The original 1611 editions of the King James Version contained errors, as seen in the He and She Bibles, as well as many others. Some of the errors were due to the desire to maintain a consistent appearance of the text in columns, and led to inconsistent use of contractions, spellings, and other issues. Careless printing also led to errors, including the infamous omission of the word not in an edition which became known as the Wicked Bible, which exhorted its readers “Thou shalt commit adultery“. By the 1620s there were over 1,500 errors of printing in editions of the Authorized Version, and an attempt was made in two revisions at Cambridge to correct them in 1629 and again in 1638.
The Cambridge editions addressed the inaccuracies induced by poor quality control, attempted (in 1638) to standardize the spelling to match that of the English of the time, and made more than 200 changes to the text provided by the original translators. The Cambridge revisions were not new translations, but revisions to the existing 1611 translations, and mainly inserted marginal notes, many of which had come from the Geneva Bible, into the main text of the work. Thus the main text of the Authorized Version was changed without additional reference to the source data provided by the original manuscripts, in an attempt to render the work in the vernacular of the people who were not educated in the ancient languages of Latin and Greek.
6. The Authorized Version continued to change through the 18th century
Between the years 1700 and 1800 the English language, its spelling and its grammatical construction, changed measurably, and printers of the Authorized Version, more frequently referred to during the century as the King James Version, altered the text and the spelling in the bibles they produced. Their motives for doing so were not religious in nature but were rather aimed at making the books they printed more readily accessible to their readers. By the middle of the 18th century, there were countless editions of the King James Version in England (and in the growing American colonies), with wide variations in their text. Both Cambridge and Oxford took steps to address the growing disparity.
Cambridge produced a revision in 1760, which was based on a series of revisions written by Francis Parris. In his 1743 revision and all subsequent editions including that of 1760, Parris made changes which though seemingly small proved significant. In the 1611 edition of the King James Version, the translators had written, “and the glorious appearing of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Parris removed the comma, combining God and Jesus in the sentence in accordance with the Trinitarian concept of the Westminster Confession. The change remained in subsequent editions of the Cambridge revision, and in the Oxford edition of 1769.
7. The Oxford edition of the King James Version of 1769 is the basis of most printings today
By the time Benjamin Blayney edited the work which became the Oxford edition of the King James Version, the work of the original translators had been altered and amended by scholars and printers for more than a century and a half. Much of the work which appeared (and appears) in the Oxford edition is verbatim from the Cambridge edition, including the changes of punctuation which subtly changed the context of the text. The application of the Westminster Confession and subsequent church dogma was more readily evident and supported in the Bible, and supplied words (that is, words supplied by the original and subsequent translators and editors to make the text coherent in English, though not in the original documents) identified.
Blayney’s Oxford edition, like that of the original translators in 1611, included the Apocrypha, though many of the cross references to the Apocrypha, included in the original translation, were removed, signifying further that the books were not considered scriptural. More than 24,000 changes, many of them standardizing spelling or adjustments to punctuation, exist between Blayney’s 1769 Oxford edition and the 1611 edition produced by 47 scholars and clergymen. There still existed spelling and grammatical differences between the Cambridge and Oxford editions, but for the most part the Authorized Version had evolved to the same book which remains in print in the 21st century.
8. The Oxford Edition of the King James Version of the Bible became the standard in the English Protestant World
Over the next one hundred years, and for many up to and including the present day, the Oxford edition of 1769 is the definitive Protestant Bible, though it too changed over time. Gradually, editions were printed without including the Apocrypha, and references and notes concerning the Apocryphal books vanished with them. Still other Bibles appeared, and inconsistencies and contradictions which occurred within and between editions led to scholarly debate. In 1833 Oxford produced an exact, line by line reprint of the 1611 version, though in modern typeface, and the differences between it and subsequent editions were readily apparent. In 1873 the Cambridge Paragraph Bible presented another version which identified the sources in the 1611 edition, presented in modern language and spelling.
