Which Bible Should we Trust? by Don Mckay

The post In this forum are all by Pastor Don McKay. They were moved here from the old forum by Eye. They were the hottest topics discussed under his forum in the odf forum.
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Which Bible Should we Trust? by Don Mckay

Post by Eye » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:35 pm

The following was put together about 25 years ago to combat a growing KJV Only movement in the Greater Phoenix area. Many were so militantly KJV followers that some said that it was the only true Word of God. Perhaps at a later date I will post some photocopies of pages from an original KJV Bible so that you can see how much it has changed.

The King James Version (KJV), translated in A.D. 1611 and “authorized” by the king of England to be read in the churches of his realm, has blessed the hearts of millions of English readers. The present century, however, has witnessed the production of scores of new versions, and the end is not in sight. Some of these are rather casual, one–man efforts, more paraphrase the translation, but others are major undertakings performed by groups of outstanding scholars (many of them thoroughly evangelical) with the benefit of extended consultation and generous financing.
Partly because of this bewildering array of new translations, there have recently appeared tracts, pamphlets, and even a few books vigorously defending the King James Version and practically anathematizing all others as liberal plots to undermine the Word of God. Some Christians are led to imagine that the King James Version possesses a sanctity that makes it unique among the others. A brief review of the situation would seem to be in order.

What Is Meant By Inspiration?
Evangelical Christians use the word “inspiration” in a special sense in relation to the Bible. The term is drawn from 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”Most scholars recognize that this translation is inadequate, but the word is so firmly entrenched in our theological language that the only course open is to explain its special meaning. A very literal rendering would be, “All Scripture is God–breathed.” Alva J. McClain expressed it this way: “To say that all Scripture is inspired of God is to say that all Scripture is the direct product of the creative breath of God.”
When speaking of “inspiration” regarding the Bible, we use the term in two ways. The first of these is indicated in 2 Timothy 3:16, which describes the Scriptures themselves as “given by inspiration of God.” What was “God–breathed” was actually written by the Biblical writers. Technically speaking, this quality of inspiration applies only to to original documents (that is the autographs), not to any copies made from them nor to any translations made of them. All subsequent copies or translations are “inspired” only to the extent that they accurately represent the autographs.
The second usage describes the activity of God with regard to the human authors, as stated in 2 Peter 1:21. Though the word “Inspiration” does not occur in this passage, the idea is clearly present that the human authors did not possess any unusual genius but were “moved” by the Holy Spirit. When we speak of the apostles as writing “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” it is in this special sense that the term is used.

Reliable Copies
Sometimes it is argued that if inspiration applies only to the autographs, and if the autographs are now lost, then it is a meaningless doctrine and of no importance today. The argument is without value, however, because there are in existence over five thousand copies of the inspired originals, and the substantial agreement among the copies is clear indication that the true text has been preserved.
There is in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., the original document of the United States Constitution. It is a valuable national treasure and is carefully guarded. Thousands view it every year. Yet if the original should be stolen or destroyed, the government would not collapse, for there are sufficient copies in existence to demonstrate what the original document said. In the same way the thousands pf Biblical manuscripts in existence have preserved the contents of the autographs beyond any reasonable doubt.

How Did We Get Our Present Bible?
The history of the Bible, from the autographs in Hebrew (O.T.) and Greek (N.T.) to the English translations which we use today, is a fascinating story. because the books of the Bible were all written hundreds of years (in some cases, thousands) before the invention of the printing press, all copies had to be made by hand. These books were treasured by God’s people, and were handled and copied with special care. At various times translations were made from the Hebrew and Greek into such languages as Latin, Coptic, and Syriac. Yet in spite of every precaution, variations (most of them very slight) did occur in these handmade copies. As the result of such human errors no two manuscripts containing a major portion of the Scripture are exactly alike.

The Textus Receptus
Manuscripts continued to be transmitted by handcopying from the first to the sixteenth century. The first Greek New Testaments to be printed were the editions of Erasmus (A.D. 1516) and the Complutensian Polyglot (A.D. 1522). These editions were based on the kind of text which was commonly available in the Middle Ages, and scholars refer to it as the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus or “TR” is not a manuscript at all, but a type of text which is found in the majority of manuscripts, most of them relatively late. The printed Old Testament text was based on the text of the Masoretes, who were Jewish scholars during the sixth to the ninth centuries A.D. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, this was the oldest Hebrew source for the text of the Old Testament.

Other Sources
From the eighteenth century until the present, however, scholars have devoted themselves strenuously to the study of the text, and many new manuscripts have come to light. Some New Testament manuscripts have been recovered which date from the third or forth centuries A.D. A few scraps are even dated in the second century. In 1947, the world was electrified by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which provided Old Testament Hebrew manuscripts one thousand years older than any currently possessed.
The Masoretic text is still the basic text of the Old Testament (the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain the entire Old Testament), but the materials for New Testament study are much more plentiful. From the thousands of manuscripts now available, students of the text are able to study them line by line, note the variants, and group the manuscripts into several broad categories. Each of these groups has common characteristics, particularly their agreement in recording certain variants. Such names as Western, Alexandrian (or Neutral), Caesarean, and Byzantine (or Syrian) are used to designate them. Now the question must be asked:

Which Text–type Is Most Reliable?
Some of the text–types have not been agreed upon by scholars generally (for example, the Caesarean text has been identified chiefly in mark, but not in the rest of the New Testament). However, three of them are sufficiently distinct to allow thorough study. The Western text, although apparently very old, is characterized by the widest variation from the majority of manuscripts, and suggests considerable scribal freedom in the handling of the text. Most scholars (regardless of their theological views) have relegated the Western text to a subordinate place, although recognizing that in isolated instances its variants could be the true reading.

