Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is the King James Bible Just a Translation of the Textus Receptus?

It is true that the KJV is primarily a translation of the textus receptus [TR], but it is not solely just a translation of the TR. The KJV has departed from the TR in a number of places. According to Frederick Scrivener, the KJV has departed from the TR close to one hundred times altogether (see F. H. A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible: Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives [Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1884]: 243–7, 262–3). Scrivener suggests that when the translators of the KJV departed from the TR, they often did so under the influence of Tyndale’s English translation, which sometimes followed the Latin Vulgate instead of the TR.

For example:

In Matt 10:25; 12:24, 27, the TR has the name βεελζεβούλ Beelzebul; but the KJV follows Tyndale, translating this as Beelzebub.

In Mark 4:18, the KJV, following Tyndale, departs from the TR by omitting the second οὗτοι εἰσιν these are. The second οὗτοι εἰσιν in the TR introduces a new clause, namely, these are those who have heard the word.

In Acts 26:6, the TR reads τοὺς πατέρας the fathers, whereas the KJV has our fathers. It is likely that the translators followed Tyndale at this point, and that Tyndale in turn followed the Vulgate patres nostros, which means our fathers. All other major manuscript traditions have τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν our fathers, thereby agreeing with the Vulgate.

In 1 Cor 16:23, the KJV has our Lord, whereas the TR, along with all other major manuscript traditions, simply has τοῦ κυρίου the Lord.

In Phil 2:21, the KJV follows Tyndale with the translation of Jesus Christ, whereas the TR, along with all other major manuscript traditions, has Xριστοῦ ’Iησοῦ of Christ Jesus.

In 1 Tim 1:2, the KJV follows Tyndale with the translation Jesus Christ, whereas the TR, along with all other major manuscript traditions, has Xριστοῦ ’Iησοῦ Christ Jesus.

In the first part of Rev 9:19, the KJV reads: For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails, which is quite close to the reading of all of the major manuscript traditions, except for the TR. The TR reads αἱ … ἐξουσίαι … εἰσιν their powers are instead of their power is, and completely omits the wording and in their tails.

All in all, we can say that the KJV is primarily a translation of the TR, but at the same time we should acknowledge that the translators of the KJV felt free to depart from the TR at various points. They did not slavishly restrict themselves to the TR as the sole source for their translation. It is incorrect, therefore, to think that the KJV is just a translation of the TR.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Textus Receptus Is Not the Majority Text

One of the claims made by those who advocate the KJV as the best or only legitimate (English) translation of the Bible is that the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus [TR] which itself follows the traditional Majority Text which is the best manuscript tradition. A key problem with this view is that the TR is not identical with the Majority Text. It is fair to say that the TR belongs to the Byzantine text tradition, but this is not the same as saying that the TR is identical to the Majority Text at every point. In fact, according to Daniel Wallace, there are 1,838 places where the TR diverges from the Majority Text (Daniel B. Wallace, “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text,” cited 19 March 2012; online: http://bible.org/article/some-second-thoughts-majority-text).

The following is a small selection of examples where the TR and the Majority Text differ:

In Matt 27:35 the TR contains the words ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ προφήτου· διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μοῦ ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον in order that the word by the prophet might be fulfilled: they divided my garments among themselves, and cast lots for my clothing. The Majority Text does not have these words. In fact, the Majority Text agrees with the Alexandrian tradition at this point.

The TR includes Acts 8:37, which reads: εἶπε δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος, Eἰ πιστεύεις ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας, ἔξεστιν· ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπε, Πιστεύω τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι τὸν ’Iησοῦν Xριστόν And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, it is permissible.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The Majority Text does not include this verse, in agreement with the Alexandrian tradition.

The situation regarding 1 John 5:7–8 is a famous case. The TR, agreeing with the Latin Vulgate of the day, includes the words ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατὴρ ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one at the end of v. 7, and also the words καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ and there are three that testify on the earth at the beginning of v. 8. Once again, the Majority Text does not include these words in agreement with the Alexandrian tradition.

