Revelation 18:13 “SLAVES and souls of men.”
I recently got a letter from a Christian man who claims the Textus Receptus that underlies the King James Bible is his final authority and not the King James Bible itself. He was telling me that this is also the position of the Trinitarian Bible Society, who takes offence at being labeled a “King James Bible only” organization. They say they are not KJB only, but Textus Receptus only.
The Trinitarian Bible Society has publicly stated:”The Trinitarian Bible Society does not believe the Authorised Version to be a perfect translation, only that it is the best available translation in the English language”.
“Indeed, unlike those in the King James Only movement, it is the firm belief of the Society that ‘The supernatural power involved in the process of inspiration, and in the result of inspiration, was exerted only in the original production of the sixty-six Canonical books of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Translations from the original languages are likewise to be considered the written Word of God in so far as these translations are accurate as to the form and content of the Original.”
“Translations made since New Testament times must use words chosen by uninspired men to translate God’s words. For this reason no translation of the Word of God can have an absolute or definitive status. The final appeal must always be to the original languages, in the Traditional Hebrew and Greek texts’.” (End of statement by TBS)
The TBS confession sounds nice but is ultimately meaningless. How could they possibly know for sure that “Translations from the original languages are likewise to be considered the written Word of God in so far as these translations are accurate as to the form and content of the Original.”? They don’t have any “the Original” to compare anything to, and they know it.
They then defend what they call the “traditional text” and what they mean by this is the particular variety of Textus Receptus that CAME FROM the King James Bible. Their 1894 Scrivener edition of the TR was a back-translation from the KJB into a Greek N.T. text. The Greek texts of Erasmus, Stephanus and Beza are about 99.9 % the same, but there definitely are some textual differences. Usually the KJB translators went with Beza, but sometimes with either Erasmus or Stephanus. What Mr. Scrivener did was to find the particular Greek readings from these various Greek texts that the King James Bible followed, and he then made up his copy of what is now the Trinitarian Bible Society Greek Textus Receptus. Their TR did not give rise to the KJB but it was the KJB that gave rise to their printed copies of their Textus Receptus!
I believe the position of the Trinitarian Bible Society and of this man is much closer to the truth than the Bible of the Month Club multi-versionists of today who have no settled text and who usually reject or call into question some 40 entire verses from the New Testament text, plus another 1500 - 2000 words from the traditional N.T. text. But I believe their textual position of “TR only” is inconsistent and illogical.
Their position still leaves each of them as their own Final Authority for determining HOW the Bible should be translated and read. Each one is free to translate the meaning of each word and verb tense as he sees fit, and his own translation will differ from that of everybody else.
I believe the TR position is inconsistent in that the particular TR they choose to accept as their “final authority” is actually derived FROM the King James Bible, and not the King James Bible from their particular variety of Textus Receptus. If God led the King James Bible translators to the exact and precise underlying Greek texts to use in making up the greatest masterpiece the world has ever seen, then it is only logically consistent to believe that He also led them to the precise MEANING of these same words in the resultant English translation.
Why would God do the one and leave the other undone? It makes no sense.
The particular “error” this Christian brother brought to my attention is found in Revelation 18:13. Here we read concerning Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, that she had merchandise of: “...sheep, and horses, and chariots, and SLAVES, and souls of men.”
This brother writes telling me that the word translated as “slaves” should actually read “bodies” , and he points out that Tyndale did it this way. His exact words are - “In Rev. 18:13 the Greek word “soma” was translated correctly by Tyndale as “body” whereas the KJV mistranslated it as “slave”. Would you say that the KJV corrects the original Greek in these two instances or is the KJV in error and therefore not perfect?”
However, does this man accept Tyndale’s translation as his Final Written Authority over the King James Bible? Of course not. Tyndale did not always follow the same variety of Textus Receptus that underlies the King James Bible and he certainly did not always translate the Greek texts accurately.
For instance, Tyndale omitted the entire verse of Luke 17:36 - “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”. Tyndale also followed the wrong text in Luke 2:22 where it speaks of “the days of HER purification according to the law of Moses.” Tyndale wrongly followed the texts that say “THEIR purification”, which would include the baby Jesus.
