Original Languages

Did indeed the text of the King James Version go back to the original Greek and Hebrew text existing in one volume?

The translators had editions of both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament available to them.  But did they have in their possession any ancient manuscripts that would substantiate what was in these editions?  

Miles Smith, one of the translators tells us that they truly had the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New. But did he not fudge and lie a little here?  The Hebrew text was nothing but an edition that came into existence around 1008AD in the home of Rabbi Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (Codex Leningradensis).  There is absolutely no proof or evidence that this text or edition had any ties to a prior existing Hebrew MSS other than the one his father fabricated around 895AD.  In fact the evidence would suggest exactly this.  

Rabbi ben Asher was the son of Moses ben Asher who "produced (manufactured)" the first Hebrew text in existence for hundreds of years.  There is absolutely no proof or evidence that this Codex Cairensis came from a prior Hebrew MSS.  To say the KJV was translated out of the original tongues, is a misleading statement to make a person think the translation was from ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS in the original tongues.  And we know that is not the case.  

The Old Testament of the KJV was translated from German-style Hebrew (Yiddish, Old German) using the Babylonian Aramaic square letters and not using the ancient Paleo-Hebrew.  So, in a technical sense the Codex Cairensis and the Codex Leningradensis are not in real Hebrew at all but rather in the Babylonian Aramaic script with an old German articulation and not old Hebrew at all! 

Finally, the manufactured Babylonian Aramaic Codex of the ben Asher family was redacted by Rabbi Jacob ben Chayim and it was his "version" of the Asher family MSS that became the text from which the KJV of the Old Testament was translated.  As can be proven, the 1611 KJV of the Old Testament came from a manufactured Hebrew text that was no older than 895AD.  It is very likely that the source of Rabbi ben Asher's Hebrew text was the Greek text of Aquila the apostate which was used in all the Synagogues from 135AD until around 900AD.  The arguments that the ben Asher text is somehow validated by the Dead Sea Scrolls and that there is a great similarity between the two text, cannot rule out the fact that Aquila's perversion of the Old Testament in Greek form would have also transmitted that same similarity.  So that if the ben Asher family had reconstructed a Hebrew text by backward translating Aquila back into Hebrew, we would expect for there to be a great similarity but also show up many variants.  And this is exactly what we find when we compare the two.

There is no evidence that the Hebrew text was preserved by God in one volume from 135AD to 900AD.  And if someone wants to challenge this, then just trot out the one volume and prove that this is the source of the ben Asher and ben Chayim versions.

When the KJV translators were ready to begin their work, they had ten printed editions of the Hebrew Old Testament redacted from the ben Asher collection. There was the Complutensian Polyglot of Cardinal Ximenes published in 1517 which contained the Hebrew text (the fifth complete O. T.).  We do not know where this came from except it has proven ties to the ben Asher family of MSS. There was the Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint translations of Hebrew text. But in reading the KJV translator's notes they DID NOT USE either of these resources at all in the creation of the Old Testament text.  They had four editions by Daniel Bomberg's Hebrew text (1516-17, 1516-17, 1521, 1525-28). These text are also from the ben Asher and Rabbi Chayim family of texts.  The KJV translators then had a copy of the actual Jacob ben Chayyim "Second Rabbinic Bible."  They could compare any alterations or changes from the ben Asher text and the subsequent redactions.  They also had the Antwerp Polyglot (1572) with the Hebrew text of Arius Montanus and the Latin interlinear translation of Pagninus but they did not use this for creating the KJV text.

