Ad Fontes: To the Source; Contradiction in KJV is resolved by going to the Greek

In the book of Acts, 9:7, Luke gives us an account of Paul’s conversion story, when on seeing a light, Paul is knocked to his feet and hears a voice saying, ” Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” The King James records it this way, ” And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no man.”

The contradiction occurs when Paul gives his own testimony of the event in Acts 22:9, where the KJV translates the Greek, “And they that were with me indeed saw the light , and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me.”

This contradiction is not found in the NASB or NIV or other translations which generally translate the verse in Acts 22:9 this way,” And those that were with me beheld the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.”

The difference between the KJV and the other translations does not arise from the underlying Greek texts, which are identical here. The difference is not due to a variant in the Greek wording but rather to a difference of opinion on how the Greek word should be translated.

The translators of the NASB and other newer versions realized something often lost on people who only speak one language and are not familiar with the translation of one language into another. Which is, simply put, there is more than one way to accurately translate a sentence from one language into another.

The translators of the King James Bible, the Authorized Version, 1611, were well aware of this, as was the daring Catholic Scholar who had done most the work in preparing the Greek text which became the basis for the KJV translation. His name was Desiderius Erasmus. That is why the original KJV bible in 1611 had placed in its margins over 6637 footnotes in the Old Testament, of which over 4000 thousand gave more literal meanings than had been used and 2156 other possible alternative words that could just as well have been used in translating the Hebrew and Chaldee. In the New Testament 37 variants in the Greek are mentioned for the reader and 582 alternative words for various texts translated. Clearly, the actual translators of the King James Bible were not afraid of confusing their readers by giving them too much information. (1)

On the contrary, they thought that the more people understood about the bible and its translation, the better they would understand the Bible. This was their view as stated in the original preface to the 1611 KJV;

“…the word of God is the word of God. As the Kings speech which he utters in Parliament is translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin is still the Kings speech, though it not be interpreted by every translator in like grace…or phrase…or sense.”

They noted that the Greek translation of the Hebrew O.T. (the LXX, the Septuagint) in Christ’s day was not noted for being a close or literal translation, but they said,

“The translation of the Seventy dissenteth much from the Original in many places…Yet, which of the apostles condemned it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it.”

And they defended their insertion of the hundreds of footnotes into the margins of the original KJV by saying,

“Some peradventure would have no variety of senses be set in the margins…but we hold their judgment to not to be sound on this point.”

And speaking of the many places where determining the meaning of a word or the best reading among many was difficult, they said;

“Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?”

So even the good brothers who translated the Greek of the Textus Receptus into English were well aware of their own ability to come up short when translating the original languages, even when not wrestling with variants in the text.

To return to Acts and the apparent discrepancy between the two accounts of Pauls conversion. Brian Edwards tells us that in Acts 9:7 the genetive case is used while in the verse in 22:9 the verb “to hear” is followed by the accusative case, which allows for the Greek to be translated, ” to understand”. (2)

Naturally, all the difficulties in Scripture will never be solved to everyones satisfaction. But, as the great Catholic Scholar Erasmus pointed out,

“…with the help of the Greek…many passages in the Vulgate have been restored that before were corrupt…and many passages have been clarified that were misinterpreted..” (3)

The NIV translates some verses quite poorly compared to the KJV, sometimes closer usually farther from the original languages. There are verses in the NIV which I don’t even like the direction the translators took at all. There are places, though, where I prefer the NIV to other bibles. But the only way to compare a verse, is by going to the source, the original languages. The tools available for the laymen today are amazing and getting better all the time. You can peruse lexicons and view interlinears of the underlying Greek or Hebrew manuscripts for the main translations, online. Interlinear bibles are available readily and this March a new interlinear based on the Textus Receptus with both a modern English and archaic English translation will be available.

I prefer the ‘fuller’ Byzantine texts, but the arguments for the age of the Alexandrian texts and their “leaner” versions are really quite good. Some of those “deletions” people love to write tracts about may not be deletions, they may have never been in the Greek. Assuming that they are deletions is to commit the logical fallacy of begging the question.

I for one am glad that Tyndale, Erasmus, Luther and the other brave souls who challenged the Latin Version didn’t have the attitude so many others do today. They could have translated the Latin straight into the common German or English of the day. They could have taken the easy way out and avoided all the attacks from dedicated Vulgate supporters. They could have shirked all the work involved in searching out manuscripts, checking their authenticity, learning the languages, wrestling with variants and difficult passages. They could have scoffed at the mounting evidence of transmission errors and corruption in the Latin text. They could have accepted the claim that the author of the Vulgate was supernaturally inspired and any changes that have occured in transmission over the years were put there by God and should be left alone. They could have ignored the discovery of older manuscripts and obeyed the ruling to leave them alone and go with the Vulgate. But they didn’t. They wanted to know what the original languages actually said.

So they went to the source, the fount, Ad Fontes.

Have a great day.

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About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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3 Responses to Ad Fontes: To the Source; Contradiction in KJV is resolved by going to the Greek

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