Why We Trust Our Bible - Lesson 21

Greek Manuscripts behind the KJV (5/6) - Dr. Wallace

In Part 5, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses a brief overview of why the King James Bible is different from all modern translations, and issues of the Greek texts behind it.

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Why We Trust Our Bible
Lesson 21
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Greek Manuscripts behind the KJV (5/6) - Dr. Wallace

1. Why is the KJV different from all modern translations?

2. Give us a history of TR

3. What is the difference between “Majority Text,” “Received Text,” and “TR”?

4. Why do modern translations unanimously follow the Alexandrian text type?

5. Practical suggestions for how we should respond to others in this debate?

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Class Resources
  • Dr. Craig Blomberg begins by introducing the issue of the historical reliability of the New Testament documents, focusing on Dan Brown and some of the other recent "discoveries." He will cover 12 truths agreed upon except by the most liberal theologians. In this lesson he talks about the authorship and dating of the gospels.

  • Would the gospel writers have wanted to preserve accurate history? Why are there four Gospels, with all the similarities and differences?

  • Gain an in-depth look at translations, interpretations, oral tradition, memorization, Gospel stories, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with this seminary professor's class.
  • In his series of reasons, in this lesson Blomberg answers 7 – 9.

  • Blomberg addresses the issues of the non-Christian testimony to Jesus, archaeology, and the testimony of other early Christian Writers. He concludes with a powerful discussion of three ways to believe, and what the relationship is between faith and reason.

  • This class provides an overview of the core beliefs of Christianity and the sources that back them up.
  • Are books in the canon because they are authoritative, or they are authoritative because they are in the canon? The Davinci Code and the common assertions about Constantine are historical fabrications. “Canon” can mean three different things. Has God given us a structure to know which books should be in the canon? Can you prove, or is the point to have sound reasons for what you believe?

  • A canonical worldview is a set of beliefs as to what the canon is and how someone “knows” if a book is canonical or not.  There are three models. According to the community model, a book becomes canonical upon its reception by the community.

  • In the historical model of canonicity, a book becomes canonical when it is examined historically, looking at issues such as authorship and reception. This model suffers  by the absence of an absolute criteria by which you can make this decision.

  • The self-authenticating model of the canon claims that the Bible is itself its own ultimate authority. All beliefs of ultimate authority are circular, otherwise the criteria for deciding would be greater than the ultimate authority itself. The real question is whether or not God has provided a means by which Christians can know what books are truly canonical. The self-authenticating model encompasses the other two, incorporating the best of each model.

  • A “defeater” is an idea that undermines your confidence in knowing something. Are there defeaters for our understanding of the canon? The New Testament books have unity with prior revelation and with each other, and in fact the New Testament completes the Old Testament in surprising ways.

  • Kruger shows that Covenants in the Old Testament needed written documents, and a new covenant required new documents. Writing was not an afterthought. The apostles saw themselves as agents of the New Covenant and saw their writings as having authority. They would have been surprised to be told that it wasn't until Irenaeus that people throught their writing was authoritative. They had to write to accomplish their apostolic ministry within their lifetime.

  • Even if a few of the books took a while to be accepted, there was a core canon of 22 books very quickly. Even the Muratorian Fragment, while including two non-canonical books, recognizes that they are different and may be listing them as such. Just because the early church read non-canonical books does not mean there was not a canon.

  • The early church was a culture of textuality; they liked and publicly read books. The frequency of ancient manuscripts shows us which books were the most popular and were therefore understood to be canonical. The church preferred the new codex format because they could group books together, especially the gospels. We can also tell that the manuscripts were written in order to be publicly read, which means the church knew which books were authoritative.

  • Eusebius described four types of books: accepted, disputed, rejected, and heretical. The early church was careful in what they accepted as authoritative, and there really was not that much of a question.

  • Answers to common questions about the canon, now that these question are targeted to the lay level. 

  • In Part 1, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses the challenges to the believability of the Bible brought by the issues related to the Greek manuscripts, and especially the influence of Dan Brown and Bart Ehrman.

  • In Part 2, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses discussion of the historical process that led to manuscripts and variants, with some examples of variants.

