Do the Differences Matter?

Much has been written by textual critics on the corruption and ‘restoration’ of the Scriptures, particularly of the New Testament text1. This has been alluded to in the previous article. This corruption happened within the established Church with all its heretical deviants, and history is written by the victor. Those Scriptures (such as Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, mentioned previously) can legitimately be described as their Scriptures. That corruption did not occur with ‘the remnant’ as was also mentioned previously. They kept “the commandments of God” (Rev 12:17), one of which was/is not to tamper with the Scriptures (Rev 22:18–19). Another command was/is to “keep that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Tim 6:20), which is not only the doctrines much has been written by textual critics on the corruption and ‘restoration’ of the Scriptures, particularly of the New Testament text1. This has been alluded to in the previous article. This corruption happened within the established Church with all its heretical deviants, and history is written by the victor. Those Scriptures (such as Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, mentioned previously) can legitimately be described as their Scriptures. That corruption did not occur with ‘the remnant’ as was also mentioned previously. They kept “the commandments of God” (Rev 12:17), one of which was/is not to tamper with the Scriptures (Rev 22:18–19). Another command was/is to “keep that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Tim 6:20), which is not only the doctrines and standards of Scripture, but the source of it, the Scriptures themselves.

The Scriptures of ‘the remnant’, as represented by the texts mentioned in the previous article (i.e. the texts behind the King James Version [KJV ]) can, on the other hand, be legitimately described as our Scriptures. Our Scriptures have survived down to our time largely unscathed. In the past, our communal prayers often thanked the Father for preserving His Word “throughout the ages” (we don’t seem to hear that gratitude expressed so much these days). Our Scriptures require minimal restoration.

Most contemporary or new translations, on the other hand, are translated from other texts, as stated above and in the previous article. That encompasses not only English but other language translations.

As also stated in the previous article, most changes occur in the New Testament. The New International Version Preface claims that “The Greek text used in translating the New Testament (NT) was an eclectic one”. For a version claiming “clarity and ease of reading”, that word might have readers scrambling for a dictionary! ‘Eclectic’ means selected, and comes from a Greek word related to eklektos (chosen – see Strong 1588). Their “choice of readings”, the preface continues, is made “according to the accepted principles of NT textual criticism”. Compared to the Received Text, the first Critical Text, the Westcott and Hort text of 1881, had 5604 variations2. The 27th edition of the Nestle Aland Critical Text (NA27), published in 1993, (upon which many of the latest NT translations are based) has 8032 variations 3. Obviously the gap is widening as time goes on.

An illustration of this widening gap can be demonstrated from Jude 5. The relevant section in the KJV reads: “how that the Lord, having saved the people out of Egypt…” Various contemporary versions from the RV onwards have included a footnote: “Many ancient authorities/some early manuscripts read Jesus” (in lieu of “the Lord”). Amusingly, a footnote in the NRSV even suggests that ‘Jesus’ might be ‘Joshua’, presumably the son of Nun. Even a Sunday school scholar knows that Joshua did not save the people out of Egypt! In any case, the context of verse 5 precludes a human saviour. Up to the ESV (2002), it has never been in the text of non-Catholic Bibles (it is in the text of both Rheims, 1582, and Douay, 1752). One of the editors of the Nestle Aland 27th edition (and also of the NRSV), Bruce M. Metzger, opposed the rendition ‘Jesus’. He wrote, “a majority of the Committee was of the opinion that the reading ( Jesus) was difficult to the point of impossibility”4. Bruce Metzger died in 2007, which meant that his active influence on the 28th edition ceased. (Of the five official editors of the NA27, three, K. Aland, B. Metzger and C. Martini, were deceased at the time of the publication of NA28). It would seem that those now on the committee had unfettered scope to bring ‘Jesus’ into Jude 5. The 28th edition (2012) has ‘Jesus’. The proponents of the Critical Texts (from Westcott and Hort to NA28) have since at least 1881 been seeking to determine “the most probable reconstruction of the original text” (NRSV ‘To the Reader’). The reading ‘Jesus’, from their perspective, is just another step in that direction. Truly “an eclectic text”! The proponents of the Critical Texts tend to regard supporters of the Received Text in much the same light as Flat Earthers, or, dare we say, Creationists! The Critical Texts can truly be called their Scriptures!

