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Origen, Jerome, Erasmus, and the KJV

By Rick Norris

Does KJV-onlyism Have a Connection with Origen and Jerome?

KJV-only advocates often label the Latin Vulgate by Jerome a corrupt translation. They put the Vulgate on their tree or line of corrupt Bibles. They also seek to link all modern translations with Origen. Can it be concluded that KJV-only advocates would consistently condemn any translation with any slight connection or link with Jerome or Origen?

It is a fact that the KJV has a connection with Erasmus. The Greek New Testament edited by Erasmus was the principal source of the Textus Receptus that underlies the KJV's N.T. However, many KJV-only advocates may be surprised to learn that Erasmus can be connected or linked to Origen and Jerome.

Peter Ruckman even acknowledged that the hero of Erasmus was Origen (King James Onlyism, p. 10). Irena Backus observed that Theodore Beza often referred to Erasmus as being "too much under the influence of Origen" (Reformed Roots of the English N.T., p. 39). Richard Marius noted that "Erasmus seems to have accepted much more of Origen, considered heretical by most Catholics, than he could safely admit" (Thomas More, p. 148). "In his admiration for Origen, Erasmus was influenced by the Greek Father's Neo-platonism, and his program of interior piety was further indebted to the Neo-platonism that he encountered among such humanists as Pico della Mirandola and John Vitrier" (Great Thinkers of the Western World, p. 130).

Along with his admiration for Origen, Erasmus is also known for his strong admiration for Jerome. This admiration is clearly evident in his book on the Life of Saint Jerome. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, was the favorite church father of Erasmus (Who's Who in Christian History, p. 235). B. Hall commented: "For Erasmus, Jerome was the ideal of the true theologian" (Dorey, Erasmus, p. 84).

Edward F. Hills, a KJV defender, noted: "Erasmus, influenced by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church in which he was reared, sometimes followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Traditional Greek text" (The KJV Defended, p. 200). Theodore Letis pointed out that Hills in the first edition of his book admitted: "Some of the non-Byzantine readings which Erasmus introduced into his New Testament text are unquestionably erronous" (Ecclesiastical Text, p. 183).

In another book that defends the traditional text, Peter Johnston commented: "It should be mentioned that the Textus Receptus deriving from Erasmus has a considerable number of readings similar, not to the Majority Text, but to the Egyptian text, most importantly in the Gospels" (Unholy Hands, Vol. II, p. 578).

Jay Green, another defender of the TR, acknowledged: "There are a few places where he [Erasmus] emended the text with poor evidence at hand" (Interlinear Greek-English N.T., p. xii). Who gave Erasmus the authority to add words from the Latin Vulgate to the preserved Word of God in the original languages? Since Erasmus admired Origen and Jerome, is it good for believers today to follow their views like he did?

Was the Roman Catholic Erasmus Sound in His Doctrine?

Bob Steward, a KJV-only advocate, stated: "One of the grandest names behind the King James Bible is that of Erasmus" (Biography of Erasmus, p. 1). John Cereghin, a KJV defender, claimed: "Erasmus was no Catholic. He was quite orthodox in his doctrine, including his soteriology" (MBBC Swordsman, Summer, 1995, p. 11). David Cloud, another KJV-only advocate, also defended Erasmus's doctrinal "orthodoxy" and "soundness" (Myths about the KJB: Myth #1, p. 24). Cloud also contended: "As to the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God, Erasmus was orthodox" (Ibid.). Are these claims true or only hopeful thinking?

The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion stated that Erasmus "remained a stauch Catholic and Augustinian priest" (p. 341). V. Green wrote that Erasmus "did not criticize the doctrine of the Church, its sacraments, its priesthood or its hierarchy" (Luther and the Reformation, p. 141). John Faulkner mentioned where Erasmus affirmed: "But one should not determine for himself to doctrine, but let the Catholic Church speak, to whose judgment I submit everything" (Erasmus, p. 177). Bainton cited Erasmus as writing in a letter to Hutten the following: "Where have I ever condemned the canon law and the decretals of the popes?" (Erasmus of Christendom, p. 177). Quotations could also be given where Erasmus defended the Roman Catholic Church as the only true Church and even defended many of its practices, including the Mass, prayers to saints, and the Confessional.

Erasmus also seemed to defend the Roman Catholic view of the doctrines of justification and salvation. Charles Hodge pointed out that according to the Roman Catholic view "we are not justified by works done before regeneration, but we are justified for gracious works, i.e., for works which spring from the principle of divine life infused into the heart" (Justification By Faith Alone, p. 69).

William Perkins (1558- 1602) commented: "The papist saying that a man is justified by faith understandeth a general or a catholic faith, whereby a man believeth the articles of religion to be true" (Work of William Perkins, p. 535). In his On Mending the Peace of the Church, Erasmus wrote: "Let us agree that we are justified by faith, i.e., the hearts of the faithful are thereby purified, provided we admit that the works of charity are necessary for salvation" (Essential Erasmus, p. 379).

Henry Sheldon noted: "In place of justification by faith, as taught by the Reformer [Luther], he [Erasmus] preferred to insist that the way to salvation lies in the strenuous imitation of the graces of Christ" (History of the Christian Church, III, pp. 32-23). Why do KJV-only advocates claim that this unscriptural view of salvation and justification as held by Erasmus is sound? Many other problems with the views of Erasmus could be given.

Concerning other editors, textual critics, or translators, KJV-only advocates have claimed that if their theology is wrong that some of their produced works will contain error. In like manner, would they claim that because the theology of Erasmus was wrong, that some of his produced work will contain error or that his treatment of the text should not be trusted? According to the claimed principles of KJV-only advocates, Erasmus would not be a good, superior, or final authority for determining the best text of the Greek New Testament. Have they forced themselves into a corner that they cannot get out of without admitting their view is wrong? Do they toss objectivity and truth out the window when they practice a double standard by defending Erasmus in spite of his Roman Catholic doctrinal errors and compromise?

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

The above article was posted on this Web site August 1998.

Bible Versions Controversy: KJV-Onlyism
Bible Versions Controversy

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