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Does the Hebrew Masoretic text underlying the KJV have any errors?


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.  Many believe that the KJV is based on the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Second Rabbinic Bible, edited by Jacob Ben Chayyim and printed by Daniel Bomberg in 1525.  However, the KJV appeared to follow the First Rabbinic Bible, edited by Felix Pratensis in 1517-1518, as this first edition includes Joshua 21:36-37 and Nehemiah 7:68 whereas the second edition omits these verses.  Except for these two passages, the KJV appeared to follow the Ben Chayyim text.  Many recent versions of the Bible are based on the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the third edition of the Masoretic text edited by Rudolph Kittel.  There are eight places where differences between the two texts (the Ben Chayyim and the Rudolph Kittel) 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.

 Verse Ben Chayyim Rudolph Kittel
 1 Kings 20:38 “ashes upon his face” “bandage over his eyes”
 Proverbs 8:16 “all the judges of the earth” “all who judge rightly”
 Isaiah 10:16 “Lord” “LORD”
 Isaiah 27:2 “vineyard of red wine” “pleasant vineyard”
 Isaiah 38:14 “LORD” “Lord”
 Ezekiel 30:18 “Be darkened” “Be held back”
 Zephaniah 3:15 “see evil” “fear evil”
 Malachi 1:12 “table of the LORD” “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 some verses in the Bible are erroneous in all editions of the Masoretic text. 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)"

These scholars consult these other sources because they believe that some passages are corrupt in all editions of the Hebrew text.  For more on this, please read: Question: Aren't some Textus Receptus readings based on little or no Greek manuscript evidence?.  A careful study, however, will reveal that the Masoretic readings underlying the KJV are demonstrably inerrant.

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 Numerical Contradictions

                  The following are alleged numerical contradictions in the Masoretic text, in addition to those in 1 Samuel 6:19, 2 Samuel 8:4, 2 Samuel 15:7, 2 Samuel 24:13, 1 Kings 4:26, 2 Chronicles 22:2, 2 Chronicles 36:9 noted above. The following alleged contradictions generally appear even in versions other than the KJV:

                  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:
                  • Genesis 4:8   "Let us go into the field."
                  • Joshua 21:36-37  "And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities."
                  • 1 Samuel 13:1   “One year” or “[missing number]”? (How old was Saul when he began to reign?)
                  • Nehemiah 7:68  "Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five:"
                  • Psalm 145:13   "The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works."


                  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.