ESV “Permanent Text” is the beginning of the translation’s slow death

Crossway announced its final “permanent text” edition this year (2016) after making changes to 52 words found in 29 verses of the Bible.  The translation committee says this will be similar to the KJV’s final update in 1769 which has remained unchanged for over 250 years.  The committee also references 1 Timothy 6:20, saying that they want to follow the command that they’re supposed to “guard the deposit entrusted to you,” which they interpret to mean to “guard and preserve the very words of God as translated in the ESV Bible.”[1]

The problems with this decision will cause the eventual decline in popularity of this translation for three basic reasons.  The first is that  languages change over time, so do syntactical understandings.  As that happens, the ESV will slowly become outdated just as the KJV has and why a majority of Christians began purchasing the NIV after it came out, slowly pushing the KJV to the bottom of the translation popularity charts.  The second is that archaeologists are discovering new manuscripts annually, which is likely to change how some words are translated as we discover older manuscript witnesses that appear to be closely related to the autographs.  Finally, textual criticism  is subject to change based on popular theory.  Textual theories will change, and we are already starting to see a shift among modern conservative scholars from the Alexandrian-priority theory to the Byzantine-priority theory in recent years.

As other translations will continue to adapt and reflect the implications of new discoveries, changes in language, and shifts in textual critical theories, the ESV will remain the same and eventually become archaic as we have seen with the KJV.  The ESV’s inability to adapt will only cause its slow death over time.  This is especially unfortunate considering that it will most certainly give rise to even more translations, where most people agree that we already have too many.

Bibliography

[1] http://www.esv.org/about/pt-changes/

Does King James Have the Final Authority?

“Unless we embrace the KJV as our final authority, we have no final authority at all and, hence, all is subjectivity and uncertainty.”

This quote from James White’s book “The King James Only Controversy”,[1] summarizes the position of some Christians who assert that the King James Bible is the only true infallible word of God in print today.  Could this be true?  With the plethora of translations found in local Christian bookstores across the country, the question “Which version should I choose?” is undoubtedly one of the most frequently asked of the Christian bookstore clerks.  In their search for an answer to this question, many Christians come across the “King James Version Only” advocate or “King James Version Onlyist.” (hereafter KJVO).

There is a wide range of beliefs within this movement, which span from the extreme belief that the King James Version was the only inspired translation by God in any language, even superior to those original language texts for which the translation is based, to the simple more conservative preference for the King James Version as the most accurately translated word.  However, they share a common belief that modern version Bible translations are inferior, to a certain degree, to the King James Version. For most KJVO this is much more serious than a simple choice or preference.  Instead they believe that it is actually the difference between reading God’s truly inspired word, or reading a “perversion” of God’s word.  In extreme cases, KJVO will claim that the modern versions contain the very words of the Devil himself trying to deceive Christians into reading a lie instead of the truth.[2]

When a Christian is exposed to this belief in their decision about which Bible version to choose, he or she is suddenly faced with a much more serious dilemma than they ever expected.  This dilemma is exactly where I found myself when trying to decide which version of the Bible I was going to choose after becoming a Christian.  I had some people telling me that any version is fine, it is merely a personal preference, like choosing ice cream flavors. While I had other people telling me I had to choose the King James Version only.  So I began researching the different versions, starting with the King James Version by studying the literature and videos published by popular KJVO proponents like Gail Ripplinger and Sam Gipp.  At first,I was nearly convinced that the modern English translations were inferior to the King James for one reason or another.  However, before I made my final decision, I needed to research the arguments opposing the KJVO position.  That led me to talk to others in the church and then eventually to a book called “The King James Only Controversy” by James R. White.

Dr. White’s book was instrumental for me to finally form a consistent and accurate understanding of the differences in bible translations, the underlying text on which they are based, the accuracy and infallibility of scripture, and of course which translation to finally choose.  What I hope to accomplish here is to save other Christians time and frustration by explaining what I learned in my conversations with KJVOs, reading through the voluminous information found in their websites, blogs, books, and summarize what I have learned from Dr. White’s book.  I have boiled all of this down into a few tips that will help streamline KJVO conversations for those who are involved in them, as well as the handful of arguments in which most of the KJVO conversations will end up.  I ask that the reader prayerfully consider the facts presented here and carefully examine both sides of the KJVO controversy before making his or her own decision about whether or not the King James Bible is the only inerrant word of God.

Confusion in Terms

One of the most important things to do right away when dialoguing with a KJVO is to make sure you define terms.  It took me a very long and frustrating period of time to figure this out.  In my experience, the misunderstanding of terms typically related to the original language texts and translation methods underlying all of our English translations.  Some of the terms it will help to familiarize yourself with are “The Majority Text,” “The Byzantine Text,” “The Alexandrian Text,” “The Traditional Text” and “The Textus Receptus”.  Many KJVO advocates believe that Byzantine Text, Traditional Text, Textus Receptus, and Majority Text are all synonymous terms.  I think it is mainly due to their basic idea that there are two text streams, the “corrupt Alexandrian” and the “pure Byzantine” which was popularized in part by Sam Gipp and Peter Ruckman.  Here’s a video that illustrates how they popularize their false teaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNGa_dRTNMo

KVO followers see stuff like that and then begin promoting the false teachings themselves, albeit naively in many cases, with websites and blogs.  Below is an example of such a website,

where the author asserts:

“C.  Other names given to the Majority text include: the Antiochian text, Byzantine text, Traditional text, Apostolic text, the Eastern text and the Textus Receptus (Latin for Received Text).”[3]

This understanding is oversimplified and inaccurate. Generally speaking, The Majority Text refers to a statistical construct used to evaluate Byzantine manuscripts underlying the New Testament and identify where a majority of the manuscripts agree.  Where they agree, that is accepted as the accurate reading, and translated. There are two published Greek Majority Texts, the Hodges-Farstad[4] and the Robinson-Pierpont,[5] although when scholars refer to “The Majority Text” they are usually referencing the Hodges-Farstad Text.  The Traditional text is a term that generally refers to the Textus Receptus.  The terms “Eastern Text” or “Apostolic Text” are not used to refer to The Majority Text nor The Textus Receptus by any noted scholars. The Textus Receptus is a completely different text from the Majority Text, though the resulting English translations are similar.  So you can see from this one example how confusing a conversation can get when the KJVO believes that all these texts are the same, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Is the KJV an inspired and inerrant translation?

It’s important to make clear right away that the KJV is one English translation among many.  It is not the text used by modern versions as a basis for their translation.  Many KJVOs will use words like “omit” indicating that a modern translation omitted a word that was originally in the KJV.  This insinuates that the modern translation was taking words out of the Bible.  However, that is not the case, typically the modern translation in question is translating from a Greek manuscript that didn’t have the word in the first place.  You can reverse that same argument on the KJVO because there are plenty of places where the KJV doesn’t include words where the majority of the underlying manuscripts contain it. Such as in Revelation 1:8 where the KJV translators did not include the word “God” even though a great majority of the manuscripts contain it. On page 248 of The King James Only Controversy, Dr. White provides a chart illustrating several more examples where the KJV does not include words or is more ambiguous than modern translations when dealing with passages that support the Deity of Christ.

The underlying texts for the KJV translation are the Textus Receptus and six other contemporaneous English translations.  Erasmus decided that some readings from the five Greek manuscripts he used were better than others and, as Dr. White points out in his book, in some instances it came down to Erasmus’ “personal preference” such as in Roman’s 12:11. Here, Erasmus indicates that he

“…liked ‘serving the time’ at Romans 12:11 rather than ‘serving the Lord.’ He defended his choice by noting that the Greek terms for ‘Lord’ (kurios) and ‘time’ (karios) could be confused easily because they look the same.”[6]

So, the KJV translators used the Greek word Erasmus decided on in Romans 12:11 to translate their version, simply because Erasmus liked it.  Are we really sure Erasmus was inspired by God to use that word instead of the other word found in the other manuscripts?  As we will see “God inspired it that way” is the only argument KJVO’s can use for the number of instances where the translation of the KJV is not supported by the majority of manuscript witnesses. This argument is clearly fallacious because you can use it to support any translation.  The reasonable explanation as to why the KJV translators used a word that is not supported by the manuscript evidence, is because they didn’t have the manuscript evidence.  Many of the manuscripts were not found until after the KJV translation was completed.  If the KJV translators had all the manuscripts we have available to us today, they would have translated it differently.  Dr. White continues by pointing out that there were also some places where Erasmus omitted readings from the Greek texts as in Matthew 13 because he felt they were added by later scribes and not part of the originals.  So had Erasmus decided to keep those readings in, and then a modern scholar later discovered the same thing Erasmus actually discovered, the KJVO would be criticizing the same action Erasmus took which ended up in the KJV translation.

Some other facts that should be understood about the KJV translation are the methods used by some of the revisionists in the later editions of the TR.  Revelation 16:5 was changed by Beza in his revision. A change based, not on manuscript support, but on speculation according to his own words.[7]  So in this case, the KJVO has to say that God inspired Beza to make this conjectural emendation.  This is again, a very weak argument and one that can be used to defend any translation.  Therefore, it is again a fallacious argument and cannot be used to defend the KJV as the only inspired and inerrant translation.

Another issue in Revelation that would indicate the KJV is not an inerrant translation is found in Chapter 17:8. Because Erasmus didn’t have any manuscripts that contained Revelation 17:8, he had to borrow a book of Revelation from his friend Reuchlin.  Erasmus had to hand copy that and then use it to translate the TR.  The reason this is important is because in the version Erasmus obtained, the scribe made a mistake in 17:8, the Greek for “and is not, and yet is” was written down instead of what all the other Greek manuscripts have written: “and is not and will come.”[8]  The KJVO has to again rely on the “God inspired it” argument.

