The Greek Text of the King James Version -- By: Zane C. Hodges
BSac 125:500 (Oct 68) p. 334
The Greek Text of the King James Version
[Zane C. Hodges, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]
The average well-taught Bible-believing Christian has often heard the King James Version corrected on the basis of “better manuscripts” or “older authorities.” Such corrections are often made from the pulpit as well as being found in print. If he has ever inquired into the matter, the Bible-believing Christian has probably been told that the Greek text used by the translators of 1611 is inferior to that used for more recent translations. He has perhaps also been told that the study of the Greek text of the New Testament (called textual criticism) is now a highly developed discipline which has led us to a more accurate knowledge of the original text of the Bible. Lacking any kind of technical training in this area, the average believer probably has accepted such explanations from individuals he regards as qualified to give them. Nevertheless, more than once he may have felt a twinge of uneasiness about the whole matter and wondered if, by any chance, the familiar King James Version might not be somewhat better than its detractors think. It is the purpose of this article to affirm that, as a matter of fact, there are indeed grounds for this kind of uneasiness and—what is more—these grounds are considerable.1
By way of introduction, it should be pointed out that a very large number of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament survive today. A recent list gives these figures: papyrus
BSac 125:500 (Oct 68) p. 335
manuscripts, 81; majuscules (manuscripts written in capital letters), 267; minuscules (manuscripts written in smaller script), 2,764.2 Of course, many of these are fragmentary and most of them do not contain the entire New Testament. Nevertheless, for an ancient book the available materials are massive and more than adequate for our needs providing they are properly handled by scholars. It is also well known among students of textual criticism that a large majority of this huge mass of manuscripts—somewhere between 80–90%—contain a Greek text which in most respects closely resembles the kind of text which was the basis of our King James Version.3 This piece of information, however, may come as a surprise to many ordinary Christians who have gained the impression that the Authorized Version is supported chiefly by inferior manuscripts, but have never realized that what contemporary textual critics call inferior manuscripts actually make up a huge majority of all manuscripts.
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