Have you ever wondered why modern translations of the Bible don’t have certain verses found in the King James Bible? This can be a sensitive pastoral issue, especially in some regions of the United States.

I occasionally get requests for recommended resources on how to respond, and thought I’d pull together a few popular-level pieces in this post.

Here is New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace:

The Greek text which stands behind the King James Bible is demonstrably inferior in certain places. The man who edited the text was a Roman Catholic priest and humanist named Erasmus. He was under pressure to get it to the press as soon as possible since (a) no edition of the Greek New Testament had yet been published, and (b) he had heard that Cardinal Ximenes and his associates were just about to publish an edition of the Greek New Testament and he was in a race to beat them. Consequently, his edition has been called the most poorly edited volume in all of literature! It is filled with hundreds of typographical errors which even Erasmus would acknowledge.

Wallace highlights two examples, starting with Revelation 22:

In the last six verses of Revelation, Erasmus had no Greek manuscript (=MS) (he only used half a dozen, very late MSS for the whole New Testament any way). He was therefore forced to ‘back-translate’ the Latin into Greek and by so doing he created seventeen variants which have never been found in any other Greek MS of Revelation! He merely guessed at what the Greek might have been.

Then 1 John 5:7-8:

For 1 John 5:7-8, Erasmus followed the majority of MSS in reading “there are three witnesses in heaven, the Spirit and the water and the blood.” However, there was an uproar in some Roman Catholic circles because his text did not read “there are three witnesses in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.” Erasmus said that he did not put that in the text because he found no Greek MSS which had that reading. This implicit challenge—viz., that if he found such a reading in any Greek MS, he would put it in his text—did not go unnoticed. In 1520, a scribe at Oxford named Roy made such a Greek MS (codex 61, now in Dublin). Erasmus’ third edition had the second reading because such a Greek MS was ‘made to order’ to fill the challenge! To date, only a handful of Greek MSS have been discovered which have the Trinitarian formula in 1 John 5:7-8, though none of them is demonstrably earlier than the sixteenth century.

Wallace explains that he and many other textual critics would personally prefer to retain these readings, but integrity demands that we go with the best available evidence:

It illustrates something quite significant with regard to the textual tradition which stands behind the King James. Probably most textual critics today fully embrace the doctrine of the Trinity (and, of course, all evangelical textual critics do). And most would like to see the Trinity explicitly taught in 1 John 5:7-8. But most reject this reading as an invention of some overly zealous scribe. The problem is that the King James Bible is filled with readings which have been created by overly zealous scribes! Very few of the distinctive King James readings are demonstrably ancient. And most textual critics just happen to embrace the reasonable proposition that the most ancient MSS tend to be more reliable since they stand closer to the date of the autographs. I myself would love to see many of the King James readings retained. . . . But when the textual evidence shows me both that scribes had a strong tendency to add, rather than subtract, and that most of these additions are found in the more recent MSS, rather than the more ancient, I find it difficult to accept intellectually the very passages which I have always embraced emotionally.

Below is a brief video of Dr. Wallace answering a question on the same theme:

For further reading, see:

    Wallace, “The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations

    Wallace, “Why I Do Not Think the King James Bible Is the Best Translation Available Today

    James White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?

    D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism

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Comments:


20 thoughts on “Why Does the King James Bible Have Some Different Verses Than Modern Translations?”

  1. Larry says:

    I think the 1 Jn 5:7 issue as it relates to Erasmus really needs to be corrected since new research has come to light. Specifically…

    In Metzger’s third edition, in small print in footnote 2 on p. 292, he says: What was said about Erasmus promise and his subsequent suspicion that MS. 61 was written expressly to force him to [add 1 John 5:7 to the text], needs to be corrected in light of the research of H.J. de Jonge, a specialist in Erasmian studies who finds no explicit evidence that supports this frequently made assertion

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Larry, if I’m not mistake, H. J. de Jonge, “Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum,” ETL 56 (1980): 381-389, was specifically dealing with the supposed promise by Erasmus (to include the verse if mss could be produced to support it) and the supposed suspicion by Erasmus (that he was forced to add the verse by Codex Britannicus). I don’t see that Dr. Wallace makes either of those claims.

      1. Larry says:

        Actually, Wallace says that MS. 61 was manufactured, which is part of the issue that Metzger says needs to be corrected.

        Specifically, Wallace said, “a scribe at Oxford named Roy made such a Greek MS (codex 61…)”

  2. Justin,

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful resource. I live in WV, where the King James translation for many, is well, still King. This could be helpful in dialog with a neighbor whose church warned them against the NIV or any other “variant” translation.

    1. Andy says:

      If the New King James is the Times New Roman of translations, then the NIV is the Arial.

    2. SoSprichtDerHERR says:

      I would ask him why the KJV is the standard and not the Greek text…

  3. I’ll stick with my ESV. ;)

  4. Nathaniel Simmons says:

    Though not a KJV only person, Dr. Maurice Robinson offers a compelling argument for the Byzantine text. The KJV is not an exact translation of this Byzantine text but follows it more closely than others, like the ESV, NASB, and the like, which have opted to follow a more eclectic reading, often prefers the Alexandrian Text.