In Rev 1:6 the KJV reads “made us king and priests,” but the vast majority of Greek manuscripts read “made us to be a kingdom and priests”, but Erasmus and the KJV translators did not have access to those manuscripts, so of course they couldn’t have known that the overwhelming manuscript witnesses support the latter translation.[9]  In this case to believe that the KJV is the only inspired word of God, we would have to believe…. yup, you guessed it the same old “God inspired it” argument.

 The strongest argument I have encountered so far from the KJVO is aptly named the “argument for certainty” by Dr. James White and summarized on page 32 of his book when he quotes Dr. Edward F. Hills:

            “In Short, unless we follow the logic of faith, we can be certain of nothing concerning the Bible and its text. For example, if we make the Bodmer and Chester Beatty Papyri our chief reliance, how do we know that even older New Testament papyri of an entirely different character have not been destroyed by the recent damming of the Nile and the consequent flooding of the Egyptian sands?”

White accurately summarizes the argument quoted in my introduction: “unless we embrace the KJV as our final authority, we have no final authority at all and, hence, all is subjectivity and uncertainty.”

On page 133, Dr. White accurately invalidates this argument by saying:

“If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are only moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices.  How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderius Erasmus, or Staphanus, or Thodore Beza?” How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired?  Are we not in reality saying, ‘I must have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even scriptural reason for doing so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority’? This truly is what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text.”

Many KJVO advocates erroneously make the KJV translation the standard by which all other translations must be compared. It is important to remember the historical reality of how we got all of our English translations including the KJV and hold all English translations to the same standard. The KJV was translated by a group of men, just like all of our modern translations. Therefore, as White explains, “Of course, the KJV has to be tested on the very same basis as any other translation, just as its translators believed and stated in the Preface.”[10]

Will Kinney represents a majority of KJVO and has produced and complied a vast amount of resources defending the position on his website found here: http://brandplucked.webs.com/kjbarticles.htm

When asked the most obvious next question. “Where was God’s word preserved before 1611?” Will Kinney takes 33 pages and more than 8,400 words attempting to answer the question here: http://brandplucked.webs.com/kjbonlyblowup.htm.  Ironically, buried in all that text he actually answers the question with almost the same answer that the scholars he criticizes use to defend the inerrancy of our modern English translations, with the exception of his last line where he attacks the critical text:

“In a general way we can say that God preserved His words in a form that we can know them in the Hebrew Masorretic textsand in the Traditional Greek texts that are in 85 to 90% general agreement and were the basis of Bibles everywhere until the Westcott-Hort, UBS/Nestle-Aland/Vatican critical texts started to come on the scene.”

This statement reflects what most conservative biblical scholars would say, except that most scholars would include the Alexandrian text, which Kinney identifies as “the Westcott-Hort, UBS/Nestle-Aland/Vatican critical texts.”  So since we cannot use the one fallacious “God inspired it” argument to justify the KJV, we must rely on Kinney’s realization that if we take the Masoretic texts for the Old Testament and the Majority Text (what he refers to as the Traditional Greek texts) for the New Testament, we can find God’s preserved word.  When you do that and translate it into English it will agree by almost 90% with the KJV.  Since the resulting variation is either not meaningful or not viable, we can consider it an accurate representation of God’s inspired word.  Even when you do include the Alexandrian manuscripts and analyze the variations between all the manuscripts, you will find that only about 1% of the variations are both meaningful and viable.[11]  Therefore, we can reasonably and confidently conclude that modern translations which use this type of eclectic translation method and formal equivalency, like the ESV, NKJV, and NASB, are indeed accurate translations of God’s inspired word.  Moreover, when you consider that these translations are using newly discovered manuscripts, it stands to reason that they are more accurate than the KJV.

Newly discovered manuscripts focus the light on a glaring problem of the KJV Only position. They are reliant upon a single translation done in 1611, where the translators were limited in the number of manuscripts available to them.  Those translators did not have the benefit of comparing ancient manuscripts of the New Testament that were not discovered until after the translation was complete. We know that based on the “translators to the reader” section in the preface to the KJV that the translators most certainly would have consulted those recently discovered ancient manuscripts when translating the scriptures.  Therefore, while the King James Version is a great translation, it behooves us as Christians who follow the truth no matter where it takes us, to consider the new manuscript evidence God has been gracious enough to give us and produce English translations that are as accurate as possible in reflecting what was written by the original authors.

Bibliography

[1] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 132.

[2] Will Kinney, Another King James Bible Believer: http://brandplucked.webs.com/realcatholicbibles.htm

[3] Berean Research Institute, http://www.bereanresearchinstitute.com/02_Bible_Versions/BV.0003_Antioch_and_Alexandria.html

[4] Hodges and Farstad, 1982. Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982; 2nd edition 1985.

