Quick Apology: Sinai Bible vs KJV

Bible

Last week I published an article outlining my response to an abortion meme posted on Facebook by a friend. Today I would like to do something similar. Below is a meme which I also saw on Facebook during Advent:

Sinai

Once again, I would like to share a modified version of the response I posted in reply as I know some readers find it helpful to see how different Christians respond to stuff like this.

My Response

There are really quite a lot of incorrect and misleading statements in this meme. Let’s just take each of the statements in turn…

STATEMENT #1: “THE OLDEST VERSION OF BIBLE IN THE WORLD IS THE SINAI BIBLE, HOUSED IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM”

Problem #1: Oldest?
I’m assuming that what they call “THE SINAI BIBLE” is what is known in the academic community as Codex Sinaiticus. If so, then it’s a rather bold statement to call this “THE OLDEST VERSION OF THE BIBLE”. There’s a good chance that Codex Vaticanus is a good thirty years older, demonstrated by its more archaic style and the absence of the Eusebian Canon tables.

Problem #2: Bible?
It would be easy to conclude from this meme that Sinaiticus is the oldest Biblical manuscript we have…but it isn’t. Rather, Sinaiticus is one of the oldest collections which contains all the Biblical books in a single volume. We have older manuscripts for each of the individual books. Sinaiticus just happens to have them all together, along with other non-canonical works.

Problem #3: Location
The Codex is in the British Library, not the British Museum. They’re not the same thing.

STATEMENT #2: “THERE ARE OVER 14,800 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THIS BIBLE AND THE STANDARD KING JAMES VERSION”

Problem #4: Languages
The major problem with this meme is that it is asking us to compare a 4th Century work written in Greek to an English translation published in the 17th Century. How’s that meant to work?!

Problem #5: The Standards
In fact, why are these two works selected as the standards in the first place? For example, the various problems with the KJV translation are well-known to textual criticism scholars. The issues are a bit too dull to go into here (unless you like that sort of thing), so I’ll simply make that point that the KJV isn’t exactly the zenith of Bible translations so I’m uncertain why that translation is held up as the standard.

Problem #6: The “Differences”
In textual criticism, any deviation whatsoever between two documents counts as a “difference”. This would include spelling mistakes, duplicated words, jumbled word order etc. Why would the author of this meme think that a scribal error suddenly undermines the validity of the Bible?

In fact, if I really wanted to get picky, I could point out that there’s a scribal error in this meme! I believe that they meant to say “THE OLDEST VERSION OF THE BIBLE…” Should I doubt the veracity of this meme purely based upon the inability of its authors to proof-check their work?

STATEMENT #3: “JUST HOW MUCH PROOF DO YOU NEED THAT THE “WORD OF GOD” IS NOTHING BUT THE WORDS OF MEN?”

Problem #7: Manuscript Traditions
Let’s say for sake of argument that the differences mentioned in the meme were, in fact, really important. Let’s even go so far as to say that these differences changed the meaning of the text…what exactly would that prove?

Even if Sinaiticus was irrefutably shown to be riddled with errors, it wouldn’t show the Bible to be unreliable. The most you could conclude was that Codex Sinaiticus is an unreliable manuscript.

We have many more manuscripts in addition to Sinaiticus. In fact, we have a full manuscript tradition. As has been often pointed out, the Bible is the best-attested document of antiquity. In fact, it’s because of the volume of manuscripts found across the Roman Empire that we can see exactly where scribal errors have been introduced.

Those are the seven problems with this meme. I suppose we can’t blame it too much, it is a meme after all, but it is extremely misleading. It compares apples and oranges and completely disregards the well-established science of manuscript studies.

11 comments

  • You mention that KJV is not the best version of comparison.. I am curious as to your opinion what version is the better?
    Will

    • It’s less about the KJV and more about the manuscript tradition. Since the compilation of the KJV, older manuscripts have been found which have an important role to play in terms of textual criticism.

    • Two points I should have mentioned:

      1. The codex was found AFTER the construction of the KJV and comes from a different manuscript family (hence more differences)

      2. The KJV has certain know problems, particularly with regards to the Book of Revelation. For example, when Desiderius Erasmus was assembling his printed Greek text (on which the KJV is largely based), his copy of Revelation was missing the last page. Due to printing deadlines, he instead translated the chapter from the Latin Vulgate himself! This led to mistakes which remain to this day. For example, in Revelation 22:19 the KJV and NKJV both speak of the book of life”, whereas it should say “tree”.

