The Textual Basis of the Bible

By Wayne Jackson

Several years ago a movement developed in denominational circles that charged that virtually all Bible translations, this side of the King James Version, are based upon a “corrupt” text, hence, are not nearly as reliable as the KJV. Some within the brotherhood of Christ have jumped on the KJV-only bandwagon. Their position, however, is not based upon sound principles of textual criticism.

Noted scholar Philip Schaff observed that the KJV was derived principally from early editions of the Greek text compiled by Erasmus (1469-1536), who never used more than eight manuscripts (late in date), with some enhancement from the Complutensiam Polyglot (a 16th version containing the Old Testament in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek). Further improvements were made during the following century, which ultimately resulted in the Textus Receptus. The TR “ruled supreme” as the textual base for the Bible from the 16th century to the close of the 18th (Theological Propaeduetic, New York: Charles Seribner, 1916, pp. 166-67).

While the KJV is a good translation, and certainly adequate for learning the truth of the Gospel and arriving in heaven, serious students know that numerous additional resources have gone into constructing the more modern Greek texts.

  1. Thousands of manuscripts (substantial or in fragments), much older than those employed by the KJ translators have been discovered.
  2. Ancient versions, not used by the KJ translators, have been sourced.
  3. Comparative Patristic quotations have added to the knowledge of the restoration of a reliable text.
  4. Significant advances have been made in the study of Hebrew and Greek.

It is a misguided endeavor, therefore, to contend that the KJV is the only reliable translation available today, or even that it is the best one.

Are there problems with the more modern translations? Yes. But there are also problems with the KJV, and some of them are serious. The honest student admits this. For further reading on this issue, I recommend The King James Only Controversy by James R. White (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995). For a brief and less-technical discussion, see our book, (Courier Publications",The Bible Translation Controversy).

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.