A telling comment is made by a Critical Text advocate, or textual critic, E.C. Colwell. He writes: “It is often assumed by the ignorant and uninformed – even on a university campus – that textual criticism of the NT is supported by a superstitious faith in the Bible as a book dictated in miraculous fashion by God. That is not true. Textual criticism has never existed for those whose NT is one of miracle, mystery and authority. A NT created under those auspices would have been handed down under them and would have had no need of textual criticism … Textual criticism finds no support in the cult of ecclesiastical obscurantism”5. Take that as a compliment!

As implied in the above title, do all these differences matter? The good news is that most do not. Many involve variations in spelling that cannot even be translated out of the Greek. Others involve words that have no effect on translation (refer3). The bad news is that others are more serious. There are, for example, up to 48 verses removed (or footnote removed) from the New Testament, depending on the version (www.av1611.org). These include Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11. In future, John 21 and 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 may also become deletions6. In addition, a list of some 300 words and phrases omitted, added or substituted may be found on the same website. Of these, 40% are found in the Roman Catholic Douay and Latin Vulgate Bibles.

John 1:18, for example, represents a serious doctrinal deviation. In the KJV it reads (in part), “the only begotten Son”. The NIV reads, “God the only Son”, the ESV, “the only God”, the NASB and (oddly enough) the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation, “the only begotten God”. This general rendition is not an interpretation: it is in the particular Critical Texts used. Oddly, some Trinitarian defenders of the KJV also object to those modern renditions of John 1:18 on the basis that they “deny the eternality of Christ” and introduce a created “lesser god”7! On the other hand, proponents of the Critical Text unsurprisingly claim it to be “an explicit declaration of Christ’s deity” (NIV Study Bible). The anomaly of an “eternally begotten God” will be taken up in the last article, as we consider the relative scarcity of the word “begotten” in some of the contemporary versions (for example the NIV). The inappropriateness of reading John 1:18 in its new form in public should be obvious.

As an example of ‘words missing’, Matthew 9:13 and Mark 2:17 read in part, “… I am not come/came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The term, “to repentance,” is eliminated in many of the contemporary versions of these verses. The two verses relate to different events in the Lord’s ministry. It would now seem that sinners are no longer required to repent!

As mentioned in the previous article, many of the contemporary versions are termed “Dynamic Equivalent” translations; they tell us what they think the text means, as opposed to merely telling the reader what the text says. Not only is the text “eclectic”, so too is the translation! Some of these interpretative ‘translations’ are given in the attached table (How do you ‘read around’ these verses?). It is sad to note in that table, that the NKJV, supposedly literal, and based on the same KJV underlying texts, is also guilty of interpreting the text. Every time a new version comes on to the market, potential (Christadelphian) readers will need to check those verses and work out a doctrinally correct rendition. Perhaps it will be necessary to revert to the ‘obsolete’ King James! (Not easy to do, once you have ‘burnt your bridges’). Perhaps additional verses will be found, as newer versions are published. Jude 5 as mentioned above, is a case in point.

In the next article some of the differences will be discussed in more detail.

How do you read around these verses?

If you are reading from one of the ‘new’ or ‘contemporary’ versions, you will need to be aware of the doctrinal problems in the verses cited below and have an alternate rendition. This is particularly so if you are reading or quoting from the platform. Below is a sample; the list is not complete. You will probably have to mark in an alternate rendition to save embarrassment. Perhaps you may have to refer to the King James Version in these verses. Remember that in ‘dynamic equivalent’ versions such as the New International Version, the interpretation is given in the text, as opposed to being part of any commentary. The ‘new’ version renditions below are composite or generic. The first rendition is that of the King James. If your preferred version is other than those listed below, have a look as to how it renders these verses. The initialised versions may be deciphered from www.biblegateway.com

Genesis 22:17–18 his enemies vs their enemies (NIV, NASB, NKJV, RSV, CEV, ERV, GW) cp. Galatians 3:16.