      I’d like to do some posts on KJV-onlyism at some point and I’ll go into this stuff in a little more depth.

  • i know not what this writter who wrote this article tries to mean. Just blah blah you wrote without no reasoning fact nor proof. Wait. Did you mean you are the only christian. Or the most truthful christian?. Hmm. Dont you think that the so called christian priest, whom they are your elder pastors whom now they have tired of hidding the true are now bringing things into light. These priest are saying there are more than 100s of discrepancies in the same bliblical text. Wait dont you see it yourself? For i do see it, hence my asking. So even if this contradiction exist in this same bible so called sacred text and you confirming that this text of king james is the authentic text. Then why itself which is king james, containing more than 100s of contradiction. See if you did reason things out systematically and objectically to out to find out the true and make use of it and also posting it as an article to benefit readers and mankind it will be better and very grate work done.
    To what you posted, the bible itself is flooded with contraditon which confirm by many scholars of the bible and unorder arrangement by mens hand. Then how can you confirm this today bible with the other oldest bible found, Which is hidden not to reveal the true about this already believed man made bible of today.
    You see? Why it is hidden from the eyes of the world have you ever ask yourselve that?. Then why you making an assumption which you had no knowledge of.? Have you ever read that hidden bible? then why are you making a proof when you have nor had no knowledge in that.
    Just tried to bring out the mistake of this bible of today… 1. You are going fool… You should be thinking that if bible is bible, then it is God words and God words shouldn’t contain mistake of any sort. 2. It is from this old scripture that this today bible is known because on that old bible is what they use to write the today bible. Then why should diffrences apearing in this both both. Think!!!

    • Hey Zakari, welcome to Restless Pilgrim. Not all of your comment was understandable (I’m guessing English isn’t your primary language), but I’ll do my best to respond.

      i know not what this writter who wrote this article tries to mean. Just blah blah you wrote without no reasoning fact nor proof.

      What statement do you think is unsubstantiated?

      Wait. Did you mean you are the only christian. Or the most truthful christian?. Hmm.

      I don’t understand what you’re suggesting here. To which of my statements are you referring?

      Dont you think that the so called christian priest, whom they are your elder pastors whom now they have tired of hidding the true are now bringing things into light. These priest are saying there are more than 100s of discrepancies in the same bliblical text. Wait dont you see it yourself?

      Are you referring to mistakes in copying?

      For i do see it, hence my asking. So even if this contradiction exist in this same bible so called sacred text and you confirming that this text of king james is the authentic text. Then why itself which is king james, containing more than 100s of contradiction. See if you did reason things out systematically and objectically to out to find out the true and make use of it and also posting it as an article to benefit readers and mankind it will be better and very grate work done.

      Can you please give me an example of these discrepancies?

      To what you posted, the bible itself is flooded with contraditon which confirm by many scholars of the bible and unorder arrangement by mens hand. Then how can you confirm this today bible with the other oldest bible found, Which is hidden not to reveal the true about this already believed man made bible of today.

      Once again, you say there are contradictions. Could you please give an example?

      Also, you appear to suggest that the codex was “hidden”? That is not the case. In fact, the entire thing is available online.

      Just tried to bring out the mistake of this bible of today… 1. You are going fool… You should be thinking that if bible is bible, then it is God words and God words shouldn’t contain mistake of any sort.

      Once again, you’re asserting that there are mistakes, but not giving an example of such a mistake.

      2. It is from this old scripture that this today bible is known because on that old bible is what they use to write the today bible. Then why should diffrences apearing in this both both. Think!!!

      This isn’t actually correct. The codex comes from a different manuscript family and text type from the one used in the construction of the King James Version.

  • i would respond but someone with more knowledge than me in this matter already has… and he actually did his research and stated facts instead of assertions http://rense.com/general66/hide.htm

    • Sorry, but the article is not much better than the meme. Here there is a considerable lack of source citation…just lots of assertions. Rather than offering a thorough rebuttal of the article (which would take far too long since almost every statement would need to be challenged), here’s a selection of logic, assertions and unsubstantiated historical “facts”…

      …we find a staggering 14,800 differences from today’s Bible

      As I ask in my post, how exactly does one compare “differences” between a Greek manuscript and an English translation?

