Saturday, January 18, 2014

KJV Part 2

Here's the rest of that section of the lecture after the first bit:
The King James Version of 1611 was based on the so-called “Textus Receptus,” of an editor named Stephanus, dated to 1550. “Textus Receptus” means “received text.” The Greek, in other words, the Greek text for the New Testament that had come to be accepted or received as the text of the New Testament. This text ultimately came from a Roman Catholic by the name of Erasmus, in the days before the Reformation. And Erasmus, of course, remained Roman Catholic after the Protestant Reformation. He was a humanist who argued against Martin Luther. Although he was friends with Martin Luther, he argued against Martin Luther when Luther began to protest and withdraw.

And so it is somewhat ironic in the sense that those who are most strongly in favor of the King James are also usually very anti-Catholic. And so it is interesting that the fountainhead of the Greek text behind the King James Version was somebody who opposed the Protestant Reformation. It’s true he was, you know he was more of a liberal than a dyed-in-the-wool Roman Catholic or papist, so to speak.

But more about the King James. Erasmus, in the late 1400s, only had about 12 Greek manuscripts from which to assemble the New Testament, the Greek New Testament from. The oldest copies he had were from the 900s. And, again, it is sometimes hard to realize that the manuscripts that modern scholars now use to reconstruct the original text, how it's worded, are over 700 years older than what Erasmus had.

I know when I first read the NIV, for example, I was a little annoyed by, for example, Mark 16. You come across a note that says something like, "The oldest and most reliable manuscripts don't have these verses." That's a little annoying, especially if you've grown up reading Mark 16:9-20.

But you have to realize that the manuscripts on which the NIV is based are, you know, 700, 800, 900 years older. So it defies our common sense. To us, the King James seems old and the NIV seems new. But in terms of the manuscripts (a manuscript is a handwritten copy—this is pre-printing press, in other words)… in terms of the manuscripts, the NIV tradition is about 1000 years older than the manuscripts behind the King James. So even though the King James is old and the NIV is new, in terms of the copies of the New Testament they're based on, the NIV is much older.

So what modern scholars would say is not that the NIV took words out. That's what you hear sometimes. But in fact, the King James reflects words that were added in over time. Again, you have to make up your decision on these things. Erasmus – I like Erasmus – Erasmus was an entrepreneur. You've probably heard of the Gutenberg Bible, but the Gutenberg Bible was in Latin. There was not at that time, in the late 1400s, there was no Greek, printing press version of the New Testament.

And there were some scholars in Spain, who were working on a very scholarly, parallel Bible, including the Greek New Testament. But Erasmus and a friend just thought that they could beat them, that they could be the first. I like this. I like this about Erasmus. It reminds me of Wesley Seminary and Indiana Wesleyan University. Erasmus began to scramble to put a copy together [of the Greek New Testament]. And he did, in fact, win. But, again, it's important to realize that he only had about 12, about a dozen manuscripts. He used six especially.

But the oldest one was from the 900s. He didn't actually use that one as much as the ones that were later medieval. We now have manuscripts from the 200s, the 300s, the 400s. We have two nearly complete copies of the New Testament from the early 300s. They're called 1) Codex ¬(a codex is a book) Sinaiticus, which was discovered in the East around Mt. Sinai, and 2) Codex Vaticanus, which was discovered in the Vatican. Both of these were discovered in the 1800s.

There were some – if you like Indiana Jones – Indiana Jones type stories of manuscripts. There was a guy named Tischendorf who went around finding these things in the 1800s. Again, those who oppose modern translations sometimes villanize Codes Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. But it's important to realize that since then, since that point in the 1800s, we've discovered older manuscripts than them. And so you know you can't malign Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and undermine modern translations anymore because we discovered older ones.

And guess what. The older ones pretty much agree with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. So, again, you get all kinds of coping mechanisms with these new realities. You get individuals maligning the character of B. F. Westcott and Fenton Hort, two individuals who put together the method that I'm presenting, the method of how scholars go about deciding how the original text read. But just because you assassinate the character of Westcott and Hort, or assassinate the reliability of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, it doesn't work.

It doesn't work because these two, Westcott and Hort, really only systematized the science of textual criticism. The ideas that Westcott and Hort put in their famous book on the science of textual criticism, the message that they set down, they didn't come up with. The principles had been recognized by scholars of this area for well over a century before them. Also since then and the manuscripts that they used, we have found older manuscripts that basically agree. You're welcome to disagree. I certainly could be wrong.

