Many Protestants have a great allegiance to the translation of Scripture referred to as the Authorized King James Version of 1611. In fact, some refuse to use any other bible translation except for this one feeling that it is a perfect translation of the original. But just how faithful and precise is this translation? Evidence found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran seems to undermine their position.
Most Protestant translations of the bible, including the KJV, are based on the traditional Hebrew text (the Masoretic text) which was believed to be the most faithful to its archetype. The Masoretic text that we have comes from the 10th century A.D., and before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was believed to be the oldest copy of the Rabbinic Recension. The Massoretes were Jewish scholars who tried to build as it were a fence(Massora)) around the text of the Bible to prevent any alterations in it. Even though they were criticized by St. Justin and Origen for apparently trying to conceal any indication of Messianic prophecies in the OT, their contribution to preserving the Hebrew text is respected among Protestant and Catholic scholars alike. This acknowledgment by Catholics does not mean that the Masoretic text is superior in every aspect to the Septuagint translation which was made long before any “fence” was built around the Hebrew text. In many ways, including one we will view today, the Septuagint has been found to be a better translation than the one preserved in the Hebrew manuscripts.
Let’s look at an account in the OT pertaining to the early history of man as read in the KJV bible.
Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
The last phrase in this verse, “children of Israel” causes some difficulty when read in the traditional Hebrew text and also as seen in the KJV. Israel was not yet established. How could the bounds of the people, including non-Israelite nations be divided according to the number of the children of Israel which had not been established yet?
A surprising discovery was made at Qumran. A fragment containing this verse from Deuteronomy 32:8 was found. The writing used to pen this was late Herodian script dating from the late first century B.C. to early first century A.D. In it, instead of reading “children of Israel” this verse distinctly reads “the Sons of God”. The Septuagint which we mentioned briefly earlier, was a translation of the OT made in Egypt by Jews for those who no longer spoke Hebrew. This Greek translation also displays this same reading we find preserved on the fragment at Qumran . Actually, the Septuagint literally reads “the angels of God” which is derived from the Hebrew “Sons of God”. The Septuagint seems to have preserved the genuine original reading as opposed to the one transmitted in the Maoretic text which the KJV is based on.
In my opinion, the best bible translation today is the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition).
The Catholic Legate
April 14, 2000