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#112 - Greek text behind the KJV and modern translations
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.
I am engaged in an email discussion regarding the KJV and modern Bible translations. I have been told that the UBS4 (United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition) and NA27 (Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament 27th Edition) rely on multiple manuscripts from multiple text types. Is this true? If so do either UBS4 or NA27 give any greater weight to manuscripts of any particular text type? I am curious as to why modern translations so often declare that the "original", "oldest" or "most reliable" manuscripts don't have a particular reading -- readings that are usually found in the KJV. Why is this?
I would appreciate any information your organization can provide in these matters.
The Greek text of the UBS4 and the NA27 are virtually identical. The primary difference is the scholarly apparatus/footnotes utilized by each. The UBS4 and the NA27 represent what scholars have concluded regarding the relative reliability of all known textual witnesses (including all complete manuscripts and all partial manuscripts in many ancient languages) that contain all or parts of the New Testament text. These witnesses include Alexandrian witnesses, Western witnesses, and Byzantine witnesses. The Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament is comprise of the most highly respected biblical text scholars in the world. Utilizing a very scientific approach, they carry out their work as document historians and text-reconstructionists in an entirely scholarly, non-sectarian, objective manner. After weighing all of the historical and linguistic evidence of the readings of every witness, they discuss and then vote on what they believe to have been most likely the original Greek text of every verse in the New Testament. Their explanations of verses with significant textual variants have been documented in Bruce M. Metzger's excellent A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (United Bible Societies, 1993).
You will find a lot of information regarding the Greek text behind the KJV in the article and in the weblinks at:
Other excellent resources on the subject are the following:
It may be worth noting that the Greek text behind parts of the KJV is based on a later Latin text rather earlier Greek texts. Bruce M. Metzger (The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, pp. 99-100) writes:
For the Book of Revelation he [Erasmus] had but one manuscript, dating from the twelfth century, which he had borrowed from his friend Reuchlin. Unfortunately, this manuscript lacked the final leaf, which had contained the last six verses of the book. For these verses, as well as a few other passages throughout the book where the Greek text of the Apocalypse and the adjoining Greek commentary with which the manuscript was supplied are so mixed up as to be almost indistinguishable, Erasmus depended upon the Latin Vulgate, translating this text into Greek. As would be expected from such a procedure, here and there in Erasmus' self-made Greek text are readings which have never been found in any known Greek manuscript - but which are still perpetuated today in printings of the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament...
Those errors in Erasmus' Greek text (which eventually became known as the Textus Receptus or Received Text) are reflected in the errors in the KJV's English text of Revelation. This is illustrated in the many textual corrections needed throughout the KJV's English text of Revelation, especially in chapters 21 and 22, as shown at:
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer