What were the King James Bible translators actually translating?  You may not have known it from the previous two posts – but that is what I have been getting at, when talking about the first published edition of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus, and the subsequent editions.    The King James is deservedly considered of the greatest classics ever produced in the English language.  There can be no doubt about its enormous influence on English literature and the English language itself.  But as a study Bible, it is problematic – in part because of the Greek text (for the NT) that underlies it.  Here is how I explain all that, going back to my discussion yesterday about Erasmus.


The larger point I am trying to make, however, is that all of these subsequent editions of the Greek New Testament  – those of Stephanus included – ultimately go back to Erasmus’s editio princeps, which was based on some rather late, and not necessarily reliable, Greek manuscripts – the ones he happened to find in Basle and the one he borrowed from his friend Reuchlin.  There would be no reason to suspect that these manuscripts were particularly high in quality.  They were simply the ones he could lay his hands on.

And as it turns out, these manuscripts were not of the best quality: they were, after all, produced some 1100 years after the originals!  For example, the main manuscript that Erasmus used for the Gospels contained both the story of the woman taken in adultery in John and the last twelve verses of Mark, passages that did not originally form part of the Gospels.

There was one key passage of Scripture that Erasmus’s manuscripts did not contain, however.  This is the famous account of …

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