viewpoints using his theory arrived at different conclusions. This, Dr. Martin records, Hort knew: “Hort freely admits this and concedes that ‘in dealing with this kind of evidence equally competent as to the same variations’.”175
Of course, the fact of different conclusions did not hamper Hort’s followers. They were not interested in establishing a new conclusion. They were interested in abolishing an old one, i.e., that the King James Bible is the Word and the words of God.
A textual critic is not like a man driving an automobile to a destination which only he knows. He is more like a little child standing behind the wheel who doesn’t particularly care where he goes, just as long as HE is doing the driving. Dr. Martin exposed this tendency: “Their principle method, an extreme reliance upon the internal evidence of readings, is fallacious and dangerous, because it makes the mind of the critic the arbiter of the text of the Word of God.”176
The feeling of power, to be the judge of God’s Word, coupled with the old nature which exists in the flesh of all men, even in Christian scholars, becomes overwhelming to the mind. As Paul stated in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Jeremiah concluded in chapter 17, verse 9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Even a saved man has bad flesh. Give this flesh the authority to change God’s Word, and he will soon plant himself on God’s throne. As it has been said “Put a beggar on horseback, and he will ride off at a gallop.”
Another similarity between Hort’s theory and Darwin’s theory is that it is still held in high esteem long after it has been disproven. Darwin’s theory has long ago suffered irreparable damage by historical evidence, the Word of God, and of course common sense. Yet, scientists have doggedly upheld it as reliable. This is not done because they feel that Darwin’s theory will ever lead them to the truth, but because Darwin’s theory leads them away from the authority they so detest, the Bible.
Hort’s theory has been just as ill-handled by the truth, as Dr. Kurt Aland points out:
“We still live in the world of Westcott and Hort with our conception of different recensions and text-types, although this conception has lost its raison de’etre, or, it needs at least to be newly and convincingly demonstrated. For the increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort’s conception.”177
Dr. Jacob Geerlings, who has extensively studied the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, states concerning the Universal Text:
“Its origins as well as those of other so-called text-types probably go back to the autographs. It is now abundantly clear that the Eastern Church never officially adopted or recognized a received or authorized text and only by a long process of slow evolution did the Greek text of the New Testament undergo the various changes that we can dimly see in the few extant uncial codices identified with the Byzantine (i.e. Majority) Text.”178
Dr. David Otis Fuller concludes, “Thus the view popularized by Westcott and Hort before the turn-of- the-century, that the Majority Text issued from an authorative ecclesiastical revision of the Greek text, is widely abandoned as no longer tenable.”
As previously quoted, Dr. Martin has stated, “The trend of scholars in more recent years has been away from the original Westcott-Hort position.”179
In spite of new evidence, historical facts, and God’s continued blessing of the Authorized Version, Christian scholars still exalt the theory as though it were the truth. This is not done because they feel that Hort’s theory will eventually lead them to the true Word of God. Any honest, “Christian” scholar today who upholds Hort’s outmoded theory will be glad to tell you that there is no perfect translation of “the Bible” in English today. They will admonish each new translation as “a step in the right direction,” but even the newest translation is not without errors. This attitude is due to the fact that man’s human nature resents the idea that God could preserve His words without the help of “good, godly Christians,” and from the natural resistance of men to be in subjection to God. The supporters of Westcott and Hort possess a loyalty which borders on cultic, as Dr. Martin again has faithfully pointed out:
“The theory was hailed by many when it came forth as practically final, certainly definitive. It has been considered by some the acme in textual criticism of the New Testament. Some of the followers of Westcott and Hort have been almost unreasoning in their devotion to the theory; and many people, even today, who have no idea what the Westcott-Hort theory is, or at best only a vague notion, accept the labors of those two scholars without question. During the past seventy years it has often been considered textual heresy to deviate from their position or to intimate that, sincere as they undoubtedly were, they may have been mistaken.”180
This cultic bent was even observed by Hort’s friend, Professor Armitage Robinson, in 1891 who stated that a “kind of cult” had sprung up around the venerated old scholar.181
To criticize either Dr. Westcott or Dr. Hort is almost sacrilegious in their eyes. We can almost hear Dr. Westcott’s own words, “I cannot myself reconcile the spirit of controversy and that of Christian faith.” This he used as a defense against the “fanatics” who think that the Bible is perfect. Once accepted, pride makes the decaying process almost irreversible. As any parent knows who has questioned their guilty son or daughter, being caught “red-handed” is not nearly as difficult for the child to take as is admitting that they have been wrong.
