There are basically two arguments against the Traditional Text, with an additional one as it concerns the Authorized Version. First, there are those who reject the Traditional Text at a certain reading based on manuscripts that are considered older. Second, the Critical Text is embraced because the manuscripts it is based on are characterized as better. One does not have to look long to find this older/better argument employed. Both arguments sound authoritative and certainly deserve our consideration. To this a third argument is added to support modern versions of the Bible. It concerns the need for simplicity.
Textual scholars will point to the age of a manuscript, as in the case of very old papyri, as supporting their argument for a given reading. On the surface such patronage seems sound. After all, the older manuscript would be closer in age to the original autographs. It is therefore assumed, quite logically, that this manuscript would most likely contain the original reading. The earliest Greek manuscripts are the papyri discovered in Egypt, south of the Delta region. They were unearthed in the "rubbish heaps" of such places as Oxyrhynchos, Atfih (Aphroditopolis), and Heracleopolis. [Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 279.]
Although most of these papyri are fragmentary, others contain large sections of Scripture and have been given very early dates by paleographers. P75 (containing part of Luke and John) dates from 175 to 225 AD. P66 (containing part of John) and P46 (containing part of Romans and the Pauline epistles) dates to about 200 AD or before. P52, a small fragment containing only John 18:31-33 and 37-38, had been considered the oldest manuscript, dating to 125 AD. However, papyrologist and textual scholar Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede has redated P64 (the Magdalen papyrus) from the early third century to 66 AD. [Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Ancona, Eyewitness To Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 124-125.] P64 consists of three small fragments containing Matthew 26:7-8, 10, 14-15, 22-23 and 31. Thiede has likewise redated P67 from the third century to around 70 AD. This manuscript contains Matthew 3:9, 15; 5:20-22, 25-28. If his position is correct, these would be the oldest existing manuscripts.
The papyri manuscripts mentioned above are very old indeed. The fact that these manuscripts seem to have originated in Egypt, or at least survived there, and were not used by the majority of believers throughout the existence of the church does not carry much weight with textual scholars. But it is something we should consider. After all, why should we think that the majority of believers in church history were deprived of God’s pure word? And, if we make such limitations, what does this say about preservation at any given time in history?
It does not seem to bother most textual critics that these manuscripts do not generally agree with later Alexandrian texts. The early papyri, although considered Alexandrian in nature, reflect a mixed text with many Byzantine readings in them. Consequently, Kurt Aland has labeled P46 and P66 as "free" [Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament, 2nd ed., trans. Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 99-100.] while Bruce Metzger simply calls P66 "mixed." [Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 40.] In his introduction to the Chester Beatty Papryi, Sir Frederic Kenyon likewise observes the mixed nature of these early manuscripts. [Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: Fasciculus I (London: Emory Walker, 1933), 16.]
There are many places where the oldest manuscripts support the readings of the Traditional Text. Yet, these readings are mostly rejected in light of the later Alexandrian readings. For example, in John 4:1 Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century), Codex D05 (sixth century) and Codex Q (ninth century) have the reading Iesous (Jesus). The Traditional Text reads kurios (Lord). This is also the reading in Codex Vaticanus (fourth century), Alexandrinus (fifth century), Codex C (fifth century), and the majority of uncial manuscripts and cursive manuscripts. Both P66 and P75 have the reading kurios, agreeing with the Traditional Text. Nevertheless, this reading is rejected by the Critical Text in favor of the reading found in Sinaiticus. Consequently, modern translations such as the NIV and NRSV forsake the early manuscripts in favor of Sinaiticus. There are many other examples of this sort. There are also many places where P66 and P75 differ with each other. In such cases, P66 is sometimes chosen, while at other times P75 is cited.
Dr. Gordon D. Fee, a noted and respected textual scholar, produced a comparison study of early manuscripts with various text types. [Epp and Fee, 221-243.] It yielded some very interesting results. In his study, Dr. Fee notes several passages in the Gospel of John where Codex Sinaiticus agrees or disagrees with P66, P75, the Texus Receptus, and some other witnesses. In John chapter four, Fee notes that out of sixty-one possible textual variations P66 produced the following statistics:
Texus Receptus = thirty-seven times or 60.6% in agreement with P66.
Sinaiticus = twenty-one times or 34.4% in agreement with P66.
