Larry Kirkpatrick

A Positive Place on the Web for the Third Angel's Message

Bible Versions Issue Summary

  1. There is no perfect Bible translation; nor is there a one-to-one correspondence from one language to another.

  2. Advances in our understanding of Hebrew which have come in just the past century, with fresh data from the Dead Sea Scrolls, have led to significant improvement in most translations of the Old Testament in the newer translations. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls (earliest dating 408 BC), the earliest complete copy of the Old Testament we have was the Leningrad Codex (about AD 1008).

  3. The main dispute over Bible translations has to do with the base text of the New Testament.
  1. Another key question in the debates concerning Bible translations is the readability of the text. For many this will not be an issue, for others it is. Some experience difficulty in reading, and the newer translations read more smoothly and communicate to these persons more clearly than older translations. The reverse would be true as well, i.e. someone living in 1624 would find reading a translation made in 2004 very difficult. We live on the 2004 end of this line, not 1624. The people we seek to reach with Jesus' Present Truth are contemporary to us and not to King James.

  2. The King James version has gone through numerous changes. Almost nobody has in his possession a true original "King James" version (KJV) Bible (1611 ed.). What almost all of us have is the 1879 edition--at least 12 "versions" later than the original 1611. The 1611 edition also included the Apocrypha.

  3. The KJV was especially promoted by King James, who wanted to replace the Geneva Bible (1560) which irritated the King because the Puritans preferred it and because it contained a few notes attacking the divine right of Kings, which teaching James strongly affirmed. That is, the KJV was a state-sanctioned Bible intended to replace the "anti-establishment" ideas offered in the notes of the Geneva Bible. (Those notes were mild, but James opposed them.) The KJV did, in fact, successfully replace the Geneva Bible. Concerning the alleged "divine right of kings," James wrote "I have at length prooued, that the King is aboue the law. . . yet a good King will not onely delight to rule his subjects by the lawe, but euen will conforme himselfe in his owne actions thervnto. . . . although I haue said, a good King will frame all his actions to be according to the Law; yet is hee not bound thereto but of his good will, and for good example-giuing to his subjects" (King James VI and I, Political Writings, ed. by Johann P. Sommerville, "The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, or, The Reciprock and Mvtuall Dvetie Betwixt a Free King, and His Naturall Subiects, p. 75).

  4. Very much has been claimed for the so-called "Received Text" or "Textus Receptus" prepared by the Roman Catholic priest Erasmus. His was the popular Greek New Testament version which especially aided key Protestants in making translations into English. The main point of Erasmus' text, however, was his new Latin translation of the New Testament (Latin was the dominant language in scholarly circles then). I have a facsimile of Erasmus' text. It has the Latin in the right column and the Greek in the right. The Latin is nicely typeset; the Greek is hand-drawn. Actually, Erasmus dedicated his edition of the Greek New Testament to the pope, and had received a pleasant reply from him, according to Erasmus' correspondence. In any case, Erasmus and another fellow each heard that the other was coming out with a Greek text of the New Testament and each rushed to get theirs into print first. Erasmus was away in a distant city at the time and used the manuscripts that he could get a hold of. In the case of the book of Revelation, he only was able to find one manuscript to work from, and it was incomplete. Thus, several of the closing verses for Revelation he back-translated from a Latin text into Greek. This is how we get the "blessed are they who keep His commandments variant." In Erasmus' 3rd edition, he added the "three testify of this" section to 1 John 5:7 because someone had faked a manuscript including this text and he had said if someone could find even one manuscript containing it in Greek, he would add it. The passage had been earlier seen in the Latin version. Bottom line, too much has been claimed for Erasmus' Textus Receptus, which is itself something of a hodgepodge of the various manuscripts Erasmus' could pull together in a brief time.

  5. The oldest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament we have (such as Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus) are at least a century or century and a half earlier than the oldest ones most like the "Received Text." There are still a few cases where even older papyri follow the "Received Text" rather than the Codex Sinaiticus-type texts.

  6. The theory is that the older texts are more accurate because they have had less time for copyists errors, etc. to find their way into the text. However, if errors were introduced into the texts early on, this advantage would be nullified.

