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The King & I

Is The Bible Reliable?

The version of the New Testament we know today

was canonized by the Catholic Church at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD, nearly four centuries after Jesus' death and resurrection. Four centuries: four centuries of oral tradition and little pieces of papyrus floating around, being copied over, stacked in closets, used to prop up wobbly sofas. The potential for mischief with these documents is inestimable, as there's no unimpeachable chain of custody for the entirety of the 27 books of the New Testament. Instead, what we have is the most reliable guess these men could make: an averaging of hands raised and votes cast as to the meaning of words both divine and carnal. From the Synod of Carthage to this modern era, we've seen lots of bickering over what is and what is not cannon. Revisions, re-translations, church splits, reformations— lots of men deciding for you what is and what is not the Word of God. The earliest attempts to assemble the scattered sacred writings and Gospels into some form of a Christian canon, a “New” Testament, may have been 200 CE.

There were and remain seven “disputed” books in the Christian Canon (The New Testament): Hebrews (once attributed to Paul, but nobody believes that anymore), James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Accredited to St. John The Divine, most Biblical scholars do not believe, based on its Manuscript Tradition, “the Disciple whom Jesus loved,” his half-brother John, actually wrote the Apocalypse from his exile on the isle of Patmos. There is grave doubt that he wrote 2 and 3 John, or that he had much to do with The Gospel of John at all, a book a growing number of Biblical scholars consider to be too inaccurate and inconsistent with other accounts of Jesus' life and words to have been anything more than a kindly, poetic and certainly dynamic and moving fiction.

Of course, it's reasonable to speculate that John, who was suffering in exile and haunted by visions, might not have been altogether altogether if he indeed wrote The Revelation, and Paul typically used scribes to write his letters [Tertius in Romans (Rom. 16:22), Timothy (2 Cor. 1:1, Col. 1:1)], but I'll leave such speculation to people who actually know what they're talking about.

At the Council of Trent (1563), the Catholic Church chose to endorse these disputed works as deuterocanonical (of, relating to, or constituting the books of Scripture contained in the New Testament but not in the Christian canon), including footnotes and cautions about the reliability of these documents.

No matter how anointed these men (traditionally: all of them, male) may have been, I think it is fair and reasonable to say that every single man who ever translated or transcribed the Holy Scriptures had an opinion. Some opinion, about something. Most all of them considered their work a holy duty, and the words they were transcribing to be the Word of God. So, maybe, we help God out a little, here and there. Fix God's grammar a bit. Toss in a few verses here and there (Mark 16:9-20).

While there is substantial independent support for much of the Old Testament, much of which was painstakingly preserved by dedicated archivists, the New Testament survived over the centuries in largely oral form. Of the thousands of original documents preserved over the centuries, almost no two are exactly alike. Massive problems of writing style, syntax, grammar and missing or supplemental passages cloud the issue of what is and what is not canon. In the end, men (no women, period) had to decide what was and was not authentic. What was and was not scripture.

They accomplished this primarily through a political system: get a bunch of experts in a room, send out for pizza and coffee, pour over the manuscripts, and then vote. By whatever formula or system, some agreement would be reached, and words translated in accordance to that system— a system devised and executed by flesh and bone male-only human beings and subject to the prejudices, culture and acceptable standards of the times they were living in. By definition, the handling of the Bible over the last couple thousand years has been an imperfect and corruptible process.

James The First was also James VI, a king of Scotland,

a British protectorate that won their autonomy under Robert The Bruce, Earl of Carrick and became the first independent kingdom in Europe (although British kings claimed to be “Lord of England, Scotland, and France” long after, the claim had no foundation). James' mother was Mary Queen of Scots who was deposed by England's Queen Elizabeth in 1567 and executed in 1587 after 19 years in prison. This was a political imprisonment and murder James raised only token objection to, as he was determined to ascend the British throne himself. Through political savvy and guile James ascended the British throne in 1603 after the death of Queen Elizabeth. James' ascension to the throne formed the foundation for what is now known as the British Empire by uniting warring tribes of Scotland and then enjoining the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603. He was the first to call it Great Britain.

Reportedly a man of faith, James, a Protestant, encouraged the Church to get the Word of God into the hands of the common man. In 1536, the Catholic Church burned William Tyndale to death for distributing the Bible and it was displeased with King James' authorization of a Bible in English. Roman Catholic Nicolo Molin, an Ambassador said, “...he is a Protestant...The king tries to extend his Protestant religion to the whole island. The King is a bitter enemy of our (Roman Catholic) religion... He frequently speaks of it in terms of contempt. He is all the harsher because of this last conspiracy (Gun Powder Plot) against his life... He understood that the Jesuits had a hand in it.”

King James said this in Basilicon Doron, “Now the free gift of God (as Paul sayeth). It must be nourished by prayer, which is no thing else but a friendly talking to God. Use oft to pray when ye are quiet, especially in your bed...” [1]

Commissioned at the Hampton Court Conference of January 14-16, 1604 by King James I, The Holy Bible (as it was titled) was created in an attempt to create a modern language, sleeker and more accessible version of the Bible, “An act for the reducing of diversities of Bibles now extant in the English tongue to one settled vulgar translated from the original.”

While it is certainly a magnificent and historic document, the King James Version of the Bible is by no means a perfect, unaltered record with a verifiable custody chain back to Apostolic times.

The Masoretic Text

The KJV New Testament is based upon The Received Text

’The Received Text is not a single text. It is a tradition of printed texts published during the time of the Protestant Reformation, that is, the 1500's and early 1600's. It includes the editions of Erasmus, Estienne (Stephens), Beza, and Elzevir. These texts are closely allied, and are all mostly derived from Erasmus 1516. They are based upon a small number of late medieval manuscripts, often called the Byzantine text-type. [6]

The earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, such as The Alexandrian or “Neutral” Text, were not discovered until seventeen years after the King James Version's debut. Much of the New Testament was, therefore, translated from whatever sources were available.

The Byzantine Text is largely regarded as less reliable than the Alexandrian Text, as the Byzantine Text does not appear to have existed during the time of the early church, while the Bodmer Papyri, discovered in the 1950's, lends credence to the Alexandrian Text having existed as early as 200 AD.

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The KJV Old Testament includes translations from The Masoretic Text. The Masoretic Text is a controversial Hebrew text. The Masoretic Text is the traditional Hebrew Old Testament text of both Judaism and Protestantism. The Catholic Church, historically, used the Latin translation of Jerome based on the Greek LXX. Masoretic comes from the word “Masora” which usually refers to the notes printed beside the Hebrew text by Jewish scribes and scholars. KJV critics and other scholars believe this Hebrew text has been edited, changed, and in some cases rewritten entirely by the scribes, known as Masoretes, in an effort to discredit Christianity. Since the time of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the accuracy of the Masoretic Text, and, by extension, the KJV, has come under great scrutiny.    CONTINUED