Likewise, P75 showed a stronger relationship with the Traditional Text than it did with Codex Sinaiticus; however, its strongest relationship is clearly with Codex Vaticanus. The agreement with P75 among these texts is as follows:
Texus Receptus = thirty-two times or 52.5% in agreement with P75.
Sinaiticus = nineteen times or 31.5% in agreement with P75.
Vaticanus = fifty-two times or 85.2% in agreement with P75. [Ibid., 228.]
Dr. Fee then broadened the study to cover John 1-8, with a total of three hundred twenty possible textual variations. The statistics show a strong relation between the Traditional Text and P66, agreeing 50.9% of the time when there are textual variations. P66 and Sinaiticus agreed only 43.7% of the time. [Ibid., 233.] Although Dr. Fee maintains that the pro-Traditional Text readings are "of little consequence," he does concede that the early papyrus have produced evidence away from the Alexandrian textual line. [Ibid., 201.] Further, the point is not that the earliest existing manuscripts are Byzantine in nature, just that they are mixed and are not pure Alexandrian. Therefore, the modern Critical Text does not always follow the oldest existing manuscripts.
We should also consider the recent evidence produced by Dr. Carsten Thiede regarding P64. If he is correct in redating this manuscript to 66 AD, we not only have the earliest known manuscript of the New Testament, we have one that supports the textual reading found in the Traditional Text. In Matthew 26:22 the Critical Text reads, legein auto eis ekastos while the Traditional Text reads, legein auto ekastos auton. The difference is reflected in the Revised Standard Version when compared with the King James Version. "And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’" (RSV). "And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?" (KJV). While the difference is minor and does not affect doctrine, this is still a reflection of the type of textual variants common between the Alexandrian and Byzantine textual lines. If the oldest manuscript is to be considered more original, a change must occur in the Critical Text because P64 has the same reading found in the Traditional Text and the King James Version. Although the papyrus fragment is worn, Dr. Thiede was able to determine the original reading using an extremely powerful device known as an epifluorescent confocal laser scanning microscope. [Thiede and D’Ancona, 60.] Here is another example where the oldest reading that agrees with the Traditional Text is rejected in favor of the later Alexandrian reading.
However, the argument over the oldest manuscripts and their textual variants with later manuscripts may be moot. According to textual scholars such as George D. Kilpatrick and H. Vogels, the great majority of textual variants in the New Testament text occurred before the start of the third century. [G. D. Kilpatrick, The Principles And Practice Of New Testament Textual Criticism (Leuven: University Press, 1990), 34.] If this is true the debate over the age of a manuscript is not as important as the age of the textual variant. Additionally, Dr. Kurt Aland has noted the tenacity of a textual variant in that once injected into the text it can reappear centuries later in later manuscripts without any subsequent existing manuscripts between. [Aland, 56.] If this is true of textual variants, it is likewise true of the original reading. Therefore, the original reading may just as likely be found in later manuscripts as it is in the older ones. This being the case, more is needed than the age of a manuscript when making a textual decision.
Dr. Frederik Wisse has correctly noted that the majority of all existing manuscripts have a striking bias against them as far as modern textual scholarship is concerned. In an attempt to provide a working profile of the majority of Greek manuscripts, Wisse has observed that scholars such as Kurt Aland are not interested in the Byzantine text, but only in texts that "significantly diverge from the Byzantine text." [Frederik Wisse, The Profile Method For Classifying And Evaluating Manuscript Evidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 21.] The majority of textual scholars today consider the Alexandrian family of manuscripts closer to the original and therefore better. The Byzantine or Traditional Text has been considered a conflation (a mixing or joining) of the Alexandrian and Western texts in the fourth century by Lucian at Antioch in Syria. Therefore, the latter text is considered inferior.
Some nineteenth century scholars strongly promoted the Lucian Recension theory. This particular theory stated that Lucian of Antioch, Syria, who died in 311 AD, was the leader of a group of scholars who edited and conflated the various existing texts to produce what became the Traditional Text. Since Lucian was from Syria, and the work was said to have occurred there, this text is sometimes called the Syrian Text. The basic problem with this theory, established by Fenton John Anthony Hort, is that there is no evidence of any such event ever having occurred. Sir Frederic Kenyon correctly noted that we have the names of several of the revisers of both the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate and it would be notably unusual for history and church authorities to have omitted any record of such a major revision of the New Testament. [Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1926), 302.] Further, as has been noted, the majority of all textual variants had already come into existence before the third century. Therefore, the Byzantine Text is more than likely to have been established long before the existing manuscripts that reflect it.
