It is interesting to note that of late there seems to be an imputation of inferiority upon the KJV version of the Bible. The truth is that this rejection of the KJVs standing as the “authoritative” English Bible translation is not new at all but originated at the same time that the KJV was translated by those who despised what the KJV represented.
In fact this dislike of the KJV predates even the KJV itself and arose from the disfavor shown to the text from which it originates even though this text composes the vast majority (89%) of all ancient texts in existence and has been in use as the most correct text since the third or fourth century at the latest.
Those who oppose the status of the KJV and the text it originates from commonly known as the majority text or the received text, argue that there is in existence a (very) few superior texts which should be accorded greater credence for a few reasons. Namely because the actual parchments are older. When analyzed however this ceases to be a compelling argument in their favor.
In order to arrive at an informed understanding of the real issues behind the discussion of Bible manuscripts and not be caught up in empty assertions lets look at the testimony of history on this topic.
Lucian lived from 250 – 312 and was born in Syria. He was the editor of the Received Text (also known as the traditional text, or, Textus Receptus). This is (essentially) the text on which the King James Bible is based. Lucian didn’t create this text, he just selected the good versions of the Scriptures from those that were in circulation. At that time there were many variations of the Bible. There were at least eighty heretical sects. Each did not hesitate to remove or add pages to the Bible. Thus it required care to select among the many versions.
Lucian and his school gathered and edited a complete Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Well-known writers including Jerome, Erasmus, Luther, John Burgon, and Fenton J.A. Hort agree that Lucian was the editor of the Received text. Of course, this implies that this text was in existence from the early fourth century or earlier.
Another evidence of the early date of the Received Text is the Peshitto. It is generally agreed that the Bible was translated into Syrian about 150 A.D. This version is known as the Peshitto. This Bible even today generally follows the Received text.
One authority writes that:
” The Peshitto in our days is found in use amongst the Nestorians, who have always kept it, by the Monophysites on the plains of Syria, the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar, and by the Maronites, on the mountain terraces of Lebanon.” (Burgon and Miller, The Traditional Text p. 128)
About the time when the Emperor Constantine “converted” to Christianity around 330 AD as a political tool for establishing his reign, paganism began to enter the church in the form of Sun worship and other such manifestations. Proof of this fact can be found in one of Constantine’s decrees in 321 A.D.:
“On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them the second time.” Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; translated in History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff, D.D., (7-vol.ed.) Vol. III, p.380. New York, 1884
Dr. A. Chr.. Bang says regarding this Law :
“This Sunday law constituted no real favoritism to Christianity….. It is evident from all his statutory provisions that the Emperor during the time 313-323 with full consciousness has sought the realization of his religious aim: the amalgamation of heathenism and Christianity.” Kirken og Romerstaten (The Church and the Roman State) p.256. Christiania, 1879
This period was ripe for Gnostics such as Origen and Eusebius who flourished during this era. These men set out to write a Bible that was more in line with their own philosophical understanding of things. Until this time there had only been one Bible version.
Origen’s view of Scripture was “The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written” McClintock and Strong, Origen. Historians know that Origen was infatuated with Greek philosophy and Plato.
TWO COMPETING BIBLES
From this point in time the history of Bible manuscripts takes two separate paths. One path that of the Textus Receptus and the other path of the few variant manuscripts.
That these variant manuscripts are very few in number is an unquestionable fact. In fact there are only two principal manuscripts in this class, the Siniaticus and the Vaticanus otherwise referred to as Codex Aleph and Codex B.
Sidney Collett in his “The Scripture of Truth” when writing about the Siniatic manuscript that was found by Dr. Tischendorf stated :
“Dr. Tischendorf believed that this and the Vatican manuscript were two of the fifty copies of the Bible which were made in Greek by command of emperor Constantine about the year AD 331, under the supervision of Bishop Eusebius, the historian of Ceasarea.” p.28
There is a host of authorities which share the conviction regarding the origin of these two MSS. Eusebius was a disciple of Origen and these texts were largely the result of Origen’s work. It is from the version of Eusebius that Jerome produced the Vulgate.