Both Blayney in 1769, and the editor of the Cambridge Paragraph Bible, Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, took the liberty of altering the texts where they felt the original translators may have been in error, though they used differing documents from some of those used in 1611. Scrivener used an ancient Greek document known as the Textus Receptus, which he compared with another ancient document, the Codex Sinaiticus (Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and about half of the Old Testament), to arrive at conclusions regarding the accuracy of the original translation. Though the King James Version is almost completely unchanged since 1769, developments in the world of archeology and language since have produced many questions regarding its accuracy.
9. Problems with the understanding of ancient languages emerge
During the 19th century several problems arose which raised questions regarding the translations of the ancient languages upon which the King James Version was based. Some of these issues arose from changes in the understanding of Ancient Hebrew, in which a growing awareness of the problem of confusing terms used as descriptions with proper names was present. The inconsistency of translation of Greek into English (due to different text styles) was also revealed, the same Greek words too often appeared in the translation as different English words. The same occurred translating Hebrew into English. For example, the Hebrew word almah is a reference to a young woman of child-bearing age. The word eventually entered the English text as virgin.
A third, and critical issue was the discovery of additional ancient documents which presented evidence that the main source of the translation into English of the New Testament, the Textus Receptus, was in conflict with other source documents. In 1881 The New Testament in the Original Greek was published following nearly three decades of work. It rejected in its entirety the Textus Receptus, and relied instead on the oldest known copy of the New Testament, as well as much of the Old Testament, the Codex Vaticanus, as well as the Codex Sinaiticus. The New Testament in the Original Greek revealed numerous passages and verses which did not appear in the Codex Vaticanus but were added in later Greek versions of the New Testament.
10. The addition of words were part of each translation of the Bible
The translators who produced the first edition of the King James Version in 1611 were given specific instructions regarding aspects of the work. The substitution of words was allowed for the purpose of improving readability. Supplied words, that is, words which were not translations from the original texts but which were added for the purpose of sentence structure were to be presented in a different type face. The procedure was not applied consistently by the companies which worked independently translating different portions of the Bible, and was barely used at all in the New Testament books. Subsequent editions and revisions corrected that discrepancy in some areas.
It was the translators of the King James Bible who removed Yahweh, which appeared as YHWH (the Tetragrammaton), and replaced it with The LORD, rendered in small capital letters. Where YHWH appeared with the Hebrew Adonai (Lord) the translators presented it as Lord God, again in small capitals. IEHOHAH appeared in four of the Old Testament books, Exodus, Psalms, and twice in Isaiah. The Hebrew books of 1 and 2 Esdras were renamed as Ezra and Nehemiah respectively, a practice adopted from the Geneva Bible rather than the source documents, and 3 and 4 Esdras, which were in the Apocrypha, were renamed 1 and 2 Esdras.
11. The translators did not use original source documents, but rather handwritten copies of them
The translators who produced the original edition of the King James Version had access to some, but by no means all, original source documents to be used as the basis of their new translation. Instead they relied on all previously completed English translations, including some which they had been specifically instructed to ignore, and on printed copies of the Bible in the original languages then available, as well as translations and commentaries written in Spanish, Italian, German, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syrian, and Chaldee. The polyglot of languages led to numerous stories in the Bible undergoing alteration from the originals.
The main source text was the Bishop’s Bible, which was itself by admission of the Archbishop of Canterbury who commissioned it, Matthew Parker, an inadequately scholarly translation. The translators also relied on the Geneva Bible, which had been heavily influenced by Calvinism. The translators of the King James Version introduced a number of verses which were not contained in either of the previous English translations, nor in the reproductions of the source documents on which they relied, as evidenced by later discoveries of ancient manuscripts. Later translations which omit these verses because they appear to have been written by the King James Version translators, rather than by the ancient writers of the original manuscripts, led to dissension among Bible scholars and defenders of the King James Bible.