Apart from the promise of Scripture, we simply do not know which text is original and which one is corrupt. It is valid to argue that despite the absence of early Byzantine manuscripts, the traditional textual line reflects the original autographs better than the Alexandrian line. Since the Scriptures are to be used and read we would expect these texts to wear sooner than texts that were considered corrupt and therefore not used by the majority of Christians during the first three hundred years of the church. This would explain the absence of Byzantine manuscripts until later in the church’s history. However, the Byzantine textual line has early witnesses. We have Byzantine readings in the oldest existing manuscripts; we also have Byzantine readings in ancient versions and the citations of the church fathers. What scholars classify as better manuscripts may therefore rest more on subjectivity than is usually admitted.
The Need For Simplicity
The argument against the King James Version now turns from one of textual criticism to one of translation. Apart from the textual issues, the most common plea for contemporary revisions of Scripture is that of simplicity. Time and again we are informed that the King James Version is too difficult to read and should be simplified. This objection is so well established that it is hardly even questioned.
To illustrate the need for simplicity, several examples of difficult readings are sometimes offered. [Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 53-54.] The following are a few instances. "And Mt. Sinai was altogether on a smoke" (Exodus 19:18). "Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing" (Psalm 5:6). "Nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin" (Nehemiah 13:26). "Solomon loved many strange women" (1 Kings 11:1). "The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market" (Ezekiel 27:25). "We do you to wit of the grace of God" (2 Corinthians 8:1).
These are good examples and do illustrate changes and difficulties in our English language. Each case could easily be resolved with footnotes or an English dictionary. Regardless, one can make similar arguments against many modern versions. Consider the following from the New International Version. "Waheb in Suphah and the ravines" (Numbers 21:14). "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days" (Genesis 6:4). "Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis" (Acts 27:17). "The meeting of the Areopagus" (Acts 17:22). "Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium" (Matthew 27:27). "He agreed to pay them a denarius" (Matthew 20:2).
It is also popular to compile lists of difficult words contained in the KJV as reason for simplicity. However, just because something is difficult does not mean it should be abolished. The following examples are words that may be considered difficult for the average reader:
"Soliloquized, onslaught, ferule, cruelly, gesticulation, filial, geniality, titter, garret, haunches, forlorn, fetched, dismalest, well-nigh, reckon, unkempt, serape, palpable, gunwale, auspicious, procured, oaken, labyrinth, tallow, and stalwart."
The above list did not come from the Elizabethan English of the Authorized Version, but from four chapters of the narrative of Mark Twain's children's classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. One can point to difficulties in anything, but our growth as humans is to seek to understand what we do not know. Some words that are difficult in the KJV include the following:
"Amiable, anon, begat, centurion, chode, churlish, corban, espied, fain, forthwith, fray, gat, hardness, knob, ligure, leasing, mammon, pate, perdition, pityful, sod, suffer, trode, verily, wanton, waxed, wench, wot, wont."
These words, standing on their own, may be difficult or misunderstood. Yet, each of these words have found their way into contemporary literature. The word wont is a wonderful example of this. It means customary and is used nine times in the King James Version. A recent Star Trek novel reads: "The next morning, Commander Riker arrived at the ready room fifteen minutes early, as was his wont; he was surprised to see Wesley Crusher already waiting." [Dafydd Ab Huge, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Balance Of Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, Peter David, 1995), 261.] The need for a comprehensive vocabulary may be an argument favoring the Authorized Version.
In his booklet, All About Bibles, Dr. John R. Kohlenberger III has listed the reading level of several English translations as provided by Dr. Linda H. Parrish and Dr. Donna Norton of Texas A & M University. They list Today’s English Version (TEV) with a 7.29 reading grade level. The NIV received a 7.80 reading grade level, while the New American Standard Version (NASV) received an 11.55 reading grade level. The highest reading grade level was 12.00 and given to the KJV. [John R. Kohlenberger III, All About Bibles (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 12.] This would mean that anyone who graduated from high school should be able to read this "outdated" version. Additionally, its reading level is not that much higher than the NASV.
