Revelation 22:18-19 And Perfect Textual Preservation

The title page to the 1611 first edition of th...
Image via Wikipedia

Does Revelation 22:18-19 Teach Perfect Textual Preservation?

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. ” (Revelation 22:18–19)

The above verses have been used to argue for the King James Version against other translations of the Bible. Simply stated, the argument is that the original text is preserved in the KJV and that all other translations add to, or take away from the original text.

Our question is this, “Does this passage actually teach said doctrine?” Some say that it does, and others say that it does not. What do the Scriptures say?


First of all, let us ask what words are. That is what we are warned against embellishing or removing. Words are expressions of thought. The form of words change over time so that words become archaic and are replaced by other words that convey the same meaning. One instance of this is that we use the word “let” to mean “to allow”. In the King James Version the word was used to mean “to hinder”. We must ask ourselves, then, whether the use of synonyms is acceptable in Bible translation. We must then ask ourselves whether a sentence in a more recent English translation of the Bible could have more or less words in it than a sentence in the KJV contains and yet still convey the same thought.

In the Scriptures we find that sometimes the very word “word” is used to express the decree, or command of God. One example can be found in Psalm 33:6-9 where we know that it simply means that God spoke the command and the worlds were made. We again see this in Hebrews 1:3 where we find that universe is sustained by the word, or decree of God.

The meaning of “word” does not have to be the lexical form of a word, but can be a word, its synonym, or the command of God.

The Bible does not condemn the use of synonyms or loose quotations of Scripture, as long as the thought of the Scripture is conveyed. Most students of the Bible are aware of the fact that the New Testament writers sometimes quoted the Old Testament in ways that were definitely not verbatim quotations. One interesting instance is found in James’ writing. James said, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5) Have you ever tried to find the instance in the Old Testament where that statement is made? Most of us will admit that there is no place in the Old Testament where one can find this statement verbatim. It will not do for someone to claim that the Bible writers were inspired and could use Scripture in such a fashion, because to do so would be to charge the Bible writers and God the Holy Spirit with inconsistency. After all, if God tells us not to change the form of one single word, we can be sure that He would be inconsistent to command one to do so even if he were inspired.

Jots And Tittles

What, then, of the jots and tittles of Matthew 5:17-18? What is that all about? Simply put, it means that the Scriptures will be perfectly fulfilled. We have a saying today that goes something like this: “He follows the rules to the letter.” What we mean is that a person strictly adheres to the meaning and intent of the rules. So it is with God’s Word. All will come to pass perfectly, just as God has told us.

The words of Jesus concerning jots and tittles cannot teach perfect textual preservation, because the law itself neither teaches, nor is presented as an example of perfect textual preservation. This truth is seen in a comparison of the ten commandments as given in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. When Moses spoke the law to Israel the second time he did not speak it verbatim, but actually added words to what he said previously. We will find, too, that it is this same Moses who said that we are not to add to the words of God.

Revelation 22:18-19

What is meant by the adding to and taking away of Revelation 22:18-19? The answer to that question has to be found by considering the previous places in which we were warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God.

Moses told Israel, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. ” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Why was Israel warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God? So that they would obey God. The issue that is before us is that the message cannot be changed by adding commandments, or taking away commandments. Either one would be sin. Either one would lead people into disobedience. That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, because they were adding commandments to God’s Word, and taking away commandments, also. (See Matthew 5:33-35;15:1-10) Furthermore, Moses told Israel, “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. ” (Deuteronomy 5:22) We already saw that Moses did not give a verbatim quotation of the ten commandments here. Now he adds that God gave them no more words. In other words, the law that God gave at Sinai was all the word that they needed at that time. Simply put, “Ye shall not add unto”, or “He added no more” simply means that what they had been given was all that they needed. The message that God had given Israel through Moses was sufficient for them at that time, and was not to be changed so as to make the message say something that God did not say.

In the same vein of thought, we read in the Proverbs, “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. ” (Proverbs 30:5–6) Those who add to the words of God will be shown to be wrong, and demonstrated to be liars. One is not a liar who uses synonyms and yet retains the message accurately. He is a liar who changes the words to the extent that the message is changed. God’s warning is for us to not change the message. This is the foundation of Paul’s anathema in Galatians 1:7-9. The message IS NOT TO BE CHANGED!