[5] Pierpont and Robinson, 2005. Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, 2005. Southborough, Massachusetts: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005.

[6] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 97.

[7] —p.237.

[8] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 107.

[9] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 108.

[10] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 157.

[11] Daniel B. Wallace, 2012, The Gospel Coalition, An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace on the New Testament Manuscripts, https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2012/03/21/an-interview-with-daniel-b-wallace-on-the-new-testament-manuscripts/

My Fascination With Textual Criticism – A Sincere Thank You to Dr. James R. White

Several months ago I found myself caught up in the midst of the King James only controversy.  I was told that the King James Version was the only truly inspired English translation and that the modern versions were corrupt Vatican translations that the devil was using to deceive Christians by watering down Gods word.  They overwhelmed me with voluminous charts, and lists of Bible verses with “changes” and “omissions,” and scores of websites dedicated to defending the King James Only position.  At surface level it seems convincing, but thankfully I was directed to a book that comprehensively and consistently examines this subject with compelling and conclusive evidence that contradicts the KJV Only position.  Once I was done reading The King James Only Controversy by Dr. James R. White, I was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the KJV is a great translation, but is by no means a superior translation than some of our modern translations widely accepted by orthodox Protestant Christianity.

Unexpectedly, the best part about Dr. White’s book for me was that it is also an introduction to textual criticism that led me into the further study of one of the most fascinating subjects I’ve ever explored.  I began following up on Dr. White’s bibliography and reading the books he referenced.  This began a journey I never would have imagined embarking on, reading more about textual criticism from both liberal and conservative ends of the thought spectrum.  The more I read, the more questions I have and this subject is so robust, I could see myself studying this for the rest of my life.  Bruce Metzger, Bart Ehrman, Kurt & Barbra Aland, F.F. Bruce, Richard Bauckham, Dean William Burgon, Robinson & Pierpont, Hodges & Farstad, Wilbur Pickering, and William Comfort are a handful of authors I have been introduced to thanks to Dr. White.  My journey into the discipline and philosophy of textual criticism has immensely strengthened my Christian faith in several different ways.  It gave me compelling evidence that supports the infallibility of scripture and the preservation of God’s holy word through the centuries.  It has given me a deeper understanding of Church History, the roots of my Reformed Christian faith and most importantly, greatly aided in the sanctification process in my Christian walk!

Thank you, James White!!

Sincerely,

Brett A. Barron

KJVO Debate – James White v. Jack Moorman

KJVO Debate – James White v. Steven Anderson

KJVO Debate James White v. D. A. Waite

James White reduces Gail Riplinger’s arguments to the absurd claim that “The Holy Spirt told me”

Which Bible Translation?

Examining the Underlying Texts and Translation Philosophies of the New Testament

 Walking into your local Christian bookstore for the first time in search of a Bible can be a challenging task.  Maybe you were given a King James Version Bible when you first converted and are having a hard time reading it, or maybe you just want to get a Bible with larger print.  As you approach the Bible section you are quickly overwhelmed with floor to ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves filled with Bibles of more than a dozen English translations.  Which version is the best? Which one should I choose? I’m sure this is a very common question asked in Christian bookstores across the country.

I will attempt to answer this question thoroughly, using history, evidence, and logical reasoning to solidly support my answer, so that the reader will be able to choose his or her translation with the utmost confidence.

The first thing that should be noted is that a vast majority of the differences in translations are contained in the New Testament.  English translations agree much more in the Old Testament. The reason is that most English translations use the same underlying Masoretic texts published by Bomberg or the Biblia Hebraica, while the New Testament has a large variety of underlying manuscripts that can be used to translate the words into English.  Consequently, this essay will focus on the differences of the underlying text of the New Testament.

Our popular English Bible’s New Testaments are translated from at least one of four popular Greek texts known as the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (NA), the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament (UBS), The Majority Text (M), or the Textus Receptus (TR). Most of the modern translations use the Nestle-Aland and frequently have notes where the M or TR differs.  The NA and the UBS have virtually identical text, but a different apparatus. The M and TR are very similar, with only about a 5% variance.  There is only about 15% variance between the M and the NA, of which only about about 1%[1] of the variance is what you would consider both meaningful and viable. The King James Version and New King James Versions are based on the TR. The NKJV indicates differences from the NA, UB, and M in footnotes. Most differences are found in the NA and UB. The KJV uses no footnotes indicating differences.  In 1611, the NA and UBS compilations didn’t exist yet, and the M wasn’t recognized as a Greek New Testament as we do today. However, the KJV translators had access to Stephanus’ apparatus and to notes by Theodore Beza, which mentioned many readings in early manuscripts such as Codices De (Bezae), Dp (Claromontanus), and L (Regius). [2] I should also point out that the KJV did originally have translators’ notes about the minor differences in the handful of texts they based their translation on, but those are not included in most copies of the KJV available today.

