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Majority Texts or Minority Texts, which is more reliable?

February 1, 2010

There is an ongoing debate on the validity of certain translations, and which translations are the best for study.  Bibles today can be divided into two groups, those that are based on Majority Texts [M] or Textus Receptus (KJV and NKJV) or those based on Minority Texts (NIV, ESV, NASB etc) [NU].

I will do another post on the history of these texts, but right now I want to highlight some contradictory verses, and will let the reader decide which manuscript is closer to what God intended.

The first verse we’ll look at is Matthew 9:13

13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (NKJV)

13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (ESV)

13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV)

The message and theme behind the whole Bible is repentance from our sins.  Just like Peter’s famous call to “repent and be baptized” as well as John the Baptist’s entire mission was rooted in a call for baptism and repentance of sins, (Mark 1:4)  Yet interestingly the NU leaves out the call for sinners to repentance.

The next passage we’ll look at is Revelation 22:14:

14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (KJV)

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (NKJV)

14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (ESV)

14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (NIV)

Throughout the entire Bible, there is reminder to show our love to God by keeping His Commandments (John 14:15).  Yet interestingly, according to the NU, all you have to do now is “wash our robes”.

Now lets look at Galatians 5:12, where the Minority Texts add meaning to text.

12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (KJV)

12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! (NKJV)

12I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (ESV)

12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (NIV)

12I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. (NASB)

I believe what Paul is really trying to say is that he wished those people bothering them would remove themselves out of the picture, not literally harm themselves.  His wishing harm on others isn’t Christlike at all.

The following texts highlight the Minority Text’s strange aversion to God’s Kingdom and Heaven:

Matt 6:13

13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (KJV)

13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (NKJV)

13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (ESV)

13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (NIV)

13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]‘ (NASB)

Notice how two of the translations miss the closing remarks about the Kingdom, only with the NASB adding that section in parenthesis.  Notice the aversion to calling God the Father of heaven. Luke 11:2:

2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (KJV)

2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. (NKJV)

2And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. (ESV)

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come. (NIV)

2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. (NASB)

Hebrews 10:34 highlights the same aversion for heaven.

34For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. (KJV)

34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. (NKJV)

34For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (ESV)

34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (NIV)

34For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. (NASB)

It’s like NU texts are removing the promise of the reward awaiting us in heaven.

And now on to some critical variations.

Luke 4:4

4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (KJV)

4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (NKJV)

4And Jesus answered him,  “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” (ESV)

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ (NIV)

4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.'” (NASB)

Isn’t it odd, the the NU totally misses the rest of the passage, when Jesus is fully quoting Deut 8:3:

3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus in his earthly ministry encouraged prayer and fasting for strengthening of faith, but the NU disagrees with that concept.  Jesus himself practiced what he preached, having fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.

Mark 9:28-29

28And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (KJV)

28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (NKJV)

28And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (ESV)

28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  29He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer. (NIV)

28When He came (A)into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

29And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” (NASB)

Matthew 17:21 is not even found in the NU.  The NIV and ESV omit the verse all-together, while the NASB adds it and cites the source being the Majority texts.

21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (KJV)

21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (NKJV)

21“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (NASB)

Lets move on to a passage where the NU removes the fact that God was manifested in the flesh. Instead it uses “He”.  1 Timothy 3:16:

16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (KJV)

16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory. (NKJV)

16Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (ESV)

16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory. (NIV)

16By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. (NASB)

So judging by the verses above, which set of manuscripts do you think harmonizes better with the overall teaching of the Holy Scriptures?

Stay tuned as I continue to do more study on this matter.

Some Notes;
  1. NU-Text These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian or Egyptian type of text described previously in “The New Testament Text.” They are found in the Critical Text published in the twenty-seventh edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Societies� fourth edition (U), hence the acronym, “NU-Text.”
  2. M-Text This symbol indicates points of variation in the Majority Text from the traditional text, as also previously discussed in “The New Testament Text.” It should be noted that M stands for whatever reading is printed in the published Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, whether supported by overwhelming, strong, or only a divided majority textual tradition.
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary P permalink
    November 5, 2013 9:42 am

    Consider this passage KJV versus ESV translation:

    Mat 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (KJV)
    Mat 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (KJV)

    Mat 19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (ESV)
    Mat 19:17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (ESV)

    The context is about Jesus’ knack for turning a man’s question into the question he should have asked. It is about “are you calling me good, because only God is good; therefore, do you mean to call me God?” This is a much different question than the “what is good” as the ESV puts it; the real question is, “is Jesus God?” It is a question that each of us must answer in the affirmative or perish. The M-Text gets it; the NU-Text totally misses it.

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