Once we begin an argument against any translation that is based on simplicity, where do we stop? Do we reject the readability of the KJV and embrace the NASV as easier to read because it is a half-grade lower? Should we reject the NASV and accept the NIV because it is even easier to read? Do we then stop with the NIV? What if someone cannot read at the seventh grade level? Do we lower the standard even more? Do we take the approach that some modern educators have and "dumb-down" our language? Or do we seek to raise the standard higher and educate our people? These are important questions when it comes to readability. After all, historically the church has always sought to raise the educational level of the masses, not lower it.
There is also a scriptural principle here. We must consider that it is not so much the words as the concepts of Scripture that are difficult to understand. As Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts; the same passage admonishes us that our ways are different than those of the Lord. When Christ came and preached He spoke in parables, not to make the message easier to understand but to make it harder (Matthew 13:10-16). We are under the command to search the Scriptures daily and to study to show ourselves approved (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). This is not to say that simplicity does not have its place; that is an individual choice. We should not disparage something because it is more difficult. We may end up finding that the more difficult is the more profitable. Since we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30), it may be that God wishes to enrich more than just our spirits.
These three arguments, therefore, are not as weighty as some would have us believe. Older manuscripts are not always better, nor are they always used. When older manuscripts support the Byzantine reading, that reading is usually rejected. What scholars may consider the better manuscript is really a matter of opinion that usually omits the providential hand of God. There are usually at least two sides to most textual arguments and we would do well to view things from alternate perspectives. Ultimately, our final conclusions must be biblical. Finally, what is considered difficult may be for our own good and edification. After all, the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, reminds us, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter" (Proverbs 25:2).
A Plea For Preservation
There are several verses that furnish the basis for biblical preservation (1 Samuel 3:19; Psalm 12:6-7; 105:8; 119:89, 160; 138:2; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 4:4; 5:17-18; 24:35; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-16; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Of these, perhaps the most cited and questioned is Psalm 12:6-7: "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." This is also the reading of the American Standard Version and the New King James Version. The passage provides a scriptural basis for the belief that God keeps and preserves his words.
The passage has also been understood as a reference to persons and not Scripture. The New International Version reads, "And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever." The Revised Standard Version agrees with this reading. The New American Standard Version changes "us" to "him," yet the focus is still on a person and not the preservation of God’s words. The question then arises as to which translation is correct. That is a debate that has been persisting for centuries.
The great reformer, John Calvin, noted that this passage could be understood to refer to either the words of God or God’s people. Calvin himself thought the context had reference to the preservation of God’s people. [John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 178-179.] Other great theologians of the past believed the passage referred to God’s words. John Wesley, scholar and founder of the Methodist Church, writes that Psalm 12:6-7 concern the "words or promises (of God): these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever." [John Wesley, "Wesley’s Notes On The Bible" The Master Christian Library, version 7 (Rio, WI: Ages Software, 1999 ed.), disc 1.] Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, while using the American Standard Version, claimed this passage was a promise for biblical preservation:
"The psalmist breaks out into praise of the purity of His words, and declares that Jehovah will "keep them," and "preserve them." The "them" here refers to the words. There is no promise made of widespread revival or renewal. It is the salvation of a remnant and the preservation of His own words which Jehovah promises." [G. Campbell Morgan, Notes On The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1958), 32.]
The Hebrew can be understood to refer to either "them" or "him." The Greek LXX uses the word hemas (us), yet the Greek versions of Aquila and Theodotian use the word autous (them). The argument as to the meaning of this passage, therefore, is open for discussion. Nevertheless, the first half of this passage is without question as to its meaning. The words of the Lord are pure, and the whole of Scripture testifies to this truth. It somewhat lacks consistency to think that God’s words would be pure in their inception and yet lost in their transmission. If the Almighty takes time to purify his words, it would seem he would take just as much care to preserve them. Otherwise, why purify them at all? Of course, the truth of biblical preservation is not confined to this one biblical passage, as has already been noted.
The Fullness Of Time
In addition to the promise of preservation, it should also be noted that God does things in accordance with his own schedule. Concerning Jesus Christ, we are told when "the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). We are also told that all things will be accomplished by Christ "in the dispensation of the fullness of times" (Ephesians 1:10). There are no coincidences in regard to Christ. He fulfills things according to his purpose and in his timing. What is true of the Living Word is reflected in the written word. The Authorized Version came into being at just the right time. If we accept the Sovereignty of God, we must also believe his hand was in producing the world's most loved translation of the Bible.
