Friday, February 16, 2018

On differences between the King James Version of the Bible and some other more modern English translations

Dear Bob,

There are three issues in the chart showing difference between the King James Version and other more modern English translations.

The first is the use of the so-called Textus Receptus or Received Text, Erasmus’ GK text. The King James Version (or Authorized Version (by Kg Jas) uses the TR as a basis for translation. The TR tends to have conflated readings, i.e. a scribe added words to make something clear when the text he was copying wasn’t clear, e.g. the reference to Joseph in KJV and to “his father” in other texts. Scribes wanted us to be sure that we knew that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father.

A second issue is that most modern translations use the United Bible Society’s Nestle Aland Greek New Testament. The UBS text is an “eclectic” text, which means it compares all available Greek New Testament texts, e.g. Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Beza, and others. The idea is to get the surest text we can as close to the original Greek NT. Often scribes added glosses (comments) into the TR. As a result, there will be passages with longer readings in the KJV. The rules of determining the NT canon are used. One is the shorter reading is preferred. That is why some verses are shorter in the more recent translations. Another rule is that more difficult to explain texts are preferred. That means that when you have a shorter, more difficult passage, TR tends to explain by means of glosses. So, a more difficult passage is preferred in an eclectic text.

A final (by no means “final”, but the last I’ll mention) issue is whether a translation is “literal” or paraphrastic. No one, other than Young, has a literal translation. A literal translation makes no sense in English. Some versions, e.g. NASB, try to stick to word order in Greek, if possible. As a result the NASB reads rather woodenly, not easily in English. Others like NIV or NLT use a more paraphrastic translation, i.e. they will to capture the thought, if translating the words as they stand would be meaningless. Many who argue for the KJV are really arguing that the TR is better than the eclectic text. I don’t think that dog hunts, but...

Concerning this table of differences between the KJV and other translations I have answers for two such instances, as examples.  I give these two below with more explanation of the process of establishing the best Gk NT text.

Matthew 18:11

Textual apparatus from the Society of Biblical Literature Greek New Testament

10 οὐρανοῖς WH Treg NIV ] + 11 Ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός. RP

Translation of the apparatus
10 heavens WH Treg NIV] (means end the text here) + (add vs 11 “For the son of man came to save the lost”) only RP

The simple answer to why Matthew 18:11 “For the son of man came to save the lost” is left out of the NIV and other English translations, other than the KVJ (and those which rely on the Textus Receptus (Received Text; Erasmus’ Greek NT) or Byzantine text types is that the evidence for its inclusion is very poor.  Only Byzantine text types, which tend to add glosses, include it.

Wescott and Hort, whose text is the main basis of this SBL Greek NT edition, Tregelles’ edition and the Gk NT edition, which served as a base for the NIV translation (“Western” text types based on Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, the Ephraemi Rescriptus, and others) did not have this extra verse.  (See below for explanation of the Gk NT editions and their significance take from the SBL Introduction to their edition of the Gk NT.)

The rules of textual criticism say that if the majority of manuscripts lack a verse, the shorter reading is preferred, i.e. leave out what seem very clearly to be glosses or interpolations (additions) (the rule so-called textus brevis, shorter text).

Luke 4:8

To take one other examples Luke 4:8 is partially omitted by newer translations.  Again, this is due to poor textual evidence in the Greek NTs.

Greek text
8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Γέγραπται· Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.

English translation
8. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. NIV

SBL Gk NT text translated:

And answering ‘the Jesus said to him’ (‘’ means some question about word order is in question, but not inclusion). It is written: ‘Lord the God your you shall worship’ (some question about word order again) and to him alone you shall serve.

SBL Gk Textual Apparatus

8 ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ WH NIV ] αὐτῷ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Treg; αὐτῷ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου Σατανᾶ RP • Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις WH Treg NIV ] Προσκυνήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου RP

Apparatus translated

8 Jesus said to him WH NIV] (include to here); to him said the Jesus Treg; to him said the Jesus; Go behind me, Satan. RP (alone supports this phrase)  The Lord your God shall you worship WH Treg NIV] (Include) Worship Lord the God your RP

So, the issue is whether to include “Go behind me, Satan.” or not.

In this case actually there is agreement by all texts types except for “Go behind me, Satan!” There is a question of word order for the phrase: “And he said to him”, but this doesn’t affect meaning; it’s a question of emphasis (which I won’t explain; other than word order adds emphasis to words placed first or last).

The most likely reason for inclusion of “Go behind me, Satan!” is that the Matthew 4 version of the temptation of Christ, which is a parallel text, includes it.

Matthew 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

The copyist of Luke no doubt remembered the Matthew version and added the phrase “back in”, thinking that he was doing something good, because likely some other copyist had left it out.  These sorts of additions happen a lot in Byzantine or Eastern text types.

Those working on the SBL and UBS Gk NTs wanted to preserve the Gk NT text as it stands rather than allow such additions and glosses, even if they seem to make sense.

Those who argue for the KJV and similar translations based on the TR or Byzantine Gk NT texts argue that these inclusions should have been there.  Some argue that Erasmus knew of the other manuscripts found later (in time).  Some claim he destroyed them or ignored them in his preparation of his own Gk NT edition (TR).  I think all of these arguments are unlikely.

I don’t see that any of these differences make any substantive difference to the text itself.  I was trained in Gk NT (and Heb OT) textual criticism (to a MDiv level).  I think the arguments for “KJV only” are not very plausible.

Warmly in Christ,

Introduction to SBL Greek New Testament (pp ix- xii)
The Greek New Testament SBL Edition. Michael W. Holmes (ed). Atlanta, Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010.

The Text

The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBLGNT) is a new edition of the Greek New Testament, established with the help of earlier editions. In particular, four editions of the Greek New Testament were utilized as primary resources in the process of establishing the SBLGNT. These editions (and their abbreviations) are:

WH = Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, vol. 1: Text; vol. 2: Introduction [and] Appendix (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1881). This justly famous and widely influential nineteenth-century edition of the Greek New Testament was one of the key texts used in the creation of the original Nestle text 1 and was used as the initial basis of comparison in the creation of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament.

Treg = Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, The Greek New Testament, Edited from Ancient Authorities, with their Various Readings in Full, and the Latin Version of Jerome (London: Bagster; Stewart, 1857–1879). Although the fine edition of Tregelles has been overshadowed by that of his close contemporaries Westcott and Hort, his textual judgments reveal a “consistency of view and breadth of appreciation” of all the available textual evidence not always as evident in the work of his major nineteenth-century colleagues, who display (to varying degrees) a tendency toward a preoccupation with the latest “big discovery” (Ephraemi Rescriptus/04 in the case of Lachmann, Sinaiticus/01 in the case of Tischendorf, and Vaticanus/03 in the case of Westcott and Hort). 3 Tregelles offers a discerning alternative perspective alongside Westcott and Hort.

NIV = Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski, A Reader’s Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). This edition presents the Greek text behind the New International Version 4 as reconstructed by Edward Goodrick and John Kohlenberger III. 5 It thus represents the textual choices made by the Committee on Bible Translation, the international group of scholars responsible for the NIV translation. According to its editors, this edition differs from the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland editions of the Greek New Testament at 231 places. 6

RP = The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, compiled and arranged by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont (Southborough, Mass.: Chilton, 2005). This edition offers a text that is a reliable representative of the Byzantine textual tradition.

Establishing the Text

The starting point for the SBLGNT was the edition of Westcott and Hort. First, the WH text was modified to match the orthographic standards of the SBLGNT (described below). Next, the modified version was compared to the other three primary editions (Treg, NIV, and RP) in order to identify points of agreement and disagreement between them. Where all four editions agreed, the text was tentatively accepted as the text of the SBL edition; points of disagreement were marked for further consideration. The editor then worked systematically through the entire text, giving particular attention to the points of disagreement but examining as well the text where all four editions were in agreement. 7 Where there was disagreement among the four editions, the editor determined which variant to print as the text; 8 occasionally a reading not found in any of the four editions commended itself as the most probable representative of the text and therefore was adopted. Similarly, where all four texts were in agreement, the editor determined whether to accept that reading or to adopt an alternative variant as the text. 9 In this manner, the text of the SBLGNT was established.

A comparison of this new text with the four editions listed above, using as the data base the 6,928 variation units recorded in the accompanying apparatus (described below), reveals the following patterns of agreement and difference:

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