Should Faith in Text Accuracy Be Vested in Scholar Opinion?
Most of the topics discussed on the present website relate to factors that determine the accuracy of our Bible text. Certain ones emphasize the crucial nature of this matter more than others, to various degrees, and examples of this are noted in Essays 4e, g, h, 5a, i, 7c, 8 & 11f, h. The present topic offers a final case proving that truth favors the internal evidence of language & context over external evidence of manuscript numbers touted by scholars. A few additional cases illustrate misleading effects of the influence of scholars who make manuscript evidence, the work of men, the primary factor.
Various accounts of the experience of Saul (Paul) on the Damascus Road
Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said who art thou Lord? And the
Lord said, I an Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick
against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
KJV...Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou Lord? And he said unto me I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And I said, What shall I do Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do
KJV...Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said,Who art thou Lord? And he said I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose...
NASV: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said who art thou Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.
NASV...Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And I answered, Who art thou Lord? And He said to me, I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you are persecuting. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.
NASV...Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks. And I
said who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said I am Jesus whom you are
persecuting. But arise and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you...
Supposedly, the underlined words in Acts 9:6 of the KJV are unauthentic, not being in any Greek manuscript. They are all in the Received Text, but scholars say Erasmus added them to the Received Text in Acts 9:6, transposing them from the Latin Vulgate, which he is said to have utilized as his authority since the Greek seemed uncertain. Actually, Luke, the writer of Acts, notes differences in how Paul tells of his experience under different circumstances. There is no need to repeat every word of one account in other accounts given to different parties, and the mere fact that critical texts don't contain some wording seen in the Received Text is insignificant, due to the highly uncertain accuracy of the main Alexandrian basis of critical-type texts (essay 3). We should remember that all manuscripts are greatly subject to error, and the Traditional Greek texts of Erasmus likely were providentially favored, as discussed on the present website (essay 4i)
Support for the disputed words in Acts 9:6 is found in the Acts 22
passage of both the Received Text & critical texts, where Paul asks the Lord what he is to do, and there the Lord
answers this question, in accord with disputed wording in Acts 9:6, so this wording is seen to be contextually valid. Paul just gives details of the matter in partial fashion when he personally relates the incident to various hearers. This is clear in that the Acts 26 passage presents only the minimum of language involved
in relating back to Acts 9, and Acts 22 supplies added detail on
Damascus as the place where Paul was to go according to the Lord's
command, and Nazareth as the hometown of the Lord Jesus. Further, the partial nature of presenting the matter is seen in that it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks is present in the Acts 9 & 26 passages. but not in the one of Acts 22. All this is true of both the Received Text & critical texts. All the details specific to each passage fit logically into the totality of the incident.
The one valid conclusion is that there is variance in how
Paul expresses details of the incident in its original occurrence and in recounting the incident to different parties, which clearly would occur in accord with requirements under different circumstances. In his initial description of the incident in Acts 9:6, Paul would explain all basic details of the words spoken by Christ to him and his own words & reaction. In recounting the incident to Jews at the temple site in Acts 22, his personal reaction is not important, but the facts of Nazareth as the hometown of Jesus, and Damascus as the destination to which Paul was traveling at the time of the incident, would be important in helping convince the Jews of the historical validity of his experience. Later, when recounting the incident to king Herod in Acts 26, Paul would quote only basic details since he knew that Herod was acquainted with the incident.
Now regarding the dearth of manuscript support for the underlined words in Acts 9:6, they are in the Vulgate, the Old Latin and some manuscripts of Old Syrian & Coptic versions (av1611.com/KJBP/faq/Holland_ac9_5-6.html), so Greek manuscripts with these words existed long before Erasmus' time, and he would be expected to reference the Vulgate as his authority for their inclusion. What is particularly important is that the Italic Old Latin version, upon which the Vulgate was based, and is particularly well preserved outside the gospels in the Vulgate, was the Bible of a biblical early western church known from the 2nd century A.D. This church would be expected to preserve autograph texts since true churches should have God's favor in provision of His truth for guidance & growth, and they would be the ones most zealously guarding the true text. Thus there is potential notable Greek support for the authenticity of the disputed words in Acts 9:6, in addition to that of the internal evidence.