Freedom Then Slavery
Just prior to the translation of the King James Bible, England had broken free of the yoke of Rome. Shortly after the Authorized Version was published, England once again started down the road back to Rome. For a brief “parenthesis” in English history, England was free of Roman influence just long enough to translate and propagate a perfect Bible.
As we have seen, by the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, England had again, bit-by-bit, fallen to Roman influence. The Romaninzing effects of the Oxford Movement, the corrupt tracts of Newman, Pusey, and other pro-Romanists, the decisions by the Privy Council in favor of the anti-scriptural position of the “Essays and Reviews” had wrought their desired effect. In 1845, Newman made a formal break with the Church of England to join the Roman Catholic Church. His decision influenced 150 Church of England clergymen to do the same. In 1850, the aggressive Roman Catholic Cardinal Wiseman who had done so much to lead Newman to Rome, and had directed the Oxford Movement via his paper, “Dublin Review,” had been commissioned by the Pope to formally re-establish the Roman Catholic Church on the shores of England.
England had come from the Bible-honoring, Rome-rejecting position of the Reformation, to the ritualistic, pro-Roman attitude which mistrusts and condemns the Bible.
England was ripe for revision!
The Trap is Set
In 1870, the Convention of the Church of England commissioned a revision of the Authorized Version. A gleam of hope shone in the eye of every Roman Catholic in England and the Continent. An eager anticipation filled every Jesuit-inspired, Protestant scholar in England. Although it was meant to correct a few supposed “errors” in the Authorized Version, the textual critics of the day assured themselves that they would never again have to submit to the divine authority of the Universal Text.
In November of 1870, Westcott testified of just such a spirit in a letter to Dr. Benson, “In a few minutes I go with Lightfoot to Westminster. More will come of these meetings, I think, than simply a revised version.”182
The Convocation had instructed the Revision Committee NOT to deal with the underlying Greek text of the Authorized Version. They were instructed to do as follows: (1) to introduce as few alterations as possible into the text of the King James Bible, and (2) to limit … the expression of any alterations to the language of the Authorized Version.183
Westcott and Hort had other plans. They had edited the corrupt Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts of the Local Text of Alexandria and produced their own Greek text. Wisely they had never published it. Thus its existence was unknown to the world, and Westcott and Hort did not have to worry about the investigative eyes of their contemporary scholars, such as Dean John Burgon. Had it been published earlier, it assuredly would have been exposed as corrupt and unfit for translation into English. Drs. Westcott and Hort were definitely “wise as serpents,” but unfortunately they were equally as harmful.
Since the Committee had been instructed not to deal with matters of the Greek text, and the Westcott and Hort text had not been published, it was necessary for the two Cambridge Catholics to submit it little by little to the Committee. Even this was done in secret.
In order to establish their own Greek text as authorative, they first planned the strategy prior to the first meeting of the Committee. Their old friend Bishop Lightfoot was even there to help as Westcott notes in a letter to Hort dated May 1870, “Your note came with one from Ellicott this morning … Though I think the Convocation is not competent to initiate such a measure, yet I feel that as ‘we three’ are together it would be wrong not to ‘make the best of it’ as Lightfoot says … There is some hope that alternative readings might find a place in the margin.”184
The next month he wrote to Lightfoot himself: “Ought we not to have a conference before the first meeting for revision? There are many points on which it is important that we should be agreed.”185
They then secretly submitted their text to the Committee members, and stayed close by their sides to see to it that their scheme was carried out. This fact, Dr. Wilkenson attests to:
“The new Greek Testament upon which Westcott and Hort had been working for twenty years was, portion by portion, secretly committed into the hand of the Revision Committee. Their Greek text was strongly radical and revolutionary. The Revisors followed the guidance of the two Cambridge editors, Westcott and Hort, who were constantly at their elbow, and whose radical Greek New Testament, deviating the furthest possible from the Received Text, is to all intents and purposes the Greek New Testament followed by the Revision Committee. This Greek text, in the main, follows the Vatican and Sinaiticus Manuscripts.”186
These actions reek of Jesuit underhandedness. Although Westcott and Hort were men of scholarship, they were not men of integrity.