Abbo Martin, a well known Catholic textual critic claims that the Vaticanus and the Siniaticus were “fabricated” by Origen and others. (see Schaff, Companion to the Greek Text)
In fact these two manuscripts where largely unknown for over one thousand years until they were discovered. The Siniaticus was found on a trash heap outside a monastery in Sinai, and the Vaticanus, in the Vatican. That the Vulgate originates directly from the Vaticanus should be of no surprise.
At any rate Bibles were suppressed during the dark ages that ensued and it was not until the reformation that the Bible came back into public attention. For example, in 1490, Torquemada caused many Hebrew Bibles and more than six thousand volumes to be burnt in an Auto da fé at Salamanca. In view of this, it is a marvel that so many copies of the Received Text have survived to the present day.
Erasmus the most illustrious scholar of his age set out the compile the definitive Bible manuscript, in the original language (Greek) rejecting the corrupt manuscripts which were about. In essence what Erasmus collated was the Textus Receptus. He’s job was not one of creating the Textus Receptus but of clearing away the filth that had accumulated through the dark ages and making the text publicly accessible to all scholars.
Many people today wish to prove that the Textus Receptus is merely a recent invention. The falsehood of this assertion is easy to demonstrate by noting that many church fathers when quoting from Scripture quote from the Textus Receptus. For example when quoting Rev 22:14 the church fathers, Tertullian (AD200) Cyprian (248-258) and Tertonius (390) quote “do His commandments” and not “wash their robes” as in found in the variant texts. The first time “wash their robes” is quoted is by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (326-373) so the Textus Receptus reading predates even the earliest manuscripts in existence.
John William Burgon, author of The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels and Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text who did an extensive study of the quotations of the church fathers says:
“As far as the fathers who died before 400 A.D. are concerned, the question may now be put and answered. Do they witness to the traditional text as existing from the first or do they not? The results of the evidence, both as regards the quantity and the quality of the testimony, enable us to reply not only that the traditional text was in existence, but that it was predominant during the period under review.” (p. 116)
“Besides establishing the antiquity of the traditional text, the quotations in the early fathers reveal the streams of corruption which prevailed in the first ages, till they were washed away by the vast current of the transmission of the text of the gospels.” (p. 117)
” The original predominance of the traditional text is shown in the list given of the earliest fathers. Their record proves that in their writings, also in the church generally, corruption had made itself felt in the earliest times, but that the pure waters generally prevailed.” (p. 121)
” Not the slightest confirmation is given to Dr. Hort’s notion that a revision or recension was definitely accomplished at Antioch in the middle of the fourth century. There was a gradual improvement as the traditional text gradually established itself against the forward and persistent intrusion of corruption.” (p. 129)
” It is well known that the Peshitto is mainly in agreement with the traditional text.” (p. 130)
In other traditions, for example in the Greek Church, the traditional text (Textus Receptus) held sway from about 312-1453 AD. In the eastern texts (Syriac) in Aramaic, which is the language in which most of the NT was spoken, generally confers with the Textus Receptus as also does the Coptic version.
Others say that if Erasmus had been aware of the variant readings now flaunted as more accurate he would have used them in preference to the Textus Receptus. That Erasmus was aware of the variant readings of the Vaticanus (codex B) we read:
“A correspondent of Erasmus in 1533 sent that scholar a number of selected readings from it (Codex B) as proof of its superiority over the Received Greek Text” Sir Fredrick Kenyon, “Our Bible” p133.
This correspondent was none other than Professor Paulus Bombasius at Rome. [S.P. Tregelles, On the printed Text of the Greek test., p.22]
One can not claim that these “older and more reliable” texts were unknown to either Erasmus or the KJV translators, they knew them, and rejected them.
What matters anyway? The vast majority of the manuscripts in Greek are practically all the Received Text. The Textus Receptus did not originate with Erasmus all he practically did was publish it and make it accessible. The Textus Receptus which Erasmus published was not the fruit of his own hands, it was the dominant and principle text at the time and had been since at least 350AD. It is from the Textus Receptus that the KJV originates from.
