King James Authorised Version
The Best Bible
The KJAV, although not perfect, is the Bible that I prefer to use in all my studies, and I always use it to make quotations in these Web pages, except where there are known problems, or the context demands that I use something else. In these circumstances I use another version based on the same source documents (Masoretic Hebrew and Textus Receptus Greek), for example Green's Literal Translation.
My reasons for using the KJAV are as follows:
What's Wrong With the NIV?
The New International Version, along with many other modern translations, is based on a source text that had become corrupted at some time during the first four centuries, and was later processed by two occult practitioners called Westcott and Hort who produced their "Critical Greek Text". They claimed that this new text was superior to the Traditional Text that had been used by the church since the time of the Apostles, and it would provide a basis for the production of new translations. Many theologians were taken in by this and set about the task of making their own translations, unaware of the problems with the source text they were using. As a consequence, translations began to emerge with many changes and omissions that affect important doctrines. Here are just a few examples, taken from the NIV.
Verses completely omitted and relegated to footnotes:
Verses that are substantially changed:
This is just a small sample of the problems that occur. For a more comprehensive list, see the Trinitarian Bible Society. This should be enough to convince us that there are questions that need to be answered regarding Bible translations. Why do the modern versions differ from the KJAV, not just in style, but also in substance? The problem is not so much to do with the quality of translation from the source documents, but with the source documents themselves.
We will now look at the history of the source documents that are used for both the Old and New Testament.
The True Text
The Masoretic Hebrew Text of the Old Testament
The Hebrew Old Testament available to us today is the same as the Hebrew Bible used by the Jews. It consists of the Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the historical, prophetic and poetic books, written by inspired Hebrew authors. It was faithfully copied and preserved by the Levites during Biblical times, and then the work was continued by a group of Jewish scribes called the Masoretes who added vowel pointers, making it easier to read, since the original text was only in consonants. The Jews have a very high regard for the written Word and will not in any circumstances change a single character. If they discover that a scroll has an error, they will discard the entire scroll. They do not destroy it because it contains the name of G-d. Instead they bury it. Every manuscript they produce has to be perfect, and as a result there should be no controversies over the Hebrew text that is used for translation today (although there are sometimes problems with the vowel pointers as we will discuss later).
The translators of the King James Authorised Version used the Masoretic Hebrew as the primary source text for the Old Testament.
The Traditional Greek Text of the New Testament
The New Testament was written in Greek by the Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There are reasons to believe that Matthew's Gospel, and maybe some of the other Gospels, were first written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek, but we have to accept the Greek as the inspired word because the Hebrew text, if it ever existed, disappeared at a very early date. The Greek text, regardless of how it was produced, was definitely approved by the Apostles and could never have been used without their approval.
The early church, in accordance with its evangelistic mission, distributed the books of the New Testament as widely as possible in Asia Minor (Syria), Greece and Rome.
And the word of God increased... (Acts 6:7)
In those days there were no printing presses, so all the copies had to be hand-written and were subject to scribal errors. However, because of the large number of copies produced, each copy could be compared with a number of other copies so that scribal errors could be eliminated. Provided the errors were caught early enough, it would be virtually impossible to find the same error in more than one copy. The early church preserved the Bible, not by keeping archives in dusty old museums where they would get destroyed during the next persecution, but by making and distributing as many copies as possible. Thus there developed a common Traditional Text that was used throughout the early church with very little variation. It later became known as the "Textus Receptus" (Received Text) because it was received from the hands of the Apostles, or the Majority Text because there is safety in a large majority of witnesses that agree with each other. It is also known as the Byzantine Text because it was used and distributed by churches throughout the Byzantine Empire which lasted from the 6th to the 15th centuries.
The Traditional Text has been preserved by many churches throughout the world, including the following:
The first printed version of the Traditional Greek Text was produced by a Dutch scholar called Desidierus Erasmus in 1516, and it became known as the Textus Receptus (Received Text). Erasmus was a Roman Catholic priest, but he was very critical of the Catholic Church and used to write satirical literature, making fun of them, although he stopped short of head-on collision because he did not want to jeopardise his work as a scholar. He had access to hundreds of manuscripts but he used only a few of them, mainly from Greek, Syrian and Waldensian sources. It doesn't matter how many or how few documents he used, because they were all substantially the same.
His Textus Receptus became an immediate sensation throughout Europe, because at last, after many centuries, the complete New Testament was available to people who had never seen it.
Erasmus used to correspond with many people, including Martin Luther who tried to persuade him to come out of the Roman Catholic Church. Erasmus replied that because of his literary skills and his position as a scholar, he would be better off working from within the system. While this did not have any direct effect on the Roman Catholic Church, Erasmus was probably right to stay put. The Textus Receptus became the seed of the Reformation, and Martin Luther used it to great effect. There was a popular saying at the time, that Erasmus sowed the seed and Luther watered it.
