Where Do We Stand?

Last week’s post generated plenty of conversation. I hope to highlight one of the points brought to light in a future post; namely, I will post on Tischendorf’s discovery of Sinaiticus and how the story is portrayed in the KJVO debate on all sides.

What got me thinking, though, is more along the lines of our personal backgrounds. I realize some of our regular guests have shared their own story, but I’m not sure that I even know where everyone stands on the issue. I see we have folks who regularly comment in support of the TR or MT but are not necessarily KJVO. We have others who are very critical of the CT but again, not KJVO. Then we have some who are indeed KJVO. I am also very interested in your theological leanings, as we’ve had people here who are not Christian at all. It helps to know who we’re talking to.

I’m wondering if those of you who regularly comment here (or who have in the past) would mind providing a little theological background and insight into your current thoughts on the Bible version issue. My fellow contributors are welcome to chime in as always. Even though we’ve given short bios on the authors page, and even though we all come from the IFB KJVO position, we have not all given our full position on this topic and I’m sure we even differ among ourselves.

To keep the commentary to the point, would you please follow these guidelines and answer these questions:

Guidelines: Please keep it brief yet specific. Please refrain from replying to a comment unless it addresses a specific point made (perhaps for an elaboration or clarification rather than an argument).


1. What kind of church do you attend, if any?
2. What is your role in ministry, if any?
3. Has your position on the Bible version issue changed? If so, how?
4. How would you describe your current perspective on the TR, MT, and CT?
5. How important is this issue to you and how significant is it to your theology as a whole? (for example, do you practice separation if someone does not agree, etc)
6. What English Bibles do you recommend and use?
7. What resources have helped you, and which would you urge people to stay away from?
8. Finally, to keep things friendly, share with us what your favorite food is.

The above do not necessarily all have to be answered, or answered in order, but if you could frame your comments around these topics that would help us keep things clear and concise.

Let the Minutiae Speak

I submitted a paper to Sharper Iron’s writing contest a few months back.  They posted it today as one of the three winning entries.  I’ll provide a brief excerpt here and encourage you to go over to SI to read the whole thing.

Let the minutiae speak: The place of genealogies, numbers, and parallel passages in the King James only debate

“Things that are different are not the same.” So says the title of Mickey Carter’s book advocating the exclusive use of the King James Bible. This sentiment is a fair summary of the mindset of most King James only (KJO) advocates. The differences between Bible versions demand a judgment. Which Bible is right?

Troubled by differing Bible versions, many sincere Christians seek for answers. One side affirms that no doctrine is affected by the relatively minor differences between Bible versions. The message is the same, but finer points and particular details may be slightly different. A typical KJO position jumps in and says this can’t be right. Verbal inspiration is useless without the preservation of those very words of God. In fact, we need to know each and every word, in order to live (Matt. 4:4). All differences, even word order and spelling differences, matter (Matt. 5:18). Differing versions cannot both claim to be translations of the perfect, inspired Word of God.

On the face of it, the KJO argument makes sense. When we’re speaking about the Bible, shouldn’t every little difference matter? Some respond with manuscript evidence that calls into question the choice of the King James Bible as a perfect standard. Others have shown that the various proof texts for word perfect preservation don’t actually promise a single, identifiable, word-perfect copy of the Bible. And prior to 1611, where was such a copy to be found, anyway?

In this paper, I want to take us down a road less traveled. Rather than looking for a proof text which directly deals with this controversy, I aim to scour the King James Bible itself for examples of the very differences which are said to matter so much. The minor points of Scripture itself, the minutia, should be allowed to speak to this issue. Genealogies, lists, numbers, and parallel passages all have an important bearing on how we should think about “things that are different.” [read the rest of the entry at Sharper Iron]

A Reader Comments on Manuscript Evidence for a Pre-Origen Septuagint

Readers of this debate blog will be aware of the position by some influential KJV Onlyists that the Septuagint is a post-Christian creation.  Some say it didn’t exist before Origen.  Others are more nuanced and say that we can’t know if the Septuagint as an entity existed before that time.

The rationale for this tactic is to avoid the implications of the New Testament’s prolific use of the Septuagint.  John Owen and Jerome and others are put forth as defendants for a position which claims that the New Testament shaped the creation of the Septuagint, and scribes amended the LXX to conform to the NT.

