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Printing Errors in the King James Version

In some rather minor ways, the King James Version is not simply one thing but is many things.  By that I mean that over the years there have been minor revisions made to it – most of them very minor indeed, picayune alterations of such things as spelling and punctuation – but revisions nonetheless.   Two years after it was originally published, a new edition came out in 1613 that embodied 413 such changes.  In 1769 the translation was modernized a bit; that happened again in 1873.

The “New King James Version” that is popular today (the third best-selling Bible on the market behind the NIV and the KJV itself) (these are all popular among conservative evangelicals who, to no one’s surprise, buy the most Bibles) is a somewhat different kettle of fish.  It was commissioned in 1975 and was produced by 130 people that its publisher (Thomas Nelson) indicates included scholars, church leaders, and laypeople.

Whether these church leaders and laypeople actually knew any Hebrew or Greek they don’t say.  My guess is….

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Why He Is Still a Christian (And a Biblical Scholar): A Blast From the Past
Does It Mean What It Says? More Problems with the King James



  1. Avatar
    Silver  January 24, 2017

    A salutary essay to confound the ‘ KJV Only’ adherents is to be found at http://www.kjv-only.com/jesusnotkjvonly.html. It tells how Jesus was not KJV Only!

  2. Robert
    Robert  January 24, 2017

    “In any event, the New KJV is most notable for updating the archaic language in places, especially getting rid of the ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s.'”

    And this was actually a very useful and meaningful part of archaic English, where as in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, one does indeed distinguish between 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural. Now, if only they had modernized it into good Bible Belt Southern dialect, with *you*, *y’all*, and *all y’all*, that would have been just fine.

    • Avatar
      Jason  January 26, 2017

      I giggled at this and imagined a cockney version with “you” and “you lot.”

  3. Avatar
    wostraub  January 24, 2017

    Dear Bart — Thank you for this post. I learned about some of these hilarious KJV misprintings in one of your wonderful Great Courses lecture series.

    I was given a KJ Bible as a wedding gift many years ago (when I was a devout Southern Baptist), which was inscribed with the words “Blessed truth — accept it.” (Ha!) Reading it was a bit like reading Shakespeare, so I never used it, always referring instead to one of the revised versions.

    Thanks again.

  4. Avatar
    Adam0685  January 24, 2017

    I heard that your new triumph of Christianity book is coming out near the end of this year. I’m looking forward to reading it!

    Do you have any current research/writing projects on the go or in the radar? If I remember correctly, you were considering writing on the invention of heaven/hell/afterlife.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 25, 2017

      Yes, I’m reading for what I hope to be the next book, a history of the afterlife (where the common ideas of heaven and hell came from, since they are not so much in the Bible)

      • Avatar
        Duke12  March 16, 2017

        Apologies for replying to a dated and off topic comment, but, regarding your upcoming book on early Christian views of the afterlife, I thought I’d recommend as a possible semi-scholarly source for an Eastern Orthodox Christian approach to the subject: “Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective,” by Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev. I think researching the viewpoints of a Christian tradition not directly connected to the Western Reformation and Counter Reformation (and one which often slips under the academic radar) might be useful in gaining a fuller understanding of early Church beliefs and how they evolved over the centuries. I’m guessing the “Descent into Hades” view of salvation might have been more comprehensible to early non-Jewish Greek Christians than the “Christ as sacrifice” view, but that really is just a wild guess. Enjoyed reading “Jesus before the Gospels.” Very enlightening!

        • Avatar
          Duke12  March 16, 2017

          My regrets: I have been moving through these posts in reverse chronological order and forgot to check for updated ones. I see you have addressed your book plans in a number of recent posts. I’ll stand by my book recommendation, but feel free to remove my comment from this thread.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 17, 2017


  5. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  January 24, 2017

    “Go and sin on more” Ha! You go girl

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  January 24, 2017

      Just in case someone thinks the worst by my comment, I make a joke out of everything. That’s how I cope in this world. And the more ridiculous something is, the more amused I am.

  6. Avatar
    Kevin Nelson  January 24, 2017

    Three questions for you.

    1) What do you think of the “Today’s English Version” (aka the Good News Bible). It’s clearly a somewhat free translation. Do you regard it as just a paraphrase, or is it suitable as a study Bible?

    2) Some of the best scholars of the day worked on the original King James Version. But there was also input from writers known for their command of literary English, rather than for competence in the original languages. Did any writers like that contribute to the NRSV? I know the creators of the Jerusalem Bible did seek input of that sort, from authors including J.R.R. Tolkien. If I may venture an opinion, my feeling is that the NRSV could have benefited from more contributors of a literary bent. It may be clear and accurate, but it’s not very poetic.