The Greek text that the KJV translators used was NOT FROM A ONE VOLUME TEXTUS RECEPTUS manuscript.  Instead, not being able to put there hands on such an ancient MSS, not even from among the Greek Orthodox Churches, they used the Greek Complutensian Polyglot (1514).  Then they collected the five Greek editions that Erasmus fabricated from several hundred scraps and fragments (1516-1535).  They also used the four editions of Robert Stephanus (1546-1551) that corrected several hundred errors by Erasmus.  They also had the mysterious ten editions of Theodore Beza (1560-1598). And at last they consulted the editions of Aldus (1518), Colinaeus (1534), and Plantin (1572).  The King James Version was based upon Greek MSS that as far as we know were no older than 1514.  It is true that these text had for resources over 500-2,500 scraps and fragments of Greek manuscripts from which to reconstruct the text.  But it is also true that in the selection of the text, they used their own biased doctrinal persuasions to reject text within some of the same scraps and fragments that they used to select other words and text in making their one Greek text.  It was a pick and choose type Bible making.  How is it that God can preserve one text in a scrap or fragment and the rest of the text in the same scrap or fragment God did not intend to preserve and so they could just toss it aside?

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the King James Version translators DID NOT go back to the original primary volume. Is there a connection in these scraps and fragments to the first autographs?  I would say yes.  But at the same time I would not say that each and every word, each and every letter, and each and every text descended from that original writing. Along the way in the transmission there have been several changes.  Some were unintentional and some were intentional. Some were designed to alter doctrine and how the text was to be understood and some were simple scribner errors.  I believe we should make a difference between inspiration and preservation.  I will here say that the Bible text we have in the KJV came to us by translators and interpretators not inspired PROPHETS!  The scholar in charge of the entire Old Testament was an alcoholic.  The argument can be made that in spite of this God preserved the ancient Textus Receptus.  Well if he did trot out the ancient one volume Textus Receptus.  What is obvious to those of a sober mind, is that the KJV translators assembled a wide collection of manuscripts.  They assembled MSS that they knew were written by vile heretics (The Jewish Talmudist were considered vile antichrist). Rather than trod underfoot these manuscripts they compared them with the MSS they had and set the text openly before the scholars to be considered and perused by all.  Let each man decide for himself what God had inspired and preserved and what man had meddled with and interpolated.  Salvation was not contingent upon one word here or there being accurate or one text being accurate but if the truths of the Gospel and how the saints and the church should be guided in matters of faith and practice.  If these can be ascertained from any text then God can still use it and it SHOULD NOT BE BURNED OR REJECTED!  We see this attitude with Origen when he collected six manuscripts (Hexpla), among them the perversions of Aquila and that of the Ebonites Symmachus and Theodotion who all three were the most vile of antichrist.  It was expected of Christians to know the truths of their faith and if a manuscript did not testify to this, they retained their faith and skipped over those portions that had been altered.  If this rule is not quickly practiced by Apostolic Oneness, then new translations over a period of the next 100 years will sweep them away into apostasy.  What better way for the antichrist to seduce and deceive the world than through a Bible Version that has been corrupted when if believed would cause a believer to be shook from their faith and be damned?

The Greek text edited by Robert Stephanus (Estienne), whose forth edition of the Greek New Testament was very influential in the translation of the King James Version, was a strong adherent of Calvinism. Forsaking Rome and embracing the Faith of Calvin, he gave up his position as royal printer in order that he might publish Calvinist literature. He fled from Paris to Geneva, that great city of Calvinism, where he printed his 4th edition of the Greek New Testament. He also published several of the writings of John Calvin.

The Greek text edited by Theodore Beza, was even more influential  upon the KJV translators than Stephanus. Scrivener in his Parallel New Testament-Greek and English, demonstrates that the King James Version translators primarily used Theodore Beza's 1598 edition of the Greek New Testament. He indicates that out of the thousands and thousands of words in the New Testament, they deviated from Beza only about one hundred and ninety times. Moreover, they not only used his Greek text but relied heavily upon his Latin translation of it. Therefore, Theodore Beza, the successor of Calvin at Geneva, a great Reformer himself, was a leading influence upon our King James Version.

It must be noted on the other hand that with but two exceptions, there is no another English version available today which is based upon the text of Stephanus and Beza, commonly called the Received Text.