In Rev 16:5 Beza’s emendation of the text from ὅσιος holy one to ἐσόμενος who will be (without any manuscript evidence for doing so) resulted in a textual variant emerging within the TR. In other words, the TR is not unified at this point. The Majority Text and the Alexandrian tradition both have ὅσιος.

In Rev 22:19 the TR mentions the book of life, whereas all other manuscript traditions speak of the tree of life, except for some corrupted Latin manuscripts. It seems that this corruption occurred as a result of a scribal mistake: libro was substituted for ligno in the Vulgate, which was in time translated back into a small number of Greek manuscripts, resulting in the phrase βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς the book of life appearing in the TR.

All in all, it is incorrect to assume that the TR and the Majority Text are identical.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Examples of Textual Variants in the Textus Receptus

There is a simplistic view on the part of some Christians which says that God has preserved a pure Greek text of the New Testament, and that this pure text is the Textus Receptus [TR]. One of the problems with this view is that the TR itself is not a unified tradition. In fact the TR itself is not a group of manuscripts, but a series of printed editions of the Greek New Testament published between 1516 and 1641. The first published printed edition of the Greek New Testament was compiled by Desiderius Erasmus, a Catholic priest and scholar. Erasmus collected five twelfth century and two fifteenth century Byzantine-type manuscripts in order to produce a single Greek text for publication. The name Textus Receptus was not used by Erasmus; but comes from the publisher’s preface to the 1633 edition produced by Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir. Because this edition was considered to be following on in the line of the work begun originally by Erasmus, in the end the name textus receptus was applied to the manuscript tradition reflected in the group of over twenty editions of the Greek New Testament that developed from the original edition of Erasmus.

Given that the term Textus Receptus is used to refer to a group of over twenty editions of the Greek New Testament, produced by at least four different compilers, it is not surprising that the various printed editions of the TR do exhibit differences among themselves. Overall the differences are not major, but nevertheless differences do exist.

Frederick Scrivener has identified that the KJV followed the 1589 and 1598 editions of Beza instead of the 1550 Stephanus edition on 113 occasions (F. H. A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible: Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives [Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1884]: 248–57). He has also identified 59 occasions on which the KJV followed Beza over against Stephanus (ibid., 257–61).

Some differences between the 1589 and 1598 editions of Beza, and the 1550 edition of Stephanus, that Scrivener mentions, include the following:

In Mark 8:14 Beza includes the phrase οἱ μαθηταὶ the disciples after ἐπελάθοντο they forgot, whereas Stephanus omits it.

In Luke 10:22 Beza omits the words καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εἶπε and having turned to the disciples, he said, whereas Stephanus includes them.

In John 16:33 Beza has incorrectly corrected a mistake of Stephanus that the latter corrected in a corrigendum at the end of his edition. Thus Beza corrected ἒξετε to ἓξετε you will have. Stephanus’s corrected text, however, is ἒχετε you have.

In Rev 5:11 Stephanus (following Erasmus) omits the clause καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν μυριάδες μυριάδων and their number was ten thousand times ten thousand, whereas Beza includes it.

In Rev 16:5 Beza departs from the traditional reading ὅσιος holy one, and emends the text to read ἐσόμενος who will be, seemingly without any manuscript evidence for doing so. Stephanus preserves the traditional reading ὅσιος. Interestingly, the KJV follows Beza at this point rather than Stephanus.

As the small sample of examples above show, the TR itself is not a uniform tradition.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Degeneration of the World through Adam’s Disobedience to the Word of God

If Gen 1 tells us that the word of God generates light, order, and the fullness of life in the world (as argued here: “The Generation of Light, Order, and the Fullness of Life through God’s Word”), then the rest of the Old Testament can be thought of as being a multifaceted case study in the degeneration that results from disobedience to the word of God. Through disobedience to God’s word, the world in effect reverts to varying degrees (depending on the situation) back to the default situation of the darkness, disorder, and absence of life inherent in the original chaotic mass of Gen 1:2.