    3) What do you think of the theory that Shakespeare himself worked on the original KJV? Admittedly, a contributor like that might be hard to match!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 25, 2017

      1. Yes, it’s a paraphrase. (My Greek professor from college worked on it). 2. Yes, they did have a literary person go over it. The problem was that the suggestions he made required an inaccurate translation. 3. I don’t think there’s any way. (It was only Oxford and Cambridge University professors; and Shakespeare is especially lambasted in our sources for not actually having much of a formal education, let alone being an Oxbridge professor!)

      • Avatar
        Kevin Nelson  January 25, 2017

        The theory is that the professors recognized Shakespeare’s literary genius, but they kept his involvement under wraps precisely because so many people would have considered him unsuitable for such sacred work! I agree it’s an unverifiable conjecture at best, though.

        • Bart
          Bart  January 27, 2017

          I’m afraid it’s all just modern fantasy — no evidence for it and lots of reasons to doubt it (includinge the fact that Shakespeare was not recognized as a genius in his day)

  7. Avatar
    nichael  January 24, 2017

    Dr Ehrman

    Please feel free not to post this question, since it doesn’t really have much to do with the topic at hand. But the current topic (problems in translation + the drift in meaning of words), as well as your reference above to Mt 23:24 above has reminded me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask about for some time.

    Specifically it has to do with the meaning of the word usually translated as “hypocrisy”. That is, in modern English, of course, the word typically means something like “speaking insincerely” (or “saying one thing and doing another”).

    But I’ve read a few commentaries that have suggested that the meaning might be closer to something like “overly scrupulous”. (I know one translation which renders the term a “pettifogging”.). For example as you suggest above Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for being overly concerned with the “theological trivia” while on he other hand there doesn’t appear to be any suggestion that th Pharisees are being “insincere”.

    Probably the prime example of the distinction occurs in the story of the Good Samaritan. Again, in the parable there is no hint that the Priest and the Levite are acting insincerely. In fact quite the opposite is true; they both avoid having anything to do with the wounded man precisely *because* they are doing what the purity laws require of them. And in the end, of course, it is the radically impure Samaritan who demonstrates “who is his neighbor’.

    (Perhaps in recent times the clearest example of “hypocrisy”in this sense might be the members of, say, The Westboro Baptist Church. It may very well be the case that they are completely *sincere* in their odious beliefs. But I think it would be difficult to make the case that they are acting with the care and charity that Jesus is depicted as instructing.)

    So, to say this briefly, charging someone with “hypocrisy” might appear to mean that they are showing a lack of honesty, but rather they are a lack of compassion (I.e because they letting an overly-strenuous adherence to the letter of the law).

    Or even more briefly, it captures the heart of the admonition that “I desire love, not sacrifice”.

    So (at long last…) my question is whether you might consider doing a post on this topic. I realize that might this question might be, perhaps, a tad more “exegetical” than those typically dealt with on this blog. But I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic, even if it’s from a more Greek/linguistic point of view.

    • Avatar
      nichael  January 24, 2017

      Sorry, the following paragraph should read:

      So, to say this briefly, taking this line of argument would suggest that charging someone with “hypocrisy” does NOT mean that they are showing a lack of *honesty*, but rather that they are demonstrating a lack of *compassion* (I.e specifically because they letting are an overly-strenuous adherence to the letter of the law get in their way).

    • Bart
      Bart  January 25, 2017

      The word actually does not mean overly scrupulous. The Greek term comes from theater, where an actor would use a mask, hiding who he really was. It refers to someone who says one thing but actually does (or is) another. The only reason people think it means overly-scrupulous is that it gets applied to Pharisees in the NT, people think that Pharisees were overly scrupulous, and therefore the term must mean overly scruplous. But it doesn’t.

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 25, 2017

    The illogical attachment to the Textus Receptus reminds of something I have thought a lot, way too much, about during the past election year., namely that large, HUGE, segments of our population firmly believe all sorts of stuff for which there is no evidence. This makes me think that this tendency may have been even greater among uneducated ancient early Christians. Do you think this might have been so and that this may have contributed to the growth of Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 27, 2017

      Ah — that’s the topic of my next book, due out in November. What *convinced* all these people?!? (I’m not sure people were any more gullible then than now. As you say, it doesn’t always require *evidence*…)

  9. Avatar
    doug  January 26, 2017

    “Thou shalt commit adultery.” I wonder how many people committed adultery because of that? I mean, if the Bible is the “inspired word of God”…

  10. Avatar
    stevenavery  February 12, 2017

    > Bart Ehrman
    > the original KJV said that they “Strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” That ended up becoming something only very slightly different (and a bit harder to follow): they “Strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.” That is how the verse is worded still in the KJV version today.