Before the late sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century, the church in power was the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism at that time prohibited the reading of the Bible in any language but Latin. However, by the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century the Protestant Church became the major religious force in the English-speaking world. At this time, when the KJV was translated, the printing press was being refined. England was on the threshold of becoming a world empire, and the Protestant Reformation was in full swing.
Approximately one hundred fifty years before the KJV was printed, Bibles were all handwritten. One can begin to imagine the impossible task of reaching the world when all Scripture had to be copied in this fashion. By the seventeenth century printed books were common, and the desire of Christians to have their own copy of Scripture was rapidly growing. This is one of the reasons the Geneva Bible was so popular. Although the Puritans loved the Geneva Bible and brought it with them to the New World, by 1637 the King James Bible had replaced it throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. [Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll, eds., The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press: 1982) 27-33.] In fact, the KJV was universally accepted in the New World "as the word of God and no question was raised as to its infallibility." [Oliver Perry Chitwood, A History of Colonial America (New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1961 ed.) 441.]
The English language is divided into three periods. Old English, (700 to 1100 AD); Middle English, (1100 to 1500 AD); and Modern English (1500 to the present). [Marjorie Anderson and Blanche C. Williams, Old English Handbook (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935), 6-7.] As a pioneer work of the Modern English era, the KJV has helped in the shaping and developing of the English language, and is the only modern translation of which this can be said. Dr. William Rosenau has correctly observed that the KJV has "molded new forms and phrases, which, while foreign to the English, became with it flesh and bone." [William Rosenau, Hebraisms In The Authorized Version (Baltimore: The Friedenwald Company, 1903), 31.] Many great literary works that followed have been greatly influenced by the Authorized Version. This speaks of the importance of this great version in regard to the English language.
Although its beauty has been compared to the writings of Shakespeare, it is vastly easier read than Shakespeare, with equal influence upon our native tongue. Contemporary scholars of the English language have observed that:
"The King James Bible was published in the year Shakespeare began work on his last play, The Tempest. Both the play and the Bible are masterpieces of English, but there is one crucial difference between them. Whereas Shakespeare ransacked the lexicon, the King James Bible employs a bare 8000 words–God's teaching in homely English for everyman. From that day to this, the Shakespearian cornucopia and the biblical iron rations represent, as it were, the North and South Poles of the language, reference points for writers and speakers throughout the world, from the Shakespearian splendor of a Joyce or a Dickens to the biblical rigor of a Bunyan, or a Hemingway." [Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, The Story Of English (New York: Viking Penguin Inc, 1986), 113. This book is a companion to the PBS television series on the history of the English language.]
The history and effect the KJV has had on our language not only speaks of its great literary value, but of the divine hand upon it that shaped our language, our culture, our history, and our thought.
The Testimony Of The Translators
Although the testimony of the King’s translators is often ignored, it stands as a unique tribute to their enterprise. In their second and third paragraphs of the original preface, titled The Translators To The Reader, the KJV translators make some very interesting comparisons. They liken their work to David delivering the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem, to Solomon building the temple of God, and even to Moses receiving the Law.
The preface makes a case for providing individuals with Holy Scriptures in their native tongues. The translators listed the objections raised by the Catholic Church of that day: "Was their [i.e., Protestant] translation good before? Why do they now mend it? Was it not good? Why then was it obtruded to the people?" Responding to such questions, the translators wrote:
"Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfected at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labours, do endeavour to make that better which they left so good, no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us; they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us . . . And this is the word of God, which we translate . . . For by this means it cometh to pass, that whatsoever is sound already, (and all is sound for substance in one or other of our editions, and the worst of ours far better than their authentick Vulgar) the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; . . ."
The translators saw their work as a completion of the earlier English translations. To them, the Authorized Version was the perfecting of these earlier works, hence the phrase "nothing is begun and perfected at the same time." Additionally, they believed that what they translated was the very "word of God." Finally, they state that even the worst of their early English versions (King James I considered the Geneva Bible a poor translation because of its marginal notes, which he saw as subversive) was far better than the Latin Catholic Bible. To the translators, theirs was the work of polishing what their forerunners produced, and thus the perfecting of the word of God. The translators also state:
"Now to the latter we answer, That we do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God."