The Byzantine Text Family
The Byzantine text (called the Syrian by Westcott and Hort, and the Majority Text by some today) is the sort of text found in the vast majority of manuscripts (variously estimated as 80–90 percent). It is this text which was most readily available to the King James translators and formed the basis of the 1611 version, though in a few cases the King James Version varies from the Textus Receptus. even though the bulk of our manuscripts fall into Byzantine Family, they are not our earliest ones. No extant Greek manuscript from the fourth century or earlier has this kind of text (although individual readings may coincide with it). To argue as some do that God would not have left the church with a less than perfect text from the fifth century on is to misunderstand the workings of God’s providence in preserving the text. As a matter of fact, there are divergences even among manuscripts of the Byzantine type. Furthermore, what about God’s providence during the first four centuries? God in His preserving work did protect His Word, in spite of human frailty in transcription.

The Alexandrian Text Family
The Alexandrian (or Egyptian or “Neutral”) text is found in far fewer manuscripts than the Byzantine, but they are the oldest ones we possess (that is, closest to the autographs). The papyrus discoveries in recent decades support this kind of text. It formed the basis of the American Standard Version (1901), and most of the newer versions today. This text has commended itself to scholars because of the age of the manuscripts in which it is found, and the intrinsic merits of its readings.
Defenders of the Byzantine text often point to the fact that the dry climate of Egypt has preserved these manuscripts, and if we had equally ancient manuscripts from other areas they might well support the Byzantine text–type. It is also pointed out that a late manuscript could have been copied from a very early one. While this conceivably could be true, the fact remains that the Alexandrian–type manuscripts are the earliest ones we have. On the basis, then, of the evidence we possess (not upon speculation of “ifs”), the Alexandrian text has claimed the support of most scholars (evangelical as well as liberal, with exceptions, of course, in both groups).
One common objection raised by Textus Receptus defenders is that the Alexandrian Family deletes or at least weakens the deity of Christ. It is noted, for example, that in a relatively few cases the names “Christ” and “Lord” are omitted when referring to Jesus. Yet these same manuscripts include the names “Christ” or “Lord” hundreds of times in other places. If these were really deletions from the true text (rather than additions to the Byzantine text—an equally plausible possibility), the attempt to delete the doctrines of the deity of Christ from the text was a total failure, for this truth is still abundantly clear in all manuscripts of the Alexandrian text.
Furthermore, the deity of Christ is expressed more strongly in numerous passages of the Alexandrian text than it is in the Textus Receptus. For example, John 1:18 calls Jesus “only begotten God.” 2 Peter 1:1 refers to Him as “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (rather than “God and our Savior Jesus,” which could imply separate persons). The objection is more superficial than substantive. The most consistent user of the Alexandrian text in ancient times was Athanasius, well known for his strong defense of the deity of Christ against the heresy of Arianism.

What Is the Value of the King James Version?
In summation, the King James Version is a fine and readable version. It is “inspired,” however, only to be extent that it conveys the meaning of the autographs, just as any other translation. In general it does this very well. But it is not perfect. Two problems must be noted. (1) There are some poor or erroneous translations. Word usage has changed since 1611. Furthermore, there are some translations which rest on exceedingly poor manuscript authority. One example is I John 5:7b–8a, for which there is no Greek manuscript evidence at all earlier than the fifteenth century. (2) The King James Version is becoming less and less intelligible to young Americans (whether we like it or not), and if its archaic expressions do not speak meaningfully to them, to that extent it is failing to communicate God’s inspired revelation.

Essential Agreement
It needs to be remembered that all the differences between the Alexandrian and Byzantine text–types are not nearly as great as might be supposed. If one could remove the Old English style from the King James Version so that the comparison would be fairer, the differences between these text–types could be seen by noting the differences between the King James Version and the American Standard Version. The Gospel is crystal clear in either version. It is regrettable that an issue is being made over this matter in evangelical circles, especially when some extremists are making one’s attitude toward the King James Version an article of faith, and unwarrantedly raising suspicions against those who do not. The issue is forcing many Christians to make a choice when they lack the necessary knowledge and skill to do so. How much better it would be to thank God that His Word has been preserved intact throughout the centuries, and that the wealth of manuscripts assures us that none of the words have been lost. In a few cases we may not be certain which of several variants is the original, but the problem is an “embarrassment of riches,” not of loss.

The answer to the title Question— The Bible translation that you will READ!!!

Don M

Addendum:

I don't know if there are any members here who hold to the KJV Only crowd. If there are, I am in no way trying to demean your beliefs or imply that the KJV is not an excellent Bible for you to use. There are at least 5,000 extant copies of the original autographs which contain the context of the New Testament in whole or in part. When all of these different families of New Testament texts are compared there are over 250,000 variants (or differences) between the manuscripts. I know that this sounds like a whole lot of differences and would make most begin to doubt whether or not we can trust any of the translations that we now have.

But what those who stress the number of differences in the manuscripts don't tell you is that this number is deceptive. All of the manuscripts in Greek fall into various families. These families are determined by close examination of the manuscripts to determine which older manuscript might the one you are examining have been copied from. Every time there is a difference it is counted. If there are 100 manuscripts and they all have the same difference, let's say that they all have one passage in which Peter's name is misspelled as Pater, in stead of counting this one difference as one variant, it is counted for each manuscript it appears in. So in this case it would count as 100 variants.

When we examine all of these quarter million differences between manuscript copies less than 1 % of those variants has any importance. Meaning that they have no effect on any belief in the New Testament. Even considering the number of differences represented within this 1 % of 250,000 not one passage has any effect on any doctrine. The majority of the differences can be easily explained as to how they occurred. The point of all of this is that as long as the interpreters weren't trying to support their own agenda, and really knew the Hebrew and Greek, chances are that nost of the interpretations are dependable.

Don M

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