Tyndale omitted the entire verse of Mark 11:26 - “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. “ He also omitted the phrase in Mark 15:3 “but he answered nothing.” Tyndale omitted the words “being convicted by their own conscience” and “even unto the last” in John 8:9. In John 19:38 Tyndale omitted the words: “He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus” from his text.
Amazingly, Tyndale’s N.T. also omits all these words from James 4:6 - “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” In 1 John 2:23 Tyndale omits the words: - “but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” Tyndale also followed different Greek textual readings in places like Revelation 16:5 (and shalt be vs and holy); 17:8 (and yet is vs. omit); 1 Peter 5:10 (us vs. you), 1 John 1:4 (your vs. our), and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (he vs. ye). In Romans 12:11 instead of “fervent in spirit, SERVING THE LORD”, Tyndale followed different Greek texts which read: “fervent in the spirit. APPLY YOUSELVES TO THE TIME.”
In the book of Revelation Tyndale omits the words: “And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee” from Revelation 18:23 and the entire verse in Revelation 21:26 which reads: “And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.”!!
Most of Tyndale’s translations were very good but some were absolutely horrible. For instance instead of “Not a NOVICE lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the DEVIL" (1 Timothy 3:6) Tyndale reads: "not a YOUNG SCHOLAR lest he swell and fall into the judgment of THE EVIL SPEAKER." In John 21:5 "Then Jesus saith unto them, CHILDREN (paidia) have ye any meat?, in Tyndale was "Jesus said unto them, SIRS, have ye any meat? In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him", but Tyndale read: "that we by his means should be that righteousness WHICH BEFORE GOD IS ALOVED." (What?) In Galatians 4:24 the KJB has: "Which things ARE AN ALLEGORY; for THESE are the two covenants", whereas Tyndale had "which things BETOKEN MYSTERY. For THESE WOMEN are the two covenants." In Philippians 3:2 Paul warns of the Judaisers who would put them under the law, saying: "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of THE CONCISION." But Tyndale translated this as: "...beware of evil workers. Beware OF DISSENSION." In Hebrews 6:1 instead of “leaving the principles of the doctrine OF CHRIST”, Tyndale has “the doctrine pertaining to the beginning OF A CHRISTIAN MAN.” In 1 Thes. 4:6 the KJB's "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother IN ANY MATTER", Tyndale had rendered as "that no man go too far and defraud his brother IN BARGAINING." In Hebrews 9:10 the “carnal ordinances” becomes “justifyings of the flesh” in Tyndale. In James 3:4 “whithersoever the governor listeth” was rendered in Tyndale as “whithersoever THE VIOLENCE of the governor will.” And in James 5:17 Elias is described as a “man SUBJECT TO LIKE PASSIONS as we are”, but Tyndale rendered this as “Elias was a man MORTAL even as we are.” In Romans 3:19 we read concerning the condemnation of the law - “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may BECOME GUILTY BEFORE God”, but in Tyndale this is rendered this as: “all mouths may be stopped and all the world BE SUBDUED TO God.” 2 Timothy 2:16 in the KJB reads: "But shun PROFANE and vain babblings." But Tyndale reads: "UNGHOSTLY and vain voices pass over." And in Revelation 7:14 we read: "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and HAVE WASHED their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." But Tyndale translated this as: "...made THEIR GARMENTS LARGE and made them white in the blood of the lamb."
There are numerous examples of very poor translational work in Tyndale’s New Testament; these are just a small sampling.
As the King James Bible translators said: ““Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one...but to make A GOOD ONE BETTER, or OUT OF MANY GOOD ONES, ONE PRINCIPAL GOOD ONE, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, THAT OUR MARK.” Well, praise God, He used them to accomplish just that and we can be thankful for it.
Now, back to word “slaves” in Revelation 18:13. Admittedly, the word “soma” is normally translated as “body” in the KJB and in most other versions too, but it is a well know fact that a single word can have various and sometimes very different meanings in different contexts.
For example, the Hebrew word neh-phesh #5315 is variously translated as “soul, life, body, person, creature, the dead, the mind, heart, beast, yourselves, herself, breath, fish, the will, ghost, and pleasure.”
Greek Lexicons - What do they say?
Though I obviously do not accept Greek lexicons as my final authority, they do often reveal things about the nature and use of both Greek and Hebrew words.
Liddell and Scott, Oxford Press 1968 tells us on page 1749 that the Greek word ‘soma’ can mean various things in different contexts, including “body, dead body, a living body, an animal body, a person, a human being, and “it is used abstractly for SLAVES in Revelation 18:13.”
Thayers Greek lexicon, 1978 on page 611 tells us: “Since according to ancient law in the case of slaves the body was the chief thing taken into account, it is a usage of later Greek to call slaves simply somata (bodies); once so in the N.T. in Rev. 18:13.”
Thayer then goes on to show an example from the Greek text of the LXX where Genesis 36:6 tells us of Esau taking his whole family plus his household servants and cattle and moving to a different place. Here the text says: “And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all THE PERSONS of his house, and his cattle...”. The Greek renders this phrase as “panta TA SOMATA tou oikou autou”.
Likewise the lexicon of Baer, Arndt and Gingrich 1952 tells us on page 807 that the Greek word can legitimately be translated as “slaves” and again lists the example of Gen. 36:6 from the LXX and Josephus from Antiquities 14,321 and Revelation 18:13.
Let’s take a look at how other Bible translators have rendered the word “somaton” in this context here in Revelation 18:13.
Some few go along with the old Tyndale rendering of “BODIES, and souls of men.” Among these are the NKJV, NIV and the Holman Standard which reads “human bodies and souls”.
However, agreeing with the King James Bible’s “SLAVES” are the following bible versions: Wycliffe 1395, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Revised Version 1881, American Standard Version 1901, the RSV 1954, NRSV 1989, the 2001 ESV, the NASB 1963-1995, the Douay 1950, Bible in Basic English 1960, Weymouth, the New Life Version, World English Version, Hebrew Names Bible, the Message, New Century Version, Contemporary English Version, the New International Readers Version, the 1970 New English Bible, the 2005 International Standard Version and Daniel Wallace’s NET version.
Among foreign language versions I know about that read “slaves” (esclavos) are the Spanish Reina Valera 1602, 1909, 1960, 1995, the Italian Diodati, the NIV Spanish edition (Nueva Versión Internacional) 1999, and the Portuguese O Livro and the de Almeida versions.
It should be noted that there is a big difference between a translational CHOICE and a translational ERROR. Other Bible commentators have no problem with the KJB translation of “slaves”. Adam Clarke notes: “The bodies of men; probably distinguished here from , souls of men, to express BONDMEN and freemen.”
Barne’s Notes on the New Testament says: “The word properly denotes body--an animal body--whether of the human body, living or dead, or the body of a beast; and then the external man --the person, the individual. In later usage, it comes to denote A SLAVE, (see Rob. Lex.,) AND IN THIS SENSE IT IS USED HERE. The traffic in slaves was common in ancient times, as it is now.”
The People’s N.T. Commentary says: “The first seems to refer to the traffic in SLAVES, a common traffic until modern times and sanctioned by the Papacy. The latter expression seems to me to refer to a spiritual traffic.”
Robertson’s Word Pictures in the N.T. says: “This use of swma for slave occurs in Genesis 34:29; Tob 10:11 (swmata kai kthnh, slaves and cattle); II Macc. 8:11.”
And John Wesley tersely comments: “And of bodies - A common term for slaves.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong or erroneous with the way the King James Bible translators have rendered this word into English. To correct or criticize anything in the King James Bible is to end up placing your own mind and understanding as the final written authority, and you end up with no complete, inspired and inerrant Bible at all. This is ultimately the position taken by all those who tell us they are “TR men” and not King James Bible onlyist. Every man ends up doing what is right in his own eyes and takes a textual position that contradicts itself. If God chose the KJB translators to give us His pure and complete Greek text, then He logically and consistently also gave them spiritual insight and divine direction on HOW these same texts were to be translated into the English tongue.
I like the thought expressed recently by brother Tom Lamb who wrote: "However, at the end of the day, if we are going to these places just to prove God's word wrong ... then we are a Bible corrector! If we happen to be going to aids just to confirm the word ... then we are a Bible believer! "
The King James Bible is always right.