Now the NASV Acts 9:6 lacks mention of it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks, and this is due to its absence in critical Greek texts. There is no reason to doubt that this absence can be due to error by deletion in Alexandrian manuscripts underlying critical texts, especially since it is present in the NASV & critical texts at Acts 26. This clause also lacks significant support by Traditional-Text manuscripts, which also can be due to error by deletion. The clause is supported by a few Greek manuscripts and ancient Old Latin & Peshitta versions and some Vulgate manuscripts (see above-noted reference). The clause fits well contextually, and it's included in the Received Text that study indicates derives from texts of select Traditional-Text manuscripts underlying the Italic Old Latin & Peshitta versions, texts likely preserved by historical biblical churches. Thus minimal support by external evidence of hand-written manuscripts is potentially misleading so that internal textual evidence of language/context is crucial to identify true readings.
As noted in essays of the present website, manuscript evidence in general is subject to much error due to weaknesses of human scribes and the ease of willful distortion in hand-written texts. Our faith in possessing God's Word is either vested in Him and His ability to restore passages lost through carelessness of scribes over the centuries, or in ancient scribes & humanist modern scholarship. If we trust traditional scripture, we are trusting that God has always preserved His true Word for His people. If we trust ideas & theories of scholars, we are trusting in some of the humanism dominant during the moral decline of modern nations. The basis of our faith is a crucial matter.
Additional examples of error of modern scholars in Rev.5:1 and Prov.26:10
1. Rev.5:1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
All Greek texts at Rev.5:1 places the comma after backside, but NRSV trans-lators offer a footnote suggesting a possible alternate sense of the verse if the position of the comma is changed, locating it after within, but that would change the sense of the Greek, and is not translation.
The book would be in the form of a scroll, and stating the scroll is sealed on the backside with 7 seals is unlikely language. The scroll contains judgments unleashed one at a time as the lamb breaks each seal in succession. Thus the scroll would consist of individual segments, each with an individual seal, all of which would be wrapped up in the scroll. Only the first seal would appear initially, and other seals would appear only when each is ready to be broken as the scroll is unwound. The text wouldn't likely speak of a scroll sealed on its backside by 7 seals since there are various seals wrapped up on the inside, but it would logically speak of writing on the inside and outside of the scroll, as in the KJV.
2. Prov.26:10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
Translating the Old Testament can be difficult at times, but scholars today can make it seem unnecessarily difficult as they exercise their opinions. They imagine various possible renderings of Prov.26:10, and the verbs do have a variety of possible meanings, but only certain ones fit the brief context of this short verse. The main problem is the truncated brief reference to the main personage involved, but this complication is rather common in the text.
In modern versions the verse generally reads like the NIV that says, Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by. This is a poor translation offering an illogical contrast, comparing an archer who wounds others with a man who hires others. The one hiring such people doesn't actually hurt them, but hurts himself since the fool & many random passers-by will do a poor job of the work that needs to be done, and set a poor example for other workers.
The KJV rendering is very different and logical in that God who forms or brings forth all (including people & earth) rewards fools & sinful persons appropriately. He gives the fool the appropriate reward for unwise judgment, and He gives the transgressor the appropriate reward for sinful conduct. The speaking of rewarding of fools & sinful persons is very much in keeping with the general sense of Proverbs 26.
The noun that so briefly indicates the main person involved is most likely either of two different parties, one who pierces, like an archer, or one who is a chief or captain. The latter, in conjunction with the verb formed, relates to God, the chief or captain of all His creation who is the only One properly rewarding all. The reference to God in Hebrew terms of a chief or captain is figurative language common to Hebrew poetry like that of Proverbs. Further, transgressors, violators of God's law, are signified figuratively in the Hebrew as passing over from one side to another; modern translators offer the sense of passers-by, missing the figurative sense common to Hebrew poetry.
The general context of Proverbs 26 relates strongly to fools, which is what transgressors are, and passers-by are not necessarily either transgressors or fools. The correct translation becomes evident by study of different possible renderings, until the logical noun/verb combination is determined, which is that of the KJV.