Is it just hidebound loyalty to tradition that keeps us attached to the King James rendering?
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
It's still in our Christmas carols, it's still the most common way we think of it. But if the modern Bible versions are based on the "earliest and best" manuscripts, apparently we're just wrong.
Here are a couple of the new versions:
NASB: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men *with whom He is pleased." To which is footnoted: * Some manuscripts peace, good will among men [AMONG men? Not TOWARD men?]I think the card had the NASB version.
And the NIV: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Then more recently in a discussion about these things, someone answered me as follows:
You say "Burgon shows in no uncertain terms that the Greek text they substituted in the place of the Received Text (on which the Authorized (King James) Bible and its predecessors had been based), was already known to be corrupt."Well, there it is, the party line, the entrenched assumption of the superiority of recently discovered texts over the texts that the King James was based on. Now we are told that the King James version of Luke 2:14 is "syrupy" and the angels wouldn't have been singing such things. But he even seems to be unaware of the major changes made by Westcott and Hort, which were not based on "fragments" of ancient texts but on the remarkably complete Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and instead focuses on the more recently discovered papyrus fragments as the source of what he of course regards as necessary corrections and emendations to the King James. These fragments are identified as of the Alexandrian type in the Wikipedia articles.
But the newer translations are not based on some "preferred text" that is different than the Received Text used in the King James translation. The Received text has merely been corrected on the basis of fragments of ancient manuscripts that have been discovered in the Near East during the 20th century. For example, the Chester Beatty papyri, the Bodmer papyrus, and the Ryland manuscript.
The text of the Bible had been copied by hand for 1500 years, and small errors inevitably crept into it because however diligent the copyists were, they were also human and subject to fatigue. These errors accumulated and were present in the received text.
One important emendation is in the angels song of Luke 2. Where the KJV has "peace on earth, good will to men," the New International Version has "peace to men on whom His favor rests." This is because in the earliest known fragments the Greek word behind the KJV's "good will" is in the genitive or possessive case. The angels were not giving some syrupy promise of peace and good will, but rather singing about God's good will and favor.
The also are many other important improvements in the New Testament made by the newer versions, as, for example, in the last chapter of Mark.
I answered him of course along the usual lines:
ALL the modern versions are based on some version of an eclectic text that contains the favored texts from Westcott and Hort. Our Bible should not contain even one word from those texts -- they are corrupt. Read Burgon. This is not to say that the KJV didn't need some revision, but unfortunately the question of what revisions might actually be necessary is so obscured by the dreck that has been substituted in the place of it we'd have to go back before W&H's mess and start over.And then I quoted some of what Burgon had to say about Luke 2:14:
How I wish Burgon's thinking were better known.
"A more grievous perversion of the truth of Scripture is scarcely to be found than occurs in the proposed revised exhibition of S. Luke ii. 14, in the Greek and English alike; for indeed not only is the proposed Greek text [which he reproduces here] impossible, but the English of the Revisionists ('peace among men in whom he is well pleased') 'can be arrived at ... only through some process which would make any phrase bear almost any meaning the translator might like to put upon it' [quoted from Scrivener's Introduction p. 515].
More than that: the harmony of the exquisite three-part hymn, which the Angels sang on the night of the Nativity, becomes hopelessly marred, and its structural symmetry destroyed, by the welding of the second and third members of the sentence into one. Singular to relate, the addition of a single final letter [Greek letter "s" given here] has done all this mischief. Quite as singular is it that we should be able at the end of upwards of 1700 years to discover what occasioned its calamitous insertion... [He goes on at some length here to explain the convoluted error by which this was inserted]
...Absolutely decisive of the true reading of the passage -- irrespectively of internal considerations -- ought to be the consideration that it is vouched for BY EVERY KNOWN COPY of the Gospels of whatever sort, excepting only Aleph, A B D [W&H's preferred texts which he now discusses at tedious length] : ... The Armenian, Georgian, Aethiopic, Slavonic and Arabian versions, are besides all with the Received Text. It therefore comes to this: -- We are invited to make our election between every other copy of the Gospels, -- every known Lectionary -- and (not least of all) the ascertained ecclesiastical usage of the Eastern Church from the beginning, -- on the one hand: and the testimony of four Codices without a history or a character, which concur in upholding a patent mistake, on the other.
[He then goes on to list the Church Fathers whose versions agree with the Received Text, which he calls a "torrent of Patristic authority" -- including Irenaeus, Origen, the Apostolical Constitutions, Eusebius, Aphraates the Persian, Titus of Bostra, Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nyssa, Ephraem Syrus, Philo bishop of Carpasus, Chrysostom ... Cyril of Alexandria and others.][All the above from Burgon, The Revision Revised, pages 41 - 42 and he goes on discussing this same passage through p. 47 and in many other notes throughout his book.]
I got to reading in Burgon's Revision Revised again today. It almost always makes me cry. How could such good sense, such good scholarship, such wisdom, such faithfulness to God's purposes have been ignored in favor of the corrupted Greek texts and the hideously bad English of the modern Bible versions? It breaks my heart.
How could the Church have been so easily deceived? How could so many good preachers have fallen for such lies? And they won't even consider the other side of the question. It's like the Church is under a spell. God's judgment beginning at the house of God of course.
Burgon was sure that good sense would prevail and that what has actually happened couldn't happen. He'd be appalled to see the condition of today's churches under the spell of Westcott and Hort and their Alexandrians.
Looking again at Burgon I'm made aware again that the sophistication of his writing, as well as his scholarship, probably puts him beyond the reach of most of today's readers. It's hard going even for someone as determined as I am to understand him. I can't help thinking that if the KJB had remained THE English Bible that most probably the average literate person wouldn't have a problem with Burgon either, because the King James elevated and refined the English language. Now we've got dumbed-down readers at least partly because we've got dumbed-down Bibles.
I wish people COULD read Burgon as is, but knowing most can't, or won't try, I wish someone would digest and condense his writing for the average reader, since that's the only way he could become accessible to the majority in the churches. Most pastors should be able to read him as is, but they might be more inclined to do it if someone took the trouble to edit him.
I wish I had what it takes to do that myself, but of course I couldn't handle the parts about the Greek sources, and I'd never get through such a project unless I limited myself to the most extreme minimum of his observations. I love his general comments, his sarcasm, his overview of the issues, but all that would have to go.
The most important thing to get across would be the fact that the Alexandrians which are some part of all the modern Bibles (except the NKJV but it has other problems also stemming from Westcott and Hort), were in fact corrupted in the early centuries, apparently by Gnostic heretics. The second most important thing would be to demonstrate just how specific parts of the scripture have been corrupted, first by the corrupted Greek texts, and then by the outrageously stupid English readings W&H substituted for the elegant, precise and sensitive English of the KJB. Burgon discusses all these factors at length. The bulk of such a project would have to focus on the changed scripture passages and the most pointed demonstrations of the errors in the modern versions.
I wonder if there's anybody out there who could do this?