Thursday, September 08, 2011

Practical Reflections Regarding the KJV (4)

I hope you understood the discussion about the Textus Receptus, and the debate about what Greek text of the New Testament should serve as the basis for our English translations. If not, comment, and let me know. The point of that entire discussion was to show what the different texts are (TR, eclectic, and majority). To many people, it makes a huge difference what text is used. As noted last time, the KJV and the NKJV use the TR. As far as I know, almost all other English translations since 1880 have used some form of the eclectic text. To my knowledge, there is no English version based on the majority text. Beeke says, “the KJV gives the most authentic and fullest available text of the Scriptures, with none of the many omissions and textual rewrites of the modern translations.” In other words, as far as Beeke is concerned the eclectic and majority texts are inauthentic (or at least less authentic than the TR) and lacking. Also, the eclectic and majority texts have many omissions and textual rewrites.

I don’t have the space to go into a full discussion of that now, but am working on a project that will address at least some of those concerns. My own view is that the debate over the Greek text of the New Testament is, if not a tempest in a teapot, it is at least not nearly as significant as many people (including Beeke) seem to think it is.

One way of giving you a sense of what the variations are is to direct you to a copy of the NKJV. For the body of the NT, the NKJV has used the TR. In the marginal notes, the editors have indicated where the eclectic text and the majority text differ from the TR. The eclectic text is indicate by the letters NU. The NU stands for the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies Greek New Testament. M stands for Majority Text. For a fuller discussion, you can refer to the Preface to the NKJV. One example of differences among the texts is in the issue of spelling, especially of names. If you look at Matt 1:7, the NKJV reads, “Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.” The footnote to this verse indicates that instead of Asa, the NU has Asaph. Asa is what appears in the Hebrew text of 1 Chron 3:10 (apparently the source for Matthew’s genealogy) and also in the Septuagint (old Greek translation of the Old Testament). However, many Greek manuscripts of Matthew 1:7 have Asaph. Is this just a spelling variation, as the footnote in the ESV suggests, or is this an error in the NU text? It’s difficult to say, because unless it is simply a spelling variation there does not seem to be a good explanation for the origin of “Asaph” as opposed to “Asa.”

Another example is the question of “omissions.” If you look at Matt 5:27, the NKJV reads, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery.” The footnote indicates that both the NU text and the Majority text “omit” the phrase “to those of old.” Now, it is certainly possible that the manuscripts reflected in the NU and M omitted that phrase. It is not difficult to accidentally omit something in copying. However, it is also possible that the manuscripts behind the TR added the phrase in order to make vs 27 consistent with vss 21 and 33. But it should also be noted that vss 38 and 43 lack the phrase. So is vs 27 a case of NU and M omission or a case TR addition?

In short, as I said above, I think this is much less of an issue than others appear to think it.

Next time I will move on to Beeke’s third point.

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