What is the Bible? - Presentation to the Euro-Fellowship Conference via Skype, 07-24-2010

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Program Notes – William Finck's July 24th Presentation for the European Fellowship Conference (See the audio & file links at the bottom of the page):

What is the Bible?

Most Christians tend to have a Bible version which they love above all others, and which to them, as they are often taught to believe, represents the inerrant Word of God. But is that a healthy Christian attitude, inasmuch as Christians are urged by scripture in nearly any translation, to prove and to scrutinize all things? We have been raised and taught to love our King James Version, or Luther's version, and much esteem is held for these books among the English or German peoples. These versions contributed so much to Western culture that they even helped build and unify our very languages! But are they really scripture? Should they be blindly accepted as inerrant? The King James version has thousands of known mistranslations. It can clearly be demonstrated that nouns were translated into verbs, verbs into nouns, and even that the grammatical object and subject were reversed in many sentences. Could these errors possibly be by the inspiration of Yahweh? Or rather, do Christians not have an obligation to examine all of these things? Here we will discuss the possible avenues of investigation, since most Christians seem to be ignorant of the sources of their dearest treasure: which is their Bible.

 

The earliest known manuscripts of the Old Testament

 

The Silver Scrolls:

The earliest known bible fragments were found a decade ago, when there was announced the discovery of tiny silver scrolls, once worn as amulets, found in Jerusalem in a layer ascertained to predate the final Babylonian deportations of Judah. These are fragments of text found at Numbers 6:24-26, translated by Coogan as follows: “May Yahweh bless you and keep you; May Yahweh cause his face to Shine upon you and grant you Peace” [Coogan, Michael D., 1995, 10 Great Finds. Biblical Archaeology Review 21.3: 36–47. This translation was on p. 45]. The existence of these scrolls more or less demonstrates the existence of scripture at this early time, and also shows the existence of the Tetragrammaton being used as we would assert that it was used.

 

The Nash Papyrus:

This consists of four fragments containing approximately twenty-four lines, including a section of the 10 commandments, which are from Exodus and Deuteronomy. The papyrus probably dates to around the 2nd century BC., as W. F. Albright and others esteemed it. This is just one example of many ancient papyri fragments discovered by archaeology over the years, and while it is not significant by itself, the total body of such findings is a testament to the wide dissemination of scripture at an early time. However when the Nash Papyrus was first discovered, it was quite significant, being the oldest known Hebrew fragments of scripture. All fragments such as this should be evaluated, recorded, and considered a part of the general overall scriptural record, for they all give us insight into the readings of scripture at an early time.

 

The Aramaic Targums:

The Aramaic Targums are interpretations of the Hebrew Old Testament into Aramaic. While some of these were done at a very early time – and some are dated by scholars to as early as the 2nd century AD, no actual manuscripts exist which are quite that old. The need for targums for the people in assembly was evident as early as the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:8 reads: “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”) While two of the known Targums were preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, there is one important one which was not. Talking about the early Christian era, Bruce Metzger says in the article, "Important Early Translations of the Bible," Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (Jan 93), pp. 35ff. that “During the same period the Targum tradition continued to flourish in Palestine. In addition to fragments and citations that have been collected, the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch is found, primarily, in three forms. The two that have been the most studied are the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum and the Fragmentary [or Jerusalem] Targum, which contains renderings of only approximately 850 biblical verses, phrases, or words. In the mid-20th century a neglected manuscript in the Vatican library, identified as Neofiti 1, was discovered to be a nearly complete copy of the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch. Though claimed by some to have been copied in the 16th century, its text has the distinction of being the earliest form of the Palestinian Targum and some scholars date it to as early as the 1st or 2nd centuries AD. It is somewhat less paraphrastic than Pseudo-Jonathan in that its explanatory additions are fewer in number and more terse in expression. The wide divergences among these Targums clearly indicate that they are "unofficial," in that their text was never fixed. There are no reliable data as to who the authors and compilers were, under what circumstances and for what specific purposes they labored, and how literary transmission was achieved.” One of the more important targums is the Targum of Onkelos, which is believed to be at least as early as the 4th or 5th centuries AD, and to be more closely related to an earlier Aramaic dialect. All of these are very important to our understanding of Old Testament scriptures and the formation of the Masoretic Text upon which most modern Bibles are based. It is evident that the targums are the earliest translations of scripture, however it is not to be taken for granted that the targums which we have are identical to the earliest of the targums.

 

The Samaritan Pentateuch:

Surviving texts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are at least as old as the earliest surviving Masoretic texts, and maybe even older, but the jews themselves contend over this. The texts reflect a tradition which probably dates to the 2nd or 3rd centuries BC and the building of the temple at Mount Gerazim which is described by Josephus. The modern so-called Samaritan Christians possess something called the “Abisha Scroll”, which they claim is 3,000-years old, but the few scholars who have seen and worked with it date only parts of it to the 11th or 12th century, and the rest of it to later periods . There are several modern-day fools who claim to be experts in palaeo-Hebrew, whom we must be wary of. While they cite the existence of the Abisha scroll as evidence that palaeo-Hebrew manuscripts do actually exist, the Abisha scroll is not written in true palaeo-Hebrew, but in a Samaritan script which evolved from an older, post-exilic, Hebrew script. The self-proclaimed “palaeo-Hebrew experts” have never themselves seen the Abisha Scroll, and they have never seen any other substantial palaeo-Hebrew manuscript to compare it to. However the Samaritan Pentateuch does give us some insight into the early books of the Bible.

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls:

The following is quoted from parts of sections 43 and 68 of “William Finck vs. The Paul-Bashers” “First, there is no substantial evidence that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by Essenes. Reading the professional archaeology journals, scholars and academics refer to the authors of the scrolls as the Qumran Sect or the Dead Sea Sect, and such is proper since a definite identification of these people with any of the historically known sects of Judaea cannot be made. Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls fall into one of several categories, which I would generally identify as follows: a) Copies or targums of Biblical books; b) Copies or targums of known apocryphal books; c) Sectarian commentaries on Biblical books; d) Prayers and prophecies peculiar to the sect; e) Scrolls of instruction for and governance of the members of the sect. There are some other miscellaneous documents, such as the calendrical documents, or the Copper Scroll which is a description of buried treasure which the sect supposedly had in various places, which don’t really fit into one of these categories. Most of the scrolls are numbered in the fashion #Q#, where the first number is the cave where the scroll was said to be found, 1 through 11, and the second is a serial number of the scrolls and/or fragments from each particular cave. Additionally, many of the notable scrolls also have a familiar name. For example, the Copper Scroll mentioned [previously] is 3Q15.

 

“Josephus’ description of the Essenes, found at Wars 2.8.2-3 (2: 119-122) is very much like Luke’s of some of the first Christians (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37), yet that does not necessarily mean that these first Christians were Essenes, or that Essenes were the first Christians. While some of the sectarian documents found at Qumran do indicate that the possessions of sect members were controlled by the sect and not by the individual, such as 4QRule of the Community, i.e. 4Q256 Col. IX (frag. 4) and 4Q258 Col. I (frags. 1a1, 1b), so it may appear that these people were Essenes, yet such communal societies were certainly not novel and they occurred elsewhere. For instance, Diodorus Siculus said of certain Greek colonists at Lipara that they 'took over the cultivation of the islands which they had made the common property of the community ... their possessions also they made common property, and living according to the public mess system, they passed their lives in this communistic fashion for some time' (Loeb Library edition, 5.9.4-5). Diodorus wrote from about 50 B.C., and so it is quite possible that other groups besides the Essenes lived in a communal fashion, this way of life being known among both Greeks and Hebrews.

 

“Yet others of the Qumran documents suggest that these people did not live in a truly communal manner, such as 4QInstruction, at 4Q416 Fragment 2 and 4Q417 Fragment 1 which discuss the borrowing of necessities, and advise of the need to repay such loans as quickly as possible. These do not seem to be Essene teachings, since in a community where all things are held in common there should be no need for borrowing, or to make repayment for what one requires. This is especially true if the Qumran sect was as wealthy as the treasures which are listed on the Copper Scroll purports it to be.

Some may point to a certain passage in Pliny’s Natural History, at 5:73, which seems to support the identity of Qumran as an Essene settlement, yet there is much dispute concerning this passage, for which see Biblical Archaeology Review, July-August 2002, p. 18, 'Searching for Essenes' for the details of this argument. Josephus testified that the Essenes 'have no certain city, but many of them dwell in every city; and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own ...' (Wars 2.8.4). And so there are difficulties with identifying the members of the Qumran sect as Essenes.

 

“The War Scroll found in 4Q491 through 4Q497 and some other Qumran scrolls, peculiar to the Qumran sect, was written by a vain and false prophet who described a grandiose apocalyptic scenario depicting a final battle between the remnant of Israel in Palestine and the 'Empire of the Kittim', which was the name that the sect gave to the Romans, also sometimes called the 'Empire of Belial' (i.e. 4Q491 Fragments 8-10 Col. I). This battle was to end with the aggrandizement of the remnant of Israel, which they saw as their own sect, and [with] the fall of Rome. The sect interpreted parts of Isaiah chapter 10 in this same manner, for which see 4Q161 Fragments 8-10. Since the Qumran sect seemed to know nothing of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., and even mentions the city on occasion, (i.e. 4Q504, Fragments 1-2, Col. IV) the War Scroll requires a dating for the Qumran sect somewhere between Pompey’s conquest of Judaea where it was subjected to Rome, and the revolt from Rome beginning about 65 A.D. which resulted in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D., a period of about 132 years. Since the scrolls lack mention of any contemporary historical figures or specific historic events, I know nothing (though others may) by which the scrolls can be dated more precisely. There was a fourth large sect in Judaea, that of Judas the Galilaian, which Josephus said was noted for their refusal to heed any authority but God, and also for inspiring revolt from Rome. Josephus describes them at Antiquities 18.1.6 (18:23-25). This is in such agreement with the Qumran sect’s apocalyptic documents that this sect is as good a candidate for Qumran as the Essenes. [In fact, I am personally convinced that the Qumran sect was that of Judas the Galilaian.]

 

“Yet one thing is certain, and that is that there is no mention of Christ or [of] anything Christian in the Qumran scrolls, and even if the sect had heard about Christianity, they surely made no mention of it. Even if Essenes were among the first Christians, and even if the people of Qumran were Essenes, the people of Qumran were not Christian! The people of Qumran were still awaiting the Messiah, who would lead them in the destruction of the Kittim (their name for the Romans), as evident in the eschatological scroll 4QSefer ha-Milhamah, or 4Q285 Fragment 5, and in many places elsewhere.

 

“The Qumran sect’s post-Apocalyptic New Jerusalem scroll (parts of which are found in 1Q32; 2Q24; 4Q232, 365a, 554, 554a, 555; 5Q15 and 11Q18) talks about Passover sacrifices and offerings (i.e. 11Q18 Fragments 16, 17 and 27), so the Christian understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 and 1 Cor. 5:7 is wanting at Qumran. Other scrolls, such as 4QRitual of Purification B (4Q512) and 4QOrdinances (4Q514) place an emphasis on ritual purification (baptism), which after the baptism of John we see Christ rejecting before the Pharisees (i.e. Mark 7:1-23). The Qumran sect, while anti-Roman and separatist, surely clung to traditional Judaism. While not Pharisees, neither were they Sadducees, since they believed in spirits and the continued life of the soul after the death of the body: things which the Sadducees fully rejected (Antiquities 18.1.4; Acts 23:8). Now it should be apparent that while the Dead Sea Scrolls may have been produced during the time of Paul of Tarsus, this is not necessarily so, and since the sect was surely not Christian, nor were they anti-Christian, having no apparent knowledge of Christ, they certainly had no reason at all to make any reference to Paul of Tarsus in their writings.

 

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are an enigma to most people, who will never have the time or the initiative to read them. The fullest published edition of the scrolls is Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, Oxford University Press, which is 38 volumes the last time I read about it but may be even more now...”

 

Later on in that same article, I write the following: “... contentions concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls and Paul of Tarsus hold up only if one is led to believe that the Qumran sect members were Christians. It has already been demonstrated here that the sect was positively not Christian, and made no indication in their writing that they knew anything of Christianity. Here I shall quote one more Dead Sea Scrolls passage which fully supports my contention, and which should remove any lingering doubts which anyone may have. From 4Q271, Fragment 5, Column I, a portion of the Damascus Document: 'No-one should help an animal give birth on the Sabbath day. And if it has fallen into a well or a pit, he should not take it out on the Sabbath ... And any living man who falls into a place of water or a well, no-one should take him out with a ladder or a rope or a utensil.' In the Christian mind, this should immediately evoke the words of Yahshua Christ recorded at Matt. 12:9-13 and Luke 14:1-6, for He would surely want us to help the animal, and especially the man, immediately on the Sabbath! The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls were NOT Christians....”

 

However, once the sectarian manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been separated and distinguished from the Biblical manuscripts, it is evident that we have an important early witness to the extant Hebrew text of the Bible, and the commentaries on Biblical books found among the scrolls are also often important, for they give us insight into some of the things that a non-Pharisaical sect in Jerusalem thought about some of the Old Testament. And while they themselves are not entirely perfect, they are certainly the oldest manuscripts we have of significant portions of scripture.

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been often abused by people with an agenda, who need something to point to in order to support some usually false idea, and know that the likelihood of having their assertions investigated is quite slim.

 

 

The Septuagint and its manuscripts:

Like the Masoretic Text and the New Testament, the Septuagint has long been preserved in various codices. However we have copies of the Septuagint which predate the Masoretic and other texts by many centuries. The Brenton translation is based on the Codex Vaticanus, and some alternate readings are supplied from the Codex Alexandrinus, which are 4th and 5th centuries AD codices, respectively. I employ the Hatch & Redpath Concordance to the Septuagint in my own Septuagint studies, which gives readings both from those and from several other ancient manuscripts. There are also many other such Codices of the LXX which are known to us. Parallel Bibles containing columns of Hebrew, Greek and other languages have been made at least from the time of Origen, and the Hatch and Redpath concordance includes readings from Origen’s Hexapla.

 

The Septuagint suffered much criticism over the years, with the jews, in desperate support of their Masoretic Text, leveling all sorts of accusations against it. Therefore, quite sadly, it has fallen into total disuse by the Western churches. Now, with the discovery and inspection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it has been found that not only have fragments of the LXX been discovered among those scrolls, but also, the Hebrew scriptures of the scrolls are often much closer to the LXX than to the Masoretic text! But not always. The important and often-cited Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6 is quite different from the LXX than it is in the KJV, and yet here the DSS agree with the KJV reading of the Masoretic Text. Also interesting is the fact that the DSS fragments of the Greek also contain the Tetragrammaton “Yahweh” instead of the Greek title kurios for the name of God.

 

In defense of the LXX, it is without a doubt the most-often quoted source of Old Testament scripture by the original writers of the New Testament. However it is obviously not the only source, and therefore it cannot be seen as an elixir for all of our woes concerning the ancient Biblical manuscripts in general.