2 Samuel 7:16 before thee vs before me (CEB, ESV, EXB, GW, HCSB, ISV, LXX, MEV, NOG, NABRE, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NLV, NRSV, RSV, Voice, WYC)

Isaiah 26:14 they shall not rise vs these departed spirits do not rise (NIV, NASB, CEB, ERV, NCV, NET)

Ezekiel 42:16–20 reeds vs cubits (LXX, NIV, ESV, RSV); feet (CEB, CEV, GW, GNB, NET)

John 1:18 the only begotten Son vs the only God (ESV, Roth); the only begotten God (NASB, NWT); God the only Son (NIV)

John 16:28 I … go to the Father vs I am going back to the Father (NIV, CEV, NET, NLT, TLB)

John 20:17 not yet ascended to the Father vs not yet returned to the Father (NIV, ERV, GNT)

Romans 5:5 the Holy Spirit which is given vs who was given (ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, KJ21, CEB, LEB, NET)

Romans 8:11 his spirit that dwelleth vs his spirit who lives (NIV); who dwells (ESV, NASB, NKJV, NET)

Romans 8:16 the spirit itself vs the spirit himself (NIV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, ERV, NET, Message)

Romans 8:26 the spirit itself vs the spirit himself (NIV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, ERV, NET, Message)

Romans 9:5 who is over all, God blessed for ever vs who is God over all, forever praised (NIV, ESV,NKJV, CEB)

1 Corinthians 2:12 the spirit which is from God vs the spirit who is from God (NIV, ESV, NASB, NKJV)

1 Corinthians 6:19 Holy Spirit which is in you vs the Holy Spirit who is in you (NIV, NASB, NKJV, ESV)

2 Corinthians 5:4 be clothed upon vs clothed with our heavenly dwelling (NIV, CEV, NCV)

Galatians 6:8 he that soweth to the spirit vs the one who sows to please the Spirit (NIV, NLT, NLV)

Philippians 2:6 who being in the form of God vs being in very nature God (NIV, CEV, TLB)

Philippians 3:14 the prize of the high calling of God vs the prize for which God has called me Heavenward (NIV, CEV, TLB)

Colossians 1:17 he is before all things vs he existed before everything else (GNT, NIRV, NLT, TLB)

Titus 2:13 the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ vs our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, CEV, ERV, Message, RSV, TLB)

2 Peter 1:1 the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ vs the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, CEV, ERV, Message, RSV, TLB)

References:

  1. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. B.D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press. 1993 Ed. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration. B.M. Metzger & B.D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press. 4th Ed.2005.
  2. Defending the King James Bible. D.A. Waite. pp. 41–42. 2006 Ed.
  3. 8000 Differences between the New Testament Greek Words of the King James Version and the Modern Versions. J.A. Moorman. Bible for Today/Dean Burgon Society. October 2006 Ed.
  4. Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. B.M. Metzger. UBS 2nd Ed. 1993. p. 657.
  5. What is the Best New Testament? E.C. Colwell. pp. 8–9. University of Chicago Press. 1952 Ed.
  6. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. B.D. Ehrman. p. 222. Oxford University Press. 1993 Ed. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration. pp. 272–273. B.M. Metzger and B.D. Ehrman. Oxford University Press 4th Ed. 2005. Wikipedia art. John 21.
  7. Defending the King James Bible. D.A. Waite. Bible for Today. p. 165. 2006 Ed. Which Version is the Bible? F.N. Jones. Kings Word Press. p. 36. 2004 Ed.