Thus it is that Revelation 22:18-19 is the last in a long chain of warnings against changing the message of God, and not a text that supports the doctrine of perfect textual preservation.

The King James Translators & The King James Only Debate

The King James Version of the Bible is a wonderful translation.  It is my preferred translation.  It is my favorite translation.  I love it, study from it, enjoy it, preach from it, and believe what it says.  It is God’s Word.  What is said below is by no means intended to denigrate the KJV.  It is intended to show that the King James Version Only arguments are invalidated by the translators of the King James Version.

Though I shall retain the King James Version as my favorite and preferred Bible, I must say that it is not a defensible position to maintain that all other translations are Satanic in nature.  Neither is it defensible to call them “perversions” of the Bible.  There are, no doubt, poor translations available.  The King James is not a poor translation.  It is excellent.  It is not, however, a perfect translation.  The Word of God is perfect.  Scripture is perfect.  We must understand, however, that if the King James Version or any other translation were perfect we would not have to consult dictionaries to understand various words.  We would not have trouble with obscure passages.  Perfection is the nature of Scripture.  The transmission of Scripture in translation is not perfect.  Thus we have to strive hard for clarity of translation and we must strive hard for understanding of God’s Word.

It is to be noted that one website which posts the entire preface ( says the following about the translator’s preface to the reader:

The complete translator’s notes of the Authorized King James scholars are not included in today’s publishings. This is unfortunate because these notes say a lot about these men– they were humble, loved the word of God, loved the King, were berated by the Catholic religion, and they desired a translation for the common man who was kept in darkness. Some of the translators where killed for their faith. This book was forged in blood, sweat, and tears.”

While attempting to use the preface to the reader as a KJVO support, the one who established this website has actually posted something that speaks IN FAVOR of continual effort to improve the translation of the Scriptures into the language of the common man. Thus it is that this preface to the reader from the KJV1611 has been left intact as it was taken from the website of those in favor of the King James Version only stance.

In the Preface to The Reader below my comments are in red. ««Jump to the Preface with comments»». Originally posted at Pastoral Musings.

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.

The King James Only-ites Vs Modern Versions on Lk 2:21-25

The King James Only-ites Vs Modern Versions on Lk 2:21-25

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Lk 2:21-24) KJV

What, you ask, is the problem here? It is this: the modern versions of the Bible use the pronoun “their” in verse twenty-two instead of “her.” The King James Version Only advocates tell us that this is a mistake, because Jesus had no need to be purified.

Is this truly a problem?

First of all, let’s consult an authority on the issue.

The expression ??? ?????????? ????? cannot refer to the Purification of the Virgin and her Babe , nor to that of the Virgin and Joseph, because neither the Babe nor Joseph needed, nor were they included in, the purification. It can only refer to ‘their’ (i.e. the Jews’) purification. But this does not imply any Romish inferences as to the superhuman condition or origin of the Blessed Virgin; on the contrary, the offering of the sin-offering points in the other direction.”

Edersheim, A. (1896, 2003). The life and times of Jesus the Messiah. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Edersheim is here declaring to us that “their” refers to the Jew’s purification, and not that Mary and Jesus were both purified.

Next we must understand that “their” is in the Greek TR of 1550 which was edited by Stephens. It is not, however, in Scrivener’s TR of 1894, yet it is given as a variant in Scrivener’s TR of 1881. One wonders when the perfection of the TR actually came into being. The Matthew Bible of the sixteenth century translates the Greek as “their.” So does the Tyndale of 1525 and the Coverdale of 1535(HT Bob Hayton). Though Wycliffe and Geneva Versions do not use the plural pronoun, we can at least see that some of the translations which led up to the King James Version did us the plural. For most of us this is significant cause for pausing and refusing to dogmatize or cry “heresy” over a pronoun. As a matter of fact, our next point shows why “their” is a suitable translation.