As for the nature of the available manuscripts, the following is taken from Which Bible? edited by David Otis Fuller, D.D., 1970.
” The vast majority of these extant Greek New Testament manuscripts agree together very closely, so closely, indeed that they may fairly be said to contain the same New Testament text. This Majority Text is usually called the Byzantine Text by modern textual critics. This is because all modern critics acknowledge that this was the Greek New Testament in general use throughout the greater part of the Byzantine period (312-1453).”
I would like to add that the manuscripts that do not agree with the traditional text are not only a small minority, about 11 percent of the total, but they also have significant differences with one another. Therefore, if one were to decide that they were correct, it would still be a difficult matter to determine the text of the Scriptures. In addition, some of these manuscripts are missing many chapters of the Bible. This does not argue well for their quality, unless one believes that these chapters were not in the original manuscripts, which seems unlikely.
Dr.F.C. Cook (Chaplain to the Queen of England (who was invited to sit on the revision committee, but refused), has this to say regarding the translation of the KJV.
“That Textus Receptus was taken in the first instance, from late cursive manuscripts; but its readings are maintained only so far as they agree with the earliest and best Greek and Latin Fathers, and with the vast majority of uncial and cursive manuscripts.” Revised Version of the first three Gospels, p226.
Both Erasmus’ edition and more so the KJV gave a major impetus to the reformation. Naturally the enemies of the reformation would set out to destroy the influence of this work. The impact that the KJV and the Textus Receptus made can be appreciated by the following testimony of Dr. Kenrick, Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia says in his preface to an English translation of a Catholic Bible in 1849
“Since the famous manuscripts of Rome Alexandria, Cambridge, Paris and Dublin were examined…A verdict has been obtained in favor of the Vulgate. At the reformation the Greek text as it then stood, was taken as a standard, in conformity to which the versions of the reformers were generally made; whilst the Latin Vulgate was depreciated, or despised as a mere version.”
That many would want to “rectify” this situation is obvious and the best way to do this was by “revising” the KJV so that it would be more in line with the Vaticanus and Siniaticus. In fact the hatred felt towards the Textus Receptus and KJV by some of the revisers is undeniable. Hort himself wrote :
“Think of that vile Textus Receptus” Life of Hort Vol.1, p.214.
Dean Burgon (an eminent authority) says,
“The one great FACT, which especially troubles him, (Dr, Hort), and his joint Editor, -(as well it may)- is the traditional Greek text of the New Testament Scriptures. Call this text Erasmian or Complutensian., –the Text of Stephens, or of Beza, or of Elzevirs, — call it the ‘Received’, or the traditional Greek text, or what ever other name you please; –the fact remains, that a text has come down to us which is attested by a general consensus of ancient Coptics, ancient fathers, ancient versions….Our readers cannot have yet forgotten his (Dr Hort’s) virtual admission, that beyond all question the Textus Receptus is the dominant Graeco-Syrian Text of A.D. 350 to A.D. 400.” in Revision Revised, p.269.
That Westcott and Hort principally used the Vat. and Sin. MSS for the RSV is easy to prove. Dr. Cook’s testimony is particularly relevant since he was chosen to sit on the review committee and he refused, later publishing his views in his book “Revised Version of the First three Gospels.” He writes:
“But it is precisely on this ground that I have throughout maintained the wrongfulness of the innovations introduced into the Revised Version, so far as they affect leading facts and great words recorded in the first three gospels. The reader need but look at the passages enumerated in the classification given above, p.136 seq., to be convinced that so far from resting upon the consentient testimony of ancient manuscripts, Versions, and Fathers by far the greater number of innovations, including those which give the severest shocks to our minds, are adopted on the authority of two manuscripts (Vaticanus and Siniaticus), or even of one manuscript, against the distinct testimony of all other manuscripts, uncial and cursive.” p.227
The cursive MSS were those written in a cursive style and typically date later than the uncial ones which were written in capital letters.
