On the King James Bible Versus Other Translations Controversy
(Tentmaker editor: The following article is an excellent treatment of the King James Bible, often called the “Authorized Version”, versus other English Bible Translations debate. This article contains very valuable information not found in most material on this subject.)
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 )
In my contacts with folks, offline and on the Internet, I frequently encounter people who have a special fondness for the King James Version (KJV) of the English Bible. Some profess to take pleasure from the almost poetic use of 17th century English, as I do. Others like the fact that so many aids to study and interpretation are based on the KJV, as I do. Some believe the KJV, also known as the Authorized Version (AV), to be an inspired version, as I do not.
There is a body of professing Christians who claim that the AV is the only English version – and I have met a few who claim it is the only version in any language – that truly preserves God's written revelation to mankind as set down in the original autographs.. Within this latter group are to be found some who assess the eternal state of others by their choice of Bible version; if they're not using the KJV exclusively, then they're not truly saved.
When confronted concerning their excessive zeal for this translation, it is not uncommon for those who hold to KJV-Onlyism to charge that their antagonists are being divisive. Often, they will claim that this "divisiveness" is caused by the "other" versions of the English Bible.
Adherents of KJY-Onlyism are very messianic about their choice of Bible versions and often are willing to devote a lot of time and effort to spreading the KJV gospel. As often as not, they will concentrate on "proving" that other versions are tainted due to satanic influence over those who labored to bring them into existence. On those occasions when they attempt to show why the KJV is the better choice, their arguments often tend to rely more on logic or sentiment than theology. Not infrequently, they will attack, either directly or by innuendo, the faith or doctrine of those who prefer some other translation to the KJV.
I prefer to stay clear of "version fights," which I believe are as often motivated by pride as by reasoned study of the issues. To me, these are similar to strivings over denominational affiliation. In my considered opinion, any time someone's relationship to the Lord is judged on the basis of externals such as church affiliation, Bible choice, etc., personal prejudice is the standard against which that individual is being measured, not sound doctrine.
Recently, I stood to one side and watched as some apparently KJV-Only folks preached their KJV gospel to a group of professing Christians, most of whom had only recently heard the call to Christ. As usual, their arguments were centered on proving all other Bible translations to be false, while expecting the KJV to be accepted simply because it was the right thing to do. Those in the KJVO camp, while admitting for the most part that they had used other translations early in their Christian walk, were intolerant of the fact that most of those to whom they were preaching their cause were young in the faith and that some of these were still struggling with vestiges of old beliefs and habits. I saw little tenderness or compassion; little of that Christian love we so like to boast of. What I saw was harsh language, bitterness, invective, ad hominems, and other "arguments" generally favored by those who lack convincing evidence to support their stand. This is poor polemics, for it is does little to convince the antagonist that his position is flawed and, in fact, tends to harden his opposition. It is far easier to attack one's opponent on a personal level than it is to show what is "wrong" with his position or to advance irrefutable evidence in support of one's own stand.
When it became apparent that some of those targeted by the KJV-Only assault team were suffering injury as a consequence of the unrelenting barrage, I stepped in and made a half-hearted effort to either end the exchange or shift the focus. I enlisted the support of a gentle believer who strongly favors the KJV, but does not consider choice of translation to be a watershed issue in assessing the faith of another. He made several attempts, calling upon the Scriptures for support, to end the increasingly harsh exchanges -- to no avail. Once the KJV-Only juggernaut starts rolling, it is quite difficult to stop.
I decided to examine the KJV-Only position in detail; something I had never done before. Who knows? Maybe these folks have the right understanding and the KJV is the only Bible translation that perfectly preserves God's revelation as breathed to the inspired writers of the original autographs. For my limited study, I chose to go with some of the more-often-quoted exponents of KJV-Onlyism. What I found were mostly value-laden arguments that depended more on appeals to emotionalism than to facts. The majority of the items I read appeared targeted to readers looking for nothing more than confirmation of strongly held beliefs.