While I would agree that an entire monolithic Septuagint was not to be found, I would nevertheless say that there is plenty of evidence for multiple translations of the Old Testament into Greek.  The variations between the Greek editions themselves, and between them and the New Testament quotations, point toward an inescapable conclusion.  Some harmonization by the New Testament’s influence may have happened, but by and large, the New Testament unmistakably leans heavily on the Septuagint.

All this is agreed on, I believe, by most scholars today.  In fact we recently had a reader leave an insightful comment as he was baffled by our defense of a pre-Origen LXX.  Since the comment may have been missed by our readers, and since it is worthy of repetition, I thought I’d share it here.

I tend not to use the KJV as I prefer to use a Hebrew OT and a Greek NT. For English translations my favourite is the KJV for its beauty – so please don’t react to what I have to say with any assumption that I must be some sort of KJV hater – I’m not.

May I suggest that many of the blog posters spend less time arguing, less time quoting whatever popular apologetic works they have read as “proof” that they are right when the popular apologetic works are usually badly researched – and spend serious time actually reading and researching the topics – I’ve spent the last 25+ years researching early biblical manuscripts, and work as a theological librarian in an academic institution. I’m also an evangelical Protestant Christian – I might even be described as a fundamentalist!

I have just read the blog posts about the Septuagint – it contains some incredibly stupid comments about no early Septuagint manuscripts, and none among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Please feel free to share the following with your blog posters.

Early Septuagint – pre-dating the third century A.D.

1. MS 89 of P.Foud 266 – remains of 24 chapters from Genesis and Deuteronomy, mid 1st century BC.
2. P Yale I 1 – remains of 1 chapter from Genesis, 1st or 2nd century AD
3. P.Oxy.656 – remains of 6 chapters from Genesis, 2nd or perhaps early 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a borderline case
4. P. Deissman – remains of 1 chapter from Exodus, 2nd or 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
5. P.Baden 56, remains of 4 chapters of Exodus and Deuteronomy, 2nd century AD
6. Schoyen Collection MS 2649 – remains of 6 chapters of Leviticus, late 2nd or early 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
7. P.Beatty IV + P.Mich.5554 – remains of 38 chapters of Numbers and Deuteronomy, late 2nd or early 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
8. P.Ryl.458 – remains of 6 chapters of Deuteronomy, 2nd century BC
9. Schoyen Collection MS 2648 – remains of 3 chapters of Joshua, late 2nd or early 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
10. P.Montserrat Inv.3 – remains of 2 chpaters of 2 Chronicles, late 2nd century AD
11. P.Chester Beatty IX+X + John H. Scheide 3 + P.Colon theo.3-40 + P.Montserrat 42+43 + P.Matr.bibl.1 (the manuscript was broken up and ended up in 5 collections!) – remains of 58 chapters of Esther, Ezekiel and Daniel, 2nd century AD
12. P.Oxy.4443 – remains of 2 chapters of Esther, 1st or 2nd century AD
13. P.Oxy.3522 – remains of 1 chapter of Job, 1st century AD
14. P.Taur.27 – remains of 1 chapter of Psalms, 2nd century AD
15. PSI inv.1989 – remains of 1 chapter of Psalms, late 2nd century AD
16. P.Montserrat Inv.2 – remains of 1 chapter of Psalms, 2nd century AD
17. P.Bodmer XXIV – remains of almost all of Psalms, 2nd or 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
18. Bodleian MS.Gr.Bib.g.5 (P) – remains of 2 chapters of Psalms, 2nd century AD
19. PSI.inv.921 – remains of 1 chapter of Psalms, 2nd century AD
20. P.Antin.7 – remains of 2 chapters of Psalms, 2nd century AD
21. Leipzig Uni.Bib.Pap.170 – remains of 1 chapter of Psalms, 2nd or 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
22. Garrett Deposit 1924, H.I. Bell II G: small flat box 5 – remains of 1 chapter of Isaiah, 2nd or 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
23. P.Beatty VIII – remains of 2 chapters of Jerimiah, 2nd or 3rd century AD – imprecise dating of this manuscript makes it a boarderline case
24. 4Q119 – remains of 1 chapter of Leviticus, pre First Jewish Revolt (pre destruction of the Temple)
25. 4Q120 – remains of 6 chapters of Leviticus, pre First Jewish Revolt
26. 4Q121 – remains of 2 chapters of Numbers, pre First Jewish Revolt
27. 4Q122 – remains of 1 chapter of Deuteronomy, pre First Jewish Revolt
28. 7Q1 – remains of 1 chapter of Exodus, pre First Jewish Revolt
29. 8Hev 1 – remaains of 24 chapters of the Minor Prophets, 1st century BC or 1st century AD

So we have 29 manuscripts of which 20 are unquestionably 2nd century or earlier.

I won’t give the all bibliographical details from all of the mansucripts listed above, but here is a start of just 3 books for the Septuagint manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls:

  • Qumran Cave 4: IV. Palaeo-Hebrew and Greek Biblical Manuscripts, by P.W. Skehan, E. Ulrich and J.E. Sanderson; with a contribution by P.J. Parsons (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), Discoveries in the Judaean Desert volume IX
  • Les ‘Petites Grottes’ de Qumrân: Exploration de la falaise, Les grottes 2Q, 3Q, 5Q, 6Q, 7Q, à 10Q, Le rouleau de cuivre, by M. Baillet, J.T. Milik and R. de Vaux; with a contribution by H.W. Baker (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), Discoveries in the Judaean Desert volume III
  • The Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever (8HevXIIgr), (The Seiyâl Collection I), by E. Tov; with the collaboration of R.A. Kraft; and a contribution of P.J. Parsons (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), Discoveries in the Judaean Desert volume VIII

Matthew Hamilton
Sydney, Australia

The King James Translators & the Septuagint (LXX)

It seems this has been a recurring theme on our blog of late, but discussions here and elsewhere have been focusing in on this point: Did Jesus and the Apostles use the Septuagint in their ministries and in quoting from the Old Testament? I was recently reminded that the translators of the King James Bible, themselves would answer “yes”. See their words below from “The Translators to the Reader“.

While God would be known only in Jacob, and have his Name great in Israel, and in none other place, while the dew lay on Gideon’s fleece only, and all the earth besides was dry; then for one and the same people, which spake all of them the language of Canaan, that is, Hebrew, one and the same original in Hebrew was sufficient. But, when the fulness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God should come into the world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yea, of all them that were scattered abroad; then lo, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek Prince (Greek for descent and language) even of Ptolemy Philadelph King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal. For the Grecians being desirous of learning, were not wont to suffer books of worth to lie moulding in Kings’ libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again, the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the Colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yea, and of Africa too. Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becometh hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first Preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by. It is certain, that that Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than by making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. This may be supposed to be some cause, why the Translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquila fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus; yea, there was a fifth and a sixth edition, the Authors whereof were not known. These with the Seventy made up the Hexapla and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen. Howbeit the Edition of the Seventy went away with the credit, and therefore not only was placed in the midst by Origen (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius gathered) but also was used by the Greek fathers for the ground and foundation of their Commentaries. Yea, Epiphanius above named doth attribute so much unto it, that he holdeth the Authors thereof not only for Interpreters, but also for Prophets in some respect; and Justinian the Emperor enjoining the Jews his subjects to use especially the Translation of the Seventy, rendereth this reason thereof, because they were as it were enlightened with prophetical grace. Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit [Isa 31:3]; so it is evident, (and Saint Jerome affirmeth as much) that the Seventy were Interpreters, they were not Prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yea, sometimes they may be noted to add to the Original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the word, as the spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek Translations of the Old Testament.

So we have a clear admission by orthodox Protestant scholars of the early seventeenth Century, that the LXX was used by Christ and the apostles. Subsequent scholarship has given additional insights into this, and confirms the notion that Greek translations of the Old Testament books were often used by the Apostles and quoted from in the New Testament. For more evidence on this point, see this comparison of NT quotes and the LXX vs. the Hebrew. See also this Trinitarian Bible Society (which incidentally only publishes the KJV for its English Bible) article on the value of the Septuagint [HT: Pavlos].

Gipp, Irenaeus, and The Septuagint

When one reads King James Version Only arguments, one of the issues that arises is that of the New Testament quotation of the Septuagint (LXX).

