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Why do you quote from and use New Testament translations based on the Textus Receptus and not, for example, the Alexandrian text? (Part 1)

As a standard, we commonly use the New King James Version of the Bible, which presents current English usage along with some modified points of translation as compared to the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible (1611 edition and 1769 revision). In some instances, we may refer to other translations for better clarity of a particular word or verse in the Bible. Our ultimate goal for Bible translations we use is to convey the most accurate meaning of the truest translations available to us.

Quoting from the 1996 edition of the New King James Bible (Holman Bible Publishers):

“There is more manuscript support for the New Testament than for any other body of ancient literature. Over five thousand Greek, eight thousand Latin, and many more manuscripts in other languages attest the integrity of the New Testament. There is only one basic New Testament used by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox, by conservatives and liberals. Minor variations in hand copying have appeared through the centuries, before mechanical printing began about A.D. 1450” (Preface, page v)…

“In light of these facts, and also because the New King James Version is the fifth revision of a historic document translated from specific Greek texts, the editors decided to retain the traditional text in the body of the New Testament and to indicate major Critical and Majority Text variant readings in the center reference column. Although these variations are duly indicated in the center-column notes of the present edition, it is most important to emphasize that fully eighty-five percent of the new Testament text is the same in the Textus Receptus (the “received text”), the Alexandrian Text, and the Majority Text” (Preface, page vi).

Erasmus produced a Greek New Testament which was printed in 1516, and his work, following subsequent editing, became known as the “Textus Receptus” and the basis for the King JamesVersion (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV) and other versions.  The Alexandrian Text finds support from translators who believe that this collection of Greek manuscripts (which are older than those supporting the Textus Receptus) is a closer representation of the original writings. However, none are dated before 200 B.C. The New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are among modern Bible translations based on the Alexandrian Text. Few modern English Bibles are based on the Majority Text, which is simply a compilation of New Testament Greek manuscripts relying on the frequency of particular texts to establish authenticity.

Understand that the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, has been handed down over time based on copies of the various texts.  There is no “original” writing—no etched stone, no preserved papyrus or vellum as first inspired by God—to which we can refer. Over time, modern translators have developed a better understanding of Hebrew and Greek. As well, more copies of old manuscripts have surfaced to serve as references in the process of translating—especially, in comparison to the time of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible.

Translations in understandable languages are easily available all over the world, and these can provide a comprehensive presentation of God’s written Word. In a coming Q&A, we will be discussing in detail why we believe that the King James Bible, which is based on the textus receptus, is the most reliable translation, even though it is not without mistakes. Having said this, we do use other translations when they convey an intended meaning more clearly, because there is an added dimension which is critical to this process—understanding of what is written!

Jesus confronted the so-called experts of the Law because they did not really understand the written Word of God. When challenged by the Sadducees about the resurrection, for they rejected that belief, Jesus said, “‘…You are [deceived], not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matthew 22:29). The Sadducees were those who were leading members of society at that time—including the priesthood and even the office of high priest (compare Acts 5:17).

Even the disciples of Jesus did not understand the Scriptures about “the Christ” until He revealed the Truth so that they could understand:

“Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

Jesus did not give the Sadducees, the Pharisees or the scribes special, revealed understanding. Rather, He gave it to His chosen disciples—note:

“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).

God communicates through His written Word—a process that is dynamic and interactive! God inspires our understanding, and that understanding is given in accordance with our willingness to obey Him:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).

The Bible is one book. It includes the Old Testament (originally written primarily in Hebrew) and the New Testament (originally written primarily in Greek). The Bible is the inspired written Word of God. Paul addressed the need for Timothy, a minister in the Church of God, to be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

This remains our challenge, today! The Bible is unique in that various parts of it must be considered to get a true and complete understanding:

“‘Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little’” (Isaiah 28:9-10).

Without God’s revelation, the Bible remains closed to people! During the first decades of the Church of God, the time when the New Testament was being written and the original copies were extant, people still argued over the meaning:

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:14-16).

There were false teachers during that time who wrote to deceive the brethren, and Paul warned of this:

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

God calls His Church the pillar and ground or foundation of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). He has instructed His truly ordained ministers to teach the Truth (Romans 10:14-17; John 17:20). To be able to do this, God gives His Church an understanding of the Truth, which includes a proper discernment for accurate and inaccurate translations of His Word. Since God’s Word cannot be broken or contain contradictions (John 10:35), God’s ministers, growing in Christ’s knowledge, as all members must do, can readily determine whether one particular rendering in whatever translation is not correct or legitimate, or whether another translation conveys the intended meaning of a particular passage more accurately.

For example, some translations include a passage in 1 John 5:7-8 which purports to teach the Trinity.  The Authorized Version and the New King James Bible contain this passage (stating, “…there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one”), while most modern translations do not include it. However, this passage is clearly a hoax—a fabrication by the Catholic Church which was added much later. It appears first in the 4th century in some Latin versions and only in the 15th century in some Greek versions.  We discuss this whole matter more thoroughly on pages 14 and 15 of our free booklet, Is God a Trinity?” God’s true ministers, given to understand the Truth about the Family of God—and that God is NOT a Trinity—know that this passage is not and cannot be part of the original writings, and they can therefore declare dogmatically that it must not be viewed as a genuine passage.

What, then, is the solution? How can one understand the Bible or be confident that a particular translation is the true Word of God? It is as it has always been—seek God! Seek God’s true Church which explains the Truth boldly and without compromise (Please review our free booklet, How to Find the True Church of God?”). Turn to God and ask for understanding! Most importantly, when you do understand what the Will of God is—that is, what He commands you to do—do it (compare John 7:17).

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Dave Harris