12. Many of the verses present in the King James Version are interpolations that do not directly correspond to the ancient texts
In the King James Version of the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, verse 18:11 reads, “For the Son of man is come to that which was lost”. The verse does not appear in the most ancient copies of Matthew, and when it does appear the oldest extant sample is after the 5th century. Most scholars believe Matthew to have been written in the 1st century. That it was added later is self-evident. The oldest complete versions of Matthew date to the 4th century, and do not include the verse. The verse, or one very similar, does appear in Luke’s gospel, and was added to Matthew at a later date (Luke 19:10). Subsequent Bible translations often do not include the verse in Matthew, a point of contention among those who consider the King James Version infallible, but also clear evidence that the Bible has been changed over time.
Another frequently omitted verse in more recent translations of the Bible, which rely on the source documentation from the ancient manuscripts rather than later editions of the Bible, comes from Mark. Mark 15:28 in the King James Version reads, “And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’.” Besides being similar to another verse in Luke, Mark 15:28 does not appear in any of the manuscripts which appeared before the end of the 6th century. Another verse in Luke, 17:26 is omitted in newer translations and was even questioned by the translators of the King James Version in 1611, who included a note pointing out that the verse was missing in “most of the Greek copies” though they included it anyway.
13. Some Protestants argue the King James Version of the Bible has never been altered
Despite the clear records of history and the extant capability of comparing revisions of the King James Bible side-by-side, with the changes easily detectable, there developed a vocal group of supporters who argued that the book remained unchanged through the centuries. In 1930, Benjamin Wilkinson wrote Our Authorized Bible Vindicated. Wilkinson’s thesis was that all other forms of the Bible were corrupt, and that only the King James Version, which he asserted was based on the Textus Receptus, was an accurate English translation of the ancient texts. His work was the basis for the movement which rejects all other translations and revisions of the Bible, the King James Only Movement.
Wilkinson asserted in another book, Truth Triumphant, that the editor and compiler of the Textus Receptus was not Erasmus, as history demonstrates, but rather Lucian of Antioch. The theory of Lucian compiling the work which is the basis of the King James Version in Wilkinson’s belief, as well as those who agree with him, has to date no archaeological or historical evidence to support it. Wilkinson wrote in Truth Triumphant that, “Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament”. In Wilkinson’s view, Lucian safeguarded the Textus Receptus from the corruption of the documents present in his day from being adopted into the text of what was much later the basis of the KJV, thus the KJV is the only version which accurately reflects the true words of the apostles.
14. Changes to the Bible have been a constant throughout history
Comparison of the ancient texts to each other, regardless of language, are easily verifiable proof that the Bible, regardless of the version being considered, has changed over time. Written, edited, and debated by man, the work has been revised for political, historical, and grammatical reasons throughout its existence. When King James commissioned the version which bears his name, he directed the translating committees (which were called companies) to produce a version which reflected the episcopal Anglican Church and its belief in an ordained clergy. The instruction ensured that the resulting bible would differ in many ways from existing versions.
Despite historical, archaeological, and ecclesiastical studies to the contrary, there remain those who believe that Saint Matthew, one of the original twelve apostles, wrote the Gospel of Matthew, with the other apostles writing the gospels bearing their names. All four of the canonical gospels were written anonymously, appearing late in the first century, and the names assigned to them appeared in the second century. Scholars overwhelmingly believe that none were written by eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus, and the earliest copies of them reveal that later copies had additional verses added, indicating that what later became the Bible was revised before it was ever translated from Greek.
15. The oldest texts of Mark do not contain verses which appear in the King James Version of the Bible
In the King James Version’s Gospel of Mark, the resurrected Jesus appears to several people, including his closest followers, known as the disciples. In the oldest extant texts of Mark’s gospel, the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples is not present. The chapters of Mark following the Crucifixion were added sometime in the second or third century, what became in the King James Version Mark 16:9-20. These verses of Mark stand as proof of the Bible’s being changed over the years, even some editions of the King James Version note that the verses are of questionable provenance. Some ancient sources which do include the additional verses contain notes questioning their authenticity.