One example is Samuel Gipp, who said:
“..the most unexplainable is Paul’s quote of Deuteronomy 25:4 in I Corinthians 9:9. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

Deut 25:4: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.”

Here we find Paul quoting the words “the corn” just as if they had been in the Hebrew original even though they are only found in the italics of our Authorized Version!

If one were to argue that Paul was quoting a supposed Greek Septuagint translation of the original Hebrew, our dilemma only worsens. For now, two perplexing questions present themselves to us. First, if such a Greek translation ever existed, (which is not documented in history) by what authority did the translators insert these words? Secondly, if they were added by the translators, does Paul’s quoting of them confirm them as inspired?”

(Samuel Gipp, The Answer Book, online edition http://samgipp.com/answerbook/?page=11.htm Accessed 02/25/2010)

Gipp states that it is not documented in history that the LXX existed. I shall leave it to others, or until another time, to explain the “why” of his making this statement. I simply wish to demonstrate the lie of the statement.

Irenaeus (a.d. 125–202 ) was not very many years removed from the time of Christ. He was familiar with Polycarp, who was acquainted with at least one of the apostles. Irenaeus wrote to combat some serious doctrinal errors that had arisen in the church. Thus we have “Against Heresies”. It is in these writings that we find Irenaeus bearing testimony to the existence of the LXX.

1. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:] “Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son,” as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvelous dispensation of God, and setting

aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God. For truly this prediction was uttered before the removal of the people to Babylon; that is, anterior to the supremacy acquired by the Medes and Persians. But it was interpreted into Greek by the Jews themselves, much before the period of our Lord’s advent, that there might remain no suspicion that perchance the Jews, complying with our humor, did put this interpretation upon these words…

2. For before the Romans possessed their kingdom, while as yet the Macedonians held Asia, Ptolemy the son of Lagus, being anxious to adorn the library which he had founded in Alexandria, with a collection of the writings of all men, which were [works] of merit, made request to the people of Jerusalem, that they should have their Scriptures translated into the Greek language. And they — for at that time they were still subject to the Macedonians — sent to Ptolemy seventy of their elders, who were thoroughly skilled in the Scriptures and in both the languages, to carry out what he had desired… the Gentiles present perceived that the Scriptures had been interpreted by the inspiration of God. And there was nothing astonishing in God having done this…

3. Since, therefore, the Scriptures have been interpreted with such fidelity.. and since from these God has prepared and formed again our faith towards His Son, and has preserved to us the unadulterated Scriptures in Egypt.. and [since] this interpretation of these Scriptures was made prior to our Lord’s

descent [to earth], and came into being before the Christians appeared — for our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus; but Ptolemy was much earlier, under whom the Scriptures were interpreted.. our faith is steadfast, unfeigned, and the only true one, having clear proof from these Scriptures, which were interpreted in the way I have related; and the preaching of the Church is without interpolation. For the apostles, since they are of more ancient date than all these [heretics], agree with this aforesaid translation; and the translation harmonizes with the tradition of the apostles. For Peter, and John, and Matthew, and Paul, and the rest successively, as well as their followers, did set forth all prophetical [announcements], just as the interpretation of the elders contains them.”

(Against Heresies on CCEL http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.xxii.html Accessed 02/25/2010)

Irenaeus not only stated that the LXX existed, he called it the “preserved”, “unadulterated Scriptures”! Not only so, but he stated that it was a translation that was carried out with “fidelity”, and that they indeed existed before Christian and before Christ Himself was born. He also informs us that the apostles quoted from the LXX.

Methinks that some KJVO believers need to study their history a little more.

In the end, it is somewhat amazing that Irenaeus’ writings against heresies now testifies against a heresy that he never knew would exist: that of KJVO’ism.

Luke 4:18 and the LXX (part 1)

Perhaps no passage in Scripture presents such a problem to the KJV Only view¹, as Luke 4:16-22.  In this first post, we will offer a brief explanation of the text, an examination of the quotation in verses 18-19, and a some historical support for our position.  In future posts, we will draw out the implications from the text which impact the version debate, and provide some answers to common KJV Only counter-arguments.

Explanation of the Text

Luke 4:16 explains Christ stood to read the text in the synagogue.  This was the common practice.  Jesus will read and then expound the text.  Vs. 17 explains he will read from the scroll of Isaiah, and he opens the scroll and proceeds to read.