At this point we must ask ourselves if the KJV crew translated anything?  Or did they just read what had been translated before them, edit that, and then come out with the 1611 version?  The KJV had for their editing the Great Bible, the Bishop's Bible, and the Geneva Bible.  History shows us they edited both to make the KJV.  If the KJV is really an edited copy of the Great Bible, the Bishop's Bible, and the Geneva Bible, then all they did was consult the Greek for accuracy and make corrections and then beat their chest they had birthed the ONLY God inspired English version.  Is this to say that the Great Bible and Bishop's Bible from which the KJV largely comes are not inspired? And to say the KJV is the Bible of God because men died to preserve it, print it, and make it available to the world, would cast doubt on those who died for other translations that existed BEFORE 1611?

There is a need in every generation for Godly men to look at the new translations coming out.  And if they see a shift coming where there is an effort to take one translation off the scene and replace it with another, then they are obligated to either retain in some manner a usable text or make one of their own.  At least, the preservation of the doctrine will be foremost and should God inspire the undertaking, then let no man be a gainsayer!

At the present time the King James Version is under attack to be replaced by the New King James Version and even other perversions.  Let us not be so myopic that we cannot prepare for future generations if the Lord's time is not in our life time.  We may sit smug with a KJV and think that the Apostolic People will always be devoted to it, but if you look into some of these congregations right this moment, you will see already among them many different perversions in use.  Let us look beyond our own four ways and learned or unlearned let's learn to use any and all Bibles if need be to prove our faith.

Cohen G. Reckart, Pastor


Masoretic texts

No biblical manuscripts have survived from the six centuries that separate the latest of the Judaean Desert scrolls from the earliest of the Masoretic period. A "Codex Mugah," frequently referred to as an authority in the early 10th century, and the "Codex Hilleli," said to have been written c. 600 by Rabbi Hillel ben Moses ben Hillel, have both vanished.

The earliest extant Hebrew Bible codex is the Cairo Prophets written and punctuated by Moses ben Asher in Tiberias (in Palestine) in 895. Next in age is the Leningrad Codex of the Latter Prophets dated to 916, which was not originally the work of Ben Asher, but its Babylonian pointing--i.e., vowel signs used for pronunciation purposes--was brought into line with the Tiberian Masoretic system.

The outstanding event in the history of that system was the production of the model so-called Aleppo Codex, now in Jerusalem. Written by Solomon ben Buya'a, it was corrected, punctuated, and furnished with a Masoretic apparatus by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher c. 930. Originally containing the entire Old Testament in about 380 folios, of which 294 are extant, the Aleppo Codex remains the only known true representative of Aaron ben Asher's text and the most important witness to that particular Masoretic tradition that achieved hegemony throughout Jewry.

Two other notable manuscripts based on Aaron's system are the manuscript designated as BM or. 4445, which contains most of the Pentateuch and which utilized a Masora (text tradition) c. 950, and the Leningrad complete Old Testament designated MSB 19a of 1008. Codex Reuchliana of the Prophets, written in 1105, now in Karlsruhe (Germany), represents the system of Moses ben David ben Naphtali, which was more faithful to that of Moses ben Asher.

The Leningrad Codex

The Leningrad Codex, or Leningradensis, is the oldest complete Hebrew bible still preserved. While there are older parts of Bibles, or biblical books, still in existence, there is no older manuscript which contains the whole Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament in Hebrew). The Leningrad Codex is considered one of the best examples of the Masoretic text.

How Old is the Manuscript?

The manuscript was written around the year 1010 C. E. It was probably written in Cairo, and later sold to someone living in Damascus.

Where is the Original Manuscript?

Today it is in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the Russian National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin), where it has been since the mid-1800's. When the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center and West Semitic Research photographed the Bible in 1990, the city was still called Leningrad. The name of the manuscript continues to be called the Leningrad Codex in order to avoid confusion.

What do we mean when we talk about the Masoretic Text?

