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Why I don’t preach or teach from the King James Version

 

Ps23KJV1611

(Photo: Psalm 23 in the original 1611 edition of the King James Version.)

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

I love the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. It is written in beautiful, literary English. Psalm 23 and many other familiar passages resonate in the KJV. However, I usually do not use the KJV when I preach and teach. Why is that? There are two main reasons.

  1. The English language has changed over the centuries. Many words that were clear when the KJV was written, are now confusing or offensive to the modern reader, simply because modern English is a different dialect. For example, the KJV uses the word “unicorn” nine times (Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7). Skeptics have made fun of the Bible because of this; however, hundreds of years ago “unicorn” used to mean an animal with one horn, like a rhinoceros. Over time, the word came to refer to a mythical animal, so modern translations use other terms, such as “wild ox.” Exodus 28:40 says to make “girdles and bonnets” for the priests (referring to sashes and headbands), 2 Kings 18:27 refers to men who “drink their own piss;” James 2:3 refers to “gay clothing” (referring to fine clothes), 2 Corinthians 6:12 says, “ye are straitened in your bowels (referring to holding back affection), and Philippians 3:20 says “our conversation is in heaven” because “conversation” meant way of life in Middle English, but today the word means speech, and thus would be completely misunderstood. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
  2. The KJV is not based on the best ancient manuscripts. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the New Testament was written in Greek. Bible scholars determined the wording of the original manuscripts by collecting and comparing thousands of ancient manuscripts. However, the oldest and most reliable manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Old Testament, were discovered and studied long after the King James Version was translated in 1611. Thus, it is ironic but true that newer translations use older and more dependable manuscripts as the basis for their translation. For example, the KJV includes the longer ending to the Gospel of Mark, which says that believers “shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents…” (Mark 16:17-18, KJV). These verses have been quoted by snake-handling sects, yet the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end with Mark 16:8! Another example is 1 John 5:7-8 (a passage mentioning the Trinity), which includes additional words in verse 7, as well as all of verse 8, that are absent from every known Greek manuscript except four manuscripts written in Greek during Middle Ages. It is apparent that a scribe added these words to testify to the Trinity. There are other scriptures that attest to the Trinity, but this is not one of them. (Those KJV Only people who argue that “liberals have taken verses out of the Bible” are ignoring the fact that the chapter and verse number system was added to the text hundreds of years after the original writings, for our convenience in referencing passages.)

All of this begs the question, if not the KJV, what translation should one use? To answer that, I refer you to a previous post I wrote, What Bible translation should I use?

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About Bob Rogers

Hospital chaplain in Mississippi. Formerly a pastor for 33 years in Mississippi and Georgia. Historian and avid cyclist.

Posted on May 24, 2018, in Bible teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Bob,
    I suspect that you may be underinformed, or misinformed, about Mark 16:9-20. Lots of commentators, it seems, have investigated this subject in a rather shallow way, by reading the comments of Bruce Metzger and then finding creative ways to restate what he wrote. Some of Metzger’s statements are flatly incorrect. however, and many of them are incomplete and unbalanced to the point of being misleading.

    A case in point: over 99% of our Greek manuscripts of Mark support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. It is only in two manuscripts from the 300s, and one commentary-manuscript from the 1100s, that the Gospel of Mark ends at the end of 16:8. The earliest of the three, Codex Vaticanus, has a blank column following the end of Mark 16:8, which strongly suggests that the copyist was aware of the missing verses but was not sure whether to include them or not — so he left “memorial space” for them. In the other early manuscript, Sinaiticus, all of the pages that contain Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 are replacement-pages; they were not produced by the same copyist who made the surrounding pages. Metzger unfortunately mentions none of this.

    In addition, the contents of Mark 16:9-20 are utilized in one way are another in the 100s, over a century before those two manuscripts from the 300s, by Justin Martyr (160), by the unnamed author of Epistula Apostolorum (150/180), by Tatian in his Diatessaron (170), and by Irenaeus (180) who specifically quoted Mark 16:19 in Book 3 of “Against Heresies.” If one grants that “older is better” then the manuscripts used by Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus ought to far outweigh evidence from the fourth century.

    As for interpreting the passage about snakes and poisons, this is not difficult at all to do without appearing silly or reckless; the church has used the passage for many centuries as one of the “Heothina” passages routinely read in the churches, without engaging in the excesses of the anomalous “Signs Following” sect and others like it. Ambrose and Augustine, for example, used the passage, without becoming literal snake-handlers.

    If you search for “Mark 16:9-20” at my blog you can find much more information on this subject. May God bless your continuing research.