 

Caveats about the LXX:

  • Many of the names translated in the Septuagint Old Testament reflect Hellenic-period names and not ancient Hebrew names. Neither are many of these fair equivalents, since the Greeks were wont to call people after their geography, and not after their race.

  • Since all translation of prophecy is by necessity partly an interpretation, and since the original prophets were indeed inspired by Yahweh, but not necessarily the translators, I would hesitate to dismiss the prophetic books of the Masorete, but rather I must maintain them as a guide and a clue as to what the original text used by the LXX translators may have read.

  • The LXX is the “official” Greek version of the second temple period, and there is little doubt that the Hebrew texts were corrupt already by that time, for which note the text of Jeremiah 8:8.

The Histories of Josephus:

The real value in the works of Josephus is that his histories provide an excellent and, I believe, a very honest account of Jerusalem from the rise of the Maccabees through the usurpation of the kingdom by Herod, and up to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. For Judaean history before the period of the Maccabees, however, Josephus relied on the same books of the bible which we have with us today. However often it is apparent that the scriptures from which he obtained his information were a much better Hebrew copy than any of the Hebrew copies which we now have. One caveat, however, is that Josephus was a Pharisee, and his learning to a great extant reflects the learning of the Pharisees, and such learning certainly affected his interpretations of the early books of the Bible, which are described in the early chapters of his Antiquities. Yet the works of Josephus, like the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, help us to fill in several large voids left to us by a deficient Masoretic Text.

 

The Masoretic Text:

Finally we come to discuss the Masoretic Text, and all other Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible are Masoretic, and belong to the tenth century or later. Some of these manuscripts are claimed to be dated earlier. However textual critics consider these dates to be due either to intentional fraud or to uncritical transcription of the dates of older manuscripts. For instance, a codex of the Former and Latter Prophets, now in the Karaite synagogue of Cairo, is claimed to date to A.D. 895; yet some assert that it can be dated only to the eleventh, or even as late as the thirteenth century. The Cambridge manuscript no. 12, is dated to A.D. 856, and some claim that it is a thirteenth-century work. The date of A.D. 489, attached to the St. Petersburg Pentateuch, Neubauer rejects as utterly impossible (for which see Studia Biblica, III, 22), and I must agree. In all likelihood the earliest Masoretic manuscripts are actually the Prophetarium Posteriorum Codex Bablyonicus Petropolitanus, dated A.D. 916, the St. Petersburg Bible, transcribed by Samuel ben Jacob and dated A.D. 1009, and the Codex Oriental. 4445 in the British Museum, which is dated by scholars to A.D. 820-50. While the textual critics differ vary widely in the dates they assign to certain Hebrew manuscripts, very few are proven to date much before the tenth century AD.

 

The Masorah is not only a text, but also a commentary on the text, formulated by jewish rabbis from the 6th to 9th centuries AD. With it, they sought to regulate the content of scripture, and use it as a rule to determine just what would be their “official” Hebrew text. The commentary was left out of the King James Version, however it has found its way to us in other forms, such as the notes to the so-called Companion bible, which is based heavily upon the Masorah. Yes, the Companion Bible actually brings to us all of the works and commentaries of the Masoretic jews, disguised in Christian form. Yet the older manuscripts, such as the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, do reveal that the Masoretic Text is not without problems, and is far from being an ideal copy of the Old Testament Hebrew. There are problems with the Masoretic Text. First, the close similarity of certain letters in the newer block-type Hebrew alphabet has caused some characters, notably the 'd' and the 'r', to be often confused, causing the misreading of many words. That this happened frequently is fully demonstrable when one compares passages of the Masoretic to the Greek manuscripts. Another problem with the Masoretic Text is the vowel-pointing, and the jews have practically invented a new language out of the old with their use of it, creating nuances of grammar not known to have existed in ancient times, and interpreting words for us with interpretations that are not necessarily correct.