    Another divergent view which should be considered is Dr. David Alan Black’s which he briefly explains in his work “An Introduction to Textual Criticism.” His work follows the work of Dr. Harry Strurz and points out that the Byzantine text should be considered equally reliable in comparison to its rivals.

    While neither of these scholars advocate a KJV only view, they also demonstrate that the KJV’s text is not quite as problematic as Dr. Wallace asserts. After reading their arguments I have decided I am not quite ready to throw out my NKJV (based on the same Greek text as the KJV).

  5. Daniel B. Wallace says:

    Folks, allow me to clear up a few matters. First, as Justin pointed out I did not claim that Erasmus had many any promise about inserting the comma Johanneum at 1 John 5.7. Even de Jonge admitted that his research was not complete, and critically that the earliest source in which the tale about Erasmus and the comma was put into print involved too many volumes for de Jonge to sift through. So, there remains the possibility that Erasmus did make just such a claim, but it is buried in unaccessed volumes. Be that as it may, the consensus of scholarly opinion is that, until further revelations come to light, de Jonge’s position that Erasmus never made such a promise must stand.

    Second, de Jonge (who is unquestionably the world’s leading Erasmus scholar) also demonstrated that Erasmus himself did not express suspicion that codex Montfortianus was made to order, nor did I say that. I believe that it was probably made to order, as Tregelles and others have sufficiently demonstrated (see Thomas Hartwell Horne, Samuel Davidson, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, *An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scripture*, tenth edition [London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1856], 4.213-16). Tregelles summarizes their findings (4.216): “as it is certain that the copyist here altered the Greek, and made it suit the Latin, and as it was brought forward just when it was needed (having been in that sense found, while so many other MSS. remained in obscurity), and no similar copy having ever since appeared which has not been proved to be a forgery, it is hardly too severe a conclusion, if we believe that the Epistles were written at that time, and added to the Gospels, in order to meet Erasmus, and to compel him to insert the text.” Although it now seems that Tregelles was wrong to claim that Erasmus was forced to put the comma Johanneum into the text of his third edition, the evidence that Tregelles adduces that codex 61 was made to order is based on comparisons of this MS with others, not hearsay. What is significant here is that Tregelles does not say that Erasmus thought that the MS was made to order; this is Tregelles’ opinion, and not that of Erasmus. What I said was that the MS was made to order, not that Erasmus thought it was. Thus, I was not speaking in contradiction to de Jonge’s fine article on the comma.

    Third, the owners of the famous codex were Froy (or Roy), a Franciscan friar at Oxford; then, Thomas Clement (1569), William Clark (1582), then Thomas Montfort (hence, Codex Montfortianus), Bishop Ussher, and finally, Trinity College, Dublin, where the MS resides today. I do not recall the source that says that Roy produced the MS, but my library is in a shambles and it will take a few more weeks before I can find the volume I’m looking for.

    Fourth, I would like to make one correction on what was quoted from me above, however. The quotations were accurate, but I was not. First, the oldest MS to have the comma Johanneum in the text is from the 14th century, not the 16th century. I originally based that part of my research on Metzger’s Textual Commentary, but he left out this particular MS!

    There is also a significant updating to the list of MSS that have the comma Johanneum. Up until a few weeks ago, scholars knew of only eight Greek NT MSS that had the comma either in the text (four MSS) or in the margins (four MSS). The earliest textual reading, as I said above, is found in a fourteenth century MS. The marginal readings are found in one 10th century MS, one 11th century MS, and then three later MSS. But the marginal notes are all written by a later hand. If you’ve been counting, you’ll notice that there are nine GNT MSS that have the comma. I discovered the ninth one at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, in July 2010. This is an 11th century MS, codex 177. Its early Gregory number indicates that it has been known for a long, long time. Yet the marginal reading of the comma has gone unnoticed. I did not see it in the catalogs of the BSB, and it’s not listed in Nestle-Aland27, which does list the other eight MSS. The marginal gloss was added no earlier than the second half of the sixteenth century, and probably a century or two later. For a discussion on this find, see the “TC Note” posted at http://www.csntm.org. I will be co-authoring an article, in the not-too-distant future, on the MSS that have the comma with one of de Jonge’s current doctoral students.

    Nevertheless, it can safely be said that there are no GNT MSS which have their comma dated to the first millennium AD. Further, nine late MSS vs. hundreds of MSS, ranging in date from the fourth century on, is hardly a confidence builder that the comma is authentic.

    Finally, I would like to comment on what one commenter said about the Byzantine text, the Textus Receptus (the printed text behind the KJV), and Harry Sturz’s work. Dr. Black and I were students of Harry Sturz at Biola University. I held to Sturz’s views for seventeen years, but as I worked in the primary and secondary literature the weight of the data could no longer sustain such a view for me. I know of no textual critic today who follows Sturz. Dr. Black is a superb NT scholar, but he is not a textual critic.