Defending the Infidel
For the most part, Westcott and Hort found a welcome audience to their abolition of the Universal Text, for the spirit of the revision had been set when the Christ-denying, Unitarian preacher, Dr. Vance Smith, was seated on the Committee.
Dr. Hort shared his feelings concerning Smith’s appointment with co-conspirator Lightfoot. “It is, I think, difficult to measure the weight of acceptance won before the hand for the Revision by the single fact of our welcoming an Unitarian.”187
Westcott exposed his loyalty to apostasy when he threatened to quit if the Convocation were successful in ejecting Smith from the Committee.
“I never felt more clear as to my duty. If the Company accepts the dictation of Convocation, my work must end. I see no escape from the conclusion.”188
Wilkenson records Smith’s comments concerning Isaiah 7:14: “This change gives room to doubt the virgin birth of Christ. The meaning of the words of Isaiah may, therefore, be presented thus: ‘Behold the young wife is with child.”‘189
Dr. Smith called the belief in Christ’s second coming an error. “This idea of the Second Coming ought now to be passed by as a merely temporary incident of early Christian belief. Like many another error, it has answered its transitory purpose in the providential plan, and may well, at length, be left to rest in peace.”190
Dr. Westcott felt that doctrine was unimportant. He believed that he as a scholar should decide the text, then theologians could add their remarks afterwards. He stated, “I hardly feel with you on the question of discussing anything doctrinally or on doctrine. This seems to me to be wholly out of our province. We have only to determine what is written and how it can be rendered. Theologians may deal with the text and version afterwards.”191
What did Westcott think of Smith’s theological beliefs? “Perhaps we agree in spirit but express ourselves differently. At least we agree in hope.”192
This last statement may very well hold more truth than Westcott intended. It may help here to point out that the Church of England defector to Rome, Dr. Newman, was asked to be on the Committee, but he refused.193 This should reveal the true spirit which the revisors had in their attempt to “bring the Bible up-to-date.”
This is not the first revision Newman was asked to sit in on. In 1847, two years after defecting, Cardinal Wiseman, the militant Roman Catholic priest, wrote him this from Rome: “The Superior of the Franciscans, Father Benigno, in the Trastevere, wishes us out of his own head to engage in an English Authorized Translation of the Bible. He is a learned man and on the Congregation of the Index. What he wished was, that we would take the Protestant translation, correct it by the Vulgate … and get it sanctioned here.”194 Strangely enough, the desire of Wiseman, to “correct” the Authorized Version with Jerome’s corrupt Vulgate, is exactly what Protestant scholars did in 1881, 1901, 1952, 1960, 1973, and in every “new” and “improved” translation since 1611.
Westcott and Hort were so successful at their secret task of subtly guiding the decision of the Revision Committee that many Committee members did not suspect that they had been used by the Cambridge duo to help destroy the authority of the Authorized Version and give the world yet another Roman Catholic Bible. Philip Mauro records:
“In view of all the facts it seems clear that, not until after the Committee had disbanded, and their work had come under the scrutiny of able scholars and faithful men, were they themselves aware that they had seemingly given their official sanction to the substitution of the “New Greek Text” of Westcott and Hort for the Textus Receptus. The Westcott and Hort text had not yet been published, and hence had never been subject to scrutiny and criticism; nor had the principles upon which it was constructed been investigated. Only after it was too late were the facts realized, even by the Revisors themselves.”195
It can be safely said that if Westcott and Hort were not two Jesuit priests acting on secret orders from the Vatican, that two Jesuit priests acting under such orders could not have done a better job of overthrowing the authority of God’s true Bible and establishing the pro-Roman Catholic text of Alexandria, Egypt!
It is truly amazing in light of all the evidence of their apostasy, that Westcott and Hort should be so revered by modern scholarship. It is strange indeed that men who believe in the premillenial return of Christ would defend men who did not. That men who believe that salvation is by grace through faith could uphold men who not only did not believe in it, but sadly, did not experience it. It is amazing that men who believe with all their heart that the Bible is the Word of God could be so blind to the infidelity to the Word of these two men.
Revival in America is still possible, but like Jacob told his household in Genesis 35:2,3: Christian scholarship must “put away the strange gods” and “go up to Bethel.”