    Here you are repeating an historical error about the 1611 text that was made by Daniel Wallace and which he has never corrected.

    The AV has been consistent in virtually every edition (an exception is one by Scrivener). The misprint canard, popular from about 1820, has its own history and has been long dead and buried.

    > Daniel Wallace
    > … “to strain out.” I believe that the KJV of 1611 actually had this wording, but inexplicably changed it later to “strain at.” –

    In fact, the 1611 text had “strain at”, which you can see here:

    (If this stays down, we can look for a pic.)

    You also have the AV text wrong with a “but” .. it has always been “and”.

    Matthew 23:24
    Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

    As for the long history of the excellent “strain at a gnat”, even before the AV, that would clog us up a bit here, but a lot of information is on this thread in 2008:

    Straining at or straining out gnats.

    James Snapp, Jr. used that as one of his sources for this article:

    Straining at a Gnat – Dec. 2016



  11. Avatar
    stevenavery  February 14, 2017

    > Bart Ehrman
    > “1 John 5:7-8), is not in any of our most ancient manuscripts at all. It shows up in one manuscript of the fourteenth century, one of the fifteenth, another of the sixteenth, and finally one of the eighteenth.”

    This wording seems designed to imply all ancient manuscripts. I frequently run into people who have been confused or duped by such claims on variants. Listening to such presentations (e.g. Pericope Adulterae on The Great Courses) they believe the variant actually arose in the late middle ages, or at least extremely late. Which is clearly not the case for the heavenly witnesses or the Periocope Adultera.

    Later on above, in another variant, Bart, you even discuss the significance of being clear about evidences that are in other languages.

    This wording is parsed to have shock value and be entertaining, however it is dubious, since a large segment of the audience will not know the actual facts and will then share about how these variants arose in the Middle Ages, or the Reformation era.

    With such wording, how are the readers supposed to know that most of our extant Old Latin mss (considered a 2nd-century-origin line) and 95% of the Latin mss overall have the heavenly witnesses verse?

    Or that the Vulgate Prologue, written first-person from Jerome, references how unfaithful translators (or scribes) would deliberately drop the verse. Or the wealth of ECW (early church writer) referencign.

    Much more could be discussed, such as the Greek-Latin relationships, Cyprian, grammatical aspects, Greek evidences, but they would likely do better in a forum discussion, so as not to clog up a blog thread.

    So I do hope that this situation of referring to late manuscripts, to the general public, when extant Greek manuscripts is actually meant, can be addressed in the future. And even the past writings and audio.

    Thanks for your consideration!


    • Bart
      Bart  February 15, 2017

      Sorry, I was using scholarly shorthand. When textual scholars say “manuscripts” they mean Greek manuscripts, as opposed to the witness of the versions or patristic sources. But you’re right, that can be confusing. My bad.

  12. Avatar
    JamesSnappJr  April 1, 2017

    Where to begin?
    Perhaps here:
    You: “In Matthew 23:24 when Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being hypocrites who are more concerned with theological trivia instead of the big issues of ultimate concern to God, the original KJV said that they “Strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” That ended up becoming something only very slightly different (and a bit harder to follow): they “Strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.” That is how the verse is worded still in the KJV version today.”

    That’s a bunch of . . . wait. Academese . . . You may want to double-check your sources, inasmuch as when I looked into this via the novel research-technique of reading a 1611 KJV instead of just parroting Metzger et al, I found that the 1611 did indeed say “strain at.” In addition, both “strain out” and “strain at” were in use before 1611.
    See for details http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2016/12/straining-at-gnat.html

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      Welcome to the blog.

      Yes, we have already covered this issue in other comments.

  13. Avatar
    JamesSnappJr  April 1, 2017

    About the NKJV’s team of translators and editors: you wrote:

    “Whether these church leaders and laypeople actually knew any Hebrew or Greek they don’t say. My guess is not.”

    Where the data is kept in the dark one can make whatever guess one can imagine. But this data is not in the dark. With monumental exertion that claimed a full 30 seconds of my life, I consulted https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/nkjv/scholar-team/ and found the names of the team members — and among them are: James D. Price, Arthur L. Farstad, D. David Garland, Paul K. Gilchrist, R. K. Harrison, G. Herbert Livingston, Alfred Martin, Harry A. Sturz, William Curtis Vaughan, Ronald B. Allen, Barry J. Beitzel, Walter R. Bodine, Louis Goldberg, Geoffrey Watts Grogan, Victor Paul Hamilton, Edward E. Hindson, Horace D. Hummel, Meredith C. Kline, Donald A. Leggett, Elmer A. Martens, Eugene H. Merrill, Richard O. Rigsby, Arthur Steltzer,
    William A. VanGemeren, Boyce Blackwelder, E. M. Blaiklock, and James L. Boyer, among others.