One theme I encountered several times had to do with the alleged divisiveness of those who preferred some other translation to the Authorized Version. After reading that argument a few times, I sat quietly for a few minutes and tried to remember the last time I recalled anyone who used a translation other than the KJV trying to shove his favorite down someone else's throat. After a few minutes, I gave up the effort. I could think of not a single incident.
In my observation, it seems that it is those who have some special attachment to the KJV who tend to foster divisions within the Body of Christ. I cannot recall ever observing someone who prefers the NASB pointing an accusing finger at another person who happens to prefer the RSV and fairly screaming, "Heretic! The Bible you are using is not inspired." I don't recall ever observing someone with an NIV in his hand ever saying to someone holding a KJV that he would never find Christ using THAT Bible.
I cannot recall ever observing someone holding one of those "other" English translations bringing a brother or sister to tears over his or her choice of translations. I have seen KJV-Only types do that often.
On the other hand, I have observed a great number of people who appear to almost worship their KJV as much as a devout Roman Catholic might worship the Virgin Mary -- not with the same degree of worship as rendered to God, but worship nevertheless. This excessive reverence for, not the Bible, mind you, but for a particular translation of the Bible, might constitute bibliolatry. Not an accusation, just something to think on.
Is one's salvation determined by his choice of Bible version? Can someone who is saved by faith lose that salvation when he fails to cleave to the KJV? I submit that one's choice of translation is not a salvation issue and does not merit the incredible amount of effort, time and emotion that KJV-Only people seem so willing to devote to pushing their preferred version.
I use the KJV more than any other version, but I do not use it exclusively. I do not use it because I believe it to be inspired or more faithful to the autographs than any other version. I remind the reader that no copies of the autographs have survived and copies were used in preparing not only the KJV but almost all other versions in, I should think, all other languages as well as English.
As I understand it, one of the big reasons why folks have this special fondness for the KJV is that it is based on the Textus Receptus, which they claim is based on the great majority (90%) of the more than 5,000 extant Greek manuscripts. This understanding is important to their claim that the Textus Receptus is based on the oldest Greek manuscripts – the ones closest to the autographs. The reasoning here being that the nearer a manuscript is to the originals time-wise, the less likely it is to have been corrupted by repeated copying, editing, etc. Seems to make sense.
Quoting Zane Hodges of the Dallas Theological Seminary] "'Thus the Majority text, upon which the King James Version is based, has in reality the strongest claim possible to be regarded as an authentic representation of the original text. This claim is quite independent of any shifting consensus of scholarly judgment about its readings and is based on the objective reality of its dominance in the transmissional history of the New Testament text." (Samuel C. Gipp, "An Understandable History of the Bible," Bible Believers Baptist Bookstore:Macedonia, p. 66)
Let's take a few moments to look at the Textus Receptus (TR).
During the first 1500 years following Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, manuscript copies of the biblical texts were available in Hebrew and Greek. There were also plenty of Latin translations of the texts. Folks working on a translation would draw from these sources in any combination. Bear in mind that these ancient translators had the Hebrew Tanakh (our Old Testament), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament and the Latin translations based on all three of the other sources. The translators of antiquity commonly used translations of translations in coming up with their own new translations.
Then, in 1515, A Dutch humanist and scholar named Desiderius Erasmus put together a Greek version of the New Testament.. In his work, he used existing Greek manuscripts. How many manuscripts did Erasmus have to work with? Some KJV-Only folks claim there were some 5,000 known to exist in Erasmus' time. I have no reason to doubt that figure. How many of these was the scholar able to make use of? Remember, that was in the days before closed circuit TV, fax machines, email, Federal Express, jumbo jets, etc. It seems quite unlikely to me that Erasmus could have managed to read every one of those 5000 or so manuscripts in a lifetime, much less the few months he spent working on his Bible manuscript. How many Greek texts did he actually use when preparing his New Testament? He used six. The earliest one of these could be traced only back to the 11th century.
