ESV, KJC, CUV and Textus Receptus

ESV Blog is an excellent resource to those who enjoy reading their English Standard Version Bible, and for the last month or so they ran series of blog entries on translators answering the questions from the readers. Very good read. Again, which Greek text source is used by ESV has been asked. Bill Mounce answered that it uses United Bible Society's Greek text, which I believe is used by most modern translations today.

Since the UBS Greek New Testament is basically used by most new translations anyway, I guess the real reason for asking is - did the Textus Receptus play any role? Vern Poythress discussed The Textus Receptus in another post:

It [Textus Receptus] was revolutionary, but when Erasmus printed his Greek New Testament, it was only from a very few manuscripts that he happened to have access to, not necessarily the best. So the Textus Receptus designates that Erasmus text. And actually, that Erasmus. Greek New Testament went through four different editions, and there are slight differences between them. So the Textus Receptus, even, is not really one completely uniform thing.

Actually, Erasmus had to translated some text from Latin back to Greek to complete the collection, as some manuscripts were missing. Both Poythress and Mounce praised Eramus and TR as they were pioneers 500 years ago, so that we can have so much resources today. As TR is the basis of King James Version, that were many people still memories and recite today, translators of ESV did consider it when they translated famous verses. Quoting Mounce:

It's important to us as ESV translators to maintain the same flow of thought coming from Tyndale. And so we see ourselves in the line of interpretive tradition from Tyndale through the King James. And so in those verses that are very well-known, we paid especially close attention to them. And even when the Textus Receptus is different from our critical Greek text now, we sometimes even put things in footnotes to help people who were used to the King James see where they are in the current Greek text.

However, the message is - TR is no longer the most reliable source, and we should have moved on. Out of curiosity, I wondered (actually, always wondered) what forms the source of some Chinese Bible translations, especially the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of 1919. Too lazy to analyze it myself, I asked Google whether anyone else had done so. Then I found this page on, quoted:

... From my own word-by-word examination of parts of the CUV, the CUV is translated from much more accurate Hebrew and Greek texts than the KJV, but according to a native Chinese Christian colleague living in Shanghai, the CUV is difficult for modern Chinese readers to read, because of the old style Chinese language that it uses. According to one writer who has corresponded with, the CUV's New Testament is based on essentially the same United Bible Society Greek text as the NRSV and TEV ...

So CUV depends less on TR but more on later-discovered manuscripts? Can anyone (with better Google skillz or more time) confirm it? The comment on "classic" Chinese is certainly true, as many people in MBF, who have only been living in an English speaking country for less than 3 years, found it easier to understand God's word in ESV or NIV than CUV. However, asking Chinese churches to "move on" is difficult, as (1) there is no incentive as "a much better" Chinese translation still does not exist (though IMHO there are some slightly better ones) (2) Chinese like traditions - not to the point of KJV-only-like, but some of them are just so hard to change.

To finish off this blog entry, I found another KJV-only website that confirms CUV is indeed based on UBS Greek Testament, but in a negative way. It tries to sell its Chin New Testament:

Please Note: This is NOT the Chinese Union Bible. The New Testament that we are offering is a translation of the Textus Receptus (upon which the KJV is based) into Chinese. Please do NOT confuse this with the Chinese Union Bible. The Chinese Union Bible is an innacurate translation which is based on the Revised Versions of 1881 of Westcott & Hort.

This means that the Chinese Union Bible is a corrupt and unreliable translation/version.

Then it links to more TR/KJV-only propaganda and why CUV is corrupted. Ha!