The Degeneration of the World through Disobedience to the Word of God

I have argued previously that, on the basis of Paul’s teaching in Rom 5:20, the Old Testament is primarily concerned with two falls: the fall of Adam, and the fall of Israel (see “The Law Came in to Increase the Trespass: The Story of Two Falls in Romans 5:20”).

In relation to Adam, the importance of the word of God was symbolized for Adam and Eve in the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When God created Adam, he told him that he could eat from any tree in the garden except one (Gen 2:16–17). The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden to eat. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil reflecting the Old Testament idiom which is similar to the concept of discerning good from evil, which has to do with being wise (1 Kgs 3:9; see also 2 Sam 14:17). The wise person knows right and wrong according to God’s definition of right and wrong. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given its name because it would function as a test for Adam and Eve and their descendents: Would they be wise or foolish? Would they be obedient to the word of God, or would they disobey? Obedience is the way of wisdom and life; disobedience is the way of foolishness and death.

Adam and Eve, therefore, form the first major test case of the Old Testament. Would the people that God had created fulfill the creation mandate through obedience to God’s word, or would they take the world back to darkness, disorder, and emptiness, which now would also include death? If the word of God is the key to light, order, and life (as Gen 1 indicates), then the whole of human society must be founded upon and directed by the word of God the Creator. The test in the garden centered around the fact that obedience to God’s word leads to life and blessing, whereas disobedience results in the total opposite.

Sadly, we know the result of this test case. Adam and Eve failed the test. Genesis 3 records how Satan in the form of a snake tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1–6). Importantly Eve also gave some of the fruit to Adam to eat (Gen 3:6). Thus, the first human beings sinned against God, and lost the privilege of living in the presence of God in the garden of Eden.

It is significant that Gen 3:23 records that “Yahweh God banished [Adam] from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” The ground from which Adam had been created lay outside the garden of Eden. A straightforward reading of the Hebrew in Gen 2:7–8 takes the content described in v. 8 as being chronologically subsequent to the content of v. 7. In other words, Adam was created by God even before God had planted the garden of Eden. The second clause in v. 8, which says and he placed there the man that he had created effectively confirms this reading. Adam had been created by God before the garden of Eden was established. Subsequent to this, Adam was taken from outside the garden, and graciously set by God to rest inside the garden (Gen 2:15). But because of sin, Adam could no longer remain in the garden. He had violated the principal law of the garden, that God’s word rules. So he was expelled from the garden, along with his wife. Adam was kicked out of the garden to return to the wilderness, the place from which he had come. By disobeying the word of God that gives order and life, our first ancestors suffered the negative consequences. Instead of living life in an orderly world, experiencing life and blessing, they had to live in a world that had reverted back closer the default situation of the original chaotic mass, a world where darkness, disorder, and death threatened their existence.

But sadly, according to the biblical record, this rebellion on the part of Adam and Eve did not solely affect them. It had massive implications for their descendents. All members of the human race, being children of Adam and Eve, just like Cain and Abel, have been born outside the garden of Eden. This means that we have been born into a world of disorder and death, a world in which the forces of darkness are seeking to destroy the harmonic influence of the word of God.

The consequences of Adam’s failure are not a pleasant to consider; but it makes sense from the biblical starting point, which is that the word of God created light, order, and the fullness of life in the first place. If it was the word of God that set things up in the beginning, if it is the word of God that creates the positive effects of light, and order, and life, then to disobey God’s word leads to the unleashing of the negative effects of darkness, disorder, and emptiness in the world. If the world was generated through the word of God, then disobeying the word of God must result in the degeneration of creation.

One of the key messages of the Old Testament, therefore, is that disobedience to the word of God results in degeneration. This is Christianity’s explanation as to why the world is the way it is. Suffering and death exists in our world because the human race back in the beginning rejected the enlightening, ordering, and life-giving word of God.