Bibles that provide Jesus’ words in red, do a disservice to our text.  An ESV Bible I have sitting here, has vs. 18-19 in red.  But if we examine vs. 17 more closely, we’ll see that Luke is not telling us what Jesus “said” but what was written in the book that was in Jesus’ hand.

Luke says (using the KJV text here), “when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written”.  Then follows vs. 18-19.  Luke does not say Jesus said those words.  From vs. 20, it is clear that he had read them, as he rolls the scroll back up and sits down (to begin his teaching, as the custom prescribed).  So clearly Jesus read from that passage of Scripture.  But Luke gives us what the scroll said.  He tells us what was written (or what “stood written”, to better reflect the perfect tense of the Greek words here).

Luke as the inspired author of Scripture is making a statement concerning what was written on the scroll in the Nazareth synagogue.  Now we’ll look more closely at what Luke tells us was written there.

Examination of the Quotation

Using the KJV English as a comparison, the chart below shows where the quote in Luke 4:18-19 departs from the Hebrew Original as translated by the KJV in Isaiah 61:1-2. (You may want to click on the image to enlarge it.)

You’ll notice that some of the differences are quite minor (“to”/”unto”, “poor”/”meek”, “preach deliverance”/”proclaim liberty”).  Others are more significant: “Lord GOD” (Adonai Jehovah) becomes “Lord”, “LORD” (Jehovah) becomes “he”, “bruised” becomes “bound”.  And even more problematic, an entire phrase is found in Luke that is not in Isaiah 61: “recovering of sight to the blind”.  A similar phrase is found in Isaiah 42:7, but it doesn’t match up exactly.  It was common for readers in the prophets to skip around a bit, and read portions of verses from the nearby chapters.  Even allowing for this, it does not appear that the exact wording Luke records in Luke 4 is found in the King James Version in Isaiah (and we would assume in the Hebrew Masoretic Text behind the KJV).

Now this all gets very interesting once we compare the Greek of Luke 4 with the Greek of the Septuagint Old Testament (LXX) in Isaiah 61.

Here we see the differences are much less.  The first two involve alternate spellings of the same word.  In the NA27 and the Majority Text Greek, the spelling of the LXX is followed.  The third instance of a difference, followed by the TR and MT,² and in English it amounts to “the broken of heart” vs. “the broken of hearts” (or as often translated, “brokenhearted”).  The fourth instance is similar to the English example in the KJV, “preach” vs. “declare”.

Most interesting to note here, is that the phrase above which the KJV/Hebrew does not have in Isaiah 61, “the recovering of sight to the blind” is found in the Greek LXX and matches the wording exactly in all the versions of the Greek NT (TR, MT & NA27).  There is a missing phrase found in Luke and not in Isaiah LXX, however.  “To set at liberty them that are bruised” is not in the LXX.  However an almost exact form of this phrase is found in Is. 58:6.  That form matches more perfectly than the missing English phrase does from Is. 42 (see above).  So again, if we consider the common practice of reading from nearby chapters, then we have a much clearer story of where the quotation came from that Luke says was written in the scroll at the Nazareth synagogue. Continue reading

The LXX Revisited

A few weeks ago we looked at the LXX. Amazingly enough, there are some KJVO’ers who deny its existence. They know that to acknowledge its existence is to open the door for Jesus and the apostles quoting from non-Hebrew scriptures as well as quoting from an imperfect translation. That would be very damaging to their cause.

F.F Bruce in The Canon of Scripture gives an instance of Justin Martyr quoting from the LXX. Justin lived many years before Origen, who is alleged by some KJVO believers to have actually created the LXX.  Where did Justin get his copy of the LXX, then?

John Gill, in his comments on Galatians 1:10 says, “no man can serve two masters, God and the world, Christ and men. The Septuagint version of Ps 53:5 is, ‘for God hath scattered the bones’, anyrwpareskwn, “of men pleasers”, to which agree the Syriac and Arabic versions.” Gill lived before Vaticanus was made available for study, and before Sinaiticus was discovered and studied, yet Gill knew of the LXX and quoted from it.

I cannot help but wonder what “doctored” manuscript Gill had access to. It seems to me that those who would deny the existence of the LXX need to examine the issue a little more.