Why did the KJV translators alter these early works if they considered them the word of God? The translators write:
"Yet before we end, we must answer a third cavil and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our Translations so oft; wherein truly they deal hardly and strangely with us. For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause? . . . If we will be sons of the truth, we must consider what it speaketh, and trample upon our own credit, yea, and upon other men's too, if either be any way an hinderance to it."
As sons of Truth, they were more concerned with presenting the pure word of God than establishing their own theological beliefs.
"Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one; (for then the imputation of Sixtus had been true in some sort, that our people had been fed with gall of dragons instead of wine, with whey instead of milk;) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark."
The translators’ goal was to produce from the early English versions based on the Traditional Text one principal English translation. The paragraph ends with praise because "the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see."
Their final paragraph expresses their concern for the reader, and thankfulness to God for his help in producing this beloved version.
"Many other things we might give thee warning of, gentle Reader, if we had not exceeded the measure of a preface already. It remaineth that we commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of his grace, which is able to build further than we can ask or think. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the vail from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand his word, enlarging our hearts, yea, correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea, that we may love it to the end . . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but a blessed thing it is, and will bring us to everlasting blessedness in the end, when God speaketh unto us, to hearken; when he setteth his word before us, to read it; when he stretcheth out his hand and calleth, to answer, Here am I, here we are to do thy will, O God. The Lord work a care and conscience in us to know him and serve him, that we may be acknowledged of him at the appearing of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, to whom with the Holy Ghost, be all praise and thanksgiving. Amen."
A Jewish Book
The Bible is a Jewish book. The Apostle Paul states of the Jews that, "unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2). Every writer in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, with the possible exception of Luke, was Jewish. The central person of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, was born a Jew.
The Bible, therefore, uses Jewish terms and expressions called Hebraisms. Any correct translation of the Bible must reflect its Jewish heritage. English translations that weaken or remove these Jewish Hebraisms weaken our understanding of the people of God and the meaning of Scripture.
The KJV retains these Hebraisms. In fact, because of the popularity of the KJV, many of these Jewish expressions have become our expressions. As mentioned before, Dr. William Rosenau, a biblical scholar who made a study of the Hebraisms, writes:
"[The King James Bible has] molded new forms and phrases, which, while foreign to the English, became with it flesh and bone. The origin of most of these forms and phrases is not difficult to trace. They are like the equivalents of which they were translations – Hebrew in character." [Rosenau, 31.]
Thus we have many common expressions taken from the Authorized Version that have their basis in Hebraisms. The following are a few examples:
|In the sweat of thy face||Genesis 3:19|
|Am I my brother’s keeper||Genesis 4:9|
|Unstable as water||Genesis 49:4|
|A stranger in a strange land||Exodus 2:22|
|A land flowing with milk and honey||Exodus 3:8|
|Sheep which have no shepherd||Numbers 27:17|
|Man doth not live by bread alone||Deuteronomy 8:3|
|Whatsoever is right in his own eyes||Deuteronomy 12:8|
|The apple of his eye||Deuteronomy 32:10|
|The people arose as one man||Judges 20:8|
|A man after his own heart||1 Samuel 13:14|
|How are the mighty fallen||2 Samuel 1:25|
|Thou art the man||2 Samuel 12:7|
|From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head||2 Samuel 14:25|
|Steal the heart||2 Samuel 15:6|
|Horn of my salvation||2 Samuel 22:3|
|The sweet psalmist of Israel||2 Samuel 23:1|
|How long halt ye between two opinions?||1 Kings 18:21|
|A still small voice||1 Kings 19:2|
|The shadow of death||Job 10:21|
|With the skin of my teeth||Job 19:20|
|The land of the living||Job 28:13|
|My cup runneth over||Psalm 23:5|
|The pen of a ready writer||Psalm 45:1|
|Wings like a dove||Psalm 55:6|
|From strength to strength||Psalm 84:7|
|As a tale that is told||Psalm 90:9|
|At their wit’s end||Psalm 107:27|
|To dwell together in unity||Psalm 133:1|
|The way of the transgressor is hard||Proverbs 13:15|
|Heap coals of fire upon his head||Proverbs 25:22|
|Answer a fool according to his folly||Proverbs 26:5|
|Boast not thyself of to-morrow||Proverbs 27:1|
|Iron sharpeneth iron||Proverbs 27:17|
|There is no new thing under the sun||Ecclesiastes 1:9|
|To every thing there is a season||Ecclesiastes 3:1|
|The race is not to the swift||Ecclesiastes 9:11|
|A weariness of the flesh||Ecclesiastes 12:12|
|Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die||Isaiah 22:13|
|As a drop of a bucket||Isaiah 40:15|
Many of these have found their way into modern versions simply because they have become common English expressions. We owe this to the Jewish flavor of the KJV. There are also certain expressions that are certainly Jewish but fail to be reproduced in modern versions. The following are a few examples among the thousands of Jewish Hebraisms noted by Dr. Rosenau; [Ibid., 169-283.] for purposes of comparison I have added the equivalent translations from one of the most widely used modern versions, the NIV.
|Reference||Jewish Hebraisms||English Expression|
|1 Kings 5:10||According to all his desire||He wanted|
|Exodus 8:10||According to thy word||It will be as you say|
|Leviticus 11:16||After his kind||Any kind|
|Genesis 45:23||After this manner||This is what|
|Exodus 14:13||Again no more forever||Will never see again|
|Exodus 2:23||And it came to pass||During that long period|
|2 Samuel 1:9||Anguish is come upon me||I am in the throes of death|
|Proverbs 14:14||Backslider in heart||The faithless|
|Psalm 90:17||Beauty of the LORD||Favor of the Lord|
|2 Samuel 12:12||Before the sun||In broad daylight|
|Exodus 32:18||Being overcome||Defeat|
|2 Kings 25:26||Both small and great||Least to the greatest|
|Proverbs 2:7||Buckler to them||A shield to those|
|Numbers 9:23||By the hand of Moses||Through Moses|
|Jeremiah 7:10||Called by my name||Bears my Name|
|Genesis 6:4||Came in unto||Went to|
|1 Samuel 2:26||Child Samuel||Boy Samuel|
|Ezra 6:16||Children of the captivity||The rest of the exiles|
|2 Samuel 7:10||Children of wickedness||Wicked people|
|Haggai 1:7||Consider your ways||Give careful thought|
|Psalm 2:2||Counsel together||Gather together|
|Jonah 1:2||Cry against||Preached against|
|Exodus 23:23||Cut them off||Wipe them out|
Even Jewish expressions from Psalm 23, such as "I shall not want," "the valley of the shadow of death," and "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" are changed in many modern versions. Today's English Version alters these beloved Hebrew expressions; they become "I have everything I need," "if I go through the deepest darkness," and "your house will be my home as long as I live." English expressions such as those found in the NIV and TEV may be easier for some to understand. However, they have lost the influence of their Jewish heritage.
The Preeminence Of Christ
Some have proclaimed that modern versions or their Greek texts deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Certainly there are some, such as the New World Translation, that seek to diminish Christ’s deity. It is also true that some versions are stronger regarding Christ’s deity than others. While most translations clearly and strongly proclaim this basic biblical truth, the Traditional Text does present a stronger Christology regarding His deity (Matthew 19:16-17; Romans 14:10, 12; Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7; and Revelation 1:8, 11).
Additionally, other aspects of Christology are more strongly presented in the Traditional Text. For example, in Luke 2:33, 43 the Traditional Text calls the stepfather of Christ by his name and separates him from the person of Mary. We read, "Joseph and his mother marvelled" and "Joseph and his mother knew not of it." However, the Critical Text changes "Joseph" to "father," making the texts read "his father and mother marveled" and "his father and mother knew not of it." Such readings do not in themselves deny the virgin birth of Christ; still the reading found in the Traditional Text upholds this doctrine and removes any possible confusion in this regard.
The same may be said of Christ’s redemption. Again, the truth of salvation is found in all Greek texts and English translations. Yet, certain aspects are presented more forcefully in the Traditional Text and the KJV in certain places. We are told that we have redemption "through his blood" in Colossians 1:14. The Critical Text does not contain this phrase at this place, though it does appear in all texts in Ephesians 1:7. This raises two questions. First, why would the phrase be found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and not in his letter to the Colossians? Second, how is it possible to have redemption without divine payment for that redemption? Clearly the phrase should remain in regard to this doctrine. The Greek manuscripts are evenly divided as to its inclusion or omission. This can be demonstrated with the two editions of the Majority Text. The internal evidence, based on Ephesians 1:7, would argue for its inclusion in that the phrase is used by Paul elsewhere and is consistent with what he would have written. Overall, when we consider other textual sources, the reading must remain because it is biblical and in character with Paul’s other writings.
An additional example concerns 1 Peter 2:2. We are told in the Traditional Text that as newborn babies in Christ we should "desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." The Greek phrase found in the Traditional Text reads ina en auto auxethete (that ye may grow). The Critical Text adds eis soterian (to salvation) at the end of the phrase, suggesting that salvation is something we grow to. This is why the NRSV renders the phrase as "that by it you may grow into salvation." Certainly the reading of the Traditional Text omits the confusion and provides a stronger Christology here regarding redemption.
In regard to Christ, Paul reminds us that "in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). If Christ is to have the preeminence in all things, this would include Bible translations. Just as one can use a modern version to prove the deity of Christ, so modern versions proclaim the person of Jesus Christ. Though this may not be in question, divine names are not always as strongly proclaimed in the Critical Text. Instead of phrases such as "Lord Jesus Christ" we might find "Jesus Christ" or "Jesus." In fact, there are about two hundred such examples found in the New Testament where the expanded title is found in the Traditional Text.
Sometimes a simple omission has profound impact. 1 John 1:7 is a good illustration of this. The Traditional Text reads, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Modern versions based on the Alexandrian textual line read "Jesus" instead of "Jesus Christ." The difference seems small on the surface, but we must remember that John wrote this epistle to confront the heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught that Jesus and Christ were two separate entities. Jesus, they said, was born of Joseph and Mary and was physical. At his baptism the Christ, who was spiritual, was said to have entered into him. At this point, according to the Gnostics, Jesus became Jesus Christ. At his crucifixion, the Gnostics claimed that the Christ left, leaving only Jesus to die. At the resurrection, the disciples saw the spirit Christ, but the mortal Jesus remained dead. Once we understand the heresy John was confronting, the differences between the two readings becomes abundantly clear. If John had written "the blood of Jesus" he would have been making a statement that the Gnostics would have been in agreement with. After all, they believed that it was Jesus who shed his blood. But by writing "the blood of Jesus Christ," John was making a direct assault on this Gnostic heresy.
The Nature Of God
The Bible proclaims that God is truth (John 4:24). Without this fact, the whole Bible is a lie as well as all of Christianity. So, we must look for a Bible that reflects what God is since the Bible is his word. There are several places where the KJV and its underlining texts are more truthful in their proclamation of the word of truth. For example, in 2 Samuel 21:19 we read: "And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam." This is a truthful statement supported by 1 Chronicles 20:5. Unfortunately, modern versions omit the phrase "the brother of," suggesting that Elhanan killed Goliath. Such a suggestion is biblically untrue, for the Scriptures are clear that David killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
The only place where the name Lucifer is given is Isaiah 14:12, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" The verse is changed by some to read, "O morning star" instead of "O Lucifer." Is the one who fell from heaven Lucifer or morning star? The problem is compounded when we read in the New Testament that Jesus Christ is the morning star (Revelation 22:16). One may wish to argue the Latin derivative of the name Lucifer; however, the one who fell was not Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 5:22 the Traditional Text states, "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." The Critical Text does not contain the phrase "without a cause." Therefore, if one is angry he is sinning. Since Christ was angry and chased the moneychangers out of the temple, he would be guilty of sinning. But we know that Christ did not sin, so the more truthful statement is found in the Traditional Text.
These arguments are not presented to defame, discredit, or disparage anyone’s translation. As the King’s translators reminded us, even the meanest translation of the Bible contains the word of God. When anyone sits down with his or her translation and reads what God has given, all Christians rejoice. Nevertheless, one’s personal choice in translation does not negate the promise of preservation. Nor should it cause any to speak ill of what has so wonderfully and beautifully been given. When we consider these things with respect to the traditional Hebrew and Greek texts and the English Authorized Version, we may find that God has truly crowned them with glory.