“The popular notion seems to be, that we are indebted for our knowledge of the true texts of Scripture to the existing uncial entirely; and that the essence of the secret dwells exclusively with the four or five oldest of those uncials. By consequence, it is popularly supposed that since we are possessed of such uncial copies, we could afford to dispense with the testimony of the cursives altogether. A more complete misconception of the facts of the case can hardly be imagined. For the plain truth is THAT ALL THE PHENOMENA EXHIBITED BY THE UNCIAL MANUSCRIPTS ARE reproduced by the cursive copies.” [emph. mine] Burgon and Miller, ” The Traditional Text.” p.202.
Dr. Scrivener says regarding this,
“A Judge is not impartial if he rejects the testimony of eighty-nine out of a hundred witnesses. It is a law of evidence that the very few are to be suspected rather than the very many.” “Bibliotheca Sacra” p.35
It can be simply shown that the other new translations are also derived from Westcott and Hort’s Greek text simply by comparing the variant readings. If they agree with this text then they are derived from it because all the other MSS disagree with many of the variant readings it contains. This can be further demonstrated by taking note of the omissions, if a version omits the same text as the Westcott and Hort text then it is derived from it.
For example the NIV has a note after Mark 16:8 it says
“The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20”
Which two MSS do we think these are ? Well we are not left to ponder too much because if we go to the Note in the NKJV alongside this same passage we read
“They are lacking in Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.”
As you can judge for yourselves these modern translations omit these verses solely on the authority of the Vat. and Sin. MSS. rejecting all other evidence Do you think that is good enough a reason to “take away the words of this book”?
So that you, the common reader can make up your own judgment regarding the quality of the new versions which are almost all based on these two MSS. Let us see what else these two “superior and more reliable” manuscripts contain, or omit which is more often the case.
Facts about he Vaticanus
Although it includes the Apocrypha, It omits :
Gen 1:1 to Gen 46:28
Ps 106 to Ps 138
All of Revelation
It leaves out of the gospels :
748 whole sentences
(2556 omissions in all)
That these appear to be oversights of the scribe is evident from the fact that the “same scribe has repeatedly written words and clauses twice over.” (Dr. Scrivener, “Introduction”, Vol.1, p.120) Obviously this piece of writing was not considered to be of major importance unlike the Textus Receptus which was painstakingly copied and verified.
Dr. Hskier says
“That B (Codex B = Vaticanus) is guilty of latches, of a tendency to ‘improve,’ and of ‘sunstroke’ amounting to doctrinal bias. That maligned Textus Receptus served in large measure as the base which B. tampered with and changed, and that the Church at large recognized all this until the year 1881 — when Hortism, in other words Alexandrianis, was allowed free play.” “Codex B and Its Allies”, part 1, p.465
Facts about the Siniaticus
It contains almost all of the N.T. but added to it is the “Shepherd of Hermes” , “Bel and the Dragon”, and the Epistle of Barnabas” (which I think has been shown to be a forgery). It has been heavily altered, changes “brought in by at least ten different revisers….the greater part belonging to the sixth or seventh century.” Dr. Scrivener “A Full Collation of the Codex Siniaticus,” p.XIX, Introduction
Mr. Philip Mauro adds ” Thus there are internal evidences that lead to the conclusion that it was the work of a scribe who was singularly careless, or incompetent or both…” Which Version, p.45
It appears to be very unreliable and is deemed so by many authorities.
Why is it that the editors of the new Bible version and those who push them on the people don’t tell them of these facts ?
Just so you can get an idea of the quality of these “most reliable and oldest texts” I want to quote to you a little from them found in the Epistle of Barnabus
“But he adds neither shalt thou eat the hare. To what end? To signify this to us: thou shalt not be an adulterer; nor liken thyself to such persons. For the hare every year multiplies the places of its conception; and so many years it lives, so many it has. Neither shalt thou eat of the hyena; that is again, be not an adulterer, nor a corrupter of others; neither be like such. And wherefore so ? Because creature every year changes its kind and is sometimes male and sometimes female.” Epist. Barnabus 8:7-8
You can make up your own minds as the reliability and superiority of these manuscripts. They don’t seem to be so reliable to me.
