Arminian Today

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Short Note on Bible Translation Issues

As I working the other day, I heard a KJV only preacher preaching on the radio.  In the midst of his sermon, he stated that we must hold firmly to the KJV since all the other Bibles deleted thousands of verses.  KJV only followers often will spout out that the NIV, for example, deletes many verses.  They will turn to Acts 8:37-38 and ask you to read it in your modern translation.  Verse 37 is often not found in the modern text (exceptions would be the NKJV and the NASB which puts it in brackets).  The KJV follower will then turn to Acts 8:37-38 and read it from their Bible.  They will often say that this verse is deleted in modern Bibles because it denies infant baptism and affirms believers baptism.

The poor soul now feels betrayed by their modern Bible.  The learned KJV only supporter will often then turn to other passages to build their case that modern Bibles have deleted many precious truths from God’s Word.  Only the KJV upholds these and leaves them in the text.  This would range from 1 John 5:7-8 (the Trinity) to salvation in Acts 15:11.  The KJV only supporter will point out that only his people doesn’t delete passages of Scripture.

Now this post is to be short for the sake of time but the science of textual criticism is not an easy task.  As I have pointed out before, the KJV translators worked with very few Hebrew and Greek manuscripts though they did have some.  The KJV translators utilized what they had but they also relied on various English texts including Coverdale, Bishop, Geneva, and other Bibles.  They compared their own translation of the Hebrew and Greek with the other English Bibles and also used the Latin Vulgate.  They relied upon Erasmus’ Greek text.  The point is that even the KJV translators were practicing the science of textual criticism.

Textual criticism is not a bad term.  We have various textual critics in many other books.  For instance we have textual critics of William Shakespeare.  Their task is not to rewrite Shakespeare but to seek to determine what is original.  Since the time of Shakespeare, various portions of his works have been written and spread abroad but what did Shakespeare originally say?  What did he originally write?  That is the goal of the textual critic.  The textual critic is not seeking to judge the work but to determine what was originally said.  This is no easy task.

Now imagine a biblical textual critic having to work through over 6,000 Greek manuscripts that have various variant readings.  While 95% of the Greek texts variants have nothing to do with theology, they are still there.  The work of the textual critic is to try to determine what has been added and what was deleted.  They, like the Shakespeare critic above, are not there to judge the text but to try to see what is original and what is not.  This is no easy task.

When it comes to variant readings, I do wish the ESV would have the amount of footnotes the NKJV has on this or put them in brackets as in the NASB.  For the average Bible reader, they simply have no answer to why Acts 8:37 is not found in the ESV or the NIV nor is an answer given in the text.

On a closing note, the original 1611, which I have here with me, included marginal notes on variant readings.  This is an embarrassment to the KJV only believer.  Why would God allow the KJV translators to put marginal notes that included variant readings if in fact He was given us His perfect word in the KJV?  If Psalm 12:6-7 applies to the KJV then why the marginal readings?  Of course, the correct answer is that the KJV translators recognized correctly that there were variant readings and included these as good translators should do.  This was just a case of imperfect translators seeking to translate the Word of God into English and they determined to be faithful to this task.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/12/2013 at 10:19 AM

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