These Greek New Testaments are produced using two general “families” of manuscripts, better described as text-types.  They can be identified generally as “Byzantine” and “Alexandrian” text-type.  These text-type designations generally refer to where someone found the manuscripts.  The UB and NA are largely based almost solely on the Alexandrian text-type with rare consideration given to Byzantine readings.  The Majority Text is based largely on the Byzantine text-type with Alexandrian manuscripts consulted where there is not a clear majority reading. The Majority Text is a Greek New Testament published by Hodges and Farstad in 1982.[3]  They applied a statistical construct to the extant Byzantine manuscripts to determine an accurate reading where the majority of manuscripts agreed and produced a Greek text based on that. This is the Majority Text that our popular English translations refer to in their foot notes.

There is another published Greek Text that uses a “Majority Text” type construct called the “Robinson-Pierpont”.[4]  Using what they call the “Byzantine Priority Text form” Robinson and Pierpont applied a statistical construct that differed slightly from the Hodges-Farstad and thus the two published texts have almost insignificant variation in terms of what most lay persons would recognize. While the Hodges-Farstad Majority text has gained a more popular acceptance among the majority of critical scholars in the past several decades, the Robinson-Pierpont, and other published Greek texts, using a Byzantine Priority Theory have been gaining acceptance in the past few years. More on this later…

The Byzantine Text-Type

With more than 5,000 extant manuscripts, the Byzantine text-type has many more extant manuscripts than does the Alexandrian.  Most of the Byzantine manuscripts were copied later than the Alexandrian manuscripts, dating between the 6th and 16th centuries, with a small number dating in the 5th century. Although we don’t have the originals, we have early patristic sources, external evidence (the majority text construct), and internal evidence which cumulatively indicate that the Byzantine manuscripts descend from an ancient and independent transmission-line perpetuated by careful copyists.

There is also significant historical evidence attesting to the fact that the Byzantine manuscripts are superior. The early Christians were heavily persecuted by the Romans and they had to protect their sacred writings in scriptoriums and hide them away when the enemies of the Gospel tried destroying them.  In the centuries after Constantine ascended to the throne in 306 and later converted to Christianity, we see a blossoming of the Byzantine manuscripts as the Church began copying them again. Gradually, papyrus manuscripts naturally decayed throughout Christendom, except in the low-humidity climate of Egypt.  In the 300’s and 400’s, when new manuscripts were made on parchment, which is more durable than papyrus, copyists tended to use local exemplars.  In Egypt, copyists primarily used exemplars that contained the Alexandrian Text.  Almost everywhere else, an essentially Byzantine Text dominated – in the Gothic version, in the Syriac Peshitta version, in the writings of Basil of Caesarea, in the “Purple Uncials” group of manuscripts, and in the Gospels-text of Codex A and even in part of Codex W (which was found in Egypt). Even with the natural effects of humidity and the destructive effects of Roman persecution taken into consideration, we can be reasonably confident that the manuscripts used by the copyists who perpetuated the Byzantine Text represented a form of the text that had been faithfully handed down from earlier generations of Christians who had protected it against Roman persecutors and heretical meddlers.[5]  

In the 5th century, as Latin became the primary language of the West, Greek remained strong in the Eastern Churches in the area which became known as the Byzantine Empire. Over time it is theorized that the eastern churches which survived the Muslim expansion took great care to preserve and hide the most accurate and valuable manuscripts. In addition, data accumulated and analyzed by Harry Sturz shows – contrary to the fundamental premises of Westcott and Hort, who were not aware in 1881 of the yet-to-be-discovered papyri – that distinctly Byzantine readings are found even in manuscripts excavated in Egypt.  This indicates that even in the earliest centuries of Christendom, an essentially Byzantine Text, though not dominant in Egypt, was circulating in other locales.[6]

“The Ecclesiastical Text”

There is also the Reformed view of “Providential Preservation” which says that the Word of God was given to the churches in the area that later became known as the Byzantine Empire. Although he later became a champion of the Westcott-Hort published Greek Text, respected Christian scholar B.B. Warfield described what has recently become called the “Ecclesiastical Text” when he argued that

“the autographs of scripture, as immediately inspired, were in the highest sense the very Word of God and trustworthy in every detail, and, next, that God’s singular providential care has preserved to the church, through every vicissitude, these inspired and infallible scriptures, diffused indeed in these multitude of copies, but safe and accessible…the inspired text has, ‘by God’s singular care and providence been kept pure in all ages,’ is to be understood not as if it affirmed that every copy have been kept pure from all error, but that the genuine text has been kept safe in the multitude of copies, so as never to be out of the reach of the Church of God, in the use of ordinary means.”[7]

It is important to point out that Warfield presented his adherence to Westcott-Hort only after studying in Germany with modern scholars, who some would argue approached the discipline with very liberal presuppositions.  Scripture also tells us that God would use the Church to preserve his word (1 Peter 1:23-25).  Therefore, as the Byzantine text-type is comprised of the vast majority of extant manuscripts, we can reasonably conclude that these manuscripts would be the “ecclesiastical text” preserved by God through the centuries and that any later discoveries which were hidden from the church for hundreds of years will agree with, and confirm, the inspired and infallible scriptures found within the ecclesiastical text.