For those who like to know the details, Erasmus drew his basic text from three 12th century miniscules -- Greek manuscripts penned using lower case letters, a practice that began in the 9th century. He consulted three other miniscules and a few late manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. None of them were very close to the autographs in terms of time.
The serious Bible scholar and textual critic might wish to know specifically which manuscripts Erasmus used. For his basic text he used, according to the standard manuscript identification system: 2e (12th/13th cent.), 2ap (12th cent.) and 1r (12th cent.). The miniscules he consulted were: 1eap (12th cent.), 4ap 15th cent.), and 7p (11/12th cent.).
Most of these were straight-text. That is, they included the text of the book or books and little or nothing else. This is easily understood, I believe, when one considers how books were reproduced in the days before the printing press. They were hand-copied, letter by letter. By eliminating anything external to the scriptural text, the amounts of expensive writing materials and copyist labor could be reduced.
Perhaps a fifth of the surviving Greek manuscripts of New Testament texts, however, included commentary on the texts. One of the miniscules used by Erasmus, 1r, is such a manuscript. This document, which can be traced to the Presbyter Andreas of Caesarea, includes a commentary so closely linked to the words of scripture that at times it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Manuscript 1r is distinguished by another, and quite relevant, condition. It lacks the final six verses of Revelation. This is something I shall return to further along in this study.
If it is true that there were thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament available, why did Erasmus use only six? And why in the world did he draw at all from late versions of the Latin Vulgate? Time and money were certainly factors influencing his choices.
Although the printing press had been around since 1456, no Greek text of the New Testament had been printed when the 16th century dawned. The complexity of the Greek alphabet, which would have required some 200 or so individual characters in each font, probably had a lot to do with this. There simply were no fonts of the ancient Greek available. In 1502, Spanish Cardinal Ximenes set the wheels in motion to compile a polyglot (many languages) Bible.
The first Bible which may be considered a Polyglot is that edited at Alcalá (in Latin Complutum, hence the name Complutensian Bible), Spain, in 1502-17, under the supervision and at the expense of Cardinal Ximenes, by scholars of the university founded in that city by the same great Cardinal. It was published in 1520, with the sanction of Leo X. Ximenes wished, he writes, "to revive the languishing study of the Sacred Scriptures"; and to achieve this object he undertook to furnish students with accurate printed texts of the Old Testament in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, and of the New Testament in the Greek and Latin. His Bible contains also the Chaldaic Targum of the Pentateuch and an interlinear Latin translation of the Greek Old Testament. The work is in six large volumes, the last of which is made up of a Hebrew and Chaldaic dictionary, a Hebrew grammar, and Greek dictionary. (W.S. Reilly, "Polyglot Bibles," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII, © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company; Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight; Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)
Ximenes came up with a solution to the difficulty attendant to using the ancient Greek script. His team invented a Greek font that was used to print the New Testament of the Complutensian Polyglot in 1514. The Bible, however, was not published (put on the market) until 1520.
What an opportunity for printers. They now had workable Greek fonts, and a six-year window of opportunity to get a Greek New Testament on the street before Ximenes' project would be published. John Froben, who operated a print shop in Basle, Switzerland, made a deal with Erasmus, considered one of the foremost scholars of his age. Froben apparently sent his offer to Erasmus in mid-April, 1515. In July of that year, Erasmus went to Basle looking for Greek manuscripts he could send to the printer for typesetting.
He was not able to lay hands on a single manuscript of the entire New Testament, so he was forced to compile a text from what was available to him in Basle. In the library of a Basle monastery, he found two relatively recent manuscripts (2e and 2ap) that included the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles. From his friend, Reuchlin, he obtained an Andrean miniscule (1r) with most of Revelation. After comparing these with three others (1eap, 4ap and 7p), Erasmus added corrections for the printer in the margins and between the lines of Greek text. In that Erasmus had but six near-contemporary manuscripts and a couple of late Latin Vulgates to work with, one must consider what sources he used for the corrections.