 

Sound Old Testament Interpretation for Christians:

Because of the fact that none of the witnesses which we currently have available for Old Testament scripture are perfect by themselves, we need all the witnesses we can gather in order to assist us with scriptural interpretation. Does the scripture itself not say that every matter is established upon the testimony of two valid witnesses, or three? Therefore, studying the Old Testament, we need the Masoretic Text, we need the Septuagint, we need Josephus, and we need the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we should use more than these when we get the opportunity! But whenever we examine the Old Testament, the soundest practice for Christians is to examine it through a lens of understanding in the New Testament, for the Words of our Redeemer and His apostles are the most trustworthy, and they themselves were much closer to an understanding of the ancient scriptures than we could ever be today. So now we should turn our attention to the extant witnesses attesting those words.

 

The New Testament Manuscripts:

Attestation of the New Testament in early manuscripts is incredible. There are literally thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts and fragments which are known to exist throughout Europe and the Middle and Near East or which have been found by archaeologists. In addition, there are also thousands of known ancient manuscripts which contain translations of the Greek into Latin, Syriac, Armenian or other languages. By comparison, all other famous works of antiquity have remarkably scant attestation from ancient manuscripts. We have very few manuscripts of any of the Classics that are over a thousand years old, and virtually none of any of them which can be dated so close to when they were first written.

 

Of the extant New Testament manuscripts, the most notable are the Great Uncials. These are written on parchment, a material made from the skins of animals and therefore much more durable than brittle papyrus. Paul mentions parchments at 2 Timothy 4:13. We have parchment uncials which were preserved to us from the 4th century. Among these are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus. We also have several 5th century uncials. The Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi Syri and Codex Bezae, along with many others, all date to around the 5th century.

 

In addition to the ancient codices, archaeologists have in various places found ancient papyri manuscripts, usually consisting only of fragments, dating to as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries. One of the most notable of these is P-45, as the papyri are given a number by scholars so that they can be referred to in academic journals and books. In P-45 there survives large parts of the four gospels and the Acts. The papyrus dates to the third century and currently resides in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Another Papyrus, P-46, which is dated to 200 AD, contains much of Paul’s letters from Romans to Hebrews and is currently kept at a library of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Yet there are many other fragments of New Testament papyrus manuscripts dating to the early centuries of Christianity, some of which are as old or even older than these.

 

The King James Version:

The politics surrounding the translation of the King James Version of the Bible is not at all as important to me as the manuscripts which were used in the making of the translation, and the efficacy of the translation when it is compared to the original Greek. Let me limit the discussion to the fact that there were other English Bibles before the King James, but the King James was purposefully translated to be the official Biblical text of the government and its fledgling Anglican Church, and that its language was deliberately constructed in a manner which made it appear that the Bible actually decreed the ecclesiastical structuring of such an official church priesthood and the bureaucratic hierarchy by which Anglican Church was organized. Now even without that, since all translation is in necessity part interpretation, it is important to take both history and the Biblical context into account while translating. In this area I think that today we have a great advantage over the King James translators, who did not have the benefit of 19th century archaeology and the knowledge of history which we have available now. And the universalism of those original translations is mostly due to the limited knowledge of history and the need for the translators to squeeze themselves into the covenants of Yahweh our God. Therefore the only valid perspective in Biblical translation can be the Christian Israel Identity perspective.

 

It was Erasmus, a priest and the (clerically) illegitimate son of a priest, born in 1466, who is primarily responsible for putting together what was eventually the manuscript of Beza which the KJV was originally based upon. Other modern New Testament translations are based upon the later Elzevir manuscript, the self-proclaimed “Textus Receptus”. Erasmus used manuscripts dating from the 11th through the 15th centuries in his endeavor. He eventually published 5 editions of his manuscript before his death in 1536. It is a well documented fact that Erasmus either included or left out readings from older manuscripts which either fit or did not fit his particular theology.