    You say, “While neither of these scholars advocate a KJV only view, they also demonstrate that the KJV’s text is not quite as problematic as Dr. Wallace asserts.” Perhaps. But this really requires more refinement. When the editors of the NKJV were working on their translation, simultaneously working on the first published Majority Text, they estimated that there would be between 500 and 1000 differences between the MT and TR. They were quite surprised when the number was significantly higher: The Textus Receptus differs from the Byzantine text 1838 times! The Byzantine text also differs from the standard critical text 6577 times. In reality, all of them are closer to each other than they could be; there are several MSS that are ‘out there,’ far more disparate from either the Byzantine or critical texts. But here’s a curiosity about the NKJV: as the commenter correctly noted, it is based on the TR, not the MT. And none of the editors thought the TR was the best text, even though that’s what they translated. (I know this from first-hand experience; I was assisting Dr. Arthur Farstad on the NKJV at the time.) All of them disagreed with the KJV at 1 John 5.7, Rev 22.19, Acts 8.37, and a host of other places where the KJV has very poor external testimony. To be sure, there are verses that are both in the MT and TR and are lacking from the critical text, but none of what I discussed in the quoted material on this blog site are those texts. Thus, I would say that even these scholars would agree with me that these particular KJV readings are very problematic and hardly authentic. So, if you want to place your confidence in the NKJV, please understand that it still has some very late, poorly attested readings which none of the editors thought were original.

  6. david carlson says:

    I think Justin is looking for more traffic – nothing like a little KJV knocking to drive up the blog traffic!

  7. J. Clark says:

    Let me take this time to recommend “The Bible in English” by David Daniell.

  8. Bill Brown says:

    There are a number of points that can be made regarding this particular issue. Some have been made by other posters, and perhaps I can add a thought or two.

    For starters, the very necessity to address this issue will, I believe, reduce in coming years. We are entering a time now when no longer is the KJV automatically the first Bible version a person uses. One of the problems for the last several decades has been the tendency to pick up the KJV, compare a new version to it, and show where the new version “deletes” things. Not to sound arrogant, but the FACT of the matter is that most Christians possess very little knowledge of how exactly we got the Bible. (This is not their failure alone; it also goes towards those in church who know but are not teaching them). So their first version is a KJV, they read it, then they hear a different version preached, and they get confused. As people now come up using another version first, this tendency will wane.

    The H.J. DeJonge discussion – when held on a popular level – is a red herring that contributes nothing to the discussion. Most of the time when this is mentioned in popular level works (Maynard’s book on the CJ, for example), it is used with conspiratorial musings. An amorphous “they” is out to destroy your Bible so much that they have made up a story about a doctrinally critical verse. This distracts from the simple fact that it really makes no difference at all whether Erasmus made a promise or not. The existence or non-existence of the Erasmian promise contributes NOTHING to whether or not the KJVO position can be defended. Whether this promise was made or not, they still face numerous problems including its non-existence in early Greek mss (which does not speak well for their so-called “preservation”), the paucity of witnesses in its favor, and – perhaps most important – why it didn’t make it into the original TR in the first place. Erasmus made a choice. If they want to say he was divinely guided, does that mean he was not completely divinely guided in the first edition? Did God have to inspire him THREE times to get it right? To say nothing of the fact that the KJV itself does not fully reflect Erasmus’ third edition.

    Another poster (Nathaniel Simmons) makes mention of the Majority Text. I fail to see how this is relevant to the issue of the Comma Johanneum since it does not appear in the MT. The sources you cite – Robinson, Black, Sturz – to the best of my knowledge NONE of those argues in favor of the CJ. Indeed, I suspect all of these gentlemen would agree concerning Erasmus’s back-translating of the last 6 verses of Revelation.

    Now – the MT IS important in the overall scheme as far as being closer to the KJV than the CT is. That is true. But I don’t see how one gets Wallace is calling for “throwing out” the KJV (or for that matter the NKJV).

    Full disclosure: I am one of Dan’s interns this academic year at Dallas Seminary.

  9. Larry says:

    Because of my earlier comment i feel that i should make it clear: I am not a King James Only person.

    My two favorite Bible versions are the ESV and the KJV. I use the ESV almost exclusively and find it to be an excellent translation. I tend to use the KJV when reading the old puritans or others who quote extensively from the same.

  10. very cool, the fact that the KJ was translated from 6 manuscripts and the modern has over 6k to reference from, and yet the textual variances are so minor speaks to the accuracy and the preservation of Gods word.

  11. kschaub says:

    I just want to say along with Nathaniel that Dr. Maurice Robinson does make a compelling argument for Byzantine priority. I also don’t hold to his views myself, but I do think it is worth mentioning that there are (some) text critics who don’t come to the same conclusions as Dr. Wallace as far as which text (Alx or Byz) should receive priority, and seminary students would do well to study and hear from both.

    Thanks, Dr. Wallace, for further commenting here.

    Kevin

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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