Committed supporters of KJV-Onlyism are quick to assert that no one has ever been able to prove that the Textus Receptus the KJV New Testament was based on had been modified in any way and that it was completely faithful to the earliest biblical texts.
"Wonder of wonders, in the midst of all the present confusion regarding manuscripts, we still have a Bible we can trust. The writing of the word of God by inspiration is no greater miracle than the miracle of its preservation in the Textus Receptus. All criticism of this text from which was translated the King James Bible, is based upon an unproved hypothesis: i.e. that there are older and more dependable copies of the original Bible manuscripts. No one in nineteen hundred years, has been able to prove that one jot or tittle has been inserted or taken out." (Jasper J. Ray, "God Wrote Only One Bible," Eye Opener Publications:Eugene, p. 104)
Erasmus had only one Greek text of Revelation, and it was missing the last page, which contained the final six verses of the book. Being resourceful, the scholar turned to the Latin Vulgate Bible. He translated the final six verses of Revelation from the Latin Vulgate into Greek, which meant that the final six verses in what came to be known as the Textus Receptus, or Received Text, were written in Greek, translated into Latin, and then re-translated back into Greek. Erasmus also used the Vulgate to help sort through a few sections in Andreas' manuscript where the line between text and commentary was particularly blurred. When Erasmus incorporated his own translations from the Latin Vulgate into the Greek text, the resulting so-called Textus Receptus included a number of readings that have not been found in any other Greek manuscript. It should be noted that the "alternate," Vulgate-derived readings that Erasmus introduced in 1515 are still found in modern printings of the Textus Receptus.
For those who seek documentation to support the allegation that Erasmus did not adhere exclusively to the Greek manuscripts for his readings, but actually drew some from the Catholic Latin Vulgate, I offer these words from some of the strongest modern supporters of the KJV:
"Erasmus, influenced by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church in which he was reared, sometimes followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Traditional Greek text" (Edward F. Hills, "The King James Version Defended," Christian Research Press:Des Moines, p. 200)
"It should be mentioned that the Textus Receptus deriving from Erasmus has a considerable number of readings similar, not to the Majority Text, but to the Egyptian text, most importantly in the Gospels" (Peter J. Johnston, "Unholy Hands on the Bible," Vol. II, Sovereign Grace Publ:Lafayette (1990), p. 578).
Erasmus introduced material from the Latin Vulgate into other areas of the New Testament. One example is in Acts 9:6. In the KJV, this verse and the ones immediately following read thusly:
Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
Acts 9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Acts 9:8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
In the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, claimed to be a literal translation of the Latin Vulgate, the passage reads:
6 And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
7 And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus.
Erasmus' interpolation from the Vulgate, which can be found in no other Greek manuscript, was welded into his compilation of the Greek New Testament and was used by the translators who put together the Authorized Version of 1611. It bears noting that there a parallel passage can be found in Acts 22:10.
In the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which is based on the so-called Minority , or Alexandrian, Text, the passage reads:
6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
8 Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
One of the "proofs" offered by promoters of KJV-Onlyism is that the Textus Receptus that is the basis of its New Testament agrees with the earliest versions of the Bible, such as the Peshitta, which is dated to about A.D.150. Is that so? Following passage from chapter nine of Acts is taken from the 1851 English translation of the Syriac Peshitta by James Murdock:
6. But arise and go into the city, and there it will be told thee what thou oughtest to do
7. And the men who traveled with him in the way, stood amazed; for they heard merely the voice, and no one was visible to them.
8. And Saul arose from the ground and nothing was visible to him, with his eyes opened. And they took him by the hand, and led him into Damascus.
