Testing the Texts (1):
Extent of Variation
Underlying the New Testament in our Bible is the original Greek: the differences which we perceive between the Authorised (King James) Version and other translations often stem from the fact that there is disagreement over what the original is in many places. Here we demonstrate the worrying nature of the problem.
(The figures presented below may differ slightly in other sources.)
Types of Textual Change
THE main type of alteration in the modern Greek Text is omission of material found in the Received Text or "Textus Receptus" (T.R.) which underlies the Authorised Version New Testament. There is a lesser number of substitutions, where words in the modern Text differ from those appearing at the same place in the T.R., and an even smaller number of additions of words not in the T.R. There is also a number of transpositions in which words or phrases have been moved from the place they occupy in the T.R. to another place nearby, and of punctuation differences which affect meaning.
The number of these alterations is shown below: the T.R. is that published by the Trinitarian Bible Society, 1976, and the Modern Text that of the United Bible Societies (U.B.S.) (Third Edition, 1976). The N.I.V. is largely based on this latter text, although in over 650 instances fails to follow it.
Total Greek Word Count (T.R.): 140,521
Total Greek Word Count (U.B.S.) : 138,019
(U.B.S. Text is 2,502 words shorter than T.R., or 1.8%, or 1 in 56 words - almost the equivalent of removing 1 & 2 Peter from the Canon).
Greek words omitted from U.B.S.: 3,602
Greek words substituted in U.B.S.: 3,146
Greek words added to U.B.S.: 976
Greek words spelled differently in U.B.S. (but not different words): 950
Total Word Differences between Texts: 8,674 (= 6.2% of words in T.R., or 1 word in 16).
Places where Greek words omitted from U.B.S.: 1,309
1. - one or more whole verses: 17
2. - significant portions of verses: 185
3. - other omissions: 1,107
Number of Greek words involved: 2,632
Places where Greek words substituted in U.B.S.: 587
1. - words of dissimilar spelling: 288
2. - words of similar spelling: 283
3. - substitutions of several words: 16
Number of Greek words involved: 603+
Places where Greek words in T.R. added to in U.B.S.: 16
Number of Greek words involved: 317
Places where Greek words in T.R. transposed in U.B.S.: 9
Places where Greek words in T.R. punctuated differently in U.B.S. so as to affect translation: 11
Total Differences affecting Translation: 2,077
Total number of Greek words involved: 3,572+ (so over 40% of the textual changes are seen to affect translation).
Nature of the Differences
(The estimation of these may be more subjective):
Differences which affect the meaning: 1,658
Differences that substantially affect the meaning: 481
Differences presenting problems in translation: 288
Differences affecting quotations from the O.T.: 49
Differences which involve doctrine: 44
Names of Deity omitted:
a. - Jesus: 75
b. - Christ: 44
c. - Lord: 35
d. - God: 32
e. - other names: 26
Pronouns that refer to Deity omitted: 157
Other differences that downgrade Deity: 41
Names of Deity added: 29
(Certain portions of the Greek are said to be dubious in the U.B.S. Text):
Words enclosed in single brackets: ("words, or portion of words, whose presence or position in text is regarded as disputed") e.g. Matt. 12:47, 21:44: 642
Words enclosed in double brackets: ("passages which are regarded as later additions to the text, but which are of evident antiquity and importance") e.g. Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11: 427
(If these words bracketed in the U.B.S. Text are included in the figure, the Total Word Differences between Texts [see previous] becomes 9,743, or 6.9% of words in T.R., or 1 word in 14).
Although the extent of textual alteration may not always be obvious when reading the different Bible versions, these figures ought to have thought-provoking consequences for all those who believe in the plenary, verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture.
FOWLER, EVERETT W., Evaluating Versions of the New Testament. Maranatha Baptist Press, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, 745 West Main Street, Watertown, Wisconsin, U.S.A., 1981.
WAITE, D.A., Defending the King James Bible
WRIGHT, GEOFF. Personal Communication. 16 Bedford Road, Letchworth, Herts. SG6 4DJ.