The Alexandrian Text-Type

The Alexandrian extant manuscripts are fewer in number, but dated much closer to the autographs. Manuscript P52, for example, has been dated by paleographers to as early as the beginning of the second century.[8]  Of the roughly 60 papyrus manuscripts we find from before 400 A.D., most of them are Alexandrian as well – as one would expect, since most of them were found in Egypt.  In addition, we possess two substantial New Testament manuscripts – Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph, from c. 350) and Codex Vaticanus (B, from c. 325) which (except in Codex Sinaiticus in the first seven chapters of John) support the Alexandrian Text.

Nineteenth and twentieth-century textual critics placed great importance on those two manuscripts because they are very well preserved and nearly complete Bibles, and because of Hort’s theory that the Byzantine Text is a secondary, derivative text, based on manuscripts from the Alexandrian and Western transmission-lines.  However, in light of growing evidence that Hort’s theory is historically untenable, a growing number of modern critics are moving away from that position, in part because Sinaiticus and Vaticanus “disagree with one another and Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.”[9] However, we do know that some readings were found outside of Egypt, in the Latin and Syriac translations, which match the Alexandrian readings and disagree with the Byzantine readings.[10]  It is important to remember that, no matter what theory you agree with, the Alexandrian superiority theory or the Byzantine superiority theory, only 1% of the variants are both meaningful and viable according to leading New Testament textual critical scholar, Daniel Wallace.

The Textus Receptus

The Textus Receptus is Latin for “received text” and is a product of translations and revisions started by Erasmus in about 1514, first published in 1516 and revised several times between 1519 and 1535.  After Erasmus died in 1536, it was updated and republished by Robertus Stephanus in 1549, again by Theodore Beza in 1565 and finally by the Elzevir Brothers in 1633 when they included the phrase “...you have the text that is now received by all”[11] (which gave the work its name as we know it to day the “Textus Receptus”.  It was this version of the Textus Receptus that the KJV translators used along with other contemporaneous English translations to bring us the finalized King James Version first published in 1611.

All of those versions of the TR were translated from manuscripts that belong to the Byzantine text-type, because Erasmus believed those to be the very best manuscripts from which to translate.  Although there were some non-Byzantine text type manuscripts available to Erasmus and the KJV translators, most of the manuscripts we have available today, were not discovered until later. Sinaiticus wasn’t rediscovered and popularized by Tischendorf until 1859 and many other Alexandrian manuscripts and papyri were not found until after the publication of the TR, most being discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries.  So, neither Erasmus nor the KJV translators had the privilege of referring to them.  If they had access to them, they would have consulted them as evidenced in “The Translators to the Readers” found in the preface to the KJV.

It is also very important to note that, although Erasmus and the KJV translators could not consult most of the Alexandrian manuscripts, the Greek manuscripts used by Erasmus represented the most accurate manuscript copies of the Byzantine text-type that were preserved by the early church.  Those manuscripts were preserved by the providence of God “in what we now know to be the vast majority of witnesses to the inspired text of the New Testament.  When compared with the majority of extant Greek manuscripts, the Received Text agrees over ninety-five percent of the time. What are the chances that the few manuscripts available to Erasmus, then translated to the KJV “just happen to reflect the text tradition we have today which is verifiably sure!”[12]

Translations are getting better

As well as having those wonderful recently discovered manuscripts that date closer to the original autographs, God has also provided us with the benefit of History, of learning from past translation mistakes, and with technological resources we can use to better study and compare those manuscripts.  It would be a shame, as some would prefer, to ignore all of those facts and waste the resources and knowledge God has bestowed upon us and insist on only using the TR as the underlying text from which to translate.  God reveals His nature and will through His Word, through the work of His Spirit, and through nature itself.  We would be remiss to ignore any one of the three when trying to identify “these inspired and infallible scriptures,” as Warfield puts it, “diffused indeed in these multitude of copies, but safe and accessible…the inspired text has, ‘by God’s singular care and providence been kept pure in all ages…’”

God’s means for preservation

Because the New Testament books were written at various times and were quickly copied and distributed as soon as they were written, there was never a time when anyone or any group could gather up all the manuscripts and make extensive changes in the text itself, like cutting out Christ’s deity or inserting some foreign doctrine or concept. Neither could someone gather up the texts and try to make them all say the same thing by harmonizing them. If someone had indeed done this, we could never be certain what the apostles had written, and what truth actually is.[13]

God reveals His Word and that He kept his promise by revealing texts such as P66 and P75, which are Alexandrian papyri that were long buried in the sands of Egypt, out of the reach of any attempted alteration. They were written in the third century A.D., buried, preserved and found in the 20th century.  If you exegete those two manuscripts and compare that with exegesis of the same passages in Byzantine text written a thousand years later, you would glean the same message.  So in the ancient manuscripts where Gnostics and other cults tried to change things, we can see when the change took place.  We can also identify pure New Testament documents that were of the Byzantine family and identical to those providentially preserved ancient Alexandrian texts.

