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"
- Ben Chayyim: "all the judges of the earth"
- Rudolph Kittel: "all who judge rightly"
- Ben Chayyim: "Lord"
- Rudolph Kittel: "LORD"
- Ben Chayyim: "vineyard of red wine"
- Rudolph Kittel: "pleasant vineyard"
- Ben Chayyim: "LORD"
- Rudolph Kittel: "Lord"
- Ben Chayyim: "Be darkened"
- Rudolph Kittel: "Be held back"
- Ben Chayyim: "see evil"
- Rudolph Kittel: "fear evil"
- 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:
"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."
"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."
"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
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:
Having considered the above, there is no reason to question the reliability of the
Hebrew text underlying the KJV.