  • In Part 3, Dr. Daniel Wallace responds to three basic challenges by Bart Ehrman: the "black hole"; the quality of the copies; the effect of Constantine on the manuscripts.​

  • In Part 4, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses how now that we understand why there are variants in the manuscripts, how does the art and science of textual criticism help us determine which variants are most likely to be original?

  • In Part 5, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses a brief overview of why the King James Bible is different from all modern translations, and issues of the Greek texts behind it.

  • In Part 6, Dr. Daniel Wallace focuses in on variants, how many there are, how many significant variants are there, and how good of a job has textual criticism done.

  • You will gain knowledge about translation philosophy, including different methods, how to evaluate a translation, and a comparison of the NIV and ESV translation philosophies, with examples of their differences. Understanding translation philosophy is important when interpreting the Bible.
  • You will learn about the first principle of interpretation which involves determining the meaning of words by looking at the word's immediate context, broader context, and historical and cultural context. By accurately interpreting the meaning of a word, it can be applied to the passage as a whole.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible by exploring topics such as the development of the canon, textual criticism, historical accuracy, and theological coherence.
  • You will gain an understanding of the principles behind why we trust the Bible, including the bibliographical, historical, and internal tests.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the process of canonicity, which is the recognition of which books belong in the Bible based on criteria such as apostolicity, orthodoxy, catholicity, and traditional use. Understanding canonicity is essential for recognizing the authority of the Bible and its significance in the Christian faith.

The uniqueness and authority of the Bible are always under attack. Professors and writers are claiming that Jesus never existed, Jesus never claimed to be God, the early church changed the basic preaching of Jesus, books were left out of the Bible, the copies of the Bible that have come down through the centuries are hopelessly corrupt

Dr. Blomberg discusses the reliability of the Bible. Dr. Kruger discusses the process of formation of the New Testament Canon. Dr. Wallace discusses issues relating to manuscripts and textual criticism. Dr. Mounce discusses the philosophies and process of translation. 

I. Why is the KJV different from all the modern translations?

The King James Bible was essentially based on Desiderius Erasmus Greek New Testament which was published in 1516. Erasmus was in a rush to get this published as there were Catholics in Spain who were trying to get one published also. The printing press had already been invented in 1454 and the New Testament had not yet been printed. He worked in Basal, Switzerland to get this done while examining eight different manuscripts only. This is all he had access to and of those eight, he really only used three. He only consulted the others a little. He produced this Greek New Testament on March 1st, 1516 nearly five hundred years ago. It was a very important event because this was the material basis for the reformation. That is what Luther used to start the reformation. But that text was so rushed that a later scholar said that it was the most erroneous published text he had ever seen. It had more mistakes in it than any other printed text he had seen. And that is the basis behind the King James; that was his first edition; he went through a second edition and then the third edition came out in 1522.

II. Give us a History of Textual Receptus

In the meantime, there was a great uproar by a number of people who said, ‘you don’t have the Trinitarian formula in 1st John 5:7, ‘the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, these three are one.’ He didn’t have any manuscripts that said that nor did he make a promise to put it in but he justified why he didn’t. It just so happened in 1520, a scribe by the name of Roy working in English wrote out the entire Greek New Testament and then took from a Latin manuscript those words and put it into 1st John 5:7. Erasmus found out about this and so he was getting a lot of pressure from the Catholic Church; he was a Roman Catholic priest himself. So, he put it into his third, fourth and fifth edition and that is what ended up in the King James Bible.

Altogether, we have found nine manuscripts that either have that wording in the text or in the margin; none of them, earlier than the 11th century. So the earliest manuscript to have this in the text is from the 14th century. It doesn’t go back to the original Greek New Testament. There is no scholar that believes that this is what the original Greek New Testament says. So this was added to the King James and that has been the biggest uproar about modern translations. You are taking out the trinity, they say. Well, what scholars are doing is simply trying to follow what the evidence actually says. We are not taking out the trinity, but instead, an explicit statement about the trinity. But the early church didn’t have that explicit statement. How could they ever have come up with the doctrine of the Trinity unless they had this verse? Well, they did. There is a kind of a myth; people think that if scribes copy a manuscript, they then destroyed them and so on. That didn’t happen nor has it ever happened, that is not what the scribes did. Others have said that the Bible has been translated and retranslated so many times that we can’t possibly tell what the original says. That presupposes that when you translate it, you throw away the original language and then you work with the second language, etc. It doesn’t take but a few seconds of thinking to realize that this is stupid. That is not what happens; the King James Bible, we still have those manuscripts today that the King James New Testament was based on. The oldest is from the 11th century. Eight manuscripts were essentially used.