Evidence for the preservation of God’s Word in the original Languages

The following was gleaned from the Ehrman v White Debate: “Does The Bible Misquote Jesus?”

Ryland’s 457, P52 is a fragment of Papyri dated 90-150 A.D. This manuscript was found in the 20th century and contains portions of John 18: 31-33 and 37-38.  Ironically this is where Jesus is talking to Pilate about Truth. This manuscript helped conservative scholars defend more traditional beliefs of an earlier date of authorship against liberal German scholarship that taught a later authorship. This manuscript represents one of many proofs that God preserved his Holy Word as he promised, here’s how:

Critics point out that we cannot know the original words written by the Apostles because we are looking at copies of copies of copies of copies, and we all know the telephone game example, which would logically lead us to believe that the same thing happened as the words were copied over and over again.  That is exactly correct:  if the Bible was conceived and written by mere men, that is exactly what we would find, a resultant text that was nowhere near the same as the original because of all of the changes, mistakes, and copies of mistakes over time.

P52, can be superimposed on to copies of the book of John from the fourth century (Codex Alexandrinus), from the twelfth century (Manuscript 1432), from the 16th century (Textus Receptus), from the 19th century (Tregelles critical text), to the 20th century the (Nestle Aland 27), and into the modern 21st century (Stuttgart digital study bible), and they all match almost exactly, with the same text, the same words and the same message.  The fact that in just this one example, the words remained unchanged for more than 1000 years through hand copying, of copies of copies, of copies…In spite of targeted destruction by enemies of the gospel throughout all those ages, such as the Roman emperors, and the Muslim expansion, is remarkable! Some would say, miraculous… I believe it is solid evidence that God preserved His Word in the original language just as He promised he would!

Conclusion

So which English Bible translations can we trust today?  Based on the evidence I have previously summarized, I believe that God has revealed Himself and His will through His inspired and inerrant Word, which was infallibly documented in the original autographs of the 66 books included in the Protestant Canon.  While we do not have the original autographs, God has preserved His words in the thousands of extant copies which we can reconstruct to accurately convey God’s word.  Therefore, the contemporary formal equivalent English translations accepted by the Historic Protestant Faiths provide us with an accurate reflection of God’s revelation and will for His people. Those translations are the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV.  The NIV is a decent dynamic equivalent, although the more recent editions are starting to deviate from accurate translation approaches because of modern liberal influences that seek to change the text to reflect modern secular ideals.  For those who are concerned with the few verses and words that are bracketed or footnoted in the NASB and ESV as “not being found in earlier manuscripts,” I would recommend sticking with the KJV or NKJV.  Those changes do not bother me because they are still included in the text and even if they were removed completely, it wouldn’t change any essential Christian doctrines.

I personally use the NKJV and the ESV and favor the NKJV. There is also an ESV Gideon’s edition, which includes all the verses that are numbered in the KJV.  I prefer the footnotes in the NKJV and the way the editors explained the variants better than the ESV.  Although I have many more hours of studying to do on this subject, I am currently leaning toward the Byzantine Superiority Theory and Ecclesiastical Text approach. I am not yet confident that the Alexandrian Texts are the most accurate.  There seems to be compelling evidence that they could be deviant copies of the same sources shared by the Byzantine text-type, primarily because of the frequent disagreements between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and because Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.  Another reason is because scholars are finding Byzantine readings in the Alexandrian manuscripts, which indicates that they were being copied from some of the same source manuscripts as the Byzantine. This would seem to provide evidence that the Byzantine manuscripts contain the most accurate copies as supported by many witnesses.  Another reason is that the widespread use of an essentially Byzantine Text in the late 300’s and onward indicates that such a text was used in several locales in previous centuries, as opposed to the theory that the Byzantine Text suddenly sprang into existence and spread rapidly, supplanting the texts previously in use.

Bibliography 

[1] The Gospel Coalition, An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace, https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2012/03/21/an-interview-with-daniel-b-wallace-on-the-new-testament-manuscripts/

[2] James Snapp Jr., 2016, Personal discussions, The Text of the Gospels, http://www.thetextofthegospels.com

[3] Hodges and Farstad, 1982. Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982; 2nd edition 1985).