So, it would appear, in this passage at least, the Romish translation of the Scriptures introduced by Erasmus differs from the "Alexandrian" text used for the RSV in that it apparently was "enhanced" by Jerome or some other translator/editor. It appears that the Textus Receptus and the King James Version that was translated from it, indeed were influenced by the Catholic Bible. It also seems quite clear that the oft-stated "proof" of the Textus Receptus authority, that it agrees with the earliest versions of the Bible, does not, in so far as this passage is concerned, hold water.
Erasmus delivered his compiled Greek New Testament to the printers, who began printing on October 2, 1515. Just six months later, on March 1, 1516, the 1000-page folio edition of the first-ever printed edition of the Greek New Testament was published. And the Textus Receptus was born.
When Erasmus' Greek New Testament was printed, it wasn't immediately christened with the name "Textus Receptus, or "Received Text." That didn't come until more than a century had passed. In the intervening years, the product of Erasmus' labors had achieved acceptance throughout western Europe as THE standard New Testament text, a status it enjoyed for some 200 years.
It wasn't until 1633 that the French publishers Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir printed their edition of Erasmus' Greek New Testament. Of their work, they claimed, "Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum" – "So you have the text that is now received by everybody." And this soon was reduced to "Textus Receptus."
So, after 100 years or so after Erasmus took his first edition of the Greek New Testament, put together from a few near-contemporary Greek manuscripts and a couple of late Latin Vulgate manuscripts, to Froben's print shop, and after a number of later editions by Erasmus and several other compilers, his work was named. The first ever Textus Receptus, a type of text, was compiled in 1515 by Erasmus. Yet it is not unusual for KJV-Onlyists, in their zeal to validate their claim that the KJV is the only Bible version to preserve the inspired texts unsullied, to claim that the Textus Receptus was used as the basis for the earliest Christian Bibles.
"First of all, the Textus Receptus was the Bible of early Eastern Christianity. Later it was adopted as the official text of the Greek Catholic Church. There were local reasons which contributed to this result. But, probably, far greater reasons will be found in the fact that the Received Text had authority enough to become, either in itself or by its translation, the Bible of the great Syrian Church; of the Waldensian Church of northern Italy; of the Gallic Church in southern France; and of the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland; as well as the official Bible of the Greek Catholic Church.
"All these churches, some earlier, some later, were in opposition to the Church of Rome and at a time when the Received Text and these Bibles of the Constantine type were rivals. They, as represented in their descendants, are rivals to this day. The Church of Rome built on the Eusebio-Origen type of Bible; these others built on the Received Text. Therefore, because they themselves believed that the Received Text was the true apostolic Bible, and further, because the Church of Rome arrogated to itself the power to choose a Bible which bore the marks of systematic depravation, we have the testimony of these five churches to the authenticity and the apostolicity of the Received Text." ( David O. Fuller, :Which Bible?", The Institute for Biblical Textual Studies:Grand Rapids, pp. 196-97)
Why was Erasmus' work so quickly and so widely accepted? For one thing, he was greatly respected as a scholar. For another, while there were precious few Greek manuscripts available and what there were were largely inaccessible or so costly that few could hope to own one. The printed Greek New Testament that Erasmus produced was accessible.
The Textus Receptus was believed by many to be the equal of the original autographs and thought by many to be divinely inspired. Both these assumptions were false. As I have shown above, the manuscripts Erasmus had to work with were in places a confusing jumble of commentary and text and some verses were missing, forcing him to reconstruct several passages from the Latin Vulgate. I have also shown that Erasmus occasionally modified the Greek text based on the Latin Bible. In other words, there are readings in Erasmus' Textus Receptus that are not based on any original Greek text.
Erasmus' Greek New Testament was a commercial success and this led to the publication of a number of other Greek New Testaments. In 1518, Aldus Manutius published a Greek Bible. He used the Septuagint for the Old Testament and an almost verbatim copy of Erasmus' New Testament, complete with typographical errors
A few other Greek New Testaments were published, mostly knockoffs of Erasmus' work. Then, in 1519, Erasmus published a second edition. This was essentially the same text as his 1516 edition, with most of the typographical errors fixed. It also did incorporate a few new readings, believed by some to have been taken from the 12th centuray 3eap manuscript.