As the 16th century came to an end, Geneva became the Capital City of the Reformation, and the meeting place of great scholars. Beza was the head of the Theological School at Geneva, and did some additional work on the Textus Receptus. It was then translated into other languages:
The translators of the King James Authorised Version had a wide variety of sources and reference materials they could use. Not only did they have the Masoretic Hebrew and the Textus Receptus, as their main source documents, but they also had the German Lutheran version, the Italian version of Diodati, the French version of Olivetan and the English Geneva Bible. All of this was safe for the following reasons:
The Septuagint (LXX) as a Translation Tool
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament, thought to have been produced by 72 Jewish scholars, about 285-250BC for Ptolemy II Philadelphus or during the reign of his father, Ptolemy Soter. The 72 scholars are said to have been recruited from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, although this is unlikely considering that only the Levites were allowed to be scribes. It is claimed that the scholars were separated into different rooms so that they could not communicate with each other, but they all miraculously produced exactly the same translation.
The third century scholar Origen produced a large multi-lingual copy of the Old Testament called the Hexapla. This was arranged in columns with the Hebrew in the first column and various other translations in the other columns, including the Septuagint. He found that the Septuagint differed from the Hebrew in a number of places, but was unable to determine whether these were translation errors or subsequent copyist errors, so he left them unchanged and placed a mark against the Septuagint where each variation occurred. Different marks were used to indicate omissions, additions or variant text.
The Septuagint was used by the Early Church and is quoted by many of the Church Fathers, and it is still used by the Greek Orthodox Church today. In spite of the variations found by Origen, it still has considerable value as it represents the understanding of the Old Testament as far back as the third century BC.
The Hebrew Old Testament is made up entirely of consonants, without any vowel pointers, and if the pronunciation is uncertain, the meaning can be ambiguous. This was not a problem when the Jews were all together in Israel because they all knew what it meant, but when they were dispersed throughout the world, they became less certain of their language. For this reason, the Masoretes added vowel pointers, but sometimes they didn't get them in the right place and created ambiguities. For example, Genesis 49:6 could say "they digged down a wall" or "they lamed an ox", depending on where a vowel pointer is placed. In cases like this, the Septuagint might be used to resolve the ambiguity (it uses "lamed an ox" in this case), but otherwise it should not be used as primary source material for translating the Old Testament into other languages. The Hebrew should always be used as the primary source, and this rule has been followed in the King James Authorised Version.
The False Text
A small minority of New Testament manuscripts have significant variations from the Traditional Text. They were not very widely distributed and are known as the Minority Text. They have been favoured by some modern translators because some very old manuscripts are in existence, but this does not constitute a valid reason for their use. The reason they have been preserved intact is most likely because nobody used them.
The two manuscripts in this category, most commonly used for modern translations, are as follows:
Nobody knows for sure how these manuscripts came into existence, but it is thought that Origen might have had something to do with it, or possibly Eusebius under the patronage of the Emperor Constantine.
Westcott and Hort
Two British theologians, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, decided that the Greek text of Erasmus was unsuitable for making new modern translations, so they produced their own "Critical Greek Text", primarily from Sinaiticus A and Vaticanus B. Their work began in 1853 and was completed in 1881. They were heavily involved in Greek philosophy and the works of Plato, and were also involved in spiritualism, paranormal phenomena and the occult, and during the entire 28 years when they were working on their Critical Greek Text they went to regular weekly meetings of their "Ghostly Guild". The text produced by these two dubious characters has been updated several times and is now available in various UBS versions (United Bible Society). Most of the modern translations have been produced from this text, beginning with the Revised Version in 1881, the same year that the Greek text itself was produced.
Would you rather have a Bible based on source documents that have been used and widely distributed by the church since the first century, or would you rather have one based on Sinaiticus A, discovered in a waste paper basket after centuries of neglect, and Vaticanus B which has no known history and was kept hidden away by the Vatican for centuries?
I would rather use the KJAV than any other version. In response to the critics who say that the KJAV by itself is not enough, I would say that it should be supplemented by the use of a variety of study aids. My favourites are as follows:
While this might sound tedious to a society which is used to consumerism and instant solutions, it would have been considered luxury in 1611 when the KJAV was produced. In those days, educated people used to solve their theological problems by reading the original Hebrew and Greek with the help of lexicons and grammatical textbooks. There was rejoicing throughout the land when a good quality Bible was produced in English, but they still had to wait many years for all the study aids mentioned above to be produced. Instead of ducking out and using every new translation that becomes available, we would be better off sticking to the KJAV and the excellent study aids that have been produced alongside it.
The subject of Bible versions is long and complicated, and the discussion I have given here only scratches the surface. For more information about why the KJAV should be preferred above other versions, see the Trinitarian Bible Society.