    B: “It continued to use the Textus Receptus as its base Greek text for the NT, because the translators/editors – unlike the vast majority of scholars who actually work on such matters – continue to think that this form of the Greek text is closest to the inspired originals” —

    What a load of . . . wait. Academese. Of course it is not impossible that some of the NKJV’s translators may have secretly harbored the sentiment that you describe, the open affirmations of many of them, such as Harry Sturz, shows that they did not regard the Textus Receptus as the most accurate representation of the original text of the New Testament. Without statements from these scholars affirming that they subscribe to such a sentiment, it may be seen as slightly presumptive to continue to make or circulate that claim about how they viewed the Textus Receptus. It is possible that many of them saw the NKJV as an option for KJV-readers wary of the NIV’s novelty and of the slight instability of its NT base-text. In any event your claim seems misrepresentative of the views of most of the NKJV’s translation-team-members.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      I’m not sure what you’re objecting to. Are you saying it is common knowledge that (just to choose from your list), it is widely known that Ronald B. Allen, Barry J. Beitzel, Walter R. Bodine, Louis Goldberg, Geoffrey Watts Grogan, Victor Paul Hamilton, Edward E. Hindson, Horace D. Hummel, Meredith C. Kline, Donald A. Leggett *are* experts in Greek and Hebrew? I’ve never heard of these people.

      • Avatar
        JamesSnappJr  April 2, 2017

        B: “I’ve never heard of these people.”

        And though you’ve never heard of them, you assert that they continue to think that the TR is the best representation of the original text. Since you have never heard of them, how well-equipped are you to make such an assessment?

        Their backgrounds:

        Ronald B. Allen: Professor, Old Testament Language and Exegesis, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary (Portland, Oregon) – he’s at Dallas now: http://www.dts.edu/about/faculty/rallen/
        Barry J. Beitzel: Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School – Ph.D. from Dropsie University (1976); post-doctorate at L’Universite de Liege (1981).
        Walter R. Bodine: Associate Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary – Ph.D. from Harvard with majors in Biblical Hebrew and Hebrew Bible Studies.
        Louis Goldberg was Professor of Theology and Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute, and the 1983 President of ETS.
        Geoffrey Watts Grogan was principal at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, Scotland.
        Victor Paul Hamilton was Associate Professor of Religion at Asbury College (PhD, Brandeis University); he wrote commentaries on Genesis and Exodus.
        Edward E. Hindson is a Professor of Religion at Liberty Baptist College (Lynchburg, Virginia); he holds a D. Min from Westminster; a D. Phil. at Univ. of South Africa – and is the editor of five Study Bibles and author of over 200 articles and 20 books. http://www.liberty.edu/divinity/?PID=2250
        Horace D. Hummel is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament, Concordia Seminary (St. Louis); he’s written several books including a commentary on Ezekiel.
        The late Meredith Kline has a website: http://www.meredithkline.com . He was Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His Th.M. was from Westminster Theological Seminary (1947) and his Ph.D. in Assyriology and Egyptology was from Dropsie University (1956).
        Donald A. Leggett was Professor of Old Testament at Ontario Theological Seminary (now Tyndale Seminary).

        If all these men thought (as you claimed) that the TR is the form of the Greek text is closest to the inspired originals, then such a view has considerable scholarly support, it would seem. But imho such a claim should be considered implausible — especially where OT specialists are concerned — until demonstrated to be plausible, and a better guess is that such a view had nothing to do with their decision to take part in the NKJV-translation project.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 3, 2017

          Thanks. Very helpful. And who are they laypeople that they reference, and why would non-experts be advertised as being part of the committee?

          • Avatar
            JamesSnappJr  April 4, 2017

            You’re welcome.
            I do not know (aside from William White, perhaps) who the laypeople are that they reference — but the point is that since *you* don’t know, you don’t have much evidence for your claim that they thought that the TR was the best representation of the original text, do you.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 4, 2017

            Sure, I suppose it’s possible that they wanted people to read a translation that was *not* based on the best text, but was filled with errors — but that seems rather ungenerous to them!

  14. Avatar
    JamesSnappJr  April 4, 2017


    It would be more generous yet, if one is going to make characterizations about the NKJV’s translation-team, to first learn the identities of its members. As for the use of the TR: for the OT-contributors, I don’t see how that would an issue; for NT-contributors, it does not seem ungenerous to reckon that they considered an updated and modern rendering of the TR, with textual footnotes indicating some 880 disagreements between the Nestle-Aland text and the TR, or between the Majority Text and the TR (or between NA *and* the Majority Text and the TR), preferable to an antiquated one without such notes.

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