Erasmus published a third edition in 1522. In this, he corrected more typographical errors and added a parallel Latin translation. The 1522 edition is notable for its rendering of 1 John 5:7-8. In his original compilation, this passage conformed to the majority of manuscripts and read, "there are three witnesses in heaven, the Spirit and the water and the blood." Reportedly, this greatly offended some influential Catholics, who considered the text to be anti-Trinitarian. Erasmus was challenged to explain why he had not conformed this passage to the Catholic reading of "there are three witnesses in heaven the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit." The scholar replied that he hadn't included that in the text because he wasn't aware of any Greek manuscript with that wording.
Apparently, some Catholics considered this something of a promise to include the Catholic wording if anyone could show him a Greek manuscript that included it. Roman Catholic officialdom has never been short on cunning or imagination. In 1520, an Oxford scribe made a Greek manuscript, known as Codex 61, that contained the Catholic reading. Erasmus responded by changing the text of the next edition of his Greek New Testament.
So, did that scribe at Oxford counterfeit the manuscript just to force Erasmus' hand? It could be successfully argued that he did not, if there were other, older, Greek manuscripts that included the same wording. Do such manuscripts exist? If they do, no one has been able to come up with one. Oh, there are a few manuscripts that include the Codex 61 reading of 1 John 5:7-8, but none of them can be shown to go back farther than the 16th century.
More and more editions of the Textus Receptus were published, most of them being little more than orthographic variants of Erasmus' original work. In 1534, Simon Colinaeus published a text that is somewhat noteworthy in that it included some variant readings.
In 1550, Robert Stephanus published his edition of the Textus Receptus, which included variant readings from more than a dozen manuscripts in the margin. His 3rd edition is considered one of the two standard texts of the Textus Receptus. When Stephanus published his 4th edition in 1551, he incorporated a device that has benefited Bible students ever since: verse numbers, which are still used today. Though it was not yet known by that name, Stephanus' edition became the standard Textus Receptus of Britain.
The next noteworthy editions of the Textus Receptus were published by Theodore de Bèza, Calvin's successor, between 1565 and 1611. His readings were not particularly noteworthy, and some were considered to be theologically biased. Probably the only real reason Bèza's work is remembered at all is because of who he was and the fact that the translators of the KJV made use of them.
Stephanus' edition of the Textus Receptus was the standard for the British, but it was the 1633 edition published by the Elzevirs that became the first choice of Europeans. This differed from the Stephanus edition in 287 readings, none of which were particularly significant.
After the Elzevir text was published, most subsequent editions of the Textus Receptus were more noteworthy for the material in their margins than for any differences in readings.
Though the the term "Textus Receptus" was coined by the Elzevirs in the 17th century, some defenders of the KJV identify some of the earliest Greek texts with that label:
"The Protestant denominations are built upon that manuscript of the Greek New Testament sometimes called Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It is that Greek New Testament from which the writings of the apostles in Greek have been translated into English, German, Dutch and other languages. During the dark ages the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. It was restored to Christendom by the labours of that great scholar Erasmus. It is altogether too little known that the real editor of the Received Text was Lucian. None of Lucian's enemies fails to credit him with this work. Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament. However, Lucian's day was an age of apostasy when a flood of depravations was systematically attempting to devastate both the Bible manuscripts and Bible theology. Origen, of the Alexandrian college, made his editions and commentaries of the Bible a secure retreat for all errors, and deformed them with philosophical speculations introducing casuistry and lying. Lucian's unrivalled success in verifying, safeguarding, and transmitting those divine writings left a heritage for which all generations should be thankful." (Benjamin. G. Wilkinson, "Truth Triumphant," Teach Services, Inc:Brushton, (1994), p. 50)
Who was this Lucian that Wilkinson claims verified, safeguarded and transmitted the divine writings?
