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#87 - What ever happened to the Complutensian Polyglot Bible?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
At http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm, I was reading your criticism about the TR [Textus Receptus] as compared to the other more recently discovered MSS [manuscripts]. What ever happened to the Complutensian Polyglot Bible? Are any of the more recent versions based on that? Also, please tell me what you know about the Nestle-Aland/Wescott-Hort texts that many of today's Bible's are based on. How do we know these are better? I've read that their intentions for translating may have been less than admirable. (Then again, I think the person who wrote it might have been a fundamentalist. I am not.) I'm trying to find out which Bible out there is the most accurate, and how we know.
The Complutensian Polyglot Bible was the first multilingual edition of the entire Bible. Erasmus' Greek New Testament was first to market and won the war of influence until the late 19th century. Only with the publication and acceptance of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1952, which began the erosion of the reign of the KJV, did the influence Erasmus' Textus Receptus ('received by all') begin to be challenged in alternative Bible version that increasingly being used by the general Bible-reading public.
The United Bible Societies' [UBS] first edition of the Greek New Testament in 1966 marked a new era of convergence of scholarly conclusions on what was the original Greek text of the New Testament. The UBS4 (4th Edition of the UBS's New Testament) was adopted as the text of the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition, so the Greek text of both is now identical.
Bruce M. Metzger is the leading authority on New Testament manuscripts. He has been on the UBS NT editorial committee since it began, and he has authored many great books and articles on the textual evolution of the New Testament. You can find a number of his books listed in my bibliography at
He also has an excellent article on "Texts, Versions, Manuscripts, Editions" in both the Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary and an excellent article on "Manuscripts" in the Oxford Companion to the Bible. Both books are listed in:
There are definitely some very strong theological biases in some translations of the Bible and in the selection of the ancient texts upon which they are based. You will get some flavor of that by browsing
In the introduction to the weekly "Bible Lesson study aid" (see http://www.bibletexts.com/bl-components.htm) I note:
The original Hebrew (Old Testament), Aramaic (Daniel only), and Greek (New Testament) texts are what actually constitute "the Bible." All versions of the Bible -- whether in Latin, English, Chinese, or Hindi; whether produced in 384 A.D., in 1611 A.D., or in 1996 A.D. -- are merely translations indirectly derived from many generations of handcopies of those original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
Most of those corrections are relevant only to the KJV, because most modern versions such as the NRSV and the TEV were translated from Hebrew and Greek texts that are much more consistent with "the original texts" than those Hebrew and Greek texts from which the 1611 KJV was translated. In the KJV most of the substantive errors are due to the faulty Hebrew and Greek texts from which the KJV was translated. (See S&H 139:15.) For more details on these issues, you can browse http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm.
Wherever there are substantial differences between the wording of the KJV and the NRSV, the NRSV should be considered as more accurately representing the wording of the original texts. Of the three English language Bible versions used below (the KJV, the NRSV, and the TEV), the NRSV gives the best word-for-word representation of the wording of original texts, and the TEV gives the best phrase-by-phrase representation of the originally intended meaning of original texts.
I should add that I also very much like the New American Bible (NAB) as a somewhat more literal alternative to the NRSV, and I like the Revised English Bible (REB) as good alternative to the TEV. If I had to choose two versions of Bibles, I would choose the TEV and the NAB, with the REB and NRSV as very good alternatives. They all have excellent textual bases and the scholarship behind each represents honest, theological independence. The TEV and the REB best represent the nuances of the Greek text and overall best deliver to us in today's setting the meaning that is most comparable to the meaning that the New Testament authors delivered to their intended audience almost 2000 years ago. The NAB and NRSV both are available in excellent study Bible editions, with very high quality, honest footnotes. Frankly I would not want to be without any of these 4 Bible versions.
Another good feature of the TEV is that the same methodology has been used in the United Bible Societies' Today's Spanish Version, Today's Chinese Version, etc. They are very dependable and preferred translations, regardless of the language.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer