A manuscript is really just a very old copy of the Bible. There are 5,309 surviving Greek manuscripts that contain all or part of the New Testament and over 6000 manuscripts in all. There are some differences between these manuscripts. Scholars study these manuscripts to try to determine what the best version of the Bible is. Disagreements about these manuscripts explain why we have different versions of the Bible today.
Two kinds of manuscripts
There are basically two kinds of manuscripts. The first kind represents about 90 to 95 percent of all manuscripts and is variously called the Textus Receptus, the Received Text, the Byzantine text, the Imperial Text, the Traditional Text, the Reformation Text, the Majority Text, or the "Syrian", "Antioch", or Koine text. The Received Text is derived from manuscripts coming from Greece, Constantinople, Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, Alexandria, and other parts of Africa, not to mention Sicily, southern Italy, Gaul, England, and Ireland. Nearly 4,000 manuscripts of this Byzantine or Official Text agree almost perfectly with each other. This was the Greek New Testament in general use throughout the greater part of the Byzantine period (312-1453). The remaining manuscripts are called Alexandrian manuscripts, the Minority Text, or the Egyptian text. These manuscripts represent less than 5 percent of all Greek manuscripts and have many deletions, additions, and changes and many times do not even agree with each other. The Vaticanus manuscript, from 350 AD and the Sinaiticus manuscript, from about 350 AD are part of this second group. These two manuscripts are otherwise referred to as Codex Aleph and Codex B. In 1516 Erasmus compiled, edited, and printed a version of the Greek "Textus Receptus" (received text). The King James Bible, also called the Authorized Version, is based on the Received Text and the modern versions and the Catholic Vulgate are based on the Alexandrian Text.
The Textus Receptus agrees with the earliest versions of the Bible: the Syrian Peshitta (AD150), the Old Latin Vulgate (AD157), the Italic Bible (AD157), etc. However, the surviving manuscripts from this group were produced much later, and later even than the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and this is the reason that modern scholars base the modern versions on the Alexandrian text.
Lucian lived from 250 - 312 and was born in Syria. He was the editor of the Received Text, as many writers agree, and compiled it from the Bible manuscripts available in his day. Because Lucian lived so early, the Received Text must also date from his lifetime, which is before the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were produced.
Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrian text
The Vaticanus was found in the Vatican over one thousand years after it was written and omits Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 46:28, Psalms 106-138, Matthew 16:2-3, the Pauline Pastoral Epistles , Hebrews 9:14-13:25, and the entire book of Revelation. Besides all that, in the gospels alone it leaves out 237 words, 452 clauses and 748 whole sentences. The Vaticanus also contains the Apocrypha. The Vulgate, the Bible approved by the Roman Catholic Church, originates directly from the Vaticanus.
The Sinaiticus is a manuscript that was found in 1844 in a trash pile in St. Catherine's Monastery near Mt. Sinai, by a man named Mr. Tischendorf. It contains nearly all of the New Testament, plus it adds the "Shepherd of Hermes" and the "Epistle of Barnabas" to the New Testament. The Sinaiticus is extremely unreliable, proven by examining the manuscript itself. John Burgeon, a Bible scholar, writes about the Sinaiticus: "On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters, words or even whole sentences are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately canceled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less that 115 times in the New Testament." Also, on nearly every page of the manuscript there are corrections and revisions, done by 10 different people. Most of these corrections were made in the 6th or 7th century. The Sinaiticus was not used much because its impurity was recognized by those who knew it.
Many scholars believe that the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were two of the fifty copies of the Bible which were made in Greek by command of emperor Constantine about the year AD 331, under the supervision of Bishop Eusebius, the historian of Ceasarea. These Bibles were prepared in great haste, which could explain the frequent omissions of words and phrases. Eusebius was an admirer of Origen. Eusebius and Origen held to an unbiblical system of belief known as Gnosticism. Origin was a philosopher in Alexandria, Egypt who said that 'the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written' and was infatuated with Greek philosophy and Plato. Arianism, which teaches that Christ was not divine, was prevalent in Alexandria. It was during an upsurge of Arianism in Rome that the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are believed to have been produced.
Both texts characteristics
The Received Text is untainted with Egyptian philosophy and unbelief and strongly upholds the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: the creation account in Genesis, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, his miracles, and his bodily resurrection and literal return. The Alexandrian Texts generally minimize the virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, the doctrine of salvation by faith and the Trinity. This is in harmony with the Egyptian philosophy that influenced their originators.
Which groups of Christians held to the Received and Alexandrian Text in the Past
From the 150s on the Vaudois of the French Alps passed the Old Latin Bible (called "Common Bible" or "Vulgate") throughout Europe and the British Isles. The Vaudois people were regarded by the Protestants and Baptists as "pre-Reformers," passing down the gospel message till the Reformation of the 1500s. Their Bibles, as well as others translated from them, were so accurate they were included in translating the King James Bible. The Old Latin Vulgate of the Vaudois is of the Received Text type and is not the same as the later Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate. Modern "scholars" falsely declare there's only one Latin Vulgate. The Peshitto, a Syrian Bible, was translated into Syrian about 150 A.D. This Bible generally follows the Received text. The Received Text has been translated into English, German, Dutch and other languages. During the dark ages the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. The Received Text became the Bible of the Syrian Church; of the Waldensian Church of northern Italy; of the Gallic Church in southern France; and of the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland; as well as the official Bible of the Greek Catholic Church. All these churches were in opposition to the Church of Rome. They, as represented in their descendants, are rivals to this day.
Now many Bible fragments from the second century A.D. are being found and contain many of the readings of the Received Text. This shows that the Received Text existed as early as the second century and that the argument of modern scholars about the late origin of the Received Text has no basis. However, the evidence from these early manuscripts is not mentioned in classes taught by these scholars. Also, there are numerous lectionaries, which are books used for early church worship. These books contain Bible verses and heavily favor the readings of the Received Text. This indicates that the TR readings were the ones accepted and used in popular worship.
The early church fathers were prominent Christians from the first centuries after Christ whose writings have been preserved. They frequently quote the Bible in their writings. By looking at these quotations we can determine which version of Bible manuscripts they used. The Received Text agrees with the vast majority of the 86,000+ citations from scripture by the early church fathers up to 400 A.D. This shows that the Received Text was in existence and was highly regarded from the earliest times. For example when quoting Rev 22:14 the church fathers, Tertullian (AD200) Cyprian (248-258) and Tertonius (390) quote "do His commandments" and not "wash their robes" as in found in the Alexandrian texts. The first time "wash their robes" is quoted is by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (326-373) so the Received Text reading predates even the earliest manuscripts in existance.
Helvidius, a Christian scholar from northern Italy in the fourth century, accused Jerome of using corrupt manuscripts in compiling a Latin Bible for use by the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously Helvidius had a greater knowledge of the available Bible manuscripts than we do and felt that the Alexandrian manuscripts used by Jerome were inferior. Thus the controversy over Bible versions has continued for over 1500 years.
In contrast, the Latin Vulgate has been the recognized Bible of Catholics for centuries. The reason given by the Catholic Church for burning so many Bibles in the Middle Ages was that they were not the Roman Catholic version. For example, in 1490 Torquemada caused many Hebrew Bibles and more than six thousand volumes to be burnt in an Auto da fe at Salamanca. In view of this and many similar incidents, it is a marvel that so many copies of the Received Text have survived to the present day.
Modern versions rely on Alexandrian text
The KJV is based on the received text and also on many more recent Bibles in modern languages that were accessible at the time. However, when the Textus Receptus disagrees with the Vaticanus or the Sinaiticus, the modern versions prefer these manuscripts over the Textus Receptus. The modern versions simply assume that the oldest manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) are the most accurate. But the oldest manuscripts are not necessarily the most accurate, as modern scholars claim. Older copies of the Textus Receptus did not survive because these texts were used until worn out. However, Alexandrian manuscripts were preserved by the dry conditions in Egypt, and were not used as heavily. This explains why the Alexandrian manuscripts are somewhat older. And, the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus disagree with each other over 3,000 times in the gospels alone!
When the modern versions say in the footnotes, "Some of the oldest mss. do not contain vv. 9-20," or "This verse not found in the most ancient authorities," they mean that the verse is not found in the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts! Even when all other manuscripts contain a passage, such as the last 12 verses of Mark, modern versions will often put the verses in brackets or footnotes and question their reliability. For example the NIV has a note after Mark 16:8 that says "The two most reliable early manuscipts do not have Mark 16:9-20" The note in the NKJV alongside this same passage states "They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.
Problems with modern versions
In general, the modern versions question the virgin birth of Christ and de-emphasize the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, the doctrine of salvation by faith and the Trinity. For example, 1 Timothy 3:16 reads “He was manifested in the flesh” in the RSV but “God was manifest in the flesh” in the KJV. In the NIV Luke 2:33 reads “The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him” while in the KJV it reads “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” Between all the modern versions, you will find that nearly every verse proving the deity of Christ has been altered in one or the other versions. (See 1 Timothy 3:16, Ephesians 3:9, and Romans 14:10,12 in the RSV, NEB, NASB, TEV, NIV, and JB; and Acts 20:28 and Romans 9:5 in the RSV, NEB, and TEV.)
There are many other differences as well. The RSV translates Mark 7:19 as "Thus he declared all foods clean," (referring to Jesus.) But Mark 7:19 says in the King James Version, “Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?” referring to the elimination of food from the body. Thus the King James Version does not teach that all foods have been made clean by Christ. The NIV translates 2 Peter 2:9 as “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” The NKJV translates it as “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” The KJV says “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” Only the KJV makes it clear that the punishment of the wicked does not occur until the judgment day.
Many modern translations are paraphrases. For example, they render the phrase "then the sanctuary shall be cleansed" (Dan 8:14) with such expressions as "then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated" (NIV) or "then the Temple will be restored" (TEV). Also, using this principle of paraphrase, the NIV states that after His ascension Christ entered the most holy place and began His Day of Atonement ministry, contrary to the teaching that Christ entered the Holy Place at His ascension.
Many things that appear in the King James Bible have been left out of the New International version. In some places the NIV will go from verse 6, to verse 8, and just skip over verse 7. For example, in turning to Luke 4:8, you will find in modern versions that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, His command "Get thee behind me, Satan" is not recorded. There is not even a footnote to mark its omission. Similarly, you may find yourself wondering what-ever happened to Jesus' call of sinners "to repentance" (Mark 2:17 and Matthew 9:13) or to the last line of the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:13). In the RSV, NIV, and NEB, you will find a footnote to Luke 23:34 indicating that some ancient manuscripts omit Jesus' saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." A comparison of the modern versions with the KJV reveals over two hundred cases in which a verse's authenticity is seriously questioned either by complete omission or by footnote. The most pronounced of these are John 7:53-8:11 (John's account of the woman caught in adultery) and Mark 16:9-20 (Mark's account of the appearance and ascension of Jesus).
Dynamic translations like the NEB, TEV, and Phillips are also not recommended as study Bibles. These Bibles are translated by giving what is assumed to be the meaning of what the Bible writers wrote. Although they are very readable, you cannot be certain that you are reading any more than the translator's own idea of the passage.
Character of the people involved in the KJV and the modern translations
One of the stylists involved in the NIV, a Virginia Mollenkott, was and is an avowed practicing lesbian. A recent James Dobson newsletter tells of a lesbian who realized that the new bible versions were easier on homosexuality and were actually hindering her need for repentance. Perhaps the question “Why does the NIV omit all censuring of the sodomite or effeminate?” is answered by NIV translation stylist Dr. Virginia Mollenkott, but in any case, the attitude of the NIV towards these subjects is a matter to consider.
Westcott and Hort initiated the modern school that favors the Alexandrian text over the Received text. They were Cambridge professors and both men were fascinated with the theory of evolution. Both were hostile to the Received Text. Dr. Hort was only twenty-three years old and had not yet even studied textual criticism when he described the Received Text as "villainous" and "vile." Their scholarship has exerted a molding influence upon the modern versions even though the Westcott-Hort Greek NT is rarely used these days. They had a major influence on the Revised Version of 1881, for example. They promoted the idea that because certain newly discovered texts were older, they were necessarily better, and asserted that because so many Greek texts agree with each other, they should only be considered as "one witness" whereas the disagreeing Alexandrian texts should be considered as multiple witnesses. In contrast to Westcott and Hort, the translators of the KJV of 1611 were men of spiritual integrity as well as outstanding scholars.
New King James Version
The NKJV is in many ways a good translation, but it is not really a revision of the King James Bible. It appears that the Greek and Hebrew behind the NKJV are to some extent the same as for the modern versions. The New King James Version is a mixture of some true King James accuracy and some Alexandrian and "new version" readings. One of the texts used for the NKJV is the Majority Text (MT). The "Majority Text" is actually a hand-picked set of manuscripts grouped together by "pro-Alexandrian" liberal Hermann von Soden. Less than 8% of the over 5,000 Greek manuscripts were used to obtain this text. But the NKJV people give the MT great prominence. In most places where the NKJV disagrees with the King James Bible, it agrees with the Alexandrian versions, whether Protestant like the NIV, NASV, RSV, ASV, etc., or Roman Catholic versions like the New American Bible.
For more information about the King James Version check out this site: http://sites.google.com/site/kjvguide/home