The History of the Bible Part 15: The Controversy & Textual Criticism

Isaiah (Dead Sea Scroll)

We are ready to move on and discuss some of the modern translations. I’m going to discuss a little on some of the major translations that you may hear of or see in a bookstore. This will not cover them all, but all bibles have an article in the front that describes their translation philosophy. I’m also not going in depth on any of these subjects but at the end of this series I will recommend some books that do.I’m going to group a lot in this category today, but there is a lot of misinformation and fear mongering out there with bible translations. First I want to say just because someone says something and they have the title Dr. in front of their name does not mean that what they say is the gospel. All Dr. means is that they received a piece of paper saying that they studied at a certain institution. They still have their own beliefs and opinions which may or may not be right.

First I want to look at the question. Why does my modern translation not say the same thing as the KJV? If you check the right websites or even published books you will quickly be informed that it is because of a satanic conspiracy to remove the fundamental doctrines required for salvation from the bible. You may also find out that it is because of false religions like Gnosticism and their corrupt texts being found and used for bibles. If you believe any of these, I’m not going to try and change your mind. I will say that with a little research you can see just how untrue some of these accusations are.

For example if the newer translations are trying to remove the virgin birth from Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:25, why would they have left it in at Luke 1:27? Logic tells us that they were trying to be truthful to what the text says and not trying to change anything. This can also be said with the many occurrences of where it is claimed that new translations are trying to remove the deity of Christ by only referring to Him as Jesus. Again if this was the case they would never refer to Him as the Christ, which they do and they would have to remove several verses to help them support an incorrect doctrine, which they don’t. Most modern translations also show alternative readings in the footnotes, which they would not do if they were trying to hide something.

As far as the accusations that some translations are a Gnostic version of the bible, if  you study up on gonsticism you will see that this is simply untrue. For example, The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Truth are false books that teach Gnosticism, so if your modern translation was a Gnostic bible it would include these books, which even the apocrypha does not acknowledge. So if you have questions research both sides and if someone is trying to scare you into believing something and it isn’t in the bible, don’t jump at believing it, until you research it yourself.

Also a quick word about copyrights. I’ve heard it said that the newer translations are out just for the money. A copyright protects how the translation is used. It protects the integrity of the translation. Second, works that or in the public domain (such as the KJV) can be published by anyone with no royalties paid to anyone and all profits can be used for whatever the publisher wants. With a copyrighted bible the money for royalties goes back to the foundation that sponsors the translation. Then this money can be used to translate the bible into other languages so that when missionaries go to unreached areas, they can carry a bible to the peoples in their native language.(If you go to the foundation websites most will show you what they do with the money. I’ll include this information in the bibliography at the end of this series.)

So why are they different?

First there have been many great finds in manuscripts since the KJV was published in 1611. We have discovered many old Greek manuscripts that teach us many things. Codex Sinaiticus was discovered having almost been destroyed. It shows us that more than one scribe was used on some manuscripts and sometimes multiple revisers checked it. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 gives us many old manuscripts some dating back to 150 B.C. In the late nineteenth century the Cairo Geniza was found in Old Cairo Egypt. (A genizah was a store room for old manuscripts that were worn.They were to be collected here until they could be ritually buried in a cemetery. This was done to prevent pagans from defiling sacred manuscripts.) The Cairo Geniza contained over 280,000 Jewish documents dating back as far as 870 A.D.

We also have come a long ways in textual criticism. This is the art and science of studying the thousands of old manuscripts and trying to discover what the original manuscript would have said. The original being the one written by the inspired author. Textual criticism looks at all the manuscripts to see if its possible a scribe misspelled a word. If maybe a scribe added their own opinions or descriptions in the manuscripts. Harmonization is another thing it looks for. This is where when the scribe is writing he sees a verses that is familiar to another and instead of looking  to see the correct verse he writes the incorrect one from memory. These are things you are probably familiar with today as you copy something from one document to another.

The modern translations use textual criticism and the older manuscripts for their translations. This is why they are different. They do not try to hide this either. The KJV as it was originally authorized does not contain notes about manuscripts. The modern ones state what they feel is correct and then tell which manuscripts disagree. If there is an alternate verse, most list it in the notes at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to see an example of modern day textual criticism follow the link below to Bible Study Magazine’s interactive article on 2 Samuel 21:19

Goliath & the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament -- at

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