by Martin A. Shue
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The Bible is Godís word to mankind. It was given by "inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (II Tim. 3:16) Peter writes and tells us that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (II Peter 1:21) From these two scriptures we can see that the Bible is a book that is inspired by God. However, there is a huge debate raging these days concerning Biblical Preservation and Textual Criticism. Most of our modern "scholars" hold to the position that the Bible was inspired without error only in the Ďoriginalsí. They do not believe that we have an inspired, inerrant Bible today. Psalms 12:6-7 says "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Despite what the "scholars" say here we have God saying that He would preserve His words for ever. Those that believe that God has preserved His words, and will preserve them, are those that take the side of Biblical Preservation. It is of importance to note that the original writings of the Biblical writers are no longer in existence. They are no where to be found. Not even a piece of one of the writings. So when someone says they compared such and such with the Ďoriginalsí they are stating a falsehood. Although we donít have the originals with us today we do have accurate copies of the originals. To date there are 5,255 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. In these God has insured that His word has been preserved. But what good is that to those that donít speak or read Greek? That is where translations of the Bible come into the picture. People that speak and read English need Godís words for them in English. We need to know that the book we call a Bible is truly Godís preserved words. With the many hundreds of Bibles that are available today one might ask "Which one is Godís word?". Please donít be fooled into thinking that they are all saying the same thing so they must all be Godís word. In this short essay I would like to look at Mark 1:1-3. I would like us to look at some of the more popular translations to see if we can determine which one(s) have preserved the correct reading.
I suppose a good place to start would be to see just how some of the various translations render these verses. For this essay we will be looking at 5 of the most popular translations. They each read as follows:
New International Version (NIV)- The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)- The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
New American Standard Version (NASV)- The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.' "
New Living Translation (NLT)- Here begins the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God said, "Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: 'Prepare a pathway for the Lord's coming! Make a straight road for him!' "
King James Version (KJV)- The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Now as you read through these verses one might say, "I donít see a problem with any of these they are all saying the same thing". What I want us to look at is the phrase "It is written in Isaiah the prophet". All of the above contain that translation except for the King James Version (KJV). It renders the saying as "As it is written in the prophets". From the modern translations it is obvious to see that modern scholarship believes the passage should read, "in the Isaiah the Prophet" (Gk: "en to Isais to profete"). Now, this reading is supported by unicals (types of Greek manuscripts) Vaticanus (4th century), Sinaiticus (4th century), along with L and DELTA. This reading is also found in the minuscules (types of Greek manuscripts) 33, 565, 892, and 1241. There is a slight variant to this reading in unicals D and THETA, and minuscules 700, 1071, 2174. In those texts it reads, "en Isaia to profete." ("in Isaiah the Prophet"). That is all the support for the reading as found in the modern translations.
As you may know the King James Version is based on an entirely different Greek text than the modern versions. It is based on the Traditional Text (or Textus Receptus). In support of the Traditional Text, "as it is written in the prophets" (Gk: "Os gegraptai en tois profetais") we have unicals A, K, P, W, PI and minuscules 28, 1009, 1010, 1079, 1195, 1216, 1230, 1242, 1252, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148. We also find the same reading in the Syriac Harclean version (616 AD), the Armenian version (fourth to fifth century) and the Ethiopic versions of the sixth century. In addition to these all the early English versions agree with the KJV as well as all the authoritative foreign versions. Martin Lutherís German version reads, "Als geschrieben stehet in den Propheten:" (as it is written in the Prophets). However, this has been revised in modern German editions to match the views of modern textual criticism. The new German version reads as follows, "Wie geschrieben steht im Propheten Jesaja:". Sadly, the same thing is true of the Spanish Reina-Valera Version. The 1602 edition read, "Como esta escripto en los prophetas." In order to keep up with modern scholarship the 1960 revision reads, "Como esta escrito en Isaias el profeta:".
"So what is the big deal?" you might be saying. A careful study of the text will reveal what the big deal is. Since Mark quotes scripture from the Old Testament we need to establish exactly where he gets his quote from. Modern versions claim that the quote, ""I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" is from Isaiah. But is this accurate? Not exactly! You see the first half of the reading is found in Malachi 3:1 while the second half is found in Isaiah 40:3. So contextually there arises a problem with the reading found in the modern versions. The reading, "As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet" is inconsistent with the quote that follows. Therefore, we can see that the modern versions contain an error in Mark 1:2. Now recall that the King James Version rendered this as, "As it is written in the Prophets". This is the correct reading since two prophets are quoted. It is more truthful to say, "As it is written in the prophets" when citing two prophets. Further, the weight of the textual support favors the reading as it stands in the King James Version as does the weight of the reading throughout the centuries. Therefore the reading as we have it in the Traditional Text not only is textually but also contextually correct.
It is true that the translators of the King James Version did not have access to many of the Greek texts that are available to "scholars" today but they were very much aware of the reading, "It is written in Isaiah the Prophet". The Latin Vulgate contains the reading "Isaiah the Prophet" thus the reading was translated into English in 1582 by the Catholic Rheims Version. It reads as follows, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the sonne of God. As it is written in Esay the Prophet,". The Great Bible of 1539, as well as every Protestant version, upheld the reading of the Traditional Text. The Great Bible reads as follows, "The begynnynge of the Gospell of Jesu Chryst the sonne of God, as it is written in the Prophetes." The variants between the readings found in the Catholic and Protestant versions caused the KJV translators to declare, "...and all is sound for substance in one or other of our editions, and the worst of ours far better than their authentic vulgar." (Original Preface to the KJV entitled; The Translators to the Readers). So as you can see the reading "Isaiah the Prophet", as found in modern translations, is a corruption and the translators of the KJV knew this. Once again we can see that Godís preserved words are found in the King James Version.