Another example the NIV which leaves out Mark 16:9-20 on the evidence of these two MSS however every single other uncial MSS contains these verses except these two manuscripts. How much evidence does one need.
Dean Burton says
“The impurity of the Texts exhibited by Codices B and Aleph is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. These are two of the least trustworthy documents in existence” Revision Revised, p.315
Both MSS are well preserved and little used, obviously indicating the little confidence with which they were held.
Here are some of the Verses omitted by the NIV based on the Vaticanus text ignoring all the evidence to the contrary.
The Bible makes some strong claims for itself which should make one especially wary of cutting parts out of it.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you neither shall ye diminish from it.” Deut 4:2
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book or this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” Rev 22:19
“Every word of God is pure and is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” Prov 30:5
The newer translations (NIV, RSV, etc) like to flaunt their textual accuracy over the supposedly “out moded” and “flawed” KJV. The simple fact is that these supposedly more reliable translations are just new versions of the old Latin Vulgate. This is easy to prove.
The Douay is more or less a direct translation of the Vulgate. We can go through a modern translation comparing it to the Douay (Vulgate) and show where it differs from the KJV is does so to agree with the Vulgate. For example the NIV basically parallels the Douay. It is important to note that the alterations significantly affect the doctrine of the Bible.
Look at these parallel translations where the meanings are clearly different.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them That curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for those that despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, ***************************, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.”
“But I tell you, Love your enemies, ***************************, and pray for they that persecute you.”
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, ********************** ************************ and pray for them ***************** that persecute you;
The phrase bless them that curse you is omitted from the ASV Douay and NIV.
“And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”
“And his father and his mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.”
“The child’s father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him”
“And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him;
Once again the NIV and the ASV follow the Douay and gives Jesus a human father!
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
“And Jesus answering him said to him, ************************ It is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
“Jesus answered, ******************* ******************* It is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, ******************* It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
The Douay, ASV and the NIV omit the words get thee behind me, Satan. This is obviously advantageous for those who wish place Peter on a pedestal.
1 Cor 15:47
“The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
“The first man was, of the earth, earthly: the second man ********* from heaven, heavenly.”
“The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man ********* from heaven.”
“The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is ************ of heaven.
Again these other three versions omit the Lord and thereby preferred by the Arian view that Jesus is a created being.
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”
“And to enlighten all men that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which has been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things *************.”
“And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God who created all things *****************.
“and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; ***************”
Again by Jesus Christ is omitted by the Douay, ASV and NIV. Leaving the identity of the creator uncertain!
After all the facts are laid out before you, the picture becomes quite clear. The arguments against the KJV in favor of the newer versions supposedly based on “more reliable” manuscripts is nothing more than the age old conflict between only two Bible versions: the Textus Receptus in the form of the KJV and the Latin Vulgate in the form of a plethora of new translations.
We have many evidences for the early date of the Received Text:
Quotes in the early church fathers, a majority of which appear to conform to the Received Text, and some (possibly many) of these in the second century.
The Peshitto, which generally agrees with the Received Text, and is thought to have been translated in the second century.
The fact that Lucian lived in the late third century and is generally regarded as the editor of the Received Text, which was in existence before then but was selected by him and compiled into a Bible.
The much larger number and better agreement of the manuscripts representing the Received Text.
Instead of being more reliable the manuscripts which form the basis for both the Vulgate and the new translations have been shown to be at worse the work of singularly careless, or incompetent scribes and at worse a conscious attempt to alter the Scriptures according to various biases. In light of this the preference given to these flawed manuscripts by many is, at best, hard to understand.
The KJV stands out as the only version to be true to the vast majority of ancients texts. It is also the version that restored the Bible to the common people. The Textus Receptus has been the mainstay of Christianity for almost two millennia. To reject its superiority is to retrograde back into the middle ages.