      The King James Bible is considered by many today to be the ‘original’ Bible

      Who are these people?! There is a tiny, tiny, TINY portion of Christians in the United States who would make an assertion similar to this.

      Others think the King James Bible is ‘authentic’ and ‘authorized’ and presents the original words of the authors as translated into English from the ‘original’ Greek texts. However, as Tony points out, the ‘original’ Greek text was not written until around the mid fourth century and was a revised edition of writings compiled decades earlier in Aramaic and Hebrew.

      I’m extrmely confused as to the meaning of this passage. Is he suggesting that the KJV translated the Old Testament from Greek Texts? No, it was translated from the Hebrew. Is it asserting that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew? With the possible exception of Matthew’s Gospel, it was written in Greek in the First Century.

      Those earlier documents no longer exist and the Bibles we have today are five linguistic removes from the first bibles written

      This statement is not qualified or justified. How are there five removals? Even if we assume that Matthew’s Gospel was written in Aramaic, that’s Aramaic -> Greek -> English. What are the other two removals meant to be?

      According to Presbyter Albius Theodoret (circa 255), there were “more than two hundred” variant gospels in use in his time

      Source? Citation? I can’t find anything about this guy!

      Ancient church evidence established that a new ‘god’ was to be approved by the Roman Emperor and an earlier attempt (circa 210) to deify either Judas Khrestus or his twin brother Rabbi Jesus (or somebody else) had been ‘declined’. Therefore, as late as 325, the Christian religion did not have an official god.

      Source? Citation? What is this “Ancient church evidence”? Also, apparently nobody told Bishop Ignatius of Antioch that there wasn’t an official god in Christianity…

      “…through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; …according to the love of Jesus Christ our God… [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God…For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]…” – Letter to the Romans (AD 107)

      I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, this is not scholarship. Real scholarship cites sources.

  • So, are the 14,800 differences true? If that’s so, then it is a fact, then, that the texts in the Bible are continuously changing overtime and can be subjected to changes or inaccuracies? Many will, then, doubt the abilities of God? Isn’t that a reflection that the texts are just purely man-made and not inspired by some holy entity?

    • Hey Jason, welcome to Restless Pilgrim!

      Did you read the article? In it it’s explained why such a comparison between a 4th Century Greek manuscript and a Protestant 17th Century English translation is meaningless. Have you ever tried to compare two documents in different languages? What would even count as a “difference”?

      To your point, of course manuscripts can be subject to mistakes. They are copied by human authors who might have skipped their morning cup of tea or coffee. Try having a chain of ten people hand-copy a page of hand-written text you and you’ll see all kinds of errors creep in: misspellings, repetitions, duplications, word-order mixups…

      However, I don’t see why scribal errors would cause someone to doubt God’s ability or think the text is man-made. Did God ever promise that every scribe would copy every text perfectly? Does a spelling mistake in a 7th Century manuscript indicate that the work is not God-breathed? Does a slight change of word-order in the Greek (which is indistinguishable in an English translation) somehow show that the original is not inspired? If a scribe were copying a text and about to make a mistake, what should happen? Should an angel fly down and snatch the pen before the mistake is made? Should the paper spontaneously combust or the scribe drop dead? 😉 Is that what you’d expect for a text inspired by some holy entity?

      When early Christians were sharing their manuscripts, the copying was unrestricted. As a result, the text went all across the empire, from Syria, through Africa into Gaul (France) and Britain. As a result, the Gospels are the most well-attested documents of ancient history. Thanks to this, it allows us to do textual critical studies to identify scribal errors. Adjusting the example given above, if you gave your hand-written text to ten people and each then passed on their own copy to ten more people, for ten generation, you could gather up the manuscripts, identify the families of manuscripts and very clearly identify the scribal errors. This is what textual critical studies allows us to do, which is why we can have great confidence in the transmission of the Bible.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  • You are a complete Moron to think the differences are not important. Common sense would tell you if you want the most authentic version you would use the oldest version. KJV( 1611 A.D.) or Sinai version 380 AD. Anything different in the KJV was added at a later time. Point Blank, end of story. Religion is worst than being hooked on crack. You cant even detox when faced with the truth. SAD..All of the GoDs are man made. ALL OF them, Any culture.

    • Hey captainyak, welcome to Restless Pilgrim.

      I’m afraid you haven’t really interacted with my article at all. Perhaps you could address the seven problems I identity?

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