This manuscript belongs to a group of Hebrew texts called the Masoretic texts. The Hebrew alphabet itself, which developed from the Phoenician alphabet, has no true vowels, so the oldest Hebrew biblical fragments have only consonants, some of which are used as half-vowels, like our y, w, and h.

The Leningrad Codex
Click the image to view an enhanced version.

Sometime in the Middle Ages a group of scholars called Masoretes became interested in developing a system for marking the vowels. They were concerned that the pronunciation of the words might be lost, since Hebrew was no longer a spoken language. Besides vowels, they also wanted a way of marking punctuation, accents, and the musical notes used when the biblical text was chanted in the synagogue.

The most popular system of signs was developed by the Ben Asher family, and it is their system that is preserved in the Leningrad Codex. If you look carefully at a page you can see that the consonants, or letters, have little marks above and below them. Some of the marks are called "vowel points," and some are called "accents." The accents both act as punctuation and as musical notation.

The Masoretes were also interested in copying the biblical text very carefully so that it would be preserved from generation to generation. The way they tried to ensure this was the use of notes in the margins. In the margins beside the biblical verses they put little letters as symbols.
The Leningrad Codex
Click the image to view an enhanced version.

These symbols told the scribe copying the text information about unusual forms or words that should not be changed. For instance, they might put a circle over a word that occurred nowhere else in the Bible. In the margin they would then put the letter "l" which told the scribe, "yes, this is a unique word, but it is not an error, so just copy it the way it is." The notes at the top or bottom of a page would usually give more information about the symbols in the side margins.

What is a Codex?

The Leningrad Bible is called a "Codex" because it is in the form of a book ("codex" being an old word for "book"). The Bibles in the synagogues were in the form of scrolls, which meant that one never had an entire Bible together in one scroll. The codex would not have been used in the synagogue, but would have been used as a study Bible by students and scholars.

What books of the Bible does the Leningrad Codex contain?

The Codex includes all of the books in the Jewish Bible, or the Protestant Old Testament. The order of books in the Leningrad Bible is not quite the same as you will usually find in a modern Bible. First of all, the books is in the Jewish order, divided into three main parts: Instruction (Torah), Prophets (Nevi'im) and Writings (Ketuvim). In modern Jewish Bibles the order of the books is:

Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1&2), Kings (1&2)

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

The Twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,

Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

The Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations,

Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles (1&2).

The Leningrad Codex contains all these books, plus extensive scholarly notes, and 16 illuminated (decorative) pages. However, the order is a little bit different than what you would find in a modern Jewish Bible.

Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

The Twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,

Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

The Writings: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, The Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah.

Notice that the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are all one book in this manuscript, which, of course, they were originally. Notice, too, that the Twelve minor prophets make up one book. This is because at one time they were all copied together on one long scroll.

Why is the Leningrad Codex important?

The Leningrad Codex is used today as the basis for most modern printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, together with a few other incomplete Hebrew Bibles. This is because it is the oldest complete manuscript copied with the Masoretic system developed by the Ben Asher family.

Photograph by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research in collaboration with the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center.

Commentary by Marilyn J. Lundberg.

Greek Documents found

Greek Uncials 267

Greek Minuscules 2764

Greek Lectionaries 2143

Greek Papyri 88

Recent Finds of Greek documents 47

Total of just Greek documents 5309

Let us not forget that it was Pope Leo X

(Giovanni De Medici) who sponsored the first rabbinic Bible (1516/17)

compiled by Rabbi Felix Pratensis. Rabbi Pratensis had converted to

Catholicism, becoming an Augustinian Hermit. Pope Clement VII sponsored

the second rabbinic Bible (1523/24), compiled by Rabbi Jacob ben Chayyim.

Rabbi Chayyim "converted" to Catholicism before his death. It was to these

corrupt texts that Cappel appealed when he labeled the Masoretic text of Ben

Asher, used for the King James Version, as "untenable."