Syrian-born Lucian was a priest and presbyter of the Church at Antioch who suffered martyrdom in A.D.312. He took over as head of the Antiochian school of theology for a time before being temporarily excommunicated, apparently because of his association with his teacher, the heretic Paul of Samosata.
Very little is known about the life of Lucian, though few men have left such a deep print on the history of Christianity. The opposition to the allegorizing tendencies of the Alexandrines centred in him. He rejected this system entirely and propounded a system of literal interpretation which dominated the Eastern Church for a long period. In the field of theology, in the minds of practically all writers (the most notable modern exception being Gwatkin, in his "Studies of Arianism", London, 1900), he has the unenviable reputation of being the real author of the opinions which afterwards found expression in the heresy of Arius. In his Christological system — a compromise between Modalism and Subordinationism — the Word, though Himself the Creator of all subsequent beings was a creature, though superior to all other created things by the wide gulf between Creator and creature…The most enduring memorial of the life of Lucian, next to the Christological controversy which his teachings aroused was his influence on Biblical study. Receiving the literal sense alone he laid stress on the need of textual accuracy and himself undertook to revise the Septuagint on the original Hebrew. His edition was widely used in the fourth century (Jerome, De Vir. III. Ixxvii Praef. ad Paralip.; Adv. Rufium xxvi, Epis., 106). He also published a recession of the New Testament. St. Jerome (De Vir. Ill, 77), in addition to the recension of the Bible, speaks of "Lebelli de Fide", none of which are extant…" (Patrick J. Healy, "The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX," © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company; Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York)
What I have attempted to do in the foregoing is to demonstrate that there have been quite a number of editions of the Textus Receptus, compiled or adapted by a number of editors. There is no single edition of the Textus Receptus that agrees completely with any existing manuscript or text-type. In fact, it should be considered that the Textus Receptus is, in itself, a type of text. The Bible student should bear in mind that, when he encounters a reference to the Textus Receptus, it is important to know which particular edition is meant.
The translators of the King James Version used the Textus Receptus, but it isn't clear which edition they used. The quick answer is that they used the edition of either Stephanus or Bèza. One authority (F.H.A. Scrivener), who studied this issue in considerable detail, determined that it was neither. According to Scrivenor, the KJV is a mixed text, most closely related to Bèza, with Stephanus second. It seems likely that earlier English texts and even the Vulgate had some influence on the KJV text.
Why does it seem likely that earlier English texts and the Vulgate may have influenced KJV translators? The Bible, at least parts of the Bible, had been available in Britain as early as the 6th century, when Caedmon translated portions of the Vulgate into the vernacular. The first English translation of the Latin Vulgate was completed by John Wycliffe around 1382. The first complete English Bible to be translated from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts was the Tyndale Bible Tyndale was martyred in 1536.
The first complete Bible to be printed in English, the Myles Coverdale Bible, was published just before Tyndale's martyrdom. Coverdale's text was based on the Latin Vulgate, Tyndale and Martin Luther's German Translation. Coverdale was the first to separate the Apocrypha from the Old Testament and include it as an appendix. Coverdale's Bible was the first to include chapter summaries.
The Cranmer Bible was published in 1537 by John Rogers, using the nom de plume William Matthews. For his text, he used the unpublished translations and parts of Coverdale's translations. Later editions of the Cranmer Bible were the first to include the words: "This is the Bible appointed to the use of churches."
During the persecutions of Protestants in Queen Mary's reign, many Bible scholars fled to Geneva. While there, they chose William Whittingham to create an English Bible translation for their use. Whittingham based his version on Theodore de Bèza's Latin translation, consulting a few Greek texts. What he came up with came to be known as the Geneva Bible. This edition, while well accepted by English commoners, was not at all popular with the leadership of the Church of England because of its Calvinistic teachings that had been included into its notes. In 1568, CofE leaders came up with a revision of the Geneva Bible they called the Bishops' Bible. This was the standard Bible of England until the KJV was published.