  7. The opposite theory is that the Received Text, because it makes up the vast majority of the manuscripts, represents an older textual tradition than the small number of texts like the earliest ones of which we have copies. However, that is to give every manuscript equal weight. The better way to determine the significance of a manuscript is to group them by common features and try to understand the relationship between one group and another group. Just as not all witnesses to an event today carry the same "weight" in testimony for various reasons, so too with manuscripts. If there is an event involving John Smith, we make a difference between the testimony of John's wife and son, who may be biased, and other witnesses who may be more impartial, or between witnesses who saw the incident from five feet away and who saw it from 150 feet away, or who only heard it, etc.

  8. Even if the Received Text is superior, this superiority would only apply to the New Testament, about one fourth of the Bible, while the Old Testament still makes up 3/4ths of the Bible.

  9. Even if the Received Text is superior, the newer translations are so much more readable in their English that it seems very likely that in the very small number of significant differences between the underlying Greek texts, the newer translation might still be superior for that reason.

  10. The two most literal of the modern translations are the NASB and the ESV. I have often used the ESV in rcent years. The ESV is not always superior. Indeed, in some passages the translations seem inferior. The ESV is a very literal translation yet very readable.

  11. Some people are very urgent about the Bible translation issue. Very rarely (actually, never) have I come across an Adventist who had a deep acquaintance with the issues that had a deep grasp of the biblical languages. David Black, a leading NT scholar, offers interesting and strong pro-Received Text arguments, but I have never met an Adventist who knew about them.

  12. Some Adventists are very worried about words that have been "taken out" of the Bible. But remember, if these words were actually added to the text through the years by Catholic monks, then the KJV might be far more "Catholic" than the non-Received Text text. There is also evidence that the KJV was influenced by the Duay-Rheims (Jesuit) translation completed in the years before it.

  13. Some argue that it is more difficult to "prove" Adventist doctrines from translations other than the KJV. Such an argument is entirely beside the point. The key question is one: what is the best base text we can determine. That is the starting point. Whatever that text gives evidence for is the whole of the question, never whether we can or cannot "prove" "our" doctrines from it. The doctrines are not "our" doctrines. They are God's doctrines. And they are either demonstrable by God's Word or they are not.

  14. One of the main sources of "the KJV is superior" argument, is B.G. Wilkinson's book Our Authorized Version Vindicated. Wilkinson blends much history with much assertion, while making numerous logical leaps in argumentation. He also makes substantially an ad hominum form of argumentation against Westcott and Hort, while actually offering little argument of substance against the actual theories of Westcott and Hort he calls into question. Wilkinson's basic arguments seem to be an amalgam of his own views blended with a certain reading he brings to the EGW text. Investigating the key chapters and statements he draws from, it seems clear at least to me, that he engages in much "between the lines" reading of EGW. This is dangerous if you do it, or I do it, and it is dangerous when Wilkinson does it.

  15. It would be much easier to simply say, "the KJV is the best the and all others are engineered by the Jesuits." Easier that is, until we check the facts and have to stand before our God in the Judgement to answer for what we taught in God's name. Honesty, integrity, accuracy, demand that I offer you unambiguously my present understanding, which is:

  16. Based on my present understanding (2011-01-14), I lean to the idea that in general the ESV and the NASB are more correct and more useful translations than the KJV. However, I do not regard myself as having arrived at a definitive conclusion. I have in my possession key materials which I have assembled at no small cost in order to pursue this question and at some point I anticipate further refining/correcting my understanding of it.

  17. My great preference is for the Bible to be read and to impact the lives of those who would follow Jesus all the way. My urgent appeal to all who read this is, read your Bible. I am not here to take away your KJV. You are an adult; you can be led of God; you can decide based on your best understanding what version seems to benefit you the most. God did not give this decision to me to make for anyone. We're all adults here, and have our own experience with the Bible. Drink the pure milk of the Word and grow by it! That is the bottom line.

Created 2013-08-03

Outline: Book of Revelation Q and A -- Divorce and Remarriage