    • James,
      Thank you for your comments. You have clearly studied this subject, and I appreciate your intelligent approach. However, I disagree.
      It can be misleading to say that a majority of manuscripts support a passage, because that includes a count of many more recent manuscripts that may just be repeating an incorrect manuscript. It is more significant to see what older manuscripts say from a variety of geographical locations. If one can find older manuscripts from those different locations that agree, such information outweighs thousands of newer manuscripts all from Rome repeating what they copied in Rome, for example.
      There are more manuscripts than you have listed which support an ending at Mark 16:8. This early ending is found in the two oldest Greek manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, as well as miniscules 304 and 2386, from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac, from one hundred Armenian manuscripts, from the two oldest Georgia manuscripts, and from Ethiopian manuscripts. This shows a variety of older manuscripts from different geographical regions that do not include the longer ending of Mark. Even many of the manuscripts that do include the longer ending contain scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and others that include it have marked it with asterisks or obeli, typical signs of copyists to indicate a questionable addition.
      What’s more, the early church historian Eusebius and the translator of the Latin Bible Jerome say that the passage was absent from almost all Greek manuscripts known to them.
      In addition to all this, there are Greek manuscripts that provide a shorter ending to be added to Mark 16:8, an ending also found in Ethiopic manuscripts. All of this confusion over the ending makes the inclusion of verses after Mark 16:8 highly suspect.
      We have only discussed the ending of Mark. There are other passages in the KJV that are based on poor manuscript evidence, such as 1 John 5:7-9.

  2. Bob Rogers,

    I hope it will be only helpful if I comment again. You have read, I trust, my previous comment in which I mentioned that some commentators have merely repeated the comments of Bruce Metzger on this subject, and I cautioned that some of Metzger’s comments are wrong, and that others are incomplete and unbalanced to the point of being misleading.

    Granting that in theory, a large group of manuscripts “may just be repeating an incorrect manuscript,” that has no real-life part of a case against Mark 16:9-20 unless it can be shown that all or some of the 1,600 manuscripts that support the passage really and truly *are* copies of an incorrect manuscript; otherwise what you have there is nothing but an if/then hypothesis, not evidence.

    <>

    You noticed, I trust, the sentence in which I mentioned that all Greek manuscripts except three that are capable of supporting Mark 16:9-20 *do* support Mark 16:9-20. That is a wide and deep array of manuscript-evidence that includes Codex A, C, D, E, etc.; they come from all locales. I don’t know what more you could ask for. The early patristic evidence is also remarkably widespread; Roman-era patristic support for Mark 16:9-20 comes from Ireland, France, Italy, Asia Minor, North Africa, Israel, Syria, Armenia, Egypt, Cyprus, etc.

    <>

    I specified *Greek* manuscripts, and the three I mentioned are indeed all of the Greek MSS in which the text ends at 16:8. I point out again that the two early ones (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) both have unusual features which indicate that their copyists were aware of the absent verses.

    <>

    (Min*u*scules.) Your information is not quite right; 304 is the one medieval Greek copy in which the text of Mark ends at the end of 16:8; I describe its testimony at http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2016/05/minuscule-304-theophylact-and-ending-of.html .
    2386, however, is merely a damaged manuscript and space-considerations show that before being damaged it included Mark 16:9-20, as even Metzger has acknowledged. (Unfortunately William Lane’s publishers never updated his commentary to indicate this, so the claim still gets circulated by those who rely on outdated resources.)
    ,
    <>

    This is the kind of Metzger-recycling that I cautioned about. Please see
    http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2012/06/mark-16-bruce-metzger-and.html where I address the material you are using, point by point. Here I will just point our that in 1980, Metzger retracted his claim about the Ethiopic manuscripts. All the Ethiopic copies of Mark include 16:9-20. Your source of information, as I mentioned, is obsolete.

    Also, since you emphasized the importance of older evidence and then proceeded to call on “the two oldest Georgian manuscripts,” perhaps I should point out that those two “oldest Georgian MSS” are only old compared to the rest of the Georgian evidence; they are from the 900s, which is not particularly early at all. Meanwhile, any one of the manuscripts used by Irenaeus, Tatian, Hippolytus, Hierocles, Augustine, Ambrose, the unknown author of “Apostolic Constitutions,” Jerome, etc., would be the centerpiece of any museum’s collection if they had survived to the present day. They have not, but their owners’ quotations of them have, and their age and geographic range shows that the witnesses you have brought are /anomalies./ You bring Armenian manuscripts from the 900s to the stand — but you do not mention the testimony of the Armenian writer Eznik of Golb, from c. 440, practically overlapping the very beginning of the Armenian version itself. Why do you mention medieval Armenian evidence and not Armenian evidence from the 400s? The answer is obvious, is it not: you were not told about Eznik. This is an example of what I meant when I said that Metzger’s comments, and the comments of commentators such as Lane who relied very heavily on Metzger, are incomplete and unbalanced to the point of being misleading.

