WHY ARE THERE DIFFERENCES IN THE BIBLE?
Dr. Sakae Kubo
(Published here by permission.)
If it is necessary for the Bible to be without errors, then we should expect that God would make sure that the Bible came to us exactly as he dictated his message to Jeremiah or Paul or any of the Bible writers. But there are several problems here. One is the preservation of the original copy. We do not have the copy of Romans that Paul wrote. It was impossible to preserve the original copy because the ravages of time caused it to decay and eventually to disappear completely. Another alternative would be to make a copy of this original. But invariably when a copy is made by human hands there are differences that arise due to unintentional errors as well as intentional changes. In other words we do not have a copy of the original. Besides decay and human errors, it is impossible to preserve the original because times change and translation becomes necessary. Even among the Jews this was the case. About the fifth century on till Greek gradually became dominant in the third and especially the second century, the Jews spoke Aramaic and lost their understanding of Hebrew. The Targums which are Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew had to be used. And then in Egypt the Old Testament had to be translated into Greek (the LXX) for the Jews in Egypt. Translation inevitably changes the original in different ways. Fundamentalists who claim that the Bible is inerrant do so, therefore, not on the basis of the Bible we have today but on the basis of the original. In other words when the first copies of the books of the Bible were written they were inerrant but this argument is useless because what we have are not the original copies but copies of the original which differ among themselves. And even if their claim were true, which is it is not, the fact is that we have the copies of the original which differ among themselves and obviously have errors. We have to deal with what we have, not the original copy. If God would permit his word to come down to us as we have it today, not the original copies, then.obviously he is satisfied with his Scripture as we have it today. If what we have today is not good enough, then were all in pretty bad condition.
What kind of
differences do we have in our Bibles today?
A. Differences due you to the ambiguity of the text
KJV: That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
RSV: The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world
RSV: you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church
NEB: You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build
KJV: Thou madest him a little lower than the angels
RSV: You have made them for a little while lower than the angels
Differences due to the difference in the philosophy of translation
RSV: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
Phillips: Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold, but let God remold your minds from within
RSV: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
Phillips: At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God and was God
RSV: Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
Phillips: Don't become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people
Message: Don't be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
Differences due to different text in the manuscripts
KJV: but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
RSV: but rescue us from the evil one. (To be continued)
When we look at what has come down to us and we compare manuscripts, we find that there are differences among the manuscripts. How did this come about? To understand this we need to understand a little of how the Bible came to us from the original copy. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, apparently the church treasured his letter and preserved it and made copies of it and also shared it to others. In Colossians 4:16, Paul writes: "And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea." Apparently Paul's letters and others' letters were shared among the Christian churches. Probably soon someone would inquire about letters to other churches he wrote and soon a collection of Paul's letters would be built up. And the same would happen with Peter and John. When the Gospels were written, they were written for different communities and they would share these so that eventually they would all have four Gospels and the Acts would be connected with Luke so it would also be part of the collection. Later books connected with the apostles such as Hebrews and Revelation would be part of this collection. Copies of these would be made as time went on to share with other Christian communities and as manuscripts wore out new copies would be made to preserve these messages.
manuscripts are few and fragile and have a longer period to be preserved.
2. There are many more later manuscripts written on better material and have shorter time span in which to be preserved.
3. The tendency of scribes led to fuller manuscripts as time went on, that is, the later manuscripts had more additions than the earlier ones.
Why and how
did these changes take place?
1. Being humans there were mistakes or unintentional errors that inevitably came in.
a. One word can be as replaced by another because they sounded the same. This happens when the copyists are following a reader of the text.
b. A word can be changed by another word that has a similar beginning or ending. This could also happen with lines when different lines have similar endings.
c. The same as b can happen when you have similar beginning of words or lines.
d. Sometimes one synonym is replaced for another.
e. Sometimes especially in the Synoptics a passage from one gospel would bring changes in another. A passage that is unique to one of the Gospels may be added in the same context in the other Gospels. This may come about not intentionally but simply because of the familiarity of the passage by the scribe
2. There also intentional errors, that is when a when a scribe seeks to make corrections of what he considers errors in grammar, spelling, historical facts, theology. The scribe may also wish to harmonize an Old Testament quotation in the New Testament with the Old Testament passage, or with parallel passages in the Gospels.
An example of where a scribe seeks to correct what he considers to be an error in the text is in Mark 1:2. Mark quotes from Malachi and Isaiah but wrote "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet." A scribe puts "in the prophets" in its place. In Revelation, the expression "from the one who is and was and is to come" has a nominative case with the preposition. In Greek it should have the genitive case . So the scribes have tried to correct this
An example of harmonization is found in Matthew 5:44. In the early manuscripts it reads "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." However in Luke 6:27, 28 the early manuscripts have, "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." So the later manuscripts of Matthew 5:44 have "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." So the later scribes have taken the full of passage from Luke and placed it in Matthew thus harmonizing these passages .
Some scribes conflate, that is they join together what may be found in different manuscripts. Thus in Acts 20:28 one manuscript reads, "to shepherd the church of God." Another manuscript had "to shepherd the church of the Lord." So later manuscripts join these two together and read "to shepherd the church of the Lord and God."
Scribes also try to harmonize the New Testament passages when they come from the Old Testament. Thus in Romans 13:9, Paul refers to the commandments and refers to four of them: "you shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet." He had omitted, "you shall not bear false witness," which belonged with them (among the last five Commandments) so later scribes tried to harmonize this with the Old Testament by adding the commandment on bearing false witness.
The scribes also sought to make the Bible doctrinally orthodox. For example Matthew 24:36 reads "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
This raises questions concerning Jesus' omniscience so later scribes omitted the phrase, "nor the Son."
The reason for the above shows that human beings with all their frailties did not the message God wanted to bring to us. Copyists would make mistakes, unintentional and intentional, but God's message would still be unaltered and clear. Any theory of inspiration that does not take this into consideration cannot be seriously considered. Verbal inspiration proponents and those who question the inspiration of the Bible if there should be differences or mistakes cannot be right.
Because of above reasons showing how errors develop, the King James only proponents knowing that the Version was based on the Textus Receptus which was based on late manuscripts, must surely recognize that it is not based on the best manuscripts. Otherwise they do not truly recognize how scribes operated and manuscripts developed.