Today, we have over five thousand and eight hundred Greek New Testament manuscripts. Somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand manuscripts in other languages; so we have more than a thousand times as many manuscripts, almost in Greek alone than what the King James translators relied on. And our earliest manuscripts don’t go back to the 11th century; they go back to the 2nd century. Almost a thousand times as many manuscripts, almost a thousand years earlier; so modern New Testaments are not based on later data, but the longer we go and as time goes on, we are getting closer and closer to the original text.

III. What is the Difference between Majority Text, Received Text, and TR?

TR, Textual Receptus was an advertising burb in the 1633 Elsevier Text that an uncle and nephew put together. This is the text received by all. The TR is just an abbreviation of that. So the Received Text and TR are synonymous. The ‘majority text’ means that text is based on the majority of manuscripts which in almost every place, there are several places where we have no majority; but in almost every place, it is the Byzantine text. When Erasmus was using eight manuscripts for his translation, since the Byzantine text is eighty to ninety percent of our Greek manuscripts; you would expect him to use them even though there was one manuscript that wasn’t Byzantine. What he did, there was a text that virtually duplicates the Byzantine text or the majority text, except in nearly two thousand places, it differs from the majority text. But the majority text is based on the majority of manuscripts and it wasn’t even published until the 1980s; it was the first time we had a printed text based on the Byzantine manuscripts. Even though it was in the majority of manuscripts, it hasn’t been in the majority of people’s understanding in what those manuscripts actually said. It is especially the King James only people who are adamant and vehement about this issue.

IV. Why do Modern Translations Unanimously Follow the Alexandrian Text Type?

I have actually met people in different parts of the states who have said things like, ‘if the King James Bible is good enough for Paul, it is good enough for me.’ One person wrote to me, emailed me one time, arguing against me and I said that we probably need to deal with the larger issue of why you are Roman Catholic. He wasn’t a Catholic but he was elevating tradition above the text and especially with the KJV which isn’t easily understandable and you are calling this the inspired text, you are assuming there is inspiration that is taking place fifteen hundred years after the original. That is Catholic theology and methodology. The Vulgate was considered the inspired text, the Latin text; that was the only one that was inspired until the 20th century until the Catholic Church in Vatican II said that you can translate from Greek and Hebrew now. Finally, they could do that. It paralleled the methodology of what Catholicism was all about until Vatican II. These people think they fit into Protestantism and are the only upholders of Protestantism when their method is much more Catholic because of this idea of tradition. Erasmus had no basis for some of his readings and there are several places where he had no basis at all; some say that he wrote under inspiration. This is not the Protestant doctrine of inspiration; it is just the apostles and their associates who were inspired.

V. Practical Suggestions for how we Should Respond to Others in this Debate?

There are two ways to approach such people; first you have to show love; you have to be charitable, but secondly, you show them evidence and the kind of evidence that you show them is evidence that causes them to have to choose one of two positions. And like I just said their methodology is that of a Catholic. A lot of them have come out of this realizing the history of the Textual Receptus and the King James and the original preface to the King James where these translators said that it wasn’t the final word on the Word. This is our best effort and we think that it is a good effort. When they understand a little bit more about the history of the King James and the Greek text behind it, and then they come out of this darkness. It is not rational to think that you must be able to read the King James Version of the Bible to even be saved as some think. And I think that one of the problems that I strongly have with those who consider only the King James Version is that it is put above Jesus Christ. The Bible is an infallible pointer to Christ, but the Bible did not die on the Cross in our place. It was not raised from the dead. The Bible is what directs us to him so that we can worship him.