[4] Pierpont and Robinson, 2005. Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, 2005. (Southborough, Massachusetts: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005).

[5] This paragraph was graciously contributed by James Snapp Jr. Who has been an invaluable resource for this article.  He has written considerably on this subject in his blog, http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/

[6] Harry Sturtz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1984)

[7] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, (Cherry Hill: Mack Publishing, 1972) 238-239.

[8] http://www.csntm.org/manuscript/View/GA_P52

[9] Preface to the New King James Version Bible, New York: Tyndale, pxiv

[10] Michael D. Marlowe, What about the Majority Text?, http://www.bible-researcher.com/majority.html

[11] Joel R. Beeke, 2016 The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), xvii.

[12] Joel R. Beeke, 2016 The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), xvi.

[13] James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 132.

Eternal Security

My name is Brett Barron and I’m your average Christian husband and father of three.  I was born again in 1999 and over the years the temperature of my love and devotion to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has fluctuated from luke-warm to white-hot. You can read a detailed account of my original conversion here.  My family and I attended a church that taught a very “watered-down” version of the Gospel for most of our Christian lives.  For years we lived “normal” lives and attended church semi-regularly, (1-3 times per month) and were content in calling ourselves Christians.

Our church at that time was your typical Evangelical, seeker-friendly, mega church that focused a lot on strobe lights, loud music, a big stage, and making people feel good.  At first it was enjoyable to go to church, but after some time it became boring and mundane. The same messages were recycled where the pastor would pick out two to three verses from different parts of the Bible and tell an anecdotal story with a message centered around a topic.  No one ever brought Bibles to church and the Pastor never read from the Bible.  Sometimes he would bring an iPad up to the pulpit, but most of the time it was a sheet of paper.  So at that church I was never really getting a good dose of the full Gospel message.  In addition, the few friends we had at the church moved away and the church grew exponentially.  There were no small groups or adult Sunday School classes so we just didn’t feel very connected.  It felt like we were going to a rock concert with mediocre music and there was a little bit of God’s word sprinkled in.

I had fallen into the life of a cultural Christian.  Yes, if someone asked, I would say I was Christian, I would say I believed in Jesus, but I had stopped reading the Bible, stopped going to church regularly, and really didn’t act any differently than my secular neighbors. Then one day in 2015 it hit me!

I was surfing YouTube and came across this video.

I realized Paul Washer was talking about me.  I opened my Bible and actually began to read through more than a few verses for the first time in years.  I began reading Matthew 7:13-23.  I realized that I was living just like the world as Paul Washer described.  Just as Jesus teaches  that “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”, I was not bearing any fruit that was different than my secular neighbors.  So I asked myself, was I really traveling the narrow path Jesus spoke of?  How could I be, I was living just like everyone else I knew, I was walking with the many. The many go in by the wide gate and “the broad way that leads to destruction.”

“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My father in heaven.” Now I knew I was saved, but I was definitely hiding the light under a basket.  I began reading more from the Bible, and listening to more of Washer’s sermons and John MacArthur’s sermons, and R.C. Sproul’s teaching series.  I couldn’t get enough.  I found myself desiring to go back to church, trying to find a good Bible study to attend.  I began getting offended again when people would take Jesus’ name in vein, or when I would hear and see excessive profanity on TV.

Soon after, standing in church one day, I remember looking around and couldn’t find another person with a Bible.  I remember standing there and looking at the stage with all of the lights, all of the smoke, all of the young people on stage rocking out….and I couldn’t find a cross. (the church moved into a larger building, our old church had 3 prominent crosses in the back of the stage) I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed before, but there wasn’t a cross…I was so confused.  I turned to my wife and asked her if she had noticed and she looked around and confirmed that indeed there was no cross…

On the way home, we talked and I brought up a sermon I remembered hearing from John MacArthur where he talked about churches that looked more like a rock concert than a house of worship.  He spoke about these churches trying to please men and not God.  I remembered reading Matthew 7:15-16 that “you will know them by their fruits.”  After praying and discussing all these things we were observing, we finally decided that we needed to find a Bible based church where the whole counsel of God was taught.  A church where the preacher actually reads from the Bible expositing the truth.  A church where the pastor teaches both the love of God and the just wrath of God.

Well, God did lead us to that church and we have been attending now since March 2016 and absolutely love it.  We have adult Sunday School classes every Sunday, the pastor reads through the Bible, and there are great small bible study groups we can join. The pastor gives us references to support the lesson, which I can write down and look up and study later on at home.  I find myself looking forward to church during the week and looking forward to the baptisms and the new classes that will be offered.  I’m beginning to see good fruit in my life again and not good fruit that I’m doing because I’m trying to be saved, but good fruit that comes because I am saved.  My desires are lining up with God’s desires.  It is the best feeling and reminds me of how great I felt after I was first born again.  I truly feel like the prodigal son in Luke 15:18-24, who finally came back home and said:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”