 

Following Erasmus, Robert Stephanus published 4 editions of Greek texts from 1546 to 1551. Stephanus’ editions agitated the romish catholics, and he had to leave Paris to continue his work in Geneva. Stephanus’ later editions agreed with Erasmus’ to a great extent, however by this time Erasmus’ Greek text had already been gaining quite a following as having been “providentially appointed”, so we see just how early this error got into the minds of churchmen. Stephanus used a wider collection of manuscripts in his New Testament publication, placing alternate readings in the margins. Some scholars suspect that some of these alternate readings are even from the Codex Bezae, a 5th century great uncial, which I personally find to be quite unreliable when compared to all of the other early codices and papyri.

 

Not long after Stephanus, editions of the New Testament Greek were published by Theodore Beza, a disciple and successor to Calvin. Beza printed 4 Greek New Testament editions up to 1598. In the third edition, printed in 1582, Beza lists his sources, among whom were Stephanus, a Syriac version published by a jew, an Arabic and Latin version, and his own Codex Bezae and Codex Claromontanus, a 6th century manuscript closely related to the Bezae. Beza obtained these manuscripts which bear his name from the monastery of Clermont in northern France. One item of note is that Beza defended the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, a pericope which even the Latin translator Jerome had condemned.

 

With the Erasmus, Stephanus and Beza editions of the Greek New Testament all competing for recognition among scholars, a family of Dutch printers named Elzevir joined the fray and published editions of the NT in 1624 and 1633. In this second edition, it is here in the preface where the words “Textus Receptus” appear, which is believed to be the first place in which they appeared in relation to the New Testament. The words began as a mere boast by a printer! Elzevir for the most part followed Beza’s editions, but also included readings from Erasmus and from some Latin copies. The 2nd edition of Elzevir eventually became the “Textus Receptus” on the European continent, yet by this time, the 3rd edition of Stephanus had already become the preferred Greek New Testament in England.

 

As Bede also attests, early Anglo-Saxon monks and priests had already made translations of parts of the Bible when Wycliffe made his English translation from Latin, which first appeared in 1382. Tyndale, born in 1485, became attached to the Reformation and printed his first New Testament editions from Germany in 1525 to 1528, with revisions later. Following Tyndale and using much of his work, Coverdale made an English translation of the Latin Bible in 1537, and again in 1539 under Cromwell who made it the official Bible of the church of England. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth two revisions of the Coverdale Bible were made, and the latter became known as the Bishop’s Bible, published in 1568. Yet it is evident that since Tyndale never finished his OT from Hebrew, and Coverdale filled in the blanks with Latin, that this Bible was not really a unified effort. Therefore when the first King James Version appeared, it could make the boast that it was “Newly Translated out of the Original tongues”. Work on the KJV began in 1604, and it was printed in 1611. The New Testament primarily employed Beza’s edition of the Greek NT, but also consulted editions of Erasmus, Stephanus, and the Complutensian Polyglot. However it is in great part based upon the Bishop’s Bible, which itself was based on Tyndale’s work.

 

Many defenders of the perceived divine inspiration of the KJV – none of whom have any apparent care for what text the apostles themselves may have used – make their claims based on emotional appeals and sentiment. They don’t care that so many passages were added to the manuscripts over time. They don’t care about the meanings of Greek words and translational errors. They got their doctrine from bad manuscripts and bad translations and now they don’t want to review the translations because they insist that their doctrine is correct and inspired. They claim that the popularity of the King James is providential, and yet they totally ignore the fact that once it was published and made “official”, all other English versions were banned by King James! So people had no choice but to use the official government version, for which reason it became so popular! The bottom line is this: we have access to many ancient manuscripts today, that are much better than those used to create the King James Version since they are much closer to the actual events which they describe. We also have a much better understanding of Greek, of history, and of the Bible through history. Therefore we would be ignoring our obligation to God NOT to reconsider the King James along with other extant and ancient versions, while also employing the most original ancient manuscripts that we can find!

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