But from a standpoint of objectivity, I do not see how anybody whose primary interest is in the truth, rather than reinforcing something that's an idea you're comfortable with, I do not see how anybody, who's approaching the evidence objectively, can conclude that the King James tradition is more likely to be the original tradition.

I didn't always think that way. I started off resistant to modern translations. It was only after finally admitting to myself that the evidence was against me, that I eventually changed my mind. Everyone has to take their own path. So, there will certainly be blind spots for generations. You'll have to think through the issues yourself and make your own decision.

Now, Erasmus, being such an entrepreneur, at times he translated back to Greek from Latin. So he did not have a complete copy of Revelation when he did his initial translation. And so, Revelation 22:14, I think, says something in the King James about the works of the righteous, whereas other versions say something about washing robes.

There are Greek manuscripts that have something about washing robes. I can't remember which is which. I think that "the works" is the King James and the robes are modern translations. There are Greek manuscripts that have both readings. Whether or not Erasmus would have gone with "works," or whether, whether he would have gone with, with "robes" if he'd had a complete copy of Revelation, I don't know. However, it is worth mentioning that, after his first printed Greek edition came out, he did eventually secure an actual copy of Revelation.

His initial version had some Greek readings that weren't in any manuscripts because he just freely translated back from Latin, which is kind of interesting. But this verse in Revelation 22 probably remains the way it is because of that situation, because the Latin version he used had "works."

But I really do admire Erasmus. He got the job done. People like Erasmus get the job done, while the more pedantic scholars ( and there's a place for pedantic scholars; I'm not saying they’re useless). But the more pedantic scholars have a tendency not to get things done.

Now Catholic politics may have gotten in 1 John 5:7. 1 John 5:7 is the most explicitly Trinitarian verse in the whole New Testament. The problem is, it doesn’t appear in any Greek manuscripts before about 1500 when Erasmus himself was compiling the Greek New Testament. It does appear in the margins of a few older manuscripts but in a later hand, as I understand the situation.

And, of course, this verse, this most Trinitarian verse in the whole New Testament, is never mentioned in the entirety of the Trinitarian debates of the early centuries. Now, to me, that means there's just not any chance at all that this is original. There's no chance, because in the Trinitarian debates of the 300s they would have mentioned the most Trinitarian verse in the Bible. There is clearly nothing wrong with the verse. That's another important thing to say. When we're asking how the original text read, what was its original wording, we're not asking which reading has the best theology.

The King James has great theology. In fact, maybe we should use it for its theology. We just shouldn't use it if our goal is to have the most original text. This is an interesting thing to ponder, that the King James might be a better theological text, from a Christian standpoint, regardless of the fact that it is not likely to be the most original text. That's something you might want to think about.

But the story goes that Erasmus was not going to put this Trinitarian verse in his Greek New Testament – in fact, I don't think it was in his first edition. But he was pressured by the Roman Catholic Bishop or a person of some authority to put it in. After all, it's a great verse on the Trinity.

And so Erasmus, so the story goes, claimed that he would put it in if they could show him one Greek manuscript that had it in it. And in his journal he notes that the ink was still wet when they presented him with one. Now, again, there's nothing wrong with 1 John 1:7. The question is strictly whether it was in the first copy of 1 John. And that does not at all seem likely...
The lecture goes on to talk about internal and external evidence, as well as the Majority Text option.


Ken Schenck said...

The full video is rather long (49 minutes), but can be found here: The Text of the Bible

Susan Moore said...

The KJV presents the greatest theology because it best preserves the usage of the names of what God has made, and therefore allows for the best awareness of the movement of God over time, because that movement is noted in those words as God transposes their meanings from representing a physical element to representing a spiritual element. Without the preservation of those words in Scripture, the ability to 'see' the movement of God over time is virtually lost.
Otherwise, thanks for these blogs. They have helped connect some dots I have recently collected!

Pastor Bob said...

Appreciate your scholarly opinions, I went through this at Asbury in summer class under David Thompson. I am a King James lover but have a limited grasp on translation factors. I like most translations except for the paraphrased editions, if I want those I will do my own paraphrasing.

Pastor Bob said...

The Message is often considered a paraphrase, though I am told it is not explicitly, however it certainly sounds like a paraphrased at least to me. I listened to your audio, (The Text of the Bible) it is good.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for posting these.