Reliable Hebrew Text

The Masoretic Text

The Hebrew text underlying the KJV is reliable and does not have any demonstrable error. By God’s grace and providence there are not as many variant readings among the Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts as there are among the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Most of the variants concern pronunciations which do not affect translation. The KJV is based on the Masoretic Hebrew text edited by Jacob Ben Chayyim. Many recent versions of the Bible are based on the Masoretic Hebrew text edited by Rudolph Kittel. There are eight places where differences between the two texts affect translation – they are: 1 Kings 20:38, Proverbs 8:16, Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 27:2, Isaiah 38:14, Ezekiel 30:18, Zephaniah 3:15, and Malachi 1:12.

1 Kings 20:38

  • Ben Chayyim: "ashes upon his face"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "bandage over his eyes"

Proverbs 8:16

  • Ben Chayyim: "all the judges of the earth"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "all who judge rightly"

Isaiah 10:16

  • Ben Chayyim: "Lord"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "LORD"

Isaiah 27:2

  • Ben Chayyim: "vineyard of red wine"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "pleasant vineyard"

Isaiah 38:14

  • Ben Chayyim: "LORD"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "Lord"

Ezekiel 30:18

  • Ben Chayyim: "Be darkened"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "Be held back"

Zephaniah 3:15

  • Ben Chayyim: "see evil"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "fear evil"

Malachi 1:12

  • Ben Chayyim: "table of the LORD"
  • Rudolph Kittel: "table of the Lord"

With only eight significant variants between the Jacob Ben Chayyim and the Rudolph Kittel editions, the Hebrew texts underlying the KJV and modern translations are fairly similar. However, modern textual critics believe that all editions of the Masoretic text suffer from various copyist errors. These critics believe that a Bible translation must consult the Masoretic text as well as other ancient witnesses such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Aramaic Targum, Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate. The prefaces of some of the leading translations have the following to say about the translators' view of a deficient Masoretic text:

NIV:

"The translators also consulted the more important early versions – the Septuagint; Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; the Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta; the Targums; and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome. Readings from these versions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or more of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading."

ESV:

"In exceptional, difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text, or if necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text."

NASB:

"In the present translation the latest edition of Rudolf Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica has been employed together with the most recent light from lexicography, cognate languages, and the Dead Sea Scrolls" (The NASB then lists these witnesses of cognate languages under its Abbreviations page: Aramaic, Septuagint, Latin, Syriac)

Many modern scholars feel compelled to consult these other sources because of their perceived flaws with the Masoretic text. It follows that these scholars do not believe in the existence of any perfectly preserved Hebrew text. A careful study, however, will reveal that there are no demonstrable flaws with the Masoretic text.

Masoretic Readings Defended

No Copyist Errors

The following are supposed copyist errors in the Masoretic text. Each link will take you to a separate page describing why there is no error in the Masoretic text:

No Missing Words

The following are places where the Masoretic text supposedly is missing some words. Each link will take you to a separate page describing why there are no missing words in the Masoretic text:

Not Inferior to the Dead Sea Scrolls

The following is a place where critics believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a better reading. The link will take you to a separate page describing why the Masoretic text reading is good:

Not Inferior to the Septuagint

The following is a place where critics believe that Jesus preferred the Septuagint reading over the Masoretic text reading. The link will take you to a separate page describing why Jesus was not preferring the Septuagint reading over the Masoretic text reading:

The following is a place where critics believe that the New Testament author preferred the Septuagint reading over the Masoretic text reading. The link will take you to a separate page describing why the author was not preferring the Septuagint reading over the Masoretic text reading:

Conclusion

Having considered the above, there is no reason to question the reliability of the Hebrew text underlying the KJV.

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