Work on the KJV began in 1604, when King James I ordered that work on a new translation be undertaken. Fifty-four of the best Bible scholars in England went to work on the project. They used the Masoretic Hebrew text for the Old Testament and an edition of Erasmus' Greek New Testament for the New Testament. The English version generally follows editions produced by French scholars Theodore Beza & Robert Étienne (Stephanus) after Erasmus' death. But which edition(s) of Erasmus' work the translators of the KJV used is still not totally clear
In their labors, they were guided by a set of 15 rules. The first of these rules was:
"The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called The Bishops' Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit."
The 14th rule was more comprehensive:
"These translations to be used when they agree better with the Text than the Bishops Rule—Tindoll's, Matthews, Coverdales, Whitchurch's, Geneva."
How much did those earlier English Bibles contribute to the KJV text? It has been claimed that 4% came from Wycliffe, 18% from Tyndale, 13% from Coverdale, 19% from the Geneva Bible, 4% from the Bishops' Bible, and 3% from other earlier versions. Only 39% of the readings in the KJV are unique. Almost 90% of the New Testament of the Authorized Version of 1611 can be found, word-for-word, in the Tyndale version of 1525.
This admittedly cursory look at the Textus Receptus and the KJV is not intended to discredit either the King James Version of the English Bible or those who prefer it to one of the other versions available. My point was to manifest that, contrary to the impression some may have, the KJV is not a compilation of flawless copies of the original autographs of the sacred Scriptures. In common with just about everything else put together by men – unless working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – it is imperfect.
There are some who argue that the translators who developed the KJV indeed were guided by the Holy Spirit. This, of course, could be true. However, in that they worked with documents that were the products of the labors of uncountable and unidentifiable other men, how could they have come up with perfect translations unless their source materials also were perfect? That would mean that the men who copied and recopied manuscript after manuscript also would have to have been inspired, or at least had their pens and brushes guided by the Holy Spirit.
Suggesting that, because Lucian of Antioch worked on recensions of existing text and restored them to full fidelity with the original autographs would be a convincing argument – if it could be proved. The plain truth is that we have no copies of any of Lucian's recensions and so cannot know for certain just what his finished products looked like. And, then, there is the question of the source manuscripts Lucian used in preparing his recensions. It seems quite unlikely that he had any of the original autographs to work with, so he must have had to use copies. The question then arises concerning the fidelity of the copies, or copies of the copies.
In any case, Erasmus did not work with Lucian's recension texts. The Greek New Testament that he cobbled together was based on miniscules created a thousand or more years after Lucian's martyrdom. Pointing back, over Erasmus' head, to texts no living man has seen and which were separated by a millennium from the ones Erasmus used is sophistry, pure and simple.
The claim that the Textus Receptus used in putting together the KJV was untouched by Catholic influence is fallacious, as even the most assertive of KJV enthusiasts have acknowledged. Erasmus was greatly impressed by the work of such ancient early church scholars and theologians as Origen and Jerome. It has been clearly shown that Erasmus actually made translations from the Latin Vulgate to supply verses missing or unusable from the manuscripts he was working with.
Am I hoping to change the minds of those who are in the KJV-Only camp? Not at all. I believe many of them so committed to the KJV that only an act of God could change their minds. My hope is that, by showing them what I have, they might reconsider how they promote the KJV to others who prefer some other version.
It is also my hope that those who prefer other versions might be better equipped to deal with the sometimes aggressive behavior of KJV-Onlyites.
I decided to truncate this study because, quite frankly, I weary of reading excessively emotional arguments for the KJV, many of which show poor scholarship. I have tried to speak the truth in love, but I do not doubt that some will be offended. It was not my intention to offend, and it certainly was not my intention to hide the truth for fear of offending.
Some may wish to dispute all or some part of the above. That is, of course, their right. As of this moment, I intend to exercise my right to let things stand as written.
Click here to read Part 2: A Conversation