    Of course a reader cannot be blamed for being misled by a lazy commentator, or by a commentator who had no scruples about disguising propaganda for his favored text as a commentary. But that is not permission for us to do the same by misleading others once we have learned the actual state of the evidence.

    <>

    Not so. You have been misinformed. Please see, again,
    http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2012/06/mark-16-bruce-metzger-and.html and, especially regarding Craig Evans’ sloppy claims scribal notes and asterisks,
    http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2017/05/craig-evans-and-ending-of-mark.html .

    <>

    Wrong again. Of course this is not your fault; it is the fault of those commentators who have let you down by resorting to shortcuts in their research.

    <>

    Not an accurate description of the evidence from Eusebius and Jerome at all. See point #2 in the material at http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2017/05/craig-evans-and-ending-of-mark.html . Jerome, of course, included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate, and cited 16:14 in a composition later, The Greek text of Eusebius’ composition which is the basis for the claim you are repeating here is now available, for free, with an English translation, so there is presently no excuse to be so imprecise as Metzger, Lane, Evans, etc.

    <>

    Yes; I know; the Shorter Ending is in the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis (the only manuscript in any language which has *only* the Shorter Ending after 16:8), which you would have already pointed out if you were familiar with it instead of just echoing what others have told you. The Short Ending was created in Egypt, where verses 9-20 were lost. The effects of that loss echo in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. The Egyptian Shorter Ending is attested in six Greek manuscripts, all six of which also support verses 9-20. It does not require Sherlock-Holme-level deductive powers to deduce that the six Greek manuscripts that have it attest to an earlier point in the Alexandrian transmission-line in which the Shorter Ending alone followed 16:8, and that /that/ followed a brief period in which the text of Mark circulated in Egypt without anything at all after the end of 16:8. Besides B and Aleph, one Coptic MS of Mark shows this as well (published too late, alas, to be noticed by Metzger, and thus also ignored by the fleet of commentators whose comments on this subject are little more than echoes. (Like manuscripts, commentators too should be weighed, not merely counted.)

    <>

    Yes; this too echoes the situation in Egypt when the Shorter Ending and the usual 12-verse ending circulated side by side. As Metzger documented in 1980, many Ethiopic copies of Mark have the Shorter Ending between 16:8 and 16:9.

    <>

    The evidence from versions that you’ve mentioned is a bit of a smokescreen; if Vaticanus and Sinaiticus included Mark 16:9-20, I daresay it would all be waved aside. as evidence of a local anomaly — the local loss of the ending, whether by accident or design, was briefly followed by manuscripts of Mark with no ending; then someone created the Shorter Ending and added that; then verses 9-20 were rediscovered and copies with /either/ ending circulated side by side; then copies with /both/ endings circulated. This is what we see radiating out of the texts in Egypt and the general vicinity of Egypt. The thing to see is that Egypt, not Rome — the place where the Gospel of Mark was written and initially circulated — is the epicenter of all that. Put the center of the transmission-map in Rome, and everyone everywhere smoothly and simply transmits Mark 16:9-20 along with the rest of the text.

    • You’ve certainly done a lot of research. But I did not see any reply to my remarks about 1 John 5:7-8. How do you justify the KJV text in this passage, based only on a handful of manuscripts from the Middle Ages?

  3. Bob,

    I understand where you are coming from on the KJV, but I myself love reading this version and use a study bible with it. When read the language in KJV transports one to the time when Jesus lived, and the other versions are lacking in this area.

    But this is just my opinion.

    • Peggy,
      I understand what you are saying about it transporting you back in time. But remember that if you were transported back to the time when Jesus lived, you would be reading it in Hebrew and Aramaic, not Elizabethan English, a language that did not yet exist when Jesus lived.

  4. Charles A Pitts

    Calling Bruce Metzger and Craig Evans “lazy” and “sloppy” seems a bit…well, presumptuous and prideful. Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m sure that Metzger would have agreed and that Evans does. However, James Snapp’s ongoing diatribe against the majority view on NT Greek textual history shows a well-intentioned, well-studied, but harsh attack that (like those he attacks) chooses what evidence to hear. Early doesn’t guarantee original, or even better, but to cite the hundreds of medieval manuscripts as better strikes me as much more sloppy and lazy that Metzger and Evans.

  1. Pingback: Why I don’t preach or teach from the King James Version | Go Fish Ministries, Inc

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