Another ancient manuscript in Greek, known as Codex W, contains the longer version of Mark, with additional verses in the text which were evidently removed in later versions of the gospel. The version contained in Codex W has never been found in any other versions of Mark. Thus one book of the Bible, The Gospel of Mark, exists in at least three versions in the ancient Greek manuscripts, two of which are revisions which took place long before it was ever translated into English. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the canonical gospels, and was influential in the writing of those of both Luke and Matthew. Some scholars postulate that the additions to Mark which led to the longer version were made during the second century to make its ending more in line with Luke and Matthew.
16. Many changes to the Bible were made before it was the Bible
Whether one believes that CERN is supernaturally changing the text of the Bible is immaterial when considering the changes made to the ancient source documents. Studies of the Greek documents from the first millennia demonstrate that numerous changes were made over the centuries. When documents were copied laboriously by hand changes of punctuation and errors of omission were all but inevitable. But changes of addition – the insertion of entirely new verses – were not. They were instead placed in the existing text as editorial or creative additions by unknown authors, forever changing the content of the Bible, many of them centuries before the first editions in the English language. An example of one such addition is present in the Gospel of John.
Copies of the Gospel of John, in Greek, reveal that for its first three centuries in existence there was no mention of the tale of Jesus confronting a crowd about to exact justice upon an adulteress by stoning her. In the story Jesus challenges the crowd, telling them for the one among them, if any, initiating the punishment by casting the first stone. When the crowd disperses Jesus too tells the woman that he will not condemn her. The story is among the most famous verses of the Bible. But it wasn’t in the earliest copies of John’s gospel, appearing more than three hundred years afterward, an insertion by a later copyist. In subsequent ancient texts in Greek, the story appears in a variety of places other than that where it can be currently found, John 7:53 – 8:11.
17. Descriptions of the Crucifixion have also been changed
In the Gospel of Luke, as Jesus was dying upon the cross, he addressed the two criminals being crucified alongside of him, though the version currently appearing in the Bible is at odds with the earliest extant copies of the gospels. Another change in Luke, which does not appear in the early copies of the Gospel attributed to him, is that Jesus asked forgiveness of his executioners, because they did not know what they were doing. The oldest known copies of Luke’s gospel do not recount the forgiveness bequeathed from the cross, the story was added in the fifth century in the Greek documents. As with many additions, it was likely added to reflect the Christian teaching which had evolved by that time.
As has been noted, the translators of preceding Bibles who created the King James Version were under specific instructions from their sovereign to create a work which reflected and supported the dogma of the Church of England. When they referred to existing works, the Geneva Bible for example, they were using versions which had too been written with a particular set of beliefs in mind, Calvinism for example. The same method of translation had already been in place for centuries, with stories moved about, amplified upon, or newly created wholesale by copyists, to reflect the evolution of the Christian beliefs at the time, and to explain why they had evolved as they had. The Bible has not only recently been changed, it has always been subject to change.
18. The consequences of changing the Bible are clear to some
At the end of the Book of Revelation, two verses before the close of the Christian Bible, a warning appears – which is supported by others throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is a warning against altering the words of the Bible. Those who regard the Bible as the literal and immutable word of the Creator ignore a simple literal and immutable fact. The Bible was not written in English. Its characters did not speak English. A polyglot of languages were used to pass down its stories in oral traditions long before they were committed to the page in writing, and when they were it was in several different ancient languages, by several different writers, in different eras of history.
Even when it was first translated into English, it was in the English of Chaucer, itself vastly different from the English of today. The modern English alphabet had yet to be standardized when the King James Version first appeared. Four hundred years later English continues to change, and the knowledge of the ancient languages from which the Bible was created has led to a better understanding of the many words which were long found in the Bible. The King James Version of the Bible includes nine mentions of the mythical animal the unicorn as if it were real. The reason the animal appears in that version of the Bible is simply because of mistranslation based on misunderstanding of the Hebrew word re’em, translated into Greek as monokeros (one-horned), then to Latin as unicornis (one-horned) and finally into English by the translators under King James as unicorn.
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