Finally, we must look at the context to see what is going on. Jesus went to the temple to be redeemed per Jewish law, As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” (Lk 2:23) KJV Edersheim says, “mothers who were within convenient distance of the Temple, and especially the more earnest among them, would naturally attend personally in the Temple;? and in such cases, when practicable, the redemption of the firstborn, and the purification of his mother, would be combined. Such was undoubtedly the case with the Virgin-Mother and her Son.”

Edersheim, A. (1896, 2003). The life and times of Jesus the Messiah (1:194-195). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

It is very reasonable to use the pronoun “their” in reference to this event, when Mary’s purification (according to Lev 12:1-6) is combined with the presentation of Jesus before the Lord (according to Ex 13:1-15).

In conclusion, whether it be “her” or “their” (textual evidence pointing to “their”1) the fuss that it put up the KJVO advocates is truly much ado about nothing. Why? Because either translation is Biblically admissible. If one were to quibble that God preserves the Scriptures, we affirm that, too. In fact, we affirm that He has preserved the Scriptures and has preserved “their” (auton) in the majority of extant texts as well as the Majority Text according to the Byzantine family of texts from which we get the TR.

1Daniel Wallace also writes concerning this issue here and addresses the manuscript evidence.

OP here.

Majority Rules! — Fact or Fiction? (part 1)

Majority Rules!

The KJV onlyists claim that since the text underlying the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, then the KJV is to be favored. This claim carries a lot of weight in the textual debate. Many an unsuspecting person is absorbed by the KJV only movement upon hearing this “fact”. But let us ask the question: Fact or Fiction? Does majority rule in this case?

When KJV onlyists emphasize the “fact” that the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, they usually ignore three vitally important considerations. We will look at each of these considerations and then find ourselves in a better position to answer our question.  Today’s post will focus on the first point.

Majority of Greek texts versus the TR

KJV onlyists assume that the Greek Textus Receptus (TR), which the King James is based on, represents the majority of the Greek Manuscripts. This is not accurate. The TR was actually based on seven Greek manuscripts as well as Erasmus’ copious textual notes on the Greek text [1]. Most KJV onlyists use the “pie-in-the-sky”, wishful thinking view at this point, glibly assuming that the TR in fact really does represent the best of the majority of the manuscripts and that Erasmus’ textual notes and considerable knowledge of the Greek text offsets the use of only seven manuscripts. This hopeful hypothesis is made all the more doubtful by the consideration that Erasmus had not planned on producing his Greek text at the time he did: he was pressured to produce the text in a very short time by his printer. This forced him to use the locally available manuscripts rather than others he may have preferred to use [2]. Incredibly high demand forced subsequent editions to be produced by Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, Elzevirs, and others without any wholesale revision of the text. Small revisions and corrections were made here and there, but printers’ errors and other errors introduced in Erasmus’ first Greek text remain in the TR down to this day [3].

Besides the documented history of Erasmus’ production of the TR, another fact flies in the face of the claim that the TR/KJV was based on the majority of the manuscripts. While most KJV onlyists assume that “majority text” is shorthand for the TR, it in fact is not. In 1982 the first edition of the printed Majority Text was published, edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad. Other editions have followed as well as a competing Majority Text edited by Pierpont and Robinson (1991). These texts are based on the collation work done so far on the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts. These texts contain over 1,800 differences from the TR [4]. Now it is true this number is less than the estimated 5,600+ differences between the Wescott & Hort 1881 text [5] which is very similar to the critical text editions used today (UBS 4th edition, Nestle-Aland 27th edition). Yet the amount of differences between the TR and the Majority Text reveal that the majority of the Greek manuscripts do not in any sense unequivocally support the TR. In many places they do support the KJV over and against modern versions, but in many other places they do not. In fact, in many of the differences between the TR and the modern critical text, the Majority Text actually supports the critical text and modern versions against the TR.

In passing, I want to just list some important texts contained in the TR which are not contained in the Majority Text. 1 John 5:7, Acts 9:5-6, Acts 8:37, Rev. 22:19 “book of life” are just a few of many instances where the Majority of Greek manuscripts do not support the TR reading.
Continue reading